Posts Tagged ‘cricket’

Shane Watson’s vice may be his saviour

Shane Watson has been called many things in his injury-riddled career. I have heard him called a pea-heart, a legend, a “sometimes” team man, a little ‘c’, a big ‘c’ (a fact related to me by a rather prominent figure in the Australian cricketing media), a top bloke, a terrible bloke, a Queenslander, a Tasmanian and everything in between.

He’s a divisive figure who, for someone who doesn’t seem to say, and sometimes even do, much, inspires the scribbling and yelling of a lot of words fair and foul. Who am I kidding, mostly foul.

But there’s one attribute that seems to have wriggled through the crammed door of adjectives about Shane Watson to stand proudly on its lonesome, seemingly enshrined as fact by the public: Shane Watson is a selfish cricketer.

The perception is that he relishes playing for himself, his average and for the betterment of his bank balance and reputation. Whether this is fair or not, it seems to just be taken as fact by many punters.

So the elevation of Watson to the position of Australian vice captain didn’t sit well with people who thought that he was a guy who cared more about the angles of his ferociously-gelled spears of hair than the results of an Australian cricket team fighting to remain relevant with the big guns.

After so many years of indomitable characters and out-of-this-world success, the Aussie public had come to expect victory. Victory was wrongly associated with a whole-hearted commitment on the part of the players, and the 1990’s Aussie team had its history rewritten as a unified ball of cricketing godliness, rather than several smaller, once-in-a-generation balls names Warne, McGrath, Waugh, Ponting and Gilchrist.

When results started to worsen, as they tend to when your team doesn’t consist wholly of the best players in the world, people started to ask questions of players’ commitment. And so we have Shane Watson’s predicament.

This isn’t to say that Shane does himself all the favours he could, or is a shining beacon of selflessness ala Peter Siddle. He’s not likely to re-injure himself for the coat of arms.

But people tend to look at you differently when you’re winning. Flaws are puttied up with the Selleys of victory, and the joiners of success lacquer the hell out of that old, decaying timber giving it a pleasant, if thoroughly artificial, gloss.

Unfortunately for the Aussies, there was no structural integrity to the extremely fine looking footstool that was the 1990’s, early 2000’s cricket team, and as all the crucial legs started retiring, citing reasons of getting old, cantankerous and grey, the stool simply fell apart due to the hairy, sweaty feet of public pressure.

If you didn’t understand all those carpentry analogies, neither did I. Basically the Aussie cricket team now ain’t what she used to be, but people’s expectations haven’t changed accordingly.

But back to Shane Watson. He came to the fore during a time when the Aussies had been towelled up by Andrew Flintoff. What’s a strapping, blonde, fast-bowling and hard hitting allrounder to do in a time like this? Be selected for Australia because we want one (a Flintoff)? You betcha!

And so we had our own Flintoff, except his name was Shane.

He was pretty good. Then he got injured.

Then he started to get really good. Then he got injured.

Then he started to play consistently, and really well, scoring lots of runs and even taking some very handy hauls with the ball. He did this at a time when he was at the peak of his physical powers, and had no other role but to go out there, opening the batting, and pound bowlers around the park.

Similarly, he succeeded when he was thrown the ball and told to take wickets. He bowled at the stumps, catching batsmen LBW with late-swinging deliveries. LBW and bowled were his key modes of dismissal; Watson was doing it all himself.

Then we picked him as vice-captain and the runs dried up, and he got injured again so he couldn’t bowl. We moved him all around the order. People started to turn on Shane, blaming him for the failings of a team that isn’t nearly as good as the one ten years ago.

He didn’t look overly compromised as a cricketer. He was never compared to the aesthetic nightmare that is Phil Hughes, for example. Watching Shane Watson never made one want to gouge one’s eyes out with a hot, blunt pot handle.

He still looked good. The complaint was that he was thoroughly unconvincing when he got past the ‘see ball, hit ball’ point of his innings.

Can you see that Shane might have made the connection between the responsibility-free role he enjoyed before he had the vice captaincy run with his own success? This was a time when he was opening the batting every time, given the go-ahead to get out there and do what he willed to the bowlers, and bowling when he was tossed the ball.

It was a simpler time. It was a better time. He only had to focus on his own game; not engaging in cricketing frivolities like fielding positions, batting orders and media conferences about team morale.

Catch ball. Hit ball. Bowl ball. Simple.

Selfish? Maybe. But this formula was the most successful in this very talented individual’s career.

And if Shane Watson starts playing like he did before he was elevated to the vice captaincy, which is not beyond the realms of possibility, then I for one would be a happy Aussie cricket fan. He was our Allan Border Medallist for 2010 and ’11 on the back of a couple of years of domination in all formats.

Sure, he couldn’t quite figure out how to hit a century, but there were more than enough 70’s, 80’s and wickets to make up for it. If giving up the vice captaincy triggers an immediate return to form, then all power to him.

The only problem is that it leaves Australia in a very awkward position of having one guy who should be captain, another who probably should be vice but isn’t, and nine other guys who aren’t guaranteed a spot in the side.

So while Shane may have done the right thing by himself, he’s certainly stumped me about what to do about the vice captaincy.

But it’s an honorary position anyway right? Who really needs a vice captain?

Leadership rumours extend to Aussie cricket team

As the race for the leadership of the country heats up very quickly, then dies just as quickly, rumours were circulating about Mitchell Starc making an eleventh hour stand for Labor leader. Similarly, Simon Crean stood for the captaincy of the Australian cricket XI and for the key role in the latest Milo and Weet-bix ads, thereby ensuring his position as the most powerful person in Australia.

Granted, most of these rumours were started by me, but my job as a blogger is to simply report the facts, no matter how self interested or untrue.

But we have seen a bigger explosion of captaincy candidates in the wake of Michael Clarke maybe possibly (definitely) being out for the fourth Test match than there were Spartacus’s at the great Roman slave’s sentencing.

We’ve seen Ed Cowan, little Ed, the acclaimed scribe of the side, throw up his hand as leadership and captaincy material. Ed says that the more balls he faces the more runs he will score (thus his upcoming autobiography, his fourth, More Balls). But as well as showing off his mathematical skills, he also deigned to say that if he does the little things right, packs his bags on time, wears his sponsors cap at a jaunty angle and complains at the right times to big Uncle Mickey he might have a shade of a shot at having the little ‘c’ next to his name. Just to clarify, though, you don’t need a ‘c’ next to your name to be a leader, says Ed.

Spoken like a true usurper. Remember one week after the ides of March, Pup.

Little Davie Warner, too, a bladesman of some repute, not just due to how he waves it about but also because he’s just as likely to slay 100 foes as fell himself. What precisely David Warner could offer his teammates that Phil Gould couldn’t I have no idea. He could probably tell them that it’s mate versus mate, Commonwealth State versus former Commonwealth State, but beyond that I imagine his tactical nous and off-field diplomacy and speechmaking doesn’t compare to his opening batting partner. Importantly, however, his batting average does, and in a country where all that seems to matter is averages of batting score and tattoos, that might be enough to see Davey get the gig. In fact, it might be worth giving him the job to justify the millions spent on all that media training.

“Look how far we’ve come! Even Dave can present well to the media.”

I kid, of course. Compared to Ed Cowan anyone is made to look like a bumbling baboon, including myself.

And moving right on to the next of the baboons in the queue, scratching their noodles in the hope it will impress someone around the joint. Of course I speak of Shane Watson, the golden-haired, golden-armed, golden-batted golden boy of Australian cricket. It’s a pity his whole body is made of gold and is in constant need of buffing and rebuffing (pun) because otherwise he might be able to do simple things required of a professional sportsman these days like not get injured and be able to scribble ‘three things Shane can do better’ on a piece of napkin.

Then again Shane just had a baby, and that was the sole reason he was in Australia. I’d probably go back home to see my baby be born. After all, your baby’s going to be alive much longer than your cricket career. Unless you’re Sachin Tendulkar of course, who’s been playing cricket for literally as long as I’ve been alive. Scary and weird, scary and weird. Time to give it away Sachin.

It really doesn’t matter who skippers this Test match, does it? We’ve already confirmed that we’ve been flogged in India. Why even play this dead rubber? It can only lead to further humiliation of our boys, and I’m sure the Indians wouldn’t want to see that. They are, after all, humble, loving folks who welcome strange looking Australians to their shores with endless hugs, plates of vegetarian spiced stew and admiration for their captain. And who wouldn’t admire an Australian team captained by Shane Watson. Or Ed Cowan. Or Dave Warner.

All fine people and fine players whose spot in the side is completely and utterly guaranteed by virtue of their indispensable run-making of late.

In fact, let’s go all Port Adelaide on this biz-naz.

11 captains to take the field for the Aussies. You heard it here first.

Dear Sport, sincerely, confused blogger

Dear Sport,

I’ve been watching, reading, listening to and generally just been around you a lot for the past few weeks, and I think it might be time for a break.

Rest assured, it’s not you. It’s me. Well it is you really, but it’s more the effect that your actions have had on me, and so therefore we can sort of pretend that it’s just me being emotional. Right? If not you can go get stuffed.

But before you go all Kanye West on me, I’m actually going to finish what I have to say. Frankly sport, you’re performances recently have been far from the best video, sorry, performances of all time.

I’m confused, Sport. I’m confused both mentally and sexually.

First you tell me that the Melbourne Demons are copping a half a million dollar fine for tanking, but they actually didn’t tank. They just intended to tank, and tanked in a premeditated way, but on the field they actually didn’t tank. That was confusing and just plain linguistically irresponsible Sport. At the time I didn’t know if I could forgive you, but I have and I’ve since moved on.

Then you tell me that the Sharks are in trouble, Sport. You tell me that they’ve contravened some code that no one really seems to know anything about. What’s more, it seems that the people who are supposed to be protected by said code actually don’t care, and just defer to the guy (or girl) with the syringe in some sort of zealous act of faith in club protocol and spirit.

“These people mean me no harm, they’re just doing their best to make sure I’m more hormone than human.” This attitude confuses me, Sport. Why don’t you tell those who play you they’re doing something wrong? Or at least tell the people who have been doing it to come forward and admit they’ve done something wrong. Or maybe those who administered the drugs? Or maybe those who oversaw the systematic cheating of the drug laws to show an ounce of courage and admit they made a mistake?

No? That’s too much to ask for? Well what about the dudes who’ve been on the case of this four two years? Can’t they just come out and tell us whodunnit? No? Even that’s too much to ask for. Well gee, Sport, I thought we were closer than that. I just… don’t really know what to say.

And that wasn’t even the end of it, Sport. Last of all you tell me that cricketers have homework? They actually have to write things down? I don’t know where you come from, Sport, but when I want to get better at something I don’t just sit down and write about it (except for writing, ironically). Surely making them jump through some flaming hoops or running on the heads of man-eating crocodiles would be far more effective for physical specimens like Shane Watson than writing ways that the Aussies can improve in India.

In fact, I actually did Shane Watson’s homework. And James Pattinson’s. I didn’t do Khawaja and Johnson’s homework, I don’t really care for them too much… But here it is! Sorry it’s late:

Score more runs.
Take more wickets.
Field better.

See? All done? Amazing right? Who knew, it just got lost somewhere in the WordPress ether. Can they play in the third Test now, Sport? Pretty please?

Well, if that’s really the attitude you’re going to take, Sport, I don’t really know where this can go.

I just… I just…

I found this funny guy on the web, so I spoke to him

I was trawling around WordPress the other day and happened to stumble upon an extremely hilarious blog. It’s called Stand, Spray and Deliver, and basically is what it says: people showering you with sport, spittle and opinion, and not necessarily in that order.

To that end, I thought I’d contact the bloke who runs that shoddy show.

It’s not often that people as arrogant as myself come across someone they must simply admit is better than them. Of course, this hasn’t happened to me yet, but I did feel that this bloke was on a similar crash course with defamation and infamy, so I decided to get to know its author.

You must understand that I jest, and that this author, whose name just happens to be Dane (a coincidence with precisely nothing), is in fact much more descriptively talented, wordily gifted and analogically crafty than myself.

Whether he be ranting about rugby league’s latte-sippers, or those wretched rugby proles, being cantankerous about cricket or even courageously calling the curling, Dane’s blogs always yield a pant-moisteningly hilarious read.

I went ahead and contacted the chap with his thoughts on the upcoming Test in India, as well as a few sundry issues that I thought he could lend a thought or two on.

Pine Warming Paddy: Dane, it’s lovely to have you with us. What was not so lovely was the shellacking delivered to us by the Indian tweakers and willow-wielders. Do you think that we should blame our toothless Lyon or foolhardy selectors for not capitalising on a reasonable first innings total?

Dane: Being a long-term fan of Australian cricket, I reserve the right to complain about anything to do with the team at any time. In this instance, all parties are in the gun.

Firstly, when I discovered at the toss that the team would be top-heavy with pace, I wanted the selectors spuds on a platter for forgetting about the importance of a pitch inspection prior to play. Seriously, with this kind of ‘intel’, these blokes are becoming as irrelevant as MySpace.

However, my scattergun blowtorch then turned upon the unfortunate Lyon for not being able to plug the nasty flow of MS Dhoni on a spinner’s nirvana. I understand that when the Indian skipper decided to go bonkers that the battle had parallels to the little monkey man fighting on all-fours against the Japanese bear-hugger in Bloodsport. It was a deadset mismatch with only one ribcage that would end up crushed against a flabby torso. But come on Nath, this is the prime reason you are in the team! To take wickets on sand. And you failed.

So in summary. Stuff ’em all for wrecking my weekend.

P: What do you think about the prospect of a return for the prodigal son ‘Big’ Mitch Johnson? Would we profit from picking a left-arm slinger, or would we be better served putting his Test career to bed, for good?

D: I know I risk wearing a jacket of rotten produce from the haters by saying this, but frankly I’m too honest for my own good, plus I would love some tomato for my toast right now.

Mitch Johnson- maligned, despised, mollycoddled and dermatologically defaced- is the kind of volatile force the attack needs to put some mud in the strides of the Indian bats, so I reckon it’s time to deploy the bastard. Sure, we may lose on a record haul of sundries, or his mother may again surface, but what do we have to lose?

Give Mitchell Starc a rest. He dished up first-class waste in the first Test, so replacing him with Johnson is a perfect like-for-like swap.

P: David Warner’s a guy who divides opinion. Some say he’s an eastern suburbs nancy-boy who can only go the tonk, while others put him up there among the best prospects we’ve seen in years. What do you think of old ‘one thumb’ Warner? Two thumbs up, or one horrifically mutilated thumb down?

D: Firstly, I have been made aware this morning that Warner is suffering from food poisoning thanks to Peter Siddle’s vegetable stir-fry. Let this be a lesson to any cerebrally challenged plodder out there who is considering vegetarianism that this is a dangerously evil ideology that should be avoided at all costs if you enjoy such luxuries as prolonged health. Stumps on that rant.

As for Thumbellina’s cricketing abilities, he again is one of the small windows of advantage the team holds, so I believe he needs to be perservered with. We need quick runs when they’re on offer as 90% of the rest of the batting order have shown minimal impetus so far, so if Dave can clock a quick 50 then I consider this far better than a watchful and snoozy 15 from 1000 that any replacement would produce.

Plus he’s a Roosters man. Case closed.

P: All the talk recently is about where people should bat, as if we already know who should be in the team. What stock do you place in batting positions? Should we move captain Clarke and Watto up, and drop others down? Or does it not matter a rotten quince?

D: Maths is not my strong point, and in my youth my abacus and calculator were most often used in building transmitters to communicate with extra-terrestrial life forms and not for crunching data. Hence my lack of decayed quinces given at this point in time with the manouevering of numbers in the batting pecking order. Sure, Clarke would probably be better served saving our arses earlier in the piece, but he says he likes spot five, so who am I to suggest the bottle should be taken from the baby?

If I had my way, he would be at four, Watson would open and Georgie Gardiner would be on the telly a lot more often.

A LOT more.

P: Moving away from cricket briefly, and I’d like to ask about the Sydney Roosters who I hear are a bit of a favourite of yours. Is the recruitment of OMG, I mean Money Bill, I mean $onny, I mean Sonny William Williams, the change the club needed to nab another premiership?

D: I don’t know if its trophy time, but I will say this. If any fisticuffs break out, the feather shall rule with an iron fist. Of feathers.

With Bill leading from the front and Luke ‘Cranky Pops’ O’Donnell firmly in toe, there could be a side order of knuckle sandwiches to be served with fine eastern suburbs coffee in 2013.

Of course, those sandwiches would be made with organic dutch ciabatta bread, none of this bogan Buttercup white shit.

P: Finally, new NRL CEO Dave Smith doesn’t know his Ben’s from his Benji’s. Should he be bent over and told where to go? Or should we persevere with the money man from Wales?

D: Thanks CEO Darren, with that blunder, you’ve proven that Australian Rugby league administration is still shining brightly! You’re fitting in nicely already.

Unfortunately, rugby league is still a game with blue collar roots that is trying its hardest to cross into the universe of being a glitzy marquee football competition. The top brass lurches from one cock-up to the next, while the game still maintains soaring levels of popularity. Personally, I couldn’t give another quince about the CEO’s background as long as he knows the basics, steers clear of John Ibrahim and gets the game financially secure. So Darren, if your Welsh accent is adept at offloading shitloads of raffle tickets, then you have my blessing old son.

Otherwise, piss off to the A-League.

If you want to follow Dane’s gear, I reckon go to his website by clicking this funny coloured text, and press the follow button in the top right corner (feel free to click my follow button too).

Or you can follow him on Twitter @PlayUp_Roosters. I’m @WarmingthePine if you didn’t know already.

Things you mightn’t know about the Test match in India (clue: it’s happening now)

As a pseudo-journalist-blogger-non-personality, I feel morally compelled to shed some light about what’s going on over in India for all of you who don’t have access to Foxtel or the internet. Realistically, then, I’m targeting a demographic of precisely no one, so I welcome you, no one, to this humble blog.

While I won’t be rubbishing on about the BCCI yada-yada I’ve been pestering none of you with for the past little while, I will be throwing you a few clues about what to look for that was of interest in the last few days.

Firstly, if any of you have been reading the papers in the past few days, you might have realised that there’s something slightly amiss about the images being used by both News and Fairfax. If you look here, and maybe here, and here, you might find some visual curiosities that don’t usually grace the sports pages. For those who were curious, yes, these also featured in the print versions of these illustrious media titans.

Hilarious recreations, I agree, and a cunning method of bypassing pesky issues around access to images. Of course, the old Test Match board, glue and printer would have never needed to be broken out had someone in India pressed the “Yes” key. But we all know that it’s water under the bridge, and it’s certainly given me a bit of a chuckle. Long may it continue.

Moving onto the game, where we were greeted with a pitch that had been the centre-wicket practice strip for the Chennai Challengers for every minute of every day in the lead-up to the Test. As such, we saw more purchase on day one from the Indian spinners than Eddie Obeid at a South West tablelands auction.

A metre of turn in the first hour of play meant, predictably, that quickies Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were rendered specialist fielders.

You have to feel for Kumar; graciously given the great honour of representing his country for the first time, before being told to stand at deep point and prevent twos for six hours straight, then for a further two hours the next day. It probably wasn’t the romantic ideal he had envisioned when he decided to be a bowler of above 100km/h twenty years ago. Them’s the brakes in India, fortunately or no.

Furthermore, Mahendra Singh Dhoni made everyone else, but in particular the Australian bowlers, look like fools (Pattinson), damn fools (Siddle, Starc and Henriques) and whatever is below a damn fool (le spinners). Before MS came to the wicket I still held fleeting hope that our boys might dismiss the Indians without too much of a lead. One double century of depositing all bowlers over the pickets later, and it’s safe to say my hopes were somewhat dashed.

Now, watching Shane Watson lob a tame catch to Sehwag walking two steps to his right from slip, my hopes of an Aussie anything are fading faster than Bradley Cooper’s hopes of an Oscar victory. Daniel Day-Lewis and India have these two wrapped up nice and tight.

One the plus side, Tendulkar managed to get himself bowled again! He has to stop making this so easy for me!

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?

What Australian dopers should learn from Lance Armstrong

I noticed in Peter FitzSimons’ column in the Sydney Morning Herald today he refers to Lance Armstrong as “the most infamous drug cheat in international sporting history.”

Now we all know Peter has never really gone soft on Lance, but his unrestrained appraisals of the former cycling champ have most definitely been ratified by the evidence. FitzSimons jocular surprise of the comparison of Lance’s systematic approach to doping his entire US Postal (among others) cycling team to the bombshell that was dropped yesterday about systematic doping, corruption and the potential for match-fixing in Australian sport is also worthy of note, insinuating he suspected a seedy underbelly to the glitz, glamour and nasal accents of Australian sport too.

Whatever we make of his timing and judgement is irrelevant. What is worthy of note is that he picked up on the Justice minister Jason Clare’s comparison to Lance’s doping efforts. The most interesting question that this raises in my eyes, however, is simply “how low does it go?” but rather one of “what can athletes learn from the bad man Lance?”

Appropriate to his crime, Lance is a fallen angel, a veritable Azmodeus in today’s sporting landscape; an example not to follow. But also, in my view, an example to be learned from. For every drug cheat that is caught and sanctioned, lessons must be learned and action must be taken. This applies not only to the people investigating and testing for the crimes (used in a loose sense), but also those loading up their veins, and stomachs, and whatever else, with the gear.

Lance Armstrong could and would have saved himself months of ignominy had he only fronted up, fessed up, told the truth and got that monkey, that cost him so much of his life and so much of what he could have had, off his back. Imagine the weight that would have been lifted off his shoulders when he uttered those words to Oprah. All the years of bickering, fighting, lawsuits and lying to yourself and everyone else, gone. Of course in Lance’s case it was replaced by yet more bickering and yet more lawsuits, but that was for one reason and one reason only:

He didn’t tell us the truth in the first place!

Had he done that, we wouldn’t have had to watch Oprah at all, and we all would have known years ago that Lance was as drugged and dirty as a pillhead sleeping in a Kings Cross dumpster. At least the pillhead, acknowledging he went too far, can go home and have a shower. But when you sleep in a dumpster for too long, the smell doesn’t come off so quickly. You could say the monkey on Lance’s back quickly grew into an Orang-utan, and was the size of a Silverback Gorilla by the time he actually told Oprah what he really did to be the best.

"If you did cheat, the silverback Gorilla will find you. He will hunt you down and kill you," said Sports minister Kate Lundy yesterday. Or something like that

“If you did cheat, the silverback Gorilla will find you. He will hunt you down and kill you,” said Sports minister Kate Lundy yesterday. Or something like that

So what are you getting at, Patrick? What’s with all this bullshit about people taking ecstasy and EPO and performance enhancing drugs (PEDs?) and PIEDS and whatever other acronyms we can think of?

Well, I humbly submit to those who have knowingly, unknowingly, or partially knowingly participated in this nastiness come forward and save yourself the persecution; because the lesson to learn from the biggest story ever about drugs in sport is that the longer you wait, the worse it gets.

You can hold on and not get caught, but look at what happened to those who do come forward.

Tyler Hamilton, who in his peak had more growth hormone pumping around him than a 15 year-old boy sired by Luke Longley and Lauren Jackson, now champions the cause for a cleaner sport of cycling and was a key witness in exposing Armstrong’s cheating. You might even say he was a fallen angel who finally returned back to the right side. People seem to like Tyler, respect his courage and place less weight on his cheating as a result of his confession.

Now whether we should judge Tyler less harshly because he came forward is another thing altogether, but so far that seems to be the trend. The Sports Minister, Kate Lundy, said it yesterday:

“I say to those athletes – ‘Come forward… come clean and be part of the solution, not part of an ongoing problem.’ I would think they should do it as soon as possible… investigations are already under way, so it is possible for people to come forward now.”

Sound advice, I would think.

The minister also mentioned the possibility of reduced sanctions and the potential for leniency for confessors. It’s more than they deserve, but it may prompt people into considering it.

So come forth, those who sought to gain advantage by illicit means. For the good of Australian sport, come forth, and unsully those veins. The law will welcome you with open arms and (possibly) reduce your sentence.

You mightn’t deserve it, but if you do manage to grow some balls back (it might take some time) it’ll save you a whole lot of pain.

The perpetual seesaw of sports opinion

As a sports fan, do you ever fancy yourself to predict exactly what the headlines from the columnists are going to be after a game of cricket, rugby or whatever your chosen sport is? I know I do, and I’m quite bored with being able to do that, to be honest.

I think the problem strings from making a holistic argument based an individual fixture. Of course some sports lend themselves to this sort of thing more than others. Cricket is the ultimate example of this unique genre, as a quick gaze at the scoresheet will tell you everything you ever needed to know about the fixture.

“Johnson took 2/57 and only scored 8 in a One-dayer? Well, that’s far below his average and is an unacceptable economy, therefore he must have performed poorly.”

Article done, 800 words written, $800 made.

Tennis is another sport that fits into the genre, and we have seen a great example of this play out recently. Until he started doing well in the Sydney International, as far as I was aware, Tomic wasn’t fit to tie Pat Rafter’s shoes. Funny, though, as soon as he wins his maiden ATP victory, how he instantly becomes a reformed twit, reforming his body and his mind to become the consummate professional. A week ago he was telling Pat Rafter to shove it, and a year ago he thought the po-po were jealous of him.

The police aren’t jealous of you Bernard, not even now you’ve won your first title.

But don’t tell sports opinion columnists that.

It’s not their fault, and I’m not saying they suck or the Australian sports journalistic landscape might as well resemble the start of my S bend or anything like that. What I am saying, nay asking, is why we have to have such knee jerk reactions to every single fixture?

If the Wallabies win a game against England, they’re back, baby! Just as good as they were in the glory days. But, God forbid, should they lose to Samoa, well, then they’re literally the worst thing that ever happened in the universe, ever. No, no, no, don’t tell me they’re not! They lost to Samoa. It’s there, right on the page.

It either speaks to a lack of perspective in our writers or, more likely, a lack of willingness to make an argument in spite of the most recent result (singular).

One loss doesn’t make the Wallabies a bad team.

Mitchell Johnson didn’t become out of form between Melbourne and Sydney, nor did he become in form between innings in Sydney.

Bernard Tomic didn’t stop being himself because he won a tournament. That’s not to say we should all swallow the story about Bernard being an arrogant prick (see: last year’s worth of Bernard Tomic stories) as that mightn’t be true either.

No, I think we should be able to make an argument that is not necessarily backed up by the last match’s statistics, but is backed up by the stats from the one before, and the one before, and the one before.

First serve statistics are important.

First serve statistics are important.

For those of you who are philosophically inclined, you might be aware that this kind of thing is called inductive reasoning. Too often we are caught out pretending deductive reasoning (making a conclusion that necessarily [in a philosophical sense of the word] follows from the premises) will fly in sports opinion articles.

A classic example of this: Steve Smith bowls legspin, like Shane Warne. Steve Smith is blonde, like Shane Warne. Steve Smith bats with aggression, and can score hundreds, like a good batsman. Steve Smith is a good fielder, like Michael Clarke. Therefore, Steve Smith is the perfect cricketer.

I think this example clearly illustrates the failure of deductive reasoning as it applies to sport.

Rather, we should go on results not just from yesterday, but from a whole bunch of days before yesterday, as well as yesterday; identify meaningful trends and correlations and then make our arguments from there.

And more that that, too. We should actually watch games and make an informed statement on them. Analyse them. How did this bowler bowl? Was he unlucky? Was Nadal a bit flat that day? Or was he on fire?

These things are much more informative that saying: “Well this guy got 3/41 so get him in the Test side!” That’s what got Trent Copeland in the Test team, and, unfortunately for Trent, I doubt he’s coming back anytime soon.

Sport, for me, is more about emotion, flow and feel than it will ever be about statistics, even in the statistical giants Tennis and Cricket.

Tell me about the flow, about the feeling, about how a guy looked to be bowing, not just how many batsmen he got out, but also how he troubled them, how many he worried, how many he hurt. Tell me if Roger Federer looked vulnerable in what seemed like an easy three setter. And for peat’s sake can we stop thinking the world tilts on its axis every time a player has a good or bad game.

Finally, almost worthy of a blog in and of itself, can people stop calling Pat Cummins “Cummings.” It’s unbecoming (get it?) and so, so wrong.

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.

A brief note on a travesty

I know the title above is sadly reminiscent of a word overused by the mainstream media, but I felt it was one of the only apt words to use in lieu of “disgrace.” I’ve never been a fan of either really, but I feel strongly about the topic I am about to write about.

I am similarly passionate about the fact that many of the things people in the media describe as a “disgrace” or a “travesty” are absolutely not these things, so I suppose this thing fits in the same boat.

But both words do make for a catchy headline.

There was a “cricket game” (used in the loosest possible sense. The loosest) played between the Perth Scorchers and Brisbane Heat recently where the chasing side were given 5 overs to chase down a Duckworth-Lewis-revised total of 51. Leaving aside the fact that the Scorchers and Heat are newly contrived and pseudo-real franchises playing a massively dumbed down version of our sport for a moment, I think this is a move in an utterly wrong direction for the game.

Many people have complained and continue to complain that Twenty20 isn’t real cricket. I think it is cricket, but it has stripped it down to the last bastion: twenty overs is my limit. Any less and it ceases to mean anything and becomes just a form of slightly more nuanced baseball.

In this match, Nathan Coulter-Nile was awarded man of the match for his “match winning innings.” I’ve seen many match winning innings in my time. Michael Clarke’s treble in Sydney last year was a cracker. AB De Villiers in Perth this year wasn’t half bad. Tendulkar played a few in his time if I recall correctly. But Nathan Coulter-Nile’s was not a match winning innings.

He amassed a total of 23 runs from six balls. I will admit that it was this innings that won the match, but it was not a match winning innings.

To label it so is simply disingenuous and denigrates the notion of the match winning innings as something that is constructed, crafted, worked for and earned, like a sculpture. Not something that is blasted with a stick of dynamite and called a sculpture. No, Coulter-Nile’s innings was a cameo by anyone’s standards.

But maybe Twenty20 and cricket are moving the way of modern art. Stick a mirror on the wall and call it art, and have a meaningless explanation to justify it. The Big Bash League is Cricket Australia’s meaningless explanation, and their mirror is chasing 50 runs in five overs. Pointless and moot long ago? Entirely.

Which seems like a right shame to me, because cricket has so much more to offer the keen-eyed observer. The cheap thrills of 23 off 6 don’t compare to a restrained hundred from a naturally aggressive (born of the Twenty20 era) player like David Warner on a green top in Hobart last year. They don’t compare to a double from an under pressure Ricky Ponting against India. They don’t compare to three painstakingly compiled hundreds earned at a strike rate of 33 by Alastair Cook in the infancy of his captaincy career.

No, Coulter-Nile’s innings, and this game, shall not take pride of place, nor any place in the pantheon of cricket memory. It, along with the game it rode on the back of will be tossed out with the nonchalance with which he struck four boundaries off Dan Christian. It doesn’t, and never will matter.

That’s not to say Twenty20 is meaningless. But when Messrs Duckworth and Lewis’ method has been so bastardised as to try to achieve a result within five overs, there is too much contingency, too much plain dumbness, that the resulting game should no longer be called cricket.

It you can’t complete twenty overs, don’t finish the game. Call it off due to rain as cricket has done for 150 years. It’s not worth sacrificing a game with more soul than any of the others for the sake of a result in a meaningless competition. And if the administrators do feel the need to attain a result, then don’t call it cricket.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair