As the Australian one-day team prepares for yet another semi-final appearance at a major international tournament tomorrow night, former players back home are warning of the perils of persisting with some of the country’s ageing warriors.
While Geoff Lawson, Ian Chappell and Jeff Thomson indulged in the seemingly popular sport of writing Glenn McGrath off as an international paceman, there are others, such as Sam Loxton, the 1948 Invincible and former Test selector, who reckon McGrath is just one of a number of geriatrics keeping the young ‘uns out of the side. (How old was the Don when he finished up, Sam?)
But he has a point. Of the XI who breezed past India at the weekend, just three players are under the age of 29. It is also likely that up to seven of the 12 players selected for next month’s First Test will be 35 or older.
But is this something we should alter just for the sake of bringing in some new blood? Do you flirt with what you believe is your best team in order to give some experience and encouragement to a youngster who may be a few years away from consistently producing his best?
Ordinarily there would be some merit to this suggestion. But there is a stronger argument that says you don’t pick “project” players in a side about to embark on the unofficial and official world championships of the two forms of the game over the next six months. What’s wrong with picking the best teams to get the job done?
The Ashes and the World Cup are the biggest international prizes for Australia’s cricketers, so picking anything other than your best team is sheer lunacy. We saw in the game against India at the weekend that the veterans are still playing a leading role in dictating the fortunes of this team, and they were near faultless over the past 12 months in restoring their country’s Test-match pride after the 2005 Ashes debacle.
Once the Aussies have (hopefully) regained the Ashes and landed their third World Cup in succession next April, it will be time to start the generational shift that many feel should have started after the last Test series defeat. But until then, our selectors should stick to picking the best players available, regardless of what it says on their birth certificates.