Monday, 10 January 2011

Australia in denial?

So the mighty Australia cricket team has finally got what was coming to it – a good kicking – made all the more painful because it was administered by England. I say ‘England’ but the 3-1 dismantling of Australian batting, bowling and fielding was just the latest instalment. Australia lost 2-0 to India in October and so has lost five out of their last eight test matches.

It is uncanny how the Australian slide from all conquering bully to has-been is mirroring the decline of the West Indies in the late 80s and early 90s. A once invincible team, the West Indies dominated for 15 years before it slowly lost its great players – leaving two or three to try and carry the side. They inevitably could not halt the decline and as they retired the side went into free-fall. Australia now has Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke left from their great side. They seem compelled to get rid of their captain, the greatest Australian batsman of any recent generation; with Hussey surely following soon. That doesn’t leave much and there are no new players of test standard coming through. Strewth. They are stuffed.

The reasons for the West Indies and Australian decline are obvious: they lost great players and did not replace them. The West Indies went through much soul searching. The influence of Baseball, Athletics, NFL and better jobs were all used as excuses. No doubt in Australia there will be similar scape-goats. However, I would like to suggest a different reason: coincidence. In any walk of life great players, musicians, engineers, etc. often appear in clusters. For the West Indies in the mid-1970s and in Australia in the 1990s there were clusters of remarkable cricketers. Players who would define cricket for a decade or more. Maybe their appearance was just coincidence – channelled by cricket into remarkable sides. If that is so then coincidence can also produce a dearth of talent. Periods of time when there are no great cricketers. Maybe Australia are in such a lull in which case all they can do is wait for the cycle to come around again. They say Cricket Australia is in denial about their slump – I doubt it; there is just nothing they can do. Although getting rid of their most experienced and talented players would seem like a mistake by any measure…


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