The number of national teams in the World which can compete at the highest level does not reach anywhere near double figures. As I write, the two best teams on the Planet, India and Australia, are locking horns in the second of a 4 match series in the sub-continent, so the TV is getting a fair amount of use.
For the last 15 years or so however, they have been THE team to beat – except that almost no-one has managed to do it. England managed it in 2005, but only just. They’ve almost come to expect winning and domination as their right. But, over the last year, we’ve seen the major stars in a blindingly good Australian side depart the stage. Gilchrist, Gillespie, Warne and McGrath were all the best in the world at what they did, and they’ve all gone. Today, Hayden is on the wane, Ponting has had his share of injuries, and, all of a sudden, to me they look vulnerable, rather than dominating and all conquering.
India, as well, have been in a state of change. Many of their great stars are reaching the end of their careers, and they have started a wholesale “move to youth”. In the next year or two, we will see the end of great players like Kumble, Tendulkar, Gambir and Dravid, and time will herald a new order of Indian players. You can see it already with people like Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra and the like who are well on the way to replacing these elder statesmen.
There must be something rather reprehensible in me where I get more pleasure than I should by seeing Australia under the cosh. In this match, they were not just beaten, they were utterly outplayed in every department of the game, with India registering their most emphatic Test win ever. I mean you just don't beat Australia by 320 runs.
But for once, the Aussies took it on the chin. Ponting recognised they had been thrashed and set out to move on, Be in no doubt, they’ll be back, but with no spinners in the team whom the captain trusts with the ball, Hayden playing most bizarrely, Brett Lee for once looking very ordinary, Ponting getting in all manner of difficulties facing Sharma, and only Clarke and Johnson showing any resistance in the Australian’s second innings, you wonder what’s going to happen to turn it all around for them in the next seven days.
It does beg the question as to whether we’re seeing the sunset performances of the Aussies for a couple of years. If you were Kevin Pietersen, you might be thinking that the stars are lining up in just about the right alignment for next year’s Ashes contest in England.
I, for one, can’t wait.