Harsha Bhogle

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Australia were caught in the headlights

Teams play bad cricket and teams lose, indeed Australia have lost too,
even from winning positions as they did at Eden Gardens in 2001 and from strong
positions like at Adelaide in 2003-04. But with good teams the losses become
events and that is why Australia
were such a good cricketing nation. They had good players because they had a
good system and they played tough. Beneath that excellent winning record lie a
number of matches that could have gone the other way had it not been for bold,
decisive cricket.

 

 

And Australia
never admitted they were down because that would have made the opposition
strong. They always talked a good game, said the right things and hardly, if
ever, revealed chinks in the armour. And that is why I am a little baffled at
some of the recent statements coming out of their camp.

 

 

"There was panic" one of the players said while the now infamous and, for
many in the opposition all these years, memorable collapse was underway. You
wondered, and you hardly ever say this about Australia, whether they were
playing like they were caught in the headlights. You could sense it from a
distance and that is why I was so convinced that South Africa would chase down the
target that, in the immediate context, looked like it would take a few innings
to reach. They did it much easier than anyone would have anticipated but the
moment they bowled out Australia
for 47 they only needed to stay calm to win. Many Australian sides I have seen
would have won the game in the third innings.

 

 

And so now, it is not only a fightback to save a series that's required, but
also to convince themselves that they are good enough. People of stature are
saying that this is as low as Australia
can get; there are calls for the sacking of erstwhile match winners and there
is an air of turbulence around. Already one of the great innings in Test
cricket, from the captain no less, is forgotten. The world seems to change very
quickly.

 

 

But it doesn't actually. Australia
are not a bad side. They are merely allowing themselves to believe they are.
For years they did this to the opposition and now they are discovering that
keeping confidence up in times of stress is a great attribute in itself. All
they need is an opener who doesn't give the impression he is trying to catch
the last train and a new ball bowler to whom a length ball is not an event. I
am not sure of the opener's slot; David Warner could well be the man, but the
new ball bowler could not be too difficult to find.

 

 

With Watson capable of bowling fifteen overs in an innings, you could
blood a kid and whatever we have seen of Pat Cummins has been mighty
impressive. Watson needs to score at the top of the order, however. He almost
took more wickets in the match than he scored runs, but his bowling in South Africa's
first innings was phenomenal. His rating on the Castrol Index read 300 by
Bowling Efficiency! But his, and Australia's, bowling in the last
innings was as flat as could be.

 

 

If the Aussies can rediscover the Australian in themselves, they will
fight back. But if they have to search for him they will struggle against
anyone who has a good attack.

 

(Harsha Bhogle, is writing in his role as a Castrol Index spokesperson.)

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