Ponting’s ‘roosters-turned-feather-dusters’ may yet have reason to crow

2010-12-01 00:00

IF you thought the British media were tough on their cricketing team, spare a thought for Ricky Ponting’s men who are already dead and buried according to the Australian press.

After relinquishing their winning position in the first Ashes Test match at the Gabba, the media onslaught has been brutal. Malcolm Conn of The Australian asks: “Has Australian cricket really fallen this far? Is the national team really this bad?”

The Melbourne Age harkens back to the dark days of Australian cricket. “Here was a reprise of the barren and wretched mid-eighties, fortunately beyond the memory of half the population and carefully forgotten by the rest.” If that wasn’t vociferous enough, The Victorian added, “Rarely can roosters so quickly become feather-dusters”. Ouch!

In the face of this barrage of abuse one could be forgiven for thinking that Australia had lost the first Test, when in fact they travel to Adelaide with the series level at 0-0. The atmosphere of the first Test at the Gabba, watched each day by over 40 000 spectators (including the Barmy Army in fine voice) was charged with tension.

Ashes is cricket at its best. In the end England’s superb batting in the second innings on a Gabba pitch that flattened out secured them a comfortable draw and the vital psychological advantage going into the second Test.

Test cricket is all about confidence, which England appear to have in abundance as well as the self-belief that they will hold on to the contents of the prestigious urn.

Australia are in unfamiliar territory. They are perched precariously behind England at number five in the world Test rankings. How they would love to edge past their Ashes opponents and regain the top spot, which they occupied for so long.

They are desperate to restore credibility to the “baggy green” and to salvage their battered pride.

In the past the pressure has always been on Australia’s opposition, but the pendulum has swung and Ponting’s team seem to be battling to find their feet. There is no doubt that the retirement of so many legendary Australian greats has left a void, which has necessitated a rebuilding phase. The current Australian Test squad has much talent but precious few of the truly great cricketers that made up their squad a few years ago.

But is this enough of a reason to write them off? After all, the Ashes is still wide open. Will England be able to push home the advantage they have gained from the first Test? The public media hanging of Ricky Ponting’s men will not have helped Australia’s cause or their confidence – but they are battlers known for their bounce-back potential.

Journalists may well be compiling Australian cricket’s obituary, but it’s all a bit premature. In my opinion, Ricky’s “roosters-turned-feather-dusters” may yet have something to crow about. • Neil Johnson is a former Natal, WP and Zimbabwe all-rounder who lives and coaches in Pietermaritzburg.


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