WHITEWASH TO WHITEWASH
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.