Australia won 11 of its first 18 and 10 of its next 17 Twenty20 matches. After that, came the exits of Adam Gilchrist and Mathew Hayden, and the breakdown in relations between Andrew Symonds and the Australian Cricket Board; the last was sparked off by the 'Harbhajan Singh racial epithet' incident. In a very short time, Australia lost three match-winners in all forms of the game.
Worse, Ricky Ponting's team felt that the Australian Cricket Board had allowed Harbhajan to get away with what, in its collective opinion, was a very serious offence. This, in particular, made playing for Australia a little less fun.
Not surprisingly, there was a visible decline in the side's fortunes during the last few years of his tenure as skipper. Australia is still recovering from the damage that period wrought, which, to a large extent, explains why it has lost 12 of the last 17 T20 games (before the commencement of the ongoing World Cup). One hopes, for the sake of cricket, it won't be long before Australia is back to its winning ways. But for that to happen, Australia will have to take back the Ashes or beat India in India, which could take a while. It might be easier to win the T20 World Cup.
The Aussies are powerful hitters of the red, and white, cherry. They are aggressive, strapping lads adept at executing the thrilling acts the shortest form of the game demands. This T20 business should be a cinch for them. However, they first need to rediscover that 'baggy green' feeling, which they lost in the run up to the years that led to the Argus Report. Fortunately, they have just the man in charge to make it happen for them ... at the Test level. Can one say the same about George Bailey?
Seeing someone like Bailey in charge, one can't help but wonder if the Australians take this T20 business seriously. What's more, the Australians choose to brand their domestic T20 tournament 'Big Bash'; a rather casual-sounding moniker that likens the affair to a jolly celebration rather than a serious game of cricket. Contrast this with its loftily-named Indian counterpart and you get some idea of which country takes the format more seriously.
How can a land in which sporting performance is so closely linked with national pride tolerate the ignominy of being also-rans in one of their favourite sporting pastimes? Ironically, it has everything to do with pride.
Sport is no laughing matter in Australia. But when it comes to T20 cricket, they see it as nothing more than a casual fling in the park. There's a very good reason for this. They recognise the dangers of getting overly sentimental about what is essentially a chancy undertaking. National pride is at stake. Why wager it on something so iffy?
In societies that don't have the time, the income levels, or the peace of mind to commit to the indulgent pleasures of Test cricket, it makes a lot of sense to invest wholeheartedly in the intense quick-fixes that are to be had from T20s. For them, there are bigger fish than a game of cricket to fry. The sooner one can get to them the better.
Besides, the shortest form of the game is the most level of cricket playing fields and the best arena to outclass richer opponents. Don't you think this is one of the reasons the poorer nations take T20 cricket more seriously?
The writer tweets @Armchairexpert. You can follow him if you're into that sort of thing.
First Published On : Sep 21, 2012 11:38 IST