Cricket Sadist Hour podcast with Gideon Haigh: Faf wears an apron

In this one we discuss how much Faf and AB look alike when batting.

Ricky Ponting’s preparation.

Imran Tahir’s heavy hand.

The great Rory.

Kallis’ non communication.

And Peter Siddle’s resemblance to a lobster.

Listen here.

Thanks to my man for his transcript.

JK: Welcome to the Cricket Sadist Hour. I’ve got the man who gives us all goose-bumps with me, it’s Gideon Haigh. How are you?

GH: I am great, terrific, euphoric.

JK: You had to think about it. Have you had an Adelaide hangover?

GH: Not as bad as Peter Siddle’s but there is a process of decompression after a Test Match. You return to the normal world. I don’t want to get too normal because I’ve got to go to Perth tomorrow.

JK: You’re going that soon, are you?

GH: Yeah, I am. I’m home literally to give my daughter a cuddle and then it’s back to Skyping her.

JK: The good news is, if I read the situation correctly, and the way that American President’s elections go, is that is the press calls a Test Series, that means it happened. So, according to Malcolm Conn’s column, Australia has won this series already?

GH: Yeah, all through yesterday, in the press box, the uppermost was the back page of the Adelaide Advertiser with the headline, Top of the World. You gotta say, first with the latest, the Adelaide Advertiser, a dreadful paper. We all had it written down as an Australian victory on the last day, even South Africans. But it was a wicket that was fair to batsmen all the way through. The ball continued to play at one height, didn’t give too much assistance to the spinners. And these days, a modern batsman, when he puts his mind to it and puts his body to it, is a pretty formidable fortification to get around. Padded and Armored and equipped with a massive powerful bat. The batsmen don’t often find themselves in that situation or don’t necessarily have the commitment or the temperament to doing it because these days the game privileges spontaneous stroke play and innovation. Funnily, yesterday, it was Faf du Plessis, who is considered a one-day specialist proving that he’s been a Test Match player in the making all along.

JK: I always thought he was a county specialist, so he took a huge step up for me from average, middling first-class English player to at Test player. But that was a phenomenal effort but even more impressive was the fact that Morne Morkel was out there. Had he stuffed up that drive in the end that would have been the end of him. He would have ended up in an asylum; his psyche would never have been able to handle that.

GH: I did have a fantasy early on that it would be Imran Tahir doing the (herocious on the bridge act), in much the same way that Monty had at Cardiff in 2009 but want quite that good.

JK: No. To be fair, when Morne came into Test Cricket, there was talk about him being an all-rounder. He could possibly spell the word all-rounder and that’s about it. But I just like the fact that he decided at the end to unleash some drives. I just love the idea of I am so settled at this point after I’m at 10 balls, just going to start peeling off drives. Just one of those goes to one of the catchers, even if Imran stays out the over, you just fell like you’ve let down everyone at that point.

GH: Yeah, he certainly would have felt devastated to let down du Plessis. That was just a staggering act of adhesion. de Villiers in defense looked like a man playing against his natural brand, but du Plessis still had this propensity for hitting the odd bad ball for four, almost with a hint of self-reproach and never seemed to get bored. He’s probably still playing that front foot defensive prod now, woke up on the middle of the night and jumped to his feet and prodding a prod.

JK: I know. It’s also a shame because I’ve been making lots of jokes about Faf that his best performance before this was in AB de Villiers’ music video. Now, I’m gonna have to retire that joke, at least for a couple of months until people forget about this innings.

GH: They do look uncannily alike. When they batted together briefly in the first innings, I literally could not tell them apart. It was like Twiddle de V and Twiddle de P. And they didn’t bat for long enough for me to be able to distinguish them in the first innings but in the second innings, I learnt that one of them, I forgetten who now, wears one of the Stuart McGill kind of aprons while he bats, so that was very helpful.

JK: They’ve both got this amazing posture at the crease, which I remember looking at a couple of times when I watched Faf play. But it was an amazing innings. What stage does the Australian press start to go – this is gonna be embarrassing if this doesn’t go the way we want.

GH: I know that at about 11:45, the sponsor’s question came up on TV, who will break through for Australia. That’s got a certain plaintive note about it because no one has to break through; it doesn’t have to happen at all. It was interesting to see batsmen playing so defensively. Because these days batsmen are so often encouraged to play their natural game at all times. Both these batsmen were discovering things about themselves that they perhaps didn’t even know that they were capable of. They were formative, defining innings for both of them. So du Plessis isn’t only that semi-anonymous figure who’s gonna play one game for the Melbourne Renegades next month.

JK: He’ll be that as well, hopefully. (I’d like to run into Big Bash’s semi at one point in their career.) Bigger picture, you and I both jumped on Rory Klienveldt, a little bit. He brought himself back, didn’t he? He gave us something with the ball in this match? I know eventually Australia declared anyway but I felt good for him that even if it is his last Test, he did something.

GH: Definitely. He actually improved all the way through. He probably gave Clarke the hardest time on the first day and he was one of the few bowler to get consistent swing for two or three spells in the second innings. It cost a little. The Australians hadn’t begun to undirected by that time.(unintelligible) They could pick off, which meant that he did get a couple of wickets by default, but you could definitely see what the South African journalists have been talking about. There was a word out that he was a good first-class player, at one stage, even Vernon Philander’s superior. Hits the deck hard, gets the ball to do a little bit, can bowl all day. They are valuable adjuncts to any attack.

JK: And amazingly Imran Tahir had the game that Rory Klienveldt was supposed to have in that it all fell apart. And now, people are talking about him never playing again. Probably a bit over the top, but, that was probably the worst game from a frontline bowler since Bryce McGain.

GH: Bryce’s name did come up a few times in the Test Match. The unfortunate thing for Tahir was (a) he didn’t bowl very well but (b) this was a really difficult ground to defend on, with the building work they have reduced the square boundaries by six meters and the traditional long boundaries at the Adelaide Oval have been cut by fifteen meters. And the outfield was absolutely red hot. Balls were being pushed gently down the ground for three and almost everything else went for four. In fact, on the first day, there were only five threes out of 482. It was like everything that was going past the inner ring was going for four. So he may have picked a bad day to lose his length. I also take my hat off to him. He continued to race through his overs as he does in that Imran Tahir way. He was game for it. I don’t think that his captain gave him all that much support at various times. And he continued to bowl good deliveries, wicket-taking deliveries. One of them he did actually take a wicket and had it taken away from him. And he continued to beat the bat every so often. His googly is a good ball. It could be useful potentially against this phalanx of Australian left-handers. It’s just that every single bad ball he bowled got hit for four or six.

JK: it reminded it me of, I was gonna say an off-spinner, but that’s probably being kind to you. But you bowl the other spin occasionally and I bowl leg spin and there’s this thing where when you’re dragging the ball down your hand feels really heavy and it’s like it drags straight down. Then you try and over correct it, it’s like the ball flies out the back of your hand. You can actually see that happening to him. It’d be great to show it to a young leg-spinner and just say this can go wrong for anyone. There’s been a lot of talk about how South Africa tried to change his bowling and that Graeme Smith doesn’t understand leg-spin bowling. All of that is true but I think his biggest problem was he got through to the age of, I don’t know how old he is, but he’s probably older than (he claims to be). But he got through all that part of his life and then suddenly no one ever got him to run off the wicket when he was bowling and now he has to run off the wicket when he’s bowling. I think that’s actually what is causing him all new these problems. He doesn’t feel comfortable in the new run-up.

GH: That’s interesting. He alternated between over and round the wicket like he couldn’t get comfortable doing either. It wasn’t because he was pursuing a particular tactic or plan. It was because he just was improvising. He looked like someone who was struggling to find a method with which he felt comfortable and it was elusive for him. And they were not the circumstances to get comfortable anyway. This is the way that spinners get related these days. It’s the Duncan fletcher axiom that only the very best spinners do you play defensively. You get on top of spinners immediately that they come into the attack. You don’t give them a chance to settle and Mickey Arthur has clearly imbibed that advice from his old mentor and passed it on to the Australia batsmen.

JK: It can be tough as well. I think it was just after lunch, when Australia got that flyer and he bowled two full-tosses, I think to David Warner. One of them was mishit and the other one was smashed. And as Bill Lawry said you’ve still gotta hit them but realistically you and I could probably have hit those two balls for four. He got taken straight out of the attack and they tried to change his end. They did all this stuff and I just thought that’s the worst thing you can do. I remember when Bryce had his problems against South Africa, he bowled two or three overs and Ponting took him out of the attack and he didn’t bowl for another 40 overs. And I thought if you’re gonna do that, then you might as well not bowl him again. I thought on two or three occasions that’s what Graeme Smith did. He didn’t know how to react to a leg-spinner bowling the odd bad ball. Instead of just saying I know you are a leg-spinner and you might bowl a bad ball, for two or three overs but then you’ll get your rhythm. He just kept changing things and he couldn’t quite ever believe in him. If your captain doesn’t believe in you, you’re just road kill on that small ground.

GH: Although, he had to bowl him, because Kallis was unfit. He didn’t really have the third line bowling options that Australia have got. Du Plessis bowled a couple of rather arthritic overs. He was stuck with him and it did look like Smith was bowling him under sufferance.

JK: The funny thing about last summer, I thought Tahir actually bowled quite well at times against England. But the funny thing was that South Africans kept telling me that Faf was a better leg-spinner. He did not look like one. I’ve seen him bowl in one-day games where he can get through quick bowls. But when it actually looked like bowling proper leg-spin, he looked like he was gonna bowl a full-toss pretty much every second ball at times. What about Kallis? There’s gonna be a lot of talk about how Australia dominated this game but you almost get the feeling that if Kallis hadn’t gone off when he did, this Test could’ve looked completely different.

GH: Yeah, although, interestingly, we heard at Brisbane, that Kallis wouldn’t bowl much, that they didn’t want to depend on him for too many overs. I was actually surprised that he bowled as many as he did in Brisbane. And here it was this brief hiatus where the ball actually swung and he bowled the fullest length of all the South Africans on the first day for sure. What was amazing was to watch him bat in both innings. He bats the way that Shane Watson would bat. Stand there and hit fours. But when he and du Plessis were running together, they weren’t running, they were jogging together, it was a little bit like watching a father and sons game on a school oval. This giant, towering, toddling figure of Kallis just ambling through and du Plessis obligingly keeping pace with him. In a sense, Kallis’ ability to bat in this game was the difference between South Africa losing and drawing. You basically counted him out when he was injured in the first day. But I guess maybe he interdicted against his injury early enough that they could treat it. That just implies an incredible degree of self-knowledge from Kallis. Even when he is lame, you see Kallis’ greatness.

JK: You talk about the self-knowledge. It was almost as if his hamstring hadn’t even gone, the way he pulled up. It was amazing, there was no talk to anyone. He just literally went up to the umpire and his hand across to Graeme Smith and left the ground. For all Graeme Smith knew at that point, Kallis had diarrhea. There was no communication at all. Kallis just said Look Lads I’m not quite right and I’ll see you guys later and left the ground. There is something amazing about him and it’ll be very interesting to see how they go if they don’t have him in the next test. Because Rory is clearly not an all-rounder. Whether Peterson comes in as a spinner who can bat a little bit, I don’t know. But they seem to be an attack that almost depends on the fifth bowler. They almost feel awkward or naked without him.

GH: He only actually ran in about two paces too, very unusual kind of strain. Normally a bowler gets towards the crease before they pull out. He almost sensed the injury before it had taken place. I guess when you play as much cricket as Kallis and Smith have together, you have an extrasensory understanding. Smith would know that Kallis wouldn’t do that unless it was serious. Interesting contrast between Watson and Kallis. Watson insists on being 100% fit before he goes into any Test Match. Kallis is prepared to do it at 90%, take a chance and back himself to perform while injured.

JK: That’s always quite a tough one. South Africa are gonna limp into the next test but Australia have decided on Ponting, Watson and perhaps even Mitchell Johnson for the next Test. It’s not exactly a step forward for new Australia.

GH: I think there is a sense of temporary measures and horses for courses selection here. Johnson’s record at Perth. If you were going to pick him on one ground in Australia, you would pick him here. I think he’s got 30 wickets at 18 in four Test Matches here, pays 34 per wicket elsewhere. So, he’s got form on the board as far as the WACA is concerned. Watson has worked quite hard here for Watson. He has been adding to his workload in the nets outside the ground. He doesn’t run between wickets very much anyway so I guess that’s not important.

JK: He bowled, didn’t he, in the nets?

GH: Well, yeah, he’s bowled an increasing number of overs. He has improved a lot compared to the way he looked in the days leading up to the Test Match where he looked like a arthritic granny in slippers, the way he was moving around the outfield. I think they are committed, really, to Ponting. It’s possible that Quiney’s misadventures at No. 3 have done Ponting a bit of a favour. I wouldn’t like to tamper with two positions in the order rather than just one. He goes to Perth knowing that he has to get runs. He did a very interesting interview to Mark Taylor on Sunday morning before the day’s play. He’s a very honest cricketer, he’s a very candid cricketer, he hid absolutely nothing. I just got the feeling that maybe something in Ponting had shifted. The positive responses that were intensely realistic. They countenanced the possibility that he would be dropped. It wasn’t the relentless upbeat, just got to go about the business, kind of quotes. It was a man who had quite a sane appraisal in his position in the world and he could see the end coming, which I guess for every great cricketer is the ultimate test. Some of them don’t see the end coming but Ponting has.

JK: What is interesting is that he has basically just one Test to stay his career a bit longer. If he does make even a fifty or something along those lines, he probably will be kept for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka have done okay against New Zealand in this series but I think Herath has three five-wicket hauls, so they are pretty much a one-man bowling attack at this point. If he makes it, there is nothing to say, a bit like what he did against India last year, that he won’t make a couple of big hundreds against Sri Lanka and Australia has him around for longer. I wonder, if it isn’t worth doing a gentlemen’s agreement saying would you like to go out at the end of the Summer. Because he doesn’t seem like, at this point of his career, he is beyond having people talk about whether he’s gonna go every minute of the day. It seems like every time you go on Twitter, there are more people talking about Ponting. It would make sense, wouldn’t it, to say to him, look do you want to leave?

GH: It feels different this time to last Summer. Having done it once, there’s room to doubt whether Ponting can do it again. Ponting turns 38 next month. He has pipe dreams of playing in the Ashes. But there’s more in his life these days. Perhaps the hunger isn’t quite there. One of the things that he keeps coming back to is the fact that he had this great preparation going into this Summer. He keeps going back to it. It’s almost as though if I can’t do it now with this ideal preparation behind me then perhaps I’m not gonna be able to do it.

JK: What do you think about Jackson Bird getting overlooked. Like you said, Mitchell Johnson was horses for courses. John Hastings also seems to be horses for courses, bowled really well at the WACA earlier this year. I was wondering what Jackson Bird has to do? Does he have to start taking his wickets at 5 runs?

GH: He probably has to take his wickets away from Bellerive. It’s become difficult for the selectors to make any sort of judgment about the cricket that’s taking place in Tasmania.

JK: He actually does have a very good record away from Bellerive as well. Isn’t he only averaging only 19 away from Bellerive as well?

GH: Yeah, it’s hard to tell, I think the selectors really want to have another look at Johnson. Inverarity is a Johnson fan. He likes the fact that Johnson adds batting talent at No. 8 because Siddle’s probably slightly over promoted. Of course, if Johnson doesn’t succeed, then he can safely be discarded. Jackson Bird is a very good prospect. Perhaps he’s unfortunate in not coming from New South Wales. Josh Hazelwood seems to come with a natural advantage for all those Sydney Boosters behind him.

JK: Josh Hazelwood just seems to be in every squad. Whether he will ever play again, I don’t know but he seems to get a lot of free hotel rooms, so well done to him. We’re pretty sure that Quiney is gonna go the Wayne Phillips way? By Wayne Phillips, I mean, the Victorian, might even have been from Geelong, who played one test against India once.

GH: Poor old Quiney. It was ghastly to watch. In an alternative universe, he plays and misses at those deliveries and he gets a hundred. It’s his misfortune to be living in the same era as Shane Watson, I suspect. They are desperately trying to find a niche for him and No. 3 is the latest prospect. Certainly, in other aspects, he has looked the part. He’s fielded very well, he’s bowled usefully. He looks like an Australian cricketer. And he’s got a well-made nine behind him.

JK: I think you’ll find it’s a polished nine. Let’s not get crazy. I just can’t see him getting back again. I do think he is a more talented cricket than we’ll ever see but you would say that Khawaja and Hughes are much more likely to come in next from here on in.

GH: I think so. They liked Quiney’s experience and his all-round resourcefulness. One of the demerit points against Khawaja and Hughes is that they don’t bring much except their specialist skills. They are poor fielders, they are not particularly deep thinkers about the game, they are not particularly mature individuals. Quiney’s face fitted an identikit portrait of the Australian Cricket character as John Inverarity would like to see it. But I think that it was a temporary measure that if it had come off, everyone would have congratulated themselves. Khawaja and Hughes have made the runs this year that justify having a look at them again.

JK: Definitely. The last thing I wanted to talk about was Michael Clarke’s comment about how he wanted a fair pitch for the WACA. There was a Shield game there that I think he played in, that only went to three days. There’s been a couple of them so far this year. He’s asking for a fairer pitch. Surely, what we need actually is a result pitch. Forget fair, we just need a result in this series, otherwise, we might as well go back to 1960s.

GH: There should have been a result in this game, really. If Australia had held even one of those catches on the last day, then we would be talking about what a fantastic pitch Adelaide was, you get a result in the last hour and isn’t it great that a Test Match runs it’s full course.

JK: It’s also the last pitch in the world we need two bowlers to go down on. Because, Pattison and Kallis, between the two of them, they would have hurried the game up a little bit.

GH: It’s also the last pitch in the world they should be digging out which is what they are gonna do at the end of this Summer. Yet another triumph for football in Australia, they are introducing a drop-in at the Adelaide Oval. That’s just cultural vandalism as far as I’m concerned. I said as much in Adelaide and I got a visit from the South Australian Cricket Association CEO who was looking very, very embarrassed.

JK: Mr. Bradshaw, is it?

GH: Mr. Bradshaw, yes.

JK: I wouldn’t think he’d be the firmest person in the world. I think in a fist-fight you’d get a couple of quick ones into his ribs, at least.

GH: I think he’d been sent around to have a word. He did say it very mildly and very politely, in that Keith Bradshaw way.

JK: What did he say though? Did he say you’ll have to wear a full suit to come into the press box? They can make you wear shirts.

GH: I was wearing a shirt. I did take my collared wardrobe to Adelaide. I’d remembered that from years gone past. But the press call we were invited to, lunch on the last day, I didn’t go. But Malcolm Knox came back from it and quoted David Foster Wallace saying – a supposedly fun thing that I will never do again.

JK: I remember, last year, they had lobster on the last day. I was a very big fan of that.

GH: Only lobster they had at Adelaide was Peter Siddle because he looked like one at the end of yesterday’s play.

JK: Yes he was. Alright, we’ll leave it there and we will chat again after the Perth Test.

GH: Indeed. Pleasure, Jarrod.

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4 thoughts on “Cricket Sadist Hour podcast with Gideon Haigh: Faf wears an apron

  1. angryangy says:

    I think the frustrating thing about cricket anywhere in Australia is that you can prepare a flat wicket if you like, but you still have to play teams like WA on it. If WA grant themselves immunity to daylight savings and fail to show up before 12, then someone on the other team is going to get wickets and likely also runs, too.

    Granted, there’s always been something in first class cricket for anyone who can bowl tidy and accurate; after all who could abide the bowling of Trent Copeland without going insane? But when simply bowling a tidy length on a straw coloured wicket can rip a side open in a session, it’s really hard to gauge enough about the wicket or the bowler.

    • Fox McScrooge says:

      The curator at Adelaide should be hung drawn and quartered. Look how many players broke down in that test. Where was the uneven bounce on the last few days? Is it reasonable that the best bowling attack in world cricket gets carted the way they did in the first innings? Does anyone really want to see a side block the ball for the best part of two days? Why was the outfield so quick? Can anyone tell me what was the actual point of that test?

  2. MJ says:

    @Fox: Agreed, whats the point of a pitch which five days of bland. And Brisbane was much the same. Thankfully Perth is providing a contest between ball and bat.

    Is there a final fuck you hundred in Ricky?

    • jogesh99 says:

      Naw, there’s a final fuck you Ricky in Steyn.

      So who makes the better 8 these days- ponting or tendulkar?

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