Tag Archives: shane warne

Warne’s Simple Plan

“Cricket is a simple game

.”

Shane Warne, 2013.

No, it really isn’t. It’s probably one of the most complicated games ever invented. It has an infinite amount of strategies involved in it. It combines chess, golf and psychological torture, is physically unnatural and is played on a surface that lives, breathes and changes.

I doubt many people tell Shane Warne he is wrong on matters of cricket. The man is a legend, has the arrogance of 12 heavyweight champions, and over 700 Test wickets to back it up. When it comes to cricket strategy, his brain is a sentient supercomputer.

So when he writes a review of Australian Cricket, you’d be a fool to not at least look at it.

The problem is, Shane Warne is not a super tactician off the field. As he as spent the best part of the past twenty years proving to us.

He’s good, he won the first IPL for Rajasthan with canny captaincy, bargain basement picks and himself as el supremo. But three IPLs and two Big Bashes later, Rajasthan have never been in the final (or even the semi-finals), and the Melbourne Stars have not qualified for the Champions League.

Considering that Warne plays outside the salary cap, the Stars have a $700,000 head start on every other Big Bash team. Forget that it makes the competition fundamentally unfair – even with that advantage the Stars have not set the competition alight.

Of course Warne is not the dictator of these teams. He is however, often the captain, coach, cheerleader, GM and most important person at both teams. If you are a new franchise, and you buy Warne, you are not buying 4 overs of leg spin a match. You are buying a way of cricket.

Warne is much like the charismatic millionaire self-help guru. His plans work for him, and will work for you too. Forgetting that the people that read his suggestions and follow his advice have one fatal flaw. They aren’t Shane Warne.

His review of Australian cricket is nice, and it’s definitely not always wrong, but the Australian team is not a franchise that he can sway by his talent or his personality.

His review can be boiled down into two key points.

1) The people he likes would do a far better job than the current lot.

2) Cricket people with smarts and international experience are the only answer.

The first point is best ignored. Warne is nicer to his friends than any many alive. And him selecting a crew of his old playing or drinking buddies is what he does. It wasn’t that long ago he picked Darren Berry in a list of the best 50 cricketers he ever played with or against. Even as Darren Berry’s biggest fan I find that a big call.

More importantly, every single name Warne has used is a former international cricketer. It’s not an accident. Warne trusts people who have been to the top. He’s not the only one; Justin Langer’s run as batting coach coincided with the Australian batting line up failing at every turn. Now, you can’t just blame him for that, but if it wasn’t Langer in the job, and some computer batting guru, the fans and press would have wanted his head. Instead, Langer was promoted.

Personally I think the best person should get the job, not just the best person who happened to be the most talented 5, 10, 15 years before. A lifetime of watching films has told me that some actors become brilliant directors, and some actors direct stinkers.

But we’re talking cricket here, not film, and definitely not rugby (in Australian cricket the word rugby is now substituted for Pat Howard at all times). Cricket is like nothing else on earth, so only cricket people can get it. People who live, breathe and taste cricket. People with cricket brains.

The cricket brain is a special thing. You only had to see Taylor, Boof or Flem out there at their best to know that an instinctive cricket brain is a majestic dragon that cannot be replicated by computers or research.

So is there a lack of cricket brains in the Australian set up?

Mickey Arthur played 110 first class matches, and averaged 33 with the bat. Players like that only make it if they have pictures of their selector in a compromising position, or are really smart. John Inverarity only played 6 Tests, yet they way people talk about how he went about his cricket, it wouldn’t surprise me if his cricket brain ends up in the National Sporting Museum at the MCG.

Yet they aren’t on Warne’s list. Warne either doesn’t like their cricket brain (his quote about how to select the captains may suggest this), or he thinks they’re doing a bad job.

Have their performances been so bad? Is the Australian team in the hands of the rugby guy, the professor and the overseas coach been so bad that we need an urgent review, two years after the last one?

According to Warne, yes, “The current set up is not working, as the results are showing! What are our world rankings in all forms?”

When the Argus report came out, Australia were ranked 5th in the world with a rating of 100. They are now ranked third in the world with a rating of 117. That’s a direct improvement under the Clarke, Arthur, Inverarity and rugby regime

Not even Warne could say with a straight face that the rankings of ODI and T20 are a proper representation of where you are as a cricket team. Since Argus, Australia has played in one ICC tournament. They lost in the semi-finals to the team that won.

In Tests they’ve been up and down. They drew with New Zealand at home, beat the West Indies away, beat Sri Lanka home and away, beat India at home, drew with South Africa away and pushed them before losing at home. It’s not popping corks time, but it’s not bad for a team in transition.

When the Argus report came out, Australia were ranked 5th in the world with a rating of 100. They are now ranked third in the world with a rating of 117.

That’s a direct improvement under the Clarke, Arthur, Inverarity and rugby regime.

Not that they couldn’t do better, and even be helped by some of Warne’s people. But from the outside, it doesn’t appear like it did two years ago when there was obviously something very wrong with Australian cricket.

Right now it appears like a lot of fairly intelligent cricket people, and one rugby guy, moving Australia forward. They make mistakes, but Stephen Fleming made mistakes too, even if he did it with nonchalant, silky charm.

Cricket brains and ex-players are very important, but they are not the answer to everything. For instance, after 150 years of organised cricket, with the many champions and genius cricket brains that have graced the game, we still don’t have an effective training technique for improving running between the wickets.

If cricket were simple, we may have worked that one out by now.

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The children of Shane Warne and Craig Howard

I wrote this for last year’s wisden

Shane Warne’s first real victim wasn’t a batsman, but a fellow legspinner – a fellow Victorian legspinner, in fact, with a wrong ‘un so brutal it would crash into the chest of those who lunged blindly forward; a legspinner who ran in like a graceful 1920s medium-pacer, but who then produced a dramatic twirl of his long arms and ripped the ball off the surface like few teenage legspinners before or since. This legspinner was so good that Warne said he had more talent than he did. His name was Craig Howard. And if you’ve never heard of him, it’s probably not your fault: Howard doesn’t even qualify for a single-line biography on ESPNcricinfo.

By December 3, 1995, Warne – who was by then closing in on 200 Test wickets – had already saved legspin. If the date sounds random, then for Howard it was not: it was his final day of first-class cricket. He was 21. Howard retired with 42 wickets in 16 first-class games at 40 apiece, which was no great shakes. But to understand how good he was, you had to be there – you had to see him hit a batsman with his wrong ‘un. Aged 19, he had returned second-innings figures of 24.5-9-42-5 at the MCG against the South Africans.Wisden noted: “Only Rhodes, with 59, made much of Howard’s leg-spin second time around.” Darren Berry, who kept to Howard at Victoria, said he would have named him in his all-time XI of those he had played with or against if it hadn’t been for Warne. Yes, Craig Howard could definitely bowl.

Plenty of others have been bit parts in the story of Australia’s post-Warne spin apocalypse, but no one has been a more intriguing bit part than Howard. He is the only Australian bowler to go through the Cricket Academy twice, once as the artistic legspinning prodigy from my teenage years, later – after one of his fingers packed in – as a 28-year-old, made-to-order journeyman offspinner. And now Howard is back, plucked from his office job in telecommunications to coach Nathan Lyon, currently Australia’s No. 1 tweaker.

Howard, as it happened, did play alongside Warne in four Sheffield Shield games in 1993-94. The comparison is unflattering: Warne took 27 wickets at 23, Howard – who bowled 100 overs to Warne’s 247 – three at 108. But in between, with Warne away on international duty, Howard finally got a decent bowl: he took 5 for 112 against Tasmania, including the wicket of Ricky Ponting. More than 15 years later, when another leggie – Bryce McGain, who was almost 37 – was making his Test debut for Australia, the 34-year-old Howard was playing for Strathdale Maristians in Bendigo, up-country Victoria.

He is philosophical now. “Had I played Test cricket, my life would have turned out different,” he says. “I probably would have ended up in some sextext scandal and lost my wife and kids and ended up a lonely bum. Although, yes, playing Test cricket was the dream.”

There are many reasons why Howard didn’t make it: injuries, bad management, terrible advice, over-coaching, low self-confidence. But had he played in an era when Australia were desperate for a spinner, he might now be a household name – or at least someone with a decent blurb on the internet.

“At one stage, there were headlines saying I was going to play for Australia,” he says. “I remember being about 20, and at the top of my mark at the MCG. Instead of thinking, ‘How I am going to get out Jamie Siddons or Darren Lehmann?’ I’m thinking about a small group of men in the ground who are judging me. It wasn’t like that all the time, but when I was struggling this is how I felt. In the back of my mind I know the captain of my side doesn’t like me, and has told me to f*** off to Tasmania. The coach believes that, because I can’t bat or field, I am never going to be that useful. It was a dark time.”

In the mid-1990s, no one needed to look for Warne’s replacement, because he would play for ever and inspire so many kids to take up legspin that any who fell through the cracks wouldn’t be missed. Junior sides each had four or five leggies – often with peroxide hair – and they all walked in slowly, ripped the ball hard, and barely bowled a wrong ‘un. But they weren’t Warne. None had his physicality: Warne was built like a nightclub bouncer, not a spinner. Massive hands led into awe-inspiring wrists, the whole lot powered by an ox’s shoulders. But kids who try the same quickly wear themselves out.

Howard knew how they felt: “My body never backed me up. I couldn’t feel my pinky finger, had part of my right arm shortened, tendinitis in my shoulder was operated on, a wrist operation, stress fractures in my shins, tennis elbow in my knees from excessive squat thrusts, a spinning finger with bad ligaments, and barely the fitness to get through a two-day game, let alone four. There was no million-dollar microsurgery in the US for me. In the ’90s, you still had to pay for a massage and work a day job.

“There were suddenly legspinning experts everywhere – not ex-spinners but just ex-cricketers, coaches and selectors who spent years ignoring legspin. No one ever came up to you and said: ‘You should be more like Warne.’ But every bit of advice seemed to be about making you more like him. It wasn’t subtle. Everything just created doubt in your mind. And with legspin, if you have an ounce of doubt, you’re cactus.”

Warne’s retirement sparked a desperate search for his replacement. One spinner simply begat the next: Stuart MacGill, Brad Hogg, Beau Casson, Cameron White, Jason Krejza, Nathan Hauritz, Marcus North, Bryce McGain, Hauritz again, Steve Smith, Xavier Doherty, Michael Beer, Nathan Lyon. Never mind Simon Katich, Michael Clarke or Andrew Symonds.

MacGill should have softened the blow of Warne’s departure, but his knees gave way, his career as a lifestyle-show TV host took off, and it was clear he just didn’t want to bowl any more. Even then, there was Hogg, the chinaman bowler with two World Cup wins to his name. But after one horrendous home summer against India, he retired as well – only to make a bizarre return to international cricket during the Twenty20 home series against the Indians once more, in February 2012, aged all but 41.

Along came Casson, another purveyor of chinamen, but a boyish one who seemed too pure for international cricket. His first (and only) Test was uneventful, and within 12 months he would be out of the Australian set-up altogether after an attack of the yips. A brief comeback was ended by tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart defect.

White was captain of Victoria, where he virtually never bowled himself, but suddenly – a product of injuries to others and weird selection – he was Australia’s frontline spinner. He was awful. Krejza eventually got a chance and, on Test debut in Nagpur, claimed 12 wickets. The problem was he also gave away 358 runs; he played only one more Test. Marcus North became a Test batsman because he could bowl handy offspin, some said better than Hauritz. But despite a flattering six-wicket haul against Pakistan at Lord’s, North’s offbreaks were gentle; and they weren’t much help when his batting faded.

McGain made his debut amid plenty of jokes about Bob Holland, who was 38 when he first played for Australia. McGain was an IT professional in a bank, who had never really been especially close to state selection. But he wouldn’t go away. And while the search focused on big-turning kids, McGain sneaked into the Victoria side. In the 12 months before his Test debut, a shoulder injury had limited him to four first-class games. When the day finally came, at Newlands, McGain was roadkill: 18-2-149-0. That was it. McGain now plays part-time in the Big Bash League.

Hauritz was not deemed good enough even for New South Wales. He was a timid offspinner from club cricket with a first-class bowling average of more than 50, but he fought hard and improved regularly. The trouble was Hauritz was neither an attacker nor a defender, and Chris Gayle said it was like facing himself. By the time Hauritz was dumped, he was in the best form of his career.

A young allrounder named Steve Smith bowled legspin, and was brought in to play Pakistan in England. He made a dashing 77, was dropped and then later recalled in the Ashes as a batsman who bowled a bit – just not very well.

Xavier Doherty was given a go because Kevin Pietersen kept falling to left-arm spin. He got his man – but for 227. So in came Michael Beer, who admitted he probably wasn’t ready for Test cricket, and then proved it.

 

Mighty big shoes to fill
Bowler Style Test debut Matches Runs Wkts BB Avg SR Econ
Shane Warne LBG 1991-92 145 17,995 708 8-71 25.41 57.49 2.65
Brag Hogg SLC 1996-97 7 933 17 2-40 54.88 89.64 3.67
Stuart MacGill LBG 1997-98 44 6038 208 8-108 29.02 54.02 3.22
Nathan Hauritz OB 2004-05 17 2204 63 5-53 34.98 66.66 3.14
Beau Casson SLC 2007-08 1 129 3 3-86 43.00 64.00 4.03
Cameron White LBG 2008-09 4 342 5 2-71 68.40 111.60 3.67
Jason Krejza OB 2008-09 2 562 13 8-215 43.23 57.15 4.53
Marcus North OB 2008-09 21 591 14 6-55 42.21 89.85 2.81
Bryce McGain LBG 2008-09 1 149 0 0-149 - - 8.27
Steve Smith LBG 2010 5 220 3 3-51 73.33 124.00 3.54
Xavier Doherty SLA 2010-11 2 306 3 2-41 102.00 151.66 4.03
Michael Beer SLA 2010-11 1 112 1 1-112 112.00 228.00 2.94
Nathan Lyon OB 2011-12 10 832 29 5-34 28.68 55.72 3.08

 

The first anyone in Australian cricket heard of Nathan Lyon was when Kerry O’Keeffe mentioned him on radio. At that stage, Lyon was part of the Adelaide Oval groundstaff, and was travelling to Canberra to play for the second XI. After some good performances in the nets, Darren Berry – now Adelaide’s Twenty20 coach – took a punt on him. Lyon suddenly looked like the best spin prospect in the country – which wasn’t saying much.

Howard really had come along at the wrong time. But there were moments, before I finally spoke to him, when I wondered if he actually existed at all. Finding someone who remembered his name was hard enough; finding someone who’d seen him play next to impossible. I’d talk to a guy, who’d tell me to contact a guy, but that guy would also tell me to contact a guy. The leads never went anywhere. Craig Howard wasn’t the missing link of Australian spin bowling: he was just missing.

Then I asked Gideon Haigh about Howard, and he gave a long stare, as if he was searching through his billion-terabyte memory. I had my breakthrough. Haigh talked about how Howard looked like an otherworldly artist – long shirt buttoned to the wrist, billowing madly in the wind; incredibly gawky, like a schoolkid. Howard didn’t fit into Haigh’s, or anyone else’s, imaginings of an athlete. But it was the Howard of my youth. Someone else remembered my poet leggie.

After that I cornered O’Keeffe, legspin’s court jester. He had coached Howard at the Academy, probably twice. O’Keeffe’s eyes were full of regret: he said Howard had a biomechanically flawed action, and O’Keeffe hadn’t tried to fix it. But that didn’t stop him happily reminiscing about “a wrong ‘un batsmen had to play from their earhole”.

I collared Damien Fleming, Howard’s Victoria colleague. Fleming seemed surprised to hear the name again. He told stories about how he thought Victoria had a champion on their hands, but said his skin folds were thicker than those of Warne or Merv Hughes: “Basically bone and fat.” He could have gone further with a more supportive coaching structure, said Fleming. He added, almost lustfully: “The best wrong ‘un I’ve seen.” Then came the clincher. “If someone like him came on the scene now, he’d be given everything he needed to succeed. Like they treat Pat Cummins.”

Haigh, O’Keeffe and Fleming all seemed to think Howard was a Test spinner we had missed out on. They could be right. But Howard was caught between two eras, relaxed and regimented. And Australia had Warne.

“My career is long over,” says Howard. “It finished with me out of form and mostly injured. It wasn’t one thing that ended my career, and I’m not coming up with excuses, but this is what happened to me. Due to my finger, I can’t even bowl legspin any more – I have to bowl offspin, but nothing can ever compare to being a legspinner. I’m younger than Hogg, McGain or MacGill and instead of preparing to play in my 100th Test and thinking about retirement, I am working in an office in Bendigo.”

Craig Howard went from a freakishly talented wrist-spinner to a boring club offie. Australian spin did much the same.

 

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The new Jack Potter: Sunil Narine

West Indies cricket has been playing a nauseating film noir movie on loop for over a decade now. The one thing they’ve been missing is the exciting, quirky, deformed character that steals the focus. In cricket, no one does that better than a mystery spinner. Just the term mystery spinner gets people ferociously excited.

One tweet was it all it took for me to get my twitter followers fired up. The press box also got engaged. All I’d done was try to remember the name of the Australian part-time spinner who bowled a doosra as a party trick without ever trying to make a career out of it. I received blank stares from many in the press box, and from twitter names were flung at me. Some odd, like Clarrie Grimmett and Bishan Bedi. Even Colin McCool was mentioned. Probably, just because someone wanted to say Colin McCool.

Eventually it was Mike Atherton in the press box, and former Notts finger spinner Paul McMahon on twitter, who correctly named Jack Potter, the Victoria batsman-cum-spinner from the 1960s. I say spinner on purpose, as Espncricinfo and Cricket archive both have him down as a legspinner, but the stories are that he bowled off spin.

Jack Potter may in fact be the ultimate mystery spinner, as he never even played a Test, hardly bowled at all, was rumoured to have shown Warne the flipper, and according to Richie Benaud and Wally Grout, had an offspinner that went the other way. Yet for all the talk, stories, and interest, he took 31 wickets in 104 first-class games at an average of 41. Presumably some with doosras, others with flippers, and the rest from another ball he invented while playing Yahtzee.

Yet here we were, 44 years since Jack Potter played first-class cricket, and people were still talking about him. Mystery spinners, even the part-time ones, do something weird to cricket fans.

As is the case with Sunil Narine, who really doesn’t need a Mohawk to get attention.

I’m a sucker for any spinner. But throw an air of mystery and the unknown into the mix, and I go a bit crazy. This is possibly why during one of those conversations that you don’t entirely think through; I said that Sunil Narine could be the best spinner in the world at the moment. It’s a pretty big call at the best of times, but the fact I said it to an ECB employee who is also a friend of Graeme Swann made it even more explosive. A predictable argument followed.

His perfectly sound theory was that no one who hadn’t played a Test could be thought of that way. My less sound, but still reasonable theory was that mystery bowlers could only be at their best when no one knew how to pick them, and that is right now for Narine. That while players like Vettori, Swann, Herath, Lyon and others had proved themselves on the world level, Narine was probably at his absolute best right now. And I think that best could be as good as Johnny Cash at San Quentin.

Of course I could be wrong. Narine has only played six first class games, and in a poor quality domestic competition. My assertion of how good he is can only be based on the cricket I’ve seen him play. In the Champions League he looked a class above. Against Australia he looked like a potential home-wrecker. And in the IPL he was the best bowler in the whole tournament.

Yet, even I have to admit there have been spinners before who have bowled well in limited-overs cricket when the opposition is trying to score or smash every ball, who struggle when the batsmen play patiently in Test cricket. That could happen to Narine, but I don’t think it will.

Narine’s one magic trick is a delivery that spins away from right-handed batsmen, that no one seems to be able to pick from the hand. That is not something that should only work in the limited-overs slogfest, that should work in every form of cricket, against every type of player, on almost all surfaces around the world. To virtually all batsmen who have faced him, how to pick the ball that spins the other way is a mystery, and that makes him deadly.

Mysteries don’t last forever. Once upon a time Bernard Bosanquet’s wrong ‘un was seen as a mystery, but batsmen worked out over time that a wrong’un had more of the back-of-the-hand facing them than a normal leggie. Of course , Abdul Qadir claims to have two wrong uns (at least). One, that eagle-eyed batsmen can see, and another called a finger wrong un that he has only ever passed down to Imran Tahir and Shahid Afridi because its power is deadly. Without Qadir talking, passing it on to me directly, I assume it is the same or similar to Anil Kumble’s wrong un that is held between the thumb and index finger and doesn’t show the batsman the back of the hand.

At the moment it seems no one can pick Narine out of the hand© Associated Press
Then there is the flipper, a delivery that seemed to be handed down like a legacy to Australian leggies, in eager anticipation of the one with the skills to use it best. In the mid 90s it was a ball that batsman feared more than a snake in their pillow case. By the late 90s most top-order players seemed to have a handle on it and Warne was using his slider, which had much less of a reputation, but probably got far more wickets for him The doosra was invented (unless you count ol’ Jack Potter’s) by Saqlain Mushtaq. Mushtaq, like creators of Golems, was eventually brought down by the very thing invented to protect them. The doosra is now the staple of several bowlers around the world. And while is legitimacy is often questioned, it seems weird that batsmen claim they can see the arm bend more than 15 degrees on a doosra, yet so many of them still don’t seem to pick the delivery itself.
Then there was perhaps the most intriguing mystery spinner of them all, Jack Iverson. Flicking the ball from Hercules-like fingers like a kid playing with marbles, he predated the carrom ball, and got the ball to spin in both directions while doing so. He only played five Tests, yet Gideon Haigh wrote a whole book about him, and the famous photo of Iverson’s grip is as good as any image from any horror film. Iverson didn’t last long, but like the Velvet Underground, he encouraged others. John Gleeson was one. Gleeson was not as devastating as Iverson, but the English players had a lot of trouble with him. There is the legendary, and perhaps apocryphal story, that Boycott had worked out Gleeson, but didn’t tell the rest of his team-mates so he’d look better.

The very best of batsmen, like Boycott use very low fi ways of working out mystery spinners. The Australians decided that if they played Saqlain Mushtaq like a leg spinner, not an offspinner, so they’d be able to handle his doosra. Paul Adams bowled his legspinner and wrong un at two different vastly different speeds. Even Murali early in his career would bowl his doosra from wider on the crease giving alert batsmen a chance to spot it. There are many tells that help batsmen. A ball that spins usually drifts in the opposite direction. It also has to be pitched in a different place. Some batsmen can see which way a ball is spinning before it lands. And of course, it comes out of the hand differently in the first place.

At the moment it seems no one can pick Narine out of the hand. He bowls a mixed seam so it’s hard to tell which way the ball is spinning, his pace and position don’t seem to vary, the ball doesn’t drift much for him, and his position on the crease isn’t an obvious giveaway. Perhaps only his placement of the ball tells you which way a ball is going to spin, but even then, if that’s all you’ve got to go on, you’re rolling the dice on each delivery.

That doesn’t mean that he will be the best spinner in the world for the next ten years. It may mean for a short while he will be virtually unplayable, and then may just fade away.

Logic would suggest this is the case. Ajantha Mendis is the obvious modern story of a mystery spinner breaking onto the world stage. In Mendis’ first four Tests he took 33 wickets at an average of 18. And that included three Tests against India. He was a sensation. His carrom ball was unpickable to the Indian players, and most other international players. According to many he was to become the next Warne, Murali or Kumble.

But the modern world got hold of Mendis. Unlike Gleeson, no players kept their secrets about Mendis. Because of the IPL, many players discussed the Mendis’ giveaway of his carrom ball. Which had first been picked up by video analysis. This giveaway was simply that when he bowled the carrom ball, unlike his other deliveries, he kept his fingers up like accidental antennas that alerted the batsmen of his intention. He was caught in the modern age of super slow replays, Youtube and the IPL helping players share secrets.

In Ajantha Mendis’ last next 12 Tests he took 29 wickets at 48. He is still a handy limited-overs performer. But was overlooked for the World Cup final and hasn’t been a regular in the IPL for quite some time.

Mendis was all mystery. His problems is that while he is a spin bowler, he doesn’t spin the ball much at all. He has virtually no drift, doesn’t drop the ball, and never beats batsman in flight. He is essentially a slow medium pacer who can move the ball slightly in both directions with a bit of help from the pitch. And his biggest problem is that his stock ball is not dangerous in the slightest. Without a stock ball that creates danger, you’re always going to struggle in Test Cricket.

Narine seems more like a spinner, who has some mystery to him right now. Narine has a brilliant stock ball. So brilliant that the first time I saw his carrom ball, I thought he should bin it, because it just limps off the pitch away from the right-hander whereas the offspinner of Narine is brutal. It rips and bounces. Even without a mystery ball, you can see why Narine would be a handful. It’s also just more than what he can deliver, it’s his poise and intelligence that stick out. He seems to bowl differently to each batsman, almost using their ego or batting stlye to his advantage, like some cunning super-villian. It is old school spin bowling.

I think Narine can survive and even prosper once his mystery is unlocked. But maybe I just want to believe that West Indies have a bowler that can win Tests for them for the next decade. The fear is that he will be a guy who can take a few wickets and be nothing more than a quirky little character actor in this long running dark period in the West Indies. They need a hero, or even an anti-hero, and I’m betting and hoping that Narine can be that guy while solving a lot of their problems.

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What a big day in cricket

There was a time when I tried to cover all the issues in cricket in my own way.

It’s good I don’t anymore as I think today would have killed me.

Warne being fined 50,000 benjamins for knocking an official who on his profile claims to have won a title on his own once is worth a post just so you can talk about how the lost 50Gs might mean some of his face goes back into a normal human facial structure. Although it could stop him from spending his spare 50 large on  cricket betting to make a few extra dollars on the way out, or, it could force his hand to make the money back.

Tony Greig has come out against India ruling the world.  Perhaps they didn’t grovel at his feet enough when he was involved in the rebel league and made out with some fat cash from the ICL.  Greig also called Lillee a bit of a fairy, which is rich from the guy who wore a postman helmet to face him.

Hansie Cronje is in the news again (I mean really, this guy gets more press than Princess Di or 2pac) now he’s winning the Siyabakhumbula Tribute Award.  This award means he’s changed the landscape of the country, I do hope that isn’t a meta joke about his plane crash. And if you’re disgusted by my behaviour on that last line, the devil made me do it, and now I’ve found God and shit.

Stuart Clark is retiring from cricket to become a cricket administrator, but still reserves the right to play if NSWales need him.  It’s a very similar situation to Michael Jordan’s role at the Washington BulletsWizards, except Stuart Clarke isn’t cool, and won’t sell many Sydney Sixers shirts. Clark also retired from international cricket in one of the least needed statements in human history.

Danish Kaneria can’t play for Pakistan because of being too close to the grift Mervyn Westfield is accused of. Zulqarnain Zully Q-Dawg Haider may also not be allowed to play for Pakistan because he didn’t want to be involved in a grift. “Wanna bet” is the most loaded innocent phrase you can say in the Pakistani changeroom right now. The PCB is like every coke addled bi-polar girlfriend you’ve ever been afraid of.  I expect my lawsuit is on the way, Ijaz?

Stuart Law called England the number 1 team in the world because Sri Lanka are playing them.  Managing expectations is only a press conference away.

Also, just for something different, some in the West Indies doesn’t like someone else in the West Indies.  It might not have been in the news, but I’m sure it’s accurate.

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Why talking about Shane Warne returning to cricket makes you stupider than you were before

It amazes me that human beings can walk upright, talk and operate any kind of mobile phone device.

We are so fucken stupid as a species that I for one cannot wait for the day our alien masters come here and make us into food, pets and handbags for the bored middle class aliens who don’t have to work because they have designed machines to do everything they need to do in life.

This post is stupid.  Painfully so.

Because this isn’t even the first time I’ve written a post like this, I’ve done them for Warne, Gilly and Hayden. Probably for others as well.

I get sucked in by the stupidity of others and just feel the need to comment when I really should be doing something more meaningful with my time like cutting off my nipples to sew them onto a mouse.

Great players retire, get dropped or die.  It’s a simple concept.  Most of them retire.  They do this because they no longer want to play the game at the highest level, no longer can play the game at the highest level, or are just sick and tired of training.

Warne retired at the right time for him, that he and McGrath left at the one time created a massive chasm bigger than Paris Hilton’s, but they both had to retire and at that stage Australia had Lee, MacGill and Clark.  It wasn’t as if they left Australia cricket with a homeless guy who yells at tourists.

Now, four years later, some people want Warne back.

Actually, it isn’t four years later, they’ve being saying it on repeat on every single day since he left, because people are morons.

Warne made them feel warm and fuzzy.  Well, they felt warm and fuzzy when he played.

That was because he was a major part in what was a brilliant cricket team.  As good as he was, it wasn’t just Warne.  Australia had three of its best ever bowlers in one side for years, they also had a bunch of great and very good batsmen, some capable back up bowlers and a cricket changing wicket keeper.

This team had these people warm, fuzzy and non sexually (mostly) satisfied.

Now that feeling has gone, and these people, like the simple morons they are, want it back.  Well, you can’t have it back.

Forgetting the fact that Warne is 41, hasn’t bowled more than 4 overs a game in the top level of cricket for years, has a average of 36 at the WACA in his prime, has 9 other jobs, and wouldn’t want to tarnish his name by coming back, he just won’t come back.

At the very least he’d have to make himself available for Victoria, come back from London, and make sure he really could bowl 30 overs a day.

None of these things are going to happen, regardless of whether he rules out coming back or not. He just isn’t going to play at the WACA, and even if he did, he wouldn’t be winning the game for anyone other than England.

Asking your very retired players to come back, every time you team struggles is about as stupid as you can get.

It is sports version of having a bad night with your current girlfriend, ringing up your ex in a drunken horny state, then appearing at her house at 4am professing your undying love for her.

The chances of it being successful are very slim, the chances of you ending up looking like a complete ass clown are odds on.

Just writing about this has made me dumber. Because I know this is a nonsense media and idiot related issue, and yet I still write about it.

Just reading this has made you dumber as well.  Because you also know that he isn’t going to play and that this whole thing is just a colossal waste of your precious time.

You could have spent your time reading about something important, taking your nan flowers, helping a young person with their life or clipping the  toe nails for a local person with no arms. You’ve let down your community, family and species.

Instead of making a difference you came here and read this stupid ranty article written by some idiot who calls everyone else an idiot about something that was never going to happen in the first place.

It’s non-issues like this that keep us all so distracted we let the world become the sort of place that allows reality TV stars and cardboard cut out politicians to take over.

You and I are the problem.

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Sometimes, It Pays To Be Heartless

So, the international season in Australia has come to an end, and I’m drinking to it. Not because of the unbeaten Aussie summer. Thrashing two mediocre teams is hardly cause for celebration. No, because it means the end of the most annoying experiment in cricket viewing since, well, ever.

Bloody heart rate monitors.

What, I mean what, is the point of this idiocy? The whole point of introducing any sort of technology into a sport is to make it in some way better for the spectator. HawkEye, HotSpot, slo-mo cameras, they all serve this purpose. But what is the freaking point of a heart rate monitor?

It is not as if most of us are incapable of noticing that your heart rate goes up when you are running and it is no great logical feat to suss out that it might go up a bit more if you run and then hurl a small projectile 22 yards.

And it’s not even as if they put them on the interesting players, fer chrissakes. What is the use of putting a heart rate monitor on Mitchell Johnson, unless it is to give his mother heart failure of her own? How about sticking one on Chris Gayle, so that we can tell if he is really that laid back, or just clinically dead? Or on Shane Watson, to see if he actually is 98% straw? Hell, if we are being really interesting, strap it to Steve Smith and see if he’s yet mature enough to walk past a woman on the boundary without all of the blood rushing to his groin?

No, the only conceivable use for this technology is to fix it to the commentators. Watch Mark Nicholas’ bpm rise every time he passes a mirror. Measure Warne’s excitement as a tray of pies goes by. Do what the heck you like with it, just get it off my tv screen.

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Shane Watson wins

The Allan Border Medal is pretty new. Australia have been pretty handy since 2000 the list of players who have won the award is tasty.

McGrath, Waugh, Hayden, Gilchrist, and Ponting.

There is a name missing, SK Warne.

Warne probably would have won one had he played one-day cricket between 03 and 07. In 06 he was Australia’s best test cricketer and won an award that said that, but not the AB. Because the point system is allocated for all international games for the Allan Border medal, Ricky Ponting won was the winner that year.

I don’t agree with the system, the best test player should win the major award, even if that is Collin Miller.

This year the best test player was Simon the Krab Katich.

He was Australia’s most consistent player in the voting period. By last summer he had turned from an embarrassing eyesore to Australia’s best batting eyesore, and he kept that up for the year.

The fact that he won the award does tell the story of Australian cricket in 09. A recycled player well into his cricket twilight averaged 48 with the bat and was Australia’s best test player.

Australia’s best player in all forms of the game was Shane Watson. In one day cricket he was destructive with the bat and ok with the ball. In test cricket he was savage with the bat and handy with the ball.

Other than his occasional moments of monumental stupidity, which we all have (I once shaved my head but left my fringe), he has been a force.

It hasn’t always been pretty, during the year he has traded metrosexual insults with Jimmy Anderson, made missing a test hundred an artform, abused Gayle like a 3 year old would, and stalked Phil Hughes spot like a CIA assassin.

But the big bastard is the best-performed Australian cricketer in all 3 formats of the game (had he played in more tests he probably would have won the test award too).

They give you the medal for that sort of hi-jinx.

He deserves it, doesn’t mean the whole world will suddenly warm to him.

Ofcourse the real winner of the night was Haley Rich Bracken (whose name I had to look up when writing this) for wearing a mermaid costume that should help her singing career.

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The IPL is back in India, splash water on your face, do a push up, read the paper

Buy the book, get a t-shirt, or donate to the whisky fund.

Like Ganguly doesn’t have an employee to wash his face.

The stunt double pretending to be Warne is doing a great job.

Has anyone ever read the paper with more intensity.

The IPL is back in India.

The IPL is back, so are the weird ass ads.

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Oh, FFS, Cricinfo!

I wasn’t going to write anything this evening. I wasn’t even going to turn a computer on. I have more important things to worry about, such as:

My wife is out with a girl she has already described as ‘cute’, and I have an overactive imagination;

I’m supposed to be co-writing something with a workaholic, I’ve written jack shit for the last 5 days and I’m worried he might come for me with a sharpened pencil;

My t-shirt drawer needs rearranging, because I’m not sure if my ‘SuperFred’ shirt is still wearable or not.

But then I made the mistake of turning on ESPN Classic and watching ‘Cricinfo’s Top Ten Most Hated Australians’, and it made my blood boil.

I hasten to add that this is not because it featured Cricinfo’s own Andrew Milller, who I feel sorry for because ESPN always contrive to make him seem like he just got off the special bus (I know he hasn’t, because the aforementioned cute girl is one of his friends).

It’s not even because of the presenter, who is one of those instantly dislikable people that you feel obliged to punch at least once per syllable. (I’m not naming him. I object to him having the oxygen of oxygen, let alone that of publicity).

I think the main issue stems from simply not being able to take anything in once you realise the person speaking is dislikeable. Once you’ve got problems with whoever’s offering information on a subject, it tends to slide off you as easily as a wicket through bacon grease.
Some people tend to refer to statistics and their own experience when looking at cricket as a sport. I’m sure it works for http://www.partybets.com/ users, but for me I prefer to kick back, relax, and see what others have to say as well as myself. Like I said earlier, though, it wasn’t the presenter that was the major problem.

It’s because the entire show was so fucking wrongheaded it wasn’t true. Haydos at number one? Come on! In the imaginations of one or two hacks, maybe, but most England fans couldn’t give a toss about the bible-bashing, barbeque-basting big guy. He was just one more Aussie to get rid of, a little bit obnoxious maybe, but nothing more.

Ditto Merv at number two. Only the truly brain dead saw him as anything other than a comedy villan. He was a decent bowler who had the odd good day, but ultimately was known more for his tache and ability to swear than as a cricketer.

Steve Waugh bored the pants off us, both on and off the pitch. Warne we feared, not hated – we may not have approved of his private life, but we all wanted to see him bowl. And Greg Chappell was lucky to even be in there, given that you seemed to need to have been seen on colour tv to be considered at all.

The real howler, though – the mistake that devalued the entire show – was having Border down at number 9. We hated AB in England, hated him with a passion Warne could only dream off. He was arrogant, obnoxious, a man who frequently seemed to go against the spirit of cricket. You won’t find anyone who laughed harder than I did when he was bowled by Richard Ellison on that glorious August evening in 1985. And yet he could bat you out of a game with ease, even when playing in one of the most talentless Aussie sides in history. God, he was annoying.

The show also lacked some of the other real hate figures from the past. Where was Chappelli? Bradman? Boon, even? If this was supposed to be the ten we hated, I dread to think who they think we might have liked.

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ashes fact 3

When Shane Warne was a teenager he was rubbish, at everything.

Couldn’t play footy, shit at school and he was terrible at cricket.

Then he started getting laid, and the power of the vagina lifted him beyond a mere mortal.

The more women he slept with, the better he got.

It was if all vaginas had morphed into one powerful vagina, and they had chosen Shane as their hero, and every time he entered one, he grew.

Eventually the vaginas grew tired of Shane’s attitude to women.

So they found ways to bring him down, but he still had the talent, and their attempts might have kept him down in the official world, but in the eyes of the fans he was already a legend.

Eventually the mage vagina grew to love Shane, even with his flaws, and they live happily ever after.

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