Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What Has Happened to Brett Lee?

Brett Lee has been “leading the Australian attack” for too long now. The fact is that on his recent performances, he shouldn’t even deserve a place in the team. He seems like a great bloke and all and I have nothing against the guy, in fact I admire him quite a lot, yet when the performances don’t speak for themselves then questions need to be asked.

Although he has performed well in patches, he has not done so consistently and has not performed any where near what he should have if he was really leading the Australian attack. It has come to the point where opposition attacks do not fear Lee anymore, rather can’t wait to face the bowler, who seems to have lost his swing, bounce and speed.

The stats speak for themselves. I was lucky enough to witness Lee’s first devastating spell In Boxing Day, way back in 1999 against the Indians. That day, it wasn’t only the pace that undid the Indian batting line up (Tendulkar excluded), but rather the swing and bounce. We all thought that one day he would become the best bowler in the world. Although at times he might have reached those dizzy heights, he has not been able to sustain it.

When he first started his bowling average was in the low 20’s, now it is 31.85, hardly anything you would expect from the strike bowler of the best bowling attack in the world. Even more concerning, is that Lee isn’t the strike weapon he used to be. In his last 18 test matches, he has only taken 74 wickets. Now the strike bowler of the best bowling attack in the world should be consistently taking more than two wickets per innings. One of the major reasons, Lee’s average and strike rate have taken such a battering is because of England. In his last 6 tests against them, he has only taken 22 wickets at 44.13, simply not good enough.

Yet one of the key assets of a great team is that they are able to cover for players who are not performing at their best, but for how long can this continue with Brett Lee. What is more concerning is that Australia is sticking with this wayward “strike weapon” even though it has got more than reasonable replacements waiting in the wings. Mitchell Johnson can bowl just as fast as Brett Lee and can swing it just as much, if not more, why isn’t he getting a go? Shaun Tait is arguably faster than Lee and has a killer instinct about him, he frightens batsmen, something which Lee can’t presently do, why isn’t he in the team?

So far the pressure has been on Stuart Clarke to hold his place in the side, but why is that? In his short career he has out bowled many if not all of his colleagues. He ripped South Africa apart in South Africa and tore the heart out of England in the first test with figures of 7/93. The sad thing is that had Shane Watson been fit, Clarke probably would have been dropped for Stuart MacGill, now I don’t think that this is fair.

Like the under performing Indian batting line up, there is only one solution to Brett Lee’s prolonged form slump, hard work and more hard work. He needs to forget about all the technical things which come when one plays for the national side and concentrate on bowling fast, intimidating the batsmen and getting the killer instinct back, which once terrorised batsmen all over the world. If unable to do this, it could spell the end of a career of one of crickets perennial under achievers.

Continued >> >>

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Beach Cricket vs Stick Cricket - The Definitive Guide Part 0

It has been the avenue for many a successful hour of procrastination for workers and students the world over. Anybody who knows anything about cricket and the internet has heard of and tried their hand at Stick Cricket.

However, in this capitalist age a monopoly can only remain for so long. Realising that they could commercialise, what would probably be, the only un-commercialised pastime remaining, Australian brewery XXXX has cobbled together a bunch of has-been cricketers and will pit them against each other in a triangular tournament - on the beach.

If you haven't seen the ads yet, "where the bloody hell are ya?" In a smart marketing move the marketing types behind this event have dreamed up beach cricket, internet style, for us to get our teeth into, and get our teeth into, we did.

We, here at The Match Referee (TMR), decided the world would be a far more livable home if there was a definitive guide to the two most common vices of cricket-loving procrastinators. Hence, in a one + two part series we will bring you a comprehensive low-down of the major differences between Stick Cricket and XXXX Beach Cricket in order to determine the superior option for all the hours that you may need to waste in future.

Also see: Part 1 | Part 2 (coming very soon)

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Continued >> >>

Laxman or Ganguly? Or Niether?

Team India is probably in the worst form of its entire life and of course this leads to the fickle and impatient fan base (who also happen to have an extremely short memory) to call for the heads of the coaching staff and inclusion of former greats of the game. Yet on what basis are they making these demands? Has Sourav Ganguly done what every dropped player should do and go back and score runs in domestic cricket?

The plain and simple answer to that question is NO. Given he is meant to be one of the most graceful, elegant and best Indian batsman of all time, he should have plundered the runs against a domestic bowling attack which leaves a lot to the imagination. But did he? No. Then why does he deserve a chance in the Indian team. He should be left out on the same basis as Laxman has been, cant field and please don’t try and tell me he can bowl.

The fact is that Sourav Ganguly is too old, to slow and to put it simply, he is past his prime. If he had scored runs in domestic cricket, then fine, know one would have had an issue in him making a comeback, but he hasn’t so everyone should just forget about it.

On the other hand, VVS Laxman, has not done anything wrong. In fact he has been hard done by on many occasions by the Indian selectors who sometimes seem to suffer from the common disease that nearly all Indian fans suffer from, dementia. They seem to easily forget the true class of a player.

Laxman is a player who will, or should I say should, be playing test cricket for India for a while yet. He is a great batsman as elegant as they come. He has performed for India when it has counted the most and has always been a man to deliver under pressure, considering he has been under pressure for his entire career. Yes, he might not be the greatest fielder and he might not be the best athlete, but he can do his job as a batsman and that is to score runs.

I am the biggest fan of Suresh Raina but unfortunately for the poor lad, he just isn’t having the greatest of times out in the middle. It would be highly beneficial for him to go back to domestic cricket and plunder runs there, get his confidence back up and then come back into the national side and prove all his critics wrong because he is the future of Indian cricket and will be a super star in the years ahead.

At the moment he isn’t able to score many runs, neither is Mongia and lets not even mention Jaffer as god knows what he is doing on this tour. I personally thought that Gautam Gambhir batter much better than he did in the challenger series and Robin Uthappa seems like a fine prospect. Getting back to the point, if those specialist batsman cant score runs, then a batsman who can score runs and who has done nothing wrong to be left out of the team should be drafted into the squad.

Just as I am writing this post, news has come through that Laxman has been added to the squad to replace the injured Rahul Dravid. I guess that just justifies my stance on the issue. Laxman would slot in beautifully at number 3 in the line up and I am sure given a few games, will do a terrific job.

On the calls for the sacking of the coach, the simple point here is that the coach can only do so much. It is up to the players to perform, the coach can’t go out there and bat for them. When in a position like the team is currently in, things just don’t go your way, as it didn’t for Tendulkar, Sehwag, Dhoni and co. The opposition seems to bowl unplayable balls or pulls off ridiculous catches. The only remedy for this problem is hard work and I am sure that’s what the lads are doing at the moment.

It is easy for us supporters to sit back in our comfortable lounges, watch the game and criticize the players with all we have got. But lets not forget, know players likes to perform badly and I am sure the players are hurting more than us supporters are. As supporters of Team India it is our job to rally behind the team and give them confidence that they still have the support of the nation, just like the Barmy Army has done for England for the previous 12 years.

Continued >> >>

Rahul Dravid & Shane Watson To Practice Together

Well not really physically together, but, spiritually maybe - recovering from their various injuries, that is. After suffering a comprehensive hiding from a seemingly insurmountable position against South Africa last night, Team India will need to pull up their socks without the aid of their captain. On a similar tack, Michael Clarke is handed another opportunity to silence the critics and cement his spot in the Australian Test team by smashing an exquisite century in the second Ashes Test match at The Adelaide Oval.

No I am not talking rubbish. Cricinfo reports that Rahul Dravid has broken a finger while trying to unsuccessfully catch Justin Kemp off Harbhajan Singh in yesterday's match. Some would say that he may not have suffered the fate had he actually pouched the ball. However, we at The Match Referee do not appreciate cynicism so we will let that theory pass to the keeper.

This unfortunate twist of fate will result in either Suresh Raina getting a chance to turn his stalled career around with some intelligent and telling stroke-play or India reverting to the oft maligned 5 bowler strategy. In the current climate, it would be fair to say that playing a fifth bowler and losing, would force the fickle Indian fan base to demand that the team management exile themselves in the Tora Bora caves. We shall wait and watch as to the progression of this breaking news.

Similarly, Shane Watson has also received dreaded news that his latest injury is like all his others - slow in healing. He will, thus, miss the second Test at The Adelaide Oval and provide Michael Clarke with another opportunity to tick a few more boxes in the selector's checklist for the number 6 batting slot.

Australian physio Alex Kountouris had this to say of Watson's injury:
"His rehabilitation will continue with a view to him being available for selection for the third Test in Perth."
For mine, Kountouris' statement does not seem all that promising for Watson. It wasn't an emphatic "yes, he will be fit" for the third Test, it was more of a "I'll get my Mom to pray for him and we'll see how he pulls up".

Either way, from watching Watson enjoy the company of the fair blonde maiden in the stands with him during the first Test, he may not find the extension of his injury break all that depressing.

Continued >> >>

Monday, November 27, 2006

2011 Rugby World Cup Final At Eden Park

After months of heated debate and impassioned argument, the venue for the 2011 Rugby World Cup has finally been settled. A futuristic and reinvigorated Eden Park will host the match in all its glory.

The New Zealand Herald reports that this was not the New Zealand Government's first choice, but was settled upon due to a lack of consensus on the other proposals, which included a brand new arena on the wharf in downtown Auckland or an expansion of North Harbour Stadium.

The initial estimates for 60,000 seat Eden Park were close to $150 million. However, we all know that government estimates, the world over, cannot be relied upon. Hence, the latest estimate is $385 million, and likely to increase after more design modifications are finalised and approved.

From the rectangular shape of the playing surface (as seen in the scale model) it would seem that the days of the venue being labeled "multi-purpose" are well and truly over. Not according to this press release, however.

As great as the new facility will undoubtedly be, it would seem a great travesty to play the final of the 2015 Cricket World Cup at a rectangular ground where the boundaries would measure all of 65 meters from point to square leg. I am sure Eden Park management have some trick up there sleeve that involved removing temporary seating to make the boundaries wider, however, the playing area only seems to get smaller and smaller with each new redevelopment.

However, this is an issue for the future and we will cross that bridge when the future arrives. Until then, Aucklanders, congratulations on your "new" stadium. It looks as good as anything that has been built over the last 50 years over this side of the Tasman.

Continued >> >>

Saturday, November 25, 2006

India vs South Africa - Match 3 Preview

During my time on this planet I have managed to deduce that my fellow citizens who proclaim membership of the Team India fan club, are a very passionate lot. Extremist, even. Nothing to do with terrorism here, trust me.

I am sick and tired of hearing all the negativity surrounding India's loss to South Africa last Wednesday night. I am not sure that many of the people who propagate this negativity have actually seen the match or the manner in which the wickets fell.

First things first, the Indian bowling effort was pretty solid. The ground fielding needs to be improved and Munaf needs a rest for the remainder of this series. What is it with these young fast bowlers running in like granddads once they have cemented their place in the team. Zaheer was dropped for this very reason and Pathan was going down the same path. These guys are young and virile and should be running in and bowling with intent, if nothing else.

On the topic of Zaheer, it seems the hard yards on the County circuit have done him a world of good. He's banging the ball in again looking like he's interested. This game is played in the mind, if you're interested, you'll win more often than not.

The batting:
  1. Jaffer got out trying to play away from his body. No trouble with bounce or pace there (come on, it was Pollock bowling).
  2. Tendulkar was undone by late inward movement - no trouble with bounce in his dismissal either.
  3. Kaif made the mistake of not going hard at the ball, he would have scored a boundary had he done so. Bounce had a part to play in his dismissal, but he was looking a million bucks while he was out there.
  4. Dravid (read Tendulkar's dismissal). No trouble with bounce here either.
  5. Dhoni was beaten by the umpire. He too was looking assured in his short time in the middle. The ball bounced a little, but he wasn't disconcerted by it, in fact he played that ball quite well.
  6. Raina was dying to catch some fish and was caught hanging his bat out. Nothing to do with bounce, but the kid needs to be sent back to domestic cricket after this series. He's been in woeful form for some time now.
  7. Dinesh Mongia was fetching a wide one and was done by the movement, not bounce.

Forget the tail for this exercise. I want to know the reason behind all this talk of pace and bounce getting the better of the Indian batsmen. Hell, it wasn't pace or bounce. It was seam exaggerated seam movement on a dewy surface (the same on that India used to their advantage against England in the World Cup) that also managed to get the better of the Australians earlier this year - for a similar score, might I add.

Sure it is no excuse, I'm not using it as one. However, when you look through all the posturing and the score sheet, you'll find that there wasn't that much that the players did wrong that they cannot correct for the rest of the tour. None of the players need to change their game and nobody needs to take a pay cut.

Virender Sehwag should be brought in for Raina, with Wasim Jaffer playing at 3. Shift everyone down one place in the order. I would bat Mahendra Singh Dhoni at 7 with Dinesh Mongia at 6. Munaf Patel was lacklustre and should be given some time off to reflect on his lack of motivation. Bring in Pathan as an all-round option at 8 and, for God's sake, ask him to bowl at top pace. Then, and only then, will he return to his destructive ways.

All hope is not yet lost with this series. Despite the heavy margin of defeat, the team did not do all that badly. With application and trust in their own abilities, the batsmen will deliver. I am seriously looking forward to a contest, in every sense of the word, during Match 3 of this ODI series.

The behaviour of some fans in a situation that cries out for support and understanding is absolutely deplorable. If you think you were hard done by because the players aren't allowing you to get the most out of your cable TV subscription, then cancel it. If you cannot logically and constructively put forth your criticisms, then start supporting another team, for I can guarantee you that the players burn a lot more than any of us put together when they perform badly.

Grow up people. Life ain't all about the good times.

Continued >> >>

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Idiot That Is Duncan Fletcher

Not that I want it to, but my prediction for England's chances of retaining The Ashes is coming true. If my prediction does in fact eventuate, Duncan Fletcher should be sacked after this Ashes series for totally and utterly failing to give his team every opportunity to win a cricket match.

Andrew Flintoff is returning from injury. Steve Harmison looks about 2 months short of full match fitness. Matthew Hoggard may as well be called a specialist batsman if the ball is not swinging, which it doesn't after the first morning at Brisbane. Jimmy Anderson is not in the best form and is insecure about his place in the side.

What gremlins have found their way inside Duncan Fletcher's head? Why in the world would you pick a bits and pieces player ahead of a specialist, attacking bowler?

Ashley Giles
has never won England a match and never will either. Monty Panesar has won his team matches through his efforts alone and is more likely to make a dent in the Australian batting line-up. He has had a successful year bowling against the best players of spin bowling from the sub-continent. He should be playing at The Gabba. Instead, he's got his feet up in the shed listening to RDB on his iPod.

As I write this, Damien Martyn and Ricky Ponting are in the process of taking Giles apart during his second over. He is lobbing the ball in the air with no hint of spin or guile. The only way he is going to take a wicket is if the batsman becomes overconfident or trods on his stumps.

I dear say, this must be the beginning of the end for Duncan Fletcher's tenure as coach of England.

Continued >> >>

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The End Of The Road

Much has been made of the ageing Australian Cricket team. The selectors and members of the team say that it is irrelevant as long as the team is performing, which is a very true statement, but age raises a very important question, what is the future of Australian cricket looking like?

Hayden, Langer, Gilchrist, Martyn, Ponting, Hussey, Warne, McGrath and Stuart Clarke are all over 30. Some if not most are near or more than 35, a very worrying sign. Yes all is rosy now when these great players are performing well for their country, but after an Ashes victory and another World Cup, I can see the majority of these players hanging up the boots, with nothing more to achieve in their illustrious careers.

Warne will stay on to play more Tests and McGrath will probably stay too, but is it worth having him when you have the likes of young guns like Tait and Johnson waiting in the wings. Won't it be more beneficial to blood these youngsters and future stars while the team is on top, rather then blooding them when all the top players have retired and the team is fighting to stay competitive in international cricket.

Australia should know best out of all countries about the rough times international cricket can bring. If not for the likes of Border, Taylor and Waugh, who were able to rescue Australia when they were the easy beats of world cricket, who knows where the team would be at the moment.

Although they might have some bright young pace bowlers coming through, there are also many causes for concern. There are no world class spin bowlers and please don’t try and tell me that Dan Cullen is any good, and the batsmen aren’t as solid as the ones of the past. In fact there are hardly any potential young batting stars. Time after time we see the old timers in Lehman, Symonds, Maher, Haddin, Bevan and Marsh propping up their respective sides in the domestic competition. Yes occasionally we see the likes of Travis Birt, Ronchi and Cameron White chipping in, but these are by no means consistent enough to gain a regular spot in a Test team.

Yes the current ageing players are performing but it is about time that Australia looks to the future they know how harsh the future can be if not planned for. It is time that Australia took some hard calls, like India did on Ganguly, and drop the likes of McGrath, who although superstar bowlers in their prime, are well past their time.

Yes they might give a good series here and there but the likes of Tait and Johnson also deserve to be given a chance. I am sure the Australian public don’t want these bowlers' most productive years pass them by, sitting on the side lines.

Continued >> >>

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ashes Preview

This years Ashes series has been hyped up to be one of if not the best cricketing event ever, but is it really going to be that good? Or are we just going to see Australia return to there old habits of rapping up test matches inside 4 days. Following is an in depth preview of this years Ashes series.

The English side has been decimated by injury. Key components of the previous Ashes victory in, Michael Vaughn, Simon Jones and Marcus Trescothick are not available. Big question marks hang over the form and fitness of strike weapon, Steve Harmison as well as keeper Geraint Jones. The bowling line up is far from settled with a big decision to be made over who will get the spinning berth in the first test. Unfortunately for English fans, the high command looks like preferring Ashly Giles because of his superior batting and fielding skills. Yet the question that needs to be asked is whether he is good enough to be a strike bowler like Monty Panesar, in my opinion he isn’t.

On the other hand, the Australian team now looks settled after the injury to Shane Watson. Michael Clarke will get the number 6 spot with Stuart Clarke being the third seamer to accompany Brett Lee, Glen McGrath and Shane Warne. The batsmen - bar Ricky Ponting - are all in sublime form and will be happy to be away from the seaming tracks of England and turning wickets of India, the quick bouncy wicket of the Gabba will be much more familiar.

The key to this series will lie with Australia’s bowling which can look fragile at times when Warne is not bowling, and England’s batting who will have the big job of putting the runs on the board so that there bowlers have something to bowl to. The English batting line up looks brittle. Cook will have the big job of facing and blunting the new ball with Andrew Strauss. If unable to combat the new ball then England might as well pack up and go home. The likes of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff work best when they are on top and the bowlers are down. This allows them to display there attacking style and allow them to take the game away from the opposition. When under pressure, this is not possible and hence they can easily crack under the pressure.

One thing which will be working in favour of the English batting line up is the recent form of the Australia seam attack. Lee had a forgettable Champions Trophy and has been quite up and down for a while before that. McGrath has just come back from a long lay off and although economical still seems to be lacking that killer instinct that once terrorized batsman around the world. He has become a much more maligned force. Warne on the other hand will be a totally different story and England must be able to combat him to have any chance of winning.

On the other hand, all the English bowlers should bowl to their strengths and for all over them bar Steve Harmison, it is pitching the ball up and allowing it to swing. That should not be a problem for Matthew Hoggard but Jimmy Anderson has already shown on this tour his ability to pitch the ball a tad too short, if done in the tests , it could spell the end of England’s Ashes campaign. Panesar must be played as he is a strike weapon, unlike Giles who can’t even contain batsmen on most occasions. To win a test match, wickets must be taken and unfortunately Giles does not have this ability. The only way he has got wickets in the past is by boring batsmen or allowing them to slog him to catchers on the boundary. Panesar can be used as an attacking weapon and has the ability to bamboozle the Australian batsmen who dislike facing spin bowling.

If England plays to its potential, this series could live up to the hype surrounding it. If not then this could be the biggest let down in history. Although I would like England to win, I am predicting Australia to win 4-1. All will be known soon.

Continued >> >>

Sunday, November 19, 2006

South Africa Vs India Preview

Were only a few hours away before the start of the first One Day International between India and South Africa, yet it seems to me that the match is over even before it has started.

Were only a few hours away before the start of the first One Day International between India and South Africa, yet it seems to me that the match is over even before it has started.

The Indians put in an abysmal display against the Rest Of South Africa. Yes they might have only just arrived in the country and yes it does take time to adjust to different playing conditions but these are some of the so called ‘best’ batsmen in the world and they should be able to cope with such conditions, even if they have limited preparation. Maybe a win might have been a big ask but they could have at least put up a fight.

In that game only three players reached double figures, one of them happening to be Irfan Pathan. Yet it still looks like jet lag is hindering the thoughts of the selection committee as they still believe they are in India, where the batsmen find it easier to ply there trade. For god sakes, only two batsmen reached double figures in the warm up game and the selection committee is talking about strengthening there bowling. What is wrong with these people?

In the recent past, what has been India’s major problem in winning games? They have not been able to put the runs on the board. Bowlers can only do so much when you have to defend a meagre score like 200. Let me put it bluntly, India, with all there super star batsman still have problems in there batting line up, more than there bowling, they should strengthen there batting first so that the bowlers have a reasonable score to defend.

In fact the selection committee and leadership of Team India seem like a bunch of hypocrites to me, Rahul Dravid included. The excuse for the dismal effort in the warm up game was, “our batsman weren’t able to adapt to the new conditions.” Fair enough, that is an honest assessment, but do something about it. It’s alright to make mistakes, but what is not alright is to make mistakes and then not learn from them. What is not alright is to make up an excuse but then contradict yourself the next day.

I think I have made myself clear on that front, now getting back to the game. Showers and thunderstorms are predicted and if so I am sure it will be an overcast day. The Indian batsman will probably still be ‘adapting’ to foreign conditions and wont be able to handle the heat sent down by Ntini, Nel and co. The South Africans should be used to these conditions and should have no problems in putting away the 5 Indian bowlers, most of whom will get carried away bowling to short on a bouncy track.

Yet cricket is a game in which nothing can be predicted, miracles do happen. I really do hope India wins. I just believe they are giving South Africa a head start with the composition of their team. All will be known soon.

Continued >> >>

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Are Australians Sore Losers?

There were thousands of different news articles touching on thousands more topics at the end of the last Ashes series. One that did catch my attention was a Ricky Ponting's complaint about the umpiring during the series. Ponting reserved his views on why the series was lost for his Ashes diary (read commercial publication), in which he apportioned all blame to one man and one ball.

According to Ponting, one ball during the second test match was all it took to bring down the mighty Australians. It was bowled by Brett Lee (sure, he's a decent bowler) to the one of the best batsmen in the English line-up, errr, Simon Jones. Billy Bowden's decision to award the batsmen the benefit of the doubt on that occasion earned him Ponting's ire and the infamous tag of the man who lost Australia The Ashes.

That Ponting is a hot-headed clod is of not news to us here at The Match Referee (TMR). However, we are quite disappointed that the usually irreverent and colourful Billy Bowden has chosen to shut up shop (so to speak) due to Ricky Ponting's ludicrous comments. For Ponting to blame the loss of a series on one ball and one man, that too an umpire, shows his lack of cricketing intellect. Maybe that is why he is such a poor captain.

Supporters of teams touring the Antipodean isles over the last 15-20 years have become accustomed to having to endure many an unpleasant and incorrect decision against their team. Although the Australians have generally been a class above the rest during this time, I am convinced that their superiority at home owes no small gratitude to those umpires (Australian or otherwise) who have generously helped their cause time and time again.

Visiting team and their supporters have been labeled sore losers for complaining about umpiring decisions, no matter how advantageous they may have been to the Australians during the course of a series (one Michael Holding article a few years ago comes to mind). I ask you this, have comments, like Ponting's above, led you to believe that Australian cricketers are a pack of wingeing brats/sore losers or is it a classic case of the winning side making its own luck while the losing side cries foul play?

I have my thoughts on the issue, however, I would like to know what you think.

Continued >> >>

Monday, November 13, 2006

Indians Pander To The BCCI

I read today, with great amusement, that Indian cricketers now wish to join FICA and contribute 5% of earnings from ICC tournaments (eg. World Cup and Champions Trophy) as membership costs. Am I the only one that finds this development strange?

For mine, this is a classic case of the chicken coming before the egg. One would think that an ideal structure for player representation with the national Boards and the ICC would revolve around a two-tiered system. The players would be members of a national players' association and each national association would be a member of FICA. Does make more sense, this not?

Quite appallingly, Indian cricketers do not even have a lobby group to protect their interests at the national level. What makes Rahul Dravid and his friends think that the BCCI will pay any heed to FICA's recommendations, when it does not even pretend to care about what the ICC thinks?

The second cause for amusement, on my part, was that the players actually sought the BCCI's permission to join a group that represents their interest. The players are allowed to spend their money any which way they like. Why do they feel they have to seek permission from the mai-baap BCCI to join a body like FICA? This mindset, is worrying in its own right.

When the issue of contracts first reached the front-burner, prior to the 2003 World Cup, there had been some talk of a players' association led by Ravi Shastri. It was a noble concept, with Shastri even attempting to make some well-intentioned noise. However, with the death of that issue, came the inevitable death of the said players' association and Shastri's involvement.

Indian cricketers require more than a stop-gap measure like Shastri to protect their interests. They should learn from the failings of the BCCI and recognise that their prosperity lies in appointing a group of professionals to set up and manage a cohesive and streamlined organisation that will fight for acceptance and recognition from the BCCI and then fight to protect it's members from falling prey to the nonsensical whims and fancies of honourary Board officials.

If every first class cricketer in India pays a fraction of his salary towards the running of this organisation, the entire lot will be far better off than it has ever been in the history of the sport. It is a simple scenario that requires a little will and diligence. This organisation is imperative to protect the players from losing everything, but the shirts on their backs, to greedy administrators.

How much more of an incentive should they require?

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Continued >> >>

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Biggest Loser Is Indian Cricket

Everyone was up in arms, last week, about the perceived slight to Sharad Pawar at the end of the Champions Trophy final. My appraisal of the issue should leave nobody in any doubt as to exactly what I think of Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn and Cricket Australia.

Increasingly, however, I get the feeling that the Australians have given the BCCI an easy way out of explaining their own careless attitude towards the real issues. Although I have not and will not deviate from my stance on the Ponting/Pawar issue, I feel almost betrayed for writing something in defence of a BCCI official.

Why? Because, of this. To be brutally honest with you, I am now sick and tired of hearing that the new BCCI regime has earned x hundreds of millions for the game through its various commercial deals. This money may as well sit in Lalit Modi's personal bank account. For all of the Board's noise, it does not seem to be actioning any of its big talk and nor are we seeing any tangible results.

Why are Indian administrators so incapable of erecting processes and systems that encourage and exhibit good (forget best-practice) management and decision making? When will they learn that managing a sports body is not simply about the bottom line? Why is quality never as important as quantity, to them?

With the present administration it appears that they believe they can do no wrong. How many times have you heard a BCCI official quoted as saying, "The players are talking nonsense?" In fact I do not, for one second, doubt that the players can be wrong or overly demanding in as many situations as the Board would have us believe. I am now convinced, in the case of the BCCI, when there is so much smoke, there is bound to be a legitimate fire or three.

It is patently obvious to all of us that the average Indian first-class cricketer is slightly, at the very least, more knowledgeable than the average uneducated Indian voter. If the said cricketer is complaining about not being able to practice with Kookaburra balls, he is not spouting "rubbish". He concerns should be heard and addressed.

A first-class cricketer should not have to beg to practice with Kookaburra balls when he is required to use them in a match situation. Simple logic dictates that at least 20 boxes of new and old Kookaburra balls should have be sent to every Duleep Trophy team as soon as the decision was taken to trial them in the tournament. My 12 year old cousin expects his coach to conduct net practice with the exact equipment that he will use out in the middle. It really is not [insert expletive here] rocket science.

I am full to the brim of hearing "nonsense" from BCCI office bearers about how successful they are. The way I see it, they are a collective of incompetent and self-obsessed motormouths who are more inept than many of the babus that manage India's political system.

For mine, Sharad Pawar and his cronies have eaten into any goodwill they may have conjured through their various commercial exploits and stands against the ICC. Time is fast running out to show us real advancements in the management of Indian cricket. Time is fast running out to show us they are not the egotistical bigots they portray themselves as. Time is fast running out to redeem themselves.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

It's Official - England Will Lose The Ashes

Increasingly I am beginning to develop a heartfelt hatred for systems that give a coach/manager of sporting team ultimate control over the team's destiny. The Ancient Greeks really were onto something when they dreamed up the system we now call democracy. Power to the people, I say. At the very least, power to more than one person.

England will lose The Ashes. Why you ask? Two words: Duncan Fletcher.

Fletcher is oft credited for the resurgence of English cricket. He formed great partnerships with Nasser Hussein at first, then Michael Vaughan (unfortunately, his latest partnerships with Strauss and Flintoff haven't paid off quite as richly). He was responsible for fostering an attitude where all individuals play for each other, for the collective. He taught the Poms how to be absolutely ruthless and clinical when the opposition was down (epitomised by the cold response to Ricky Ponting's flowing wound during the last series).

For all the good he did, somewhere along the line, he grew comfortable in his surroundings. Fletcher started giving the impression that he knew exactly what to do to make his side win a match. Part of his strategy revolved around sticking, through hell or high water, with a core set of players. Cricketers that had been through the tough times and proven themselves to be good "team-men".

This strategy will pay rich dividends if the players in the core group are at the top of their class, on a global scale - ala Warne, Flintoff, Ponting, Tendulkar, Dravid etc. However, such a plan is quite likely to go to the dogs in the event that injury , ill-fortune or bad form strikes one or a number of players simultaneously or within short time spans - as has been the case with England.

While they were fit and on top of their game the likes of Flintoff, Pietersen, Jones and Vaughan (to an extent) were able to carry the lesser lights in the team. Geraint Jones' dropped catches were easily forgotten because the bowlers continued to manufacture other opportunities. Ashley Giles got the odd wicket (a wicket every 90+ balls for a specialist bowler is abysmal) because the opposition batsmen targeted him for cheap runs.

In recent times, we have seen how the Poms have unraveled when their stars have not been around or have not been able to consistently produce the goods. Ian Bell has improved a shade to prop up the batting on occasion. Matthew Hoggard has provided some an avenue of attack when conditions have been favourable, but the bowling has looked toothless with the Steve Harmison MIA and Flintoff's body creaking under the enormous workload. The bench is almost talent-less and this has not helped the cause.

However, the two players that have made a discernible difference have been Chris Read and Monty Panesar. Gone were the days of an inept 'keeper fumbling dollies and a spin bowler who couldn't spin it in dust-bowls. Read provided a calm assurance and Panesar provided an attacking option that has been the basis of recent English victories, particularly against Pakistan. For all of G Jones' batting prowess, Read has performed just as well and for all of Monty's much maligned frailties with the bat and in the field, he has redeemed himself (and then some) in terms of wickets taken.

With all that success having gone to his head, Fletcher seems to believe the only way to beat the Aussies, again, is to employ the same personnel. If that were the case, Sourav Ganguly would still be playing and carting Australian bowlers all over the GABBA like he did in the first test of the 03/04 series. For some totally unfathomable reason, Fletcher has no faith in Read and Monty Panesar.

This lack of faith has not been shared by either Flintoff, or Strauss, while they have taken turns at the captaincy. However, for some inexplicable reason, in the first warm-up match against the Australian PM's XI, Monty bowled 3 overs for not many while Giles got carted for 50+ in his 8 overs. Maybe that was an attempt to get some miles in Giles' legs. But, why? Wouldn't England be better off giving Panesar more match practice in Australian conditions? What is worse is that Jones was back in place of Read.

If the Poms are serious about winning The Ashes, this is not the time to play favourites. Flintoff needs to get in Fletcher's ears and tell him, in unequivocal terms, that Panesar and Read are more likely to succeed than Giles and Jones. Plan and simple.

As it is, with all their form and injury worries the English are going to have a tough time defending the urn. Fletcher's pre-occupation with recreating the past will definitely lose England The Ashes. It is time that Flintoff flexed his proverbial muscles and played a part in the selection of the team. Dictatorships have never been prosperous for all involved. Fletcher's version will not be prosperous for England, if it is not replaced by a democracy involving Flintoff - at the very least.

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Why Michael Vaughan Will Lose England The Ashes

If he manages to get fit and actually find a place in the starting 11, that is. I firmly believe that Michael Vaughan is an astute captain, able to motivate his players to play as a team rather than as individuals. This quality, undoubtedly, helped England win The Ashes last year.

However, there is a big difference between the last series and the impending version. Michael Vaughan was not in the greatest of form at the time, a series average of 32.60 is testimony to this fact. England, and thus Vaughan's saving grace was that most of his star players were in form. Andrew Flintoff, Simon Jones and Kevin Pietersen exhibited career-defining performances. They were supported, in bits and pieces, by the likes of Hoggard, Harmison, Strauss and even Geraint Jones with the bat.

The big difference between now and then, is most of these players will begin the series with little or no performances of substance in the recent past. In the bowling department:
  • Flintoff hasn't bowled in a match for quite some time.
  • Harmison is poor traveler and patch, at best, on tours since that ground-breaking tour of the West Indies.
  • Simon Jones is not even here.

In the batting department:
  • Trescothick is quite likely to sulk home claiming a "stress-related illness".
  • Strauss has been in mediocre batting form of late.
  • Apart from Collingwood, the rest of the middle order have not looked like putting up big totals, consistently, against good quality bowling attacks.

In this state, can the Poms really afford to have an under-prepared Michael Vaughan back in the team? Will an out-of-form team be able to carry a player/captain who may offer nothing more than an inspiration value, with his presence?

My answer to these questions is a big NO. The English team need players who are fully fit and have had recent match practice that will stand them in good stead to improve their performances during the Test matches. What do you think?

PS. Who will be captain if Vaughan returns?

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Innocent Shoaib Slaps Woolmer

It seems there might not be much truth to any either of the proclamations in the title. After his conviction for doping, Shoaib Akhtar is on the PR trail to gain support/sympathy and try and convince the more gullible members of the public, if not the people who matter, that he is not a drug cheat and has "done nothing wrong."

Akhtar's appeal is unlikely to be overturned, for if it was the PCB would face an almost unanimous condemnation and scorn from sporting bodies the world over.

However, Akhtar does not deny that he may have taken substances that have combined to increase the levels of nandrolone in his body to unnatural levels. It appears that the basis of his appeal will anchored around the fact that he did not know the substances could have a doping effect, because the formulations he was taking were not specifically on the banned list.

It goes without saying that people are still put in jail for murdering someone, even though it may have been an accident. Akhtar's pleas of ignorance sound feeble and reflect badly on his intellect and that of sportspeople in general.

It is this very impression of Akhtar's that Colonel Anil Kaul has tried to shamefully capitalise on by trying to ignite flames based around an incident where Akhtar allegedly slapped Pakistani coach Bob Woolmer.

For all of Shoaib's behavioural troubles I have no reason to doubt the vehement denials of both player and coach. The army officer, who in my view should remain anonymous in the background while he is on duty, has tarnished the reputation of the Indian armed forces by making such ludicrous claims. It is unbecoming of a representative of such an esteemed and proud organisation to stoop to the levels of a common pauper fabricating events to earn his 15 seconds of fame.

You could argue that Shoaib Akhtar has made himself easy fodder for such allegations, and I would be inclined to agree with you. Akhtar and Kaul have proven to be similar people - both afflicted by a severe case of verbal diarrhea. It is time Akhtar, in particular, bit the bullet and stayed mum. It is the only way he will have any possibility of redemption.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Yuvraj Singh To Miss World Cup

So the headlines screamed and caused 500 million hearts of Indian origin to skip a beat. In another sign that there is not enough news going around to satisfy the thousands of media outlets yearning for the next big story, some git shot of a phone call to former Team India physiotherapist, Andrew Leipus.

Without any first-hand knowledge of the exact extent of Yuvraj's knee injury, Leipus was asked to present his diagnosis, which was printed/read/published verbatim - without a disclaimer in sight acknowledging that Leipus was half the world away in Australia. The NDTV website, along with a myriad others reported:

"That's a ruptured ligament in the knee. It's a very important ligament and would generally be reconstructed. Hasn't been done yet because he requires a period of time to heal some of the bruising that's there in the knee as well.

"But that's going to take him five-six months to fully rehabilitate and start playing again," said Andrew Leipus, former physio, Indian Cricket Team.

What does this prove? Only that Andrew Leipus is an educated man and has read all the textbooks prescribed for his physiotherapy course. The various outlets saw no sense in asking a few random questions of the man who is actually treating Yuvraj, Dr Anant Joshi. They even saw less sense in contacting the injured subject, before publishing their sensationalist headline.

Only after the storm in a tea-cup had been brewed, did we hear that Yuvraj was not worried (neither was the BCCI for that matter) and he will be examined by Dr Joshi in the near future.

So all ye loyal subjects who suffered a minor bout of angina after reading the said headlines, fear not. Yuvraj Singh may be temporarily down, but he may yet set the 2007 World Cup on fire (not the type of fire Mark Vermeulen set, hopefully).

PS. How proud the BCCI must be of current Indian physio John Gloster for refusing to comment until, "the board makes an official statement on it after reassessing his fitness." Lalit Modi would be so very proud, if only the players showed as much discipline. Idiot.

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Shane Warne's Chin

Having a quick flick through Cricinfo's image gallery today, I happened upon this rather candid close-up of Shane Warne's chin. When it comes to cricket's battle with the bulge there are 4 players who immediately spring to mind - Mike Gatting, Arjuna Ranatunga, Mark Cosgrove and Shane Warne.

The fact that all were, have been or will be reasonably successful at the sport should tell the uninitiated that one does not have to be of the finest athletic stock to excel at our fine game.

Having closely analysed that photo, it got me thinking that maybe Mrs Warne (Shane's mom that is) might have been onto something when she gave him that pill. The ill-fated boot camp that Shane was overtly reticent to attend obviously has not helped. In the frail state that cricket currently finds itself in, in particular relation to that clown Shoaib, I would not dare suggest a repeat dose of Mrs Warne's medication for her dear son. Because, he's dear to her as well as us.

However, a little exercise wouldn't go astray, Shane? Maybe?

PS. He'll still clean up the Poms with a 40 wicket haul in The Ashes, whether he has 3 chins or 6. That's why we love him, right?

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Sack Ricky Ponting - Immediately

Ricky Ponting is a blight on Australia, much in the same way that cancer is in a human body. For a country that has produced distinguished cricket captains of the caliber of Alan Border, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh, Australians should be ashamed that a man as arrogant and uncouth as Ponting is leading their national cricket team.

Sample this:

An international sportsman who does not have the decency and courtesy to wait for a trophy to be duly presented to him is not fit to lead a bunch of toddlers, let alone world-class athletes. Motioning the President of the host Board to hand over the trophy and then shoving him in the back, however gentle (and totally hilarious to his team) the act may have been, is unbecoming of a human being and shows a total and utter disrespect for one's hosts and humans, in general. A ruffian from the troubled western suburbs of Melbourne is capable of displaying more tact and humility than Ponting managed to exhibit.

Every captain knows and understands that the first few clicks are always taken with the presenter of the trophy. The video above makes it blatantly clear that Sharad Pawar was about to make his way off the stage before Ponting tried to show him the way and, quite appallingly, Damien Martyn felt it was necessary to help out his captain by physically pushing Pawar off stage. That is assault in any country and it is only because of the humble nature of Pawar that Martyn does not find himself locked up in a dirty jail cell charged with assault. If Schapelle Corby thought Indonesian police were bad, she hasn't yet suffered the wrath of the Indian police.

I had immense respect for Damien Martyn. As a cricketer, he has fought to get his career back on track after numerous setbacks. He has displayed a strength of character and a sense of self-belief that few can lay claim to. However, as a wise man once said, reputations take years to forge, but are ruined in a day. Damien Martyn, along with his captain, is an insolent simpleton who has lost all hard-earned respect in the eyes of millions of cricket fans, the world over.

Mark Taylor was a dignified and distinguished man of the highest character, no wonder he became Australian of the Year. Steve Waugh was a respectful traditionalist of the highest moral standing. They both understood the importance and relevance of protocols and behaved accordingly. How many people were pushed off the stage when Waugh collected the World Cup in 2003?

Dismiss the fact that Sharad Pawar is the host President. Leave alone the fact that he is a high ranking and distinguished Member of Parliament, and a former Chief Minister of Maharashtra. At the most basic level, he is a cricket fan like everyone else at the stadium and watching on TV. Which Australian sportsman would force Peter Costello or Steve Bracks off a stage and then laugh about it with his team? Why then, is the etiquette suddenly different for people of other countries, distinguished or otherwise?

Thanks to their deplorable actions, Ponting and Martyn have practically erased all the positive results achieved by the likes of Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist in building up a fan-base for Australian cricket in India. Ponting has poured scorn and shame, over not only himself, but on the institution that is the Australian cricket captaincy.

Why is it that Australian players fail to absorb the simple reality that they are humans before they are cricketers; that the world does not revolve around how many runs they score or wickets they scalp? Cricket Australia has failed radically in addressing this vital issue. It needs to make an example out of the Ponting and Martyn. Ricky Ponting must be sacked, immediately.

PS. For those who understand Hindi, below is a sample of the airtime devoted to the issue by Star News.

Tags for this post: cricket australia ChampionsTrophy ponting martyn BCCI gilchrist scandal video

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Hottest Wives & Girlfriends - By Public Demand

Of the cricketing variety, that is. The Match Referee Awards for the best dressed/looking at this year's Brownlow Medal night has become the most viewed page on our blog, by a long way. We have received numerous emails leading up to and after the ICC Cricketer of the Year Awards asking us to do a similar post.

Like many of our readers who have written in, I must admit that I too was disappointed to see practically no red carpet pictures of the event. It is rather strange, given the Indian tabloid media's propensity to print pictures of anything with a half-pretty face and two legs.

However, we are hard-working people at here at The Match Referee, and we don't like to disappoint our loyal subjects. Hence, hot on the heels of Stick Cricket's hotly contested poll, we have managed to procure a few snaps of the better looking, better halves of current and former international cricketers (you gotta love Google). Now its up to you to pick your favourite WAG (wives and girlfriends)and tell us who is tops (click on the images to enlarge).

<-- Simon Katich doesn't seem to hit the ball too well these days, but he has a good looking wife in Georgie Willis. Respect. --> The receding hair line and prominent bald patch on the top of his head didn't hold Jaques Kallis back from pulling in the stunning former Miss South Africa, Cindy Nel. Any relation to Andre?

--> No cricketing WAG list is complete without a contender from Bollywood. Last we heard, Kim Sharma was wowing Yuvraj Singh with her classic good looks.

<-- Ian Harvey could not make the most of his chances in the Australian team. It seems he made all the right moves when selecting his better half - Amanda Harvey.

--> Matthew Hayden has also found himself in the Aussie selectors' bad books recently. Methinks it may be his culinary skills that are keep him in wife Kellie Hayden's good books. Just as an aside, that mop cut goes pretty close to Dizzy's mullet as the worst hairstyle, ever.

<-- Nathan Bracken is on top of the ODI wicket-taking list this year. Given that he's not all that pleasant on the eye, he'd be on top of the world after managing to dupe the vivacious Hayley Bracken into marrying him.

--> This is Graeme Smith's girlfriend, Minki Van Der Westhuizen. The South African model has been such a hit with cricket loving men the world over that, apparently, after voting on the Stick Cricket poll, one gentlemen was forced to ask, "How the **** did Graeme Smith get her?" Here, here.

<-- The number of people searching on Google with the phrase "Brett Lee Wife" is amazing. Some have ended up here, but probably not found what they were looking for. Liz Kemp qualifies for this WAG list of her own accord, however, this picture is also dedicated those poor souls who have forlornly clicked on many a page, without managing to catch a glimpse of "Brett Lee Wife".

<-- The hearts of a million lasses turned black when Andrew Flintoff announced he was tying the knot. You can't really blame the man, for he has done well for himself with Mrs Rachel Flintoff.

--> Vinod Kambli may have failed as a cricketer and as a Bollywood actor. However, he can count on many a hoarding for Bollywood movies with wife Andrea Kambli's (formerly Andrea Hewitt) face plastered all over.

If you liked this post, click here to purchase a copy of the hit series, Footballer's Wives.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

BCCI Ratings & Awards

I had heard some hoo-ha about an awards night the BCCI was planning to conduct, along the lines of Cricket Australia's Alan Border Medal night. Well, you read it here first, folks. The BCCI has unveiled its website for the said awards - without much fanfare, it must be noted.

In another reminder of the twisted logic the esteemed Board of Control for Cricket in India can treat us to, the website for the awards ceremony even precedes the Board's official website. Every other organisation would setup a website explaining its core activities before developing websites about its various frivolities. Then again, the BCCI is definitely not "any other organisation".

Alas, on my voyage of discovery I continued. The awards are based on "a Ratings System which is developed from the data provided by the BCCI statisticians superimposed by parameters defined by the Cricket Experts." Huh? Big words, but I still can't quite figure out how the awards are allocated.

So, I read on and realise that the BCCI loves associated itself with big-name brands. There were some utterances of the Board roping in Microsoft to develop software to evaluate umpires. Here, we are duly informed that "the first ever Ratings System that will be validated by a leading International Audit Firm – Ernst & Young Pvt. Ltd." Great, at least there will be no rigging of votes, or was that statistical data?

Over the years, we have also learned that the BCCI loves to outsource it's activities, for various reasons that we will ponder in another post. Keeping with this tune, "The BCCI Ratings, which is managed by Percept Holdings is a key BCCI initiative to promote cricket in India." We will let the poor grammar pass through to the 'keeper for now. Get this, "The BCCI Ratings are a unique blend of statistical and popular Ratings," and the "Ratings will be done on a daily and weekly basis." So, err, are they based on statistics or votes and are they "done" daily or weekly?

Let us not rot in utter confusion, for we are informed, in no uncertain terms, that the "first awards shall be presented in February 2007." The award categories include Best Batsman, Best Bowler, Best All Rounder and Best Fielder (how on Earth are they going to judge that?).

For all my mockery, it is a reasonably well designed website. Pity about the content though. Maybe they will get it all right for the real BCCI website. Just may be.

PS. The website has a "Contact Us" form where I have enquired as to the reasoning behind releasing this website before the actual BCCI homepage. I will keep you updated if I receive a reply.

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5 Jobs That Darryl Hair Should Not Apply For

We, here at The Match Referee, are good folk, always looking out for how we can be of assistance to the less fortunate in our community. Because Darryl Hair now resides in England and does not maintain a blog, he is not part of our community - technically. But, who am I to get technical about such trivial issues. The poor man has lost his job and I believe it is our duty to help him select a new means to earn a living. Its the least we could do for anyone who belonged to the cricket community.

I openly admit to knowing very little about the man. However, I have seen plenty of him on TV and believe I have observed enough qualities to allow me to help him.

Anybody that embarks on a job hunt must firstly know what type of job they want. I am not privy to Darryl's wish-list, so I made an executive decision to help him out by compiling a list of jobs that would be unbecoming of his stature and unsuited to his personality:
  1. Systems Accountant - High Profile Role: I know for a fact that Darryl shuns the spotlight, so this job is out straightaway. Additionally, the job requires a "keen eye for detail" and the ball tampering incident has proven that Darryl's eyes just are not what they used to be. Coke will just have to look elsewhere.
  2. Account Executive - Public Relations: the company seeks someone with a "can-do" attitude. Darryl possess this in abundance, as he has shown us in calling Mutiah Muralitharan many times for chucking. However, after the public relations disaster of demanding a golden handshake from his employers, I do not believe Darryl is an ideal fit for this role.
  3. Restaurant Manager: I considered this job for Darryl because from his ample frame, I have developed the view that he likes food. Unfortunately, the advertiser seeks a person able to handle complaints in a "diplomatic" manner. Hence, this job is struck off the list because Darryl would be struggling when if he has to provide an example of a time when he has handled a dispute in a diplomatic manner. Sorry, no restaurant for you mate.
  4. Victoria Police: this appealed to us immediately, anybody would think that Darryl has all the qualities to become a good cop. Then we realised that the Victorian police requires their officers to display "integrity" and "respect". After the Darryl's last Test match, I reasoned that his "integrity" was shot and he couldn't really say that he displayed much respect for the Pakistani team.
  5. Pakistan Government: I thought the position of "Communication Officer" in the "Women Development Division" would be ideal for Darryl since it requires someone who can "organise media coverage" for a project - an activity that Darryl is highly proficient in. However, setting foot anywhere near Pakistan at present could be a life-threatening scenario for Darryl, so this job definitely does not make the cut.

Darryl Hair is a talented man. He will most likely be able to find a new career, all on his own. I merely hoped to assist him in a small way, during what would be deeply troubled times for the former international umpire. After all, what is the point of friends if they can't help you out in a time of need, no?

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Stand Up! If You're Not A Stinkin' Pom

A disclaimer before I begin: the words in the title are not mine. They have been crafted by a man with far more melodic ability than I.

If you thought metal disintegration was the preserve of the Australian cricket team and whoever they happened to be playing, think again. After the Barmy Army fired the first shot for the upcoming Ashes series, with their brand spanking new songbook, Australia has gone into song-writing overdrive.

Radio talkback shows, morning news on the TV and the internet have been inundated with closet Slim Dustys' trying to song-write their way to stardom. If you are looking for something to sing/scream your lungs out to during this summer's series, you might find inspiration at some of these websites:
  • An Aussie Song For The Ashes - they have six .pdf files full of songs!
  • The Tonk has a go, with plenty of help from their readers. The title of this post came from a song submitted to them by "Wayne Smith". I'm mightily surprised the composer wasn't a certain "Wayne Ker".
  • gets in on the act.
  • The Corridor has lyrics from a Shannon Noll CD (you know its getting rough when Shannon Noll get in on the act).
To our dearest readers of English origins, if you thought Australia was just looking for some light-hearted banter during this Ashes series. Think again. I'm warning you all, in advance, to we weary of Yabba and his posse:

All this makes those Friday night karaoke regulars look good.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

5 Reasons Why The West Indies Will Win The Champions Trophy

It is not as absurd as you may think. Of all the teams in world cricket at present the West Indians are best suited to toppling the mighty Australians in tonight's final of the Champions Trophy. This has nothing to do with the fact that they have already beaten them once in this tournament. Ludicrous, right? Wrong!!

The West Indians play a style of cricket that does not suit conventional cricket thinking. They don't have many stars in the team and they play three specialist bowlers at the best of times. How could they possibly repeat their win over Australia? It's because they understand their weaknesses and adapt their strengths to the requirements of the modern one-day game.

Of the pack chasing the Aussies at present, the Indian batsmen have forgotten how to hit the ball off the square. Calling the Pakistani bowling line-up an "attack" is akin to labeling Mary Poppins a blood-thirsty animal, especially after their two fast bowling stars were caught with the juice. The Sri Lankans have disappointed me to no end in this tournament, especially after they have taken to imitating their Indian batting counterparts. The South Africans run the other way as soon as they see Australia's name against their's on the fixture list. The Kiwis need to clone Chris Cairns, quick fast and the English, pfffft. Even my cousin's under-18 team stand a better chance than the Poms.

There are five (5) crucial factors that will ensure a West Indian victory tonight:
  1. Brian Charles Lara - this man lives to play Australia. Forget his games against the other teams, it is the Aussies he cares about and loves to beat. For all Glen McGrath's gibberish over the years, the Australians still have not found a fool-proof mode of dismissing Lara. For once, he seems to have a team behind him with the capability of helping him with the cause.
  2. Chris Gayle - is that new Reebok bat a good'un, or what? The purple patch that Gayle is enjoying at present could not come in a darker shade of mauve. He is an uncanny character that has no major flaws in his makeup, other than his mind. If he comes to play, the Australians will be on a major leather hunt tonight. Don't get him talking either, word is, he just doesn't shut up.
  3. Part-time West Indian bowlers - they may not turn the ball square. They certainly do not exhibit the loop and guile that would do Bishen Singh Bedi proud, but they do bowl it flat and fast with just enough mystery to prevent the batsmen from hitting them out of the park with any regularity. This variety in the West Indian attack will go a long way to keeping the Australian batsmen in check.
  4. Shane Watson - I understand he doesn't play for the West Indies. He does, however, play a Sehwag-esque role at the top of the order that does not guarantee his side a solid beginning to the innings. Watson may be better than Katich, but then again, Geoffery Boycott's mom would do a better job than Katich. Watson's place is in the middle order. Bring back Haydos, I say.
  5. Brad Hogg - he is no Shane Warne, but you don't have to be in ODIs. If the only variety you have in your attack is a left arm quick, you're struggling. It is patently clear that Ricky Ponting does not rate Hogg, neither do I for that matter, and is unlikely to play him tonight. However, Hogg's presence is necessary to break up the sameness of the Australian attack. If any of the West Indian stars get settled, they will make merry with the Australian quicks. Mitchell Johnson included.
The West Indians have not been the most fancied team in world cricket for quite some time now. They still do not have the firepower to match some other teams in the longer version of the game. However, this is their forte, for now. For mine, they have a better than equal chance of retaining the trophy they won two years ago.

We will witness the two best teams of the tournament contesting the final tonight. I only hope for a nail-biting, thrilling contest that is befitting of the title of this tournament.

Update: At 94/5 in the 19th over, it looks like I might just have jinxed the West Indies. All hope is not lost yet. Five wickets remain with Bravo still at the crease. Lets wait and see, exactly how much of a game we are treated to from here.

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