New Zealand v Australia, 5th ODI, Napier

Unbearably too good

Australia should be removed from all official championships and only allowed to defend their World Cup title

Commentary by Andrew McLean

March 5, 2005

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The victorious Australians: another series, another whitewash © Getty Images
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David Houghton wants Zimbabwe out of mainstream international cricket, and there's been plenty of talk of dumping Bangladesh as well. One should probably add Australia to that list: they are simply too good, and are ruining the game.

Australia should be removed from all official championships and only allowed to defend their World Cup title. They can play Australia A for practice, and take on World XI selections to make some money. Only then will world cricket become an even playing field.

This might sound ridiculous, but so were New Zealand and those before them who were hammered each time they encountered Australia. In the last 12 months Australia has won 12 of 14 Tests and 19 of 22 one-dayers. In Tests they have won 3-0 in Sri Lanka, out-thought India in their own backyard, thrashed New Zealand by an innings and 156 and then by 213 runs, before handing out a few cricket lessons to Pakistan. The carnage culminated today, when New Zealand were handed their first 5-0 ODI whitewash at home.

England's prospects of being competitive in the Ashes in a few months have been talked up but, frankly, even the dodgiest of bookmakers could not expect anything other than a crushing series victory to Australia.

In sporting terms, cricket is a virtually a religion in Australia. Christmas Day is as much about the obligatory game of backyard cricket as it is about turkey and presents. Michael Slater went so far as to say on television today that the Australian captaincy was the second most important job in the country after the Prime Minister's.

Despite this, there have been signs that the total world dominance of Ricky Ponting's men is bad for cricket in Australia. There has been speculation that Aussie fans are frustrated at the predictability of the result each time Australia take the field, and there was also the ABC's decision not to broadcast all of the current tour on the radio.

Rather than kick Australia out of world cricket, perhaps they could donate some of their outstanding first-class but non-international cricketers to teams like New Zealand and Zimbabwe. Then everyone would be happy. Cricket would return to Australian radio, fans would go to games in greater numbers ... and Australia losing might be a possibility again.

For the moment, though, the status quo remains, and New Zealand were the latest victims. If Zimbabwe were criticised for lacking players of international standard then the same could be said of New Zealand's attack today - Kyle Mills, Lance Hamilton, Tama Canning, Daniel Vettori, Craig McMillan and Craig Cumming. It must be the worst combination Stephen Fleming has been presented with in his eight-year tenure as captain.

When you consider that Shane Bond, Ian Butler, Andre Adams, and Michael Mason were unavailable for selection, Jeff Wilson was ruled out prior to the game and Chris Cairns was injured three overs into it, it would be easy to lay the blame on the spate of injuries. However, by his own admission this week, depleted bowling ranks have become the norm for Fleming rather than full first-choice complements.

The time has come for change. If Australia is not willing to share its resources then official championships should be scrapped and backyard rules introduced. At the start of the next match, New Zealand and Australia should line up, and Fleming and Ponting would toss a coin to see who gets first pick.

Adam Gilchrist would no doubt be in the highest demand, and deciding between Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath as the next pick would be a tough decision. Stupid as it may sound, it would be an interesting exercise and we'd at least finally get a competitive contest.

Let us know what you think

Andrew McLean is a presenter of The Cricket Club, New Zealand's only national radio cricket show.

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