Beware the Aussie bounce back

January 8, 2009

It is difficult to criticise South Africa after their heroic performance Down Under and yet somewhere in the back of my mind I feel that they have given the Aussies something to hang on to and more depressingly for the rest of the cricketing world a chance to bounce back. Historically the Aussies have been revered for their never-say-die attitude in any sporting arena and the victory in Sydney may just be the kind of sliver of hope that will fire them all over again. What is also significant about the victory are the following:

1. All said and done, the Aussie bowling attack was not the best that they could have, would have, assembled on another day. I would like to believe that Bollinger and McDonald would most definitely make way for two out of Brett Lee, Stuart Clark and Shaun Tait. Krezja should have on all accounts been picked over Hauritz as Australia’s first choice spinner (was it Mr Hilditch and gang’s irrascibility or injury which kept Krezja out??).

2. Would not a fully fit Symonds or Watson find a place in a full strength Aussie team ? I would definitely think so.

3. The victory was achieved without any significant contributions in the first innings from any of the top line batsmen with the exception of Michael Clarke (damn Hashim Amla for dropping that sitter offered by Clarke). The match or at least the first innings would defintely have been turned on its head had the catch been taken.

4. The opening pair would definitely have a lot more to contribute (be it Phil Jacques, Chris Rogers or Shaun Marsh pairing up with the persevering Simon Katich).

5. And last but not the least Mitchell Johnson is definitely laying claim to be recognised as a dangerous all-rounder, the kind of bowler who can definitely be expected to chip in with a few crucial runs when the chips are down.

I think it is too early to write the Aussies off and celebrate the beginning of the end of their reign at the top. Granted, they do not seem as invincible as they used to be and the aura may have faded that little bit, but something tells me that the return series in South Africa will be the true assessment of any such hypothesis. And as Ricky pointed out in the post match presentation, in all the matches at various points they did have their noses ahead and it took inspired performances from some of the South Africans to pip the Aussies at the post. It was Smith, De Villiers and J P Duminy in Perth and Steyn, Duminy and a wagging tail in Melbourne. Taking nothing away from the Proteas, how often can teams come up with such inspired acts.

For a team that has so obviously wanted to beat the Aussies and which had every opportunity to complete a whitewash and humiliate the Aussies at home, it was amusing to read articles wondering whether the Proteas were suffering from the Dead Rubber syndrome. Me thinks the Clarke dropped chance and the prolonged absence of Graeme Smith from the field were the two most significant reasons for the result. A wounded Aussie pride as well.

One thing is for certain. South Africa, with more than a little help from India, have done much to restore the balance of power in World Cricket and Australia can no longer strut around like show ponies. Just turn up and collect the winners’ check.

The series in South Africa promises to be a rocker. Being an Indian and forced with no option but to watch the series on Star Cricket, I can do nothing more than bemoan the inconvenient time difference between SA and India from a cricket watching perspective. Will have to be ingenious and find a way of catching at least the crucial moments on television.


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