Former England cricket captain Michael Atherton has endorsed News Limited cricket writer Robert Craddock view that Australia`s cricketers are too soft; are paid too much and their young players are too mollycoddled, too much too soon.
Suggesting that today`s Australian team are a "sorry lot in saggy (as opposed to baggy) green caps, Atherton, in a write-up for The Times, agrees with Craddock`s view that the Australian selectors are also too conservative and that the game is losing popularity among young Australians.
He says the system is broken and warns that this lack of confidence is catching.
"Australia used to be no country for old men; it is growing old and pessimistic before our eyes," Atherton says.
He further goes on to say: "Australians do not usually do introspection. Certainly, the players have the same doubts, the same nerves as everyone else, but once a thing is done, it is best forgotten and the future faced with a certain confidence and bravado."
"How strange, then, to have landed in Australia this week and to sense in the air real doubt, gloom and English-style angst. There is the smell of fear, even. The French have already nipped off with the Melbourne Cup and the rugby has gone badly. Worse, the Poms are here to give us a stuffing," he adds.
He says that the local press has turned their guns inward. The mood is grim and it is catching, he adds.
"The selectors have been pilloried for picking a 17-man squad. Utter confusion, people say. Never mind that this can easily be read as a quiet, two-fingered salute from the selectors to Cricket Australia`s absurd marketing department, which wanted a glitzy affair at Circular Quay in Sydney and got a deserved damp squib instead," Atherton says.
"It used to be cricket before money; now it is the other way round. Suddenly, it is the flaws that are highlighted. Critics have noticed a Pommification of local cricket, not that this is regarded as a good thing. A full-time selector, Greg Chappell, has been appointed, the first in Australia`s history. The media are attracted to him rather than the low-key, low-profile lawyer-cum-convener of selectors, Andrew Hilditch. Chappell has plenty to say and is quoted as saying Australia will play a spinner at the Gabba. What if it is a green top? Chappell was a great player, but his lack of success in management has been noted," says Atherton.
"Like the Poms, Cricket Australia has turned to management-speak. It uses ridiculous phrases such as "pre-missions", "debriefing", "task distractions" and "flawless execution". At great expense, it encourages Ricky Ponting`s men to sit around and speak openly at the end of a day`s play to each other without recriminations. Straight talking from Australians used to be a given," he adds.
He concludes by saying: "It is a fair dinkum Australia we want to beat, not Australia in English clothes."