Australia, We Desperately Need To Talk About Our Cricket Team

This summer could be a disaster.

15/10/2016 1:15 PM AEDT | Updated 16/10/2016 6:27 AM AEDT
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Ummmm.... yeah so basically, we sucked.

Australia always plays better at home. That's the good news. The bad news is that we have just had six months of hell and it's unclear just how things are going to get better.

A big summer awaits. It all starts with twin three Test series against Pakistan and South Africa, split by One-Dayers against New Zealand. Then further pyjama cricket of both the domestic and international variety.

Pakistan no problem, ya think? Well, now. Perhaps you haven't been paying attention to the official ICC world Test rankings, which until recently had Pakistan on top. India has just leapfrogged them, but they're still sitting second, with Australia third.

That's right, Pakistan is ranked higher in Test cricket than Australia. Not bad for a mob which never plays at home due to security concerns for visiting teams.

Pakistan is playing the West Indies right now in a Test at their home-away-from-home, the UAE. Or rather, playing with them -- as in toying with them. Opener Azhar Ali made an unbeaten triple century in the first innings. No other batsman was dismissed for less than a half century.

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Yasir Shah has a devilish googly. If you don't follow cricket, go get a thesaurus. Actually if you don't follow cricket, why are you reading this story?

They can bowl too. Leg spinner Yasir Shah is ranked higher on the official ICC bowler rankings than any Aussie. And in case you've forgotten, Pakistan beat us 2-0 in straight sets the last time we played, in late 2014.

South Africa, too, has just beaten us. It was five One-Dayers on the brick paths they calling batting pitches in South Africa, but they wiped us five blot. It was a humiliation. We'll be better at home, as we always are, and better in the longer form of the game, as we often are (although we are One Day World Champions), but don't count on it. Don't count on anything.

Australia's last three Tests in 2016 were a disaster. The results kind of got lost in the hype before the Rio Olympics when, as we do every four years, we suddenly found swimmers and modern pentathletes fascinating for five minutes. But the scoreboard says we lost 3-0 to Sri Lanka, a country where we have won 3-0 more than once in the past. As in South Africa, we were walloped.

There are selection dramas within the Australian team. And in other news, the sun just rose. Selection controversies are a perennial part of the cricket picture, but things have gone decidedly weird lately. We sent three bowlers to South Africa that only people who do cryptic crosswords and read the fine print sports results have heard of.

Do the names Chris Tremain, Daniel Worrall and Joe Mennie inspire confidence -- or even the faintest flicker of recognition? Thought not. They didn't exactly disturb the South African batsmen either.

There's a really good summary of Australia's One-day disaster in South Africa here, which you should read. It tries to extract positives -- any positives at all -- from the tour and, obviously, it struggles.

Here's the best it comes up with. Lolz.

"The Australians were extremely polite guests. Few things make South African fans happier than seeing Australia hammered by their team. To oblige so completely must surely make them one of the most well-mannered Australian teams to ever tour the country."

There's also this which was slightly more constructive with particular regard to One-Day cricket.

"But of all the straws Australian fans might choose to desperately clutch, here's perhaps the biggest. For the last twenty years, ever since Australia first split the Test and ODI captaincy, Australia has tended to spend the time between World Cups testing new players and team combinations, before peaking in the lead up to the World Cups with their settled strongest combination.

The question is, what happens when you try out players who turn out to be not so terrific? Our best Test XI still has four great bowlers and about four world class batsmen -- plus a couple of middle order strugglers who for reasons known only to the selectors keep getting picked. So we should at least compete if the best players make it onto the field.

But it could be a long hot, frustrating summer out there for Steve Smith, a champion cricketer and likeable guy who might soon learn that a pleasant demeanour is not enough to earn a nation's acclaim if the team's not making runs or taking wickets. We'll see. The first Test against South Africa starts on November 3 in Perth.

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