By Bharath Kumar
Australia's cricket back is broken at the moment experiencing their worst slump in Test cricket since the 1970's when Kerry Packer's privately-contracted World Series Cricket broke away from the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) in a dispute over television rights.
There is a similarity between the depleted team then and now. Australia is now feeling the effects of the retirements of several key players like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer.
A year ago they had the best team in the world; today they are in the dumps. They are gasping for fresh air but are unable to find it.
Even the replacements are failing. They have lost two Ashes series in a row – the latest battering coming in front of their home crowd. In fact, England has found the magic combination and even the replacements are performing. Alastair Cook has been a revelation in the Test series, amassing more than 700 runs in a series. Only three Englishman have achieved that against Australia.
Australia has also borne the brunt of Jonathan Trot and Kevin Pietersen, and have fallen like ninepins against the English pace attack powered by James Anderson, Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan. The English bowlers were bowled in the channel of uncertainty and Matt Prior amassed a rich haul behind. In contrast, the Australian bowlers were all over the place. Consistency was a lost word in the Australian dictionary.
The Australian did not know whom to look up to for inspiration. Ricky Ponting was carrying a monkey on his back. His poor form with the bat did not help his leadership.
Michael Clarke, Ponting’s deputy, is yet to prove his worth as a leader. Apart from these two, there is nobody who looks captaincy material. Ponting said that he plans to lead in the next Ashes series, but by that time he will be 38. And if Australia’s history of easing out veterans is anything to go by, Ponting’s dreams will remain just that – dreams!
Australia needs a new leader. A leader who commands respect of the team. One who has fresh ideas and approach. Instead of a knee-jerk reaction, which Australian selectors are notorious for, they need to keep faith with the right set of players for a stipulated period to build a good team. Just like England did. Credit should be given to England selectors who kept faith in Andy Flower, the Team director, and captain Andrew Strauss. What we are seeing now is a pool of players who are very well known to each other and are backing up with performance.
In Australia, questions are being raised on their existing domestic cricketing structure. When things were going well, it was a rosy picture. But the same domestic structure has failed to produce talent of international standards.
With nothing happening for them, cricket Down Under is going downwards and a thick cloud of ashes has been covered over Australian cricket. Will they be able to come out of it and enjoy bright sunshine once again? Only time will tell.
(Bharath Kumar is a Masters in Microbiology, but loves writing and is crazy about cricket. He is a huge RCB fan)