New blood, old ways

It’s been a disastrous Australian cricket season so far, verging on the disgraceful. I’ve made my share of noise, but fair to say so has everyone else. Not surprisingly the Australian selectors have finally acted with conviction.

In fact it’s hard to make sense of the Australian selection policies. They (unwisely) promised no changes for the first 2 tests, then when forced to make some opted to go conservative by elevating the 30-year-old Ferguson into the batting line-up off not much form. It’s not Ferguson’s fault that he failed when you consider just about the entire team did. But then, after promising to do little, the selectors have done a lot – and much of the team has changed for the final test against South Africa.

I wouldn’t have picked Ferguson in the first place, but recognise he’s been a bit stiff being dropped after the one match. Mennie maybe a little unlucky too given he was poised to bowl at his home ground. But I’m glad the selectors have finally grasped it’s time for regeneration – it’s just not exactly how I would have done it.

Ferguson, Mennie, Burns and Voges are out. In come Handscomb (good), Sayers (surprising, but a great record at the Adelaide oval), Rennie (a bold choice I applaud), and Maddinson (meh). On top of that Nevill has been dropped for Wade. Nevill’s stiff too, but if he had to go I’d have preferred someone like Whiteman coming in.

Overall I’m not unhappy, except for Maddinson – he’s an aggressive, but streaky batsman with a lot of talent, and a liability in the field. I reckon he’s better suited to limited overs cricket, but happy to be proved wrong. I’d have preferred Maxwell, who can bowl too and is a great fielder; or Kurtis Patterson, who I think is destined to be a great Australian batsman (and in better form than either Maddinson or Maxwell).

The important thing is that there’s some fresh blood.

I don’t want to get carried away, but I think we’re a sneaky chance. It’s a big call, but the Saffer’s preparation could hardly be worse.

Their captain, du Plessis, was caught on film tampering with the ball in the second test. It made no difference to the result, but it’s a bad look, and he has form. The ICC chose to investigate and it became a bit of a circus from there. The reaction from South Africa was way over the top, but I was surprised to see so many former players dismiss it as storm in a tea-cup. I haven’t played test cricket, but to my unschooled eyes it looked like a deliberate act, designed to gain advantage. Pretty plainly it’s cheating to the letter of the law.

As I write this he’s fronting an ICC tribunal answering to the charges.

All of this has made for a combustible environment, which culminated in a confrontation yesterday between a South African security guard and a TV reporter which ended with the reporter being slammed into a window.

I watched it and was reminded of how fragile South Africa have been so often in the past. Traditionally they were stiff to the point of rigidity. They wanted it so much that the pressure would break them, and 9 times out of 10 their nemesis was Australia.

It’s one of the things that has made this series so tough as an Aussie supporter. You always felt that come the crunch the Saffers would fold before we did. This series we’ve collapsed as a competitive unit. It’s embarrassing, and so un-Australian.

In recent days I’ve seen a little of the old South Africa. The inflexibility and hostile defensiveness when challenged, the violent reactions and exaggerated sense of persecution.

If I was an Aussie I’d be taking some of that into the 3rd test. Twist that knife. Dale Steyn tweeted something the other day I’d be highlighting as Aussie coach and captain. Enough of the easybeats. Time to take it hard to them in the old-fashioned Aussie way.

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