Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Vultures Begin Their Feast

They lost in Mohali, but no problem because it was India and it was a fluke. They lost in Nagpur, but no problem because it was India, McGrath and Warne had retired and "she'll be right" once Haydos and Lee get back in form against the Kiwis. They lost in Perth (again) and that's no problem because Aussies always perform well with their backs to the wall and they'll murder the Saffas in Melbourne when Haydos will crack another god-gifted century. They're about to lose at the G and I wonder if we are finally witnessing the calling of a spade by its true and unchallenged name?

Brydon Coverdale rips into Matthew Hayden and co. Ricky Ponting ponders the thought of becoming the first Australian captain in almost 20 years to lose two series on the trot and can't make any guarantees for the Sydney Test. Tim Nielsen would rather have his heart ripped out than talk about Day 3 of this Boxing Day Test. Further, with a bottomless pit of salt suitable only for open wounds, the Indian media has uncovered cracks in places other than BLee's foot.

This is indeed a sad day for world cricket, for I long to see a world with several powerful teams (of which Team India is the mostest) who can beat each other on any given Sunday. To see a superpower fall with such expedience and utter disgrace really demands a cover-up of Catholic Church proportions. Unfortunately, such ego-saving avenues are closed to the Australian cricket team and now we are likely left with a two-horse race for at least the next couple of years.

Never in Ricky Ponting's worst nightmares would he have imagined going to Sydney with the series well and truly lost. Champions always believe their own bluff, that's why they are fearless. Only when their mortality is proven to them with abject ease do the weeds of doubt take hold. Such is the case with Hayden, Symonds and the rest.

Matthew Hayden will likely survive to play his benefit match in Sydney and for this he only has BLee to thank. Andrew Symonds would have been unlikely to be so lucky had Shane Watson not be so fragile - again. The rest are likely to die another day.

These, however, are the easy decisions. Andrew Hilditch and his band of merry men face a much tougher choice when it comes to advising the Cricket Australia board about the man considered in Australia second only to the Prime Minister. Michael Clarke has already been groomed as the heir apparent. Clarke's won a few matches when Ponting's had his feet up and appears to have far more tactical nous, and more importantly, luck, than the incumbent.

Almost every other major series loss in the last 10 years has seen the sacking of the then Australian captain (just ask Waugh and Taylor). The Herald Sun had it absolutely right, Ponting has had a year from hell. Are the Australian selectors seriously thinking about wiping the slate clean and putting Ponting out of his misery after what could well be a South African whitewash?

Now, who would have dreamed of that two months ago?

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Monday, December 29, 2008


So it is according to this hilarious piece of work by the lads at Short Of A Length.

Eulogies of Ponting's reign as captain will be published soon enough. Until then, enjoy the link.

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BCCI Now Meddling In Sri Lanka

Arjuna Ranatunga allows Sri Lankan ICL players to participate in the Sri Lankan domestic competition - the BCCI grumbles, but makes no moves. Even before Team India's tour of Pakistan is canceled, Ranatunga intimates that the Lankans are willing to tour Pakistan if India pulls out - soon after which, Ranatunga and his interim committee are sacked. I don't often subscribe to conspiracy theories, but this does not seem kosher.

Especially not, after this came to my attention.

Is there something I'm missing here? How is the BCCI or India adversely affected if Sri Lanka tours Pakistan? If anything, common sense says that financially stronger Sri Lankan and Pakistani cricket boards are more valuable allies for India at the table of the 10 stupid stooges in Dubai.

Unfortunately we all know jokers' propensity to meddle in all things not directly related to promoting and enhancing the game in their own backyard. The sooner the establishment realises that Team India's current success is not the result of great planning, but mere coincidence and good fortune, the more likely we will be to avoid the plight of afflicting the less fortunate in our very small universe.

We can only hope that the ineptitude and pettiness which characterises the (mis-)management of Indian cricket will show signs of change during our lifetime.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Night Tests Just Not Cricket

Cricket Australia has been harping on about night Test matches for quite some time now. Up until now, no concrete timelines, plans or details of any significance have been offered as to how, when and where these random mutterings will come to fruition. It is with stark horror that I read that the sanctity of the purest form of the game will be audaciously challenged with the first ever day / night test match between Australia and Pakistan at the Adelaide Oval during November 2009.

IMHO, innovation in sport is great, as long as it does not debase the virtues of the original and the traditional. Night Test cricket is an assault on the very fabric on which cricket was created.

I can understand cricket's thirst for change in this product driven age where every moment must be entertaining, dramatic and seemingly better than the last. However, cricket has already slighted its loyal and traditional supporters by cowering to the entertainment product dollar by producing a version that is only marginally longer than your average Bollywood turnip. Surely, that is insult enough.

Test cricket will not be Test cricket without a red cherry that performs the feats all red cherries over the ages have performed. Lets just try and leave pink to Paris and her troupe of trailer trash.

There is a simple pleasure in sweating it out over a hot summer, watching two evenly matched prize fighters toughing it out. Test cricket is an entertainment product already. If people haven't yet realised, they probably never will - not at night and definitely not because of a florescent cricket ball. For these simple minds, we have 50 over cricket, and if that fails they can indulge in the sodomisation of this noble sport through T20.

If day night four day cricket has already been tried and rejected in Australia, why do we insist on applying this clearly infeasible concept to the peak version of the game? Something about inept administrators I hear?

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Is Brett Lee's Career Coming To An End?

Just on two years ago we offered you this. In the meantime, sure he came back and became the matchwinner he was always touted to be. His potential was being fulfilled, they said. Was it really? Or was Brett Lee simply riding on the coat tails of Glen McGrath and subsequently, benefiting from the unwarranted respect that opposition batsmen offered the Australian attack after the departure of Warne and McGrath?

The mind is the most potent weapon any sportsperson has. It can propel you to extraordinary heights or it bury you in a deluge of negativity and self-pity. Brett Lee's personal life has been plastered all over Sydney's tabloids. His marital problems have been sliced and diced ad nauseum. The question nobody has been able to answer, is whether he has really recovered from all his woes? I get the feeling even Brett Lee doesn't know.

Traditionally we at The Match Referee, have been severely disliked (this is a family website so I'm keeping it clean) by ageing and balding bowlers who used to be fast and couldn't bowl an outswinger if Imran Khan gifted them a tampered ball. We haven't quite worked out why, but we'll get back to you when we have it sussed.

I like Brett Lee, simply because he used to bowl fast and it took a lot of gumption to sing a corny love song with a 60-something grandma. As difficult as it will be for the Australian selectors to take this decision given the current state of their bowling attack, they must give Brett Lee a break.

Along with Matthew Hayden, Lee is clearly struggling more than the collective. The quiet swagger, the confident smile the ease and pace are quite clearly missing from his game. Every minute movement seems laboured, every sinew strained for the most trivial of outcomes. This is not the strike weapong the Australian cricket system manufactured and this is not the obsolete machine that will be useful to the Australian cricket team in the troubled years to come.

Some time away from the international grind is likely to bear large, juicy and naturally sweetened fruits for Australian cricket. Lee needs this time to go back to basics, reinvent himself in his old age and replenish his tanks of "love for the game".

All the greats have had to do it at some point or another in their careers. Brett Lee isn't even close to being a great cricketer yet - reason moreso, one would think, for him to be forced to do the needful.

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Do Pakistani Cricketers Matter In The IPL?

It's an interesting question. I don't think anybody has an answer that can be solidly backed by concrete evidence at this point in time. While their technical ability is not in question and given the state of the nation after the Mumbai slaughter, will it be un-Indian of IPL team bosses to play Pakistanis during the second season of the BCCI's T20 competition?

Younis Khan - that most intelligent of Pakistani cricketers - has quite selflessly proferred that the IPL would suffer catastrophic failure if he and his fellow countrymen were excluded from the upcoming edition.

In Pakistani cricket, Younis' ego is second only to Shoaib Akhtar's and I have a sneaking suspicion that Younis might be suffering from a bout of FIGJAM (f**k I'm good, just ask me - for the uninitiated).

It is my considered opinion that the absence of Pakistani cricketers will have minimal influence on the success or lack thereof the IPL. In fact, I am a firm believer in standardisation and consistent decision making. Therefore, the precedent created by the Indian government's decision to block Team India's tour of Pakistan should be uniformly and religiously applied to ban all Pakistani nationals from earning an income on Indian soil. For what it's worth, yes I will consider it un-Indian if IPL teams field Pakistani cricketers.

This view may seem somewhat extremist to many. However, balanced and measured approaches to coercing that recalcitrant nation to clean up its act have proven unfruitful for 60 years; it's high time for serious heavy-handedness.

Sorry Younis, I simply don't buy your bluster.

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Continued >> >>
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