The Reverse Sweep

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The Reverse Sweep – back from a brief hiatus with Issue 9

After a month’s hiatus, the column is back and this week covers the battle for the number one spot in Nagpur, Australia’s incredible run of success in ODIs, another shocking decision by the Pakistan selectors and Shane Warne having a dig at Andrew Strauss. We also provide links to a couple of interesting cricket happenings on the web. And finally, we reveal The Reverse Sweep’s current World Test XI in tribute to the genius that is Dale Steyn.

The Reverse Sweep is an irreverent round-up of the week that was in cricket. For further insight into this wonderful game of ours please visit my blog also entitled The Reverse Sweep, or follow me on Twitter @TheReverseSweep.

Steyn smites India in battle for number one spot

There is much conjecture as to who the best batsman in the World is on current form. Some would say Kallis or Smith, others would argue Ponting on the basis of class being permanent, and eyes would also turn to the sub-continent for Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir, Dilshan and Sangakkara.

However, there can be no doubt as to who the best bowler in the World is. Step forward Dale Steyn, who simply demolished India in Nagpur over the last two days. Yes, India were weakened by injuries to Dravid, Laxman and Yuvraj. And yes they were always going to be up against it after Amla and Kallis had scored big tons. But Steyn was simply awesome and unlike against England at Cape Town, he got just reward for a stunning spell just after tea on the 3rd day.

There is not much to choose between the sides but with Steyn in this form, the South Africans will be confident of completing a series victory at Eden Gardens and restoring themselves as the number one test side.

Australian golden run continues

Chris Gayle cannot have studied the form guide before he predicted that his West Indian side would beat Australia 4-1 in the current ODI series down under. Given the ease in which his side has been beaten in the first two games, Gayle now looks a bit foolish – not that it will worry possibly the coolest dude in the universe.

Anyway if Gayle could be bothered to look at the form book, he would see that Australia are in the midst of a formidable run in ODI cricket, which since the start of the seven match yawn series  against England has seen them win 22 and lose only 3 of 25 matches.

What makes this run even more impressive is the fact that Ricky Ponting’s side has had to contend with a series of injuries (especially in the bowling department), which has seen the line-up change more frequently than Liverpool’s under Benitez. However, whoever has come in has done well and recent new faces like Harris, McKay and Bollinger have taken to international cricket like ducks to water.

What price a second 5-0 whitewash for Australia to follow the one already completed against a demoralised Pakistan?

Pakistani selectors foul up again

Did the Pakistani selectors watch the T20I match with Australia on Friday?

It would appear not. Despite a magnificent stumping and a phenomenal innings of 64 (over half of the Pakistan total), wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal has been dropped for the two T20I matches against England in Dubai later this month.

Now Akmal had a poor test series against the Aussies and his errors at Sydney, where he helped Mike Hussey cement his place in the Australian line-up by continuously dropping him; ultimately cost his team the match.

But he looked a changed man on Friday. The way he stood up to the Alamo of Tait, Nannes and Johnson was brave and magnificent. He is clearly the best Pakistan has to offer in the wicketkeeper/batsman stakes especially in 50 or 20 over cricket.

But why should I be surprised? This is the group of selectors that has appointed four captains in less than a year (Shoaib Malik now has the poisoned chalice for the games against England). And continuous inconsistent selections have left the team in absolute disarray.

Pakistan cricket needs some former heroes to stand up and replace the incompetents. How about Imran Khan as the chair of a four man committee with Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis? Gentlemen, your country needs you.

Warne lays the boot in on Strauss

Shane Warne, never one to miss a chance to criticise the England cricket team, has blasted Andrew Strauss’ decision to rest from the forthcoming tour to Bangladesh. Warne, who also raised doubts on Alastair Cook’s captaincy credentials, said that “It’s disappointing that the captain of England decides to have a rest from a Test series, I can’t comprehend that. Any time you represent your country it’s special and I cannot understand how you can rest your captain.

It does seem strange that only a year into the job, Strauss has decided to have a ‘rest’, especially when he is not due to play for England again until May. Perhaps it would have been more sensible for him to rest from the ODI leg of the tour?

As for Cook, one hopes that he captains better than he did in the second T20I against South Africa in November. There he was more Captain Clueless than someone with the illustrious title of Captain Cook.

You should check these cricket related happenings on the web…

Whilst wiling away the hours in the office, I have come across a couple of cricket events worth checking out on the web.

Firstly, those wonderful chaps and lasses at Test Match Sofa have started producing a weekly podcast in the vein of their recent amusing live commentary of the South Africa-England series. Check out the first and second Test Match Sofa podcasts here, which includes JRod from cricketwithballs.

Speaking of cricketwithballs, JRod has recently announced the birth of Cricket Sadist, which in the words of its creator “is an unglossy cricket magazine made by semi professionals and highly skilled amateurs.” If you want to contribute, click on the link above and all will be revealed.

The Reverse Sweep XI – Current best World Test XI

Having declared our allegiance to Dale Steyn as the best bowler in the World at the moment (for once the rankings do not lie), how would the rest of a current World Test XI shape up, based on current form? Here’s my team…

1. Graeme Smith (South Africa) – The heart says Dilshan or Gayle, but the head goes for the Proteas captain, who may not be the best batsman to watch but who always seems to score runs when his country most needs them.

2. Virender Sehwag (India) – It would be a travesty if Viru was not in the XI – along with Viv Richards, has there ever been a more exciting batsman to watch?

3. Gautam Gambhir (India) – You cannot argue with his record over the last 12 months even though doubts remain whether he can do it against the very best (as shown against South Africa over the last few days) or away from the sub-continent.

4. Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka, Captain) – Gets in ahead of Ponting as the Australian captain has not been in the best form over the last year or so. Sangakkara has scored runs both on and away from the sub-continent and is a class player.

5. Sachin Tendulkar (India) – I’d like to go to India one day, so the Little Master has to be in the XI! Seriously, though his record over the last three years is second to none as his ton today against South Africa ably demonstrated.

6. Jacques Kallis (South Africa) – Three centuries in his last five tests with the most recent in Nagpur being one of his best. Like his countryman Smith, not the best player to watch but the proof in the pudding is the fact that he just keeps on scoring runs. And he can bowl too.

7. Mahendra Singh Dhoni (India), The Indian captain has been in excellent form with bat and gloves over the last year and just pips Boucher and Haddin.

8. Daniel Vettori (New Zealand) – With Warne and Kumble gone, Murali fading and Harbhajan too inconsistent, it is New Zealand’s one man team who pips Swann for the spin role in the XI.

9. Mitchell Johnson (Australia) – In the battle of the inconsistent quicks, it is MJ who pips Morne Morkel (and Zaheer Khan) to a place in the XI. Johnson has an uncanny knack of taking wickets when he is bowling pies, which gets him a place in my side.

10. Dale Steyn (South Africa) – The best bowler in the World. Any fast bowler who can take ten wickets in a match in India deserves to be worshipped. Thank God he was only match fit for the last two tests against England.

11. Mohammad Amir (Pakistan) – If he can steer clear of illicit and performance enhancing drugs, Amir’s nagging accuracy would be a good foil to the pace of Steyn and Johnson in this XI.

12th Man. Graeme Swann (England) – Would come in for Johnson if two spinners were required. His first year in test cricket has been sensational.

That’s all for this week folks.

Read previous editions of The Reverse Sweep:

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 8

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 7

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 6

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 5

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 4

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 3

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 2

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 1

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