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  • Writer's pictureJohn Townsend

Red ink Smith leads the Nagpur positives

It wasn’t all bad news in Nagpur.

Showing as much appetite for red ink as Steve Waugh in his prime, Steve Smith came away from the first Test debacle by actually improving his already remarkable batting average.

Smith went into the match with an average of 60.89 but now returns 60.90 an innings after scores of 37 and 25 not out.

He started his second innings with a straight six after coming down the track at Ravi Jadeja in a positive fashion that neither he nor any of his crease-bound colleagues appeared interested in trying at any other point in the innings.

Smith seemed to have accepted the inevitability of defeat from early on.

When he wasn’t gesticulating and fidgeting, or congratulating the bowlers on their successes in a fashion that infuriated Allan Border and probably a few million other Australians, he was content to get off strike to leave the tailenders to their inevitable fate.

Smith was on strike for the start of each of the final seven overs of the match but took a single in each one to expose batting bunnies Todd Murphy (debutant), Nathan Lyon (average 12.72) and Scott Boland (8.33) to the fire.

Of course, he was not going to produce a Dravid-Laxman type miracle but at least Smith could have responded robustly to send a signal to his team-mates and opponents rather than raise the white flag

while the game was still going on.

Smith’s negative frame of mind is just another clue to the confusion behind the scenes of the Australian Test team.

David Warner is on his last legs and should have retired at the SCG last month as this column suggested in December in Usman Khawaja is creaking in similar fashion, and the selectors are flailing through a series of mistakes that may make them unsustainable choices themselves beyond this series.

George Bailey, Tony Dodemaide and Andrew McDonald are excellent people, and individually, strong contributors to cricket. But they appear to have lost their way as a panel.

How was it possible to enter the series knowing that Mitchell Starc would not be in the country, Josh Hazlewood had an Achilles tear that would most likely make him unavailable for Nagpur while Cam Green was also in doubt. Lance Morris was picked on merit and promise but was never going to play if he was one of a two-man pace attack.

So where was the back-up? Why wasn’t Michael Neser in the squad so that the selectors, facing a quandary like the Nagpur pitch provided, have the option of a pace-bowling all-rounder so they could match India with three font-line spinners?

They picked four spinners in the squad but after watching the first Test pitch turn square in a manner that is sure to be replicated for the next three, one went home will be replaced by a fifth untested option.

What has happened to Ashton Agar? Called up in Sydney where he was little better than adequate, he was sent to India with high hopes but apparently has been in ordinary net form and therefore was not considered.

The batting line-up was a disaster, with Travis Head’s omission one of the great selectorial misreads of this and any era, while the defensive rabbit-in-the-headlights approach played into the hands of the Indians.

In an era when more players are paid more millions than at any other time in the game’s history, is it too much to expect them to also play with skill, smarts and courage?

Maybe the selectors should grasp the nettle as well?

Why not drop the openers, Matt Renshaw and Scott Boland, play all four spinners, recall Head and Green and decide to play with positive intent?

How much worse would it get?


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