If there’s one thing any media outlet
really prizes, it’s being the first to report a big story. Perhaps this is why
two newspapers on opposite sides of the cricketing world yesterday posted
ambitious stories tipping the demise of two of cricket’s biggest names.

In London, TheGuardianmade much of English captain Michael Vaughn’s statement that his knee injury “won’t rule
[him] out of playing cricket again”. “Vaughn vows to play again”, The Guardian
trumpeted.

The Sydney Morning Herald was less cagey,
going with “Selectors facing the unthinkable: end of the McGrath era”. Under that headline, Alex Brown speculated
that with Glenn McGrath missing the South African Test series later this month,
his chances of selection for next summer’s Ashes series as a nearly 37-year-old
with no match fitness are slim.

Does he have a point? In a world where
quality Australian pace bowlers abounded, maybe. But this is not that world.
Australia is currently playing with one world-class paceman in Brett Lee and a
developing talent in Nathan Bracken. Beyond them lie four contenders – the
resurgent Jason Gillespie, Shaun Tait, Stuart Clark and the untested Mitchell
Johnson – and a series of bowlers like Brett Dorey and Mick Lewis who, given a
chance in limited overs cricket, have fallen short.

Even if McGrath misses all of Australia’s
Tests leading up to the Ashes, it is unlikely that any of these bowlers will
generate form good enough to keep him out. The question then would be match
fitness, which a short stint in English county cricket and a month’s worth of
Pura Cup games ahead the first Ashes Test in Brisbane should give him.

There’s one more question, and it’s a
sensitive one: will Glenn McGrath want to come back? There’s no question that
Pigeon is approaching the end of his career and the the Ashes may well be his
final hoorah, but if a few months spent caring for his wife were to change his
priorities, would anyone argue?

Peter Fray

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