Well, holy crap, The Ashes is still going. For a series that has only used 14 of the 20 possible days so far, it seems to have been around long before the universe willed itself into existence with whatever force is science’s current preferred stance on that occurrence’s likeliest method. For us Australians still aware of The Ashes continued presence on the sporting landscape, we are aware that, mercifully, if recent form is anything to go by it shouldn’t take too long until it is all over.
Of course, the two and a half days of cricket until that unavoidable eventuality will no doubt feel like about two and a half months. It is interesting that a sport that holds itself up as the toughest examination of a sportsman’s will, can become comically one-sided if one of the combatants finds itself not up to such an examination.
For me, I will watch and hope for some kind of sign that a heart exists in the chest of at least one of our top six batsmen that isn’t Chris Rogers. I expect, however, to shake my head, or my fist, at my TV with every unnecessary defensive prod outside the off stump that claims a neat edge and gently whistles at waist height to the waiting English slip cordon.
Hopefully someone in the Australian coaching team have come up with a strategy other than “go hard at the ball”, or “sledge the opposition”, or “have a few beers with your mates”. I’d appreciate thoughts like, “leaving the ball”, or “having soft hands”, or “playing for swing”, or any such thought that doesn’t involve scoring at six an over and might result in “not going out”.
The series has been played in the English summer, and a very English summer it has been. English in the sense that they’ve been far too good. This is interesting in itself, because they’re not that good. More to the point, Australia has been so so so bad. Bad beyond the point of just not-good-enough bad, but well and truly into the incompetent, embarrassing, throw it out and restart kind of bad. Bad that says to Michael Jackson’s song Bad, “You’re not bad, I’m bad.” This is a level of bad that the Melbourne Football Club coach selection committee could only aspire to in its most uninhibited explorations of dreamland. They’ve been so bad.
Going out for 60 when you’re not in the under 12s is bad. It’s as bad as Iva Davies’ haircut while singing Electric Blue. It’s as bad as Sean Connery’s Russian accent in The Hunt For Red October, which was so very Scottish. Speaking of which, my faith in Australian batting is so low that my main hope is that the boys at the top of the order can “engage the silent drive”, otherwise known as a play-and-miss.
So, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson, Adam Voges and Shaun Marsh are all either retired or unlikely to participate too much in the baggy green much longer. It’s anyone’s guess who will replace them, but they are most likely all gone. That said, most of those haven’t even had good careers, and only Clarke could lay claims to being anything significantly more than good.
Despite his statistical claims to being a fine batsman and tactically sound captain, even some of his former teammates have laid the boots in after his retirement. For the modern era, there has been a ritual of each Test debutant having his baggy green cap presented to the eager young (well, maybe not Voges) cricketer by a former Test player. Perhaps it is time for a new ritual, whereby a retiring player has his cap taken back by a former teammate. For Clarke there is quite a list of players that honour could be bestowed to. Maybe Symonds, perhaps Hayden. My vote would be Simon Katich.
I’m being unkind, I know, but just imagine Simon Katich taking Clarke’s hat back off him. I’d watch the Test just for that. Maybe they could have an ex-WAGs section in the crowd as well, and Lara Bingle could sit up there with Sam Worthington and demand that cameramen stop “photo cameraing her”. That’d be ace. Aahh, let’s hope he shuts me up by taking a catch in his jocks.
On that, the signs were there all those years ago that Pat Rafter couldn’t control young, fairly happy with themselves sportsmen. A good bloke Pat; good at hitting balls and, interestingly enough, he knew not to hit the ball when his ball toss wasn’t quite right. Leaving the ball has always been important. He’s probably in the right age bracket for a debut into our top six too. Pity he’s not from New South Wales.
Hopefully we win. Imagine that! And if we don’t, let’s hope it’s all over by tea. That way I can concentrate on the footy. It looks like the Tigers might play finals for the third consecutive year. There are some important games coming up that will determine just who we are getting humiliated by in the Elimination Final. I can’t wait.
Yes, it has been an Inception level of weird time for Australian cricket. As with the new AFL Broadcasting Rights deal lengthening Bruce MacAvaney’s commentary career by another six years, the question must be asked: will this nightmare never end?