Sport Cricket Stability a good thing for Aussies: Martin Blake

Stability a good thing for Aussies: Martin Blake

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The English would not have wheeled the bulldozers and cranes into the Adelaide Oval, I suspect, if they had the choice. They would have viewed it as one of the most beautiful Test match cricket grounds in the world, with Newlands in Cape Town and one or two others and left it well alone.

I loved dear, old Adelaide Oval with its grassy hill and the bells of St Peter’s on a Sunday and its marquees behind the members stand, ivy on the walls and the Chappell bar rocking after a day’s play. Where Larwood cracked Oldfield’s skull in 1932 and nearly broke a bond between nations, where the indomitable Warne refused to be beaten that day in 2006 and conjured his team to an apparently impossible victory.

The history is irresistible and the ghosts of Grimmett and Bradman and Hobbs and Sutcliffe can be heard, perhaps grumbling about the new, drop-in pitch that replaces the most batsman-friendly wicket block just about anywhere outside of the Indian subcontinent.

But Australians are tinkerers and they embrace change and Adelaide Oval is not an oval at all any more; rather a stadium. A good one, no doubt, with the old scoreboard kept there for posterity, but a stadium nevertheless as England and Australia return for another chapter of the Ashes this week.

Australia is ahead in the series, just for a change and that change extends to the team, too. Here is a statistic worth pondering:  of the team that played South Africa in Adelaide just one year ago, only four – Michael Clarke, Peter Siddle, David Warner and Nathan Lyon – have survived to this week. That constitutes a revolution since Faf du Plessis batted so well and so long to deny the Australians and ensure we all had to wrestle with the pronunciation of his name for a day.

Of course Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey retired. James Pattinson broke down in that match and it would be a portent for the rest of his year. He is still trying to find a way to stay on the park. Left-handed Rob Quiney, Ed Cowan and Matthew Wade are out of favour and so is Ben Hilfenhaus.

Three-quarters of a team has been wiped out in a year, some of it forced change, some the consequences of the poor tours of India and England, where seven Test matches were surrendered to the opposition without a single mark in the ‘W’ column.  

It would not have happened under the reign of the late Lawrie Sawle, chairman of selectors in the 80s and 90s and mostly known as The Colonel. Sawle argued the proper way to pick cricket teams was to identify people who could play and stick with them, so they played for the sake of winning rather than trying to save their position. It was in Sawle’s time that Steve Waugh played 26 Test matches before he made his first century, at Leeds in 1989.

You know the rest of that story and I understand players like Steve Waugh do not come along every day. But the key is to find selectors who can identify the talent. The jury is out on the current panel headed by John Inverarity.

As for Adelaide, Mr Inverarity, you are wise to play the same XI from Brisbane a couple of weeks ago. Australia is 1-0 up with the whip hand. It has Perth, where the cluster of quick bowlers will be suited, to come next. George Bailey needs another chance under the Sawle principle. James Faulkner needs to play sometime this summer, but can be saved for Perth, where he could be lethal.

A little sameness can be a good thing.

Martin Blake has covered cricket in Australia and around the world since 1986.

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