Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Do India have the balls to beat Australia?

To me, Australia's 2005 Ashes loss was an aberration. It should not have happened. A lot has been said about the reasons why, and I think a lot of it came down to "reverse swing bowling" to over simplify the issue. There has been quite a bit of talk about how it was that the English were able to engineer such reverse swing, with speculation ranging from a specific type of breath mints, to the English pitches, to the type of cricket balls used.

Whatever it was, it was something that wasn't present when the English visited Australia in late 2006.

Anyway, it seems like the Indians are using the same balls that the English used and there is speculation that this is what has given them the winning edge.

Personally I think it's no excuse for Australia not to be able to play reverse swing, they should be able to use tennis balls with duct tape on one side for all I care, I don't see how a powerful cricket nation like Australia can't deal with reverse swing.

From my point of view, the only way a specific cricket ball was a factor in our Ashes loss was when Glenn McGrath stepped on one during training before the second test and injured himself.

That's what lost us the Ashes.

The only way a specific cricket ball will lose us the series in India this time around, is if they put one in the hands of Jason Krejza.

Thankfully, we've dodged that bullet - for now.


Sunday, 26 October 2008

The Southern Hemisphere Twenty20 Competition

I'm excited about the prospect of a southern hemisphere domestic Twenty20 competition featuring franchise teams from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Makes a lot of sense to me commercially, in many way it's replicating the Super 14 rugby notion of combining the three small to medium sized markets into one mega market. What surprises me a bit is the announcement itself, and how they're earmarking all of this to happen in 2011. Seems like a long way away.

I suppose that seems prudent, giving yourself ample opportunity to setup the competition, but when you consider the IPL was announced in September 2007, and the first ball was bowled in April 2008 - I can't help but wonder, how long does it really take to put one of these things together?

For me, I'm totally sold on the idea, I think it will be great. I just wish it would happen sooner.


Tuesday, 21 October 2008

So, we've lost this test...

I don't buy this argument that Australia has no depth and that this crushing defeat is a sign of things to come.

I think it is a sign that the selectors - Andrew Hilditch, David Boon, Merv Hughes and Jamie Cox - really need to have long hard think about the next Test. It's not the retirement of champion players that has left us in this position, it's some very poor selections. I can't comment on Cox and Hilditch, but Boon and Big Merv were never known for their intellect.

I am not at all surprised we couldn't bowl out India, but I am surprised at how badly the batting fell apart. We need some steel - it is not the time to be trying out pretty blond-haired boys like White and Watson who simply are not good enough to be there. The selectors have been trying for years to get them into the team, but Watson kept getting injured and there wasn't a big enough excuse to get White in. You can't argue that they are both players who haven't the attitude to play for Australia - White has been a quality captain of Victoria and Watson has impressive first-class numbers. But in Test cricket, what counts are results. Watson batted well in one innings, but couldn't buy a wicket. Isn't half the excuse to have him in the team because he can bowl a bit? Is he really "the future" as the commentators kept saying? As for White, well he simply isn't up to it and you can't polish up any argument for his inclusion.

So why are we relying on these guys? We have quality players like Bollinger and Hilfenhaus in the wings who can actually bowl (not to mention Bracken), and Jacques, Hodge and David Hussey are just waiting to have another crack. And if we must try a spinner - which is one area where I will concede we are lacking - then what really is wrong with Casson or one of the other guys who actually give the ball a tweak? Why bother contracting Casson if we're not going to play him?

In the next Test I'm not sure what the best option is but would consider a four man pace attack with Clark back for White. Siddle did OK and could keep his place but his promotion above the aforementioned Bollinger and Hilfenhaus is quite odd. Katich should have a bit more of a bowl, and I never thought I'd say it, but wouldn't Andrew Symonds be handy right now? With a team of this balance, Watson's position must be under threat but he seems to have done just enough for now. Perhaps we will turn to Krejza?

Well played India, you certainly deserve this win and even with our strongest possible current team I think you would have beaten us. I'm not surprised at Ponting's fight with Lee, he must be at his wits end with the selections. We almost got past England in 2005 when we had a bit of a selection problem, but we are not as good as that team and India are better than England were.

It's a shame we couldn't give India a good game.


Monday, 20 October 2008

Sheffield Shield Player to Watch: Younis Khan

I am all for international players being a part of our domestic competition, but I think it's strangely random that of all people Younis Khan should be playing for South Australia. 

They desperately need someone with his skill (or even just skill full stop) to help them actually win games. I wonder how on earth it came to be that Younis got into the picture. Does he have family there? Is there something about South Australia that appeals to a Pakistani? (I assume it's not the wine).

 I hope this the start of a trend towards more of this. I'd love to see some promising Kenyans and Bangladeshi's get a go as well (provided they can make the cut) as a means of fleshing out our competition. We've already got a few Zimbabwean's in the competition which I think is great, I look forward to seeing more.


Friday, 10 October 2008

Have we ever had such a long and strange batting line-up?

So we went with Cameron White to bat at number 8. Interesting. I presume we have had a change of tactics as White is not a bowler. And we have Watson at number 6. Not a bad bat, but not as good as Jacques. And not a Test class bowler.

So, let's theorise what the selectors are doing, as it's clearly not obvious. I think that they are so unfathomably keen to get Watson in the team that they had to find a way to get him in there. Instead of picking a proper bowler, they picked a bloke (White) you can bat reasonably well to cover for the fact that Watson really isn't that good a bat. And the selectors seem to like White too, so having Watson there is cover for White's own lack of bowling skills.

It's a strange circular argument - use White to cover for Watson, and Watson to cover for White. The better solution? Pick a decent batsman in Jacques and a decent bowler in, well.... Maybe there is the problem. Picking White is conservative. The selectors probably thought "we don't have enough bowlers to bowl them out, so there is no way they are going to bowl us out." What a shame we seem to have to go against the way we have picked teams over the last 15 very successful years - that is, 6 good bats, 4 good bowlers and a keeper. Haddin is a top batsman, we should not forget. We don't need this much lower order cover and we need a spinner, not Watson's medium pace (and White is pretty much a pace bowler too given that he doesn't really spin it!)

It's the strangest line-up since Bevan was picked at number 7 in the Test team. The difference then was that Bevan could actually bowl and took the South Africans apart!

And what happened to Casson? Is White plus Watson really better than Jacques plus Casson (or Bollinger or Siddle or West - probably not Krejza)?

Oh well, Watson will probably go and score 100 and White take 10 wickets now. We are lucky India are not the team they were a few years back when I have no doubt they would have taken us apart.


Thursday, 2 October 2008

A team of selections that didn't work...

In light of some of the odd recent selections that the Aussie selectors have come up with to try and fill the void left by the retiring legends, here is a team of not-so-inspired Australian selections that I can remember from recent years. Some of these guys have time to turn it all around, and I hope they do, especially Rogers who is a fine player:

1) Mick Lewis

A Victorian trundler who managed to concede 113 runs off 10 overs in an ODI - the world record.

2) Darren Patterson

We didn't say they had to be picked for Australia. This Aussie was picked for England having only played 11 first-class games for Victoria and Nottinghamshire. He did OK, but even he didn't agree with his selection: "I probably didn't agree with the selection, as it was," Pattinson said. "I don't think I'd be picking someone to play the one Test when they haven't really played that many first-class games and weren't in the squad." Needless to say he probably wont be picked again.

3) Shane Watson (in Tests anyway)

Ever since we lost the Ashes in 2005, the selectors have been after a Flintoff-clone, even though we already possessed the world's best all-rounder in Adam Gilchrist and some other pretty good bowlers and batsmen. Watson has been given so many chances at the expense of players who actually deserve to be there, like Katich, and just keeps getting injured. He'll probably go and get 100 in the next Test now, but really, a Test player? A top one-day player, who still has more to deliver there, he also has bad hair, an annoying attitude and poses nude.

4) Nathan Hauritz

Comprehensively out-bowled in the spin department by Michael Clarke in his one test, although he himself did OK. Seems like a nice guy, but I always got the impression I could spin it as much if I tried.

5) Scott Muller

"Can't bowl, can't throw" - was it muttered by Shane Warne or Joe the Cameraman - he was actually not too bad, but threw a bit of a hissy fit in a later state game and was never going to be picked again. At least the whole thing helped Brett Lee's band Six and Out release a single Can't Bowl, Can't Throw.

6) Shaun Young

Good solid state player found himself in the right spot at the right time and got a Test call-up in the 1997 Ashes series in England when Jason Gillespie got injured and Paul Reiffel went home for the birth of his child. Really didn't have a chance to do anything and never got another Test.

7) Wayne Phillips

I may be the only person in Australia who remembers "the other Wayne Phillips". Came in for one test to partner Mark Taylor at the top of the order in the 90s.

8) Brad Young

A spin bowler who played a few ODIs and had a bowling average of 251. I seem to remember him taking a hat-trick whilst cricket was still at the Commonwealth Games, but that was not an official game. Also slid into the fence, ruining his knee and his international ambitions.

9) Chris Rogers

A quality player, still has time to make it, but did not impress in his single Test. Unfairly lost his central contract, I hope he comes back.

10) Simon Cook

Australia tried some interesting bowlers when the big guys were injured, and Cook was just that. He took 7 wickets on debut, played another Test, then was never picked again. I honestly don't know what happened, whether he got injured, lost form, or there was simply no room for him.

11) Not sure yet, but wait till this season is over, I'm sure we'll be able to fill this position...

Would like to hear of anyone I may have left off.