I’ve never thought much about picking my best-ever Australian Test team because in my opinion whatever team I was selected for, be it for a Test match or World Cup game, I believed it was the best national side possible for that particular game. I always believed the Australian team was selected on form, and, now I have had a chance to think long and hard about it, I realise I was fortunate to have played in a talent-rich era. The guys I played alongside from 1993–07 included the likes of Michael Slater, Mark Taylor, Damien Martyn, Michael Bevan, Damien Fleming, Greg Blewett, Stuart MacGill, Darren Lehmann, Michael Clarke, Simon Katich, Andrew Symonds, Shaun Tait, Michael Hussey and Shane Watson — all of who should feel entitled to be named in many of these ‘best-ever’ teams. When I sat down to select my team during a lull in my commitments at the MRF Pace Foundation, I really wrestled with this job because I think it is an exercise that can risk bruising the egos of the friends I leave out. Nevertheless, I’ve bitten the bullet and among the criteria I’ve used to select my crew is consistency, character, ability to perform under pressure, and effort. It’s taken me the better part of a week, but after much deliberation and scribbling on hundreds of pages, I have come up with a 13-man squad to take on the world.It is as follows: Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting, Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh, Allan Border (captain), Adam Gilchrist, Brett Lee, Shane Warne, Craig McDermott, Jason Gillespie, Andy Bichel and Michael Kasprowicz. I’d like to think the selections are seen by even the harshest critic as ‘givens’. After all, Langer and Hayden formed one of cricket’s most successful opening combinations. Ricky Ponting is the second most successful run-scorer in Test cricket history. Twins Steve and Mark Waugh were so different in their approaches to the game, but they brought unique and invaluable traits to their teams. Allan Border was perhaps the bravest player to ever wear the baggy green cap because he was targeted by the opposing pace attacks. Adam Gilchrist is arguably the greatest batsman-keeper cricket has ever seen. Brett Lee’s longevity as a genuine pace bowler — he was still bowling in the high 140s at 38 years of age — puts him in a league of his own. Do I really need to justify Shane Warne as a walk-up starter? Craig McDermott carried the burden as Australian cricket’s great spearhead after Lillee and Thomson retired and he did an outstanding job. Jason Gillespie was a quality bowler who I was fortunate to have partner me in many tough battles. My 12th and 13th men, the big-hearted Queenslanders Andy Bichel and Michael Kasprowicz, were two of the greatest team men you could have wanted on tour or in the dressing room because they threw themselves into their roles. I think it’s a well-balanced team and while there are three captains in my squad, four if you include Adam Gilchrist who led the team on a couple of occasions, I am certain that both Steve and Rick would have no objections to my decision to bestow the title on Allan Border. I have named him as my skipper because of the job he did to single-handedly drag Australian cricket from an era where it had struggled — after being gutted by the impact of the World Series Cricket war and then rebel tours to South Africa robbing the establishment of its experienced and best performers — to reach the top of the world; an effort that was realised in the 1987 World Cup victory over England in India.
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