Cricket: Another Ashes squad announced

by Patrick O’Keeffe


One of my earliest sporting memories was sitting up in bed, listening to the radio coverage of the first test of the 1989 Ashes series. I was 8 years old and Deano was my hero. Although the Australian cricket team had been on the canvas throughout much of the 1980s, they were on the rise. This was a team chock full of admirable ‘battlers’; Marsh, Boon, Border, Hughes, Waugh and Lawson amongst others. They had endured defeat and disappointment regularly. If not for Border’s fierce determination, the team could well have unraveled. Australian cricket owes a huge debt to AB.


The thumping victories achieved by the Australians on the tour of ’89 surely paved the way for Australia’s sustained period of dominance, which, despite the recent emergence of significant challengers in India and South Africa, it could be argued is yet to officially end. At least, the ICC agrees with this.


However, with this dominance, the Australian outfit grew into a team that was not particularly likeable. Visiting teams were crushed. The Australians exuded an unpalatable arrogance. Opposition bowling attacks were paper thin, while hopelessly collapsible batting lineups relied heavily on the individual brilliance of players such as Brian Lara. For a youngster who had grown up on images of the likes of Boony grafting out tough runs against the brutal West Indian attack, I couldn’t quite warm to this Australian team.


The 2009 Ashes squad is different. In some ways, this team is not too dissimilar to Border’s squad of 1989. The team is young, raw and full of enthusiasm. Faced with adversity in recent series, players such as Peter Siddle have thrived in the test arena. The ‘once in a generation bowler’, Mitchell Johnson, was in no man’s land a few years ago. There is now a strong case to be made that he is the premier all rounder in the world. I can’t think of another with such genuine class. I love it that Ben Hilfenhaus is a bricklayer and a test cricketer. Simon Katich lost his spot in 2005, went back to the Sheffield Shield and made mountains of runs. He is now the most reliable batsman in the team. Andrew MacDonald is the archetype ‘ranga’. He is criticised for being not all that good at batting or bowling, yet few could argue that he has not contributed in each of his four tests. Players like Marcus North and Graham Manou are finally being rewarded, after it appeared as though they would play out their careers as strong State level players. Then there is Phillip Hughes. As a batsman he seems to forego many accepted conventions, yet makes piles of runs. He has so much character and appears to be exceptionally modest. The tattooed Michael Clarke plays cricket like he’s ten years old. He appears to thoroughly enjoy himself out on the field, with an exuberance which is to be admired. Finally, the much maligned Ricky Ponting. In 2005 he may have captained the team which lost the Ashes, yet he enhanced his reputation as a batsman with a superb, rearguard century which carried Australia to a draw, when defeat seemed likely. On the verge of the 2009 tour, Ponting is rejuvenated. He is finally in charge of his team. His transformation since the 2008 Sydney Test has been nothing short of remarkable.


The selectors were right to leave out Andrew Symonds. His recent form just isn’t up to scratch. His test figures with both bat and ball are strong; yet don’t warrant immediate inclusion into this developing side.


England’s form is difficult to gauge. They are in the process of pulverising a helpless West Indian team. It saddens me to say that this counts for little. However, the batting lacks depth. It could be said that while some quality bowlers appear to have been unearthed, the attack is inexperienced. The Australians have been hardened by intense contests in the past year. As in the lead up to 1989, they will arrive in England as a young, tough outfit ready to write their own story.





Leave a Comment