Australia's cricketers let a big chance slip before series starts against India

Australian opening batsman Joe Burns remains horribly out of form as the first Test nears. Photo: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images
Australian opening batsman Joe Burns remains horribly out of form as the first Test nears. Photo: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Australia has squandered a golden opportunity of gaining a huge psychological advantage over India in this summer's four-Test series.

The Australians had the Indians on the back foot after comfortable wins in the opening one-day internationals of the summer.

But the tourists would have renewed confidence going into the first Test this week as a result of improved performances in the T20 series and two lead-up games in Sydney.

If Australia does not perform well in the day-night Test at Adelaide Oval, coach Justin Langer and the selection panel headed by Trevor Hohns should be in the firing line.

They have shuffled the team around and several key players will enter the game either out of form or short on match practice.

It's the Australians that now find themselves on the hop heading into the first Test

The decision to rest vice-captain Pat Cummins after two one-day internationals was bewildering - the match-winning paceman having enjoyed no time in the centre for almost three weeks before he plays in Adelaide.

Fellow fast bowler Mitchell Starc, who missed the final two T20 internationals in Canberra and Sydney because of a family illness, has struggled with his fitness and form so far this season.

He needed another hit-out before the Test to prepare him for battle against the star-studded Indian batting line-up led by skipper Virat Kohli.

At least there is depth in the bowling ranks, with James Pattinson and Michael Neser waiting in the wings to support Cummins, Starc and Josh Hazlewood.

But the same can't be said about the batting, with the opening pair far from being decided.

With David Warner injured on the sidelines, incumbent opener Joe Burns is horribly out of form.

Meanwhile, Marcus Harris, added to the Test squad to replace the injured Will Pucovski, failed twice for Australia A against the tourists last weekend.

Cameron Green, who was most impressive in scoring a century against the Indians in a three-day game at Drummoyne Oval and appeared likely to make his Test debut as an all-rounder batting at No. 6 in Adelaide, also suffered a concussion in the field at the SCG.

So a huge responsibility will be on the broad bat of Steve Smith, who has started the summer with successive centuries in the one-day internationals.

Winning in Adelaide is so important for both teams and particularly India, given that Kohli is returning home afterwards to be at the birth of his first child and will miss the remaining three Tests.

The tourists also have yet to settle on their opening pair, but Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill scored half-centuries while Hanuma Vihari and Rishabh Pant peeled tons off an under-strength Australia A attack last weekend.

The Indian fast bowlers have also looked impressive in the past week.

Jasprit Bumrah, a star on the last tour here in 2018-19, started slowly but ominously found form with the bat and ball against Australia A.

But there is still work to do for Kohli and his men. With a few exceptions, India's effort in the field has been lacklustre.

Too many catches have gone down and the Indians' ground fielding at times has been below international standard.

They can't afford to be giving chances to the Australians as they will make them pay dearly.

Cash-strapped broadcasters have got their way. Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Cash-strapped broadcasters have got their way. Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Country fans out in the cold

The AFL's decision to continue its floating fixture next season is another blow for those rusted-on supporters who plan their year around following their teams around the country, particularly those from regional areas.

Once rounds 7-23 are released, the competing teams and venues will be known.

But with dates and timeslots announced not that long before games, it will be much harder to book cheaper flights and accommodation.

For many that will mean it is too difficult to arrange around work/school/family commitments.

The message is, sorry guys, just stay at home and watch it on TV.

That suits the broadcasters - the more eyeballs on the coverage, the better result in terms of revenue.

In essence, there is nothing wrong with the principle of having the best games scheduled on Thursday/Friday nights.

But the AFL has sold out to cash-strapped broadcasters here.

For many years, Channel Seven has complained about the lack of flexibility in key timeslots affecting its audiences and in turn revenue.

So, the league has finally acquiesced to the network's demands.

Now that there will be more flexibility in the fixture, here's a novel idea for the AFL - when we can have capacity crowds again, if a venue is too small to cater for a big, ticketed game (ie Marvel Stadium/GMHBA Stadium), let's switch it to the MCG like the good old days.

Of course we would have to rely on the goodwill of the league and stadium operators breaking contracts to benefit the general public - probably there is more chance of me opening the batting for Australia!

While on crowds, it will be interesting to see how many adults are prepared to fork out $10 to watch AFLW games next season.

Maybe the timing is right with people desperate to get out and enjoy live sport after being locked down for so long, particularly in Victoria.

But it is clear the free ride is over.

AFLW must pay its way if its players want to be properly compensated for their services.

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.