How Australian is Clarke?


South Africa v Australia - 3rd Test: Day 5



So South Africa, despite beating Australia away in their last two series there, are still to beat them since readmission at home. They came pretty close to another drawn series, 4 overs close, but Australia struck at the end to win the series, a series that really should be longer than three matches.

What’s really stood out for me in this Australian side, bar one idiot, has been the spirit and class which they have played. All three Tests were hard fought and took the on field battle to the edge at times. Australia don’t play quiet, it’s one of the reasons they have been dominant in the 90’s and early 2000’s – a mental disintegration of there opponents that takes place before and during each match. Back in the 90’s and early 2000’s South Africa have had teams that could compete skills wise with the all conquering Waugh and Ponting teams, but mentally were found wanting in the 50/50 plays that decide matches and series. This is an altogether tougher Proteas team, thanks to Smith, and crossing that barrier has lead to series wins away in England, Australia and the sub continent. So to see the emotion and fight out on the field between the two teams was evidence of the passion they have for their countries and their sport.

Knowing where the line is, is as important as knowing when to attack and fight, and when to step away. This is where Michael Clarke has lead by example, and bar David Warner, the rest of his team have followed suit. Mitchel Johnson and the attack would try and take your head off, snarling fire and were never short of a suggestion to the batsman, but each milestone passed by the batsman was met with applause and a handshake when they walked from the field. They recognized the spirit of the game and gave respect to who they were playing. This class within the team was no more evident than after Warner had made a few stupid remarks about AB de Villiers treatment of the ball in a press conference, and Ryan Harris later told reporters he didn’t think the Proteas had done anything wrong, they were just better at executing their skills than Australia were in that lost Test. On the perhaps the tensest day of the series, the last day of the deciding Test, after Australia had a decision overturned on review, emotions were high, with South Africa doing a brave job of battling for a draw and Australia tireless running in trying to get the win, their were a few words said between the Australians and Dale Steyn, with Clarke getting involved and the umpires having to separate them and have a word with Clarke about their behaviour. In the next break in play Clarke was seen going up to Steyn and apologizing. In the heat of a passion and emotion filled day things are said, and lines crossed, but recognizing when you’ve stepped over and addressing that is a class move, and Clarke showed plenty of that throughout the series. At the post match press conference he was again apologetic and took full blame and responsibility for it.

Teams have been used to be sledged, bullied and pushed around by Austalian sides in the past, sides that had the beating of others in terms of skill, but also on the mental side of the game, not allowing soft teams an inch. It has left things bitter in some regards, there’s no love lost between Harbajan Singh and the Australians, but when a side lead by someone like Clarke, and a side that follows his example, plays in the correct spirit, hard but fair, you can’t help but show a bit of admiration. Even if they are Australia.

India Need the “Fab Four” – for Now.


India begin their home Test series against Australia today. The series comes with its fair share of baggage, after the controversies and ill feeling between the two sides that dominated the Test series in Australia earlier this year, a series that Australia won 2-1, but will be remembered more for the public mud slinging that went with each game.

While this series presents India with a chance at revenge, an opportunity to set things right, and gives Australia the chance to show the world that they are still the best team around, with a general feeling that the once mighty baggy greens are a team there for the taking, with a host of retirements to their aging, but dominant team.

While talk has been dominated by references to the last series between the two sides the Indian team have had other media distractions to contend with. The naming of the squad brought about much debate about the inclusion of Ganguly and the “Fab Four” of Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Ganguly, in general. Ganguly’s form of late has not been great. The “Fab Four” have just shown glimpses of their past greatness in recent years and there has been wide spread call for their axing, and for a more youthful Test line up. After the failure of the ODI team in the last World Cup many of the older members of the team, including Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman, have been left out of the ODI and T20 teams, as the selectors have favoured youth.

There have even been whispers that a deal has been struck with some, if not all, of the four, where they will be given this series as one final hurrah, they will be picked no matter what their individual form, and then they will retire. Ganguly has thus far been the only one of the four to announce that he will indeed be retiring after this series.

Former England batsman, and now commentator and writer, Geoffrey Boycott has suggested that the time may be now for the Indian legends to say goodbye. He even went as far as to suggest that one of the reasons for them prolonging their careers may be for the endorsement deals that go a long with being an Indian cricketer. That may or may not be the case, but he does go to make some valid points, such as the fact that Tendulkar now seems to be injured more than he is fit, and that the foursome are not the once awesome force that they once were, and don’t make the impact that is needed by the team to win series. Perhaps the best point that Boycott makes however turns out to be one in favour of their inclusion. There are no better replacements.

It’s all well and good crying out for the inclusion of young blood, but what is the point if these new players aren’t good enough? Indian cricket is blessed with an abundance of potential stars, but are they ready for a Test series? More to the point, are they ready for a series against Australia? Without the baggage of the last series this would be a hard and testing series, as much about mental strength as it is about cricketing talent. With the goings on of the last series this just becomes more intense. It would be asking to much to take away the batting spine of the team over the last decade and throwing in some new players, based solely on domestic form, in what could be the hardest series they will ever play in. That just seems like a recipe for failure, and a potential stunting of careers that have yet to begin.

Ganguly, Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman have nothing to prove to India or the cricket world. They all have great individual records, with Dravid and Tendulkar having exceptional records. Ganguly is also the most successful Indian captain of all time. Age does however catch up to us all. They can decide how and when they want to end their careers. Shaun Pollock called time on his when he was still at the top of his game and was given a heroes reception at each of his final games during the series against the West Indies. They can go down that path, or they can continue on until they are forced out. Ganguly perhaps saw the writing on the wall and decided this was the way he wanted to leave. A big performance in this series will ensure he leaves as a hero.

If this were a series against a weak team then perhaps it would be the time to begin a new chapter in Indian Test cricket, one without the “Fab Four” and the time to blood new talent would present itself. However against Australia, where the mind needs to be stronger than the body at times, India needs its old guard. What it needs the most though is for them is performance, domination, and a glimpse at the past. If only for one last time.