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How can WA cricket reclaim old glory?

Once formidable WA Warriors side struggled last season and don't look much better in 2014-15. (Image supplied)
Expert
20th October, 2013
118
1282 Reads

Not long ago, a full-strength Western Australia side was better than many Test teams. Now interstate players will be flown in to represent WA against England this month to ensure a less lopsided encounter.

The news reported by cricinfo.com should make followers of WA cricket feel sick.

The WA sides of yore regularly beat touring international teams. When England played WA in the lead up to the Ashes in October 2002, the touring side had their confidence dented after being comfortably defeated.

The English XI was rolled for 221 in the two-day game.

WA then scored 318 thanks to a batting line-up which featured current Australian opener Chris Rogers, recently-retired champion Mike Hussey, prolific run maker Murray Goodwin, and three players who would later represent Australia – Marcus North, Shaun Marsh and Luke Ronchi.

Bear in mind, too, that legendary Sandgropers Justin Langer, Damien Martyn and Adam Gilchrist were all missing from that WA team.

In that era, nothing less was expected from the state side. Between 1971 and 1999, WA lifted the Sheffield Shield an astounding 13 times in 28 seasons.

During that period the next best outfit was NSW, who won it just six times.

Since their last Shield triumph in the 1998-99 season, WA have not managed to qualify for the final once.

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As a WA born-and-bred lad and passionate supporter of State cricket, I have found the demise harrowing to witness.

During the 1990s I was a WACA member and attended dozens of State games.

For a kid with hopes of donning the baggy gold cap, it was inspiring to watch WA dominate during perhaps the strongest-ever era of Australian cricket.

Circa 1999 WA could field a side arguably better than Australia’s current Test line-up:
1. Justin Langer
2. Chris Rogers
3. Simon Katich
4. Mike Hussey
5. Damien Martyn
6. Tom Moody
7. Adam Gilchrist
8. Brad Hogg
9. Brendon Julian
10. Joe Angel
11. Matt Nicholson

WA cricket was so strong some gifted players had to move interstate to get a game, including the likes of David Hussey, who has since scored more than 13,000 first-class runs at an average of 52.

Yet in the past decade, the Warriors have been reduced to pinching fringe players from other states in an effort to remain competitive.

The lack of home grown pace bowlers is the biggest quandary.

For the past few seasons, New South Welshman Michael Hogan and Queenslander Steve Magoffin were the lynchpins of the WA attack.

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This summer, quicks Mitchell Johnson (Queensland), Nathan Rimmington (Queensland), Burt Cockley (NSW) and Jason Benhrendorff (NSW) are in the mix to represent WA.

Nathan Coulter-Nile is the only locally-produced paceman guaranteed of a spot in WA’s full-strength Shield team.

In fact, he’s the only local bowler certain to get a gig, with Victorian imports Ashton Agar and Michael Beer battling for the spin role.

WA has produced some gifted batsman since its era of pre-eminence, with the likes of Marcus North, Shaun Marsh and Adam Voges all enjoying some success at international level.

Yet that trio of accomplished veterans went missing when the Warriors so badly needed them last summer.

They combined for 725 runs at an average of 21 in the Shield and did not manage a single century between them in their 36 innings.

In the entire Shield campaign only one WA player registered triple figures – then 20-year-old Marcus Harris.

The baby-faced opener was comfortably his State’s leading Shield run scorer despite averaging just 25 for the season.

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Of that aforementioned trio of older players, Voges can be somewhat excused as his campaign was not as diabolical as those of North or Marsh.

He was also coming off a brilliant 2011-12 season in which he plundered 757 runs at 54 in the Shield.

However, both North and Marsh have averaged 23 over the past two Shield seasons.

The fact North, at age 34, is still very likely to get a gig in WA’s starting Shield team is an indication of the lack of talent in the state.

Marsh, meanwhile, is very fortunate to still be on the radar of the national selectors such have been his struggles at first-class level.

The prodigiously-talented but fickle left hander even appears to have a chance, albeit a very slim one, of playing in this summer’s Ashes having been part of the recent Australia A tour of Africa.

Let’s hope he can at least produce some fine cricket to help WA challenge the English XI next month.

Even if it is in a side embarrassingly boosted by interstate imports.

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