Aussie tragics such as myself must be wondering by now. How did it happen? Was it the loss of Matthew Hayden? Some dodgy umpiring decisions? A glitch in the Matrix perhaps? Or are we just not as invincible as was once thought?
It's a strange question. 16 test wins in a row, and just three losses in their last 20 test matches, but already there is talk that the loss of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, plus Justin Langer and Damien Martyn, has created a downward spiral in Australian cricket that could see this once immortal team suddenly become another bunch of average Joes trying to win a few cricket matches.
Calls such as this are, for now, premature. Despite the fact that the Indian team partied with similar elation and joy that they showed after winning the Twenty20 World Cup, which for Australia seemed to compare with the AFL's NAB Cup as an unnecessary precursor to the real thing. In fact, it was almost as if Australia was down in the series, rather than their healthy 2-1 lead, one might have even suspected that India had just won it, or something bigger, rather than simply claiming victory in a single match.
That's not to take anything away from India either, they played magnificently, and despite the occasional time where Australia is down but fights back, India became the first team since 2005's Ashes winning England to keep the foot on the pedal and to actually claim victory in a test match. Led by VVS Laxman, the evergreen veteran, and new skipper Anil Kumble, who could see the same fame and praise as the last giant slayer, Michael Vaughan, if he can claim the final test.
Of course, the Australians will fight hard, as they always do, to avoid drawing a home series with India, as they did the last time the Indians toured. One of the major differences seemed to be a lack of experience, with the incumbent Matthew Hayden injured, and rookie Shaun Tait coming in for the more experienced (if only in limited overs and first class cricket) Brad Hogg. It is probable that Australia will shy away from a four pronged pace attack for quite a while now, after a slow over rate forced Ricky Ponting to bowl his part timers more than the young speedster.
But where Tait failed to impress, Indian youngster Ishant Sharma was quite the opposite, with a hostile spell against world number 1 batsman Ricky Ponting stumping the skipper and finally finding the edge of Ponting's trusty Kookaburra to claim his scalp and break up a crucial partnership. That was where the downhill stuff began, as Mike Hussey, like Ponting, went in the 40's, sloggers Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist failing, and Michael Clarke finally departing after a hard earned 50. It says a lot that tailenders Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark showed no fear in carting the bowlers around to take the deficit to within 100 runs, but eventually failing.
Looking forward, the final test at the Adelaide Oval shapes up to be a cracker, with Australia trying to get an Indian monkey (ah the irony) off their back - to beat India in a test series - and to hold off the Indian charge. The return of Hayden will be crucial, whilst I wouldn't mind seeing in form Victorian leg spinner Bryce McGain given a go ahead of Brad Hogg, who just doesn't do it for me. I would also like the popular Andrew Symonds to be dropped, it is too risky to have him and Gilchrist in the same side when our middle order is out of form. Bring in David Hussey, the younger brother of Mike is on fire for Victoria and is a fantastic middle order batsman. If you want an all-rounder, then Ashley Noffke should be considered with his great recent results for Queensland shining in both disciplines.
Certainly Australia will need to lift their game to beat India, who once again have showed themselves as real challengers to an Australian throne and dynasty. Can the Aussies come back, or will India draw the series? The final test will certainly be a cracker.
Final note: I recently returned from a holiday, so have had no writing time, and I certainly have quite a few opinions regarding the second test in Sydney, and apologize for the recent lack of writing. I have a draft that I may publish sometime if demand is high.