The Aussie aura has dimmed
Is this Australian cricket’s nadir? Or is too much being made of one series? After all it was not too long ago that they were on the cusp of being the number one side in Tests. Whatever it is, their confidence sure has taken a pounding. Traditionally, stung and cornered Australian sides have proved difficult to beat but their manner of capitulation this series must have left even the most die-hard Indian supporter surprised. No doubt, Dhoni & his men were riding a crest of inspiration but Australia seemed done in by its own shadow. Not to take anything away from our boys though, they did their “homework” on the Aussies – comfortably out-batting, out-bowling, and as the series petered to a close, even out-talking the visitors. Victories of such magnitude do not occur by providence alone. To pay them the highest compliment: they played with a ruthlessness that was, well, Australian.
That the current Australian team are not a patch on their marauding predecessors is a well known fact but for the first time in decades, they looked vulnerable. After this series, everyone is going to fancy a piece of them, especially the Poms, who must be licking their lips at the prospect of winning 4 consecutive Ashes series (even the most die-hard of English supporters would have sniggered at the thought a few summers back ). Previously it has taken towering performances (Laxman & Dravid – 2001) and injuries to influential players (McGrath – 2005) to bring down the Australians; but trouncing them this time did not look all that difficult. The emphatic nature of each of the defeats was a case in point. In professional sport, any team can get rolled over on a bad day. Every sportsman worth his salt will agree that the difference between victory and defeat is more blurred than it may appear but the conclusion cannot be ducked under – the margins of victory did not flatter the hosts. It flattered the visitors.
When the Australian team landed in India, there was so much to like about them. A batting order capable of sizzling strokeplay, a captain who led from the front and in the form of his life, a couple of promising young talents, a fearless opener cast in the Sehwag mould. Even the spin-bowling department was coming along. But in the recent series, they somehow contrived to out-collapse the champion collapsers in their own backyard. It was categorically criminal for a team packed with so much talent to underperform the way they did. There were glimpses of brilliance no doubt, fleeting hints that something special was just round the corner, but a moment of absurd derangement was all it took for that feeling to pass.
Sure, the current side is young and inexperienced, but for how long will that be an excuse? A Test batting average of under 36 for a man of Watson’s class isn’t exactly comforting news. Admittedly Ricky Ponting is gone, as is Michael Hussey. They might have closed the gap, but by how much? All these factors alone cannot account for this absolute shipwreck of a series. Agreed, not many of the current touring party had previously played Test cricket in this country but none of them is wet behind the ears either. While there is a lot to be hopeful about for the future of Australian cricket, there is also so much to be depressed about the present.
More than the bowling, it was the batting that let the Aussies down. While the Indian batsmen dictated terms, the Australian batters made batting under the sun look extremely difficult. Watching them master the complex art of the batting collapse was like watching Michelangelo paint or Beethoven compose, so precise were they with the bowled around the legs routine, attempting horizontal shots and dragging wide deliveries onto the stump. It would be interesting to note as to how many of the visitors would command a place in a composite side. Clarke and Siddle, perhaps? Now that is saying something. And for once, Australia had nothing to grizzle about, not doctored pitches or dodgy umpiring or queasy stomachs. It was just an inept showing.
It is the nature of sport that Australia might still bounce back in the Ashes. Clarke’s back might hold up, Hughes may rediscover his mojo, Watson may recover from these spells he periodically suffers, Pattinson and Starc might rouse themselves, and so on and so forth. After all, Australia were just coming off a triumphant summer and had just handed out a severe thrashing of their own to Sri Lanka. But somehow, it’ll take the mind some convincing that it’s nothing but a dead cat bounce. Australia has replaced great players with merely good ones and it is sticking out. Now, whether Warren Buffet would be willing to buy shares in this Australian side is anybody’s guess.