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On the Front Foot: 'Australia will never win the Ashes again' – the view in 1987


Some harsh words have been spoken and written about the state of Australian cricket. Here is a sample. “If the Australians continue to flounder, interest will fall away, not only at the grounds but also in the viewing figures. Even interest in one-day cricket will fall off if Australia are beaten regularly by the likes of New Zealand or India or Sri Lanka. The Australian Cricket Board already is concerned about the standard of the game there.”

That severe warning was written not last week. It came 26 years ago in the 1987 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack shortly after England had won the Ashes for the second successive time. It was even mooted in some quarters that things were so bad that Australia would never win the Ashes again. What happened then was that they won eight successive series, became easily the world’s best side for around 15 years and produced a handful of the best cricketers ever to play the game. Those prepared either to gloat about the present state of the Aussies or, worse, to patronise them would do well to remember that. On the other hand looking at them now, it is hard to see them troubling England any time soon.

Wasim’s lesson in love

Many congratulations are due to Wasim Khan for the award of the MBE in the Birthday Honours List. Khan is the chief executive of Chance to Shine, which was established eight years ago to reintroduce cricket to state schools. The mission will never be complete, but so far it has reached almost two million children in more than 6,000 schools and recognised the vital need for those schools to be linked to clubs. It will take years yet to see the upshot, but it may eventually ensure that not every member of the England team learned their craft on a public-school playing field. Khan, who learned the game in Solihull after his family came to England from Kashmir, opened the batting for Warwickshire and Sussex. But he seems to have taken a love of cricket to another level. In his autobiography, Brimful of Passion, he wrote: “It’s not often in life that you get to do something that stirs your very soul.”

Memories are made of this

It always brings a wry smile to the face when Mike Atherton interviews Kumar Sangakkara on television. The pair chatted the other night at The Oval after Sangakkara had made a masterful unbeaten hundred against England, and were polite and clearly replete with mutual respect. But in the mind’s eye was that third evening in Kandy in March 2001, when the two squared up to each other on the pitch in one of the most ill-tempered of all Tests. Sangakkara was a young turk then and ruffled the famously unrufflable Atherton with perpetual bickering and claims of cheating. Atherton, clearly seething, wagged his finger, and both were fined for their conduct.

A different bowling green

Mitchell McClenaghan, the splendid New Zealand left-arm fast bowler who is also a part-time model, has taken 26 ODI wickets, more than any bowler after nine matches. His secret, it seems, lies in broccoli, which he eats voraciously because of its high vitamin C and fibre content.