In a tour filled so far with nothing but defeat, India can count up one win: Zaheer Khan's victory over Brad Haddin has been absolute. Having slapped him down verbally before the game in Perth, he cleaned him up for nought out in the middle. No send off of recent times has been as richly-earned.
Australia are reviving, moving on, or at least 10 of them are. There is new blood at either end of the team sheet. Now they need some behind the sticks. That there isn't any is Haddin's great good fortune and the seriously injured Tim Paine's vast bad luck. Haddin's first three years of Test cricket returned averages of 38.77, 44.12 and 38.75. Each contained a century. He was no Gilchrist, but then who is? Yet 2011 has been a year of precipitous decline - an average of 20.93 that dips to 17.00 when his top score of 80 is removed. Under Clarke's captaincy it's 19.70, and studded with dismissals that suggest a man mentally shot, a notion reinforced by some comedy keeping. If he drove to the wicket in an exploding car, he couldn't look any more of a clown.
So when Haddin laid into India before the Perth match, he hardly spoke from a position of strength. His was the first name India would have written down for the Aussie squad. Yet here he was: 'India break quicker than anyone in the world. We know this side can be as fragile as anyone in the world. They can turn on each other,' said Haddin, before providing an illuminating discourse on how to dismiss Sachin Tendulkar.
What really jarred was not Haddin's needless disrespect, or even his galumphing lack of self awareness, but just how out of step he felt with the new Australia. The shift has been subtle but distinct, the air of hubris that surrounded the end of empire has dissipated. It's a team that is forming in the image of its captain, less okker, less Strine, more sleekly metrosexual. That's no dig: Clarke has stepped up. He has been a realistic and respectful captain, he has a set a new tone and he has earned the right to express his vision.
In a year's time, it's hard to see him allowing someone like Haddin to make remarks like that [it's hard to see Haddin still being in the side to make them, too]. The thought that Strauss and Flower might let, say, Eoin Morgan do the same thing seems absurd.
The new Australian team, like many new teams, is erratic and prone to collapse, but it would but churlish to deny that there is something there; a new energy, renewed spirit, palpable ambition. It has been well expressed by Clarke's batting. Haddin's remarks, dismissive of men he is fortunate to share a field with, are backward-looking. Clarke could have been forgiven a cheeky smirk at Zak's send-off for his keeper too.
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