I’ve always maintained that Australia has at least 50 cricketers who are among the best in the world. What I’ve never tried to maintain is that those 50 are ‘great’ in all conditions.
In Australian conditions, they are dynamite. In India and England? More like a threepenny bunger.
England has the Duke Ball, moist overhead conditions, the DRS on their side, pitches which stay low and turn more in general and lately, grounds that are faster than Royal Melbourne greens on the fourth day.
India has clay and dust bowl conditions where the spinners take all the wickets and the quicks do a holding job, the reverse of what we are used to – and it is always oppressively humid.
South Africa has a mixture of pitch conditions, but generally the atmospheric conditions and the tracks themselves leave the batters at the bowlers’ mercy.
Occasionally you get bounce and carry, occasionally a rock hard run fest, occasionally a turner, occasionally a poorly prepared up and downer.
There is one factor common to all overseas venues as far as Australia’s rejuvenated bunch are concerned.
It is an away game.
Not a home game, where the DRS favours us, where the tracks are rock hard and we can bounce 20 people out in three, four or five days with Mitchell Johnson the obligatory dispenser of pain and 20-100,000 people screaming their little Aussie heads off.
So talk of the premature death of English cricket is just hot air.
Talk that we are the most potent team on the planet is more of the same. Talk that Johnson will carry us on his back, equally so.
There is much to like about how feral this 11 have become for Australian supporters.
The violence, the bullying, the anger, the chirp, the dogged determination to rub England’s nose in the muck – it is all a hallmark of the Australian condition.
It is not a joke. The 11 on the field and the 50 support crew take it as seriously as the rabid fans, the rabid commentators, the rabid ex-players, the rabid current players and the rabid spectators, of whom there are literally millions around the country.
They take their losses personally – in cricket, in sport, in life.
Sure they kid about how hopeless England are, but deep down they mean it.
Sure they kid about how great the Aussie batters, bowlers and fielders are, but deep down they are relieved to be able to say it.
Hate and fear and loathing are three strong words that at times all apply to Aussie supporters.
At times they apply to Aussie cricketers sick of losing.
And of course they are mostly momentary – a slip of the tongue, a curse under the breath, a sledge of the humourous and not so humourous kind.
There is much goodwill between individuals on either side, but there is a lot of oneupmanship amongst all concerned – commentators, players and spectators alike.
There is grudging respect of Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and others.
Sure, they have underperformed on this Tour, but like every team they prefer playing in front of their home crowd, under their own conditions, with the pressure on the visitors and the DRS officials.
So we will see this Perth Test out and we will reassess, and the same 11 will be checked and examined and most likely be named for the Boxing Day Test.
Shane Watson saved himself, George Bailey and Chris Rogers did nicely, so only the sore bodies of Johnson, Siddle and Harris remain to get a tick.
But rather than get ahead of ourselves, we need to understand that the heat and the age of Aussie players may yet play a part in this Ashes series.
Will Broad play in Melbourne? Will England send out the tall quicks on a mission to destroy?
Will England experiment with the series lost?
Winning in foreign countries is the ultimate. Until this Australian team does that in New Zealand or South Africa or England or India – anywhere really – we still have a way to go.
So selecting touring parties and players who will adjust to Test cricket in foreign countries now becomes a science. Retiring players will play a part and injury, too, when it comes to the quicks.
This summer and the tour of England have been very successful. But one is always judged by today’s effort, not the past.