- Australia are being outplayed in the fourth and final Test against the
Proteas at the Wanderers, but there is a bigger picture at play.
The series is technically still
alive, with the Proteas 2-1 ahead, but the depleted Australians look they have
one foot on the plan back home already.
Who could blame them?
It has been a week from hell that
has seen their captain and one of their biggest superstars banned for a year
after admitting their role in the ball-tampering incident to have emerged
during the Newlands Test.
Their coach has also announced
that he will be standing down at the end of the series and, most importantly, they
have lost the respect of their own supporters in Australia.
It has been the darkest of times
for Australian cricket, and it has forced them into a re-think in terms of how
they play their cricket.
This, it seems, could be the
death of the in-your-face, win at all costs Australian approach that has been a
hallmark of their culture for most of the modern era.
For the moment, Tim Paine has been tasked with leading
the revolution and he started by orchestrating team handshakes before the start
of play on Friday.
Paine is not sure of what
Australian cricket's long-term plan is for him, but he says he will do whatever
he can to turn the image of Australian cricket around.
"We’re taking it one day at
a time and slowly trying to win back the respect of the cricket world, the fans
and the Australian public. We know we’ve got a long way to go," he said
after day one.
"We still want to keep a
really competitive brand of cricket, but we’ve got to be more respectful of our
opposition and the game of cricket.
"At times we’ve tended to
push the boundaries as far as we possibly could, and we’ve seen that people
don’t like that. It’s time for us to change."
There was almost a sense of
relief that came from Paine when talking about the decision to change the
"We’re happy to do
that," he said.
"I think it actually suits
this group of players. We’re a different group of players than what Australia
have had for a long time. There are not too many guys that like to verbalise
and have that hard-nosed Australian approach.
"We’re about creating a new environment
where guys can come in and play cricket and just be themselves. I think if we
can achieve that we’ll have better results as well."