Australian cricket: in a crisis or a bold new era?

M_Campbell23 Roar Guru

By M_Campbell23, M_Campbell23 is a Roar Guru

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    Australian batsman Ricky Ponting (right) and Mike Hussey make their way from the ground at tea

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    It seems with every Test match, Australian cricket is diagnosed anew. Depending on the result of the last game, we are either witnessing a grave nadir for the baggy green, or are standing on the precipice of a golden era of youthful verve and brash domination. It simply cannot be both, and it cannot change so quickly.

    Indeed, sometimes this diagnosis changes within the same Test.

    In Cape Town, Australia’s first innings revealed a crippling lack of depth in its batting stocks.

    Then Michael Clarke walked to the wicket to belt a defiant century, the bowlers rolled South Africa for less than 100, and suddenly we were united for the long haul behind our fearless leader. Then, at 9/21 in the second innings, it was a crisis again.

    Then in the second Test Pat Cummins put on the magic with his six wickets in the second innings, and by the time he had hit the winning boundary in an unlikely two wicket win, Australia was charging headlong into a golden age all over again.

    Unfortunately Cummins managed to get injured during that game, and we’re yet to see him again. But fear not, while he recuperated, James Pattinson unleashed a fury of pace and swing on the unsuspecting and unequipped Kiwis at the Gabba. Once he’d taken his fifth wicket on that remarkable Sunday morning and Nathan Lyon had swept up to the tail to maintain his mid-20s average all doubt was gone. Australia was back, baby.

    Then on the last day in Bellerive, even the most cynical must have been converted as Dave Warner slashed and drove his way to a match winning hundred. Oh, pardon me, that was a man of the match winning hundred. Warner’s performance aside, the remarkable collapse in Hobart was all the evidence the critics needed: Australian cricket is in permanent decline, the Argus review has fixed nothing, and it’s time to start all over again.

    In the last four days of cricket we have seen Australia’s finest deliver that same range of possibilities once more. Mid way through Boxing Day it was all sorted: new opening pair of complementary styles, Ponting making runs, everything coming together.

    Then there’s a small collapse, and by the time India get to 2/214, Australia are once again a combination of a timid batting line-up and an impotent bowling attack.

    By lunch on day three it’s a bold new era for Australian bowlers, at 4/21 in the second innings it’s a black day for Australian batting, and then when Hussey and Ponting steady the ship everything is ok again because we can rely on the experience. When the bowlers come out and slice through the Indian order the balance looks just right. Everyone is now writing about how good this Australian side is, and how much better it will become.

    The issue here is that we cannot judge the Australia team session by session, day by day or even game by game.

    This sort of scattered logic is exactly how a lot of the trouble started. It’s exactly how Xavier Doherty can come into the team with a first class bowling average of 45 because he took four wickets in a one day game. It’s exactly how he can then be replaced by Michael Beer.

    This Australian team is neither in irreversible decline on the brink of total domination. It is a team with a mixture of potential, fading abilities, brilliance and mediocrity. They can be tenacious, and they can lack vigour. The headline writers and critics must realise that they do not need to instantly place this Australian team at one of the extreme ends on the scale. One good performance each from Pattinson and Cummins does not mean that they will terrify in tandem like Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh.

    One poor innings from the batsmen does not mean they all need to sit in the pavilion watching The Cricket Show put on a master class with a polo-shirt wearing Mark Taylor and Ian Chappell.

    Excessively dramatic assessments of either a positive or negative nature are not constructive or helpful to anything other than selling newspapers. Both create a destructive pressure, and totally lack the nuance necessary to see Australia through an uncertain period in its cricketing history.

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    The Crowd Says (6)

    • December 31st 2011 @ 9:07am
      Rhys said | December 31st 2011 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      You make a valid point in your article. There does appear to be a rollercoaster of public, and so called ‘professional’ opinion of late. A kind of ‘four seasons in one day’ assessment of things. A more balanced, considered appraisal is preferable, but sadly balanced and considered is a commodity that’s in short supply in the 24 hour news cycle.

    • December 31st 2011 @ 10:02am
      Jason Cave said | December 31st 2011 @ 10:02am | ! Report

      I think the Australian cricket public expects the team to go back to the glory days of Langer, Hayden, Ponting, S.Waugh, McGrath, Warne, Gilchrist.

      The problem is that the rest of the cricket world have not only caught up with the Australians, but in some cases surpassed them in the key areas of batting, bowling and fielding.

      You can expect the team to be inconsistent for a little while, but come England 2013 they will be a very good side.

      But should Cricket Australia share some of the blame for the team’s performance since 2008?

      In one word: yes.

      In reality, CA should’ve learnt from successful AFL clubs like Geelong and Collingwood on how to be consistent over a long period of time. But the problem is that CA is so obsessed into making a success of the BBL, they’ve taken their focus off the main objection: helpng the Australian team winning again, and putting together a squad in readiness for the 2013 Ashes series in England.

    • December 31st 2011 @ 11:58am
      jamesb said | December 31st 2011 @ 11:58am | ! Report

      BBL can be a success if its handled the right way. For instance, the BBL should be reduced from 6 weeks to 4 weeks.

      Its a funny situation the Australian cricket side finds itself in.

      When Australia suffers another batting collapse and lose test matches, many people think Australian cricket is on the decline. When Australia;s fast bowlers take wickets and win test matches, many people think Australia is on its way to number 1.

      50/50 at this stage

    • December 31st 2011 @ 12:53pm
      Matt F said | December 31st 2011 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

      Well said. The reactions are very “knee-jerk.” Depending on the day Phil Hughes is either being claimed as the next big thing or a washed up has been. We’re a side that is attempting to blood new players and rebuild. I wouldn’t say that we’re a young side (only 2 players from the Boxing Day Test team were under 25) but we’re an inexperienced team and there are lots of new faces coming and going as we try to find the best XI. The only thing less consistent then the publics/medias reactions are the performances!

      The bowling is coming along nicely. We’ve found a decent spinner and the young fast bowlers that everyone’s been talking up for a few years are starting to come on.The batting is still an issue though but the team is starting to take shape.

    • December 31st 2011 @ 3:39pm
      Bayman said | December 31st 2011 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

      It’s been an odd few years for the Australian cricket team since the departure of the “names” following our last Ashes win. If you look back over those years though, and even through some of those years with the “legends”, when Australia makes a big score it is usually because the tail has wagged and wagged big time.

      The last time I remember the top six putting a team to the sword was probably Cardiff when four batsmen (one of them Haddin – from memory) all scored centuries. Mind you, we couldn’t win that game because a certain spearhead thought he was bowling to a batsman in Swansea.

      The great wins in this period have invariably come because the bowlers have dominated (including Johnson – at least occasionally). Against South Africa and New Zealand the losses were down to the batsmen. Pure and simple.

      In the most recent win at the MCG the Australian batting order contained Warner, Marsh, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey and Haddin who have all made Test centuries. So they can bat. What they cannot do with any consistency is put partnerships together. Wickets fall in clusters and pressure builds. We won the game but it was the bowlers who really won it for us – with the ball and the bat.

      The bowlers are invariably doing their job (though Johnno was a bit of a handicap). It is the batsmen who have been unreliable and allowed us to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

      Batsmen save matches and bowlers win them. It has always been the case and nothing has changed. Unfortunately, the batsmen are not creating the situation where the bowlers are not continually under the pump to save the day. You can have Dennis Lillee, Glenn McGrath, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill O’Reilly and Shane Warne in the side but it won’t help if the batsmen can only make 47 (or in that particular case, less than 20).

      You will note that mostly that roller-coaster view of the Australian team changes from the batting to the bowling. As soon as there’s an innings change, so too does the fortunes and predictions about where we are at.

      • December 31st 2011 @ 11:07pm
        Cameron said | December 31st 2011 @ 11:07pm | ! Report

        Well Said and a perfect example of where Australian Cricket is currently at, unfortunately.

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