India vs Australia: Tampergate and the unspoken effect on Aussie cricket

In the India vs Australia Test series, the Australians appeared a confused bunch led by a captain, Tim Paine, who didn’t quite appear to have the personality to lead the side.

Australia skipper Tim Paine reacts after dropping a catch in Melbourne.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Even as India was closing in on its maiden Test series triumph down under, the Aussie giants from the past made appearances at the media centre’s food counter during the breaks.

Among them were Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath, Ricky Ponting, Mark Waugh and Brett Lee.

When these men played together - they were a part of a golden generation really - Australia was a formidable force. How things have changed.

Their visages revealed little but it must have been hurting inside. Australian cricket, presently, is at its lowest ebb in a long time.  

Much like Germany in football, Australian cricket teams have been associated with fight. They play hard, come back from impossible situations.

READ: Series win in Australia my biggest achievement, says Virat Kohli

Apart from a couple flashpoints and some light-hearted banter between Rishabh Pant and Tim Paine, the Aussies appeared ‘soft’ on the field in the just-concluded series.

Australians are at their best when they keep pressing at the opposition, the pressure keeps building. They hustle and sledge the opposition, play the mind games.

But then after Tampergate, the Aussies have become so conscious of their on-field behavior that the opposition is often having a go at them.

Australia and aggression have a symbiotic relationship. Saying words to the opposition is fair game unless they get personal.

What happened in Tampergate was horrendous. The three cricketers involved, including skipper Steve Smith and David Warner, were rightly punished.

David Warner (L) and Steve Smith (R) have been facing bans for their involvement in the ball-tampering saga.   -  Getty Images

 

The matter should have ended there. If the Australians were caught cheating again, there should have been even more severe sanctions.

Yet the issue travelled far beyond ball tampering and put the Australian cricket culture and its methods under the microscope. Then there was this imaginary line which should not be crossed.

But then, these are days when words are spoken by every team. Every team crosses the line at some point.

The events after Tampergate have had a huge psychological impact on Australian cricketers and the way they went about their game.

The Australians should play their cricket the Australian way, going hard at the opposition, employing gamesmanship, but comprehending the limits of their aggression.

READ: 'Kohli’s team raised the bar by winning the series'

If they play like the nice boys, they won’t win. It goes against their mindset and upbringing that considers every match a do-or-die battle.  

Against India, the Australians appeared a confused bunch led by a captain, Tim Paine, who didn’t quite appear to have the personality to lead the side. Australia, at this point, needs a strong character at the helm.

It was astonishing to see so many specialist batsmen getting starts - the first 20-30 runs are most difficult for any batsman - and then throwing their wickets away.

The pride of the baggy green was not in view. You don’t associate Australia with tame, limp cricket.

Shockingly, the highest individual score in the series for Australia was 79. Batsmen were just not willing themselves on to build an innings.

On view was a lack of concentration, poor shot selection, the inability to build partnerships and the absence of mental fortitude for the longer version.

Twenty20 cricket is taking its toll on Australian cricket. And the Cricket Australia has actually split Sheffield Shield into two phases - before and after the Big Bash - to accommodate the Twenty20 competition.

So when an important Test series is on - including the Boxing Day and the New Year Tests - the Australians selectors would find it hard to replace a player since there is no first class cricket happening owing to the Big Bash.

In the process, innings building skills in Tests have gone for a toss. And if you don’t put runs on the board in Tests, your team is in trouble.

Mitchell Starc’s travails in the series summed up Australia’s plight. Here was a strike bowler, the spearhead, bowling inept spells without control, hostility and intent.

Truth to tell, Starc’s confidence is in his boots. And the Australian cricket is in a hole.  

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