Australia November 24, 2011

What to make of Australia?

They’re brilliant one day, dismal the next, and always compelling

It’s easy to pour cheap lager on yourself and run down a street naked when you win a Test like this. But John Inverarity, Mickey Arthur and the rest of the new selection team don’t have time to moisten themselves and sing fiercely parochial tunes. Arthur may not even know the words to “Under the Southern Cross I Stand”, which once upon a time would have meant he was not qualified for the job.

This new-look management team has to work out who plays for Australia against the Kiwis, but even before that they have to first work out where Australia is at the moment. That isn’t so easy.

This is a team that drew with Pakistan in England, should have drawn with India in India, held level with England for three Tests before falling apart, and then worked really hard to edge past Sri Lanka. In South Africa they gave it everything. Inspired bowling, non-existent batting, impotent bowling and gutsy batting. Somehow, at the end they drew a series with South Africa.

There is every chance that South Africa were confused into this loss. It’s hard for your analysts to give you a dossier on a team like this. You can’t get your head around a team that can’t make 50 one test but can chase 300 the next. This is the most schizophrenic Australian side I’ve ever seen.

Schizophrenia is a terrible disease; personally I’ve never really mastered one personality. However, schizoprenia in a cricket team means wonderfully entertaining moments for viewers. For Australia that includes the Headingley, Mohali, Perth, Galle and Cape Town Tests. Australia is responsible for laugh-a-minute non-stop entertainment in Test cricket of late, although probably not on purpose.

Whether you’re a fan of Australia or hate them with every drop of bile you can summon, they give you something almost every Test they play. Close finishes, brilliant collapses, awesome comebacks, excellent narratives, and in this last Test, the look on Nathan Lyon’s face at the end was worth whatever you pay for the TV subscription.

As a selector or coach you don’t want your team to bring something new every Test. Inverartity and Arthur don’t want entertaining and farcical, they want military precision and predictability, two things it’s hard for a team to produce with Brad Haddin and Peter Siddle on the staff.

This team can be the plucky mob from Perth that was carried by the professionally inconsistent Mitchell Johnson and the occasionally fit Ryan Harris. The hardworking Clarke-inspired team that all pulled together to find a way to defeat Sri Lanka in Galle. And the team that had the strength to force South Africa to the turf, only to watch them bounce back up and beat them to death in Cape Town. That’s not even including whatever the team did to win this last Test. Which involved luck, a teenager, and veterans coming good.

Somewhere in the notes of Inverarity and Arthur you will find an ageing batting line-up that still gets rolled for freakishly low totals, including a trifecta of sub-100s (88, 98 and 47) in their last 13 Tests. A bowling attack that sways between hardworking and hardly working. A 34-year-old wicketkeeper who gets most of his headlines for playing terribly odd shots. A young offspinner who has to fight for survival every Test. An opening batsman who wants to move down the order. A former captain in a potentially career-ending form slump. And a new captain who is learning how to lead on the job.

Yet Australia still win Tests. Despite their obvious fall from grace they seem intent on hanging around, not fading away. Patrick Cummins is enough to get a nihilist singing show tunes. Mitch Marsh, Nic Maddinson and James Pattinson are around the corner. Michael Clarke just played his best Test Innings. Shane Watson is taking wickets. This team works as hard as any Australian team of recent eras. And they are fun to watch - sometimes in a good way.

Right now Inverarity and Arthur are trying to work out what team to pick for the Gabba, but really they’re trying to work out how to treat the team they were given in the first place.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for

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  • testli5504537 on December 17, 2011, 9:35 GMT

    good one have brought up the differences and ups and lows about the reminds us again that the aussies will never back down and still they are full of confidence.simply excellent.

  • testli5504537 on December 10, 2011, 5:59 GMT

    I think one mistake everyone ; including the current Aus e same performance level as Steve players;is making is to expect the same performance level as the great Steve Waugh / Ricky ponting sides. It is not easy to find a bowler like Shane Warne or a wkt keeper batsman like Gilly; who made an otherwise excelent batting / bowling side into an invincible one. Just chill & enjoy the game w/o very high expectaionstill Ausis find their feet again , which I am sure they would in the next couple of years.

  • testli5504537 on November 30, 2011, 9:27 GMT

    Too early to write off Australia....

  • testli5504537 on November 29, 2011, 18:15 GMT

    As a West Indian, I sense the approach of what beset West Indies in the late eighties into the 90s. A long, slow decline, lit by deceptive bright spots. I think Australia has the talent and management to at least avoid the depths of despair that West Indies have charted all to well. But legendary cricketers are born, not made, and after over-confidence allowed so many greats to retire in a batch, I think Australia have discovered this truth. Patrick Cummings aside, what really exciting talent has come forward since those heady days? Clarke and others are still, for me, firmly in the headspace of Ponting-land and need to let go of this feisty veteran, who should retire, but can't. A fresh start will lead to unpredictability, but at least you can rebuild for the future. Perhaps that is the best we can hope for right now--rebuilding instead of a slow corruption of all that was good. After all the West Indies went through, I don't wish similar events on Australia.

  • testli5504537 on November 29, 2011, 17:44 GMT

    This present selectors are better than the past because they never considered young players.Players past their prime were selected.Where as India selected very young players who served them for long time.Australian selectors never tried to build a team for future.Actually It was the Adam Gilchrist factor which was the key to Australian success, he used to turn around matches coming at number 7. Present selection policy is eight bats man out of which 2 can bowl 10 to 20 overs a day, two pace bowler out of which one should be a left arm fast,and one left arm spinner.Haddin should be dropped for a new WK who can score runs.Against India having less than 8 bats man means asking for trouble.Never declear an innings closed if you are leading the series.

  • testli5504537 on November 29, 2011, 13:51 GMT

    australia deserve to be the no 1 team in the world

  • testli5504537 on November 29, 2011, 9:46 GMT

    great article agree with you 100%....oz cricket a bit like the line out of forrest gump

  • testli5504537 on November 27, 2011, 13:48 GMT

    Thanks Jarrod for your article. Good fun and thoughtful reflections at the same time! I'm currently overseas and sat glued to my computer watching the webstream for the recent run chase - stirring stuff. Thanks also to Sarinda, Gary, tossa and Barry for improving the knowledge of us non-medical folk, and reminding us of the impact of these illnesses on many folk.

  • testli5504537 on November 27, 2011, 9:55 GMT

    i dont think lyon is 'fighting for survival' every game looking at da way clarke has used him i reckon he has no doubt dat lyon belongs to dis level n i can easily say he is da no.1 spinner in oz no.2 is cameron boyce

  • testli5504537 on November 27, 2011, 4:34 GMT

    Obviously after such a great team in the 90s & early noughties, I'm actually surprised Oz is doing as well as it is. The great Ponting is on the decline, Haddin has lost his confidence and we have a bunch of older bowlers who try hard but are pedestrian. Mitch Johnson has talent but he's obviously injurred and should take a long time off. Only Clarke and Hussey of the older generation are still performing to test level.

    Only right that Warner, Hughes, Khawaja, Ferguson, Wade, Paine, Cummins, Cutting, Pattison, Starc, Copeland and perhaps a look at O'Keefe when he's again fit, need to be blooded. It will take time before Oz is again in the top tier of teams but I believe with those players in a few years they'll be very competitive. You'll notice I've left out 28 year old Marsh who performed very well in a few tests...but I think he's playing above himself given his 39.5 run first class average.

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