Mitchell Johnson questions how Aussie coach Andrew McDonald can be blind to fact the team has not performed

Mitchell Johnson
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Australia won the Trans-Tasman series but Mitchell Johnson’s says their 2023-24 Test record is nothing to write home about.
Australia won the Trans-Tasman series but Mitchell Johnson’s says their 2023-24 Test record is nothing to write home about. Credit: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

At 5-80 on Monday chasing 279, Australia were staring down the barrel of their first Test loss in New Zealand in 31 years.

And our Test team would have been left with a record of winning just one series from their past five.

Even after the heroics from Alex Carey and Mitch Marsh enabled the Aussies to scramble to a three-wicket win in Christchurch, two wins (Pakistan and New Zealand), two draws (England and the West Indies) and a loss (India) from their past five series make you think, should this current team be happy with that in mind?

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So what is it about the Test side’s results over the past year that enables the spots of the 11 current players to be set in stone, seemingly unchallenged and unchallengeable?

Coach Andrew McDonald continually shuts the door on any change to his ageing outfit and defends his inconsistent performers. McDonald this week forecast the same team again for the first Test against India next summer – in nine months’ time.

That’s a big call. Is sticking with the same XI the right way forward from here?

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 10: Steve Smith of Australia looks dejected after being dismissed by Matt Henry of New Zealand during day three of the Second Test in the series between New Zealand and Australia at Hagley Oval on March 10, 2024 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)
The Steve Smith experiment at opener has failed so far. Credit: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

No one owns their spot in the team. Players are meant to be pushed and if you’re not performing then you lose that spot, go away and work on those things in first-class cricket that got you dropped.

Selection pressure is part of elite sport – professional athletes never really feel fully comfortable.

What seems like a closed-door selection policy to first-class cricketers around the country, who have their own aspirations, also undermines the Sheffield Shield competition.

While McDonald laughs off any questioning of his Test team, an honest look at the past 12 months indicates questions are entirely legitimate.

This is not bashing the Aussie team. It’s just pointing out some facts.

While winning the Test World Championship in that period was a great achievement, it only tells a portion of the story.

There have been some outstanding individual performances and highlights, which have masked an underperforming batting line-up. It even prompted an odd move to put Steve Smith as opener when they clearly had a few opening options available through the shield set-up.

Even if Cricket Australia are happy with the results in those series over the past year, shouldn’t they be looking for growth and thinking of the future, rather than always this moment?

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 11: Travis Head of Australia looks dejected after being dismissed by Tim Southee of New Zealand during day four of the Second Test in the series between New Zealand and Australia at Hagley Oval on March 11, 2024 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)
Travis Head was among the batters who failed to fire in New Zealand. Credit: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Beating India in India was the holy grail. That quest last February and March began with the costly mistake of dropping Travis Head when he was in form and Australia were 2-0 down after just six days of play before fighting back to lose the four-Test series 2-1.

The Ashes was a huge missed opportunity to win our first series in England since 2001, given an opening thanks to a Bazball-style declaration in the first Test before throwing away a 2-0 lead.

While the Aussies played some good cricket and won the big moments, they also let England back in the series by not putting their foot down and being ruthless. Australia set unusual defensive fields for a team that should have been going for it.

It was England that came from behind to put Australia under the pump and but for rain in Manchester the Poms could have won 3-2. It ended 2-2 and with England winning that series morally! But in all seriousness, Pat Cummins and his team had a great opportunity in England and blew it.

Back home this summer, both Pakistan and the West Indies had been written off. The Aussies got a 3-0 win over Pakistan, although if the visitors had won some of those big moments it could have been a little different.

And then these two-match series nobody likes to play or watch, the first of which was against the Windies. The West Indies’ famous Test win at the Gabba was thrilling to watch and great for the game.

With the disparity in resources and the amount of Test cricket the two teams play, it should have been a mismatch. But Shamar Joseph and his side showed that if you put the Aussies under some pressure for longer periods they can be beaten and beaten at home for that matter.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 28: Shamar Joseph of the West Indies celebrates victory after taking the wicket of Josh Hazlewood of Australia during day four of the Second Test match in the series between Australia and West Indies at The Gabba on January 28, 2024 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Shamar Joseph proved the Aussies were not infallible on home soil. Credit: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

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