|Issue No 81||08 December 2000|
Jim Marr on Cricketing Immortality
Are Steve Waugh's Australians the greatest cricket team of all time? Well, comrades, it is summer and every other publication has had a shot so why shouldn't Workers Online?
Besides, the beauty of this little teaser is that there is no right answer so, for once, we can't be wrong. There are three potential answers - yes, no and maybe - each with supporting arguments.
According to most pen-wielders who have taken guard in the days since the Windies slumped to their second successive defeat inside three days the answer, most assuredly, is in the affirmative.
The reason being, apparently, statistics. Twelve consecutive victories is a new world record so stuff that in your pipe and choke on it. But hang on one minute - statistics, surely, are bare, bald wee things that can look awfully crude when when subjected to the microscope of context.
The serious contenders for the all-time crown are generally though to be Waugh's men, Don Bradman's team that pasted the Poms not long after the guns of World War 2 fell silent, and Clive Lloyd's ruthless, arrogant, brilliant, West Indian side of the 1980s.
Given that bugger-all of us can remember Bradman's team let's settle on Lloyd's lot for comparative purposes. Objectively, does Waugh's team match a line-up that would include Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge, Richie Richardson, Vic Richards, Lloyd and Larry Gomes for runs? Answer: Nope.
What about the wicketkeeper/batsmen - Adam Gilchrist v Jeff Dujon? Barely a split hair in it, either way?
Spin - Warne or MacGill v Roger Harper With Warne on his game, chalk up a big tick for the Aussies.
But pace? With due respect to the in-form Glenn McGrath; potentially-outstanding Brett Lee; injury-prone Jason Gillespie and sundry back-ups we ain't ever going to see a faster, more relentless barrage of bounce than that supplied over after over, day after day by Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall and their support team.
These Australians are superb in the field but the Windies, boasting super-athletes in Lloyd, Harper and Richards, were hardly inferior. But by its nature a team, or a good one anyway, is greater than the sum of the individuals who make it up.
Things like chemistry and captaincy play indefinable roles in transforming good sides into great.
Back to the objective, however, and this Australian line-up has no made-in-Asia scalps on its belt. Its winning run was crafted in Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Australia. Australian sides, in fact, have struggled mightily to register wins on the sub-continent, let alone back-to-back ones.
Lloyd's men won in India and Pakistan as well as blitzing the Brits on their own turf in a famous black-wash. The genuine status of these Australians won't be known, in historical terms, until they both meet the South Africans, generally regarded today's second best outfit, and tangle with Indians and Pakistanis on their own surfaces.
But the biggest difficulty in comparing sides of different eras comes from changes in the way the game is played. There isn't much doubt that Waugh's team is more professional and, physically, better prepared because that's how the game is these days. And, no question, when great teams clash professionalism and preparation count.
And what about the influence of one-day cricket? Even when Lloyd's team put its 11-match sequence together draws were plentiful enough to be almost the norm. Barely a decade and a half later they are a rarity except for matches contested on the slow, low pitches of the sub-continent.
It wasn't that long ago that every Test playing country had at least one, and often two stodgy, stubborn sods specifically programmed to seize draws from the jaws of defeat. Bill Lawry, Glenn Turner, Geoff Boycott, John Edrich and Mudassar Nazar were just a few who had the technique and temperament to "put up the shutters" for hours on end. But it is a dying art. Of the current Test batsmen probably only England's Mike Atherton, who began his career before one-dayers were the staple of the international diet, is similarly equipped.
Teams these days don't know how to play for draws and that, in itself, sheds a
different light on any winning streak. So, are Waugh's Aussies the greatest cricket team of all? Not yet they're not but, unlike every outfit that has gone before them, they have time on their side
Interview: Back to Work
After a stretch of unemployment following the 1996 election, former Keating Minister Robert Tickner is now helping others find work.
Media: Reality Check
Aiden White, head of the international journalists' union, argues that online journalism presents a new set of challenges for organising.
Economics: In the Same Boat
In an unprecedented move, a coalition of industry, community and trade union groups have joined forces to address long-trerm unemployment.
International: Nepalese Hotel Workers Ask for Support
Hotel workers in the small Himalayan nation of Nepal have finally decided to vent their anger and call a general strike for Monday - over a 21 year old dispute.
Unions: Speaking in Tongues
Labor Council's Mark Morey outlines the successful campaign by local government workers for a community language allowance.
History: Fighting Words
The anti-conscription campaign of 1914-18 tore the ALP apart; but this was not the first time the labour movement took a militantly anti-war stance.
Politics: A New Socialism
In an extract from his new book, political economist Frank Stilwell argues the need for a new radicalism to counter the Third Way
Satire: Roy Slaven on the Rampage
John Doyle's history of the ABC stretches back to a 1958 evening in Lithgow on which he was "scared shitless" by Blackboard on Mr Squiggle.
Review: Mauled in the Bear Pit
Vengeance may be sweet but it is always made better when you are able to write a book about yourself that also provides the opportunity to dump a bucket load on those who undertook your removal.
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