Australian cricket legend Darren Lehmann has slammed the decision to drop Travis Head from the side for the first Test in India as ‘ridiculous’, and says the side’s extremely brief preparation for the tour of the subcontinent was a key factor in the team’s horror start to the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series.
Lehmann, currently assistant coach of Big Bash franchise the Brisbane Heat, oversaw the Australian team during the thrilling 2017 tour of India. His side won the first Test before losing a hotly contested series 2-1.
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He told the Sydney Morning Herald that Travis Head’s shock omission was a clear mistake.
“They didn’t get selection right. Not playing Head was ridiculous, and he could have bowled some extra overs.
“The hardest thing for him now is how is he going to try and stay in the side after having such an amazing two years at home.
“If he’s ever going to succeed it was going to be off the back of the confidence the home series gave him. It’s a really tough one for him. Obviously they had their reasons but the records of the other blokes aren’t overly flattering either apart from [Steve] Smith, and [Marnus] Labuschagne is obviously a good player of spin.”
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A raft of the Test players opted to return to the Big Bash in the wake of the dominant series win at home over South Africa, but Lehmann believes it backfired by limiting the team’s red-ball preparations for India.
“Ideally, they should have played a tour game,” said Lehmann. “They don’t like to do that because the tour match we played last time (2017) was on a green wicket.
“But it’s still batting for a long period of times in the heat and getting used to the ball, things like that. So a tour game would have been handy ideally, but they decided to do the BBL didn’t they, which was good for the Heat because we got Marnus and Uzzie [Usman Khawaja], but maybe they needed a tour game. It’s easy in hindsight, though, isn’t it.”
Lehmann’s 2017 team enjoyed a two-week training stint in Dubai, while the current crop had just a handful of days on a specially-curated wicket at North Sydney Oval before a brief preparation camp in Bangalore before the opening match in Nagpur.
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The key to success, Lehmann says, will be a better performance from the batters on the tricky turning pitches. Australia managed just 177 and 91 in their two innings in the first Test, while India managed 400.
“You’ve just got to bat big because 177 is never going to be enough,” Lehmann said. “It was turning, so you’re trying to get to 250. If it was 250 it’s a different game.”
If Cameron Green is fit, Matthew Renshaw looms as the most likely batter to lose his spot for after managing just two runs in his two attempts at the crease in Nagpur.
And Mitchell Starc has also rated himself a “good chance” to return, with Scott Boland set to lose his spot to the lively quick should Starc be passed fit.
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