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End of an era for Australia as Warne goes
Julian Linden | December 22, 2006 11:25 IST
Shane Warne's retirement signals the end of a golden era for Australian cricket.
Australia have dominated the world game for the past 15 years but there is no question Warne's departure will weaken their team and provide an instant boost to their opponents.
Worse still, it is likely to trigger a mass exodus with a core of older players expected to follow Warne into retirement. The current team is already the oldest to represent Australia in 75 years.
Middle-order batsman Damien Martyn has already quit and speculation is rife that Glenn McGrath will join Warne by calling it a day when the Ashes series ends next month.
Openers Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden and wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist are all 35 or over and drawing closer to the end, raising the prospect that half the team could suddenly disappear.
Coach John Buchanan, who is also poised to retire, said Australia might have to curb their natural aggressive instincts without Warne to bowl them out of trouble.
"When you lose one of your great players it does mean you have to re-think and re-look at your team, its balance and the way you want to play your game," he said.
"Certainly from a selection point of view and looking into the future that will now be a huge void that will take maybe generations to fill."
This is the same scenario that haunted Australian cricket for years after the simultaneous departure of Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh in 1984.
It took Australia five years to rebuild their side after the trio called it a day but Buchanan said he is confident the fallout would not be as bad this time.
With Ricky Ponting still years away from his retirement, Australia already have the best batsman and an experienced captain to lead the team and the batting lineup looks as strong as ever.
Mike Hussey, 31, has averaged 86.33 from 14 Tests since making his debut last year and Michael Clarke, 25, has scored hundreds in the past two Ashes Tests after fighting his way back into the team.
Phil Jaques and Chris Rogers are next in line to open the batting when Langer and Hayden go while there is a queue of talented young middle-order batsmen, led by Adam Voges, eagerly awaiting their chance.
The Australian domestic first-class competition has always been a great breeding ground for future Test players while Cricket Australia's Centre of Excellence is already busy putting the finishing touches to the next generation of players.
"The transition from moving the older, great players out [for] newer, younger players should be a bit easier than in the past," Buchanan said.
"It heralds an exciting time in Australian cricket."
Replacing Warne and McGrath, the most devastating bowling combination in history with a combined total of more than 1,250 wickets, is Australia's greatest immediate challenge.
Concerns about the depth of Australia's bowling stocks were raised after last year's Ashes defeat but the cupboard is suddenly not so bare.
Brett Lee is far from finished and Stuart Clark, a seamer in the same mould as McGrath, is looming as the new leader of the attack after capturing 37 wickets in his first seven Tests at 18.62.
Shaun Tait, Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Bracken are all vying for selection in the pace attack while Stuart MacGill provides an obvious, albeit short-term, replacement for Warne with the 22-year-old Dan Cullen being groomed for the long haul.
"We're very lucky to have the best first-class cricket in the world so I'm sure new players will come up," Warne said.
"It's probably a great time for new players to come into the side. We've got a great spirit going and we're on a winning roll."