Like most Australians, I am rather annoyed that we lost the test series to India. Make no mistake that India outplayed us and were the better team. It probably should have been 3-1 if not for the rain. But that in no way helps me to feel better about it. We lost to India in Australia in a test series for the first time ever, a record we held for some 71 years. 71 years gone.
I almost feel like Sir Donald Bradman, the greatest cricketer ever to play the game, would be rolling in his grave at the thought that lowly India, who his team beat by an innings in both tests back in 1948, would have turned things around so much to win in Australia.
I could talk about what happened to cause the series loss, but Indians will reject whatever I might say, and some Australians don’t want to talk about it. With Smith and Warner we would have won the test series easily, that much we can say with near certainty.
Beyond that, there was the fact that we lost the toss 3 times out of 4 (for 2 losses and 1 draw in the 3 lost tosses), and then we had the fact that our poor use of DRS in the 1st test in Adelaide cost us more than 200 runs, and, in a test match decided by 32 runs, it was the difference between test and series victory and test and series defeat, and all of those are valid points.
But we’re kind of ignoring the elephant in the room.
We played on the wrong grounds.
Sure, so 3 out of 4 of the grounds were the same as in the last tour, back in 2014, but for two major issues: firstly, the match played in Adelaide wasn’t a day/nighter like normal; and secondly we missed our best test venue, the ‘Gabba in Brisbane.
Looking at Sri Lanka get all out for 144 in their first innings and Australia reel in the deficit with just 4 wickets lost, 1 of them the nightwatchman Nathan Lyon, and then Australia get to double the score, as of writing, and will probably win by an innings, I had to wonder how India would have fared.
Sure, so Australia won, nervously, at the replacement venue, Perth Stadium, hosting its first ever test match, but that’s not the point. The confidence we would have gained by a huge victory at the ‘Gabba, which is usually the venue of the first test of the Australian summer, would have been huge.
Imagine Australia winning by an innings at the ‘Gabba then heading on to Adelaide for the 2nd test, a day/night affair, knowing that we usually win there in day/nighters, and then we’d probably have a narrow win, and be 2-0 up with 2 tests to play.
What a difference.
Sure, so Australia would still have lost in Melbourne, after that phenomenal batting display by Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara followed by some of the best away bowling in Australia since probably Sir Richard Hadlee back in 1982, when Jasprit Bumrah ripped the heart out of Australia, and then the weather stayed away, though it returned in Sydney, but it’d still have been 2-1 to Australia, and it wouldn’t have been overly close.
The thing is that Australia doctored the pitches to favour the away side, to favour India, something that no team ever does to any other team.
Okay, so when Australia faced Bangladesh back in 2003, for their first ever test series against Australia, we played in Darwin and Cairns to give Bangladesh a chance, but that was a series Australia was always going to win, and the margins of an innings & 132 runs for the first test, and an innings & 98 runs, showed that. At least Australia played their full-strength team, while other sides at time time often opposed Bangladesh with second XIs.
But this is different. This was the best test side in the world. We were without our two best batsmen in Steve Smith and David Warner. Why were we giving India such a huge additional advantage by not even playing on the right grounds?
If we were playing in India, would India have prepared a pace-friendly pitch to help us out?
Hardly. They’d have prepared the most unfair pitch they possibly could. They’d prepare a pitch that turned square on day 1, even if it was on a ground that was normally good for pace bowlers. India would do anything and everything they could to get an unfair advantage.
Pitch doctoring is becoming all the rage with South African coach Ottis Gibson recently on record saying that he expected opposition sides to provide a pitch that favoured the home side, and they would do the same. India certainly does it against Australia, so why didn’t Australia do it against India?
Why not play Brisbane and Adelaide both as day/night tests?
Why not have Perth Stadium instead of Sydney?
Why not pick, say, Hobart, for the other one?
Playing on Sydney and Melbourne was generous. Playing Adelaide during the day was absurd. Not playing Brisbane was just insane.
It was almost as if Cricket Australia got together with the Board for Control of Cricket in India and said that they would make it as easy as possible for India to win, and in return India would give Australia enough money to recover from the financial loss associated with the ball tampering scandal.
And if that’s the case then cricket has gone into a very dark place.
Sure, so Sri Lanka are worse than India, but they aren’t that much worse. Sri Lanka are ranked 6th in the world, just 1 spot below Australia. If Australia was playing in Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka would probably win – they beat Australia even with Warner and Smith playing, when it was in Sri Lanka.
The ‘Gabba is a ground that is unfair for overseas teams, especially those from the subcontinent. The WACA is only bad for subcontinent teams, but for them it is very bad. Hobart isn’t particularly friendly for subcontinent teams either.
Cricket has always been about fairness, yet now suddenly we aren’t being fair.
We introduced LBW to stop batsmen blocking to unfairly ruin a game. We added obstruction of the field and handled the ball to stop batsmen getting an unfair advantage. We have rules about “chucking” to stop bowlers getting an unfair advantage. We have rules about ball tampering. We have neutral umpires, DRS, 3rd umpires, TV reviews, and even Duckworth-Lewis to fairly control rain reductions in one day matches, and yet we are still allowing the game to be controlled by who is rich.
If I was Indian I’d be furious that this win was against such a weak team and in such weak conditions. I’d be absolutely appalled that Cricket Australia allowed such generous conditions to afford the first series win in 71 years.
We’ll beat Sri Lanka, at least for the first test, but it will be by such a huge margin that we should win the second test too, even if Manuka Oval in Canberra, hosting its first ever test match, is so random that it is low scoring with streaky 6s galore, like it often is in one dayers.
I just feel dirty, though, that we’ve put ourselves in this situation due to dirty Indian money.
The game of cricket needs to find a way to stop this concept of money for wins, and it needs to stop it sooner rather than later.
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