The horrifying state of Australian cricket dawned on me today.
The devaluing of the Sheffield Shield over the last decade or more and the prioritising of the BBL in its place can perhaps be best highlighted by the following unmistakable realities.
Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins all played their first Test in 2011. Josh Hazlewood’s Test debut was in 2014.
Even if some consider James Pattinson to be of genuine Test match quality, he also debuted in the same Test as Starc.
What it means is that in the last six years, we have not produced a single world-class Test bowler, and only one has appeared in the last nine years.
It’s a similarly grim reading for the batsmen. Marnus Labuschagne is the only even remotely world-class Test batsman we have produced in the last nine years.
David Warner debuted in the same match as Starc and Pattinson, and Steve Smith debuted the year before (2010) in the same match as Tim Paine.
Is it really any wonder that we are so inadequate when one of those three are missing and the other two grossly under-performing?
We have had other world-class and Test match quality batsmen and bowlers keep us up there over the last decade.
However, Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey began their careers in 2004 and 2005 respectively, while Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris debuted in 2007, 2008 and 2010 respectively.
What is going to become of us as a Test-playing country when those four current bowlers and three batsmen mentioned above reach the end of their careers?
Cummins and Labuschagne are both young enough to be around for quite a while yet, but where are the other batsmen and bowlers coming through the first-class ranks?
Certainly, Cameron Green is an exciting prospect, and Will Pucovski has potential, although his immediate star appears shaky. But even if they do deliver in the long term, it will not be enough as they are only two.
I fear that if the Sheffield Shield is not restored to its rightful pride of place in our summer programming, then it is not too far fetched to think that Australia could go as far down the gurgler in Test cricket as the West Indies have done post-2000 in the wake of their last fast bowling greats Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh and of course the incomparable batting genius Brian Lara.
If these trends are the same for most Test countries, then standards of Test cricket will surely take a massive dive over the upcoming decade.