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Saturday, October 30, 2010

18 with a Bullet: Maddinson and Boyce

At the Queensland Bulls v NSW Blues Ryobi One Day Cup game at the Gabba the other night, I saw two very interesting 18-year-olds.

One was Nick Maddinson, whom I've mentioned before, who batted very sensibly on a tricky, bowler-friendly, somewhat green-ish pitch. Ending up with 39*, he was NSW highest scorer and tied with Bulls' James Hopes for highest scorer of the match. If he carries on like this, the future looks bright for my BabyBlues ... or ... not? If he carries on like this, selection for Australia must be in the cards.

The other young one was a player I have never seen before: Bulls' young spinner, Cameron Boyce; a leggie. We are not really spoilt with leggies here in Australia these days. I thought he looked very promising. Yes, a tad on the expensive side. And yes, a tad inconsistent as yet. But he did get his maiden one-day wicket: that of Henriques; a sneaky little thing that drew Henriques out and promptly got him stumped. Regarding Boyce, former cricketer Jimmy Mahrer said:
'Cameron, for his age, and when you look at how difficult the art of leg spin bowling is, is doing a terrific job. The control he has to bowl his leg spinners is incredible. He can land his leg spinner eight out of 10 times. For a kid his age, that’s quite remarkable.'

And he's got a cricket-playing brother, too. Wooooooooo, the future's so bright, I gotta wear shades. ;)

(Link to original music video here. Embedding disabled by request.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hughes Axed; But They Should All Have Gone

Well, as most of you probably know by now, the Australian selector to get the axe is Merv Hughes.

Is it unfair that he has to go? In a way, I think so yes. As far as I know, the Australian Selectors Committee is —that's right — a committee; a group collectively responsible for selections. Like the Three Musketeers, it should be all for one and one for all: the entire panel — with the possible exception of Greg Chappell who's been a selector for like 5 seconds — should have done the right thing and resigned: considering the amount of talent in Australian cricket, it's an absolute bloody disgrace that we're now the #5 Test nation in the world.

Yes, of course, it's down to the individual players to perform. But when they don't — and they haven't — it is the task of the selectors to bring in a new guard. Wholesale, if necessary. But the selectors did not. And they should bear the full responsibility for that. Which, at the moment, they don't. They're sitting pretty. Well, except for Merv Hughes.

UPDATE: Link to the post, The Demise of the 'Tache, Sidthegnomenator refers to in comments.

Australian Cricket and Private Ownership

On its lunch show on Thursday 28 October, Fox Sports News interviewed Peter Young, Cricket Australia's Spokesperson, regarding the proposal for a 'revampt' domestic, IPL-style Twenty20 competition involving private investment, including private investment from overseas (chiefly, apparently, India). And here is (a lot of) what he had to say (my transcript):

'The planning's a long way down the track. There's been a lot of detailed work over about 12 months. Our board meets tomorrow to discuss the ownership structure for this competition. That includes the roles and responsibilities of the state cricket associations relative to Cricket Australia's national role, but it also includes a discussion about whether or not we take on private investors as share holders. There has been a lot of interest from overseas and there's also been a lot of interest from prospective Australian investors as well. [...] [W]e need to be sure that we've got the operating model worked out first before we start talking about taking on private investors. And our Chief Executive, James Sutherland, has got a pretty strong view that let's get the horse before the cart and not the other way around; let's work out exactly what this competition looks like and how ownership works before we start talking about taking on shareholders.'

Asked about whether this kind of private investment, especially from overseas, could be seen as 'selling our soul to Indian investors', Peter Young answered: 'Well, that's a good question. The fact that private investors are interested and excited, certainly confirms our view that this is going to be [garbled; garbled; funky noises] Australian sports competition. And so to that extent this is a ...' And then his connexion dropped out for a while.

Regarding reported overseas proposals that have already been put to the Victorian and NSW teams, he said: 'Victoria and New South Wales have been very open. Our understanding is that they've had very strong expressions of interest. But at the moment the ownership model hasn't been finalized and we need to do that before they can go further with those discussions.'

'From a strategic point of view, again mentioning James Sutherland's name, he today described this at our annual General Meeting, as one of the single most important decisions Australian cricket has had to make, but it's also one of the biggest opportunities we've ever had. The next big decision after this will be to decide on expanding the competition and then working out where the new teams will be based. And that is also creating a lot of interest around Australia.'

On other forms and the new competition: 'The Ryobi is going very well. And it's been encouraging to see the strong increase in TV ratings for that competition. We see Sheffield Shield, Ryobi, and the BigBash leg as co-existing. Sheffield Shield and Ryobi are where we develop our international cricketers ... Test cricket and One Day International cricket. And BigBash [garbled] in its own right is going to be a big public drawcard. We had a game last year, for example, where we had 43,000 people at an inter-state cricket match, which is something we haven't seen for 20 or more years.'

Young was asked whether the prospective Indian investors are ones already involved in the IPL: 'I'd have to say that I'm not familiar with the prospective investors either from India or from around Australia. So personally, I'm not familiar with who they are or what particular expertise they bring. But what I AM familiar with is that the fact that they are so interested does confirm our view that this is going to be a viable and indeed a self-sufficient and exciting competition.'

Asked again about concerns over Australian cricket being 'taken over' and selling (out) its soul: 'Well, we're not saying that our game is being taken over. As I've mentioned, we need to work out the ownership structure first and then discuss the possible role of private investment. But, no, the fact that this discussion is under way and that this interest exists is a really positive thing for Australian cricket and augers well for the future.'

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Miscellaneous Bits and ... Ducks

☛ The biggest news today is that in the domestic Twenty20 competition, our Australian state teams may be competing with privately owned teams in the new and extended tournament which is to replace the current one from the 2011-12 season. According to cricinfo, it's chiefly the early, and one would assume, sincere interest by Indian investors that have persuaded Cricket Australia to consider this previously unthought-of development. The way the news was present on Fox Sports News this morning, one would have to assume that the general meeting will decide in favour of the proposal. So, I guess the question now is: will we see a Rajasthan Royals franchise in Australia? ;)

☛ During the Ryobi One Day Cup (R1DC) match on Wednesday, Damien Fleming commented on what a disappointment it will be for the dropped selector; they are all so are 'passionate' about their role as selectors, he said. So passionate are they, that Hilditch chose to walk his dog rather than watch an Australian Test at the SCG. So passionate, that Merv Hughes didn't even bother to subscribe to any television channels that broadcast Australia's domestic tourneys and our matches abroad. That passionate. Well, that 'passionate' anyway.

☛ The Australian squad selected to play the upcoming Twenty20 match against Sri Lanka consists entirely of players from NSW and Victoria. At least if one counts Twatto as a Blue. Which I don't. And never will. Poseur. Michael Clarke will captain with Cameron White as his vice captain. All fast bowlers are Victorian. The two spinners, Smith and O'Keefe, from NSW. On the Hussey front, we have this time selected Dussey (admittedly an offie, but an all-rounder one), not Mussey.

☛ In an interview with Fox Sports, the justifiably exasperated Victorian Brad Hodge rather sharply pointed out that he deserves to be selected for the Australian squad, at least in the shorter forms of the game. (Video of interview here) He said, among other things (my transcript): '... I should be picked. There's no doubt about that. You can't just reel off four centuries in the last year ... I think someone reeled off the stats; think it was a thousand runs, averaging close to a 100 in the last 12 matches ... Can't deny that ... that's pretty good. If it was anyone else, in any other form of cricket, they'd probably be playing. But my reality says that I'm not. Would I like to be selected again for Australia? Of course. The answer is yes. The idea is to play at the highest level you can. You know, you always want to represent your country. But the reality is: no. It's just an unfortunate thing, really. I mean, everyone says "oh, you're getting old" or "you know, we're moving toward a younger side". Well, when I actually look at the Australian cricket side, to me it doesn't really look that young. There's four guys in the top six who are ... probably about ... older if not six months younger than me. So to me, that doesn't really make any sense. ... Yeah. ... Could I make an impact [garbled] Australian cricket? Well, reality says yes. Cause if it wasn't, then the guys who are younger than me would be making 140, 130, making four centuries the year before. But the reality is, that they don't and I do. So, it's only fair.' Asked about Hodge and in particular Hodge's selection chances for the World Cup 2011 in an interview a few days afterwards, Jamie Cox, Australian selector said (my transcript): 'He's in wonderful form. No doubt about that. I mean ... the ... the trick is always to try to find who he replaces. I mean ... you know, Brad's concentrating on that format of the game [one day and T20] and... and it's obviously doing him some good. He's started [this season] beautifully. He will hit the table. He always hits the table when it comes to pick those big squads.' Apparently, Hodge hits the table (whatever that means), but doesn't hit the spot. As far as the selectors are concerned, anyway.

☛ The South Australian Redbacks first got narrowly defeated by the Queensland Bulls in the R1DC last week and then by a larger margin (5 wickets) by the Western Australia Warriors this week. Ah, where is Mark Cosgrove when you need him? Oh, that's right. He's in Tasmania. Because he is too fat. Not too fat to score runs or anything. Just ... too fat.

☛ Also too fat, according to some sources, is David Warner. It was claimed that he wasn't fit enough to be included in the actual playing XI in the Australian ODI matches in India. 'Fit' apparently being some sort of code word for 'fat' these days. In a pre-match show, Greg Blewett stated that Warner is 'now a little bit rounder than he was probably 12 months ago'. Blewett also said that he thought that non-pudginess, or at least good fitness levels, was something that the Australian squad took pride in. He suggested that Warner's not playing could have been a signal by the powers-that-be that if Warner wants to go the World Cup in 2011, he'd better shape up. Literally. Fit or fat or not, if true, it is at least a signal that when it comes to this Australian XI, Mark Taylor, Darren Lehmann, and Shane Warne would never have been selected to play. And thereby hangs, I believe, a tale. A tale of how somehow the shape of pectorals came to be more important than any actual talent for cricket or an ability to perform.

☛ In December 2008, South Africa won its first Test series v Australia in Australia. Their coach was Mickey Arthur. According to an Inside Cricket reportage on Arthur, if somebody had told him then, that 16 months later, he'd been coaching Western Australia instead, he would, quite understandably, have asked them 'what they were smoking'. But that occasion turned out to be a zenith, rather than an inception; those Proteas all too quickly wilted and withered. And the South African cricket board had 'the knives out': it felt that Arthur had become too powerful and that he wasn't conscientious enough when it came to matters of 'transformation'. (I am actually not entirely sure what 'transformation' implies in a South African context; whether it's merely generational shift and development of young players, or also includes or even concentrates on a deliberate shift of the racial make up of their XI.) So Arthur left and went in search for team in need of a coach. Well, search and ye shall find. Arthur found Western Australia. A strangely floppy team in dire need of some ... backbone; some resolve; some discipline and decisiveness; some ... well, killer instinct, I guess. Arthur believes in upholding 'international standards' in this domestic setting: in training; in performance; in interaction; in developing a culture of success. Starting from scratch, Arthur has made the Warriors' training intense and competition-oriented and he is looking for results: nobody is guaranteed a spot in the WA XI. 'To have 22 players looking for 11 spots is a very healthy situation', said Arthur. Well, his ruthlessness may be starting to pay dividends. Warriors seems to have found the road to success: they have won their last two R1DC matches. Against the Victorian Bushrangers, opener Liam Davis scored 108 and bowler Michael Hogan took 5-44, his best-ever figures.

☛ Speaking of Western Australia, whatever happened to Nathan Coulter-Nile?

☛ And speaking of South Africa, they are, of course, at the moment playing Pakistan in a two-match Twenty20 series in Abu Dhabi. This series will be followed by a five-match ODI series and two Tests. I didn't see the first of these Twenty20 matches: when I saw that South Africa had won and that Pakistan had managed to score only 119, and given Pakistan's recent history of chaos and mayhem and that horror match in Cardiff in which they only managed to achieve 89 runs (their lowest score ever in a T20i game), I figured it must have been a proper demolition job. Looking at the figures of the match, however, I'm not so sure. Yes, of course 119 is Pakistan's second lowest score ever. And equally yes, of course, South Africa won by six wickets. But there were only 10 balls remaining. And South Africa was chasing a score of 119. Is that really all that convincing? The second match was partly a different story: Pakistan again failed with the bat, scoring only 120; RSA won by six wickets and 36 balls. I haven't watched South Africa for quite some time: is de Villiers their regular T20 wicket keeper now or is Boucher injured or rested for some other reason?

☛ In their R1DC match against Tasmania last week, my Baby Blues got their ducks in a row. Sadly, I mean that in the scoring sense. The NSW batting was for the most part a sad and sorry and short-lived affair. Rohrer, O'Keefe and Lee went quack quack quack. Khawaja again proved that he doesn't really know how to play the shorter form of the game and was gone for 6. Coyte, who at least has the excuse of being a bowler and a rather new one at that, managed only 12. Saddest of all was the sight of Phillip Hughes who looked totally rusty and wholly unconvincing at the crease before yielding his wicket for a mere 2. Here we can, I believe, see the rather tragic result of Hughes's yoyo inclusion in the Australian squad without ever getting a chance of actually playing any competitive cricket. Practising in the nets is simply not the same thing as match play. Never will be. Some three or so years ago, Hughes was an assured if unorthodox batsman who seemed to score runs at will, especially in First-class cricket, but also in the shorter form. Now, he flops around nervously at crease, waving his bat about impotently. It's a pity. It's also a rather infuriating waste. Brad Haddin was back in the team and got himself run out for 56. Here is my problem with Haddin: off the cuff, I cannot think of a single instance when he has actually batted his team to victory or even a draw. The Tasmanian Tigers, on the other hand, looked in very fine fettle. The Tassie spin twins, Xavier Doherty and Jason Krejza, combined to take six wickets, plus one run-out by Doherty. Spectacular? Oh, yes. Unsurprisingly, Doherty was promptly included in the Australian ODI squad for our upcoming quickie series against Sri Lanka. Or maybe considering the quality of our Australian selectors these days, that shouldn't be 'unsurprisingly' but 'surprisingly'?! And there is still the question of whether Doherty will actually play. I'm not exactly holding my breath.

☛ Not getting their ducks in a row is Cricket Australia with its ludicrous insistence that in domestic matches, technology can only be used in possible run-out situations. In the Baby Blues v Tigers match mentioned supra, Ed Cowan nicked a ball off Stuart Clark which was caught behind by a diving Brad Haddin. Cowan was given out. Cowan, however, refused to leave the crease, claiming that Haddin hadn't caught ball somehow. Haddin, sportingly, said that he simply wasn't sure. The umpire then reversed his own decision and judged Cowan not out. Every replay, whether in real time or slow motion, showed the ball going cleanly and directly into the gloves. Disgraceful. In the Redbacks v Warriors match, opener Davis audibly nicked a ball off Christian and was caught behind by Manou. The umpire, however, was of the opinion the ball had missed the bat. Replays showed that the ball did hit the bat and slightly altered its trajectory. Also, the very distinct sound of bat-on-ball was clearly heard; loudly even:

The match was played in Adelaide.
Also disgraceful.

☛ Getting my own ducks in a row, I would like to point out that as was pointed out in comments, I had completely misunderstood the new 45 over format: batting does not start from the top again at the second 'split' but carries on from whomever was batting at the close of the first split 20 overs. For those interested, Damien Fleming explains the rules here in the guise of ... Beeker?!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Australian Selector to Get the Chop

According to cricinfo, Australia will relieve one of its five selectors from his duties. The official reason given is that with the appointment of Cricket Australia's national talent manager, Greg Chappell, to the selectors' committee the number of selectors is now higher than the ideal number of four. There are, you see, at the moment, five selectors. Exactly why Cricket Australia appointed an additional selector in the first place if five is considered one too many is not entirely clear to me.

Our very own jester Hilditch is quoted as saying: 'I think all the selectors have performed really well.' Really? Managing to bring a cricket team from the number 1 Test XI in the world down to the number 5 position is executing your duties 'really well'?! Gosh, I hate to think what would have happened if our Australian selectors had performed badly. Whitewashed by Zimbabwe?!

Friday, October 22, 2010

There's Something about Punter

There's something about Punter. There's no denying it. There just is something about Punter, Captain. Although a fine batsman and fielder there is just a little something about Captain Punter that lends itself to giggles and jest.

Not all cricket captains are like that. Graeme Smith has his weight issues, of course, but there is just so much earnestness about Smith it's kind of hard to make jokes. He might break down and cry or something and that would make one feel terrible for having gone there, done that, worn that T-shirt. XXXXL, right?! Andrew Strauss? Now captaining people who run around wearing bracelets to bring them into cosmic balance or whatever — hard to make him the butt of the joke. MS Dhoni is too glamorous to make fun of. Sri Lanka simply changes theirs too often for any proper joke to form — who is the Sri Lankan captain this week anyway? Or Pakistan: before one has written a joke and clicked on the 'Published' button that person has probably been bribed, suspended and fined anyway. The situation in the Windies is not a laughing matter and I shall pass it over in silence. Ditto New Zealand. Oh, how the Captain Fantastic has fallen. What? I am totally so not laughing. Baaaaa.

But Punter, our gnomish Captain, lasts. And there is something about him that sort of invites a joke. Or five ... hundred. He's not endearing exactly, but not not endearing either; halflings are so cute. It's like you can't quite help yourself. Be it his hairy underarms or his inability to declare at opportune moments or speaking in anything but the most worn-out and trite clichés or the way he Humpty Dumpty-like wrestles the English language to the ground and bends words to his will ('The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master that's all') or inserts 'boys' into absolutely every second sentence (I use the word loosely) he utters (and that one's contagious too; just listen to Michael Clarke or Phillip Hughes) — well, be it any of those things, it's impossible not to giggle and make fun a little. Because when you really think about it: there's is something about Punter — there just is. I almost feel it is worth having him as our Captain for that reason. Well, almost ...

Other people having fun with Punter:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Who's Happy Now?

I recently wrote a post here at Poshin's World on whether India should be happy that Ponting and Watson were being rested this ODI series. I wrote that India could be reasonably happy, although perhaps less so in the case of Australia's Captain. I concluded the post by saying:
So: to be or not to be happy with these changes to the Australian ODI line-up. Perhaps that's the wrong question? Perhaps with the way India looks at the moment, it does not really matter.
Well, if I do say so myself, I think that I was right.
MS Dhoni won the toss and elected to field. I know nothing about neither Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium nor Visakhapatnam other than what I gleaned from yesterday's broadcast: it looked hot and humid. Australia is known to vastly prefer to bat first so I assumed conditions both in general and on the day were amenable to chasing; not exactly born yesterday, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

I wrote last night on twitter that I thought Australia was probably some 10-15 runs short in the end (final score 289) and I wrote that solely based on the psychological barrier the number 300 seems to represent in ODIs. Well, I guess I was right-ish: seeing that India won with 7 balls to spare, I think Australia was at least 15 runs short.

Most Impressive Player: Virat Kohli, who apparently came in with some (self-) doubt having been through something of a run dry recently. 'Honestly, I was struggling to get runs [...] I had not scored in last six-seven matches. I was under pressure. I was not hitting in the gaps. It was very satisfying and it gives you a lot of confidence when you score chasing under pressure.' His 118 (at a SR of 97.52) anchored India's innings and provided a fine platform from which Raina in particular launched a brutal assault on the Australian bowling line-up (71 runs at a SR of 151.06!)

Least Impressive Player: James Hopes, whom one would assume came in as 'first all-rounder' in lieu of Shane Watson. Hopes took exactly no wickets whatsoever and bowled 7 overs at an 'economy' rate of 8.00. In general, Hopes's bowling average does not entirely shabby for an all-rounder ... until you start looking at his stats in some detail and you are bound to notice that in matches in which Hopes does not take wickets, he tends to have an unhappily high economy rate. And that matters. This ODI against England in June 2010 may serve as an example: England won by 1 wicket with 5 balls remaining; Hopes bowled 6.1 overs and went for 44 runs at an 'economy' rate of 7.13. England's RR was 4.35. Australia was all out in 46 overs; Hopes managed to score 7 at SR of 63.63 before he was bowled by Jimmy Anderson.

So, who's happy now?

Well, I think that India and the Indian Captain can be happy with this effort: there is depth among Indian cricket players and they all seem to be in fine form, bowlers and batsmen alike. Kohli, as mentioned, should be very happy. Ravichandran Ashwin, whom I had never seen before, should also be happy: not only did he get a wicket (trapping Mussey lbw with a snazzy little, rather short-ish, ball) but he was miserly with the runs as well. Yuvraj Singh is always happy, with himself at any rate.

I think Michael Clarke can be reasonably happy with his captaincy and of course, after a lean run in the two Test matches, having produced a Captain's Knock with a century. Cameron White should be happy too: batting down the order, it would appear that he might develop into a fine, Bevanesque 'closer' for Australia. Now, if people could only stop referring to White as an all-rounder worthy of place in our Test XI, then I would be happy too.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On Two Captains and One New Jug-eared Batsman

On Captain 1: A cricinfo podcast is headlined 'Ponting needs to guide the next generation'. Yes, because leading the current lot into the ditch simply is. not. enough. Still work to be done, Punter. The rest of the world needs you!

On Captain 2: Stephen O'Keefe will captain NSW Baby Blues in a one day match against Sri Lanka this coming Sunday. Stuart Clark is being rested and Moises Henriques — both of whom have filled the Blues' Captain's Cap before — is out with a groin injury. The short and blonde O'Keefe is primarily a spinner but can be quite handy with the bat. In his last domestic outing, O'Keefe helped the Blues to a victory by scoring 70* at a strike rate of 140.00. Interestingly, just like that other blonde NSW shorty, Michael Clarke, O'Keefe bowls left-handed but bats right-handed. (Incidentally, this match will be 50 overs, but with 12 men available for bowling and fielding — although, only 11 men allowed on the field at any one time.)

On (another) Australian Jug-eared Batsman: Nic Maddinson has made his début for NSW Blues this season and has, so far, looked very good: against the South Australia Redbacks, he scored a first innings 113 w a SR 72.61 (Sheffield Shield) and 54 (Ryobi One Day Cup; R1DC) w SR of 105.88 respectively. In the R1DC against the Western Australia Warriors, he was unfortunately run out on 5. Maddison was, of course, part of the successful Australia U-19 XI who won the U-19 World Cup under the captaincy of Mitch Marsh (now playing for the Warriors) last season. Comparisons with that other Australian jug-eared wonder, Adam Gilchrist, are as yet totally premature — well, apart from those very ears, of course — but I live in hope. Remember, Gilchrist started out a Blue too.

Ah, I know that is an old photo,
but frankly, I couldn't resist.