Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Why, oh why, BCCI?

Many know the BCCI (the Board of Control for Cricket in India) as the ones who replaced the fat, white men in light suits who used to control cricket. Some said that skinny, dark-skinned men in grey suits was a vast improvement on the previous model of cricket’s arbiters.

But what you may not have known is that the BCCI wanted to ruin everything (except the IPL).

While the above may be something of an exaggeration, what is not an exaggeration is that there is a high probability that if anyone from the BCCI reads this article I may find several burly, unpleasant men who just want to have a chat knocking on my door at 5am in the coming days.

Because I’m about to have a go at cricket’s new fat controllers. Any guesses who that might be? Ok, it’s the BCCI.

I want to let all my readers (that’s right, both of you) know that there is no more paranoid, bizarrely conservative body in all of sport, and there is no doubt that the two latest decision this body has made in the last week are completely ridiculous and should not escape extreme censure.

The first of these is to not allow Getty images photographers in the stadia for the upcoming Tests between Australia and India, and the second is their ongoing refusal to accept the use of the Umpire Decision Review System (DRS) for the same set of matches.

The first decision I mentioned has a story behind it. A very similar thing, in fact the very same thing, happened for the series against England last year.

The BCCI refused a bunch of photography agencies permission to shoot the games and provide images for the big papers in England. Instead, they proposed to supply all the images themselves, to which the British press said thanks, but no thanks. Basically it was a big flip of the middle finger from the British papers to the unadulterated bullshit that was that decision.

So you might think they would learn, because they did come under a fair bit of international scrutiny for that particular doozy, not least from bodies like the IOC and the ever venerated EITM (Everyone in the media… duhhh!).

But the BCCI don’t strike one as the smartest cookies in the toolshed, because lo and behold they’ve once again denied photo agencies access to the game. So my beloved SMH won’t have images except the ones provided by the BCCI.

“Yay!” you might think. “Hooray!” you might cry. At least there will be images, right?

Well yeah, I guess. I’m not going to get myself off on these pages about press freedom and all that, but God damn it there should be press freedom! People should have a right to take photographs of a sporting fixture, particularly if they’re part of one of the biggest providers of images in the world!

And why stop them? What do the BCCI have to lose by letting them in? A few seats in the press box? Well, I say fire a few BCCI employed journalists and let someone else (someone, I daresay, less vested of interest?) get in there and do the job instead.

I also suspect that should you want images (images that will inevitably surface, given the player in question’s recent record) of Tendulkar being castled by a quick, you mightn’t find them too easily amongst the BCCI sanctioned snaps. So in my upcoming coverage of the Tests between Australia and India, I shall make it my duty to include videos of Tendulkar being bowled.

Another tragedy is that although ABC negotiated for the rights to broadcast the matches on local radio, the fees proved too high for them to garner the requested funds. This is a great shame, as the broadcast of the last Indian tour with Mike Coward, Jim Maxwell, Glenn Mitchell and errherrerrherr (I forget his name, give me a break!) was very much worth the listen. It was one of the best broadcast tours I can remember.

So there will be no images, no radio broadcast in Australia (or online). But I swear there was another thing.

Oh that’s right, the little matter of the DRS. The thing, nay, the only thing, that stops players from having to walk off LBW after hitting the skin off the ball and having a curious, ball-shaped cherry on their bat. It is the only bastion between a batsman and being back in the pavilion despite having whiffed (and missed) a ball early in their innings. Let’s not forget, too, it’s the only thing between a “not-outing” umpire and a bowler going undeservedly wicketless in ruthless Indian conditions.

It’s completely absurd that the BCCI is the only thing standing between the cricketing world having a system that countless series have shown works, and one that is forever improving as time goes on.

Their argument is that it’s not 100% accurate. Well, to be fair, neither’s your judgement, and neither’s Billy Bowden’s judgement.

In fact, I would say that being able to watch a slow motion replay, complete with sound and heat capture, movement-predicting trackers and the ability to watch it over and over again is vastly more accurate than one look, at real speed with no possibility for replay. But feel free to disagree with me on that one BCCI. You seem to disagree with most of the cricketing world about most things.

So yeah. Basically, I reckon the BCCI have made a couple of bad decisions. That’s alright, right?

The Test match as novel

In light of a certain 4.2 over run chase in the past few days, I thought it a pertinent time to put to you a theory I’ve been working on.

It is a theory of why cricket tragics seem to value Test cricket infinitely more than its two limited-over brothers.

Let’s get one things straight: I’m not a Twenty20 hater.

I quite enjoy snacking on a bit of hit and giggle every now and then, but only as part of a healthy cricket diet. In between light lunches of One Dayers and fulfilling dinners of Test matches, I really shouldn’t pig out in between.

So Twenty20 and I maintain the same relationship I hold with chocolate. It’s a sometimes food, not to be confused with the meat and potatoes (and vegetables) of a healthy diet.

The reasons I hold for preferring Test and One Day cricket also stack up with my healthy diet analogy. While a bar of chocolate can be utterly delicious, satisfying and exactly what you need at the time, eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner will make you sick in the stomach.

So it is with Twenty20.

A delicious roast dinner, on the other hand, is the ultimate meal. It leaves you satisfied, wanting no more than what you were provided. But more importantly, you know it’s done you good. The meat gives you iron. The veggies do their thing, replete with vitamins and minerals. The gravy is unctuous and delicious.

It seems like you can’t even compare eating chocolate to eating a filling, nutritious dinner, just as you can’t compare a T20 to a Test.

The comparison becomes even more skewed when you place a ‘good’ T20 against a ‘good’ Test. It’s just becomes unfair.

The foodie comparisons end here, as the reasons for liking food and liking cricket seem to diverge.

As Twenty20 cricket rises to ever more prominence and success, cricket-lovers search for reasons why they resent the new game so much.

“It’s just not cricket,” they say.

It’s certainly not cricket as one would see in a Test match. It is an entirely new beast.

Then again, One Day cricket was an entirely new beast when it came to prominence. Although it is now the divisive middle child of the trio, One Day cricket still would feature higher in the hierarchy of most cricket tragics than the younger, more boisterous brother of Twenty20.

Here’s why.

Cricket, for the spectator, is about investment. Inevitably, this investment boils down to a very simple equation: investment = time.

What do I mean by investment?

We all know the tenseness that comes from a Test match that is ever-so close. Nails are sacrificed to the cricketing Gods, hair is torn out, Televisions are flicked on and off and between stations as people seek a release from the palpable nervous tension.

A great example of this was in the 2005 Ashes, when Michael Kasprowicz and Brett Lee were batting to win Australia an unlikely victory, to have it snatched away in the cruelest fashion with only two runs required.

Both nations stopped that day. It was monumental; everyone watched it, and everyone who watched it knew it was monumental.

The number of fingernails reduced to mere stubs that day, on the field and off, would be close to some sort of record, such is the tension created by Test cricket.

It is the ultimate tension in cricket, and it is created over five days, over 460 overs. The more time you spend watching or listening to these 460 sets of six, the more invested you are, and the more epic the games become.

A Test is like a novel. There are many published every year; some good, some bad. Great ones go down in history as some of the greatest works ever written. Some are consigned to the sporting scrap heap, but are dragged up when convenient for the statisticians and argument makers among us.

It is the investment of time required to appreciate the novel that makes it so special. A novel can convey so much information to those willing to take the time to read it.

Anyone who does read War and Peace or Middlemarch will attest that it was well worth it, despite the slog required to complete it.

Test matches are the same. The plots unfold more slowly, and are told more delicately. The authors of the action are given this grace.

Some authors choose to accept this as a chance to tell the story slowly, opening themselves up to being labelled boring or worse. Certain storytellers revel in putting the reader through a kind of torture with their pacing. Some readers decide to skim through the novel as a result.

Not all novels are necessarily great, as it is with Test matches. But the time investment, assuming the spectator dedicates the time to appreciate it, will inevitably yield some form of learning, no matter whether it possessed the stuff of greatness or was of generally poor quality.

The One Dayer can possess similar levels of greatness as a Test match, but its obvious time limitation restricts the amount of storytelling the authors get the chance to do.

Theoretically, therefore, the greatest possible One Dayer could never be as great as the greatest possible Test match. The lack of time simply does not provide the authors to expound the same quantity of greatness. That’s not to say the quality of that greatness can’t be the same.

I see the One Dayer as the equivalent of the novella.

Some novellas are true greats. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and A Christmas Carol have gone down in the pantheon of literature as some of the best works ever written.

That memorable game, ‘The 400 Game’ between South Africa and Australia at the Wanderers might well fit into this category.

But can they ever compare favourably to the sustained greatness of the best novels ever written? Sure, these titles are well known and considered great, and rightly so. The list of great novels, however, is lengthier and better developed by ‘those in the know.’

Literary critics and bookworms could rattle off their top 50 works of literature in next to no time. Sure to feature among most are the great novels: Ulysses, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Moby Dick, Don Quixote; and the rest, as you might say.

Novels, all of them.

I would hazard a guess that at least 90 percent of those considered by the experts as the greatest works of literature would be novels, just as 90 percent of the best cricket games ever played would be Tests. Time investment pays off for the reader, just as it does for the cricket watcher.

Finally, we come to that art form maligned as peasantry by the true cricket tragic: Twenty20.

The time investment is minimal, each game is considered meaningless. There is some time for the action to play out and be told, but before they have had the chance to let their carefully constructed storytelling sink in, the next delivery has already left the author’s hand.

It is this that creates a sense of chaos and meaninglessness about Twenty20. A sense that something has been left out, but you don’t know what. A similar sense to what you might feel sitting through a movie adaptation of a great novel.

The Lord of the Rings is a case in point; a rarely excellent adaptation of a great set of books. There were lots of things missing in terms of the plot, but more than that, there was something missing in the feel of it. It was epic, but not nearly as epic as the books.

It could be that the imagination tends to hyperbolize and extrapolate, leading to epic that would not be possible to replicate in film format. Test matches, after all, leave plenty of time for the imagination to do its thing.

But I think that it is the lack of investment required to view the movie that has an impact as well.

Not having to work through the slow bits to be excited by the fast bits, and not having any sense of comparison leads to action and storytelling being devalued. It is the same actions that would amount to greatness in other expressions of their format, only lesser incarnations.

I’m not saying that greatness can’t be achieved in cinema or in Twenty20 cricket. I’m saying that the kind of greatness achieved by these formats differs vastly from the greatness of a novel or a Test match.

The Test match, being longer, requires more time investment to enjoy. It gives the author more time to express nuance, and space to express it at his leisure by placing a less arbitrary time restriction on it.

Perhaps this boils down to the attachment complex created by the great art forms of the Test match and the novel, an attachment that must be fostered over time. Or it could be something else entirely

Whatever the case, it is the giving of time that allows the storytelling to make its full impact. Spectator investment is the reason for the un-placeable greatness of the Test match.

Twenty20 cricket is not gansta rap

Finally, the right thing happened. This tooing and froing went on for too long, as it has with many Wallabies in the past little bit.

Quade might have been a basket case in the last three times he’s re-signed, but even loyal servant Will Genia had to go through this madness of uncertainty for a period this year.

I think it’s time to apply the razor to the Australia Rugby Union negotiation process; shave off some bodies that the players are required to negotiate with in order to finally put pen to paper. Many will benefit from this reduction in confusing protocol, particularly the ARU, who could be made to look a little silly one day when a code-hopper who signed with the Force decides to renege because he doesn’t like the cut of one of the ARU official’s jib. Gotta mind those jibs.

Occam's razor: Philosophical science or scientific philosophy?

Ockham’s razor: Philosophical science or scientific philosophy?

I say that the right thing happened with Quade because from the very beginning it should have been clear to everyone involved that Quade wanted to stay in rugga. He signed a three year deal with the Reds, as clear a sign of his intentions as there’s ever been.

Khoder Nasser, being who he is, probably wanted Quade to ‘keep his options open with a one year deal’ or some such stupidity. But Quade, despite his oft-criticised meddling manager, fronted up at the Reds and signed a treble.

It should have been known, from that point on, that whenever Quade spoke of ‘rugby league being on the cards at some stage’ it was simply a baulk at getting some more cash from the ARU. We might be getting slightly better at identifying the efforts of players to increase their value by mentioning other codes, but we’re not there yet. Even the merest mention of rugby or league from a player of the opposite code still prompts a media furore about ‘X player signing with the enemy.’ We’ve still got some way to go in this respect, I think.

As I said in a previous post, I think Quade will make his $800,000 back over two years for the ARU, even if he doesn’t pull on a gold jersey. The impact he has on Reds crowd numbers, as well as the belief in that squad, will be enough to justify keeping him on board.

Many people might be unhappy to see Quade back, but I assure you that there are a lot of Reds fans who are very happy, and will flock to see him don the crimson next year.

But enough about Quade, as I’m sure everyone’s bored to death of him. Onto the majesty that is the Big Bash League, and the travesty that is the caps being worn by certain members of the Sydney Sixers.

Are you serious, David Warner and Steve Smith (and anyone else I didn’t notice who was wearing said cap)?

To describe, I’m sure most of you are aware of the vomit-inducing caps the kids are wearing these days. This type has moved beyond being worn by rich white boys in America attempting to emulate LeBron James, who was attempting to emulate Jay Z, who was attempting to emulate Notorious B.I.G. It is now being worn by the kids of the Sixers.

Twenty20 cricket

Twenty20 cricket

There was nothing wrong with this hat initially, in fact it was a bold statement of an undeniably cool culture. But as it’s gotten more and more mainstream, it’s gotten objectively more try-hard. The brim has become flatter and flatter, the hat more and more balloon-like over the skull. It’s current incarnation resembles someone with a bun rolled around their head, Princess Leia style, who has tried to fit a baseball cap previously worn by Andre the Giant around their head. Also note that they have sticky taped a stiff pine brim at the front.

It offers no protection for the face and the eyes from the sun, which let’s not forget used to be the primary function of a hat. Instead it makes the Sixers players like petulant 12 year olds with terrible fashion senses who yelled at their mums for three hours in the ‘Basement’ section of David Jones (ironically located on the third floor). The mother, despite knowing better, finally relented and bought them the ridiculous cap, just to save her eardrums.

I take some solace in the fact that it’s not been instituted as a club policy to wear the abomination. Brad Haddin for example, despite his equally reprehensible habit of constantly chomping at a cud of chewing gum, has elected not to wear a saucepan on his melon, opting for the more traditional, UV-protective headwear.

The cricket’s been quite enjoyable though.

(Note that I’m not usually a slagger-offerer of T20 cricket, but this particular cap is just terrible)

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.

Dead rats aplenty in Australian rugby

A dead rat

You’ve probably all got two questions for me.

The answer to the first one is yes, I definitely think it was my blog post that forced John O’Neill’s hand and made him call it a day as ARU CEO. I kid, but indulge me for a second on one of my favourite topics.

Being a sports administrator in Australia sucks. I think that, generally speaking, they are incredibly hard working, intelligent people who are honestly trying to do their best for the sport, but people who have no idea what they are talking about still blame them for every problem they don’t understand due to their lack of comprehension of things that are fundamental to being a reasonable human being. David Gallop did the same as JON, quitting the sport he had worked so hard for with no thanks from the fans or journalists who didn’t realise exactly what he had been doing for the ten years that was possibly the best in the game’s histroy. So I suppose some sort of thanks should be in order for John’s work and his putting up with being covered in shit for so long.

As for the second question, I just don’t know. I don’t know what the previous record for the most uses of the word “shit” in a blog post is so I can’t comment. I know many of you might find that “disappointing,” but there you have it.

Begin aiming handfuls of shit at me.

And to further preface this post, I want to explore two more phrases sporting people in the media like to say. The first is “can’t comment,” which is extremely frustrating mostly because the utterer is inevitably pretending they’re harbouring national security secrets in those pea brains when really they’re only not saying what’s written on their wrist tape: “Run hard at player with x on their back.”

The second one is “accountability.” If there’s one thing I’ve learned from sports media it’s that everyone has a different definition of accountability for every situation and will use it against people with a different, in their view flawed, view of accountability. The other thing is that everyone except the person who actually should be accountable is responsible for the mistakes of others.

As for this post, well, what’s it about? It can’t be about shit, I’ve done that one to death.

No, this one is going to flesh out one of the things I hinted at in the last article, and that is people blaming the Waratahs for everything that’s terrible in the world. Are they really “accountable” for the Wallabies terrible play?

I know they weren’t terribly impressive this year. The fans weren’t happy with their performances, which was reflected in the crowd numbers. But Sydney has always been a fickle market and when a team ain’t winning on the field, chances are they’re probably not packing out their horribly located venue.

As usual, journalists thought the Waratahs were the worst thing that ever happened to society, and once again we have a change in coach, change in CEO, fan forums, the works. It almost seems to me like the Waratahs are being accountable, but I can’t really comment on that. I know that might be disappointing for you to hear.

In fact, it is hard to tell with journos exactly whose fault it is. Is it everyone’s favourite person to hate, the head administrator? Michael Foley copped a lot of stick this year, so maybe it was the coach? Perhaps it’s the players? No, what was I thinking? It’s never the players’ fault for playing badly. How silly of me!

In the case of the Waratahs it seems to be some sort of joint venture of all three ‘camps’ (pet peeve alert), which honestly doesn’t help when you’re trying to write a snappy headline.

“Combination of poor administration, bad coaching and terrible play cited as reason for Horrortah season by Waratah CEO,” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “Fire the NRL refs.” Rugby League journos just have it made, what with everything being in black and white and all.

But one very well thought of rugby scribe went on record after John O’Neill retired saying that the Wallabies were on struggle street not for the reasons that Quade “Toxic Environment” Cooper was rabbiting on about.

There’s nothing wrong with the ARU, he says, or the Wallabies’ management or coaching structure or gameplan or any such thing like that which would make sense in the context of the Wallabies playing poorly. These people are and have been accountable for their errors according to this journalist, and it was an entirely separate entity bringing down the house.

It was in fact the Waratahs, from beyond the Super Rugby grave, making the men in yellowy-gold play badly. He said that the Waratahs players are so brainwashed by an inept administration (recently fired and replaced) and coaching setup (ditto) and playing poorly themselves (never really the players’ faults though) that they can’t possibly hope to play well ever again, even under another structure like Deans’ (which happens to be excellent). All along, it was the bloody Waratahs are screwing it up for the rest of us.

Sorry, but do you know how ridiculous that sounds?

Let me just savour it for a moment. Hmm. Yes. It has strong notes of Warnie blaming mum for taking diuretics, with a background palate of Bulldogs players not yelling at the media, but in fact at each other. But how are the legs? Sadly they are shithouse.

Let’s humour this man for a second. Let’s pretend that the Waratahs do objectively suck, and could never play football after being cursed by donning the sky blue jersey. Could we compare the inept organisation at the Waratahs to, say, what must be a terrible culture at the Lions? This is a team that has hardly competed with other teams, let alone won a game, in Super Rugby since its inception.

Do people blame the Lions for South Africa losing to Australia, or drawing with Argentina? No. But the Saffas sure as hell don’t pick as many Lions’ players as they do Stormers or Bulls.

And yet this current batch of Wallabies is proverbially heaving with Worrytahs, or Horrortahs, or Wobbletahs, or some other terrible pun on the state flower. Why is that?

Well, it’s either they are good players, deserving of playing for the Wallabies, or that the Australian selectors are mistaken in selecting them. Notice how neither of these two reasons involves a problem created by the Waratahs franchise. In fact, one would even involve some kudos for the Tahs, directly contradicting the point that Waratah players can’t catch, pass or run (we all know they can kick).

I know it’s sometimes confusing separating the Waratahs problems from the Wallabies, what with both teams start with the same letter and all, but the jersey is a different colour for one, and the coach of the team in gold is a New Zealander.

There’s just no way we can or we should blame the Tahs for problems that aren’t theirs. For me, it’s “disappointing” that people try to pass the buck of “accountability” onto the younger brother when bigger brother has a shocker, but maybe I shouldn’t comment on that.

My dad has a saying: if it looks like dead rat, and smells like dead rat, then it’s probably dead rat. To me, it looks and smells like there is more than one dead rat, and to pass off two dead rats as one, well, that’s just disrespectful to the other dead rat.

Woeful Australia labour past impressive Irish

The pitiful (or pity-worthy?) Australian cricket team got away with the luckiest of victories against their more fancied Irish opponents on Wednesday. As recently as last week, this pathetic bunch of Antipodeans who change their guernseys as often as their Twitter status were ranked below the Irish side; a side containing the likes of half a dozen County rejects bolstered by some second graders from Sydney Grade cricket.

It wasn’t to be for the Irish, and for all the wrong reasons. Ireland, clearly a class above their Green and Gold opposition, fell victim to some dirty tactics from the Australians. These included bowling deliveries above 130 km/ph, leaving deliveries down the leg side so the umpires (who were probably in the ACB’s back pocket, wink wink, nudge nudge) would give it a “wide,” trying to hit the Irish batsmen in the head with bouncers and hitting bad balls for boundaries. How this blatant cheating and flaunting of the hallowed “Spirit of Cricket” went unnoticed by the match referee, other journalists, Julia Gillard, the NRL Judiciary, referees and David “Giddyup” Gallop, as well as the ICC simply astounds me.

In fact, I believe there will be a Dean Ritchie article in the Telegraph tomorrow talking about how Shayne Hayne and Tony Archer should be fired due to the standard of officiating in this fixture.

Before the match, there was only one question on everyone’s pens. It was not a question of “who would win” but one of “by how much?” The favourites, who donned their lawn green strip for the encounter, were expected to trounce the Aussies by margins previously undreamed of by Twenty20 fanciers. On Twitter loyal Irishman Boyd Rankin boasted that he would open the batting and break Brian Lara’s record of 501* if the Paddy’s won the toss. The Aussies, wearing their sludgy, slimy, envious green simply wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Just like the dirty, sledging Aussie sides of the past, they bullied the innocent Irish into submission. In the end, the response from Ireland was this: “If you want it that bad take it, we will not stoop to such lows for a mere cricket tournament.” I, for one, stood up buck naked in front of my illegal stream, turned to the  open window and screamed praise for the Irish and their morals at the scared and cold looking Norwegians below me. Their chilliness and fear quickly turned to admiration as they gazed upon what God had given me.

“That’s all me,” I yelled at them. They continued to walk, no doubt to tell all their friends and their work colleagues about the Adonis they had just seen on their way to whatever it is that they do. I was already over them, but they will never get over that vision they saw on a sunny Wednesday.

I am also pretty much over this mostly unfounded chat about how bad Australia are at Twenty20. Sure, we’re not the best, probably because we actually care about other forms of cricket. But we’re not deserving of our current ranking. We did come second at the last World Twenty20, and we will probably do better than eighth here.

I have faith.

It’s also a game that levels out the playing field. The shorter the form of cricket, the less emphasis there is on repeating the skills and getting it right every time. Afghanistan pushed India yesterday, and the fact that Ireland even had a chance against Australia  is more due to the number of overs than the ability of their side.

Get real people. Australia could get unlucky and bomb out in the Super 8’s, but we could also take this all the way to the bank.

Hell, with Twenty20, any one of these teams could.

Can we keep cricket from being a sideshow?

When Twenty20 cricket first popped its dyed blonde-haired, blue-eyed, attractive but completely vacuous head up I was totally OK with people not taking it very seriously. Like its human counterpart it was the one you could watch do its thing and enjoy while it lasted, but you never really felt like you owed it anything. You wouldn’t write home about it. You wouldn’t buy it Grange. When it was done you both went home and didn’t think about it again.

I also liked that it had some childish elements, as any fling based purely on lust does. I liked that Punter wore ‘Punter’ on the back of his shirt, and little Pup wore ‘Pup,’ and James Hopes rather bafflingly wore ‘Catfish.’ I liked that blonde, blue eyed, attractive but completely vacuous men and women danced on the stage, gyrating their hips more suggestively than a banker raising his eyebrows to the bottle blonde on a Friday night at Establishment.

I also liked that the old geezers in the commentary box had to try to remember which Usher song Mike Hussey had ‘chosen’ when he walked out to ‘bat.’

It was nice; a sideshow that distracted us, albeit briefly, from the meat and potatoes of test and one-day cricket.

I liked it because Twenty20 wasn’t really that serious back then. There wasn’t really any money in it. It was sort of interesting to see people slap and dash for an hour or two, but that was about the extent of the interest.

‘Hit and giggle,’ some called it. Perhaps rightly.

Sadly, people with money realised it was a hell of a lot more entertaining than the other forms of cricket in the same way Transformers is more entertaining than The Shawshank Redemption.

More robots fighting each other to the death. More weird, overdubbed voices. Not really, but there was more booty-shaking, less standing round saying “jolly good show” and lamenting those who had gone before, and a much, much greater propensity for fireworks and hip-hop music. Between these  last two factors alone, Twenty20 covered just about every singe demographic a twenty-seven-year-old unmarried but definitely looking marketing exec (sex withheld) could name, even the fabricated ones.

Fireworks keep the nerds happy. Hip hop everyone else. These are facts. Don’t like them, see your counsellor.

In amidst all of these bootilicious bodies, big sixes and cricketers wearing shirts that are way too tight for their oft-sloppy rigs, somehow the requirement of actually being able to play cricket was lost.

Remember when Andrew Johns almost lost a game for NSW because being a celebrity was enough to qualify him for the state cricket side? Probably not. But you remember him playing right? Or do you just remember him being in the team?

Apparently he was there to draw the crowds. The only problem was he couldn’t wow them with his banana kick, given that cricket is played with a non-oval ball that is mostly left unkicked unless you happen to be Mark Taylor or just really pissed off. Instead he had to rely on his straight drive. I looked up Joey’s Wikipedia page. There was nothing on there about how good his straight drive was. Or his off-break.

Funnily enough, there is aslo very little about Usain Bolt’s bouncer, aside from the fact that once he got Chris Gayle out when the coolest man in cricket was probably focusing more on swatting away West Indies Cricket Board contracts than Bolt bumpers. C’est la vie.

Similarly, googling Yohan Blake, another Jamaican sprinter, will yield many results about his times, his stride, his battle with Bolt, how he is called “The Beast,” his biceps and other things related to running 100 metres.

It may also reveal that Blake was being courted by the Sydney Sixers cricket franchise, presumably a response to his buddy Bolt being wooed by Melbourne Stars, in particular their captain Shaun Wane.

But nothing about his cricket skill. Cricketers rarely have to run 100 metres.

It’s because Twenty20 trivialised the real skill of the game of cricket, and the attributes vital to being a good cricketer, that we are in this mess. But the marketing execs are not satisfied with making cricket less about skill and more about cheap thrills (The Hip hop’s getting to me). Along with reducing many of the skill and attitude requirements of the game, they even want to put more players who have hardly bowled or struck a ball in anger to go with the Old Codgers currently supplementing their pension with Twenty20 contracts.

Being good at the game, apparently, is no longer essential to being a cricketer.

To me, this stinks. Stop the Blake and Bolt sideshow and let me watch people who can actually play go at it for the three brief hours T20 affords me.

I know Warnie’s going out with Liz Hurley and is is about 100 years old, but the guy can still bowl spin better than any other Aussie.

The old codgers running around with hip replacements I can deal with. Just don’t try to sell me the best players in the world and give me some guys who can dance well and run fast. That’s not what cricket’s about, and it never was.

Keep cricket and cricketers uncool, stay in school.

Respect.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair