Fresh faces needed as the Australian dream fades
Monday 29 August 2005
Now Ponting has no choice. Attack is the only way forward. Certainly he can be proud of the way his team fought to the last. As Winston Churchill pointed out, though, wars are not won by valiant last stands. Australia was outplayed.
Australia cannot ignore their defeat. A response is required. Ponting can start by disposing of distractions. England may have played to the edge of the substitute rule. Batsmen are not, though, obliged to attempt risky singles. Nor is there any requirement to dwell on the ruses of reverse swing.
No one watching the recent matches can doubt that Michael Vaughan's outfit has become the superior side. Australia have been pushed back not by jiggery-pokery but by a ruthless and purposeful adversary.
Ponting is too intelligent a cricketer and too honest a man to ignore facts. He once called a press conference to admit that he had a drinking problem. He is also a wonderful cricketer and competitor. It is significant and unsurprising that the two Australians to emerge from these matches with the most credit have been Ponting and Warne. Yesterday Warne bowled majestically as he tried to defend the indefensible.
He had no luck and was once again let down by the umpires, as was Simon Katich. Now Ponting needs to take the fury that emerged at his dismissal into his captaincy. Like Andrew Flintoff, he has married well and become civilised.
Maybe he needs to restore a little of his youthful dynamism. His selectors can lend a hand. Had these events taken place at home, they would be considering changes. Australia's pace bowling has been toothless and the batting has been unconvincing. Senior players have been the worst offenders. Changes are required. Unfortunately the current squad offers few alternatives. Australia need a new opening partnership, a second spinner and a fifth bowler. The conclusion is unavoidable. Players must be drafted from outside the squad. Hayden looks out of sorts. Repeatedly he has survived the new ball only to lose his wicket to a loose stroke.
Often he has lent back on his drives and been taken in the slip cordon. Alas the time has come to replace him. Michael Hussey is the man to take his place. He has been in fine form and will sharpen the fielding. Never mind that he is not in the squad. Are the Ashes to be lost over trifles? Nor can Damien Martyn escape scrutiny.
Stuart MacGill must play as the fifth bowler. Australia must take 20 wickets or perish. Since pace is not working the time has come to try spin. Warne might appreciate the support. His fellow traveller's inclusion, though, upsets the balance of the side. Although his technique has been tightened by county cricket, Warne might contract a nosebleed at fifth wicket down.
Consideration must be given to calling Shane Watson into the squad. He has made a fine impression at Hampshire. Admittedly his batting has been better than his bowling but he is young, strong and hungry. Brett Lee has bowled and batted his heart out and deserves support.
McGrath's return could be crucial. Australians are at their most dangerous when they attack.
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