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Too early to write off Australia despite defeat

New Zealand seem sure to feel the backlash when they cross the Tasman Sea for two-match Test series. There has been a huge amount of talk this week about eras ending and dynasties toppling after India’s win in the Test series. I can understand where they are coming from, but writing off Australia is a bit premature. We are about to take on New Zealand - there’s no rest in international cricket these days - and I reckon our friends from across the ditch will cop the wrath of a few disappointed players.

To me, Australia are still the best side in the world. It all depends on the way you decide to measure these things. If cricket imitated boxing, the series was the equivalent of a heavyweight title bout and, yes, India would have taken the belt. But our sport doesn’t work like that. Conditions are different all over the world and you have to look at how countries go against each other home and away over a period of time before weighing everything up.

I think that the Australian batting is as strong as ever - as long as Matty Hayden and Ricky Ponting are in top form. Shane Watson is coming through, Mike Hussey is very solid and consistent, while Michael Clarke is at the top of his game. Brad Haddin can be as dangerous as Adam Gilchrist. He hasn’t shown it yet because he is still feeling his way. We went well past 400 in Bangalore and nearly reached 600 in Delhi, so there isn’t a problem there.

The big question is the ability to take 20 wickets. Jason Krejza getting 12 on his debut is a great start and he is worth a run as the spin bowler. We need Brett Lee to fire and find some form. Stuart Clark will be effective again in Australian conditions and I hope that Mitchell Johnson keeps improving. Ricky’s problem has been controlling games in the field now that he doesn’t have somebody like Glenn McGrath or probably myself to call upon. It wasn’t an easy trip for Ricky, but I know that he will take the observations of guys like Ian Chappell and Allan Border as being constructive.

The aura of invincibility that we carried in the eyes of the opposition has probably gone. Teams think they can beat us now, and belief is so important in sport. In the weeks ahead against New Zealand and South Africa we should look to impose ourselves again and intimidate a few opposition players. We just need a bit of spark to get things going again.

Australia’s results also show that England face a tough tour. It takes a while to work out how to play in India. In fact, I don’t think I got things right personally until my third trip, in 2004. As a spinner it wasn’t a case of putting big sidespin on the ball because although it turned, the pitches were slow and it sat up to be hit. I needed to put more overspin on the ball to get some extra pace and bounce. The trick is to watch the India bowlers and see how they do it. That applies to the seamers as well.

The balance of the tour looks badly wrong, with seven one-day internationals and only two Tests. Seven-match series are ridiculous. They have been going on for too long now and just have to stop. They exist only because the boards are hungry for money. Players will be fed up of coming up against each other by the time the first Test is finally due to begin, on December 11.

The public are losing out as well. I can understand the logistical arguments, that more and more venues want to stage the big matches, but that is just unfortunate. They have to be allocated by rotation. With Sachin Tendulkar being rested (a smart move by India) and Ishant Sharma injured, spectators are not seeing the best cricketers on show. Supporters are being cheated.

(TimesOnline)

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