Saturday, October 24, 2009

Still the team to beat

For the last few years we are speculating on the decline of Oz from their lofty standards. Much of it is true.

"Australian cricket team is on a downward spiral" - I bet you heard that before. They lost major players in a succession. The other teams were catching up. Their two major contenders for the top position, India and South Africa, were taking turns at putting the once invincible Kangaroos on a frying pan. 2008 was a particularly bad year for them.

This is October 2009. They have beaten South Africa in their own backyard earlier this year. The away Ashes was once again a poor campaign for the 'declining team'. They did excellently in the ODI series against the old foes though. The mid-year struggle returned to haunt them at the T20 World Cup. They fared poorly.

But then they came back and grabbed the ICC Champions' Trophy while the other two major contenders struggled. The just concluded Champions' League T20 Cup at India also had a similar story to unveil. Home teams (Indians) struggled and petered out before semis. South African Cobras were upstaged by dark horses Trinidad & Tobago - oh-so-familar. New South Wales, from Down Under, stole the thunder and ended up at the finishing line.

Australia's Test supremacy is no more a given. There was not an iota of that awe-inspiring dominance of recent past in their Oneday or T20 wins of 2009. Their form has been on a swing ever since the Glenn-Shane combo walked away into their glorious sunset.

Yet they still are the team to beat. Dhoni and his men would have done a world of good to their abysmal limited overs performances of past 3 months if they manage to put up a good show against this team. And he will do well for himself if he can take a few tips on his opposite number Ricky Ponting on how to 'turn tides'. Ricky hasn't quite done it as grandly as that term suggests, but he has done enough to keep the hope afloat for his team and have his mates believing that they are still at the top. That is what you need for your next moment of glory.

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