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By Abhijit Banare
When the legends of the Australian cricket bid adieu to cricket with a 5-0 whitewash in 2006-07, not many would have imagined that there would be even more of a comprehensive thrashing which could be witnessed in cricketing history. But a magnificent turnaround by Michael Clarke’s Australia made the dream come true of regaining the Ashes; a dream which Clarke had promised to give under adverse conditions after losing the Ashes 0-3. The journey has been commendable. There was never a doubt that England were favourites to clinch the series, however, Australians presented a fine example of working as a team on and off the field. Below are the heroes of the Ashes series who turned things around for Australia.
1. Darren Lehmann
Now, Lehmann virtually had a thankless job on his hand. The mess that Mickey Arthur left behind after being sacked as the head coach was too much to handle when the team toured England, earlier this year. The ICC Champions Trophy loss was just a prelude to what was going to come. Drunken brawls and nasty comments against teammates, crumbling performance on the field, Lehmann saw it all. One of the better things to do in a crisis situation is to keep your head cool and stick to the basics. While the atmosphere in the team was shaky, Lehmann did what many forget to do; allow the Australian team to create their identity and freedom. Looking back at how the five Tests panned out, one can relate the aggressiveness as typical “Australianism.” Shane Watson, who had failed far too many times was allowed to play, where he wanted to, the team worked harder away from the limelight and showed what teamwork is about. Lehmann has crossed the first stage and the journey of making the team invincible has just begun.
2. Craig McDermott
October 17, 2013 is when Craig McDermott was reinstated into his role as bowling coach of Australia. One of the positives from the 0-3 loss in England was Australia’s bowling. But that ruthless attitude which made the pace attack a fearful trio Down Under was missing. What we saw on the field was just a reflection of how the Australian attack shaped up under the bowling coach. Mitchell Johnson will be the hero of the Ashes, but it was a collective effort from the pacers which did England in. The McDermott style of coaching was evident when the pacers were patient and looked incisive in every spell applying relentless pressure. While we talk about the pacers, we forget how much Nathan Lyon has grown in his role as the lone spinner playing for the Aussies. A team which has struggled to find any worthy spinner since Shane Warne has finally found someone reliable to do the job.
From the backstage guys we come to the performers who made the Ashes worth remembering for Australia.
3. Michael Clarke
Clarke’s captaincy has truly come off age. From being ridiculed in England to being hailed as a great captain after the Ashes win. Clarke can now be safely counted among the finest Australian captains in the annals of history. The pressure before the start of this series was evident. Australia were hardly counted as favourites to turn things around. Clarke has not just been consistent with the bat, but shepherded his team well. He kept the controversies down, the team rallied behind him and more significantly. Clarke has also maintained his dignity by not going over the top in criticising or going for cheap shots at the opposition.
4. Mitchell Johnson
The moustache, the swagger, scorching pace and control — that very much completes the description of a deadly pace bowler. Making a comeback in to the team, Johnson instilled the fear in the England batting line-up at Brisbane which was enough to last till the final Test. Fast bowlers love to sledge, but Johnson ensured that while he got on the nerves of the England batsmen, his bowling did most of the talking. 37 wickets, averaging 14, it is evident that England were in no position mentally nor technically prepared to face the Johnson onslaught. It felt like bullets were shot at them and there was no escape for the batsmen, and they finally caved in.
5. Brad Haddin
Records will remember Johnson for winning the Ashes. With Man of the Series award going to Johnson, Haddin’s contribution might look secondary to the pacer. But the Australians wouldn’t have looked as convincing in their wins without the numerous rescue acts by Haddin and company. 493 runs averaging over 61 while batting at No 7 shows the value Haddin brought to Australia. By quashing the rumours over his retirement during the last Test, Haddin has given a clear indication that there’s a lot more to come.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)
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