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Modern corporations are hell bent on creating systems and processes that will outlast their best and brightest people. The South African cricket side attempted to employ a similar philosophy during the 90's under Hansje Cronje, only to be labeled machine-like, boring and most devastatingly, chokers. Greg Chappell, that-all Australian taskmaster, attempted to a similar strategy with Team India, only to be ignominiously slapped out of the country.
Such major capitulations can only point to one thing - that mechanically perfect process cannot trump individual brilliance, on a cricket pitch. The Australians have relied on "backing themselves" for the previous 20 years and look at the results it has brought them. Sure, they had processes, systems and a verse from Underneath the Southern Cross, but above all they had natural talent of which even they were sometimes ashamed.
So it is, Ricky Ponting's new look Aussies will keep losing. They will lose until another great spinner is conceived by a cricketing structure that is undoubtedly one of the best there ever has been. They will keep losing until they can find another beefy opener who scares bowlers into submission. They will keep losing, until they can find a captain prepared to take risks, to put his money where his mouth is and above all, to nurture and cajole his wards.
Greg Baum said it perfectly:
"Since, Australia's fortunes have waned, gradually and inexorably. This is a phenomenon as old as time itself, and as predictable; it is the cycle of success. The fact that it has taken so long to turn again led Australians falsely to believe that it could be stalled forever."
It is indeed sad to see such a ferocious champion abdicate so meekly. A strong Australia is as necessary as a proud England and powerful India for cricket to become the entertainment product it wants to become. Unfortunately, instead of smelling Antipodean blood the Poms can only manage another petty squable and it will be some time yet before the Aussies cease their internal blood-letting after what is likely to be a whitewash after Sydney.
As Baum says, there is no point apportioning blame to Matthew Hayden or Andrew Symonds. Both of their egos became so large that such dramatic falls to earth were always on the cards. The Australian management must take responsibility for not staying true to reputation (remember Border, Waugh x 2, Taylor and Healy) and wielding the axe much earlier.
This is the time to wipe the slate clean. Do what the South Africans did with Graeme Smith. Give Michael Clarke a blank canvas on which to chart his own course and then stick by through the thick and thin. Even if Baum is right and Michael Clarke is unprepared, there simply is no better place to learn, than in the deep end.
The proverbial bullet must be bitten. The old casualties of war must be cleaned out at the first opportunity. A new general must take command while he can still learn from the few remaining old heads in his midst. This is not the time for Australian cricket to hope and pray. The men in charge must prove their hardness and take decisive action to avoid a period of prolonged mediocrity.
After all, cricket is in a stiff battle for the entertainment dollar. Right?
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