Australian cricket is in crisis.
It’s taken us all by surprise, although in retrospect, it shouldn’t have. It’s simply mirroring our decline as a society.
When Darren Lehmann joined the Australian cricket team, he brought a sense of alphadom to the side. Lehmann was “taking back” Australia to the olden days. “Positive cricket” was the mantra. “Fast game’s a good game.”
We bought into it, because it sounded good. “See ball, hit ball.” In reality, it was a conscious decision to de-intellectualise cricket.
It was a refreshing change from the Mickey Arthur regime. I mean, he had the nerve to reprimand his players for failing to complete a task. And he was South African! Not one of us; an outsider. He had to go. Really, it was xenophobia at its finest.
But in this series, our un-nuanced, aggressive brand of cricket has been exposed as sheer insanity. Aside from Rogers – the final vestige of yesteryear – we are getting absolutely pantsed by a disciplined English bowling line up.
We just got rolled for 60, for fuck’s sakes. Stuart Broad is a good bowler, but is he ‘8 for 15’ good? I don’t think so.
Australia lacks nuance – and not just on the sporting field. Whether it’s our political discourse, discussions on race relations, or simply our conduct on the sporting field, we go hard and all-in, even when we’re completely at sea.
In fact, especially when we’re all at sea.
Do we have any strategy at all, other than to hit it hard, bowl it fast, and lip blokes relentlessly? Sadly, no.
When we’re under pressure, we’ll try and blindly fight our way out of it with a flurry of punches aimed at our opponent’s head. This is the Australian way. You will never make me feel weak. It’s the same strategy adopted by many major terrorist groups, funnily enough. Live by the sword. Die a martyr and be greeted by 72 virgins, or however many it is.
We should have someone more qualified in charge than Lehmann. I haven’t Googled his credentials, but I’d be surprised if he had a Level 2 coaching certificate, to be honest. He was picked on the basis he was “one of the boys,” and that the lads would “respond to him.”
Well, they’re not.
Why isn’t anyone calling for Lehmann’s head? We loved calling for the heads of previous coaches, but they weren’t the national treasure that Lehmann is. Is Lehmann free from scrutiny, simply because his personality resonates with BBQ-land Australia?
So one option is to get rid of Lehmann and put someone sensible in charge. Of course, this isn’t going to happen After all, this is who we are. Lehmann’s “see ball, hit ball” philosophy is all we have to work with.
The honest grafters – real ‘test match’ players like Ed Cowan – have been shoved aside for blokes who can smash the ball 150 metres and rocket a bounce throw from the deep midwicket fence. This is the Australian way.
It would take great courage for Cricket Australia to admit they’ve got this wrong. They’ll tell you that we just won a World Cup; that we very recently smashed England and India on home soil. That the investment in youth is paying dividends.
In reality, Australia has never been in such a dire situation.
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It’s not so long ago that this writer described a recent quote by Glenn Maxwell as exemplifying “everything that is wrong with Australian cricket and society in general.”
But maybe Maxwell was ahead of the curve, with his reverse sweeps and general disdain for decorum. Maxwell might just be the future of test cricket. Maybe test cricket, as we know it, is dead? Perhaps the days of 300-ball centuries are over? Maybe our fielders should be catching a ball one-handed with an ice cream in the other?
The joke is on us for expecting our batsmen to get through the swinging ball and show a bit of ticker under pressure. These players are paid millions of dollars, but what for? A team of professional cricketers getting all out for 60 before lunch in the deciding Ashes test is almost worthy of a Royal Commission.
Let’s just get silly. Let’s open the batting with Warner and Finch and chuck Maxwell in at 3. Anyone with a batting strike rate under 130% need not apply. Give Johnson the new rock and tell him to come exclusively around the wicket and lid the opposition into submission. Is Shaun Tait still around? Give him a game. Who cares if he leaks 8.6 runs an over. He’s fast, scary, and good for two consecutive overs.
Let’s just eschew all traditional test cricket values – patience, technique, application – and embrace what Australia has really become: an intellectual backwater, where alpha aggression and wilful ignorance are celebrated above all else.
Let’s win test matches in 1.5 days or be beaten in similar time.
By Dave Edwards