August 27, 2008

Australian Cricket

The fall of Australia

Cricinfo

From Ashok Sridharan, India
Blasphemous as it may sound, I'll stick my neck out and say that the current Australian side is not a great side, it is merely a good side with a few great individuals. For all the talk of their complete dominance and being head and shoulders above their opponents, the simple fact is that their dominance has been on the wane, especially post Warne-McGrath.

There's no doubt that Australia's complete dominance in the late 90s and the early noughties would have never been possible but for them. The only time in recent years that the two were missing (Against India in 2003-04), the Australians had to fight tooth and nail to avoid being beaten by an Indian attack that was little stronger than a club attack (missing two key bowlers in Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh by the way).

Coming to more recent times, Australia beat India 2-1 at home last season in a series that could well have gone the other way but for some appalling umpiring at Sydney. That they were beaten at Perth - the Australian equivalent to Barbados for the West Indies in the 80s - by a team from the Subcontinent with an attack peopled largely by rookie fast bowlers (Pathan, Sharma and RP Singh, whose combined age was 64 years) shows just how far their powers are on the wane. Their recent outing in the Caribbean too would have been a lot closer but for Brett Lee, whose 18 wickets at 23.7 was the difference between the sides. That they should have been stretched by a West Indies side rated only better than Bangladesh by itself speaks volumes about their decline.

While Australia have commendably managed to remain perched on top of the Test table despite the exodus of several key players in recent times, its hard not to get the feeling that they are ripe for the plucking. Their decline may not be as marked as that of the West Indies in the 90s and beyond, but there's no doubt that the age when Australia just walked over any opponent is now over. India came close to pulling that off last season and it remains to be seen whether India, South Africa and England (in chronological order) can expose the cracks that outstanding individual performances have papered over.

Brett Lee, who turns 32 this November is unlikely to be able to go on at the same rate beyond another season or two at the very most. Of the younger lot, Tait has so far been injury prone and Mitchell Johnson, touted as a once-in-a-generation bowler, is yet to establish himself in the team. There appears no seriously talented spin bowler anywhere in the horizon. Michael Clarke apart, none of the other young batsmen have so far made a serious case for themselves at the highest level. Hayden will be 37 and Ponting will be 34 later this year. Players like Hussey, Stuart Clark and Brad Hodge, all in their mid 30s might be more than useful, but are not going to help the future and are unlikely to be around too much longer.

For sure, all or at any rate nearly all the above-mentioned players are not going to be around another 3-4 years down the line. Only time will tell whether Australia's rise to the summit was due to the much vaunted Australian system or whether it was simply due to the coincidental appearance of several supremely gifted players in the same generation.

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Posted by Ashok Sridharan on (September 3, 2008, 11:54 GMT)

Mr.Brendanvio, let me thank you for expressing your disagreement with my views in such a rational and mature manner.

You're right in that the 'decline' I referred to was indeed with respect to waning dominance. And yes, I am indeed ignorant about the Australian domestic setup and its players (no broadcasts in my part of the world).

Australia are quite unlikely to slip to the bottom of the table the way West Indies have done, but there indeed exists the possibility for other teams to raise their level and try and challenge Australia's supremacy. Its now a question of who dares to believe himself (if indeed anyone does).

Posted by Pat on (September 2, 2008, 16:46 GMT)

It is too early to say whether warne, mcgrath etc. were once in a lifetime players or products of the Aussie cricketing machine.

I strongly suspect the former is correct as the current crop seem to me to be technically excellent but moderately talented players. The coaching system added to the nature of Aussie pitches helps in the development of good batting techniques as well as extreme patience and accuracy from bowlers. There will normally be a large crop of very good players to be picked from. But will they be as good as the 2002 team continually? I seriously doubt it. All this Aussie triumphalism about their cricketing prowess seems to me revisionist. But the fall which befell the West Indies when they were last in the position of Australia is, I think, unlikely to occur. More competitive test cricket, however, is likely over the next couple of years.

Posted by Brendanvio on (September 1, 2008, 4:48 GMT)

Ashok, I concede you've got a plum headline. Look at the comments you've gotten and consider the traffic through to your blog. That's probably why they took the liberty of titling your piece.

I must point out, in relation to several of your points made, that you also mentioned you did not know much about the Australian domestic system or the players coming through. It would probably be a good idea in future to do so as not to get caught out (I made sure I did so for a piece on the Indian team).

It's not an issue with a rapid decline, its an issue to the appearance of invincibility that Australia has clung to through this era of dominance, which has slipped with high profile retirements, but has not dimmed their performances as yet. Nor does it prove they are ripe for the plucking in test and ODI cricket.

My only gripe is my above point Ashok. I mean no insult with any comments before, nor do I beat my chest. I try my best to look at an arguement in a balanced and fair way.

Posted by Aussie Dinks on (August 31, 2008, 3:38 GMT)

SL won the test matches and India won the one day matches.South Africa won the test matches and England won the one day matches. I can not believe some people think this means that certain teams like India and South Africa are on the wane and it certainly doesn't mean that England are developing their own just because they have won 3 one day matches in this series at home. You should win at home because if you don't you really are very bad. As for the good and bad days for the umpire how come it seems that some teams get more bad days of the umpire than other teams. Like Brain Lara for example he must have got out more times LBW than any other player wether it was or was not. And yes it is hard to swallow but the truth is Australia are not the invincible team that we once was and you can be as delusional about it as much as you like but it will not alter anything but as I said before we are still good and the team to beat.

Posted by Ben on (August 30, 2008, 3:22 GMT)

I agree on the fact that australia will struggle in the next few years, but one has to remember that the systems in place are second to none for the younger generation. this is why australia will always be there or there abouts. england are starting to develop there own, whether that manages to produce a world class team is debatable, although they are looking stronger, with south africa looking apparntly on the wane. you mention india quite alot, im sorry, they are have the be the most hot & cold team, yes even more unrealiable than the south africans. they come to australia beating their chests, blaming the umpiring and so on. I personally am an umpire, and like batsmen and bowlers, have good and bad days, you accept that as part of the game, get over it.

its hard to tell who will come through as the next frontrunner, india and south africa have a lot of rebuilding, SL dont have the depth and kiwi's are finding their domestic scene isnt producing the goods. status quo anyone?

Posted by Tboy on (August 29, 2008, 15:21 GMT)

Of course aus are going to miss Gilli, Mcgrath & Warne.You are talking about arguably 3 of the greatest cricketers to play & 2 of them were in Benauds 11 (a man who knows a thing or two about the game) What is impressive is that while Aust are rebuilding they are maintaining a number 1 ranking & at times look vulnerable but thats bound to happen with the loss of such talent. As others have stated Aus domestic strength is deep. India will need to rebuild soon, VVS, Sachin, Sourav & Rahul cannot play forever. Kumble too. Can they maintain their ranking while this occurs is the big question. England have proved that you can be a flash in the pan for a year or two (maybe Mint fuelled?)but good consistent selection policies have evaded them. SA are rebuilding & mixing veterans with new blood. Pakistan are as enigmatic as ever (they could field a 400+ run ODI or an 80 run ODI team on any given day) SL are in the same boat as SA with veterans & new blood with Mendis the obvious standout.

Posted by marwaan on (August 29, 2008, 14:20 GMT)

tom callaghan, you can't be serious!!! humble pie? this aussie team? 1 test victory in a series dominated by south africa for what, lets see here, 15 sessions in a test, that makes it about 30 sessions (2 tests ended on the 4th day), and somehow you think your team of has beens and wannabees are going to make this aussie team eat humble pie? You Poms are special...Johnson to ping KP 7 out of 10...I'm south african, and much as i hate to say it, the Aussies will still be an extremely good unit for many years to come...rest of the world has some serious catching up to do...

Posted by Sue on (August 29, 2008, 10:41 GMT)

My only problem is really as my previous comment "Who the hell is this Ashok Sridharan" Please send him to an asylum as he does not have any sense. Somebody please help him. God bless him

Posted by Ashok Sridharan on (August 29, 2008, 10:32 GMT)

Mr. Jimmy,

My words were: “Michael Clarke apart, none of the other young batsmen have so far made a serious case for themselves at the highest level.” I obviously don’t know who the upcoming players are, nor did I claim to know about them- how can one know about players who haven’t even played test cricket so far?

And stop ranting about the Sydney test, to which I made but a passing reference. As for crying loud for video replays, it was the Indian team Mr Jimmy, not me. And you are not seeing me in October Mr Jimmy, its Australia playing India- absolutely nothing to do with me. Cricket for me is just a game and no more.

Regrettably, what I intended to be a debate has degenerated into an exercise in chest thumping and jingoism. I just can’t understand why so many readers take what’s no more than mere speculation about their teams future as a personal comment against them.

Posted by Ashok Sridharan on (August 29, 2008, 10:15 GMT)

Mr. Tinker, I feel compelled to reply since you've directly addressed me.

My references to India were only in the context of their last 2 tours down under- where they were quite competitive. I have not touted India as successor to Australia’s crown and I haven’t even remotely hinted that they consider themselves as champions. I’m unable to understand why you’re assuming that I’m being partisan.

And let me also point out that the ‘fall of Australia’ heading wasn’t mine- this blog doesn’t give contributors the option of putting a heading- it’s the editor who puts it. The ‘fall’ word, which appears to have inflamed a lot of Aussie fans, wasn’t my contribution.

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