It would be very easy to dismiss the Australian’s chances of lifting the Ashes Urn this summer. Even their former spin-king and legend Shane Warne said this week: “Australian cricket is in disarray and in my opinion people are hoping Australian cricket will turn around lack of a plan and a cricket strategy.”
The recent debacle that saw Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Johnson and James Pattinson all dropped from their squad for the Third Test in Mohali against India has been widely-reported and concluded as them being in a state of disarray.
Yes, it may not be the best preparation for a year that will encompass back-to-back Ashes series’, but if we dare to look at this coming battle for the Urn lightly, we will get our backsides well and truly smacked.
Before coach Mickey Arthur dropped the four above players, the Aussies were already looking a little bit light in the batting order.
The retirements of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey significantly dent their strength in the batting department.
Take away Shane Watson and they rely on skipper Michael Clarke even more than they have been over the last 12 months, and anyone who keeps up-to-date with Test cricket will know that Clarke has scored the bulk of their runs.
If you take a look from the outside, it does look like they have their problems heading into the Ashes, but from what I’ve read in the papers and watched on the news, I think Arthur and Clarke have made the right call for the future of Australian cricket.
Discipline is huge at any professional level in any sport, especially when you get right to the top level.
How can a coach of one of the top Test sides in the world do his job effectively if his players don’t adhere to his rules and obey by them?
I’ve captained a cricket team and managed a football club, obviously at a completely different level to this case, but you need to have some evidence of respect and authority, or you might as well not have a coach, captain or manager.
Reports suggest the four in question failed to provide the requested three-point presentation on how the side could improve following two heavy defeats against the Indians.
Put yourself in the shoes of Arthur or Clarke. What would you do?
I’d do exactly the same. They’d be dropped and subsequently on the next flight back Down Under.
I think if the four players don’t return to the side quickly and start to make up for their lapse in discipline, England will take an even greater advantage heading into the home series.
But looking at this from a longer-term stand-point, Arthur and Clarke are sending out a stark message to any aspiring Australian cricketer. A message that they must strive to improve and have the highest standards as possible, or face the chop.
The Aussies have nurtured some fine young talent since we saw the England contingent performing their infamous sprinkler dance on the pitch at the SCG after retaining the Urn back in 2011.
Cricket followers in Scarborough will know all about Mitchell Starc. A tall, sharp, left-arm pace bowler, who will cause us problems if he fires. His yorker is superb and he has genuine pace that could trouble us.
Pattinson himself, who has actually showed remorse for his actions, will be key to their chances of beating us on home soil. His 5-96 in tough conditions in Chennai show what a top prospect he is.
All-rounder Moises Henriques looks a talent too, but that is what you expect of a young Australian breaking into the ranks.
If the likes of David Warner, Phil Hughes and Matthew Wade fire then we are in for some fireworks aren’t we?
But I think despite our problems at Dunedin on a dire track, England are looking good at the moment and provided we don’t take the visitors lightly we will be strong favourites.
We have a relatively settled side, but while I have been backing Joe Root for a call-up to the side for a while, and was pleased to see him given his chance, I think I’m going to have to backtrack somewhat.
I fear I may also have to retract my criticism of the selection of Nick Compton at the top of the order soon, but time will tell and I’m still not 100 per cent sold on him.
Nobody can seriously argue with the selection of a batsman who started reasonably well in India and has battled back from a duck by compiling two centuries in one week though.
I fear Root’s chance may have come just a little bit too soon for him.
His shot on day two in Wellington just showed to highlight a possible nervousness. He leaned forward and keenly wafted at a ball from spinner Bruce Martin, when a patient shouldering of arms or a late cut through point would have been better suited.
I do really like Root. He epitomises everything that is good about the modern cricketer.
He is agile and capable in the field, he can play almost every shot in the book (and even invents one or two new ones of his own) and he turns his arm over as well.
Personally though I would give either Alex Hales or Luke Wright a go at six for now and give Root chance to get another season with Yorkshire under his belt.
We’re extremely lucky that we have one of the best wicket-keeper/batsmen in the world in Matt Prior and I’d move him up to six and bring Wright in at seven, and hopefully with Swann at eight, we’d have a long tail just incase we fail at the top of the order.
Still, time will tell and I genuinely hope Root starts to fire and score big runs to cement his place in the side and if we put 10 cricket fans in a room, I’m sure you wouldn’t get many agreeing on a starting XI.
While we’re on the subject of cricket, I have to take my hat off to the marketing team at Headingley for their brilliant creation of the Yorkshire Vikings.
The logo looks superb and has relevance to our great county.
I personally think it’s a great name and can’t wait to see the players strutting their stuff down at North Marine Road again this year.
SEND ME YOUR IDEAL STARTING XI FOR THE ASHES THIS YEAR: Tweet @mrdanielgregory or Email email@example.com