Sunday, January 19, 2014

Of Comebacks and Turnarounds

There was a spell there in the middle overs of yesterday’s ODI in Sydney where, momentarily, the words we’re back and a phrase along the lines of remarkable turnaround sprang to mind.

It must have been somewhere around the half way mark in the England innings, just after Clarke had pulled in a rather impressive catch to snare Stokes. Earlier, we’d had a side on throw from Warner to dismiss Bell. Combine the two and a promising start by what should still be a pretty good England lineup didn’t look quite so challenging.

Cook had been dismissed in the ninth over, with the score on 50, Bell went in the fourteenth to make it 2-70, but that was still around five an over, with the prospect of a target somewhere around 270 to 300.

Which would have been challenging.

And in the wake of that catch from Clarke, there was a definite buzz around the Australian side.

As there should be.

By that stage on 3-81 the run rate was down towards four an over, and hadn’t lifted that much when Balance, Bopara and Morgan went. Still around four and a half. Rather handy. The tail got a few more than they should have, but 243 ended up looking a lot better (and a lot less challenging) than something around the 280 mark.

Chasing down 244 in forty overs was a pretty good effort as well, which brings me back to the first paragraph and momentarily, the words we’re back and a phrase along the lines of remarkable turnaround sprang to mind.

Well, maybe we are, and it definitely has been.

Further thought and a lengthy analysis on this morning’s walk had me wondering why we were ever away. After all, if we weren’t away, how did we manage to come back?

And when it comes to the remarkable turnaround, perhaps the remarkable thing is how far we’d slipped from what should be the standard as far as Australian cricket teams are concerned.

There’s been a fair buzz around the Australian side this summer, and while the prospect of 13-0 against the Old Enemy across three forms of the game should keep it there, pause for a moment and consider that of the eleven on the paddock yesterday, Warner, Clarke and Haddin were the only three who’d started on Day One at The Gabba.

That side went through unchanged and undefeated, and was never going to move into the limited overs stuff without a slight reshuffle, which brings us back to the vexed issue of rotation and policies associated with it.

Clarke, Haddin and Warner won’t be playing in Perth on Friday, and Watson’s missing as well, but Johnson comes back, Wade takes the gloves and Bailey fills in for Clarke as captain. Should still be a handy side, with Finch, Shaun Marsh, Maxwell, Christian. Pattinson, Faulkner, Coulter-Nile and Doherty rounding out the eleven.

Handy, but possibly not the side you’d take into a World Cup Final, assuming we get that far.

But that’s the point. We can’t have the same eleven playing every game regardless of the format and the opposition.

And, if you look back to the Rotation Policy Controversy, the key issue was the number of bowlers who were out injured, on their way back from injury or at risk of succumbing to injury.

Twelve months ago, that was a problem.

Now, with Harris and Siddle being held over for Test duties, Johnson rested ahead of a return in Perth, Faulkner, Pattinson and Coulter-Nile playing, Bollinger and Cutting on the fringes and Cummins on the way back you would have to say the fast bowling stocks are looking pretty good.

Add Starc, who’s also on the way back, and they look even better.

We’re starting to get to the situation where we’ve got a pool of up to two dozen players who could play for Australia in one of the three forms.

Look at the batting, on the other hand, and things aren’t quite so rosy. Throw our batting in against Philander, Steyn and Morkel and things may well look downright dodgy.

Then again, with that array of quickies, each of them looking to maintain their position or push their way up the pecking order, we might just start to get some decent form lines around the next generation of batsmen and see which of the old hands are approaching their use by dates.

Rogers won’t last forever, Clarke’s back won’t go away, and there are still question marks over Watson, Smith and Bailey, though Smith may have done enough to be relatively safe.

But if you want to see a truly remarkable turnaround, let’s see the next incarnation of the current Test line-up defend the Urn over there, and then complete the Three-peat on home soil without Rogers, Clarke, Haddin, Johnson, Siddle and Harris, none of whom you’d be expecting to see in the side in four years’ time.

Clarke, of course, might go down as a maybe, but he may also be gone tomorrow if something drastic happens to the degenerating vertebrae.

So, Back? Possibly, but there’s a way to go before you can be sure.

Remarkable turnaround? Perhaps. But there’s a transition that will need to be managed.

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