In bat with Slats
Michael Slater is a former opening batsman for Australia and now well respected member of the Wide World of Sports cricket commentary team.
Have your say on the summer of cricket.
Looking back on the long summer of cricket, it has been one of the most enjoyable seasons I can remember. Certainly from the commentary box there was barely a dull moment as Australia went a long way towards regaining their place at the top of world cricket.
The stand-out performance of the summer was the combined effort of a rejuvenated Australia pace attack. Coach Mickey Arthur and bowling coach Craig McDermott have worked some magic and created an arsenal which will once again strike fear into batting line-ups around the world. The emergence of young guns James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins has been a revelation. The way they worked as a team with the older guys in Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris and a re-invented Ben Hilfenhaus was the main factor behind Australia's dominance over India.
I expected a whole lot more from India in the Test series, and also in the One-day International (ODI) series where they failed to live up to their world champion status. As disappointing as India were, Australia's bowling attack was responsible for their downfall from the very first Test of the tour. Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and the great Sachin Tendulkar all made half centuries in India's first innings at the MCG. At any other time, against any other attack, at least one of them would have been expected to go on to score a hundred and a big hundred at that. But Australia's bowlers stuck to their line and length, worked together as a unit and all three were bowled out, even though well into their innings. It set the tone for the whole summer and the biggest disappointment probably came from India's lack of a decent display of fight and determination from then on.
Once the ODI tri-series rolled around, we were shown the way forward for India in the form of Virat Kohli. While he went overboard a couple of times and probably shouldn't have taken things off field, I think the fire and absolute pride he obviously has in playing for India was very refreshing. It showed me that the time has come for India to start the transition from their older champions to the new brigade and Dravid's retirement shows the process is already underway.
With the bat for Australia, the emergence of David Warner was something special. The 180 he crunched at the WACA was an innings we haven't seen in Test cricket since Adam Gilchrist went wild at the same venue. The fact that Warner did it opening the batting against the new ball attack made it so very special. He brings a level of excitement to all three forms of the game that ensures the crowds will keep coming back.
The development of Michael Clarke into a great leader and a devastating batsman was also great to watch. Clarke proved that when his back holds up he is one of the best batsmen in the world. Together with coach Arthur he has turned the team around and has it heading in the right direction. A three-nil Test series win in the West Indies will push Australia towards the number two spot. If they keep improving and developing, their dramatic fall from the top will become a distant memory and a whole lot quicker than anyone realistically expected.
Arthur is an understated coach who wants his players up front taking the credit for all they achieve. He is more than happy working away in the background, making the changes and moves needed to keep this progression going. He deserves a lot of the credit, but he will be happy to escape the limelight for now at least.
When next summer rolls around, Australia will face one of its biggest tests, taking on South Africa. By then South Africa will know they are up against a mighty adversary. They'll certainly be facing a much tougher and more confident opposition than Australia would have presented before Micky Arthur took over.
Australia faces South Africa and Sri Lanka before the 2013 Ashes Tour – by the end of it I expect them to be back at number one where they belong.
Did you enjoy the 2011/12 summer of cricket?
What were your highlights from the summer?