The Aussie XI that should have played more Test cricket

Australian summers have been entrenched with Test success for as long as time. Flurries of runs, series whitewashes and opposition collapses have been recurring themes leading to triumphs on the world stage. Based on the ICC historical rankings, Australia is the greatest Test side in history, spending an accumulative total of almost 28 years atop the Test rankings since 1952.

While the likes of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and the late great Shane Warne enjoyed a plethora of success, they have stood in the way of other quality cricketers, thus preventing them from bathing in the same glory.

After Scott Boland missed the Sydney Test in favor of Josh Hazlewood, here is an XI of players who were left on the outer for most of their careers due to the talent that Australia already had at Test level. Although some of these players went on to have illustrious careers for their country, they were prevented from becoming household names.

Ironically, there were strong candidates who missed out on selection for this team. Despite this, he side is short a full-time all-rounder. Darren Lehmann needed to feature and can bowl some part-time spin when required.

1. Matthew Elliott

The Victorian and South Australian opening batsman had an illustrious Sheffield Shield career, scoring over 10,000 runs, which included 32 centuries. Elliott made 1000 runs in a season three times and led all batsmen in runs scored on four occasions. He eventually cracked into the side in the 1996-97 Frank Worrell Trophy series, replacing Michael Slater at the top of the order.

The left-hander struggled on debut but proved his worth with an unbeaten 78 in the second Test before injuring his knee in a mid-pitch collision with Mark Waugh. This would keep Elliott out of the side until the South African series three months later. For the rest of the year and for the start of 1998 Elliott would become a main fixture in the Australian team. His spell included three centuries and a near double century at Headingley.

Michael Slater took his opening spot back from the Victorian after returning to form. In March 1999, after scoring 925 runs in seven Shield games, Elliott was reinstated, this time for Mark Taylor, who announced his retirement after the 1998-99 Ashes series. Poor from, though, would see the opener replaced indefinitely.

Despite some big seasons to follow at the domestic level, including a 1381-run season in 2003-04 – the third highest of all time – Elliott would get only one more shot at Test level. This came batting at No. 3 against Sri Lanka in 2004, standing in for Ricky Ponting, who was out for personal reasons. One run for the match ended his international career for good.

Matthew Elliott

(Brendan Monks/EMPICS via Getty Images)

2. Chris Rogers

An established opener when he joined the Australian team, it begs the question as to why Rogers had to wait until he was 30 to even get a sniff in the Australian Test side. Before the West Australian took to the field at the WACA against India, he had over 7000 runs to his name across shield and county cricket, averaging a half-century per innings.

Rogers scored four and 15 in his debut match and was replaced by Matthew Hayden in the next Test after he returned from injury. Despite putting up 1000 runs in the following five seasons of the county competition and uncertainty with Australia’s opening partnership, the left-hander had to wait until the 2013 Ashes to get another chance.

At 35 years of age, Rogers finally had a permanent spot in the Aussie line-up and used his experience to guide Australia to some crucial Test series victories, including the 2013-14 Ashes, where the Aussies won the urn for the first time since 2006-07. Bucky finished with 2015 runs in his international career at an average of 42.87.

3. Michael Bevan

Michael Bevan will always be remembered for his ODI heroics. Whenever he wore the green and gold, Bevan would produce something special. Making his Test debut five months after his ODI debut, the Canberran was rewarded for a stellar 1993-94 season. A shield-high 1240 runs at 82.66 an innings propelled him into the Aussie Test setup.

Replacing recently retired captain Allan Border, Bevan looked to cement his spot in the middle order with three half-centuries during the 1994 tour of Pakistan, but poor form in the Ashes saw the 24-year-old dropped for the 1995 West Indies series.

Scoring 457 runs from six matches in the 1995-96 Sheffield Shield season was enough for Bevan to be recalled for the 1996-96 West Indies series. Despite being in and out of the team throughout, the middle-order batsman scored two consecutive unbeaten half-centuries, keeping him in the side indefinitely.

It was a sense of deja vu though when another cheap streak saw Bevan dropped after the 1997 Ashes in England. He would be recalled for the 1998 Sydney Test but misfired once again, marking the end of his Test career.

A 1464-run season in the 2004-05 shield season still left the then Tasmanian Tiger on the outer, shutting the door on any chance of a comeback.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 27: Michael Bevan of Tasmania in action during day four of the Pura Cup match between the Victorian Bushrangers and the Tasmianan Tigers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on February 27, 2005 in Melbourne, Australia.

(Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

4.Michael Hussey

He probably had the most illustrious international career out of anyone in this XI, but it was a matter of making up for lost time for the middle-order batsman. Hussey had to wait until he was 30 to play his first Test match. Amassing 6235 runs in his eight-season career and averaging 51.52, Mr Cricket could have been one of the highest scoring Test players in history had he debuted earlier.

In nine of his first 11 seasons of shield cricket the left-handed batter was in the top 20 run-scorers, scoring a total of 7202 runs over that period. However, competing with the likes of the Waugh brothers and Ricky Ponting in a cemented middle order, there was no room for the West Australian prodigy.

When Hussey finally got his chance, he didn’t look back, locking down his spot in the middle order for the rest of his career.

5. Brad Hodge (captain)

Hodge might have been one of the unluckiest players to have had a taste of Test cricket. Debuting for Victoria in the 1993-94 Sheffield Shield season, the then 19-year-old made a sudden impact, scoring 903 runs for the season.

After a relatively shaky period, Hodge revitalized his career at the turn of the century. Between the 2000-01 and 2004-05 seasons the middle-order batsman amassed 4209 runs at an average of 55.38, the most of any player during that stretch.

On the back of this form the Victorian was blithely added to the Ashes squad for the infamous 2005 tour but had to wait until the following summer to receive his baggy green. Replacing Damien Martyn after a poor Ashes campaign, Hodge made the most of his opportunity in the South African series with a run tally of 409 at an average of 58.4, including an unbeaten double-century.

However, Martyn – who averaged 14 in the 2005-06 Shield season – was shockingly recalled for the tour of South Africa to Hodge’s dismay. After Martyn retired during the 2006 Ashes, Andrew Symonds would be favored over Hodge, who was averaging 85 per innings, and Michael Clarke was elevated to No. 5.

The Victorian played his final Test match in 2008 against the West Indies, against which he would make his third Test 50.

Brad Hodge of Australia

(Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

6. Darren Lehmann

Darren Lehmann is the greatest scoring batsman in shield history, amassing 13,635 runs, a high score of 301 not out and a batting average of 54.97, yet he played only 27 Tests. Debuting during the 1998 series in India Boof replaced an injured Steve Waugh and managed a half-century first time out and a 98 in Pakistan, but it still wasn’t enough for the man who would become the Australian coach to keep his spot initially,

The South Australian was reinstated for the 1998 Boxing Day Test against England but struggled to find his previous form, sending him back to domestic cricket. Lehmann’s next opportunity would appear four years later following Mark Waugh’s retirement. He would stay in the Aussie system until the end of 2004 before a young Michael Clarke made a name for himself.

7. Jimmy Maher (wicketkeeper)

Maher might not have been a full-time keeper, but one man prevented him from representing his country at Test level: Adam Gilchrist. Fighting with Australia’s greatest-ever keeper for a spot in the Test proves how unlucky the Queenslander was.

With slightly over 9000 runs in his Sheffield Shield career, the keeper-batsman was born into the wrong generation. No room in the top six or with the gloves in the Test team meant that he was left to play Shield cricket.

Maher played two ODIs in 1998 before becoming a regular member between 2002 and 2003. In this period he managed another 24 games. When Gilchrist was absent from the side, Maher took the gloves as well as opened the batting.

8. James Pattinson

James Pattinson was prided as being the next big star for the Australian cricket team, yet the fast bowler managed only 21 Test matches.

Making his debut in the 2011-12 summer against New Zealand, he claimed two five-wicket hauls within his first two matches. He remained on the side for the India series until injury struck in Sydney. Pattinson was recalled for the West Indies tour three months later but injured his back upon return. This would be a common theme for Pattinson, whose career was plagued with injury.

These setbacks would place the Victorian lower down the pecking order, giving Pattinson limited opportunity to represent his country. He would eventually retire before the 2021-22 Ashes series.

9. Scott Boland

“Build the man a statue!” Those were the famous words uttered by Mark Howard during the 2021 Boxing Day Test. A select few have that said about them, let alone in their debut Test. Boland produced one of the greatest Test debuts in the modern era, claiming 6-7 in his opening Ashes encounter.

The 33-year-old should have been selected earlier but was instead limited to carrying the drinks for the first XI. The pace bowler has taken 25 wickets or more in six of the last seven Sheffield Shield seasons, peaking at 48 during the 2018-19 edition of the tournament, but these figures were not enough for the fast bowler to make the national side.

Simply Boland was left out because of the elite pace treble of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. It’s an issue that’s hampering the Victorian’s Test career. Case and point, the 2023 tour of the Subcontinent. Despite Boland featuring in the recent Australian Test summer, he will probably be carrying the drinks during the tour of India and potentially the Ashes.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

10. Michael Kasprowicz

Loosely involved in the ferocious pace attack of the early to mid-2000s, Kasprowicz was the odd one out in the fast bowling cartel. The second highest wicket-taker in Sheffield Shield history, Kasper made his national debut in 1996 following a 46-wicket season in the domestic competition.

He became a regular member of the Test team from the 1997 Ashes, claiming 14 scalps from three matches, including 7-36 at the Oval. But in 1999 a young Brett Lee emerged onto the scene, stealing the Queenslander’s spot in the process.

With Lee out for the 2001 tour of India, Kasprowicz got his chance in the second Test but was dropped for the third game.

Impressive form in shield cricket over the next three seasons would see the paceman recalled for the 2004 trip to Sri Lanka due to Glenn McGrath’s ankle injury. This time around Kasprowicz held down his spot until after the 2005 Ashes, where Kasprowicz was remembered for almost stealing victory at Edgbaston in one of the greatest Test matches ever.

11. Stuart MacGill

How does a man with 208 Test wickets make this XI? Simple: he was Shane Warne’s understudy for his whole career. If MacGill had been the primary Australian spinner, he could have had a statue in his honor of him at the rate he was taking wickets. The second best strike rate for a spin bowler of all time with more than 200 wickets, the leg spinner had more potential at the top level.

Used initially as a second spinner, the New South Welshman was only used on spin-friendly wickets such as the SCG or in instances where Warne was injured or suspended. After the King of Spin’s retirement, MacGill became the number one spin option before he too retired from international cricket in May 2008.

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