By the end of their India tour late last year,England had gained a critical bit of wisdom. In the first Test,they had left out Monty Panesar,in the belief that all-rounder Samit Patel would be able to fill in adequately as second spinner and allow them to play three fast bowlers. Having lost that match,England drafted Panesar into the eleven at the expense of the third seamer,and won the next two Tests.
By the time the final Test came along,they left out Patel who hadnt contributed significantly with either bat or ball and played a specialist batsman at number six. That man,Joe Root,made a vital 73 on debut to help preserve the series lead.
You would think that Australias selectors will have taken notice of all this. But when they announced a squad that featured the names of Moises Henriques,Glenn Maxwell and Steven Smith,it seemed as if they had paid no heed to Englands experience with Patel.
Where England had selected one all-rounder of uncertain pedigree and no real strong suit,Australia had picked three,two of whom had never played Test cricket.
Predictably enough,it hasnt worked. After two half-centuries on debut,Henriques failed to get into double figures in his next four innings. His medium pace was tidy enough,but was never going to be a wicket-taking threat on Indian pitches.
Smith made 92 at Mohali and fought hard in the first innings at Delhi,but number five is definitely a spot too high up the batting order. His leg breaks are speculative at best. Maxwells off spin has has looked no better than a part-timers,and his batting extremely hit-and-miss,as evidenced by his short innings on Friday six,four,slog straight down mid-ons throat. Australia,when he played this shot,were 129 for five,and without their captain and best batsman.
Watching from the dressing room,Usman Khawaja a promising top-order batsman and the only member of Australias squad who hasnt had a chance to play a Test match on this tour may have wondered if this shot was another line-in-the-sand moment.
(Karthik is a senior correspondent based in Delhi) firstname.lastname@example.org