Posts Tagged ‘Sydney Grade Cricket’

Indian pitches just ain’t cricket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was aggressive, interesting and exciting batting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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