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Replacing the irreplaceable - Australian cricket today

What do Manchester United, Barcelona FC and the Australian cricket team have in common? All have struggled in recent years to replicate the outstanding successes that each team had regarded almost as their birthright.

Coaches such as Alex Ferguson or Pep Guardiola and top players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist can produce an infectious winning mentality. However what happens when the legends are no longer inspiring your team, or their influence has waned? In short, how do you find someone to fill the shoes of the irreplaceable?

Almost inevitably the transition period can be a difficult time with standards dropping and the trophies drying up. Unreasonable demands can be made on good professionals to attain greatness. Whilst David Moyes had done a sound job at Everton, attempting to be Alex Ferguson's successor proved to be beyond his ability. Similarly, though Nathan Lyon is a decent spinner for Australia, he is unlikely to beat many of Shane Warne's records or be a Hall of Fame selection.

The all-conquering Australia side that dominated the first decade of this century would certainly rank highly in a list of the best cricket teams. Their aggressive style of applying continual pressure, whether with bat or ball laid the foundations for a period of prolonged success.

They virtually copyrighted the modern way of winning Test matches; previously Test cricket had often been cagey and attritional. However, Australia showed that playing attacking cricket from the start could reap huge dividends. A bevy of talented batsmen such as the Waugh brothers, Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting would rack up huge scores at a fast run-rate, allowing McGrath and Warne the time to twice bowl out the opposition.

The results spoke for themselves; a generation of England players developed an inferiority complex in the wake of multiple Ashes humiliations, and three successive World Cup wins confirmed Australia's top dog status. However once Australia's leading lights had hung up their flannels, they had to get used to the unusual feeling of losing Test matches and Ashes series. However Australia's fortunes started to turn around with the appointment of Darren Lehmann as coach. They are once again starting to dominate Test series and have picked up vital wins against England and India. The once misfiring Mitchell Johnson has become a formidable strike bowler. The combative David Warner is now a leading opener. Though rocked by the death of Phillip Hughes, the extra motivation that tragedy has generated may be enough to once again see Australia crowned as world champions.

Brian Salmon

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