Spoilt for Choice

In the last item, I alluded to the last time two Aussies made their Test debut in the same Test – I said I didn’t know when it was. Ric from Penrith was kind enough to write in and suggest that it was Slats and Julian in 1993. Nice try. It is true that those two debuted at Manchester in 1993 but that was not the last time. Shane from the Shire has it right. The last time was Brisbane, 1999 when Gilchrist and Muller debuted against Pakistan.

Ric also pointed out that there is a nice piece of trivia about Slater and Julian. Slater had the number 356 tattooed on his butt. The number plate on his Ferrari was gratuitously MS356. Slater assumed that he would be 356 on the basis that he batted first. Wrong. When two players start in the same match, the numbers are allocated by alphabetical order. Slater was officially listed as 357. Ha ha. The fiasco was solved when Slater applied to CA to have the numbers switched and Brendan Julian agreed. Nice bloke.

All this talk of debuts, “cap numbers” and for that matter, rampant numbers of English wicket keepers, has sent me on the path of some more research. This time I have landed on Wikipedia for the list of Australian Test cricketers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Australian_Test_cricketers

As we all know, Australia has had 400 (about to be 401) players represent in Test cricket. I have long been cognisant that England has had far more. Here is the proof.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_England_Test_cricketers

Stuart Broad was the 638th player to represent England at Test cricket. In other words, England has had 60% more Test cricketers than Australia. Why? I think we all know that Australia and England started playing Test cricket at precisely the same point in time. For a few decades, they were the only participants. But over the years, has England played more Tests than Australia? The answer is a resounding “yes”.

Aust Bng Eng Ind NZ Pak SA SL WI Zim Total
Aust 4 316 72 46 52 77 20 104 3 694
Eng 316 4 97 94 67 130 21 138 6 873

Australia has played 694 Tests to England’s 873. England has played 26% more Tests than Australia. Does that account for having used so many more players? But before we look at that, why has England played so many more Tests?

England and Australia were the only Test nations until the early 1900s. And from about 1970 onwards, the number of Tests is to an extent controlled by the ICC and Australia and England will have played roughly the same amount of Tests. That means the discrepancy occurred between about 1910 and 1970. My theory is that there were two significant factors:

1. Australia’s isolation. With travel being by boat until the 1960s, it was a big deal to play against South Africa, India and the West Indies. And vice versa with those teams visiting. This theory does not hold in the case of New Zealand, as they are just across the ditch from Australia. Sadly, that can be explained by Australia’s disgraceful attitude towards New Zealand cricket.

2. England, was the parent in imperial relationships with it’s colonial outposts. For example, England had extensive involvement with India and it makes sense that they played more Test cricket with India. Whereas, Austalia has no strong, direct relationships with India. The same goes for South Africa. It is ridiculous that England has played New Zealand so much more than Australia has, but good on them.

Whatever the reasons, I don’t believe that the number of Tests played accounts for the greater number of players. For a start, the number of matches is 25% more as opposed to 60% more players. Secondly, length of time is more critical than number of matches. If a Test player’s shelf life is say, 10 years, it’s 10 years regardless of the number of matches played. Volume of matches will have required a certain number more players simply to fill in for injury, but the impact is minimal. Finally, if we look at recent times, when we know England and Australia have been playing roughly the same amount of Tests, the disparity exists.

For example, since 1998, Australia has blooded 27 Test cricketers. In the same time period, England has blooded 51 players – 89% more. The numbers are probably skewed (even higher than overall) because Australia have been enjoying a period of dominance and stability and England, quite the opposite. However, I think the overall disparity must be accounted for in policy, politics and culture. And there is this: As you would know, the English county competition – the first class cricket competition – has many more teams than the Australian domestic competition (there are currently 18). Therefore the English first class cricketer pool is vastly greater than that of Australia (about 2.5 times more). Perhaps the selectors are spoilt for choice! Perhaps they feel obliged to give all the guys who show some potential a go, rather than stick with a certain player. Perhaps the grass is always greener. While on the other hand, Australian selectors may have stuck with some players because they did not have a lot more choice.

Man. My head hurts. I don’t know what I just said, but I said something.

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