SA in Australia

Turmoil in Aussie cricket

2009-02-02 10:44
Captain of a sinking ship (Gallo Images)
Rob Houwing

Cape Town – Australian cricket appears to be shifting closer to full-blown crisis, just over two weeks from departure for the return series in South Africa.

The media fallout from the dual surrender of the home Test and ODI series to the Proteas has begun, with the national mood not helped by narrow defeat to trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in the first one-dayer at the WACA on Sunday.

Hot on the heels of that reverse came news that captain Ricky Ponting will be pulled out of the second encounter on Friday and possibly the rest of the Kiwi series.

Peter Lalor wrote in The Australian national newspaper on Monday: “A captain is supposed to stay with a sinking ship, but … the selectors have decided to rest Australia’s skipper for at least the next three games, fearing he will either drown on the deck or die of exhaustion from the constant call to man the pumps.

“Ponting, 33, has played a Herculean role, carrying the side through the summer. His physical workload has been exacerbated by the strains of captaincy during the team’s below-average performances.

“Ponting looked tired (against New Zealand) and fell victim to an error of judgment that caused him to be run out for five.”

Lalor reported that Dave Warner, who has been markedly less successful since his rip-roaring start in international cricket in the Twenty20 series against the Proteas, “has apparently snuck into the side under false pretences” after “pushing the ball around and failing to do the job expected of him.”

He also said that other opener Shaun Marsh apparently tore a hamstring at the WACA and looked likely to miss the rest of the five-match series.

Ponting’s predecessor as national captain, Steve Waugh, was quoted on Cricinfo questioning the decision to rest the skipper – he said it was difficult to justify players resting from representing their country when they were happy to sign on for extra duties such as the Indian Premier League.

Meanwhile in the Sydney Morning Herald, Jamie Pandaram wrote: “Wounded after the South African rout, Australia are now in disarray after New Zealand smothered them in Perth … it was a capitulation of stunning magnitude.

“Ponting had repeated meetings with his bowlers but their deliveries were often sloppy, and they conceded 23 sundries (extras) to New Zealand’s two.”

In the same paper, respected neutral critic and former Somerset captain Peter Roebuck suggested Australian cricket was labouring because youth development was being stunted.

“Provincial players are hanging on as long as they can. They are clogging up the works and Australian cricket needs to find a ruthless response.

“State teams are getting older. The average age is about 27, roughly the same as life expectancy in Zimbabwe. Among contracted players, only a handful (five percent) are under 22. Contrastingly, 23 percent are over 31. The average age of the Queensland squad is 29.4 … Andrew Bichel is still available, for goodness sake!”

There was stinging ridicule for Aussie bowling resources by pace legend Jeff Thomson in the Sydney-based Sunday Telegraph.

Larger-than-life “Thommo” said South Africa would continue to feast on an attack “like a third-grade club side”.

He accused the Australian ODI bowlers of “gun-barrel bowling … no creativity.”

On the possibility of the indisputably rapid but unpredictable Shaun Tait being selected for the Test party, Thomson said: “You can’t pick (him), seriously. He runs out of puff in a limited-overs match.”

Turning to left-arm paceman Mitchell Johnson, Thomson added: “He looks tired; he’s bowling so round-arm at the moment you may as well call him Mitchell Malinga (a reference to Sri Lanka’s unorthodox Lasith Malinga).”


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