The 2006-07 Ashes is forever remembered for the 5-0 drubbing that Australia inflicted upon England.
Some would say embarrassing the so called ‘political big brother’ so comfortably was the greatest moment in Australian sport. On reflection, it was one of the defining moments for Australian cricket in an era where sporting greats were made.
The series ended the careers of core group of four players; Damien Martyn, Justin Langer, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. Not long afterward, Mathew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist followed suit. Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey effectively ended this era in 2012 and 2013. Before Ponting and Hussey’s retirement however, Australia suffered.
Since the 2006-07 Ashes there have been four coaches, four captains, a major slide in the test rankings (from first to fifth), a homework saga and no permanent or suitable number three since Ponting’s retirement.
Since Darren Lehmann’s employment, however, Australia have managed to find stability and success and have suitably rebuilt since the retirement of the aforementioned legends.
Despite Lehmann’s recent brilliance, however it is not difficult to foresee that big changes in Australian cricket are about to occur. The current test squad with ages in brackets, reads:
Michael Clarke (capt) (34)
Steven Smith (vice-capt) (25)
Fawad Ahmed (33)
Brad Haddin (37)
Josh Hazlewood (24)
Ryan Harris (Ashes only) (35)
Mitchell Johnson (33)
Nathan Lyon (27)
Mitchell Marsh (23)
Shaun Marsh (31)
Peter Nevill (29)
Chris Rogers (37)
Peter Siddle (30)
Mitchell Starc (25)
Adam Voges (35)
David Warner (28)
Shane Watson (33)
With six core players (including Watson) at the age of or over, 33, one knows that this strong, positive squad will not stay similar for much longer. Haddin, Harris and Rogers may have one summer left in them, Clarke is just one major injury from pulling the pin all together whilst Watson and Johnson are slowly drawing near to the end of some of the most indifferent careers the Australian public have ever seen.
With such change ahead one might feel that the Australians are about to feel a sensation of Déjà vu where a period of mediocrity is to be borne out before the younger players develop not only themselves but their team into a world class outfit. However, there is strong reason to argue with this viewpoint.
Let’s look at those six players that will undoubtedly leave a legacy upon the side once they announce their retirements.
Michael Clarke: Whilst I’ve never been a fan and never will be, he has represented Australia with class on the field. He’s helped Australia to some mammoth totals over the years and has been often considered tactically outstanding with his captaincy in the baggy green. However there’s a mature right handed batsman ready to replace him as captain in Steve Smith once the time comes. Not only as captain but as the best batsman in the side, ready to handle all pressure with astuteness and perfection. In terms of Clarke’s actual spot in the side it’s hard to go past Joe Burns as his likely replacement in the top to middle order due to his sound and impressive approach to his debut series against India.
Shane Watson: Many people within the Australian public feel his time is up already and have felt that way for a very long time. Despite his obvious potential Watson has never lived up to the expectations set upon him and at 33 with a plethora of all-rounders waiting in the wings, time is running out for Watson to deliver. With likely replacements being James Faulkner and Mitchell Marsh it seems as though there isn’t much issue in terms of the all-rounder position within the Australian squad in the future.
Mitchell Johnson: Whenever in the side, Johnson has always been expected to act as the strike bowler within the side with the recent 5-0 drubbing of England proving to critics and doubters alike that he is indeed capable of the expectations set upon him. One would predict that Johnson has around two years left in the whites with an ODI retirement imminent. In terms of replacing Johnson, Mitchell Starc seems to be the player the Australian selectors are keen to develop in the whites. Starc’s key to wickets, akin to Johnson, is a whooping in-swinging yorker that was utilized perfectly throughout the World Cup, rewarded with a Man of the Series award. However doubts still exist as to whether Starc can replicate his ODI ability into Test cricket with the only way of proving this being his greatest currency…wickets.
Brad Haddin: Arguably one of the most complete Australian players of recent times. His keeping is polished and rarely consists of error. His batting has improved outstandingly over the years, culminating in the two previous Ashes series, saving Australia on numerous occasions. Crucially, however, is his yap behind the stumps. It has led to many wickets on the cricket field and will be the hardest aspect of his game to replace. Plenty of possible replacements are ready to take his spot, including Peter Nevill, Matt Wade and Sam Whiteman. With a 44.87 Sheffield Shield average, rewarded by a spot in Australia’s touring squad, Peter Nevill seems to be the most likely to replace Haddin. However Matt Wade will be nipping at his heels, with his aggressive nature in the field aligning with Haddin’s approach. However Wade’s form with the gloves when in an Australian shirt has harmed his chances significantly.
Chris Rogers: Rogers’ position may be the most difficult one to replace. Rogers has always played his required role within the side; see off both opening bowlers and ensure limited shine exists upon the red ball. Whilst not receiving all the accolades, Rogers has been an integral part of the current side and will always be remembered fondly for his incredible comeback to the Baggy Green. In terms of his replacement, there is no clear cut player existing in the wings. Shaun Marsh may possibly move up the order but he has become accustom to a middle order position and a change could potentially upset his ability to perform. Travis Head, Ed Cowan, Nic Maddinson, Usman Khawaja and Marcus Stoinis are all likely replacements but have struggled to achieve any consistency within their careers and will need to find this throughout the next Shield season if they are to prove suitable replacements for Rogers.
Ryan Harris: Over the past few years, Harris has proven himself to be Australia’s most consistent bowler and will be another player Australia will find incredibly difficult to replace. Plenty of potential replacements exist but the question remains as to whether they can match the consistency Harris has achieved throughout his Baggy Green career. Replacement options include, James Pattinson, Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Peter Siddle and Chadd Sayers, however injury and slumps in form have affected these players incredibly and are yet to prove, through consistency, that they are ready to replace Harris.
Despite the positive press about the future of Australian cricketing future, a number of the soon-to-be-retired Aussies will leave gaping holes in the XI. Whether they can fill them will be a big test for the Sheffield Shield system, Cricket Australia’s player development schemes, and for the up-and-coming players themselves.