Driving down the highway from the central coast to Sydney I spot a few crows pecking at the carcass of some road kill that lost its identity days ago when it was hit by a truck.
It’s just a sad blob of pelt and crushed bone now and. . . I don’t know why. . . but my thoughts immediately drift to the critics who’ve been hammering Steve Smith’s Australian team.
It’s no secret that Australian cricket is going through a rough patch.
Heading into this summer it lost a series to Sri Lanka for the first time since the two nations started playing against one in 1983; South Africa beat them 5-0 in the recent one day series staged in the Republic and now the Aussies are looking down the barrel of a 0-3 series loss to the Proteas as they prepare for the Adelaide night Test.
Even though there has been wholesale changes to the team for Adelaide there are hundreds of questions that could be asked of how and why the rot set in, but even in this era of change there’s three burning questions that gnaw away at me as I drive towards the bright lights of Sydney.
WHY DID WE GET THESE RESULTS?
There were plenty of ready make excuses after Perth and Hobart.
‘There’s not enough Test cricket’; ‘The Sheffield Shield isn’t up to scratch anymore”; ‘We’re not playing enough four-day matches’ . . . but, it seems to me as though we’re the only country struggling with all of that.
When people have said there isn’t enough four-day cricket, I think to myself we don’t play any four-day cricket leading into an Ashes campaign. While you play practice matches in England the players still go into the series cold but they seem to perform.
I don’t understand why it’s all of a sudden so different.
Australia played a five match one day series against South Africa a few weeks ago and while it was a different format to Test cricket we were still pitted against the bowling attack that tormented us in Perth and Hobart.
My only observation on all of that is while the South Africans have done their homework it appears as though Australia hasn’t. I say that because they’re getting results and while a good batsman will always get runs, a top line bowling attack knows how to control the situation and how to slow the game down.
The Aussies in Perth - and then Hobart - didn’t seem to know how to do that.
The plan for Perth and Hobart seemed to simply hope Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood would bowl an amazing spell - because that’s the only way we’ll get a wicket. Perhaps the injection of Chadd Sayers and Jackson Bird for Adelaide will add a much needed extra dimension.
Perhaps the sub-point to this question is: are we too dependent upon Starc?
I’m the first to admit Hazlewood did a fantastic job in Hobart. I’m a big supporter of Josh because he’s someone who is always going to hit the wicket and create chances. While he’ll always ask questions of the batsman Starc has the X-Factor.
However, I will ask yet again what’s the plan if he’s not bowling well? Do we just throw up our hands and say ‘that’s it?’
WHY AREN'T THE SENIOR AUSTRALIAN PLAYERS LEADING FROM THE FRONT?
That’s something you’ll need to ask them. However, when a cricket team finds itself in a tough situation it’s about having a team that will fight and fight and fight.
South Africa batted okay in Hobart, and, in fairness I should mention the conditions may have been slightly better for them than they were for the Australians.
The Proteas’ scorecard reflects it was certainly a tough start for them, but after Australia was skittled for 85 they put their head down and were 0-40 against a brand new ball.
At the moment there seems to be more complaints than anything else. I’m hearing people complain ‘not enough four day cricket’; ‘too much one day cricket’; ‘It’s Cricket Australia’s fault’ and ‘there’s too much T20’. It’s all the same old rubbish and my suggestion is to forget all of the excuses and just get out there and deal with it.
The newcomers to Test cricket – and the baggy green cap - Peter Handscomb, Nic Maddinson, Matt Renshaw and Chadd Sayers have the ability to make a name for themselves if they simply get in and fight.
IS IT ALL STEVE SMITH'S FAULT?
Of course it isn’t!
There’ll be those who’ll point the finger and blame the captain after any team has capitulated like Australia in their last two matches, but when I hear people blame Steve I think they’re looking for a scapegoat - and not an answer - for the team’s form.
Steve Smith doesn’t bowl every ball; he doesn’t play every shot but he certainly did everything possible to lead from the front in Hobart. He fought hard and did his job . . .
Sure, he is in a results-driven environment, but he is also in charge of a team that has lost some great experience - and hard heads – in recent times with Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson and Michael Clarke all retiring.
What Steve Smith is learning is this reality - he can only play with the team that’s picked. Now, it’s time for some critics struggling to find answers to accept that.
- Nathan Bracken, exclusively for Sportsta.