From the year 2000 to 2010, Australian cricket fans have been more than just spoilt, they've been down-right ruined given the talent that represented their country in this decade.
Names like Gilchrist, Warne, McGrath, Ponting, Hayden, and Langer just roll off the tongue. But in reality, one of these players should have perhaps come around, say, every 10 or so years, not all of them in the one team for the best part of the decade.
So it's no wonder at all why Australia completely dominated all forms of cricket for the most part of this decade.
In my opinion (and that is purely what this article is based on) we can trim this list of six brilliant cricketers to four. And the method I have chosen to trim this list from six to four; is including only the genuine 'match winners' or a 'go to' type of player when the going gets a bit tough, or if the side has batted first on a green-top and been rolled for 120, what player(s) regularly stuck their hand up to turn the game on it's ear and back in the favour of the Australians.
So based on this theory I have chosen the following four players that fit into this category:
Gilchrist, Warne, McGrath and Ponting.
Let's start by looking at the respective stats of this list in order. And because we're discussing the decade of 2000-2010 I'd like to focus on Test Cricket and One Day International (ODI) cricket and not the T20 format. Only because the players in question predominantly played these forms of cricket in this decade.
Adam Gilchrist: 96 Tests, 5,570 runs at an average of 47.60 batting mainly at number 7. Gilly scored 17 centuries and 26 half centuries with a highest score of 204 not out. 379 catches behind the wicket with 37 stumpings, giving him a total of 416 dismissals behind the stumps in test cricket.
One Day Internationals or ODI's saw Gilchrist play 287 matches and scoring 9,619 runs at 35.89. He scored 16 centuries and 55 half centuries and had a top score of a staggering 172. Gilchrist took 417 catches and had 55 stumpings giving him a total of 472 dismissals
To go with this, Gilchrist was one the most aggressive Test and One Day batsmen, brought fans through the turnstiles because he was so exciting to watch. And Gilchrist often turned a game in Australia's favour, or completely demoralised an opposition team in the time he spent at the crease. In addition to this he was more than serviceable, in fact, a very reliable keeper (as his statistics suggest) and very rarely had a bad day behind the stumps.
Shane Warne: 145 Tests, Warne bowled 6,784 overs in his Test career, taking 708 wickets at an average of a wicket every 25.41 runs. 37 times Shane took 5 wickets in an innings and 10 times he took 10 wickets in a match. Warne's best bowling figures in Test Cricket was 8/71 and he took 125 catches, with most of these taken in the slips. With the bat Warne scored 3,154 runs at 17.32 and had a highest score of 99 in Test Cricket with 12 half centuries.
Warne's ODI career saw him play 194 games and he bowled 1,774 overs at 25.73. Best bowling 5\33 and took 5 wickets in an innings once. With the bat Warne scored 1,018 runs at 13.05, scoring 1 half century and no centuries. Warne's highest ODI score was 55 and he took 80 catches in the field.
Shane Warne was every bit a champion in both forms of the game, and was often called upon to win a match off his own ball.
Glenn McGrath: Played 124 Tests and bowled 4,875 overs taking 563 wickets at 21.64 runs. 29 times McGrath took 5 wickets in an innings and 3 times he took 10 wickets in a match. With the remarkable best figures of 8/24. McGrath also took 38 catches in Test Cricket.
With the bat McGrath scored 641 runs at 7.36 which did make him a genuine number 11 batsmen throughout his career. Highest score of 61 was nothing to be ashamed of though, and with 1 half century and no centuries it's fair to say Glenn was predominantly chosen for his bowling.
McGrath's ODI career saw him play 250 games and he bowled 2,162 overs at an incredibly tight 22.02. Best bowling of 7\15 he took 5 wickets in an innings a monstrous 7 times. With the bat McGrath scored 115 runs at 3.83 with his highest ODI score 11. McGrath took 37 catches in the field.
Glenn McGrath was without doubt one of the first choices his skipper would have turned to when the team needed a wicket, or if a plan needed to be executed with surgical precision.
Ricky Ponting: Has to date played 142 Test Matches and scored 11,859 runs at an average of 55.68. Ricky has, in his career so far, scored 39 centuries and an incredible 51 half centuries with a highest score to date of 257. Ricky has bowled 90 overs in Test Cricket and taken 5 wickets at an average of 48.4. Best bowling of 1\0 isn't too bad, and he has taken 164 Test Match catches.
One Day Internationals has seen Ponting play 333 matches, and counting, and he has scored 12,351 runs at 42.89. Ponting has scored 28 ODI centuries and 73 half centuries with a top score of a incredible 164. Ponting has bowled 55 ODI overs so far and taken 3 wickets at 34.67. To go with this Ponting has taken 142 ODI catches to date.
So as you can see, Ponting's numbers so far indicate that he is one of the best to ever represent his country. The current captain has incredible concentration, courage and talent with the bat, and has also taken many of the more classic catches in his brilliant career so far.
So how do I separate 4 incredible champions that all played in the same side/s for most of their careers?
We've got Gilchrist with his ability to regularly score heavily and quickly, plus his solid work behind the stumps meant he was a lethal weapon for Australia in both forms of the game.
McGrath with his pin point accuracy as an opening bowler, not only claimed crucial top order batsmen cheaply, but when he wasn't taking wickets he made it extremely difficult for batsmen to score, thus creating genuine pressure for other bowlers like Warne and Gillespie.
Ricky Ponting with amount of runs he has amassed and continues to amass, is simply staggering. With a Test average of almost 56 and an ODI average of near on 43 he has been the backbone of the Australian batting top order for most of the decade.
But for me it's Shane Warne. I simply cannot go past Warne as the Australian player of the decade, simply because, with Warne in the side Australia always had a chance of winning no matter how dire the situation.
With Warne in the One Day side he could keep an end tied down with regular ease and at crucial times was the bowler who took the wicket that was needed.
With Warne in the Test side, the captain, whether it be Taylor, Waugh or Ponting, could with absolute confidence declare 45 minutes to an hour before stumps on day 4, knowing Australia were every chance to grab 1 or 2 wickets before stumps, and almost certainly wrap up the innings, and the Test at around tea on day 5.
He was simply that good!
With absolute respect to the current Australian bowling attack, these days Ricky Ponting declares well before lunch on day 4 to give his troops enough time to grab the remaining ten wickets, because Warne is no loner in the Test side and Warne was, and is, in my opinion the Australian Cricketer of the decade.