Many people in Australia will think the upcoming Test Series versus New Zealand will be ho-hum. But it will be career-defining for many players and vital for the future of Australian cricket.
New Zealand are sure to prepare similar swinging and seaming pitches to those the Australians experienced in England last year. Those conditions will no doubt bring back bad memories for many of our batsmen, in particular Adam Voges and Mitchell Marsh. Joe Burns faced similar swinging conditions in Adelaide and he struggled as well.
Batting in NZ seems to be very hard for Australian batsmen. They need to play the ball later and under their chins for starters, but in the past few years they haven't seemed to enjoy the battle or the challenge when faced with these conditions.
As a batsman, seaming and swinging pitches finds out how good your technique is. These type of decks really sort the men from the boys. If you have any weakness, mentally or technically, it will be found out. I know it might sound simple, but when you have conditions favouring bowlers, then you really must watch the ball closely. Are you watching the ball so closely that you can see the rotation of the seam? How late can you play the ball? I often had a net and only played the ball when I thought it would hit the stumps. It is surprising how many balls you hit when you don't have to.
Under pressure, our batsmen have had the tendency of going hard at the ball. Many say: "That's the way I play." Well that doesn't work. You ask any past great batsman what was their best knock. Their answer always is an innings that was on a tough pitch or in swinging conditions. I have asked many a great player how they overcame tough conditions and they mostly say: "I just found a way." Well our batsmen better find a way and adapt or they will struggle.
The performances of Voges and Marsh will be under the microscope. Will the selectors stick with Mitch, as they might opt to play his brother Shaun with six specialist batsmen and just stick with four bowlers.
Mitch Marsh knows that if he slips up, then Marcus Stoinis is all over him. What a poor time for Moisés Henriques to be injured as this could have been a tour to resurrect his international career. It seems that Henriques' body just can't handle the rigours of hard cricket. Is he desperate enough to play Test cricket again? Does he need to change his training and fitness habits to get better results, as the current ones seem not to be working.
Burns is also under the pump and the jury is still out with him. He hasn't really been tested yet as he has batted on flat decks and his fielding has been poor at times. If Burns makes runs in this series, selectors will definitely have him in their thoughts for the next Ashes series.
Peter Neville also needs to make some runs soon. He seems to lack "another gear" with the bat, but he will have to stand up if we get in trouble. Unfortunately for Neville, we compare our keepers to champions such as Adam Gilchrist and Ian Healy.
These Kiwi pitches should suit Peter Siddle. If he has a bad tour, his wonderful Test career might be in doubt as the flat tracks at home do not suit his style of bowling. What a tour this could be for Josh Hazlewood. I expect him to take the most wickets and further improve his burgeoning international reputation.
If Voges fails, do we start to invest some time in players like Cameron Bancroft and Travis Head? I feel that the experiment of Head being captain of South Australia is hindering him more than helping. Not many players who have captained their state at 21 have gone on to be very successful. Travis needs more consistent first-class runs, but this kid can really play.
Our past two performances in one-day internationals in NZ have not given me much confidence of Australia winning this Test series.
New Zealand have won their past four Test series at home due to the great efforts of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner who have taken the most wickets. Kane Williamson is probably close to the best batsman in the world and is supported well by the skipper Brendon McCullum, who will be retiring after the series.
This Australian team needs to lift in the field. With Shane Watson and Michael Clarke no longer in the Test team, we lack specialists in the slips. David Warner has a broken thumb that is still mending and lacks confidence for the slips. The fielding of Voges and Smith has been average of late and no one wants to field at bat pad. Improvement here is vital if Australia want to win this series.
This Test series will be a ripper and I can't wait to see how our players adapt and, hopefully, "find a way". Their careers depend on it.