October 6, 2013

Australia's pointless tour to India could lead to selection blunders

The temptation to pick those who do well in the ODIs for the Ashes is a dangerous one, especially given there is still no No. 6 batsman in sight

Cricket Australia obviously doesn't believe in omens - certainly not the bad variety.

Prior to the 2010-11 Ashes in Australia, the team toured India. They lost the Test series 2-0 and followed that with an adverse Ashes result at home. Having recently lost an away Ashes series by 3-0, Australia are tempting fate by embarking on another Indian tour ahead of another home Ashes.

At least this time it's only limited-overs and very few of the Test players will be involved in the tour. Nevertheless, India has been a black hole of late for Australian teams. It was a 4-0 loss earlier in the year that precipitated Australia's slide down the Test-match ladder, and the country's two teams in the Champions League - Perth Scorchers and Brisbane Heat - recently left India without a victory and with their tails between their legs.

Agreeing to this meaningless ODI tour of India so close to an Ashes series is evidence that Cricket Australia is more concerned with dollars than sense.

Australia's mounting Test losses not only hurt in the record book but have also shredded the team's aura. During the golden years Australian teams had an inbuilt advantage; many of their opponents were half-beaten the moment they looked at the opposing team list. However, once Australia started to lose, other teams felt empowered, sensing vulnerability.

Australia's weakness in this bleak period has been batting in general, and coping with good spin bowling in particular. The flaws have become so glaring that at a Lord's Taverners function I attended recently in London, the comments from former players were pointed. "What's happened to Australian batsmanship?" was the welcome from past opponents before I received the obligatory "Oh, and by the way, how are you?"

The glaring batting weakness will be exacerbated in India by the absence of Michael Clarke, easily the best player of spin in the Australian side. Without Clarke to guide them and be a steady source of runs, Australia are at risk of again losing in India. While few from the ODI team will be in contention for the Test side, a demoralising loss on the eve of an Ashes series won't help Australian morale, while it will boost England's outlook.

The only good news surrounding Clarke's withdrawal from the Indian tour is that it might mean he'll get some much-needed red-ball match practice under Australian conditions. On the other hand if his injury curtails his cricket in Australia, it'll be a huge handicap to the team if he's either unavailable or underdone for the Gabba Test.

Not only is the scheduling of this tour badly timed for the players, it also hasn't done the Australian selectors any favours. Normally at this time they would be gauging batting candidates for the No. 6 position in the Test side based on their domestic first-class form. Now they'll feel obliged to take into account any contenders who put up good performances on the tour of India.

This could lead to some selection blunders. Runs scored in the relative serenity of a 50-over game are a far cry from those that need to be earned in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of an Ashes Test against a good attack.

I don't see a potential No. 6 Test batsman in the ODI squad. Worse still, there are a few batsmen in that squad who are vulnerable against spin bowling, a weakness the Indians are sure to exploit. This means potential contenders could return to Australia's firmer pitches with their confidence undermined.

It has been obvious for some time that the No. 1 priority among cricket administrators is the bottom line, and the timing of this ODI tour is further proof. What wasn't so obvious was that Cricket Australia isn't superstitious and nor does it believe in bad omens.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator for Channel 9, and a columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mashuq on October 11, 2013, 9:35 GMT

    One name I don't see mentioned is Doolan. Although he's not a #6 (he was #3 last season), he could slot in at #5 with Smith moving to 6. He just needs to repeat his form of early last season. Of course he failed vs SA A, but the stocks being what they are he deserves consideration if he scores well.

  • James on October 9, 2013, 15:12 GMT

    @SSChicago, Spot on mate. As a follower of Aussie cricket i am disappointed by the general sentiment that the Indian tour is a waste of time. Put it this way, if the series in India was a guaranteed win against the number 1 ODI side in the world, i think everyone would be happy with us touring there.

    Like Chicago put it, this could be the spark we need to reignite the winning ways of old, any win is always a good win.

  • Siddhant on October 8, 2013, 12:29 GMT

    This is a fine example of how much Aussies want to give importance to the Ashes. At the time when they are on the receiving end, nothing seems more important than getting the Urn back. The biggest reason for Aus downfall is perhaps their obsession with one opponent in one format of the game. As for the India tour, Bailey seems to have is head in place. No tour or experience is meaningless, and that too in the subcontinent. This might just be the spark the Aussies need. This tour may do wonders for them. Think positive! Aus- Ind contests have always had a flair, and we are all waiting for the new Haydens and the Gilchrists and the Pontings to surprise us. Bring them on!!

  • Rajkumar on October 8, 2013, 4:15 GMT

    Ian is spot on here.BUT as he points out majority of test side wont be playing here and there are less chances of Ashes prospects getting affected.(unlike last time.)Although I should agree last time I enjoyed that nail biting Mohali finish thoroughly.Kudos to him for blaming Aus management dollar chase.Wish more of the same from sane minds around the world.@electric_loco_WAP4 "young Aus side whose whole mind will be on impending Ashes "-seriously?How many young minds here would be thinking of the test series or being brutally honest how many are competant to think(including the skipper?).Fans like you still live in Aus golden age and that is a part of the problem.

  • suresh on October 8, 2013, 3:36 GMT

    ashes is the only meaningful bilateral series in the cricketting world - for whole oz and eng.

  • Madhu on October 8, 2013, 1:44 GMT

    No tour is pointless. As professional cricketers they have to play whenever and wherever they are required to play. But talking about pointless - this article fits the bill. We all know Ian's bias and his thought process having read his articles in the past. In the past - that he is where unfortunately he is stuck.

  • Brady on October 8, 2013, 1:43 GMT

    The problems caused by the India tour are exacerbated by the uncertainty surrounding the Australian 11 in Brisbane. From my point of view, we want guys like Bailey playing in our domestic scene so that if they make a hundred we can pick them for the Ashes. There are at least 2 batting positions open in our line-up and we need more options than Hughes/Warner/Khawaja.

  • Dummy4 on October 8, 2013, 1:35 GMT

    @rama - what spinners. Likes of ashwin and jadeja are ordinary who got hammered in Australia and took wickets on doctored pitches where even nathan lyon took 9 wickets in a test match. I completely agree with chappel. These pitches will most likely be flat.

  • Andrew on October 8, 2013, 1:11 GMT

    The bottom line is not Cricket Australia's No.1 priority - it is their only priority. They've been doing this sort of ridiculous stuff for so long I've almost stopped tearing my hair out, but when you care about the game it's hard not to. The end game might be in the hands of the Indian public - the aura of the Aussie team is gone, will their puling power remain? if CA policy keeps driving the team's performance in the wrong direction, are Indian fans going to keep tuning in and turning up in droves to watch their team play a bunch of clueless also-rans? If the answer is yes, then sadly I can't see any change coming - in the way the CA board approach things, as the money will keep flowing.

  • Simon on October 8, 2013, 0:25 GMT

    Guys, Chappeli is not having a go at India, he is having a go at Australia and asking the question about whether a tour of India is a good warm up for an Ashes tour.