The Aussie tyros Matt Renshaw, Peter Handscomb and now Hilton Cartwright have given Steve Smith’s team that glow of hope it needed before what is going to be a gruelling tour of India.
Australian cricket is great at unearthing talent just when it’s needed. In the last decade, tours have also brought some potentially great players down. For the Indian tour, the problem won’t be personnel so much as preparation. The inability of teams to travel has become endemic. For Test cricket to regain its rightful place as the jewel in the game’s crown, these young batsmen need to prove their talent includes adaptability.
The great thing about Renshaw and Handscomb is that they have faith in their techniques. Handscomb, in particular, looks as though he might be vulnerable but, like his captain, Steve Smith, he proves that any technique, no matter how unusual, works if its practitioner swears by it and knows it intimately. Like Smith, he believes his feet and his positioning are the key, and he is able to adjust. In India, his decision making will be tested. The ball will be doing more than anything a dispirited Yasir Shah can muster in Australia, and once Handscomb leaves his crease, his twinkling footwork can be made to look like folly if his choice of shots is awry.
The dry, uneven pitches of the Subcontinent make spinners who know how to play them look like sorcerers. Shah has learned that the magic doesn’t come so easily away from those conditions. Australia’s apprentices are about to get a dose of that. Hopefully their optimism, and their techniques, will prove a little more robust.
Cartwright’s forceful and self-assured batting debut was encouraging down the order. There will be a lot of fans and selectors hoping his bowling cuts the mustard. Cartwright is a smart cricketer, and he’ll need to rethink much about his batting for India.
Tom Moody praised his “decisive” footwork yesterday, but it was the sort of decisiveness that might bring him undone on India’s pitches. Charging a ball and hitting through the line simply won’t work on the Subcontinent. Preparation is crucial, and the lead-up to the India tour will be a true test of Lehmann’s value as a coach. Unfortunately, it seems the Pakistan series will fizzle, and our newcomers won’t get the tough experience they need against Pakistan’s increasingly disorganised and ineffective attack.