Australia must look to the future when it tours India

Date: January 6, 2017 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Australia is going to get hammered in India.

On its last tour in 2013, it suffered a historic whitewash, losing 4-0. There is every likelihood that the four-Test series which starts late next month will end with a similar score line.

Australia’s ill-fated 2013 tour marked the start of a 19-match unbroken streak where India has not lost a Test at home. In that time, it has registered only three draws.

Currently, India has an embarrassment of riches at Test level. In its past 27 Tests it has not had the same eleven in consecutive matches through a combination of injury and optional changes as a result of the playing conditions.

When Australia lobs on their shores they will be brimming with confidence and rightly so.

For that reason Australia needs to be realistic about its chances and not necessarily look at this series but the years beyond.

Following Australia’s most recent sub-continental debacle – the 3-0 loss in Sri Lanka in August – Cricket Australia’s General Manager of High Performance, Pat Howard spoke about a change in thought process at the selection table.

“We’re most certainly going to end up with a horses for courses mentality. That might mean some players play really well during the summer and don’t go to India.”

Ever since Shaun Marsh was recalled to the side for the Third Test against Sri Lanka, when both Usman Khawaja and Joe Burns were dropped, and peeled off 130 and 23, it was felt that he was definitely one of those horses for courses players who would be first picked for the Indian tour.

He launched his Test career in Sri Lanka in 2011 with scores of 141 and 81 in his first two matches.

However, having been injured during the opening Test of the summer against South Africa at Perth he has not reappeared in first-class ranks. He returned to the BBL with the Scorchers on 27 December, but with little success, making scores of 8, 7, 4 and 32.

Yet he is still seen by many as a strong chance to usurp Matt Renshaw at the top of the order.

Chris Rogers, David Warner’s former opening partner and currently an erudite voice on ABC Grandstand’s commentary, said as much after Renshaw’s 184 in the first innings at the SCG.

“From what I’ve heard, Shaun Marsh is a good chance to play. He [Renshaw] is booked in for the opener’s spot for a long time to come for Australia. Whether that’s in the Indian series, I don’t know.”

Given the ages of the pair – Renshaw is 20 and Marsh 33 – I would definitely stick with Renshaw, especially given Marsh’s injury record.

With Australia seemingly on a hiding to nothing in India, giving Renshaw the opportunity to play against the best spin attack in the game in their conditions would be invaluable for the years ahead.

Take Marsh by all means, but give Renshaw first crack.

It is a tough call on Marsh whose last five innings for Australia realised two centuries and another knock of 63.

But Australia has turned its batting fortunes around this summer on the back of selecting young players in the shape of Renshaw (315 runs at 63) and Peter Handscomb (359 at 90). Both will learn an incredible amount in India.

Interestingly, the selectors chose 24-year-old Hilton Cartwright for the pivotal number six role at Sydney on the back of 19 first-class matches where he averages 44 with the bat and 42 and with the ball.

Whether he holds down that position for the first Test in India is debatable. If he does, again it will be a case of giving a young player the opportunity to learn about his game in India.

The jury is still out on Matthew Wade and just how he will cope up to the stumps on turning pitches.

Once again, it is a crucial decision for the selectors. Do they stick with him or return to Peter Nevill. In terms of age, both are 29.

With India looking like a forgone conclusion if there is a chance to select youth over experience I would be favouring the former in an attempt to hone the skills of the younger players for the future.

It appears they will get another chance in the sub-continent later in the year as well with the postponed 2015 tour to Bangladesh likely to be rescheduled.

When England toured their last year they came away with a one-all draw with their win by a margin of just 22 runs at Chittagong.

It is time to back some of the younger players with an eye to the future.

India will be a tough and almost certainly lost series but Australian cricket could help set itself up for the future.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 6 January 2017, soliciting 56 comments