October 17, 2008

Almighty who?

Ponting's team clearly isn't the force Waugh's or Taylor's were. They don't bat, bowl or field as competently
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Australia 2008 vintage is a reasonable copy of the old, all-powerful Australia, but hardly the same thing © Getty Images

Unobtrusive, patient, pragmatic, businesslike, grinding, gritty, tight and cohesive were words used to paint Australia's cricketers during their dominant first three days in Bangalore. And in the end the surprise was not that a team so lacking in poetry failed to win the Test. The surprising thing was that so many people expected they would win. To see India's captain amble in from his post on the sixth ball of overs and ponder some microscopic shuffle of his field, to witness their batsmen's polite non-interest in a gettable last-day run chase, was to watch a grand old game being played on tiptoes. To then hear all India's satisfaction at escaping a drubbing by the almighty Australians was to realise something else: that the message has still not sunk in.

Almighty? They were once, and not long ago. But what the critics and Australia's rivals do not seem to grasp is that the Border-Taylor-Waugh era is over. Thrilling while it lasted, but gone. Kaput. And there will not, it turns out, we can finally assert with some certainty, be a Border-Taylor-Waugh-Ponting era. No.

It is too soon to guess how far Australia's cricketers might fall. It is not easy to pinpoint the exact moment they peaked. But it seems reasonable to suppose they fielded no better team than the one they put on the park in 1997. That team had aces in most bowling departments, nigh-on infallible catchers, and just the right pinches of batting polish and grit. Underpinning all that was a keeper in Ian Healy who could pluck dragonflies with his tongue, and a fair and clever leader in Mark Taylor. Of the triumphant XI who guzzled champagne on the players' balcony in Nottingham, only Ricky Ponting survives. Who else among the current lot might jag a spot on Tubby's team? Mike Hussey would, coming in for graceful Greg Blewett, and Brett Lee would tip out trusty Paul Reiffel. No others.

To know that an almighty dynasty is over we need not trawl back 11 years. Try two years. Gone from the 2006-07 side that flogged a highly floggable England 5-0 are five men, all biggies: Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Justin Langer, Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds.

Two years is time enough for a whole sport, let alone a team, to change out of sight. In the new world of biff and run, Bangalore last week looked like some other planet. Five twisting days of not much happening for long periods felt like some kind of paradise. In the dust and quiet, five replacements for five big cricketers did what they could to fill five giant pairs of boots.

Mitchell Johnson's McGrath impersonation was the most convincing. Not so hard-hearted an interrogator as the old McGrath, he bears a certain happy resemblance to the young McGrath. Johnson aims at cracks in pitches and batsmen's psyches. He relies on means less conventional than speed or swing. He is turning, also like McGrath, into a slow but sure Test bloomer. The in-floater that hung on the breeze and messed up Gautam Gambhir's stumps was Johnson's 39th wicket in ten matches. McGrath at the same juncture had 33.

Cameron White, Warne's fill-in, got several balls to spit and whizzed down admirably few loose ones. One fundamental flaw - that Warne's mystery ball, the straight one, is White's stock ball - remains problematic. Simon Katich went in first and for hour after hour was seldom troubled. But where Langer would bend his game to fit the situation, Katich tended to go too slowly when too few runs were happening at the other end, until eventually it was all ebb, not much flow, and the initiative was lost. Brad Haddin batted and kept wicket gamely but leaks 18 byes a Test; Gilchrist used to average 6.35 byes. Shane Watson chipped in at important times. His cricket, all the while, had as much in common with Symonds as his haircut. An almighty Australian team this is not.

Opponents are easily enough spooked, though. Australia still, it is clear, radiate some of that old Border-Taylor-Waugh aura. They look the same, sort of: a row of sun-pinked cheekbones under 11 green caps, glowing in the harsh light. They sound roughly the same - any batsman who lingers long enough to irritate them still cops an earful. No doubt they will continue to dote on the Bradman legend. They will write and read aloud to each other excruciatingly awful poetry in the name of team spirit. They will leave no World War Two battlefield untrampled, until the package tour operators cry "no more". And they won't take those green caps off, unless it is to call for a helmet. Three subtle but telling characteristics nonetheless mark out this Australian team as different: they do not bat, bowl or field as competently.

Still they have not lost a series since England in 2005. And so we see an unhealthy Test scene in which a weakened Australia remain world-beaters. Timid opponents squib tricky run-chases and dawdle in the field, as if maximising their overs at a no-longer-almighty nation would be impertinent. It's not good for cricket, and it doesn't much help Australia either. For the result is that Australia are content with rehashing yesterday's glories. There is no talk of renewal, of regeneration, of chucking out the old in the hope of unearthing new McGraths, Warnes, Gilchrists.

 
 
Of Mark Taylor's triumphant XI who guzzled champagne on the players' balcony in Nottingham in 1997, only Ponting survives. Who else among the current lot might jag a spot on Tubby's team? Mike Hussey would, coming in for graceful Greg Blewett, and Brett Lee would tip out trusty Paul Reiffel. No others
 

Sometimes the drawing board is the best place to be. Trial and error transformed Australia from a battling team into a frightening one in the early seventies. In the space of four years Australia tossed the new ball to Graham McKenzie, Froggy Thomson, Alan Connolly, Ross Duncan, Tony Dell, Dave Colley, Bob Massie, Max Walker, Bomber Hammond, Geoff Dymock, Gus Gilmour and Alan Hurst, before eventually hitting on Jeff Thomson as Dennis Lillee's fellow hellraiser, at which point they instantly became the world's greatest team.

Later, in the mid-eighties, struggling once more, they picked and chopped nine opening batsmen in 20 months - Steve Smith, Kepler Wessels, Wayne Phillips, Graeme Wood, Greg Ritchie, Greg Matthews, John Dyson, Andrew Hilditch, Robbie Kerr - before lucking out with the reassuring duo of David Boon and Geoff Marsh. And luck, to be sure, had everything to do with it. Boon and Marsh were merely names in the newspaper small print, hinting faintly at something special, just as McGrath and Warne and Gilchrist were later, just as Pomersbach, Ronchi, Hilfenhaus, Voges, Hughes and Henriques are now. There is only one way to find out, and nothing to fear.

In the summer ahead, Symonds will probably return. Matthew Hayden and his metre-wide Gray-Nic will front up for more. Other tried and familiar faces will make up the numbers. It is worth remembering that there is another way. Remember, too, that the Ponting era is a fresh era. South African brimstone, Kiwi cheek and English line and length can all bother Australia. So can a well-balanced team consisting of young and old, fast and slow bowlers, enchanting shot-makers, a bit like the one India are fielding in Mohali today. To unobtrusive, patient, pragmatic et al, we might soon add three more words: over the hill.

Christian Ryan is a writer based in Melbourne

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • DamieninFrance on October 19, 2008, 18:41 GMT

    Stunning article. Beautifully written and accurately researched. Like most Aussie supporters I've relished the last 15 or so years of cricketing domination. But, I've sorely missed the contest. Why is it that the 94/5 West Indies, 01 India and 05 Ashes series are regarded as so special? Because of the magnificent sporting contests! As a youngster I loved it when we'd beat the West Indies for once. The test series in the late 90s between Australia and South Africa were brilliant. The 99 World cup- this is what all lovers of cricket want to see. So Australia have lost their old guard, and the new breed need some experience. If having to lose 3-0 in India is what it takes to force the Aussies to face facts- then so be it. All the more reason to follow your team's fortunes, and take pleasure from every challenging victory! Keep up the great work, Ryan.

  • TheDoctor394 on October 18, 2008, 22:21 GMT

    Valvolux wrote: "Similarly to Nassar Hussien who during his rein with England was considered yet another failure as captain." ?!? Um... considered by whom?

  • magsati on October 18, 2008, 19:54 GMT

    The major assertions of this article are simply false and bear no resemblance to reality.I feel no obligation to go into great detail just as I feel no sense of obligation to prove that the sky is blue. However, I would suggest to the relevant powers, that to allow this writer to continue to provide articles to Cricinfo would only compromise the credibility of this sight. Why would Christian Ryan so willingly dismiss the achievements of the Australian captain? Perhaps the the qualities that Ponting possesses are unfamiliar to Mr Ryan and therefore hard to recognise. Undoubtedly Australia is not the team it once was and as much has been admitted by Ponting himself, but I have supported this team through good and bad my entire life. The Australian cricket team has given me a great deal of pleasure and joy over the years and it continues to have my support and respect.

  • KishoreSharma on October 18, 2008, 14:22 GMT

    No, they peaked in 2000/2001, not 1997. The 2001 team that retained the Ashes in England had McGrath, Warne and the Waugh's at their peaks plus....Adam Gilchrest (who is a greater wicket-keeper batsman than Healy). Taylor may have been a very god captain, but there is not doubt that Waugh took the Aussies to another level. Under Taylor, they were not deciminating teams - under Waugh they started to do that.

  • Arijit_in_TO on October 18, 2008, 11:54 GMT

    Like the writer, I remain a huge fan of Mark Taylor's captaincy. Unlike the writer, I think that criticism of Ponting and this current incarnation of the Baggy Green soldiers is unduly harsh.

    Also, expect a different game from what was witnessed at Bangalore with two sides going at it in Mohali since a hobbled Anil Kumble has made was for M.S. Dhoni. Dhoni is the New School Indian: he likes results and wants his men to play fearlessly. The remainder of the series will show how Ponting's blokes measure up.

  • Jamo-12 on October 18, 2008, 11:42 GMT

    EPIC FAIL Christian!I am left feeling shocked and dismayed from this article. Flagrant disregard for the efforts of the Ponting era! Ricky's era of world cricket domination has been something of a fairytale barr the Ashes series in '05. And it took stresscothic's sneaky lolly spit to take the series! To say there will never be a Border-Taylor-Waugh-Ponting era is well beyond stupid... since Waughs retirement Australia have still dominated dispite losing legends of the game at regular intervals. This article smacks of the disgraceful attitude towards the Australian team after their win over India at the SCG in last years series. If we are winning than we are "too good and the game is boring"... if we lose or draw... whoa look out "the Aussies are losing their aura". Any Australian out there worth their salt would be disgusted by the hype after that match. Turning on a side that has been so successful for so long because they were excited to win for their country... un-Australian.

  • nymt2 on October 18, 2008, 9:22 GMT

    Horrible article. How can one expect a team losing Pigeon, Warnie, Gilly, Langer, Martyn, Gillespie, add to that abrupt retirements of experienced campaigners like Hogg, Macgil, and now Roy, to be an invincible team. Plus, all these players went in a period of 2 years. Take out 4-5 best players from other teams, and the current Aussie side will become invincible again. Still to Punter's credit, despite losing all the big names, he and his team is still giving other teams a run for their money. Yes now contests will not be one sided. Team is through the transition phase and what they are doing now is great. I consider Aussies still clear favorites for 2011 WC.

  • PeteB on October 18, 2008, 3:42 GMT

    More indignation and umbrage from cricinfo readers. What a surprise. Anyhow, I'd much prefer the '97 slips cordon to our own.

  • Onkarbw on October 18, 2008, 1:09 GMT

    A fairly one dimensional view of the situation. Even I am a big fan of Taylor's era rather than the Steve Waugh/ Ponting era. But because they felt mortal then, not that they were the best. Taylor's men were moody gamblers who played awesome cricket. But the best team Australia fielded was the one under Steve Waugh. They were virtually invincible. The team that played under Ponting in the aftermath of the Ashes loss were a very close second. The current Aussie team is beatable, yet the best team in the world. It's very tough to beat them, because their batting is still in great shape. However they are not the most difficult to save tests against. That's a testimony to losses such as McGrath, Gillespie and in particular Warne.

    Regarding the Bangalore target, I am sure a more daring Tendulkar would have gone for it and Dhoni would ask his men to chase it in such situations 2 years from now. But then the Indians aren't a force of 2004 or the force they will be in 2010.

  • Gary14 on October 18, 2008, 0:54 GMT

    Terrible article. It's true that this team is in transition and does not have as many established legends as previous Australian test teams over the past 10 years....but.....Pontings record speaks for itself, Australia hasn't been beaten in years and even if they were to lose this series they should not be considered any less mighty. If Ponting continues to churn out amazing results having lost so many 'great' players then his captaincy and the greatness of Australian cricket should only be enhanced further.

  • DamieninFrance on October 19, 2008, 18:41 GMT

    Stunning article. Beautifully written and accurately researched. Like most Aussie supporters I've relished the last 15 or so years of cricketing domination. But, I've sorely missed the contest. Why is it that the 94/5 West Indies, 01 India and 05 Ashes series are regarded as so special? Because of the magnificent sporting contests! As a youngster I loved it when we'd beat the West Indies for once. The test series in the late 90s between Australia and South Africa were brilliant. The 99 World cup- this is what all lovers of cricket want to see. So Australia have lost their old guard, and the new breed need some experience. If having to lose 3-0 in India is what it takes to force the Aussies to face facts- then so be it. All the more reason to follow your team's fortunes, and take pleasure from every challenging victory! Keep up the great work, Ryan.

  • TheDoctor394 on October 18, 2008, 22:21 GMT

    Valvolux wrote: "Similarly to Nassar Hussien who during his rein with England was considered yet another failure as captain." ?!? Um... considered by whom?

  • magsati on October 18, 2008, 19:54 GMT

    The major assertions of this article are simply false and bear no resemblance to reality.I feel no obligation to go into great detail just as I feel no sense of obligation to prove that the sky is blue. However, I would suggest to the relevant powers, that to allow this writer to continue to provide articles to Cricinfo would only compromise the credibility of this sight. Why would Christian Ryan so willingly dismiss the achievements of the Australian captain? Perhaps the the qualities that Ponting possesses are unfamiliar to Mr Ryan and therefore hard to recognise. Undoubtedly Australia is not the team it once was and as much has been admitted by Ponting himself, but I have supported this team through good and bad my entire life. The Australian cricket team has given me a great deal of pleasure and joy over the years and it continues to have my support and respect.

  • KishoreSharma on October 18, 2008, 14:22 GMT

    No, they peaked in 2000/2001, not 1997. The 2001 team that retained the Ashes in England had McGrath, Warne and the Waugh's at their peaks plus....Adam Gilchrest (who is a greater wicket-keeper batsman than Healy). Taylor may have been a very god captain, but there is not doubt that Waugh took the Aussies to another level. Under Taylor, they were not deciminating teams - under Waugh they started to do that.

  • Arijit_in_TO on October 18, 2008, 11:54 GMT

    Like the writer, I remain a huge fan of Mark Taylor's captaincy. Unlike the writer, I think that criticism of Ponting and this current incarnation of the Baggy Green soldiers is unduly harsh.

    Also, expect a different game from what was witnessed at Bangalore with two sides going at it in Mohali since a hobbled Anil Kumble has made was for M.S. Dhoni. Dhoni is the New School Indian: he likes results and wants his men to play fearlessly. The remainder of the series will show how Ponting's blokes measure up.

  • Jamo-12 on October 18, 2008, 11:42 GMT

    EPIC FAIL Christian!I am left feeling shocked and dismayed from this article. Flagrant disregard for the efforts of the Ponting era! Ricky's era of world cricket domination has been something of a fairytale barr the Ashes series in '05. And it took stresscothic's sneaky lolly spit to take the series! To say there will never be a Border-Taylor-Waugh-Ponting era is well beyond stupid... since Waughs retirement Australia have still dominated dispite losing legends of the game at regular intervals. This article smacks of the disgraceful attitude towards the Australian team after their win over India at the SCG in last years series. If we are winning than we are "too good and the game is boring"... if we lose or draw... whoa look out "the Aussies are losing their aura". Any Australian out there worth their salt would be disgusted by the hype after that match. Turning on a side that has been so successful for so long because they were excited to win for their country... un-Australian.

  • nymt2 on October 18, 2008, 9:22 GMT

    Horrible article. How can one expect a team losing Pigeon, Warnie, Gilly, Langer, Martyn, Gillespie, add to that abrupt retirements of experienced campaigners like Hogg, Macgil, and now Roy, to be an invincible team. Plus, all these players went in a period of 2 years. Take out 4-5 best players from other teams, and the current Aussie side will become invincible again. Still to Punter's credit, despite losing all the big names, he and his team is still giving other teams a run for their money. Yes now contests will not be one sided. Team is through the transition phase and what they are doing now is great. I consider Aussies still clear favorites for 2011 WC.

  • PeteB on October 18, 2008, 3:42 GMT

    More indignation and umbrage from cricinfo readers. What a surprise. Anyhow, I'd much prefer the '97 slips cordon to our own.

  • Onkarbw on October 18, 2008, 1:09 GMT

    A fairly one dimensional view of the situation. Even I am a big fan of Taylor's era rather than the Steve Waugh/ Ponting era. But because they felt mortal then, not that they were the best. Taylor's men were moody gamblers who played awesome cricket. But the best team Australia fielded was the one under Steve Waugh. They were virtually invincible. The team that played under Ponting in the aftermath of the Ashes loss were a very close second. The current Aussie team is beatable, yet the best team in the world. It's very tough to beat them, because their batting is still in great shape. However they are not the most difficult to save tests against. That's a testimony to losses such as McGrath, Gillespie and in particular Warne.

    Regarding the Bangalore target, I am sure a more daring Tendulkar would have gone for it and Dhoni would ask his men to chase it in such situations 2 years from now. But then the Indians aren't a force of 2004 or the force they will be in 2010.

  • Gary14 on October 18, 2008, 0:54 GMT

    Terrible article. It's true that this team is in transition and does not have as many established legends as previous Australian test teams over the past 10 years....but.....Pontings record speaks for itself, Australia hasn't been beaten in years and even if they were to lose this series they should not be considered any less mighty. If Ponting continues to churn out amazing results having lost so many 'great' players then his captaincy and the greatness of Australian cricket should only be enhanced further.

  • cjlevinson on October 17, 2008, 17:56 GMT

    I am an Australian supporter and while it's obvious that the Australian side is not as strong as it was (how could it be, having lost Warne, Langer, Gilchrist and McGrath?), the way this article dismisses the current Australian team amazes me. They are still an excellent side; Hussey, Johnson, Lee and S. Clark have performed extremely well and Ponting's record of wins as captain is second only to Steve Waugh's - and he's won two World Cups. Comparing the 97 side to the current side without mentioning Matthew Hayden or Stuart Clark shows a lack of research and cricketing knowledge.

    It won't be until after the series against South Africa, New Zealand and the Ashes that we'll get a better sense of Australia's status in the game. But with the strong domestic set up, Australia will still field a strong team. We're entering into a more competitive era for cricket and that's a good thing for the game - but to suggest that Australia is "over the hill" already is premature to say the least.

  • Pontingonaction on October 17, 2008, 12:47 GMT

    I am quite shocked about the writer comment on the Pointing captaincy era. In my opinion, the writer is judging the whole Pointing captaincy career by analysing the current squad.....I would love to provide the statistics if the writer wants.........Judging the player whole career with a single series which is not yet decided is quite disquisting. There is not any such captain with such a number of century under his belt while captaining.Come on man..........Austrialia still a Champions.......... and test series is still in progress.............

  • pacollins1318 on October 17, 2008, 10:59 GMT

    As an Englishman I also find this a very bizarre and poorly researched article. The last time I checked the Ponting captaincy era has been one of the most successful in Australian cricket history, with Ponting having the best winning percentage of any Australian captain and second only to Waugh in wins. To say that the Border-Taylor-Waugh era is over and that there will be no Border-Taylor-Waugh-Ponting era is just wrong. I find it remarkable that a so-called sportswriter could spout such garbage. Everything else in the article became a joke after that comment. It is almost as if Ponting is being written out of the Australian history books by the writer because of ..... the ashes perhaps? This ignores some truly fantastic achievments by Ponting as Captain. Any team would suffer badly from the loss of McGrath, Warne, Gilchrist etc., Ponting should not be held responsible for that decline any more than Waugh should take all the credit for his teams achievements.

  • StJohn on October 17, 2008, 10:46 GMT

    It's a huge credit to the depth of Australian cricket that you're still so strong even after the recent major wave of retirements. The problem is, despite all those recent retirements, the Australian team still feels a bit like the current Indian team: it's an ageing one. Australia must guard against having another seismic-shift wave of retirements in 3-4 years or so's time. Although by no means over-the-hill, Ponting, Symonds, Stuart Clark, Hussey & Katich will each be 34 around the time of next summer's Ashes; Brett Lee will be 33 in late 2009 & Haddin will be 32; Hayden will turn 37 next year, as will Bryce McGain (if he's picked - I hope he gets his chance!). All of these players could play for another 3-4 years or so, injuries aside (no reason why Hayden & McGain can't be playing Tests at 40 if they're good enough & up for it!). But with this personnel you could well face another wave of 4 or 5 retirements, maybe more, around 2012, without having developed some new talent before.

  • StJohn on October 17, 2008, 10:10 GMT

    Ignoring injuries & going by general rather than current form, comparing Australian teams, you'd almost certainly pick Matthew Hayden (today) over Matthew Elliott (1997), & Stuart Clark (today) for Jason Gillespie (1997) are very swappable too. So with Brett Lee for Paul Reiffel, Mike Hussey for Greg Blewett, & with Ricky Ponting in both teams, you'd still pick half of today's team to play in 1997, & vice-versa. Australia have only won one series in India in the last 35 or so years, in 2004/05. So this current series is not really much of an indicator. Unless Australia are thrashed in this India series, the 2 pending back-to-back series against SA will be a far better indicator of their current strength. The Aussie spin cupboard is looking bare, but it was also bare early in the Border-Taylor-Waugh era. Haddin may not be as great as Healey/Gilchrist, but it's early days & he seems like a good keeper even if not a great one. The batting & fast-bowling cupboards look well-stocked.

  • timbofraser on October 17, 2008, 9:45 GMT

    One fact: Ponting shares the record for most consecutive test wins as captain with Waugh. I think we can safely say that they are in the same class.

  • valvolux on October 17, 2008, 9:20 GMT

    It's funny how the likes of Taylor get such plaudits simply because he is sandwiched between Border and Waugh as captain - he was not particularly successful, nor creative or aggressive as captain whilst having the same weapons at his disposal as both Waugh and Ponting...the same weapons which apparently will see an end to our successful era. Similarly to Nassar Hussien who during his rein with England was considered yet another failure as captain...but because success came after his rein was hailed the gent who got the ball rolling...when in actual fact it was simply a better captain who used his weapons more effectively. Such is the case of Waugh and Taylor...Waugh was just a better captain...and Ponting is doing his best to replicate his style...and he's done a pretty damn fine job of it so far. The Ponting era hasn't just started...it's been going for a long time...and so far it's been more successful than the Border, Taylor or Waugh eras. I think the author should stick with reading.

  • whoster on October 17, 2008, 9:10 GMT

    This is an extremely dismissive and premature writing off of the Australian side. Yes, losing three all time greats such as Warne, McGrath and Gilchrist is bound to weaken the team; but it's up to other international sides to threaten their status as world no.1. At the moment there are no clear signs that other sides are catching up with the Aussies. Players like Hussey, Johnson and Stuart Clark have all (especially Hussey) done a very good job of replacing the irreplacable - and only time will tell how successful the new era will be. The main concerns for the Aussies is their inexperience in the spin department; and also a polarization between ageing players and green rookies. We'll know a lot more about the new era of Australian cricket a year or two from now; but for the moment, such a damning opinion of the side is completely unwarranted.

  • andrew-schulz on October 17, 2008, 8:53 GMT

    Interesting comments Hammond. Just what would you call jingoistic? Surely not comparing one Australian side with another, which is what we are doing. Actually, the most brainlessly jingoistic comment would not be as far off the mark as yours-that the team has slipped that far based on a small snippet of the game. Like watching 5 minutes of an AFL match, and pointing out the weakness of a team that has dominated based on that five minutes. This seems to be a modus operandum of Christian Ryan.

    It could be jingoistic to believe Australia will not slip from number 1 anytime soon. Or it could be based on a reasonable knowledge of domestic cricket and the new players the relevant teams are bringing in. There is no way that any other team has players of the calibre of David Hussey, Nathan Bracken, Luke Ronchi, Steve Magoffin, or Ben Hilfenhaus waiting in the wings, not to mention Shaun Tait and Andrew Symonds. People were saying exactly what you wrote ten years ago, five years ago.

  • CJC1 on October 17, 2008, 8:25 GMT

    There is one main reason Australia, and well any great team, was so great. They took 20 wickets each and every test match, and when you don't lose 20 wickets you basically can't lose. It means there is much less presure on the batting, as the bowling will always back you up, no mater what you score.

    As the West Indies in the 80's used to say, I don't care how many we score, we'll bowl them out for less.

    And the simple fact is Australia can no longer rely on doing just that...

  • kartekay on October 17, 2008, 7:38 GMT

    you dont have to be rocket scientist to realise that present aussie team is not the same class as the one few years back.its simple 'mathematics' difference lies in absence of three of the greatest cricketers of all time mcgrath,warnie and gilly.but to write them off as spend force is farcical.they are still the world champions and players like hayden,lee,hussey,ponting can claim to be in any eleven of any era.also i find very funny is comparision between johnson and mcgrath.you must be talking about some other johnson!!but yes we can expect far more balanced era with england ,india(with a ?),sa challenging aussie supremacy.

  • longridge on October 17, 2008, 7:02 GMT

    I have to agree with the Australian posters on this one - this article is both exceptionally premature and woefully inaccurate. Ponting has been captain for a good while now and apart form in the ashes 2005 tests has done well. Australia could be at the start of a downward spiral but you can't possibly say for sure because they havn't got beat yet!! If this article had been written after poor series against South Africa, New Zealand and England then maybe you would have a point but not now. Plus, if I had to pick when Australia were at their peak I would say around 2001-2003. That team of Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Waugh, Waugh, Martyn, Gilchrist, Warne, Gillespie, Kasprowicz, Mcgrath had no weaknesses at all whereas the 97 team carried Blewett, Bevan and to a lesser extent Elliott and Reiffel.

  • coptwuninthenuts on October 17, 2008, 6:52 GMT

    What Saosin said was absolutely correct. I didn't want to be as direct as that, but agree wholeheartedly. I can remember debate as to how many of that 1997 side would have made the 1948 invincibles. It was quite futile and unfair-Ponting, McGrath and Gillespie didn't get a look in because they were quite early in their Test careers. Most respected writers later considered the trio should have been included. But today it just seems like you are a big hero if you can the current side, and just keep saying the opposition is weak. Conversely, if you say anything good about the team, you are just being patriotic, and not thinking at all. So a large number of writers of extremely limited knowledge of the game think they are saying something intelligent by bagging the current team. Not just its playing ability either-to be truthful, what was written about the team's behaviour last summer was a good deal more childish than what they were reputed to have said or done.

  • Sloth80 on October 17, 2008, 6:45 GMT

    I would say the 97 team was better with ball and in the field but not better at batting. The current team with Hayden, Ponting, Clarke and Hussey are very strong in batting. But those that reckon Australia are better in the field now are kidding themselves. Mark Waugh, Mark Taylor and Shane Warne in the slips and Healy behind the stumps. The current team can't match that! Those guys were freakish catchers. They also had a younger Ricky Ponting with his brilliant ground fielding.

    I do agree that the Australian team has peaked and is on the way down. The problem is mostly with the bowling and I can see the Australian selectors being forced to try some different bowling options over the next few years. Ponting's impeccable captaincy record is soon to be tarnished.

  • Hammond on October 17, 2008, 6:27 GMT

    I find it funny reading some of the comments from my fellow Australians. Cricket goes in cycles and it is clear to those without a jingoistic eye that Australia's time is now over. To have a new ball with fresh bowlers wacked all over the park by Harbajhan & Zaheer Khan shows how far down we've come. There are other test teams like SA & England on the rise and we will soon be another bunch of cricket followers harking for the "golden days" of McGrath & Gilchrist. Just like the windies still talk of Richards & Ambrose. Being an Australian does not automatically make you a test cricketer par excellance. So people get over yourselves and realise that this cycle is good for cricket. Get ready to lose more often. And enjoy a more competative era of cricket before a new powerhouse starts dominating.

  • ChuckingMuraliMakesMeSick on October 17, 2008, 6:18 GMT

    "But it seems reasonable to suppose they fielded no better team than the one they put on the park in 1997." I take exception to this statement. The side in England 2001 was truly mouthwatering and would fancy itself against any opponent! Hayden, Langer, Ponting, the brothers Waugh, Martyn, Gilchrist, Lee, Warne, Gillespie & McGrath. This is the team that made "going in for the kill" an art form. I would also submit that it is at least as good a fielding side as either of the sides you mention.

  • anton004 on October 17, 2008, 6:13 GMT

    An absolutely bizarre article. Aside from the mistakes in comparing the 97 players to the current ones, which have already been answered to by others, your talk of no "renewal, regeneration" is just wrong. Of all the players in this team only Hayden and Ponting were Waugh era fixtures, with Lee and Clarke in-and-out players. So how they could have regenerated the team further under Ponting is beyond me. Furthermore, the fact that India didnt chase 299 with conviction was not so much to do with their timidity as it was chasing a ground-record total on a pitch both sides had struggled to score on. Your assertion that Johnson is a 'McGrath impersonation'is even stranger- wrong pace, wrong arm, wrong bowling style. I dont think anyone views these players as substitutes for their predecessors but you. Plus those great early teams drew a lot of games in India, and did not win the series that the Ponting-era side did. A very strange article

  • sauravcantbat on October 17, 2008, 5:51 GMT

    It's OK to try to be controversial, and perhaps wind up your readers. But you argue no better a case than any number of drunks in a pub slurring :'get rid of the old blokes, and try the new blood'. There is a lot of new blood there, hadn't you noticed? Your misassessment of players has been a disgraceful feature of your writing ever since I've had the misfortune to read you. Hayden doesn't make a combined side? Get a grip.

  • Saosin on October 17, 2008, 5:49 GMT

    It is not news that players such as Warne and McGrath are irreplaceable. It is not news that our bowling stocks have resultantly depleted. It is news to read that our batting and fielding is not as good. The averages of the batsmen are superior, which cannot mean anything else but more runs and better results, it is strict mathematics and cannot be argued. Just because our magnificent side which had the Waughs and Warne and McGrath (et al.) is not as strong, does not mean that we are weak. It just means we are not quite as brilliant. We are still far superior to any side in the world, and the results show that. It is highly ignorant, for instance Elliott over Hayden is imbecilic. I am quite disturbed you have your own article mate, your analysis is vague, weak, conflicting and just plain absurd in parts. I actually hope you did not research this, because if you did, your research is pathetic, lopsided and selective. You are a slight on the reputability of Cricinfo, cease now please.

  • goutham.chakravarthi on October 17, 2008, 5:47 GMT

    Australia could afford to go into the Tests with 4 bowlers because of the quality of McGrath and Warne. Now that both are gone, they should ideally be playing with 5 bowlers, istead they are playing with 3 bolwers and 2 batsmen who could bowl. Micheal Clarke has proved to be a better cry than Watson and White in the past.Hell, Dravid was reluctant to give White a bowl even in the IPL, no he is a front line Test spinner!

    Tests are won by bowlers. Now Austrlia will find it tough to win in places where only the exceptionally skilled can pick up wickets. Agreed that their domestic set-up is still the best in the world, but, that still doesn't guarantee 20 Test wickets still. But their batting is still among the best and their battling capabilities are never doubted. They have finally fallen back into the pack. It is somehow sad that one in the pack never actually rose to their level to upstage them, barring, of course, India in the last 12 years.

  • coptwuninthenuts on October 17, 2008, 5:42 GMT

    We're going to have a good laugh at a lot of this in a few years time. This Australian team goes from strength to strength, and no-name hacks like Ryan keep writing it off. A large number of experts said England would win the last Ashes, and Ryan had a go at Ponting in the next Wisden for taking issue with them. I can remember when Wisden actually had standards as to who it would get to write for them.

  • howpatheticarethefab4 on October 17, 2008, 5:28 GMT

    It's pretty clear. The 1997 side was far superior in bowling, with McGrath, Gillespie, Reiffel and Warne, with Bevan also picking up a stack of wickets around then, before being dropped in the middle of that series. The current side is superior in batting. The current side is superior in fielding. Christian Ryan has no idea.

  • chasethis on October 17, 2008, 5:18 GMT

    Logical assessment would suggest the current side would be slightly superior to 1997 as a fielding unit in any case, and significantly superior now that Jaques and Stuart Clark are not there. I would love to see you justify that comparison.

  • shut_gavaskar_up on October 17, 2008, 5:03 GMT

    The 1997 side? Clearly the current side is better equipped for cricket in India, which is the immediate issue. That side toured India either side of your chosen time. Clearly you haven't researched those results. And that era produced half a dozen disastrous results in the space of 18 months: at Delhi, Melbourne, Perth, Edgbaston, Madras, and Calcutta. This current era hasn't had a disastrous result since Sydney 2003, and not in a live Test since Calcutta 2001. It is difficult to justify your argument.

  • Travis on October 17, 2008, 4:46 GMT

    I'm a realist as the abilities of the current Australian team, but the comparison with the 1997 Australian team is just plain wrong. I cannot believe anyone would choose Matthew Elliott over Matthew Hayden, and then consider that the current Ponting is far superior to the 1997 Ponting and you have 4 players in the 2008 team who are superior to the 1997 team, not a bad ratio for an obviously inferior team.

    The overwhelming thing poorer in today's Aussies is the spin option. You simply cannot replace one of the world's all-time greatest with two part timers. Nothing else bears a brief thought in comparison, let alone a dozen-paragraph article.

  • snarge on October 17, 2008, 4:27 GMT

    If you think Matthew Hayden wouldn't get in ahead of Mark Taylor, you are simply wrong. If you think Hayden wouldn't get in ahead of Elliott, you are either living in a dream world or just know nothing about Test cricket in the last 15 years. What else does the bloke have to do?

  • KBowser on October 17, 2008, 4:15 GMT

    To be fair, the Ponting era started over 4 years ago, has been going for over 40 tests (more than most captains) and has been very successful albeit that the team initially included many of the great players from the Waugh team. What is immediately different between the Ponting and Waugh eras is the amount of new players. Only 7 players debuted under Waugh in 5 years and of these 7 only Gilchrist and Lee played more than a handful of games under Waugh. Under Ponting there has already been 15 new players, including 3 in the last 3 tests. Ponting's era may run the opposite to Border's although both may have 2 separate stages to their captaincy careers. When Border took over Australia was poor for a few years before regeneration and success (although not complete success). Under Ponting there has already been a successful era including wins at home and away and 2 World Cups however the second stage will be more of a grind and experimentation and new faces may be the order of the day.

  • KBowser on October 17, 2008, 4:14 GMT

    To be fair, the Ponting era started over 4 years ago, has been going for over 40 tests (more than most captains) and has been very successful albeit that the team initially included many of the great players from the Waugh team. What is immediately different between the Ponting and Waugh eras is the amount of new players. Only 7 players debuted under Waugh in 5 years and of these 7 only Gilchrist and Lee played more than a handful of games under Waugh. Under Ponting there has already been 15 new players, including 3 in the last 3 tests. Ponting's era may run the opposite to Border's although both may have 2 separate stages to their captaincy careers. When Border took over Australia was poor for a few years before regeneration and success (although not complete success). Under Ponting there has already been a successful era including wins at home and away and 2 World Cups however the second stage will be more of a grind and experimentation and new faces may be the order of the day.

  • andrew-schulz on October 17, 2008, 4:02 GMT

    You have a frail grip on reality. Why go to the 1997 side? They lost 2 Tests in England, and were then belted in India in the only truly lame performance by an Australian side since the home 86/7 series against England. In truth, to select a team from the 97 and 08 sides, you would have to include Hayden, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke, Clark (though injured now) and Lee. And Watson, Haddin, Johnson, and White, as well as Jaques, have plenty of time to state their case. Cripes, look at that 1997 batting line-up. Blewett and Elliott were never near Test standard, Bevan never made it against pace (perhaps could have if given another chance). This batting line-up is clearly superior, and has performed around the world. It is the most inaccurate article I have read for a while. What planet are you living on?

  • Rooboy on October 17, 2008, 3:59 GMT

    'And there will not, it turns out, we can finally assert with some certainty, be a Border-Taylor-Waugh-Ponting era.' Really?!? No doubt Australia is not the force it once was, but Ponting's reign as Test and ODI captain is now nearly 5 years and in that time Australia has won 2 World Cups, won in India for the first time in decades (admittedly not with Ponting at the helm for most of the series, but it still occured during Ponting's reign), beat Sri Lanks 3-0 in Sri Lanka, won the Ashes 5-0, and lost just the one series. Imagine if England, India or South Africa had had the same success in that period of time ... their fans and media would be making a huge deal out of this successful era, but because it was achieved by Australia it doesn't even rate, according to the Mr. Ryan. If Australia can retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy and beat South Africa and England over the next year or so, I think we can definitely assert that there is a 'Border-Taylor-Waugh-Ponting era'.

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  • Rooboy on October 17, 2008, 3:59 GMT

    'And there will not, it turns out, we can finally assert with some certainty, be a Border-Taylor-Waugh-Ponting era.' Really?!? No doubt Australia is not the force it once was, but Ponting's reign as Test and ODI captain is now nearly 5 years and in that time Australia has won 2 World Cups, won in India for the first time in decades (admittedly not with Ponting at the helm for most of the series, but it still occured during Ponting's reign), beat Sri Lanks 3-0 in Sri Lanka, won the Ashes 5-0, and lost just the one series. Imagine if England, India or South Africa had had the same success in that period of time ... their fans and media would be making a huge deal out of this successful era, but because it was achieved by Australia it doesn't even rate, according to the Mr. Ryan. If Australia can retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy and beat South Africa and England over the next year or so, I think we can definitely assert that there is a 'Border-Taylor-Waugh-Ponting era'.

  • andrew-schulz on October 17, 2008, 4:02 GMT

    You have a frail grip on reality. Why go to the 1997 side? They lost 2 Tests in England, and were then belted in India in the only truly lame performance by an Australian side since the home 86/7 series against England. In truth, to select a team from the 97 and 08 sides, you would have to include Hayden, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke, Clark (though injured now) and Lee. And Watson, Haddin, Johnson, and White, as well as Jaques, have plenty of time to state their case. Cripes, look at that 1997 batting line-up. Blewett and Elliott were never near Test standard, Bevan never made it against pace (perhaps could have if given another chance). This batting line-up is clearly superior, and has performed around the world. It is the most inaccurate article I have read for a while. What planet are you living on?

  • KBowser on October 17, 2008, 4:14 GMT

    To be fair, the Ponting era started over 4 years ago, has been going for over 40 tests (more than most captains) and has been very successful albeit that the team initially included many of the great players from the Waugh team. What is immediately different between the Ponting and Waugh eras is the amount of new players. Only 7 players debuted under Waugh in 5 years and of these 7 only Gilchrist and Lee played more than a handful of games under Waugh. Under Ponting there has already been 15 new players, including 3 in the last 3 tests. Ponting's era may run the opposite to Border's although both may have 2 separate stages to their captaincy careers. When Border took over Australia was poor for a few years before regeneration and success (although not complete success). Under Ponting there has already been a successful era including wins at home and away and 2 World Cups however the second stage will be more of a grind and experimentation and new faces may be the order of the day.

  • KBowser on October 17, 2008, 4:15 GMT

    To be fair, the Ponting era started over 4 years ago, has been going for over 40 tests (more than most captains) and has been very successful albeit that the team initially included many of the great players from the Waugh team. What is immediately different between the Ponting and Waugh eras is the amount of new players. Only 7 players debuted under Waugh in 5 years and of these 7 only Gilchrist and Lee played more than a handful of games under Waugh. Under Ponting there has already been 15 new players, including 3 in the last 3 tests. Ponting's era may run the opposite to Border's although both may have 2 separate stages to their captaincy careers. When Border took over Australia was poor for a few years before regeneration and success (although not complete success). Under Ponting there has already been a successful era including wins at home and away and 2 World Cups however the second stage will be more of a grind and experimentation and new faces may be the order of the day.

  • snarge on October 17, 2008, 4:27 GMT

    If you think Matthew Hayden wouldn't get in ahead of Mark Taylor, you are simply wrong. If you think Hayden wouldn't get in ahead of Elliott, you are either living in a dream world or just know nothing about Test cricket in the last 15 years. What else does the bloke have to do?

  • Travis on October 17, 2008, 4:46 GMT

    I'm a realist as the abilities of the current Australian team, but the comparison with the 1997 Australian team is just plain wrong. I cannot believe anyone would choose Matthew Elliott over Matthew Hayden, and then consider that the current Ponting is far superior to the 1997 Ponting and you have 4 players in the 2008 team who are superior to the 1997 team, not a bad ratio for an obviously inferior team.

    The overwhelming thing poorer in today's Aussies is the spin option. You simply cannot replace one of the world's all-time greatest with two part timers. Nothing else bears a brief thought in comparison, let alone a dozen-paragraph article.

  • shut_gavaskar_up on October 17, 2008, 5:03 GMT

    The 1997 side? Clearly the current side is better equipped for cricket in India, which is the immediate issue. That side toured India either side of your chosen time. Clearly you haven't researched those results. And that era produced half a dozen disastrous results in the space of 18 months: at Delhi, Melbourne, Perth, Edgbaston, Madras, and Calcutta. This current era hasn't had a disastrous result since Sydney 2003, and not in a live Test since Calcutta 2001. It is difficult to justify your argument.

  • chasethis on October 17, 2008, 5:18 GMT

    Logical assessment would suggest the current side would be slightly superior to 1997 as a fielding unit in any case, and significantly superior now that Jaques and Stuart Clark are not there. I would love to see you justify that comparison.

  • howpatheticarethefab4 on October 17, 2008, 5:28 GMT

    It's pretty clear. The 1997 side was far superior in bowling, with McGrath, Gillespie, Reiffel and Warne, with Bevan also picking up a stack of wickets around then, before being dropped in the middle of that series. The current side is superior in batting. The current side is superior in fielding. Christian Ryan has no idea.

  • coptwuninthenuts on October 17, 2008, 5:42 GMT

    We're going to have a good laugh at a lot of this in a few years time. This Australian team goes from strength to strength, and no-name hacks like Ryan keep writing it off. A large number of experts said England would win the last Ashes, and Ryan had a go at Ponting in the next Wisden for taking issue with them. I can remember when Wisden actually had standards as to who it would get to write for them.