Category Archives: cricket
At the beginning of the Australian summer of 1999, there were pleas from across the nation to allow Ian Healy one last Test series before retiring. As the selectors stood firm, the appeals were reduced to just one last home Test at the Gabba.
It was for a gloveman who had given countless bucketloads of sweat for his country, and who now sported the fingers of an arthritic pensioner due to a career of more than 10 years behind the stumps. The selectors again waved off the request like a stubborn umpire refusing a shout despite the whole team going up as one.
There was national outrage, from the public, players, ex-players, and the great wicketkeeper himself.
All this came about despite the fact that Gilchrist had been one of the top performers on the one-day scene since he moved up the order to open the batting some two years earlier. Heals, on the other hand had not posted a score of over 40 for almost a year, even though he had held his place for tours against Test cricket welterweights like the West Indies, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.
Gilchrist had recently lead Australia to World Cup glory, and his place in the Test side had been a long time coming. In retrospect, it was far too long, but the name Ian Healy had become synonymous with Australian wicketkeeping. He was a larrikin, revered by team mates, and epitomised the hard-working approach that the Australian public expected from their cricketers.
The selectors’ unpopular decision was immediately vindicated, with Gilchrist having a fantastic debut series and never looking back. He went on to play 96 Tests with a batting average of 47.60, including 17 hundreds, and a record of 416 dismissals.
By comparison to Gilchrist’s fillet mignon, Healy’s offerings look like Coles-brand thousand animal snags, as over 119 Tests he averaged 27.39 with the bat, with only four Test hundreds to supplement his 395 dismissals.
His glovework was never doubted, and is what helped him hold his place in the team during lean spells, but then again Gilchrist was no slouch behind the stumps, took 10 catches in a match early in his Test career, and went onto eclipse Healy’s dismissal record despite playing far fewer Tests.
When reflecting on their career numbers, it would be completely understandable that Gilchrist could feel a little hard done by when comparing his number of Tests played with that of his predecessor, and if justice prevailed the numbers should really have been reversed.
Even though the selectors made what many thought to be a heartless decision by denying Healy one last home Test, the truth is the decision to drop him should have been made much earlier given Gilchrist’s sublime one-day form.
We can always look to the future by learning from the past, and one would hope that today’s selectors do not make the same mistakes.
But it isn’t just his form that is a problem for Australia, as he has taken plenty of criticism regarding reckless shot selection and the constant his belief that he can hit his way out of trouble.
Haddin has only held the gloves for four years at Test level, so removing him should not induce the national backlash that occurred after Healy was directed to the nearest possible exit.
Matthew Wade has burst onto the international scene this summer, already posting match-winning scores in the first Twenty20 then tonight in the opening one-day match. He had previously been given two chances in South Africa in the game’s shortest format, but this time around he has truly grasped his opportunities with three back to back cavalier innings. With a better than healthy first class average a tick over 40, coupled with his young age of 24, Wade has every chance to develop into a prosperous cricketer for Australia in all forms of the game.
Let’s hope that the selectors do not make the same mistakes as those that held the job before them, and delay Wade’s Test cricket debut a moment longer.
At least the selectors have signaled their intent by picking him for the Windies tour, but I for one, would like to see him don the baggy green for the first Test in Barbados. He needs as much Test cricket as possible before the challenging series against South Africa and England come around, and has the potential to be every bit the match winner that Adam Gilchrist was.
As for Bradley Haddin, well, it seems there is always a spot in the commentary box for Aussie larrikins. There is little doubt his future lies there.
Following the series victory in Perth and gunning for a 4-0 whitewash against a rattled Indian side, it is extremely tempting to grab the missus, whip out the old Vera Wang and celebrate in style. But Aussie cricket fans I beg you, take a deep breath and keep your pants on.
Even conjuring the optimism of a Shane Warne appeal, one could not have foreseen this series going so well for the baggy green posse. Coming off a demoralising loss against our ANZAC brothers, everyone assumed that facing a talented Indian side, the best we could have hoped for was to snatch a few victories in a topsy-turvy series. Turns out we have steamrolled the Indians in every facet of the game.
But before we get too excited, we must concede that the opposition has been poorer than a family of 12 in a Delhi slum.
And the question must be asked, how much has really changed in the Australian camp from the team that followed up an utter capitulation in Cape Town by crumbling faster than downtown Christchurch against our antipodean neighbours in Hobart?
A great deal of encouragement can be taken from the fact that the opening pairing appears to be sorted. Like the heyday of US late night talk show TV, the straight shooting Ed Cowan appears to be the perfect foil for the gung-ho David Warner, in much the same manner that Paul Shaffer perfected the subtle deadpan as the folly to the wise cracking Letterman. With the return of Shane Watson imminent, those who instigated those ever increasing murmurs regarding his suitability to batting down the order will finally get to test their theory. Whilst Watson has served his nation well at the top of the order, it would simply be selection suicide to break up what has the potential to be the best opening combination since Jamie Oliver wrapped a king prawn in bacon & served it as an entrée.
The other area for optimism is our bowling stable which, under the watchful eye of Craig ‘Bart’ McDermott, has transformed from a pack of plucky colts and staying stallions into potential Melbourne Cup winners. The depth has reached a point where it could almost be argued that Australian fast bowling stocks have never been healthier, a statement which carries a fair whack of irony considering the extensive injury list. An unwanted by-product of this season’s speed success stories is that there are only so many plane tickets to the Caribbean and in the not too distant future, England, meaning some of these bowlers that have seemingly proved their worth are going to have to drag their disappointment all the way back to their respective state sides.
But the biggest problem for the Australian attack is the lack of a match winning spinner. It is not Nathan Lyon’s fault that he has had such little impact on this series and his 10 wickets in 2 tests against the Kiwi’s demonstrated his wicket taking potential. But when the team is touring and the sunburnt decks of Australia are no longer there to assist the quicks, will Michael Clarke have complete confidence in throwing Lyon the ball on the 5th day of a test, needing 3 wickets but with a lead of only 50? I don’t think so either.
As comfortable as the recent win at the WACA was, it disappointingly reaffirmed the fragility of the middle order. The Australia of years past would never have allowed the foot to come off the throat of the opposition like that. The word ‘collapse’ is too frequently being associated with the Australian batting line-up and it is becoming somewhat of an unpleasant trend to look down the card and see P.Siddle as one of the highest, or in some cases the highest, contributor.
Our middle order is in a greater need of some steel than The People’s Republic of China. Many believe that the Gentlemen’s club of Haddin, Ponting and Hussey will be well and truly dismantled by the time the back-to-back ashes series roll around. Will the likes of Marsh, Watson, Khawaja, Steve Smith, Christian and Wade be made of the right metal come 2013?
The talk of winning back the Ashes next year has already begun, brought about mainly by the shellacking of a substandard Indian outfit. England also gave this same Indian side a working over so fierce it almost felt like the British Raj squashing the Indian rebellion in 1857, and that resulted in the leader of the rebellion being exiled to Burma and his children being beheaded. To knock off the number one test team in their own back yard will require some phenomenal cricket. It is a far greater challenge than clean sweeping an aging Indian side on the hard decks of Australia. Mickey Arthur already talking up our chances isn’t helping things one iota either. Before we even begin to dream such things as winning back the converted urn, our focus must be on these key issues such as identifying a match winning spinner, developing the middle order and facilitating the gradual removal of the old guard.
It’s not that the early signs for the future of Australian cricket aren’t promising but it’s best we keep the excitement levels to a minimum and, to borrow a phrase from the Empire, ‘keep calm and carry on.’
As you may have heard, India are touring Australia and it is their diminutive powerhouse, Sachin Tendulkar, who is stealing headlines like singles from sneaky nudges between cover and point.
One cannot read five lines regarding this much hyped series without some mention of the Little Master’s pending milestone – a century of centuries.
Okay, so it has a poetic ring to it, but really, how significant is this milestone? The chief reason I have a tendency to dismiss this achievement is because it is in reference to international centuries, a highly unusual mishmash of one day and test cricket statistics.
Since when did we start plonking tests and one dayers in the same fish kettle?
These two games are VERY different beasts, to the point where they are barely the same sport. The rules are different, the styles are a gulf apart and in the shorter form of the game you don’t even have to take you pyjamas off to take the field.
You could almost say they are like day and night, and in fact they are played accordingly.
You only have to speak to the likes of Nathan Bracken or Michael Bevan (and a host of player who aren’t Australian) to find out that even if you are highly successful at one that does not even necessarily mean you’ll even get to strap on the pads on in the other.
So why in this case are we so ready to combine statistics from the two? The same reason we are suckers for the right radio jingle – because it has a catchy ring to it.
We jumped up and down like we had all O-D’ed on Charlie Sheen when Warnie took his 700th Test wicket on Boxing Day back in 2006. The nation rejoiced as that venom-filled, fizzing leg break skittled the English captian Strauss.
But I remember no such celebrations when he passed 1000 ‘international’ wickets. Was Warnie robbed due to a lack of alliteration alone?
If we so willingly lump together Sachin’s test and one day centuries then where do we draw the crease?
Are we ready to credit Sonny Bill Williams with having 222 career points (132 from league/90 from rugby)? Maybe even throw on a couple more points for his boxing knockouts.
Can we add Karmichael Hunt’s AFL points to his league tally? Wait a second, adding a behind or two per season is barely worth the trouble.
Andrew Walker: 901 points?
Can Brock Lesnar pad his MMA record with ‘fights’ from the WWE?
While we’re at it, let’s add Ian Thorpe’s medal tally to his collection of snappy cardigans which one could only presume, would put him in the hundreds.
We haven’t even got to the American dual sportsmen yet and the combination of football and baseball statistics for the likes of Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders could really make for mind blowing, yet vastly irrelevant, reading.
Lucky for you that Michael Jordan only batted .202 for 88 hits in the minors, so it is barely worth adding it to his 14390 career field goals.
Okay, I feel I have probably made my point ad nauseam.
But as farcical as this statistical culmination of Tendulkar’s career is, the most amazing thing of it all is that it really seems to be affecting him. One could easily hypothesise that this media storm in his Chai teacup has put his mind, not on accumulating the next run, but on who to raise his bat to or how to react when he passes this myth of a milestone.
Tendulkar is a player in form. Stevie Wonder and Blind Freddy have discussed it at length, but the 99 monkeys on his back are clearly impeding his quest for big runs. This was never more evident than when, on a perfect SCG deck, he fell to the gentle left armers of a part timer after being well and truly set on 80.
It has been this way since March of last year when he made his last ton against South Africa. The weight of expectation of statistically deluded fans in India and indeed around the globe have backed the Little Master into a corner and with each passing match, it appears an even tougher ask for him to bat himself out of it.
I love great sporting statistics as much as the next cricket tragic, but those who consider Tendulkar’s achievement more than a trivial milestone when it finally arrives are part of the reason it has taken so long.
If it happens at the WACA, I will stand and applaud like all others. But rest assured, I will be applauding SRT’s 52nd test century. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Dear Beloved Rick,
This Blog whole-heartedly apologises for writing you off, slating you and calling your fighting qualities into question. We look forward to dining further on humble pie & hope you play on at least another 10 years.
Photo: Trav productions 2011
With much of the flack from the recent batting debacles being flung in the direction of the Australian batting coach Justin ‘Play Your Natural Game’ Langer, it is only fair that some of the plaudits regarding the meteoric rise of an inexperienced bowling attack be given to the bowling coach, Craig ‘Billy’ McDermott.
Since his retirement forced through chronic injuries back in 1996, the former fast bowler’s life after cricket has been in the press for all the wrong reasons through stories regarding bankruptcy, failure to pay child support and being extorted by a former employee who threatened to put a home made sex video that McDermott made with his wife on the internet. An act that would have no doubt put to rest any arguments about how fast Billy actually was.
Having taken the reins of the Australian bowling coach in the wake of a demoralising home Ashes defeat, it was always going to be a challenging task for the former quick to turn things around with the speed and endeavour with which he trundled.
Losing two of the best bowlers the game has ever seen left a gaping vortex in the Australian bowling stocks and many thought it would be some time before the baggy green was once again associated with fire and venom with the cherry in hand.
There is a sense of irony that the Australians are now losing Tests off the back of meagre batting displays, an area thought to be the brace to hold the team up while a new crop of bowlers found their stride in the test cricket arena. But McDermott has managed to blood the youngsters and get the most out players who routinely rely more on determination than sheer talent. Even more impressive is the problems that the bowling coach has had to overcome during his brief tenure; injuries aplenty, no recognised match-winner, the lack of a top-class spinner and a Mitchell Johnson radar more prone to straying than Tiger Woods.
To gauge an idea of how McDermott has helped the bowlers gel so quickly, one must rewind the clock precisely 20 years, to a time before the stellar careers of Pigeon McGrath and Plastic Keithy had even begun, when ‘Billy’ McDermott himself had the ball in hand as the spearhead of the Aussie attack.
The ageing swing-king Terry Alderman was no longer in the mix, and although Shane Warne was soon to make his debut in Sydney, it was some time before he spun himself into Australian sporting folklore. This was McDermott’s time to lead this pack of inexperienced and overachieving misfits, in much the same manner that he is doing today.
Having lost the previous series narrowly in the West Indies, but having won the previous two Ashes series (they would also win the next six), it was the beginning of the Wonder Years for Australian cricket, and Craig McDermott was taking Paul Pfeiffers like they were going out of fashion.
The Indians were touring Australia and, much like this time around, they were packing some formidable talent in their kit bags. The likes of Kapil Dev, Mohammad Azharuddin, Ravi Shastri and a young Sachin Tendulkar all featured, but the Indians were dominated by the home side, who were lead by a blistering paceman from Ipswich.
McDermott had signalled his arrival some years earlier by taking 30 wickets in an Ashes series in England, but had since that time struggled with form and injuries. Against the Indians he hit the peak of his career, taking 31 wickets at 21.62 for the series. The Aussies prevailed 4-0 over the five Tests, winning by margins of 10 wickets, 8 wickets, 38 runs and 300 runs in an extremely lopsided series.
McDermott headed a bowling attack directed by one of the most ruthless captains Australia has ever produced, Allan Border, but it featured no superstars, lacked a quality spinner, and included the best beer gut and tash combo the game has ever seen in Merv Hughes (mind you Boonie who was in the same team might have something to say about that).
Along with the larger-than-life Hughes and the firey McDermott, there were contributions from Beanpole Bruce Reid, Mike ‘Ganjaman’ Whitney, Paul ‘Not Out’ Reiffel and Peter ‘That Catch’ Taylor. Ambrose, Walsh, Patterson and Marshall they were not. But they bowled as a team with an inspirational leader, and all the quicks gave significant contributions throughout the series.
Fast forward 20 years and Craig McDermott influence is just as prominent as he has managed to morph a youthful attack into a well oiled unit. The general public are once again excited about Australian cricket and in particular fast bowling. The players themselves are also willing to sing the praises of their coach, with the new kid on the block Pattinson saying after his recent run of astonishing form “It has been a credit to Craig McDermott over the last six months that I’ve worked with him day in, day out, it is great I can work hard with him and see the results.” In many aspects the current crop also resembles the bowling line-up from two decades back, with a lack of established stars, big egos and a no top-quality tweaker (no disrespect to Nathan who on occasions does take the Lyon share of wickets), but hunger and determination to burn.
To you Billy McDermott, I take my hat off. Over recent tests I am just as curious to see how our fast bowlers perform as I am to see your home videos, and that’s saying something.
For over 20 years it has been an integral part of the Australian Christmas experience – settling in to watch Day 1 of the test on Boxing Day. Around the country in thousands of backyards, kids will be emulating their heroes and dreaming of one day getting the chance to perform on Cricket’s biggest stage.
Over the history of the Boxing Day test, there have been many memorable moments. Here follows my selection of the five greatest performances by an Australian on the 26th December.
5. Ricky Ponting’s captain’s tonne
26 December 2005
Ricky Ponting 117
Boxing Day 2005 saw the start of the 2nd Test of the series vs South Africa. The proteas had escaped Perth with a draw in the 1st test by surviving 126 overs from Warne, McGrath and co over the 4th and 5th days. Ponting’s bowling tactics and conservative declaration (setting the Proteas 491 for victory) had both been critisised in light of the result, and his captaincy was under pressure.
In his 2nd Boxing day test as captain, Ponting won the toss, chose to bat, and was almost immediately out in the middle himself as Phil Jaques departed in the 3rd over with the score on 2.
Ponting was given an early life on 17, and then proceeded to ruthlessly punish the South African attack, hitting 6 boundaries on his way to 50 of just 73 balls. Hayden and Ponting put on 152 runs to swing the match decisively in Australia’s favour.
Ponting’s century was his first at the ground as Captain, and his 6th for the 2005 calendar year during which he averaged 61.
South Africa fought back late on day 1, but Ponting’s captain’s knock had shown again that while doubts would linger about his captaincy credentials, his ability as a batsmen would be enough to lead his country to victory on many occasions. Australia went on to win the test by 184 runs and would wrap up a 2-0 series win in Sydney.
26 December 2002
Matthew Hayden 102
Justin Langer 146*
These two great openers, so often spoken of as a partnership rather than as individuals, cannot have their efforts on Boxing Day 2002 separated.
Australia had already retained the ashes by the time the series moved to Melbourne in 2002, and both openers took the opportunity to pile on the runs against a depleted and demoralised English attack.
The pair went on to compile a 195 run partnership, smashing the previous record for highest opening stand in an ashes test of 126 by Monty Noble and Victor Trumper.
Hayden’s century was his 6th of the calendar year and 3rd of the ashes series. He was out shortly after reaching the milestone for 102. Soon afterwards Langer brought up his century with a 4 and a 6 on consecutive balls. He finished the day on 146 not out, and went on to score a mammoth 250 as Australia would compile 551/6 on the way to a 4-0 series lead.
3. Thommo rips through the West Indies top order
26 December 1975
West Indies 224
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…” - on Boxing Day 1975, the West Indies discovered that if Lillee don’t get ya, Thommo must! In front of a crowd of close to 86,000, the fearsome Australian pair took 9 wickets between them on day 1 to essentially win the test for Australia.
On this occasion, Thommo (no relation of the author) was the more deadly of the pair. In a spell which Wisden described as being “as fast as one could imagine a human being propelling a cricket ball”, Thomson decimated the Windies top order, dismissing Greenidge, Rowe, Kallicharran, Fredericks and their Captain Clive Lloyd to leave the tourists 5/108. The West Indies received a lesson in hostile fast bowling, one which they would take great pleasure in handing down to opposition sides over the next 15 years.
Thomson finished with 5/62 as Lillee cleaned up the tail to have the West Indies all out for 224. Australia was 0/38 in reply at stumps, and well on their way to victory and a 2-1 series lead.
26 December 1981
Kim Hughes 100*
West Indies 4/10
In 1981 the West Indies returned to the MCG, this time bringing with them a 15 test unbeaten run, and a fearsome pace attack of their own – Holding, Garner, Roberts and Croft.
Australia was in dire straights when Kim Hughes came to the crease. Laird, Wood and Captain Greg Chappell had all fallen cheaply to Roberts and Holding – Chappell for a golden duck. Australia was 3/8 as the West Australian took guard, and then slumped to 4/26 as Allan Border was unable to provide the resistance he would become famed for later in his career, departing for 4. An embarrassingly low score beckoned on a challenging pitch against arguably the greatest 4 pronged pace attack of all time.
Hughes’s response was to go on the attack. He carried his bat through the innings, finishing on 100 not out as Australia were bowled out for 198. That total had looked unachievable earlier in the day, and was reached largely due to a 43 run last wicket partnership with noted bunny Terry Alderman.
Hughes gutsy innings had lifted the side and given Australia’s bowlers something to aim at when they had their chance on the lively pitch late on day 1. Lillee and Alderman responded to the challenge, picking up the wickets of Haynes, Bacchus, night watchman Croft and then Viv Richards off the last ball of the day to leave the West Indies at 4/10 in reply.
Hughes innings had saved the match for Australia on day 1, and would lay the platform for the Aussies to inflict the Windies first test defeat in over a year. His lone stand innings in front of nearly 40,000 was the stuff dreams are made of.
1. Warnie’s 700th
26 December 2006
Shane Warne 5/39
The number 1 selection is not a tale of heroic resistance or triumph against the odds. The ashes were retained and England was looking well beaten by the time the series came to the MCG in 2006. But in terms of great Boxing Day performances, who can go past Victoria’s favourite son’s day out in 2006?
The crowd of nearly 90,000 were anticipating being witness to Warne’s 700th test wicket from the time Andrew Flintoff had decided to bat first in the overcast conditions. Despite constant urging chants of ‘Warnie, warnie” from the crowd, Ponting was to make them wait until the 41st over before bringing Shane into the attack.
On the 2nd ball of his 4th over, the wait was over. Strauss was bowled, the crowd roared and no one could catch the blond master as he wheeled away in celebration.
The rest of the day felt like an anticlimax, but often forgotten is that Warne proceeded to take his 37th test match 5 wicket haul to have England all but beaten by the end of day 1.
No doubt the attendance at Boxing Day 2006 will grow exponentially as time passes, as every cricket loving Australian male stakes a claim to having been there on the great day.
Ricky, it’s been a hoot. But seriously mate, you were never one for walking and it’s not about to start now. And if Lord’s famed Old Father Time hasn’t been kind enough to tap you on the shoulder and give you a knowing wink then it’s time for a gentle shove.
Now I know you’re been spouting the “I’ll know when the time is right” routine but if your Cape Town quacker and the fact you haven’t posted 3 figures in almost 2 years doesn’t drop the penny then Rod ‘Bacchus’ Marsh & Mr Bichel might have to be the ones to do the dropping.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there since the start and I’ve loved every second. The raw talent that you exuded as a 21 year old who marched out with purpose against Sri Lanka at the WACA, each step a little cockier than the last. First time in the baggy green, swagger to burn and a perfectly manicured goatee on a Napoleon frame.
The Aussies were already on top courtesy of a Slater double tonne, but you followed it up with a very memorable knock. You had the kind of luck a Punter needs with first slip grassing your first ball in Test cricket, which was bowled by Murali of all people, but from there on out you were class off both the front and back foot. In fact, you were only robbed of a century on debut by a farcical umpiring decision by Khizer Hayat.
With that innings, you showed us that the kid from Launceston they called Punter had arrived on the test stage and if ever there was a nickname that would endear itself to the average Australian male sports-fiend it was yours.
We smirked with a certain pride when you sat down sporting the shiner following a dust up at one of King’s Cross’ more classier establishments. That smirk soon turned to laughter when we found out what that scuffle was really about, but our appreciation of your on field talents never wavered.
Because regardless of what happened when you were out on the sauce, out in the middle it’s been a virtual 15 year runfest. Sure you had a few ups and downs but show me a batsman that hasn’t.
The control you had over that Kookaburra put Bill Lawry and his pigeons to shame. So many highlights it’s hard to know where to start. A hundred in both innings of your hundredth test is tough to top on a poetic front.
Many would say your captaincy was steeped in controversy but one thing is for sure, you knew where the jugular was.
And thanks largely to the current competitive climate of international cricket and to a lesser extent the changing of Mother Nature’s climate, those 16 wins on the trot as Captain (shared by you and Tugga) will no doubt sit in the history books for some time to come.
You managed to astound us with bat in hand, but also regularly in the field. That catch from the blade of Dippenaar off the bowling of McGrath is one that is permanently burnt into the memory as the ball had seemingly reached the boundary when you took the catch at gully. If your exploits at slip weren’t enough, you even managed to, very occasionally, impress us with the ball. Removing the England captain, Michael Vaughan, in an Ashes Test with a classy caught behind is more than many bowlers can lay claim to.
But now it has come to this. Concerning the capitulation in Capetown – it cannot merely be swept off the pitch. It is time for the heavy roller. Given the recent cricket events played out in the courts as opposed to at the crease, it must be said that if Pakistan had played an innings like that then the News of The World would be digging faster than Ben Johnson’s pet rabbit.
It wasn’t just the fact you got out, it was how you got out. You walked across your stumps, not with the purposeful confidence we saw from you in your younger days, but more like a wandering pensioner who’s forgotten the way home. Although in this case it is certainly not you alone who should take the rap. With the team’s back to the wall, we were expecting the experienced players to step up. After all, that’s why you’re there. But between you, your bridge partner Hussey and your knitting buddy Brad, all we got was enough ducks to open a French restaurant.
We weren’t crying out for centuries (although the SA top order made it looks doable) but a run for every year of life from the old guard would have plugged a leaky ship and sailed us to a commanding position. Instead you decides to go for a walk, Mr Cricket slashed at a wide one and in a semi-demented state, Brad Haddin thought he was back in the purple pyjamas of the Kolkata Knight Riders and tried to clear the fence. All that ‘experience’ on the cricket field, 106 years of life between the three of you and not a single bl000dy run to show for it.
And just who was this Philanderer ripping through our top order? Sounds like more of a Wayne Carey type than a lethal fast bowler. There couldn’t have been that much in the deck given that Shane ‘Elementary’ Watson’s ability to skittle them like Jesus Quintana taking to a set of pins. That creep can roll man.
All good things come to an end Rick and it’s time you hung up your gloves and threw down your protector – preferably in the opposite direction to your flat screen TV. It’s not like you haven’t had chances to step aside gracefully. The century you made in the quarterfinal of the last world cup would have been perfect time to call it quits. Granted, we weren’t victors that day but it was one gutsy innings which defied the critics and made a nation proud.
The love, until now, has bordered on unconditional. We’ve looked beyond the fact your from Tasmania and embraced you as the captain of our mainland side. We’ve looked beyond the fact you’ve been caught out hooking more times than Warrick Todd. More recently, we’ve looked beyond the fact you took time out from test cricket to rush home for your daughter’s birth, which would have been fine had you not just come off a near 8 month break from test match cricket. Surely you could have sneaked one between Rihanna’s bat and pad a few months before you did and avoided the conflicting schedule. I am maybe boarding on insensitive here, but this sort of slander pales in comparison to the grief you’ve handed out from the slips cordon over the years which, I might add, we’ve also looked beyond.
But watching you lead implosion in South Africa was the icing on an 18 month old cake made of anything but convincing stroke play. The time is now Ricky.
Raise you bat, ride into the Bellerive sunset, hell, even join Plastic Keithy in the Big Bash if your heart desires. But I’m afraid your days in the Baggy Green are soon over.
“Disgraceful”, “Horrible”, “Unnaceptable”, were the terms used by Australian Captain Michael Clarke to describe the 2nd innings capitulation in Cape Town on Thursday.
Australian cricket supporters could perhaps describe it in other terms – “all too familiar”.
While the shameful scoreline of all out for 47 represents a nadir for Australian “batsmanship”, it is also the 3rd time in 18 months that Australia have failed to reach 100 in an innings.
The scale of the decline in Australian batting over the past 4 years is illustrated below – the blue line shows average runs per wicket on an innings basis, while the orange shows the 10 innings rolling average runs per wicket.
At the end of the 2006/07 Ashes, the 10 innings rolling average stood at a mammoth 59 runs per wicket. By the time Australia was touring the West Indies in mid 2008, the average had fallen to 40 runs per wicket. It remained at around this level until Mid 2010. Since then, series defeat in India and annihilation in the Ashes have seen the average fall to the high 20′s.
The occasional amazing collapse can be tolerated, and the humilation soon forgotten, if the usual performance is huge scores and winning totals. But to suffer three such performances in 18 months speaks of a larger malaise, and hints at a lack of mental toughness in the current aussie top 6.
For a nation who until very recently joked that ‘English batting collapse” was somewhat of a tautology, these are concerning times indeed.
As Shaun Marsh marched toward a test hundred in his first ever innings for Australia, it didn’t take a novel imagination to picture Ricky Ponting running out of the delivery suite at regular intervals to keep a worrying eye on the debutant’s progress on the tv. Our former leader’s wife in the throes of labour in the adjacent room, but his career in the baggy green in even more painfully precarious position. With reports from the House of Ponting telling us they’ve welcomed baby number 2, it appears Punter’s spawn kept to the plan by coinciding it’s arrival with the second test and by doing so provided a dramatic representation of the circle of life. As the miracle of birth was theatrically juxtaposed with the tragic passing of the career of an Australian sporting icon. Hakuna Matata.
Now it’s not as clear cut as Ricky out, Marshy in. But the selector certainly have a Doosra on their hands. Tough calls will have to be made regarding batsmen selection, possibly as soon as the last test in Colombo which begins next Friday. With reports so far suggesting Ponting will be back on the subcontinent and available for selection, he is seemingly swapping his daughter’s dirty nappies for some of his own. But the selectors may just give him the week off, and it may even be the first of many. For all dimlomatic purposes, Ponting will surely be all smiles and backpats on his return to the team, but one would think he is privately reeling that time may now be called on his decorated career. With the blood still dripping from the knife thrust in Simon Katich’s back (one of Australia’s most consistent performers throughout the last calendar year; 796 runs @ 46.82) there is not a specialist batsmen with the exception of Clarke assured of their place in the side. Naturally this means Usman Khawaja spot is far from secured. But with the involvement of quite a few younger players for this tour, it is clear Australian cricket is looking ahead to the 2013 Ashes. Let’s not kid ourselves, it is the pinnacle of test cricket for both countries involved and given England’s recent success, it has become even more a focal point for the rebuilding of Australian cricket.
It is Marsh though, who has given his case for selection a huge boost with a stunning debut knock. On a deck that made the formidable Sri Lankan batting line up crumble like an apple based dessert, Marsh dealt with the overnight nerves and advancing from 87 to well past three figures. In the process signaling he is ready to deal with the pressure cooker test cricket environment. At least Ricky’s old mate Mike Hussey was flying the flag for the older guard at the opposite end to Marsh, and as he beat the debutant to three figures he showed there is still plenty of fight in the old dogs. However, Ponting’s situation is somewhat different to Hussey’s, with his captaincy buried deep in the laundry basket and his place in the side a long way from cemented. Marsh is no young colt himself. At 28, many would argue his chance has been a long time coming, especially after putting up solid numbers for Australia’s one day side (Inns 35/ Avg 36.58 @ 76.36) . Despite good form in the shorter version of the game, there was every chance that Marsh would suffer the same fate as Stuart Law, Jammie Siddons and Martin Love. All very good craftsmen who never got their shot in the majors. But with Ponting’s desire to keep the human race ticking over and the timing of the birth conflicting with the test cricket calendar, Shaun Marsh was gifted his opportunity. It now appears it will pan out more like a Darren Lehmann type scenario, with a test career beginning seemingly late, but still with every chance of prolonged success. Marsh’s innings in Pallekele could well be a telling knock in the Australian cricket scheme of things. You only need to ask Marcus North and Greg Blewett how much slack a hundred on debut can cut you from the selection panel.
No one is condoning putting your sport before your family. But you’d have thought with some 9 month family planning by Rick & Rhianna, this whole situation could have been avoided. As a captain he was always known for having a plan to get each batsman out, but it appears that this time round his planning was skewed. In these times of cut throat section policies, Ricky Ponting certainly risked his place in the Australian middle order by giving Shaun Marsh his chance on cricket’s finest stage. And take it he did. An impressive innings that at times looked on track to be the highest ever innings on debut by an Australian. I’m sure before the match that scenario was never entertained as more than a fleeting thought by our beloved ex-skipper, but the arrival of Marsh at 100 and each passing run were driven like nails into Ponting’s test match coffin.
There is no doubt that Ricky Ponting love for his child will be much like his love for representing his country, and in that respect that child will grow up being adored by its father. But if this is the end of the road for Ponting’s test career, will there not be a tinge of resentment every time he looks at that baby & remembers the magic of its birth? Of course by the ‘magic ‘ I refer to a flawless innings being played on the sub-continent some 9000 kilometers away.