Former Australian cricketer and commentator Brendon Julian has taken aim at national coach Andrew McDonald after the embarrassing second Test drubbing against India in Delhi. Australia's hopes of winning the match - and the series - were dashed in 90 minutes of madness on day three, where Australia lost 9-48 after starting the day at 1-61.
The diabolical opening session saw six of Australia's batters lose their wickets trying to play the sweep shot, in a tactic that has come under fire from current and former players alike. Aussie greats Allan Border, Matthew Hayden and Mike Hussey were among those to slam Australia's tactics against the lethal spin duo of Ravindra Jadeja (7 wickets) and Ravi Ashwin (3 wickets), who accounted for every Aussie batter in the disastrous second innings.
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Julian - who played seven Test matches and 25 ODIs for Australia - suggested to Fox Cricket that the Aussie team would have copped an almighty spray from Justin Langer about the reckless tactic, if he was still coach. McDonald replaced Langer after the former Aussie Test opener stepped down last year amid player concerns over his hard-nosed approach and man-management style.
However, Julian suggested that was exactly what the Aussie batters needed after watching the series spectacularly slip away in Delhi, off the back of some seriously ill-disciplined cricket. Julian said while part of McDonald's appeal is that he allows the Aussie side to play with more freedom and to trust their own games, a more authoritative approach was needed in the Delhi debacle.
“This side is a different side to when Justin Langer was coaching it. Langer would’ve told them what they should be doing," Julian said on SEN 1170 Breakfast.
“There’s no way that (McDonald) would say something during the match. There’s no way he would do that. He’s not going to interrupt in the middle of a situation and change the game plan.
“It’s very hard for a guy like McDonald as coach, who hasn’t played 100 Test matches, to turn around and say to Steve Smith and tell him that he’s playing the wrong way and they should change their whole game plan and play a certain way. You expect them to make some changes and change their tactics (for the third Test).”
SEN’s Greg Alexander jumped on Julian's remarks and questioned whether McDonald was the right man to coach Australia, if indeed he could't question his own players' failings. While the Fox Sports commentator stopped short of answering Alexander's specific question, he did insist that the Aussie coach needed to have some tough discussions with his troops about their batting tactics in India.
“I would be amazed if (the team) didn’t say anything,” Julian added. “Andrew McDonald has to tell them that it’s ridiculous and they can’t be getting out like that.
“The way they got out and the way they applied themselves is what people don’t like. You’ve got to give yourself a chance and the way they played was just reckless. It was a panic.”
Former Australian Test captain Allan Border described the tactic to sweep - that Australia so unsuccessfully persevered with - as "panicky, frenetic batting". The cricket great said he was fuming that none of the Aussie batters showed any sort of resolve or willingness to stick around for extended periods at the crease.
“I’m disappointed, I’m shell-shocked, I’m angry about the way we went about our work,” Border said. “It was panicky, frenetic batting. No one tried to get in there and stem the flow with some good defensive cricket. They were just getting out playing sweep shots, reverse sweeps to just about every ball.
“You just can’t get away with that on this sort of track. You’ve got to have a method where you play within your limitations. You’re not playing on a flat belter where you can expand your game. When playing on a difficult surface, you’ve got to work out where your scoring options are and bat some time at the crease.”
Aussie batters slammed over sweep shot tactic
Another former Aussie captain, Mark Taylor, was equally baffled by the disastrous Aussie batting. Taylor said it was clear to him that Australia's blind stubbornness to play the sweep shot - even when wickets were falling all around them - was a sign that they'd run of ideas about how to combat India'a lethal spin twins Jadeja and Ashwin.
He said when that game plan went out the door, Australia's batters should have taken it upon themselves to figure out other strategies against Jadeja and Ashwin. The former Test opener said it was obvious to him that many of the tourist's batsmen were uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the sweep shot and that it should never have been part of the game plan.
"I have to question whether a lot of Australia's top order have actually worked on the shot before they went over there, and I reckon the answer would be 'no'," Taylor told 2GB's Wide World of Sports Radio. "I think what they've done is change their plan to play the sweep shots because they felt the old plan of playing straight hasn't worked.
"It's a shot you've got to practise and a shot you've got to be good at, and I'm not sure a lot of our guys are good at it. I think they're playing it because they feel like they've got to play it. It's the only way they feel they can score against Ashwin and Jadeja, and at the moment they're losing the battle."
Taylor singled Steve Smith out for special criticism after revealing that his sweep shot dismissal was the one that "shocked" him the most. Smith was out LBW for nine runs after a rash attempted shot off the deadly spin of Ashwin.
"The dismissal that shocked me the most was Steve Smith playing that sweep shot because it's not a shot he plays often. That looked a shot of desperation to me," he added. "I would be saying to our batters, 'Just get back to basics. Get back to a simple plan that you think is going to work when the ball starts to turn and see how that goes'."
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