I KNOW there are more important things in the world than cricket, but honest to God, I cannot sit by and let the first day of the Boxing Day Test stand without comment.
So far this summer it has been a painful, nay torturous, affair to be an Australian cricket fan. Especially one with a couple of smug Pommy relatives staying for the duration.
The players have been variously awful.
Mitchell Johnson in Brisbane? God-awful. Yesterday? Did you see that ball he pushed down the legside?
I have never seen a cricketer so riddled with self-doubt in my life.
Unless he starts well, he has no capacity to recover. None.
Ben Hilfenhaus? Mediocre at best.
Phil Hughes? Honestly, I cannot watch the boy bat. He looks cramped and rushed and his glory or death approach makes me wonder if professional cricketers these days give a damn about building an innings.
Katich? Good but injured.
M. Hussey? Genius, but a lone voice.
Brad Haddin? When he’s good he’s one of the toughest around, and behind the stumps he’s better than solid, but let’s face it, you cannot bank on his batting. You just can’t.
Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke?
Oh, where do I begin?
Both are batting like they’re terrified.
And as for their leadership qualities … oh dear.
Ponting spent most of his captainship marshalling the talents of Matt Hayden, Justin Langer, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne and Glen McGrath.
Hell, my old granny could have captained that team and come away with a winning percentage and a reasonable middle-order average.
Now that his biggest asset is … well, Hussey, who doesn’t need captaining, and Shane Watson, who just needs to be pointed in the right direction and given a gentle shove, his weaknesses as a leader are showing.
He’s defensive, reactive rather than proactive and he still wears his heart on his sleeve too much in the field.
You know exactly when Australia are in deep trouble. Just look at the way Ricky reacts.
And the biggest indication of all that his captaincy is weak is that his batting form has plummeted.
The last century he scored was in January this year when he walloped a double ton against the Pakistanis. And it was another six months before that to his second-last.
And now to Michael Clarke.
Clearly, the team’s biggest celebrity was dubbed heir apparent far, FAR too early in his career.
By all accounts half the dressing-room don’t listen to him and the other half don’t need to.
One of the ABC radio team — Kerry ‘Skull’ O’Keefe, I think — made the very sensible suggestion yesterday of making Brad Haddin the skipper for the next few years, with Clarke as his deputy.
It takes an old head with few distractions to steer a team through that dreadful but inevitable period of rebuilding.
And Clarke — with his woman troubles, fast cars, flash lifestyle and lack of respect from his teammates — isn’t that old head.
As for the selectors … I have no idea what their thinking is.
For a start, why this obsession with left-handed offies?
Get over it, guys.
Let’s go back to what we used to be pretty good at — developing awesome quicks, reliable, hard-working seamers and let the occasional once-in-a-generation freak show like Warnie come along naturally.
Wasting time destroying the psyches of Nathan Hauritz, Xavier Doherty and Michael Beer is criminal.
All out for 98.
That’s criminal too.