Cricket Sadist Hour with Gideon Haigh: Optimum Penetration

New podcast is up.

We talk about the state of New Texas (Queensland) comedy.

How really white whites can make you look fat.

Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting’s changed personalities.

I mention platypus balls, again.

And we talk about a little hairy bastard.

Listen here.

Or, you can just read the whole thing here as transcribed by Swapnil who lives in Vancouver, not Salt Lake City, so he probably doesn’t wear magic underwear.


JK: Joining me again this week to talk non-sense about Australian Cricket is Gideon. How are you?


GH: Good Morning, Jarrod. How are you going?


JK: I’m very good. You’re back from Brisbane, you’re back in the sweet embrace of Melbourne’s bosom. What was it like up north?


GH: For one thing it was unseasonably mild. It was a little bit like the test match of 2010/11. It certainly wasn’t as tropically hot as we’re used to in Brisbane. Except, of course, for the Saturday when it rained cats and dogs and ruled out the entire day. It’s interesting that we still very nearly got a result in the game. Probably another half a day might have done it.


JK: Which is weird because the pitch just looked dead.


GH: Absolutely dead. But these days so often Test matches end in four days. Interesting that two teams who are Top 3 in World Test Championship still needed the rain’s assistance to achieve an honorable draw.


JK: There wasn’t much in it for bowlers. I suppose it was it was good to bat on but it was a bit slow. They said they had the right preparation, so I’m quite not sure how we ended up with that pitch. The Queensland government were protecting the Gabba from drop-in pitches, but that played as much like a drop-in pitch as anything at the MCG.


GH: Exactly what had crossed my mind. It seemed to me to be bearing some of the impact of football on the ground. The outfield was very slow as well. And certainly the rain didn’t help things. The Gabba usually quickens up on the second and third day. I think a day under the covers probably slowed the pitch’s maturation. I thought the Australians bowled as well as anyone in the course of the game, on the last day. It suggests to me that perhaps they need some overs in their legs in order to achieve optimum penetration.


JK: Everyone wants optimum penetration.


GH: Jeez. Pattinson was terrific on the last day. Hilfenhaus seemed to have fallen back into the mechanical ways of two years ago, the appearance that he gives of being on a treadmill where he is running in and almost running back to his mark.


JK: He does that semi-circle like he finishes his delivery and just goes straight back around.


GH: And then he doesn’t pause at the top of his mark at all. It’s almost like he just wants to get through and bowl a maiden and take his sweater. And Siddle improved over the course of the game and so did Lyon. There wasn’t much spin for Lyon but he took advantage of the match situation in the last innings to throw a few up and he looked a better bowler for it.


JK: It was quite interesting that Australia was in disarray after Day One. There was so much talk, even someone like Steve James said that I am glad to wake up to find out that Australia doesn’t have a bowling attack. But pretty much by the end of the test you can almost reverse that statement.


GH: Certainly when Morkel and Steyn were not bowling, I thought, South Africa looked terribly, terribly ordinary and actually embarrassingly abject when Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla were turning their arms over. What kind of No. 1 Test nation in the world has two bowlers like that who really would not get a game in the Top 3 XIs at the Yarras.


JK: They were a bit unlucky though because Duminy can bowl, maybe not brilliantly, but he can bowl better than that.


GH: Little bit unlucky, but I think you make your luck to some degree. I thought that was a poorly selected team too. I can’t really follow the rationale for choosing Rudolph. He’s an honest cricketer but at No. 6 he doesn’t really provide them with any kind of counter-punching power. He’s not a particularly outstanding fielder. I understand that he is quite good for the morale, but teams at No. 1 in the world should not be in need of morale.


JK: He’s the best Andy Bichel they could find. I want to talk about Kleinveldt. He’s an amazing selection. When his record came up, when he was bowling that first over, he had a first class bowling average of 27. And I thought okay he’s a guy that’s not too old. He’s obviously massively out of shape. He’s shaped pretty much like one of your teammates at the Yaara and much of the testmatchsofa crew. And he bowls with this amazingly whippy action where it doesn’t look like he can get much swing or seam movement. And he decided to try and bounce Eddie out for a day. And he couldn’t stop bowling no-balls. He just looks like a club cricketer who is just lost.


GH: Exactly. I don’t know whether you saw the South Africans wear this very brilliant white strip, it’s almost luminous. He looked like a refrigerator on casters. I think he bowled a couple of no-balls in his first over. He just looked like someone who was either (a) nervous or (b) a case of mistaken identity. Apparently he’s a teammate of Philander’s and to he was Philander’s mentor and, to a degree, Philander overtook him to take his opportunity. But he looks a mile off being a test-class bowler and I’d be very surprised if we saw him at Adelaide.


JK: Yeah, that first over, he went for ten, with two no-balls and twice Eddie hit him for four. But Eddie also picked out the fielder with two even worse balls that he should’ve smashed. It could’ve been an eighteen run first over. But it wasn’t so much that. You can understand first over nerves even though he is a very experienced player, as you said. It’s not like he’s a young talent coming in. But what was more amazing is it was hard to see how he’d ever averaged 27 in first class cricket. There didn’t seem to be any wicket-taking ability, really, other than the fact that for the first couple of balls you’d probably say to yourself – that’s a weird action. Or you might say to yourself – he’s a bit chunky. But other than that, he’s the sort of guy that, if I was playing first class cricket, I’d go okay against. It’s interesting that him and Philander are from the same area because neither of them looked fit and you have that white strip, it is so unforgiving. You know the whole Samit Patel thing, of looking worse in the white, that definitely happened to those two guys. What did you think about the whole sledging furor on the last afternoon?


GH: Just absolutely nothing to it, really. I was glad to see some intensity in the cricket on the last day because at times the match had drifted. South Africa, in particular in the field, they have so many poor fielders that they just don’t seem to be maintain pressure. You’re hiding three or four blokes in that team and when the batsmen are on top and it looks like the entire field is down ill, which is what Michael Clarke makes it look like at the moment, they really looked like a mid-table team. They’ve got a lot of work to do before they get to Adelaide.


JK: It’s interesting that, when I was watching England-South Africa, last summer, on four different occasions, when I had nothing to write, I started to write a piece about how un-athletic they were in field and how bad they were. Morne Morkel, it’s almost like he can’t see the ball. And Imran Tahir, it is brilliant. Then you’ve got someone like Vernon Philander who puts a lot of effort in but he is not particularly the best mover. They looked marginally better than India did the summer before but that’s not what you think of from South Africa. You think of these amazing athletes and they are not really like that anymore.


GH: You look back to the South African team of 1952-53 which probably invented the idea of fielding being an offensive weapon in international cricket, Jack Cheetham’s team. You’re not meant to talk about that in South Africa anymore, that period, of course, did not exist.


JK: I don’t think those players have numbers, Gideon. I’m not sure if they count.


GH: They’ve really missed de Villiers in the field. It’s almost bit of a club cricket situation where your most athletic guy in the field happens to be the only guy who can handle the gloves so you put him behind the wicket and, all of a sudden, your fielding looks absolutely hopeless. It’s happened to us often enough. They really needed some energy and some vitality in that in-field to just keep the batsmen on their mettle. Because for periods, the Australian batsmen, particularly when Hussey and Clarke were batting, were just coasting.


JK: The AB thing also accounts for the run-outs. Because he doesn’t think like a wicket-keeper, which is a problem when he is keeping. But the biggest problem is, I think Eddie should have been run-out. He hit the ball straight to mid-on, to be fair they might have even made a run in it but Clarke didn’t want it. I’ve counted about seven or eight times in the last summer, where it just took AB a second to work out that he had to go to the stumps. It’s funny because Matthew Wade who isn’t a keeper from Perth, even though he looks like he should have been a keeper from Perth, but when you watch him or Matt Prior, they take off straightway, whereas AB de Villers doesn’t take off. That’s almost like what South Africa look like at the moment, they’re that team that who is just not sure what they want to do, because their first innings was really confused for me.


GH: Yes it was. It looked to me, at the end of the first day, that they were building towards a massive total. I think they made 69 in the last 27 overs of the first day and both batsmen didn’t mind coming back the next day and dictating. Australia bowled quite well in the first half hour although not all that well after that. Throughout that period Australia were not good at building pressure either. But then there were a couple of wickets, both the establish batsmen got out. You had two new batsmen at the crease and they showed no particular initiative or game awareness. Perhaps because Duminy was out and that had thrown their plans awry, Rudolph has a question about his place in the team and Philander really is an over promoted tail-ender. And it was a very low intensity period of cricket which allowed Australia to re-establish themselves in the game.


JK: I watched the first session and to go to bed and then get up. I didn’t expect Australia to bowl them out but I also didn’t expect them to score that low in that period. The one thing I’ve noticed under Kirsten is they actually have been far more aggressive. I noticed that Ian Chappell and Ian Healy were making jokes about the fact that they are still the same old South Africa but everything I’ve seen of them in recent times hasn’t been like that. They’ve actually done fairly attacking declarations. I’m pretty sure I had a heart-attack at one of their declarations in the UK. I wasn’t sure if it was Graeme Smith or someone had taken over his body. And yet, it almost looked like they retracted to that old style team. When you’ve got Kallis and Amla, those guys can roll on forever and they don’t always kick on, but surely it’s up to the other guys to get going and AB and Rudolph didn’t look like they could.


GH: In hindsight, one of the inflection points in the game was when Kallis failed to advise Amla to review the LBW. I’m surprised that Amla needed help in that. If you’re hit above the knee-roll and the ball feels as though it’s decked back in, fair dinkum. If it’d happened to me and I would have been given out, I’d have been furious. It was que sera sera with Amla.


JK: It is a bit like his personality. My first call was that’s a bit high. No way it couldn’t look that way. That was quite interesting. Let’s talk about Clarke. Its hard to talk about him because he’s had so many different periods in his career. He’s probably, in the future, only gonna be remembered for his amazing start and this bit.


GH: I’ve actually written a column in the paper today about the perception battles that both Clarke and Cowan have undergone in their careers. They both played together in the U-19 world cup in 2000. That was the tour from which Clarke was recalled to play first class cricket for New South Wales. There was huge investment by the media and by fans in the idea that Clarke was a continuation of the glorious green and gold tradition. We fell in love with the idea that he wore his baggy green when he scored his maiden test century in Bangalore. We had Darren Lehmann offering to stand down for him because he was obviously so special. Then there was this period of bitter disillusionment about three years ago when he became associated with a high-profile, accident-prone girlfriend and boot was in the other foot for a change. The Daily Telegraph was describing him as the most over-rate cricketer in Australia and saying that personally he was a tosser. We’re very difficult to satisfy in Australia and no one changes that much in the course of their life. Clarke certainly has matured as a person over the last 18 months or so, he’s had to. It’s interesting, if you have memory longer than a goldfish, these are quite strange times in cricket to find that Michael Clarke is not only Australia’s captain and go to guy but he’s also a columnist in the Daily Telegraph.


JK: That was about the period that everything started changing. He changed management, he changed girlfriend, he, sort of, changed everything in his life. I suppose, he had to because he was massive under-achiever, purely on talent. You were talking about he was the continuation of the line. I heard the phrase ‘once in a generation’ about Michael Clarke so many times that it almost lost meaning. It was like people were punching me in the head with that phrase.


GH: They said the same thing about Mitchell Johnson, didn’t they?


JK: They did.


GH: So it was twice in a generation, wasn’t it?


JK: There’s a lot of ‘once in a generation’. It comes around more than you think. But it was quite weird and then for him to drop off. I thought he struggled not so much tactically but he struggled with handling players. It seems like everything is changed in his life and he’s just become a real boy. He wasn’t really a real boy at any time and now he is (unintelligible). The form, you can’t make up form like this, can you?


GH: That’s right. I think he was always a super dedicated cricketer and a terribly, terribly hard worker and an enormous talent. The one thing that has been immensely useful and under-rated in Clarke’s ascendancy is the role of Ricky Ponting in legitimizing his captaincy. Having an ex-captain in the ranks is not historically a formula for tranquility and congenuity.


JK: More importantly, it is un-Australian


GH: It is un-Australian. But Ponting has actually helped make it Australian. There’s no doubt that Ricky Ponting, of all the cricketers in my time, has said (lets draw) by public image and personal glory than any other. This last period of his career is, in some respect, his finest moment. He’s become a senior pro and first among equals as far as the Australian team is concerned and a bench-mark for other players in this team. If you train as hard as Ricky Ponting then you will as successful has Ricky Ponting.


JK: Ponting’s changed a lot too. He became very bitter and very angry when he was captain and things weren’t going his way and once he let go of the captaincy he looked at the world a little more and went it’s not the end of everything, it’s just me being a captain. I remember moment when he couldn’t accept the third umpire’s decision of Kevin Pietersen at the MCG and that was about the last time I can remember him being, what we used to call, the hairy-armed troll. It’s the last time I can really remember him being that angry little man. Since then he’s just become a normal human being. From everything I’ve heard around the team, you can’t go past the fact that players just talk him up at all times and wasn’t happening five years ago with Ponting. So he’s obviously had a lot of change and Clarke’s had a lot of change. I don’t think three years ago, had neither of them changed, this situation would wotk for either of them.


GH: That’s true. For Ponting the source of confusion and dissatisfaction was the fact that he, sort of, led Allan Border’s captaincy career in reverse. He started off with this great team and watched it disintegrate around him whereas Border started with a middling team and built it up into a team on the brink of being World Champion. And the first half of his captaincy career didn’t prepare him for the second half. Your bowlers couldn’t bowl to one side of the wicket. When you’ve gotten used to handling Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, it’s just baffling. What do you do then? I think part of the truculence that Ponting displayed in that period was a sense of disorientation. Why can’t bowlers do what they have been used to doing for years? Bowling used to look so easy.


JK: Yeah, definitely. Have you got any amazing insights for us for Adelaide? What are you expecting? Tahir has to play, doesn’t he?


GH: Definitely, Tahir has to play. Tahir worries me a little bit. l know you are a big fan. He does seem to bowl his overs in a terrible hurry. He does seem terribly, terribly excited as he’s bowling. With the short squares boundaries at Adelaide, he could go for a lot of runs. That’s one of the reasons why I would have liked to have seen him play at Brisbane. It is a more forgiving ground for a spinner.


JK: He can start very bad. He needs to find a rhythm. Sometimes, it can be hard for him to get into it. Once he gets into a rhythm, he doesn’t get scored off that much. Of all the bowlers I’ve seen in the world, he’s probably the most in love with his own bowling which is actually something I like.


GH: Yeah, but these days in international cricket, there is a tendency to want to attack every spinner as soon as they come on. I have no doubt that that’s the tactic that Australia will pursue if all things are equal. I think Smith has sent a message of ambivalence about Tahir by leaving him out in this Test match. If the current formation continues, there will be seven lefthanders in the Australian team for Tahir to bowl against. That’s not an easy challenge for a leg-spinner.


JK: It isn’t. But if any leg-spinner is gonna do it then it’s gonna be the one with a very hard to pick wrong’un. That definitely brings him back. If they pick anyone other than Tahir, they are almost saying that they’re gonna try and win this series by attrition and I’m not sure that’s the message they should be promoting. Having said that, Kallis didn’t bowl many overs. So perhaps Tahir not playing wasn’t as much to do with him as much to do with the fact that Kallis doesn’t look like he can get through anything more than five or so overs in a day.


GH: I think they were banking on not using Kallis too much because after a while it did look like a draw for the last day and a half. They weren’t gonna take too many risks on busting a bowler, they’d keep him back for when he’d have maximum impact. I actually think that he looked alright with the ball. He wasn’t taking a lot out of himself and I think that from what we saw of him in England he’s still potentially an impact bowler. He’d still bowl that 140-145 kph ball out of nowhere with that little bit of extra grunt. He’s not a bowler that you can afford to take a too many risks with. He’s just so sagacious.


JK: I think you’re right but the one thing that I found interesting is that we know that the Kookaburra ball doesn’t swing that long. And he was brought in well after it was going to swing. I just wondered whether they just didn’t want to give him too much to do. Whether that’s just that he’s not that fit. He never really looks fit. Does he? And he never really looks like he wants to bowl.


GH: None of the Kookaburras swung at all in Brisbane. To be fair, the climactic conditions didn’t really suit it. But it was amazing that when the odd ball did swing, it was completely out of the ordinary. There was a little bit of reverse swing but not very much.


JK: That’s because the Kookaburra ball is from the Southern part of Melbourne and the Platypus ball is from the Northern suburbs, it would have swung sideways.


GH: You’ve used a Platypus, obviously, rubbish balls. They used them in the BTCA.


JK: We should talk about how rubbish Platypus balls are every podcast. I wanted to talk about Greg Ritchie. It’s an amazing furor about a guy who since the early 90s has had a racist comedy act and it’s taken this long for it to upset anyone to the point where he’s not being invited to cricket grounds.


GH: It was interesting that Ritchie delivered that routine several times during the course of the Test match. Neil Manthorp, who was sitting next to me in the press-box, saw the first one the day before the game and he was extremely unimpressed. He didn’t do anything about it. When in Rome. I’ll just let it go. Telford Vice, from the Sunday Times who reported the story, only came upon it quite by chance. He walked past an open door and heard the sound of Ritchie’s voice and pours to listen in to some of the material and was shocked about what he heard. So he wasn’t actually attending the lunch, he was just overhearing it. So, it’s, kind of, a fluke story. I dare say that Ritchie’s being giving the same routine in Queensland for fifteen years and hence his consternation and confusion that anyone should begin to complain about it now.

JK: I don’t think it would be the same routine. He probably originally would’ve had it against Aboriginals or Asians and then he moved it on. Let’s not forget Mahatma Cote, who became an icon of a brown- faced comedian. He was the only dark face we had on Australian TV during the 90s, wasn’t he?


GH: Yeah, but don’t forget we had Hey Hey it’s Saturday.


JK: The difference Hey Hey it’s saturday was that it happened once and everyone seemed to not like it anymore. Whereas Greg Ritchie, when I grew up, he’d be on Sport 927 in the mornings, doing Mahatma Cote’s voice. Whether he put the make-up on to do the radio interview, I don’t know but that’s been going on a long time and it’s just a thoroughly unlikeable person. But the thing is that the report I read and you might know more talking to Telford, but the report I read was everyone just laughed at it.


GH: Yeah, at the lunch that Neil Manthorp attended, the laughter was somewhat embarrassed, somewhat uneasy. You might just have gotten away with it. Oh No, maybe you didn’t.


JK: At your book launch for the Shane Warne book where Eddie Cowan stumbled over some words, did you perform anything there in brown-face?


GH: No, I didn’t but there was a hysterical moment at my book launch. We now have a lift in the South Yarra pavilion, which is one storey. Apparently it’s for the throng of hand-kept cricketers that over the years have been turning away. The fact is we only use it for getting slabs upstairs. And just as Eddie finished his speech, the lift doors opened as if by magic and there was an intake of break. Was it Warnie turning up with Liz? When, in fact, it was one of our committee members and his wife turning up with a bowl of salad. He looked around the room at everyone looking at him and was wreathed in this imbecilic smile. Why is everyone looking at me?


JK: I suppose we better talk about Ed. He’s the one person we haven’t discussed at all, considering he’s probably going to be one of the seven listeners of this podcast. How was it being there? I missed out, I didn’t even stay up for the actual 100 because I was so angry he couldn’t do it before lunch.


GH: From a purely personal point of view, it’s a unique experience for me to see a friend of mine make a Test century. For the first half hour of the innings, I was extremely nervous. I was actually physically shaking in the press box. I had to cross my legs in order to stop that happening.


JK: I’m glad it’s not just me that it happens to.


GH: We live every ball with Ed. But after half an hour, he asserted himself early. He got to 20 very quickly and his wife always says that he’s the calmest, he’s nervous. And he certainly didn’t look it.


JK: Can I just say something about that? She says that a lot. I’ve got a lot of documentary footage of Eddie that I think completely takes that theory apart. Also, talking to George Bailey about him, I think you’d find he is quite often nervous.


GH: Well, nervous energy can help you perform. You wouldn’t want to be sleepy or indolent facing an attack including Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. He looked very decisive. I saw him batting in the Victoria Shield game, he didn’t make many – he got 42 and 16, but I thought he looked in terrific form and seemed to me to be batting as well as he ever had. He just hadn’t been getting the results that he would have wished. Here we are the irrelevance of form in domestic cricket. Ricky Ponting’s average over 100 in domestic cricket and got our fifth ball and Ed’s averaged in 17 and looked to me in (barks).


JK: He was helped by South Africa. It reminded me about the Marcus North and Phil Hughes thing. When they bowl to batsmen they are not really used to, they quite often get it amazingly wrong for an entire innings. They, suppose, did in the session the following morning when they didn’t bowl him as many short balls. I didn’t think they put any pressure on him; they still let him score a bit easily.


GH: He’s very good at getting off strike. He’s got lots of options off the hip, to the left hand of cover. This was an innings of someone who had planned for every bowler, was thinking about the ways in which the bowler might try to get him out and had come up with means to counteract it. It was an innings that he had been thinking about for five or six months and it showed.


JK: It was very obvious the way he batted against Philander especially. He was so far down his crease. He was thinking about how he was gonna stop the late movement and all that sort of thing. More importantly and probably the most important thing we can finish a podcast with is that Ian Chappell was forced to say nice things about him over and over again.


GH: I didn’t hear that but I wish I had. It would’ve been a great moment. Ed was in England with Australia A over our winter and he watched the South Africans bowling to Strauss. So he had an idea of the way in which they would approach bowling to a left-hander. He had anticipated all the situations that he was gonna find himself in. This was not an innings that was won or lost on the day in question. It was one that his whole life had been leading up to. I know how much he’s longed for the opportunity to show what he can do. And so far in Test cricket, he’s been typecast as a limited player, as an old-fashioned grinder, an old-fashioned attrition cricketer. Well, there’s more to him than that and you began to see it. This was an innings that he’s hankered to play. It’ll be a defining one for him.


JK: I think when he retires from the big time, I think he’d do very well in one-day cricket for the Yarras but I don’t wanna put any pressure on you for having to select him at all.


GH: If I can play one-day cricket, then Ed can too.


JK: Thanks you very much, Gideon. We’ll talk to you next week.


GH: My pleasure, Cheers Jarrod.

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2 thoughts on “Cricket Sadist Hour with Gideon Haigh: Optimum Penetration

  1. “Everyone wants optimum penetration” would have stopped lesser men in their tracks, but Gids ploughed on, like a Hilux made of thought.

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