January 16, 2011

Why Aussie fans are cheering for England

Because the olde enemy could help their side make it to the World Test Championship

Dear Everton,

Thanks for your latest email but I could've done without being reminded of the Ashes and your joy at predicting the result. You didn't, however, warn me of the fallout that follows such a catastrophic series.

The chairman of selectors appears to have talked himself out of a job, the captain is fighting to retain his post, there's talk of a future captain who isn't even in the side, and the team is struggling to make the final four to participate in the ICC's proposed World Test Championship in 2013.

Next thing you'll predict Australia will soon be languishing with your mob, the woeful West Indies. Sorry mate, a cheap shot, but it's painful having to send you a carton of Bella's Garden Shiraz. I should never have weaned you off rum to savour the delights of South Australian red wine. And to think I forgot Richie Benaud's warning; "Never bet on anything that can talk."

Anyway you're right about Andrew Hilditch. His comment, "I think we've done a very good job as a selection panel," won't qualify for any peacekeeping awards when so many Australians are angry with the team's poor performance. Following the outcry over his comments I doubt Cricket Australia has any option other than to omit Hilditch from the panel. Under his chairmanship the selectors have made a few blunders in the past, but Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath covered them up. The toughest time for a selector is when you virtually have to get every decision right - and even then the side might not be good enough.

Interesting question you pose about the rise and rise of Tim Paine. He's a good cricketer, one of the best of the younger brigade, but you're right, it's a bit premature to be promoting him as a future Test captain. As you said, "Dem no even dig Haddin grave yet." Brad Haddin was one of the more successful players in the Ashes series and he doesn't deserve to be sacrificed in the haste to unearth a captain.

There are a few things Australia could copy from England's current approach but not their outdated method of choosing a captain. The idea of appointing a captain and then selecting the other 10 players is flawed and Australia shouldn't head down that path. However, it is, as you suggest, an indication of the turmoil surrounding Australian cricket leadership that they seem to be doing just that.

There's no doubt Ricky Ponting should step down after the World Cup, and Michael Clarke is the most likely successor.

There are a few things Australia could copy from England's current approach but not their outdated method of choosing a captain. The idea of appointing a captain and then selecting the other 10 players is flawed and Australia shouldn't head down that path

I don't know if you saw the footage of an injured Ponting around the team in the lead-up to the SCG Test. His constant presence as the players prepared for the match made life difficult for Clarke. If Clarke does take over and Ponting is retained as a player then the new skipper will need to be strong. Clarke will have to set Ponting straight on the ground rules, otherwise his leadership style will be compromised.

A new captain has to stamp his authority on the side. You're right, Everton, this will be a real test of character for Clarke and he'll need everyone in his team pulling in the same direction. As with all captains, the leadership aspect of the job is crucial and if Clarke's appointed, he needs to spend plenty of time earning the respect of his team-mates.

Now Everton, make sure you're sitting down and mellowed out, listening to Bob Marley's rendition of "Buffalo Soldier" before you read this next paragraph.

Australian cricket fans have to start barracking for England. Yes, that's right, cheer for "Ye Olde Enemy," as you like to describe them. The Australian team, now in fifth spot, have little chance of getting past India, South Africa or England to qualify in the top four to play in the ICC's proposed World Test Championship. That leaves fourth team Sri Lanka as the side Australia aim to displace, and this is where England has to help out. If England can repeat their Ashes form and defeat Sri Lanka at home and the Australian touring side also beat them in August, then the boys in the baggy green would move into fourth spot. So Australia badly need England's help.

It also wouldn't hurt, Everton, if you dragged yourself away from those domino marathons in the cosy back bar at The Black Swan in Notting Hill and cheered for the home team when Sri Lanka play at Lord's. I know it goes against the grain but these aren't the glory days when West Indies, and then Australia, dominated the game. As you advised me in your email: "Dem what's strugglin' have to grab any morsel."

Cheers mate,
Chappelli

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

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