Border Gavaskar Trophy
India leads the 4-Test series 2-0
Shane Watson. Mitchell Johnson. Usman Khwaja. James Pattinson. If you think about these 4 names (well, atleast 3) in an India v/s Australia series of any sort, they inspire plenty of fear and awe in the opponent’s mind- not because they’re great test players (they’re strictly good), but because they’re capable of switching gears and absolutely blowing away the Indians on their day. Each of them has proved it before, and despite the Australians crumbling and being 2 tests down in the series, even Usman Khwaja was set to play at Mohali in all certainty, in place of the all-at-sea Phil Hughes.
It is confirmed now that the Australian cricket team, led by Michael Clarke and coach Mickey Arthur, will head into the Mohali Test- where they are expected to put on a much better bowling show than the previous tests- WITHOUT these 4 players in their squad. You heard that right.
Australia will be in Mohali with 13 players to choose from in their squad- with Wade being replaced by incoming Brad Haddin (blessing in disguise) for the test match. The 4 players were chucked out of the team for Mohali after failing to comply with ‘team orders’, on disciplinary grounds. Coach Mickey Arthur had asked every player of the squad to make a small presentation to him (not ppt, as jokes would have most believe)- 3 points about how they think the tide could be turned and the team could improve. That sounded like standard procedure most coaches or managers in football exercise very often, hence the word ‘presentation’ is a slight exaggeration.
Watson and Pattinson failed to do so before the deadline of Saturday, while Khwaja hasn’t always been known for his great team spirit- notorious for being one of the Aussies who could have achieved a lot more if not for his attitude. Johnson, being experienced enough, must not have taken the orders very seriously either. And before you could say ‘presentation’, the decision was made to drop these key players in order to make a statement, and set an example.
While many could argue that this was quite harsh and senseless from Arthur and Clarke, both of them claim that it was the straw that broke the camel’s back- and it had to be done to remind the players to respect discipline and unity. That is understandable under most circumstances- except after being thrashed in 2 test matches by a not-very-great Indian team- the time did not seem right to crack the whip in such dramatic fashion. If unity and discipline was the mantra, this could beat the purpose at a time when Clarke needed to inspire his troops and instill confidence into them- not make them fear for their lives and careers. Being a good man-manager is as important as drawing the line for most leaders, and coach and captain seem to be obsessed with doing only one of those things right now.
With ex-players reacting in shock and expressing disgust at this decision, it is also noteworthy that Watson has always been admired for his discipline and ability to bounce back from incessant injuries. Along with Johnson and Clarke, he formed the seniormost trio in the side that would often be mentors for the incoming Aussies. Making an example out of him may not have been the wisest of decisions, as Clarke might soon learn at Mohali.
Australia will almost definitely have to go in with 3 spinners. At Mohali. The Indians must be licking their lips at the prospect of facing the likes of Lyon, Maxwell and Steve Smith, who might have to come in and play his first test. Doherty too, will keep his place, as will Hughes- who could be crucial in the middle order now that Watson is out. Khwaja, the replacement for Hughes, might not get a game on tour after all. While players like Symonds have been dealt with consistently in the past for his drinking issues, it still made sense to do so- even at the cost of his talent, because it only made the others more responsible. And while these bans have been enforced by a strict Aussie management over time, this situation playing itself out in India is more synonymous to that of a Pakistani touring team. Or a Pakistani home team. While the Zoo enters Mohali for the second half of the test tour, as most of Twitter pointed out very appropriately- the news of Bangladesh shattering batting records against Sri Lanka at Galle, and the fourth coming of Ashraful as a ‘patient’ batsman, is not even the most popular cricket topic right now.
One thing is for sure- Dhoni and co. couldn’t be in a better position to strike and execute a swift, painless 4-0 drubbing.