There are plenty of words to describe each test, each player, and each moment, but none more so than disappointing. Even travelling with a team that had largely not played in Indians conditions before, Australia was rolled, crushed and decimated over the past month in a way no-one expected.
On a batting note, Australia cannot consistently post big scores, as was evidenced against India. A decent first innings total was then followed by an astonishing collapse, leaving little for the bowlers to defend. Prone to either concentration lapses or a simple lack of skill against spin proved to unravel the majority of the batting order. Too often it was the tail that saved us, or the likes of Steve Smith, who scored 92 in Mohali to both save the Australian innings and prove he had the mentality as a batsman to succeed at test level.
The David Warner-Ed Cowan combination at the top of the order fired on all cylinders only once, in Mohali. Cowan better applied himself throughout the series, sticking around with true grit during a few collapses, however Warner gave away his wicket too much in trying to charge the spin, finishing the series with 195 runs to Cowan’s 265 (both played all four tests).
The changing middle order of Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke, Matthew Wade, Steve Smith, Moises Henriques and Glenn Maxwell were complete under-performers overall. Despite the “off-and-on” individual displays, the middle order was yet another example of poor preparation and lack of confidence on turning and seaming pitches. Watson in particular sent a wave of doubt through the camp, with a paltry run tally of just 99 from three tests.
It all came to a head before the Mohali test when Watson, Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson and Usman Khawaja were all omitted for the third test over what has been called (among other terms) ‘homeworkgate.’ A wake up call it was, and the Australians finally came out firing (before eventually being defeated to lose the series 4-0).
Bowling stocks weren’t much better, given the pressure they were put under by both the splendid Indian batting and playing in the testing Indian conditions. Frontline spinner Nathan Lyon showed in Delhi why he has been thought of as Australia’s number one spinner, ripping through India with seven wickets in the first innings.
James Pattinson was the biggest “user” of the ball, finding swing and seam when nobody else could. All the bowlers found some rhythm but were never able to completely convert their chances, or work in tandem with the bowler from the other end.
Post-match in Delhi, stand-in captain Shane Watson spoke to the media regarding Australia’s poor performance throughout the series.
“The 0-4 margin has been extremely disappointing for us,” Watson told reporters on Sunday. “We came here with high hopes of winning the series but haven’t been able to get the desired results. We haven’t played our best cricket.”
Heading into both the Ashes series and Champions Trophy in England in a few months time, there’s plenty of kinks in the squad to iron out. Just one innings score above 400 (with almost 200 of those runs coming from two batsmen) suggests a lot of training and/or preparation is needed in order for Australia to be match-ready for England. Caught out by the Indian conditions did not help the team’s case in climbing back to the top of the test ladder.
All the pieces are there to begin a stable rebuild; it is just a waiting game before Australia goes to the top again. India was a big wake up call to the selectors and Australian cricket in general, and now we just need to clean up the mess.