Sunday Times: Look out, here come the reinvented Aussies


For insight into the modern Australian way of cricket, study Mitchell Johnson’s moustache and Michael Clarke’s tattoos. And don’t forget to take a good look at Ryan Harris’ right knee.

Unlike Johnson’s snor, which surely has been rented from the prop department of a cheap western, and Clarke’s inspirational ink – “carpe diem”, and all that – Harris’ knee resembles nothing so much as a tibia and a femur connected by a patella. It appears to be a nothing less ordinary than, well, a knee.

It isn’t, and that’s likely to cost Harris around R3.5-million. That’s how much he made playing in the Indian Premier League in 2013. Considering he took 22 wickets at 19.31 in Australia’s annexing of the Ashes this summer, Harris would attract top dollar at next month’s IPL auction.

Except that he is not putting himself on sale. Instead, Harris will seek out the men in white coats to undergo knee surgery.

He bowled through the pain in all five home tests against England, and is up for the clash against SA next month. But the IPL? No. Country, it seems, matters more than cash to Harris.

His decision reminds SA that they will be dealing with a team in which pride goes way beyond the badge. Australia are, you might say, knee-deep in the stuff.

But much of this rebuilt Aussie team’s pride is newly minted and not inherited. Of the 15 players who lost the series against SA in Australia last season, only six were part of the victorious Ashes squad. Among the nine casualties were Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey. The baton, then, has been passed successfully.

Ponting hung up his greatness on the eve of the third test against SA. A nation was shot through the heart. A series later, against Sri Lanka, cricket’s own eagle scout, Hussey, called it quits.

Four losses in India and three in England followed. The Aussies were hit so hard they struggled to remember who they were. Then, back home against England starting in November, they came to and reeled off five wonderful wins without reply.

They did so without making a single change to their XI. With that, the world knew the disturbing truth – the Australians were Australia again. Look out.

“It’s been an incredible turnaround,” former SA batsman Graeme Pollock said. “Not so long ago they were a shocking side, but they have put it back together impressively.

“Darren Lehmann is a well-qualified coach who has given them a hell of a injection of spirit. In the past, Johnson wouldn’t have said boo or bah, now his aggression is coming out, and Nathan Lyon could give them the edge if the pitches turn in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.”

Johnson’s 37 wickets at 13.97 against England was the performance of a bowler at the height of his powers.  Previously, he has been a victim of chronic inconsistency. Now, there is mettle as well as method in his madness.

Brad Haddin topped the Aussies’ Ashes averages and was second to Clarke among runscorers. David Warner, Chris Rogers, Steve Smith and Clarke each scored two centuries.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, indeed. Or could it be that England played badly enough to make the Australians look better than they are?

“England were perhaps over-confident and turned up expecting to win, and that’s a dangerous place to be,” Ashwell Prince said. “With their massive support staff, they had no excuse not to be properly prepared.”

SA will know that, and that they are a better team than England. Next month, they will need to prove it.


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