Paper Round - The Ashes

'Today Australians know how it felt to be English'

Martin Williamson

September 14, 2005

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As the celebrations got underway in England, the post mortems began in Australia even before Ricky Ponting and his side returned home.

The Sydney Daily Telegraph led the way. With a simple headline - "The end" - it named four players who would "be sacked forever or given two months to save their careers". It continued: "The first casualties will be fast bowlers Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz, who will not figure in the Test or one-day series against the World XI in October. Batsmen Damien Martyn and Simon Katich are also under the gun."

"Today Australians know how it felt to be English in the 16 years since the Ashes last changed hands," said the lead editorial in The Age. "As the series slipped from Australia's grasp in the fifth Test, the Oval crowd's chanting offered a foretaste: `You're only good at swimming.' The Australians must absorb the lessons of defeat ... and accept that this team cannot take it back to the top in the next few years. A further concern is that the team's second-tier players and leading contenders outside it are neither particularly young (with the exceptions of Michael Clarke and Shaun Tait), nor have they made irresistible claims to Test places. Wholesale changes overnight would be needlessly disruptive for a team that remains relatively strong, but Australian cricket must prepare for a difficult period of transition if lost pride is to be restored."

In the same paper Greg Baum said that "as Australia faltered, some blamed the batsmen - who did not make 400 in any innings - and some the bowlers, whose profligacy allowed England to dictate terms in every Test after the first. Catching and captaincy were also to blame; for both were fumbling at times.

"Australia now is forced to address flaws. One is systematic. Young stars are nurtured and mollycoddled in the under-19s, but at the same time, ageing vets on sinecures, but with no further prospect of Test selection, are allowed to clog up the Pura Cup. This way, a generation has been lost and the role and relevance of the state competition threatened - and to think that we used to look down our noses at county cricket."

Peter Roebuck wrote "Australians can reflect with pride that they held the Ashes for 16 years and remember that nothing lasts forever". "What counts is not how far you fall but how high you bounce back. Ponting's captaincy was not sufficiently incisive. He was out-thought by his counterpart. Now comes his chance to grow into the position. He needs a younger side and a new coach. Doubtless, it did not help that the Australians were constantly looking over their shoulders. But Australia cannot avoid the truths revealed in this series. Often calamity and opportunity wear the same clothes."

In the Sydney Morning Herald, Alex Brown said the Ashes defeat meant Australia could no longer afford to delay making changes. "The process must begin this summer ... and given that much of the team's success in recent years can be credited to the loyalty shown to senior players, Australia's administrators and selectors face many a sleepless night pondering the unpleasant - but necessary - task of equipping the side for the future."

"Australia must remake its team," Patrick Smith wrote inThe Australian. "It still is a combination that will beat to death any other country but England, yet it is by England's standards that the Australian side must ultimately be judged."

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo

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Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.
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