There was a time when the lions of cricket roamed stadiums all over with pride. They roared with the bat and killed with the ball. They hunted in packs and were the undisputed kings of the 'game.' The Australian team now, resemble the same lions albeit ragged, aging and toothless from numerous fights. Threatening but not frightening.
The former World Champions are under the leadership of a skipper whose nine-month command has been tumultuous at best. Taking over a bruised side after the 2011 World Cup could not have been easy for Michael Clarke. Add to it the pressure of fitting into the shoes of Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh, this 30-year-old's task became the exact opposite of clear-cut.
As a player, Clarke was not battling bad form as much as he was trying to fend off inconsistency. So, he scored 151 against South Africa at Cape Town, but fell on 11 soon after. He smashed 139 against New Zealand, but scraped to 22 in the next showing that he may still be as professional as he was claimed to be, but reliable was an adjective leaving his side in a hurry.
His former skipper-turned-deputy in Ponting has been having his own set of issues. The magnificence of 2003 and 2007 has long faded away into a struggle to keep up his ability to bat, let alone attack. Despite 12,000-plus runs in Test cricket, despite 30 centuries in ODIs and despite two World Cup's under his leadership, this 37-year-old Tasmanian is hanging by the faintest of cricketing threads available to veteran international players.
Then, there is the contrast within the contrast - the Cummins, the Pattinsons and the Lyons. Emphatic debut, they have learnt, cannot guard against injuries and cannot guarantee a spot in the playing XI. Not in the Australian scheme of things at least. The infants of national Australian cricket, these youngsters have only their flare and promise to claim a place. It turns even more tricky when yesteryear stars throw themselves into the flair. Doug Bollinger and Ben Hilfenhaus have already received support from members of the Australian hall of fame. Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne have expressed their desire to remind selectors not to sacrifice experience.
While Cricket Australia may or may not sacrifice experience, there is the added issue of injuries. The situation is complex in mammoth proportions because,simply put, CA faces points for consideration on multiple levels. If there are rookies with recent bouts of form then there also are jaded veterans with massive records; if there are injuries, there also is a massive list of yet-to-be-tested reserve.
It is obvious then that faced with the challenge of thwarting enemies at the door with an army of mismatched soldiers cannot be an easy prospect for Clarke and Co.