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 Dawn)



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