MELBOURNE: Blaming limited overs cricket for the struggles of Australia’s Test batsmen is wrongheaded, according to former wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist, who says their problems in the Ashes are mental rather than technical.
Australia’s specialist batsmen have been mostly woeful on tour in England, surrendering their wickets cheaply and putting their bowlers under enormous pressure to protect razor-thin targets.
Batting collapses in both innings at Lord’s handed England a 2-0 lead in the five-Test series, and Australia head into the third match at Old Trafford on Thursday with forecasts of a humiliating whitewash ringing in their ears.
Many pundits Down Under have attributed their batsmen’s travails to the stand-and-deliver approach honed in Twenty20 cricket, leaving them ill-equipped to patiently graft their way through a long Test innings.
Gilchrist, whose aggressive batting terrorised bowlers across the globe in a brilliant career of 96 Tests and 287 one-day internationals, said if that were the case, their opponents would also be struggling at the crease.
“I think our guys are showing a disappointing mental approach to (batting) and I’m sure they’re disappointed as much as anyone with their own choices and decisions they’re making within their innings,” the 41-year-old said in an interview on Tuesday at the Melbourne launch of the 2015 World Cup.
“A lot of people say ‘Oh, T20 is ruining the game’, but that’s being played globally.
“England’s top six, they all feature – if not in T20, certainly in the one-day format – they all play for England and they’ve shown an ability to adapt and mould their game around the scenario that’s required.
“It’s not a skill or technique, it’s a mindset as much as anything … the challenge is you’ve got to get through what’s required at the time and flourish later on.
“I think a lot of players themselves would agree they’ve sort of been caught either in first gear or sixth gear and not much in between. I’ve got no doubt they’re aware of that and they’ll be trying to fix that up.”
Commentators alike in Britain and Down Under have written off Australia’s hopes of staving off a harrowing series defeat, and Gilchrist said the team should forget about the scoreline.
“History shows it’s going to be difficult to win this one,” said Gilchrist, one of the game’s finest wicketkeeper-batsmen, who averaged over 47 in Tests with an extraordinary strike-rate of 81.95 runs per 100 balls.
“It’s about small steps. We’ve just got to get into this next game, get into day one, tick that off, day two and so on.
“I don’t think (coach) Darren (Lehmann) or any of the selectors are looking for a click-the-fingers, make-it-better scenario.
“A bit of stability in the team will be welcomed by the players but at the end of the day it’s up to them to make that stability. If you perform you’ll stay in the team.”
Despite few justifying their places with runs, Gilchrist said selectors should give their top six another go at Old Trafford, and bring captain Michael Clarke back up to fourth in the order to anchor their innings.
He stopped short of endorsing the immediate reinstatement of the exiled David Warner, despite the hot-headed batsman scoring a big century for Australia A against a South Africa A side last week.
The 26-year-old was omitted from the first two Tests and sent to Africa after punching England batsman Joe Root in a boozy incident at a bar during the recent Champions Trophy.
“He’s done everything that’s been asked of him since his suspension, or being left out,” Gilchrist said.
“But it’s not just about the individuals, it’s about a whole environment of a team, a team culture that you try to create and allow to evolve.
“And part of that is showing faith in the guys that you instil the trust in initially and giving them the reinforcement that you’re prepared to give them another go.”