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An Australian type of exit

Graham Thorpe is this morning facing up to the fact that his illustrious 100-Test career could be at an end

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller

Graham Thorpe pays the price for his imminent retirement © Getty Images
Graham Thorpe is this morning facing up to the fact that his illustrious 100-Test career could be at an end, after he was omitted from England's 12-man squad for the first Test against Australia at Lord's. The writing has been on the wall for Thorpe ever since David Graveney, England's chairman of selectors, announced that Kevin Pietersen, his middle-order replacement, had made an "irresistible" case for selection.
Two phenomenal innings in the NatWest one-dayers, a matchwinning 91 not out at Bristol and an innings-salvaging 74 at The Oval tipped the scales in Pietersen's favour, because both were brimful of the sort of bullish indomitability that the selectors now believe he can carry forward into the most eagerly awaited Ashes contest in recent times. Nevertheless, it is a bold step from England, who have trusted their middle-order to a man who has yet to take the field in a single Test match, let alone a century of them, and whose leg-sided strokeplay has already got Glenn McGrath and his cohorts suitably interested.
The decision is, in fact, almost Australian in its ruthlessness. Of Thorpe's contemporaries from England's wilderness years of the 1990s, he is the first to be cut adrift in this manner. Mike Atherton in 2001, Alec Stewart in 2003 and Nasser Hussain - memorably at Lord's last summer - all left the game on their own terms, with the gratitude of a nation ringing in their ears. That, however, is unlikely to be Thorpe's fate, barring a spectacular U-turn from the selectors or a run of typically Ashes-induced injuries.
Thorpe is effectively paying the price for his surprise decision, at the beginning of the Bangladesh series, to sign a one-year contract with New South Wales, a move which effectively ruled him out of contention for the trips to Pakistan and India this winter. Given today's developments, Down Under is the place for him to be, for there he can lick his wounds and swap anecdotes with men such as Mark Waugh and Ian Healy, Aussie legends who were similarly dumped at the tail-end of their careers.
In both those cases, the tears of gratitude from Australia's fans were swiftly washed away by the cheers of recognition, as two new heroes emerged from the pavilion - Adam Gilchrist, Healy's swashbuckling successor, and, indirectly in Waugh's case, Michael Clarke, who charmed one of the most wonderful debut centuries in history at Bangalore last winter - a performance that was reminiscent of Waugh's own debut against England in 1990-91. If Pietersen gets off to the sort of start that he clearly believes is his birth-right, England's fans will not have much cause to stop and ponder Thorpe's early demise.
There is a recent precedent, however, that suggests England have got this decision right - however harsh it may currently appear. Two winters ago, Steve Waugh made a similar pronouncement at the start of a big series - at home to India in 2003-04 - and the speculation that followed all but overshadowed the entire series. Incidentally, Australia were left scrapping for a share of the series by the end. In this summer of all summers, England simply do not need any such distractions.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo