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Australia comes with excuses after heavy defeat at MCG

The Indians completely humiliated the home side in Melbourne, taking a monumental Boxing Day Test win. If they triumph at the SCG, it will be the first time India has claimed a series on Australian shores. The Aussie team management has been pushed into panic mode. They need to come out with a change very soon. It has to be drastic not just tinkering, otherwise a series defeat is on the cards. The options are limited - just one batsman averaging above 30 for the series after the first 3 Tests. The selectors, the Coach and the Captain all are running around the panic room searching for answers.

The excuses are flowing from all sides – First is the pitch. Australian captain Tim Paine has taken a thinly veiled swipe at both the MCG and SCG curators, lamenting the state of pitches that the skipper suggested had played into India’s hands. There is nothing new about the pitches in Australia. Gone long are the days where the pace and bounce were there in almost all the pitches except at SCG. For the 10-15 years after the drop in pitches came into effect the situation has changed and to lay this as an excuse is a sign of poor sportsmanship on the part of the “temporary’ Australian Captain Tim Paine. "We prefer to see wickets that have got a bit of bounce and carry on it," Paine told ABC Radio. "Our strength in Australia is our pace and it's very rare you go to India and get a green wicket, and it's been disappointing at times we've produced wickets that have played into their hands a little bit”. The pitch at MCG was far better than the last year pitch dished out the English team. The fact that Indians were a clinical and a superior pace bowling side negates the excuse. India missed out in Perth on a lively surface which suited their bowlers but the batsmen failed handing over a victory to the hosts. They are not going to commit the same mistake again. If the MCG pitch had pace and bounce, it would have suited the Indians bowlers more than the tired and inaccurate Australian bowlers and the victory at MCG would have been swift. The Aussie bowlers wasted the resources and energy in the first innings with an innumerable short pitched deliveries and bouncers which was seen off majestically by Kohli and Pujara. The fact is India read the pitch well and outplayed the Australians at MCG.

The next excuse is the absence of Smith and Warner. This is the same Tim Paine who had indicated before the Test series that they are aware of their absence and would still try and win the series – this went bit loud after the Perth win. First India cannot do anything for the absence of the duo. They are served an opposition and have beaten them comprehensively. The duo committed an act of cheating and paying the price – the punishment meted out by their own Board. To quote this as an excuse or a reason for the defeat speaks of immaturity on the part of the Australian captain. Yes – the Newlands-scandal bans has left a gaping hole in the batting order. But that is part of cricket. There is no certainty that Smith and Warner’s presence would have changed the course of the result. Secondly batsmen regularly are out of form and drop out and that happens to all test sides. India’s openers are outof form – to their credit they strung a new opening pair and successfully won the Test. The fact is India’s bench strength is far better than Australia’s. The Australian think tank may be better off looking at their Sheffield Shield set up rather than bringing this as an excuse for the defeat.

The next argument from Tim Paine was that if you take Pujara and Kohli out of the Indian batting set up the Australians can beat them. "I think that's pretty clear. I think if you took Pujara and Virat out of India's side I think you'd have the same conversation," Paine said in Melbourne. How stupid is this statement. If you look at any series victories by test playing nations – generally two batsmen stand apart in their averages followed by the other batters. Previously it was Kohli – if you take him out India is nothing. Then Pujara is added. Next will Rahane if he scores more runs. 'There are holes in India's batting as well' - Australia captain Tim Paine admits his team was outplayed at the MCG, but says there are holes to exploit should they dismiss Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara cheaply. The fact that apart from Pujara and Kohli, debutant Agarwal and Rohit scored fifties and the rest contributed 30s made India reach a formidable first innings score of over 400 runs which made India dominant.

Next is the BBL and lack of Sheffield Shield matches. Into the eighth year of the Big Bash League, Australia's players, coaches and selectors are into the familiar jumble between Test squads and an unrelenting parallel T20 schedule that has seen the dropped batsman Peter Handscomb go off to play for Melbourne Stars before returning to the squad, while Peter Siddle did likewise for Adelaide Strikers. "It's out of our control. As players our job is to play cricket and turn up where we are supposed to turn up. We don't do the programming and can't help it at this stage," Paine said. Paine should note that it is the norm for Cricketers around the world. The modern cricketers are capable of quickly switching formats and the fact that there are so many in the Indian side who play all three formats are testament that talented players flourish in all formats.

Test great Shane Warne nailed the reason for the Australian performance. He questioned Cricket Australia’s preparation of their bowlers as stats show the Test side’s struggles extend beyond their underperforming batsmen. Having already fired a rocket at Mitchell Starc, Warne had another crack on his fellow bowlers after Australia’s 137-run loss at the MCG.

While Australia has been lauded for the potency of their attack, Warne has questioned their ability to trouble frontline batsmen in 2018 with the exception of Pat Cummins.

Warne was startled by numbers that showed only Cummins, with 30 wickets at 23, was averaging below 30 against top-six batsmen. He was particularly scathing of Josh Hazlewood and Starc, who are averaging 40 and 47 respectively, while Nathan Lyon’s 29 frontline scalps have come at a cost of 43 apiece.

Warne concluded saying "I just don’t think they’re bowling well enough. If you look at the rhythm, why is that happening? You have to look back at the preparation. Are the bowlers preparing the right way? Are they bowling enough in competitive cricket?"

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