Australia’s humbling series defeat to India left selectors to pick through the rubble on Tuesday as they face tough decisions with two Tests looming against Sri Lanka and then an Ashes tour of England.
Their 2-1 capitulation – the first time India has won a series Down Under in 70 years of trying – stemmed from batting failures and a bowling attack that struggled to tame some of the world’s top players.
The squad to play Sri Lanka in the first Test later this month in Brisbane is expected to be announced on Wednesday, with few standout performances to offer much encouragement.
With the banned Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft all missing for the India series, it had opened the door to a host of fringe Test cricketers including Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne and Marcus Harris.
Harris, handed his debut in Adelaide, was the only one to categorically demand future consideration.
Senior players like Usman Khawaja failed to consistently stand up while the Marsh brothers, Shaun and Mitchell, again disappointed.
There are also question marks over Mitchell Starc, long Australia’s main strike bowler but who didn’t perform as expected.
Here is how the Australian media and pundits reacted to the series defeat:
Mike Atherton in ‘The Australian’
The Australian broadsheet lamented a “summer of lost opportunities” after the curtain came down on a rain-affected Sydney Test, where Australia was forced to follow on at home for the first time in 30 years.
Former England captain Mike Atherton, writing in The Australian, laid much of the blame for the batting woes on a degrading of the importance of the four-day domestic Sheffield Shield competition, once the envy of the world.
This used to be where Test batsmen honed their skills but few have time now to play, with an explosion of the limited overs game.
“A lesson from afar is that you tamper with your premier competition at your peril,” he said.
Michael Vaughan in ‘Sydney Morning Herald’
Another ex-England skipper Michael Vaughan was more brutal in his assessment of Australia’s problems.
“If you think Australia’s problems will be solved the moment Steve Smith and David Warner are available for selection again then you are wrong,” he said in a column for the Sydney Morning Herald.
“They have issues that run far deeper than two players. Batting, bowling, selection and tactics were poor against India, and Australia have to admit they were just not good enough.”
Former Australia batsman and selector Mark Waugh disagreed with Vaughan’s opinion, saying that Smith and Warner’s presence in the Australian team would have made “a huge difference”. Here is what Waugh tweeted in response to Vaughan’s column:
The two had a back-and-forth on Twitter:
Waugh’s former teammate Shane Warne, however, supported Vaughan’s assessment and called for a “complete overhaul” of the sport in Australia. Here’s what Warne tweeted:
Former Australia captain Bill Lawry said the selection panel should look at youth instead of focussing on experienced players.
“I just think the Australian selectors have got a choice to make,” Lawry told Wide World of Sports. “What’s wrong with youth? We’ve disregarded youth.
“For a hundred years we always promoted the young blokes. Neil Harvey and Doug Walters were teenagers when they played Test cricket.
“Mike Hussey has a lot to answer for, coming in at 30 and having a sensational career. Now they think everyone has to be 30 years old before they come in. I don’t think that’s the answer.”
Former pacer Craig McDermott said that Australia’s bowlers were not relentless enough and bowled in the wrong areas to the Indian batsmen.
“I reckon we bowled not the right line to a number of the Indian batsman,” McDermott said on Fox Cricket’s podcast The Follow-On.
“I know [Cheteshwar] Pujara played very well, but I don’t think we were relentless enough at getting the ball at the right lengths to not just hit the stumps, but to do it at that stump height, or where the sticker is on the stumps.
“We need to be bowling more consistently at that height going past the stumps.
McDermott felt the Australian bowlers did well against India captain Virat Kohli. “We got him searching for that ball outside off stump and we got him forward him a few times,” he said.
“I remember back when we beat India 4-0 in 2011 with [Peter] Siddle, [Ben] Hilfenhaus, [Ryan] Harris and maybe James Pattinson. To their better players we bowled a fifth stump line and we got an enormous amount of catches in the slips out of that by dragging those good players, where you get the ball outside their eye line and they’ve got to open up their hands and that opens up the face of the bat.
“It’s not rocket science but we have got to be very diligent at it and we were like that then, through the Ashes. Obviously Mitchell Johnson bowled the house down, probably the best he ever bowled.
“We’ve got to get back to being more relentless with that tight bowling.”
With inputs from AFP