In the last 72 hours, everyone has been absolutely condemning Australia and especially captain Pat Cummins. I feel for him because some of the pile-ons have been a bit harsh. It’s a big call to suddenly say he’s not a jobber. I still believe that he is. But, at the same time, there are valid questions to ask.
First, the decision not to play frontline spinners in this Test match. Personally, I would have loved to see a frontline spinner believed in and supported for the game. Five-day cricket is a long time and you never know for sure what is going to happen with the weather.
Did Mitchell Marsh’s batting at Headingley shock the selectors? To my mind, it’s pretty clear that Cameron Green has been the all-rounder of choice over the last few years and he bounces back when fit.
On the face of it, Australia took the easy option by dropping the young spinner, as opposed to making tougher selection decisions and dropping one of the all-rounders. It will be interesting to get Australia’s premier spinner Nathan Lyon’s thoughts on the decision not to play Todd Murphy.
There has also been much criticism of Australia’s strategy of employing multiple sweepers and allowing England to play very low-risk cricket while scoring five or more runs per over.
Australia captain Pat Cummins has come under fire for various decisions over the past few days.
Both Mitchell Marsh and Cameron Greene had a big call to play, with spinner Todd Murphy (pictured) left out.
England’s style of baseball is likely to stun Australia in the series on a knife edge.
I suspect Australia’s thinking is that they believe England will be too aggressive anyway so they can defend the border. However, England has allowed this cost to run easily.
I wonder how the Australian quicks feel when they hit their best ball and push for easy singles. It must be deflating. Australia bowled out three maidens in just 107.4 overs in England’s first innings, which is uncomfortable.
A less aggressive field reduces the chances of producing a string of overs of two runs or less. These overs create wicket opportunities as the batsmen look to move up the scoreboard and they take more risks.
Is baseball scared of Australia? A number of Australian players in interviews insisted they will play as they should and focus on what they can do. But what we saw was England’s style of play reacting to the plan. We wouldn’t be seeing all these defensive fields and stiff bouncer schemes if Australia just focused on what they do best.
I always believe that the bowlers are a bit relaxed knowing they have a lot of boundary protection and hence not precise enough in their execution. As a bowler, with a more aggressive field, you know you have to hit with your execution or else you get penalized. With a wide field and waiting for mistakes, it played into England’s hands.
He said, being a fast bowling captain is a really tough job. There is a reason not to stay down for many years. You have to focus on doing your job, which is very physically demanding, and then you need the mental capacity to make decisions about who is bowling at the other end, field placement and the state of play.
A lot of people think that Steve Smith actually runs the show, but I don’t believe it. I think Pat is a very strong character and he’s his own man. He might be taking advice from Smith, but why not? Steve was a great player and captain for many years.
I think some of the Australians who are calling for a change of captain are doing so mainly because they understand how important a player Pat is as an out and out fast bowler. We don’t care if he has a ‘c’ next to his name or not. We just want to make sure he’s doing his job with the ball.
At some point in the future, Pat decides that he just wants to concentrate on his bowling. Over the next 12 months, Pat is the captain in my eyes.
Australia have been urged to focus on what they do well rather than reacting to England’s game
Many people have argued that the former Steve Smith actually ran the show for Australia
There is a possibility that Cummins may step down at some point in the future to focus on his bowling
But a time will pass and I see Travis Head captaining Australia for a long time.
He was made captain of South Australia at the age of 20, so he had a great apprenticeship learning all the qualities of leadership at first-class level. I have worked closely with him for many, many years and I think he would be an inspired choice. If he is given that opportunity, I think he will do an excellent job.
For the remainder of this series, regardless of the result here, Australia will have some real food for thought in terms of their on-field strategy ahead of the fifth Test. But I still think they can do the job at the Oval. You start each test over.
Selfishly, with my Australian hat on, if we can get a draw out of this, that would be great. But if I put my neutral hat on, everyone wants to see it go 2-2 at the Oval. It will be an absolute humdinger of a Test match.
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