On the Front Foot: Aussie empire crumbles as lots fail to get picked for IPL

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The Independent Online

Nothing so embodied Australia's fall from grace than what happened on Friday. No, not their one-day defeat by New Zealand. That was a commonplace event, it being their fifth consecutive limited-overs reversal. No, what really told the story was what happened in Goa, hippy hangout and scene for the second IPL player auction, the two not being one and the same thing. A year ago, Australians were plucked for the inaugural IPL like grapes from a Barossa Valley vineyard. But of the 17 Australians who made themselves available to play in this Twenty20 tournament, only two were recruited. It spoke volumes about a crumbling empire. True, the marquee names were signed on three-year contracts in 2008 and others, such as the freestyle hitter David Warner, had already been enlisted by individual franchises before the auction. But that cannot disguise the fact that Australian cricket has taken a hit after a string of poor results by a clearly struggling national team. The only pair signed were Shaun Tait (who now has a hamstring injury) for $375,000 (£254,000) and the unsung George Bailey for a mere $50,000 (£34,000). Stuart Clark and Brad Haddin were unsigned. That this happened on the day the Kiwis beat them again to take a 2-0 lead in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy was grist to the doom-mongers' mill. And there was more. It emerged that Simon Katich and Michael Clarke were engaged in a scuffle during the Sydney Test at new year about singing the team anthem, 'Under The Southern Cross'. Since the song is the glue that binds the team together and leading the singing of it is a job almost as esteemed as the captaincy itself, the issues are beginning to run deep. Can't play, can't sing either.

Pietersen bows to Master

It is beginning to seem that Kevin Pietersen utterly dominates England's batting. He was top scorer again in the first innings of the First Test in Kingston. Wasn't it ever thus? Actually, not quite. Although Pietersen has been top scorer in England's innings a commendable 19 times in his 84 Test innings, it by no means makes him superior in this regard. It means he has been leading run-getter in an innings on 21.69 per cent of occasions, behind 15 other batsmen who played at least 20 Tests. Jack Hobbs, known as The Master, was top scorer 31 times, or in 31 per cent of his innings, still well behind the most dominant of all, George Headley, who did it 15 out of 40 times for West Indies, or 37.5 per cent. But Pietersen has scored 16.1 per cent of the team's runs in his career, behind only six other players in England's history.

No mention of Headley ton

Speaking of Headley, there is a feeling the West Indies Cricket Board, not for the first time, has missed a trick at Sabina Park. This is the centenary of the birth of the great man, their first legendary batsman, who scored 10 centuries in 22 Tests. He was born in Jamaica, but so far not a mention.

In memory of Bob

Wandering into the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, a few yards away from England's quarters, was an eerie experience. The last time was during the 2007 World Cup, when Bob Woolmer died in his room there. As his death was pronounced wrongly as murder, sparking an uncontrolled media storm, no cricket person will ever be able to enter the hotel again without thinking of him.