26 Dec 2008

Rebuilding for South Africa, Australia a contrast

10:35 am on 26 December 2008

The Australian cricket coaching seat is Tim Nielsen's until after the 2011 World Cup, but it's likely his South African counterpart is sitting even more comfortably.

Aside from entering the second Test in Melbourne with a 1-0 series lead, the Proteas coach Mickey Arthur has the satisfaction of seeing the succession plan he put in place two years ago bearing fruit.

Although they must sweep Australia there to claim the number one ranking, the contrasts between the sides' immediate futures are significant.

The Proteas are younger, settled and on the rise, whereas Australia are an older team with unanswered questions and, on recent form, on the decline.

In the 22 Tests since January 2007 the Proteas have used 19 players, and kept largely the same side for the past 10 matches.

Australia have used 23 players, six of them debutants, in 16 Tests.

In the era of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist, one of Australia's strengths was stability, but the selectors have not picked the same XI in succession all through this year.