I just read the latest Inside Sport magazine and came across an article by Will Swanton about the level of hatred displayed towards the Australian cricket team last summer.
Now I know he’s a News Ltd “journalist” so expectations are pretty low, but the story was the biggest bunch of arse-hatted dribble I had read in a long time.
The primary thesis of his story was that the team was being unfairly abused by the public for their perceived personal foibles as opposed to their on-field performances, and even though their performances were not great we should still barrack for them because they’re our team. I don’t think I have ever read a bigger collection of cluelessness in one place.
One thing that seems to escape Will’s attention is that the vast majority of the dislike generated for the team is based purely on their ability…not on how good a bloke they are, especially in the case of Michael Clarke.
He does a great job of attempting to cover for Ponting, but the fact is that he is a very ordinary captain. At the start of his career he had a kick-arse team that helped cover for his deficiencies, but as the stars retired he has been repeatedly found out. Who can forget the incident when instead of pressing for a win with a wicket or two to go, he decides to switch out his successful bowlers for spinners in an effort to increase the over rate and avoid a fine. Or perhaps the time when he wins the toss on a seaming pitch in humid conditions and elects to BAT FIRST…seriously, a lower grade club captain wouldn’t make a mistake as fundamental as that.
The biggest problem I (and probably a lot of other people) have with the Australian team is that the majority of them shouldn’t even be in the team based on their form or ability. Ponting and Clarke as batsmen haven’t performed well enough to keep their positions, but because they are in leadership positions they are a protected species. Another in this situation is Mike Hussey…apparently a century every 3 seasons is good enough to keep your spot these days. I know the current argument is that there is no-one performing well enough in Shield cricket to warrant promotion, but if they never get the chance to prove themselves we’ll once again end up with a team full of 30+ year old debutants.
We all know the Cricket Australia hierarchy have their favourites, usually based on their marketability. How else do you explain the constant talk of Philip Hughes being the next big thing when he can barely make the NSW state team? Or Steve Smith as the next big all-rounder?
So despite Will’s mournful plaint that the cricket loving public just doesn’t understand these blokes and should cut them some slack, the reality is that the public understand a hell of a lot more than Cricket Australia and are not happy with the way they are the sport, all in the name of money. We understand that’s why long-in-the-tooth players are kept in the team despite poor form, why talented Shield players are kept out of the squad in preference to flashy no-hopers with a hint of marketability *cough* David Warner *cough*, and also why the breeding ground for our future Test players is being diluted for some cheap-arse knock-off of the IPL in a n attempt to rake in some dough from the Twenty20 gravy train.
For these reasons I’m proud to proclaim my membership of the Hate Club.
This may be counted sacrilegious in some quarters, but after the 2nd Test has wrapped up I find myself hoping the Aussies get thoroughly smashed for the rest of the series.
Now before you rip me a new one, let me explain my reasoning as to why this would be a good thing for Australian cricket.
As we all know, elite team sport goes in cycles and currently the Australian cricket team in on the downward reach. How deep and long the nadir of that cycle is depends on the steps taken by the governing body of the sport, in this case Cricket Australia.
Frankly, CA has been driven by short-term profit making as opposed to the long term interest of the sport and as such I see them guiding cricket into a deep, deep trench in Australia. Here are some of the more telling points:
- Captaincy. Quite frankly, Ricky Ponting is not a captain’s arsehole. He was doing OK when he had a team full of superstars to cover his weaknesses, but as soon as the likes of Gilchrist, Hayden and McGrath disappeared from the scene he was repeatedly exposed. He has little tactical nous on the field, can’t manage his bowlers properly, couldn’t set an attacking field to save his life, and his body language when he’s under pressure shows him to be a sulky little girl. As for his acolyte Clarke…the less said the better. I wouldn’t put him in charge of the drinks cart.
- Selections. CA has stuffed this really badly. Apart from the unwritten rule of selecting from NSW first then everyone else, they have long gone by the policy of picking based on past glories and reputation over form and potential. Unless of course you are a bowler when you are given precisely 1 game to get it all right. Batsmen appear to be the protected species of the team. How else do you explain North and Hussey getting no decent scores for two seasons and still retaining their place? Is it because we have no other middle order batsmen of any calibre playing in the Sheffield Shield? Then they suddenly put together a semi-decent knock in a Shield game and they are back in the good books. Unfortunately with Hussey getting some runs on some absolute highways in Brisbane and Adelaide, you can guarantee he’ll be safe for at least another 3 years…though his scores tend to lose their gloss when compared with the Pommy batsmen.
- Twenty20. This is the beginning of the end for the long form of the game. Twenty20 has so debased the skillset for a cricketer that soon they’ll be unable to play the true form of the game and that will be the end. All you have to do is look at two nuffies in particular, David Warner and Shaun Tait. Warner was some clown who was plucked from grade cricket (NSW of course) without even a first class match to his name and suddenly anointed as the next big thing because he can slog a ball. Where is he now you say? Good question. As for Tait, this is a guy who had the potential to be the next big fast bowling thing for Australia, but unfortunately he has a million dollar arm with a five cent head and a heart the size of a pea. The less we hear of him the better.
Where do they go from here?
CA needs to take a good hard look at themselves and be prepared to wear some short term pain (i.e. losses) with a view to some long term gain, otherwise cricket in Australia will soon have the same sort of appeal that it does in the West Indies.
They need to have the balls to drop players who aren’t performing or who are too old and blood some new talent. It also means having the guts to drop players even though they may be appearing in your sponsors’ commercials at the moment, regardless that it may cost you money. Do you really think Clarke would still be playing if he didn’t have his gormless head all over the box?
Now is the time to do it. Drop the underperformers like Clarke, Ponting, North, Haddin (got some runs but is a crap keeper), Bollinger, Doherty. Bring in fresh talent like Khwaja (??), Ferguson, White as captain, and an attacking spinner like Krezja. Persist with them for the rest of the series and give them a chance…don’t give them the Martin Love treatment.
Sigh…if only it would happen.
After the debacle that was the Test series in India, the public blinkers have finally come off and people are starting to question Ricky Ponting’s abilities as a captain…two years too late if you ask me.
I know in Oz the captain of the Test team is seen as a sacred cow and usually left to go at his own time, but I think it’s long past time to give Ponting the Kim Hughes treatment.
In the past few years, ever since his stars have left the scene, he has been repeatedly been found out for his remarkable lack of captaincy skills.
He is crap at setting fields, though apparently the team captain can now be overridden by a second rate spinner. He is poor at managing his bowlers, his only response to winning a toss is to bat…probably because the only tactic in his playbook is to bat first, score a squillion runs and then bowl them out twice. Of course he does this regardless of the pitch and weather conditions…who can forget him batting first on a seaming deck in humid conditions, then being mystified when they were rolled cheaply.
In my personal opinion, he lost my respect as a captain a few years ago when he was in the position of taking two wickets to win the match, with two bowlers with momentum behind them and on a roll. What does he do? He swaps them out with spinners so he can bring up the over rate so as not to incur a fine, consequently throwing away the chance to win the match.
Couple this with him losing the past two Ashes series in England, and as a captain he makes an average batsmen.
What made me yell at the screen this morning was the typical talking head blah blah that as there is no-one capable at the moment and Clarke isn’t ready, they should just let him continue on.
Who says the captain needs to be the current vice-captain at all!!!! Frankly Clarke is massively over-rated and is lucky to be in the team…if he wasn’t a protected species by being the VC and from NSW, he would have been out on his arse years ago.
Apart from Shane Watson, everyone batting above the keeper has been living off their reputation for far too long and should be given the arse, including our glorious leaders. The bowlers have a rotation system in place…why not do the same for the batsmen? Have a pool of 10 batsmen from around the country and rotate them in and out to build a core squad of test hardened players. It would sure as hell beat this situation where a players only needs to get a decent score once every 3 years to maintain his place in the team (yes I’m looking at you Mike Hussey). They should also rotate the captaincy around…I can think of at least two players better at captaincy than Ponting right now, Cameron White and Chris Simpson. I know they’re not from NSW but they are streets ahead of Ponting in captaincy ability.
If they don’t take steps now to renew the team we’ll have the same old situation again with 3-4 players retiring at the same time, or 1-2 retiring and 2 others really struggling, but staying in the team for stability.
If they don’t make changes I fully expect us to get out arses kicked in the Ashes series…even with pitches blatantly doctored to suit our bowlers.
In news that shocked absolutely no-one today, Ricky Ponting once again proved how poor his captaincy skills really are.
In conditions guaranteed to be a bowler’s paradise with plenty of moisture in the air to swing the ball, Ponting wins the toss and elects to BAT. Imagine my surprise when the Aussies get rolled for 88.
Frankly his time has come as captain…personally I think it should have been up as soon as he made that decision to bowl spinners to improve his over rate instead of go for the win.
I know he’s had a tough act to follow after the likes of Border, Taylor and Waugh but he’s completely out of his depth and it’s only due to his personnel that he’s managed to win at all. After all he has lost 2 series in England, in both situations throwing away at least one Test with really poor decisions.
I’d say pass the torch on, but the anointed successor is just as bad, if not worse. To be perfectly honest, not many of the current top order deserve their place in the team…least of all the captains (full and vice).
I can’t see any long term solution to the captaincy in the current team roster, but then again the selection process is crap anyway. Considering the bulk of the team comes from NSW, one of poorest performing states in the Shield comp over the past few years, it’s no wonder the leadership potential is low.
It’s well past time for Cricket Australia to start selecting on form as opposed to reputation, as well as with an eye to the future…by which I don’t mean pick the first NSW batsman to score over 1000 runs ignoring the other Shield player who put in year after year, or pick the first leg spinner who can turn a ball a bit (coincidentally also from NSW), or pick some guy who can’t make it into a first class team and drop him into the national T20 squad just because he can slog a ball.
I can’t see it happening though, after all you know what they say…the sky blue NSW caps are made to be reversible…baggy green on the inside.
Well the backyard cricket “World Cup” finished up with the Aussies getting spanked by the Poms…but did anybody really care?
As to be expected the Aussie top order of total nobodies (Warner? Who?) failed to fire and stuffed it for everybody. As their newly annointed golden children failed miserably maybe they need to hunt for the next big thing…maybe in the suburban backyards of North Sydney? After all if Warner can get in after not playing any first class cricket at all surely the next big thing must be playing park cricket on a Saturday in his stained creams.
But then this would only apply in New South Wales…you’d have to be hitting 5000 runs a season if you lived in any other state. After all you know what they say, when you get your NSW blue cap you get a baggy green in a brown paper bag, or that the blue one is reversible…baggy green on the inside.
How does a state that has so many talentless nobodies manage to get them in the national team? As examples:
1. Brett Lee. Seriously how does anyone take this guy seriously as a bowler? He has two deliveries…the bouncer and attempted yorker, plus the beamer in One Dayers (or as he calls it “sorry it slipped”). He can’t move the ball for shit and the only reason he was in the team is he apparently bowls fast…he’s Shaun Tait with peroxide. Give me a slower bowler who could do something with the ball any day.
2. Simon Katich. Possibly the most boring opening batsman outside of Chris Tavare. Used to play for WA but was practically invisible. Moves to NSW and suddenly he’s the best opener on the planet and bashing down the door of the national team.
3. Nathan Hauritz. Used to bowl his slow right arm crap for Qld and might as well as lived in Siberia for all the attention he got from the selectors. Moves to NSW and suddenly he’s the best spinner in the country!!
4. Shane Watson. Now admittedly he has some skills. But when he was based in Qld every single time he played was assumed to be his last. He was the new Bruce Reid…as fragile as glass. Moves to NSW and suddenly his injuries are never questioned.
I know it’s been said lots of times and there probably isn’t any conspiracy, but can anyone honestly tell me that the current Australian squad is the best players in the country? I mean seriously it still has Hussey in it…the guy who gets a decent score once every couple of seasons just to hold his place. He should have been given the arse years ago…but it obviously pays to be mates with the skipper.
Am I the only one who hates Twenty20 cricket? Does anyone else see as it as a complete bastardisation of the game that is detrimental to the long-term skills of the players?
I guess it’s OK on a club/provincial level…the IPL rakes in a ton of dough and gives our superannuated players a place to shine. Also I’m guessing it was designed specifically for the ADD mindset American market where anything longer than an hour is too long. Ironically they find the most boring sport in world (baseball) interesting…what’s that all about??
My biggest issue is that it completely negates the skills that a Test (or even 50 over) player has in the name of “entertainment”. It’s basically backyard cricket, where every ball is to be slogged no matter where it is. Forget playing an actual shot…the more agricultural your action the better. There’s absolutely no chance for the bowlers either. Gone are the tactics of working out your opponent and using your skills to set him up for the wicket…now you have to get him out straight away and the only tactic is to bowl something different each ball and hope he doesn’t belt the cover off it.
It’s ironic that the “better” T20 players are complete nobodies…look at David Warner for example. The guy had never even played first class cricket before, then suddenly he’s a star in T20 because he can slog a bit. Of course he’s still a liability in the field and can’t get a game for his state, but he’s a star!! And then there’s Shaun Tait…most overrated bowler in the country (excluding Brett Lee, but that’s a topic for another spray). Can bowl fast…when it lands on the pitch. Doesn’t have the ticker for Test or 50 over cricket, but he’s still a star in the T20 circus!!!
Pathetic really. The whole game is a waste. What are your thoughts?