Cape Town – The Australian media have been so intent on
lambasting their national cricket team that “Peppermintgate”, featuring Test
series-winning South African captain Faf du Plessis, has been largely curtailed
to a mere sideshow.
Video footage has emerged, in the aftermath of the Proteas’
second successive victory over the Baggy Greens in the three-Test series at
Hobart, of Du Plessis chewing a mint in the field, sticking a finger into his
mouth and then vigorously shining the ball.
But the incident received notably limited coverage in most
major Aussie-based newspapers, with scribes clearly keener to pinpoint an array
of problems in the Baggy Greens’ Test camp; they have now surrendered five
matches on the trot in the format.
Thrashed by margins of 177 runs at the WACA and now an
innings and 80 runs at Bellerive Oval, critics have gone for the jugular
regarding Steve Smith’s beleaguered outfit.
Some of the sports-page lead headlines were pretty stark,
with national daily The Australian (www.theaustralian.com.au/)
splashing the words: “Disgrace to the Baggy Green”.
In writing terms, Greg Baum of the Melbourne Age (www.theage.com.au/) cut straight to the
chase: “It is the meekness that was so shocking. For so long the Australian
cricket team’s hallmark has been its swagger and braggadocio … no longer.
“Tuesday’s surrender (in the second innings at Hobart) was
even more abject than Saturday’s (first knock of 85 all out), trumping the
several in Sri Lanka.
“In an hour and a half, Australia lost 8-32, to follow 10-83
in the first innings, 10-86 in Perth, and 10-83, 9-52 and 6-22 in Sri Lanka,
each capitulation compounding on the next, each taking Australian cricket down
“Far from the cocky team even of last summer, they now look
like a dog with its tail between its legs, which is a start, because everyone
was wondering where the tail had gone.
“Not even in the dark hole of 2010-11, nor in the endless
‘middles ages’ of the 1980s was Australia this brittle.”
Baum said the Proteas’ part in the downfall should not be
underestimated: “They came here seemingly undermanned, even decimated, but in
fact were rejuvenated, as in made young again. They have demonstrated the one
quality Australia sorely lacks: resilience.”
Meanwhile in the Sydney Morning Herald (www.smh.com.au/) columnist Peter FitzSimons
ruefully inquired: “What the HELL is going on? I thought you’d never ask.
“The first and most obvious thing, based on their
performance in Hobart is that – beyond the skipper Steve Smith – barely anyone
seems to have a clue as to how to graft a
“Where did all those wafty shots we saw in Hobart come from,
those rushes of blood to the head, those needless snicks offered to balls that
never had to be played?
“To my eyes they looked like … the modern version of ‘hit
and run’ I used to play at school and family barbecues. It almost looked as if
the skills, the grunt of Test cricket had been lost by our mob.”
There has already been a post-Hobart casualty, with
selection chief Rod Marsh resigning.
But Australian writer for www.espncricinfo.com Daniel Brettig
suggests coach Darren Lehmann may not be safe either: “Lehmann had secured a long-term
contract extension in August, which, on the face of it, is expected to see him
through to the end of the 2019 Ashes series in England.
“However, as his predecessor Mickey Arthur can testify, a
coach’s contract is only so binding as the ability of the governing body to pay
it out if things get grim for the team. Lehmann was an excellent coach for an
older team, and initially seemed the right man to help develop a new captain in
“But he has been unable to arrest a batting slide that
began in Sri Lanka, and his attacking philosophies, often light on detail, seem
to require a greater technical and mental underpinning with this younger team.
“Should Cricket Australia move on Lehmann, Justin Langer
has already enjoyed a successful stand-in stint in the recent past, a
tri-series in the Caribbean.”
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writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing