We care too much about beating England
The original headline for this piece was “Ashes myopia the root cause of ineptitude”. Then I decided to say it in everyday language. Because Australia’s incompetence in this Ashes series, notwithstanding today’s excellent fightback with the ball, has a simple foundation.
In short, we care about beating England too much. While Australia has spent 18 months building for this series, and this series alone, England has been busy building a strong cricket team for all occasions.
While Australia has been hell-bent on Ashes revenge, England has focused on Australia as just one obstacle on its climb to the top of cricket’s tree. Let me explain with two contrasting anecdotes.
In October 2009, a couple of months after the Ashes loss in England, I interviewed Australian wicket-keeper Brad Haddin about the upcoming summer of cricket against the West Indies and Pakistan.
You’ll recall it was that woeful, lopsided summer which desperately warranted a mercy killing.
So OK, even before that summer you could tell there would be modest fare on offer. But do you think Haddin had anything at all to say about the Windies and Pakistan beyond a cursory quote or two? Anything? Bueller?
Forget it. All he could talk about was the revenge mission against England 13 months down the track.
Contrast that with English all-rounder Paul Collingwood, who I bumped into in a Faux Irish pub in a hotel in Delhi. As you do. Over a frothy beer which went extremely well with the local cuisine, I asked him if I could grab a few quotes on the record.
“I’ll talk to you mate,” Collingwood said. “But not about The Ashes. I’m here to play IPL cricket. Let’s talk about that.”
If you extrapolate from those two examples, you’ve got a pretty good idea of the respective headspaces of England and Australian cricketers over the last year.
England have used their 2009 Ashes triumph as a springboard to greater things across the cricketing globe. As individuals and as a team, they have grown.
Australian cricketers have shrunk in stature, their collective eyes narrowed into Ponting-like slits as they focus solely on The Ashes.
Yes, we still beat the minnows of world cricket (for now, anyway). But any time we play someone half decent, like India or South Africa, or even Pakistan on neutral territory (as we did in England in July), we struggle.
Part of the problem here is the skipper. Never mind the 5-0 drubbing we dished out on our own soil five years ago. When Ponting lost his second straight Ashes series in England, he should have been promptly relieved of duty.
Was it not Oscar Wilde who said: “to captain one Ashes series loss is unfortunate, to do it twice looks like carelessness”?
Yet Ponting was allowed to continue his personal anti-England crusade. And despite today’s better signs, we’ve all seen how well that’s turned out so far.
Imagine, for a minute, if we’d blooded a new skipper after England. Could’ve been Clarke, could’ve been Katich, could’ve been anyone.
Whoever we picked, there would have been a totally different mood pervading the (admittedly weak) Australian side, instead of the defeated rabble we’ve seen almost every session this series.
But picking a new skipper was never going to happen. That would have entailed thinking broadly about the future, rather than just the current series against England.
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@mooks83 sophisticated response. Think the kids parents saw it differently
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