Posts Tagged ‘England’

What did I miss?

What the hell, man!

I duck off to Florence for a few days, eat some delicious food and see some very pretty townscapes and Michaelangelos, and come back to home base thinking nothing will have changed.

In that time, Ricky Ponting, one of Australia’s best cricketers ever, decided that he can’t be bothered sifting through “Ten reasons why Punter should retire” articles anymore, David Campese tweeted that he dislikes female rugby journalists, the entire Aussie pace battery went flat (I’ll never get sick of pace battery puns), Israel Folau told Parramatta to shove it and England beat the All Blacks.

Has the entire world fallen in on itself, or does the sporting news cycle just move that quickly?

To think, while I was eating bolognese in Bologna and Eggs Florentine in Florence (lie, never even saw it on a menu) Kurtley was running in a match winner against Wales and The Blecks (phonetic) were being put to the sword by an English team relieved not to be wearing red-wine-spew maroon.

Florence, in case travel and not sport is your thing

Florence, in case travel, and not sport, is your thing

When I left, just four days prior, Siddle and Hilfenhaus had bowled the house down in an effort to dismiss the Proteas on the last day in Adelaide, and both were recovering in an attempt to be fit for Perth. “Apart from a few callouses and some sore joints, how bad can their afflictions be?” I thought to myself.

Apparently bad enough to not recover in time to bowl on a bowler-friendly WACA track. So today we saw Mitchells Johnson and Starc leading the attack, with John Hastings about as conspicuous as James Pattinson was on the last day in Adelaide.

As a side note, here is an interesting factual/statistical development. I am informed by Brydon Coverdale (the cricinfo guy) on Twitter that Peter Siddle bowled 383 balls in Adelaide, and Ben Hilfenhaus 321. People called the effort Herculean, monumental, worthy of utmost praise. It also seemed like it made a whole Test rest a necessity (in what is a rather important game). Coverdale goes on to note that Dennis Lillee, that hairy-chested, open-shirted fast bowler of yesteryear, bowled 535 deliveries against Pakistan in 1976, and played the next Test with only a two day break.

I’m not calling anyone soft. Brydon Coverdale is.

The Wallabies, meanwhile, bored Wales silly before Kurtley Beale decided to win the game after one of the rather more brilliant pieces of rugby this season. Imagine if the Wallabies played like that for eighty minutes instead of two. The nation would cease activity for two hours every week and sit transfixed on couches, bar stools and stadium seats. But enough rugby scribes lament the Wallabies, so let’s try to be positive.

They did bounce back after losing to France to win three on the trot and make sure they’re ranked in the top four. Right guys? Right?

The Aussie cricket team are on the verge of losing in Perth, despite the fact another favourite of mine, Mitchell Johnson, is playing. He’s the guy no one thought could bowl a cricket ball without the universe exploding. I’ll admit that I only watched the last half of day three, but in the time I did watch he looked good. Mitchell Starc looked good too, but if we’re being realistic it was Johnson who bowled better, whatever the wickets column might read.

Campo did a bit of a silly thing too, saying that the “girl” who was covering the Wallabies wasn’t fit to sweep up trimmings from Greg Growden’s barber’s floor. The only good thing to come out of it was that most people, and by no means all people, seem to agree that Campo came out of it looking backwards and silly. It was nice to see David Pocock read it this way, anyway.

So basically, the moral of the story is to never go on holiday and to keep on top of sports news at all costs, lest you miss blogging opportunities.

PS I’m going to Munich tomorrow. When I get back Quade Cooper and Sonny Bill will be signed for Real Madrid (fight clauses and all), John Hastings will have scored a triple ton to silence the ‘haters’ and Nathan Hindmarsh will be making a comeback as a professional curler.

The wheels keep turning, no matter how many Chianti Classicos or Weissbiers you drink.

Such is life. Such is sport.

The bolognese in Bologna was delicious.

Tagiiatelli al ragù. It's Italian

Tagiiatelli al ragù. It’s Italian

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.

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