Australia & the one-day game

AUSTRALIA began the VB one-day tri-series disastrously with three consecutive losses and though they won the next two matches, it is time for the selectors to once again re-examine the way Australia is playing the one-day game. In this we are revisiting old theories and trying to reinvent the wheel.

Immediately after Australia's loss to Sri Lanka in the 1996 World Cup, the selectors decided to revamp the Australian style of one-day cricket and went for batsmen who were exciting, but not very reliable and bits and pieces all-rounders who were not good enough to be in the team either as a batsman or as a bowler.

As a result their once proud win ratio of 65 per cent dropped to the mid-40s and just prior to the 1999 World Cup they were in trouble.

During the World Cup they reverted to tried and proven methods and players and immediately looked good.

Interestingly, in the three years between the last two World Cups Australia used over 40 players in all forms of international cricket trying to look for the new magic formula.

It didn't work and, interestingly, in the final of the 1999 World Cup at Lord's nine of the 11 Australians had played in previous World Cups and eight of them in the losing 1996 final. It was their toughness and tried methods that carried Australia to victory.

Following their wonderful Lord's victory Australia for some time stayed within the perimeter of the tactics and players who achieved that great win with much success.

Australia have lost a few good players since 1999 and their replacements haven't been particularly successful.

Unfortunately, however, they seem to have also come back to theory selection and tactics and chosen bits and pieces players who can both bat and bowl a little.

It has long been argued that the best one-day side should consist solely of all-rounders. I wouldn't argue against this as long as the all-rounders deserved their place because they were good enough to be in the team as either a batsman or a bowler. Unfortunately, such players are very rare commodities and may come along once every decade or so if you are lucky.

Pinch-hitters are also in vogue again, particularly as openers.

Mark Waugh and Adam Gilchrist have had success on flat wickets but have always looked out of their depth when the new ball moves about.

When Gilchrist had to miss the third match of the current series the Australians went for a part-time wicketkeeper and dashing opener Ryan Campbell. An exciting strokemaker, Ryan has been in and out of the West Australian team over the last two seasons.

Ignored and sitting in the wings were Australia's highly successful openers Matt Hayden and Justin Langer.

Langer has inexplicably been ignored for both the Australian and Australian 'A' teams, yet he and Hayden were scoring at nearly four runs an over in the Test series.

Hayden played just two ODI matches this year before he was dropped from the Australian VB series squad when the number of players was pruned to 13 from 14.

Both Hayden and Langer should be fixtures at the top of the Australian ODI team.

Campbell had a reasonable match behind the stumps, but he certainly would not be in the top six Australian wicket-keepers.

I may be old-fashioned, but I would always pick the best wicket-keeper in all forms of cricket. He is the pivotal man on the field and is as important in ODIs as in Test cricket and maybe even more vital in the shorter game for a crucial dropped catch or missed stumping can easily cost you the game.

Australia's one-day batting looks talented, but also appears brittle. There is not one batsman in the team who looks capable of batting right through an innings.

They need a far more settled line-up with genuine openers capable of keeping the score ticking over, but also skilled and experienced enough to handle the moving ball and temperamentally attuned to playing a long, controlled innings.

In Hayden and Langer Australia have two experienced Test cricketers who would be equally successful in the hurly-burly of one-day cricket.

My 12 would be: Hayden, Langer, Ponting, M. Waugh, S. Waugh, Bevan, Martyn, Gilchrist, Warne, Lee, Gillespie and McGrath.

Who would be the fifth bowler, you might well ask. Mark Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn are all capable bowlers and could share the overs depending on the pitch and who is 12th man.

For some time the bowlers have been the foundation of Australia's success, while the batting has been less predictable.