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The South Africans have thrilled the cricketing world with a persistent, never-say-die attitude, which has re-ignited the true essence of test cricket. The list of memorable individual performances runs long, and this test series will go down in history as the key point in history when the Australians lost their reign at the apogee of test cricket. The ICC rankings do not agree with this conjecture, but increasing tension with Cricket Australia would say otherwise; as would Peter English.
The Australians fall from grace had begun in the Sydney test against India, where Australia's on-field conduct was brought into disrepute by many prominent cricketing figures, including well-respected cricket journalist, Peter Roebuck. Roebuck identified key senior players, including Ponting, Clarke and Hayden, for their,
narrow and self-obsessed viewpoints...and conduct at the end. When the last catch was taken they formed into a huddle and started jumping up and down like teenagers at a rave.
In 2008, it must be duly noted that except for the Sydney test, Australia was only victorious against the bottom three ranked test nations, West Indies, New Zealand and Bangladesh, respectively. That in 2008, barring the most contentious test match in recent history, the official number-one test team was unable to come up victors against any serious contenders. It is a definite worrying sign for Australian cricket. And on the same token, a very promising sign for international cricket to see South Africa and India testing their mettle against Australia and come through victorious with conviction and valour. And in doing so have begun a new era in world cricket where the tussle for numero uno consists of two nations, neither of which is Australia.
Even if one was to put aside the slow descent of the Australian team, personnel issues within their ranks have arisen. The most publicized being the demotion of Andrew Symonds just prior to the arrival of the Bangladesh team to Australia. This spate of misdemeanours put him out of favour of senior team members, including best mate Michael Clarke. The future of Symonds in the Australian team, given his current injury and the performances put together by Shane Watson, seems very murky.
Added to this was the brief falling out between Ponting and Lee in the Mohali test, where Lee was denied the ball by his captain. Although this spat eventually died, it raised questions of disorder between the senior men in the Australian outfit.
The year has been a telling one for Australia. Their Test crown lies precariously on the edge of the cliff with South Africa and India snapping aggressively at the base in great anticipation. The spirit in which they play the game was brought into question. The senior players misfired on a consistent basis. The selectors have been found out with controversial selection policies. And the captain has been accused of losing his sting. Will 2009 promises more? We'll have to wait and see.
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