Melbourne:Finding it difficult to cope with Australia's mediocre show in 2008, a leading newspaper said top players suffered from slump after playing in the inaugural Indian Premier League and associating with the lucrative IPL was a "pact with the devil".
'Sydney Morning Herald' wrote it could be coincidence but Australian cricketers who played in the IPL in April-May last year were either "injured, worn out or found themselves distracted by intoxications of India".
It then said those who were not lured by IPL money like Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson have been the "saviour" of the team, which is in the danger of losing the world champion tag.
"Whatever the cause, Australian cricketers, at Test and first-class levels, have struggled since their return from last year's inaugural Twenty20 tournament on the subcontinent.
Could it be cricket's version of the pact with the devil - every incremental increase in the bank account is matched by a corresponding fall in your figures.
"Gone, or at least severely impaired, is the ability to score runs and take wickets. Call it the curse of the Indian Premier League," the newspaper wrote.
"Australia's elite spent only a short spell in the IPL. It may just be pure coincidence. Cause and effect are notoriously difficult to establish within a cricketer's career," it added.
Among the "list of the fallen", the newspaper named Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Andrew Symonds and Brett Lee who "have figures showing a remarkable decline in productivity when the year before the IPL and the nine months since are compared".
"Hayden's detractors look everywhere for an explanation for his form slump: age, footwork, co-ordination and desire are all thrown up as possibilities. But no one mentions Lalit Modi and what may have been fool's gold on offer for a month with the Chennai Super Kings," the newspaper said.
"Hayden damaged his Achillies tendon, missed the tour of the West Indies and has never recovered his mojo. In the year before the IPL, Hayden crunched 503 runs at 62.87. Since then he has laboured his way to 344 at an average of 22.93."
On 'Mr. Cricket' Michael Hussey, it said, "Hussey owned the world's best Test average among current batsmen when he entered the circus ring. His year before produced the customary volume of runs at 73.87. Halve it and more, with an average since the IPL of 32.19."
"Symonds lost his way after Indian sojourn, eventually losing his bearings completely and his place in the team. He got it back but without the form of the previous year (his batting dropping from 85.50 to 39.18).
"Before the IPL, Lee led the attack with aplomb with wickets coming at a sterling average of 20.57; since then his average has blown out to 36.69 and he may have only avoided the indignity of being dropped for his home Test by instead having surgery to repair foot and ankle injuries."
Ricky Ponting alone among the Test players who ventured to India, has continued his career with the same level of productivity. Before IPL (45.33) and after (43.86) are virtually unchanged, the newspaper said.
"But look at those who eschewed the loot? Michael Clarke has become the mainstay of the Australian batting line-up, his average dipping slightly from 66.50 to 57.53. Brad Haddin has established himself behind the stumps and pushes 40 with the bat. Mitchell Johnson is our leading bowler, with 50 wickets at 27.44 since avoiding the entrapments of IPL, compared with a Test average in the year before of 32.12."