The Fall of
the Australian Empire
By Anwar Noman
The Australians were on a roll
for a decade, annihilating all opposition with commendable
ease. Their domination of the game was so overwhelming
that it led to conjectures that only an Australian
side could beat the other Australian side. To a
large extent this conjecture was true as the gap
between the Australians and the rest of the cricket
playing nations was significant. After Don Bradman’s
‘Invincibles’ this side remained the
second best that the country has ever produced.
Indeed, any team that played Australia raised its
performance by a few notches and invariably won
against other countries thereafter.
However, when their team was on a roller-coaster
ride, the Australians made the fatal mistake of
not inducting youngsters into their team, having
the firm belief that they could annihilate all and
sundry. Consequently, what transpired was that most
of their budding youngsters, unable to make it to
the test squad, fell by the wayside. As such the
divide between Test players and young aspirants
has widened considerably and the Australian selectors
would be hard pressed to find suitable replacements
for their aged players. It would take at last five
years of team-building before the Australians can
aspire to the top slot again.
The ideal combination for any team is a blend of
experience and youth with six seasoned players and
five youngsters. The youngsters can learn from their
seniors and carve their niche. As such, the cycle
goes on perpetually with a smooth transition for
the team. What has transpired in the case of Australians
is that all their players have aged together and
are all in the thirties barring a few. Somewhere
it had to happen, and it happened during the English
tour. They have now suddenly realized that the peak
is over for most of their cricketers and now it
is going to be a long slide down. The squad of the
15 selected for the England tour shows that Shane
Warne was the oldest player at 36, followed by McGrath
and Langer, both at 35. Mathew Hayden, Damien Martyn,
Adam Gilchrist and Stuart McGill are all 34 years
old. Michael Kasprowicz is 33, Ricky Ponting and
Brad Hodge are 31, Jason Gillespie and Simon Katich
are 30, and Brett Lee is 29. The only youngsters
are Michael Clarke, 24 and Shaun Tait 22.
As is evident from the foregoing it was a highly
overage Australian team that toured England. From
30 onwards a cricketer is normally on the decline
and by 35 he is out of the side barring a few exceptions.
Quite a few heads will roll after this series. Jason
Gillespie with a horrendous bowling average of 100
and Michael Kasprowicz with a bowling average of
62.50 have probably hit the end of the road. They
were both dropped from the last Test.
Simon Katich had a bowling average of 50 and a batting
average of 27.55 and may well have played his last
Test. Damien Martyn had a tour batting average of
19.77 and is certain to be axed. Mathew Hayden had
a miserable run in four Tests and even when he scored
a century in the last one he never looked confident.
He is also likely to lose his Test place. The reflexes
of Adam Gilchrist have slowed down at 34 and he
dropped some catches which he otherwise would not.
Naturally with his reflexes his batting has also
suffered. Gone was the fearsome clean hitter of
the ball and in his place was a struggling batsman
who could only manage 181 runs from nine innings
at a pathetic average of 22.62. He won’t be
around for long on the Test scene.
Shane Warne and Glen McGrath were both outstanding
on the tour. Warne took 40 wickets in the series
to equal Imran Khan’s world record, and McGrath
got 19 wickets from three Tests at an average of
23.15. Warne has, however, played his farewell Test
in England and has announced retirement within a
year. His departure will be a body blow for Australia.
Glen McGrath at 35 will probably find it hard to
continue for more than a couple of years. With the
departure of Warne and McGrath the Australians will
be susceptible to defeats even on their home grounds.
From world champions to whipping boys — the
fate seems extremely probable.
The present disarray of the Australian team in no
way detracts us from England’s performance.
They played according to a game plan and dominated
three Tests, squared one and only allowed the upper
hand to the visitors in one Test. Pieterson, who
replaced Thorpe, is an extremely good find, although
he has yet to make his debut with catches, having
dropped all six which have gone his way. Andrew
Flintoff is a match winner. Trescothic and Strauss
are very sound openers. Harmisson, Hoggard and Flintoff
bowl a good line and length and have also learnt
to reverse swing the ball. After 18 years and nine
series England has won back the Ashes. Kudos to
them for their performance. As for the Australians,
they will have to rise from their ashes. (Courtesy