After years of dominance by an all-conquering side, the steady decline after their World Cup success of 2007 has suddenly turned into a rapid fall culminating in the recent catastrophic home Ashes series defeat.
Being England supporters here at the Reverse Sweep, one of the best things about Australia’s slide has been that they have started mirroring some of the worst excesses of the England cricket team of the 1990’s. Namely batting collapses from nowhere, toothless bowling, an unerring ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and bizarre selections.
One of these has been Steven Smith. We’re still not quite sure what the point of Smith is. He most definitely isn’t a test number six, nor from what we have seen to date, is he even remotely a test class leg-spinner. He can field and he certainly seems to have a bit of pluck, but to be frank not much else.
The Australian selectors won’t admit it, but they are desperate to find a leg-spinner to replace Shane Warne, and much like the England selectors when trying to find a replacement for Ian Botham, they are prepared to try pretty much anyone - hence the likes of Bryce McGain getting a brief and painful experience of Test cricket.
England were also desperate to find an English Shane Warne in the 1990s. Ian Salisbury was picked, dropped and recalled before being discarded for good. Then in a move similar to the Australian’s premature punt on Smith, Chris Schofield was plunged in at the deep end after a handful of first-class matches and sunk without trace in two tests against Zimbabwe in 2000.
Smith is only 21, so he has time on his side and to be fair we were impressed with his counterattacking 77 against Pakistan at Headingley last summer. He also seems to have more about him than Schofield. And if he continues to enjoy the luck he had in the second innings of the Perth Test where he became the most fortunate Australian since Elizabeth Hurley invited Warney in for a nightcap, he may yet make the grade.
But at the risk of Smith metamorphosing into a genuine test-class leggie that proves the difference between the sides in future Ashes series, we’ll be surprised if it is Smith that has us crying into our beer if and when Australian cricket rises again - unless if it is with laughter of course.
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