Australia’s decision to rest a couple of their players for the ODI series against the Proteas is bad news for both sides.
Australia’s resting of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood from their five-match jaunt in South Africa would have been met with some skepticism from their opponents, not only because the Proteas won’t get the chance to challenge themselves against two of the leading bowlers in world cricket, but also because Australia are without five of their other frontline bowlers.
Starc is now, coincidentally, injured anyway and is in a race against time to be fit for the Test series Down Under, but it just adds to an absentee list including Hazlewood, James Pattinson, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Pat Cummins, and they will now rely on John Hastings, Scott Boland, and no less than three new caps in Chris Tremain, Joe Mennie and Daniel Worrall.
Starc and Hazlewood’s absences were always going to leave Australia’s resources extremely vulnerable should injuries occur in between, and that, of course, happened. James Faulkner and Shaun Marsh won’t be making the trip either. So deep have Australia delved into their bowling resources, that they haven’t even called up a replacement for Faulkner.
So I dare to think how alarming this could be for the Proteas should they lose this series, and let’s not forget that Australia A, without a single capped international, outclassed a South Africa A side littered with Proteas last month.
It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence into the quality of cricket we would hope to see, and this was of course compounded by the news that the Proteas will be without influential skipper AB de Villiers, with elbow surgery ruling him out for this and the trip Down Under.
Are we going to be able to fill the stadiums, knowing that Steve Smith and David Warner will be the only household names in the Aussie line-up?
It really begs the question: how seriously are Australia taking this series, and indeed how seriously should South Africa take this series?
Fair play if Hazlewood and Starc really did need to be rested in order to be fresh the Test series against the Proteas in November, but it was revealed last week that they will be available for New South Wales in their One-Day Matador Cup. It sends out a statement that Test matches are still the pinnacle, but it also suggests the ODIs are increasingly becoming the unwanted inbetweeners. It’s becoming a regular pattern.
Even their own skipper, Smith, decided to take a break from the last two ODIs and T20s against Sri Lanka earlier in the month. This sort of behaviour would have been unheard of 10 years ago, but it’s becoming the norm.
I mentioned in an earlier column that AB de Villiers should retire from ODIs in order to manage his workload as a global T20 superstar and Test captain more effectively. That’s because ODIs just aren’t important enough anymore.
You might well say win at all costs, no matter how depleted the opposition is. But how much can you read into a series win against a depleted side? With the Champions Trophy less than a year away, it seems a shame that a five-match series against Australia is generating little excitement, given the rich history between the sides.
‘It is important they are managed appropriately and we believe missing the tour of South Africa is the right time for them to take a break,’ said Australian chairman of selectors Rod Marsh on Starc and Hazlewood’s omissions. It’s a sad time we live in if a tour to South Africa is the ‘right time to take a break’.
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