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    December 30, 2008

    South Africa do what was unthinkable a year ago

    The inevitable happened. India've kept huffing & puffing at Australia for the better part of the last decade, and eventually the house fell, not to India but to South Africa, who became the first team in nearly 16 years to win a test series in Australia.

    In fact, South Africa are the first non-Indian team to have defeated Australia 2 tests in a row in the last 18 years. The West Indians in 1993 & 1999 and the East Indians in 1998 & 2001 were the only sides to have done it.

    South Africa have played brilliantly and it has been a total team effort - its tough to pick the top performers from Steyn, Smith, Duminy, de Villiers, Kallis & Amla. Essentially though, Australia's weakness against good quality swing bowling has been shown up yet again. It was the case in 2003/4 against India, 2005 against England, 2007/8 against India, 2008/9 against India and now against South Africa. Maybe its something to do with the batting technique or just the attacking instinct. Australia better get its act together on countering swing bowling, because now that the formula is out there, more teams will use it hoping for success, sometimes without having the quality of resources.

    I have no sympathy for Australia though. The side and the cricketing establishment have been in denial mode ever since the defeat in India, and especially after thrashing New Zealand. Over rate problems? Let's blame the sightscreens and talk of maintaining the spirit of the game when a series was at stake. Lee's "performances"? Let's blame his breakup. Hayden in terrible form? Let's talk of poor umpiring decisions & run outs (as if he wasn't responsible for the runouts!). No spinners? Let's say they're young & inexperienced when they've had 15 years to groom someone to take over from Warne.

    The first thing Australia's selectors need to do is to drop Hayden. His batting has been hopeless. It's not just that - he doesn't even look like he wants to be out there batting! In fact he wants to get off the strike so often - maybe thats what's got him run out twice in the last few tests! I've always thought he was over-rated. Among the top run-getters since 1 Jan 1990, only 2 batsmen (Mark Waugh & Alec Stewart) have worse away batting averages. Hayden averages 42.7 outside Australia compared with 58.4 at home. It's quite obvious he's a home town bully. He doesn't deserve to be rated amongst the modern greats, let alone the all-time greats!

    The second thing Australia's selectors need to do is to pick a new captain. I just think they have a hopeless moron as captain right now. Ponting's captaincy has been 'moronic' in my books right from the time he sent England (0-1 down) in on a superb batting wicket at Edgbaston in 2005 minutes after McGrath had been ruled out of the test (& possibly the series). His subsequent acts (Nagpur, for e.g.) merely confirmed the belief.

    Despite South Africa's series win, in my opinion Australia are #1 until the time they actually lose home and away. India can't claim the #1 spot because after all, they didn't win in Australia. I'd say that the return series against South Africa & the 2009 Ashes will give a fair indication of whether Australia will remain #1 or not.

    Think about it - despite losing Langer, Warne, McGrath & Gilchrist in the span of a year, they've more than managed to hold their own most of the time. I know that isn't a great benchmark for #1, but you do need to give weightage to the quality of personnel lost. India're bound to go down that road sometime in the next 2 years and we'll eagerly see if the batting holds up.

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 11:45 PM |
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    12 sledge(s):

    McGrath and Waren, whats more than 1200 wickets out of the bowling experience, no doubt Aussies have been hit hard.
    India too shall have to replace likes od Tendulkar and Dravid in couple of years time.
    But there are a few good indications so to speak.
    Oening looks good.
    Dhoni (more than) a decent bat and a captain.
    Bowling looks settled for next 4-5 years or more.

    Laxman the key when Tendulkar and Dravid retire.

    By Blogger Tarun (31-Dec-2008, 3:31:00 PM)  

    I agree to your point Tarun. Even after Tendulkar and Dravid and perhaps Laxman retires, I believe India can still maintain there position ( the way they are doing it right now), because of the bench strength and of course, some new and energetic talent coming up like Cheteshwar Pujara, Badrinath, and there are a few more coming up. So, I don't think India would go down(if they maintain this kind of aggressive cricket) like the way the Aussies are going.

    By Anonymous Rishabh (31-Dec-2008, 7:50:00 PM)  

    Happy New Year to all

    By Blogger Sanju (01-Jan-2009, 7:47:00 AM)  

    Actually, Australia's worries have *also* been because of the poor form of their batsmen. In 2004, 2005, 2006 & 2008, the # of batsmen who made 1000+ runs at an avg of at least 50 in the year was 9, 7, 7 & 8. Australia's contributions were 2, 2, 1 & 2.

    But of the 2 that did make the numbers in 2008, Clarke was highly inconsistent & made a few pyrrhic runs. So Katich has really been the only dependable batsman for Australia.

    Let's look at another indicator - # of times the team was dismissed for < 350. 4 times in 2003 (from 21 inngs), 8 in 2004 (27 inngs), 8 in 2005 (29), 3(18) in 2006, 11 in 2008 (26). So nearly half the time, they were getting dismissed for 350, which in the modern age is a below-par score!

    In fact, it seems like Australia's batsmen are screwing up their 2nd innings. Because when you look at 1st innings, the trend is - 2003: 2(in 12), 5(14), 6(15), 3(10) & 4(14). Which means the # of times they were dismissed for 350 in their 2nd inngs was: 2003: 2(9 inngs), 2004: 3(13), 2005 2(14), 2006 0(8) & 2008: 7(12).

    I excluded 2007 since Australia played very little test cricket.

    That's why I believe the lack of experience in bowling is just one of the reasons Australia've had a poor year. You can't replace Warne, McGrath, etc. But does Gilchrist's exit have to cause such a drop? Or do we factor in Martyn & Langer too, who quit in 2006?

    By Blogger Jagadish (02-Jan-2009, 9:04:00 PM)  

    similar to wot i wrote on my blog arm ball....

    i feel india wud hv won the sydney test all for the bucknor decisions!!

    By Blogger Sam (02-Jan-2009, 11:40:00 PM)  

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    By Blogger Cool (16-Oct-2011, 7:43:00 PM)  

    I totally agree with you on that assertion my dear blogger, I also thought that South Africa was unable to do such a thing and they have really shut my mouth ;)

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