No stroke of luck this

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Australian cricket has a strong sense of service

Indian cricket could learn a lot from the rise of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. Both have been products of an efficient system. Warne's brilliance could easily have been lost on Brighton beach or in a pizza parlours or backing horses. McGrath might have remained in the remote Australia bush, growing crops, chewing the cud. Instead they became the most formidable partnership of pace and spin the game has known.

Although he presents himself as the eternal rebel, Warne followed an orthodox path through the ranks, his progress interrupted only by colourful conduct off the field. Sent to a private school, he was soon picked up by youth squads and before long was chosen to attend the recently-formed Cricket Academy in Adelaide. Australia's love of sport and success can be a mixed blessing. However it does ensure that news of the emergence of a talented lad spreads faster than Bollywood gossip. Whilst in Adelaide, Warne was helped by several experienced leg-spinners.

Australian cricket has a strong sense of service. Past players are ever ready to coach youngsters at clubs or to spend a few days at the Academy.

Genuine care

Elsewhere they strut around or else join the critical gravy train. Jim Higgs. Bob Holland and others passed on tips. Nor did they expect the remuneration demanded elsewhere. Australians don't merely pretend to care.

Terry Jenner was not around but subsequently was to play a crucial role as mentor. Warne's selection for the national team was a gamble. It was also predictable. Australian cricket knows itself. Understands that its strengths lie in pace, wrist-spin, forcing batting and all-out aggression. Hard pitches, bright lights and the national temperament have seen to that. Tired of finger spin, the selectors threw a plump boy from Melbourne into the pot.

They had been following his fortunes for years. Australia is a vast land but the cricket community has big ears and open minds.

Not a fluke

Next Warne was helped by another coach. Bob Simpson's contribution tends to be forgotten. As a former leg-spinner with a ruthlessly analytical brain, he was also able to advise Warne to concentrate on the blind spot around leg-stump. Warne has had access to many past players. Whenever possible, he has turned out for his State and club. Every part of Australian cricket is connected, every part is willing to service the next rung. Warne has been not a fluke but the product of a part and parcel of system that works.

He appeared not out of the blue but in Melbourne and was helped by numerous experts.

Rise through the ranks

Nor could Glenn McGrath's breakthrough be taken for granted. Part of it has become folklore, the long drive to the metropolis, the seasons spent in a caravan, the diet of beans and the slow rise though the ranks. But his discovery was no accident. Doug Walters used to take teams to the outback to promote the game. He spotted the lanky paceman and recommended him to clubs in Sydney.

McGrath did not want for dedicated colleagues, good cricket or sound advice. Nature gave him a starting point. Nurture did the rest. Like Warne, he is a fast learner and stood out because he kept improving. Australian cricket found and developed a great leg-spinner and an outstanding fast bowler.

Although these players have grown old the game remains young. The system works. And it goes further. Grabs for power and glory are resisted. Board disputes take place behind the scenes. Even on tour, the selectors choose the team. Australia's strength is not a stroke of luck.

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