Updated: Jun 1, 2020
As we sit with anticipation for COVID restrictions around the world to be lifted, it's given us all some time to reflect. I chose to spend my time reflecting on Australia's test cricket landscape for the past 20 years, this meant I had to watch about a week's worth of test cricket replays to ensure my research was up to the mark!
Here's what I came up with for Australia's best XI from 2000-2020. Drum roll please...
Ricky Ponting (c)
Adam Gilchrist (vc - wk)
12th man: Andy Bichel
For the most part, there is little explanation or reasoning required as their names form part of the Australian sporting folklore both on, and off the field. Let's go down from top to bottom.
In terms of the batting line up, bare with me. 4 of the top 6 batsmen, excluding Slater & Gilchrist, have averaged over 50 with the bat and all played +50 test matches each. Given the calibre of players in positions 1-5, we're able to run with the 5 specialist batsmen and then the greatest wicket-keeper batsman of all-time at 6.
It was difficult to split the bromance up at the top with Michael Slater getting the nod over current Australian coach, Justin Langer. Matty Hayden is an absolute lock, the big QLD'er played 103 tests for Australia, averaging a tick over 50 with the batt and piling on 30 centuries throughout his career. Whilst Langer boasts a better test average than Slater, I went with Slater for the right and left hand combination at the top and I was always a fan of the way Slater went about his work, always taking it to the bowlers, often from the first ball. I also couldn't bring myself to consider David Warner, despite the numbers probably suggest I should.
3, 4 & 5 in the batting line up really pick themselves, Ricky Ponting and the batting nerd that is Steve Smith and Mr Cricket, Mike Hussey. What I like about these three blokes is not only their imposing records, but the fact they both didn't exactly burst on to the test cricket scene, they just got a lot better over time. Punter also gets the nod for captain in this line up.
Wicketkeeper is also an easy one, the great Adam Gilchrist. Could anyone ever forget what he did at the WACA in 2006 against the poms? In what could be described as a run of outs, Gilly strode to the crease on his home deck and belted the poms to all corners of the ground and even a couple into the wider suburbs of Perth, scoring a remarkable 100 off 58 balls. One of the most entertaining batsman to ever play the game!
Adam Gilchrist's 100 off 58 balls against England in Perth (Video credit: Classic Cricket)
Now the bowlers, we've got 5 of them. To be fair, we probably don't need them all but here goes. McGrath & Warne are obvious as arguably the best bowling combination of all-time, their respective individual records are simply outstanding. I still remember shedding a tear in early 2007 after we wiped the Poms in the Ashes, we lost McGrath, Warne & Justin Langer that day when they walked off the SCG for the final time.
To complement McGrath & Warne, we have Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee & Pat Cummins. All three capable of throwing them down at 150km/h and all capable, along with Shane Warne, of handling the bat. Who could forget what Mitch Johnson did against the poms in 2013/14 and Patty Cummins is the golden workhorse, who's star continues to rise. Brett Lee, not always everyone's favourite son, but an impressive 310 wickets in test cricket at an average of just over 30, at times he could be expensive, but he was always probing for a wicket.
Honourable mentions must go to Justin Langer (again), Michael Clarke, the GOAT Nathan Lyon & a bloke who was savaged by injury, Ryan Harris, jeez that bloke could bowl. Sadly no room for Shane Watson, although he has called for a review.
Carrying the drinks is perhaps the most experienced 12th man in Australian cricket history, Andrew John Bichel. Over a 7-year period, Bichel played 19 test matches and snagged 58 wickets, not too bad, but he also ran the drinks on a further 19 occasions, stuck behind a solid Australian bowling line up including McGrath, Lee & the double-century maker, Jason 'Dizzy' Gillespie.