It’s not who wins but how you play the game. This is a line my PE teacher ingrained in us during our sports lessons in high school. As I left the boundaries of a school field and worked my way into the playing field of life, I realised that the only reason that line stood true was because I was playing with my friends. In an unfamiliar environment, paired with people I hardly knew – my desire to win consumed me. In my opinion this is exactly the case with the Aussie team at the moment. In recent years I have lost my passion and love for the game as much as I have for my side. To put it very simply they lack the flair, talent and cohesiveness that made their predecessors such a joy to watch and most likely also caused them to win. The 11 players playing the Ashes as the ‘Australian team’ is a ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ bag who show no team spirit at all. But does this mean Australia will lose the Ashes? Again?
It’s not been a great year for the Aussies. We go into the Ashes with the last four matches played all losses and we are up against a side that has won or drawn its last nine matches and shows considerably more organisation and team building efforts than us. We’ve lost players to homework gate, bar fights and petty in house squabbling. We’ve switched coaches days before the game and lost McDermott as bowling coach – the ramifications of which are noticeable already in Siddle’s performance. But what’s the cause of all of this? Where did the glory and ‘world class’ side go?
Australian cricketers are forever going on about how much of an honour it is to play for their country. This honour comes from upholding the legacy of great cricket each captain has handed down to the next. When Taylor took over from Border he was given men who had talent but it was up to him to continue the legacy of great captaincy that Border had established and upheld. In just under a decade Allan Border had captained 93 test matches and won or drawn 71. This kind of streak only comes from a captain that knows his men inside out and has bonded with them to be able to command respect and guide them to success on and off the field. Border says, ‘It took me a long time to work out that there is more to captaincy than simply walking out with the team. Sometimes just being there sent the right message. Even doing little things such as carrying the drinks or throwing balls in the nets helps because it is the captain setting an example.’ Taylor carried this responsibility and this upheld the legacy. In 5 years he captained 50 test matches of which his side lost only 13. He left a team to Steve Waugh that captains can only dream about. A team that moved and played like a family – a very talented and successful family! Both Border and Waugh have been quoted in recent interviews stating that this is exactly what the Aussie team needs and is lacking right now. Leadership and team spirit.
Steve Waugh captained one of the most fantastic teams of all time, with men like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting, he won 28 of his 46 Ashes Tests, losing only eight and he recently gave a bit of advice to Clarke on the right attitude to have as a captain. “A team will be a reflection of its leader and as such, Clarke needs to be energised without being over the top, focused but also open to improvisation, but above all, controlled and authoritative under pressure. What we did well back in 1989, and must be emulated by Clarke’s men, is to play the ‘Aussie way’. “This means backing yourself in all situations, attacking rather than retracting, exuding positive body language, hustle when running between the wickets, exhibiting energy in the field and batting and bowling in partnerships. “They must display an element of ‘mongrel’ in the play and not back down when confronted,” Waugh, added, using the classic Australian term for aggression. “They must claim the high ground and put their flag well and truly in the turf.”
Just reading those words makes me believe the absolute cohesive energy Waugh’s side had and it helps me recall many fantastic cricketing moments that defined my childhood. THIS is exactly what this Aussie side needs and it needs it RIGHT now. A good dose of discipline and leadership from the coach and captain and a great dose of self-enforced diligence, humility and conformity from the players. I never really liked Ponting – to me it seemed he was wilfully arrogant – and yet I respected his captaincy. He bonded with his team and led them to victory on numerous occasions with a discipline and strategy fitting the ‘best team in the world’. This tag sadly passed with his captaincy and the resignation of the last ‘glory players’ of the side.
With no Gilchirst, Lee, Mcgrath, Ponting and now not even a Warner… what exactly does the Australian side have going for them?
Michael Clarke – Yes he needs a lot of work as a captain as Border says, “There have been some observations about Michael not going to Champions Trophy games when he had a back injury, yet turning up to Shane Warne’s charity game. On the surface this doesn’t seem to be a big deal, but with a bit of turmoil going on I don’t believe it was a good public relations exercise. When he had his back injury in India, I think he should have stayed with the team for the last Test rather than return home.” But then he adds, “ I know Michael will be up for the challenge of being the off-field leader the side needs.” Let’s hope he’s right. Because as a player in his element Clarke can be a formidable force to be reckoned with.
Ashton Agar –Agar is from Melbourne and “at the age of 19 he has a place in the squads of Western Australia, the Perth Scorchers, and also the national team, having sensationally been upgraded from an internship on the 2013 tour of India to a more expansive role in Michael Clarke’s squad”. Agar is included on the strength of only ten first-class matches and his selection appears “geared towards exploiting England’s right-handers, while also opening up a familiar wound for Kevin Pietersen”. ‘His leftarm orthodox is his No.1 craft but he gives a lot with the bat and is a brilliant fieldsman, a great package. He is a great kid, loves the game, working hard and a great temperament to hold him in good stead.” Hussey told the Herald Sun
Siddle, Pattinson and Starc – Here’s hoping these players bring their aggression and passion to the field. Siddle and Pattinon knows how to play against England and would be counted on to make a few early upsets and Starc is a late swinging left hander and probably Australia’s best bowler to take crucial wickets.
And who’s the competition?
England skipper and star opening bat Alastair Cook and seamer James Anderson. Cook and Anderson have been installed as the early favourites to score the most runs and take the most wickets during the Ashes series, which if it happens will almost certainly mean the famous urn remaining with England. Cook was by far the leading run scorer in that 2010-11 series in Australia, posting 766 runs, with the next best being the now retired Aussie Mike Hussey with 570. And Anderson was the leading wicket taker in that series with 24 scalps. England’s best bowler would be Stuart Broad who took the most wickets for England (18) the last time the Ashes were held in England in 2009.
The line-up is complete and the time has come to put the pedal to the metal. Whatever the outcome this Ashes will show exactly what kind of men this Australian side is made of and point to the future of cricket in the Australian side. Let’s hope the negativity and politics can take a backseat to teamwork, talent and great cricket. Let the games begin!