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An Australia without Adam Voges

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Adam_Voges_Australia_cricketAdam Voges is 37. His last four Test innings have been 27, 1, a golden duck and 2. These drab scores against South Africa perhaps put his international career in jeopardy. The Proteas, in their inspired triumph in Australia, may have dealt Voges' career the decisive blow, even if that was purely unintentional.

Interestingly, the failures in these 4 Test innings haven't even caused marginal damage to what is a stellar overall Test record. In fact, any cricket purist who decides to give bias a day off may even call his figures enviable.

With 1485 runs coming from just 20 Tests - 5 tons and 4 fifties - it is bewildering that the ordinary showing against South Africa, right after Sri Lanka's dull series, could be end of an enormously promising talent. Been once a bloke who almost gave up hope of bagging the baggy green to constructing a humungous average of 61, makes Adam Voges' uncertain future a heart-breaking predicament, truth be told.

Life is unfair and Voges, perhaps knows it

A dominating batsman who could easily up the ante by playing aggressively and adequately anchor an inning during a crisis situation, Adam Voges' career graph is rife with sterling achievements. It may have come to a permanent halt unless a miracle happens and Pakistan greet him in their upcoming tour Down Under.

From June 2015 to end February 2016, Adam Voges made enough impact in the Australian batting line up for his talent to be dubbed 'sizeable', hailed as 'superb' and credited with 'magnificence'. His scores, beginning from Australia's tour of West Indies, followed by the Windies touring Australia and finally the Aussies playing New Zealand, read- 37, 130, 269, 106, 60, 10 and 239.

No other batsman in recent times, save Virat Kohli or Steven Smith has enjoyed such magnificent Test success

Even if Adam Voges' Test record boasts of just 20 Tests, his efforts demand respect. Despite running into the West Indies during his maiden tour to the Caribbean not being his biggest challenge, he preferred to plunder Bishoo and Holder, leaving behind a stamp of his authority as Australia's dominant number 5 batsman. And later, when the Windies toured Australia, in December (2015), Voges boasted successive tons of 269 and 106. Just how often has Test cricket witnessed a number 5 batsman pummel an opposition with that kind of score?

Moreover, which batsman scores at an astonishing strike rate of 94 when scoring in excess of 250, having come in at number 5? If T20 influence is the answer to this mind-boggling stat then let it be known that Voges has played 7 games in the shortest format for Australia.

Finally, when Australians visited New Zealand, Voges had different plans for McCullum's men. He went on displaying the most tenacious display of batting in his famous 239 at Wellington in the first Test, inflicting misery on Southee, Boult and Craig.

But such is life. Even as the dashing and dependable Western Australian bat is still around, with no questions on his fitness or his approach toward batting, there's a realistic chance that we may have seen the last of Adam Voges. If that's true, then we've seen the last of a batsman, who, by the lofty standards he set right from the word go, was no less effective than Michael Hussey.

Therefore, should Australia count Voges' moderate scores in the recent past as a sledge-hammer to jolt his career? Or, should Australia persist with a man, who despite being 37, promises so much. He was only awarded a chance in Test cricket at age 36.

The Voges problem

Age is just a number. We've heard it before. But it isn't just a number when you are representing Australia. Voges' predecessor, a cricketer regarded for his epic sportsmanship and unparalleled selflessness, Michael Hussey, debuted at the age of 30 and exited at 38, accumulating an average of 51 in Tests, with a highest score of 195, taking 79 Tests to do so.

Mark Waugh, among the finest timers of the ball bowed out at 37, having debuted at 26. One of the biggest underachievers of Australian cricket, Greg Blewett debuted at 24 and was done with his Test cricket by the age of 29.

But here's a reality check- an eye popping one

Despite setting lofty standards with his batting, 'Junior' Waugh was able to manage a Test average of 41, featuring in 128 Tests. Blewett, despite featuring in 46 Tests could score only 4 hundreds. Voges, debuting at 36, an age where one is closer to retiring than entertaining thoughts of 'peaking' in Test cricket, was actually peaking, averaging considerably higher than Mark and took less than half the number of Tests taken by Greg Blewett to rack up 4 hundreds. Interestingly, at 37, a year shy of the age where Hussey retired, he has a higher average than 'Mr. Cricket'.

But herein lies a complexity

This is a question that seems tied with the wrong end of destiny. That Australia are amidst a re-building phase, especially in Tests is known to all, but is, precisely nothing shy of a head-ache for current captain Steve Smith. His ability to bounce back quickly amidst runs after a dry patch cannot solve the greater problems staring at Australia.

In the after-math of the post- Ashes retirements of Haddin, Hussey, Watson and Clarke, the current Australian outfit lacks solidity and experience. At least Voges lent the middle order a sense of reassurance, albeit through the diminutive frame of his 20 Test appearances.

Staying on crease for long hours, so much of Test match's standard requirement came easy to the Perth born right hander. In fact, he seemed to enjoy it. Attacking when there's a bad ball and giving an inning an uplifting tempo, through combination of classic text book technique backing his firebrand strokes off the back-foot and those fluent punches toward the on-side, Voges could have been the voyager for an Australia that increasingly finds itself in trouble.

This isn't to say that there's no hope.

In fact, the Australian dressing room is abound with enthusiasm and talent if little experience

Mitchell Marsh, 25, is an all-rounder who isn't enjoying the best form with bat. Brother, Shaun is susceptible to frequent injuries. Joe Burns, just 27, is getting a feeler of Tests having played just 13 but impressing mightily. Peter Nevill's wicket-keeping and batting talents offer hope to Aussies who could use the 31 year-old’s alacrity.

Usman Khawaja is now a regular with 5 tons at average of 45. So where does Australia fit Voges? Warner, Smith and Khawaja are there to serve for a long time, with both age and the numbers on their side.

Does that mean Voges could be a victim of being around in a wrong era, that seems more marginalized by Australia's current re-building process than for it to give an achingly good talent another shot in Tests, in fact his first at redemption?

This could be Cricket Australia's greatest predicament as they announce the upcoming squad for Pakistan.

But might we ask: if Voges is shown the door, whose loss is it really? His or his side's?

 

With Contributions from Gaurav Sethi.

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