Australia’s retirements

What does it say of a side who, on the verge of losing three established players to pasture – two of whom have almost single-handedly provided the jugger in the naut for the past 15 years – seem unfazed by the effect it will have? Damien Martyn, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne have both announced their retirements and it seems Justin Langer is next.

It just seems Australia all have their rose-tinted goggles on. It’s certainly time to celebrate their careers, but what the hell about the future? Is this blind, cocky, Australian arrogance that these three can be easily replaced? Langer can – Australia have enough batting reserves to form another side entirely – but what about the bowlers? Stuart Clark has been remarkably consistent since he came in, but how will he respond being the attack leader in the absence of McGrath and Warne? The pair fed off each other for 12-15 years: one sucking the confidence and fluency out of the batsmen at one end to allow a more attacking line from the other. Clark has benefited hugely from both of them. And as good as he clearly is, I refuse to believe he is the new McGrath.

Brett Lee is never going to be the Test bowler Steve Waugh expected he would become. He is brilliant in one-dayers but too expensive, too raw in Tests to lead the attack (which makes Clark’s introduction to the side even more important). So, assuming Langer retires, what would your Australia side look like for 2007?

As ever, they have the best part of a year in which to formulate a replacement team; they’re in India for a Test series in November but, before then, one-day cricket reigns supreme.

Buchanan saves the kookiest ideas till last

Sydney is not only the swansong for Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath; it is also the last Test for John Buchanan as Australian coach. And not a moment too soon, if his latest media intervention is anything to go by.

Speaking to reporters at the MCG this morning, Buchanan said Australia was hoping for more of a challenge from England, which he thought had played without aggression, self-belief or thought of challenging the opposition for large parts of the Ashes series.

“I’m hoping that they really enjoy the New Year, come back with a new resolve and are really ready to take us on head-on in Sydney,” Buchanan said.

“I think we’ve been tested at certain periods of time but England haven’t been able to sustain their skills through the course of a five-day Test match. We’re quite looking forward to that in Sydney.

Short of baring his arse at the England team bus, I can’t think of a more insulting thing that Buchanan could have done. As an Australian, I can tell you that I wouldn’t have been too impressed if Duncan Fletcher had come out before the Oval Test in 2005 daring Australia to fire up.

It is a well established rule in all sports, not just cricket, that when speaking to the media of your opposition, you speak of them respectfully, and give them their due as worthy opponents. It does not matter if Australia are playing England, Zimbabwe, or Andorra at Test cricket.

When it comes to religion, I am an atheist. However, I am a devout believer in the cricketing Gods, and I fear their wrath. Buchanan’s actions could provoke a powerful response.

And I give thanks to all the Great Cricketing Gods that this is Buchanan’s last Test in charge. I’ll miss Warnie and Pigeon. Not sure I’ll miss Ned Flanders though.

Yeah, but he’s no Warne

Muttiah Muralitharan recently claimed he’ll take 1000 Test wickets. A bold statement but if anyone can, it’s he. But why do I always hear myself muttering “yeah, but he’s no Warne”?

Is it because Warne has been around a little longer? Because he revolutionised (and revamped) the art of legspin? Is it because I always dreamed of being a leggie myself? Or is it because or Murali’s elastic arm and the cloud of suspicion which still hangs over his head?

Murali is no less a showman, no less hungry for wickets. His throaty, raucous appeal is a frightening ordeal for any batsman or umpire and he really can turn a ball on glass. He is a phenomena of control – bendy arm and wobbly wrist, or not – which even Warne must envy. But, still…he’s no Warne.

Perhaps this highlights Warne’s appeal more than Murali’s failings. Yesterday, before picking up his 700th Test wicket, Warne spoke to Mike Atherton about his career. One thing stuck out like one of his rare wrong’uns: “I always like to push the boundaries…the boundaries of dissent, or whatever. I’m an entertainer”. And so he is. Murali is no less appealing a bowler, but is too endearing a character. Warne is the genius with a darker, villainous, mischievous streak; the smoker; the drinker; the sledger; the divorcee; the sex-romper and tabloid-headline provider. When he steps out onto the field, perhaps we half expect all these traits to burden him; maybe we will him to fall down like the villain in a pantomime.

But he never did. Murali will probably take 1000 wickets. But he’s no Warne.

Video of Shane Warne’s 700th Test wicket

Here’s the video of Warne’s marvellous milestone

It’s not the best, so if you see any on Youtube or Google – post a comment with the link and I’ll update it. Here’s a great photo courtesy of Yahoo! News:

Little Australia

The double act comes to an end. This stupendous piece of photoshopping courtesy of Mike at FlintoffsAshes.com.

[tags]glenn mcgrath, shane warne, cricket photos, photo, little britain, lou, andy[/tags]

McGrath calls it quits as well

So he’ll stay on until the World Cup, and then hang up his boots.

No Warne and no McGrath. Who will shower the opposition with verbal abuse and unplayable deliveries now?

Warne: 700 not out

In some ways, the unexpected is what we have come to expect from Shane Warne. I’ve only just heard about his retirement, but it seems to be have been scripted from the gods. What better way to sign off than now? The Ashes are “home” and he will end as the leading wicket taker in history. Brilliant.

Your favourite moments from his career, ladies and gents? I’ve too many to mention…but his haul in the 2005 was quite special as was his batting. And his duel with Darryl Cullinan will always stand out. Champion.

Retirements?

There’s plenty of gossip going around that Warne and McGrath will retire at Sydney. Maybe. I think McGrath will say nothing but retire after the World Cup. As for Warne, I don’t think even he himself knows what he’s going to do.

But I’d still be a bit cautious on this one. I’ll wait till there’s an actual announcement.

UPDATE – Warnie has confirmed his retirement. Bugger!

But wait, there’s more!

I’m tired of reading post-mortems about the Ashes. The result is decided, but there are two Tests to go. As an Australian, I’m absolutely delighted that Australia have won the series. But the future of both teams is not set in stone yet.

It seems to me that both sides, but especially England, have a lot riding on the outcome of the final two Test matches. It is by no means a given that Australia will go on for the 5-0 outcome that is being loosely bandied about, but if that happens, 2007 will be a year of woe for England. The inquisition will be a sight to behold.

On the other hand, a fighting England performance, with England coming home 3-2, will give a tremendous filip to English morale. There will be positives for the English team to hang their hats on.

For Australia, a 5-0 win will be the peak for several of the team’s veterans to call it a day. While Australia will seek to manage the retirement of their key players, looking ahead to 2009, the batting looks strong, with Michael Clarke, Hussey and Ponting being a core middle order to build around.

So it is not over yet kids. The Fourth Test starts in a week, and Warne is one wicket away from 700 wickets.