Back in 2005, when Ricky Ponting led his side to a victory over England at Lords, there was a sense that Australia might just win the Ashes and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Eight years on, at the home of cricket, a place which was supposedly Australia’s home away from home, the Aussies were not just defeated, but were thoroughly outclassed and utterly humiliated.
After six successive losses, which saw most of their batsman trudging back to the pavilion before hitting double digits, the question on the lips of every Australian fan is this. How did, the once mighty Australian cricket team stoop so low?
Well, to be honest, the symptoms have been there for quite some time. It is just that nobody has been able to see through the malaise that has been slowing but steadily eating away at what, once was a truly great test side. Whilst there are plenty of reasons for the current downward spiral, a couple of things pop into the mind immediately.
First and foremost, is the marginalization of Grade and Shield cricket, which, for a very long time, was the breeding ground for future Australian stars. But right now, it is the last thing on the mind of Cricket Australia.
For as long as time immemorial, Grade cricket has been providing the platform for the next generation, whilst The Shield cricket, helped it mould the stars of tomorrow and make them more accustomed towards the way of the world, right now.
But, at this present moment, Grade cricket has fallen below the standards and isn’t capable of providing world class cricketers right away and The Shield has become something that is there as nothing but cannon fodder, whilst the prime cricketing months of December and January is now occupied by the new Twenty20 Big Bash League, making Shield cricket even more disjointed and something that is left for those, who are unable to cut it at the Big Bash.
This type of scheduling is a stark contrast to the fixtures now in place in England and India, Australia's two most recent tormentors, who have managed to find the right balance by providing the domestic players with some much needed stability, to help improve their ability to perform at the biggest stage of them all, at the International Test matches.
Whilst the scheduling of two of Australia’s most prominent tournaments is somewhat baffling, even if they were to be granted a place of greater centrality to the Australian summer, the second source of the problem is the quality of pitches.
The main reason why Australia is unable to provide any top quality batsman who is capable of staying at the crease for any length of time is due to the surprising lack of sporting pitches.
In Shield cricket, as state teams chase the outright results required to reach the final, they have begun preparing greener surfaces, which has seen a litany of low-scoring matches in the domestic circuit. Batsmen are thus lacking in confidence and technique, while bowlers are similarly less used to striving for wickets on unresponsive surfaces so often prepared in Tests.
The last and the final problem is the financial modeling of the Australian player payments. As ex-Australian coach Micky Arthur said: “You're getting a bigger salary cap for six weeks' work over the holiday period than you are for trying to make yourself a Test cricketer. I think that's the wrong way round."
And, as long as these problems remain uncorrected, Australia is likely to go through many more public executions, like the ones we witnessed at Lords and there is nothing Darren Lehmann, Michael Clarke or anybody else can do about it.
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