The Australian team, dubbed underdogs before the start of the series, completely outplayed Sri Lanka in the Test series © AFP
The Australian team, dubbed underdogs before the start of the series, completely outplayed Sri Lanka in the Test series © AFP

 

By Faisal Caesar

 

After a disastrous Ashes campaign and a frustrating World Cup, the Michael Clarke-led Australian team landed in Sri Lanka as underdogs. Few had expected them to do well on the turning tracks of Sri Lanka against quality spinners. But the visitors overcame 18 long months of frustration by winning the Warne-Muralitharan Trophy – the symbol of Test series supremacy between the two nations.

 

What made the Aussies conquer Sri Lanka both in the ODIs and Test series was their discipline, determination and patience. The Australian batsmen didn’t try anything beyond their abilities and remained patient while facing the guile and venom of the Lankan spin attack.

 

The Aussie batting was led by Michael Hussey, whose exemplary patience against the spinners was a huge inspiration to the team. In many ways, the veteran played a mentoring role for the likes of Shaun Marsh. Hussey anchored the Australian batting, but accelerated when the situation demanded.

 

The likes of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan make the Sri Lankan batting a formidable one. And in the absence of world class bowlers like Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, there were doubts about the Australia attack’s ability to overcome the strong Lankan batting on their home soil. Mitchell Johnson blows hot and cold, Shane Watson is now known more for his batting than bowling. But at Galle, the result of a disciplined bowling crushed the Lankan batting line up. Nathan Lyon, the young off-spinner, didn’t get carried away with the turn on the pitch and concentrated on line and length – mostly important on tracks turning square. The fast bowlers, on the other hand, pitched the ball up with a nagging line and length using the late reverse swing effectively to script victory. The Australian fielding was world class for the first time in several years.

 

Like Allan Border, Clarke took over the captaincy at a point when Australian cricket is in the dumps following the Ashes defeat, World Cup loss and an assortment of controversial selection issues. Clarke did not have the kind of resources Steve Waugh or Ricky Ponting had, Yet, Clarke showed enough character and mental strength to make the team play as a unit. He was positive from the word go. One never felt at any moment he was trying to settle in for a draw in the Test matches. Clarke’s captaincy had been refreshingly attacking throughout the Test series.

 

This Australian team, dubbed underdogs before the start of the series, completely outplayed Sri Lanka in the Test series. The margin could have been 2-0 had weather not interfered at Kandy.

 

This Australian team has hunger. Their bowlers hunt with discipline. Their batsmen show character in adversity. More importantly, this Australian team has a skipper who leads from the front with astute captaincy and brilliant batting.

 

England might enjoy the top spot in the Test ranking, but their reign looks likely to be challenged by this tough Australian side. The Aussies might lack the aura of invincibility of the last decade, but they are being blessed with enough character and enthusiasm to script another golden era in the history of Australian cricket. It’s a side that looks eminently capable of regaining their No 1 Test spot.  

 

(Faisal Caesar is a doctor by profession whose dream of becoming a cricketer remained a dream. But his passion is very much alive and he translates that passion in writing about the game)