Aussies winning back the Ashes? We can only hope
This week's 2013 Ashes dates announcement has brought back bad memories (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
On the 10th of July 2012, the Australian cricket team was convincingly defeated by the English in the final game of a five match one day international series. England won four matches, Australia won none.
And apparently, according to the wave of criticism, it’s one of the worst events in our country’s proud cricketing history. Or so many would have you believe.
Personally, I wasn’t all that surprised by the result. I wasn’t terribly impressed by the apparent effort that our boys put up, but I wasn’t surprised by that either.
I put the series loss down to three things: we did not select our best squad for this series, it was a five game series on an island of scheduling, and the English are a better team than we are at the moment.
Call me what you will, but I have a very hard time calling the squad that travelled to England a “strong” squad. In fact, I can’t call any squad “strong” if Mitchell Johnson is in it.
Do you reckon the Englishmen licked their lips when they read his name in the team list? You bet they did. Johnson returned figures of 0/43 off seven overs in the one game that he played. Of the other fast bowlers in the squad, they were either just returning from injury (Pattinson and Cummins) or got injured on the tour (Lee, Watson and Cummins again).
In other words, they shouldn’t have been there. With such a rickety bowling line-up, the batsmen that we did have on the tour had no chance. Then again, with George Bailey, Peter Forrest and Steve Smith in the heart of the order we would have struggled if McGrath and Warne were in the team and at their peak.
This series was played on an island of scheduling courtesy of the ICC. Before this series, the last time Australia played was in the West Indies in late April. After this series, Australia take on Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates beginning on the 25th August. The English series was played between the 29th of June and the 10th of July.
That’s twelve days. The Australian cricket team waited 62 days between taking on the Windies to taking on the Poms. The English on the other hand had a three Test series and three ODI series against the Windies from May through June, which rolled straight into the Australian series.
A slightly different preparation wouldn’t you say?
England are currently preparing to take on South Africa in a two Test series starting on the 19th July that continues onto a ODI series taking them straight into the ICC T20 World Cup. Australia wait another 42 days to play Pakistan on the 28th August.
I understand that the players are professional and get paid very well, but they are also human. It’s difficult to get into the rhythm of touring and get used to the conditions when you are at home for two months, fly to England where their summer is worse than our winter, then fly out again a fortnight later knowing it will be another month and a half before you play again.
Australian cricket is still on the way up. The English team are a very strong and settled team that are pretty much at the peak of their powers. The Australians under the leadership of Michael Clarke have taken positive steps since the disastrous home Ashes tour in 2010-11. The revamp of the selection panel has resulted in some good decisions in bringing up talented young players such as Pattinson, Cummins and Warner, but the constant injuries to players have punctuated any true improvement to the team.
The Test series against India gave hope that we were starting to build another deadly bowling attack backed up by a solid but not overwhelming batting order, however our opponents rarely put up a fight and looked as though they couldn’t wait to go home. Injuries, retirement and depth remain very real threats to Australian cricket.
The English seem to go from strength to strength. As much as we can discuss how they have copied and pinched systems and coaches from our shores, that is not the English team’s only strength. The team has remained fairly static in regard to injuries, enabling them to become a real team in every sense of the word.
While we were blessed with talent, during Australia’s dominance, we also had a lucky run with injuries.
The English know what bowling partnerships work best. They know who they can depend on when things get tough. They know who to turn to when they need a wicket or a quick fifty on the scoreboard. They are a true team and will be very difficult to beat in any form of the game for some time.
Australia may not win the Ashes next year, but I can’t see our team being hammered like we have in this most recent series. Hopefully the medicos will figure out why our players seem to be so injury prone.
Hopefully Billy the Kid comes back to show our bowlers how to bowl again. Hopefully the Shield competition will unearth a couple of talents that demand selection for the Ashes next year. Hopefully the selectors replace the term “X-Factor” that follows Mitchell Johnson everywhere with the term “ex-player”.
We can only hope Australia, we can only hope.