Darren Gough – Why Australian cricket is in such a mess

Australia coach Justin Langer. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA
Australia coach Justin Langer. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA
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AUSTRALIA are having their problems and it reminds me of the situation that England found themselves in during the Nineties when they were a lost cause for a few years after a dominant time in the Eighties.

They have lost their identity and are trying to change it to make cricket fans in Australia fall back in love with them. I notice they now have players who played in the same era arguing against each other, which I find absolutely unbelievable.

Look at Australia and us. They have not won a series in Asia for seven years; we have just won 3-0 in Sri Lanka.

They still have top-quality bowlers such as Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Stark, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon. James Pattinson is another, even though he has had injuries.

But their problems are with the bat. They have Usman Khawaja, who is consistent and has got better and better, but the rest of their batters have struggled, especially against spin.

Looking at their results this year, they lost 5-0 to England in the one-dayers and 1-0 against Pakistan in their Test series – it should have been 2-0.

Usman Khawaja: Consistently in the runs but is one of the few Australian batsmen making an impression on the world stage at either Test or one-day level. Picture: PA.

Usman Khawaja: Consistently in the runs but is one of the few Australian batsmen making an impression on the world stage at either Test or one-day level. Picture: PA.

They also lost 3-0 in their T20 series against Pakistan and recently lost 2-1 to South Africa in a one-day series and 1-0 in the T20s. Earlier in the year, they lost a Test series 3-1 in South Africa.

Now, they face an India side in Australia who are ranked No 1 in the world. It is a massive series for the Aussies.

When we played against them in the early-to-late Nineties, they had Mark Taylor and Michael Slater opening the batting followed by David Boon, Mark Waugh at four and Steve Waugh at five.

At No 6, they had one place available and they had to choose between the likes of Matthew Elliott, Justin Langer, Greg Blewett, Darren Lehmann, Michael Bevan, Stuart Law, Brad Hodge, Martin Love, Damien Martyn, Mike Hussey and Jamie Siddons for one spot.

They currently have so much inconsistency and just seem to me to be looking at players who have done well playing one-day cricket around the world.

Darren Gough

Looking at their first-class averages, Elliott averaged 47 and the others were Langer (50), Blewett (44), Lehmann (57), Bevan (57), Law (50), Hodge (48), Love (50), Martyn (49) and Siddons just under 45. Siddons played one one-day international and Love and Hodge played five and six Tests, respectively. Law played one Test and got fifty.

Hussey was averaging 52 and he couldn’t even get in Australia’s A team as it was that strong.

Now, look at the players they have picked for their Test squad to face India. People who have been mentioned are the likes of Travis Head, who averages 36 in first-class cricket. Aaron Finch’s average is also 36 and then there is Shaun Marsh (41), Mitchell Marsh (32), Tim Paine (29), Marcus Stoinis (32), Matthew Renshaw, Peter Handscomb and Callum Ferguson (all 38).

The Aussies have picked some of these guys such as Head and Handscomb. From a numbers point of view, this is the difference and where they are at.

Australia's Shaun Marsh celebrates his century during day four of the Ashes Test match at Sydney. Picture: Jason O'Brien/PA

Australia's Shaun Marsh celebrates his century during day four of the Ashes Test match at Sydney. Picture: Jason O'Brien/PA

They currently have so much inconsistency and just seem to me to be looking at players who have done well playing one-day cricket around the world.

It is almost if it is a case of Cricket Australia saying: ‘Well, they are good players, let’s put them in the Test squad.’

Their Test squad averages seem to have dropped about ten and that is down to the weakness of their domestic four-day game which used to be talked about as the strongest in the world. But it has been in decline for a while, the pathways seem to have disappeared and their Test players hardly seem to play any first-class cricket.

Lyon claimed nine wickets for New South Wales against Queensland recently. He took five wickets in the second innings and, believe it or not, it was his maiden first-class five-wicket haul for NSW. This is someone with 300 Test wickets.

I was speaking to an unnamed Australian ex-player recently and he was saying that the T20 effect all around the world has had a massive effect on all their top-class players with the timing of the Australian domestic season meaning that they can play in these T20 leagues around the world with it not interfering. He also spoke about a lot of players being over-coached just for the sake of it.

Just to top it off, the Aussies will be going into a hiding place next summer after it was decided that they will not be playing any warm-up county games ahead of the Ashes series as they feel the opposition is ‘too weak’. That made me chuckle.

Instead, they will play a warm-up game against a touring Australia A side. They feel they will be stronger than the county teams. But for the counties, it is another kick in the teeth.