David Warner has dropped a major hint on his international future – and it could see the beginning of another exodus from the Australian Test side.
The 36-year-old has been a fixture of the Aussie lineup for over a decade, scoring over 7800 runs and 24 centuries for his country and playing some of the most dominant innings in recent memory.
Warner has played in and dominated all three formats during his stellar career, and while he is hoping to continue playing white-ball cricket well into the future, his red-ball tenure is closer to the end.
In an interview with Triple M over the weekend following Australia’s T20 World Cup exit, Warner admitted his time in the Test team will likely come to the end in the next 12 months, likely following the 2023 Ashes series in England.
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“Test cricket will probably be the first one to fall off…because that’s how it will pan out,” he said.
“The T20 World Cup is in 2024, [ODI] World Cup next year. Potentially it could be my last 12 months in Test cricket.
“But I love the white-ball game, it’s amazing…T20 cricket – I love the game. I will be looking to get to 2024.
“For all those people saying I am past it and a lot of those old people are past it, look out. Be careful what you wish for.”
With series against the West Indies and South Africa scheduled for the upcoming home summer, as well as an away series against India in February, Warner will have plenty of time to tune up before The Ashes.
But after a mammoth five-Test series against old rivals England, it wouldn’t be a massive surprise to see a number of other players begin to wind down their careers and look at retirement.
2015 Australian Test exodus
Seven years ago, Australian cricket had a major exodus from the Test side that left gaping holes throughout the side.
In the space of one year in 2015, Australia lost six experienced members of their squad, including captain and star batsman Michael Clarke.
Along with the skipper, Chris Rogers and Shane Watson both moved on and left the top-order wide open for new faces to step up. Brad Haddin and Adam Voges would also retire, while left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson would hang up the spikes after a blistering and rollercoaster career.
Their absences were felt throughout the side, but allowed both Steve Smith and Warner to step into the senior leadership positions and the Aussies continued to be a strong outfit in the Test arena.
But what happens if we see another large group of players all leave the team in a short period once again?
Who could join Warner in Test retirement?
Outside of Warner, no other players in the Test squad have hinted or spoken about retiring within the next 12 months or after next year’s Ashes series.
But a year is a long time in cricket, and there are plenty of players who are closer to the end of their careers than the beginning.
Let’s start with Usman Khawaja. The classy opener has become a fan-favourite and has found a home alongside Warner at the top of the Aussie batting order, since being shuffled in and out of the Test side throughout his career. However, the left-hander will turn 36 next month and it would not be a major surprise to see him finish up next year.
Nathan Lyon is another player who is (respectfully) not getting any younger. The off-spinner turns 35 this month and while he is still an important part of the Australian side and is still bowling well, The Ashes or the 2023/24 home summer could be a time for him to step away from the rigours of Test cricket after a prosperous career.
Fast-bowling duo Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc will be 32 and 33 respectively heading into the series against England. Hazlewood is in the best form of his career in the past two years and doesn’t look to be slowing down, while Starc hasn’t hinted at retirement at this stage.
Steve Smith will turn 34 next June – around the same time The Ashes will take place – and while it’s never a good idea to write off a champion, his best cricket appears to be behind him. While it would be surprising to see him retire in the next 12-18 months, Smith’s career is winding down and Australia need to prepare for life without him.
Who could fill the void long-term?
Let’s start at the top of the order.
The three names that are often mentioned for future spots at the top of the Test order are Henry Hunt, Bryce Street and Tim Ward. All three man are still relatively early in their first-class careers and are only 25 years old, but have very solid averages and are genuine opening sticks.
Hunt looms as the best option of the three, having already scored seven centuries in just 31 first-class matches, while Street has scored five tons already in his Shield career.
Will Pucovski has a clouded future, with the talented opener taking another indefinite break from the game, but could always be an option if he was back on the field, fit and firing for Victoria.
Moving into the middle-order and a potential long-term replacement for Smith, two of the best potential options are Jason Sangha and Aaron Hardie. Both men are still only 23 years of age, but have caught the eye of cricket experts and also offer an extra bowling option, with Sangha bowling handy leg-spin and Hardie a genuine fourth seamer.
Sangha has long been spoken about as a future Test player, already has four first-class centuries to his name and has a high level of maturity, taking on the vice-captaincy for NSW. Hardie is a genuine all-rounder, having scored two centuries and taken 41 wickets in his 17 first-class matches to date for Western Australia.
As far as spin options go to potentially replace Lyon in the coming years, Mitchell Swepson has been the long-term deputy and deserves first-crack. Still only 29 years of age, the leg-spinner is a great talent and could add plenty of value to the side.
Aside from the obvious choice in Swepson, there aren’t a great deal of standout spinners in the Sheffield Shield competition.
In the fast-bowling stocks, which may be the problem that is furthest away, there are some decent options that Australia could look at long-term.
Riley Meredith has always had raw ability but looks like he could be starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and at 26 years of age is still right in the mix. Lance Morris is a bright young talent and has taken 54 wickets in 17 first-class games at an average of 26, while all-rounder Will Sutherland is still in the infancy of his career but is averaging 27 with the ball for Victoria.
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What will Australia’s Ashes squad look like?
Don’t expect to see any massive changes – if any at all – for next year’s Ashes series.
All the players mentioned in this article will almost definitely be in the best XI – barring any unforeseen circumstances – and no decisions on the future of Warner, Khawaja or Lyon will be made until after the tour of England.
For now, let’s enjoy the exploits of those men in the Baggy Green while they are still there.