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Nasser Hussain's top 10 Australian cricketers
Nasser Hussain's best Australian cricketers
Sunday June 5, 2005
1 Shane Warne
The art of leg-spin bowling was dying until Warne resurrected it. He's been great for Australia and cricket as a whole. Whether it was his bowling, his blond streaks, his weight problems or sledging, there was always something to talk about. One of my last games for Essex was against Hampshire when he had just finished his year-long ban. 'It's good to have you back, Warnie,' I said - and I meant it! I loved facing him. There would be a few words exchanged. But you would feel, too, that you were really being tested. It says everything that in all the years I played against him, I can count on one hand the number of crap balls he bowled. He would have made a great Australia captain, too.
2 Steve Waugh
You thought you had him down and out, then he would come right back at you. In January 2003, he came in at Sydney with Australia 56 for three and his own form in question. A few hours later, he was stroking the last ball of the day to the boundary to bring up a century. I was never sure how good he was as a captain because he had so many great players in his team. But he deserves credit for changing the nature of Test cricket. Draws were no longer good enough. Only a win would do. If that meant fast scoring and bold declarations, then so be it.
3 David Boon
Boonie's a Tasmanian and he always seemed to be slightly apart from the other Aussies, who came from the mainland. He would stand there at short leg, the helmet on, looking out at you over that big moustache of his, never saying a word, while everyone around him was losing his head. It was quite disconcerting. It made you want to know whether he rated you as a batsman. He was equally unassuming and undemonstrative when batting but he piled up run after run at number three - a good player to come in first wicket down. He was a very hard man to dislodge.
4 Mark Taylor
I enjoyed coming up against Mark because he played the game in the right way. Unlike some Australians he never went in for sledging, but he was a gutsy player. I watched him in the field as he scored a century at Edgbaston in 1997. It was obvious that he was out of nick and that his team would lose, but he kept going because that's the kind of player he was. As a captain, he was very bold. His decision to bat first at Old Trafford later in that series looked like madness. But Mark had a plan and that was to have Shane Warne bowling at us later in the match after the pitch had dried out. When Warnie cleaned up in the final innings of the game, he was fully vindicated.
5 Glenn McGrath
Aggressive, very aggressive. Everything a coach tells a bowler to do - to think his over out, to seek out a batsman's weakness, when to attack and when to contain - he did it. He could be a strike bowler or a control bowler. My only criticism of him is that he could sometimes lose the plot. If, as a captain or a batsman, you saw that, then you sensed that you could get under his skin and score a few runs. Alan Mullally did that to him when we won at Melbourne in 1998.
6 Jason Gillespie
A very fine bowler who, with a bit more luck with injuries, could by now have taken nearly as many wickets as McGrath. But he is a lot more relaxed than McGrath. He played it tough on the pitch, yet he seemed to have a sense of perspective. At the end of a match, you would often find him and Mark Butcher together, having a beer, and you knew that whatever they were talking about, it wouldn't be cricket.
7 Allan Border
I didn't play against Allan that many times, but he was a team-mate at Essex for a few seasons. It was there that I saw just what a tough competitor he was. He wasn't the most talented of batsmen, but he squeezed every last drop out of his ability and he never made excuses. It was his no-nonsense approach that got Australia back on track in the late Eighties. He was also a bloody good bloke.
8 Adam Gilchrist
One of the top 10 players of all time. Along with Viv Richards and Brian Lara, he is probably the most destructive batsman of the modern era. With his aggressive approach, he has done almost as much as Steve Waugh to change cricket. He has absolutely no fear of failure. Christ, at Adelaide in 2002, he hit Richard Dawson for six on his first ball! As a keeper, he would have to be the best in the world and he is also a real sportsman, which is not something you can always say about the Aussies.
9 Mark Waugh
Mark was one of the old school. He didn't go in for practice much - he just needed a few throw-downs, then he would go out and score the most beautiful innings you had seen. I remember a hundred he scored for Essex at Ilford against Middlesex. He was a great player of spin bowling and he drove Phil Tufnell mad that day. There weren't many better slip catchers, either. When he wasn't playing, Mark just wanted a beer, a round of golf or a day at the races, and he was happy.
10 Ricky Ponting
I know he's had his problems with gambling and drinking, but I think that has made Ricky a better captain. It means he can understand players who have also been through difficult times. A model pro such as Graham Gooch or Alec Stewart isn't always the best person to lead a side. His batting exuded class. When our guys bowled at him, they knew their length had to be perfect. Even that sometimes wasn't enough. At Headingley, in 2001, he hit Alex Tudor for a couple of sixes off balls most players would have blocked.
This month's 10 was selected by Nasser Hussain. Here he justifies his choice:
I know there are many great Australian cricketers, but I can choose from only those I played against. My first Ashes Test was in 1993 and, you might say, it was my bad luck that it was then that the Aussies began to establish their supremacy in world cricket. Over the next 10 years, I never won a series against them.
But I always enjoyed playing Australia. Everything I wanted from cricket was a challenge and that's what they gave you. Even when I put Australia in on the first day of the opening Test at Brisbane in November 2002 and they scored 364 for the loss of just two wickets, I still preferred to be playing them than anyone else.
If you want to beat the Aussies, you have to resist their bullying. You have to be immune to what Steve Waugh called 'mental disintegration'. I think that's what you see in the England guys - Botham, Gough, Thorpe and, dare I say it, Hussain - who have done well against them.
A lot of people around the cricket world are eagerly waiting for Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath to retire. There's no doubt that when those two are out of the side - as happened when we beat them at Sydney in 2003 - they lack something. When they go, we'll get a better idea of how good the others are.
I have been retired for a year now. The only time I shall begin to miss cricket will be when that first Ashes Test starts in July. I'll be itching to get out on the pitch all over again.
· Nasser Hussain played 96 Tests for England, 45 as captain, scoring 5,764 runs. He will be commentating on the NatWest series, which starts on 16 June and is broadcast exclusively on Sky Sports.
Tony Cozier - Beauty (Lara) and the Beast (Shabbir)
Published on: 6/5/05.
by TONY COZIER AT SABINA PARK
AS WAS KENSINGTON last weekend, Sabina was yesterday exposed to the contrasts of the beauty and the ugliness of modern Test cricket.
Once more, Brian Lara delighted the buoyant Saturday crowd with the glorious batting that places him among the treasured elite of this great game.
His 30th Test hundred was not quite the devastating brilliance of his three earlier hundreds against South Africa and Pakistan. The pitch demanded more careful attention. Yet he was never bothered one iota by an attack that revolved around the leg-spin of Danish Kaneria and the off-spin of Shoab Malik.
When the mood took him and the opportunity arose, he would indulge himself, as when he stepped out to send Kaneria sailing into the celebrating Red Stripe Stand twice off successive balls and when he stroked three fours in a row off the fast bowler Naved Rana.
Otherwise, he bided his time, sweeping effectively as he had done against Muttiah Muralitharan in his unforgettable series in Sri Lanka two years ago, deflecting deftly and, every now and then, unleashing a cover drive or a cut of sheer class.
Generally this was a flawless, calculated exhibition that has been the backbone of a strong response to Pakistan's first innings 374.
On the contrary, there was nothing flawless about Shabbir Ahmed, the tall, slim Pakistani whose action presented the dark side of Test cricket against Lara's radiance.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) boldly and proudly proclaims that its new process in dealing with bowlers with suspect actions is "a radical overhaul of the previous system".
Given the experience with Shabbir over the two Tests of this series, this new process is already in need of a radical overhaul.
Not to put too fine a point on it, Shabbir has blatantly and consistently thrown the ball, over after over, wicket after wicket, without let or hindrance in both matches, simply because the ICC's systems for dealing with those of his ilk, whether previous and revised, allows him to.
It has been commented on by eminent former players watching from the stands, offended that the game can be so besmirched at the highest level.
It was clear from any vantage point on the ground and to anyone with eyes to see sitting in front of their television sets on all points of the globe.
More significant, it was obvious to standing umpires David Shepherd and Darrell Hair, third umpire Basil Morgan and match referee Ranjan Madugalle in the Barbados Test.
But political correctness under the threat of intimidation, verbal if not physical, and even at the risk of their jobs, dictated that they couched their mandatory report to the ICC in euphemistic language.
"The match officials had concerns with the action used by the bowler at certain stages during both innings when viewing it with the naked eye.
"This assessment has led the team of officials to request the ICC to commission a biomechanical report into the bowler's action in accordance with the new process introduced earlier this year," was the way Madugalle put it.
But there could be no doubt that they were unanimous that Shabbir repeatedly broke the basic law of bowling.
Shepherd and Hair did not call him for no-balling, as they did others for overstepping by a half-inch or, in Tino Best's case on the first day, not overstepping at all, because they have had their power to do so diminished by the ICC's process aimed at accommodating bowlers who transgress.
In any case, when Hair dared to call Muralitharan in a Test a few years back it caused such an international uproar that he was eased off the scene.
Under the new regulations, Shabbir will now undergo independent analysis of his action by a member of the ICC's panel of human movement specialists. That will be conducted in some scientific laboratory in Western Australia, not in the middle of Sabina Park in the heat of battle.
It is the third time he has had to undergo the same treatment and each time he has returned. No doubt, he will again.
When he first appeared in the Pakistan team, against the West Indies in a One-Day tournament in 1999, he took the breath away with his javelin-like delivery.
Adrian Griffith still says he was run out, rather than bowled as the entry states in the official scorebook.
No blame can be attached to Shabbir. He is representing his country, a great honour, and is using an action that he has grown up with.
The pity is that thousands of youngsters in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar will see his success and copy him.
Those who must take the responsibility for this blot on the game are those who picked him in the first place, no doubt reputable judges of the game who would be equally offended if an opposing bowler ran up, took aim and hurled the ball at their batsmen.
And, of course, the ICC for neutering the power of the umpires to do their job, fairly and fearlessly.
- Nation News. Barbados