Dingo’s Ashes Thoughts: Monkeying Around

2 11 2010

Monkeys are funny animals. Comical little blighters leaping about in trees; jabbering away to each other and generally having a good ol’ time. In fact the only time they are a real issue is when one has managed to get on your back. Then you have a real problem.

The Wallabies – a team who have long been suffering from an All Black version of this simian curse – have, with one glorious swing of James O’Connor’s right boot, managed to finally rid itself of one large black monkey. However, the annoying thing about monkeys is, just when you think you’ve got rid of the little bugger, you catch him peeping round the corner eyeing up his new prey.

Right now it’s the Baggy Greens who have that eerie feeling of being watched.  With five losses in a row and a confident England team touching down in Australia for another richly anticipated Ashes duel; this is one monkey that is certainly not welcome.

England enter this series in the unfamiliar role as favourites. A tag which has been granted not wholly, you have to say, on their own merits; but probably more accurately reflects the Aussies limitations and inefficiencies rather than anything else.

Australia’s inability to handle high quality spin as well as bowl it are well documented and England carry with them a trump card in No. 1 ranked spinner, Graeme Swann. Swann’s control when the ball gets old will go a long way to decide the outcome.

Both teams batting lacks in confidence with England’s line-up mostly unproven on Australian pitches. To balance this out, however, Australia’s lack of self belief is only too evident. Ultimately the winner of this series might be the first team to grab the initiative and start believing in themselves.

From Australia’s point of view, this undertone of low self confidence is only a small part of the problem. The fickle Australian public is also rapidly losing belief in their once great team. TV and Stadium attendance numbers are falling even faster than their ICC ranking. Twenty20 cricket provides a fun and exciting addition to the stable although the over saturation of games in the end only compounds the issue. As gripping as a series against the old foe or India maybe; like a man who’s eaten five dollar steaks for a week, being offered a wagyu fillet at the end of it just isn’t as appetizing.

With every loss an increased sense of urgency to regain past glories becomes more and more apparent. Being told the reasons for these defeats is due to losing a “once in a generation” collection of players doesn’t sit well with an expectant fan. Positive results are demanded. And now.

The media asks Ponting and Hussey to find veins of form similar to the over heralded re-birth of Sachin Tendulkar. Yet comparing mere mortals to one of that magnitude only asks for disappointment. Clarke is pretty yet lacks real grit. North fails more often than succeeds. Only Watson comes into the Ashes with any real form. The bowling ranks are simply shell shocked.

The Australian game is in decline. The youth less and less interested in playing serious cricket past their early teens and the marketing juggernauts of the NRL and AFL are beginning to make serious inroads into Cricket Australia’s precious resources. A way needs to be found to reengage the imagination of a once loyal fan base.

An Ashes series win would be a handy start.

All things go in cycles so perhaps it’s just a case of wait and see. It might be a mental issue that needs to be worked out – if so it’s up to the selectors and coaches to find the cure – or it might be more fundamental than that.

Either way this is a country that demands winners and one thing’s for sure – it can’t abide a monkey with a cheeky look on his face.




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