On cricket

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.  I remember Kerry Packer’s pyjama cricket, the Supertests, the white ball, the aluminium bat.  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.  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.  This past few weeks has proven that’s the case.  The batting line-up is brittle, with Hayden on his last legs and the remainder either too old or too inconsistent.  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.  Haddin is developing into a fine player, as is Mitchell Johnson.  I don’t see a future for Krezja, but some of the other guys are promising.  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.  And Australia is a close third.  The difference between now and the past ten years, though, is that the gap between the teams isn’t enormous.  Australia can regain a dominant place in world cricket if it’s smart and tough.   Oh, and the Sydney test is looking pretty crucial.

3 thoughts on “On cricket”

  1. Well, I’m a South African, as may or may not be obvious, and on one level I’m absolutely thrilled that the S.A. cricket team have at last achieved something undeniably great.

    And yet …

    Somehow I’m not convinced that it is necessarily the revolution everyone assumes it is. The Proteas did not really convince me that they were a better side than the men of the baggy green. They achieved victory by FIGHTING incredibly hard – and that’s a fine and honourable way to win, but never have I had the impression that, player for player, they have a pedigree equal to the Aussies. They weren’t truly dominant, and everyone should remember that there were substantial periods in both tests when Australia had the upper hand.

    Australian cricket has been caught in a perfect storm of adverse circumstances – the recent retirements plus good opponents playing above themselves are only the most obvious of these.

    But all in all, I would still place Australia in the no 1 spot among test teams. The Australian cricket industry has a way of producing winners and I think they’ll mount a huge effort, starting right now. Smart and tough? Yes, I do think so. You’re allowed to lose occasionally, even lose big, without undoing decades of achievement.

    But the Proteas can bask in their achievement. It’s rare enough nowadays. We’ll take it!

  2. Hmmm. I sort of agree, but not completely. I don’t want to take anything away from the Proteas, who played very well, but *one* of the things that happened was that Australia just couldn’t take 20 wickets in a game. Several times they were in very dominant positions, but couldn’t convert them into wins. That’s not like the Australia of old, and it says a lot about our bowling stocks. It’s also relative. Compared to where we were five years ago, this is a disaster. The underlying game is still very solid here, though, so we will rebuild. I am frustrated, though, with the continued focussing on older players by the selectors. Steyn is 25!! We need to get players who are 20-25 into the team and stick with them, use them to build the nucleus of a future team.

  3. The current (Sydney) Test team has a younger look to it, but I don’t think any of them are under 25. If Hayden goes soon – as we all expect he will – they should look to Phil Hughes who is now only just over 20. All the other contenders are late 20s or over 30.

    The Australian team looks off-the-boil at present but remember that they had one bad day in Perth (the last) and one in Melbourne (the third). A semi-decent leg-spinner in the team might have turned their fortunes in either game. Beau Casson seems to have been particularly hard done by. One Test only, and he took 3 wickets – which is more than Warne achieved in his first. Off-spinners will tie down an end and keep things tight, but a leg-spinner will bowl you to victory. Casson is 26 but spinners take a while to get their heads together. The selectors should pick him for South Africa.

    In the end I agree with you, younger players will represent the future.

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