Peter Roebuck: Ponting may survive but coach and selectors should pay price

The Australian angle

England danced a jig and the Australians slumped. So often it has been the other way around. Now it is the Aussies' turn to reflect. Defeat can be instructive. Strong sides expose faultlines in their opponents and ought to be thanked for their contribution. The time to start the fightback is while the opponent is popping corks.

Australia's predicament is alarming. No cricket community searching for leaders, bereft of opening batsmen, lacking spinners, burdened with injured fast bowlers or even an internal candidate for the ICC presidency, can be complacent about its prospects.

The fall has been quick but was a long time building It's not the losses but their size that indicate the parlous state of the game. Two innings defeats at home are hard to swallow. That both matches were effectively lost in the first hour was frustrating and showed that England are a strong front runner and that Australia's batting lacks technique and tenacity.

Now comes the reckoning. Ricky Ponting has his failings and his record is blotted by the loss of three Ashes series. However, he has two World Cups and umpteen victories to his name. His poor form is a concern but that does not mean it's over for him. Babies and bathwater spring to mind.

Plainly though, the combination of captaining a struggling side and also batting at first wicket down has taken a toll. He could be retained a while longer as captain and instructed to bat at third wicket down instead. But he cannot continue to rule the roost. Letting him play with a broken finger is unwise. Nor is it sensible to regard his judgements as sacrosanct. He has a higher opinion of Ben Hilfenhaus and a lower view of Jason Krejza than their performances justify.

For decades Cricket Australia (CA) set the benchmark for sporting administration. Now it seems overstaffed and heavy handed. The decision taken a few months ago to give coach Tim Neilson a three-year extension to his contract seemed ill-advised. On the day of his removal those responsible ought to go with him.

Neilson has been outmanoeuvred by his counterpart and the same can be said about his batting and bowling coaches. England's strategies and skills were superior in every area. Likewise, the appointment of a vice-captain from a different generation was risky. Michael Clarke has struggled to make the transition from pup to prince, and from good to great batsman. When the next captain is appointed the deputy position ought to be left open. England can count themselves lucky that Alastair Cook is steady and loyal.

By no means can the selectors escape censure. After remaining inert for 18 months they rushed the gate at the start of this campaign. Fundamentals have been forgotten. They could start by naming a proper opening pair. Anyone applying for the role ought to prove themselves in the Shield. It is a specialist skill. Greener tracks and better bowling have underlined that point.

CA also needs to instruct Australian states to prepare proper pitches. "Result" tracks have become commonplace. Accordingly batsmen are either flat-track bullies or nervous nellies. Spinners are not getting a go. Spin cannot be taught in a net. But Australian cricket is also in trouble because the production line, once its pride and joy, is not working. Grade and Shield cricket have been undermined and are no longer putting youngsters through their paces.

Australian Rules Football and Facebook have also taken a toll. Almost alone amongst talented young Victorian sportsmen, Alex Keath put cricket before footy. It is absurd that teenagers are forced to choose between the disciplines but the Australian Football League (AFL) knows its strength and can force the issue. Keath's reward was to serve as spare fieldsman at the MCG. That shows the extent of CA's concern.

Now AFL is expanding in Sydney, hitherto the most reliable source of cricketing talent. No wonder CA is worried; no wonder it is encouraging the spread of Twenty20 franchises. Meanwhile, children report that it's becoming harder to get a hit as all their pals are on Facebook.

Although rivals enjoy beating them, the last thing cricket needs is a weak Australia.

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Sport
sport
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape