Thursday, 26 February 2009

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Plus ça change...

A recently silent reader of this blog has complained at the lack of non-cricket related posts. This is one, but I'm not sure it will be any more welcome. A theme of the early days of the blog was that many posts compared "east" and "west" in one way or the other - from the rising of the sun to its setting. In not too long, my office moves from "central" Sydney to the "west". (In purely physical terms, it's more like "east" to "central", but never mind that...) The road linking the west, Parramatta or Penrith, to the city is the M4, but it stops well short. There is talk about extending it underground to the city and then the airport, and some news reports about this have referred to the "marginal seats" of Marrickville and Balmain. How times have changed, and how much difference a few more Green votes has made!

In other political news, we see how much some things never change. The federal opposition is complaining that only Labor parliamentarians are allowed to be part of events associated with stimulus package school infrastructure funding. When they were in government, not having global downturn on their mind, they had a smaller scheme in place - funding a flagpole for any school that didn't have one. Of course, a condition was that a Coalition MP or Senator attend the dedication ceremony. Politicians are politicians.

Does anyone want him for more than 50 overs?

Having not completely ignored David Warner before he was thrust into (inter)national prominence, I never quite bought the idea that he could only ever be a short-form specialist. I thought one of the downsides of his national representation was that he was missing chances to play the longer form for NSW, especially last week's game when the Australian teams for all three forms were unavailable for state cricket. Imagine my surprise when I read this morning that he hasn't been picked for the next game against the banana benders (SMH).

It's true that his competition has good claims to the spot. I'd certainly like to see Usman Khawaja do well for the Blues. In the meantime, Warner "hasn't done enough" in grade cricket and in four-day cricket for the Second XI. I guess that's not a comment that his grade form being restricted to limited overs (it certainly didn't look lik it when I had a glance at the stats last year), so how much has it got to do with being too busy playing big hitter for Australia? It doesnt' leave much time for club cricket, and the article says he's only played once for the Second XI. It gets worse - Moses points out that the Second XI selectors seem to think he's in the First XI!

How can he get a game with this going on? He's talked about moving interstate next season and you can't blame him. Before then, he's got an IPL contract. That's a good thing in itself, but it doesn't involve any first-class cricket. Warner is more in need of a season with a county than Phil Hughes is - it isn't an option only for those who were never going to sell in the IPL.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Is six enough for North to get six?

In the place which, of all places with a serious cricket ground, has the name which is the most fun to say, the Australians have made the last day of a warm-up match reasonably exciting. Appearently the quality of the opposition is not that high, and the pitch didn't seem to give much for a couple of leg-spinners, but Marcus North has certainly not disappointed Peter Roebuck's faith in him as an Australian no. 6, either in batting or bowling. Of course, if that doesn't work out, then I still think moving Katich down the opener and choosing a better opener would be better than pursuing the strange allrounder obsession.

The whole story?

Cricketer's autobiographies and other books can be an interesting sort of read. Their content seems to depend on the mood of the author at the time. They can sometime feel like they focus a bit too much on the controversies, and it's certainly the comments on controversies that get them publicity!

Now Cricinfo has some sort of a review of Graham Halbish's book (published in 2003). The very fact that a cricket administrator's inside story might be considered interesting is a bad sign, as sport stories rarely get taken off the field for good reasons. The review is interesting in that takes the international rifts described in the book, and paints a background of the longer term history between cricketing nations, England and India in particular. Just as Halbish and the Australian Cricket Board aligned themselves with the English in 1996, Australia is equated with England. I'm not sure that it shows the full picture.

In the many discussions about cricket, it becomes obvious that there are quite a few different perceptions of history. An Englishman might see his country as the founder of the game and an upholder of its spirit and traditions. He might think that in modern times those colonials, both rough, brash Australians and ambitious Indians, have at various times tried to take over with innovation backed by lots of money, and while it's fair enough to have them as equals in these days, there shouldn't be any superpowers in the modern game.

One Indian view might be that the English have been the imperial overlords, controlling cricket as they controlled their empire and looking down on those outside the establishment. The Australians are usually considered a ruder part of this establishment, being Anglo-Saxon and having played the English a long time before India received a similar status. Any Australian influence on or off the field is seen simply as a continuation of the colonial rule, and the suggestion is that the white countries need to both give the Asians an equal voice and see the size and importance of Indian cricket for what it is, so that it finally takes its rightful place.

An Australian with a sense of cricket history might see his nation as the underdogs that are continually taking on the establishment, playing hard to make their mark on the field even when they couldn't do so elsewhere. It started with games against England led by the aristocracy, including a master of gamesmanship known as a gentlemen solely because he didn't need income from the game. While one of the biggest steps towards highly paid players with the game driven by tv income happened in Australia, he might see the same struggle continued with the new power-brokers on the subcontinent.

There is some truth in all of these views. However, they cannot be the whole story, even viewing them together. Apart from the flaws or omissions in each and the fact that each nation has as many perspectives as it has citizens, an approach to history and current situation of the game worldwide can never be about two blocs or even three nations. We need something beyond all this.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

It's good

To see a Test match in Pakistan again. But it doesn't like the locals are having a good time of it on the first day.

Friday, 20 February 2009

English givers?

"Poms want Sheffield Shield"

What? What?

So says the SMH link to this article. Apparently an Englishman thinks it is most appropriate that the shield be treated as a memorial to the bloke who paid for it, rather than to over one hundred years of Australian cricketers striving to win it. That's what it was made for, after all.

I'm sure the Australians who hosted Lord Sheffield and his team in 1891-92 weren't expecting such a gift in return. It was a generous gift and appreciated, whatever you think of the resulting artwork. But I don't think they thought they'd be asked to give it back, either.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Duck-weather and Lewis

Would somebody please explain to Ian Healy and Mark Taylor, that wickets in hand at the end of an innings does not affect Duckworth-Lewis calculations in any way at all. The number of wickets in hand at the time of an interruption is part of the "resources" remaining calculation, but at the end of the innings there's no resources left no matter how many wickets have been lost.

Mind you, the whole thing seems a bit crazy when the overs are reduced this much and it's raining. At this point I think the Australians would rather the match tonightwere in Sydney, where it would have been completely rained out.

Madeirans, Blues and twisted facts

Moises Henriques probably looked better at the start of the summer than he does now - he has done much better in two matches against New Zealand than in any firstclass or 50-over interstate games and he himself admits he has had a patchy season. He was dropped from the NSW Shield team, but he's still in the good books as far as T20 is concerned, and so he has been called up to the national squad. The press has taken this as a prompt to mention just how clogged up with national players the NSW system is, even though it's not at all clear that he will get any further than he did in Darwin.

If he does make the XI, he would probably be one of 14 Blues to play for Australia in the space of 12 months (also including 10 picked to open the batting or bowling at one point or another and 3 spinners). The SMH article pays lip service to the effect of limited overs cricket*, but in general the press, and certainly the Vics, really haven't grasped the fact that with a different-forms-for-different-players selection policy at state and national level, the selections of Warner and Henriques were quite different beasts to the Hauritz call-up.

But back to Mo. Not the 49 year old Sydney Uni player who reckoned he was still NSW's best spin option, but the 22-yr old former national U19 captain with three years playing for his state. It seems like the years of talk and anticipation might have outweighed recent form. However, his selection isn't the only way he's made it into Cricinfo articles this week. Simon Wilde, while predicting the future of cricket in the next decade, writes that
Australia will win fewer trophies. Their Test cricket will suffer from their board allowing so many leading players time to play in the Twenty20 leagues and their sloth in integrating ethnic minorities, who may follow the example of Moises Henriques, a former Under-19 captain born in Madeira, who signed for the IPL in 2008.

I don't follow this at all. Apart from the usual chestnut that playing in T20 leagues will harm Test players, where is the link between the IPL signings and ethnic minorities? Surely having a supposedly "non-integrated" player play in the IPL is no more of a problem (if any) for Australia than having Ponting and co. raking in the rupees? And if Mo's signing is a result of neglect of ethnic minorities, what neglect led to similar decisions by Warner and Cockley?

The use of logic is as twisted as my friend who once challenged me to describe his country's flag, waiting till after I had describe the Portuguese bicolour and arms to announce that he was "Madeiran, not Portguese". If there is a case to be made about problems for ethnic minorities in Australian cricket (I certainly don't see it), then bring up something relevant, not the IPL.

* It does, however, also try to claim the Sydney-raised Krejza as a cornstalk, which might be fair enough if they weren't already counting three spinners who moved to Sydney as a career move.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Releasing the pressure

The Aussies have managed to level the series and keep the series alive. It was generally just better cricket from them this time,but it's interesting to compare their second win with the game in Melbourne that got the Kiwis 2-0 up.

Melbourne, 39th over, NZ needing just under 6 an over to win:
Taylor is batting, one Hussey bowling and the other spills a catch on the boundary, resulting in four runs. A couple of balls late, 5 wides down the legside, and the chance that Australia were hanging onto is gone.

Adelaide, 37th over, Aus needing just over 6 an over to win:
The Husseys are batting, Michael pulls and is dropped by Cumming on the boundary, resulting in four runs. Next ball, McCullum fumbles a wide ball - 3 more runs, and the NZ let Australia into a comfortable position.

They say catches win matches - and sometimes dropping them is more than just an opportunity missed!