Calm’s the new norm under Pat Cummins, but Travis Head is one Aussie who could fall victim to a refined selection policy as the India tour looms. THE COACH SPEAKS
When Australia tours India in February, maybe don’t expect Travis Head to feature heavily as lessons learned in two subcontinent tours point to potentially more conditions-based Test selections in the future.
But as coach Andrew McDonald reflected on the day four batting disaster in Galle, there was no panic or immediate predictions on players, mirroring the new calm which has enveloped the Pat Cummins led team which had a 5-5 split across all formats in Sri Lanka, including a first Test win and two scores over 300 in two games at the same ground.
That was on the back of series win in Pakistan, with the grinds on Australia’s first tour there in over 20 years a contrast to the relative fast-forward versions in Galle.
They were also the first two overseas tours for Cummins as skipper and McDonald as coach and after being spun out in Galle, Cummins was quick to acknowledge the Monday collapse as a “reality check” with a tour to India next year in front of them, while also keen to put it in perspective too.
“So many positives out of last week that we did find methods that work, and one small hiccup doesn’t mean you have to change everything,” he said.
McDonald took the same measured approach in his post-match analysis of not just the last three hours, when Australia, after toiling in the field for 181 overs across three days, lost, 9-99, including 4-25, 3-5 and finally 3-7 to hand Sri Lanka it’s first ever innings win over Australia.
But the coach knows the truest subcontinental Test remains the Indians, a challenge to come next February, and will return home armed with some, but maybe not all of the information needed to make some calls when the time comes to pick that squad.
Head remains the man most in the gun, scoring just 91 runs at an average of 15.16 across both Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and was bowled twice in the final match in Galle.
McDonald addressed the fallout including the form of Head and David Warner, the only two top six batters not to get at least one 50 and a reliance on Nathan Lyon who set a new career record, bowling 64 overs in the second innings.
“We knew it was going to speed up. We are on the wrong side of when it sped up, and that‘s the culmination of things from the first three days. So you could call it a reality check, because it’s a first experience. It’s a sample size of one. We have the opportunity to learn from that. And we’ll take that. But we learned a hell of a lot in the first game too. They’re the same group of players who sat there a week ago 1-0 up in the series. What I will say is this group, from Pakistan to Sri Lanka, two wins, two draws and one loss across five Tests is still a fair achievement when you take in historical events and how difficult it is to win in these conditions.”
TRAVIS HEAD IN THE SUB-CONTINENT
“He’s here for the first time. He’s been exposed to conditions that are very foreign. He’s been working incredibly hard on his game. Sometimes, you make one small error and you are not there to actually see if your method works or not. There’s definitely been a shift in his game in terms of how he wants to play in these conditions. We are optimistic that across the journey, if given more time, that that can no doubt work. “
TWO 35-YEAR-OLD OPENERS IN DAVID WARNER AND USMAN KHAWAJA
“Everyone talks about the wrong side of 35. Is there such a thing as the right side of 35? We’ve seen players perform on the other side of 35 as well. We look at the performances they’re putting out and we still think they have a lot of time left in them with the challenges that we’ve got in front of us. Will we have to be careful in terms of when they do go, they go together? 100 per cent. That’s what the A program is about. We’ve exposed some players to different conditions here. That’s where they’ll get their grounding.”
NATHAN LYON RELIANCE
“He offers so much. There were opportunities created. I think we need to look at the opportunities created as opposed to the end figures. I thought he bowled magnificently well. With a little bit of luck on any other day, he might have ended up with five or six (wickets) but it wasn’t to be. But the opportunities created is how we judge our bowling group.”
PICKING BEST PLAYERS FOR SUB-CONTINENT ONLY
“We felt like we picked the best teams for these two opportunities. We won one, we lost one. We have got to go away and make sure that we are asking ourselves the right questions as a selection panel and a coaching group. Those conversations will happen further down the track. It’s not the time or place to start to predict what’s going to happen that far in advance. We have played five games on the subcontinent. We have gathered that. We don‘t have to pick a side for a subcontinent tour until some stage in January or early February. That’s a question for further down the track.”
PROCESS FOR ON-FIELD REVIEWS:
“Like anything the umpires are sometimes unsure and we‘re sometimes unsure. No one‘s perfect and you’re not always going to get them right. But the process we went through is the most important thing for us and we’ll continue to go through those processes to make those decisions. Emotion can sometimes shift you, the situation of the game can sometimes shift you but we‘re trying to remove that out of our decision making.”
Originally published as Cricket: Australia won’t overreact to Sri Lanka Test loss, but Travis Head on shaky ground for India series after struggling with subcontinent conditions