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Rest on laurels and pay the price

If there's one thing Australia understands better than any other team it's the merit of thought-provoking self-analysis. Ian Chappell writes.

india Updated: Mar 16, 2009 00:27 IST

If there's one thing Australia understands better than any other team it's the merit of thought-provoking self-analysis. When Australia are on a winning streak, everything is done to maintain the high standard and when they lose, no stone is left unturned, including a frank appraisal of their performance, to correct mistakes. Contrast that with the recent efforts of England and South Africa.

In 2005, England produced the biggest boil-over since the introduction of automatic kettles to regain the Ashes and then went on a celebratory binge to mark the occasion. While England celebrated, Australia cleverly re-grouped and within 15 months, the Ashes were back in Ricky Ponting's hands after a spectacular series whitewash.

In late 2008, South Africa conjured up two stunning come-from-behind wins to steal the series from a labouring Australian team. Then in the return series, with a few changes in personnel and a more aggressive approach, Ponting's team masterminded a big turnaround to flatten a Proteas team that was still dreaming about the winning hit at the MCG.

Those two performances are a tribute to Ponting's leadership. On a number of occasions, he's displayed a penchant for honest evaluation that has proved to be the ideal remedy for overcoming problems, whether they are personal or collective.

Where Ponting drives his team harder when they are successful, both England and South Africa have been guilty of resting on their laurels. The lesson for all teams is; beware of a beaten Australia, it is as dangerous as a wounded lion.

But how did the fortunes of both Australia and South Africa change so quickly and dramatically? Two things should never be underestimated in the game of cricket; the value of an infusion of new blood and a positive state of mind. One quite often leads to the other. In the lead-up to the series, South Africa talked about grandiose plans but lacked the nerve to adapt to situations, which were worsening by the minute.

Australia on the other hand was revitalised by the enthusiasm of new inductees and powered by an aggressive approach designed to overcome past faults. When confronted by an Australian side that launched a concerted attack, the South Africans reacted like rabbits caught in a spotlight.

Ponting has set the bar high for leadership at times of crisis and any team wanting to seriously challenge Australia should follow his example of hard work and critical self-appraisal.