Home > Features >

Australia’s journey to the summit of ICC Test rankings

Australia have been the side to beat in recent times © Getty Images
Australia have been the side to beat in recent times © Getty Images

By R Vishal

July 2013, Australia had just been inflicted with a humiliating 347-run loss by the old enemy England at Lords to go 0-2 down in the Ashes. After slipping to their sixth consecutive Test loss, the once impregnable winning machine looked like cannon fodder.

When skipper Michael Clarke was quizzed in the post match presentation about his team’s chances in the Ashes, a defiant Clarke said he was confident his team could overturn the deficit to win the Ashes 3-2. Sarcastic cheers and laughter went around the home of cricket at Clarke’s audacity and what was perceived as delusion from the gleeful Poms. England went onto win their third consecutive Ashes, finishing with a 3-0 score-line and pundits had written of Australia’s chances down under too. Some of them even predicted a whitewash.

Bereft of answers and victories, the curtains came down on the tumultuous Mickey Arthur reign and the former hard-hitting middle order batsman Darren Lehmann was asked to take over the reins, before the Ashes series held in England. Suddenly from nowhere during Ashes 2013-14 played in Australia, Mitchell Johnson’s furious slingshots left England in a daze at The Gabba, Brisbane and they never recovered. The old enemy was pounded into submission and Australia raced to an extraordinary 5-0 triumph.

Fortunes did swing overnight for Aussies and there was hardly a change in the playing XI from the ignominy at Lords Test to completion of the home Ashes whitewash. Clarke’s approach hadn’t changed — the ‘Pup’ has always had a penchant for out-of-the box field placements with a single-minded determination to win at all costs. Even when wins deserted him, Clarke never compromised on his instincts as epitomized by a puzzling declaration with Australia being 237 for nine towards the end of the first day’s play at Hyderabad or challenging England to go for a run chase at the Oval despite the series being lost.

With Lehmann at the helm, there was a return to the Australia, the world loved to hate. The ugly, boorish, cut-throat but ruthlessly effective unit was back and so was the winning momentum. Looking out of character and confined in Arthur’s tenure, the swashbuckling ways had made its way back and so were Australia’s long history with moustaches. From being a mock-figure to England’s globetrotting fans, Barmy Army, Johnson came back with a mean handlebar moustache that would change his career graph.

This scintillating display did not stop there as Australia clinched yet another series win on South African soil, beating an outstanding team 2-1 in what was an equally intense and dominating display of cricket. So, what transformed Australia’s fortunes from lying at a lowly fifth in the rankings after the shambolic 0-4 loss in India to leapfrog to the No 1 spot? Stability and greater understanding of their strengths and patching up ways to cover up for their weaknesses.

With the batting order undergoing plenty of chopping and changing in the preceding tours, roles were laid out and demarcated and the players performed with aplomb. Australia won all their five Tests against England with an unchanged line-up and players were no longer cowing under the fear of being axed after a few bad displays. Spin was another area, where Australia had innumerable dress rehearsals in pursuit of finding Shane Warne’s successor. Lehmann stepped in and backed Nathan Lyon as his first choice tweaker and the off-spinner rewarded the team management’s faith by proving his mettle despite the pacers walking away with all the glory. Johnson’s unpredictability while on a long spell was masked wisely by Clarke using the left-armer’s thunderbolts in short 4-5 over bursts.

With Lehmann himself being a man cut from the all-conquering Australian cloth, his winning mentality ought to have had a telling say from being nearly men in the England-leg of the Ashes to comfortably getting across the finishing line at home in England and against South Africa.

Finally, every winning team gives birth to a set of heroes and at every point Australia had men who stood up and made it count. David Warner’s incredible run, Steven Smith’s coming-of-age as a Test batsman, Brad Haddin’s Adam Gilchrist-like counter-attacks when the chips were down all contributed to cause. No amount of praise will be too much for the heart and unwavering line of Ryan Harris. Harris’s stubborn determination in the final session of the third Test against South Africa won Australia the match and the series.

With a minuscule gap between the top Test teams, Australia would know that stiffer challenges lie ahead but for now they can look back at an incredible turnaround and wear the baggygreen with pride after reaching the summit of the ICC Test rankings.

(R Vishal is a journalist and alumni of Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 24, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Glenelg, Adelaide

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Sharjah

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 28, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Adelaide

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 29, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Colombo

Deodhar Trophy, 2014-15

Nov 29, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at TBC

More

Afghanistan tour of UAE, 2014

Nov 28, 2014  at Dubai

United Arab Emirates won by 5 wkts

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 28, 2014  at Dhaka

Bangladesh won by 21 runs

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 26, 2014  at Dhaka

Bangladesh won by 124 runs

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 26, 2014  at Colombo

Sri Lanka won by 25 runs

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 24, 2014  at Colombo

Hong Kong won by 2 wkts

Photos

Hughes' death: Tributes and wishes pour in

Videos

Hughes' death: Clarke's statement on Australia' behalf

Live Cricket Score Pakistan vs New Zealand, 3rd Test at Sharjah, Day 3: Brendon McCullum dismissed after completing fourth Test double-ton

Live Cricket Score Deodhar Trophy Central Zone vs South Zone Quarter Final: Baba Aparajith completes century

Live Cricket Score, Sri Lanka vs England, 2nd ODI at Colombo: England shaky as they lose four wickets

Thank you, Brendon McCullum

Phillip Hughes’ death: What happens to India vs Australia Test series?

Australia England India New Zealand New Zealand tour of UAE 2014 New Zealand vs Pakistan New Zealand vs Pakistan 2014 Pakistan Pakistan vs New Zealand Pakistan vs New Zealand 2014 Phil Hughes Phil Hughes Death Phil Hughes head injury Phillip Hughes Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka vs England 2nd ODI Colombo 2014: England crawl past 100 in 24 overs

Pakistan vs New Zealand 2014, 3rd Test at Sharjah Day 3:

Sri Lanka vs England 2nd ODI Colombo 2014: Thisara Perera sends Eoin Morgan back

Phillip Hughes’ funeral to be held on Wednesday, December 3

Baba Aparajith ton helps South Zone to 296/9 against Central Zone in Deodhar Trophy Quarter Final

Murali Vijay in India vs Australia Test series: Will he be an integral part?

Phillip Hughes’ unfortunate demise: Ahmed Shehzad was lucky, Phil Hughes was not

Shakib Al Hasan becomes highest wicket-taker against Zimbabwe in ODIs

Phil Hughes passes away: Cricket gradually gets off and running a day later

Khurram Khan of UAE becomes 7th oldest international captain

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

682 Posts | 6 Fans

Video: Phil Hughes suffers head injury, collapses on field during New South Wales vs South Australia tie

India is becoming our largest overseas market, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun says

Pukaar’s Rannvijay Singh will face new challenges with ‘Zen Life’

Yami Gautam Birthday: The Vicky Donor girl turns 26 (In Pics)

6 medical miracles that will blow your mind

OPEC daily basket price closes over three US dollars lower

Badlapur new poster: Varun Dhawan stuns us with his deadly rugged avatar – view pic!

More broadband connections to boost GDP growth in Asia Pacific: GSMA

6 must-have aromatherapy oils for your medicine cabinet

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here