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I don’t know why, but Esther Phillips’ 1970s song “What a Difference a Day Makes” popped into my mind the other day when I was thinking about cricket.
For Australian cricket, it’s been the last three months that have turned our cricket upside down in so many ways.
We are now almost at the end of December, so think back to the beginning of October this year.
Australia have named their final squad for the T20 World Cup and all the usual suspects were there.
The only selection issue was probably leaving out Dan Christian, but otherwise they were the best band available.
There were a lot of reviews. David Warner was out of shape and was dropped by his IPL franchise. We had no closer hitters.
People wondered who would hit where in order and whether Mitch Marsh and Marcus Stoinis should be on the team and if so, what were their roles?
At the same time, Justin Langer was under pressure again as a coach, thanks to the media reporting on the issues raised by the players months earlier.
The one thing the vast majority agreed on: this was not a team that was going to seriously fight for the World Cup.
Australia were part of the so-called squad of death, playing alongside England and West Indies, both of whom were due to feature in the final.
That wasn’t a bad thing as it would give the team’s Test players plenty of red ball game time in preparation for the Ashes.
Many, like me, would have been happy to see the team on the plane back after the group stages.
Still, it was depressing that a national team had no chance of winning.
Ashes were bubbling in the background, and the recurring nature of the planning left many dazed and confused.
Nick Hockley spoke of the tour as if it was a done deal as more than a few England players expressed concerns about coming to Australia.
Some of the Ashes discussion centered on Tim Paine’s captain and there was a lot of heated debate about the roar whether he should even be in the side, let alone be the captain.
Then there was a similar debate about Mitchell Starc, with more than one suggesting his days were numbered, while Nathan Lyon wasn’t getting much love, especially after his early performances in the Shield. Again, this is all very depressing.
October was a bad month for Australian cricket. We won against South Africa, did better against Sri Lanka, then we were definitely beaten by England in the World Cup.
Will Puckovski suffered his tenth concussion, leaving everyone wondering who would open with Warner in the Ashes.
The Shield limped off, thanks to scheduling issues due to COVID. Luckily there was cricket and things started to look up in November.
The Ashes tour has been finalised, dates have been confirmed and England have announced their squad. More players have started to show form in the Shield, especially Jhye Richardson, Travis Head and Usman Khawaja.
In the World Cup, Australia never lost another game after this cover-up by England and reached the semi-finals, which led to a completely unlikely duo – Matty Wade and Marcus Stoinis – guiding the team to the final.
In the final, Mitch Marsh – the man many love to hate – played an outstanding run to guide Australia to their maiden T20 World Cup.
All of a sudden, the pessimism of the previous months was replaced by a lot of ‘feeling good’ and Aussie happiness…until Tim Paine announced his resignation as Australian Test captain.
In the month that followed, there were very few negatives when it came to Australian cricket.
Pat Cummins was named skipper and won his first test as captain, Steve Smith joined as winning skipper in Adelaide, Alex Carey slotted into the caretaker role beautifully while Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser showed that losing James Pattinson to retirement didn’t weaken our test too fast bowling stocks.
Add two interesting Ashes Tests, excellent batting from Warner, Marnus Labuschagne, Smith and Head, equally good bowling from all rapids, Nathan Lyon and Cameron Green and what started off as a rather depressing October turned turned into a very positive December. .
I look forward to the continuation of this Ashes series.
Aussie cricket is feeling very positive at the moment and hopefully that feeling will continue beyond the end of our summer and into 2022.