OPINION

Batsmen from Australia and India are not living up to Test expectations

India's Ajinkya Rahane is the only batsman to stand out with the bat so far this series. Photo: Darrian Traynor - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images
India's Ajinkya Rahane is the only batsman to stand out with the bat so far this series. Photo: Darrian Traynor - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images

Rahane's classy MCG century is the only batting highlight in the Test series

Aside from a gritty century by stand-in Indian captain Ajinkya Rahane in the second Test and solid knocks by rival skippers Virat Kohli and Tim Paine in the opening Test, the batting in this Australia-India series has not been up to Test standard.

Most batsmen have not displayed the application and concentration required for the longer form of the game, falling to poor shots and surrendering their wickets too meekly.

While the pitches in Adelaide and Melbourne have offered assistance to the pacemen and spinners with bounce and movement, they have been far from unplayable for good batsmen.

Rahane had some luck, but showed the MCG pitch was not a minefield, with an innings full of class and determination.

Australia failed to take advantage after winning the toss and batting in perfect conditions in Melbourne, bowled out for under 200 for the second time in the series.

There are always plenty of gaps in the vast MCG outfield, which was quick from the outset, but the home team was tied down by good bowling and failed to keep the scoreboard moving by rotating the strike, allowing the Indians to build pressure.

Spearheaded by fast-medium Jasprit Bumrah and experienced spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, India's bowlers carried out their well-laid plans to perfection. Ashwin has removed Australia's premier batsman Steve Smith cheaply twice in this series. snaring him in the leg trap in the first innings in Melbourne.

He did the same to Paine and Marnus Labuschagne was snared at leg gully by a diving Shubman Gill to give fellow debutant Mohammed Siraj his first Test wicket.

In Kohli's absence, many pundits were fearing a series whitewash after India's meek capitulation at Adelaide. But under Rahane, the tourists have shown laudable fighting qualities and the Australians have a battle on their hands to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Australia should be boosted by the return of opener David Warner, but the top order remains in dire need of renovation.

Joe Burns is no certainty to partner Warner after another failure, Matthew Wade played a terrible shot after looking comfortable and Travis Head desperately needs a big innings after getting a start and failing to go on with it again.

Ideally, selectors would love to have Will Pucovski at their disposal but given his concussion problems, he remains in doubt.

Joe Burns is no certainty to partner Warner after another poor performance. Photo: Graham Denholm - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images

Joe Burns is no certainty to partner Warner after another poor performance. Photo: Graham Denholm - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images

Leave Boxing Day 

Tradition should count for something in this crazy world and the Boxing Day Test at the MCG must remain a daytime fixture.

Any suggestion that it makes the switch to a pink-ball Test should be dismissed immediately - if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Famous Melburnian Shane Warne has been a leading protagonist in support of a day-night Boxing Day Test, but a closer examination of the eight pink-ball Tests in Australia would cause the great leg-spinner to rethink his powerful advocacy.

As the major spokesman for the world's spinners, Warne should be arguing for the red ball to be used in as many games as possible. If there were more pink-ball Tests in Australia, spinners might become expendable, with teams going for an all-pace attack to exploit the conditions.

While the Tests all won by the home team have provided a genuine contest between bat and ball, in most innings, spinners have been overshadowed by dominant pacemen, who have been able to unsettle and remove batsmen with their movement of the pink ball, particularly at night.

In 16 Test innings against various touring teams (England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka) at Adelaide Oval, the Gabba and Perth Stadium, the Australian pacemen took 122 of the 157 wickets to fall from 853.4 overs, comprising 77.1 per cent of dismissals. The spinners, most notably Nathan Lyon, snared only 30 wickets (19.1 per cent of dismissals) from 305.5 overs.

Off the field, the Boxing Day Test is the perfect way for many spectators to wind down after frenetic Christmas activities. But a later start would have the potential to cause increased crowd problems for police and overworked security staff, with more opportunities to consume alcohol under a hot sun and well into the evening.

Let's put AFL fans' needs first

AFL fans starved of live action this season will be keen to return to venues particularly in Victoria, but after the release of the first six rounds last week the league's commitment to maximise crowds must be called into question.

You don't have to look too far into the AFL's floating fixture. In round one, arch-rivals Essendon and Hawthorn are scheduled to meet at the league-owned Marvel Stadium, while earlier in the day Melbourne kicks off its season at the MCG against Fremantle.

We're not sure about the number of fans who will be permitted to attend games as yet, but two Victorian clubs with huge supporter bases would attract many more people at the MCG in round one than a Demons-Dockers clash.

Switching those fixtures would seem sensible, but in the world of AFL, nothing is that simple. Servicing the wishes and demands of clubs, stadium operators and broadcasters is a balancing act, but chief executive Gillon McLachlan and his team should ensure supporters are a high priority in their decision-making.

Fans need to be looked after or they will go elsewhere to spend their entertainment dollar.

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas