An empire doesn’t collapse over night. Over an astonishing 15 year period, the all conquering Australian cricket team bullied and bashed opposition foes into submission on a ruthless and consistent basis. When a team or player dared to challenge such a talented lot, the ball would be thrusted over to the deadly duo of McGrath and Warne to silence any challenge. The young Graeme Smith endured a painful Australian summer when he trash talked the Australians prior to a series. He swiftly understood that the Australians instigated the mind games. Not the other way round.
Presently, the Australian cricket team has lost its brashness and unwavering confidence. On a typically fast Perth pitch, the Australian batsman came and went from the middle as the Barmy army cheered. Phil Hughes, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke all exited the crease by unforgivable circumstances. In amazement, Hughes attempted to play across the line in only the second over of the day. How could a Test opening batsman fall for one of the cardinal sins of starting out an innings. Hasn’t the youthful but significantly flawed Hughes ever heard the old line: play in the ‘V’, show the full face of the bat and most importantly… Play STRAIGHT. How could a player who averages below 20 this season for New South Whales, receive the highest honour of opening the batting for Australia?
However, the more experienced and seasoned campaigners, Ponting and Clarke, fell victim to a “nothing shot”. Clarke’s dangling of the bat outside off-stump was astounding for a player who aspires to Captain Australia one day. But that is the precise problem with the Australian cricket at the moment. Australia lack leadership both on the field and off it. Australia may not enjoy the excessive depth of talent as it once did, but it has enough to compete competently with any nation in the world. From the administration down to Ricky Ponting’s captaincy, Australian cricket has failed to demonstrate directive and organised leadership that can nurture young talent and inspire the current XI to play competitive and cohesive cricket. The Australian selectors have lacked vision while Ponting has lacked resources. Ponting’s efforts to lead his men cannot be questioned but perhaps he isn’t a naturally born leader. Ponting received the captaincy out of circumstance. Shane Warne’s off-field dramas meant that he was no longer the suitable option. While Ponting’s individual performances have been somewhat sub-par over the past year or two, he still has been Australia’s greatest batsman over the last few decades, and arguably, he is in the top three greatest Australian batsman.
Australia’s decline began in the 2005 Ashes series. Ausralian cricket was able to recover from the Ashes loss due to the once-in-a-generation players of Warne, McGrath and Gilchrist. Yet, the selection panel made a critical decision after that wonderful series. They stuck to the proven veterans and neglected the in-form and deserving up and coming State cricketers. Cricket Australia are bluntly feeling the painful consequences of following the conservative path.
With no obvious choice for the next Australian captain, Australian cricket will continue to spiral aimlessly into mediocrity.
The empire has fallen. But can it rebuild…