Monday, 27 October 2008

Australia down but not out for The Ashes?

There is an interesting article in today's Independent by John Townsend warning of the Australian teams depth; in it he states that Australia must recall Symonds now. Whilst I believe that Symonds is a world class all-round cricketer, I'm not sure he would bring enough to the bowling department to make that much of a difference in the area that Australia require it the most (namely spin). There is no doubt that Symonds will and should always feature on the current Australian team sheet but is he the saviour? I'm sure he will be back for the ashes!

Symonds is an excellent fielder and a dangerous batsmen (scoring runs at pace, which can always turn a game on it's head) but will his bowling tie up an end sufficiently? Don't forget in the past Australia didn't only tie up an end with spin or consistent bowling, they added huge amounts of pressure and quite often ripped through teams in the form of Warne. Australia have been blessed over the past few decades, having pairs of bowlers that can apply pressure and take wickets constantly during a test match with opposing batsmen getting very little rest bite. I was at Trent Bridge in 2005 on the Sunday when Warne almost bowled England out very cheaply; which would have put a completely different complexion on the ashes.

I personally wouldn't write Australia off for the Ashes yet; after all we are yet to see England out in India, we also need to wait and see how Australia bounce back for the third test (the Australia of old would come back at India and normally win). We shall have to see!

I must admit I loved the jibe about almost turning to Darren Pattinson; unfair on Darren but something that we all believe the England selectors deserved. That was a SHOCKER!!

The full article as it appears in the Independent is below:

Australia outfought in India but enough punch remains for Ashes
The Baggy Greens may appear to be sagging but England must be wary of their strength in depth

By John TownsendMonday, 27 October 2008

It says much about the state of Australian cricket that barely a year after the retirement of the greatest spinner in history, the nation is clamouring for an emergency call-up for a bowler who has spun out just a dozen batsmen at Test level.

Andrew Symonds is currently doing penance at state level for the heinous crime of going fishing rather than attending a team meeting on the eve of last month's instantly forgettable one-day series against Bangladesh. Given that players repeatedly complain that most team meetings consist of bowlers issuing prosaic reminders of the need to aim at the top of off and batsmen talking up the bleedin' obvious value of building partnerships, it is little surprise that Symonds preferred to hook a delicious barramundi rather than dissect, yet again, the minnows of world cricket.

No doubt there is more to the Symonds banishment, though the Australian public is yet to hear it. As English journalists at the Symonds press conference at the MCG during the last Ashes series would recall, a large store of anger seethes close to the surface of the all-rounder and he is often just one uncomfortable question, or extra beer, away from releasing it.
The refusal of Cricket Australia to consider selecting Symonds, referring to mysterious "medical and related issues", has polarised the country. Newspapers and talk radio have been filled to the hyperbolic brim with debate on the issue, with Tom Moody, the West Australian coach and recent Sri Lankan boss, speaking for many fans this week when he argued: "Australia must send an immediate SOS to Andrew Symonds if they want to pick their best team. India is the toughest place in world cricket to come from behind and when the Australian team is struggling for balance, form and cohesion, we simply can't afford to leave him out."

Symonds' absence is just one more complication for an Australian team facing the new age challenge of maintaining world-class standards without a host of world-class players. Shane Warne was best of class, Glenn McGrath arguably the same and Adam Gilchrist in a class of his own. There may be three new players standing under baggy green caps in their place but they cannot replace a trio whose standing and impact may not be matched for generations.

Underlining the difficulty of the search for replacements is the sobering fact that should another debutant – the seventh for the year – be included for either of the next two Tests, and that is highly likely given the magnitude of the 320-run loss at Mohali, Australia would not have tried more new players in a year than when World Series Cricket gutted playing stocks three decades ago.

Much like most Ashes series of recent times – except the 2005 anomaly, which has been scrubbed from Australian history books – there has been a sense of inevitability about the tour of India. But it has been from a position that England would find familiar: the hope of success tainted by a deep-seated sense that something is about to go badly wrong.

From the moment that the Australia selectors named a squad including an uncapped Jason Krejza (Jason who?), an uncapped 36-year-old, Bryce McGain, an uncapped Doug Bollinger, an uncapped Peter Siddle, a keeper with three Tests' experience, an injury-prone all-rounder who had not played for three years, a fast bowler going through an ugly marriage breakdown and a 36-year-old opener recuperating from a serious Achilles tendon injury, the country knew we were up against it. Crikey, things were so crook we nearly turned to Darren Pattinson.

Sure, Ricky Ponting is the best batsman in the world and Mike Hussey not far behind him; the pace attack is varied and versatile and Australia's fighting spirit and indomitable aura are worth an extra player. But as Moody pointed out, India on their own dung heap are a different proposition to the team that has traditionally toured as well as Guinness.

Ponting is realistic enough to recognise his remade team have to gel quickly, with the Border-Gavaskar and Ashes challenges looming. "We have got enough talent around Australia to maintain our No 1 ranking in Test cricket," Ponting said earlier this year. "I don't know how far we are in front but you would think, given what we have done for a fair period of time, that we would be a fair way in front. But how we adapt will determine how good a team we are."

Ponting was satisfied with the effort in the first Test when Australia had the better of the contest but was reluctant to risk an early declaration in a bid for victory. He remains a conservative captain but an inspirational one who has recovered from adversity before.

Australia are represented by a team who play hard, end careers and gather trophies. Record junior playing numbers attest to the positive impact the Baggy Greens have had on the nation's youth. We are going through a tough trot but don't rule out one or two of those youths having arrived by the time Steve Harmison threatens second slip with the first ball of the 2009 Ashes series.