SYDNEY, (Reuters) – Australia reacted with a wave of panic on Tuesday after falling to a first home test defeat to New Zealand in more than a quarter of a century with a series against India just two weeks away.
“Aussie cricket crisis”, “Black Monday”, the “Lowest of the Low”, “The Flat Empire” were the headlines adorning the back pages of the country’s newspapers above pictures of celebrating New Zealand and forlorn Australian cricketers.
“Once the kings of world cricket, Australia are no longer capable of putting away eighth-ranked New Zealand and … they are in disarray heading into the series against India,” read the back page of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph.
The thrilling drama of the conclusion to the Hobart test, which New Zealand won by seven runs, was largely forgotten as critics lined up to take pot shots at the team.
Opener Phil Hughes, who was out in almost identical fashion in all four innings of the series against the Black Caps making just 41 runs, was the most pilloried but experienced batsmen Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey were also lambasted for failures.
“The time has come for change,” Richard Hinds wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald. “Most pertinently, the time when a couple of much-loved veterans, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey, could nominate their retirement dates has passed.”
Former coach Bob Simpson led calls for the recall of Simon Katich, who controversially lost his central contract with Cricket Australia in June despite being one of his country’s best test performers over the previous three years.
The 36-year-old opener, however, told the Telegraph he thought his test career was probably over.
“I pretty much know they’ve made their decision, there is nothing much else that has happened,” said Katich, who was reprimanded last week for comments suggesting captain Michael Clarke had been behind the loss of his contract.
As after the Ashes humiliation against England last year, the whole system of Australian cricket came in for considerable scrutiny.
Many commentators, as Clarke did on Monday, pointed to the fact that the struggling batsmen would have only Australia’s new Twenty20 competition in which to find their form before the first of four test against India begins on Dec. 26.
India, who play their first tour match in Canberra on Thursday, have never won a test series in Australia but arrived ranked second in the world with their hosts still languishing in fourth place.
Patrick Smith suggested the country’s cricketers had displayed a “soft centre” in Hobart rather than the grit and determination that marked the wearers of the baggy green caps during the heyday of Australian cricket.
“A side supposedly intoxicated with the grisly Australian culture does not lose to an earnest but ordinary Kiwi side,” he wrote in the Australian.
“This Australian side is neither technically sound nor stern of character. It might be enthusiastic but any fourth XI side can boast such a common quality.”