India, March 24 -- Anyone who thinks Australia's abject display in the current series is a bolt from the blue hasn't been following the side closely.
This slide has been coming for a while and it's only been the individual brilliance of a few players that has staved off the inevitable. In recent times it's been Ricky Ponting (even as he faded into retirement), Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke who have kept the batting afloat and this, combined with an excellent pace attack has seen Australia remain competitive.
Two successive Ashes losses in 2009 and 2010-11 prompted the Argus Review. The result was mostly window dressing and a failure to address the core problems. These flaws in a once productive system started to appear even while Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath were demolishing opponents but the flashing neon sign that said; "World Number One Ranking", blinded the officials and they failed to take appropriate action.
It should have been a warning sign to those officials when, after fifteen years of Warne's spin bowling magic, there weren't a gaggle of young leggies following in his footsteps. Everyone was expecting a wave of young leggies looking to emulate Warne but it didn't happen. Whether this was because they found the art wasn't as easy as Warne made it look, or selectors and captains failed to ensure these budding leggies received the appropriate nurturing, is hard to tell but it's left the Australian spin bowling ranks pretty thin.
Of even more concern is the failure of the system to produce talented young stroke makers. Since Ponting's Test debut 18 years ago, only he and Clarke fit that category and Australia used to be renowned for producing this type of batsmen.
Having seen the Australian Under-19 team that reached the World Cup final last year, I don't see an end to this particular drought any time soon.
Instead of seeking solutions to re-invigorate these two production lines in particular, and the overall system in general, the Argus Review concentrated on adding layers of management upon existing layers of management. It might have resulted in some highfalutin titles and some well-paid jobs but it won't help re-invigorate Australia's faltering system.
When I addressed the Argus review panel I said in part; "If you ensure the system is producing skilful, competitive young cricketers and a few strong leaders and you then allow them to play and lead, the rest will take care of itself."
Too many cooks
The current system for producing batsmen isn't working, hasn't been working for some years and it's time some different methods were tried. Surrounding a captain with a dozen people all trying to justify their existence - and then loading him up with the additional role of selector - isn't allowing the Australian skipper to do his job properly.
The only incredible thing about the CA reviews that were undertaken after the Ashes losses is that while many positions were added, and new faces brought in, most of the same people who were directing operations before the defeats by England are still running the show.
When the Australian team was taking all before them in the mid-nineties and beyond, people would tell me; "The reason the side is strong is because of the coaches and the academies."
My response was, "Bollocks, the reason Australia is strong now is the same as it was in 1948 when the Invincibles were destroying England. It's the system that produces the skilful, competitive cricketers."
That system is now flawed because of a number of reasons. One of them is out of CA's control; the unwieldy international itinerary. However, steps need to be taken to overcome those obstacles and regenerate the once highly efficient system.
Here's a sobering thought for the officials. If they suddenly implemented all the right improvements tomorrow, it would still take a generation for it to start paying full dividends.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.