SXSW 2007

This is my travel blog. It started as a way for people to keep up with my trip to Australia to watch the 2006/7 Ashes series, and continued with my trip to SXSW 2007 in Austin, Texas, and Las Vegas in March '07.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

End of tour analysis.

The worst thing we could do now is do the usual England media inspired new broom approach. I guess the media back home are calling for Fletcher's head (as usual with any England coach in any sport who fails to win). I think this would be stupid. When you look dispassionately at what has occurred several things come to mind.
Firstly this is a very good Aussie team. No, make that a great Aussie team. In terms of how they dominate their sport they are up there with the West Indies from 1975-95, the Brazilian football team of the early 1970's and the current All Black rugby team. To give you some idea of the amount of experience in the side that just beat us, Moz and I were watching a rerun of the Oval Ashes test in 2001 on TV (it was raining in the S.Africa vs India game) last night.Of that Aussie side, 8 played in this series - Langer, Hayden,Ponting,Martyn, Gilchrist, Warne, McGrath and Lee. Only the Waugh twins have retired and Gillespie is still on the fringes of the team. That's over 5 years ago. No-one from the England side was still around for this series. Tufnell was still playing for God's sake! When you have that sort of continuity you have a massive body of experience to draw on.

Secondly, this series was closer than the 5-0 scoreline would suggest. Just as 2005 could have been 4-1 to Australia, this series could have been 3-1 to the Aussies or even at a pinch 2-2. In every test bar Brisbane there has been a point at which the test was right in the balance. And each time some Aussie player stood up and produced a wicket or innings when required. We didn't. That has been the difference. Make no bones about it, we competed in this series, just not for long enough in each test to force the Aussies into errors.
Thirdly, despite all the naysayers England are still 2nd in the Test rankings, slightly above the pack chasing Australia. No-one else has looked remotely like challenging them - they are on a run of 10 or 11 consecutive wins since the Ashes defeat in 2005. They have just beaten S Africa home and away. The last team to manage a series draw here in Oz was India in 2003, when they had their very powerful batting lineup at full strength and (more crucially) both McGrath and Warne were unavailable through injury and a ban. That is what faces the Aussies now those two are gone. The inability to bowl teams out in pretty much any conditions.
Fourthly, England's team is young. Of the current lineup all should be available for the 2009 Ashes series in England. A good proportion of them are in their early to mid twenties. Cook, Bell, Pietersen, Anderson, Madmood, Panesar are all young and learning. This will have been a tough time for them all but they SHOULD take something from this defeat. It should give them the hunger to improve, give them a standard to aspire to. Indeed if I were England coach I would be looking at those young players for the signs that it has hurt them and that they want to improve. Those would be the ones I would want to keep. Anyone who was prepared to think that the status quo would be good enough, as you don't play Australia all the time, would be out on his ear. There must be a hunger to win.
Finally, as good as this Aussie team is, it's finished. Four members have gone this series - Martyn, Langer, Warne and McGrath. Before the next Ashes series both Hayden and Gilchrist will have gone too. As good as Ponting and Hussey are they will not be able to carry the batting lineup totally themselves. No-one could possibly repeat what Gilchrist has done at number 7. It's unprecedented to have a wicket keeper who can average 50 in Test cricket. As for Warne and McGrath, what more can be said. Over 1200 test wickets between them. Even if you found two players with equal talent they would take time to bed in. And you are not going to get replacements, especially for Warne. He is a once in a lifetime, even century, kind of player. So the Australian side faces a tough few years of retrenchment. You can see how tough it will be by the manic insistence in the Aussie press that everything will be alright and no-one need to panic. Everything will continue as normal. Well, I don't buy it. Right now I would rather be in England's shoes. Yes we are low, but the path is upwards. The Australians are standing on the edge of a high cliff looking into the abyss, with no idea how far the bottom is away. In 10 months time, when they play their next test series, they will have to step off that cliff and see what occurs. I for one shall be watching with interest.


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