|Player:||RB Simpson, N Hussain, GD McGrath, SK Warne|
|Event:||England in Australia 2006/07|
DateLine: 19th November 2006
Australia's team for next week's first Ashes Test will have an average age of 33 - the oldest since the Bodyline series of 1932-1933 - but former Test skipper Bob Simpson has dismissed "Dad's Army" age concerns.
Five players in the 13-man squad selected this week to face England at the Gabba from next Thursday, are 35 or older: Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Matthew Hayden (35), Justin Langer (36) and Damien Martyn (35). Only fast bowlers Mitchell Johnson (25), Shaun Tait (23) and all-rounder Shane Watson (26) are under 30 in the squad. In contrast, England's average age is likely to be just 27, with no player over 30.
Former England captain Nasser Hussain says there are signs two of Australia's greatest bowlers - McGrath (36) and Warne (37) - are in decline. However Simpson, who played his last Test against West Indies at 42, said age should never be a factor when it comes to picking the team.
"I think what you've really got to look at is how good are the players," Simpson told The Australian newspaper Saturday. "The senior players are doing so damn well at the moment and unfortunately that's the problem the younger players have got."
Simpson said he had no problems playing international cricket in his early 40s after coming to Australia's aid when World Series Cricket tore the Test team apart in the late 1970s. Simpson faced the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1978 where he made a solid 46 in the first innings. "Physically there were no worries whatsoever and I didn't have the advantages they did of playing first-class cricket," Simpson said. "I was still playing club cricket and probably getting more runs than anyone in the grade competition so I found the physical side no trouble."
As for concerns McGrath might not be the force he once was after having eight months off to care for his ill wife, Simpson said "we'll have to wait and see on that. Who knows? He was a great bowler eight months ago and I assume he's still a great bowler now and, as such, he must be selected in the side," Simpson said. "It's a matter of having faith in the people that have performed and making sure that they can perform again."
Australia is adamant the hectic schedule - five Tests in less than seven weeks - will not impact on McGrath and Warne, who will carry a heavy bowling load. There is a feeling among some in the media the longer the series is alive, particularly during the back-to-back Melbourne and Sydney Tests over the Christmas-New Year period, the better England's chances are of holding its grip on the Ashes urn.