Is this an exceptional Australian men’s cricket team or have we just seen them compete with two bad teams, in the West Indies and South Africa?
According to the ICC ratings a week ago, Australia is ranked the number one team in the world with India second and Sri Lanka third.
In my opinion the only teams that can challenge Australia at present are India and England with the others left to languish near the bottom of the ladder.
This is a very well balanced Australian side with no apparent weaknesses, as long as David Warner is firing on all cylinders.
A good to great pace attack, Nathan Lyon, strong batting right through and a quality all-rounder in Cameron Green make this a complete side that is almost impossible to beat at home.
The misgiving I would have about them is they are an ageing side with few if any up and coming players to step into bigger shoes either within the team or close to it. Enough to get them through this year but afterwards?
This has been a poor South African side who have been hugely disappointing, especially with their batting. Or have they come up against an Australian team who if they win the World Championship, beat India and England at home will be, dare I say it, approaching legendary status?
A long way to go yet but they are doing all they can at present. The disappointment of failing in the T20 World Cup is but a bad memory now. If you examine the Test rankings, would it be fair to say that the focus of under performing teams is on the short form of the game?
For South Africa to be ranked fourth a week ago shows the state of world Test cricket is not that strong. England are fifth but on their recent form will be an anticipated challenge for the Australians in the Ashes series starting in June 2023.
This series will define the true ability of the Australians, win easily and they will compare with teams of the past.
Getting back to the South Africans, why are they in such a dismal state at present? If you had to pick players who would challenge for a spot in the Aussie team, then the impressive Anrich Nortje is the sole candidate. Marco Jansen looks to have potential but Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi were disappointing.
Have we seen a more ineffectual batting line-up touring Australia? Well yes actually the team before them, the West Indies, but on reflection at least their openers Kraigg Braithwaite and Tagenarine Chanderpaul offered some resistance compared to the South African top order.
I remember watching Temba Bavuma in the T20 World Cup thinking how does this person get to play at this level, he was improved for the Test team but surely there are better players at home?
Dean Elgar, opener and captain has a leg-side flaw when batting as pointed out by that most knowledgeable of commentators Ricky Ponting. Opposition teams will seize upon that until he eliminates it.
Most of the other batsmen had their minor moments but would not push to get into a second or even third Australian batting line-up. Where to from here for South Africa?
In the Test arena they have a series against the West Indies lined up in February at home, which will be the battle of two average teams.
When teams like South Africa are battling in this way solutions for improvement are offered by many. Is it just a stage and better players will emerge and all will be good again?
Is Australia a great side just swatting off the opposition? Is white ball cricket having too much of an influence? Do the problems run deeper than that?
“The Proteas have so many significant problems that it is now inevitable they will be trapped in a long cycle of inconsistent performances in Test cricket,” writes SA Cricket magazine editor Ryan Vrede.
The pressure of the captaincy may be affecting Elgar as it did to preceding skipper Quinton de Kock. I am an outsider looking in so those within South Africa will have greater knowledge of the problems facing this team. Does the interim coach Malibongwe Maketa have an old school mentality which does not gel with the players?
The main strike bowler Rabada claimed he felt burned out at the T20 tournament and this appeared to continue.
There may have been hope after South Africa beat England at Lords in a convincing fashion last year with basically the same team as in Australia, but that came crashing down after losing the next two Tests.
Vrede states that South Africa should “settle in for a period of pain and inconsistency.”
The quota system will be considered by some as the reason for South Africa’s woes at present which can be an emotive issue.
Mary Ann Dove, an honorary researcher from the University of Cape Town conducted her PhD on this issue. Her research on opinions from players, coaches and administrators sought to clarify their thoughts.
In 2016 a selection target of 54% Black, of which 18% should be Black African, players on average across an entire season was announced reported The Conversation in 2019.
Her study concluded, “My overarching finding was that the people I interviewed thought that quotas alone were not an effective, sustainable intervention for developing cricket talent in a diverse society undergoing transition.”
There was more required than quotas she added. Some Black players felt there was negativity from being selected as part of a quota system rather than be chosen on ability.
On the other side of the argument participants said that with quotas greater opportunities would arise to those previously excluded.
Many issues are confronting South African cricket and going by their performance in Australia finding the solutions will not be easy.