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AUSTRALIA’S DREAM TEST XI (1998-2008) 

AUSTRALIA’S DREAM TEST XI (1998-2008)
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The Australian team of the 2000s was one of the greatest teams to have featured in Test cricket. The team often draws a comparison with the mighty West Indian side of the 70’s and 80’s and the Australian ‘Invincibles of 1948’. They were a juggernaut who dominated test cricket for almost a decade. All the cogs in the wheel seemed to have fit in perfectly. The Aussies had some flamboyant stroke makers, a spin wizard and a potent seam attack that jelled well together to form a formidable unit. Sixteen consecutive Test wins in 1999 season was a testimony to their sheer dominance in the longer format.

The team was first led a brilliant captain and an astute tactician in Steve Waugh and later on by the aggressive yet instinctive Ricky Ponting, both of whom were great captains. Waugh inherited a talented bunch of cricketers from Mark Taylor and turned the Australian side into an impregnable fortress. The side looked simply unbeatable at home and notched up impressive victories on overseas conditions. But what made the Aussies a class apart from the rest was their ability to fight back from adversity and script sensational victories. They took the level of test cricket to loftier heights with their combative resilience and highly regimented approach of playing the game.

So here are the eleven cricketers who played a significant role in shaping up those impressive Aussie victories and contributed to their hegemony at the top of test cricket during that golden era of Australian cricket.

For my team selection, I have taken the period from 1999- 2008 which corresponds to Australia’s dominance in test cricket under Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting’ captaincy.

I have only considered those cricketers who played at least 30 Test during the period under consideration.

AUSTRALIAN DREAM TEST XI (1999-2008)– Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Steve Waugh (captain), Michael Hussey, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Glen McGrath

  1. MATHEW HAYDEN – HAYDOS

Matthew Hayden was the big burly opener from Australia who had the ability to decimate top quality bowling attacks. Hayden was a belligerent stroke player who had wide repertoires of attacking shots. ‘Haydos’ was an imposing figure on the crease with his giant like physique.

He was a fearless assassin who could step down the crease and plunder the best of bowlers with utter disdain. During Aussies golden era, he was one of the most consistent openers in test cricket and was known for scoring big hundreds.

Hayden who was a prolific scorer in the Sheffield shield had been in and out of the national team early in his career. However, the 2001 sub-continent tour of India was a revival of sorts for him as he combated the Indian spinners with a masterclass technique and made an impression of sorts.

Test Record (1999-2008) Matches – 95  Runs – 8294  Avg – 53.16 100s – 29  50s – 29

  1. JUSTIN LANGER –

If Hayden was the fearless assassin, Justin Langer was the pocket dynamite. The diminutive opener played the perfect foil to Hayden in opening the innings for the Aussies during that era. He was more of a grafter of the ball who opened the face of the bat and ran the ball behind square of the wicket.

Langer formed arguably the best opening pair with Hayden in test cricket in the first decade of the new millennium. Langer was an extremely fit athlete and few know that he was a black belt in Karate.

Test Record (1999-2008) Matches – 90  Runs – 6804   Avg – 46.16 100s – 21  50s – 24

  1. RICKY PONTING – PUNTER

Ricky Ponting could be hailed as the modern Bradman of Australian cricket. Ponting was an aggressive stroke maker with an attacking instinct. Ponting had that typical shuffle and committed himself to the front foot. Ponting was a masterclass with his exquisite stroke play and sublime timings. He was a prolific run-getter with a penchant for scoring big hundreds.

In Australia’s period of dominance, he became a run scoring machine for the Aussies and scored centuries at will. He favoured pace bowling and was one of the best exponents of the pull shot.

Besides his batting credentials, Ponting was a brilliant fielder too. Ponting had great reflexes which helped him pull off some sensational catches. He had a deadly accurate throw and often inflicted run-outs from the backward point position.

Test Record (1999-2008) Matches – 105  Runs –  9488   Avg – 61.61  100s – 35  50s – 36

  1. DAMIEN MARTYN

Damien Martyn was a stylish middle-order batsman whose stroke play was pleasing to watch. Martyn’s artistic and wristy stroke play made batting look rather effortless. He had a classical approach to his batting playing with a high elbow.

Martyn had good footwork and was adept at playing spin bowling. Martyn perhaps got under shadowed in the company of some legends of the game. The good looking Australian cricketer was a pretty good fielder too.

Test Record (1999-2008) Matches – 60  Runs –  4089  Avg – 48.87 100s – 13  50s – 20

  1. STEVE WAUGH – TUGGA

Steve Waugh was an epitome of guts and glory. Not as gifted as his younger twin Mark, Steve Waugh made up his limitations with his dogged resilience and fighting spirit. Waugh may not have been the best technician with the bat but was a fighter of character. Waugh delivered his best when the Aussies were in a spot of bother.

He eventually became one of Australia’s leading scorer in test cricket. Besides his batting, Steve was one of the greatest captains the Aussies ever had. Under his able leadership, Waugh turned Australia into an impregnable fortress which dominated world cricket for almost a decade. Waugh was pretty handy with his medium pace bowling and complimented the pace attack well.

Test Record (1999-2008) Matches – 58  Runs – 3818  Avg – 52.30 100s – 15  50s – 11

  1. MICHAEL HUSSEY –  HUSS

Michael Hussey was rightfully hailed as ‘Mr. Cricket’ for Australia. Hussey was a prolific scorer in the Sheffield Shield cricket before he got a call up for donning the Baggy Green. Hussey took to test cricket like a duck takes to water. Regimented training, meticulous preparation, and adaptability to different batting conditions were the key ingredients to Hussey’s tremendous success at Test cricket. He was a workhorse in the Aussies middle order and accumulated runs at an amazing consistency. He hardly failed in his pursuit to help Australia post winning totals in their period of dominance. Besides his superlative batting, he was a brilliant fielder too.

Test Record (1999-2008) Matches – 33  Runs – 2834  Avg – 59.04  100s – 9 50s – 13

  1. ADAM GILCHRIST – GILLY

Adam Gilchrist brought about a revolutionary change to the very concept of a wicket-keeper role in test cricket. He changed the role of a wicket-keeper from a specialist keeper to a wicket-keeper batsman

Adam Gilchrist would go down as the most destructive wicket-keeper batsman to have ever played the game. Gilchrist was an attacking stroke player who could change the course of a game with a blink of an eye. He was blessed with brilliant hand-eye coordination and hitting ability .Gilly was a blatant cutter and puller of the ball. A thorough crowd entertained, Gilchrist came into bat at Number 7 and provided some quick fire runs to give his side the decisive edge.

Besides his batting credentials, Gilchrist was an excellent wicket-keeper. For someone who was rather tall for a keeper, Gilly was extremely acrobatic and pulled off some sensational catches. Beyond his cricketing abilities, he was a genuine sportsman who was loved and admired by his teammate and opponents too.

 Test Record (1999-2008) Matches – 96   Runs – 5570  Avg – 47.60 100s – 17 50s – 26

8. SHANE WARNE -WARNIE

Shane Warne was arguably the greatest leg-spinner to have played the game. ‘Warnie’ should be credited for reviving the dying art of leg-spin in test cricket. Warne was a big turner of the ball and deceived the batsmen with his natural drift. He mixed up his conventional leg spin with googlies to bamboozle the batsman. Warne had the knack of rattling through opponents who were circumspect against playing spin.

The Blonde became quite the fan favourite owing to his good looks and charismatic persona.

Warne was a good student of the game and had an analytical mind to read the situation. He was handy lower order batsman who made some handy contributions with the bat. Shane was a very good fielder in the slip cordon.

Test Record (1999-2008)

Matches – 78  Wickets – 395  Avg – 25.92 SR – 52.93 Eco – 2.93

  1. BRETT LEE – BINGA

Brett Lee was a speed demon in the potent Aussie pace attack. Lee was perhaps the quickest bowlers of his time. Lee bowled with a beautiful action and generated brisk pace to torment the best of the batsman. He hurled deliveries at an alarming pace that breathe havoc in the minds of the opposition. Lee could swing the ball away from the batsman at menacing speeds which made him deadly.

Lee was an outright strike bowler who was used brilliantly by Waugh in short spells as a wicket-taker. He could chip in with useful runs down the order. An extremely fit bloke he was a brilliant fielder in the deep with a rocket like throwing arm.

Test Record (1999-2008) Matches – 76 Wickets – 310  Avg – 30.81 SR -53.3  Eco – 3.46

10. JASON GILLESPIE – DIZZY

Jason Gillespie was perhaps a much-underrated bowler in the company of the legendary Glen McGrath. The Jesus faced Gillespie formed a potent new ball attack with Glen McGrath. Gillespie had the ability to generate brisk pace and shape away from the ball viciously from the batsman.

He career was marred by a string of injuries but he had the tenacity of fighting back to play for the Aussies. Gillespie was no mug with the bat and a double century in test cricket is a testimony to the same.

Test Record (1999-2008) Matches – 61 Wickets – 220  Avg – 27.2 SR – 57.8 Eco – 2.80

11. Glen McGrath – PIGEON

Glen McGrath was one of the greatest seam bowlers to have played the game. McGrath was not express pace but had an unrelenting line and length. He bowled with a graceful action and had tremendous control over his swing. He consistently bowled outside the ‘Corridor of Uncertainly’ to get the batsman to nick one to the keeper. The Pigeon led the Aussie seam attack for almost a decade and ended up as the seamer with the most wickets in Test cricket.

A fierce competitor with the ball in his hand, he hated runs being scored off his deliveries. He was a true number 11 batsman who at times made a mockery of the batting technique.

 Test Record (1999-2008)

Matches – 80 Wickets – 364  Avg – 20.67 SR – 51.2 Eco – 2.42

 12th Man- Stuart McGill

McGill was one of the biggest turners of the red cherry in the history of Test cricket .The leg spinner could turn his deliveries square on any surface. He was perhaps a touch unlucky to play in the same era as Shane Warne. McGill formed a potent spin attack with the legendary spinner, Shane Warne. When they bowled in tandem they were deadly against the best in business.

BENCH STRENGTH

The likes of Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson, Andrew Symonds and Shane Watson made notable contributions to the Australian team’s success in that era but are unlucky to miss the cut.

The Australians had a plethora of starts at their disposal who could fit into any world eleven of that time. They had a decent reserve of seamers in Michael Kasprowicz, Damien Fleming Andy Bichel, who all made an impact whenever they donned the Baggy Green. Simon Katich was a very accomplished test batsman who chipped in with valuable runs whenever he got a look in. Darren Lehman was a touch unlucky as he was born in an era where Australian team was studded with a galaxy of stars.

Meanwhile, Michael Bevan was more of an ODI specialist who had certain technical flaws to thrive in the test arena.

Mark Waugh and Michael Slater have been overlooked as they blossomed in the mid and late 90s under the aegis of Mark Taylor.

Hope you enjoyed reading the write-up and would draw consensus with the best eleven Australian test team of that era.

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