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Is Australian Cricket Missing The Point?

The immediate aftermath of Ashes 09 has predictably seen a flurry of opinions pertaining to everything and anything that may be wrong with Australian cricket. A lot of this noise has been made by the top chiefs and former players about the need to professionalise Australia's selection panel, with Jason Gillespie the latest to proffer his two-cents-worth. However, does a professional panel necessarily improve on-field results or does it just make them more predictable? I put it to you that in its haste to exhibit disappointment and an appetite for change, Australian cricket has simply missed the point.

I believe that Australia's cricket establishment has been blinded by the success of its recent crop of greats and it should have indulged less in self-absorbed back-patting and doffed the Baggy Green more earnestly to pure and unadulterated luck, for good systems and processes may help to produce more consistent cricketers but true greats arrive on our TV screens through nothing more than the grace of God. It is because of this mindset that Australia's most recent loss of The Ashes is being universally attributed to a failure of the system and the real reasons for this loss are being ignored.

I have no quibble with expert's suggestions that the job of an Australian selector (or that of any other top cricketing country, for that matter) is likely too arduous and important to leave to semi-professional part-timers. It should be made a full-time position and in this post-greats era it definitely should have a greater emphasis on early talent identification and promotion. However, this alone is unlikely to take Australia back to the top of the ICC Test rankings.

It is no secret that talking tough (remember mental disintegration), playing aggressively and appearing clinical in all respects was decisively easier with a team that included players of the calibre of Messieurs Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist, Waugh, Waugh and Hayden. But in the afterglow of their retirements, Australian cricket has developed a severe case of amnesia. It has forgotten its own two golden rules:

1. The brave make their own luck (ie. victory will not be achieved without taking calculated risks); and

2. Aggressive, in-your-face cricket is the Australian way and must be played at all costs.

The reason Australia lost The Ashes is not because the selectors failed to devote enough time to their duties, but because they took the safe and sensible route when the daring and provocative was the need of the hour. The Australian selectors sent a team to England that ticked all the boxes rather than one that was going to take the proverbial bull by the horns. Then, while in Her Majesty's backyard they didn't exhibit the gumption to make changes as and when the situation demanded.

In contrast, the English selectors, contrary to all expectations, resisted the urge for knee-jerk reactions, backed their instincts and took calculated risks (the most decisive being one Jonathan Trott). At Leeds the English could have stacked the team with batsmen, played for a draw and waited for a fit Andrew Flintoff to return at The Oval. Instead, they stuck to their guns and selected a team they thought would win the Test. They traded on aggression throughout.

On the other hand, Australia's selections favoured out-of-form bowlers and was based more on the captain's comfort level with favourite players rather than the conditions at hand or the interests of a balanced team. Is Bryce McGain so inferior to Andrew McDonald that he doesn't even deserve a place in the touring party? Especially after Shane Warne's debut, surely the selectors have learned that one bad debut Test doesn't warrant eternal exile? Is Mitchell Johnson so indispensable that the selectors couldn't bring themselves to cut their losses?

Professionalism is an oft-abused term in cricket these days. Incompetent administrators simply fail to understand that batting, bowling and fielding is an art and not a mathematical equation. It is very easy to wax lyrical about aggression and ruthlessness when the obstacle in your path is not worthy of its title. It requires heightened self-confidence to stick to those guns when the periods between successive chews of the captain's fingernails become shorter and shorter.

Australian cricket administrators must stop hiding behind irrelevant corporate management jargon. Australian cricket needs to rediscover its mongrel and self-worth, for cricket needs a strong and aggressive Australia.

8 comments

steve said...

Can't help but agree. Cricket Australia has tried to neuter the team, get rid of the one who wouldn't conform to the nice boy mould and present a pleasant, "sporting" face. But don't forget that the world demanded it of them. AFter the famous Sydney test everyone and his dog stuck their knife into Ponting. Now, he is complimented on his sporting behavior, but lambasted for losing matches. I notice also, that other teams who complained about Australia's attitude have, if anything, upped the sledging themselves and talk themselves up as getting their own back on Oz by giving them back what they used to get.

Double standards all round.

vijayanand said...

Shane Warne – The best bowler Australia has ever produced has opened up his mind to the media. He exposed his discontent regarding umpires. According to the ace spinner barring a few exceptions like Simon Tauter and ASAP Rauf other umpires went awry in terms of performance .Expressing disappointment that the standard of umpiring has deteriorated to the worst extent in the past twenty years of time he opined that though umpiring was a hard job, the performances of the umpires in the Ashes series had been consistently so ordinary. As far as Warne is concerned umpire Billy Bowden whom he expected to deliver correct judgments was also not consistent in performing his duty.
The spinner repents that there are too many instances of such bad judgments, which is increasingly becoming a cause of concern. He directly made a mention of names of umpires Daryl Harper and Billy Bowden, accusing them to be adamant in not confessing their wrong judgments. He also tried to strengthen his claim by mentioning that several players were not having a good opinion about those umpires in their minds. Warne insisted that the umpires should maintain a friendly attitude towards the players by shedding their high-handed attitude Warne also expressed his view repetitively that fifty over match should be withdrawn once for all as if such a change is brought about it would enable the players to spend more time with their families and relieve them from

vijayanand said...

Younis khan, the incumbent skipper of Pakistan cricket team , has proclaimed that outwitting India will be his top priority in the Champions Trophy, when the two sides confront on September 26 in Centurion. Earlier team mate spinner Umar Gul also expressed the same. Sunday, and underline Pakistan’s poor record against India in ICC events.
The fact that Pakistan lost two times to India, in 2007 when the twenty-twenty tournaments were introduced had offended the feelings of his teammates, said Younis. Regarding team India as a highly talented one-day side, he said his teammates were looking forward to a vengeance. A long gap has been left since the last victory of Pakistan over India in the 2004 Champions Trophy. Relations between the two countries have been strained after the terror attacks in Mumbai last November, and this tension reflected in cricket too as both the teams have not played withy each other for an year.

Ayush said...

G'day Vijay,
Welcome to The Match Referee. Thank you for your copy-paste comments ;>

Ayush said...

Steve,
Welcome to The Match Referee mate. I don't think its double standards. Ponting, given the way he carries himself these days, has clearly learned a few lessons from Sydney. By all reasonable accounts, his conduct was abhorrent.

I don't think the Aussies have deliberately toned down their chatter. It's just that the current team is young, inexperienced and a lot more unsure of themselves, as compared to the team of three years ago. Hence they probably focus more on getting their own mental state right, rather than trying to forcibly alter the mental state of their opponents.

vijayanand said...

Soured bats for Dravid On seeing the above title do not think that Soured Gangly has given up his decision to quit from all the versions of the game of cricket and is back in the scene. E mean to say that Soured, nicknamed as ‘Dada’ by the fans has hailed the decision of the selection committee to bring back Rahall David and thereby proving that only form was the problem associated with senior players and age had nothing to do with performance. Sourav expressed hope that the right hander would fare well in the upcoming tri-series. For the past one year Rahu l Dravid – ‘ The wall’ had been away from the one day format of the game. Sourav tried to strengthen his contention by citing the inclusion of Nehra as another example. Sourav’s statement assumes significance in this scenario as we find the three batsmen Laxman, Dravid and Sachin who are at mid thirties of age, delivering a consistent good performance.
Five players who were part of the squad that defeated West Indies in the latter’s soil failed to earn a place in the newly announced squad. Dines kart hick was lucky to be included as the last man replacing the recovering Sehwag. The same squad will be retained for both the traceries (in which Srilanka and Newzealand are other participants) and the following Champions trophy to take place in South Africa. Suresh Raina- A player who had established his capability many a time missed out previous tournaments due to a broken thumb has recovered completely. He is back in the squad. Selectors have shown mercy on the other player Yusuf pathan.

Avi said...

On Ponting:

I think that in normal circumstances it would be time for him to go, but I don't believe that Michael Clarke will be a good captain for Australia as a tactician or as an ambassador. The last thing Australian cricket needs is another cheat and bad sport leading their side. Thus I would propose Australia's captains to be:

Tests- Ricky Ponting (until Mike Hussey fully regains his Test form)

ODIs- Mike Hussey (his ODI form has been excellent and most importantly he is a true gentleman who will be a great ambassador for the game and for Australia, who are desperately in need of an image change after the arrogant Ponting stint in the same way that the US needed a major ovehaul after George W Bush's disastrous presidency)

T20Is- Michael Clarke (Ponting should retire from T20Is and Hussey no longer needs to play T20Is, Clarke's style is best suited to this form of the game ONLY)

And just on Vijay's comments, absolutely delighted to see my idol Rahul Dravid back in the Indian ODI side. Fully deserved and just what the Indian team needs in Sehwag's absence. Jammy will do India proud as he has since the 20th of June 1996.

Ayush said...

Avi,

Welcome back. While I can't comment on M Hussey's captaincy abilities as I haven't seen him in action in that capacity, I can tell you that CA has invested far too much in Clarke to make anyone else captain. It simply won't happen, no matter how attractive the proposal.

On Dravid, I'm with you on this one. I just hope against hope that someone has worked and is continuing to work with Suresh Raina and co to sort out their difficulties against the short ball. They are far too talented to be sacrificed at the BCCI's altar of greed, mismanagement and ignorance.

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