THE Australian summer season is over. It's too soon to say whether some careers are over as well but this is one season which has had its ups and downs much more than others. One thing is certain - no longer will any cricket writer, be he Australian or any other, continue to try and propagate the myth that this team is anywhere close to a world-beating outfit such as the West Indies teams of the 1980s and 1990s.
There was plenty of this kind of talk at the time when Steve Waugh's team won 16 Tests on the trot - though, apart from three, all were over pretty pathetic opposition. This team was likened to Bradman's Invincibles and the great teams led by Lloyd and Richards. The problem is, many actually believed that statistics could turn a painting by someone like Pru Hart into one by Rembrandt.
The scales have now fallen from everybody's eyes. In the main, it was the New Zealanders who exposed the Australian team's weaknesses, both in the Tests and the one-dayers. After five years, the Australian one-day team had to watch the finals of its own home triangular on TV while South Africa and New Zealand fought for honours. Try as they could, the Australians could not win a Test over New Zealand - in fact, it was the Kiwis who came close to winning two out of three.
At the end of the season, there are serious doubts about whether the Waughs should continue to be part of the game. There seems to be more of a cloud over Mark than Steve and unless Mark can come up with a few good batting performances in South Africa, he may well have to hang up his boots. Steve may be able to hang around for a few more series as he is captain - provided he does make some runs against the South Africans.
More than anything, it is the one-day series which has cast doubts on Steve's longevity. He insisted on following a policy of rotating players (except himself and a few others) and inexplicably left out the in-form Matthew Hayden from the first one-day game. Hayden did get in for games later but at times one break is enough to break a man's run of form. By the time Steve was convinced to play his best team, the Australians were in danger of missing the finals of their own triangular tournament.
Officialdom has made its displeasure known - no longer will the national selectors be entrusting the selection of teams on tour to the captain, vice-captain and the one selector who is with the team. No, it will all be done by the same trio. Steve's chances of playing God are thus very much lessened. It is well known that at least one Australian player has been kept out of the game because he spoke out against what he called Steve's autocratic handling of the team.
Waugh's batting has gone downhill and it was pathetic to see him bowl during the one-day series. I have seen him bowl right from 1986-87 onwards when the team went to India. Then, he was Border's partnership breaker. Today he cannot even bowl straight. If he does badly in South Africa, I hope the selectors speak to him gently and advise him that it might be better to jump before he is pushed.