By Shane Thomas
Defeat for the Australia cricket team is a concept that's new to their fans. But it's becoming an increasingly regular trend. After series losses to South Africa and India, losing to England was the nadir. The British tabloid press have a reputation for acerbity when it comes to their failing sports stars. But it seems that the one thing that Australia still do better than the British is for the press to skewer sportsman who fail to their exacting standards.
The reaction to Australia's meek surrender has been vitriolic. Self-flagellation has been the order of the day. Reading their back pages of the newspapers 'Down Under' (not an activity I would ever recommend), you'd think that we were in the presence of the worst Australian cricket side in history - in fact, that was one of the aforementioned headlines.
But this is an exaggeration. This is not a vintage crop of Aussie players by any means. But just because they aren't the world's best doesn't make them the world's worst. They were suffocated by an expertly drilled England team, and lacked the requisite mental fortitude to respond (something that the Australian press seemed to forget).
The problems go all the way back to their domestic competition. The 'Sheffield Shield' used to be the envy of the rest of the cricketing world. But sport is an area where if you're not moving forwards, you're moving backwards. Cricket Australia became lazy and assumed that the Sheffield Shield had an inherent superiority over its rivals. Well superiority isn't intrinsic, it's earned. And this is an attitude that spread to the national side.
The once strong edifice that was Australian cricket has been slowly eroded since 2006. The retirements of greats like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath & Adam Gilchrost would weaken any team. However, not putting plans in place to cushion the blow of losing these names was pure folly.
Only now do Australia understand how far behind the leading cricket nations they are. And all the current hand-wringing and finger pointing that's going on is doing no good. The Aussies were in a similar position after losing a home series to England back in 1987. The then captain Allan Border used it as a launchpad for an era of complete Australian dominance. The opportunity is here for them to do so again.
It'd help if they started by getting rid of the people running the show. Tim Nielsen and Andrew Hilditch seem like well-meaning individuals but look ill-equipped to drag Australia out of their current malaise.
A clear plan of action is what's needed to make Australia competitive again. They may not have any superstars but this isn't a particularly strong era for the game in general. This doesn't have to be the deathknell for the 'Baggy Greens', but as Australians had been saying to us Brits for years, "Stop whinging so much, show some backbone and get on the job in hand!"
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