Friday, 30 October 2009

Selection blues

I'm generally fairly interested in the Hilditch XI - whatever else you can say, they are representing Australia. However, it's hard to get too excited about a ridiculously long series of ODIs shoehorned into a very busy schedule, no matter how worthy the opponent. For the moment, I think I'll restrict my restrict my comments on the series to remarks in the context of more interesting topics, such as plans for the forthcoming summer. In particular, my suggested fixtures which until last week seemed about as realistic as the idea of a Shane Watson being one of the few uninjured Australians.

Replacing the Australia-Windies matches with NSW-T&T contests would of course have many consequences for the domestic competitions. The Victorians would certainly be happy to have Siddle available. The Sandgropers might actually get a taste of Johnson. It would be interesting to see whether Ricky would deign to play for Tasmania after a move to Sydney and a long absence.

NSW, however, are left having to field two teams. As far as that goes, it's worth remembering that the previously mentioned "all-rounder" has moved to Sydney properly - that is, in a physical and cricketing sense. Take the recent Champions League Squad, throw in recovered Jaques, Bracken, Clarke and Haddin, pick teams for each form of the game to face T&T. With some serious respect for his batting, I think in each case Watson would be left playing a big role in the 2nd XI!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Summer of Calypso

One downside of the Champions League has been the delay in the start of the representative cricket season here in Sydney. Last night, while seeing Australia seemingly try to lose a match they hard prevoiusly done well to put a grip on (although I suppose selection was done before the match), my thoughts turned to the coming summer.

I still don't understand what is going on between WICB and WIPA, but all the talk seems to be that a full strength Windies team is coming. When things seemed less optimistic, I observed in another context that a NSW v Rest of Aus series might be a decent replacement.

Now, however, I suggest that if there are still problems at a WICB level, both Test sides could be represented by one of their domestic sides. Just imagine three 5-day games, 5 fifty-over games and 2 T20s between New South Wales and Trinidad & Tobago!

Friday, 23 October 2009

East meets west in Hyderabad

Tonight a team from east of the Orient meet a West Indian nation in Hyderabad to decide cricket's first ever international competition for domestic teams. There's a fair bit of money at stake, and probably even more in bragging rights.

While there is little doubt that these two teams have been the performers of the Champions' League, there has been discussion about which teams have featured at the pointy end of the event. Trinidad and Tobago dispatched the South African Cobras in their semi-final, while the NSWelshmen notched up a very satisfying win over their oldest rivals. No IPL team was in sight.

While much has been made of the predicted financial dominance of the IPL, I don't find these results surprising. The IPL qualifiers do not (yet?) compete with teams from similar but poorer leagues. Some have suggested that pride in state, province or nation has played a part, but I see more concrete factors at work. The established teams play and train as a team for whole seasons, not just for one six week tournament. The successful ones are also more crowded with international stars than teams that could be produced by the IPL model at this stage of its development, although it must be noted the IPL has indeed given many of these stars significant twenty over exposure to add to their other experience. Delhi have also played a double role, in one of hte least satisfactory aspects of the CLT20 set-up. How much would have changed if Nannes and Warner had swapped their decisions?

In any case, the finalists have played attacking cricket, and it should be a good game. As a distinctly non-neutral observer, I would be happier if it were being played in Delhi, where the bowling strength of NSW can be most exploited.

Several batsmen have talked down the Kotla pitch, and some have suggested that it robs the crowds of the fours and (super)sixes that crowds think T20 is all about. I don't understand this view. T20 certainly changes the balance of risks, giving plenty for purists to dislike in batting styles as a matter or taste, but I thought the excitement relied more on the frenetic pace of the game, than frenetic batting in particular. Surely a battle between bat or ball is more interesting than a shootout, and with similar conditions for both innings, we have the makings of a fast exciting contest, whether wickets are falling or sixes being scored!

In any case, the batsmen should fare better in Hyderabad. NSW will want to prevent the occurence of anything like Pollard's demolition which was their downfall the last time these two met. I don't know how soon that is likely to be repeated! As I see it, the question is not what the bowlers conceed to Pollard and co., but whether the NSW batsmen can emulate him. Both in the last weeks and last summer, the Blues have often seemed either unable or unwilling to fully exploit the final overs of their innings.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Not-so-clean reporting

Nagraj Gollapudi writes on Cricinfo on the curious case of the 22 yards. It makes some interesting points about the pitch at the Kotla. In general, I'm not bothered by seeing a pitch which requires caution from the bowlers, and I'm not just saying that because of the results yesterday. (If anything, I think I'd rather Delhi had put the Ned Kelly-wannabes away.)

However, I have a quibble with the article in its use of cricketing language. "A good statistic that could shed light on the matter: of the 26 wickets to fall on the day, half were clean bowled," writes Gollapaudi. Really?

I know that in these days where a six must always be a "DLF maximum" or a "super six", we can't use a single word where two would do. For this purpose, perhaps adjectives are tagged onto words because we are used to hearing them together, but in all my previous reading and conversations, "clean bowled" meant something more than simply "out according to Law 30".

Don't get me wrong. This isn't a major issue. I'll take a sensible opinion with errors in writing over perfectly constructed waffle any day, but is it too much to ask that professional reporters (or commentators) resist the sensationalism and focus on what they are communicating?

Friday, 9 October 2009

Blues start their Champions' campaign

I'm loving seeing NSW in an international competition. The Champions' League structure has its flaws, and on some levels I'm disappointed that it took T20 to get this to happen, but I like the basic idea.

NSW have started their campaign with a good innings from the captain. Katich brought up a record partnership with Warner, who neither fired nor got out quickly. Hughes has had one good innings against Queensland, but today he did not look comfortable, just as every other time I have seen him play T20.

Eagles bowled and especially fielded well. The performance of the rest of the batting lineup wasn't dismal, but NSW did confirm that they are relying on their bowling, especially in the absence of Haddin and Clarke. So far, the bowling (and fielding) is doing the job!