Akhila Ranganna: In the second of our year-end specials on Cricinfo Talk, I asked our experts why, despite the retirement of certain key players, Australia continue to dominate world cricket. Is it because the standards of the other teams are falling? I also asked them to pick the team they thought was most likely to challenge Australia. Let's start with Michael Holding's views.
Michael Holding: Well, Australia are a very good cricket team and a very good cricket nation at the moment. It's not just the XI who are playing, I think they also have some outstanding reserves, especially for their batting line-up. As far as the bowlers are concerned, I think we need some time to see how things [the new bowlers] develop. Since they lost Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, they've only played one Test series. That series was against Sri Lanka, at home. I would like to see them go overseas and play some series outside their own country without Warne and McGrath, to see how well they do. They are still an outstanding team and they are still the best team in the world at the moment. I don't think people need to be worried that they've been winning for so long - they do lose occasionally, and it's good to have teams setting standards for people to aim at.
As for the No. 2 team, who is best equipped to challenge Australia - that's a bit difficult at the moment [to pick one team]. I think they [Australia] are pretty far ahead, irrespective of what the ICC rankings may say. It's a bunch [of teams] at second spot and the team that's playing better than the rest will be the one to challenge Australia. I don't think that there is one team that sticks out.
AR: Now the views of someone who knows a thing or two about Australian cricket, Ian Chappell.
Ian Chappell: Well, I don't think it's to do with the other teams slipping. It's just that they haven't gained any ground. The point that worries me is that no team has a clue about how to play Australia in Australia. Since Australia became the world champions, when they beat West Indies in the Caribbean in 1995, there have been 68 Tests played in Australia, of which they have won 51 and lost only six. To me, that's a sad indictment of the opposition. So the other teams have got to vastly improve their planning and their state of mind when they tour Australia, because if they don't, I see this trend continuing.
I don't see any team that is taking the right steps to correct that [their planning and mindset when they tour Australia], and so I really don't see an end to Australia's domination at home. I think they'll get beaten overseas sometimes.
To me, the future of the other sides looks bleak, mainly because a lot of teams have taken the attitude: playing against Australia is pretty tough, we'll wait for them to falter rather than challenge [Ricky] Ponting's team. If you go back to West Indies' domination [in the 80s], Pakistan always ran them very close because they had a leader in Imran Khan who always wanted to challenge West Indies because they were the best team around. I don't see any team at the moment that has that attitude, particularly when they come to Australia. I'm hoping that perhaps India will do it this time around.
AR: England managed to put it past Australia in 2005 Ashes series but have struggled against them since. Here are former England coach David Lloyd's views.
David Lloyd: Australia continue to be a juggernaut team. They are the best team, and in my view this is because they are the most organised team. I think their domestic structure is foolproof. When you start playing as a youngster in Australia, everybody wants to be Ricky Ponting - they all want to captain Australia. The structure of domestic cricket, the facilities they've got, means they are going to be on top for a long time. I admire everything that they do. The way they play their cricket is tough and uncompromising, and very rarely do they step over the line. But everybody that plays against them knows that they are the best team.
I'll pick two teams that should challenge them. India should challenge them. With the amount of cricket that is played, I think India need to get themselves sorted out with respect to the changing of the coach and the alleged infighting that happens. I also think that there is a bit of an easy street with them: once you get into the team, it seems pretty easy after that to stay in; it should actually be tougher.
The other team that should challenge Australia is England. There are signs that England are getting their administration at the highest level right. If it's right at the top, there's every chance that it'll be right on the field. But again, the county structure in England lets everybody down. People want their county teams to do well and that's why we have so many Kolpak players playing in English cricket. This is a grave danger, because we're not producing our own players. But those are the two teams that should challenge Australia.
AR: In the recent past India have been one of the teams to challenge Australia. Let's hear what Sanjay Manjrekar has to say.
Sanjay Manjrekar: Well I feel that Australia is one country that does everything right. It is a country where there is natural talent because of the culture and environment. They produce excellent athletes, and if they decide to specialise in cricket then it's a huge advantage. Most of the kids who make it to the final grade are excellent athletes. Australia has a very competitive club cricket structure, they have the right ideas while playing cricket, they play to win as a team. Individual performances do not take precedence over the team's performances. Their first-class structure is also very competitive.
|I think that the side that's best equipped to beat Australia is Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, and to a lesser degree, India in India. As far as playing against Australia in Australia is concerned, I just don't think anyone's going to come close Tony Greig|
Unfortunately, not too many other teams in the world have the kind of system that Australia have. They [the other countries] are not working at the grassroots level, which produces excellent cricketers for Australia. There is also a tendency for the other teams to feel that they're not going to win against Australia. It's like they have resigned to the fate that Australia is the best team and they seem to be thinking, "Let's just try and challenge them in this series. If we cannot, we'll move on and try and challenge the other teams."
The team that could challenge Australia in the future is probably South Africa - if they pick the right team. The cricketing conditions in South Africa are similar to those in Australia. The subcontinent teams will always find it difficult because they do not play enough on the kind of pitches that Australia have. They might challenge them in one series, but to do it consistently might be difficult unless things change at the grassroots level and below first-class cricket.
AR: Tony Greig has been a been a big supporter of Australian cricket. Here are his views.
Tony Greig: Well what's happening as far as retirements in cricket are concerned is that players these days are fitter. It wasn't long ago that guys like me, for example, would consider 32 to be the time to be retiring. There were two reasons for that: one, we didn't work hard enough on our fitness, and two, we also wanted to look after the rest of our lives because we were paid so badly that we needed to go out and get a proper job. These days, when you look at the likes of Ricky Ponting and Co, and the South Africans to a lesser degree, it seems to me that they are all much fitter. They are earning so much money these days that they want to keep going. So I suspect that we're going to see the same faces and the same names in that Australian team for a while, especially since they've just lost McGrath and Warne. That, of course, is unless the game produces some form of alternate superannuation. There's a bit of that happening down in India at the moment in terms of the Indian Premier League and the Indian Cricket League. So there lies a possibility that that could bring about a few more retirements slightly earlier.
In respect to Australia's position and their dominance in world cricket, I think that the side that's best equipped to beat Australia is Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, and to a lesser degree, India in India. As far as playing against Australia in Australia is concerned, I just don't think anyone's going to come close.
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