End of the road for many down under
The World Cup which comes around every four years has become the retirement platform for many players who have spent a better part of their life playing the game. Even when it comes to retiring the Aussies are coming first! With their test games for the ummer of 2006-07 concluding, Martyn, Langer, Warne, McGrath and now Michael Bevan, have hung-up their boots.
Bevan has been playing only first class cricket for a while now, having been sidelined shortly after the last World Cup, whilst still being a batting force in the middle order. The Australians back their newcomers and seventy five to eighty percent of those who get the opportunity oblige.
While cricketing ability is obviously the first priority, attitude is what plays a major part in being a member of the squad. To possess an attitude that blends with the rest of the boys, providing unity and commitment is essential. Having only six first class teams helps, in that all those at that level can be scrutinized. Once they show-up for a couple of seasons of state cricket, each players profile is in the open.
In the early part of the nineteen eightees when Greg Chapell, Rod March and Denis Lillee called it quits and others, Ashley Mallet, John Inverarity, Max Walker who were great support players also finished around the same time, a gaping hole was created. It took about four years – starting with winning the 1987 World Cup – for them to get back to the higher rungs of the game.
After about twenty years they are somewhere close to such a scenario. Since Alan Border began that resurrection, the Australians have guarded themselves vigorously to avoid such an exodus of players and crumbling of the team. Since Alan Border’s team began the tough journey forward the planning has become more and more meticulous. Each little hole has been plugged. Every minute detail has been attended to and so the production of young players has been unending.
This loss of four top quality players at once has happened after the retiring of Chapell and Co. There is young talent available. Michael Clarke and Shane Watson lead the way. Mike Hussey, Andrew Symonds, Stuart Clark have improved very steadily to be able to handle more responsibilities. Nathan Bracken and Mitchel Johnson have the opportunity to press for permanent berths, all that is reason to be excited.
It is the core of World Class performers in both forms of the game who have been reduced. Skipper Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Mathew Hayden and Brett Lee will form the core. Stuart McGill who in his entire career has lived in the shadow of Shane Warne can now emerge to the forefront. Simon Katich and Brad Hogg have experience and can still break the shackles to claim regular places.
Yet that core does not look formidable as in the past fifteen years. Particularly when taking into account that Gilchrist, Hayden and McGill are well into their thirtees and may not have too much time remaining to continue with their contributions. Shane Warne is un-replaceable. A spinner who can help the team’s cause, picking-up a few wickets, bowling economical spells is what can be expected from any replacements. Glen McGrath’s boots are also hard to fill. In his case a combination of two or three pacemen can fill the void and such bowlers are available.
Australia will be hard to beat at home. Their quicker bouncier pitches take time to adjust to. With the standard and competitiveness of their domestic cricket, it is not too difficult for players to take the next step upwards on home conditions. Where they will face difficulties is when they tour overseas, particularly the sub-continent. The experience and the bowling firepower has been reduced considerably.
Ricky Ponting has expressed confidence that his team can move on. It will be a very challenging period for the Australians. The most challenging since the early nineteen eightees.