Australian cricketers, past or present, are usually unequivocal in the support of their team before a major series. Ask Glenn McGrath the outcome of any series, and the answer varies on the number of Tests. 5-0. 4-0. 3-0.
However, one former Australian captain who isn’t so confident of the team’s success is Kim Hughes, the man who came to India in 1979 as the promising 25-year-old captain of a rag-tag Australia that was ravaged by the tussle between the board and its top stars over Kerry Packer’s World Series of Cricket. Hughes ended up getting close to 600 runs but couldn’t prevent his side from losing the six-match series 2-0.
Speaking to HT over phone from Perth, Hughes said that a host of factors - Inexperience, lack of quality spinners or gamechanging pacers, an inordinate number of left-handers in their top-6 - could spell doom for the touring Aussies. His prediction for the series? “I see India winning 3-0,” he said in a brutally honest interview. Excerpts...
India are coming off a home-series loss against England. Can this Aussie team pull off a similar result?
England played spectacularly. Monty Panesar was the best spinner on display for either side. Graeme Swann complemented him perfectly. Australia unfortunately don’t have a spinner who can match up to either of them. The England spinners took wickets and didn’t bowl many loose deliveries, they didn’t give away more than 3 RPO (Runs Per Over). In the practice matches the Aussie spinners were leaking around 4-5 RPO.
Jimmy Anderson also played a key role in England’s triumph. Do Australia have the pacers to match his efforts?
Australia does have good fast bowlers. Mitchell Starc could have a great series. James Pattinson can be dangerous. Peter Siddle is workmanlike, but it’s a stretch to compare them to Anderson. Jimmy’s up there with Dale Steyn as the best fast bowler in world. The new ball will be effective for about 8-10 overs, after that you need guys like Anderson who have the ability to get Irish (reverse) swing.
What is your assessment of Australia’s batting options what with the experienced duo of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey calling it quits?
There will be tremendous pressure on Michael Clarke. He’s coming off a great year, he hit four double centuries, averaged over 100. But, many of those runs were scored alongside Mike Hussey, he was crucial at number 6 and had been in great form. Another question his retirement poses is who’ll bat at number 6? How effective can Matthew Wade be in that position? Even the great Adam Gilchrist never batted that high up.
The inexperience of the top-order is another worry. None of these guys have played Tests in India. You’ve also got so many left-handers. Warner, Cowan, Hughes, Wade, Khawaja. The Indian selectors’ gamble on Harbhajan Singh could be very effective. India will have two off-spinners bowling around the wicket and into the rough, with plenty of fielders close in. If the Australian batsmen have even a couple of bad days they could find themselves down 2-0.
It has been pointed out that while most of the players haven’t played Tests in India, they have toured the country and played in the IPL or CLT20. Does that experience count?
Playing T20 matches in India is nothing like playing a Test in India. Let’s be pretty clear, the Indians are going to prepare tracks that turn from day one. Playing IPL matches on flat tracks won’t be of much help when you’re facing spin from both ends on a dustbowl with plenty of close-in fielders.