July 27, 2013

Australian cricket

Who killed Australian cricket?

Australia's domination of world cricket, with a team that won three successive World Cups and 16 consecutive Tests, is now a memory. Hit by internal disputes, controversies and poor team selection, Australia's thrashing at Lord's has left many wondering if the team has hit rock bottom. Peter Lalor, of the Australian, examines some of the causes that might have led to their downfall.

As for selection? Heaven help us. Since Ricky Ponting shifted from first drop, nine other players have auditioned for that key role. In the past 14 matches, 12 players have come in and out of the top-six positions. Phil Hughes has batted in every spot but five. You can't blame selectors when there is nothing much to select from, but you do wonder about their reactionary approach. The spin-bowling role had been a quandary the former panel could not solve and this one appeared to have done so with Nathan Lyon, but then it has dropped him twice recently -- once after he took nine wickets in India. Argus also recommended that the captain should be a selector. That idea lasted as long as Arthur.

In the Sydney Morning Herald, Malcolm Knox highlights some more factors that would give Australian fans cause to worry about the team's performances.

Senior statesmen of the game are concerned about the manner of Australia's losses in England. The chickens of the top-order batting, a weakness for several years in Australian first-class cricket, have come home to roost. Is it a symptom of a deeper malaise? Poor defensive batting and shallow back-up indicate a weak first-class scene; weak first-class cricket indicates poor pitches, poor coaching and poor grounding in the fundamentals; poor fundamentals indicate the incursion of Twenty20 cricket and so-called Gen Y attitudes; too much Twenty20 indicates a withering of the grassroots. Cricket itself is changing. John Benaud, the former Test player and selector, said this week that third-grade players were now playing first-grade. Generally bemoaned is the loss of players in their 30s, who once mentored younger cricketers but are now spending their Saturdays with their families, or cycling, surfing or bushwalking (culturally speaking, not necessarily a bad thing).

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