Is that it Australia?
Is that it? Is that the best Australia have to offer? What an abysmal performance during the second test. I must admit I am shocked at the individual skill levels of the team from Down Under. Batting in a gritty mode for a long time was an Australian trait. Bowling with determined aggression and building pressure was another. What has happened? Where did it all go wrong?
It is valid to acknowledge that when exceptional players retire and teams lose special talent, such as Australia have recently with Ponting and Hussey, there will always be a readjustment period while replacements find their feet.
Not that long ago Australia were the one team that boasted about a conveyor belt of talented players who were just itching to get a chance to display their ability and claim the world cricket stage.
Some had to be very patient.
There is probably no greater example of the above than Adam Gilchrist. He was perennially kept in the wings, warming his gloves, while Ian Healy delivered consistently and brilliantly behind the stumps for Australia for eleven years. His continued selection prohibited the multi-dimensional Gilchrist from spectacularly impacting world cricket until he was almost 30 years of age.
What Australia didn’t identify and therefore fast track was Gilly’s incomparable double-edged sword. What a dominating difference his destructive talent would have made had he been selected five years earlier.
Mark Waugh played over 100 first-class games before he got his first call up for the Australian test team, incidentally at the expense of his brother, and immediately stamped his class with 138 against England.
Current coach Darren Lehmann churned out 10 000 first-class runs before the selectors gave him a run in the national team. Michael Hussey is another. He pummelled bowlers for over 15 000 first-class runs before he pulled on the baggy green for the first time when he was 30 years old.
In the robustly exhilarating and heady days of Warne, Waugh, McGrath, Gilchrist and Hayden, Australia’s future was in solid hands and replacement quality concerns were non-existent upon retirement which normally inevitably create voids.
Sheffield Shield cricket was previously proudly held in high esteem as the premier first-class competition in the cricket world. That claim was roundly upheld by most. Not any more. It is now a shadow of its former self with county cricket in the UK staking that claim.
Tinkering with the pitches to provide more incentive for fast bowlers in some regions has clearly backfired badly and imploded confidence and techniques. The batting on show quite frankly has been appalling.
So, by the way, has Cricket Australia’s use of the hashtag #ReturnTheUrn during the second test that has been framing all of their tweets.
It happened to the West Indies after they ruled the roost following a golden era in the 70s and 80s. It is being repeated now after Australia’s halcyon days of the 80s and 90s and they seem to have nowhere to turn with back to back Ashes campaigns looming. Forget about #ReturnTheUrn. For now it should be more like #JustKeepIt.
Australian cricket has confused issues and compounded situations and are now paying the penalty. Selection policies and the rotation of players have at times been bizarre and continuity has suffered dramatically and unnecessarily. Obviously some ineffectual fitness management is severely sabotaging talented young bowlers who would do well to bowl more and develop strength and form during formative years rather than bowl less.
Complacency has also clearly played a role and an investigation is required to determine whether the ideal decision makers are in place to preside over matters.
The all-encompassing overzealous focus on the Big Bash and not the proud tradition of test cricket is foolhardy. Cricket Australia is currently, quite bluntly, a template of how not to succeed. Need I remind you that South Africa are at the very top of the test tree at the moment and will be for some time.
I hope sufficient plans are now being put in place to ensure South Africa’s next generation of cricketers will be primed and prepared and will not suffer from this devastating cyclical pattern when their time comes.
Lessons must be learnt.