THE current federal election campaign shares many striking similarities to the one-sided Ashes series between Australia and England in the UK, which concluded this week.
First up, those watching the five Test series held little doubt in their heart of hearts about which team would eventually win the battle and only kept watching to find out what the final margin would be.
Only fading light in the final Test at the Oval in London this week prevented Australia from suffering an unprecedented 4-0 Ashes whipping by cricket’s oldest enemy.
Just like the approaching final stanza of the five week election campaign, the last Test was played as a dead rubber with little spark as the series result was already decided.
We can expect some interesting moments in the last week of the election campaign between the two traditional foes and maybe even some old fashioned political sledging like the ‘friendly’ banter between Michael Clarke and Kevin Pietersen at the Oval.
But overall, listening to Kevin Rudd deliver more spending and policy promises while talking about the nation’s future in a re-elected Labor government will be like an AFL captain kicking a flat football at the goals, while his team trails by 10 goals in the final quarter of a grand final.
Just weeks before the Ashes series started, the Australian cricket camp was thrust into total disarray when team coach Mickey Arthur was suddenly replaced by Darren Lehmann in a largely desperate manoeuvre by Australian cricket authorities to try and resolve chronic internal chaos, ill-discipline and irreconcilable personality disputes.
Just weeks before the election campaign started, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard was replaced by Kevin Rudd for similar reasons.
Unlike Lehmann, some would say Mr Rudd was largely to blame for his team’s chronic internal dysfunction and only returned to try and repair the mess he originally made.
The change of coach and leader did however achieve the temporary result of breaking the routing and breathing some much-needed life back into the two contests.
Mr Rudd has zipped around the nation like a happy little Vegemite making all kinds of big promises to the nation, aimed at many different social and economic targets, mostly in marginal seats.
But his efforts are akin to an enthusiastic but erratic spell of fast bowling aimed at a well-settled batsman, Tony Abbott, who has been occupying the crease for four years now and has well and truly adapted to the light and pitch conditions.
Mr Abbott has also been backed by a well settled, stable line-up of experienced performers and a front bench that’s caused some debate but few genuine headaches for the selectors – just like the English team.
In the end, there have been very few threatening challenges for Mr Abbott or his team to counter from their political foes and the actual contest has been largely uninspiring as a result.
In the end, the new team coach yielded little impact for Australia on the final machinations of the Ashes series and so it seems will the new Prime Minister, if the polls are accurate.
If Lehmann was brought in at the last minute to avert a total 5-0 catastrophe and pave the way for future stability, his efforts could be deemed something of a marginal success.
In similar style, if Mr Rudd’s job was to save a few Labor seats in Queensland and retain some talent in the party, the final analysis may also be somewhat kinder.
Just like the Australian Ashes team, the ALP’s campaign has suffered greatly from a sudden loss of talent and experience prior to the contest starting and again, unwavering conflict within leadership ranks is largely to blame.
Michael Hussey retired from the international cricket in January when most experts considered he still had a lot to offer with the bat in the upcoming Ashes series.
His wealth of experience and successes in English conditions over many years would have added immeasurable value to Michael Clarke’s largely inexperienced team and vulnerable top order batting line-up.
Other experienced players with proven performance records and runs on the board have also disappeared too early – like Simon Katich – citing unresolvable issues with Clarke’s dictatorial leadership style and sense of entitlement personality.
Similar to Hussey’s loss from the Ashes, the re-arrival of Prime Minister Rudd saw the mass exodus of experienced senior Labor MPs with proven performance records like Craig Emerson, Steve Smith, Nicola Roxon, Simon Crean and others.
Could the ALP have performed better if these MPs weren’t missing in action?
Now we’ll never know, just like the absence of Hussey and Katich.
But one thing’s clear, the ALP team’s performance would have been far more potent without the internal divisions.
Another intriguing similarity is the level of complaint directed at the quality of umpiring in the Ashes series by Australian players on a losing team.
That point struck me like a Dennis Lillee bouncer after hearing Kevin Rudd playing the victim in blaming extreme bias in the Murdoch press for his party’s poor performance and influence over voters.
But good and bad media, just like good and bad umpires, really has little influence over the final result when your team’s copping a deserved flogging against a better team.
And to win any respect as a leader, you’ve got to take your medicine, get on with the game and focus on your own team’s performance, rather than revert to blaming external factors.
The key fact is; the English bowlers earned more reasons to shout and appeal at the umpires during the Ashes series as their skill exposed the poor techniques and out of form batting of inexperienced players like Phil Hughes, David Warner, Ed Cowan and Usman Khawaja.
Watching Mr Rudd talk about media bias also reminded me of an ageing out of form spinner who has been throwing up loose deliveries in hope, to in-form batsman in a strategic, planned team, and getting belted out of the park continually – but still can’t come to grips with the true reality of the actual contest.