Where does Australia go from here?

Glenn McGrath First it was Martyn. Then went Warnie. Then it will be McGrath. That leaves the current Australian team with only a few seasoned campaigners, all of who are well into their 30s. Let’s face it, Ponting’s not exactly young at 32. Neither are Gilchrist, Hayden or even Hussey for that matter. Maybe Hussey has the most time left.

But 12 months down the line, the Australian line-up could well look dramatically different…

Australia Test XI in Perth (3rd Test, Ashes 2006)

  1. Matthew Hayden (35 yrs)
  2. Justin Langer (36 yrs)
  3. Ricky Ponting (32 yrs)
  4. Michael Hussey (31 yrs)
  5. Michael Clarke (25 yrs)
  6. Andrew Symonds (31 yrs)
  7. Adam Gilchrist (35 yrs)
  8. Shane Warne (37 yrs; retiring for sure)
  9. Brett Lee (30 yrs)
  10. Stuart Clark (31 yrs)
  11. Glenn McGrath (36 yrs; retiring for sure)

This would remain largely unchanged (perhaps with the exception of Andrew Symonds) till the final Ashes Test, but the next Test Australia will play after that would see a very different side indeed…

  1. Matthew Hayden Any takers?
  2. Justin Langer Any takers?
  3. Ricky Ponting
  4. Michael Hussey
  5. Michael Clarke
  6. Andrew Symonds He may HAVE to play!
  7. Adam Gilchrist (?) How long?
  8. Shane Warne Stuart MacGill?
  9. Brett Lee
  10. Stuart Clark
  11. Glenn McGrath Shane Watson?

This makes only 5 of the current 11 certain starters (subject to fitness, form and selection). Not a nice situation to be in. What’s worse, is that none of the new crop would get a chance to be groomed alongside the two great bowlers. And let’s face it… Brett Lee isn’t exactly mentoring material yet. He himself has a long way to go before he can be considered someone who can groom upcoming bowlers.

The average age of the current Australian side is 32 and a half years! And if they keep blooding players at 31, that will always remain the case. But so long as they are winning, what’s wrong with that?

The trouble is that at some point, they would run out of experienced quality players who can be called up from domestic cricket to face the vagaries of the international scene. Just take a look at the differences of the careers of Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke. Both bat in the middle order and both have had some good times. But after a rousing start, Clarke fell away and was on the sidelines for a short while. Which is when Hussey came in. To be honest, they are both captain material as well and Australia would do well by appointing the younger one as the next captain. Ponting should perhaps start the ‘grooming’ process immediately, if he already hasn’t.

One generation of Australian cricketers has perhaps already missed the boat. People like Hussey and Clark (Stuart) are lucky that they got a chance so late. Clark owes it to the burned out Gillespie while Hussey owes it in part to Steve Waugh, Andrew Symonds and maybe even Michael Clarke!

But to be fair, the future doesn’t look too promising and while the larder may not exactly be bare, it appears rather thinly populated at this point. For most names that are often discussed or recommended are in the ‘late bloomers’ category.

In some way, this is following the trend that the great West Indian side of the ’80s faced. The last two of that legacy, Walsh and Ambrose, had to struggle to keep it going. Australia may well be headed down the same path unless they take some risks in the short term and set things right for the long term. A crop of players like they have had over the last 20 years is rare and even by their standards, it will become rarer again.

One hopes that in the rarified air of high success, they don’t lose sight of the crowd at the bottom that is perhaps ready to be given a chance.


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