It has also been suggested that there is no longer 'the Australian cricket team', rather there is now 'an Australian cricket team', or maybe 'several Australian cricket teams', referring to the different forms of the game. Obviously, some cricketers are more conversant with, or suited to, one of the forms of the game over the others.
Cricket chaplain of 25 years, Baptist minister Mark Tronson, wishes to review some of the history of these various 'new' forms of cricket, then to suggest an option that may help mentor young cricketers.
After serving as the (then) Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years, M V Tronson moved sideways to Life After Cricket in 2000 and the Australian Institute of Sport's cricket respite centre for players, coaches, and retired cricketers and their families in 2006.
Also, as part of his association with young cricketers at the AIS Cricket Centre of Excellence, he has been privileged to have had numerous discussions with the youngsters starting their careers. He has thus been able to see first hand the emotions wrought by the current system in players of all ages: whether young, retired or at their sporting peak.
Once upon a time, the Sheffield Shield Cricket competition (between the States) was thought to be the quintessential preparation for Australian representation; perhaps that was in the 'old days' when Test cricket was the only flavour. Recently, however, it been stated that One Day Internationals are a better preparation, and this has been borne out by young David Warner who has never played a Shield State match and yet is now part of the Australian 20-Twenty squad.
One Day Internationals and 20-Twenty are just two of the various forms of cricket that have become popular since Packer came under criticism in 1978 for developing the spectator-friendly Day-Night games, where the players did not even wear their creams! Marketing and adequate remuneration were also part of that package, but despite the doom-sayers, the crowds returned to enjoy the game, and the Tests did not die.
Now, thirty years later, the two Indian Leagues have revolutionised international cricket yet again.
Marketing and high remuneration rates are again part of the equation to attract the high class players, which in turn will attract more followers to see excellent cricket being played. For example, in March when the Australian cricket team is in New Zealand, each player will earn approx $15,000 per Test Match; while former test cricketer Andrew Symonds will be earning approx $250,000 in India playing in the IPL tournament.
With all this cricket going on, and fast jet planes to all places on the Earth, players no longer have an 'off' season to allow their bodies and souls to recuperate – not to mention their personal relationships. So respite, too, has become a major and acknowledged issue. Ricky Ponting came home for three weeks during the Ashes series as did coach Tim Nielsen.
On the following tour of India, numbers of the cricketers came home early with injuries and then two more were sent home prior to the last match to avoid injury. Is this because they are playing 'too much cricket'?
If there was ever a time to reconstruct Australian cricket these scenarios certainly provide ample illustrations that now is an opportunity not to be wasted.
In this light the MCC sponsored some meetings in England with numbers of former international cricketers, as did the ICC in Dubai. In addition, recently Matthew Hayden, the former Australian opening batsman and now a member of the board of Cricket Australia, has put forward his ideas.
But none of these high-level discussions have come up with a solution to the problem of how to give the talented young cricketers opportunity to play at the top level when so many of the older hands are staying on, many to play some of the newer forms of the game. Moreover, the older hands are entitled to stay on. How many times have cricketers been criticised for retiring 'way too early'?
One consideration today, that is important to many international cricket players and did not arise in the past, is the earning capacity of the top line players. No longer does a cricketer need to reach the very top to get a go at the big money. The Indian Leagues have shown that to be complete fallacy; with players from a wide range of cricketing backgrounds being recruited.
The issue in M V Tronson's view is that today there are many arenas in professional cricket. There is international cricket between nations; the 'one day' and '20-Twenty' type short games, and increasing variations on those; there is still the Sheffield Shield in Australia and County Cricket in England; and there are the professional Indian leagues, that may well spread elsewhere. The Federation International Cricketers Association (FICA) have proposed steps which recognises this reality.
But the issue for the aspiring Australian young cricketers still remains. One solution is that of making an arbitrary age decision for "the" Australian cricket 'test team', that at the conclusion of a cricketer's 32nd year the selectors can no longer consider that cricketer.
The cricketer is then free to devote himself entirely to the 'other' forms of national cricket selection and the 'other' professional arenas in their later years so as to solely concentrate on earnings for their and their family's long term future.
The only exception could be where an Australian cricketer has never been selected in the Australian 'test cricket team', and then a maximum of ten Test matches, the selectors could allow such consideration.
Mark Tronson recognises that such an idea will bring howls of disapproval from some in cricket, however the philosophy behind it, is derived from a realistic scenario, that a professional cricketer's later years be devoted to 'making it count' financially.
M V Tronson says "This is another idea for the pot, as the debate has already begun!"