Category: Australia cricket news (page 1 of 57)

What is a format-spanning points system for?

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Last week we asked whether you would care if the Ashes included limited overs matches. This was slightly mischievous on our part because while the series could in theory be affected by the mooted system which would see points accrued across formats and an overall winner recognised, the truth is that no-one really wants to mess with the Ashes.

As far as the challenges facing Test cricket are concerned, the Ashes is not the canary in the mine. The Ashes is the one man with breathing apparatus in the mine. As Test series between India and Sri Lanka and South Africa and West Indies fall around him, England v Australia stands there solemnly, slightly perplexed by the death toll.

But – whisper it quietly – Test cricket is bigger than the Ashes. Or at least the sport would be better off if it were. It’s one of this site’s perhaps overfamiliar refrains that diversity is one of cricket’s greatest strengths and a major part of that is having more than two countries playing five-day matches with some degree of enthusiasm.

A subconscious negotiation?

Teams always want to win – players want to win every game – but when one team cares more about one format and the opposition cares more about another, you do sometimes get the sense that some sort of invisible subconscious deal takes place. A ‘you can have what you want if we can have what we want’ kind of thing.

It’s not in any way deliberate, but there are fine margins in top-level sport and it doesn’t take much to tip the balance one way or the other. If enthusiasm is a finite resource, how it is rationed can have a very real impact. Could bringing the formats together not offset that just a little?

Maybe not

If nothing else, there is no saying that anyone involved would buy into a format-spanning points system and if no-one cared, it would basically be worthless.

But what if people did care?

Consider an alternative scenario in which a nation historically inclined towards one-day cricket took the 50-over leg of a tour 4-1 and would ordinarily struggle to rouse itself for the Tests that followed. No side sets out to do this, but those piffling little two-Test series can sometimes appear hard to get up for, can’t they?

In this scenario, all the investment put into the one-dayers stands to be unravelled by a poor performance in the longer format. At eight points to two with ten points needed to win the tour and another eight points still available, players might just find extra motivation to try and win. It needn’t even be that. It could just be the will to fight for a draw at a point when previously they’d have been likely to write the match off as a loss. That might make for better cricket. It could also bring in a few extra fans keen to witness the tour decider.

Investment

Think of when you’ve invested time and effort in something. No-one likes to feel that’s wasted. It’s what keeps people playing Farmville long after it’s ceased to be fun. It’s what got Concorde built. For all that we’re supposed to lack commitment these days, human nature means people are naturally disinclined to cut their losses.

We’re not saying a points system is a cure-all. We’re not even saying it’ll work. But if there’s a chance that it could be a way of persuading people who care about short format cricket to also care more about Test cricket, we’re inclined to say that it’s worth giving it a whirl.

What’s the worst that could happen? That if it becomes popular and widely-adopted we might all start to question why the Ashes doesn’t follow the same format?


Would you care if the Ashes included limited overs matches?

Cricket was the real winner - but which format?

Ben Stokes would. Reacting to plans to implement a points system spanning the formats for cricket tours, he said: “I think it would be rubbish. They’ve changed a lot of things, but Ashes is Ashes, it’s a massive series for England and Australia and I don’t see why it should get changed.”

This rather overlooks the fact that pretty much all the other Test series he takes part in are anything but a big deal. As we see it, the Ashes would remain exactly the same, but everything else would get a bit of a leg-up. However, Stokes’ comments do raise an interesting question: how would you feel if the Ashes were restructured so that it included T20 matches and one-day internationals as well as Tests?

Sacrilege!

Yes. That was our initial reaction. So then we tried to work out why we felt that way.

Test cricket is our preferred format. It can at times be breathtakingly dull, but the sheer breadth of possibilities is what makes it endlessly fascinating. Different players, different pitches, different weather, different approaches, different match situations. With that in mind, surely it makes sense that even greater scope would make for an even more appealing event.

The outsider’s view

There is a tendency within cricket to see the formats as being pitted against one another. Rather than perceiving Twenty20 cricket as a gateway format to Test cricket, we instead take sides lest our favoured format be killed by its shorter (or longer) rivals.

But this isn’t really the way things are. It may seem that way from within, but for most people who don’t consider themselves fans of the sport, it doesn’t matter what the format – it is all just cricket. All three formats are just aspects of the same thing. Bat and ball. Runs and wickets.

People with only a casual interest in cricket cannot for the life of them understand how England can play Australia without it being the Ashes. They may well understand the rivalry, but they don’t necessarily understand the history.

The truth is, the rivalry is more important than the history. The rivalry is the essence. It is what drives things. It is what has created the history.

The rivalry is the Ashes – and that rivalry spans the formats.

A parallel

The Tour de France comprises 21 different bike races. At the end, they recognise an overall winner. People who follow the race may or may not care who wins the points jersey or the mountains jersey or any of the individual stages, but they will all care who wins overall.

Last year, the Tour started with a 13.8km time trial – competitors rode alone, against the clock. Stage four was 223.5km and other than stretches of cobblestones, almost entirely flat and everyone rode in a bunch. Stage 10 was 167km and finished at the top of a mountain.

These are very different challenges and the three stages therefore gave rise to three different winners. But it was all part of the same race. At the end of the three weeks, the overall winner was recognised. An all-rounder. Someone who had conquered everything. For all its complexity, the Tour remains at heart a simple event.

Epic!

We use the Tour de France as an example deliberately, because its epic nature is its very essence. The Ashes is also an epic contest and it’s hard to argue that adding a greater number of challenges would make it less so.

People are fond of saying that Twenty20 is just a few overs of slogging, but you could equally say that Test cricket is ‘just’ risk-free accumulation without time pressures. You could say that Test bowling is just keeping it tight and waiting for mistakes. These things aren’t true, but even if they were, each different challenge would still contribute to the whole.

It is the range and number of challenges which makes the Ashes the epic contest that it is. So we have to ask: a Test series or a cricket series – which would be more alluring?


Either India or Australia will be/have been knocked out – but who could have predicted the outcome (and when)

virat_kohli

We changed what time this site’s daily email went out recently. We can’t be bothered checking what time range we set it to and we also can’t be bothered working out what impact British Summer Time will have. As such, this post is a preview of the India v Australia match written in the knowledge that you may well be reading when the result is already known.

We wouldn’t be making any predictions anyway. Predictions can quickly look foolish. They have a thing that constantly tries to predict which team’s going to win running throughout each match of this World T20. It’s called The Win Predictor. The Win Predictor is making a good case for being rebranded The Momentum Disprover.

At one point quite early on in England’s match against Sri Lanka, The Win Predictor indicated 100 per cent likelihood of an England victory. England did win, but not before it had later had Sri Lanka’s likelihood of a win up around 70 per cent.

We made a comment about The Win Predictor effectively taking the piss out of its own earlier predictions during that game and one of the founders of the website behind it (CricViz) got in touch. We felt bad, because it’s not really the Win Predictor that’s at fault, it’s the game it’s trying to model.

T20 matches tend to progress in surges. Get a partnership and the run-rate can skyrocket. A wicket or two and it can come to a standstill. The swings can be so swift and dramatic that it can make earlier predictions look preposterous. Your general feeling as a viewer is: ‘Why should I pay heed to this prediction now when the one five minutes ago was so wildly different?’

Like we say, it’s not the predictor that’s the issue here, it’s the format. At the same time, that uncertainty is what keeps us watching. One thing’s for sure though. As far as India v Australia goes, the big story is already known: New Zealand knocked one of them out.


Matthew Hayden still loves the word ‘process’

We’ve tried to give up writing about Matthew Hayden’s habit of talking a load of incomprehensible bollocks, but as the man himself says in a recent interview on Cricinfo: “Sometimes things are just meant to be, aren’t they? You just have to give in to the higher forces and say, ‘You know what, this is forever, and I don’t understand it. But so be it.'”

At the heart of the Hayden idiolect is the word ‘process’. For him, it means pretty much anything.

It can mean one shot.

“One of the things that I miss the most about cricket and batting in particular is that meditation of cricket, that involvement of myself – mind, body and spirit – to delivering that one specific process, which is to execute a cricket shot.”

Or it can mean all of the shots.

“That was very much in my overall psychology of trying to execute the base process of batting so that I was on the front foot rather than being on the back foot and reacting to conditions.”

And apparently it is also something you ‘live out’.

“Some of my best innings have been those that were less than 50 balls in duration because of the conditions. You won’t get the glory of 50 or 100 or 150 or 200, but you will get the inner peace of knowing that you committed to what the process was on the day, and that you were part of the process and you were living out that process.”

We’re slightly concerned that he’s becoming self aware though. At one point he asked whether ‘bowlsmanship’ was a word. Then again, in the very same sentence he referred to Bishan Bedi’s “thought process of tossing the ball in the air.”


Mop-up of the day – Hello and goodbye and are you leaving?

Buoyed by a first innings display in which he took six for a million, Neil Wagner persisted with his innovative attritional shock tactics in the second. He took 1-60.

It’s worth noting that Wagner produced this display despite a broken hand. More accurately, he produced this display despite a broken bowling hand.

Neil Wagner.

Hello

To the new top-ranked Test side, Australia. It was a hugely impressive performance from them in New Zealand. The only reason we didn’t write about it was because we didn’t want to because we were supporting New Zealand.

Goodbye

We’ve just noticed that we started an article about Brendon McCullum at some point recently and it’s saved as a draft. Rather than writing anything about him here and now, we’ll investigate what we’ve already written and maybe try and get something up tomorrow (if we get time).

Odds are the draft article’s just a heading and nothing beyond that, but we live in hope.

Goodbye?

Some classic Pakistan retirement talk from Shahid Afridi this week. Our man’s previously said that he’s retiring after the World T20, but now he’s admitting to being under pressure from friends and family to stick around a while longer.

His reasoning’s magnificent.

“I am saying there is a lot of pressure on me that I shouldn’t retire from T20; that I can play on – and as there is no real talent coming through in Pakistan whose place I am taking?”


While Neil Wagner might occasionally let you down, he does frequently pick up a few wickets from a long and determined spell when no-one else is really making any inroads

As Australia’s batsmen dominated New Zealand’s bowlers, there was only one thing left to do: call for Neil Wagner and ask him to bowl 25 overs of short-pitched bowling.

Neil Wagner isn’t perfect, but if you’re looking for donkey work strike bowling (can that be a thing?) then he’s your man. It’s-going-to-take-a-while-to-strike bowling maybe – that’s his niche.

Unlike Brendon McCullum, Wagner’s best isn’t perhaps all that exceptional, but he will keep striving for it. If he’s been banging it in and finds himself with 0-58 off 16 overs, he tends to think: “Right, I’m going to really bang this one in.”

At this point, he’ll be hit for four. Wagner’s response to that will be: “Right, I’m going to really, really bang this one in,” and when he then takes a wicket, he’ll take this is as confirmation of his method.


Brendon McCullum remains very much himself

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Believe it or not, batting with positive intent isn’t actually a new invention. In the hundred-and-odd years of Test cricket, people did actually try it from time to time before now. Mostly they got out.

New Zealand were heavily beaten in the first Test against Australia and when Brendon McCullum arrived at the crease in the second they had lost three wickets for 32 runs. It was doing a bit.

At this point, McCullum had three possible options:

  • Get out immediately
  • Deadbat for a bit and then get out
  • Try and counterattack but get out

Saint Brendon yawned, stretched, rubbed the sleep from his scarred eye and instead walloped the fastest ever Test hundred. Like most of its creator’s best works, the innings was brilliant with unmistakeably rough edges. It was jousey, spawny, flukey genius.

McCullum has never been the best batsman in the world – he may never even have been the best batsman in the New Zealand team. However, in the last few years, he has unquestionably been the most exciting; the man who makes you think something is happening.

McCullum is a guy who sears his innings into people’s minds. His worst is atrocious, his middle ground pretty pathetic, but his best is quite simply better than anyone else’s best. His best leaves you not quite able to assess what’s just happened because you’ve never visited this place before.

Most batsmen would never even attempt to do what he does. A select few try and fail. Only McCullum has the gall to both try and succeed.

Shortly afterwards, New Zealand’s captain completed his final three-pronged lesson. An aggressive approach to batting has nothing to do with any other form of hostility; self confidence can be combined with self deprecation; humility is not a sign of weakness.

When did you think it might be your day, Brendon?

“Probably second ball when I had an almighty, filthy slog and it went over the slips cordon for four.”

And how do you feel about breaking Viv Richards’ record?

“I’m almost a bit embarrassed to go past him, to be honest. Hopefully he enjoyed a bit of the ‘stroke-making’, we’ll call it.”

This is McCullum’s final Test match. He wants the win. There can’t be many cricket fans who aren’t of a similar mind.


Shane Warne says we were created by aliens – but which ones?

The frustrating thing about reality TV programmes is that when someone says something interesting, there’s no-one there to ask the obvious follow-up questions.

While appearing on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, Shane Warne said that humans “couldn’t do” the pyramids. “You couldn’t pull those ropes, huge bits of brick and make it perfectly symmetrical. Couldn’t do it. So who did it?”

Aliens, according to Warne. And he doesn’t stop there. He also believes that humans “started from aliens.”

The plasticated ex-legspinner has little time for the theory of evolution – so little time, in fact, that he hasn’t even bothered finding out any of the details.

“If we’ve evolved from monkeys, then why haven’t those ones evolved?” he asked.

So rather than reading a book or googling ‘evolution’ at some point during his 46 years on this earth, Warne instead invested his time devising his own Chariots of the Gods type theory of origin.

Well here at King Cricket, we’re not Shane Warne. When we hear a theory, we want to scrutinise it. If humans were ‘started’ by aliens, Shane, then which aliens?

Was it the dude from Alien Infiltration?

Alien Infiltration dude (via YouTube)

Because if so, we’d question that. Alien Infiltration dude is massively homicidal. And not in a ‘righting the wrongs of my species’ kind of way. He just seems to kill on a whim.

Was it Ree Yees from Star Wars?

Ree Yees (via YouTube)

Again, we doubt it. Ree Yees comes across as little more than a thug; a sniggering yes-man who hangs around with Jabba the Hutt, laughing at his jokes. He just doesn’t seem to have the wherewithal to create life.

Also, if Ree Yees were the creator of humanity, would he have allowed us to lose an idol in his likeness when we catapulted it using the branch of a conifer tree back when we were 10?

Probably not.

Was it Lord Buckethead?

Lord Buckethead (via YouTube)

Come on Shane, think! In Gremloids, Lord Buckethead only found his way to earth by accident. You’d think he’d have known where he was if he’d created a species here.

Was it the Engineers from Prometheus?

Engineers from Prometheus (via YouTube)

This is what you’re thinking of, isn’t it, Shane? You watched Prometheus and thought it was a documentary.

It’s an odd species that routinely describes Shane Warne as a genius.


Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s take on specific training

David Warner said that back in 2012, he saw Shivnarine Chanderpaul put in a six-hour shift against the bowling machine.

“I said ‘This is ridiculous, how can you do this?’ and he said: ‘If you’re going to bat for six hours in a game you might as well practise it.’”

Shivnarine Chanderpaul.


Better wicketkeeping is one of the components rattling around in Australia’s World Cup bag o’ bits

Australia have gone a bit England with their T20 World Cup preparations. Their long-term planning has climaxed with a 15-man squad where a third of the players haven’t even played a T20 international.

Impressive stuff. They’re clearly of a mind that having the right components is of more importance than testing whether they actually fit together. They’ve got a polythene bag full of bits, a blueprint in biro and a positive mental attitude. Perhaps that’ll be enough.

One of the most interesting selections is in the wicketkeeping department. We don’t really know all that much about the incoming Peter Nevill, but from what we’ve seen of the outgoing Matthew Wade, he’s a man who’s heard the Smiths’ Hand In Glove but much prefers plain old cymbals.

Australia’s chief selector, Rod Marsh, backed up that view by saying: “We feel our batting depth in this squad is sufficient enough that we can have a specialist wicket-keeper in the squad.”

This reminds us of our thoughts from long, long ago that Twenty20 might prove to be a format that brings wicketkeeping skills back to the fore.

 


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