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Rock bottom? Former captains offer advice for Aussies' cricket crisis

Cricket

Former skipper Ian Chappell wants some youngsters to be blooded following Australia’s fifth-straight Test loss, while Michael Clarke has offered his support to under-siege successor Steve Smith.

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There was no shortage of calls for change, demands for answers and expressions of outrage after Australia’s loss in the first Test against South Africa.

That WACA defeat represented the first time Australia had lost the first Test of a home summer since 1988.

Smith’s side came to Hobart with high hopes of turning things around but were sent in and skittled for 85 – their lowest Test total at home since 1984.

Australia followed it up with a second-innings collapse of 8-32 at Bellerive to risk being whitewashed in a home Test series. That ignominy has not happened since federation.

“I want the Australian team to know that we are right here to help them. We are a part of that cricket family,” Clarke said on the Nine Network.

“Our phone numbers haven’t changed. We’re at every single game… we feel the pain as much as the players.

“We don’t want to get in anybody’s way but, if the Australian changeroom feels like they can use our services for anything to help them, we’d love to help.

“Steve Smith’s performances as a player are unbelievable… but this is where he’s going to be tested as a captain.”

Shane Warne, Mark Taylor, Ian Healy and Michael Slater all visited Australia’s change rooms after the loss in Hobart, chatting with players.

Chappell, sitting alongside Clarke, felt Australia had gone backwards since the Argus review in 2011.

“We’ve been digging a big hole and it’s just got deeper and deeper,” Chappell said.

“Hopefully, we’ve hit the bottom now.

“Going down the route of old debutants all the time leads you down a dead-end path and we’ve hit that dead end now. I don’t think the selectors have any choice but to go for some youth.”

Former England skipper and BT Sport pundit Michael Vaughan agreed, opining that a number of Australian players weren’t up to Test standard.

“The Australian selectors will have to be brave. They might have to pick two or three younger players that possibly aren’t ready,” Vaughan said.

“Don’t pick all youngsters, but it clearly needs freshening up.

“I’ve never seen an Australian batting unit look so fragile against the short ball… I’ve never seen an Australian side play to this level.”

Ricky Ponting, speaking alongside Vaughan, felt players – not selectors – should cop the brunt of scrutiny.

“That’s a very, very poor batting performance again,” Ponting said.

“Are they lacking confidence because of some of the selections and things that have happened? Maybe. But when you’re out there in the heat of the battle, that’s all gone. You’ve got to find a way to play the game.”

Herschelle Gibbs and Allan Donald were among the former South African players tweeting their congratulations and excitement as their compatriots completed a third-straight series win in Australia.

“Speechless! Think I’m gana have a beer at 3am,” spearhead Dale Steyn posted on Twitter, having flown home for shoulder surgery after suffering an injury in the first Test.

THE SON ALSO RISES?

Australia coach Darren Lehmann has proven he’s not afraid to make tough selection calls and won’t shirk having tough conversations with colleagues and players – traits he is likely to exhibit this week.

But there’s one topic the no-nonsense operator will refuse to broach with the selection panel as they settle on a squad for the third Test against South Africa: his son Jake.

Jake Lehmann is among the young batsmen around the country hoping for a call-up this week as chairman of selectors Rod Marsh mulls changes to the XI embarrassed by the Proteas in Hobart.

Jake Lehmann cuts the ball past Peter Nevill playing for the Adelaide Strikers in the BBL. Photo: Mal Fairclough, AAP.

Jake Lehmann cuts the ball past Peter Nevill playing for the Adelaide Strikers in the BBL. Photo: Mal Fairclough / AAP

Jake Lehmann, who averages 48.96 at first-class level and represented Australia A earlier this year, is not expected to be called up for the day-night Test at his home ground, Adelaide Oval.

But if the left-hander continues to produce more knocks like the unbeaten 129 he recently scored against Tasmania, and Australia’s middle order continues to misfire, then that moment could come soon.

Darren Lehmann insists he has no idea what fellow selectors Rod Marsh, Mark Waugh and Trevor Hohns think about his son.

“I don’t sit in on anything when they (selectors) talk about Jake,” Lehmann said.

“I don’t know what they’re saying about Jake.

“Not involved, and I’d be that nervous anyway I probably wouldn’t be coach, I’d probably just go to the bar.”

Australia’s incumbent Test XI, minus pacemen Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Joe Mennie, have been sent back to the Sheffield Shield in an effort to rediscover form before the third Test starts next Thursday.

Selectors are expected to name a squad on Sunday, with Lehmann guaranteeing it won’t be an unchanged XI after five consecutive Test losses.

Adam Voges and Callum Ferguson appear the players at greatest risk of being axed, with Lehmann imploring his charges to start producing runs instead of words.

“We’ve talked a lot over the last few weeks, we talked a lot in Sri Lanka, and we talked a lot in South Africa. The time for talking is probably done,” Lehmann said.

“We’ve actually got to make sure we’re doing it on the ground. They prepare well, they’re great trainers, they know what they need to do. It’s now actually executing your plans on the ground.”

-AAP

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