Saturday, 28 July 2007

Australia's Next Generation: The Openers

As the hot topic rages on, will Australia continue to be the world’s best with their greats gone; it’s time for Australia’s case to be mounted.

With the retirements of two of the greatest bowlers to ever take a wicket, the master of spin; Shane Warne, and Mr. Reliable; Glenn McGrath, as well as a half of one of the greatest Australian opening partnerships; Justin Langer, and of course, the easily forgettable but still ever consistent number 4 for so many years; Damien Martyn. To top this all off, the chances are that one of the greatest wicketkeeper-batsmen of all time, Adam Gilchrist, and Langer’s opening partner; Matthew Hayden, (Once the most feared batsman in the world) will retire in the next couple of years. You could easily be forgiven for thinking, ‘Maybe this is the end of an era?’ It’s certainly crossed all of our minds, so it comes down to the big question, who is waiting in the wings?

Most of us have heard of Phil Jaques and Chris Rogers, the two young openers, and Dan Cullen, not to mention Brad Haddin, but the question for many who’ve never really seen them play is, are they really good enough? Is that it, are there others as well? It is both of these questions that I will endeavour to answer, as I get around to the age old question (for at least the past few months), ‘Will Australia still be the world’s best in 12-24 months time?

So as the question is asked; who will replace Justin Langer to partner Matthew Hayden at the top of the Aussie batting order in the short and long term futures, I profile some of the best young talents who might end up opening the batting for Australia in the future:

Phil Jaques – Jaques is one of the most raved about youngsters in Australian cricket, and it’s not hard to see why. With a good technique, and a healthy, aggressive nature, Jaques could easily be the next Matthew Hayden. A quick glance at his stats suggests the same, with a double century in first class cricket highlighting a career average of 55, with 28 centuries to his name. His one day record is also impressive; the aggressive left hander has an average of 41, with 158 not out his highest score, plus an excellent strike rate of 89.67, suggesting that the youngster nicknamed ‘Pro’ is a spectacular prospect for the future. Whilst his season in 2006/07 was not his best, his inconsistency hid the fact that he ended up scoring 987 runs, second only to fellow aspiring opener Chris Rogers, and Jaques’ average of 47 wasn’t too bad either. Jaques’ fielding has held him back, and he would have surely been opening at the World Cup with Adam Gilchrist had selectors not opted to go with Hayden’s safe pair of hands.

Chris Rogers – Rogers was a little known opener from WA, until he burst onto the scene with a double century against his own country, playing for Leicestershire during the 2005 Ashes. Rogers form finally hit it big for his state, when he and Marcus North put on a huge partnership of more than 500 runs, Rogers ending up on 279, surprisingly not his highest score, before the Victorians (Shane Warne among them) finally got him out. From then on everyone had taken notice, as Jaques, the man who was favoured to push Justin Langer out before the end of the Ashes Series, started off slowly; Rogers did anything but, eventually scoring 1202 runs (at 70.70), well ahead of second placed Jaques. The red-headed left-hander, 29 years old, is nearing the prime of his career, and would be a great replacement for Langer in the immediate future. There’s very little that the two don’t have in common; Rogers is one centimetre shorter than Langer, and is a crafter, like his older counterpart, he is a slow but steady batsman, an accumulator of runs, rather than an aggressive one, like Jaques and Hayden.

Tim Paine – Paine is a highly regarded youngster, and is also a part time wicketkeeper, having kept for Tasmania in their One Day games last year. His age, just 22, (which earned him the nickname ‘kid’) ensures he is one to watch in 5 or so years. Paine’s average of 28 does not flatter him, but his ability is undoubted, having celebrated his first ever first class century by turning into a brilliant 215, early in the 2006/07 Pura Cup season. He is a flamboyant youngster, who doesn’t go over the top, but can still play a good innings once he gets started. With a talent in both batting and keeping, Tim is sure to be pushing for national selection within the next few years.

Michael Klinger – The final of my ‘fab four’ is the least known of the group, but the one that I have seen the most of. Klinger is a 26 year old Victorian with a great mix of skill and aggression that makes him one of the best one day openers in Australia. Whilst his first class career has spanned several years with just 2 centuries (both in the past 2 seasons), many will remember the day that Paul Reiffel declared whilst Klinger was on 99, prompting a loss of confidence that appears to be finally escaping him, and with a re-emergence into the Pura Cup side last this year, plus an excellent season in One Day Cricket, being named as 12th Man in the Domestic Team of the year in The Ford Ranger Cup, Klinger seems like one to watch this year, as he attempts to hold down the opening spot, with veteran opener Jason Arnberger being dropped from the squad, Klinger could very well be seen at the top of the order for years to come. His fielding is also excellent, being very quick and a safe pair of hands on most occasions, and Klinger is very capable of hitting a few sixes on his day as well.

These four are a few small fish in a very large pond, and there are plenty more with talent that just missed out.

Stay 'tuned' to see the next batch of youngsters that I profile


Tim said...

I'd predict Jaques to be picked first, and then Rogers when Hayden goes, though, as with the quicks, a lot depends on early season form.

Ram said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ram said...

Isn't michael clarke moving up the order a possibility, especially in ODI's? Just throwing it out there.

Dean said...

Jaques is favourite, but I firmly believe that Rogers deserves it more, he was the standout player in the Pura Cup last year.

Clarke has moved to number 4 in ODI's, and is likely to stay at number 5 in the Test team with Hussey at 4.

Richard Lake said...

Jaques was at Yorkshire for a time and while he did alright, he's never struck me as a player to be feared in the same way as Langer or Haydos.

I've always thought that Hussey has more of an opener's game, and would work well in the "Langer" role.