Committed to PEOPLE'S RIGHT TO KNOW
Vol. 5 Num 926 Sat. January 06, 2007  
   
Sports


'Exodus won't hit hard'


Australian cricket is in far better shape to withstand the retirements of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer than it was 23 years ago, Warne said Friday.

The trio of Test greats bowed out as winners in Australia's thumping 10-wicket victory over England in the final Sydney Test to clinch the first 5-0 Ashes series whitewash in 86 years.

Australian cricket fell into a black hole, winning just seven of their ensuing 46 Tests following the seismic retirements of Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh after the fifth Sydney Test against Pakistan in January 1984.

The parallels are obvious with the departures of three influential members of the contemporary Australian team, but Warne said the conditions now compared to then were completely different.

"Obviously, at that stage there were a couple of international sides which were very, very good. And they were three great players for Australia," Warne said.

"The West Indies were a very tough side to even touch at that stage.

"At the moment, we're a long way ahead of the next best side. As you can see, England are rated the next-best side and to win five-nil -- you can't be any more comprehensive than that.

"So there is a good gap between Australia and the next best side. That's not being arrogant, that's just the facts."

The incomparable 37-year-old leg-spinner, who finished his 145-Test career with 708 wickets at 25.42, said Australian cricket was in great shape.

"First-class cricket in Australia is a good breeding ground for talent to come in and play. There's some wonderful cricketers out there," he said.

"It's a good time to get some younger players into the Test side, while it's been so successful, and there is a decent gap between the next best side.

"I don't think Australia will come back to the field. They'll replace us three guys and I'm sure Australia will keep playing good cricket and winning."

McGrath, Test cricket's leading fast bowler with 563 wickets in 124 Tests, was content in his retirement decision.

"I guess if you had to write the script for the perfect ending, obviously to get a wicket on your last ball of Test cricket is the perfect way to do it," he said.

"It will hit me more later down the track. When I saw that ball go up and Mike Hussey was underneath it I was pretty happy, a perfect way to finish."

McGrath, whose wife has fought breast cancer, said there would be no change of heart.

"I think we're retired from Test cricket. There will be no comebacks. It's time for the young guys to step forward now. I think Australia's in a very healthy position, so there won't be any calls next year for us to come back."

Opening batsman Langer said he was relieved his 105th and final Test was behind him.

"Talk about the perfect finish, I said to Haydos (Matthew Hayden) in the last over, 'Mate, I'm getting a bit emotional here, how about a six and a one to finish it,'" Langer said.

"As he ran past (England captain) Freddie Flintoff he said 'the little fella doesn't want much, he wants a six and a one.

"Next thing you know, bang! A six and a one and then you actually realize it was all over. It was an amazing moment in my life. That's probably the perfect script, to be there when the winning runs are scored with my opening partner, 5-0 up in a Test series."

Langer finished Test cricket with 7,696 runs at 45.27 with 23 centuries, and is the 20th all-time leading run-getter in Tests, and sixth all-time Australian.