Thursday, December 8, 2011

Shifting sands of Australian cricket.

Change is said to be as good as a holiday, and after watching the Australians lose focus, foresight and fundamentals in a tormenting Ashes series last winter it seemed the cricketing world had finally flipped itself against the once mighty giants of the cricketing globe.

England proved a worthy opponent on the batter friendly tracks of its southern cousins, racking up progressive leads on day three and pounding the aussies into submission with a cross section of seam and end tying spin bowling.

Despite the shaft of light shown in the series at the WACCA it was clear from any observant Australian that England would be leaving with the Ashes packed firmly in the suitcase, on their return home it was clear to all that they were to prove that this victory was not a fluke. Proceeding to embarrass a none too easy Indian side, maybe short a bowler or two but with enough experience of English conditions to put up more of fight than they showed in 2 months.

Australia were left at the docks waving what seemed an era goodbye, Ricky Ponting had clearly run out of luck, the pace attack lacked inventiveness and the batting and inspiration seemed to rely on the broad shoulders of burdened Shane Watson or the ever aging Michael Hussey.          

A change was needed, a cleanout was called for, and parliament demanded an explanation, the queue of former players with opinions were calling for the resignation of all involved. Like no time before the public was screaming with blazing torches in hands.

CA had no choice but to turn the wheel of change and after a One-Day World Cup and an almost two months of no test cricket for which the baggy green wasn’t present, Michael Clarke and Shane Watson were revealed as those to guide the team from the grave.

The test series in Sri Lanka showed that with the change of Clarke and Ponting able to be the batsman rather the talisman he could invoke his strangle hold as one this eras great batsman and still a world class player without the ties of leadership.  Shaun March standing at the crease with his father having handed him his cap, showed spirit not seen in some time to raise his bat and remove his helmet to a doting father on debut.
Sri Lanka were never a true test, even with the comforts of a home cooked meal the lions of the south continent were still second class to the once former gladiators in Australia, with Haddin and Watson making a meal of them across the series.

Yet finishing this series there still seemed no real showing of what the public had screamed, the spinning option was still made up of part-timers and Clarke still seemed to be leaning on his ex-captain when the hard choice of attack on a tricky third day was needed, the question of who would coach was still in the air, as Neilson rightly spotted he dare need not reapply. And the youth? The question of where tomorrows cricketers were coming from?

Fast forward to the finish of the South African series ( if you can call two money grabbing test matches a series) and we had seen a change in guard, a move to either sink or swim, a former grounds keeper from Adelaide had his hand spinning out the likes of Smith and Kallis, and the likes of Pat Cummins was basking in the sun of a well worked 5 wicket haul away from home.

And if by design and maybe a sigh of relief from those in the PR department off the back a victory Australia announced the new man to lead Australia against NZ & India this summer Mickey Arthur, a man who calmed the sinking ship of the once WA Social Club to provide Shaun Marsh a guiding hand. And of all types a South African, one of the rivals, a man who had sat in the chair opposite those great Australian sides and watched from afar at the unrelenting team of the 90’s under Waugh/Taylor.

And  as I type this post the opening 9 wicket test match victory over an erratic New Zealand side, which only kept the hems of the dress together with a resilient knock by Daniel Vetorri, Arthurs has been ringing the changes, already demanding the acceptance of squad rotation, introduced two debutant bowlers in Mitchell Starke and James Pattinson (brother of that fateful one test oddity) and in a sign of confidence has not flinched at the loss of dream debutant Cummins or Mitchell Johnson and has continued to sift thought the ever increasing pool of the once overlooked.

As I sat in the early hours of the morning coffee clutched, to see Peter Siddle steaming in off his bustling run to have the New Zealand batsman moving in despair at the sight of a scoreboard that had already reflected an early finish to the sheds, and the unshaven face of Nathan Lyon with his teeth clenched as he spun tail to its dusty finish, it seemed the tide had final changed and the summer game was never in doubt just needed a new conductor. 

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