Gids & I: the transcript

Swapnil Shah transcribed this for me. You’ve got to appreciate the unnecessary effort in doing this. Sort of like writing up a dossier just so you can leak it. Although on his site it says Swapnil lives in Salt Lake, so what else is he going to do with his time.

If this transcript looks scary long and you need something to listen to while running from imaginary monsters on your treadmill, the podcast is available here.

Cricket Sadist Hour – A Transcript
Nov 7, 2012

Jarrod Kimber chats with Gideon Haigh on Rob Quiney, Graeme Smith’s future, cricket balls and what’s not-so-good about the Gabba

Digitally joining me is the man, the myth, the legend, that’s what everyone says about him but actually he’s a F-grade cricketer that basically is trying to hold on to Cricket any way he can. It’s Gideon Haigh.

JK: How are you?

GH: You flatter me, Jarrod.

JK: It was great the way that you got your, basically you were asked to do the Bradman speech and you spent about 25 minutes talking about yourself and how you play Cricket.

GH: Well, I talked about my sponsors, the sponsors pretty mad at me; I was on message to put on a gratuitous Lachlan Fisher reference (unintelligible). It hasn’t done me any good at club level – last three innings I’ve had two dodgy lbws and a dodgy caught-behind.

JK: But that’s what we love about Club Cricket, that you can say everything nice about it but at the end of the day, if you can’t play…

GH: it just turns around and bites you in the arse.

JK: Now, you’ve got a new book as well. I think, I could be wrong, but you are the first person to ever write a book about this young man, Shane Warne.

GH: Ya, first person to write a proper book, anyway. Even Shane wasn’t able to do that. He’s written two autobiographies and they’re really book-shaped objects rather than books. It was interesting to sort of study the existing literature on Warne. It’s vast but it’s not deep. There’s an awful lot of very pedestrian, very superficial, very, quite puerile stuff that’s been written about it. And, to my surprise, I found relatively little that was actually a physical description, of him bowling. I guess, because people saw him bowl, fifty thousand deliveries at international level, there’s a general assumption that people have seen it all before and if they are curious they can go to Youtube. But it was one of my paramount objectives to write a description of Warne bowling that kind of, explored exactly how wonderful it was and the sensations that you experienced while watching it. Because I suspect that in ten-twenty years time when we don’t have the physical specimen to study, people will have forgotten what a transcended experience it was.

JK: You talk about the physical specimen and the first thing I noticed when I got the book was he just doesn’t look anything like the person on the cover of the book anymore. I mean, it’s impossible not to notice that. It’s almost like, because we’ve seen him change, not slowly, but quite dramatically, quite quickly. But at the same time, we’ve all seen the pictures as it’s been happening. And then to actually, suddenly get that image in front of you of what he used to look like, it’s phenomenal how much he’s changed.

GH: Yes, I’ll never forget being in the press-box at Lords in 2009 and seeing out of the corner of my eye this orange streak pass through the back with this blue rictus. His teeth were so white, they are almost blue. And it is quite spell-binding; you almost can’t take your eyes off him. He actually reminds me, little-bit, these days of Bert Newton (not sure). I remember I once went on the Bert Newton show and the advice that I was given before I went on was, “Don’t start staring at his head. You just can’t take their eyes of his hair. Just try to look elsewhere”.

JK: Ya, that wouldn’t be hard with him. Talking of people with big heads, I want to go into Shane Watson a little bit. Brydon’s written a piece saying that if Shane Watson doesn’t bowl anymore, he may not get picked for Australia. I know, last summer, that was the big rumor – that Australia could do without him. And since then he performed superhero like in the World Twenty20. What do you think about Watson and do you think they will pick him if he can’t bowl and he clearly can’t bowl?

GH: Watson has created himself, over the last three or four years, a bit of a niche that suits him at international level. He likes opening the batting, because as he says in his autobiography, he likes the fact that when going in first, he doesn’t have to respond to a match situation, he can create a match situation for him. And he likes being able to bowl, because he thinks it takes pressure off his batting. Psychologically, he seems to be unable to step outside that and do anything else. He’s created a world that suits him or a role that suits him and I think any changed to that role, he finds, disproportionately difficult. So, if for physical reasons, he has to change his role, then that will stretch him psychologically.

JK: “Watson’s world” is a very scary concept. Basically, what we have got is, we’ve got a guy who doesn’t make enough hundreds in Test Cricket. He does get a lot of good starts but he is probably not batting like a top-order batsman if he’s not making big hundreds. We’ve got a guy who can bowl decently and take wickets and has taken five-wicket hauls in test matches and occasionally change the game but everytime you bring him on to bowl you’re afraid you want see him again for six to eighteen months. And you’ve got a guy who, for whatever reason, maybe doesn’t quite fit the new team, the new Australia way of working

GH: Yes, I think that it’s interesting that Australia was able to get by with four bowlers last year, they didn’t necessarily need a fifth bowler’s input, and his position in the field has closed up. He can’t field at first slip anymore. First and second slip are taken. Where do you put him in the field? He’s not quick in the midfield, he’s not a natural gully fielder, do you stick him at mid-on? He’s not gonna look a little bit obtrusive at mid-on. Somehow, the role that he performed has closed up and he hasn’t been able to re-invent himself.

JK: Ya, it’s quite odd and obviously with him out, we’ve gone straight to Rob Quiney. Have you seen much of him from Victoria?

GH: Yes, Little bit. I’ve always quite liked him as a classic, he’s a very Australian looking player. He’s one of those players who couldn’t come from any other country – lean, (ranging), hungry, aggressive, plays all three forms. A bit home-spun, even sometimes a little bit crude in his methods but looks as though he’s played a bit of cricket at lower levels, knows what it’s all about. You’ve seen a bit of him too, Jarrod. I enjoyed your piece about the night that made Rob Quiney.

JK: Well, I’ve seen a lot of him early on, I’ve not seem him that much recently except in IPL and they odd game in the Big Bash. I’ve always said, he gets a lot of abuse in the IPL because he plays spinners dreadfully. But I think he’s as good a fast bowling batsman there is in Australia and I think that’s essentially why he is being picked. I can’t think of too many other batsmen outside the main team at the moment who could play fast bowling anywhere near as good as him and he probably plays it better than some of the others. And I think that’s a massive advantage coming up against South Africa. He’s gonna face two of the fastest bowlers in the world and probably the smartest seam bowler in the world. I am worried though that they picked him, perhaps, too much because of this whole thing that Dale Steyn doesn’t like bowling to left-handers. I think Morne Morkel could bowl to a left-hander in his sleep and let’s be honest he usually plays in his sleep.

GH: You got Post hoc ergo propter hoc rationalization, isn’t it? The whole left-hander shtick.

JK: Ya, it’s interesting. What do you think about Doolan? He’s made 160 in that game. He’s usually a top-order batsman, usually a No. 3, and he is also four-five years younger than Quiney. It’s interesting that they went with Quiney, it’s not like his record or his form this year has demanded it. I wonder if they were just looking for someone who wouldn’t be fazed.

GH: Ya, I really liked Doolan. He’s essentially another classic, old-fashioned Australian player, who hasn’t come through the new-fangled path. He’s got a very traditional upbringing of club cricket. He’s a bit of an enigma, Doolan. I’ve seen him look absolutely terrible like he’s almost got no idea which end of the bat to hold. Infact, I saw him batting at Bankstown earlier this season and he looked in all sorts playing against Trent Copeland with Brad Haddin standing up. He seemed to lack any sort of fluency and any sort of shape. And then two weeks later, I saw him playing at the MCG and looking a million bucks. It’s almost as though he doesn’t quite understand how good he is. I’ve met him when he came to the South Yarra cricket club last season. He’s a very mild mannered, softly-spoken and dryly-humored young man. He doesn’t strike you a natural, gregarious, aggressive, out-going, international sportsman. He’s done it the way that Australian players used to it, by steadily accumulating experience at the first-class level. The fact that he has batted at No. 3 for such a long period suggests that he actually might have been a better bet than Quiney. There is a difference between opening the batting and No. 3. It’s actually asking quite a lot of Quiney to essentially bat out of position in his test debut.

JK: Ya, you’ve got, Doolan, Davis and Klinger who were the other three. And I just that wonder whether they are all too similar to Eddie Cowan and whether they were just thinking we know that Quiney’s not sort of guy that’s gonna get over-awed, we know that he’s gonna attack a little bit, we are willing to take a punt on him batting at No.3. We don’t want to get stuck in the mud with Davis or Klinger. Maybe they were worried about having too many defensive batsmen in the top order.

GH: Well, I tell you what. Watching Doolan in the Shield match here, he was smashing them, they were peeling off the middle of his bat. It looked as though he almost could not believe how well he was hitting the ball.

JK: That’s a good place to be. I don’t know if I’ve ever done that myself. Let’s talk about South Africa. Graeme Smith. This could probably be his last test tour to Australia, if not, his last test tour anywhere.

GH: Ya, this is a South African team that’s at its peak that perhaps over the next two to three years faces a fair but of man-power turn over. That creates its own kind of pressures for a side with the need to achieve, the need to make the most of this environment and the opportunity to win in Australia. He’s obviously closer to the end than the beginning.

JK: The signing with Surrey was quite interesting. I know for a fact that surrey were looking for someone who was going to be available a good period of the year but basically they were looking for someone who wanted to retire and become their captain. It sounded like he originally said No to the deal and then signed a three year deal. It almost sounds like, I want to beat Australia, go back home, finish on my own terms, and then maybe just head off to England.

GH: And I think probably dealing with the South African administration on a daily basis would probably wear you out. And Smith’s had his problems over the last eighteen months. I think every one of those circumstances has a limited life-span. And the turn-over at the top of Cricket South Africa means that everyone’s operating in a normally uncertain environment too.

JK: And I think his wife is Irish or Scottish. There might even be more, he might just think, I can play probably five to six days of County Cricket without too many problems. It’ll be interesting to see who they go with because AB de Villiers is obviously their golden child but he is very close to becoming Dan Vettori. It seems to be that almost every job you need they go “Well, AB will do it”.

GH: It’s got to be Amla, I think. Amla’s got the authority, he seems to have to personality, he’s got a bit of grounding in the job and I think he’s got universal respect and authority. He would be my selection.

JK: He’s the person I would have selected as well but I talked to Telford Vice in the UK Summer and Telford said that he doesn’t think that Amla wants to do it. He doesn’t want to take an extra job and that he’s quite happy being the guy in the background who smiles and makes the runs. So it could be an interesting one if Smith does go. How do you think they’ll go in this actual tour? Because they’re a good side but they also generally play their worst cricket after they’ve played their best cricket.

GH: That’s a little bit like the Yarras.

JK: I’m gonna have to start beeping out references to the Yarras.

GH: You look up and down that side and it is quite hard to discern weaknesses in it. One thing that stands in Australia’s favor is that I think both teams have explosive attacks that could break the back of an innings in an hour. That’s often all that it takes to win a Test Match. So I think that probably Australia is a better chance of taking a Test Match off South Africa than England was, England being a steady, consistent, rather humdrum, sometimes professional outfit. You never quite know what Pattinson is gonna do on a daily basis and he was very, very sharp against Western Australia. Having looked a little bit indifferent against Tasmania, he’s coming into some prime Test Match form at the perfect moment.

JK: Ya, him and Siddle. I hate to say something nice about Cricket Australia but the idea of putting the videos up online of Shield Cricket. I’ve seen a few spells, especially when I was in Sri Lanka and him and Siddle just looked amazingly primed to take down Test Cricket. They’re at that level where they are almost too good to get the edge in Shield Cricket right at the moment.

GH: Pattinson just seems to have gotten better spell by spell this Summer and he was scary in the late evening on Friday against WA. He looked like he was gonna take a wicket every ball.

JK: I wanna talk about both bowling attacks because when I was leaving Australia last summer, Bill Lawry, Craig McDermott and a bunch of drunk people were saying that Australia had the best bowling attack in the world. And South Africa arrived with the best bowling attack since the West Indies. What’s happening?

GH: I thought England had the best bowling attack in the world.

JK: That depends on who you talk to on what day. But that did seem to happen. I noticed the minute the South African team turned up, the Australian press couldn’t stop telling them how good they were.

GH: But that’s just the fifteen second gold-fish memory of the likes of most Australian cricket journalists. We’re infinitely suggestible and once we pick up a line, we like to repeat it to enjoy the sound of it.

JK: But what do you think? I’d say that there are weaknesses and strengths in both attacks. South Africa have got an extra bowler with Kallis which gives them a huge advantage and Tahir gives them something else completely. Vernon Philander is a very good bowler but I don’t think he can keep up this run. I think he will eventually have to slow down and this may be the series on flat Australian wickets. Morne Morkel is always one cheeseburger away from ending up in an asylum from what I can tell. They are an attack that could collapse and they weren’t always bowling that brilliantly against England. England gave them a lot of advantages with lot of stupid shots.

GH: Of course, in a three test match series, less can go wrong than in a five test match series. Perhaps both attacks are suited by the fact that it is a shorter series rather than a longer series. They can go harder over shorter periods without necessarily having to worry about seeing out a full-fledged five test match series. It’s interesting the venues that have been chosen for this series. Brisbane and Perth, Australia’s taken actually a bit of a risk in programming games involving South Africa at those two venues rather than on more benign surfaces. It could be quite explosive. Certainly, if you are in the top three of either side, you will have earned your runs for sure.

JK: The Perth one is probably more interesting. The Gabba generally gets the first test now I suppose but the WACA would be the one that you would throw to Sri Lanka so that you give yourself an easy win. They haven’t done that. I know you are not up in Brisbane yet, but do we know much about the pitch? There’s talk about Gabba green tops and then quite often they are shaved the last moment. Do we know much about the pitch?

GH: I’ve heard it’s pretty flat. I’ve heard it’s designed to last the full five days. Of course, what you can’t reckon is the climactic conditions. It’s both an innovating environment and a potentially enticing one for a bowler who moves the ball in the air. You’d suspect that if Philander is gonna bowl well anywhere in Australia, it’s gonna be at the Gabba.

JK: Ya, that’s a good point. Although I bet you that he might need to get used to going up the wind at the WACA. I think it was New Zealand, this time they toured or the last time, there was an early November pitch that moved around everywhere up there. It’d be interesting to see if they take that because it could be a series, if you win the toss on the first day you could almost book yourself a chance of not losing.

GH: The scores last time against New Zealand at Brisbane belie how good the pitches were. Batsmen were being beaten once an over, they just weren’t good enough to get an edge. I thought Clarke’s hundred at Brisbane was a first rate one. The season before, the preparations were compromised and they ended up with a pretty flat wicket and that it was very difficult to get the batsmen out on the last couple of days. But the scores have been middling at the Gabba this year which leads you to suspect that the groundsmen are trying to do something to make things a little bit interesting and none of batting top sixes have had an awful lot of recent form on the board. They’ll be doing their acclimatization to five-day cricket in a five-day game which has a lot of challenges.

JK: It’s interesting, actually, I forgot to mention it earlier that Quiney’s record at the Gabba is phenomenal. I’m not sure why he hasn’t moved to Brisbane. Maybe he’s afraid they play at the Allan Border Oval too much, but he seems to be the only batsman excited that that’s where the Test is being played.

GH: The other thing about the Gabba is those ridiculous seats that they have, it’s probably one of the worst seeing grounds in the world, those dabble seats, the multi-colored seats. You often see slip catches go down the first couple of days because the back drop to vision from slip is unlike any other ground in the world. So don’t be surprised if you see some crucial catches going down.

JK: The South African journalists haven’t been there in a long time so they might get lost. When I was there for The Ashes, I had no idea where I was going and I kept looking up and everything looks the same, there’s nothing to tell you where you are, you just keep walking around. I’m pretty sure I did three laps once just to try and find the nets.

GH: And you can’t get outside the ground. I went to the Gabba for the first time in the mid-1980s. It was like the Queenslander, that classic kind of indigenous architecture. It felt like a sub-tropical cricket ground. The architecture was quite varied; these bizarre crenellations like the place had been built on the run. Back in the 1950s, apparently the place was so covered with barbed wire to keep the hoi polloi out of the members stand; the visiting cricketers called it the Belsen, not a politically correct reference at all. But it had a certain home-spun charm; you couldn’t have been anywhere else in the world. Well, you could be in Melbourne; it feels like a Football Oval.

JK: But at least there’s the gladiatorial aspect at Melbourne. It feels like no matter where you are sitting, how far you are, you can still spit on a player, which is what I like about Melbourne. I want to talk about one other thing. There’s been a lot of talk in the India-England series about the fact that India won’t let England face any spinners in the warm-up. It was quite interesting that South Africa who haven’t really complained about this so much; Smith might have mentioned it at the first press conference but they arrived in Australia to prepare for a Test at the Gabba by going to the SCG, which is about the opposite.

GH: They tried to get it changed, didn’t they? But it was too little, too late. It was almost as though they hadn’t paid any attention to the itinerary until they looked at their plane tickets and then went oh what we can do about it. The system as you and I know used to be that you used to play a first class game at the arena that you were going to play the Test Match immediately before hand.

JK: And you play at Lilac Hill when you first arrived, quite often.

GH: The fact is that traditionally there has been such a great variety of conditions at the different Australian Test Match venues that playing a game at the venue on the eve of the Test Match was disproportionately valuable, perhaps more so then in England or in India. But now what dictates the itinerary is more player workload than actual preparation to play under particular conditions and particular times or particular venues.

JK: Ya, the England pre-tour, I am surprised at how many matches and how long they seem to be in India and preparing. I’m pretty sure they arrived in India before South Africa arrived in Australia.

GH: Ya, South Africa only arrived it seems like yesterday …

JK: When did the Champions League finish? Maybe that hasn’t finished, maybe it is still going, you never know. Pat Cummins is probably still bowling over there.

GH: World Cup 2007 is still going somewhere…

JK: I just got one final thing actually. It’s the thing that maybe will only be interesting to you and I. And it is not about LockLand Fisher Bats, for once. It’s about the fact that they are using different balls. They are thinking about using Dukes and then eventually phasing in SG balls and Kookaburra came out and said that if they don’t have Cricket Australia’s support then they might actually end up going broke. Is this not the same Kookaburra that took over balls and basically made the company Platypus go broke.

GH: It is the same company that’s had a monopoly on the Australian Cricket ball manufacturing since the Second World War and frankly, rightly so. They make the best ball. We used to use Platypuses in our local comp and they were rubbish. They never seemed to have a seam which is a bit of a problem when you are making a ball. Have you ever noticed that a Kookaburra sits nicer in your hand? It just seems like a better put together, more compact ball. It seems to retain its shine a bit longer. I certainly could never get used to bowling spin with a Platypus. I suspect that this is more maybe the authorities reminding Kookaburra that their monopoly isn’t a natural one, balls can be imported from overseas and that if they should decide to charge that extra 10% then Cricket Australia has ways and means of making sure that the internal market for balls is competitive.

JK: I wonder if it is not worth for first-class cricket, especially, using Duke balls in Hobart and Gabba, using SG balls in Sydney and Adelaide, and using Kookaburra balls in Melbourne and Perth.

GH: That is such an esoteric scheme, Jarrod, that only you could have dreamed it up.

JK: I spend a lot of time thinking about balls, Gideon.

GH: All rays on (unintelligible)

JK: It is. Thank you very much. You are gonna be popping in and out during the Summer and we will talk about things, generally, when there’s actually been Cricket rather then this non-sense that we have tried today.

GH: Well, there was Cricket, I played at the weekend.

JK: But you failed, ya?

GH: Yes, we lost by 1 run.

JK: I think every time I ever talk to you about Cricket, you’ve always lost by 9 wickets or 1 run.

GH: That’s the glorious game for you.

JK: Beautiful, Thank you very much for joining us.

GH: No worries, Jarrod, See ya.

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