Australia, or at least the Australian press, seem to be the only ones who don't think the side has a shot against India tomorrow. The obituaries are already old news, written when the quarter-final line-up became apparent; the story has already moved on to when and how Ricky Ponting will be sacked.
Conspiracies abound, the Ides of March are here. Ricky has been knifed, it's just not entirely clear by who. Was it the anonymous Cricket Australia drone who briefed against him at the press conference? Was it the survey that said cricket in Oz needs to reconnect with the younger fans? Perhaps it was the tattooed, metrosexual Brutus himself, Michael Clarke, who Ponting 'privately believes' has been undermining him?
It's odd to see them this way, stabbing each other in the back - not least because in Australia there are plenty of people willing to stab you in the front first. The blowhards had their say on Ponting after the Ashes. Here is something altogether more sinister, less straight-up, less Australian.
For so long, Australia's strength has been its strength, its sense of common purpose. Every player, however great - and there are plenty of those - bowed to overall goals of the team. Now, there is no great team and just one great player, and look what is happening to him.
India are exactly the sort of side Australia used to relish destroying, a team seeking dominance that could nonetheless be dominated by imposition of will. Mental disintegration they called it. Now things are disintegrating around Australia. They are even questioning the long-cherished, no-quarter tenets of their game, comparing Ponting's refusal to walk unfavourably with Tendulkar's decision to. When you cop it for not walking in Australia, the dogs are at the door.
Australia are crumbling from the outside in. One thing that's certain about Ponting is, he won't crumble himself.
Like the old saying goes, sometimes you don't know what you got till it's gone.
Addendum: Reading the above back, I suppose the point I'm lumbering towards is not that Australia's captain may change - that's a judgement call that can be fairly made either way - it's that the culture around the team has changed, and not for the better. Border, Taylor and Waugh departed with varying degrees of 'encouragement', but the culture around Australian cricket remained, and the successor on each occasion was a man of substance. None of those certainties exist now.
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