Seeking a golden hue, Australia in yellow comes to India!

There have been pleasing signs from Australia since their remaking of the team after the Hobart debacle against South Africa last November, but it is still a work in progress. A successful tour of India springboarding to Ashes reclamation could see Australia legitimately back in business.

Australia’s batting is heavily dependent on skipper Steve Smith and David Warner.   -  AP

Undoubtedly, it has been a rollercoaster ride for Australia this year. There was much goodwill in the Australian camp after they unexpectedly put up a fight in India, which included a memorable Test victory in Pune — one of Australia’s greatest ever victories. 

However, the momentum from that tour quickly eroded as Australian cricket was mired in the bitter pay dispute scandal. Amid the bickering between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association, a mentally drained Australia endured a predictably disappointing Champions Trophy.

Meanwhile, the pay dispute showed no signs of abating dragging on past the original June 30 deadline to threaten Australia’s upcoming fixtures. 

Even at the start of August, Australia’s Test tour of Bangladesh was still in jeopardy because of the pay dispute. For some time, it appeared the tour was not going to eventuate even if it was inevitably struck partly because of lingering safety concerns from the players.

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However, when the squabbling parties belatedly decided to properly negotiate, a resolution was struck with the tour of Bangladesh receiving the go ahead. Suddenly, Australian players — who had been in the dark and were seriously contemplating their playing options — had to focus on a looming tour to the subcontinent. 

After a long break, the Australian players were not physically jaded but their emotions had been frayed and relations with their cricket chiefs tested. For such a young group, who earned a big tick of approval during a courageous tour of India earlier this year, their resolve and mental toughness was thoroughly tested in Bangladesh. 

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Inevitably, Australia suffered a letdown in the first Test in Dhaka losing by 20 runs although the defeat was overstated by many. Losing in Bangladesh — particularly after limited preparation — was not a travesty although there were worrying signs particularly with the stuttering batting. 

It all meant there was much at stake for Australia in the second Test in Chittagong. It was their last attempt to salvage some much needed pride in the turning conditions as they are not scheduled to visit Asia until early 2019 (Pakistan in the UAE). Had they lost the Test and series, their inability to cope in difficult terrain would have haunted them for a long time. 

Impressively, Australia overcame the odds with a comprehensive victory. Ironically, after seemingly apathetic about touring, Australia will be ruing the Test series against Bangladesh wasn’t longer as they were just starting to feel good about things.

Australia’s bowling looks vulnerable in the absence of Mitchell Starc or Josh Hazlewood.   -  AP

 

Fortunately for some of them, Australia will stay in the subcontinent with a limited-overs tour of India starting on September 17. The formats may have changed but Australia have plenty to play for in India. 

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It is a great opportunity for Australia to continue the momentum in the subcontinent and rekindle their form in the 50-over arena after uneven results in recent times. The 50-over format has long best suited Australia as a testament to their utter domination of the World Cup. Temperamental players such as Glenn Maxwell, Aaron Finch and, previously, Shane Watson took a liking to this format fuelling Australia’s steady strong play. However, Australia’s form has been patchy and they will want to address that in India. 

Clearly, Australia are set for a hard task in India, who are mightily hard to stop in their conditions. Australia’s fearsome pace attack is the heartbeat of the team but without Mitchell Starc — already one of the all-timers in limited-overs cricket — and Josh Hazlewood they look vulnerable. 

Of course, Australia have pace bowling riches and boast Pat Cummins, the explosive Nathan Coulter-Nile and Kane Richardson in an opportunity for the latter duo to press their claims. Australia’s spin stocks rely on talented duo Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar, who should be confident after impressing in Bangladesh. 

Australia’s batting still feels heavily reliant on leaders Smith and Warner, who overcame his hoodoo in the subcontinent with a masterful century in Chittagong. Maxwell and struggling wicketkeeper Matthew Wade will be hoping to make an impact in India after underwhelming performances in Bangladesh with their Test careers delicately poised. 

Perhaps above all else, Australia will be hoping to continue gaining momentum in their last chance before the looming Ashes. What happens in India is unlikely to shape Australia’s Ashes fortunes but Smith and coach Darren Lehmann would be hoping for the goodwill to keep bubbling along. 

There is a prevailing belief around Australian cricket that a return to a golden age is imminent. They possess a revolving door of talented quicks and have an impressive young captain who doubles as an all-time great batsman. Put simply, a renaissance is expected by a demanding Australian public.

There have been pleasing signs from Australia since their remaking of the team after the Hobart debacle against South Africa last November, but it is still a work in progress. A successful tour of India springboarding to Ashes reclamation could see Australia legitimately back in business.