It’s time to call Australia’s start to the Test summer against India what it is – the worst batting we’ve seen at home in 40 years.
Not since the West Indies dominated us in the mid-1980s have we looked so helpless against a visiting attack or had every single member of the top six look so out of touch.
Not one player has stood up and found a way to score runs – or been spared criticism in a strong reaction from some of our past greats.
Former Test captain Ricky Ponting refused to make excuses for the Aussies on day three of the Boxing Day Test as we wilted again to finish the day at 6/133 despite favourable batting conditions.
“You can’t blame the pitch. The pitch has been absolutely perfect today,” Ponting said. “It’s a little bit of spin, yes, but you’d expect that (on) day three of a Test Match.
“(There’s) very little on offer for the fast bowlers, but it’s just been poor batting. Very, very poor batting.”
Without top order bully David Warner to set the tone and with every batsmen either out of form or overburdened by the pressure to perform, scoring has come at a snail-pace and it’s allowed India to control proceedings.
“It’s been one of the reasons they’ve eventually got themselves out playing rash shots. They haven’t been able to tick the scoreboard over on a regular enough basis,” Ponting said. “When pressure builds, bad shots come.”
Ponting isn’t alone in airing his frustration. Here’s a look at each member of the top six.
JOE BURNS (63 runs at 21)
Burns has almost become a sympathetic figure because he’s looked so “at sea”.
It would be one of the shocks of the summer if he was picked for the third Test, even if Warner isn’t fit.
“You just can’t pick Burns again, you’d be doing him a disservice by picking him again,” Ian Chappell told Nine.
“He’s shot on confidence so you’ve got to try something else. You’ve got to hope like hell that Warner is fit, that is the first thing. (But even) if he is fit, I’d be seriously thinking about bringing Marcus Harris in with Warner and sliding Wade back into the middle order.”
MATTHEW WADE (111 runs at 28)
Wade gets a pass because he’s playing out of position to help out the team – and he’s also averaging more than any batsman outside of Marnus Labuschagne.
But he hasn’t quite figured out whether he wants to try to emulate Warner’s style as an opener or just bat time – and his status has also been helped by how badly everyone else is going.
A series average of 28 and the way he got out in the first innings in Melbourne would normally be the kind of cricket that has people calling for your head.
MARNUS LABUSCHAGNE (129 runs at 32)
The unavailability of Warner and potential new opener Will Pucovski plus the poor form of Steve Smith and Travis Head has been compounded by Labuschagne experiencing the second-year blues.
At a time when Australia has needed him more than ever, the world’s fourth-ranked Test batsman is struggling to combat committed Indian plans to deny him runs.
It’s far more likely he’ll figure it out rather than being remembered as a flash in the pan, but it might not happen quickly enough for Australia to save the series.
STEVE SMITH (10 runs at 3)
Australia has relied too heavily on Smith for years and is finally getting a taste of what it’s like to have him not save the day.
“He’s not having much go his way at the moment,” Ponting told cricket.com.au.
“I think he would have liked to have his time over with his first-inning dismissal here, he would have played that differently.
“But he’s one of the all-time greats of the game – everyone is allowed to have a few bad games here and there.
“The one thing I do know is that Australia need Steven Smith to stand up, especially against this bowling attack India have.”
TRAVIS HEAD (62 runs at 21)
While it’s become almost mean-spirited to pick on Burns, Head-bashing is in vogue.
The nature of his dismissals – which often come when he should be starting to look set – has left Chappell questioning his future.
“He hasn’t convinced me at any point that he is good enough for Test cricket,” Chappell told Nine.
“As a top order batsman, you can’t be vulnerable in so many ways.
“If I’m looking at him as an opponent, I’m thinking there are quite a few ways we can get this guy out.
“He was almost out first ball against the short delivery, he’s got a problem with that, he’s got a problem with nicking into the slips, he has trouble with the spinners, I can see ways there that an off-spinner like Ashwin would be confident in getting him out.
“As a top order batsman, you can’t be vulnerable in that many areas.”
CAMERON GREEN (40 runs at 20)
Green is another who has been exposed by the lack of solidarity in the batting line-up.
It’s not ideal to debut young talent against the best sides in the world, better to save them for series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan at home when they can come in with the score at 4/300 instead of 4/100.
But it would also be nice to see Green showcase the batting talent that saw him score a hundred against India A sooner rather than later.
“I think Green deserves another opportunity,” Chappell said.
Not all of his teammates do.