Analysing why several Australian players have been late bloomers in Test cricket
Australian cricket has presented a pretty strange case to the global cricketing fraternity in the last few decades. Unlike many nations that present young and raw talents to the world, Australian cricketers make their mark quite late in Test cricket.
Maybe it’s the grind that they have to go through at the first class level or it’s the competition for spots at the international level, but it’s for sure that there are numerous late bloomers in Australian cricket.
It’s not only that Australia produces players like Michael Hussey who were given a chance late in their careers, but even players who are given a chance at a young age tend to mature late like Matthew Hayden.
Though this is a strange conundrum but there must be some valid reasons to why this has existed for a period of time.
Australian players have to prove themselves first at the domestic level
That a young mystery spinner from Australia dismantles the opposition sounds strange and unheard of, is because the Australian culture doesn’t draft many players into the international team by just seeing their raw talent.
It is just not their style to surprise opposition with some unique talent. Maybe they want a player to go through the litmus test at the domestic level first before giving him a go at the highest level.
Also, the quality of Australian first-class circuit ensures that once a player plays a considerable amount of first class cricket, he will not struggle much at the international level.
This is why players like Michael Hussey and Chris Rogers looked so much at home even in the nascent stages of their careers. Not many countries can match the quality of Australian domestic structure, and thus, there are chances that a young raw talent gets rusted in these nations which doesn’t happen much in Australia.
Competition for spots in the Test team
South Africa and Australia have been the two most consistent Test teams since the nineties.There have been only a few occasions when we saw a ‘weak’ Australian team.This scenario is great for their cricket but it also makes it tough for players to break into the international team.
Stuart McGill remains one of the best spinners to have not played more than 50 Tests due to the legendary Shane Warne. Brad Hodge was one of the victims of the mighty Australian batting in the 2000s. Damien Fleming had an unfulfilled Test career due to the plethora of fast bowlers Australia had during that time.
It is because of the competition for spots at the highest level, that players struggle to break into the Test team at a young age, and thus become late bloomers.
It is also the competition for spots at the international level that young players are dropped at a short notice and they go back and hone their skills and come back into the Test team as much improved players.
Take the examples of Steve Smith and Usman Khwaja. Both these players seem to be much-improved versions of their old selves.
Australian culture that values performances more than age
It is a big thing to perform when you are given an opportunity late in your career because of the pressure of getting a much smaller rope from the selectors. But to get that opportunity, a player needs to be selected, and this is where Australian cricket stands out from other boards.
We will consistently see the ‘not so young’ players get an opportunity to wear the baggy green.The philosophy of Australian selectors to value performances more than age has worked wonders for them.
Michael Hussey is a perfect example of how investing in experienced players can pay rich dividends. Not only he broke into a team that consisted of legends but he also carved his own niche in that setup.
Credit should be given to the Australian setup which values a player’s performance even if he is not in the young age group.
The late bloomers in Australian cricket are a great example of why skill should be given the preference over age. Michael Hussey, Chris Rogers, and now Adam Voges have served Australian cricket in so many ways.
Adam Voges averaged more than a hundred runs per innings in Tests, albeit for a small time.
If Voges was born in India, it wouldn’t have been possible for him to even get into the Test side, forget about that average of 100. It is Australian cricket that gives opportunities to so many players in their thirties and late twenties and this is why we see players from Australia blossoming so late in their careers.
Overall, it is an extremely interesting enigma that exists in Australian cricket but though Australian cricket won’t mind late bloomers in Test cricket, they would be happier if their youngsters mature a bit early.