They have dominated Test match cricket over several periods in their history and are the only team who have won four Cricket World Cups in the ODI format. No surprise then that they’ve produced some outstanding cricketers over the decades. Here are some of the best.
At a time when legs spin bowling was a dying, unfashionable art, this chubby bleach-blonde haired extrovert showed up, bowled what was referred to as the ‘ball of the century’ and cricket was never the same again. Time after time, he bamboozled batsmen all over the world with a variety of spinning, spitting, dipping deliveries. Still the second highest wicket-taker in Test history with 708.
Warne is famously the player with the most Test runs in history without scoring a century (he once got out on 99) but then again, that’s not what he was in the team for.
The sight of a short, notoriously hairy Tasmanian arriving at the crease batting at three may not have seemed that intimidating to opposition teams, but Ponting was one of the best stroke-makers to ever play the game.
Deadly through extra cover and with the pull shot, his 13,378 Test runs are second only to Sachin Tendulkar. Ponting captained Australia to two World Cup wins and won a further one.
For good measure, he’s also regarded as one of the best fielders to have played the game, faultless in the slips and deadly at throwing at the stumps.
Before Ponting’s pragmatic captaincy of Australia, there was Steve Waugh’s steely, gritty, never-back down leadership that saw Australia dominate Test cricket for most of the 90s.
His batting was cut from a similar cloth. It brought him 32 centuries and he was pretty much credited with inventing the art of batting with the tail end with such success.
He once scored a big century when virtually batting on one leg against England – further proof of the mental strength and determination that drove this outstanding cricketer.
When a bowler these days bowls impeccable lines and lengths just outside off-stump time and time again during an over, commentators say he reminds them ‘of McGrath’.
That says it all about a bowler who was never particularly quick but had a knack for delivering the ball where batsmen least wanted it. Yet another warrior and highly competitive man, he sits fifth on the list for most Test wickets and has the best average of anyone in the Top 14 of that list, with 21.64.
Cricketers come in all shapes and sizes and in the case of Lillee, they come in the form of a 6ft, lean and strong, moustache-wearing macho man who snarled and stared at opposition batsmen in disgust. But this was a man who talked the talk and walked the walk. A fast bowler who combined lethal short-pitched deliveries with full, swinging ones that shattered many a set of stumps, at the time he retired he was the leading wicket-taker in Test match history. He was also an idol for Australian fans, who loved the sight of their mean fast bowler steaming in.
Before Gilchrist arrived on the scene, keepers honed their skills with the gloves day-in-day-out and were expected to bat a bit, whether that meant adding 30 or so runs themselves or just hanging around with set batsmen or tail-enders. Wicketkeepers weren’t meant to do that.
Gilchrist decided that it didn’t have to be that way and batting at seven, launched vicious counterassaults when his side were in a spot of bother and went for the jugular when his side were on top.
There wasn’t a shot he couldn’t play, and he was perhaps even more lethal in the ODI game, opening the batting in all of Australia’s three World Cup wins in 1999, 2003 and 20007.
Back in the 1950s when leg spin bowling was still fashionable, Benaud was the best in the world at it. It brought him 248 wickets but there was a lot more to his game than that because he was also an aggressive lower-middle order batsman. In fact, he was the first player to get to 200 wickets and 2,000 Test runs.
His captaincy was just as good and when he called it a day on the field in 1964, he went on to become arguably the greatest cricket broadcaster the game has known.
We’ve saved the best for last. Bradman is arguably the best cricketer ever, full stop. His Test average of 99.94 isn’t just untouchable, it’s more that no player is likely to ever come within 30 runs of it. Over an unbelievable career, Bradman was in a class of his own, combining technique, discipline, fitness and talent to become the most prized wicket in the world. In many a book written about the History of the Ashes, he’s the most important name in it.