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Long gone are the days when any group of Australian cricketers were world-beaters. Now the best they've got just doesn't look good enough
June 17, 2013
Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment was not as good as the original, but carried a few of the cast, some decent jokes, and had the recruits out on the streets fighting with Bobcat Goldthwait. Police Academy 7: Mission To Moscow had pretty much nothing at all. It seems that just putting words Police Academy into the title couldn't recreate any of the magic from the earlier films.
There was a feeling for a while that no matter which XI cricketers you put in the Australian team, it wouldn't matter. Just having XI players playing for Australia would lift them to a devastating standard of cricket. They'd fight until the end, they'd come together, and they'd do their country proud. It was a myth. Propaganda. Australian hearts aren't bigger than normal hearts. They don't pump supernatural sporting blood.
This current team has mortal blood in them. That could not have been highlighted more than when Australia were one wicket down against Sri Lanka, and needed a match-winning partnership and their batsmen were Phillip Hughes and Glenn Maxwell.
Trumper and Hill. Ponsford and Bradman. Simpson and Chappell. Taylor and Boon. Hayden and Ponting. Australia have had some pretty special top orders. Hughes and Maxwell won't be added to that list.
It is unfair to even mention them near that list. This is just an ODI. And an odd ODI where Australia had to chase the total in 29.1 overs to make the next stage of the tournament. It's not the normal batting order, and unlike most of the combinations above, it's not a Test match.
But if you wanted to see how far Australia had fallen, Maxwell running down the wicket like a madman and Hughes batting as though the inside edge was the middle of his bat were a pretty good example.
Hughes averages 44 in first-class cricket, and Maxwell 37. Both respectable for a young opener and a batting allrounder. But they're not as impressive off paper.
Maxwell clearly has an amazing eye, and some confidence. Maxwell is a man who can flat-bat Lasith Malinga through mid-off for four. Contrary to popular thinking, and even if they were wrong, there is a reason he was a million dollar man in the IPL. But he does swing madly across the line in a way that makes you think he's perhaps not a batsman, but a bowler with a good eye. The answer to any question in Australian cricket at the moment is Glenn Maxwell, and that is a concern.
The problem is that while Maxwell can make a good 30-odd in quick time, he doesn't really think his way through innings. He had Sri Lanka hopping, he had them worrying, he'd already scored a boundary in the over against Malinga, he didn't need to back away and expose his stumps to the one man in cricket who was most likely to hit them.
Hughes' technique has been repaired more times than Shane Watson. Yet, every time it is repaired it comes back with a new fault. Even with that, it seems his biggest problem is his confidence. No amount of tweaking, coaching or manipulation of his technique can ever bring back the confidence he had when he was a young batsman. I doubt there is a bowler in world cricket who wouldn't fancy himself with Hughes at the other end.
Hughes is a man who made back-to-back hundreds against Steyn, Ntini and Morkel. And yet faced with a fairly innocuous ball outside off stump he played a shot that could have only resulted in a caught behind, play and miss or, at best, a single to third man.
You could argue that Hughes is a weird pick for the ODI side, but his List A average is 48. You could argue that Maxwell is not an ODI No. 3, but the boy can pinch hit. There are reasons they are there. They're not blokes Australia found on the street. They're the best they can find.
The chase of 254 in 29.1 overs was never going to be easy, or even, all that possible.
But it's not just that they didn't make it, it's just that they stopped four wickets down. Their fifth wicket was 11 runs off 27 balls as Mitchell Marsh scratched and Adam Voges consolidated. Only Matthew Wade from that point on made any attempt at the total they needed to make the semis.
Maybe it's romantic and unrealistic, but it is likely previous Australian sides would have just kept running into the fire. Swinging away wildly. Chasing until there was no hope left. This team either didn't have that in them, or couldn't do it.
The main bit of fight they showed was a last wicket partnership that made Sri Lankan fans nervous for a while.
This has been a dodgy start for Australia's summer in the UK. Their opening batsman is currently suspended. Their one superstar is still injured. They lost two and shared one in this tournament. Their team environment is not great. The only bright spot today was when Ricky Ponting was in their dressing room.
Unfortunately for Australia, Ponting was not coming back, he was just performing a walk on. The old cast aren't getting back together. The old magic will not be regained. They are stuck with what they have.
The Australia one-day team is currently very close to Police Academy 7. There are a couple of faces you sort of know, and none are the quality of the originals. And just like Police Academy, as the series got worse, the more you saw of George "GW" Bailey, the legendary character actor.
It's not the players' fault. Unlike a film series, you can't simply stop playing sport just because your team isn't as good as it used to be.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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