Friday, July 31, 2009

Rudi Koertzen the Sightless

Oh geez. Rudi, Rudi. Don't ever go to Australia. You won't make it past the baggage carousel. Instead of those cute beagles that they bring out to sniff your baggage, the airport authorities will bring out a Rottweiler and set him on you. That life to Bell was ludicrous.

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Whats the prescription, Doc?

Warne: What the Australians need is some aggression, some in-your-face.

Siddle: I think I'll just bowl a full-toss to a man making his return to test cricket.

Moi: What the Australians need is some bowling that looks like taking a wicket.

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Edgbaston, 2nd morning

Good thing I had a rough morning and woke up early to catch the Ashes action. Plenty of wickets; dodgy Koertzen LBWs (though I feel no sympathy whatsoever for Johnson, who shouldered arms to a straight ball), a good wicketkeeper catch, and a captain's self-destruction (could Ponting have played a worse shot than that awful hook?)

Flintoff's non-reaction to the Prior catch was very interesting. Its almost as if after the dropped catch, he realized that he is having an awful morning and is not being adored any more. And it rankles.

Very good drama all around. Crowds are crackling, and wickets are falling; truly, there is nothing like test cricket.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pulling the trigger too soon on Watson

Right. So I dissed the Watson selection/Hughes dropping. But He Who Is Permanently Injured has now gone ahead and participated in an opening partnership, and whats more, is not out at the end of the first day of the Edgbaston with 62. Batting Shane! Now go on and make a ton. It won't make Hughes' dropping right, but it will justify your selection.

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Pulling the trigger too soon on Hughes

So it has come to this: Phil Hughes, Australia's bright star, has been dropped after two test matches in favor of a man who can't be counted on to remain injury free on the team coach as it makes its way to Edgbaston, who has not batted higher than #6 in tests, whose opening experience is limited to one-day internationals. Given that there is little chance that Watson will be axed after one test, (though he will probably be injured soon enough) I would say this move potentially knocks Hughes out of the Ashes.

To say that I'm surprised is an understatement. As selectorial moves go, this one reeks of panic. Hughes didn't appear short of confidence in his innings, and I'd have backed him to have come good soon enough. The correct move would have to replace Mitchell Johnson with Stuart Clark, but it seems Australian selectors are doomed to make the mistakes of 2005 in reverse, where they showed excessive faith in Hayden.

I don't know if the wheels have fallen off but there are a few struts lying around on the road.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Ambiguous Mr. Gilligan

A fascinating article by David Mutton over at Silly Mid-off on the ambiguous legacy of Arthur Gilligan. When you are done reading that article, check out the rest of the high-quality blog, penned by a fellow New York City cricket fan.

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Is making room for the IPL so difficult?

Could some wise soul, savvier than me in the ways of world finance and cricket scheduling and the like, please explain to the barriers that stand in the way of the IPL finding a slot for itself within the ICC's FTP? It is organized by one of the ICC's member boards, it utilizes those players that play in ICC-sanctioned international cricket, and it has the ICC's blessings. What stands in the way of such an arrangement, and why, increasingly, do players and players' bodies sound desperately pessimistic that such a scheduling no-brainer can be carried out?

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Flintoff and greatness

Monday, July 20, 2009

Nice way to set up the Ashes

I picked Australia to retain the Ashes 2-1. The English win at Lord's takes care of the "1" part of that prediction. Can Australia take care of the "2"? Strange as this might sound after the 115 run drubbing at Lord's, I still think they can. I do not think the Aussies will bat and bowl as badly as they did in the first innings of this test. Some of that improvement might come about just because Johnson will get dropped for Edgbaston; some of it will come about because North, Katich, Hughes, Ponting, Hussey and Clarke, is still a decent batting line-up capable of scoring heavily. But England's bowling, if it continues to be as high-quality as it was in this test, will make life hard for my prediction. Sure, Flintoff could break down again but no Australian should be hoping for an opponent to be injured in order for a victory to come through.

Before the series started, one could have easily dismissed the Ashes hype on the grounds that both teams were flirting with mediocrity (perhaps England more than Australia). But the results and the drama of the first two tests have ensured that this will be a cracker of a series and a wonderful advertisement for test cricket. Ponting and Strauss remain slighly duff captains in my opinion, but there is enough kindling on the fire now to set up a nice blaze.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bravo Clarke and Haddin

Wonderful partnership from Clarke and Haddin - it'd have been very easy to have just collapsed but the pair have hung in there and even scored runs at a decent pace. Bravo! (especially when you consider the accusation made against Clarke that he only scores with runs on the board).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Don't they bowl bouncers in the Shield, son?"

Six Aussies gone hooking and pulling in the first innings of the Lord's test. A weakness against the short ball, perhaps? Or just bad shot execution?

Friday, July 17, 2009

A bad analogy won't help test cricket

Here is one analogy that people are fond of making when they are feeling optimistic about test cricket: classical and rock music have differing appeals, and there is no reason to imagine that the increased popularity of one genre will have any effect whatsoever on the other. Therefore, by analogy T20 will not affect test cricket.

This analogy does not work. And in fact, it is a particularly bad one.

Firstly, if the New York Philharmonic was to play in Central Park today, they would attract a crowd as large as any pop star. Classical music has a huge market and great audiences. There is no attendance crisis in classical music. Every single concert in New York City, which attracts the world's greatest musicians, sells out, no matter how high-priced the tickets. Pop music and classical music do not compete for the same fans (though there are some crossover fans) and for the same fan dollars. CDs of classical music are still hot items, and many young classical musicians are stars in their own right.

Secondly, and most importantly, the same musicians are not in a position to say "Hmm..shall I play pop and get paid more, or shall I play classical and get paid very little relative to the time I put in?" Classical musicians and pop musicians are disjoint sets. There is little danger that an exodus of talented musicians will deplete classical music precisely because most musicians pick a career path in one and then stick to it.

Thirdly, the same governing body does not control pop and classical music and as such their excessive devotion to one form does not hurt the other.

There are some good arguments out there on why test cricket might survive; this analogy is not part of them.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Freddie and the death of test cricket

Freddie Flintoff is gone. Thats a drag, because Flintoff was a good one to watch in test cricket. Enough has been written about his decline, his lack of performances since the 2005 Ashes, and the possibility that England will, in fact, do better without him in the Ashes. I want to just concentrate on the fact that Flintoff has retired from test cricket alone, and in fact, seems himself as becoming a top one-day or T20 cricketer in the next spell of his career. Significantly, he does not see himself playing county cricket either. The obvious worry, as noted by many other folks, is that this sort of retirement bears an uncanny resemblance to other decisions made by international cricketers who feel their bodies cannot keep up with a grinding international season that includes test cricket. These days, really, its hard to read any cricket news without coming away with the sinking feeling that it has serious consequences for test cricket.

What, if anything, could be done about this? Will less international cricket be scheduled? Fat chance. Will cricketers opt for the glory of the record books as opposed to the money of T20 (and the shorter playing hours)? Fat chance. Will a new generation of cricket fans vote with their feet and pay attention to test cricket? Fat chance. Will the power players in cricket set up a schedule that pays equal respect to test cricket, ODIs, T20s? Fat chance. Will the ICC pay attention to test pitches worldwide? You know the answer by now. Things aren't looking good, are they?

I suspect test cricket will end the way it started: with England and Australia playing a one-off test, either at Lords or Melbourne. Then we will have a little ceremony, where the "Ashes of Cricket" will be consigned to the Thames or the Yarra, and everyone can then turn around, walk back home, switch on the television and watch the night's T20 game. The poor attendance at the funeral will confirm what everyone knows even know, but is reluctant to admit: test cricket is dead.

Test cricket will have had a nice life of more than a 100 years. It'll have inspired a lot of literature, great cricket, intense fandom, and some of the most bemused expressions of astonishment by non-fans. But it couldn't get people to keep loving it enough to keep it alive. And in this world, its not enough to be lovable (just ask those lovely gazelles that keep getting chewed up by hungry lionesses on the savannah). You've got to have a Don Corleone looking out for you. No one has test cricket's back, and so, in this wilderness, its going to get brought down pretty hard.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Close but still a gap

One wicket. Is that what this Ashes will turn on? No, not really. Still, when this Ashes series is done and dusted, its going to be hard to not look back at this match and summon up a series of "what-ifs". England will be hoping the "what-ifs" fall their way, and the Aussies will hope the edge they showed in this test persists over the next few. They did, after all, take 19 wickets, score 674 runs at a decent pace, and win about 12 out of 14 sessions of play. England, on the other hand, failed to convert starts, often batted carelessly (though I'm not going to include Pietersen in this particular indictment), and bowled a lot of dross. If there is some hope for the English team, it is that the Aussie bowling lacks a little edge and might fail to land a knockout punch in the same manner as their illustrious predecessors. Their batting though, looks solid, and while it will suffer the odd collapse, will do so less often than the English will.

Before the series, I'd called it 2-1 for the Aussies. The lack of penetration in the two teams' bowling attacks, the weather, slow pitches and the presence of two captains who aren't exactly the world's shining lights, prompted me to call two draws in this Ashes. I'll hang on to that prediction for now.

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