Numbers can deceive, they can portray a distorted reality, as with Australia’s embattled top order. Hence, it’s not without reason this Australian batting line-up, with the exception of Michael Clarke, is reckoned to be the weakest one to have toured the sub-continent. In four Test innings on this tour, Australia’s top four have combined to tally 325 runs at an average of 20.31. David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes and Shane Watson have each batted four times, and only one of those 16 efforts has produced a half-century. Their corresponding tour averages reads 28.50, 27.25, 6.25 and 19.25. The number six — Matthew Wade — averages an unflattering 23.00, considerably boosted by his 62 in the first innings in Hyderabad.
The thin-on-experience excuse line has now been reduced to a passé. True, four of the top six are first-timers in the country, and playing Indian spinners on creaking tracks is no less an arduous task. Fair enough explanation, when one factors in that 16 off their 20 dismissals were bought about by spinners.
Then, averages are not the only criterion. The rate at which batsmen compile big scores matters too. Generally speaking, one wishes each member of the top order to get to 50 once every three innings or so and make a century at least once every 10 innings. So how do these Aussies measure up against that yardstick?
Cowan has a solitary century in 25 attempts. Warner has three centuries from 30 innings; so has Hughes from 41 innings. Watson has two in 72 and Wade two in 20. Count that up and it reaches a combined total of 11 centuries from 188 innings. That’s one hundred every 17 innings. In 152 innings, Clarke himself has 23 hundreds.
Not since the days of 1985 have the Australians looked so mediocre. That side was weakened by defections to a rebel tour to South Africa that deprived Allan Border’s side of several stalwarts. .
There are no such excuses this time. Definitely, any side would find it difficult to replace the great players who dominated world cricket for so many years.
Mike Hussey’s absence has been felt. Bafflingly, in his place, Australia have selected bits-and-pieces players even though such cricketers rarely thrive in the Test match arena. Picking three or four of them at one time is suicidal.
Sure, this may change. Perhaps the Australian batsmen will enjoy themselves in the remaining Tests or against England. Still, one wonders how Australia’s batting has become so fragile. Perhaps it is a coincidence. Perhaps it is just a cyclical thing.