Ashes debacle: Hilditch and Co need face hard truth and come up with answers: SMH

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

SYDNEY - Australia’s selectors must draw a line in the sand and overhaul their plans and the players chosen to deliver for them in the ongoing Ashes series.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Ashes are all but gone, and there is no evidence to suggest that Australian bowlers can take 20 wickets once, let alone twice, now the minimum required to regain the urn from a clinical England side.

Fifteen months of painstaking preparation and strategising has resulted in this, a humiliating defeat by an innings and 71 runs to trail 1-0 after two games.

Selection chairman Andrew Hilditch and his off-siders Greg Chappell, David Boon and Jamie Cox must have greater faith than Mother Teresa if they think the same band of players who have been tried can beat England twice this summer.

The middle order has its performers - Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke - but Marcus North and Ponting are pale comparisons of their best form.

North does not look out of touch when he bats, but continually manages to fall short of big and important innings when they are most needed. Steve Smith is a young and capable replacement who thrives on pressure, a logical replacement.

Xavier Doherty has been handled the same way as the other eight spinners tried by selectors since Shane Warne’s retirement. A first-class average of nearly 50 or four wickets in a one-dayer does not make an Ashes match winner, and Doherty’s 1-158 at nearly a run a ball in Adelaide is about right for a young man thrown in to the deep end and told to tame sharks.

The lack of an obvious replacement makes Doherty’s position the trickiest. Selectors will be loath to turn back to Nathan Hauritz after taking such a bold gamble before the first Test.

Jason Krejza remains out of favour because of his poor economy rate, Steve O’Keefe can’t get a spot in the New South Wale’s team and Smith is seen as a batting all-rounder. But while Doherty is young and inexperienced and can improve, it won’t be before the series is lost.

The latest pace team of Ryan Harris, Doug Bollinger and Peter Siddle was as ineffectual as the previous trio of Siddle, Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus.

As Australian captain Ricky Ponting said: “It’s up to us to lift our standards now. You look at all the players in our team, most of the batsmen are averaging around the 50 mark, that’s not by fluke, that’s because they’re good players. But how we react to the pressure that’s being put on us at the moment has been the difference.”

“We have to make sure the players keep believing that with their preparation and what they’re doing out in the middle is right.

Until you get that, you’ll always be second-guessing yourself, and if you second-guess yourself in this game, it’s all over for you,” he added. (ANI)

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