Month: April 2014 (page 1 of 2)

Michael Clarke and ‘the line’

Sanctimonious get

One of the most annoying things about the Australian cricket team is not its verbal aggression but the players’ relentless self-righteousness about it.

Here’s a quote from Michael Clarke that you’ll feel like you’ve read a thousand times before.

“I think we play our cricket hard on the field but I think as Australians we understand and respect there’s a line you can’t cross.”

What Clarke doesn’t get is that what he perceives to be ‘the line’ might not necessarily be the line to everyone else in the world. Who made you King of the Line, Michael? Why do you get to decide what does and doesn’t go?

He reminds us of one of those strong-willed but stupid kids who’s forever changing the rules of whatever game he’s playing so that he always wins. He’s trying to enjoy his victories, but all the other kids are sort of rolling their eyes and thinking maybe they should go and do something else now.

In the same interview, Clarke also says that he himself has crossed the line twice in the last year.

Actually, he says he ‘made no bones about’ the incident with James Anderson and that what he said ‘wasn’t appropriate’. However, a second later he’s going on about the importance of going close to the line, but not crossing it. He then appears to imply that this incident and a similar one with Dale Steyn fall under the heading ‘Australians playing cricket extremely fairly’.

Maybe it’s just that Clarke has a different definition of ‘the line’. In his world, you can cross the acceptable/unacceptable threshold with impunity. What he’s talking about is the line that separates ‘not stabbing someone in the eye with the scorer’s pencil’ from ‘stabbing someone in the eye with the scorer’s pencil’.

Sharpen the England Test team pencil

Third seamer – Chris Jordan? Can we start assuming this now, or is that going too far? It’s just it would mean one less thing to keep track of, and the less we have to keep track of, the more we can concentrate on the important stuff, like moaning about the players who definitely are going to make the Test XI.

Jordan took a five-for in the latest round of championship matches and seems genuinely promising rather than the word just serving as a synonym for ‘in his early 20s’. We also like his oversized glue-encrusted hands.

As for the openers, up until now we’ve assumed that Sam Robson will replace Michael Carberry. But with Jonathan Trott now seemingly (and sadly) gone for good, how about his becoming a good, dour, plodtastic number three? Carberry’s apparently been having a series of sessions with Graham Gooch who is still, for the moment, England batting coach, and has therefore not been booted out so forcefully that he can’t just amble back again with a hurt facial expression.

England players are better than county players

We know that’s kind of the point, but it’s worth cementing this notion while everyone’s moving in similar circles. It’ll prevent confusion later in the season.

There will come a point – probably at some point in July – when Ian Bell will have made a couple of ducks against India and generally looked a bit uncertain. People will start to suggest he should be dropped, saying that he could be replaced by [insert name of form batsman] because he’s averaging 48.12 in the County Championship this season and therefore deserves to play.

No, he doesn’t. Whoever he is, he doesn’t. Ian Bell deserves to play.

Because while Bell will have spent the summer playing Test cricket, unnamed batsman will have been playing county cricket AND THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING.

Everyone will have forgotten that when they were playing the same game, Ian Bell was showing that he was a class apart, hitting his second hundred of the season in a match where his side were bowled out for 263 before reducing the opposition to 43-6.

And it’s the same for everyone else. No-one trusts Steven Finn any more, but we’d better start coming back round to him soon because he’s taking wickets for fun in county cricket – 4-50 in this latest round of matches. (Maybe he should play for England on an unpaid basis so that he’s only taking wickets for fun then too, rather than as a job.)

Jimmy Anderson started badly, but has now picked up his customary annual Lancashire cameo five-for. Alastair Cook has two hundreds in two matches. Matt Prior has one in one innings. These players now move onto tougher things.

A surprisingly large number of people assume that when England lose, it’s because they picked the wrong players. Like many things in life, sometimes the only thing you have control over is the scale of the defeat.

A template for a new England team

Cricinfo piece. Peter Moores. Lancashire. England. Read it by clicking here.

Steve Magoffin and MacGuffins

In film, a MacGuffin is something characters strive for which rather conveniently drives the plot. As often as not, its exact nature is unimportant. What matters is that at least one of the characters wants it.

People aren’t fighting to acquire Sussex’s Steve Magoffin, so he doesn’t really fit the description. However, the name does seem apt when you consider that one of the common characteristics of a MacGuffin is that it shapes the narrative even though the audience doesn’t really know what it is.

The contents of the briefcase in Pulp Fiction present a classic example. The whole film revolves around them, but we never actually find out what they are. It doesn’t matter. Similarly, do we need to see Steve Magoffin going about his job, or is it enough that he shapes the story of the 2014 County Championship in its early stages, allowing other characters to take centre stage later on?

This is a roundabout way of saying that after two rounds of championship matches, Sussex are the only team with two wins. In both games, Magoffin has set up the match on the first day and then polished things off in the second innings. He already has 14 wickets at 12.85. Team-mate Jon Lewis has taken 10 wickets at 12.10, but we didn’t feel like writing about department stores today.

One batsman and a bit of pace bowling

Refreshingly manageable levels of information this week with very little of note happening with regards to candidates for the England squad.

Gary Ballance

This is probably the headline event. Gary Ballance made 174 against Northamptonshire. Reading between the lines written by better-informed people than us, it’s possible that England have decided Gary Ballance has some flaw or other and that they’d rather get Eoin Morgan into the Test team.

If this conclusion has been reached, it’s largely off the back of Ballance’s one-day international performances, which is fairly typical of the way players seem to be judged these days – in the wrong context. It also creates an issue. Even if the selectors don’t always respect first-class scores as much as you might expect, they still like to have a bit of something to support their case. The problem is that Eoin Morgan is famously underwhelming in first-class cricket, whereas Gary Ballance is dynamite and seemingly plans on continuing to be so.

Seam bowlers

Graham Onions took 4-65, which barely even qualifies as news. But is Onions even in contention any more? You get the impression that Chris Jordan has leapfrogged him. Mmm, frog and onions.

Elsewhere, Jimmy Anderson took 0-82. One poor performance doesn’t amount to much, but Jimmy usually waltzes into county cricket, picks up a five-for and then waltzes out again. This, however, is a clumsy, awkward dad dance made to look even worse by the sleek 5-63 stylings of Chris Woakes. Two of our county players to watch have also had an impact on the scorecard – 3-52 from Keith Barker and 4-67 from Tom Smith.

Elsewhere, Cricinfo have done little to dispel the notion that Surrey players will always be talked up long before those of other counties with their ‘Dunn gets people talking’ headline. As over-hyped team-mate Jade Dernbach fades into the background, Matt Dunn moves to the fore off the back of 3-53 in the second division of the County Championship. It’s all very exciting if you happen to go to all of Surrey’s matches and have to feel like something notable has happened during the long hours you’ve invested.

We wrote about Twenty20 commentary

The headline promises something of a barrel-dwelling fish shooting exercise, but hopefully it’s more than that. It’s not so much ‘T20 commentators talk utter rot‘ as ‘some T20 commentators are occasionally slow to pick up on tactical trends and they therefore assess match situations according to outdated notions of how things are likely to pan out’. You can see why Cricket365 went with the former.

Weirdly, Mike Haysman favourited a tweet linking to the article. The tweet expressed a desire for commentators to provide insight rather than just saying ‘wow’ every two minutes, so maybe he was showing approval for that sentiment rather than the article itself. Or maybe he did like the article and somehow got past the headline. Or maybe he just hates himself and the headline struck a chord. Who knows?

England hire a Maxonian

Is it a good idea for a team that can’t bat to hire the coach of a team that can’t bat? It’s probably okay. The England coach is basically just a management figure, after all and Peter Moores seems pretty good at that side of things. He brought in many of the systems on which Andy Flower’s success was built. Indeed, he brought in Andy Flower.

He also ushered in a lot of the players who have been stalwarts of the side in recent years. James Anderson was just some lad who spent lunch breaks bowling at a single stump before Moores became coach. Stuart Broad came to prominence, Matt Prior got a game and Graeme Swann appeared. In fact, if you look at Test selections since Moores left, only Jonathan Trott and Joe Root have really managed to bed in.

We plan on lauding him when England win and berating him when they lose, even if we have no clear idea exactly what his job entails. At least he’s Maxonian though, eh? That’s got to be a positive, right?

Ben Stokes and the cure-all that is ‘passion’

One worrying, but entirely predictable, revelation from Ben Stokes’ recent interview in the Guardian is that he’s broken bones punching inanimate objects before.

He reckons he’s going to learn this time.

“I don’t think punching lockers is the way forward for anyone. There’s only going to be one winner there.”

This is an odd way of putting it, as if the locker was somehow parading around celebrating victory in the aftermath, rather than sitting there shell-shocked, wondering why the hell someone had just lamped it one FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER.

Also, generally speaking people who punch things in anger don’t learn. Considering it rationally, Stokes knows not to do it, but when you’re launching a left hook at a solid object, you’re not exactly in a rational frame of mind. It’s an emotional thing. People act differently when they’re capable of emotions rather than being all cold and dead inside, like you’re supposed to be.

They call it venting, but venting isn’t a thing. The act of ‘venting’ keeps your heart-rate up; it keeps you angry; and it also feels sort of good, so you carry on doing it.

But at least he has passion, eh? That was the big thing missing for England over the winter. Everyone says so. If only they had a bit more passion, they could have won. Passion drives you onto greater things. Passion drives you to things like losing all perspective, obsessing, never resting and eventually having a mental breakdown.

India v Australia, 2004 Mumbai Test – match report

Raaj writes:

I didn’t even want a mobile phone but, after conceding that my post-Uni employability depended upon being contactable, I caved in and took on my schoolboy cousin’s chunky, silver Ericsson when he upgraded. It worked; I got a job and earned enough money to fly to Bombay to watch the first Test of the 2004 India v Australia series. I’ll always call it Bombay because that’s what it was when I first visited, as a 10 year old, in 1989. The trip was memorable because I got bad diarrhoea and we got stuck at the airport for ten hours on the way home.

Back to 2004. The plan was to stay with a cousin for two weeks, see the sights and watch the Test. My cousin, who had moved out there from London a few years beforehand, will tell you he gave me a bed, took me out and introduced me to his friends. That he did. However, if I tell you that ‘taking me out’ meant watching him work out at Gold’s Gym, you’ll get the idea that he didn’t change his routine much to accommodate me. He didn’t, in fact, change his routine at all.

At least I had the cricket to look forward to. There was talk of my cousin’s friend sorting out some tickets and taking me down there but by day three I realised it wasn’t going to happen and went on my own. The train down to the hilariously-named Wankhede was nice and cool because the carriages were open, like the ones on which American hobos hitch rides. The signage for the stations en-route was in the same style as the London Underground.

At the stadium I bought my 500 rupee (about a fiver) ticket and started queuing. They don’t bother with unnecessary luxuries such as stewards in India – they hire moustachioed coppers with wooden sticks. It was a couple of these who told me I couldn’t take my mobile phone into the stadium – a policy introduced after the Madrid train bombings. My protestations that extortionate roaming mobile charges meant that I couldn’t afford to detonate anything via text message fell on deaf ears, so I asked them what I should do with my weapon of mass destruction. Amazingly, they had no suggestions. There wasn’t even a bush nearby under which to hide it.

The phone was useless in India and worthless back home. It had served its purpose and I hadn’t paid for it. I chucked it away and joined the enthralled masses inside, who were roaring as if it was a rollercoaster T20 rather than a Test.

Except for some reason I didn’t do that. What I actually did was go back to my cousin’s flat, mobile millstone in hand, and watched the match on TV. I’d like to say it was on principle but I don’t think it was. As has been the case for much of my life, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing or why.

The pitch was a raging turner, Michael Clarke took a six-for and Tendulkar made a sixty-something that was probably worth more than his many centuries. Australia were spun out cheaply and lost the match. It all happened on that third Day.

A few days later, deciding there was nothing else to detain me in the vibrant, exotic land of my forefathers, I cut short my stay and went home. Another sound decision, I’m sure you’ll agree.

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