It would be an understatement to say that the Ashes 2013 are going towards the home team going by the result of the first two test matches no matter what Michael Clarke has to say about winning the series 3-2.
It was not too long ago that the Australian cricket structure was something that was the thing to emulate as far as cricketing success was concerned. The players, coaches and even the commentators from down under were regarded as special having that extra that were the envy of other cricketing nations. The payments offered in events like IPL to those coming from Australia made for difficult questions in quiz competitions. Coaches have been outsourced from Australia not only by national teams but also by state teams in India. It is not surprising that some commentators even try to sound like the Australians behind the microphone! But not all of them have proved to be a success.
Economists have for long attempted to understand and explain the rise and the decline in the level of economic activity through the use of the concept of business cycles. Words like recession and recovery are interspersed with terms like boom. There are different theories taking into account different factors at the heart of the recurring cyclical phases of economic activity. Possible solutions are also offered to reduce the length of the period where economic activity is at a low. Players like the central banks are often asked to lead the recovery and take the economy back to its glorious days. But there are some who say that the cyclical phases are inevitable given the fundamental causes and no tinkering can prevent or reduce the economic hardships.
It is in my humble opinion that the men in the baggy greens are going through the downward phase of their cricketing cycle after being at the top for a long time since the series win in the Caribbean in 1995. That marked the end of the success story of the Windies and the ascendancy of the Aussies. No one could predict the sorry state of the Windies that once thrashed the living daylights out of every opposition team. As a proud supporter of the Indian team, I was more interested in the performances of the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev with the result of the match already known whenever India and the Windies met on the cricket field .At that time, the English cricket team was subject to ‘brownwashes’ not experienced even during the pomp of Don Bradman. Various theories were floated to explain the downfall in the standards of English cricket just as the case in the aftermath of the decline of the Windies starting from the latter half of the 1990s and the Aussie team now. There is one common reason-the lack of quality in the domestic players and the failings of the domestic cricket structure.
The lack of quality in the domestic players and the structure of domestic cricket and not to mention the BCCI are often blamed whenever the Indian team does not perform up to the expectations. Earlier, one day internationals were the main cause and now it is the IPL that is the cause of the ills that plague the Indian cricket team. To these factors add the lack of ‘sporting pitches’ and the whole equation becomes extremely complex that would test any analyst. The same causes or reasons are thrown around with the failures of the Aussie cricketers in the ongoing Ashes series. The Big Bash League the Aussie equivalent of the IPL takes most of the blame for the lack of skills and techniques in the current team that is in England. The experts are not afraid to point a finger at the quality of the pitches used for domestic cricket in Australia. The same pundits give credit to the T20 format when it comes to the improvement in the fielding skills and some of the shots like the ‘Dilscoop’ that are now part of the cricket lexicon!
There was a time when county cricket and the influx of foreign players was said to be the factor responsible for the decline in English cricket during the 1980s and the 1990s. A similar suggestion is made when anyone expresses surprise over the lack of success for the English football team in international competitions even as the country is home to some of the most successful football clubs.
After the loss of the Ashes at home, Cricket Australia appointed a committee to look into the likely causes and even mandated the committee to suggest possible long-term remedies to improve the stock of Australian cricket. Going by media reports, it now appears that most of the recommendations of the committee have not been implemented.
The English media has been gloating over the success of the cricket team as something that is the result of planning for a long time. The coaching staff led by Andy Flower and the cricket administration is given the credit for the success on the cricket field. There is no one who is going to deny the credit but all the talk about planning is something that does not go down well with me.
I am of the humble view that the decline of the Aussie cricket team has more to do with the overall decline of Australia in the sporting arena. Remember the number of Aussie medal winners in the London Summer Olympics of 2012? England or the United Kingdom is now experiencing a golden period of sporting excellence starting with the London Olympics and the latest being the winner in the Tour de France. There was a time when there were few world class athletes in England and now there are many across different disciplines. It will take time for Australia to rebuild and reclaim the top spot in cricket no matter who gets to coach or captain or who is called into the team.
Remember, what goes up, must come down.
Y V SAI MADHAV