MELBOURNE, Jan 4: "Australian cricket dead and buried".
The headline in the "The Daily Telegraph" perfectly summed up the mood as Australia plunged into depression following the cricket team's first home series defeat in 16 years and chief selector Andrew Hilditch finds himself at the receiving end of the media wrath after the debacle against South Africa.
"The echo of the ball flying off the confident bat of South Africa's Hashim Amla yesterday was the death rattle of Australia's record 16 years without a series loss at home.
"Analysts investigating Australia's dramatic Test cricket demise say there are no suspicious circumstances," the writer said.
The daily also ran a mock obituary of Australian cricket which read "R.I.P. Australian cricket slaughtered by South Africa December 30 at the MCG. Aided and abetted by: Incompetent selectors, Inept batting, Impotent Bowling Dreadful Catching, Poor Captaincy."
Explaining what ails Australian cricket, the writer said, "It simply followed a short illness complicated by player arrogance, chronic selection short-sightedness, poor captaincy decisions, unreliable batting, indecisive bowling and fielding clumsiness.
"Any obituary will say the few spasms of competitiveness Australia mustered in both Tests were brutally amputated by a cohesive South Africa, who recorded their first series victory in Australia," he said.
Doubting Australia's number one status in ICC rankings, the report said, "Australia, propped up by statistics, are still No. 1 in world rankings. But after dismal series losses to India and South Africa, this Australian team is so lifeless it could come to the next Test in a hearse.
In the same daily, Ben Dorries asked a blunt question -- "Who on earth selected the selectors?"
"The head of Australian selection boss Andrew Hilditch should be on the chopping block after his shambolic handling of the side's casualty ward and the extension of Matthew Hayden's career," he said.
"Hilditch said last night it was not time for "chopping and changing" the side. If now isn't the time, after one of the most demoralising efforts ever by an Australian side, then when is it?" he asked.
"Former selection chairman Trevor Hohns, an uncompromising man who made the tough decisions, would have had none of it. He was the man who famously denied Ian Healy a farewell Gabba Test, telling the wicketkeeping great he had played three more Tests than he deserved," he recalled.
"The whole saga around Australian selections has become a disgrace," added the writer.
Insisting that Hilditch and fellow selectors should be made to pay for selection blunders, the report said, "Our cricketers are accountable for their actions and their million-dollar paypackets are scrutinised with their performances every day.
"It is time for Hilditch and fellow selectors Merv Hughes, David Boon and Jamie Cox to also be accountable."
Not sparing Cricket Australia either, the writer said, "If it is good enough for the Reserve Bank to explain why it raised or slashed interest rates then it is good enough for the bosses of Australia's favourite sporting team to explain theirs on a much more regular basis."
Robert Craddock of 'Courier Mail' echoed the same view and turned the heat on the selectors for their handling of injured all-rounders Andrew Symonds and Shane Watson.
By picking Symonds in the first place at the start of the summer, the selectors ignored whispers on every street corner in Brisbane that the all-rounder was simply not mentally ready to return after being dumped for the "gone fishing" scandal," he said.
"If only the selectors had done their homework and rated Symonds on his current form and mental state and not where he was a year ago," Craddock said.
"Hilditch, who has done a modest job as national selection chairman since taking the post from Trevor Hohns, has changed 15 successive Test teams. Talk about a team becoming a transit lounge," he remarked.
The writer squarely blamed the selectors for not chalking up a comprehensive plan to deal with the absence of a host of great players, including Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, who retired in quick successions.
"Australia have paid a heavy price for not formulating succession plans for the retirements of spinners Shane Warne, Stuart MacGill and Brad Hogg.
"Like a child on Christmas morning, the selectors simply expected there would be a present under their tree," he said.