Melbourne: For years it was the cricket team which rivals feared, but Australia have now become a "group of mere mortals", said pacer Stuart Clark as he blamed a flawed doemstic system for the side's quarterfinal exit from the World Cup in the sub-sontinent.
The three-time defending champions were handed a five-wicket defeat by India in the last-eight stage and Clark felt it exposed a lot of chinks in the Aussies' armour.
"The World Cup is gone, the Ashes are gone and the once mighty Australian cricket team is now just a group of mere mortals, capable of winning on their day but also capable of being belted. The team that was feared throughout the world for many years faces a tough question: How does it become the No.1 power again?" Clark wrote in 'The Age'.
"Issues such as selection policy, team preparation, the captaincy, the coaching and team management will be high on the agenda. But what might be more important is how Cricket Australia uses domestic cricket and its flow-on effects on the national team," he added.
Clark, who is out of the national side due to injury, said Australia's domestic circuit has not produced the kind of great players who left the scene a few years ago.
"For years, Australia's dominance was based on the strength of its domestic cricket. In the era of Taylor and Waugh, the domestic game was at its strongest. The likes of Matthew Hayden, Darren Lehman, Andy Bichel and Michael Kasprowicz were all on the fringes of the national side.
"On the domestic scene, they competed hard, but played fair, and in doing so created an environment of toughness and competitiveness. As a young man coming into the game, you were provided with the best learning ground and when or if you made it to the next level, you were match-hardened and match-ready," he pointed out.
"Things have changed. Nowadays, unfortunately, the mantra is youth. Fundamentally, you cannot disagree with this ideal, but the fact is such an approach does have its limits, especially if applied too rigidly. Through the national selection panel and the implementation of the national talent managers, Cricket Australia has taken control of domestic cricket, and runs the show," he added.
Clark said Australia dominated for two decades on the strength of their domestic circuit and they need to focus on it once again to revive the fortunes internationally.
"Australian cricket was successful for the past 20 years because each state was allowed to use its knowledge to identify talent and turn it into ability. We should realise that the success of the Australian team is based on the states, not the other way around," he said.