3 Things About the 2nd T20 Between Australia and Sri Lanka

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BEN ROBERTS shares three things that troubled him whilst attending the 2nd T20 game between Australia and Sri Lanka at the MCG. Sri Lanka went on to win the rain affected game as Glenn Maxwell couldn’t hit a third consecutive boundary off Thissara Perera’s final delivery.

1. What did Ben Laughlin think he was doing…

..standing around directing fielders during the final over of the Sri Lankan innings. The Sri Lankan’s filled their boots with 20 extra runs that could have come in handy for the Australians in the end. There are three reasons why Laughlin should not have been directing fielders – one, in the words of Richie Benaud, “the captain, and only the captain, should be in charge out on the field” (Channel 9 cricket coaching video, circa 1990), the captain sets the field, living and dying by his decisions, that is why he is the captain; two, fast bowling requires the highest level of emotional output in cricket, hardly the optimum mind-set for making calculated and objective decisions; three, Laughlin is a fringe player in the form of the game that Australian cricket has the least respect for, in what galaxy does his opinion count, this was not Shane Warne bowling in the middle of an Ashes Test.

2. Does the cricket world actually expect people to keep coming and watching…

…while it allows the briefest shower of rain to hold up a match for 45 minutes. The cost of a ticket to watch what turned out to be a truncated match was between $50 and $60, hardly chicken feed. The MCG is the most manicured lawn in the southern hemisphere, yet what amounted to some dew on the grass caused the match to be held up for an extended period because of the complaints of highly paid players (listened to constantly by spineless administrators) that they may slip over. People refer constantly to T20 as being a revolution in the mould of Kerry Packer’s. This is untrue; Packer knew that his empire did not exist without a happy general public; the general public of Australia are staying away in droves based on this summer’s crowds.  The whole episode really puts a new spin on the phrase ‘as weak as water’.

3. Australian cricketers need to show more respect…

…to opponents at this time when performances are really very poor. All could see that the Sri Lankan team were pushing the gamesmanship boundaries with the time taken between balls, but who is Glenn Maxwell, or any of the team selected for this match, to take matters into their own hands by sledging the Sri Lankans. Despite his immediate impact in this match Maxwell has barely made an international run; his sparring partner on the night Mahela Jayawardene has an Olympic sized pool at home where he swim’s in them. I am not sure at this stage of his career what is so ‘big’ about Glenn ‘Big Show’ Maxwell – it is certainly not his batting aggregate.


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Crisis in the Australian Commentary Box?

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Ben Roberts feels Australia is going through a crisis in the commentary box.

(Image: commentary legends Greig and Benaud share a moment)

The recent passing of both Tony Grieg and Christopher Martin-Jenkins, along with that of Peter Roebuck a little over 12 months ago forced me to reflect on the poor state of cricket commentary in Australia. Where the sound of cricket musings used to form an addictively pleasant and informative background to the summer, I find myself increasingly easily turned away.

I have almost given up on watching the cricket on TV, even with the sound down. Channel 9 constantly flits about with replays and technology, trying to ensure the viewer has no down time whatsoever. But this counters one of the great appeals of cricket as a game, the pauses and time between balls allow for anticipation to rise, anticipation in cricket and life is often the greater thrill. The need to play with the technology means that the likes of Michael Slater & Mark Nicholas who are great cricket thinkers (refer their earlier work) might as well be robots, and look ridiculous most of the time.

Grieg never shied away from the technology available, but he always seemed to be giving it a pinch of salt and not taking it too seriously. Funnily enough Richie Benaud (who you struggle to find an article about where the word ‘doyen’ does not precede his name) still inhabits the commentary box and famously advises – “… put your brain into gear and if you can add to what’s on the screen then do it, otherwise shut up.”  The current day producers might want to reflect on that.

Even the ABC (usually a safe option) is flagging. The use of present day first class cricketers is only ever going to give you cliché’s and platitudes, do you really believe that cricketers from states other than QLD & WA think that highly of Mitchell Johnson’s selection? Not likely, they have been getting stuck into him for years in domestic cricket for being picked ahead of their own teammates. Roebuck is sorely missed because he provided a strong independent analysis on proceedings. As a listener even if you didn’t agree it made you think. Kerry O’Keeffe’s comedic anecdotes are getting tired also, and without an appropriate foil (like the straight laced Roebuck), fall flat.

Regardless of what medium it is carried on the domestic T20 tournaments have allowed sickening levels of hyperbole to enter commentary boxes. Yes, a fringe first class cricketer (who no one except his mum has ever heard of) or a past it former international cricketer (of questionable talent then and now) has swung ridiculously hard at the ball for the sixth time straight in the over and finally connected enough for it to just clear the ridiculously short boundaries. But this does not mean that you, a fringe first class cricketer (who no one except your mum has ever heard of) or caller usually employed as an “around the grounds” man during football season, sitting in the commentary box need to burst into unbridled whooping.

Granted he was afforded high cost fee paying education that gave him clipped tones and high command of the English language, but Martin-Jenkins could speak ten words that will be recalled for a lifetime where an infinite amount of screeching at an unimportant T20 match will be forgotten immediately; and what took more of the speaker’s energy?

Let the greatest game on earth speak for itself.

Suggested further reading:

 

  • Channel 9 Commentary team the worst in history?

 


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BCCI reluctance over DRS: a potential advantage?

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Shocking decisions like Alastair Cook received on the opening day of the 4th Test are giving rise to more calls for the DRS. But why is it that the BCCI and India seem to persist with their indifference to the DRS? Rohan Sharma comes up with some telling answers.

DRS (the Decision Review System) has revolutionized the way in which umpires make judgments and have provided players on the field the ability to contest decisions they see unjust. The system was first introduced during the Indian tour of Sri Lanka in July 2008. It was hailed as a much needed improvement in light of a number of controversial decisions that had occurred in the past.

Today this system is widely accepted and endorsed by the majority of international cricket boards. However one particular board continues to lay scepticism on the system and its apparent benefits. India have remained steadfast non-believers in DRS, despite having a largely successful initiation of the system during the 2011 ODI World Cup. Their distrust of DRS can be traced back to a number of originating factors.

The BCCI have continually claimed that DRS is not 100% foolproof and should therefore not be used as a decision aid for umpires, as the board accepts the fallibility of umpires in the modern game. Taking DRS out of the equation allows the playing field to be levelled as captains can no longer gain an edge over one another.

The BCCI have also spoken about the liberal use of technology in today’s game and the need to preserve the game’s traditions and decorum. Ultimately the umpire is the final decision maker and should be entrusted the responsibility with minimal use of technological aid. While this lends a sense of consistency to the game, the possibility of umpiring howlers will continue to remain on the slate.

Another prevalent factor is how DRS can significantly influence the outcome of a match. What DRS does is reward good appeals while punishing those that are ignored. The team that best uses DRS to their favour can eventually sway the very nature of a contest. This is why the BCCI wants DRS out of the equation.

India have suffered from this predicament before in the inaugural series where DRS was used back in July 2008. Through the series Sri Lanka made 11 correct decisions while India made only 1. This is the first instance where rumblings would have surfaced over DRS and its ability to influence a match. This is also not the only time India have suffered at the hands of DRS.

During the World Cup 2011 group game last year against England, India received a very harsh decision regarding the LBW dismissal of Ian Bell. The cameras showed that while the stumps were going to be hit, the batsman had stepped down over 2.5 metres which influenced exactly where the delivery would pitch and hit. This controversial 2.5 meter ruling had been contested ad nauseam in the Indian media, seeing it as a potential pitfall to the accuracy of the system. Ultimately the decision was ruled not out, much to the chagrin of the Indian players and administration.

Another decisive reason in India’s reluctance to use DRS revolves around the fact that India will be playing at home for the better part of the next two years. For anyone who has ever played or watched a cricket match in India before, one can attest to the unbelievable noise and palaver that can be generated. The atmosphere greatly mimics life in India as there is just so much commotion and pageantry existing at one time.

Even the best umpires can be prone to error in such foreign conditions. Their hearing would suffer as their ability to ascertain snicks would come under question in such a din. Without the use of the system, umpires would be more reluctant to give outright decisions without the failsafe of DRS as a backup.
Therefore if there is an appeal an umpire would be less inclined to give an out decision. This would undoubtedly favour the batting team which in India is what fans come out to see. With all the distractions which exist, it is plain to see how DRS continues to be ignored by the BCCI. The underlying advantages of not using the system could potentially aid India in its pursuit of the competitive ICC test mace.


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The Kohli Factor – India’s growing dependence on the Number 3

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Virat Kohli is quickly becoming the hottest property in world cricket. With the Indian batting pantheon slowly retiring and younger blood not setting the world alight, Rohan Sharma ponders just how reliant India are on their talisman.

When Kohli first entered the fray he was seen as a rabble-rouser, an individual undoubtedly cocksure about his ability and promise. He graduated into the ODI team with an U-19 World Cup title under his belt and expectations alight. From achieving at an early age what would have been the pinnacle for any young cricketer, it would have been devilishly easy for him to ride on the wave and eke out a comfortable living in first-class cricket.

But Virat Kohli had grander plans, and slowly began to notch up some considerable performances. His consistency, which has been shaped by a remarkable run of form since 2010, has been instrumental in sky-rocketing his brand and importance within the team. During the recently concluded World Twenty20, a viewer poll question was posed asking whether India over-relied on Virat Kohli in limited overs games. An overwhelming 67% majority voted in the affirmative.

Such confirmation by the fans highlights just how vital a cog he has become to the efficacy of the team. With the retirements of the old guard the pressure on Kohli has intensified, especially with the consistency he has displayed of late. His conversion rate is extraordinary for someone who has played less than a 100 ODIs. Already in 90 matches he has managed to compile 13 centuries, no mean feat. It is no wonder he has become the face of Indian cricket, ably demonstrated by the number of commercial endorsements he has managed to pick up in such a short amount of time.

But what is it about Kohli’s method that has allowed him such sustained success on the international scene? One can certainly infer a lot from how he goes about approaching each innings. There is an unswerving swagger as he saunters to the crease, the fierceness of purpose apparent in his eyes. The first few balls he uses to allow him time to settle in and become acquainted with the conditions. As the bowler delivers, Kohli steps down the pitch with a positive forward movement as he meets the ball. The intent in the stroke is emblematic and showcases the importance of confidence at the crease. This approach is refreshing compared to the typical cricketer who, at the start of an innings, looks to play a little more circumspectly.

Virat emanates a semblance of stability while he is at the crease. His arrival to the fold has provided the middle order with the much needed steel that was lacking in the team. Kohli’s success has also allowed the think-tank to continue to experiment with viable middle order options. India’s continual gamble on the proficiently talented Rohit Sharma would never have been so well afforded without Kohli making runs at the other end. This is crucial as India continues to transition into a younger outfit for the future.

Kohli’s staggering rise can prove both a blessing and a curse as time will tell if can continue to match the deeds he has performed to date? While his attitude can no longer be questioned, there will come a point, as in all international careers, where the runs begin to dry. This will be Kohli’s true test as he continues to make a case for himself within the team. Coupled with the expectations that have begun to resonate every time he walks out, Virat will have to continue to sidestep the distractions and continue to follow the process that has given him so much success and adulation. The next few years should be telling as to whether he is merely very good or if he can indeed be listed amongst the pantheon of cricketing greats.


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Twenty20 World Cup Preview: Groups C and D

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lead image (c) guardian.co.uk

In the next installment of collaboration with All Out Cricket, Chris Knight moves on to preview groups C and D of the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup which commences in Sri Lanka in September. Will Malinga be the bowler of the tournament? Could South Africa get rid of their chokers tag? Just how dangerous are Pakistan? Here’s how things are shaping up… [Read more...]


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Twenty20 World Cup Preview: Groups A and B

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We’ve started a bit of collaboration and content sharing with our good friends at All Out Cricket. To kick things off, AOC’s Chris Knight previews group A and B of the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup which commences in Sri Lanka in September. Can England retain their title without their talisman Kevin Pietersen? Does the T20 master Chris Gayle make the West Indies the dark horse of the tournament? Here’s how things are looking… [Read more...]


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My Favourite Cricketer….Victor Trumper

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image: Victor Trumper (c) www.gordoncricket.com

World Cricket Watch and Balanced Sports are giving cricket writers, bloggers and fans from around the world the opportunity to  share a tribute to their favourite cricketer. Today S.A. Rennie of the superb Leg Side Filth selects revolutionary batsman Victor Trumper…. a man once described as the eagle to Don Bradman’s jet plane. You can follow @LegSideFilth on Twitter.

I never saw my favourite cricketer play; he died 56 years before I was born. But like a cricketing Alexander the Great, he left behind him a legacy of achievement, literature, and myth, and he changed the face of batting forever. [Read more...]


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Bishan Bedi – more than meets the eye

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PAUL CARRICK shares his story of how he met the cricketing great and down-to-earth Bishan Bedi.

“No Problem, No Problem” was the cheerful response to a cold call I had made to one of the statesmen of the world game. A friend of mine had procured his number and I wanted to get something signed. “But how are we gonna do this” he continued,” you can come over to my place I live quite a distance from the city centre, but your welcome to come over”. [Read more...]


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My Favourite Cricketer….Justin Langer

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As part of our continuing series, World Cricket Watch and Balanced Sports invited Glenn Mitchell, sports broadcaster and mental health advocate, to write about his favourite cricketer, Justin  Langer.  Glenn’s website is glennmitchell.com.au and he tweets @mitchellglenn

I clearly remember standing in the middle of a rain-soaked Sinhalese Sports Club in September 1999 as the third and final Test of the Sri Lanka-Australia series came to a very wet conclusion and the hosts on the precipice of a historic 1-nil series win.

Beneath the light drizzle that day I had a chat with Justin Langer near the heavily covered pitch. [Read more...]


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Why It Is Time To Say Goodbye To Ponting

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lead image: Kemar Roach dismisses Ricky Ponting (C) AFP

Having recently witnessed Ricky Ponting in the Caribbean, GARFIELD ROBINSON thinks it’s time for the former Australian captain to call it a day.

In 1981, at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas, boxing great Muhammad Ali entered the ring for the last time. His opponent was Trevor Berbick, a Jamaican who few thought belonged in the same ring as the great champion. In the end, Berbick won easily, by unanimous decision. Ali was but a shadow of his former self. Yes he got in a few punches, and might even have won the fifth and sixth rounds; he danced a little too, to remind fans of the performer he once was. But his powers had waned. Ali was no longer Ali.

I was reminded of Ali’s decline recently as I watched Ricky Ponting play in the Caribbean. Australia’s greatest batsman since Bradman had nothing like the command at the crease that was once his hallmark. Where he was once calm, positive and assured, he was now hurried and uncertain.

Not all the time: during his 41 in Trinidad he looked more fluent than at any other time in the series. He punished anything on his legs and even unsheathed a pull-shot or two, as if to remind the fans that he still had it. But, for the most part, it was clear to all who have watched him throughout the years: Ponting was no longer Ponting.

In the first innings of the Trinidad test Roach, continuing their battle from the last West Indies tour of Australia, got him with a peach of a delivery. Ponting was squared up by a delivery that angled in and landed on off-stump, then straightened and bounced—one that would probably have defeated him in his prime as well.

What epitomized his troubles to me, however, was a delivery he faced a few minutes earlier. Roach had bowled a short ball that he top-edged and skied trying to pull. It wasn’t a particularly quick delivery but the renowned punisher of everything short seemed harried. In his prime, he would have been on his back foot almost as soon as the ball was released, waited, and then decided which boundary board he would disturb, or where in the stands the ball would have to be retrieved.

Die-hard fans of Ponting would no doubt point out that not long ago he scored two hundreds, including a mammoth 221, and averaged 108 in a series against India. Yet they would have to agree that India’s bowling attack was one of the most inept to visit Australia in years. Michael Clarke team’s next test engagements will be against South Africa in November, and one does not expect their highly lethal bowling unit to mimic the impotence of the Indians. Australia’s selectors have a decision to make.

Well, not just one because their openers need to be looked at as well. But in my view Ponting needs to remove himself from the side before November or the selectors should respectfully ask him to go. Respectfully, because he has been a feared and faithful warrior in Australia’s cause and so cannot be cast away lightly. The run-of-the-mill player is easier to handle in such circumstances. Aware that their abilities were limited to begin with, they, and their fans, find separation less traumatic. The dominating player, on the other hand, sometimes fails to come to terms with their diminishing powers, and their fans often cling to the folklore long after the final chapter should have been closed.

And if the question then becomes, who is it that is ready to replace him, then I would answer that it doesn’t matter. Heroes should not be allowed to regress to the point where they become unrecognizable.

Not that his legacy is in jeopardy—Muhammad Ali is still the greatest. But just as it saddened boxing devotees to see one of the sport’s icons dominated by a lumbering journeyman, Ponting should ensure that he is not made to look anything other than the great player that he undoubtedly is.

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