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Gadfly 58


Australian cricket needs a major makeover.

That much is clear from the shellacking the Test team received at the hands of Virat Kohli’s men. The 2-1 result was kinder to the Aussies than the reality, even with Kohli’s luck at the toss.

We were simply outplayed.

But in making the changes we should be careful to reward those who acquitted themselves against the odds while being bold enough to farewell others who just don’t have that special quality needed to succeed at the top level.

The two men who performed with great distinction were Tim Paine and Pat Cummins. Paine brought maturity and good fellowship to the captaincy in stark contrast to Kohli’s snappish emotional posturing. He should be rewarded with the chance to lead his team to victory over the hapless Sri Lankans who’ve just been thrashed by the Kiwis. But then in his 35th year he should leave the playing arena to become a selector. His replacement as ‘keeper should be the young South Australian Alex Carey, who could well become another Adam Gilchrist.

Pat Cummins proved himself an all-rounder with the temperament and skill to adorn the game for years to come. He should be raised to the Vice-captaincy under Paine and retain it under Steve Smith when the skipper returns from his punishment in March. There’s a lot of silly talk around for Cummins to be made the next captain. This would be a mistake.

Truth is, dashing fast bowlers like Keith Miller and Cummins don’t really have the temperament for it. (When Miller captained NSW, his initial field setting instructions were, ‘Okay chaps, spread out.’ I had this from my late ‘teammate’ of the 1970s, Lindsay Hassett during his long retirement on the NSW South Coast. He was my occasional number eleven batsman when I skippered the Batehaven XI, much to the outraged despair of opposing teams!)

The other senior player to become part of the three-man leadership should be Nathan Lyon. As a match-winner, Lyon is no Shane Warne, but he’s good enough to hold his place. Former V-C Dave Warner can return as a batsman but has forgone the right to ever resume a leadership role.

Sadly, the axe has to fall on batsmen Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head and all-rounder Mitch Marsh. They’re as brittle a line-up as campfire kindling. Marcus Harris is still on probation but he could be another Justin Langer so keeps his place for now.

Their replacements, aside from Warner and Smith, would be Tasmanian D’arcy Short, Queenslander Max Bryant and NSW all-rounder Moises Henriques. All have excellent batting techniques, good temperament and potential to burn.

As for the fast bowling attack, both Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood simply didn’t measure up against the Indians and even if they get a bag of wickets against the Sri Lankans that proves nothing. Instead, Billy Stanlake should open with Pat Cummins and hungry James Pattinson should be given his chance at first change.

So, there you have it – a combination of youth and experience, fire and consistency, power and guile. I reckon that by next year they could win the Ashes in a canter. And if anyone says they have a better line-up I’d be glad to see it.

robert@robertmacklin.com

Robert Macklin has carved out a unique place among Australia’s literary biographers and historians. He has won numerous literary prizes including the 2009 Blake Dawson award for business literature with Peter Thompson for their classic THE BIG FELLA – the Rise and Rise of BHP Billiton.His Kevin Rudd: The Biography was shortlisted for the ACT Book of the Year; and he has won three Critics Circle Awards for his military biographies and histories. He has completed a lecture tour of three Chinese universities based on his works and is presently writing a history of Australia/China relations over the last 200 years.Queensland born, he has been a journalist at the highest level, a confidant and biographer of two Australian prime ministers; a documentary filmmaker in 32 countries of Asia and the Pacific; and is also political columnist and commentator in the nation’s capital. He presently divides his writing time on fiction, non-fiction and screenplays between Canberra and Tuross Head on the NSW South Coast.


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