Archive for April, 2012

When cricketers are just happy to be there

Overnight, Aussie opener Ed Cowan defended himself and his fellow batsmen by saying that scores in the West Indies are pretty hard to come by, and that the scores they’ve posted would, in different conditions, be worth a whole lot more. He specifically cited the prolific turn and bounce some of the Windies spinners are extracting from the decks over there, and that from ball one having to deal with spitting, turning, and generally abusive deliveries is hard. Yes, it is hard Ed. And my God all the batsmen over there have made damn sure it’s looked hard.

I wrote an article last week for online sports opinion site The Roar (link below) about the state of the wickets in the West Indies, and how they’ve made the cricket being played over there just so… boring. I said in this piece that it looks like, to me, someone who has attempted to be an owl for the past few weeks, Ed might be right. It is damn hard to score runs over in the Windies.

I refer you to this: http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/561855.html, the basic thrust of which is that run rates in the West Indies over the past twenty years have been deteriorating, from an average of over 3 runs per over in the 1980’s to this series which has cantered along at a lively 2.61. Since 2000, the West Indies also has the lowest average run rates of all Test playing nations, coming in at 2.98 runs per over. Remember too that run rates in the 1980’s were lower across the board than they are now (thank you Twenty20 and Kerry Packer).

I suppose I’m not giving you much reason to stay up and watch the game, am I? Well, too be fair, that’s not really my job. The cricketers are the ones that are supposed to be scoring the runs and taking the wickets. And they are. It’s just taking them a few more deliveries than usual to do both.

The conditions are making it hard for batsmen to score runs. The flat decks make it hard for quicks to extract venom from their deliveries, despite the effort they put in. It’s a different brand of cricket folks. I find it enjoyable. Others may not.

So don’t think Ed Cowan’s spitting the dummy or being a bit precious when he says that his battling half century may be worth a century back home. The guy faced 123 balls to get there. Shivnarine Chanderpaul faced 164 balls for his 68 in the first innings, which I can tell you was worth close to a century anywhere else in the world. Runs have pretty much been a byproduct of surviving for this entire tour.

End cricket piece without a laboured simile.

Check out my piece in The Roar: http://www.theroar.com.au/2012/04/21/lifeless-pitches-will-be-the-death-of-test-cricket/

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I’m looking at you, AFL

Has the AFL become less predictable than the NRL? After seeing this week’s results sheets I think  it may be getting closer.

I always looked at the AFL as a bit of a banker when it came to tipping and betting. The NRL, in past years, has been an absolute nightmare to tip. It hasn’t really changed this year either, with the “experts” tipping the “Tigers” as “favourites” for the premiership. I don’t know which fantasy world these “experts” were living in. I know that it’s always difficult to tip the NRL, I understand, but I also know that the answer to the question “When will the Tigers finally bring it all together?” is “never!”

For all those that think I’m going all Matty Johns on you, I also know that the “never” answer also applies to Souths and Parramatta as well. To fans of these teams: don’t beat me up, my opinion only.

But you know how it goes, AFL followers. Things tend to work in dynasties, don’t they? There was a Brisbane Lions dynasty, then a Port Adelaide dynasty of sorts, then a Swans dynasty and then a Geelong and Collingwood dynasty. As a fan of sport who doesn’t follow AFL all that closely, I know that I can usually answer the question of who’s going to win this year’s premiership by watching one episode of that year’s Footy Show and picking up hints as to who the two best teams were. Flame on AFL fans. Flame on.

This year, to me, seems different. Collingwood aren’t the dominant proposition they were for the last two years. Geelong got beaten by North Melbourne, who have promised so much but delivered so little over the past number of years. I am beginning to think we might have some new Grand Final contestants this year.

The NRL often advocates that the salary cap is the best thing ever to happen to rugby league. The argument runs that it evens the playing field and ensures a tight competition every year. Looking at the closeness of NRL fixtures, I would generally agree. The competition has been exciting and the standard of play excellent for the past ten years. It’s obvious, though, that the players are playing for much less than they’re worth, and for that reason I think that the cap is immoral. 

The AFL’s  salary cap hasn’t seemed to have had the same effect, at least to my untrained eye (thanks Jacko). Why has the AFL has not enjoyed the same closeness between all teams? It always seems like there are two or so teams standing high above the others in the quality their play. If, through their salary cap,  draft and whatever other systems, they have managed to provide us fans with a competition as even as the NRL, then it is a triumph both for spectators and capitalists alike.

Then again, we just watched Manly, the reigning premiers in the NRL, get beaten convincingly by the cellar dwelling Titans. In that respect I think the NRL is still the benchmark. I would not put my money on the bottom two teams in the AFL to beat any of the other teams, let alone Geelong. But if you ask me when the reals Eels or Titans are going to show up and win, I think it’s just as likely to be against the Storm or the Broncos as anyone else.

I think, if pushed,  the reason I would give for my general lack of observance of AFL in the past has been the predictability of results. If this new trend keeps up, and the top teams aren’t as untouchable as they have seemed in the past couple of seasons,  I may be forced to change my ways. Then again, if the Blues and Eagles begin a dynasty and I’m forced to watch mid-table clashes to see a close game, I might not bother.

I started by mentioning a banker for the betting-folk, and I’d hate to disappoint the many (read: any) that read along. So here it is: bet against the Suns and GWS. I read a news story last week that due to lack of bets on GWS to beat West Coast, the Eagles were paying a flat dollar. Yep. No more bets please.

Football in Australia: How generous thou art

Does your suburb have a major sporting franchise in every code with an accompanying stadium? Don’t worry, you’ll get your turn.

Sure, it will fold pretty quickly because it never was, and probably never will be financially viable, but the salary cap will ensure that your team at least has a chance of making the finals. That is unless you’re unfortunate enough to get an AFL sponsored team, in which case it will be financially viable, somehow, but will never win a game. Quite a conundrum.

You should also note that this new team, that we have so generously given to you, will represent you, your community, all your interests, and generally is the best thing to ever happen to you. So get on board, pat our ridiculous mascot on the head, sing the terrible team song (here’s a copy of the words), and make sure you buy one of our butt-ugly jerseys. Geez they suck. Do you know why we made them like that? We knew there would be a Telegraph headline talking about how butt-ugly they are, and “any publicity is good publicity.” Do you know why that’s in quotes? Because they taught us that in marketing school, or was it in swimming class? I don’t really remember anymore. It was probably media training…

Objectively though, it’s a terrible jersey.

Oh, and don’t worry that you’re from Mt Druitt and we’ve lumped you in with the rest of “Western Sydney,” wherever that is. At least you have a slightly more defined geographical area than, say, North Queensland or the “Western” Bulldogs et Force.  Western what, Bulldogs? Western what? Also, does anyone remember the North Queensland Fury?

Now time to announce the biggest signing in the club’s short but revered history. Bah bah bah bah! Drum roll please. Look everyone! A coach! A coach that you may or may not have heard of. Yeah, he’s not going to strap on a pair of boots, but holy shit can he coach. Do you KNOW how many premierships this bloke has won? I sure as hell don’t, but it’s probably more than one.

Sarcasm aside for one moment (note the italics), how much of a travesty is it that Gary Ablett. Gary Fucking Ablett, the bloke who could have been the best player ever, is getting schooled every week because he plays in a team who would probably be beaten by most VFL teams? I’m no AFL expert, but I get the feeling that’s a pretty accurate summation of the situation of the Gold Coast and GWS franchises. Hats off to the guy for trying to spread the word, so to speak, but you fancy his highlight reels would be a lot longer, and the fans could derive a whole lot more pleasure from his performances if his team could play anywhere close to the standard of his old teammates. Poor Gary. 

Worry not, fan of sport, because we have chosen a very threatening moniker for our club which will obviously translate into on field success. This was somewhat true for the Gold Coast Titans. Running twelfth in your inaugural season ain’t bad. Not ‘Titanic,’ but not bad. The Suns, on the other hand, named after the very same thing as the Egyptian Gods Ra , weren’t very Ra-like in their first bite at the proverbial apple.

Minus Gary of course. Note that the Egyptian God Ra is often associated with creative power, something Gary has in droves. But if you ain’t got the cattle…

Think about it though. Titans. Force. Fury (or was it Roofy?). Giants. Suns. All very big, powerful names. Now think Rabbitohs, Cats and FC. Well, I know which one makes my penis feel larger.

Anyway, it’s almost time for us to hand back our license, and go to Western Sydney to poach players for the Australian Olympic Ping Pong team. Such is the talent. Such is the talent.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair