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Baggy green woes: the crisis of Australian cricket

By Binoy Kampmark - posted Wednesday, 23 November 2016


Get the game back in the dressingroom and in time, like those before them, the elite of Australian cricket will be capable of a high performance in a purer sense. Mike Coward, Fox Sports, Nov 17, 2016

Two thumping victories for the touring South Africans in the first and second test matches did not merely give the Australian cricket establishment the scare of its life; it suggested a potential implosion, the nagging fear that the entire project was being undone.

Not since the enfeebling defections to South African rebel tours in the 1980s, coupled with the longer consequences of the World Series Revolution and the retirement of the colossi in the form of Dennis Lillee, Greg Chappell and Rod Marsh had Australia supposedly seen this.

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The rot had set in during the Sri Lankan tour. The entire Australian entourage, well funded yet ill-informed and ill-prepared for the local side, fell in three Test matches to dazzling spin and a poor selection of shots.

The defeats at the hands of a far more robust South Africa made it five straight. Should the Australian team lose another, it will mean the first home whitewash for Australia since 1887, when the touring English side bagged the two test series 2-0.

Much of this latest fuming has ignored the bloodletting that took place mid-2013. The Indian slaughter of the touring Australians took the toll to 4 Test match losses. England notched up two victories subsequently, and Australia went for three further matches before attaining a victory.

The rebuilt team pummelled England in an Ashes whitewash, a spectacular feat that looks singularly odd in recent times. But it is worth recalling, nonetheless, that an emphasis on calamity doesn't always reveal the full, untouched picture.

The feelings were not helped by suggestions by the Australian team captain, Steve Smith, that his team had few answers to spin, swing or seam bowling. Australian cricket's CEO also added a note of desperate gloom by suggesting that Australia would struggle to be considered within the top ten cricket sides, despite having reached the summit a mere three months prior. Rod Marsh as chairman of the selectors resigned with minimum fuss and, from accounts, minimal notice.

Every tier of the game has been subjected to hawkish scrutiny. Australian cricket, argues Gideon Haigh, is a house divided against itself. The heavily crowded structure is convoluted, chaotic and bureaucratic. Decisions are made in the dark; players are more coddled than the Mikado.

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Furthermore, the domestic competition exudes experimentation at the expense of test preparation, a state of mind that defies settled patterns of play in favour of short-term philosophies of profit. Problems can only be fixed, using Haigh's words on ABC's Offsiders program, "without bumping into others".

The players feel beleaguered as a mutant species, and are in confused and at times hostile retreat. People are being picked speculatively. The issue is less long term development as patching and band aiding, the useful tie-over. All of this has opened the field to a merciless round of suggestions and popularity polls about how best an Australian team will withstand the next onslaught.

Veteran cricket commentator Mike Coward further laments the "disconnect with the ethos put in place by Allan Border, Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor and carried forward in a more restrained manner by Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke". Smith has been effectively abandoned, with some suggesting that he deserves to be.

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About the Author

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He currently lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and blogs at Oz Moses.

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