India, SA in race to dethrone Aussies: Chappell

Former Australian skipper Ian Chappell said Team India has a well-balanced attack that has experienced a good deal of success against Australia.

updated: December 22, 2008 12:02 IST
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India and South Africa are in the race to dethrone "the ageing and wounded" Australia as the world's number one cricket team, commentators said on Monday after the Proteas had walloped the Aussies by successfully chasing 414 runs to win the first Test here on Synday.

The Australian media put Ricky Ponting and his team on the mat by calling some of the key players "over-rated, lacking form or too arrogant for their own good."

Former Australian skipper Ian Chappell took a look at the credentials of two of Australia's nearest rivals and said that in the race to unseat the kangaroos "there are differences that favour India over South Africa".

He went on to say that India has a well-balanced attack that has experienced a good deal of success against Australia, while South Africa's pace attack has still only displayed the potential to rattle Ponting and Co.

Chappell said another big difference was the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

"Dhoni is a good aggressive captain who challenges the Australians, while Graeme Smith relies on a conservative approach rah-rah speeches.

"South Africa is a very determined team and they field as though their life depends on it but they play a conservative brand of cricket that was never going to beat the Australia of old. This is a lesson India learned a while ago and they are even better equipped for toe-to-toe combat with Australia now that Dhoni has ascended to the Test captaincy," he said.

Chappell said it was creditable for India to beat Australia when they were in their prime.

"In India's favour, they challenged and beat Australia when they were in their prime, while South Africa is challenging Ponting's ageing and wounded team.

"India has displayed the nerve and skill to win matches against Australia on their turf and in the most daunting of venues, the WACA. Now South Africa has done the same. The race is on to dethrone Australia," he said.

The media Down Under said the Australian cricketing empire was crumbling and the Perth defeat was a grim prelude to the days of uncertainty that await the once all-conquering world champions.

The media lambasted senior players like Matthew Hayden and Brett Lee for failing to raise their games as Australia failed to defend a mammoth 413 in the Perth Test, which the South Africans won with six wickets in hand.

"The Proteas' famous win to chase down 414 in Perth - the second highest successful chase in cricket history - erased the mental demons from repeated post-apartheid failures in Australia," said 'The Daily Telegraph'.

An astonished former player Michael Slater said, "I can't believe what I have seen, it is an amazing achievement." Senior cricket writer Robert Craddock said the Aussie players have become too arrogant and their hyped reputations have taken a thorough beating after the Perth debacle.

"The message booming out to Australia after losing the unlosable Test match is that some of their key players are over-rated, lacking form or too arrogant for their own good," he said.

"And some, like captain Ricky Ponting, need to have a look at themselves and the damage negative body language can do when the team has been driven on to the backfoot," Craddock said.

"Ponting cannot be expected to be Mr Perfect but his body language is substandard when the side needs him most. Becoming a human tea pot when young bowlers such as Peter Siddle or Jason Krejza are under pressure just creates more pressure in a side where insecurity is already spreading like a juicy rumour," he pointed out.

He said with the retirement of bowling mainstays Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, Ponting's gambles suddenly look suicidal.

"When you have Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne in your attack you can take as many gambles as you like and there will always be someone to wipe up your mess. Not so when you have three of your four bowlers out of form," he explained.

"Brett Lee used to regard the WACA as his personal playground so he will be shattered at returning the poor match figures of -132.

"Despite upending a glorified club side called New Zealand a few weeks ago he has become a bowler in decline because his pace is down and he does not have many other weapons. Lee without pace is Sampson without his hair.

Australia had pencilled him in as their anchorman for at least another 14 months.

"Matthew Hayden sadly has lost his mojo," he declared.

'The Age' said the "Proteas' dominance suggests they are cricket's new top dogs".

"As South African cricket toasted its finest hour, Australians were left to ponder whether a new world order had been established in Test cricket," the newspaper said.

"Australians had questioned South Africa's claims to the International Cricket Council Test mace when two of its series wins this year had been over Bangladesh. Now, no such questions are being asked," it said.

Writing in 'The Sydney Morning Herald', noted writer Peter Roebuck said, "As far as the Australians were concerned, the result was calamitous. (Mitchell) Johnson won them the match and the rest contrived to throw it away. Not that all were equally to blame, and Brad Haddin and Brett Lee deserve commendation. Even so, it was a second-rate performance.

"The Australians batted horribly and threw wickets away recklessly, none more so than Andrew Symonds, in whom a beleaguered captain has put so much trust," he said.

The newspaper said, "The cricketing empire imagined by Allan Border, forged by Mark Taylor and defended by Steve Waugh is facing its greatest threat after South Africa's marauders subjected Australia to their most dispiriting home defeat of the modern era.

"Perhaps most concerning aspect of the defeat is that the senior players, not the juniors, failed to fire. The veteran core of Matthew Hayden, Lee, Michael Hussey and Ponting had little impact while relative newcomers Johnson and Brad Haddin accounted for the lion's share of wickets and runs."