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Dead Rubber Syndrome

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Donny Aries

Formerly known as MAGFAN8.

Joined: 04 Aug 2002
Location: Toonumbar NSW Australia

PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2003 2:00 pm
Post subject: Dead Rubber SyndromeReply with quote

In this article, Chris Ryan makes some stinging critisisms of Steve Waugh and recent Australian teams' attitudes. Have a read and comment please.

Dead-rubber syndrome
Wisden's Australian View by Chris Ryan - 15 May 2003

The history books tell a straightforward tale of Australia's rise from inadequacy to invincibility. Allan Border succeeded Kim Hughes as captain and gave his men steel. Mark Taylor took over and lent them a sense of adventure. Then along came Steve Waugh, who tightened the nuts and bolts. Winning every series was no longer enough. Australia had to dominate every match, every day, every session, every hour.

History, though, is ever-changing. Now is the time for a little revisionism. Waugh has captained Australia to 10 series victories. In the first six of those series the Australians did not lose a single dead Test under his command. In the last four they have blown three: against South Africa at Durban, England at Sydney and now West Indies in Antigua.

Dead-rubber syndrome, the supreme flaw of the Taylor era, is alive and thriving again under Waugh. A screw has come loose.

All three defeats have happened since the drawn New Zealand series 18 months ago, from which time Waugh has been fighting not only for his place in those history books but his place in the team too. This, surely, is no coincidence. Waugh has finally shored up his position with a once-a-lifetime hundred at Sydney, an electrifying spree in domestic cricket and a typically rock-solid series in the Caribbean. But at what cost?

To bounce back from the batting dead has involved a triumph of willpower. Waugh has channelled enormous energy, emotion and resourcefulness into his batting, a part of his game that mostly used to take care of itself. Something, somewhere has got to give. In Waugh's case there are signs that his ruthlessness, his unbuckling intensity – the precious qualities that once defined his leadership – are waning.

At times during this series Waugh looked strangely detached in the field. Bored even. Reading too much into a player's body language is dangerous. But on more than one occasion the cameras caught him yawning – something we grew to expect of his twin brother Mark. Never Steve.

In the last Test it came back to haunt him. As Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul coolly reeled in 418 to win, Waugh seemed content to let things slide along. He kept his attacking fields up. He was loath to mix his bowlers around. Four years ago he would have summoned his part-timers who, almost inevitably, would have manufactured a wicket. Instead Waugh gave himself only five overs and Darren Lehmann none.

On the final morning he ignored Glenn McGrath, the world's master bowler in a crunch, until 10 runs were needed and the horse had bolted. Skilled fieldsmen, meanwhile, committed schoolboy errors. The selectors mucked up too by preferring Andy Bichel to Brad Hogg, robbing the bowling of variety and the batting of depth.

The parallels with those two previous dead-Test defeats are striking. Everything turned on the second innings. South Africa piled up 340 for 5 at Durban and England 452 for 9 at Sydney; in Antigua, West Indies made 418 for seven. Meanwhile Australia, in their respective second innings, tumbled for 186 at Durban, 226 at Sydney and frittered away their last 10 wickets for 175 in Antigua.

On each occasion the bowling looked brittle and the batsmen bored. Impatience was a common denominator. The Australians tried to force events, to throttle every ball for four and make every delivery a jaffa. It is the way things used to happen under Taylor, who once said of dead-rubber matches: "No matter how hard you try you can't help switching off a bit." But it is decidedly unWaughlike.

Jason Gillespie is a particular concern. He is the quintessential modern bowler in that he is built for the abbreviated three-Test series. He bowled tightly enough in this last game but his venom had dried up. His lukewarm third spell, when he leaked 41 runs in seven overs, proved telling. Demonic at the start of a series, he is invariably half the bowler by the end.

The stats say it all. By the time Gillespie gets to his fourth Test or more of a single series his record reads: seven matches, 17 wickets at 50.88. In his first three Tests of a series he averages 22.62. Contrary to what some say, he is not the best fast bowler on the planet yet.

The other blinding bit of déjà vu was the way Waugh's men lost their cool when the going got tough. This too was a hallmark of Taylor's teams. When West Indies won a dead Test at Perth in 1996-97 Brian Lara publicly damned Australia's sniping sledgers for going too far. Two months later Ian Healy was suspended for hurling his bat during another dead-Test slumber against South Africa. To Waugh's discredit he has not sought to break the habit.

"I like a bit of feeling," the former fast bowler Geoff Lawson said on TV the other night. Lawson, a trained optometrist, should get his eyes tested. There is a fine line between feeling and thuggery. Australia crossed it.

The symbolism of McGrath tongue-lashing Sarwan while simultaneously wearing a black armband to mourn the death of Ernie Toshack, a member of the 1948 Invincibles, was particularly poignant. At Mumbai two years ago Michael Slater was wearing a black armband for that other Invincible, Don Bradman, when he harangued Rahul Dravid over a disputed catch. On both occasions you could almost hear the 17 members of that 1948 side, dead and alive, rising in unison. You might be the best Australian team ever, they were saying, but we were better sportsmen.

Waugh should start paying a bit of attention to dead-rubber syndrome and a lot to his team's behaviour. No Australian captain has ever been sacked for the boorish misconduct of his players. That's one piece of history Waugh won't want to make.


It's a game. Enjoy it. Very Happy
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MrsTarrant Sagittarius

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Joined: 16 Jul 2002
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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2003 3:48 pm
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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2003 3:49 pm
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