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Australia will learn

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It’s been a nearly a decade since the last Australia Tour to Bangladesh. How things have changed since then. Consider Bangladesh’s rise as a Test playing nation: the once “minnows” now boast the title of “surprise package” because of their ability to unsettle more established teams. In the last few years, particularly since they upset England in the 2015 World Cup, they have showed immense improvement and a desire to win, rather than just compete.

They were on the verge of taking away India’s place in the semi-final of the 2016 World T20. They played one absolutely brilliant Test match against their sub-continental rivals where even the Indian players applauded their performances. They made it to the Champions Trophy semi-final ahead of Australia and New Zealand. And who can ever forget their first ever Test victory over England, achieved in just three days to level the series. That happened in the very stadium where they went on to beat Australia in a Test for the first time.

Australia’s story has been exactly the opposite. One has to really spend some time thinking about the number of memorable moments Australia gave us since their victory in World Cup 2015. Since then, their nightmares in Asia continued as they lost most of their matches in the continent. There was hardly any mighty Aussie like presence in the ICC events that followed too. A long, competitive and gruesome tour to India was lost 2-1, with more off-field controversies than the last time India and Australia faced each other. To top it all off, the Aussies fought bitterly during the long pay dispute with their administrators, which even led to questions being raised about the very tour.

 

However, with Australia, one thing is certain- they don’t let go of such testing times with ease, they learn and act upon soon. For instance, Steve Smith has already taken lessons from the India series and the focus on for the India tour in 2021 is already evident. His comment about taking the Bangladesh tour as a preparation for India may have been mocked and cited disgraceful to their present opponents, more so because they lost the Dhaka Test match but it does get you thinking about his plans. He speaks about backing Ashton Agar with conviction and it also shows where his selection over Steve O’Keefe came from.

 

Take a moment to think about David Warner. His record in Asia was reminiscent of what a drought feels like, he didn’t have a single century here until the 112 scored in Dhaka, which he also named as his finest innings ever. In Sri Lanka, it was evident that he was being beaten by the inside edge. In Dhaka, that changed. He learnt, and improvised. Australia may have been on the receiving end that day, but they got something to take away too, Warner’s demons in the subcontinent may seem to be disappearing after all.

The same cannot be said about Usman Khawaja who is said to have a kind of “subcontinental mental block.” With the Ashes and various important tours to follow, he will have to use the limited opportunities he has to show his call-up was justified. Failure to do that may not only cost him a place in the Ashes squad but also Smith’s scheme of things in the future. This applies to Mathew Wade too, who only has a fifty to his name in the last 9 innings since he has been recalled. Even though it is understandable that the pitch may have a role in this, or even the fact that Wade isn’t the best stumper ever, conceding 30 byes is almost criminal.

If Australia are not as forgiving, it won’t be surprising to see Peter Handscomb assume that role, who has kept for Victoria earlier. It rings better to the years particularly because we saw what Handscomb was capable of with the bat in India. The other player who was brought into the fold after the wake-up call in Sri Lanka was Matt Renshaw. Only 21 years-and 9 Tests old, he not only fits Australia and Smith’s liking for a young side but also has shown his liking to the kind of play Australia needs more players for- against spin, and in the subcontinent. Even though the efforts of these two players did not translate as well as they would’ve liked in the Dhaka test, a careful glimpse tells another story.

Pat Cummins and Ashton Agar were the saving grace in the match, they said and you could agree because the rest of the batting order looks feeble when Nos. 9 and 10 put on the second-biggest stand of the innings. The duo taught Australia’s specialist batsmen a lesson or two about playing spin in the subcontinent. It did not come with ease, but they showed that the pitch had no demons, if you have the patience.

For Smith, doing well in this part of the world is quite a deal, and along with him you could trust Nathan Lyon to actually implement that. Even though the latter was successful individually, but the former wasn’t, the skipper’s prowess on turning pitches is hardly debatable. While Maxwell has looked in control but disappointed in the final moments, his place in Tests could be warranted if he can bring to the table what he brought against India when he scored his maiden Test ton.

A lot depends on how these players in particular take on the challenge at Chittagong, where the fate of the series and eventually, both the teams, will be carved. Bangladesh are on the rise and almost becoming unbeatable at home, but like I said, with Australia, one thing is certain- they don’t let go of such testing times with ease, they learn.

 

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