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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Is the Australian team past its prime?

The recent retirement of Adam Gilchrist will weaken the Australian team much more, after the last seasons high-profile good-byes. The Australian management would like the other teams to believe that they are not weakened by his retirement. Brad Haddin would be the front-runner for the position of the Aussie wicket-keeper. But, even he will agree that the shoes of Gilly are too big for his comfort. Though he has done well in the limited opportunities he has received so far, a full-time job would put more pressure on him. Typically, filling in for a regular player does not pressurize any batsman - for it is known that once the player recovers from injury/illness, he would take over his normal duties. Haddin is in a similar situation to that of Yuvraj Singh recently.

The Aussie middle-order of Hussey, Clarke, Symonds have not been able to match the exploits of the previous generation - Waugh brothers, Damien Martyn. Mr. Cricket has shown that he has his weaknesses in batting also - look at his batting averages in the current series against India for proof. Though it is much better than most of the other players in the series, it is less than the heights that he had set during his initial period. Clarke and Symonds have done well in this series - Clarke in fact, scoring 2 centuries in the series.

Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist have not managed to get the scoreboard ticking to a great extent. This has also resulted in the Aussie team under pressure during various points in the series. They have managed to get away from Matthew Hayden's presence at the top of the order. Once the big fella announces his retirement, Australia will struggle to get off to a good start. This was in evidence during the Perth test match, where two new openers perished in both innings to the swing and seam of Indian bowlers. Phil Jacques has done in the test series against Sri Lanka and India this season. How he will perform in his next season is a question - considering that the bowlers all over will have worked out his weakness areas.

The Aussie bowling have shown some glimpses of the old. But, they have not been able to repeat the exploits of an attack like Glenn Mcgrath, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee, Shane Warne. Brett Lee has put his hand up to fill in the leadership position, but the others have not shown the same abilities. The spinner slot, especially, is still a question - Brad Hogg seems to bat better than his bowling. Macgill is out due to injury. There is no other quality spinner coming down the production line - this is precisely the reason why Shane Warne has been contracted by the Aussie Board to identify young spinners.

It may not be such a concern just yet. The Aussies might still win the final test against India to finish 3-1. But, the Indians have shown the gaps in various areas in the mighty Australian team. They are no longer the Invincibles that everyone held in awe. The Indians have given a blueprint to the rest of the teams on how the mighty can be beaten. Will the others take the clues and improve their own game plans? Every one hopes and wishes that they do so. This will ensure that the playing field is levelled for all teams.
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