EVEN AS recently as 2009, even an oracle could not have gazed into the crystal ball and foresaw England's recent domination of the Ashes. Until about a couple of years ago, Australian cricket was blessed with abundant riches. The richness was not just in terms of cricketing talent, but also in the mental aspects such as dogged determination, unflagging spirit and a seemingly bottomless reservoir of self-belief.
The Australians had some of the best finishers, game-changers, thinkers and the finest sledgers in the business. The result was an era of world domination spanning more than a decade. Teams playing Australia were routinely pumelled and pulverised, and most resembled deer caught in the headlights. With the rest of the world reduced to fighting for the number 2 spot instead of the crown, Australia lifted 3 consecutive world cups and at one time, harvested a staggering 16 consecutive test victories on the trot. Players such as Steve Waugh (ruthless), Gilchrist (devastating), Shane Warne (wily), Glenn McGrath (metronomically accurate), and Matthew Hayden (menacing), to name a few, are the stuff of legend. The Australian way of playing cricket was the role model and was preached to budding cricketers around the world as the Mantra for success.
The story in the ODI scene was equally dismal for England. English cricket was enduring a prolonged drought of success and the Barmy Army had to be content with slim pickings of joy. Australia was the master of all they surveyed. Only the delusional would have bet on England reversing the tide but even they would not have bet on England dominating and walking all over the Australians.
But the wheel of fortune has indeed turned. Australia is going through a transition after being hit with the retirement of all the greats except Ponting. They dont have any new players yet who look ready to step into the large boots of the past greats. England in the meantime seem to be forming a strong nucleus of exciting, bold and talented players. The opening and middle order batting lineup is strongly manned. The bowling department is well armed in both the pace and spin departments. And the bench strength seems impressive. Players such as Graeme Swann, Ian Bell, Alastair Cook, Steve Finn, and Eoin Morgan look set to blaze a new trail for English cricket. And they are making Australia swallow the same medicines (whitewash, lopsided contests, mental disintegration) that Australia used to dish out in the not-too-distant past. Not only has the wheel of Fortune turned for the Australian team, but it has skidded off the rails and derailed the Australian juggernaut.