Since nobody seems to have made the observation for, oh, at least a couple of days, it feels like an entirely appropriate time to point out how great it is to be a supporter of the Australian cricket team right now. Until South Africa finish demolishing Sri Lanka anyway, they are currently perched on top of both the Test and One Day rankings, whilst also possessing the most photogenic captain in world cricket, the most dashing captain elect in world cricket, the most impressively moustachioed fast bowler in world cricket and, er, Nathan Lyon. Truly, these are the promised times.
But all of that comes with no small dose of apprehension (that everything could fall apart in the time it takes David Warner to drink a spiked Shirley Temple), and one large worrying caveat: things will probably never be as good as this ever again. Or at least not for a long time anyway.
Let’s look at England for example (also because it’s fun). England are currently a complete shambles. They may well be more of a shambles right now then at any other time over the past few decades. Yes, even more so than when Ian Salisbury used to regularly turn out for them. The current England management are about as incompetent as your average pro-Russian militant PR representative (which is ironic as they are both currently presiding over crash sites….actually it’s probably a bit too soon, isn’t it?). Ditching Kevin Pietersen was, well, an interesting move to make. As an Australian it was particularly well received. But to twin talk of a revival with the recall of Matt Prior? Er, what? Not to mention the retention of David Saker, Andy Flower’s promotion, and the continued public backing of Alastair Cook’s captaincy, all of which suggests the current England management are more concerned with saving face then, you know, winning cricket games and stuff.
But this is hardly a scenario that can continue for forever. England are such a shambles (they lost a Test series at home to Sri Lanka for God’s sake), a turn in fortunes seems more likely then ever. At the very least people have to start falling on their swords soon. Which leaves this observer enjoying the current state of English cricket, but wishing they weren’t quite so bad, just so it can continue on for a little while longer yet (another few decades would do).
Instead, all signs seem to be pointing towards a revival in England’s fortunes sometime in the near future, especially since some of their latest batch of players seem to be somewhat decent (or at least less concerned with massaging their own egos as some of the senior players are, most of whom are about to fall into pieces anyway). In short, English fans can look forward to a time when things are slightly less shit than they currently are. A state also known as ‘being better than Sri Lanka’.
Australian fans, however, don’t have that consolation. Things will never get better than this. Ever. Nothing will top the last Australian summer, at least not for the next few decades. Sure the team might actually improve in the future (winning a couple of T20 Internationals would be a start), but nothing they achieve will rank alongside thrashing England and then winning in South Africa with a team that was generally considered to be pretty shit nine months ago. Even winning the Ashes in England next year looks, at the moment, to be something of a formality. If they do it will be celebrated of course, being the first time they have won there since Shane Warne was not largely composed of synthetic polymers, but there will be an air of inevitability about it all as well.
The problem is that winning teams are typically boring and hard to like. The most liked Australian teams of the past few decades are probably those of 1989, and 1995. For much of the rest of the time they were immensely successful of course, but also extremely difficult to like. The current Australian team easily sits alongside those two in terms of popularity, perhaps even ahead of them, but that will all quickly change. If they keep winning the edge will be taken away; victories will come to be taken for granted. If they stop winning, people will turn against them as over-hyped, under-performing frauds.
There really isn’t any obvious way out of the paradox. Beating England will always be fun for Australian fans, but it will probably never be quite as much fun as it was that last time. England fans, in comparison, can console themselves with the (probably quite distant) prospect of getting revenge in the Ashes. It will happen one day, and they will no doubt enjoy it quite a bit when it does.
For Australian fans there just isn’t a hell of a lot to look forward to now, aside from watching Steven Peter Devereux Smith flower into beautiful butterfly or something. Winning the ODI World Cup at home would be nice, sure. Winning a Test series in India would be quite the accomplishment too. But neither of those would come close to what Mitchell Johnson did to England, or Ryan Harris condemning himself to a retirement spent in a wheelchair after dragging Australia over the line in that third South African Test, or Brad Haddin constantly taking the piss out of the English bowlers, or Devereux, well, just being Devereux. In comparison to all that, the future just feels a little flat.