The recent concluded Ashes series between England and Australia was interesting, without rising to any great heights, but with some good individual performances from both sides and good team effort on the part of England.
The reason the series did not rise higher is simply because the Australian cricket team performed in patches, playing very well at times but never consistently to pose any serious threat to a very well knit English team under cook, under very favorable home conditions. Thus the result of the series never looked in doubt and that took major interest away from the series. But the purpose of this article is not to tell the readers what they have already seen but to analyse the test series and maybe come up with suggestions to make the upcoming November Ashes series more competitive and interesting. We already know that much of established players in Australian team have retired in the last 3 to 5 years and the present team is a build up team and hence there is more room to experiment with the Australian team than the English team which has a established lineup with scope for experimentation only in 2 or 3 spots at most. Now, coming to the Australian cricket team, I think they faltered the most in choosing their batsmen and their positions and lack of a quality spinner, which was clearly shown by the very good performance of Graeme Swann in contrast.
But, the biggest mistake the Australians made was not selecting batsmen on form and performance. They need a firm pair at the top to open for them. In Chris Rogers they have found one of the pair, who has a very good technique and temperament and is good in defense as well as attack and can improve further.But he requires a partner at the other hand who can stay with him for first 20 to 30 overs (provided he stays as well ! ) or score quickly taking the shine off the ball faster.
Australia has in P.Hughes a batsman, who can stay that long. In Warner they have a batsmen who can score quickly and take the shine off the new ball faster. But with both not in good form, Aaron Finch is a batsman who can score and score quickly.What this does is that it takes the shine off the new ball quickly, making things easier for Rogers and other batsmen to follow. Also scoring fast makes Rogers less inclined in the mind to take unnecessary risks to score.
Australians brought in Usman Khwaja, who is yet to establish himself. He can only improve from here but I think in his mind he has a desire to play more lucrative T 20 and one day Internationals, which he is presently incapable of and this disturbed his batting. It should be made clear to him that he is not going to be part of these faster squads and must concentrate on becoming a proper test batsman. There is also a strong argument in favour of Michael Clarke promoting himself to the key position of one down, when the ball can be new if opener gets out early, because he has the necessary technique and experience to tackle the new or quasi new ball. It also puts him in a pivotal position to control the score and lead from the front. He can be followed by Steve Smith who has a good technique but needs to firm up mentally as his previous 90s out scores tell us. Shane Watson can follow Smith as by this time the ball is old ( hopefully ! ) and Watson can play his natural aggressive game.
Australia can go for another all rounder like Asthon Agar who can improve both as a batsman and bowler followed by a wicket keeper batsman Haddin. I think Starc and Harris have done enough to deserve longer presence in the team but Siddle and Pattinson are not far behind. All these can bat a little more than a bit and are useful lower down the order. But what Australia needs is a real quality spinner and I think they must look at and groom Fewad Ahmad as a potential match winner in the future. Peter Doherty is another alternative they must take more seriously in test match cricket. As for England, they seem to have a established squad with the team clicking together.
But England need to make certain preparations for the future. Joe Root is a proper test batsman with the right technique and temperament for test cricket. He should not be exposed to T 20 format which can and is probably adversely affecting his technique. Presently there is competition in English cricket team for the spot of third seamer and both Bresnan and Finn are strong contenders for the spot. Bresnan is a better bat, but Finn might do better on bouncy pitches like we generally get in Australia and South Africa. On some pitches ( maybe Sydney in Australia), England may require a second spinner and I think Tredwell is a good partner for Swann in such conditions. But most important for Australian cricket, they need to get together and click. They have a lot more work to do than England before they can again start challenging other teams especially South Africa and England.They must start by building a team based on current batting form rather than past laurels.
Another thing that consolidated its position in Ashes 2013 was the use of technology to check decisions. I think to minimize human error further, the number of appeals should be increased to four in each inning of a test match per team.
I also think that combining the snickometer with the hot spot technology will help to arrive at more correct decision, especially in very marginal decisions. I also think that to make test cricket more attractive to viewers, the bouncer rule should be repealed.The bowler should be allowed to bowl as it wants to get the batsmen out.There is enough protection for the batsmen. Again coming to batting technique, I saw several times the batsman getting out to incoming balls, which either bowled them or trapped them LBW when they left the ball by raising their bat. I suggest that the coaching manual be changed. The batsman should always keep the bat in front even when leaving a delivery and pull it in front of pads or wicket while leaving such balls.This will minimse the chances of getting out to incoming balls while leaving them.This will help against both fast bowlers and spinners alike. Test cricket is still the essence of cricket and all efforts should be made to not only preserve it but promote it and make it more attractive for viewers both in the stadiums and television.