Aussie Backup: Where are our Next Stars?

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A Look at Australian Test Cricket’s Magnificant Past and their unsure Future. Blaise Murphet argues that Australia lack the strength in depth of previous great sides.

retirement of aussie greats gilchrist, mcgrath and warne

retirement of aussie greats gilchrist, mcgrath and warne

There is no doubt that in recent times there has been a lot written and said about the demise of the Australian cricket team. With the retirements of key players such as Shane Warne, Glen McGrath and Adam Gilchrist, it may seem inevitable that the national team would slide a little. Back in May 2008 the Aussies were in the West Indies and completed a 2-0 victory in the test series. However, the series win was far from emphatic given the respective places on the test championship table.

The Aussies won the first test by 95 runs but were bowled out for 167 in their second innings, the second test was drawn as the Aussies allowed Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan to belt huge centuries, and the third test was won by 87 runs where again the Aussies were bowled out for under 300 in their first innings. A series win, but far from impressive given the last series, back in 2005/6 was a 3-0 thumping, with victories by 379 runs, 9 wickets and 7 wickets respectively. And the Windies had one Brian Charles Lara then!

Following the tour to the West Indies, Australia (after thrashing Bangladesh in some ODI’s) went to India and got beaten 2-0. Again, much has been written about this result. By this time perennial man in waiting Stuart MacGill had also retired, and the Indians, still plush with their ‘Golden Generation’, read Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly et. al. gave the Aussies a working over.

Following this Australia looked shaky, but beat New Zealand (a shadow of its former self) in two tests, and then most recently got beaten 2-1 by a rampant South Africa. Indeed, it could so easily have been 2-0, as Australia took hours and hours to bowl out South Africa’s tail-enders, and Graeme Smith who effectively had no arms to use.

So yes, the retirements have had an effect. No doubt about it. But what I wish to focus on today are not the players from the first team who have been lost, but those players who are waiting in the wings. Or, in particular, those players who Australia used to have as back up, in comparison to those who they can call on now.

steve waugh captained australia to 16 consecutive test wins

steve waugh captained australia to 16 consecutive test wins

In the mid to late 1990’s Australia introduced the Australia A cricket team into its International ODI series.

So awash with talent was the ranks of Australian cricketers, that the Australia A side in 1994-5 that they beat England and Zimbabwe (then a much stronger team) and made the final against Australia. The Australia A team continued to be a force right through the late 1990’s as the seemingly endless pool of talent ‘got a go’ at some sort of international level.

Through the 1999-2001 seasons Steve Waugh led his side to a world record 16 consecutive test wins. This side was unstoppable, and this series of wins included a 5-0 whitewash of the West Indies and a 3-0 whitewash of India.

Let us look at the test side from this time and their overall records.


Greg Blewett 46 Tests at 34.02

Michael Slater 74 Tests at 42.83

Justin Langer 105 Tests at 45.27

Mark Waugh 128 Tests at 41.81

Steve Waugh 168 Tests at 51.06

Ricky Ponting 128 Tests* at 56.87

Adam Gilchrist 96 Tests at 47.60


Shane Warne 145 Tests at 25.41

Damien Fleming 20 Tests at 25.89

Brett Lee 76 Tests* at 30.81

Glenn McGrath 124 Tests at 21.64

These are predominantly the players that made up the teams for those 16 consecutive wins. Though you can also throw in three others who started around this time.

Matthew Hayden 103 Tests at 50.73

Damien Martyn 67 Tests at 46.37

And the bowler Jason Gillespie 71 tests at 26.13 and a test double hundred!

You can clearly see that these are an elite bunch of players. There is no doubting their lasting legacies, some still active today. However the true strength of this Australian team was the players pushing for selection. Those players that only got limited opportunities, or no opportunity at all, and yet pushed these first team players for spots.

Some of the players we can throw in this category are listed below with their first-class (FC) statistics.

Strength in Depth:

Stuart Law 365 FC Games at 50.82 (1 test played)

Martin Love 209 FC Games at 49.16 (5 tests played)

Jamie Siddons 160 FC Games at 44.91 (No tests played)

Brad Hodge 216 FC Games* at 47.79 (6 tests played)

Matthew Elliott 214 FC Games at 47.00 (21 tests played)

Michael Bevan 237 FC Games at 57.32 (18 tests played)


Andy Bichel 186 FC Games at 25.98 (19 tests played)

Stuart MacGill 184 FC Games at 30.49 (44 test played)

Jo Angel 121 FC Games at 25.10 (4 tests played)

Brendon Julian 138 FC Games at 30.56 Batting at 25.46 (7 tests played)

Paul Wilson 51 FC Games at 30.77 (1 test played)

Adam Dale 59 FC Games at 20.75 (2 tests played)

It is clear to see from this list that Australia had an abundant amount of players readily available to pull on the baggy green. Often the comment was made that if one of these players were born in another country they would have had outstanding test careers. In fact players such as Craig White went to other countries to get a better chance at test selection.

So, when our current crop of stars retired, it was assumed that the next bunch would be ready and willing, like they had been for decades. However, suddenly it seems that the resources are rather thin.

Australia has blooded a number of players in the past year, and has included others in their squads who are far less experienced than the players mentioned above. Peter Siddle had played merely 17 FC games before his call-up. Nathan Hauritz had played 44 for two different states, and wasn’t at the time in the NSW FC team, Jason Krejza had played only 25, the opener seen to be the answer to the exit of Matthew Hayden, Phil Hughes has played 16, and Bryce McGain has played only 19 and he is going on 37 years of age!

So, much can and will be said about the form of those in the side, and the exit of those past champions. But the fact remains is that the stocks are looking very low. The ramifications of this are twofold. One is that the players coming in are low on experience, particularly in the grinding conditions of lengthy 4 or 5-day matches, and secondly, the pressure on those in the team is less. Matty Hayden was allowed to stay a long time, the selectors picked Andrew Symonds on no form, and even Mike Hussey hasn’t had much pressure from below.

The next generation may surprise us, but they better do it quickly.

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