Mumbai: There’s trouble in the Land of Kangaroos. Officials of Cricket Australia are worried. So are the die-hard fans. Five defeats on the trot, and doubts on the supremacy of Australian cricket are raised. Are they going the Caribbean way? That’s the question doing the circles of world cricket.
Clive Lloyd’s West Indies held forth as the undisputed champions of cricket until, Kapil Dev’s India snatched the World Cup away from them in 1983. Post, 1983, there have been some triumphs, but the beginning of the downfall of West Indian cricket started from the World Cup loss in 1983.
Vivian Richards, Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Malcom Marshall, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and Brian Lara were names that opponents were scared of. Fast forward to 2016, their successors are forces to reckon with in only T-20 cricket.
Aussies are facing a crisis. A slump that began against lowly ranked Sri Lankans with 3-0 clean sweep, continues way into the Test series against the Proteas at home. It’s not a question of conceding defeat, but the way Steven Smith’s men have buckled under pressure which has made every one stand up and notice. Victory and Australia were once synonymous in Test cricket. They rewrote the rules and also brought in aggression in the five-day format. A four run target every over was inspirational to their rivals as well.
Over the years, Australia has produced cricketers who meant business and there was no lack of commitment. They used to annihilate opposition teams. The sides under Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting were known for their ruthless approach. They beat South Africa, England, India and others at ease.
The turning point was the iconic and famous 2005 Ashes series. Australia lost its first Ashes series since 1986-87 and since then lost in 2005, 2009, ’13 and ’15 series on the English soil. They haven’t beaten India in a Test match in India since Nagpur in 2004. They lost the subsequent Test in Mumbai and after that lost 2-0 in 2008, 2-0 in 2010 and 4-0 in 2013.
Yes, it’s true, Australian cricket has been paralysed by the retirement of stalwarts like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ponting, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey and Mitchell Johnson. The legacy they left hasn’t been carried forwarded by Smith and Company. But that
is the rule. One generation calls it a day, the next generation takes over. Examples are galore. Hasn’t Indian cricket taken a step forward after the Tendulkars, Gangulys, Dravids and Laxmans?
Of late, Australian batting has looked shaky. Bundled out for 85 at the Hobart Test, Smith’s team looks weak and is in a state of
disarray. But, is the fall of the Aussie Wall good for cricket? No and a strict no to this question. World cricket needs a strong Australian side to make the game more competitive.
Fans blame T20 cricket for the deteriorating performances of Australia in Test matches. But look at India, which plays a lot of T-20 matches. The players haven’t lost their touch in Test cricket. Look at South Afr ca too. To pass the buck to T-20 cricket would be sheer exaggeration.
Aussies believe in keeping it simple, yet the zeal to be world beaters has never taken the exit route. But of late, shoulders are dropping and they look pusillanimous. It’s time to introspect. Merely blaming the players cannot be the solution. If you are an Indian fan, then have a big laugh over the nemesis of Australian cricket. But if you are an ardent fan of the game, then there are reasons for pressing the panic button.