Sunday, December 19, 2010

Conclusions from the WACA

From the outset I must make clear that this will probably be a long and involved entry. I have spent the past four days attending the Perth Ashes Test utterly absorbed in cricket. I've been considering much and will share the most pertinent of these thoughts. To make the process of reading more digestible the material is categorised under headings. Please approach and disregard it as you see fit.


Frankly no. Australia's stunning win at the WACA has not proven wise the more controversial decisions made by Hilditch and his board. The recall of Johnson did arguably win the match for Australia but after their lacklustre travails in the field at Adelaide such a step seemed inevitable.


The dual shifts made to the batting were failures. I have an awful lot of time for Phillip Hughes and after his sacking in the northern Ashes I was railing about, crying blue murder. I question the timing of this recall though. It might have been a good move six months ago when, with North clearly unfit for his job, long-sightedness would have moved Watson down the order despite his success opening. This would have granted Hughes the opportunity to solidify himself in the position, aided by his mentor Katich, in preperation for this most pivotal of series. Hughes looked underwhelming and scratchy, and soon departed the crease in his two outings. Steven Smith was equally unimpressive. Though he managed to stay in the middle for a surprising amount of time in both innings and made a valued 36 runs in the second, he was far from convincing. There were some fine shots played for those runs but there was more evidence of rashness and immaturity including three very close shaves early on. Both of his dismissals were soft.

Hughes has a struggle ahead to grasp his spot and deliver on his early promise, however unjustly it was first seized from him. I have greater fear for Steve Smith. There is no doubt of his talent but I wish he was left alone a bit longer to develop before heaping this pressure upon him. I fear he may be discarded to the growing pile of rejected players never given their proper chance. Bring him in against Bangladesh with the chance to flex himself, don't dump him in the middle of a ferocious Ashes series. There is merit to the Australian selectors embracing youth to rebuild the team but this is a rotten moment to pick. In the circumstances it would have been more prudent to have selected an experienced, in-form player of more dour mould such as Phil Jaques or Michael Klinger. However, having established matters thus, the batting order should not be tampered with for the duration of the series. I only hope that the youngsters can remain with their careers intact.

Siddle had little impact with the ball, (though his brief cameos with the bat were full of staunch bravery), and was little used. I think him a fine player but the lack of variation and depth to his bowling indicates that he is not of test pedigree. One would imagine that he will be dropped in Melbourne to bring a spinner to the side. Given that Hauritz took 5 wickets and made an invaluable 75 runs in the test last year, as well as his convincing performances with ball and two centuries in the Sheffield Shield since his dropping, it would be criminal to ignore the man again. Still the manner in which the selectors have acted seems to indicate Hauritz will continue to be cooly shunned. If the board remains true to their audacious move last week then Michael Beer could debut. Undoubtedly the drama will be played out in the coming week.


Describing England's performance four years ago Simon Barnes wrote in The Times,
"It was cricket as it might have been written by Kafka: a hideous punishment, as unjust as it was incomprehensible... It was like playing cricket against the Gestapo: cricket as a form of atrocity in which resistance is useless... in which pain and hatred become distorted into a loving and grateful submission to the torturer."
Watching Australia slump to 5 for 69 on the first day at the WACA I felt a similar sense of anguish and horrified disbelief. It was as in Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure where the hapless hero discovers his infant children have hung themselves; or the bleak misery of King Lear, a world without meaning or purpose, where child is pitted against parent, which Keats called an obscene struggle,
"Betwixt damnation and impassion'd clay".
Notwithstanding Adelaide and the slump over these past several years, to witness Australia humbled in such forceful manner was a spectacle of apocalyptic schism, it was to have all my expectations and beliefs of existence toppled upon one another. Despite their deliverance from the jaws of despair to romp home with unlikely emphatic victory, this miserable display of incompetence should remain with those responsible in preparation for Boxing Day.

There is one gentleman above others whom I would like to single out as worthy of blame and censure, Australia's batting coach Justin Langer. I didn't particularly like Langer as a player and his shenanigans since retirement have only confirmed my apprehensions. For example I find it incredibly petty in the man that he returns to Scarborough Cricket Club every finals season to ensure the team's success. In doing so he shirks the weekly grind of club cricket but is able to enjoy the role of saviour, ignoring the pertinent fact that placing a professional in an amatuer competition is a mockery of the spirit of the game.


Langer seems to live his life in a spirit of self-reverential glory, the phoney spiritualism that was a brief fad in the early 90s, and servile obeisance to anyone in a position of power. He retired from the Australian team before being shoved, and latched on to the accolades heaped upon Warne and McGrath though these players were in a class above him. He then proceeded to linger about the Australian dressing rooms, clinging to the past, until being made batting coach and "mentor". What the latter role entails I shudder to think but it almost certainly includes prattling off nonsense of the variety found in his inspirational book, Seeing the Sunrise. I invite the reader to examine Langer's website to see what a hideous display of sham and indulgence the man is. There you will find sage wisdom such as Justin's current thought of the day,

"Every Day is A New Life to a Wise Man"
Another proof of his prattish nature lies in his having been tipped to run for the Australian Liberal Party in the coming years. Langer lives next door to the Western Australian Liberal President, Barry Court, and undoubtedly the pair connive together in their opulence and make evil schemes for the detriment of the nation. This is not to say that cricketers should not go into politics. The sporting hero of the left-wing, Adam Gilchrist, has also been tipped to run for federal politics but for the at least nominally more benevolent Labor Party. We wish him good luck in all his ventures.


Langer is not the first retiree to find it difficult to leave the footholds of his former glory, and his new age mysticism is no more offensive than that of any other middle-aged, middle-class female with ample time on her hands. Really he is a harmless enough plant and it is sanguinary of me to slander him so. The man has engendered a bitter loathing in me though ever since he nearly sabotaged last summer's cricket season with his endless occupation of the ABC commentary box. Over two exciting series he had a intimate viewpoint from which he could have shared unique and revealing facts with listeners. Instead Langer bored the nation with insipid nonsense about practicing Zen Do Kai at dawn on the beach and endless stories about his own achievements. He showed no interest in the action before him rather being wholly concerned with himself. I do not imagine that I was alone in sending a vehement letter to the ABC on the subject and haply he has not returned this Ashes.


One would think then that without media distractions he could concentrate on doing his job but Australia's batting was a sham. In fairness Mitchell Johnson when speaking of his aureate innings mentioned having a throw down with Justin Langer prior to trotting out so perhaps my attack has been completely without foundation. I still don't trust him though.


There are discordant murmurs and grumbling throughout our nation. While buoyed by victory, the population seems disenchanted with Ponting as well as the greater cricket administration. From my observations though the most vehement criticism is being levelled at Michael Clarke. I have heard jibes on buses, taunts on the ground, and read questioning in the papers. The immediate source of disatisfaction stems from his recent indifferent form with a current series average of 23. This certainly is inconvenient at the present time, but while the past six months have been disappointing please recall Clarke's previous stellar form averaging 65 from the 2009 until the end of the 2010 summer season. His batting is not to be doubted and the pertinent question is more will he ever prove himself worthy of being considered among the great batsmen.

The public's distaste for the heir apparent is really rather the result of Clarke's personal character which has been on unfortunate open exposition these past years. This has led to wide-spread debate about his capability for captaincy. Ignore the tabloid drivel about his relationship with Lara Bingle, that aspect of his personal life has nothing to do with us. Clarke has lost the golden hue of his younger years. He speaks more or less like a bogan, he acts in the manner of a slight prima donna or self-aware celebrity, and seems very boring as a person. I have doubts as to whether he is a particularly nice fellow. Yesterday morning I watched him shirk off some young autograph seekers while his team mates patiently penned all manner of accessories (not to mention Justin Langer who took the task up with a relish). To me this is always the sign of a poor character.


Clarke uses a Twitter account to make statements to the public. The reasons behind some celebrities doing this is beyond me as they divulge their private lives to all and sundry. Shane Warne and Liz Hurley made easy the work of tabloid journalists by venting over the network these past few days. Clarke's Twitter is a very dull affair and here are some extracts from it,
Watching the brake up.. Very funny show... Jennifer Aniston is hot..
Hot radox bath, candles on and a few of my fav tunes... Great recovery for the old body.. Thinking home made hamburgers for dinner..

Enjoy everyday of your life.. This is not a practice run..

It goes on in more or less the same vein with drab personal tripe, platitudes about cricket, and messages to his friends. Stand this in comparison with Graeme Swann's Twitter who more or less uses it for the correct reasons: to give information and be funny,
I commented on the amount of roadworks in Perth today to our taxi driver. His cryptic response? "it's cos they all smoke marijuana". Huh?!
The life that Vinny Chase lives in Entourage is remarkably similar to mine. In yesterdays episode he had a haircut. Last week, so did I. Wow

Monty and ajmal got very excited at the airport when some dude called Kano made an appearance. Turns out he's what the kids call a "rapper"

I googled
him, but turns out "rap" isn't my cup of tea. So I put shed seven on and pressed genius on my iPod instead.

For those interested, the genius playlist threw up charlatans,stone roses, inspiral carpets, soup dragons, mansun, oasis, longpigs, dodgy...

...and even a bit of Cast! So what's it all about, do you really wanna know? Sadly my young teammates are oblivious to any of these bands
All of you who enjoyed that playlist should make a pilgrimage to south nightclub in manc. Clint Boon is dj no less. Amazing indie disco

What is truly exciting about Clarke is his tactical acumen. It meant nothing in the course of the match but was a most thrilling sight yesterday when, with Ponting from the field, Clarke set a field to Finn consisting of the full complement of slips, including leg slip, with only a silly mid-on in front of the batsman. In his appearances in the role Clarke has revealed himself to be a dynamic, imaginative, and aggressive tactician in the mould of Mark Taylor. I truly look forward to the appointment of Michael Clarke. Whether it will come following the World Cup, or whether Ponting will linger, we shall have to await with patience.

CricInfo were kind enough to let me write a Fan Following report for the third day of the WACA Test which can be found here. I am awfully thrilled to have something published on the website and very grateful to them for the opportunity. Hopefully I can write more for them in the future. Gosh I feel chuffed.


In closure, Australia still have a way to go before they can think to win this series. England were appalling in the WACA Test. To lose the game after having Australia at 5 for 69, and then again after being none for 78, is disgraceful. They are the better team though. Who would have thought that Ian Bell was actually good? On the last southern Ashes tour Bell was the most spineless and useless player in the dreadful squad and now here he is looking wondrous. Despite squandering the game and pathetically collapsing in the final innings, England's professionalism was on display immediately following the match with the reserve bowlers again out on the pitch. After four days of seeing any number of cricketing celebrities, (including an unconfirmed sighting of Barry Richards), I did not spot Andy Flower apart from his arrival at the ground on the first day. I can only imagine then that he sits ensconsed behind screens and paperwork in some burrow masterminding what could be the greatest achievement of his career. It would be difficult to trump his courageous stand with Henry Olonga on the death of democracy in Zimbabwe though.

Boxing Day is going to be an utter treat. I hope dear readers that you are as riveted as I am for this is surely the most splendid of pleasures. Oh and on a final note I must share with you my favourite comment overheard at the test between two drear old wind bags sat in the members-
"That Watson is a lazy looking bugger isn't he?"
"Yeah. I bet you he has a collection of surf boards at home."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I will not cease from Mental Fight, Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand

Journalists and newspapers around the country, (not to mention retired players of great repute), are exhibiting the puzzled workings of their brains over selection issues, especially the question of just what Nathan Hauritz has done to be so bitterly cast out into the cold. Could the truth indeed be so petty that the captain, after butting heads with Hauritz on the issue of lines in India, demanded his removal while simultaneously advancing the suit of young Doherty? Did Ponting place his nepotism over the interests of team and country? There is plenty of controversy we could mull over but as no doubt dear readers you are discussing this amongst yourselves already, there is little point in adding my dull thoughts to the cauldron. Trust to providence and however bizarre the workings of the Australian Cricket administration might seem let us hope that these four men, who have a vast experience in the sport and have made it their profession to oversee the selection of our team (thus devoting all their energies to the pursuit rather than their idle conversation at the pub as with you and me), shall bring us through these travails. My plea does smack of 21st century political apathy but I cannot believe that these gentlemen are making such odd decisions without some greater sense and purpose behind their actions.

The country is in turmoil though. Reading the latest censure this morning coming from Stuart MacGill, I was struck by some noticeably different comments of his I read not so long ago. This is not an isolated case. Back tracking and head scratching seems to be all the rage. As there is nothing we can do my friends apart from witness what is to occur let us be prepared. Perhaps we will witness Australia gather like the resplendant phoenix, a grand renewal ushering the last fruitful stage of Ponting's captaincy along with the foundations made for a new order. More likely though there lies disaster before us. Like the descending Titanic or the aghast Germans as the reperations of the Great War were heaped upon them, we will observe in helpless anguish as our nation crumbles and is humiliated. Take heart and courage for though it will be horrific, the experience will also be edifying and will cure us of some vices. Namely arrogance.

Let us leave Australia for now though. I would like to discuss this recent ascendancy of the English considering its permanence, and its place the post-war context of cricket in the country. 2 years ago the English cricket team was utterly, and very publicly, derailed. Having begun to recover from the southern Ashes humiliation with a promising summer against South Africa, for the second time the English cricket administration errored in promoting their spunkiest player to the captaincy rather than he who might be most suited to the role. In Pietersen's defence he seems to have been quite courageous on the field as a tactician and leader, however his well known willful, pervicacious, and prickly temperament seem to have savaged all off-field stability. To their merit the English cricket board rectified the dire situation with wholesale change. Pietersen was axed but to assuage his anger the affable but seemingly weak minded Peter Moores was shoved as well. Rather than make conservative retreat to the comparative but ultimately uncertain safety of Michael Vaughan, the correct decision was made to put the two most level headed and professional men in charge.

It was an oversight not to give Strauss the office a long time before as he is so cool and steady at the tiller. While I occasionally find some of his decisions to be lacking in verve, he is the perfect man to lead this English squad without an ego to trouble anyone elses. It is to Andy Flower that most of the plaudits seem to go though and with good reason. The focus and discipline which the revered gentleman has brought to the side is incredible. He has fostered unity in the squad and created a postive atmosphere in which his players feel free to express themselves. To hear even a buoyant Kevin Pietersen gushing like a child at Christmas about the joys of the dressing room brings home the fact that this is a very different English team to the one we are used to.


The recovery from the Pietersen/Moores catastrophe has been little short of remarkable. Certainly the start made in the Wisden Trophy tour of the West Indies was far from propitious. However the team regrouped in such assured fashion as to reclaim the Ashes a mere six months after their bedraggled nadir. The subsequent tour of South Africa was frustrating for several reasons but the remainder of 2010 has been a triumph for England. Their dominant performance in the Twenty 20 World Cup carried more integrity than was even possessed by the fledgeling competition and successful routs of Australia and Pakistan paid proof to the new professionalism of England. The Adelaide Test has been their most successful outing so far and the question now is whether this is the apogee of a flash in the pan, or the latest step in something seemingly impossible for England. Having convinced all these past fifty odd years of being the most frustrating team in the world to support, momentarily delighting fans with moments of great brilliance only to crumble into a disappointing slop, England appear to promise more now than they have in a long time. While it is slightly premature for such conjecture, I would like to countenance the idea of a great Strauss/Flower, and presumably, subsequent Cook era.

England have not been convincingly good at cricket since Peter May's tenure in the 1950's. I realise that to many cricket history seems unutterably dull as it is little more than a list of names, dates, and figures. Bear with me and I will try to relate some of the colour of this last great period of English cricket. Peter May was the final strand in the great line of gentleman English cricketers. Tall, handsome and charming, he was a superb strokesman of class and elegance, effortless in style and prodigious in the scoring of runs. May inherited the captaincy from the great Len Hutton and, despite the accolades, his tenure was certainly not without it's faults. As a leader he often lacked imagination and his record is marred by failure in later years, most noticeably in two Ashes trouncings. Despite this though for the way in which they carried and exerted themselves May's England were truly great.


The captain's adjunct was Colin Cowdrey, born on an Indian tea plantation and later to be the Baron of Tonbridge. Cowdrey's technique was perfect and he was a dominating and imposing batsman. Though at the height of his powers immediately following the war, Denis Compton, the English counterpart to Keith Miller, resurged as the side's effulgent all-rounder. Compton is known for his gallantry with a breathtaking and show-stealing charm far more forceful and loud than that of May. He was also a very good footballer and took both the league title and F.A. Cup with Arsenal. Godfrey Evans was the greatest keeper ever seen at that time and vies with Alan Knott for being England's finest player in the role. Further he invented the idea of the wicket-keeper batsman, especially as an entertainer. Less chronicled but no less significant in the side were the bowlers such as Jim Laker who took 19 wickets in a test, and Tony Lock the modest but sure spinner.


At this time colonial teams were flourishing. Pakistan made their debut and each nation sported truly formidable teams (apart from New Zealand). This was a great period of international cricket. The achievement of May's team was to stem this threat and for the final time stamp English dominance on this most wonderful of sports they invented. Though matters began to unravel after the disastrous Ashes tour of 1958/1959, May's side were victorious over every test nation, often in difficult circumstances. Since that time England have floundered. Some would point to Ray Illingworth's tenure of three years without defeat but really this was diligent and dour determination, more boring than convincing. Though great individuals have emerged and fantastic series have been won, England have never seemed a force of any consistency.

The sadder truth though has been that the English have lost interest in cricket. Though still nominally the nation's summer sport, it is jeered by the greater mass of the populace as a rarified waste of time for toffs and those would want to give themselves airs. Certainly it still has its very loyal and dedicated followers, but the country is in general interested in football and football only. It seems difficult to believe now that cricket was once played with the same avidity by London street urchins as the youthful economic elite of Harrow and Eton. To what extent the post-war decline of public interest in the sport is the cause or result of England's declining fortunes is not a matter we have time to discuss. What is evident though is that cricket lost touch with the English. The ploys of limited over cricket have been ephemeral in their success and it seems unlikely that the game will ever regain its place of affection in the modern nation's bosom.

What is interesting though is that England's latest success has been built upon recognition of the nation's multicultural identity. There have been jeers about having four South Africans in the team and an Irishman with his boot half in the door, but in truth this is a representation of how England now is. South Africans, Australians and New Zealanders have utilised the colonial heritage and resided in the capital to their economic advantage for decades so I feel it warranted that they play for the adopted nation. Indeed the initial precedent was set by no lesser personage than Ranjitsinhji in 1896. The colonies aside, I think it would be wonderful to see some of the other emigres make up the side. I feel certain that the Polish are not pulling their weight. All that can be done to foster such development should be, it is a matter of concern that the county system has introduced a new set of restrictions to curtail international involvement.

England the proud land of old order no longer is. The idea of a blue blooded English side is not merely impractical, it is hogwash. I have a collection of English verse which mythologises the subject and would like to quote from the anthologist, A.N. Wilson's preface,

England is no more... We stand in what appears to be a remote meadow land, and hear not the song bird, but the distant roar of motor traffic. We attend cathedral worship, and hear, not the words which have echoed in those stones since the reign of the first Elizabeth, but alien, jarring words, injurious to faith as well as repellent to the ear. We are of a generation that has never seen an old market town unmarred by thoughtless town planning, intrusive road signs, tactless functional building, and aggressive emendations to the doors and window frames of buildings which have stood since the time of George III. We have watched those characters familiar in fact as well as in nursery rhyme - the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker - replaced by out-of-town shopping malls, and supermarkets. We have seen corn exchanges turned into mosques and old parsonages made into the second homes of hedge-fund managers.

Less controversial, and more heartening than naturalised players, is the increase in recent years of native English players of different ethnic backgrounds. Monty Panesar, Ravi Bopara, and Ajmal Shahzad are but the newest stock in a tradition that goes back 50 years to Raman Subba Row.

This is incidental to the matter I really want to discuss though. That is are England now capable of being a dominant force, establishing an era and restoring dignity to their nation? For the present it is far too difficult to say. They still need to press forward their advantage over Australia into a victory but even if that proves to be the rout promised it will be of small international consequence with such a stricken foe (though certainly it will be of great consequence in terms of the Ashes). It will be England's performance over the next few years that will display the team's worth, particularly against the globally pre-eminent teams of India and South Africa. The World Cup in March will certainly be of interest, but of greater pertinence is the Indian tour of their country in August. England won't face South Africa again until 2012 but this would be the next great test. This is of course assuming that England swat Sri Lanka in June and New Zealand in the southern summer with the assurance one would expect from a dominant side. It does seem bizarre to speak of England in this manner but this does now seem a very palpable possibility and really it would only be healthy for the game. England will have to convincingly defeat all of the other test nations in the world before it may be granted to Strauss to have presided over an era as significant as Peter May.

My instinctual mistrust of England's sporting prowess still screams to me that this is all a flight of fancy and the team is certain to fall to failure soon. However I have written in this fashion all along and am being consistenly proved wrong. As our own nation collapses into ignominy then perhaps there is some small solace to be taken from the possibility of us standing on the verge of a historical epoch.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Stand We Here in Disbelief

Given these stupendous events of the past few weeks, (which I have been confined to following in scouring over scorecards, devouring bulletins, and pestering only half-interested friends for details,) you can imagine my bewilderment on entering this maelstrom now raging in our nation. It is fantastically grotesque, and while I can't exactly say that the novelty of it delights me, certainly it is scintillating and I am completely enthralled. For the past fifteen years Australia have dominated world cricket and the monotony has been so boring. Further they have done so with a swagger and often arrogance which is ill-bred, ugly, and discredits the game. However since hosting India over the summer of 2007-2008, chinks have appeared in the team's impenetrability. Now they stand barely half-clothed and totally vulnerable. It is proof that I am a poor patriot for rather than being petulant with the turn of events, I am giddy with excitement at the upheaval, if somewhat aghast and horrified by its extent. Though partly just the passage of time, in many ways this present plight is the deserts of the leadership and administration's hubris. There is some sour justice in this then like the crumbled effigy of Ozymandias.

It is not my intention to reiterate the views which have been sounding out around the country, nor to dwell too heavily upon the play with the Adelaide test only half done. I would however like to make known my views and disgust on several of the more heinous decisions that have been made just recently.

Foremost is the treatment of Nathan Hauritz. Poor benighted chap. His career has been such an unaided struggle and his sacking is not merely a mistake but an insult. Making his surprise debut in place for the injured Warne in India in 2003, the off-spinner gathered the very respectable first innings figures of 3/16 including the scalps of Tendulkar and Laxman. His reward however was to be cast out into the wilderness, shunned by his native Queensland and forced to forge a way into New South Wales. Half a decade later, once his nation had dogged its way through half a dozen other fellows and made a joke of the profession, they returned to the outcast. And goodness wasn't he jeered! For it became a national pastime to point out the man's limitations and inadequacies, particularly after he failed to remove the English tail at Cardiff. Steadily though Hauritz improved and rewarded that faith shown in him. Without making a spectacle of the matter, he modestly but constantly took wickets making his desertion for the Oval a mild national outrage.


Last summer Hauritz went so far as to even endear himself to the country. He played a solid supporting role to Hilfenhaus at the Gabba and made an invaluable half-century against the West Indies. While in the next match he again failed to dislodge a stubborn tail, his later heroics in the season included consecutive fifers against Pakistan, both match winning performances. In this manner Hauritz established himself as no great practitioner of his art, but a steady performer and reliable option for Australia's immediate future until Smith or otherwise should take the mantle. This was followed by a somewhat disappointing tour of New Zealand before a lengthy injury kept him out of those fiery matches against Pakistan in England. Unfortunately though his reputation has been gauged on that recent performance in India. He had a rotten series but if that is reason for dismissal most of the team should be out on the street. Additionally in his defence, just about every touring spinner in India has been trounced and the man wasn't even allowed to play his natural game for his inept captain wheedled at him distracting nonsense about lines and ignored him at his due moments. To then be abandoned on the eve of the Ashes for a comparative novice is a slap in the face. Australia's oversight in this matter has been ably displayed. It is for Hauritz's benefit though that he is apart from the team at this hellish time. Once Australia manage to regroup themselves, he will be recalled and hopefully justify his place till the selectors grow skittish once again. I am shocked by the short-sightedness of their actions. I cannot believe that they considered Doherty a long term prospect. The only reasoning that exonerates is they wanted some fool to bear the brunt of the present situation so as to bring Smith at some later time without any pressure upon him. This is such a negative strategy though it seems highly foreign to Australian cricket.

The reason I take such umbrage over Hauritz is that he defies that brand of ostentatious, bandying, overbearing Australian spirit which I find so offensive and fill these pages railing against. Rather he is quiet and unassuming, incredibly polite and with a warm friendly manner. Unlike the rest of the pompous, post-metrosexual twits who make up the team, he is sweet, artless and even a bit weird. When researching on his figures I came upon this odd piece in an article,

During a month spent with his foot in a moon boot, waiting for the cuboid bone to heal, he was restricted to upper-body fitness work, television, Xbox and a bit of reading. One of the non-cricket books was The Wolf of Wall Street, about Jordan Belfort, a former millionaire stockbroker who ended up in prison for shares fraud.

"I only read that book because it was about money," he said. "I love money. I love anything about that. It was an interesting read."

Already during the camp Clarke had teased Hauritz about no longer needing to lay-by his shopping. Hauritz responded by saying his flat is as big as Clarke's ensuite...

He grew up in the coastal town of Hervey Bay and retains the honest, relaxed characteristics of a country Queensland kid. "I'm very simple," he said. "My wife and family keep me pretty grounded, and I've got some really good mates.

Hauritz then is something of a class hero even though he has mild, middle-class manners, remniscent of the Australian of yester-year in distinction from his contemporaries. While we can admire his homely candour, what is this preponderance with money? What an odd characteristic for a cricketer and how interesting for the journalist to pick up on it.


I am finding this ploy of the selectors of a horses for courses policy somewhat confusing. Perhaps there are some merits to the scheme given the diversity of Australia's contracted players and the increasing evidence that few are capable of versatility and consistency in varying conditions. So far though it must be owned that their experiments in the field have been abject failures. Rather than exploiting the strengths of the greater group its has put undue stress upon individuals, dismembering team unity as hopefuls expend themselves to prove their worth. What irks me is that while this scheme may have been effective were it given substantial prior trial, it has been thrust upon all at this pivotal time disrupting what little sense of stability remained within the fragile team.

It has become obvious that the Australian administration has not had a long term plan these past two years. They have scrambled, trying to patch up those problems swooping upon them in swift simultaneity like a hydra. What a contrast this is to the cool assurance of the English who are enjoying the rewards of their careful planning and dedication to it. I think Hilfenhaus still the country's finest quick bowler but really it would not be too surprising to see wholesale changes made to the pace attack for the WACA test. North too will probably also be chopped unless he proves something in the remainder of Adelaide. I will be sad at this for I like North and have grown only the more fond of him with each survival in face of all odds. I do think that the selectors should stick with him now as they failed to march him off earlier in the year when such action was warranted. This is not me being merely affectionate. To bring in Khawaja or Ferguson or such young understudy at this juncture could be disastrous. A proven elder such as Aaron Finch of the golden form, or perhaps Shaun Marsh (though he and Western Australia have done little to credit any attention this summer,) may be the wiser move but this fosters worry for the unity of team. Australia stand on the verge of all-out panic at this point and the administration needs to do what they can to stem this trend and restore assurance to their charges. This could be done either with some savvy changes and a remodeled but inspired group, or by maintaining faith in those with whom they have cast their lot, placing loyalty above cause and effect and dignity above the flurry even should it mean defeat.


Before this descends into a rant of opinion I would like to bring up a mere point of conjecture: why did Watson admit the blame for running Katich out? After Watson's tantrum last Boxing Day, where in front of the entire nation he ran himself out then in his cantanker appealed to the umpire to place the punishment upon his partner, that disgraceful display of petulance is impossible to reconcile with this humble admission of guilt. Watson is a sneak. Therefore I can only imagine that he is making a run for the captaincy. Should Australia carry on to magnificently fail this summer Ponting will be against the wall. Clarke is looking iffy and no-one trusts him cause they feel he is a wimp. Poor fellow. (For my money I still think he will make a fine captain even with those silly tattoos). Katich is too old. Hussey is a rotten captain and led the team to bedlam in New Zealand four years back. Haddin doesn't seem to be in the equation. No-one else has solidity in the team. Watson then is licking his lips.


I would like to go on to speak of the excellence of the English team but will keep it brief for now. Where has this atmosphere come from though? For even that most surly of individuals, Mr. Pietersen, to be gushing ecstatically of the joy of the dressing room means some new spirit dwells therein. I intend to research this and write a fuller piece shortly but for the moment I think we must just marvel at Andy Flower and his achievement.

This will be a marvelous series, even should it slump into an epic disaster for Australia. So long as I am able to maintain this fantastic schedule of unlimited cricket time I will be writing my observations as often as I think them worth sharing. Please maintain your interest with Trumper this summer then and I will deliver all that I am able to.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ricky Ponting and the Precipice Upon Which We Stand

I am in a somewhat remote spot and perhaps not fully apprised as to all facts and circumstances. However, I feel behoved to write on what has occurred in India for it arouses indignation of the most acute variety. Gazing down to when last I wrote I spoke naively of the unimportant Border-Gavaskar mini-series, a mere sideshow to the Ashes summer which would almost certainly result in an unsatisfactory draw. What transpired were a thrilling pair of games which in context are a prelude of monumental impact, sort of a Tristan und Isolde affair. This was fantastic cricket of the finest pitch and highest order with particularly brilliant and inspired individual contributions. However it introduced, and in some cases developed, a number of themes that may well come to heady fruition during the next few months. These are jarring motifs for the Australians, cacophonous strains of terror and nightmare. From what I have garnered the aftermath has been some very sharp and deserved criticism of the Australian captain Ricky Ponting. To this I will add my own piece as well as ruminations for the future.


The final innings in Bangalore was a farce. With Australia bowled for 223 the match lay in the balance, India requiring 207 runs for victory. Rather than exploit the situation with an unrelenting, aggressive bowling offensive, Australia put up a limp and ineffective defense. The hosts charged home with a controlled and splendid innings from the debutant Pujara. The blame for this comes back to the captain's door. Most heinous were the field settings given to the quicks. To forego slips in a run chase so as to pad the boundary is not merely short-sighted, it is cowardly. How on earth can one expect a bowler to do their job without the necessary tools? The only explanation is that Ponting was playing for a draw, a thoroughly unlikely outcome in the circumstances and a ploy that belies his competitive nature.

Much seems to have been made of Hauritz's bizarre treatment due to the comments of Warne. In a brief aside I must stress to the reader that Warne's twitter is, along with Chris Gayle, the only cricketer's worth time of day. It is such a joyous event to tramp through the gallant's misspelt and grammatically indifferent musings on this and whatnot. Even better are his tweets to other celebrities. Some are other B-graders and they carry on jolly old chats. Best though is when Warne assails true celebrity and meets with mute disdain. This ranges from creepily trying to curry favour with Lily Allen to telling Russell Crowe that his six year old daughter's production of Robin Hood gives stiff competition. This is almost always accompanied by an abundance of LOL's, something this blog sadly lacks.

Hauritz's field settings were ludicrous. Aggressive catchers in foolish proximity to capitalise on exemplary bowling with boundary dwelling fellows to cover bad balls, effectively anticipating them. In the twain was no-one to guard those areas which are the standard fare of any batsman facing spin. That, as has been revealed, Hauritz set his own field and not the captain would suggest that the fellow was of highly agitated and frustrated mind. The fact is every touring spinner has a rotten time in India. Hauritz has proven himself these past two years to be a fine bowler, economical, wicket-taking and every bit worthy of his place. I felt his first couple of spells in Mohali were quite decent and he was unlucky not to be rewarded with a scalp. As the game progressed he lost confidence and started to leak runs. In such circumstance the captain should be reassuring and encourage the man to play his natural game. Ponting, however, made Hauritz experiment with different lines, contributing to his demise. Then in the pivotal moments of the game where it was the spinner's very duty to bowl he was ignored dashing whatever remnants of self-worth remained.


This is not the first time that Ponting has mishandled his spinner, failing to give the man his due by offering mere titbits and leaving him open to exploitation. To mind comes Jason Krezja on debut in India two years ago. The off-spinner took eight wickets but bowled more than half the innings' overs going for close on 200 runs. Instead of being cradled and groomed for the role Krezja was turned into a donkey and wholly mistreated. This was not merely Ponting's fault but a miscarriage by the selection board who for some time there paid scant respect for spin to the nation's detriment. Krezja was ignored for selection over the next handful of tests only to return at the inhospitable WACA against an on-song South Africa. Along with many of the Australians, Krezja was unimpressive and has languished at Tasmania since. The error in attempting to use Cameron White and David Hussey as front-line spinners was the board's not Ponting's but certainly the captain blundered over Bryce McGain. After several seasons of exemplary domestic cricket the mature McGain received his call-up in Cape Town. Ponting did not give him a chance. At no stage was the spinner given a moment advantageous rather he fulfilled the workman's role to sucker the punches. Ponting instead fell upon Johnson's magical form to win the game. This tendency to rely upon a wildcard and not draw out the depth of his team is one of the man's clearest faults.

Ponting is an incredibly committed cricketer. He cannot be faulted on his devotion to the game nor to his country, an attitude which is only to be commended. Further, his batting continues to be more or less impeccable with only a few dips in form and a tendency to get out playing the pull shot of late. This is a good indication of the man's stubborn nature in continuing to play a young man's stroke which is now beyond him. He should never have been made captain though for he has been a failure in the role. Captaincy requires three major attributes: to possess a keen mind and be a fine strategist; to be of outstanding character and an upstanding role model so as to add lustre to one's nation and the game; and to be a man to inspire the respect of his players and foster unity within the team.

As a tactician Ponting is unimaginative and reactionary. He rarely preempts and instead relies upon experience and proven methods. This tack has generally been successful for he commands the superior side. Now though it begins to wear thin. It is indeed Warne we rue in this knowing what a dynamic cricketing brain he possessed. Ponting has never done anything to publicly disgrace himself and his office as Warne would seem to have were he so promoted. However I would strongly contest that Ponting's character is suitable for that of his position. He was raised in the rough part of Launceston and developed a stubborn and boorish nature through his apprenticeship during the Waugh years. The gum chewing and spitting is abhorrent. The fact that the man is routinely booed by crowds around the world is proof of the contempt he inspires. The truth is I don't think he's an awful fellow. He interviews well and seems to be a genuinely decent chap. The manner in which he has been groomed is entirely unsuitable for that of a cricket captain though. To his credit he is generally quite gracious in defeat but certainly he is an ugly victor. The better option in this regard was Gilchrist, who though sometimes decried as a prig has magnificent public standing and is beloved throughout the cricketing world.

In the final regard, Ponting seems to be an excellent leader of men. Though I have spoken about his mishandling of players I have never heard any report from his own players of inadequacy. Perhaps it is just one of those time honoured rules of the game but even those individuals most unwieldy such as Warne and Symonds have never criticised him in this. Hauritz when venting his frustration never uttered even a breath that could be read as censure of his captain.

So what then is to be done? Ponting's captaincy in Bangalore was clearly lacking. This was a match Australia had the potential to win yet it never even seemed to be a possibility. Had Pakistan been involved there would have been accusations of match fixing. The poor performance also forces us to review the decisions made at Mohali. This was a superb test match with both tremendous bowling and batting performances and such a climactic finale. Ravi Shastri was quick to label it an all time classic, buoyant from such an impossible run chase. This is not true, certainly though it was a great victory for India. It would have been merely a good win for Australia and this is what it should have been. With eight wickets down and 98 runs still required it is shocking that they let the game run away. The cause of the loss was Ponting's strategy to deal with Ishant Sharma which in hindsight was clearly wrong. Sharma was treated as a bunny, the Australians leaking runs to Laxman to bring the youngster on strike. He was peppered with bouncers and tempted like Adam in the garden but remained immovable and resolute. Meanwhile the injured Laxman, who though as always poised and elegant had hardly got himself in, was left free to roam and brought the match home with such panache.

The fact is Ponting has seen in the past that Sharma deserves respect. I remember an impressive albeit brief stand made in his debut series in Australia and in this very game he made a fine display as nightwatchman in the first innings. He is every bit as capable as other recent stoic tail-enders such as James Anderson or Jason Gillespie. Laxman realised this and was happy to rotate the strike. While Ponting's strategy was sound and initially hard to fault it was maintained for far too long. Sharma came in with 98 runs required and it was not until 70 runs had been scored before the strategy was changed. By this point his side had lost its confidence moving from an unstoppable force to a winded and confounded beast. The last gamble with Watson and North was inneffectual and so the game was lost. Hauritz was ignored, Laxman was not challenged, and Sharma was disrespected. To reiterate, Ponting's strategy had sense to it but completely lacked imagination. It relied upon what should be the case rather than allowing for nuance of situation. Frankly it was boring. What made it brilliant cricket was that this dull move failed so spectacularly.

I have only the greatest respect for Geoff Lawson. I was too young to remember him as a player but in addition to coaching duties and otherwise he has been a splendid commentator in recent years. Aside from his capacity to call the game from a bowler's view better than most, his worth lies in his courage to be honest. In this case though it was naive to call for the sacking of Ponting. I wholly agree that Ponting should not be captain and think Lawson is as correct as Peter Roebuck was in 2007. I do quite like Roebuck although he has an odd tendency to be altruistic at times in his writing. He is an intelligent commentator and unlike Simon Barnes when he makes classical allusions they are pithy and exact not pretentious. At that time, with Australia at the giddy height of their 5-0 Ashes victory, Roebuck called for the sacking of Ponting because he is a boor and the installment of Katich because he is a nobler and greater man. What a magnificent sentiment though for it he was jeered by all and sundry. How utterly futile this wish is, for Ponting shall be captain so long as he wishes to be so. Should Australia fail this summer I doubt he will cling to the position, this is unlikely though and he has made quite clear his intention to remain for another northern Ashes tour.To their general merit Australia stand by their captains which elevates the role to a most prestigious and honourable position. As far as my knowledge extends the only captain to be deprived of this veneration and thrown out to the dogs was Kim Hughes. Therefore we cannot hope that Ponting shall ever be sacked and must time our patience with his.

What we do have the capacity to do is remember Ponting and establish the manner in which his captaincy will be recalled.

Ponting is the successor to a great line of revered captains- Alan Border, Mark Taylor, and Steve Waugh. Unlike the illustrious prestige enjoyed by these men, Ponting's captaincy shall be remembered as chequered. In some ways it is similar to that of Greg Chappell though less selfish. Both men are superb cricketeers and ordinary captains. Greg Chappell was at his best in the role when he left Lillee and Marsh to run the show. The demise of Australian cricket following the departure of Warne and McGrath is a more wearisome cliche than the sans-Judd and Cousins West Coast Eagles. However it has displayed very clearly the failings of Ponting as captain. He continues to rely upon star players and dull strategy rather than draw upon the depth of his team. Ponting is not a dreadful captain, he is just not a good one. To a large extent this comes down to the spirit in which one wants cricket to be played. I want it to be a game of splendour and romance where the magnificence of contest outweighs all other petty concerns. I am like Roebuck vainly calling for Katich over the incumbent. I love Ponting for taking a cricket ball in the face at Edgbaston and not flinching. I despise him for spitting directly afterward (although in this case the awful habit is probably warranted what with the accumulation of blood). The majority of Australians desire victory at all costs and this sanguinary trend has informed their modern approach to the game and the development of the unsavoury character. Now Ponting is losing games that should be won the public and I can perhaps make uneasy alliance. Further misdeeds will have to occur in full view on Channel Nine before this can ever be so though.


For you reader take heart and do not be frustrated. With us lies the power of history and recollection. To those who come after, our sons and daughters, we can tell them what a man and a captain this Ponting was. This is perhaps a poor satisfaction when we witness the dear sport being butchered but such is the only consolation we may take.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Rebirth Though I Be Belated

To those whom are regular readers I must deeply apologise for the great gulf of time since last I wrote. Cricket is an incredibly time consuming pastime. Finding a moment to write on the subject can prove difficult when suffering even the smallest intrusion of those bothersome events that tend to make up the rest of one's life. This is not to say that I have neglected the sport, rather I avidly followed the excellent northern summer as well as the more lacklustre Champion's Trophy. I have been profoundly depressed by those matters which have stalked the headlines though and so have kept to myself, shirking from discussion on the sport. I had little desire then to write during this time and rather have brooded and kept my dark ruminations to self. This will be the only mention of that affair I will make today as all is still allegation at present and these are disturbing circumstances which it is not of any advantage to dwell upon.

Cricket suffuses the breeze in Australia along with the Spring's warm whispers of encouragement. The football codes have concluded, enthusiastic club players fill the parks and ovals drilling through the balmy evenings, pitches are marked off with rope and covers. Here the domestic season is upon us. There is much to discuss so let us do so categorically.


The cricket played by Pakistan in their English dual series was utterly enthralling. They upstaged Australia, not convincingly mind, but still pulled at the loose threads of the nation's fabric and left several smears of doubt. These are onerous blows for a team approaching their very raison d'ĂȘtre. If the Australian games were interesting the English matches were stellar. This was a magnificent contest, a celebration of seam bowling with runs the reward of determination and assiduity rather than a given. Though overshadowed, the subsequent limited overs tournament was every bit as good. Afridi led his lacerated team superbly and the English throughout both series were pure class.



Comparatively the Champion's League Trophy was a sadly unexceptional tournament. I love the principle of the competition, the length of the series is perfect, South Africa proved an excellent venue but the fact of the matter is that when you have such a glut of twenty over cricket, (three major annual international tournaments and burgeoning domestic leagues,) there will be some fairly quotidian sport. There were some very good games of cricket played and a few excellent individual performances. By and large though the series was a bit dull. The major factor behind this was, as opposed to the inaugural tournament which displayed a uniformly high standard of play with revelatory exhibitions from the untipped minnow teams, the 2010 competition suffered from unwieldy inequality. The Indian teams dominated and though the Australian and South African teams were competitive, Guyana, New Zealand's Central Districts, and Sri Lanka's Wayamba were all very disappointing. Also it was sad that the effort was not made again to involve the English county teams.

While the cricket was humdrum I drew satisfaction from a separat
e source. That was Channel One's informed decision to let Ryan Campbell chair the tournament's presentation with Greg Matthews as sidekick, losing that peroxided chump from Thursday Night Sports Live. He belongs in motorsport not among the Elysian ranks. (Sorry that's a bit elitist isn't it? Its not meant that way. I certainly don't consider myself amongst these distinguished circles. Its just difficult to stand a fool.) Campbell is so eminently suitable to the position. His manner is perfect for the twenty over format and he is witty without being a joke and knowledgeable without being an intellectual. While Matthews came off as a brutish bigot, a recalcitrant yoip in SBS's coverage of the Ashes, (who can blame him with Stuart MacGill in charge that nancy muppet), here he was sublime. So utterly engaging in his lessons on spin, gently humourous and self-effacing. He performs perfectly as an old gallant of the game and together they are the perfect foil to the play. I hope the team is maintained for IPL 2011. All up I am very impressed by Channel One's commitment particularly as Channel 9 has been so maladroit and disgustingly commercial in recent years.


On the subject of television personalities I must say that I am very much enjoying Foxtel's chair group of Brendon Julian, Mark Waugh, and Damien Fleming. Fleming is alternately daft funny, roguishly charming, and quite insightful on pace bowling. I have enjoyed him on ABC Grandstand and his presence on Fox is so appealing as he replaces Allan Border. That distinguished gentleman, the hero of my childhood when cricket was but a vague, undefined presence flitting about me, bold and gallant and brave, that gentleman has matured into a boor, a dull-witted, opinionated, self-important fink who uses his revered position to squander the viewer's time with his drab well spring of empty talk ala Bob Simpson or Robert Walls.


Its lunch on day four of the Mohali Test and the game has been subtly intriguing. Anything could transpire from here with Australia three wickets down and it has been nice to see Ishant Sharma return to some four. He is a youngster of great talent and I always enjoy watching India. This series is not of great importance but I am glad it is here nonetheless.

Now I have been writing just to touch base, and perhaps it is ineffectual for this will probably be my last post for a while as I will be going abroad (unless I feel sufficiently moved after attending the first domestic game of the year at the WACA to pour forth). I will unfortunately miss the Sri Lanka limited over series in Australia and I believe also the Brisbane Test. I will however be back in time for the WACA Test and will cover the game as best as I am able. Please maintain faith in me then and I shall do must best to reward it. Enjoy these early months of the Southern summer. Not only are those first cricketing moments to be savoured but the weather is at its finest. Together we will have a fine time of it. This Ashes promises much. Of both teams at their best one would think Australia the better. Australia are not at their best though and England are enjoying a magnificent run of form at the moment so if there is to be a contest, and certainly I think we all hope for one, it will lie around this.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Watson. Has he a soul? Is he one of us?

Christian Ryan wrote an intriguing article not all that long ago on the character of Shane Watson. Ryan investigated the general antipathy felt toward Watson throughout this nation concluding that while a magnificent player, the man's character is undone by an overarching concern with the self rather than team. From what i've read a similar claim could be made for Bradman but this is not the time to become embroiled in historical smearing.

Readers of Trumper may have noticed that I advocate, at least tacitly, a moral universe of cause and effect. He who reveals himself to be a imp will surely be smited in such fashion. As this has clearly not been the case with Watson I would like to present a more radical accusation than Ryan. The only way I can accept Watson within my principled structure is to witness that he has subverted the system. What I charge Shane Watson with is no less than having sold his soul to the devil. In support of my argument I will investigate the history of the satanic pact and Watson's own Mephistophelian career. I will then discuss the consequences of this awful fact.

Possession is an age old concept. To go off only the New Testament the idea makes an early appearance with the demon Legion. Jesus transmutes the host from a leper to a drift of swine which casts itself into the sea. Devils have been a recurrent curse for the past two millenia, most militantly in the middle ages where they seemed to have had a foothold here, there, and everywhere. Our iniquitous race was punished accordingly though by those whom new best. The first record of a demonic pact for worldy gain though is the sixth century cleric Theophilus of Adano. The ambitious chap gave his soul for a bishopric and was saved from damnation only through the intervention of the Virgin Mary. Faust is the more widely known deal maker. The sometime alchemist, poet, lover, and musician has inspired works from among others Marlowe, Goethe and Mann. My own personal favourite is Stravinsky's chamber work Histoire du Soldat as well as the allusions paid by the composer in his opera The Rake's Progress. Faust is not merely a literary figure though and several eminent personages over the years have been quite seriously accused of making deals for this and that among them Paganini, Liszt, and Robert Johnson.

Closer to home for me as a boy was the uneasy relationship balanced between my own spiritual walk and Enya. I, an upright and devoted young Christian, felt an unnatural pull and reverance in my love for the beautiful music of the Irish singer. These fey, slightly pagan themed songs with arching reverbed lines of multiple layered voices and mystical synthesizers were surely the work of the occult and no doubt sowed the seeds of my spiritual decline. Reviewing the matter now, there was surely all sorts of devilry going on which Maire Brennan got wise to and ousted her young cousin from Clannad. Enya must then have contracted some sort of deal with the helper Nicky Ryan, made some wonderful music, sold 70 million records and now lives in a castle. Watch the full video for I Want Tomorrow and you will see that Enya is clearly possessed by Satan.


Having proved that one can actually enter into agreement with the devil for personal gain I must prove that Watson has actually done so.

Watson's career abounds with the two characteristics that make Satan's favourite breeding grounds- innate talent and hard work. (Do not think that the Devil delights in sloth. Only read Paradise Lost to realise what a diligent chap he is). So determined was the young S.R.W. as to emigrate to Tasmania at a tender age. As the state's all-rounder so emphatic was his opening statement that he brought himself to national notice and replaced no lesser personage than Steve Waugh in the ODI team. Into the test team he made his way and failed to distinguish himself both in the versatile duty of a number six as well with untroubling medium pacers. Before even facing the ignominy of being dropped, Watson underwent the harder fate of debilitating injury. What was so dreadful about this period of extended injury was how tantalisingly close poor Watson came to making his way back in lionised circumstances. For the great comeback series of the 2007 Ashes our fellow was primed to be the great Australian answer to the marauding horde, set to return and triumph over our humiliation. Poor Watson went and lost his hamstring on the eve of the event publicly weeping like a babe.

Having skimmed over the circumstances let us imagine now the relationship between Satan and Watson at this time. Lucifer must have kept a keen eye on young Watson and his early success and perhaps it was a malignant trick to cut down the fellow early on and plague his body. I doubt there were firm plans as yet, this was merely keeping pans in the fire. Coming back to his young prospect though Satan must have felt now was a good moment for a visit. 'Shane,' said Satan, 'How would you like me to aid you at this propitious moment?' I imagine to this kind offer Watson, at this stage still a fairly personable chap must have said, 'No thank you. I'm doing quite fine by myself' To which Satan must have made some facetious remarks and told our man that his lovely opportunity would be ruined.

Poor old Shane. How lost and sad and frustrated he must have felt. How much time must he have spent wandering about the wilderness?


So then the next move was the great temptation to take advantage of this frustration. I do not think that the devil is in with Merv Hughes and David Boon therefore I believe he used his servant John Buchanan.


The dropping of Phil Hughes in such nasty and unwarranted circumstances screams foul play. Surely there was voodoo involved and JB performed some sort of necromancy in the situation. What more foul than this? A visitation to the fragile Watson, promises of rejuvanation... I doubt Watson actively encouraged his temptor but he might have neglected to forbid such action. And so was it carried forth. Watson had his gains but was not yet aware of the price. Our man was allowed his initial success priding himself on his admirable skills and unaware of any outside aid. Still malignance was apparent and Watson's comment on the unfortunate Hughes, 'He's had his chance, now its mine', displays an ungracious character.

Then as the Australian summer commenced came Satan with the bill. Watson cocksure and haughty must have scorned his ally claiming the absence of any pact. How subtle are the ways of the Devil though? Rather than bringing down his prey in a picque of fury and exercise of power, Watson was allowed to taste the trace of success without its full fruit, Satan pinching his wicket ever and ever in the late nineties. There are many evidences of Shane's dreadful character. At the last WACA test I watched as he he testily had a fan removed for casting some trite sledge in his direction. You have your stories as I have mine. One we all share as it is the most heinous. His awful behaviour in the Boxing Day Test. Katich clearly disliked Watson and there was no communication between the pair. But when our man was run out he appealled to the umpire to have Katich be judged out. This is surely the lowest of his behaviour and if my hypothesis has any truth the most obvious display of Watson's guilt and frustration.

At some point Watson gave in and is now a fully fledged worshipper of Satan no longer in possession of his soul. I imagine that evening stumps was called with Watson on 99 must have been a long one with the temptor seated at the edge of the bed. His dismissal the next morning still short of the stupid target must have been the final straw for Shane and the lad caved. How else may we explain why such an ugly character has had this unheralded success in unfamiliar circumstance of opener and bowler, particularly this latest offering of six wickets at Headingley.


So possibly Watson is a Satanist. More probable is that he is a very bad egg and I have been talking a lot of rot. Anyway what holds the future? Marcus North is surely gone. I believe there are several possible changes then:

-Steve Smith replaces North and Hauritz returns as major spinner.

-Watson slips back to the middle order so as to be able to bowl for more extended periods. Hughes returns as opener.

-Watson remains as opener. North is replaced by another such as Callum Ferguson, George Bailey, or perhaps even Usman Khawaja.

As I write this I am sitting here watching England make small work of Pakistan so it is unlikely there will be any changes there for the Ashes.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Latecomer

I must apologise. Several matters of interest have occurred and I have failed to comment upon them. Such a neat and absorbing one day series between England and Australia. Assertive and unfazed England domineered Australia into defeat with a thrilling third match decider. Andy Flower seemed a genius and the English ascendent. Then they crumpled and were routed in the remaining dead rubbers. A key aspect of England's success lay with their wealth of (effectively) all-rounders- Michael Yardy, Luke Wright, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad. They gave great depth to the squad with assured bowling and the extra impetus in batting for several of the victories. Eoin Morgan is the great hero of the series though and one hopes that perhaps he can pinch Bell's spot in the test team. That might make for an interesting Ashes. I have doubts about England's bowling though. Swann is fantastic, though his twitter is a bit self-assured for my liking. Anderson is class but has been indifferent of late. Finn could be good but it would be nice for him to get a bit more experience under the belt. Broad is a concern and I am not convinced that he is a skilled enough bowler to perform in the Australian summer. This is a bit a vague foreboding at present and I am sure I will write more at a later date, particularly as these concerns will be aired in the English test series against Pakistan.


Fascinating that Australia reached out to Shaun Tait for deliverance. What an odd career the chap has had, mistrusted in his homeland for his unique boganism and spectacular self-destruction. He is brutal and debilitating on song but is so often erratic and useless. Australia have also embraced the concept of a handful of all-rounders and Steven Smith's probable test debut against Pakistan will be intriguing.


What distresses me is that the MCC is pushing for day-night test matches. No doubt this is due to the fact that the crowds were hardly milling for the Bangladesh series. Personally I hate the concept and associate test match cricket with five long days in the unrelenting sun. I like to imagine when I walk home that I have earnt the sweat that cakes the brow and obfusticates my clothes rather than face the reality that I have been scoffing pork pies and boiled eggs all day long. I feel that if you can't take a few days off work a year to watch the test match then what worth are you as a cricket fan. I cherish this week and don't want my enjoyment tarnished by the hoi polloi turning up like cretins in the darkness. In 1958 the American serialist composer Milton Babbit published an article titled 'Who Cares if You Listen?'. Speaking of his esoteric, modernist music Babbit claimed that the interaction of an audience is not essential to its function as art. I would like to maintain a similar elitism in test match cricket for players shall continue to contest for its glory and the faithful will continue to congregate at the shrine. The limited overs formats can bear the other nonsense.

This is beside the point though. The percieved epicentre of blue-blooded and snobbish cricketing conservatism, whose views I have been echoing, is leading the charge of "messing" with the sport. Such a charge is usually left for the BCCI, the boorish nouveau riche upstart of the cricket community. It proves that there is dissension in world cricket and I think the derailed presidential career of John Howard highlights this.

There has been much vitriol in this country over the matter and, perhaps along with nostalgic sympathy for Rudd, we have embraced the eventually maligned leader who was unceremoniously ousted from office as obviously a perfectly wonderful cricket administrator. Howard was seen as a figure to give the conflicted sport the boundaries it needs and his rejection was recieved as the worst sort of politicking. Zimbabwe oppossed Howard because Mugabe is corrupt and a thug to the bargain who has invested his nation with a similar attitude. Rather than stand on principle South Africa joins her for the sake of African unity. This presents Howard as a martyr from unscrupulous claims of victimisation begat by self-blinkered oafs. This is not the only criticism levelled at Howard though and several articles have accussed Howard of racist policies toward refugees as well as Australian aboriginals. Also Sri Lanka's opposition is very credible for what on earth was the prime minister doing commenting upon a bowling action. Speaking out of turn in attempt to appeal to the masses is a dicey business and Howard should have known better. What I have been searching for though is why the BCCI finally opposed Howard though and used their muscle to pressure Pakistan and Bangladesh to the bind as well. Were India merely appeasing these malcontents for greater allegiance or did they have legitimate concerns or even fears about Howard?


The ICC presidency is little more than a figurehead and even were he to be elected there is presumably little Howard could have done to effect any change. As they contribute three quarters of the body's revenue the BCCI rules the roost and with the deep dissension within India over the problems facing cricket it is unlikely any accord will be reached soon. Chief among these is the relationship between twenty over cricket and the other formats. This results in an excess of the sport which is leaving fans disinterested and running players into the ground. India has perhaps suffered most in this regard. The great stars of the IPL, absolutely brilliant performers including Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay, and Pragyan Ojha, failed miserably as a fifty over team and lost twice to Zimbabwe in the triangular series. With the increasing importance of domestic twenty over leagues there promises to be an almost year round continuance of the sport and the ICC needs to negotiate these new developments rather than allowing them to make their own slipshod way. It also needs to decide whether its focus is upon consolidation or expansion. Audiences will dwindle if their teams are contesting inferior sides.
Indian cricket administration has problems. There is rooted traditionalism steeped in Ranji cricket and the national sports minister has questioned the existence of the twenty over format. Yet it runs rampant even with Lalit Modhi falling into a mire of corruption. I am not scared of this but I wish the MCC would just be a bit more staid in the midst. And Howard is nothing, what has happened is merely symptomatic.