Australia lost its last Test match versus India in Mohali by one wicket in a great contest but one cannot see this week’s Third Test of its 2013 tour being anywhere near as tight given the extraordinary suspension of four Australians.
Vice-captain Shane Watson, fringe batsman Usman Khawaja and a couple of pace men, Mitchell Johnson and James Pattinson, are out of the good books of Australia coach Mickey Arthur and skipper Michael Clarke after failing to take part in a team analysis exercise following their side’s embarrassing, record-breaking innings defeat in last week’s Second Test.
That Clarke has come out and said that the bans are not the consequence of only one incident suggests that Australia’s cricket squad has more significant, deep-rooted issues than the failure of four players to hand in their homework on time. The captain is confident that his personal friendships with Watson, Khawaja, Johnson and Pattinson will endure but that sounds like wishful thinking on the skipper’s behalf.
Legendary former Australia captain Ian Chappell has gone on the record saying that cannot imagine how the suspensions and subsequent media coverage are going to help the touring team as its struggles to match an in-form India side that believes that the Australians cannot play spin bowling.
Chappelli believes that too many people are having a say in the running of Australia’s cricket team, something that he thinks should be the responsibility of the skipper in conjunction with the manager. He understands that team discipline is important to Clarke – the Australia captain has form in this regard having been behind the move to send home Andrew Symonds five years ago – but that this week’s suspensions are too harsh and will do more harm than good.
Some might say that Australia will be better off without at least a couple of its four banned players. Watson is not really worth his place as a middle-order batsman who does not bowl, while Johnson is up and down like a yo-yo. But Khawaja would have come into the side for Phil Hughes and Pattinson has taken twice as many wickets as any other Australia bowler in the first two Tests combined.
No Pattinson means no Australia bowler averaging under 30 on tour will play in Mohali and, of Australia’s batsmen, only Clarke and Moises Henriques are averaging over 30. Before the four-Test series got under way, opinions were divided as to how it would pan out, particularly given India’s home loss to England in 2012. Now most people are on the same page. Thankfully, not everyone is so India is a good bet.
There has been a betting move for India to win the Third Test that starts in Mohali on Thursday but the home team remains odds against in a couple of places. Surely offers better than even money will not last very much longer so step in and get with the Indians before it is too late.
Had it not been for Clarke, India would have defeated Australia even more emphatically than they did in Chennai (eight wickets) and Hyderabad (an innings and 135 runs). The Australian skipper is mentally strong – he responded to the break-up of his high-profile relationship with Lara Bingle by blasting a century – but this week’s events are about more than him. He is going to take to the field of the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium with the weight of a cricket-mad country on his shoulders, with most of his compatriots thinking that he and Arthur have lost the plot.
If Clarke does not fire in Mohali – he is Australia’s one and only top-class player of spin – then the week is going to get worse for him, Arthur and other Cricket Australia officials. The knives are out for them because back-to-back Ashes series are not that far away and Australians are very worried that they will cop back-to-back hidings off England.
England is trading at odds of around 8-15 to win the Ashes series in its backyard, while it is available at odds of around 9-4 to win the Ashes series in England and Australia.