What if Australia go belly up in Adelaide?

Date: November 24, 2016 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Australian cricket has undergone a seismic shift. So, what’s next?

There will be three debutants in the top six – Matt Renshaw, Peter Handscomb Nic Maddinson – at the Adelaide Oval.

The humiliating loss at Hobart – Australia’s fifth consecutive Test defeat and second straight series loss – predicated a bloodletting seldom seen in Australian cricket.

Appearing on Fox Sports’ Inside Cricket, selector Mark Waugh said the shake-up was a “line in the sand” moment. What that means we are still not entirely sure.

Australian cricket fans are not used to periods of protracted failure.

Only recently they basked in the glory of a Test side that was jostling for the title of ‘best of all time’. Two separate 16-match winning streaks are still fresh in the memory.

But in the last few months the one-time juggernaut has lost its way, like a dismasted yacht in the doldrums, aimlessly lolling around. Across all forms of international cricket, Australia has lost ten games in a row.

Cricket Australia CEO put everyone on notice following the Hobart debacle.

A few hours after he appeared grim faced at a media conference where he put everyone on notice, CA CEO James Sutherland learned of the resignation of his chairman of selectors, Rod Marsh.

Marsh contemporary, Greg Chappell joined Waugh, coach Darren Lehmann and interim chairman Trevor Hohns, charged with the responsibility of selecting a team that would stop the rot.

Collectively, they decided to eviscerate the side that was done over in less than three days at Hobart.

In doing so, they cut two men – Callum Ferguson and Joe Mennie – who had made their Test debut. Joe Burns, recalled after a three-Test hiatus, was jettisoned after just one match.

Ferguson was particularly stiff. He was selected on the back of averaging 51 in the Sheffield Shield since the start of the 2014-15 season. He had made six centuries in his past 17 matches.

He had proved in the past that he was up to the pressures of international cricket having averaged 41 from his 30 ODI appearances. Yet, he was given just one chance.

His first innings dismissal was a run out, hardly what you would call a technical deficiency. Yes, his second innings dismissal was not pretty but certainly that alone did not indicate that he was not capable of succeeding at Test level.

He did not do his cause well with two innings of four in the weekend’s Shield match, but again, was that sufficient to see him dropped after just one Test?

Sent back to Shield ranks to find greater form, Steve Smith (8 & 16) and David Warner (11 & 20) hardly set the world on fire.

Matthew Wade, called in for Peter Nevill, made six in his only Shield innings over the weekend to give him an average of 28 from his four innings this season. Last season he also averaged 28.

No one disputes the fact that as a ‘keeper he is inferior to Nevill. It is his perceived superior batting that has given him the nod to extend his 12-Test career although his raw stats would tend to bely that theory.

So how much latitude is he given to nail down his place in the team?

Waugh would not be drawn on a so-called ‘pick and stick’ mentality. Having discarded Ferguson and Mennie as they did it would be hard for him to do so. He did, however, allude to the younger players, saying, “They’re obviously going to get more of a chance than the older guys”.

I am sure that comment sits in the craw with Ferguson.

It is also a salient barb in the direction of Wade and Jackson Bird, who has earned a recall at the expense of Mennie.

The next two Tests will be day-night affairs with Australia’s batsmen to be duly tested by two quality attacks armed with a pink ball.

It will be an acid test for the top-order, three of whom who will be experiencing the cauldron of Test cricket for the first time.

The selectors are honour bound to let this team settle.

Warner will stride to the middle with his third opening partner in as many Tests this summer.

Waugh says Smith has been given considerable input into the selection of this current side. Nonetheless, being handed three debutants on top of a further two changes from Hobart, the skipper will be very much in unchartered territory.

This is now a team in transformation. One that has entered a distinct rebuilding phase.

The question remains as to whether these are the building blocks to base a resurgence on. And in fairness, one match will likely not supply the answer.

Fans and selectors alike need to take a deep breath.

Apart from Nathan Lyon’s position, should he fail to produce over the next five days, the side for Adelaide needs a chance to bed down.

There may still be rough seas ahead for a period but the incumbents deserve a chance to show their merit.

Another purge in the short term will do little to assist in setting a smooth course.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 24 November 2016, soliciting 54 comments