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The end of a cricketing era

Nick Bryant | 06:45 UK time, Wednesday, 22 October 2008

It is hard to go anywhere these days without seeing an Australian cricketer in his underwear.

The fast bowler Brett Lee has just launched his own range of designer knickers, while the batsman Michael Clarke has begun modelling for a well-known name in the Aussie undergarment trade.

indiansgetty226.jpgThe all-rounder Andrew Symonds can regularly be seen on television clad only in a towel, a bare-bellied move designed to boost the sales of fizzy lemonade, although his torso looks more like a six-pack.

Might this semi-naked trio have inadvertently provided a fitting visual metaphor as we enter this new era of Australian cricket: that of a threadbare national outfit.

Is it a case of advertising imitating sporting life, as Australia relinquishes its cricketing superpower status?

Ricky Ponting's men have just suffered Australia's most crushing defeat of the 21st Century - or put slightly less melodramatically, their worst result in nine years. They were thrashed by a bold and exciting Indian team by a lopsided margin of 320, and were outplayed from start to finish.

Before we start sounding the death knell of Australian cricket, it is worth remembering that this is only Australia's second test defeat since the 2005 Ashes, and that they are still the world champions in the 50-over variant of the game.

Earlier this year, the team also equalled the world record for the number of consecutive test victories - 16.

But it was the manner of the defeat that has the Aussie cricket cognoscenti worried, because it laid bare the weaknesses and gaps in the once-feared team.

"Is it a day of national mourning in Oz?" writes an old mate from India. "I don't remember Australia being so thrashed so badly in a long time and that, too, on a sporting wicket like Mohali!" Quite.

I woke up this morning looking forward to reading Malcolm Conn, the always punchy cricket writer of The Australian, and he has delivered. "The colossus which strode world cricket largely unchallenged for more than a decade is no longer. Australia is now finding that India is treating it in the same way that it confronted the West Indies to claim the world crown in 1995." The piece is headlined: "Australia's Reign Nearing End."

Superannuation, of course, is part of the problem; the recent retirement of the legends, Glenn McGrath, Justin Langer and my personal favourite Adam Gilchrist.

rickypontingafp226.jpgNo longer the scourge of English batsmen, the great blonde one, Shane Warne, is about to become the subject of a new musical ("What an SMS I'm in," is apparently one of the songs). His natural replacement and long-time stand-in, the spinner Stuart McGill, has retired from international cricket to continue in his quest to find the perfect Pinot Noir.

The squad has also been depleted by problems of the body and the mind. The metronomic paceman Stuart Clark is on the injured list, while Andrew Symonds is taking a well-publicised break from the national team after missing a team meeting to go fishing.

Matthew Hayden is a week shy of his 37th birthday, and has been struggling with his fitness and form - though he's the sort of bloke to go out in the next innings and get a speedy double century. Brett Lee is dreadfully out of sorts, and had an on-field bust-up with his captain in Mohali.

Since Justin Langer's retirement, Australia have not settled on a dominant opening pair who can score their runs at the hurtling pace which was the hallmark of Steve Waugh's captaincy.

In the first innings of the second test in Mohali, Australia scored 22 runs in 13 overs, the most sluggish of run-rates. The charismatic Indian captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, was shocked. "I said to Rahul Dravid, 'look at the board, we won't see that again.'"

Without Warne and McGrath, the bowling combination that made Australia a cricketing superpower, the attack looks fairly listless. For the time-being, they appear to have lost the ability to bowl out sides on the final day, as the drawn first test match in Bangalore served to show. Where are the young spinners who were supposed to have been inspired by Warnie?

Once again in India, Australian batsmen have been shown to be vulnerable against top-class reverse swing bowling, their biggest problem (along with the freak injury to Glenn McGrath), during the 2005 Ashes. After the 5-0 whitewash, next year's series in England now looks very interesting.

Early in the Mohali test match, as the Aussies toiled in the hot sun, the former Indian player Ravi Shastri came up with the comment which neatly encapsulated the near future of Australian cricket. "They are going to be spending a lot more time fielding."

PS All this talk of semi-naked sporting underwear models reminds me of the time I bumped into the tennis star and all-round good egg Pat Rafter. We were chit-chatting away about Tim Henman's failure ever to win the Wimbledon crown, and I said that it was particularly sad in 2001 because all he had to do was beat Goran Ivanisevic in the semis and he would have faced a complete no-hoper in the final. Then I asked Pat is he had ever won Wimbledon.

"No," he said. "I lost to Goran Ivanisevic, in 2001."


Comments

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  • 1. At 08:07am on 22 Oct 2008, My_MUFC_4_Life wrote:

    GREAT ARTICLE...i feel Australia are in a transition phase as they build a team to begin a new era of Aussie cricket..They still have an amazing team and it is very important that the senior players namely Hayden,Ponting,Clarke and Symonds try and perform to the best of their ability and allow the younger and less experienced players to work around them. Ravi Shastri may be right with his comment about the fielding but i feel that he needs to look at India in the next two years where due to age they will lose their best 5 batsmen sachin, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag and very soon Ganguly. They have no replacements for these and the ones they do have are better suited for the shorter versions of the game. So rightfully in about 2 years time India will be "batting a lot less" as they too will look to rebuild. They both great teams and congratulations to India for their clinical performance but as we all know you never write off the Aussies.

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  • 2. At 08:08am on 22 Oct 2008, mprathap wrote:

    Being an Indian fan, I am overjoyed by India's convincing win. But as a keen observer of the game, I do not think any international team still has the mettle to dethrone the Aussies from their No. 1 spot - at least for a few more years to come. For one thing, when the likes of Bret Lee and Symonds get going, we know what that means to the opposition. Promising young players like Shaun Tait are yet to fire - which I sincerely believe is just a matter of time before it happens. And Australia just lost to an Indian team performing at its best in India. Any Indian fan would know how little they can rely on their team's consistency.

    The current Australian team may not be in the caliber of the one that Steve Waugh captained - but they are still way ahead of any other team!

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  • 3. At 10:40am on 22 Oct 2008, hyperStevovo wrote:

    I fancy the South Africans against the Aussies in the summer!
    Go S.A!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • 4. At 10:52am on 22 Oct 2008, tietosh wrote:

    Personally the media is more intent about bagging Australia. As an Australian I was greatly impressed by India's performance. Almost perfect this test.

    As an Australian I was expecting this series to be an end of an era; 20 years of dominance is a great achievement after the mighty force of the Windies in the 80s.

    The test for India will be now wether they are they a one test wonder (they almost lost the first test last week to a 2nd class Aussie line up) or can they pick up the mantle as the best in class?

    One thing for sure is that both team's need to learn is leadership. The behaviour of 2 - 3 players from both sides is psycho stuff and in need of real leadership help. Kumble can help but then he his long for this stage. Ponting cannot help because he has had many chances to show statemenship and has failed in the same way that Smith fails in South Africa. Leadership: bring it on because the game needs it, big time. India nneds to show its humility in winning; they won well but Harbijan and Zaheer look like Hayden and Ponting which messes with the brand.

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  • 5. At 11:35am on 22 Oct 2008, curryboy wrote:

    Fantastic article. I am an Indian fan and more importantly an ardent supporter of good test cricket.I am very happy with the Indian performance and one can only hope that this Indian team shows some consitency and backs this performance with a win at Delhi.I donot think it is the end of Australian dominance,but there are shaken for sure.Spin is going to be the factor...any fast bowling line up with lee,clark,johnson,bracken,tait..etc is going to fire sooner than later.M Clarke or Symmonds has to step up to join Punter and Hussey in the batting line up.I think Haydos is fading..may be Sean Marsh,Katich...what happened to Hodge? Anyway exciting times ahead...i am looking forward to Delhi..

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  • 6. At 11:41am on 22 Oct 2008, ratheen wrote:

    "this is only Australia's second test defeat since the 2005 Ashes" -- wake up dude.being a cricket writer you should know that Australia lost the Perth test in January this year.

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  • 7. At 11:45am on 22 Oct 2008, ajmsadler wrote:

    when you look at this australian team and the one which drubbed england 5-0 in early 2007, the two don't even compare. loosing gilchrist, warne, langer, mcgrath, mcgill, symonds (and haydos to age or poor form) - well, let's face it, you're pretty stuffed. but i am the only one to be seriously impressed by this guy sharma? england want to be watching him very carefully before they come across

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  • 8. At 11:46am on 22 Oct 2008, wellowedge wrote:

    as a brit living in australia i have little time for ponting and his crew,the last sportsman was adam gilchrist
    nevertheless with the loss of the 3 top spinners in the last 2 years thy are vulnerable,but regretfully not for long
    go for it kp england should win ashes and possession is 9 tenths of the law

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  • 9. At 12:02pm on 22 Oct 2008, james wrote:

    Great article, the aussies are still the number 1 team but certainly not as powerul or commanding as they have been since the early 90's.

    The much hyped younger replacements are simply no where near as good as the recent retirees. Lee looks lost and is leading an injured and inexperienced attack and it shows.

    India and Sri Lanka need to prove they can consistantly win away, as well as home to take the number 1 spot.

    SA look powerful but their quicks will need to play at the ebst to get anything in Aus in Dec.

    England need fit Flintoff and a firing Harmison to do well.

    Its good for the game anyway, makes it more interesting.

    Kiwi's only avoided a 1st Test defeat to Bangladesh as well...not sure if that means NZ have regressed even more or Bangladesh have got better?

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  • 10. At 12:49pm on 22 Oct 2008, pciii wrote:

    Good to see the game getting more competative. Taking a step back, you can only see India and Pakistan getting more and more dominant. The State game here isn't anywhere as widely followed as I'd expected before arriving, which makes the recent Aussie period of success more surprising to me. It could be that I've arrived at time of reduced interest in the cricket or I'm just talking to the wrong people.
    Personally I have no problem in seeing Ponting dissapointed, I'd better not say how he comes across to me, otherwise I'll be moderated.

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  • 11. At 1:16pm on 22 Oct 2008, gravybeard wrote:

    Here we go. One defeat, and suddenly, it's the 'end of an era', and England's chances against Australia look so much brighter.
    Well firstly, England have to start winning, and their batting line-up needs to become far more consistent than it has been since 2005.
    It might also be worth remembering the INDIA are in the same phase of 'super-annuation' as Australia - and unless they can pull something out of their hat pretty quickly they ARE going to be seriously diminished - Inshant and Mishra look great - but where are the successors to Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly et al?

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  • 12. At 2:02pm on 22 Oct 2008, RhinoRob71 wrote:

    India can be taken as an exception. Even Steve Waugh's 'great' side struggled to win there and most touring sides are ecstatic if they manage one victory in a series. Great for the game for India to do well (hopefully) throughout this series, as a test cricket fan i can only hope this engenders some excitement on the sub-continent and that Test Cricket is the winner.

    I wouldn't write off the Aussies just yet, they have a knack of lording it over SA and Eng, but if India and SA can keep cranking up the pressure on the Aussies then we could see a very interesting Ashes series next summer!

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  • 13. At 2:04pm on 22 Oct 2008, RhinoRob71 wrote:

    I've posted loads of comments on here and yet i'm being pre-moderated again! Why? There's never been a problem with a post of mione before. RSVP

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  • 14. At 3:54pm on 22 Oct 2008, JulianMeteor wrote:

    RhinoRob71
    This is probably because you are Australian and therefore INCAPABLE of expressing yourself without swearing.
    This is a FAMILY site. You should be ASHAMED of yourself.
    Julian Meteor, Plymouth

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  • 15. At 4:01pm on 22 Oct 2008, curryboy wrote:

    from an indian perspective - i think it is good that Ganguly is leaving..we have to get Rohit sharma/Kaif into the side and play them alongside the other fab 4 for the England and Pakistan series.perfect sub continent pitches to get youngsters.personally i would give kumble the hack and get Mishra/chawla in that space.also leave out Dravid ocasionally and build up Badrinath and Virat Kohli. Yuvraj i think will have to wait till sachin/laxman retires.he cannot play spin.

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  • 16. At 5:38pm on 22 Oct 2008, sweetsmellofsuccess wrote:

    It was always going to be a stretch to replace Warne, McGrath and Gilchrist in a short period. It is interesting to note that, without Langer and Gilchrist and with a fading Hayden, the Aussies can no longer score at the 4-per-over that was such a vital asset in pressuring the opposition. Perhaps it was the personnel, rather than that famed 'positive attitude' that everyone else was allegedly lacking.

    It's nice to see that several sides (Australia, India, England, SA) are all pretty evenly matched. Makes for better matches, and a better product. Australians like Symonds and Katich are, for me, nowhere near the quality of the players of five or ten years ago. It's not just talent, it's also attitude and, in Roy's case, professionalism.

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  • 17. At 7:39pm on 22 Oct 2008, archleftback wrote:

    Look,

    Australian sport,not just Australian cricket, is in crisis.

    The men in baggy green caps have just been wallopped by India,the Wallabies threw in the towel against South Africa in their penultimate tri-nations game ,and Australian olympians gained both fewer golds and overall medals at Beijing Olympics.

    Cadel Evans bottled it in the Tour de France for the second year running, and there is no Australian male tennis player in the world's top four.

    I suspect that England will beat the Australian rugby union team in November,following up their second consecutive victory ovr the Aussies in October 2007, and that England will regain the Ashes in 2009.

    A symptom of the Aussie sporting crisis is the fact that sports minister Ellis and Prime Minister Rudd are reduced to claiming that Australia 'really' finished above great britain in the Beijig medals table on the basis of counting up the medals won by members of teams,like the basketball team, and claiming that hese are multiple medals;Aussies lso claim that Great Britain 'doesn't really exist' and that Australi finished above England, Scotland, Wales,etc.

    This is really tragi -comedy at its best!

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  • 18. At 10:17pm on 22 Oct 2008, kiranchalla wrote:

    okay.... this article sounds interesting.. but coming to main core of the article, is that really gonna happen?? i never liked the dominance of the australian cricket team as my self being a hardcore indian cricket team fan.... but i remember there were like 1001 articles discussing about the downfall of da great aussies before WC'07...... "Oz lost 5 consecutive one day internationals and that clearly suggests they may not show any impact in da WC"... this is what most articles have got in them..... but at the end of the day, we all know what happened..... common guys, there are still great players like Ponting, Hayden, Lee..... and its just one test they lost now and they ARE gon come back soon....

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  • 19. At 04:54am on 23 Oct 2008, KriketLover wrote:

    Most of the people are jumping to conclusions too soon... The top test teams in the last decade -- Australia, SA, India, and Pakistan -- were capable of beating any of the other three on their day (or 5 days). However, the only team that seemed to have had "their day" consistently on all five days of almost every test they played in the last decade has been Australia. All the other teams have had occassional "great days". What happened in Mohali to me looks like one such "great test" that India had. To be considered in the same league as Australia, the other teams need to be as consistent as Australia has been and I doubt if any of the other teams has that ability.

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  • 20. At 05:39am on 23 Oct 2008, abhijeetroger wrote:

    India really fired the Aussies at Mohali bt this is not the end of an era for them they r still the no. 1 side n surely they ll come back in this series . As an Indian it was pleasing to see India beating the no 1 team bt i know Ricky's men r going 2 fire

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  • 21. At 09:39am on 23 Oct 2008, BrucieB wrote:

    Australia's period of dominance was, despite what Aussies might like to believe, always going to come to an end. The real question should be, how long will it take them to recover?
    Probably not very long, knowing the way Aussies approach their sport.
    But longer, I suggest, than it otherwise might, with Ponting as captain. Because now his star players have been taken from him, his inadequacies as a skipper are more evident. Without clear "next please" star performers to wheel in, he is left groping in the dark. And you can't successfully manage a transitional period when you don't actually know what you're supposed to be doing.
    Don't get me wrong, Ponting's a star player himself - as a batsman. But not as a captain.

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  • 22. At 10:19am on 23 Oct 2008, shedmanlarge wrote:

    India is a tough place to play for all sorts of reasons. Australia are not at their strongest. India had a great test match. I can't help but think that we would all be kidding ourselves if we thought that was enough evidence of the end of Aussie dominance.

    They will never reproduce an opening partnership like Langer/Hayden or a keeper batsman like Gilchrist let alone a decade dominating, match winning pair of bowlers like McGrath and Warne. But, in depth what's left for them to pick from is still going to be competetive against all of the major sides.

    Legends are made over time. No-one knows who the next generation of legends might be but don't bet against Clark (the underwear modelling batter not the metronomical, half-baked, injury prone McGrath clone)

    Like most international teams, the Aussies are a really good spinner away from a team capable of winning consistently on the sub-continent. Nevertheless, they are a team capable of remaining at number 1 in the rankings.

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  • 23. At 10:30pm on 23 Oct 2008, Oz Dave in London wrote:

    Winning on the sub-continent is very hard, many Australian captains had this as their wish and the first to do so was a stand-in in the form of the great Adam Gilchrist.

    India are peaking, the Border-Gavasker trophy is a very big thing for them and India I am sure class the Aussie series are their greatest series as the English do the Ashes and the Aussies to do the Ashes/Frank Worrell. In saying this, India are pumped and want revenge for the last series here which they lost.

    Yes, they outplayed the Aussies but they do have a very very good team. Give them credit for outplaying Australia. The Aussies had a bad test, the next 2 Tests will tell us whether your article is leading to something or if it was a one-off loss, I hope the latter.

    Ashes 2009, Aussie 2 England 1 :-)

    Nice personal sledge about Rafter Nick :-)

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  • 24. At 2:03pm on 24 Oct 2008, nospin wrote:

    I don't think Australia have too many worries about batting while they have someone of the quality of David Hussey waiting for a chance in the Test team.

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  • 25. At 1:22pm on 25 Oct 2008, triesnottochuckit wrote:

    The Aussies are indeed a weakened force but i'd not be reading to much in to the fact the Indians hammered them - after all, cricket, as we all know, is a funny old game.

    If i were an Aussie i would be a little alarmed that they no longer have a front line spinner. But if they fail to find another spinner then it'll be there own fault.
    I mean, they had plenty of time to scoure the land to find one. That and with Warne as a role model i bet every young Australian cricketer wanted to be another Warne? I know i would!


    I can't see the South Africans being able to oust Australia. After all there own firebrand, Styne, i don't think is all that when the pressure is on.

    I'll make a prediction that the Aussies will beat the Indians and do it well. Why you ask?

    Well, i can't see Ponting being anything other than sick to the stomach that they not only got beaten but completely dominated by the Indians.

    Matt..


    Ps, i hope KP and the boys win a shed load of cash out in the sun!

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  • 26. At 4:05pm on 25 Oct 2008, locohero wrote:

    "As an Australian I was expecting this series to be an end of an era; 20 years of dominance is a great achievement after the mighty force of the Windies in the 80s."

    20 years? Don't make me laugh. More like 13. Another confused aussie living in fantasy land.

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  • 27. At 1:33pm on 27 Oct 2008, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    Nick:
    It would be a sad day for the end of the cricketing era....

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  • 28. At 11:51am on 28 Oct 2008, MostonHead wrote:

    Australia have been succesful over the years by playing good cricket with more than a touch of intimidation in a gentlemans game. unfortunately they struglle when having to play like gents! Bit like their politics on immigration OK for them but not for any other immigrants!

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  • 29. At 11:29pm on 28 Oct 2008, BryantObsessed wrote:

    today Bryant's challenge and dilemma will be tested.

    I reckon we are going to smash them. FIRE UP YOU AUSSIES.

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  • 30. At 8:54pm on 04 Nov 2008, Martin wrote:


    The Aussies are the All Blacks of cricket. The Australian cricket team isn't yet as accomplished as the All Blacks are at rugby but they are very close!

    Now that Warne, McGrath and Gilchrist are retired and some of the great batsmen like the Waughs are no longer there to dominate and Ricky Ponting is nearing the end of his fabulous career we wait with baited breath to see if Australian cricket can do what the NZ All Blacks do relentlessly in rugby and that is regenerate and continue to dominate.

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