It just hasn’t been Australia’s tournament. First Andrew Symonds was set home after failing to stay away from the booze, and then, as if things weren’t bad enough, Chris Gayle decided to have one of his days.
So, here we are now — the No 1 Test and ODI team on the brink of a swift exit from the World T20. That things would come to such a pass was almost unthinkable after having watched a clinical dismantling of New Zealand by Ricky Ponting’s men.
It was a typical Aussie performance against the Kiwis. The bowlers, led by the ever improving - at least that is what it had looked like then - Brett Lee, destroyed New Zealand, while the batsmen knocked off the runs with relative ease. That, however, was as good as it got.
Symonds, smarting from his Ashes exclusion but undoubtedly buoyed by the Deccan Chargers’ IPL triumph, had been billed as one of the big hits of the World T20. In good form with the bat and the ball, Symonds was supposed to be one of Ponting’s go-to men in the tournament.
The all-rounder, though, decided it was perfectly fine to breach the terms of his contract and have a drink, or many, with his mates. Cricket Australia did not quite share Symonds’ view, and the Queensland all-rounder was duly sent packing.
The situation was reminiscent of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, when Shane Warne was sent back for failing a drugs test. Australia had picked themselves up from that one, and that was the belief among this lot too. “We’ve done it once, and we can do it again,” a member of the Aussie contingent said at the hotel a couple of nights ago. “It is a big loss, but we’ve had worse situations.”
That was obviously before Gayle batted like he had a party to attend, annihilating the Aussie attack with a 50-ball 88. Suddenly, the joke was on Australia.
So, why can’t Australia translate their Test and ODI success in to T20 cricket? There are conflicting theories about this. Ponting, in his post-match press conference gave his own: “We were a little sloppy… We lost early two wickets while batting and gave away a lot off our first over as well. You can’t afford to give the momentum away early on.”
The real reason, however, could be a more deep-rooted one.
Aussie dominance in cricket has always been built on a mental strength. Australians prey on the physical and mental weaknesses of their opposition. Mental disintegration has been the method of approach for Australia for a while now.
But that becomes a bit of a problem in T20s There is hardly the time Aussies need to prey on the opposition’s weakness. By the time, they figure out what they need to do to get under the skin, the game is gone.
They looked clueless against Gayle on Saturday, spraying the ball all over. And they know they had better get their act together against Sri Lanka on Monday, for the next slip-up will be a fatal one.