Throughout the history of cricket, there have been vital matches which have marked the beginning of the end for a once dominant side. The previous one was the fall of the mighty West Indies in 1994 which continues to be marked as the day when the dominance moved from West Indies to Australia. We have now reached a similar stage but this time around, there is no clear number 1 side despite what the ICC rankings say.
Australia's fall from grace has been a steady fall until recently where they have slipped down to 5th on the Test rankings and they are now in the midst of a 7 game losing streak, something unheard off for over two decades. So where has it gone all wrong?
The first part of the problem starts at the very top of the chain; the National Selection Panel (NSP). We have heard for years from the Channel 9 commentators how Australian cricket won't make the same mistakes that the West Indies did back in the 90s. However, this is far from the case when you now see the age of the side. The transition period was looking good after the introduction of Siddle and Hughes which led to a surprising series victory over South Africa in SA. However, since that period only Bollinger has made the transition in the team. The transistion period has essentially stopped and the team will have to go through this period all over again once Ponting, Katich, Hussey and North call it a day. The latter two whom are currently being carried through their form slumps which further emphasis the problem at hand.
The selectors have clearly missed a trick by continuing to persist with Marcus North when there were numerous youngsters banging down the door for selection. Michael Hussey has been given more leeway because of his past heroic but he too is now in the same boat as North. The Hussey that burst onto the scene averaging 80 in the first two years of his career, has since averaged 40 since that period. Once again the selectors have been presented with a chance to bring in a youngster, albeit in the biggest series in Cricket. There is only so long you can carry the dead wood, the selectors were on the money by getting rid of Matthew Hayden from the Test side but have stood by North and Hussey for far too long.
Now I could go on about the bad calls our selectors have made but I'll still be writing for another week. So my last comment regarding them comes in the current ODI series against Sri Lanka. Xavier Doherty who just grabbed a 4 fer on debut ended up being replaced by Hauritz. Hauritz has done nothing recently to suggest he should walk straight into the side especially over Doherty who has been the form domestic spinner for the 50 over format. Without doubt there is a serious overhaul of the selection panel required and I don't mean just sacking Merv Hughes.
The next problem with the Australian side lies with the coach. The standards of the once mighty Australian side has been sliding ever since the departure of John Buchanan. There have been numerous world records set against Australia and now teams are coming back from impossible positions to win matches. You then have bowlers that don't bowl to a plan, something which they have no problem doing at State level. The side has become ill-disciplined and seems to lack ideas which comes right down to the coach. The sooner Australia get a new coach the better it is for the side.
The much talked about captaincy woes is another of Australia's problems. Ricky Ponting is the ideal leader when leading from the front but when it comes to the tactical side of things, he is well behind. Just seeing Kumar Sangakkara setting good fields and watching his bowlers bowl to that was a treat, on the other hand watching Ricky Ponting set his fields and then watching the bowlers bowl away from that was a complete nightmare. The captain in waiting - Michael Clarke hasn't fared much better and he lacks that aura about him to be a test captain. There is already disharmony in the camp with him as captain which is never a good sign.
And the last part of the chain lies with the players. There are batsmen who can no longer concentrate long enough to make a big hundred, it has come to a stage where I expect them to fall soon after their 50. Now if you compare this to other sides, they have a number of batsmen that are making big hundreds. Then you have the bowlers that aren't bowling to a plan and dissing out pies. Again comparing this to other sides, even the most recent match by Sri Lanka shows what a mess Australian cricket is at the moment. A lot of this lies with the people higher up in the tree, it really comes down to the coach and captain getting the best out of the players. The best example of this is that test series in SA which I mentioned earlier. That was a team firing on all cylinders despite having Andrew McDonald as a frontline bowler. Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle were bowling with venom and control and North was tuning out centuries. Confidence is a big factor in this but there is something not quite right when the same bowlers that bowled with such control, can now barely follow a plan.
Despite all of the problems mentioned, Australia came mighty close to beating India on home soil and may well have done so if Doug Bollinger didn't have to leave the field. This does not mean changes aren't required because they most definitely are required. A revamped middle order would be a good start followed by a new coach and selectors.