Neil Manthorp – 15/10/2002
Forgive me for writing once again about Australia but I have just enjoyed an unusual holiday with Brisbane as the venue so it is natural that the Waugh brothers’ collective lack of form in Sharjah should be on my mind.
Let me say upfront that my holiday was unusual in the sense that a very, very close friend of mine (also a cricket writer) was married in Brisbane so I was in the company of several sports journalists and yet I wasn’t working. Strange feeling.
During the week of my acclimatisation period (important to prepare properly for a wedding, especially when you’re one of the speakers) I settled down with a couple of beers with the Aussies to watch the second Test againjst Pakistan in Sharjah. Of course, it was all over before we could order our third XXXX Gold, literally. We only started watching at lunch on the second day.
Instead of celebrating an extraordinary win, the overwhelming feeling among my ‘learned’ friends as well as the assorted pub clientele was that Pakistan were a joke and the victory therefore meaningless. But worse still, they reckoned the performance once again illustrated just how often the Australian team relies on the same, few players for their best results.
So many of the best Australian players are heading towards their mid 30s while the Waugh boys, as everybody keeps reminding them, are 37. Even the obvious ‘next generation’ like Jimmy Maher and Simon Katich are in their late 20s.
When I pointed out that Australia ‘A’ had just belted South Africa ‘A’ 5:1 in a one-day series last month, they all scoffed. “Who,” they asked, “were the fast bowlers who stood out in that team as natural replacements for Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie?”
“Brad Williams?” I ventured. My mates scoffed some more. They were anything but convinced. “A big, lumbering, injury-prone no-hoper,” was the consensus.
I have noted very little praise or criticism of South Africa’s national selectors for venturing beyond the exclusive clique of 14 or so national players this season. Perhaps we are all a little shocked to see so many new names in national colours in so short a space of time.
But I assure you that many Australians are desperate for their selectors to do the same. “We have a team that could collapse as a unit, barring three or four players, and there’ll be nobody with international experience to take their place. We’re dicing with complete ignominy,” my mate said the night before wedding.
Right or wrong, I thought it provided some interesting perspective on what Omar Henry and his men are trying to do.
The wedding, incidentally, was truly magnificent.
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