The Australian dressing room will be a fascinating place over the next two Tests, with Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath working on farewell speeches and the empty space that already exists in front of Damien Martyn’s usual locker.
Here are three possible ramifications of the Warne and McGrath decisions:
1. Should they be playing in Melbourne and Sydney?
Yes, Shane Warne is a true legend of the game. As Mike Munro so eloquently and succinctly put it in the preamble to the most eagerly anticipated press conference in memory: “He’s a master strategician” (which we think is a cross between a strategist and something else … a statistician, perhaps? Or maybe a magician. Help us here, Mike!).
But should Warnie be afforded the luxury of what is effectively a two-Test farewell tour?
OK, hang on, hear us out. The Australian cricket selectors have shown their ruthless side before, so why back down now?
Remember when Ian Healy wanted just that one last hurrah in Brisbane all those years ago? Nope. Sorry, Heals, but we’ve found a new, improved version, Wicketkeeper of the Century or not.
Equally, what about the murmurings of discontent when Steve Waugh embarked on his interminable “Goodbye to Cricket” tour in the season of 2003/04? The words “self-indulgent” were heard more than once during and after that Summer of Tug.
Wouldn’t these last two dead rubbers be an ideal chance to blood a youngster or two as we face up to losing a healthy chunk of experience over the coming year or two?
2. Where does this leave the other veterans?
There are two ways of looking at the voluntary exits of Martyn, Warne and McGrath. On the one hand, for the other crusty old members of the team, the pressure would now appear to be off, as it is generally agreed that to lose any more senior members would leave the team dangerously vulnerable. If Hayden, Langer or Gilchrist had been secretly fearing a tap on the shoulder from a selector, that danger would appear to be averted for now.
But then again, has there been a game of poker happening among the old guard? There had been whispers that Langer planned to wave goodbye after Sydney. Is he now quietly cursing that others jumped too quickly for his plans?
For what it’s worth, Phil Jacques (to replace Langer or Hayden) and Brad Haddon, as a replacement for Gilchrist (although, we know, we know, there will never be another Gilchrist) appear the easiest selections in the rebuild.
3. Is Stuart MacGill the man?
It’s long been assumed that whenever Shane Warne decided to hang up his zooter (and no, that’s not a euphemism), it would be long-time understudy Stuart MacGill who would step straight into his not insubstantial boots. But will he?
He won’t play in Melbourne, might play in Sydney and definitely won’t feature at the World Cup. Australia’s next Test encounters are against Zimbabwe (maybe) in the middle of the year.
All of which means Australia’s next meaningful run of Test matches will be here next summer, when we face up to Sri Lanka and India.
By that time, Stuart MacGill will be 36 years old, and he will turn 37 at the end of the summer. His fielding is poor, his batting – despite a recent 50 for NSW – is not much better. And he’s run foul of authorities a couple of times already this year, prompting suggestions that some of those who run the game are tiring of his antics.
All of which raises the intriguing possibility that the selectors might yet decide, when next summer comes around, to ignore MacGill and instead punt on South Australia’s young off-spinner Dan Cullen, long regarded as the next best spinner in the country. Or maybe if Cameron White could lift the impact of his bowling a few notches – OK, maybe a lot of notches – then we could solve both our spin bowling and all-rounder problems in one hit.
No doubt MacGilla is sitting back somewhere today, sipping on a nice dry white and contemplating his long-awaited shot at Test cricket. But maybe there’s still a chance that one of Australia’s unluckiest cricketers could be delivered the unkindest cut of all.