After a World Cup which ended an era of One-Day dominance and after an Ashes series defeat on home soil, Australian cricket is arguably at its lowest point in almost two decades. Cricket Australia is aware of this and two separate reviews into cricket, at both the highest level and also at the grass-roots level, are currently being conducted, in hope of finding an answer to this disturbing trend.
Of course, Australian’s expect a great deal more than most cricketing nations and although we’re still the number 1 ranked One-Day side in the world, it simply isn’t good enough… We, as Australian’s, pride ourselves on winning the big series’ and none are bigger than the two we’ve recently lost.
With this in mind, questions need to be asked about the next generation… The next group of kids coming through which will one day play under an aging Michael Clarke, Usman Khawaja and Tim Paine. Indeed, the focus of many Australian’s in the know has shifted to the performance of the Australian Under 19 side, currently playing in a series against the West Indies in Dubai.
Unfortunately for those paying attention, the outlook is bleak…
Commencing on 17 April, the 1st Youth ODI was an impressive 63-run victory with young opening batsman Cameron Bancroft making a glorious 123 off just 126 balls. Unfortunately though, this masked some concerns in the lack of batting talent in the Australian side and this was evident when they were restricted to 9/240 off 50 overs. The bowling and fielding however saved the day, as Joel Paris, Jacob Judd, Corey McMahon and Meyrick Buchanan all took 2 wicket apiece whilst restricting the West Indies to just 177. Kraigg Braithwaite, captain and star of the West Indian side top scored with 74 runs.
The 2nd Youth ODI was where the lack of talent started to show, as a West Indian side, who suffers from limited training and development opportunities, simply smashed the Aussies on their way to an 102-run victory. A solid if not spectacular batting display which produced 9/267 was led by Kavem Hodge who scored 52 and if it wasn’t for Jeremy Alison’s 4/52, the target would’ve been much higher. In response, captain Sebastian Gotch made 65 and wicket-keeper Jimmy Peirson made 45, however the Aussies were rolled for just 165. Once again, the frail batting line-up was exposed…
The 3rd and deciding Youth ODI was expected to be a fierce contest with everything on the line, and when the West Indies were restricted to just 8/229, the Australian’s looked home. Taylor Scott, Corey McMahon and Nick Stevens took two wickets each however a gutsy 98 not out from number six Kyle Mayers gave the West indies something to defend… And that they did as the Aussies were rolled for 211 despite being 4/147 at one stage. Sebastian Gotch contributed 49 however once again lacked support from his fellow batsmen as the West Indian’s strangled the life out of the Australian middle-order.
After a disappointing loss in a series which they were expected to win, the young Aussies went into the Test Match seeking revenge, however things only got worse.
Batting first, the Aussies posted a solid total of 350, with Kurtis Patterson smashing 123 off 146 balls and Cameron Bancroft adding 75. Together, the pair took the score to 1/194 before the all familiar middle-order collapse kicked in. In response, the West Indies cashed-in on some ordinary bowling, blasting their way to 8/426 in 96 overs with Braithwaite once again starring, making 168. He was ably supported by young Anthony Alleyne who made 106.
In the second innings, the lack of batsmen once again showed as Australia slipped from 1/92 to being all out for 228, leaving a target of just 153 for the West Indies. Bancroft once again starred, making 56 whilst all-rounder Nick Stevens added 50. As expected, the West Indian side made light work of the target, chasing it down in just 33 overs, despite 4/59 from Ashton Agar.
With the series now complete and the honours in both formats going to the less-heralded West Indian side, serious questions are being raised by people in the know as to whether or not this next group of stars will have the talent and committment needed to progress into the senior Australian side. Unlike teenage prodigies of years gone by such as Clarke, Ponting, White and Watson, this new breed of Under 19’s simply doesn’t have the fear or aura about them.
Of course, time will tell and as we all know, cricket’s a funny game… Let’s just hope for Australia’s sake that this is just a once-off poor series.