When English pundits labelled Australia’s 2005 Ashes squad “Dad’s Army”, the players were not pleased. A side that contained modern-day greats like McGrath, Ponting and Warne resented a tag inferring they were ageing players ready to be put out to pasture.
This was followed in years to come by selectors looking for the “next big thing” in Australian cricket, and there was revolving door of young players being moved in and out of the national side.
But is having an older side really a bad thing?
We have been lucky enough in recent years to see the careers of players extend via careful management and a heavy emphasis on sports science. These players careers are being prolonged to lengths that were once described as “past it” or “over the hill”.
Who can forget Sachin Tendulker battering Australian bowlers around well into his 30s, or Mike Hussey, who staunchly held off the English attack of Swann, Broad and Anderson in the 2010/11 Ashes. During this series he was Australia’s highest run-scorer with 570 runs at an average of 63 while his teammates crumbled around him; Hussey was 35 at the time.
And while that 2005 side was famously surrendered the Ashes in an epic series in England, it was McGrath, Ponting and Warne who spearheaded Australia’s emphatic 5-0 recapture of the urn on home soil 18 months later.
With a priority on fitness and management of players, are selectors becoming more liberal to the idea of rewarding older players who pile on the runs in Sheffield Shield cricket? Players like Hussey, Chris Rogers and now Adam Voges have all started their international careers late and flourished.
This success comes down to the experience these players must have gained playing all around the world against different bowling attacks. Surely this helped build a memory bank of experience.
The benefit of this experience can clearly be seen in the record-breaking form of Adam Voges. A debutant at 35, he would have been labeled as a member of “Dad’s Army” in 2005.
His experience was on show throughout his recent double-century against New Zealand. Voges told Cricket Australia that his plans for his innings changed dramatically after New Zealand were controversially denied a chance to get him out early on courtesy of an incorrect no-ball call.
“You don’t get second chances too often so I thought I would take the game on a little bit,” Voges said.
“As it worked out New Zealand bowled really well and I couldn’t do it, I had to bide my time.”
This shrewd ability to understand the game and adapt to a situation is an uncanny skill that some of Australia’s older players have been able to impart time and time again.
Think of Mike Hussey launching an attack on English bowlers to win some momentum back in 2011 at the Gabba, or Chris Rogers bunkering down for a session and forcing the bowlers to come to him.
Voges has had a fantastic start to his Test career, including a memorable hundred on debut then some timely contributions in last year’s Ashes series has seen him become an integral part of the Australian Test cricket side.
He created history when scoring 239 against the Black Caps, becoming the first player to score 500 consecutive Test runs without being dismissed. But he said he was happy to get out after this mammoth knock as it brought his average down to a Bradman-esque 97.46.
His former teammate and now coach at Western Australia, Justin Langer, told Reuters that Voges has the ability and the personality to continue this purple patch.
“There’s no more deserving person. He’s an outstanding character. Like great players and great people do, he’s grabbed his opportunity with both hands,” Langer said.
“He’s confident and confidence is an amazing thing. And he knows that at his age he’s got to run with the opportunity for as long as he can, so he’s really hungry to do that.”
The recent inclusion of older players can only help the Australian cricket side; it gives hope to older players that their dreams of wearing a baggy green are still alive – even if they haven’t cracked the team after a decade of playing state cricket.
It also allows younger players to relax into their roles at state level and continue to grow and develop their games without the pressure of making a debut before the age of 25.
These selections are a clear indication of a policy that puts fans, players and administrators on the same page – that you will be based on your performance – and this can only have a positive impact.