Australia’s glory days had well and truly ended when the decade began, and they were still a long way from recovering when the decade ended, even though Australia did manage to draw a test series with England. It has been a tough 10 years in test cricket for Australia, and this team of the decade is a long way short of the one of the previous 10 years.
There is some debate as to when Australia’s glory days began. Some say that it began when Australia won the 1989 Ashes in England 4-0. Some say it wasn’t until we beat West Indies in West Indies in 1995. If you ask Australia’s optimistic captain of the time, it began in 1987 when we won the ODI World Cup.
There is little doubt that it ended in 2008, when Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Matthew Hayden all retired at about the same time. While we had some sense of a replacement for McGrath and Hayden, Gilchrist and Warne have never seen their equal, or anything close. Even though we now have Tim Paine as wicket keeper and captain, few would suggest he was anywhere near Gilchrist’s level. As for Nathan Lyon, while he is the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT), that is only in terms of offspin bowling, and is only due to number of wickets. Few really suggest he is anywhere near the great spinners of yesteryear.
But we have had our moments. We have seen Steve Smith, the greatest Test player since Sir Donald Bradman. Towards the end of the decade we saw Australia get their best 3-man pace bowling attack that they have possibly ever had, in Hazlewood, Cummins and Starc. With Nathan Lyon, that attack is possibly better than McGrath, Gillespie, Lee and Warne, or at least the fast bowling side of it is. Just a pity about the batting.
As the decade began, we still had a few stragglers from our peak, such as Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey, who just plain refused to retire, and they compete with a group that was trying desperately to rebuild.
(1) David Warner
With 7,009 test runs at an average of 48.33, David Warner masterfully transitioned from T20 specialist to Test master, while still being great at T20s, and ODIs too, for that matter. It took until the end of 2011 for him to play his first Test, almost 3 years after his international debut, and boy has he been good since. While perhaps not quite Matthew Hayden level, he hasn’t been far behind, and he has had no rival for the opening position since he made his debut. The bigger question is who should partner him.
(2) Chris Rogers
Bar his debut Test in 2008, Chris Rogers played his entire test career in the 2010s, starting as a 35 year old in 2013 and continuing on until just days before his 38th birthday in 2015. Managing 1,996 runs at an average of 44.35 in the decade. Given his inauspicious debut in 2008, where he managed just 4 and 15, this was pretty spectacular, even more so the fact that he was considering retirement until his international call-up.
There were as many as 10 other players who opened the innings in the 2010s, including Joe Burns, Shane Watson, Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja. There were only two who were regular players, who were never dumped on form, Warner and Rogers, and the numbers show why.
(3) Adam Voges
He had to wait until he was 35 and a half years old to make his Test debut, and only managed a year and a half before he was dumped just after his 37th birthday, but in that time he managed to record 1,485 runs at a staggering record of 61.87. Numbers that only the great Steve Smith was able to surpass. In fairness, he did get to play against weak sides, like West Indies at their trough, but he still had to score them. At state level, he had accumulated a lazy 13,881 runs at an average of 46.42, suggesting that he probably should have played Test cricket a bit longer than he did.
(4) Steve Smith
Not much needs to be said about the man who has the second-highest batting average after the great Sir Donald Bradman. He managed 7,072 runs at a staggering average of 63.14 for the decade, and that was in spite of starting off his international career as a bowler, who batted at number 8! In fairness, he was never really a bowler, as he was more of an all-rounder, who batted at 4 and 5 at state level, but was forced to play down the order due to Australia’s desperate need to cover for Shane Warne. Did he ever do that!
(5) Michael Clarke (c)
While Clarke began way back in 2004, the 2010s were a productive decade for him, especially after he took over from Ricky Ponting as captain, scoring 4,717 runs at 48.62, and, at number 5, he managed 2,992 runs at 69.58. Batting position matters, and he well and truly deserves his spot. He also gets the captaincy nod too, and was known as Australia’s best captain in the decade.
(6) Michael Hussey
While Hussey started his career back in 2005, and he certainly had a trough early in the 2010s, he got over the hump and came back strongly, finishing the decade with 2,597 runs at 50.92, including his highest score of 195. It was a little lower than his overall average of 51.52, but we’ll forgive him for that. Truly a great player to have around.
(7) Brad Haddin (wk)
I am not a fan of Brad Haddin’s, and I saw him perform really badly early in his career, but even I have to say that his performances in the 2013 Ashes in England and the 2013/14 Ashes in Australia were phenomenal. For that alone he surpasses the other wicket keepers Australia tried. Since Haddin, and even while he was in the mix, we tried Wade, Paine and Nevill, with Paine now brought back as captain, and it is certainly not an easy choice to pick who the wicket keeper is. But, on the basis of those 2 phenomenal series, the first with the gloves and the second with the bat, he deserves his spot.
(8) Pat Cummins
He is the world number 1 right now, and, having come back from a very long injury that continued from virtually his debut onwards. He is now absolutely amazing, and has found a way to avoid the stress on his body too. On top of that, his batting has been pretty decent too.
(9) Mitchell Johnson
While perhaps he hasn’t always been the best bowler in the world, in that one Ashes series in Australia in 2013/14 he absolutely was, when he took three man of the match awards in five tests, and should probably have had four. He backed it up with some amazing bowling in the next series in South Africa as well. While some of the rest of his bowling was a bit below par, at his peak he was incredible.
(10) Ryan Harris
You might have forgotten about Ryan Harris, who came in as a 30 year old in 2010 and was amazing from start to finish. He only managed 27 Tests, due to persisting injuries, but managed 113 wickets at 23.52 in that time, in conditions that weren’t always helpful. In the 2013 Ashes he was perhaps at his best, when Australia kept on losing the toss and everyone else struggled, but Harris kept the English at bay and made it really tight. He was a real trier who could be relied on no matter the conditions.
(11) Nathan Lyon
No, he’s not really the best spin bowler of all time. That’s probably Shane Warne, at least as far as Australia is concerned, but perhaps overall. Lyon is nowhere near Warne’s level. But he isn’t bad. Since making his debut in 2011, Lyon has been a mainstay in Australia’s side, managing 376 test wickets at a decent average of 32.14.
Mitchell Starc has had his moments when he has been brilliant, but he has overall been more stable in the shorter formats.
Josh Hazlewood had a pretty good Test record in the decade but it wasn’t quite at the level of the others in this list.
Shane Watson was easily Australia’s best test all-rounder for the decade and could have been considered but his middling averages of 33 for both batting and bowling tell me that he can be left out.