Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site

First Test thumping won't reverse ageing of Australian cricketers

1 Comment

First Test victory won't reverse ageing of Australian cricketersThe recent imbroglio between Damien Martyn and Dennis Lillee raised a number of questions about the state of Australian cricket. The first test has been played out, and the Australians have romped to victory. Amid the back-slapping and salutations, however, the Australian team must not lose sight of some bigger questions still facing them.

This Australian team is one focused on the task at hand—the winning back of the Ashes from the "Auld enemy". It is also a team supposedly in the process of introducing new blood in an ordered fashion; a different team ready for the challenge of the Ashes-holding tourists. But is the transition to a younger generation actually occurring, and where will the Australian team be in three years?

Dennis Lillee's comments, about the Australians perhaps paying the price for having such an aged line up, were shouted down from just about all quarters. Damien Martyn was particularly strident, telling Lillee to shut up, and pointing out that as president of the WA Cricket Association he should mind his own business.

Martyn may have a point. The depth of experience in the Australian side, particularly in the batting line-up, is perhaps unparalleled in the history of cricket. On paper, the Australian team is formidable. Overlooked by many people, amidst the furore over Lillee’s comments, was one salient point. The Australian team was reckoned to look just as formidable before the commencement of the last Ashes series in England. Glenn McGrath confidently predicted a whitewash—and even allowing for the usual mind games that "Pigeon" goes in for at the start of each series, the mood of the Australian team before the series began was bullish.

What has changed since then? Australian has won the first test of this Ashes series. For the first three days, they dominated proceedings. But the manner in which Ponting, as captain, chose to proceed tactically was illustrative of the side's weaknesses.

By not enforcing the follow-on, Ponting revealed two things. Firstly, the scars of Kolkata, in 2001, are still felt by this Australian team. The disaster of that follow-on will live long with the Australian team. Secondly, Ponting revealed the (unspoken) fears that he—and perhaps others in the team’s "brain’s trust"—have about the longevity of McGrath and, to a lesser extent, Warne. The fact that McGrath damaged his heel, and was unable to bowl for a period, proves the point.

Since the last Ashes series, Hussey has come into the side, and looks like being around for a while. Katich is out. Watson would have played in the first test. Martyn was "gone" by the end of the last series, but is apparently now "back", at the age of 35. Michael Clarke played in this game, but only because Watson did not. Jacques is on the fringes, still, though his form begs a place in the team.

What has the Australian team learned from the last Ashes series, one might well ask? A changing of the guard has not taken place, and while now the team, and management, can point to this comprehensive victory, things may not be as rosy as they appear.

Ironic as it may be, given how long Lillee, Marsh and Chappell played for, to the detriment of the next generation, the legendary fast bowler may have a point. Putting aside the self-interested protestations of Martyn and co., questions do need to be asked of the future of the Australian team.

First Test victory won't reverse ageing of Australian cricketersRecent comments from Richie Richardson, to the effect that what will stop a replication of a West Indies-style decline is the standard of administrators, are only half right. Australia might have an excellent administrative base, but it is not introducing enough youngsters.

Ponting may have been shrewd, tactically, to rest his bowlers by not enforcing the follow on. Furthermore, Warne has proven, over a period of more than a decade, that bowling on the fifth day, and in the fourth innings, suits him down to the ground. But by having to tailor his tactics to suit aging bodies, Ponting also revealed a vulnerability in this team.

Dennis Lillee should perhaps have held his tongue, given his extended career, and his current position—but then again, perhaps he did have a point. Players such as Jacques, Clarke, and even Brad Hodge (a double century in his first five tests, and yet still not good enough apparently) are missing out.

Surely it is time for a player such as Martyn to be thanked, and sent back to the WA side. His form of late notwithstanding, the long term future of the Australian team is moving towards a tipping point. One could reasonably expect that in the next two years Martyn, Hayden, Langer, McGrath, Gilchrist, and possibly Warne, will all retire. An exodus on this scale will leave Australia with a bunch of talented, but inexperienced players. How far will our stocks slip as a result?



submit a comment

Existing comments

Writing after the Boxing Day thrashing I have to say you are right in many aspects. Warne and McGrath have announced their retirements, and Martyn has gone. It would you say force the others to stay on for at least a few years before they also can hang up their baggy green. Although there is talent in waiting experience can never be overlooked. The current England team is a testament to this. As talented as they are, they have not the experience to hold it together. If I was an English selector I would hold this current team and let them grow together to become a confident as well as talented force. Australia it seems may have to do likewise. But not until the world cup is decided. Australia has been on top for a long while. A challenge for our team may actually be of interest. This Ashes series was one of the most anticipated because of the failure in England. Although disappointed with England’s performance I was much more excited about this Ashes series than any other in my lifetime. So bring on the new challenges. It may renew interest in Australian cricket.Australia has been on top for a long while. A change in pace and a challenge for our team may actually be of interest. This Ashes series was one of the most anticipated because of the failure in England. Although dissapointed with Englands performance i was muxh more excited about this Ashes series than any other in my lifetime. So bring on the new challenges. It may renew interest in Australian cricket.

Adrian | 31 December 2006  

Similar Articles

Thorpie proves mortality is no vice

  • Binoy Kampmark
  • 11 December 2006

In the end, Thorpe was swimming against himself. There were rivals, but there was nothing left, other than the treadmill of performances. The admission came in his last conference: "I needed a closing point." There is reason for him to be proud.


Migrants already know about loneliness

  • Deborah Singerman
  • 11 December 2006

Our social networks underpin those casual salutations–"have a good weekend" or a "big night", or the jabber of mobile phones or texting. But they're increasingly elusive in today's world, as migrants already know.