Australia are emulating Pakistan


The Aussies are fast becoming what Pakistan used to be, writes Umer Rana. Kangaroos are no longer as frightening as king cobras.

Experiencing Australia go down so meagerly, first in India and now in the Ashes, always needed a second sense for reassurance that the side at the receiving end is, in fact, Australia.

It's the demeanour of Australian cricket which has enveloped us as a nation, Pakistan. Growing up in the late 1990s in Pakistan, my generation developed the feeling of Australia being a supernatural bunch of beasts. Why wouldn't it be? Australia has given us year after year of tearful heartbreaks.

The phobia that my generation developed came with Hansie Cronje's Proteas, who thrashed Pakistan a whopping 13 times on the bounce from 1995 to the Super Six bereavement of Lance Klusener at Trent Bridge in the 1999 World Cup. With the nerve-wrenching expropriation of South Africa in the semi-final at Edgbaston, the mantle of ignominy of Pakistan passed over to Australia.

It all started with the groveling at Lord's, where the Aussies mugged the dream of the golden generation of cricketers in the middle of their purple patch and then the juggernaut went on and on for the next decade. Australia inflicted four consecutive whitewashes and 13 straight Test wins over Pakistan. The generation which grew up fearing South Africa developed the Australian phobia, kangaroos were thought to be as frightening king cobras to Pakistan.

Every time Pakistan had a glimmer of triumph over the mighty Aussies, there was a knight emerging from nowhere to stage a heroic backlash. In Hobart '99 Gilchrist snatched the win from the Pakistani jaws, in Colombo '02 Warne savaged a win out of the blue, in Johannesburg 03' Symonds was the hero, in Melbourne '04 Martyn was the last one guarding the castle, in Sydney '09 Hussey saved the day and in St Lucia '10 Hussey's heist reduced Pakistan to tears.

Gone are the days of glory, the Australian vengeance now rests in history – well and truly. One after the other, the vigilant knights called it a day. The castle which used to be a no-go area, now has become a favorite picnic spot for the teams. Ponting drew the curtain down but Hussey shoved the door of his career as if someone was about to ransack it. Gone are the times, when Australia had Lehmann, Love, Law, Martyn and Elliot waiting in the wings to be called upon for the duty. The much-celebrated Sheffield Shield is not producing enough Test-quality batsmen, the number of centuries are dwindling year after year. The spin bowling stacks depleted like the recession, more spinners have debuted in Australia than the rest of world's accumulated figures.

The whipping at Lord's put Pakistan ahead of Australia for the first time ever since the rankings system was put in place in '02. The pattern of the Ashes was none too different to Pakistan's tour England in '10, the bowlers fighting for every inch while the batsmen shirked from the front. Gul broke down in the second test due to lack of rest. Pattinson went through the same agony.

Australia are fast becoming what Pakistan have been over the years. Scrappy batting line-ups and bowling stocks brimming with prodigious natural talent and ability. The opening pairs are uncoupling and forming on every changing sight of the moon and batting collapses are as common as coconuts in the Caribbean.

Until now, changing the coaches on the verge of a mega event was thought to be a Pakistani mantra, Australia pulled off the craft by toppling Mickey Arthur just two weeks ahead of the Ashes. Infighting and rifts among the team have lingered over Pakistan ever since Imran Khan hung up his boots. Australia are not far in that account too, Clarke's spat with Watson is a testimony of that. Shoaib Akhtar kept on testing the limits of Pakistani officials with his ill-discipline. Warner is the Australian spoiled child. In fact, Shoaib just frilled a bat at his team-mate but Warner went a step further in attempting to throw a punch at an opposition player.

Like Afridi and Malik, the Australian spinners – Smith and Agar- are creeping towards batting. Agar nearly pulled off an Afridi, selected to bowl but ended up notching a century his debut innings. Even Agar's debut at 19 is Pakistani-esque. The similarities even arise in the fates of two slingy southpaws, Wahab and Johnson. Both continue to have countless ebbs and flows but still both the sides seem to never give up on them.

If Pakistan thought Malik had a career in Test cricket with an absurd batting technique, Australia are thinking the same of Steven Smith and Phil Hughes. Equivocal wicketkeeping standards have started to haunt Australia like the nightmares those Pakistan had. Every time the batting is caught in a whirl of collapse, the captains are lone warriors fighting it out. Since the left-handed dynamos Saeed Anwar and Amir Sohail, Pakistan have gasped to pull together an opening pair, Australia went through the same fate – since Langer and Hayden were unpaired. Almost every Pakistani opener has numerous shots on the spot, Phil Hudges and Ed Cowan are threatening to parallel that. For years, Pakistani fans have rued the maltreatment of Asim Kamal, Australia have their own version of Asim Kamal in Simon Katich.

Australia have never been so obnoxious with their game, the endurance of this ebb would be decided on the reaction time required by Cricket Australia. If Cricket Australia turn a blind eye to the glitches and let them hover around, Australia may well be set for a freefall – experiencing many new wanes. as Pakistan have done for last two decades or so.

<b>Umer Rana</b>