Considering Steve Harmison's shambolic Ashes tour that culminated in his ODI retirement and a lacklustre performance in the 1st Test against the West Indies, I find myself bemused at Simon Barne's latest article likening him to a tormented Hulk:
Perhaps he feels guilty when he hits a batsman, beats him all ends up, takes his wicket. Perhaps he finds it hard to live with the part of himself that makes great men look like fools, that part of himself that creates dismay and disappointment, that fills his opponents with self-doubt and self-disgust.Guilt at hitting a batsmen? These days, he seems to have trouble hitting the pitch! Does he spare any of that gentle consideration for the English slips cordon where most of his deliveries seem to end up? There's no denying Harmison's potential and talent but he just seems to lack the ticker required for the intense examination of Test cricket. When England needed him most in one of the greatest Test series ever, he went seriously AWOL and England never recovered. You have to question a player who laments he'd rather be playing for Newcastle United.
Sometimes he seems to resent his power, like a tormented superhero in a Marvel comic. He has been given great powers – the power to hurry the greatest and terrify the rest, the power to force an error from any batsman who ever took guard, the power to blast out an entire team with the force of his nature.
Speaking of going AWOL, apologies for the lack of posts over the last week. I seem to be suffering from post-World Cup burn-out plus there just isn't much to comment on from an Australian point of view. Now the Zimbabwe tour is cancelled, Matt Hayden is off fishing, Brett Lee is recording Bollywood tunes and Glenn McGrath is probably out shooting wild pigs. So if you're despairing of a lack of activity on cricket-blog.com during the lull, I suggest subscribing by email in the right margin so at least you'll receive instant notification when I find something worth posting about. Note - I don't use emails for anything other than sending out new posts (eg - I don't sell them, post ads, any of that kind of junk).
|Posted by JC on Wed 23 May||64 comments|
Things have been a little intense lately so I'll try lightening things up with a fluff piece about cricket becoming Australia's favourite sport. Apparently swimming has been the country's #1 sport since 1971 (which surprised me). But since our world beating swim team have either retired or forgotten how to swim fast, they've dropped off the public radar relatively speaking. Meanwhile, our cricket team is winning tournaments and even when they lose, it merely serves to increase public interest as everyone wonders what the hell happened.
Personally, I'm a little mystified at swimming's popularity. The prospect of guys in budgie smugglers and broad shouldered girls going backwards and forwards in a pool doesn't really grip me. Sure, I'll watch Thorpie in an Olympic final but I find it a bit much when every swim meet in Australia is broadcast on primetime TV. Channel 9 couldn't even be bothered to bid for the TV rights to the 2005 Ashes (brilliant move there, Eddie). Of course, Australia have just lost a few superstars in Warnie and McGrath. Will this mean a wane in cricket's popularity, to be overtaken by lawn bowls or netball? What I hope will eventuate is Australia will be challenged and we'll be treated to gripping contests once again. Well, tightly competed right to the finish but Australia winning every time at the last moment, of course!
|Posted by JC on Wed 16 May||168 comments|
Cricket Australia must be breathing a sigh of relief as they're off the hook - the Australian government has banned the Zimbabwe tour. PM John Howard waxes on the subject:
"The government, through the foreign minister, has written to the organisation of Cricket Australia instructing that the tour not go ahead. We don't do this lightly, but we are convinced that for the tour to go ahead there would be an enormous propaganda boost to the (President Robert) Mugabe regime. The Mugabe regime is behaving like the Gestapo towards its political opponents. The living standards in the country are probably the lowest of any in the world, you have an absolutely unbelievable rate of inflation. I have no doubt that if this tour goes ahead it will be an enormous boost to this grubby dictator.There's been a lot of voices weighing in on this matter recently. John Coomber at the Courier Mail argued against a government ban. If the government bans Australia from playing, it will open up a can of worms for future sporting events. Does our Olympic team go to Beijing considering China's history of human rights violations? What about Pakistan's military government? This is a complicated issue as where do you draw the line that a country crosses before we refuse to tour there? I can't honestly answer that question but one thing is certain. Whereever that line is, Robert Mugabe has left it far behind.
It's pretty obvious to me that the players and the body wanted to act in conformity with public opinion but in the end, not surprisingly, they wanted a situation where the decision was taken by the government and not the players. I don't think it's fair to leave a foreign policy decision of this magnitude on the shoulders of young sportsmen. It's much better, in the end, for the government to take the rap. I hope the rest of the cricketing world understands that and it would be a very good idea if the rest of the cricket world adopted the same attitude towards Mugabe's regime. I'm not going to stand around and allow some kind of aid and comfort be given to him by the greatest cricketing team in the world visiting his country.
This country is a disaster. It has an appalling HIV-AIDS problem, its living standards have sunk to rock bottom, it's got an inflation rate which reminds you of the Weimar (Republic), pre-Nazi Germany which we read about in our history books. It's an appalling situation."
One Zimbabwe blog suggested Australia should tour but protest Mugabe while they're there. That way, the "propoganda coup" for Mugabe would be turned on its head and Zimbabwe's situation would be even further highlighted. Great idea in theory. Only problem - I doubt whether the Australian cricketers would have the inclination or the nads to go against Mugabe in his own country.
The Zimbabwe Independent says Zimbabwe’s young and inexperienced cricketers need Australia more than Mugabe does and the tour should go ahead. But Cricket Australia have side-stepped this issue, offering to play the team in a neutral country. This way, everyone can have their cake and eat it too.
So while John Howard has the rhetoric cranked on high, invoking Godwin's Law not once but twice in the one speech (although the comparisons are apt), in the end this is the right thing to do. It may be as MT suggests that a part of Howard's posturing is for the sake of the election at the end of the year. Regardless of his motives, justice is done. You know when the opposition agrees with Howard in an election year, it's a no-brainer.
|Posted by JC on Mon 14 May||82 comments|
There's a famous rule Godwin's Law which predicts the inevitable eventuality when fierce online debate rages:
"As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."Apparently in a flame war, there's no greater insult than comparing your opponent to Nazis. I've been following the global warming argument closely of late and I've noticed both sides often fulfill Godwin's Law. Global warming advocates liken skeptics to Holocaust deniers (akin to a Nazi). Skeptics compare Al Gore's public awareness campaign to Nazi-like propoganda. It's lazy debating - why discuss the issues with facts and logic when you can easily write off your opponent with a derogatory label?
I've noticed a similar event occurs when cricket fans argue online about Australian cricket. It's even happened several times on cricket-blog recently over SquashBallGate. So it's time for cricket to have its own version of Godwin's Law which I've rather unimaginatively title "JC's law":
"As an online discussion involving Australian cricket grows longer, the probability of invoking Australia's convict past approaches one."
|Posted by JC on Sun 13 May||45 comments|
You often hear commentators lamenting how modern cricket is stacked heavily in the batsman's favour (usually from disgruntled ex-bowlers). That trend seems likely to continue as a new electro-mechanical cricket bat has just been invented by Professor Sabu John of RMIT:
Its innovative handle is equipped with electro-mechanical sensors and a vibration-absorbing synthetic material which converts shockwaves into heat and dampens vibration. Consisting of a carbon fibre shell with a polymer insert, it employs technology called active vibration control which is already used in baseball bats and tennis racquets. That increases the size of the bat's "sweet spot" - the zone in which the batsman experiences the least discomfort when smashing the ball towards the boundary.I'm thinking John Travolta: "it's systematic... electromagnetic... why, it's synthetic lightning!" In case the technobabble hasn't wowed you, there's also a snazzy illustration to further impress (and yes, this pic is legit unlike other recent spoof ads).
"The big push for this is players who want a bit of technology in the bat and it would make them feel slightly better when the ball hits the bat away from the sweet spot," said Prof Sabu John, an RMIT expert in "intelligent" materials and the leader of the project. Prof John, a former research fellow at Imperial College, in London, told The Australian newspaper that the bat was being developed in conjunction with the manufacturer Kookaburra Sport and could be on sale within 18 months.
I hate to break it to the Professor but he's wasting his time. One of cricket's sacred cows is the bat must be pure wood. Ricky Ponting was recently busted just for having a sticker on the back of his blade. I certainly don't recall anything in the MCC laws (or is that ICC laws?) permitting "electro-mechanical sensors" or "vibration-absorbing synthetic materials". Professor John thinks there may be a loophole as the restriction only applies to the blade, not the handle. I can see the powers that be quickly tweaking the rules as soon as one of these super bats makes its way into an international game.
Now if only they could make a bat out of squash balls.
|Posted by JC on Sat 12 May||41 comments|
News has emerged that Ricky Ponting was shoved by a security guard during World Cup celebrations:
"The Sun-Herald understands the players were on the centre wicket when local police, two of whom were armed with machine-guns, ordered them from the playing field. The officer in charge, whom witnesses described as overly aggressive and forceful, was not prepared to listen when Ponting asked that his team be left for two minutes to sing the song. He demanded the team and its support staff leave the ground immediately.Sadly, the ICC have screwed up just about every aspect of the World Cup so it's hardly surprising that something as simple as Australia's celebration got spoiled. Singing the victory song, a stalwart Australian tradition, loses its cachet when relocated from the World Cup final pitch to the hotel pool.
The officer then allegedly used his shoulder to bump into Ponting and became more agitated. When the players stepped forward to protect their skipper they were warned they were at risk of being arrested. It is believed all-rounder Andrew Symonds intervened and helped defuse the situation by suggesting the team call it a night."
On the other hand, and at the risk of being labelled unAustralian, I can't help but appreciate the poetic symmetry. I still cringe when I think about Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn shoving Sharad Pawar off the stage amidst the Champion's Trophy celebrations. Perhaps Ricky's finally getting a little comeuppance.
|Posted by JC on Fri 11 May||206 comments|
Forget squash balls and Zimbabwe. The real issue of world cricket has been resolved with Lasith Malinga dubbed the World Cup's sexiest player. The title came from the Barbados Sunday Sun newspaper citing his "eye-catching, blonde-streaked curly hairdo, eyebrow ring and tattooed biceps." It's a shame they didn't announce it before the tournament. Fear of having his thunder stolen might have coaxed Shane Warne out of retirement.
Now you'd think this could be another SquashBallGate-like controversy that has Australians and Sri Lankans at loggerheads. Malinga hunkier than the square jaw and six-pack abs of Shane Watson? Or the heartthrob crooning of Brett Lee? Fortunately, I doubt you'll find many Australian men lining up to defend their players' sexiness. And if anything, it's Sri Lankans who seem to have a problem with Malinga's new tag:
The accolade has not gone down well with everyone in his home country. "Those in Barbados got their wires crossed," said a reader of the state-run Daily News, Ranjith Chandrasekera. "He is a good cricketer, but not a decent-looking gentleman." His presentation tarnished the "respectable outlook of the rest of the team," he said, adding that Malinga should uphold the traditions of a "country boy coming from a good cultural background."I thought Australia was filled with current affair watching, unkempt youngster hating baby boomers. It seems we don't hold a monopoly on conservatism (somehow a comforting and disturbing thought at the same time). Personally, I'm not fussed about Malinga's appearance but a little perturbed by how much thought and effort he puts into it. Colombo hairdresser Nishantha Jayasekera gives us the skinny:
Another reader of the Daily News did not like Malinga's appearance, but did not object too much. "I myself was not impressed by Malinga's hairstyle etc," wrote Romaine L. "However, he did bring a fresh and fun attitude to the field."
"Malinga likes to stand out, so he goes for unusual styles unlike the other well-known cricketers. Malinga has his own hair ideas and he is not afraid to try out anything new. It took me two days to get the look."So he spent two days at the hairdresser to get his hair just right? That takes modern metrosexuality to new heights. Now I'm not saying men shouldn't look after their appearance. I had somewhat of an epiphany last night at touch footy. I heard the opposing defender marking me call out to his teammates "I've got Mick Molloy." Talk about a blow to the confidence! So maybe I should upgrade my grooming efforts from a quick application of deodorant and briefly running my fingers through my hair each morning. But two days at the hairdresser? I guess a professional sportsman has to find something to fill the gaps between tournaments.
|Posted by JC on Thu 10 May||147 comments|
Yesterday, I tried to move the discussion into serious matters like the Australian tour of Zimbabwe. I was hoping to provoke some stimulating discussion on the tension between sport and politics or the human rights violations of the Mugabe regime. But instead, all we got was squash ball, squash ball, squash ball. So fine, we'll talk about the damn squash ball!
Breaking news is the squash ball is now being discussed in the real world! Eg - it has moved from the blogosphere as Sri Lanka Cricket secretary Kangadaran Mathivanan was quoted as saying:
"We are of the opinion that it was unethical for Gilchrist to use a squash ball to give unfair advantage."Hmm, that's it? Who is we? I haven't heard a peep from any of the players or any other officials in Sri Lanka Cricket. I seem to recall reading a quote from Murali saying he wasn't fussed by the squash ball but I can't find any articles quoting him. Next, we had a response from Cricket Australia spokesman Peter Young:
"It's a storm in a teacup, or a batting glove. To the best of our knowledge it's no different to, say, putting two or three grips on the bat handle, or batting with two pairs of gloves or having inserts sewn into the palm of gloves. All these are things which now happen. This is in the same category. It's been suggested that if shoving a squash ball into your bottom glove makes you bat like Adam Gilchrist then perhaps the ICC should make it compulsory."You know CA are taking the whole controversy seriously when they've got their spokesman performing stand-up comedy! I'm picturing him up on stage in front of a brick wall, peeling out Seinfeldisms like "and what's up with Murali's bowling action...?"
And that's it on the "official" front. On the "slightly more credible than anonymous bloggers" front, Dileep Premachandran at cricinfo sides with Gilly when he says a bunny with squash-ball-in-glove doesn't a Gilchrist make. Similarly, MCC's head of cricket John Stephenson says "The official view is that you are correct. It is no different to wearing inners, etc." Although there's also the definitive Yahoo Answers which claims to have resolved the question Adam Gilchrist use a Squash ball to hit the ball with power & won the world cup? (not so sure of the English but you get the idea). And the official resolved answer (I've trimmed it a bit, the answer tended to meander somewhat):
U know, there's a saying "fortune favors the brave" but this time fortune favored the cheat... Everybody knows that was not a "proper" win for the Aussies and it was certainly a moral victory for the Lankans. The ICC, the dumbest sports governing body in the world, should not let these things happen... the Aussies were "given" the world cup that could have been Sri Lanka's had the game been played under normal conditions and had Gillie not used the squash ball (just look at the way the rest of the players struggled to make an impact). One more thing Sri Lanka could have done in addition to the ones you've mentioned. Murali could have used a powerful small motor fitted to his palm to spin the ball even better :-) Aussies, shame on you....Personally, I agree with Peter Young (although I never would've resorted to that batting glove joke, that was awful). However, it would hose down the situation if the ICC came out and clarified the ruling on this one. Well, maybe, the way the ICC have been botching things lately, it's more likely they'll inflame the situation. If the squash ball was more visible, I would expect them to come out legislating how sponsor's logos are to be branded on hidden squash balls.
And on that note, the final word goes to our very own Andrew (regularly commenter on cricket-blog.com) who has seized upon this controversy with entrepreneurial brilliance, releasing a new product Gilly's POWER Magic BALL: "The only squash ball to receive official recognition from the Sri Lankan Cricket Secretary and Internet Bloggers from all over the subcontinent!" Now that's a ringing endoresement. However, I strongly recommend you read the disclaimer before shelling out your USD$50.00.
|Posted by JC on Wed 9 May||79 comments|
Let's move from the controversy minefield of Gilchrist's squash ball to the more sedate and less volatile topic of Australia's tour of Zimbabwe. I'm never a big fan of politicians poking their unwanted noses in our sport, vainly trying to prove they're one of the people. If you want to see just how bad it can get, check out this footage of Australian Prime Minister John Howard attempting to bowl. He's not a cricket tragic, he's just tragic:
However, the current situation is a little more serious than a polly grubbing for a photo op. Australia's foreign minister Alexander Downer has called upon Australia to scrap the tour:
"My view is that the tour shouldn't go ahead and if it were to go ahead then Australia - which is after all the World Championship team - would give Zimbabwe's regime and its President, who has been the patron of Zimbabwe Cricket Association, a propaganda victory. We shouldn't do that. This is a horrific regime in Zimbabwe and we should take a stand against it."Of course, money talks and probably the #1 issue in Cricket Australia's mind is not human rights but the hefty ICC fine if they fail to turn up (a fine which would be pocket change to CA after the World Cup and Ashes windfalls). Even that's no longer an excuse as John Howard has offered to pony up the $1.6 million fine. I must concede it's a gutsy gesture from our government (although not enough after their record on Iraq and the environment to win back my vote). It reduces Cricket Australia's next move to a purely moral decision which makes things very interesting.
The usual justification for touring a place like Zimbabwe is to separate sport from politics. The only player to actually take a moral stand last time we toured was Stuart Macgill of all people. Now Macgilla Gorilla is a contrarian by nature but for once, I agree with him. Dictator Robert Mugabe is a nasty piece of work and to this very day engages in the abduction and torture of his political opponents. If it was me playing for Australia (I know, a crazy thought, although maybe with a squash ball...), I wouldn't be comfortable having any association with such a regime, giving them licence to claim "business as usual" or being seen as indirectly endorsing it by touring.
Of course, if you still insist on being a sporting purist, consider that Zimbabwe now ranks below Ireland. Nuff said!
|Posted by JC on Tue 8 May||65 comments|
A furore has erupted over whether Adam Gilchrist's squash ball was illegal. In his whirlwind World Cup winning innings of 149, Gilly batted with a squash ball in his batting glove. Now angry Sri Lankans are demanding the World Cup final be replayed. Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have titled that post "How a squash ball won the World Cup".
What I find interesting is who kicked up the fuss. I haven't heard anything from players, officials or the ICC. No, it's all come from bloggers. Far be it from me to deride a group that I'm a member of but as Bart Simpson succintly puts it, we should listen to people whose opinions actually matter. We bloggers are an angry lot, ranting and raving from the secluded comfort of our darkened computer rooms. I love to deride Andrew Symond's poor Test form or Ricky Ponting's lack of statesmanship but I imagine if I ever met them in the flesh, I would be as obsequious and fawning as the next fan.
As for the actual squash ball, I believe its a storm in a teacup (what else would you expect an Australian blogger to say). The squash ball wasn't some magic bullet, delivering super spring to launch the ball deep into the stratosphere. Gilly has been doing that for years due to his high grip and fast bat speed. I've been surprised for years that more batsmen don't mimic his bat grip to obtain similar power. The ball was merely an aid in correcting his grip.
And now the fans are calling for a replay. It's about as likely as seeing George Bush impeached (I guess we all have our unrealistic dreams). Although it will never happen, it's fun to speculate the slippery slope we'd embark upon if we did have a rematch. What other injustices would we need to redress? We could finish the 3rd Test between England and Pakistan that Darrell Hair infamously cut short. Or on the subject of unfair advantages, how about we replay the 2005 Ashes as the English bowlers obviously used mints to obtain reverse swing. And I hear Shane Warne wears a pair of socks down his trousers to help him win over English lasses. Surely this should be branded unfair advantage.
|Posted by JC on Sun 6 May||243 comments|
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