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While there was confidence from Australia that they could prevail in this Ashes, the manner of their victories has left many stunned - not least elements of their latest success in Melbourne where they trailed on first innings and watched England build a healthy lead before surging back. Greg Baum, writing in the Age, had to rub his eyes a few times to make sure he wasn't seeing things
I saw a team that heroically beat India in India not 12 months ago and was measurably too good for Australia in the northern Ashes complete its falling apart in Australia. I saw England almost give up. And I rubbed my eyes.
Fawad Ahmed's presence in the headlines, having so far been a feel-good tale of success and survival, had taken a sour turn when his decision to appear for Australia sans their sponsor, Victoria Bitter's logo, on his uniform has invited criticism from from former sportspeople. Cricket Australia made their support for Fawad amply clear and Sharda Ugra writing in the Australia India Institute explores Australian cricket's migration from the supposed 'pale, male, stale' stereotype.
It is understood that the contract between Cricket Australia and Carlton & United Breweries, owners of VB, contained an opt-out clause about wearing the alcohol sponsor's logo because of a player's religious belief. Fawad's Australian team shirt was not an after-thought that had led to the logo being ripped off or covered with black tape minutes before he went on to the field. It is part of a larger, constantly evolving picture
Fawad's swift rise raises a point which is applicable to several international athletes. It asks how much, and what playing for a country, any country, means in the modern day, writes Osman Samiuddin in the National. Fawad's story is not very different from Kevin Pietersen's, in that it just places notions of individual progress and excellence above collective pride.
Does not the pride and honour of individual achievement naturally supersede that of representing a country? That is, it must feel great to be acknowledged as one of the top individual athletes in the country, more so than the feeling of pride that comes with representing your country. In other words, the identity of the country an athlete represents - or any attachment to it - may not be as important to the athlete as the desire to be among the best at whatever discipline the athlete has chosen and be recognised as such by being selected to represent their country.
Australia legspinner, Fawad Ahmed's decision not to wear a beer-company sponsor's logo on his country shirt has sparked off a debate which has quickly moved beyond cricket and to touch upon larger issues of immigration and integration within the Australian society. A few have criticised Ahmed for his decision but as Malcolm Knox points out in the Sydney Morning Herald, the issue is not just about one player but about sport being open to changes within societies and cultures.
Whenever sports try to insulate themselves from change, they self-destruct. So let's imagine that a national symbol, such as the gold shirt Ahmed wears as an Australian one-day cricketer, does not impose a national character. Let's imagine that it's the wearer who changes the character of the shirt. In Ahmed's personal history, is there not the courage and durability we associate with a Hewitt (or a Dawn Fraser, a Herb Elliott, a Dennis Lillee, take your pick)? In his refusal to wear a VB logo, is there not something of that wilfulness that we like to call ''Australian''? In choosing to be here, rather than being born here, has he not already proved something?
Ahmed also finds support from Guardian writer, Joe Gorman who says his decision not wear the logo should be praised if Australia truly values moral conviction.
Scyld Berry calling Usman Khawaja's selection to the Test side as Australia's experiment with their Asian immigrant population has received widespread opposition. Though Australia are not as well known as other countries for their cricketers having alien roots, Russell Jackson, in a Guardian blog points out a few examples Berry seemed to have overlooked.
He would also know that Rex Sellers, a British passport-holding, Indian-born leg-spinner who played Test cricket for Australia prompted no small measure of angst within the English cricketing press when chosen in the Australian Ashes squad of 1964. In response, the cricket-loving prime minister Robert Menzies fast-tracked Sellers's citizenship at a rate that, all these years later, makes Fawad Ahmed's blessing from the Gillard government look like a glacial drift
For Shane Warne, Darren Lehmann's appointment as coach before the Ashes is a sign of momentum shifting slightly in Australia's favour. As contemporaries, Warne observed Lehmann's skills as a player and a coach closely and he draws on these experiences to identify Lehmann's unique coaching style in his column for the Telegraph.
Boof is not really a coach. Yes, sure he can tell you about technique but he will be speaking to players about how they approach the game and prepare. He is a mentor. He has been there, done it and endured all the ups and downs over a lifetime in cricket. He has a great rapport with players, a good understanding of how to balance the old school and new.
Chloe Saltau of the Age believes Darren Lehmann's appointment as Australia's coach heralds a fascinating contest between his old-school philosophies and Cricket Australia's emphasis on a scientific approach to the game.
How will his traditional way of doing things collide with CA's modern matrix for running the team? What will happen when Lehmann needs a big effort from Ryan Harris, but the sports science says the injury-prone paceman is in the red zone? Can the old and new school work together, or will something have to give?
An unsettled Australian team has historically never done well in England and with problems regarding the team surfacing on this tour, questions are being asked of Australia's ability to match England in the upcoming Ashes. How they counter these problems, according to Tim Lane in the Age, will depend on team unity and the backing that the coaching staff - specifically Mickey Arthur and Pat Howard - can provide to Michael Clarke.
Australian cricket took a long time to accept the concept of a coach. Bob Simpson was the first and he was eventually forced out for being too interventionist. Ian Chappell, who profoundly influenced Australian cricketers over more than one generation, always said coaches were for transportation from hotel to ground. Shane Warne, whose level of influence needs no elaboration, was similarly dismissive. These two are archetypal figures of Australian cricket and their views resonate. Right now, though, it's hard to avoid the view that Clarke needs all the support he can get from off the field. And if that involves tough love, so be it. Those who are causing trouble need to be confronted with the type of coaching discipline footballers expect to receive if they wilfully step out of line.