Opinion: Six weeks of hell – How Australia was soundly beaten at their own game in South Africa

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(AAP Image/Darcy Hunt)

Australian cricket faces a long six month wait for redemption, after the calamity that was the tour of South Africa. The Australians finally succumbed on the final day of the fourth test handing the Proteas a 492 run victory… their first series win on home soil against Australia since 1970.

It is impossible to fathom the fall from grace that has engulfed one of test cricket’s powerhouses in the span of 10 days. Turning what should have been, on paper, one of the best series in years, into a soap opera that overshadowed the occasion entirely.

It is clear for all to see that the Australian team and their now widely reported ‘toxic culture’, capitulated under the immense pressure from all fronts in South Africa, and what a capitulation it was.

Ignorance is bliss, and how lovely it would be to believe that Australia’s cock-up in Cape Town was an isolated incident of misjudgment by our cricketers in recent times… unfortunately it was not.

In no way is this an accusation that the Australian team has attempted to bring the game in to disrepute, or use tactics such as ball tampering before. To the contrary, this is an admission that our national sides behaviour has slowly been allowed to spiral down a dangerous line in recent years… a line that has been toed one to many times.

 

In the matches preceding the now fateful third test, South Africa took a leaf from an Australian playbook of “How To Make A Touring Test Side Uncomfortable For Dummies”. The Proteas followed a strategy that has helped Australia dominate teams at home for decades… play an unforgiving brand of cricket that targets the best players the opposition has to offer on and off the field.

Australia practised this exact strategy against England in The Ashes four months earlier. 

‘The Poms’ had a tour from hell, partly due to being outclassed by a rampant Australian side, but also because they were targeted by an unforgiving local press which ramped every encounter into a sporting distraction. This wasn’t helped by the English also partly  preferring to use head-butts as their greeting of choice in post match socialising.

The English dressing room issues in Australia were blown out of proportion in every press conference and helped derail their attempt to regain The Ashes from day one. 

Fast forward a few months and Australia fell victim to a similar storyline in South Africa. David Warner was roped into an off-field incident during the first test with Quinten De Kock, who had apparently crossed the unspoken lines of sledging. Pre-school name calling and accusations from both sides followed, but the damage had been done… a distraction was planted. 

Add to this Kagiso Rabada’s overturned suspension, an on field tangle with Steve Smith in the second test, mix it with the feeling that Australia was copping the raw end of the stick from the ICC and you have a cocktail of emotions waiting to boil over. 

Enter the third test and possibly this cocktail can begin to explain why certain factions felt the need to conjure a plot to alter the condition of the ball, although trailing by just 56 runs as the second innings began… the likelihood is we may never know what truly inspired them.

Regardless the fallout has been swift and public. Agree with it or not Cricket Australia has taken a firm stance to shake up, strip down and totally rebuild our national XI and the culture surrounding it.

Ex-Coach Mickey Arthur echoed such sentiments in an eye opening piece for Players Voice, with some of his diagnosis of the past half decade in Australian cricket quite damning.

“I have been bitterly disappointed watching the Australian cricket team over the last few years. The behaviour has been boorish and arrogant. The way they’ve gone about their business hasn’t been good, and it hasn’t been good for a while.”

“They are wonderful cricketers. They haven’t needed to stoop to the depths they have to get results. They’re good enough to win cricket games with their skills and talents without being abusive and threatening their opposition.”

As for the careers of Smith, Warner and Bancroft your guess is as good as mine as what the future holds for these three… but one thing is for sure, Australia must rebuild and ready itself for the future, as it can ill afford to show anything less than a united front when they get a chance at redemption in Pakistan this October.

 

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