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Aussies going the way of the Windies?
by Gulu Ezekiel
Jul 02, 2005
The signs are unmistakable that Australia’s grip on the Ashes which has lasted 20 years is likely to come to an end this summer in England.

The Aussies could still come back and win the NatWest final against England on Saturday. But even though form in the one-day game is not always an accurate barometer for five-day Test matches, the cracks are clearly beginning to show.

All things come to an end and in sport particularly no team or individual can stay unbeaten forever. Just ask Tiger Woods or Michael Schumacher. Or the West Indian cricket team of the 80s.

Australia have been supreme in Test matches since dethroning the West Indies in 1995. In the one-day game, their domination began once Steve Waugh took over from Mark Taylor in 1998 and continued through two World Cup tournaments (1999 and 2003).

But the first signs of the mask of invincibility slipping were evident when India ran the world champions pretty close in their own backyard in the 2003-04 Test series.

Age - which in the case of sportspersons is when they cross 30 - has a nasty habit of slowing down the reflexes and lowering the strength and energy levels of even those at the top. In cricket this is particularly the case with fast bowlers and batsmen.

Spinners on the contrary appear to improve with age. More than half this current side is on the wrong side of 30 and this appears to be a major factor in their recent slide. With the amount of cricket being played around the world these days, all that wear-and-tear makes life that much more difficult for the modern cricketer.

Australia’s defeat at the hands of Bangladesh in the tournament was shocking beyond words. In the context of ODIs it probably ranks with Kenya stunning the West Indies in the 1996 World Cup match at Pune. It must be remembered though that the Windies at that time were not reigning world champions as the Aussies currently are.

England then rubbed salt in the wounds of their traditional rivals and even though both sides expectedly made it to the final of the tri-series, the Australian performance right through has lacked their usual fizz and sparkle.

England on the other hand under the leadership of Michael Vaughan have gone from strength to strength in the last 18 months and look currently at the peak of their form.

Plus, in the form of Kevin Pietersen they have a man capable of turning an entire series much the way Ian Botham did in 1981. The entire English nation is backing their boys to win back the Ashes and the tourists are beginning to show signs of a siege mentality, always a major concern for a touring team.

Another troubling sign for the champions are their problems off the field. The shenanigans of Shane Warne and Andrew Symonds cannot be casually brushed aside. All these issues tend to chip away at a side’s confidence till the cracks turn into a widening chasm.

It’s certainly going to be a sizzling summer ahead for cricket fans around the world, even the neutral ones.

 
More Views by Gulu Ezekiel
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