Few good Aussie men
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Mitchell Starc's 5/20 shrunk the West Indies to 70 all out. And this in turn reduced the 50-overs Australia-West Indies tour opener on the famed WACA pitch to a diet T20 kind of game. Among the day's eight unused Aussie batsmen was Michael Clarke, a happy skipper enjoying the 9.1 overs that his team needed to reach 71.
However, there was one ball during the very short Australian inning that might have made Clarke blink or swallow spit. The way Usman Khawaja negotiated Sunil Narine's first ball would have caused a small knot of worry. Not for the game at hand but about the future. For Khawaja is expected to be Australia's No.6 for the first Test against India starting February 22.
Narine had started his battle with the Aussie No.3 by bowling a flighted ball on the batsman's legs. And as the left-hander reached for it, the ball turned. But rather unexpectedly, and to the batsman's surprise, it jumped too. Grazing the shoulder of the bat, the ball traveled to the keeper, who was to drop the catch. It was that kind of day. Nothing worked for the West Indies. A few balls later, the Aussies were celebrating. But will these scenes be repeated when an Aussie squad with a raw batting line-up visits India? Unlikely. Out of the 17-strong tour party, there are just six specialist batsmen. Of those, just two, Shane Watson and Clarke, have visited India before. Khawaja, Phil Hughes, Ed Cowan and David Warner don't have the numbers to give the team a sense of solidity.
As yet, they aren't in the class of Langer, Hayden, Ponting, Martyn, Katich, Lehmann, Clarke and Gilchrist, the batsmen who helped Australia win in India in 2004. Nor can they be compared to Cook, Pietersen, Bell, Trott and Prior, the Englishmen who snubbed the Indians last year. In such a scenario, it's up to the Indian bowlers to exploit this chink in the Aussie armoury. Caution: India have a history of making rookies into megastars. Exhibit A: Clarke.
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