Do me a Favour Australian Cricket Fans & Keep Your Pants On
Following the series victory in Perth and gunning for a 4-0 whitewash against a rattled Indian side, it is extremely tempting to grab the missus, whip out the old Vera Wang and celebrate in style. But Aussie cricket fans I beg you, take a deep breath and keep your pants on.
Even conjuring the optimism of a Shane Warne appeal, one could not have foreseen this series going so well for the baggy green posse. Coming off a demoralising loss against our ANZAC brothers, everyone assumed that facing a talented Indian side, the best we could have hoped for was to snatch a few victories in a topsy-turvy series. Turns out we have steamrolled the Indians in every facet of the game.
But before we get too excited, we must concede that the opposition has been poorer than a family of 12 in a Delhi slum.
And the question must be asked, how much has really changed in the Australian camp from the team that followed up an utter capitulation in Cape Town by crumbling faster than downtown Christchurch against our antipodean neighbours in Hobart?
A great deal of encouragement can be taken from the fact that the opening pairing appears to be sorted. Like the heyday of US late night talk show TV, the straight shooting Ed Cowan appears to be the perfect foil for the gung-ho David Warner, in much the same manner that Paul Shaffer perfected the subtle deadpan as the folly to the wise cracking Letterman. With the return of Shane Watson imminent, those who instigated those ever increasing murmurs regarding his suitability to batting down the order will finally get to test their theory. Whilst Watson has served his nation well at the top of the order, it would simply be selection suicide to break up what has the potential to be the best opening combination since Jamie Oliver wrapped a king prawn in bacon & served it as an entrée.
The other area for optimism is our bowling stable which, under the watchful eye of Craig ‘Bart’ McDermott, has transformed from a pack of plucky colts and staying stallions into potential Melbourne Cup winners. The depth has reached a point where it could almost be argued that Australian fast bowling stocks have never been healthier, a statement which carries a fair whack of irony considering the extensive injury list. An unwanted by-product of this season’s speed success stories is that there are only so many plane tickets to the Caribbean and in the not too distant future, England, meaning some of these bowlers that have seemingly proved their worth are going to have to drag their disappointment all the way back to their respective state sides.
But the biggest problem for the Australian attack is the lack of a match winning spinner. It is not Nathan Lyon’s fault that he has had such little impact on this series and his 10 wickets in 2 tests against the Kiwi’s demonstrated his wicket taking potential. But when the team is touring and the sunburnt decks of Australia are no longer there to assist the quicks, will Michael Clarke have complete confidence in throwing Lyon the ball on the 5th day of a test, needing 3 wickets but with a lead of only 50? I don’t think so either.
As comfortable as the recent win at the WACA was, it disappointingly reaffirmed the fragility of the middle order. The Australia of years past would never have allowed the foot to come off the throat of the opposition like that. The word ‘collapse’ is too frequently being associated with the Australian batting line-up and it is becoming somewhat of an unpleasant trend to look down the card and see P.Siddle as one of the highest, or in some cases the highest, contributor.
Our middle order is in a greater need of some steel than The People’s Republic of China. Many believe that the Gentlemen’s club of Haddin, Ponting and Hussey will be well and truly dismantled by the time the back-to-back ashes series roll around. Will the likes of Marsh, Watson, Khawaja, Steve Smith, Christian and Wade be made of the right metal come 2013?
The talk of winning back the Ashes next year has already begun, brought about mainly by the shellacking of a substandard Indian outfit. England also gave this same Indian side a working over so fierce it almost felt like the British Raj squashing the Indian rebellion in 1857, and that resulted in the leader of the rebellion being exiled to Burma and his children being beheaded. To knock off the number one test team in their own back yard will require some phenomenal cricket. It is a far greater challenge than clean sweeping an aging Indian side on the hard decks of Australia. Mickey Arthur already talking up our chances isn’t helping things one iota either. Before we even begin to dream such things as winning back the converted urn, our focus must be on these key issues such as identifying a match winning spinner, developing the middle order and facilitating the gradual removal of the old guard.
It’s not that the early signs for the future of Australian cricket aren’t promising but it’s best we keep the excitement levels to a minimum and, to borrow a phrase from the Empire, ‘keep calm and carry on.’