Over the next few months, the fate of Australia, India and England is entwined. India are currently playing England, to be followed by Australia and then there’s an Ashes series.
All enticing series and as the teams stand at the moment, England are on the rise, while Australia are treading water and India are regressing. Australia and India are in different stages of rebuilding and with varied reserve stocks.
India are the team with the major headaches; they need to begin a revitalisation process with a change of leadership and a fond farewell to a champion batsman. This is going to take a large dose of selection courage and so far that’s been as rare in Indian cricket as sighting of the Lochness Monster.
Time to ponder
The big stumbling block to India beginning the renewal process is Sachin Tendulkar. While everyone waits with baited breath to see what he’ll do, the team is stagnating; the issue has become “will he or won’t he” instead of being “will they or won’t they”. It’s time to say thanks to Tendulkar for providing a glorious era and then concentrate on forging a new group of successful players who produce an exciting brand of cricket. India are fortunate; they’re not without talent in both batting and spin bowling and their major concern is bowlers of genuine pace.
Australia have a plethora of young pace bowlers but the problem is how to keep those talented quickies on the park. Australia also need to repair a system that used to routinely produce exciting young batsmen but now churns out a production line of aging (in cricket terms) debutants.
Surprisingly, after years of basking in the glory of Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill, there are very few wrist-spin imitators and an art in which Australia once dominated is now as desolate as the country’s red centre.
Where Australia were a leader when it came to producing and picking bold young cricketers, we now have a system that replicates the outdated one England appear to have discarded.
The most pressing need for Australia is to get the team and in particular the batting line-up settled quickly so they’re in good shape by the time the Ashes series commences. This will require the selection juggling act of choosing sides to win in the present but to also accommodate future requirements.
England have displayed a boldness that was missing from their cricket for much of their lean years. From the time they chose a dashing young Kevin Pietersen for the 2005 Ashes series instead of plumping for an aging stalwart in Graham Thorpe, England have been on the rise. That trend is continuing with the introduction of a determined young Joe Root in a crucial Test in India.
However, England do have one major problem. They need to unearth a fast bowling all-rounder to occupy the six or seven batting spot so that they can retain the deadly spin combination of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar. This pair has the capacity to be the modern version of Jim Laker and Tony Lock for England and every stone should be overturned in order to ensure they can work as a pair. One option is the return of Stuart Broad to full fitness with a stronger focus on his batting.
There are potentially exciting times ahead for all the three teams and their progress will be followed with interest. The most likely ingredient for immediate success will be boldness and surprisingly, England lead the way.