Dark portent seen in awful Ashes Aussies


The last Australian captain to lose six Tests in a row resigned in a flood of tears, publicly on television. Michael Clarke is made of sterner stuff. But if he does leave the job at some point, hopefully of his own volition, it will be a blow from which there would be no recovery for Australian cricket. Clarke is no Kim Hughes and he is far more vital to the future of Australian cricket than good old Kimberley who took charge at the height of the Packer crisis and clung on until the returning seniors made him feel unwanted.
A year and a half ago, it appeared Clarke and his crew were turning the corner. Dhoni’s Indians were the sacrificial lambs who went down 4-0 and soon enough Australia were even, if only briefly, fighting for the world’s top Test spot in a series against South Africa. Everything went pear-shaped from there, their decline beginning in Chennai on a specially designed turner on which the pitch was well rolled for the width of the stumps and the sides under-prepared to let the spin devils out.
When the Aussies were ruling world cricket —they did that thoroughly, dominating the Test scene to the extent of winning 16 Tests in a row, and twice at that, besides completing a hat trick of World Cup triumphs and a couple of Champions Trophy wins to boot — we were unabashed admirers of Australian cricket. Their domestic cricket was seen as simply the best. Only six teams meant getting into a state side was extremely hard. The cricket on sporting wickets was highly competitive and the talent that came through to Test level was already well prepared for the big stage.
We can’t blame only the cricketers because the world itself has changed. There was an excellent argument from an Australian writer who said that because T20 cricket compromises Test cricket, the fundamental appeal of cricket is being cannibalised. The logic is that 500 highly paid professionals are getting their brush with fame in Aussie Rules football in front of 85,000 spectators at the MCG every other weekend when very young whereas cricketers have had to wait years to get their one Test chance in a year to play on the biggest stage of the game.
T20 was seen as the quick answer to the aspirations of youngsters who wanted to prove their worth in professional sport. Along came the Big Bash and out went the enduring values of Test match cricket. Hardly talented were getting half a million and more to play in front of the madding crowd in IPL.
Why then would anyone wait and become a seasoned Test player before he could show his wares? The great short cut was staring them in the eye and the Australian youngsters of old who were hardened in interstate cricket are now jumping the queue to get a piece of T20 action.
The negative effect of the short cut could be seen in the India series. While patience and technique used to be the highest qualities in the best Australian batsmen, what w e have now is a bunch of eager greenhorns who think they have achieved everything if they have hit a few boundaries with flashy strokes. A few young ones like Steve Smith can bat but he is also from the NextGen that does not believe in too much sun tan. Some bowlers demonstrated to the batsmen how patience pays at the crease both in India and in the first Ashes Test, including the brilliant show by debutant Ashton Agar.
Collectively, their lack of patience and technique has condemned Australia to their worst showing in Test history. And that is not for the good of the game because if Australia’s decline is terminal, Test cricket will soon become so devalued as to lose its preeminence at least in the minds of the players. It is for the sake of the game that one hopes the Aussies will rise from the Ashes as it were.

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