Before this series began we offered the highly sensible (in our minds anyway) opinion that Ashes series are usually pretty rubbish these days, and so the only fun comes in picking over the bones afterwards. Australia have been so shit in this Ashes series that the bone raking has started up a little early, with Ricky Ponting already suggesting that of the current squad, eight will never play Test cricket again. Of course, since Ponting is a complete wimp, he declined to name who those eight players might be, but everyone can probably already figure that out for themselves (Watson, Harris, Haddin, Siddle, Shaun Marsh, Clarke, Rogers and Voges, unless he was also being really, really mean about Pat Cummins’ future Test career).
But everyone is overlooking the elephant in the room, the big boss who has been shown up as utterly tactically bankrupt when it comes to Test cricket. The head honcho who has, in over two years in the job, somehow managed to take the team backwards, into a position where they are now even worse than when he took over. So for every batting collapse, every stupid selection based on ‘gut feel’, and particularly for insisting on dragging Shane Watson’s career on for far longer than polite society deems acceptable, we only have one answer: blame Boof.
To be honest, Boof worked out pretty well for a while. Well, some of the time. Sure the team got smashed in the UAE, but winning at home against England and away to South Africa were pretty decent accomplishments. The problem is that those successes seem to have gone to his head. There was never much of a plan B in Boof’s thinking in the first place (other than to promote Glenn Maxwell and just hope for the best), but this tour has seen Australia not only reject any other approach, but to fall even further under the sway of the Cult of Boof, where balls are to be hit and leaving the thing is for sissy girls who don’t know what it is to be Australian.
There really can’t be any other explanation for how this team has managed to fall so far, so fast. The Australian top five is still pretty much the best they could have picked for these conditions. Both Rogers and Voges have extensive experience playing at First Class level in England, and Clarke has played more Test cricket there than anyone else they could pick. Warner and Steven Peter Devereux Smith are a little less experienced, but hardly complete novices, having been there in 2013. The selection of perhaps Michael Klinger aside, there is no better batting line up available to Australia to counter being sent in on an overcast morning on a green pitch.
That they not only failed in the third Test, but got even worse in the fourth (we’ll pass over the first Test, though largely the same could be said for it), suggests that Australia’s batsmen could only be living inside a bubble, created through Boof’s arcane arts (henceforth to be known as the Boof Bubble™), that had them convinced that all they needed to do was get on top of the English bowlers for a few overs and they’d fall apart, like the lily-livered wimps that they are. And whenever a bowler is brought back into the attack for a new spell, make sure you smash one of his first deliveries (preferably the very first) to remind him of just who is boss.
The Cult of Boof has taught that Australia’s players are better than anyone else’s and, to be fair, that approach worked out pretty well for them in the World Cup. But it’s repeatedly failed horribly for them in the Test arena. The reason why this series will see the broom swept through the Australian side is not just because they’ve lost a series they were heavily backed by pretty much everyone to win, but because they’ve lost it the same way they’ve lost just about every other series they have played away from home. Under Mickey Arthur, who everyone agrees was useless, rubbish, and much worse besides, Australia won two out of the seven Tests they played away from home. Under Lehmann they have won five out of 16. 28% versus 31%. What an amazing improvement.
Rightly a lot of players are not going to play Test cricket again after this series. With a tour of Bangladesh, and then New Zealand and West Indies at home, now is the time to clear out the dead wood. Whilst Australia were getting annihilated in England, the A team was winning in India. Whilst none of those A players are necessarily ready to make the jump up to Test level (it’s captained by Usman Khawaja for Christ’s sake), some of them will surely be given a chance now anyway. But if someone is to take a fall from this shite, it has to be Lehmann. With either Justin Langer or Jason Gillespie waiting in the wings, the time is right to give the team a completely new direction and, inspired under the glorious leadership of Devereux, lead Australia into a new Golden Age. Or at least hopefully one where they can win more than one third of the Test matches they play overseas.