I have been saying for a long time Australia deserve their number five Test ranking, and I lay the blame squarely at the feet of Cricket Australia. Australia’s cricket stocks have slipped in inverse proportion to their increased income.
This is after factoring in their three-year loss and one-year boom forecasts.
There is an old ditty that goes, “Lay me down roll me over and do it again.” Well CA have been utterly seduced by the riches on offer in India. They have taken their eye off the ball and remain gob-smacked by the wealth on display. Cricket Australia delegates visiting India are treated more royally than a FIFA delegate out to inspect a stadium the back of Bourke.
Mallya, the owner of the Bangalore IPL franchise, is the self proclaimed ‘King of Good Times’. He had Lionel Richie out to sing happy birthday for his 50th. Johnny Walker Blue label and Krug champagne would have flowed in conspicuous quantities. “Bugger the Sheffield Shield,” may have crossed the minds of some state CEOs visiting from down under.
The preparation before the Ashes beggared belief. Send two of your key men to play a Twenty20 tournament in South Africa and get them to the first Test in Mohali the day before. Is this being naïve or arrogant? Play some more meaningless one dayers and deny the Test candidates valuable Shield games. This is like devaluing your currency when there is no need for it.
And to compound this administrative felony schedule, a one day series against Sri lanka. And lose to them for the first time in Australia. This in hindsight seems like a death wish.
While CA continue to increase their support staff and proclaim the ruddy health of their cricket the rest of the world considers Australia easy beats. This is fifteen years of dynasty building down the toilet. Bobby Simpson and AB who started our renaissance post 1986 would be appalled at the turn of events.
What can Australia do to reclaim any sense of credibility?
Firstly the selectors have to treat the current Ashes as a three Test series. The first aim is to win at least two and not lose any.
The next Test is at Perth and the WACA from recent reports is at least 75 per cent back to its bounciest best. DKL is the Prezo of the WACA and he was the one who anointed Mitchell Johnson. Three of Australia’s pace bowlers have bowled in excess of 150kph. These are Johnson, Siddle and Hilfenhaus. Australia has to play four quicks in Perth. The team will be announced on Friday and it is no good being wise after the event.
Katich is out so Hughes to partner Watson at the top of the order. Don’t worry about his technique. Roy Frederickss of the WestIndiess,another leftie, put Lillee and company to the sword almost forty years ago. Hughes should be given the licence to go for broke.
Ponting, Clarke and Hussey take care of 3, 4 and 5. North has to be shunted and Smith to take his spot. Haddin picks himself at 7. You can get away with bowling a little short in Perth as long as you bowl straight. Johnson at 8 and then Harris,Hilfenhaus and Siddle.
And CA, with all that money in the bank, should tell the players they will pay the fines for any unbecoming conduct. It is time to forget the niceties and play to win. Australia has been too concerned with singing from a politically correct hymn book.
I see the top five batsmen in Australia and they are better performed than their counterparts over their careers. The bowlers are raw but that could also be a strength if they can forget the video analysis. Time for Nielsen to take a holiday and for the players to play what is in front of them. And play hard.
The next Test will be a searching examination for the selectors and the team they pick. This is not the time to be conservative. I am reminded of Hemmingway’s classic novel For Whom the Bells Toll. The story has a theme that runs constant: sacrificing self for the greater good. The hero of the novel realises that in blowing up a bridge he may not survive himself.
I am not suggesting that players should die for the cause, but it would help if they started to bleed a little.