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The wheels come off Waugh's Ferrari

December 18, 2003 11:43 IST
Even Ferraris need a first gear. Hurtling along open roads may be a thrill, but everyone negotiates a hill or rush-hour jam every now and again.

It may go against the grain, but low revs have their place.

Australia's high-octane cricketing world champions seemed to feel that they were above such pedestrian pursuits during the second Test against India this week.

Their second innings of 196 all out in Adelaide, paving the way for a remarkable Indian victory, was an extraordinary exhibition, smacking either of supreme arrogance, utter recklessness or unprecedented cricket foolishness.

Looking to push the pace in search of a positive result, as Steve Waugh's magnificent team invariably do, Australia seemed unable to consider an alternative route when the wheels began to come off.

All it needed was a period of consolidation as the wickets began to tumble. Instead, Australia refused to even test their brakes and drove headlong towards defeat.

Seamer Ajit Agarkar, on his way to career-best figures of six for 41, seemed surprised as one vaunted batsman after another threw away his wicket. "I probably got lucky," he said.

Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn, Waugh, Adam Gilchrist and Simon Katich all fell victim to over-ambition. Even occasional bowler Sachin Tendulkar took wickets as Martyn and Waugh were snapped up at slip as they chased wide deliveries.

It was all very well identifying the problem post-debacle, but it was surprising that no one suggested a little circumspection during it.

Coach John Buchanan accepted that "some of the shot selection showed a bit of immaturity" while Waugh, in his last Test series and looking for the perfect end to a near-perfect career,

ruefully reflected that yes, perhaps his team had got it wrong against an excellent, resilient India team.

Australia, of course, have revolutionised Test cricket with their ambitious, fast-scoring approach.

They will be remembered for being one of the best, if not the best, side to ever play the game.

Their refreshing style, made possible by an abundance of talent, stands in complete contrast to the diesel-truck philosophies of more limited teams -- England in Sri Lanka come to mind -- who, while having a first gear, rarely attempt to find a fourth or fifth.

But great champions should surely be able to play in all styles, to suit all conditions. The Australians, such easy winners for so long, failed to do that in Adelaide, appearing to allow arrogance to cloud their judgement.


Another Australian sporting icon was admitting to just that weakness this week.

David Campese, having rubbished England's rugby World Cup pretensions, was busy eating humble pie in London after the English beat the Australians in the final.

The popular, outspoken Wallaby walked down Oxford Street with a sign declaring: "I admit the best team won."

England's rugby team, intriguingly, have put down their success to an ability to fine-tune their game to each and every condition and circumstance.

Waugh, however, has a chance to put things right in the last two games of the series.

And he might also point out that, all criticisms considered and notwithstanding the occasional deflating puncture, he would still prefer to drive a Ferrari than a diesel truck.

Tony Lawrence
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