Australian cricket: What has gone wrong?
The era of dominance is well and truly over for Australia
With back-to-back Ashes series taking place this year and the first series in England looming large - why are Australia no longer the feared opposition they once were?
England will no doubt enter the first Test as clear favourites to retain The Ashes, which is a huge turnaround given the dominance that Australia have had over England for a number of years.
The tide certainly turned in 2005 when England captured The Ashes with in one of the greatest test series ever witnessed.
Since then, Australia have seen a constant stream of retirements from some of the greatest cricketers ever to wear an Australian baggy green cap. The likes of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Ricky Ponting, the Waugh twins and Matthew Hayden, to name just a few, are very difficult to replace.
Some may say impossible to replace as they are a one-off golden generation. They set the standards and dictated games with their typical Aussie boisterousness, in addition to plenty of skill. That no longer exists in today's side. Only Michael Clarke has the talent to play in previous Australian teams and he has carried his side over the last couple of years with some fantastic personal performances. Have the Aussies been complacent? It is a well known saying that you should strengthen whilst at your strongest but Australia were so used to winning tournaments and series that perhaps they could never see this day ever coming.
The rise of England has also coincided with Australia's fall. The ECB have undergone a overhaul of English cricket after numerous debacles and this culminated in their 2005 success. It was a watershed for English cricket just as much as Australian cricket. 2005 saw Australia lose their invincibility and give every England player hope for the future.
Australia always had a settled side and if changes were necessary through injury then you knew the next player to step up would be equally adept in that same position. For years there were players such as Stuart McGill, Michael Bevan, Greg Blewitt and Darren Lehman who were unable to gain a settled test spot because of the quality of competition for places.
These players were performing week in, week out, at State or County level but their test places were never assured.Now we witness Aussies still plying their trade in our County cricket but they lack that air of invincibility that they once had. Will they ever get it back?
Have English players now got rid of that mental block that we once had. The recent indiscipline of Aussie opener David Warner is not an excuse that Australian cricket can hide behind for their recent defeats. Australia are not alien to controversy, just ask Mark Waugh and Shane Warne. They kept on winning game after game despite other issues going on.
Australia need to assess where they are and what they need to do to get to where they want to be. Cricket is their number one sport so they need to get it right and get it right quickly.
Perhaps they now need to look towards England for some inspiration? Many Aussies will inhale a deep breath when they hear that but England certainly has found a winning formula over recent years so they must be doing something right.
I for one don't think The Ashes will be as one-sided as many people think, Australians will certainly put up a fight as it is in their DNA, but I do believe England will win both the home and away series' comfortably in the end.
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