Australia's golden cricketing era will continue for years to come despite the retirement of four talismanic figures, according to a confident Ricky Ponting.
Australia Confident Of Continuing World Domination
Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, Australia - 5/1/07 Australia's Shane Warne (R)and Glenn McGrath during their last international test match Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Jason O'Brien Livepic
Australia have dominated the world game for the past 15 years, but the retirements of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Justin Langer and Damien Martyn have ripped a giant hole in Ponting's all-conquering team.
Ponting said it was impossible to immediately replace players of that calibre but that he was sure Australia had enough depth in their first-class ranks to stay ahead of the pack.
"I've got a good feeling about the next crop of players," Ponting told a news conference at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday.
"I'm excited about that. When you get young players in the squad there's excitement around. With the nucleus of this group it will still be together and I can see us being a very dominant team."
Australian cricket officials had been preparing for this day after the simultaneous departure of Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh in 1984.
It took Australia five years to rebuild their side after the trio quit but the future looks much brighter this time.
The Australian domestic first-class competition has always been a great breeding ground for future test players, while Cricket Australia's Centre of Excellence is already busy putting the finishing touches to the next generation of players.
The most promising youngsters have been building experience in one-day internationals for years with several graduating to the test side with great success.
Mike Hussey, 31, has averaged almost 80 from 16 tests since making his debut in 2005 while Michael Clarke, 25, scored two hundreds in the Ashes series after fighting his way back into the team.
Phil Jaques and Chris Rogers have emerged as capable replacements for Langer while there is a queue of talented young middle-order batsmen, led by Adam Voges, eagerly awaiting their chance.
Andrew Symonds showed he is on his way to becoming Australia's next all-rounder when he smashed 156 in the Melbourne test while concerns about the depth of Australia's fast bowling stocks have eased after the emergence of Stuart Clark, who was the leading wicket-taker in the Ashes with 26 scalps.
Brett Lee had already replaced McGrath as the new leader of the attack while Shaun Tait, Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Bracken are vying for the third seamer's place.
Stuart MacGill provides an obvious, albeit short-term, replacement for Warne, with 22-year-old Dan Cullen being groomed for the long haul.
"There's some wonderful cricketers out there. It'll be interesting to see which way the selectors go," Warne said.
"It's a good time to get some younger players into the test side while it's been so successful and there is a decent gap between the next best side.
"I don't think Australia will come back to the field. They'll replace us guys and I'm sure Australia will keep playing good cricket and winning."
© Reuters 2007.
By Julian Linden