Inside Sport - - BRAIN FOOD - BY DANIEL BRET­TIG, VIK­ING, ¤. – Jeff Cen­ten­era “““““

Up un­til 2007, Aus­tralian cricket en­joyed a two-decade hey­day to match any golden age. What hap­pened next was in many ways more in­ter­est­ing, in the hap­haz­ard man­ner of em­pires pass­ing their peak. That’s the premise of this the­mat­i­cally clever sweep of Aus­tralian cricket (subti­tled “Aus­tralian cricket’s years of strug­gle and sum­mer of riches”), book­ended by the Ashes se­ries white­washes of 2007 and 2014. From that last Test match mo­ment of Warne and McGrath to the most re­cent victory over Eng­land, the baggy green has en­dured all man­ner of upticks, false dawns and prat­falls, all within a nar­ra­tive that is still play­ing out.

Au­thor Daniel Bret­tig, who cov­ers the sport’s daily grind for ESPN cricinfo, takes a step back to put this era into per­spec­tive. Mon­key­gate marks a piv­otal early mo­ment, as gen­er­a­tional change in the dress­ing room, fraught re­la­tions be­tween play­ers and head of­fice and the eco­nomic power of In­dia all emerge as in­flu­ences that will be felt through­out this pe­riod. Australia’s crick­eters and its sup­port­ers, so long used to win­ning, sud­denly have to ad­just to the harsh re­al­i­ties of de­feat.

As the say­ing goes, you learn more from los­ing. It’s prob­a­bly true, but the lessons are not guar­an­teed to be ab­sorbed in the smoothest or most ef­fi­cient way. An­other of the book’s strong points is its at­ten­tion paid to Cricket Australia’s chal­lenges, as it at­tempts to stay abreast of the cul­tural and com­mer­cial changes wrought by T20. Lin­ger­ing ques­tions of lead­er­ship within the or­gan­i­sa­tion, par­tic­u­larly with re­spect to the po­si­tions of cap­tain and coach, come to a head with the homework de­ba­cle of 2013. With Clarke’s sta­tus up in the air, this is a ques­tion yet to be re­solved. While Bret­tig’s epi­logue is a lovely vi­gnette ded­i­cated to Phil Hughes, there’s surely some­thing in store for a re­vised edi­tion down the line. The right book at the right time.

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