I’ve been watching cricket for so long that I don’t remember when I saw my first game. I played the game as a schoolboy, I went down to the WACA and watched games, and I spent long hot summers watching Australia play.Â I remember Kerry Packer’s pyjama cricket, the Supertests, the white ball, the aluminium bat.Â I was thrilled to meet Dennis Lillee’s mum and dad when my dad took me out to their house to get some memorabilia they were selling, and I watched through the long, lean years: the post-Ian Chappell Years; the Kim Hughes Years; sitting up late at night watching dismal team performances beamed from the UK as the Ashes were lost again, or seeing our batsman struggle with brutal West Indian pace attacks throughout the 80s.
I’ll confess that I felt no sympathy whatsoever for the opposition teams during the enormous victories Australia achieved over the past 10 years.Â I thrilled to see the levels of skill on show, the hunger to play, and the sheer domination of the game. I knew that had to end, and when Martyn, Langer, McGrath, Warne, and Gilchrist all retired it was inevitable it would end.Â This past few weeks has proven that’s the case.Â The batting line-up is brittle, with Hayden on his last legs and the remainder either too old or too inconsistent.Â The bowling attack was worse: Brett Lee had never been more than a first change bowler, and replacements just weren’t really available. That’s not to say there aren’t positives, though. Ponting himself is a lousy captain, but a great player.Â Haddin is developing into a fine player, as is Mitchell Johnson.Â I don’t see a future for Krezja, but some of the other guys are promising.Â If the selectors can be brave and opt for youth, rather than hoping for the recovering of the over-33 brigade, there’s a chance we could field a credible team for the Ashes.
Regardless of that, though, congratulations to South Africa who do look like the best side in the world right now. India is probably second, on balance.Â And Australia is a close third.Â The difference between now and the past ten years, though, is that the gap between the teams isn’t enormous.Â Australia can regain a dominant place in world cricket if it’s smart and tough. Â Oh, and the Sydney test is looking pretty crucial.