Posts Tagged ‘ICC World Twenty20 2012’

Belittling people who make stupid predictions about things they don’t fully understand

It would appear to be the case that, contrary to popular belief, Australians actually can play Twenty20 cricket.

A shocking trend has emerged in the last month, whereby Australian cricket sides playing against other teams, also of the cricketing variety, have been defeating them consistently in the twenty over format. And I’m not talking shortened, Duckworth-Lewis tainted One Day International fixtures, which Australia has always been good at. I’m talking bonafide, booty shaking, nicknamed jersey wearing, firework-abusing T20 fixtures.

About a month ago people weren’t even sure Aussies could even beat an Irish side that sported such household names as Kevin and Niall O’Brien as the gun bats, Trent Johnston being the jack-of-all-trades and master of none, and Boyd Rankin headlining a pace attack that doesn’t even have to book a table at Noma, such is there fame in Scandinavia.

I kid, of course.

Cricketing purists may convince themselves that Rankin is up there with Dale Steyn when it comes to instilling fear into the hearts of even the most stoic bladesmen, and that Niall O’Brien is rated as the purest striker of the cricket ball since Garfield Sobers last wielded the willow.

But anyone who successfully convinces me that Trent Johnston is actually Irish, and is not just a first grader who couldn’t crack an Aussie state side, will earn my respect and a bag of Jordnøtter (salted peanuts).

It worried Aussie cricket pundits, a word I will revisit momentarily, that we were ranked tenth in the world in the second shortest format of the game (the Hong Kong sixes takes that cake, and eats it in record time).

Let me say that it should not have, and the fact that these people still consider themselves pundits and deign to show their faces on our television screens and lend their voices to nerdy cricketing podcasts is shameful. Did they seriously think we were worse than Ireland?

Well, the result in the ICC World Twenty20 was an undefeated run through our pool, a walloping of the Indians and the Saffas, a loss to Pakistan and their myriad of highly questionable (that one’s for you Inverarity) doosra exponents, followed by a booting from a talented and mercurial West Indies oufit who would have beaten a team of roided-up Barry Bonds/Ellyse Perry lovechildren.

I would go as far to say that even if said lovechildren had been brought up in a Brave New World, Yao Ming-esque style specifically for the purpose of defeating that West Indian team on that day, they still would have lost.

In the end, I felt like the Aussies were the best in the comp. Sure, they were something of a one man team, with Shane Watson topping every imaginable stat ever invented except for “Most Gangnam-Style dance routines” which was snapped up by Pommy Mbangwa, with an honourable mention to Darren Sammy and his men for their baffling outbreaks of Saturday night fever every time a wicket was taken.

After the ICC thing, we came to an even more meaningless tournament, the Champions League T20, pitting the best from each top tier nation against one another in a T20 battle royale.

The Scorchers sucked, sure, but we all know now that was only because Perth doesn’t have pubs and the boys from Western Australia couldn’t resist sucking the taps dry each night.

The Sixers, from Sydney, soon to be the new small bar capital of the world I’ll have you know, absolutely crushed any resistance put in front of them. A bunch of home grown cricket exponents (and Shane Watson for half the tournament) put each and every team they played to the sword.

Their closest run thing was against the Titans in the semi final, where some good batting from Steve O’Keefe, Ben Rohrer and some fine finishing from prodigy Pat Cummins got them over the line off the final ball.

Aside from that one seesawing game, the Sixers crushed everyone else. The final agains the Lions was won in a canter, despite the home advantage. And the group play? Don’t get me started on that foregone conclusion. The Sixers could have played with blindfolds on against the Mumbai “not so Indian” Indians (feat. Doug Bollinger), their strongest opposition, and still taken home the biscuits.

It seems like the recent latest incarnations of Australian Twenty20 teams mustn’t have gotten the memo. I was emailed a copy of this memo by an anonymous human recently, so here it is for your perusal:

I know this may come as a shock you, but we’ve decided that Australia is not good at Twenty20 cricket. In no way is this grounded in fact, based on half truths, or even sourced from pseudo-experts. No. We have decided this to be case for no reason whatsoever. Play your cricket accordingly, and move along.

— End Transmission —

It’s been nice to see Aussies winning. It makes me happy. Goodnight everyone.

I said they would win! Give me chocolates!

An innings of character in a Twenty20 match? I might be going a bit batty… All this sideshow, Korean dancing by men from Jamaica, fireworks, bands playing from go-to-whoa must be beginning to have work its way into my brain. Like that black stuff from Spiderman 3. Terrible movie.

Marlon Samuels played a lone innings on Sunday in the World Twenty20 final. 78 from 56 proved to be enough to get the West Indies over the line. Well, that and 20 marvellous (thanks Ritchie) overs from the Windies bowlers, in particular a jaffa from Ravi Rampaul and Sunil Narine’s always immaculate mystery spin.

But before I go onto to talk more cricket, I will first address some housekeeping. I know I’ve been talking a lot about this weird World Twenty20 thing that no one’s been watching, but you must understand it is me grasping at relevance. This is something that was going on until yesterday, and I thought people might be interested in it. At journalism school, which I attended at some point in my life, they taught us that currency is everything in the media. I didn’t understand at first, but when I started reading all this stuff about Alan Jones and “cash for comment” I finally understood.

One friend of mine, the one with the terrible golf swing for those who want to go lynch him, even suggested that I write about Wife Carrying, which I subsequently googled and found that it is a sport of my newly native Scandinavia. Finland was the birthplace, and though I could now regale you about the ins and outs of the correct carrying style for the Estonian method, there haven’t been any Wife Carrying championships recently, so my google hits will go down if I suddenly tag a post with stuff about Alexy Kopshoratov of Russia who carried his barely legal 49.1 kilogram wife over the 253.5 metre course in the shortest time ever recorded, while drinking half a dozen beers along the way. Or maybe my hits will go up? I’m tagging it just in case.

Cricket, however, remains the focus of this post. Sorry to disappoint.

In my previous post I warned the Windies against letting me down and losing in the final, lest they feel my wrath. When they were 2/32 halfway through their 20 overs I was ready to let Mahela hoist the trophy then and there. As it turns out, unlike the Aussies, the boys who bleed maroon did not have a rule instated whereby only their top three were allowed to score a significant proportion of the runs, and the middle and lower order are allowed to contribute too.

This seems like a reasonable enough step to me, and here’s why. See, when Australia decided upon this strategy, it meant that if their top three got out quickly without scoring absurd amounts of runs that could never be chased down, they lost the game straight away. Not literally, as in they didn’t stop playing. But once the Huss was out of there Bailey and co would shut up shop, not bothering to score. It wasn’t their job, you see.

The West Indies, not having self-applied this limitation on their side, instead applied a motto of “One people, one team, one goal,” which meant they could still win the game even when their top order failed. A cunning plan implemented by the shrewdest of strategists Darren Sammy.

With all the sarcasm aside for a moment, however, Sammy did prove his value to the side which apparently was in question. Having followed his performances fairly closely since he became captain, his mediums, while gentle, have been a more regular source of wickets than most of their more fiery quicks at all levels of cricket. His batting has definitely outshone some of his younger, “more talented” top order compatriots. Where these critics get their right to question the guy who has been one of the Windies best for the past couple of years is beyond me.

Samuels came in at three and played a gem, including a six that would rival the one Brett Lee hit at the Gabba. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. He was ably assisted by Dwayne Bravo (scored runs batting at four, gasp) and a late flurry from aforementioned tactition Sammy, who tactically dispatched all and sundry balls in his vicinity for twos and fours in his strategic slogging of the Sri Lankan closers. This ensured a competitive total of near 140. Pretty good going when your openers don’t work out for you. Hint hint.

Then the bowlers got to work. Rampaul cleaned Dilshan up first rock, with a jaffa that no one except The Wall (that’s me, GDCC players will attest. Rahul Dravid lost that title after being bowled a hundred consecutive times or whatever it was) would have been able to keep out. It was one of those moments where you yell “Ooooooooooohhhhhhhh” and get up and shake around violently while your girlfriend eyes you skeptically from across the room because you’ve done this a couple of times already today and you’re watching the cricket with no beer and you’re wearing headphones like a weirdo. I did a very similar thing with the Samuels six in case you were curious.

Loud exclamation. Move around on the couch a bit. Girlfriend shakes head, keeps studying.

2 for 6 from 2 overs pretty much summed up Sammy’s performance with the ball; they couldn’t get him away even for singles, and when they attempted it they got out. Try as they might, the Sri Lankans couldn’t get any rhythm on the slow and dusty surface. Even the two titans, Mahela and Sangakkara, though they looked the most assured, couldn’t find the boundary with any regularity.

And Narine. Well. People just have no idea how to play him. I hope his Test cricket is played with just as much spirit as his Twenty20, because he could be one of the best bowlers going around in all formats pretty soon.

Come to think of it, the same could be said of the whole team. This is a good side, especially when it comes to batting. If they can find a way to take 20 wickets over five days, and with Narine and Bravo back they might have a greater chance, there’s really nothing stopping these Calypso kings from causing some serious upsets and begin their climb back up the ranking ladder.

I really hope this happens, because as Sammy said in the post match press conference, the West Indians know how to party. And God knows I love watching them partying when they win (I’m a big proponent of Gangnam Style, and all things Psy related), so maybe they could make a habit of this?

Second shameless use of Gangnam Style related celebrations on this blog in two days.

Please Mr Gayle, can we have some more?

It’s hard to be harsh on a bunch of guys that just had the life belted out of them by several tall, muscular West Indian men with cricket bats. Lord knows we’ve all been there.

But by gee those West Indian fellas can bat. Chris Gayle, not given any credit in the attitude stakes by a media who think he’s too cool for school, showed he can mix Gangnam with grit and grind out an innings. And by “grind out” I mean tally 75 not out from 41 deliveries, a score, by human standards, that is attained by slogging from the hip from ball one. The commentators still thought it was a subdued innings.

Terms like “professional” and “mature,” words not usually associated with the bash ’em, crash ’em (both on the field and in contract disputes), Chris Gayle were bandied about like tootsie rolls at a piñata party. And by the looks, the white cherry must have looked as big as a piñata to CH Gayle, and he wasn’t wearing a blindfold, just a do-rag.

9 out of 10 surveyed thought “Gangnam Style” was by Chris Gayle

The real reason people thought he was not scoring as much as usual was simply because he only faced a third of the deliveries available in the innings, despite batting the entire 20 overs. Had he faced twenty more balls there would have been nothing to stop him tonning up.

In the face of this utter bullying of their bowling by these behemoths in maroon, the Aussies looked like kids in the backyard playing against their older brothers. There simply was no chance. When guys like that decide that it’s time to step up, they do it, and there is nothing, even clawing at bigger brother’s eyes, that little brother can do about it.

These Aussies, who had bullied every other side (except Pakistan) into submission, turned into the bullied. They looked physically small. Shane Watson appeared physically dominated against the hulking figures he was playing. And that’s not to say that guile wasn’t part of the Windies plan. He succumbed, just as he did against Pakistan, to a slider from Badree as he attempted to pull off his overly-favoured deep in the crease pull shot.

When Mike Hussey was dismissed by Marlon Samuels, the contrast could not have been more stark. Samuels, in his shirt that could barely contain his bulging muscles, kicked the ball away and yelled ferociously while Hussey looked down in despair. There was nothing that could be done. Big brother had decided to play serious and needed to whoop little brother’s tiny ass.

For my own sanity’s sake I hope the same West Indies side shows up for the final. I hope Gayle knocks those ‘Lankan bowlers around with the ease he did the Aussies, because on that form no bowler that has ever played the game could bowl to those batsmen.

The slightest error in length or line was punished to the greatest possible degree. Late in the innings Henry Gayle flicked an almost perfect yorker past mid-wicket for four. I almost stopped watching, but it too addictive. It was like reading a Stieg Larsson novel: you know it’s not improving you intellectually, in fact it’s probably making you stupider, but my, the way it’s all put together, well, that’s just fine. Despite the fact they were sinking the team I support, six by six, it was too aesthetically pleasing to stop.

It was some sort of cricket drug, and I want more.

I want more K-Pop inspired dance moves. I want ridiculous, over the top celebrations. I want to see those big dudes absolutely crush the Sri Lankans this Sunday.

Because when it comes down to it, West Indians are more fun to watch than any other team in the world for whatever reason. It’s their time to win and win big, and it’s our time to enjoy the ride.

Watson looking hot for the title – Aussies tag along

Sorry about the cricket glut people, but you know what you’re getting yourself into when you click on a webpage that has a still of Andrew Symonds absolutely dominating a streaker.

What are you getting precisely? Well, more or less a random assortment  of sporting thoughts at my whim. Don’t like it? Then go read somewhere else (note: please don’t read somewhere else, you’re all I’ve got)

But mostly it’s just because I’ve run out of ideas. There. Onto the blogging.

I spoke to a dear friend of mine the other day about the ICC World Twenty20, which I am thoroughly enjoying at the minute. Some of you more avid followers (both of you) might know this dear friend as Diablo. Diablo told me that he couldn’t give two hoots about the World T20. Being a newly deflowered viewer of illicit Indian streams I thought he was crazy. Both on these streams and on Twitter people were going mental for this thing. It’s trending every time there is a game on.

Yeah, I just got Twitter, the gateway to lazy journalistic practices and me becoming a narcissistic Generation Me’er, whatever that is. Follow me @WarmingthePine.

I do promise you one thing though, I will never, ever, quote Twitter if I am attempting to break a story. News might be made on Twitter these days but how lazy do you have to be to control-C someone’s 140-character-or-less internetings and call it a news story? Gets me all worked up in my pant region.

Also know that I am a reluctant user of hashtags, and find them a reprehensible but necessary evil.

Anyway, so my friend said not many people are watching the World T20 because of Nine’s terrible coverage and generally a lack of promotion and interest. I suspect my friends with Foxtel and without a hole in one to their name might have been more interesting to talk to on this subject. Diablo is horrifyingly uninteresting to talk to at the best to times.

For all those who don’t know, Australia qualified first in their Super eight group with a couple of absolutely crushing displays against India and South Africa. Or should I say, Shane Watson qualified Australia first in their Super eight group, because at this stage the Aussie T20’ers are a bigger one man team than Newcastle Knights circa 2005. God forbid if Shane Watson were as injury prone as the latest Rugby League Immortal. Oh wait…

With four straight man-of-the-match awards to his name and at one point topping all the charts in the tournament that matter (runs, wickets and sixes) Watson looked unstoppable. What a role he was on! He was even hitting spinners for six.

At first I rubbed my eyes. An Australian batsman actually laying willow on a delivery with rotations that weren’t in the direction from whence the white seed came? What is this arcane tomfoolery, the likes of which the best cricket writers in a Australia have apparently never seen? But my eyes weren’t deceiving me. Australian batsmen are actually allowed to hit spinning balls, sometimes even for six.

The Australian Cricket team is mobbed by a bunch of others who wear the same shirt as him, including his captain

Worryingly, though, in their last game against Pakistan the soft, meaty, and probably delicious underbelly of the Australian middle order was exposed and the ravenous Pakistanis took to it as hyenas to an exposed deerling gut. Imagery, people, imagery.

The guys in our team who weren’t Warner, Watson or Hussey hardly looked like they could bat at all.

After the game George Bailey said that in Twenty20 cricket you really needed your top order to do a bulk of the scoring. I thought that was all very convenient for George to tell us that, completely absolving he and the rest of the eight guys who are supposed to be in the team too of their batting failures from the last six months.

“Hey Shane, so, um, you and Dave can score the runs and me and the boys will be out the back having steaks and beers. Cool? No? Well, I’m the captain these days so, I don’t really care.”

While convenient, it ain’t right to place so much pressure on the three best players in your side to do the bulk of the scoring every game. Sure, they’ll do a lot of scoring, but when they fail the middle order has to do its job and score runs too. It’s easy for George to pretend he doesn’t have to bat just because he’s not listed in the top three, but when the pointy end of this tournament comes along in the next few days there will be no hiding behind Shane and Dave if they happen not to fire.

Time for you and your steak-eating pals to put away the table cloth and napkins and get an appetite for runs, George. Otherwise this one man team is going nowhere, and you’ll be back with the Hobart Hurricanes before you can say “but I told Shane to score all the runs.”

That’s not good captaincy George.

Also, any reader who made it this far, know that I refrained from using a refugee boat joke somewhere in this post. Points for anyone who can guess where.

Finally, if you haven’t realised, I’m really craving steak.

What a legend

Out of here: Taufel will retire at the end of the ICC World Twenty20

An Aussie cricket legend retired today, and in my opinion he deserves all the credit he can get. He was consistently the best in his discipline for a decade. Sure, he got the highest plaudits he could, winning the best in his field five years in a row from the ICC, but no doubt his retirement will go largely unnoticed by the  punters and passed over in the papers.

It’s probably because he is an umpire.

That’s right, Australia’s best, possibly ever, umpire Simon Taufel gave it up today, and for all the right reasons. He announced today that “Following the ICC World Twenty20 Sri Lanka 2012, I’m moving on from active international umpiring for personal and professional reasons… My wife and children have supported me immensely throughout my career and it is time for me to spend more time with them.”

Fair enough, Simon.

When you consider what Kevin Pietersen’s IPL contract is worth, and put it next to what Taufel was paid to travel all year round, rarely being allowed to umpire in his home country, you know who had to make the bigger sacrifice.

And at 41, his eyes still had plenty left to give. In fact he is being replaced on the elite panel by 52-year-old fellow Australian Bruce Oxenford whose eyes seem to be fine as well. But instead Taufel chose to retire at the top of his game, still well respected by every side he ever officiated.

Umpires can hang on too long, pretending to see what they used to see in Twenty20 (pun very much intended). Steve Bucknor, undoubtedly the coolest (and according to my sister the cutest) umpire ever, was savaged by India for being too old during his prolonged retirement saga. Whether this was true or not was irrelevant. Bucknor’s age, on the other hand, was very relevant. The longer you hold on the more you expose yourself to these kind of criticisms, and the older you get the more people buy into it.

People hate to see someone bow out too late, a shell of their former selves, whether it be an official or a player. Officials, by the very nature of their craft,  also earn double-points on the ire scale from players, administrators and the crowd.

Thus, it is a miracle that an umpire in the days of video review, Hawk-eye, Snicko and Hot-Spot can maintain the level of respect Taufel has managed. He has inspired confidence in his decision making from player and media alike through his somewhat unnerving precision. His unflappable demeanour and ridiculously accurate officiating might lead you to compare him to an umpiring droid, but his reasons for quitting, which in his past interviews he has labelled as the hardest part of being a Test umpire, belie his mushy innards.

A promising cricketer who grew up bowling fast to the likes of Michael Slater and Adam Gilchrist in age-group cricket, his passion for playing had to be replaced with umpiring due to a chronic back issue. Still one of the youngest faces on the umpiring panel, he is by no means the freshest. Ian Gould might fit the mould of an umpire with his flabby jowls and finger waggle ala David Shepherd, but he is still a Greenhorn compared to the experienced youngster Taufel.

His age may have worked in his favour with the players too, as apparently he had the best repartee with them. They trusted him to make the right decision and not to melt under pressure. He never appeared to melt, always looking sharp at the top of the wicket. Tall and dark, with a serious but approachable demeanour, Taufel’s presence always inspired confidence.

He was not a man who created many headlines, the ultimate compliment to a match official. He was never peturbed when mistakes did arise. Just as Glenn McGrath sometimes bowled a wide, and Sachin sometimes gets castled by someone on debut, the best make mistakes. It was how Taufel moved past them and made sure he made as few as possible earned him the respect of everyone in the cricketing community.

With match officials enjoying so much time in the sun, I think it’s only right that people pay the proper respect to the man who spent more time out of the papers than in it and for all the right reasons. He is a guy that could have kept going, earning more respect and plaudits or potentially running the risk of holding on too long. But he has given it away at the top of his game and taken on what is possibly the most thankless task of the lot; training umpires to be just like him.

It might not be so easy, but with this guy in charge, anything’s possible.

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.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair