Hunger Key To Australia’s Whitewash
By Orin Davidson
Hunger is normally associated with the problems of a few African countries and North Korea.
Australia however, gave new meaning to the word with their destruction of England in the most bally-owed but one-sided Ashes series ever.
Such was the intensity of the mayhem, it almost warranted the United Nations dispatching a peace keeping force to stem Australia’s brutality.
Yet it had nothing to do with crimes against humanity.
It was everything about Australia’s hunger.
Put aside the brilliance of Ricky Ponting’s batting, Stuart Clarke’s and Glen McGrath’s seam bowling or Shane Warne’s leg spin, Australia’s hunger was the key factor behind their 277-run slaughter at Brisbane, the six-wicket triumph at Adelaide, the 206-run crushing at Perth and the innings & 99-run and 10-wicket demolitions at Melbourne and Sydney.
Never once did Australia ease up on the gas pedal as they put England to pasture with even succeeding victory. The intensity got stronger instead, setting new standards of determination, no team probably except the West Indies of the 1980’s, ever exhibited in the sport.
One can envision a Brian Lara-led contemporary West Indies side getting friendlier with the opposition after every victory and easing the pressure towards the end for a less than emphatic final series score. Or a condescending England squad not wanting to embarrass the opposition by drawing a match or two. Or a passionate-less Pakistan, brilliant in some games and subdued in others.
But Australia was on a mission to make England pay for denying them the Ashes title for a year and a half via a narrow 2-1 defeat, and nothing was going to impede their rampage.
The resulting level of vengeance exacted in the last six weeks must be truly frightening to the rest of the cricket world, as a result.
One can now fully understand the magnitude of value of the Ashes to Australia, as opposed to other Test competitions.
England for their part were clearly not the same team which claimed the Ashes for the first time in 18 years in that memorable summer of 2005.
They were much weaker with the absence of Simon Jones, Michael Vaughn and Marcus Trescothick.
And as Doug Walters repeated on television Thursday night in the closing minutes of the whitewash, bowlers win matches and England was in the worst shape imaginable without Jones.
Steve Harmison was a shadow of the paceman who the English tabloids dubbed “Grievous Bodily Harm” one and a half years ago, while Ashley Giles had outlived his sell by date immediately after August 2005.
But more importantly England was without the best bowling coach ever employed by the ECB in Troy Cooley.
He was badly needed to whip into shape the attack which commentators described as “undercooked” from the time they took the field in Brisbane.
Only Matthew Hoggard reclaimed the type of form from 18 months prior, but overwork rendered him useless even before the whitewash was completed.
Flintoff was clearly exhausted and his bowling suffered as a result from declining fitness that has to be related to his heel injury and the captaincy demands. He made a good start in Brisbane but that was it, he never managed to maintain any consistency afterwards.
Cooley world’ve been invaluable to this fast bowling attack as he was to them during the 2005 Ashes.
Cricket Australia however, ensured he never got another chance to make England’s bowling embarrass the native land, by gobbling him up immediately after that series.
Now, the boot is on the other foot.
Cooley ensured Glen McGrath maintain his supreme form in his swansong Test career appearance, made Bret Lee as effective as ever and developed newcomer Stuart Clarke into a hero.
Australia’s pacemen at Brisbane, effectively determined the series winners even before it started.
Against England’s powder puff attack, their batting never required second gear that resulted in every batsmen touching top form.
Andrew Symonds reeled off his maiden Test century, Matthew Hayden did well enough to reclaim his limited overs team place, Adam Gilchrist came close to dethroning Vivian Richards for the fastest Test century title holder, Michael Clarke cemented his place in the middle order with two tons, Mike Hussey maintained his status in the 50-run Test average club, Ponting continued a phenomenal 2006 runs spree and even Warne came close to posting his maiden Test century.
No series could’ve gone as horrible wrong for England as their defense of the Ashes became, as a result.
They may have been handed two similar whitewashes by West Indies in the latter team’s glory years, but the current team is ranked number two in the world and was defending a title they won after 18 years.
They were put on a pedestal and were expected to represent their status.
But from the beginning England got it all wrong starting with team selection.
By omitting the two players with Asian backgrounds that might not have been the politically correct selections in their thinking, was a mistake the management realized too late.
Monty Panesar never made an appearance until the third Test and quickly stamped his authority with his third five- wicket Test haul. Sajid Mahmood got among the wickets with a 4-haul when Duncan Fletcher and company finally decided to play him, like Panesar after the first two Tests.
Their presence from Match One might not have avoided a beating, but the whitewash could’ve been diluted instead.
Of the humbled English lot, only Kevin Pieterson should not be crying into his beer throughout the transatlantic return trip home.
He was their most consistent batsman by far, and coming after his brilliance in the 2005 Ashes, he remains England’s lone world class player on present form.
But he alone will not wipe away the team’s misery overnight.
Five-nil is what it is – a comprehensive thumping – and England’s whitewash might be the last in Australia for a while because at the rate of the team’s domination, five-match rubbers there might become an endangered species.
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