New Australian Captain Tested
The recent rapid elevation of young Steve Smith to the captaincy of the Australian test team was welcomed by many and a win in his first game was an auspicious beginning. However, his performance in the drawn match, which finished at the MCG today, proved a much better measure of his ability and approach.
Australia vs India
To ensure a series win, it was understandable perhaps that Smith wanted to bat India completely out of the game but talk about overdoing it. In 107 years of test cricket there have been 42 chases of 250 or more at the MCG and only 7 were successful, the highest being 332. At the end of the fourth day Australia led by 326, yet Smith batted on not for twenty minutes or half an hour but an entire session, leaving captaincy the task of 384 in two sessions and then attempted to justify that. Had India opened with Victor Trumper and Barry Richards, to be followed by Don Bradman, Viv Richards, Graeme Pollock and Gilbert Jessop, they would not have had a hope of getting anywhere near such a total.
He compounded this with field placings that for most of the innings were conservative, bordering on negative and his captaincy lacked intelligence or creative thinking. When Watson dropped Dhoni late in the innings with only 15 overs remaining, Smith did not even have a second slip, who would have been presented with a comfortable catch. What made this worse was that he immediately then put in a second slip and other attacking fieldsmen. Very much a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
Earlier discussions by Michael Clarke and others in the commentary box, who should know better, about how India might achieve the target were quite ridiculous. Captains such as Mark Taylor and Richie Benaud would not even have batted on the final day but pushed hard for victory, as Haddin and Kohli did so admirably in the first test.
It was most disappointing and a bad omen for the future. Had Smith been prepared to give the Indians the merest whiff of a chance, he may well have won the game and certainly would not have lost it. Australian cricketers like to believe that they will always chase a win rather than be satisfied with a draw. That is obviously not a sentiment shared by their latest captain.