As I lay prone yesterday recovering from a big night out I watched as Australia once more dismantled India to win the third test within 3 days. My condition was apt, but at least an improvement on India’s. They were prostrate too, and helpless, and the last rites for this series – if not this team – may well have been read as the last 4 Indian wickets feel in the space of 10 minutes after lunch.
Though disappointing as a contest the beating India took yesterday, and has been taking all series, has pleased me no end. It’s premature to announce that Australia has returned to its preeminence, but the journey has begun. This has been an extremely impressive performance by a resurgent Australian team, and highlights once again just how resilient Australian cricket is. I made comment about a month ago when prompted about the apparent decline of Australian cricket. I was sanguine. Don’t write them off I said, they’ll come good before you know it. And so it has come to be, sooner perhaps than I even thought.
It’s the fast bowling attack that has led the way. The guy I labelled a pie-chucker not long ago – Peter Siddle – has been outstanding ever since. Always a willing and untiring competitor, he has added large dollops of skill and science to his game. Ben Hilfenhaus has come back into the team and been outstanding – quick, accurate, and occasionally unplayable. Add to them the emergence of Cummins in South Africa, and James Pattinson here and you have the two young quicks who will lead the Australian attack for the next 10 years. Add in Mitchell Starc, Ryan Harris, and even Mitchell Johnson, and there is a battery of skilled fast bowlers to call upon. Looking ahead I’d also suggest that Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Coulter-Nile will get a go some time soon. While we have been fortunate in the emergence of so many talented players at once, much credit must go to Craig McDermott. I’d suggest that he more than anyone has been responsible for the turn-around in our bowling – from seeming unable to take 20 wickets in 5 days to do it with ease within 3. His guidance and advice has been instrumental in Australia regaining that potent edge.
The batting is not quite so advanced as the bowling, but I think Warner is a big player for many years to come. I love watching him play, and I also greatly admire his attitude and determination. His is a story of persistence and belief, and now he’s opening the batting for Australia in all forms of the game and, after Saturday, is the man with the 4th quickest test century in history (on the way to 180 off 159 balls). He might be about 8 inches shorter than Matty Hayden, but he plays with the same intimidating belligerence and power. His runs will count for much over the years to come, but no more than the way he makes them. He is a match-winning cricketer who can turn a match in the space of an hour. Cowan has been steady by his side, Clarke has made a triple century, and both Ponting and Hussey have made hundreds in defiance of their critics. The only disappointments have been Marsh (but he’ll come good), and Haddin (who won’t, and should be first out).
There’s a lot to like about the summer of cricket, but what warms me most is the style of game we’re playing – attacking, aggressive, adventurous and entertaining. It’s ever the Australian way, and fuck it’s good to see our team playing once more with the ruthless edge we’ve been so renowned for. We’re a way to go, but we”ll get there sooner than what I thought. If any confirmation is needed of that it’s been the nervous chirping by the likes of Vaughan, Collingwood and Flintoff talking Australia down. I always know they’re worried when they start talking about us again, especially when they’re English. They’re a fragile sporting race the English, and have long memories of Australian dominance.
It’s also good to see India lose. They might seem a bit rude, but there are good reasons for that. Foremost is that I think the BCCI are a blight on the game. They have used their wealth to co-erce and to threaten other member countries. They are arrogant and insular, as well as being incompetent. Anytthing that reduces Indian hegemony is a good thing as far as I’m concerned, and with a test team in rapid decline hopefully we will see change.
The other reason is the fans. Indians individually are a gentle, friendly, hospitable race of people. I know when I travelled there the news that I was an Australian was big news and subject to much delighted discussion on cricket. Unfortunately in recent years that’s less the case in the collective, where some of the nationalism has become strident and ugly.
I think that’s often the case with emerging cultures, particularly when they are coming out of colonial history. Support can become over-enthusiastic and cross over into abuse. The rise of the Indian cricket team has given voice to a billion, but the downside of that is – as we see with the BCCI – that it can become chauvinistic and narrowly self-serving. The Indian team is on the verge of losing a generation of superstars, and some adjusting will be required. It may not be a bad thing, and I expect in the wash-up some healthy cultural reflection would not be amiss.
India is a cricketing giant, and will come again, but let’s not forget it’s a sport we’re playing, not war. As for Australia – never count us out.