Posts Tagged ‘Adelaide Oval’

Indian pitches just ain’t cricket

I’m not here to make normative claims about how cricket should be played.

You know what, screw that, that’s exactly what I’m here to do.

There is some grand, glorious old-style cricket happening in the world right now, and it sure ain’t being played by the poms.

No, it’s being played right here in the greatest country on God’s green earth. And I’m not talking about Norway, which each day edges closer to its white winter fate. It already snowed a fair bit, with the white stuff covering up any natural beauty this country is famed for. Then it changed its mind. “Give the tourists another chance,” Norway’s gaia told itself (I’ll need to bone up on my Norse mythology at some point). Now it’s tooing and froing between pseudo-snow, rainy drudgery or some teasing sunshine (in -5 degrees). Make up your mind!

The cricket, meanwhile, of the glorious, as-it-was-meant-to-be variety is being played in damn Straya. Best country that ever was. What’s better is that Straya also happens to be winning, which makes good cricket even better. In fact, I might argue that it’s not cricket at all if Straya aren’t winning, but that’s a battle for another day.

Why does this particular brand of cricket happen to be so hopelessly, stupendously fantastic that it will receive no complaints from this scribe? It’s because it is being played on wickets that actually allow a cricket ball to bounce above knee height, wickets that reward bowlers of fast and slow varieties if they ply their trade well, and wickets that give batsmen opportunities to play shots that aren’t drives.

Meanwhile, the inventors of cricket, those Poms with all their poor dental health and odd tasting Weet-Bix and Vegemite, are having to superglue their bat to the ground so as not to be yorked (no pun on English town intended, chortle chortle) by half trackers served up by spinners who have been tonked in and out of the Indian side whenever they leave the shores of the Asian subcontinent. Hell, even Harbhajan is cleaning up between his arthritis treatments and assisted spongebaths.

Why does this grind my loin bones so much? Because it sucks, basically. This isn’t what cricket is about.

Real cricket is about the first two days of the Test in Adelaide. On the first day the bat utterly dominated the ball, and rendered the fearsome Saffa attack as useless as mammarial features on a male bovine creature, as my father quoth oft.

They scored at over five runs per over on that first day! In Test cricket? Are you daft?

It was aggressive, interesting and exciting batting.

On the second day said toothless tigers showed some steel and dismissed the rest of the Aussie bats for about 100 runs. Contest between bat and ball? You bet.

Meanwhile, in India, a total of 269.4 overs have been rolled over by trundlers sundry and all. Guess how many of those have been completed by bowlers who attempt to bowl over 100 kmph?

Forty nine. That’s right. 220.4 overs have been bowled by spinners. India opened up with two spinners, and selected Zaheer Khan, the man who last year against Australia resembled a horribly ageing crocodile struggling to devour steaks given to him by zoo handlers, as their lone pace ace. Sometimes you just gotta put a crocodile down.

Guess how many wickets these 49 overs yielded for quickies? One. The same number of times Rob Quiney has managed to get off the mark in three Test innings.

Jimmy Anderson got that wicket, early in the first innings of the match. I’m fairly sure the only reason this happened was that Gautam Gambhir, the man he dismissed, had gone without a strong coffee that morning and was half asleep upon receiving it.

Either that or Gambhir just felt sorry for Anderson, knowing that the rest of his five days would be spent hammering balls into the wicket in the hope of it getting to the keeper, but instead seeing a puff of dust and ‘Poof!’ “Not again,” thought Anderson. The ball had once more turned into a cup of tea that the batsman could take and drink from before whacking it to the fence, or handing it benignly to Giles the butler at silly mid on if he was feeling nice.

Meanwhile, in the city of churches (Straya style) there are six quickies all with a fighting chance of getting a pole, and spinners are rightfully being dispatched over the fence at will and falling victim to brutal jeers from parochial Aussie crowds.¬†Imran Tahir was reported to have told his chihuaua that he doesn’t think they are in Lahore anymore.

To be fair, though, it’s no worse than poor old Bryce McGain got a few years back, and any Proteas fan would have done the same had the situation been reversed.

I’m sure the Poms would be loath to play two spinners in their Test side. In Indian conditions, however, where pitches have the pace of Benn Robinson carrying an ankle injury, what choice do they have? They even had to drag Monty Panesar out of Sydney Grade cricket to fill another tweaker’s spot. It will go down as a selection masterstroke, though, with Monty picking up a bundle of wickets, including a five-fa already in India’s second innings.

Here’s the problem. Cricket was designed so that there would be an even contest between bat and ball. Some of the roads they churn out at the MCG stretch this a little, but when a quickie is forced to bowl two metres outside off stump simply to prevent being hit for boundaries every ball, there’s a serious problem.

Simon Katich was once asked about his slow scoring rate in the second session of a day’s play in India. His response was something to the effect of:

“That’s a stupid question. Were you watching the game? They were bowling a metre outside off stump every ball. How am I supposed to score off that?”

The answer, of course, is that the reporter was not, in fact, watching the game at all. They were too busy googling Sachin Tendulker and making sure his name was still the top of the ‘most searched’ list on Cricinfo.

And I don’t blame the reporter either. Watching cricket on dead tracks is dead boring.

It’s time someone gave those Indian groundsmen an elixir of something; anything that would make cricket on the subcontinent resemble something close to what it is was supposed to be.

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The Big Winter of Cricket (and the Autumn Tour)

My first Winter of Cricket is upon us.

While I thought it would be hard to psyche up about the flinging of red leather as the snow falls around me, I’ve found the lead-up to these mouthwatering Tests has more than satiated my appetite for information and banter alike.

The obviously deliberate leaks of the Aussies ‘Dossier’ on how to get Saffas out added momentary fuel to the fire, though I must have been sleeping through the furore because I woke up this morning and there’s no counter comment, no mud slinging, not even some name calling or intrigue-accusing. I feel like I’m going to have to take it upon myself to start some rumours or something. Unless the news cycle just passed me by (I did wake up later than usual today).

As for sledging Hashim Amla and bouncing Jacques Kallis… well. They seem like sound plans, seeing as Kallis probably still has the scar from when Mitchell Johnson almost knocked his block off in 2009. That still has to be one of the best spells of fast bowling I’ve ever watched.

Too much claret at lunch, Jacques?


Amla is a run machine, sure, but maybe some well-timed comments about the lack of a Castle Lager sticker on his shirt (did I write that out loud?) will flap the unflappable. Not that that was what the dossier was suggesting with all its delicate language. It was a positively marvellous piece of literature, skirting around F and C bombs, dancingly suggesting they ‘really test’ Kallis or ‘engage him (Amla) in psychological warfare.’ The euphemistic nature of this document must be impressed upon naive readers, and surely a translation should be put out.

Something to the tune of: “Try to kill Kallis by bowling as fast as you can at exposed areas of his cranium” and “Break Amla down mentally until he is mushy pulp in your hands, bending to your will, giving you his wicket how and when you choose, but only after you have publicly humiliated him in front of thousands by making him duck and weave well-directed bouncers (though not as well-directed as the ones you shall deliver to Jacques) and have him replicating a frustrated trout fisherman in his attempts to nick your unplayable outswingers.”

Sounds like a good plan to me.

But I still think it’s all a big ploy, like the infamous Buchanan-gate of 2000.

Despite all the cricket reading, nothing can get you quite as fired up as banter between the boys (and girls) about the cricket. The girls weren’t particularly up for the cricket chat on Tuesday night, but the boys certainly propped up the team.

A night of brewing is often dominated by manly discussion. That night we bottled our german-style altbier and talked cricket. Mostly backyard cricket actually, but a bit of the upcoming Winter of Cricket was pored over and rigourously debated. Took me back to the place where the seasons make sense and Boxing day is spent horizontal watching people throw balls at each other. How I’ll miss that first morning of laziness, listening to either Jim Maxwell or Slats (depending, of course, on whether you are working or not) describing the action.

But to the bit you’ve all probably been waiting for; the cricket.

I really don’t know what to predict with this one, but I do think that one of the Tests, most likely Adelaide, is going to be a run fest. I think that will be a draw and the quality quick bowling will yield results in the other two tests. I think the Aussies, even sans Shane Watson, our best player by a bit, have the quality to take a game of these guys if they play out of their skin.

So I’ll predict a 1-1 drawn series. I was tempted to go 2-0 to the Saffas because of the quality of their batting and the fact that we have two unproven bowlers no matter which line-up we choose, but I have faith in Pattinson to crack some skulls and get the job done, possibly even outshining two of his three more fancied South African rivals.

I am backing Dale Steyn to knock over plenty of Aussies early, unfortunately. I think Dave Warner may be the the Daryll Cullinan to Steyn’s Shane Warne, though that might be taking it a few steps to far.

Should the Aussies play four quicks at the Gabba? Definitely. And at Perth too. I think the more we can use these guys and expose them to Tests the better off we will be. Mitchell Starc belies his slightly too full length with good lines and decent movement, which should make him a weapon at the Gabba and Perth. James Pattinson is be the best fast bowler in Australia right now, and should be until he retires.

In Adelaide I would go with Lyon, but I think picking a spinner for the sake of consistency alone would be a mistake.

If our batsmen do the business we should have no problem taking 20 wickets and winning one game.

There’s also a rugby tour on.

After a brief hiatus, the festival or sport resumes.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair