The English massacre has finally ceased and the Australian spin-doctors are out in force to ease the public’s heightening disillusionment and disgust in their, now, Baggy Green villains. Michael Clarke’s press conference after the Sydney Test read like a school boy’s argumentative essay- inaccurate, bluff and blatantly ignoring the presented facts. Chairman of Selectors Andrew Hilditch wilfully graded his merry selector’s efforts “good”. He and James Sutherland rolled out the expected cliches and tediously repeated the word “effort”. A “thorough” and “honest” investigation into Australia’s failings are forecasted at the end of the summer. If the “investigation” is carried out internally, how can the public expect a welcomed and appropriate outcome? The likely result will see a few minor re-shuffles at the administration level and the national selectors position. Hilditch and other high profile figures will likely maintain their positions. If this “detailed” investigation flows against the expected script then Australian cricket is moving forward.
Admittedly, Australia were outplayed by a superior, well focused and disciplined English outfit. The English batsmen were notably patient and allowed the tempo to be played on their own terms. The English bowlers followed a similar dominant trend with tidy and probing lines. And accordingly, the Aussie batsmen faltered to the swinging ball with unrefined and lose techniques.
Despite the English assuming their natural matriarchal superiority over their “convict” friends, questions must be dutifully answered by Cricket Australia of the disintegration of a once dominant team. Struggling Australian sides of the past mustered an appealing identity, often manufactured by their Captain. Allan Border was a resolute leader who embodied an appealing Australian captaincy trait of grittiness and rugged talent. Before Herbie Collins’ dramatic and rather sad exile from Australian cricket in the 1920s, Collins was leading a side to a brighter future (it did help that a man called Bradman waltzed into the Australian team in 1928). Currently Ricky Ponting is marked as leading a side through a transitional period as well. Yet where are the signs or the proof in the pudding that suggests a transition is taking place in Aussie cricket? Perhaps, Australian cricket is at a stand-still.
From both an administrative and playing perspective, Australian cricket is lacking innovative thinking and stoic leadership from the top.
Australian cricket boasts 43 Test captains over its proud and eventful history, a considerably smaller number than the English list of captains. Success is derived from stability and Australia have forged success by these means. Today, the men in the famous Baggy Greens are a rambled and disillusioned lot. Ponting has now lost three of four Ashes campaigns as captain. Perhaps Ricky is victim of taking the rains of a peaking champion side that was destined to slide down the humbling mountain. But who would have thought the fall would be so shocking and embarrassing? Despite Ponting’s shortcomings as captain, Australia need him out of necessity rather than choice as there is no one else to lead this pathetic lot. Ponting can take solace and hope from captains of the past. Bobby Simpson flew to Australia’s hour of need in a third rate Australian team during Packer’s World Series Cricket saga. He used his overwhelming experience and somewhat political charm to negotiate a tough and controversial time in world cricket.
Prior to this Ashes series, critics and promoters of Ponting hailed this series as the defining moment in Ricky’s illustrious career of captaincy. They were to hasty to make such a bold prediction. Leaders are judged by there deeds in times of extreme and suffocating odds. Ponting’s men have their backs to the wall but it is these next 18 months where Ponting can forge a famous reputation as the player and leader who guided Australia out of a seemingly endless and bleak tunnel.