Peter Roebuck: Ponting's fading team is product of poor planning

The tail wags the dog. State sides bulge not with hard heads but medical men and PR people. Players are pampered yet they don’t look fit and keep breaking down

England soared, Australia floundered. The gap between the sides has become a chasm. Andrew Strauss and his merry men go forward with supreme confidence in their ability not merely to retain the Ashes but to trounce these dumfounded opponents. Australia limp home to lick their wounds and await the verdict of selectors busy sharpening their knives lest their own heads be put on the block.

Let's give the victors their due. If England is the third best side in the world as the rankings insist then the top two must be playing well. For 10 days the Poms have resembled a well oiled machine. Their intensity has been unflagging, their fitness has been superb, their catching has been sharp, their batting has been powerful and their bowling has been incisive.

England's performance gave as much pleasure as Australia's did consternation. From Jonathon Trott's direct hit and James Anderson's sizzling swingers to Graeme Swann's sinuous spinners towards the end, the visitors have belonged in a different league. They made the Australians look ordinary. Efficiency was pitted against fantasy.

Nor has it been an overnight event. England success has been years in the making and months in the planning. The community has embraced South African rigour and antipodean aggression and added the patriotic fervour that has long been its hallmark. On and off the field, England have been superior. Administrators, selectors, coaches, backroom staff and captains have formed a unit with a single goal: the search for excellence.

England fields two palpably great cricketers in Kevin Pietersen and Graeme Swann. The spinner can take wickets with straight deliveries. Australia's only remaining great player is in decline. It's not easy captaining a struggling team. Nor is it easy being the only outstanding player in a side. Ricky Ponting is both.

The hosts will not get stronger by begrudging their opponents. Australia cannot rise until it accepts its position as the fourth-best team and falling. Moreover the fashionable talk of cycles is damaging; England decided to be strong, so became strong. Australia began making weak decisions and survived till the great players departed. Then came the day of reckoning.

At such times it is tempting to ride every hobby horse. However officials cannot escape their portion of blame. To allow two regulars to play T20 cricket a few days before the Indian series began was to invite trouble. To stage a silly and yet dangerous match on a Gabba green-top before the Ashes was to risk injury. To give the coach a new three-year contract before the summer began seemed complacent. To appoint Greg Chappell not merely as talent manager but also as selector was to fly in the face of recent performance.

For that matter NSW's decision last week to omit Mark Cameron from its Sheffield Shield match was short-sighted. A week before he had been Australia's best bowler. The tail is wagging the dog. States bulge not with hard heads but medical men and PR people. Players are pampered yet they don't look fit and keep breaking down. Ponting's team is the product of this system, not its saviour.

Regarding the team, it'd be madness to assume it's all over because Australia has fallen 1-0 behind. On the other hand it'd be folly to ignore the evidence. Injuries have complicated the selectors' task but the time for excuses has passed. Putting it bluntly, Xavier Doherty, Doug Bollinger and Marcus North cannot hold their places. Simon Katich's career may be over.

Four fresh faces are needed, including a couple of young blokes who can field. In that regard Steve Smith springs to mind. The fact that so many Australians are poor fieldsmen ought to ring alarm bells. Even the young batsmen are second rate. Something has gone seriously wrong here. It's no use blaming modern diseases like Facebookitis or Tweeting. England has both in abundance. IPL riches are another matter.

Australian cricket has become self-indulgent. Bold decisions are needed, and wise ones. England deserve hearty congratulation. But it's only a beginning. England has not fielded the strongest side in the world since 1956, the heyday of Frank Tyson, Jim Laker and Len Hutton.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
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

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star