Monday, 8 December 2008

Aussies on the decline, or is it just another tour of India?

Much has been made of Australia's series loss to India, their first in a very long time, and the immediate speculation is of course whether Australia has lost it. No more McGrath, Warne, Langer, Martyn or Gilchrist, no more Australia? It's the question that's been asked more often than any other in cricket, but one that is perhaps a little hesitant.

The first thing to consider is that when any team loses five of its best players (although Martyn was hardly a star at the end), it's going to take some time to adjust. A half-team turnaround is difficult to manage, no matter how good the youngsters are.

Secondly, let's remember the fact that in Australia's period of dominance, they only won a series in India once. Even at home, they have traditionally struggled against the Indians, always finding it difficult to cope with their spin. Of course now, India have found themselves a pretty decent pace attack, with Ishant Sharma one of the most promising young fast bowlers in the world. All in all, it seems that Australia failing its mission impossible for so many years is not something to read too much into. The tour of India has always been Superman's kryptonite after all!

As Australia get ready to host South Africa, once again brimming with confidence at the prospect of knocking off the Australians, we stand to get our best indication of where the other challengers of the crown are at, and where the former invincibles are too. How the Aussies cope with Dale Steyn will be an interesting battle, Steyn the hottest fast bowler in test cricket at the moment, and Australia seemingly vulnerable to the swinging ball, it stands to be a contest to savour.

History has shown, however, that South African confidence can often be misplaced, for many a time have the Proteas travelled down under on a high, in form and ready to pounce, only to be sent packing home by an Aussie side too strong. Graeme Smith has made it a habit of making bold pre-series predictions, perhaps desiring to live up to his former opponents' (McGrath, Warne) arrogant reputations. Smith will be the key to his nation's success, as a captain he will need to stand up and continue his great form, and as an opener he will need to get a solid start to their innings.

With Ricky Ponting under a wrist injury cloud, only time will tell whether he has indeed lost it, and his ability to cope with Steyn will prove telling. His vulnerability against spin was always obvious in India. After all, how many great spin bowlers are there outside the subcontinent these days with Shane Warne gone? Daniel Vettori certainly comes to mind, so the Australians' victory over New Zealand (weak though they may be) will be a relief for many.

It's showtime though, as two of test cricket's best clash down under. Are Australia on the decline, or is it just another case of India-itis? Once again, only time will tell, but if South Africa can shake a monkey off their back and record a series victory down under, it may be more serious than we though.


Rob said...

It should be a good series and I hope SA get off to a good start. If Australia get on top early I fear the Proteas may fall apart. It will be interesting to see how the Aussie bowling attack fares, it has looked a pale imitation of former glories. They were poor in India and only made to look good my inept New Zealand.

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