Usual 'Australian way' and the new crop not a natural fit?

Will Australia push the boundaries or will it be a fresh style of cricket in light of the ball-tampering scandal? Eyes will be on India vs Australia series for insights.

Published : Nov 20, 2018 13:11 IST , chennai

Cricket Australia on Tuesday upheld the bans on Smith, Warner and Bancroft.
Cricket Australia on Tuesday upheld the bans on Smith, Warner and Bancroft.

Cricket Australia on Tuesday upheld the bans on Smith, Warner and Bancroft.

The ball-tampering incident in Newlands, Capetown, earlier this year triggered pandemonium in Australian cricket, which saw one-year bans each for Steve Smith and David Warner, and nine months for Cameron Bancroft. Reviews were commissioned and heads rolled.

A review into Cricket Australia's corporate culture led to an exodus of personnel including chairman David Peever, executive general manager (EGM) of team performance, Pat Howard, EGM of broadcasting and commercial, Ben Amarfio, and long-serving board member Mark Taylor.

READ| Warner, Smith, Bancroft ball-tampering bans to stand

There are tricky times ahead for CA's new chief operating officer Kevin Roberts, even as the management tries to find its feet after being exposed to the repercussions of an acute error of judgement. The upheaval, however, isn't merely of a managerial kind.

Since the ill-fated Test series versus South Africa, which Australia lost 1-2, the men in baggy green, led by new skipper Tim Paine, have played two five-day matches against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, drawing the first while losing the second by 373 runs. The numbers in the ODI format are less flattering, with Australia losing 11 of the 13 games played this year.

READ| Let's not be elite about honesty, says Mike Brearley

It is against this tumultuous backdrop that Australia will host India in three T20Is, four Tests and three ODIs. "It's (India series) highly significant, not least for the five-day format itself, after some decidedly forgettable home Test series," cricket writer, Gideon Haigh, tells Sportstar. 

"Although Australia's first-choice attack is world class, the batting is thin, and India will not have a better chance to knock the home team over."

Haigh, in his latest book Crossing the Line: How Australian cricket lost its way , conducts his own "less official and far cheaper but genuinely independent" cultural review in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal, also dubbed sandpaper-gate.

"Bancroft was encouraged in a belief that unswerving and unthinking obedience was de rigueur," Haigh says.

Australian teams in the past have often been criticised for taking offence at the slightest of provocations, while not having any such problems in dishing out their brand of aggressive cricket. 

From Steve Waugh, to Ricky Ponting to Michael Clarke, the baton of leadership was underlined by an iron-fisted approach and intimidatory reputation. Haigh, however, feels the current crop of players is an exception to that long-standing tradition. 

"It's certainly true that (Darren) Lehmann as coach believed that Australian teams played best when they were uninhibitedly aggressive, even unpleasant. But I'm not sure that behaviour came naturally to members of this (Tim Paine-led) team, as it did to the teams led by (Steve) Waugh and (Ricky) Ponting. 

READ| Lehmann reveals emotional struggles over sandpaper-gate

"The likes of (David) Warner and (Matthew) Wade aside, players aped behaviours because they were approved rather than following their instincts," he says.

Haigh concurs with former wicketkeeper Ian Healy's contention that Australia's excessive aggression in recent years was due to a "lack of confidence in their skill".

ALSO READ| Cricket Australia chairman quits after ball-tampering outcry

"I think that's well put by Heals. Lehmann strongly espoused an 'Australian way', which linked assertive and virile cricket to positive body language, an urge to dominate, a desire to entertain and a willingness to confront. Australia's skills, especially away from home, have not measured up. It has been cricket trying to measure up to a pre-determined style, rather than a style naturally emerging from cricket," Haigh says.

Incidentally, Cricket Australia on Tuesday upheld the bans on Smith, Warner and Bancroft.

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