Former Aus skipper On two great Aussies
The retirement of leg-spinner Stuart MacGill has caused a lot of consternation in Australia.
First there were rumours of a Shane Warne comeback and then rumblings about MacGill's decision being selfish. Well of course it's selfish; the decision to retire is one that only concerns the person making the announcement. If MacGill is convinced he's had enough, then it's over.
Warne's comments following a successful IPL campaign seemed pretty clear cut, "I don't know how many times I can say I'm happily retired, I'm in a good space at the moment."
It's easy to forget that before Warne debuted in 1992, many were lamenting the fact that Australia's spin bowling stocks closely resembled old Mother Hubbard's cupboard. Greg Matthews was hanging on by a thread and the short careers of Bob "Dutchy" Holland and Trevor Hohns were finished. In the meantime, in his colourful columns Bill “Tiger” O'Reilly was castigating English administrators for killing off leg-spin.
What followed was Australia's most successful era of leg-spin when O'Reilly teamed up with the wily Clarrie Grimmett to mesmerise batsmen. Warne and MacGill toiled successfully for an amazing nine hundred and sixteen Test victims and provided an incredible amount of entertainment.
However, it's now officially over and it's time to look to the future.
The main criticism of MacGill's announcement seems to be that it came in the middle of an overseas series. However, this is largely offset by the fact that Australia did have a second spinner on tour.
There's another angle to MacGill's retirement. It gives the left-arm chinaman bowler Beau Casson the opportunity to get a feel of Test cricket away from the glare of the home spotlight and in a more relaxed atmosphere with the Frank Worrell Trophy already securely packed away ready for the long trip back to Australia. MacGill's retirement has given Casson his best possible chance to get off to a good start at the international level.
There's an even more important positive in the timing of MacGill's announcement. It gives Ricky Ponting the chance to get a first-hand look at Casson's temperament in a Test match and that's a huge plus for the Australian captain.
Ponting has stated that Australia have "come back to the pack" recently, which shouldn't be earth shattering news given the high profile retirements of not only Warne and MacGill but also Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist. Ponting has had to deal with more disruptions to the Test side than any Australian captain since Allan Border and he's handled it extremely well.
Later this year he's about to embark on a demanding tour of India which will be his greatest challenge yet. In a country where spin could play a crucial part in the result, any lead-up information Ponting can glean about one of his spin candidates has to be beneficial. If there are any nasty surprises awaiting Ponting, better he experiences them in the Caribbean rather than Bangalore in the middle of the first Test.
I'll bet there's one Australian who won't be complaining about the timing of MacGill's retirement: Beau Casson.
Having watched some of the leaden-footed West Indies batsmen and the recent inability of top-order players to pick Brad Hogg's wrong 'un, the timing is perfect for Casson to boost his confidence.
Casson's Australian first-class record has been cited as an indication he might struggle at international level. Before people make too much of Casson's first-class record they should recall Warne's. For Victoria he averaged 34.73 compared with 25.42 at Test level with an even greater disparity between a strike rate of 73.63 as against an exceptional 57.49 in the Baggy Green. No one is predicting Casson will replicate Warne's achievements let alone those of MacGill.
So as far as the highly successful Warne and MacGill era is concerned, the credits have rolled and the stumps are drawn; it's over.
It is time to look back on the Warne-MacGill era with fondness and then forward to the next era — provided by Casson or any of the other young spin candidates in Australia.