Australia’s Mission to Moscow

Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment was not as good as the original, but carried a few of the cast, some decent jokes, and had the recruits out on the streets fighting with Bobcat Goldthwait. Police Academy 7: Mission To Moscow had pretty much nothing at all. It seems that just putting words Police Academy into the title couldn’t recreate any of the magic from the earlier films.

There was a feeling for a while that no matter which XI cricketers you put in the Australian team, it wouldn’t matter. Just having XI players playing for Australia would lift them to a devastating standard of cricket. They’d fight until the end, they’d come together, and they’d do their country proud. It was a myth. Propaganda. Australian hearts aren’t bigger than normal hearts. They don’t pump supernatural sporting blood.

This current team has mortal blood in them. That could not have been highlighted more than when Australia were one wicket down against Sri Lanka, and needed a match-winning partnership and their batsmen were Phillip Hughes and Glenn Maxwell.

Trumper and Hill. Ponsford and Bradman. Simpson and Chappell. Taylor and Boon. Hayden and Ponting. Australia have had some pretty special top orders. Hughes and Maxwell won’t be added to that list.

It is unfair to even mention them near that list. This is just an ODI. And an odd ODI where Australia had to chase the total in 29.1 overs to make the next stage of the tournament. It’s not the normal batting order, and unlike most of the combinations above, it’s not a Test match.

But if you wanted to see how far Australia had fallen, Maxwell running down the wicket like a madman and Hughes batting as though the inside edge was the middle of his bat were a pretty good example.

Hughes averages 44 in first-class cricket, and Maxwell 37. Both respectable for a young opener and a batting allrounder. But they’re not as impressive off paper.

Maxwell clearly has an amazing eye, and some confidence. Maxwell is a man who can flat-bat Lasith Malinga through mid-off for four. Contrary to popular thinking, and even if they were wrong, there is a reason he was a million dollar man in the IPL. But he does swing madly across the line in a way that makes you think he’s perhaps not a batsman, but a bowler with a good eye. The answer to any question in Australian cricket at the moment is Glenn Maxwell, and that is a concern.

The problem is that while Maxwell can make a good 30-odd in quick time, he doesn’t really think his way through innings. He had Sri Lanka hopping, he had them worrying, he’d already scored a boundary in the over against Malinga, he didn’t need to back away and expose his stumps to the one man in cricket who was most likely to hit them.

Hughes’ technique has been repaired more times than Shane Watson. Yet, every time it is repaired it comes back with a new fault. Even with that, it seems his biggest problem is his confidence. No amount of tweaking, coaching or manipulation of his technique can ever bring back the confidence he had when he was a young batsman. I doubt there is a bowler in world cricket who wouldn’t fancy himself with Hughes at the other end.

Hughes is a man who made back-to-back hundreds against Steyn, Ntini and Morkel. And yet faced with a fairly innocuous ball outside off stump he played a shot that could have only resulted in a caught behind, play and miss or, at best, a single to third man.

You could argue that Hughes is a weird pick for the ODI side, but his List A average is 48. You could argue that Maxwell is not an ODI No. 3, but the boy can pinch hit. There are reasons they are there. They’re not blokes Australia found on the street. They’re the best they can find.

The chase of 254 in 29.1 overs was never going to be easy, or even, all that possible.

But it’s not just that they didn’t make it, it’s just that they stopped four wickets down. Their fifth wicket was 11 runs off 27 balls as Mitchell Marsh scratched and Adam Voges consolidated. Only Matthew Wade from that point on made any attempt at the total they needed to make the semis.

Maybe it’s romantic and unrealistic, but it is likely previous Australian sides would have just kept running into the fire. Swinging away wildly. Chasing until there was no hope left. This team either didn’t have that in them, or couldn’t do it.

The main bit of fight they showed was a last wicket partnership that made Sri Lankan fans nervous for a while.

This has been a dodgy start for Australia’s summer in the UK. Their opening batsman is currently suspended. Their one superstar is still injured. They lost two and shared one in this tournament. Their team environment is not great. The only bright spot today was when Ricky Ponting was in their dressing room.

Unfortunately for Australia, Ponting was not coming back, he was just performing a walk on. The old cast aren’t getting back together. The old magic will not be regained. They are stuck with what they have.

The Australia one-day team is currently very close to Police Academy 7. There are a couple of faces you sort of know, and none are the quality of the originals. And just like Police Academy, as the series got worse, the more you saw of George “GW” Bailey, the legendary character actor.

It’s not the players’ fault. Unlike a film series, you can’t simply stop playing sport just because your team isn’t as good as it used to be.


8 thoughts on “Australia’s Mission to Moscow

  1. To turn a hoary old cliche upside down – a team is only as good as its captain. George Bailey wouldn’t fit into most international sides as a player, leave alone a captain. I had pointed this out on my blog at the very outset of the Champions Trophy –

    The main problem with the Australian side is its leadership – and that includes their coach. They got their team selections wrong on the India tour and were no better in England. Blaming players and discipline for their poor results is a cop-out. Mickey Arthur, Michael Clarke and the Aussie selectors are primarily responsible for this sorry state of affairs.

    • Jrod says:

      Sumit, he averages 43 in ODI cricket, made two fifties in the three games, and was run out in the other innings. Having seen the batting in this tournament he’d play for aus, pak, nz, saf, WI and SL.

      • schakraberty says:

        Misbah has a great average too, JRod. What good did that do Pakistan? Averages are a very misleading yardstick, especially in limited overs cricket. You need an effective strike rate to go with it.

      • Jrod says:

        Schakraberty, Misbah almost won a game on his own if my memory serves correctly. How did his strike rate have anything to do with how bad Pakistan were? People are obsessed with strike rates when on bad pitches, they mean pretty much nothing.

      • schakraberty says:

        Jarrod, I agree teams batting first in overcast conditions haven’t had much of a chance. But what’s the point of notching up a fifty if it will not get the team above 200 anyway? Might as well have a go and lose by a bigger margin. At least you give yourself an outside chance. To me, neither Bailey nor Misbah ever looked like getting their teams into a winning position in England. Dravid often did the same thing in the first half of his ODI career for India. I wrote a bit more about this in this blog post about Misbah –

      • Jrod says:

        Schakreberty, Sorry, but that makes no sense. Misbah scored over half the runs in a match that his side lost by two wickets. It wasn’t his fault that his side couldn’t score more. Should he have given his give his wicket up and walked off? Bailey scored a 50 in a total of 240 that probably would have been enough against New Zealand on that pitch. Amla made 80 odd at a similar strike rate in a total of 230 that was more than enough against Pakistan. Too often batsmen like Misbah, Trott and Bailey score on wickets that flashier batsmen can’t score on, and they do it by playing sensible cricket. Then they get abused because their strike rate aren’t high. Misbah is one of two batsmen Pakistan has, Bailey is one of two the current side had, why attack them, why blame them? Why not question the Farhat’s and Hughes of the world.

      • schakraberty says:

        Jrod, I share your sentiments about Farhat and Hughes and the flashy ones, I have no problem with the strike rates of Amla and Trott because they come out to bat at the top of the order, I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on Bailey and Misbah… To change the topic, here’s my take on how ODIs can be managed better to prevent flops like the two semi-finals –

  2. Hewy says:

    The Australian batsman who has look most assured and on top of his game of late is Voges – as highlighted by you recently.
    It reminds me of 2005 when Hussey was the absolute stand out in the ODI games prior to the test series and wasn’t selected for the Ashes. Took him another 2 years to lock himself into that test side.
    Not saying Voges is as good as Hussey, but at the moment he sure looks a lot closer to him than a lot of the guys they’re choosing from. Seems a perfect fit for that no. 6 spot too.

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