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Monday 19 Feb 2018 | 13:16 | SYDNEY
Monday 19 Feb 2018 | 13:16 | SYDNEY

Australia's decline as a world power



5 January 2009 15:03

For me, a signal event of the summer break has been South Africa's victory in the test cricket series against Australia, marking definitively the end of Australia's domination of the sport. After around 15 years as the lone superpower of world cricket, we can now count ourselves as one of three or four competing powers, along with India, South Africa and perhaps England.

And when the winning captain uses phrases like 'power shift' and 'new world order' to describe the implications of his side's victory, he is practically inviting foreign policy pundits to draw weak parallels and look for dodgy metaphors. So who am I to resist? Here are some foreign policy lessons I would draw:

  1. Plan for your own decline: Australia is unlikely to go the way of its superpower predecessor, the West Indies, which has become a second-rate cricketing power since Australia beat them in the mid-90s. West Indies relied on natural assets and spent little on infrastructure and youth development. Australia has not made the same mistake so should avoid a precipitous decline.
  2. Practise diplomacy even when you don't need to: Australian teams of the last fifteen years have had a decidedly mixed record when it comes to their behaviour on and off the field. Winning excuses an awful lot, but when the good times end, it helps to have some good will to fall back on.
  3. Being a superpower is harder than becoming a superpower: Australia maintained its no.1 position through tactical, commercial, administrative and training innovations. To a degree, rivals have able to free-ride, copying some of these innovations at less cost. But now South Africa or India must lead...
  4. Economics drives politics: Most of the game's administrative clout now rests in India, which is where the money is.

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