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Former Australia captain, now a cricket commentator and columnist

A year of reckoning awaits Australia

Series against South Africa, India and England will severely test their inconsistent batting line-up

Ian Chappell

May 6, 2012

Comments: 116 | Text size: A | A

Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting steadied Australia, Australia v India, 1st Test, Melbourne, 3rd day, December 28, 2011
Australia's batting is still too reliant on the ageing Ponting and Hussey © Getty Images
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After a dramatic slide in the rankings following two Ashes beatings and a lost series in India, Australia are once again on the rise. But while satisfying overseas wins against Sri Lanka and West Indies aren't ironclad proof that a revitalised Australian side has improved dramatically, the definitive answer about the extent of improvement will be known soon enough.

Australia have tough series looming against South Africa, India and England. What will give them hope in this daunting schedule is the emergence of a promising pace attack under the aggressive captaincy of Michael Clarke. Despite this vital ingredient to victory being in place, the key to Australia winning consistently will be the performance of the batsmen.

The challenges of playing India and England on their home turf are testing for the best batting sides. But before that, Australia's inconsistent batting line-up will be pitted against a strong South African pace attack on the bouncy Gabba and WACA pitches. Christmas could come early for Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and the thriving Vernon Philander when the series is concluded in Perth on December 4.

To ensure the batting examination is thorough, in February-March, Australia will face the torture test by spin in India. That will be followed by perhaps the most demanding scrutiny of all, against an England attack that is the most complete in world cricket in their home conditions. Jimmy Anderson and a raft of fellow pacemen are a handful in England, especially if the ball is swinging, and Australia will also be probed and prodded by the best spinner in the game, Graeme Swann.

Even if the offspin-challenged Australian line-up survives South Africa and India, Swann, who has a history of devouring left-hand batsmen, will face four of those in the top seven. In a series where the Australians have to win to regain the Ashes, the customary cricketer's farewell of "good luck" to a batsman departing the dressing room will have extra emphasis.

If the Australians take the positive outlook, and they generally do, they'll be thinking: "When we've overcome the Indian spinners we'll be perfectly prepared for anything Swann can deliver." Not necessarily true, as Swann is far better than any current Indian offspinner, but a worthy sentiment nonetheless.

The inference from India - though not from their players - following the 4-0 drubbing in Australia was that the Australians will be confronted by pitches that assist spinners. While I despise the sentiment that pitch preparation should be dictated by anyone other than ground staff, the Australian batsmen can't say they weren't warned.

The Australians shouldn't be too fearful of what they'll face in India because Harbhajan Singh is not at his peak and his successors are yet to strike fear into the heart of a player proficient against spin. However, the fact that part-time offspinner Narsingh Deonarine had success in the Caribbean should give the Australians cause for some concern.

There's no doubt that a fully stocked Australian pace attack should keep their team in the game against South Africa and England. Whether they can be effective under Indian conditions is a question still to be answered.

However, the failure to produce young batting talent has meant the line-up is still heavily reliant on ageing stars Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. Ponting is already at the point where, although he can still make runs in Test cricket, consistency and dominance are a thing of the past. Hussey has been a remarkable contributor, which suggests his entry into the international arena was delayed too long, but he's now entering the age bracket where decline can imitate an avalanche.

Australian cricket has shown over the years it has a remarkable ability to regenerate quickly. This attribute will be fully tested in the next 12 months as the batsmen will face a thorough examination and in all likelihood readymade replacements will be required.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

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Posted by Mayan820 on (May 9, 2012, 13:32 GMT)

Hi Hammond . . . I am thinking only of the present and very near future. India will not only do this to the Ausies in India, but also to the English. For one or other reason that is still difficult for me to comprehend South Africa does better in India and Pakistan than just about anywhere else, so maybe the Saffers might escape with a 2-1 or a 3-2 series defeat in India. This new breed of Indian batsmen like Gambhir, Kohli, Rahane, Dahwan etc. mixed with one or two old guns like Sehwag and Tendulkar will be completely unbeatable in Indian conditions. Foreign teams can forget about a series victory there.

Posted by   on (May 9, 2012, 13:23 GMT)

Australia has got an edge against SA in australia . If yu see recent performance of SA against NZ & SL i think against africans they will win but if african played really well they ll draw the test series .Now comes India in india is tough to beat no doubt statistics show but recent test series against WI showed weaknesses of indians .I think winning in india is tough for current aussies camp but drawing tests will be easy as indians have forgotten to make rank turners . Now they make extremely flat tracks and they win by exhausting opposition by 2 days batting and compiling 600 runs .Most of the time they play safe and likes to draw than to win dangerously . The real challenge for aussies will be Eng in Eng as they have best bowling spin and fast and decent batsman if recovered from ajmal nighmarish slaughter ;) .

Posted by Hammond on (May 9, 2012, 12:00 GMT)

@Mayan820 What like India buried us in 2004? India have only won 5 test MATCHES in Australia since 1947. Australia have won 4 test SERIES in India in the same time. I agree that the current side is pretty average and doesn't stand much of a chance but overall there has been a tremendous Australian dominance in test cricket played overall in both countries.

Posted by   on (May 9, 2012, 11:44 GMT)

ENG IS A ORDINARY TEAM UNLESS THEY PLAY IN ENG WE HAVE SEEN THEM AGAINST PAK AND LANKA BOTH ARE AVERAGE ONLY TEAM THAT CAN BEAT INDIA IN INDIA IS SOUTH AFRICA REAL NO 1 BUT SSTIL NEW CROP OF INDIAN PLAYERS COMING ARE TREMENDOUS TALENT LIKE KOHLI ,SHARMA,RAHANE ,PUJARA ETC AND SOME REAL QUICK BOWLERS LIKE YADAV ,AARON,DINDA,AWANA WITH MEDIUM PACERS LIKE PANKAJ SING STILLL I THINK INDIA HAVE GOOD BENCH STRENGTH WITH SOUTH AFRICA ENG ARE ONLY GOOD TEAM IN ENG WITH SOME VERY ORDINARY GUYS OUTSIDE ENG LIKE BELL ANDERSON STRAUSS AND ENG WILL BE THRASHED BY INDIA LIKE INDIA DID IN ONE DAY SERIES SUCH A PATHETIC TEAM EVEN BANGLADESH CAN WIN ONE ODD ODI I CANT SEE THESE DAYS ANY TEAM WHITEWASHED IN ODI EVEN IRELAND CAN WIN ONE ODD ODI ....

Posted by Mayan820 on (May 9, 2012, 10:59 GMT)

The way in which India will most likely handle Australia in India is by amassing 500 - 700 runs in the first innings of the tests they play and in so doing dispelling any hope the Ausies might have to win the tests. Once the Indians achieve this, they will begin to feel in control and once the latter happens even the most mediocre among these Indian players will become unstoppable. I have seen it before. This is how I believe they will bury Australia in India, over and over and over again.

Posted by hyclass on (May 9, 2012, 8:52 GMT)

@Meety...County Cricket will always be a Test for the overseas professional,who in Rogers and Husseys case,played long seasons,endured the endless travel,foreign weather and pitch conditions and were involved in every aspect of the club.Im sure that there are others on short contracts,but the crux is that the 2 named players have performed due dilligence at the level stated.They are also excellent State players whose records demand their selection. As for the reversal of the operations at CA,it began in 2006 under this administration. No rational explanation exists for doing so,given Australias position of world dominance over a significant preceding time period using a system so well established for excellence,that it was emulated internationally with equivalent success.Selection policies were reversed.Rogers has one Test.David Hussey may remain as the best player never to have played Tests for any country. Hodge has a Test average of 55.Why wasnt he played?His form was peerless?

Posted by hyclass on (May 9, 2012, 8:42 GMT)

@Meety..when Australia lost the Ashes by 130 year historical margins,Geoff Clarke of CA stated publically that,'he thought people were overreacting & he didnt think Australia was that bad.'Hayden while a CA member stated at a press conference,that,'He wasnt invested in Test or State cricket,other than India and England,who just happen to be the 20/20 money powerhouses.As Australia sank into the mire,he stated his intention to seek ownership of a BBL side,an obvious conflict of interests. No rebuttal or retraction was issued by CA-clearly mandating their approach.Hilditch and then Chappell,supported by CA,dismantled the selection process,age group cricket and the use of our internationally feted and emulated institutions. Sutherland publically rebuked The Shield,its value as a selection tool,the players and the curators.Ultimately,noone was accountable or performance based,from the Physio to The Coach.BBL debuted a year ahead of schedule to evade adequate debate and Argus findings.1+1=2

Posted by hyclass on (May 9, 2012, 8:29 GMT)

@Meety...the idea that players of high calibre AND results can be dismissed for selection on a whim,such as that which you have described, while mediocre players are substituted using different criteria is farcical. It undermines every premise used for the last 100 years for selection. As Ponting pointed out when he was first selected,players needed to average close to 60 to get a game. That kind of approach encouraged performance,as it does in every sphere that it is applied. The alternative is the self promotion and excusing mediocrity that is the dish de jour of todays players in the media. Hussey,Hodge and Rogers have stellar records.They have 144 1st class hundreds between them. Marsh has 7. Khawaja 9. Cowan 13. All 3 average below 30 in Tests. Its all very well to hark back to Hayden and Langer,who struggled early, but they had distinguished 1st class records that encouraged perserverence. None of these contenders are in the same league and are demonstrating it in their results.

Posted by Vilander on (May 8, 2012, 22:52 GMT)

i think india in india would be easy for aus this time we are really struggling, sa in sa would be next, the real challenge would be eng in eng.

Posted by   on (May 8, 2012, 16:00 GMT)

Australia has got an edge against SA in australia . If yu see recent performance of SA against NZ & SL i think against africans they will win but if african played really well they ll draw the test series .Now comes India in india is tough to beat no doubt statistics show but recent test series against WI showed weaknesses of indians .I think winning in india is tough for current aussies camp but drawing tests will be easy as indians have forgotten to make rank turners . Now they make extremely flat tracks and they win by exhausting opposition by 2 days batting and compiling 600 runs .Most of the time they play safe and likes to draw than to win dangerously . The real challenge for aussies will be Eng in Eng as they have best bowling spin and fast and decent batsman if recovered from ajmal nighmarish slaughter ;) .

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Ian ChappellClose
Ian Chappell Widely regarded as the best Australian captain of the last 50 years, Ian Chappell moulded a team in his image: tough, positive, and fearless. Even though Chappell sometimes risked defeat playing for a win, Australia did not lose a Test series under him between 1971 and 1975. He was an aggressive batsman himself, always ready to hook a bouncer and unafraid to use his feet against the spinners. In 1977 he played a lead role in the defection of a number of Australian players to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, which did not endear him to the administrators, who he regarded with contempt in any case. After retirement, he made an easy switch to television, where he has come to be known as a trenchant and fiercely independent voice.

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