“I want it to be settled”, they were the words of coach Justin Langer on SEN in October regarding the Australian Test Team.
It’s the reason he stuck fat with horribly out of form opener Joe Burns, and a significant price was paid.
A ruthless selection approach from Ravi Shastri and India allowed them to complete mission impossible, recovering from the ultimate embarrassment to level the series without Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami.
Whilst Australia were spared the anguish of being rolled for 36, they were left defending just 69 and suffered an identical losing margin of eight wickets to that of India in the First Test.
The cracks emerging in their top six were papered over by a fast bowling masterclass in Adelaide, but laid bare in Melbourne. They must be repaired before Sydney, or an embarrassing series defeat at the hands of a Kohli-less India looms.
Prithvi Shaw is no doubt apart of India’s future plans, but India identified a clear vulnerability – his gap between bat and pad – and dropped him without waiting for a run of low scores to force him out.
Langer craves stability, but Travis Head is clearly vulnerable outside his off stump. The longer he remains in the team, the longer his vulnerability goes unsolved.
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Pending fitness, David Warner and Will Pucovski pick themselves at the top of the order, allowing makeshift opener Wade to shuffle back to five.
Due to his concussion, Pucovski won’t have played in almost a month, but has a history of bouncing back from lengthy concussion-enforced stints on the sidelines with big runs. He’s also banked back-to-back double tons this season, and Indian debutant Shubman Gill (45 and 35*) – Prithvi Shaw’s replacement – emphasised the value of form.
India prioritised form over stability, and reaped the rewards.
Australia can wait for Head to bat himself out of the side, or they can act now and tighten his technique sooner. Not only affording him the chance to come back a better player, but blooding the incredibly in-form Pucovski.
Form or stability? Travis Head’s selection (or non-selection) will shape Australia’s philosophy moving forward.