Watching South Africa roll Pakistan for its lowest ever Test score of 49 in Johannesburg (with Dale Steyn in irrepressible form returning figures of 6-8) reminded one of just how disappointing it was when Australia had the Proteas on the rack twice and couldn’t finish the business.
That was in the first two Tests in Australia, though it does seem aeons ago. It also signalled the start of the controversy over the ‘‘player management policy’’, with the resting of Peter Siddle for the crunch final match and Mitchell Starc from the Boxing Day prize coming in for extensive debate.
Today the brains trust that has guided the team this summer will apparently meet for a progress report before the board, while cricket lovers and critics recover from the dizziness of the turnstile selections that have characterised the summer.
Which leads us to one staunch critic.
The problem with Shane Warne’s brief manifesto (part one in this case ) was that too many old mates littered his rejigged hierarchy at the top of Australian cricket and that gave his whole gambit an unfavourably anachronistic view.
It’s also apparent that Warne, who was credibility epitomised not so long ago, has lost some clout with the very people he’s supposed to represent – both players and fans, and certainly cricket Australia gurus.
The way has to be forward, whether with the incumbents or a new line-up. But one expects the prospect of a change in personnel to be remote.
Cricket Australia has to back its current bosses; after all, they put them there and it would be a significant loss of face to upend all and sundry on the back of an army of disgruntled fans.
But there is a massive test coming up in India. Players like Ed Cowan just have to fire. So does Shane Watson, who’s now commanding a batsman-only position.
Forget what has been happening against Sri Lanka and the West Indies. Playing India at home represents the real Ashes barometer.
Lance not a scapegoat
Lance Armstrong feels he’s been made a ‘‘scapegoat’’ for the ills of cycling but as with his first outpouring with Oprah Winfrey, he misses the point.
As the top end of cycling ... the sport’s symbol for all things wonderful during his reign, and the man who benefited most by cheating for 13-plus years, Armstrong was always going to pay the highest price as the biggest winner from the fraud.
That’s how it works. As well, none of the other cyclists who were on the juice were as arrogant, deceptive or bullying to protect their unstable ground as Armstrong.
We’ve only seen this week the meek, contrite admission from Danish cyclist Michael Rasmussen about the extent of his fraudulent behaviour for 12 years.
The difference between Rasmussen and Armstrong is not just the level of success, it’s the level of contrition.
Rasmussen seems a shattered man and just hasn’t been able to live with the deception. He needed to lift the weight. Armstrong was cornered into his admission. He was sorry he was caught. He never believed he was cheating.
In life you tend to get what you deserve. A scapegoat? Just cop your punishment and disappear from public view, please.
Mundine circus sad to watch
It should have been the end, as in retirement terms, of Anthony Mundine, with a graceful acceptance speech (in defeat) and an equally graceful exit after his IBF middleweight title challenge against Daniel Geale.
Unfortunately, in this case the box office is going to determine the outcome of Mundine’s career, and at the moment it’s saying Mundine is a priceless commodity who puts bums on seats.
The irony is, as unpopular as Mundine is for his mouth and manners, he’s such a polarising influence that people will tune in to see him squawk and dance just to see him flat on his back.
All this is tawdry stuff for a sports person of any ilk, let alone one who rates himself in the top echelon of sports people across history.
The thing about Mundine is that he’s been extremely poorly advised, and hasn’t helped himself by fighting a range of dud opponents in the lead-up to Geale and pockmarked through his career.
If Mundine had exercised a touch more grace and humility throughout his career, on the advice of his management and family, he would be supported rather than vilified.
That his confidantes haven’t seen that the siege mentality and the brainless rudeness have been counterproductive is gobsmacking.
Mundine should have exercised some discretion and punted them long ago.
Sadly, he had no-one to tell him. I didn’t have the remotest interest in paying to watch the Mundine fight and certainly won’t be putting the hand in the till next time. And I do find that a little sad.
Webb still has the drive to win
Something very strange is happening in women’s golf.
We’ve had teenagers with the brazenness and poise of competitors 20 years their senior making waves at the Ladies Masters on the Gold Coast.
We’ve had a player detailing how she’d been stalked, another owning up to repetitive bouts of anxiety and another to boredom and loneliness on tour, and that’s just scratching the surface.
Early last year after her New Zealand Open win, Lindsey Wright opened up about her depression and the effect it had on her career.
Just this week at the Ladies Masters at Royal Pines, another Australian golfer, Kristie Smith, admitted to bouts of anxiety which were threatening to derail her career.
The daughter of former West Australian professional Wayne Smith said it was the ‘‘expectation’’ on her to perform after being hailed as the ‘‘next Karrie Webb’’ as a youngster.
The pressure of performing well choked her to a point where she could barely pull the club head back at address. Golf was not enjoyable and a great fear enveloped her. Tripping in and out of various professional sports, you sometimes get a misconception that it is a glamorous lifestyle. Yet how painful for a 24-year-old to find the enjoyment evaporating from her desired profession.
Naturally, the effervescent Smith sought some help with her mental approach and has headed into the new year with renewed confidence.
She cruelled her chances of winning the Masters with a roller coaster second round, where it seemed the demons reappeared for short spells.
Hopefully she finds the secret.
Smith’s dilemma makes one wonder about the strength of character of 16-year-old Su Oh, who qualified for an Australian Open as a 12-year-old.
Her demeanour is extraordinary and she appears to be playing without pressure. Hopefully, when the spotlight falls onto her relentlessly, as it tends to do, she will have the support cast and friends around her to keep her grounded.
A practise round with Karrie Webb before the Australian Open next week at Royal Canberra might be beneficial in more ways than one.
And what about Karrie Webb? Win or not yesterday, that remarkable swing just keeps on firing.
Currently 17th in the world, Webb still has the hunger to drive her career forward at the tender age of 38.
She wants another major and to compete at the Olympics. And she has 16-year-olds who were not even born when she won her first tournament coming at her.
More than 50 wins and seven majors. Webb is right at the very top of athletes Australia has produced