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Australian cricket needs new sightscreens

Vinay Verma Roar Guru

By Vinay Verma, Vinay Verma is a Roar Guru

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    Michael ClarkeThe one day cricket match last night between England and Australia was, in my opinion, a sham. At times, like when Strauss and Trott were marooned at the same end, it was high farce.

    Dylan Thomas wrote Under Milk Wood in 1953 about characters in a fictional village called Llareggub. Spelt backwards this says “buggerall” and the current ODI’s between Australia and England are just that.

    The games are meaningless as a contest and have become glorified practice matches for both teams. Cricket Australia should have scripted the one day series to conclude prior to the announcement of the World Cup squad.

    The 15 man squads were announced on the 18th of January for next month’s World Cup on the sub-continent and none of the selected players will want to cruel their chances. Expect, at best, only 50% of the normal intensity when these traditional foes battle it out.

    Spectators, who have already bought their tickets, will not get a refund if they choose not to go. Can you imagine going to a concert featuring your favourite band and find they are only going to jam. Or Pavarotti deciding he would only warble because he wanted to preserve his larynx for the Command Performance.

    You cannot blame the players for coasting. It would be silly for someone like Lee or Tait to go full throttle. They are already on the plane and will save their intensity for a week before the actual World Cup starts. Professional sport is about peaking at the right time.

    Federer does not mind losing an exhibition match two weeks before a grand slam. The All Blacks are a different kettle of salmon. They want to win every game they play. Perhaps that is a reason why they so often fail to take the major prize at the Rugby World Cup.

    But, coming back to the cricket, we saw more of the Clarke waltz in the quicksand and cat-calling to the fieldsman at thirdman to move finer, in the game at Hobart.

    This is the game that Tony Greig proclaimed on TV last night to “have rated the pants off the competition”. I question the objectivity of the Channel 9 commentary team on anything to do with the health of the game.

    Of course they would spruik the enthralling contest unravelling before our naive eyes. As the moronic underclass of viewers, how could we possibly doubt the veracity of all these ex-captains?

    The commentary team also extolled the virtues of Australia’s spinners comparing Hussey and Doherty, maybe fatuously, to Laker and Bedi!

    However, I suspect eminences like Benaud and Taylor would secretly have grave misgivings.

    And this is not just in Australia. All the matches being played after the 18th of January are nothing but revenue raisers.

    In fact players have everything to lose by going full pelt. Pietersen seems disinterested. He missed last night’s game. Tendulkar has gone home from South Africa. The Kiwis and Pakistanis are going through the motions. Soon the West Indies and Sri Lanka will try to refine the box-step before they embark on the waltz of the World Cup.

    The only players going for broke in Hobart were the two not selected in either of the World Cup squads. Chris Tremlett was the best of the England bowlers and Shaun Marsh, with his two tempo hundred, showed why he should have been included in the original squad. That he is there as cover for Michael Hussey is scant consolation

    Yesterday’s game at the SCG, in front of a sell-out, had the intensity of a pillow fight. It had the canned suspense of cold baked beans. The players showed the enthusiasm of an impending visit to the dentist. Collingwood on being bowled by a Doherty no-name ball was the epitome of resigned indifference.

    The fact that Australia won a low-quality game with overs to spare only underlines the vacuosness of this series.

    If this series had been played just after the Sydney Test as a five match series it would have made the competition for World Cup spots more intense. All Cricket Australia had to do was sacrifice the two Twenty20 matches.

    If Cricket Australia was really concerned about the fans and desperately wanted to give them a full-fledged contest they would have picked a squad of players NOT going to the World Cup. These players like Maddinson, Christian, Hodge, MacDonald and O’Keefe would then have had a chance to show everyone what they are made of. It may also have galvanised those selected for the World Cup to perform or perish. This would also have woken England up and the winners would have been the fans.

    Personally, I have no interest in watching players going through the motions. This is about as interesting as hanging the clothes out to dry.

    The World Cup schedule was known two years ago and in spite of this administrators have scheduled matches that only benefit broadcasters and sponsors.

    Meanwhile cricket languishes as a joke.

    Reviews have been promised and there are calls for Charlesworth to take over as coach. (I championed this in August last year.) Steve Waugh is being spoken of as a mentor and Shane Warne has been suggested as a Chaplain.

    All this misses the point. It should be taken out of the hands of the current administration. They should have no say in the direction of our cricket. They have failed so why give them a second chance?

    I suggest a review panel of Ric Charlesworth, Ron Barrassi, Tim Sheens, Frank Farina and Allan Border.

    They should come up with a plan that should firstly restore the eminence of the Shield, and secondly pick a core group of 50 players that can play proper Test cricket. The shorter forms flow from this core group. The best short form players are those that play proper cricket shots.

    Think Tendulkar, Sanggakara, Pietersen, Ponting, Kallis, De Villiers, Bell and others of their ilk. Yes, some of these players will unfurl an exotic shot like the switch-hit or the ramp but essentially they hit straight and play with technique. Not the Warners that McKenna (CA’s marketing guru) calls great players.

    Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, features a country called Llamedos and was obviously inspired by Dylan Thomas. This spelt backwards says “sod ’em all”.

    And that my dear reader is what Cricket Australia is saying to you.

    Be sure to head to the second ODI between Australia and England this Friday at the Gabba, and don't forget to be wearing your XXXX Goldie to be in with a chance to win $10k in XXXX GOLD’s crowd catch competition.

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    The Crowd Says (75)

    • January 24th 2011 @ 6:30am
      Timmuh said | January 24th 2011 @ 6:30am | ! Report

      I do find it interesting how Australians were complaining so much about the 2009 schedule of having the Tests before the one day games, yet there are never any complaints from the public about exactly the same thing happening here.

      It is a shame the World Cup squads had to be announced so early, leaving this series as nothing more than a warm-up. But it was always going to be a low-key affair for one side. England have already done what they cam here to do. They have nothing left to gain from the summer. Australia, at least, have some pride to salvage from the wreckage of the main event. Maybe Melbourne and Sydney should have been the second and third Tests this summer, with the limited overs stuff out of the way first. But then, the players would not have had limited overs practice leading into the World Cup. Perhaps, therefore, there was no ideal schedule – but you are correct, the English in particular in cruise mode, just seeing out the time they are forced to remain on tour.

      • Roar Guru

        January 24th 2011 @ 7:01am
        Vinay Verma said | January 24th 2011 @ 7:01am | ! Report

        Timmuh, I looked at what was happening in the series in south Africa and here in australia and the overriding feeling I get is that spectators are are being short-changed. Many would have bought tickets hoping to see Kallis and tendulkar in SAF and Pietersen,anderson and Johnson and Tait. I do not blame the players for opting out because of “injury”. They may have niggles and do not want to take a chance. Had there been a reason to play- like selection in the WC squad I am sure they would have played.

        Injuries can happen anytime but they are more likely to happen when you are thinking of them.

        • January 26th 2011 @ 9:38am
          Timmuh said | January 26th 2011 @ 9:38am | ! Report

          Vinay,
          I’m not disagreeing. I would also note that the main even in South Africa was the Test series between numbers one and two in the world. The limited overs series after that were also always going to be a let down after the big issue had been decided (or not as it turns out). Limited overs series this close to the WC are all about positioning and fine tuning, the best players don’t get risked, sides don’t care too much. I think it might be a little worse this year because the WC is coming after two of the biggest Test series – arguably involving all bar one of the potential WC winners, the other being Sri Lanka – of recent times. The limited overs games are WC warm ups, and with the squads now decided, nobody has anything to play for (perhaps Australia is looking to regain something after the Ashes humiliation, but even they must know its no real consolation to win the current series).

    • January 24th 2011 @ 6:41am
      sheek said | January 24th 2011 @ 6:41am | ! Report

      Vinay,

      If ever a type of a sport was ever set up for a mighty fall, it is 50 overs cricket.

      From soon after its inception it was flogged mercilessly by avaricious administrators around the world, putting on a little tourny here or there at the blink of an eye. Their naked grab for the cash the game generated fooled no-one, & truly killed the goose that laid the golden egg for them.

      We copped so many meaningless ODI comps, we lost interest, & became jaded & cynical. Man’s folly, but you can be sure it will be repeated (probably with T20).

      Anyway, what’s happening now confirms to me the game of cricket can’t sustain 2 forms of truncated cricket anymore. And since 50 overs cricket has been well & truly butchered by administrators, & the younger generation love T20, then 50 overs cricket is on the way out.

      I am just one person, but i have not bothered to watch a single minute of the Ryobi one day series between Australia & England…..

      • Roar Guru

        January 24th 2011 @ 7:12am
        Vinay Verma said | January 24th 2011 @ 7:12am | ! Report

        Sheek, I accept your logic about the demise of 50 overs cricket but this is contrary to what is happening in India. The 50 overs format is preferred by the TV broadcasters and the format is locked in at least till 2015 and perhaps till 2019. the next ICC deal comes up in 2017 and I see it being worth almost 2 billion dollars and the 50 overs came will be the central plank.

        CA’s experiment with the split over format has been a disaster. Basically two lots of Twenty20.

        There is also a blind rush by CA to ape the IPL. It is not feasible in australia because the IPL is a social and economic phenomena before it is sport. Australia does not have the market or the glam of Bollywood. It also does not have the wealth of the IPL franchise owners. The KFC BIG Bash is the poor man’s IPL and it may attract crowds in the short term but as a stand alone business it has a a finite end. The IPL on the other hand is going to grow. I would prefer to see a reduction in the number of ODI’s and making them more competitive and meaningful. Context leads to contest.

        • January 24th 2011 @ 7:23am
          Willy said | January 24th 2011 @ 7:23am | ! Report

          Vinay, I reckon Australia (and all the other cricket loving nations) should refuse to release players for the IPL.

          It’s quickly ruining cricket, and needs to be stopped ASAP.

          It’s a pathetic circus – an arena for idiots – a hopeless joke of a competition. And, worse, it’s putting the future of the game in the hands of a few egotistical Indian “celebrities”.

          The Aussie cricket administrators, and their counterparts around the world, need to take control. And refusing to release players is the only way to do it.

          It would be easy enough – you can represent your country and State in competitions that mean something (and make a very good living doing so), or you can piss away your talent in a meaningless, hopeless joke of a circus for 30 pieces of silver.

          • Roar Guru

            January 24th 2011 @ 7:52am
            Vinay Verma said | January 24th 2011 @ 7:52am | ! Report

            Willy,unfortunately the genie is out of the bottle. Players want to play in the IPL. I have spoken with “star” Test players and they love the “rock star” status. It is not taxing on the body and it is fun and you get payed a million.

            The IPL should be viewwed as entertainment and ,lets face it,in this sometimes dreary world people are crhying out for entertainment. So lets not be too harsh on people that have no time to read books or go to the theatre. This is the cost of consumerism.

            I do agree with you that administrators and players need to have a sense of balance. Bt you look at it from the point of view that 10% of the IPL price for players now goes back to the “home’ board. Another reason for boards to release players. In a free market you cannot stop players…restraint of trade.

            As a player the IPL is attractive because the hotels are the best,travel is in the pointy end and players get to mix with other cultures. It is upto the individual to balance all these conflicting scenarios.

          • January 24th 2011 @ 9:58am
            soapit said | January 24th 2011 @ 9:58am | ! Report

            unfortunately cash would win out and you’d just see a bunch of early retirements. everyone loses.

          • January 24th 2011 @ 10:31am
            Russ said | January 24th 2011 @ 10:31am | ! Report

            Willy, did you not notice what the ICL did to the New Zealand, Pakistan and Bangladesh national sides?

            Cricket is ultimately in the hands of the players, that’s who the public come to watch, and over the long term that’s who gets to decide where and when they play, and for what. The only difference between now and the WSC days is that national boards have more money to offer their test side, and that the IPL is controlled by the BCCI which prevents players from ditching their national teams unless they retire. If boards moved to prevent players playing in the IPL there would be an exodus, a strike, or a revolution, to cricket’s cost.

            And anyway, on what basis does 90% of the cricket Australia plays mean anything? Do these ODIs against England mean anything? Or the two test series against Pakistan or India played before the Ashes, or even the woefully one-sided games that turned people off last summer? The IPL at least has the merit of being a two month long, intensive competition which would make a player feel they’ve earnt something if they win.

            The fact is this: bar England, every test nation depends financially on having India tour every 4-5 years so they can fill their coffers (and pay their players) from the tv rights sold to Indian broad-casters. Those broadcasters want ODIs first and foremost because they offer the greatest scope for advertising to a large audience. Most international cricket is nothing but filler to keep the players getting paid.

            Form my perspective, domestic T20 leagues are cricket’s salvation from the endless meaningless international circuit. Instead of having to subsidise domestic cricket, players can earn their money at their local clubs; freed from that necessity, internationals can be played less regularly, and (hopefully) more meaningfully. As a spectator, the prospect of regular (bi-weekly) cricket at my local ground, attracting reasonable crowds, played over a short time-frame interests me; spending a lot more money to see 7-10 days of cricket a year, locally, between international sides weary from the grind and often playing for little of interest does not.

            The approach CA are taking to the Big Bash is clumsy, marketing driven and poorly thought through, but as a general idea, domestic T20 leagues are potentially a very good thing for cricket.

            • Roar Guru

              January 24th 2011 @ 11:01am
              Vinay Verma said | January 24th 2011 @ 11:01am | ! Report

              Russ, a balanced perspective but lets take this one step further. I believe players also have a responsibility. You cannot push payments to a level where it becomes unviable. A point to remember is that the IPL actually rewards players that have First class experience or have played Tests or ODI’s. There is not a player worth his salt who does not think Test cricket is the pinnacle. Administrators should try to preseve the “Mercedes Benz” brand rather than try to make everything a Hyundai.

              • January 24th 2011 @ 11:35am
                Russ said | January 24th 2011 @ 11:35am | ! Report

                Vinay, all true. I don’t think the f/c, international experience criterion in the IPL is viable in the long term. I know why they do it – the owners and the BCCI – but it is an arbitrage opportunity that leaves those players open to entrepreneurs.

                The players’ attitude to test cricket is why I have never feared for its future, and why I think it is such a mistake to limit test cricket to just 10 nations. Those players ought to see test cricket as their ultimate aim as well. But tests need to be meaningful; playing international cricket for fiduciary obligation – and the 7 ODI series is that too – is killing my interest in the contest. You know my thoughts on this already of course.

      • January 24th 2011 @ 8:13am
        Jaredsbro said | January 24th 2011 @ 8:13am | ! Report

        I’m still waiting for you to explain….convincingly why this is Sheek? I didn’t expect that my argument could ever change your mind, but do you really want to see a world without 50 over criicket? Or more importantly was there ever a time that you saw 50 over cricket as good for it’s own sake 😉

    • January 24th 2011 @ 6:45am
      Kersi Meher-Homji said | January 24th 2011 @ 6:45am | ! Report

      Vinay, I agree with you that 7 ODIs after the Ashes Tests is much too much.
      I congratulate you on suggesting Ric Charlesworth as Australia’s cricket coach months before The Sun-Herald did yesterday.
      But I disagree with you on your analysis of the SCG ODI yesterday. I was there enjoying every ball and the intensity. Pity you could not attend. Perhaps you had prejudged it before the match commenced and did not bother to turn up.
      From the first ball, Lee was all intensity. And so were most among others. During “high intensity” Tests, run-outs a la Trott and Strauss do happen. It is comical but suggests nerves and not a ho-hum attitude.
      I enjoyed yesterday’s match, especially Lee’s high octane bowling and David Hussey’s and Trott’s Test match-like gallant innings.

      • Roar Guru

        January 24th 2011 @ 7:19am
        Vinay Verma said | January 24th 2011 @ 7:19am | ! Report

        Kersi,of course I prejudged it and nothing that I saw last night changed my opinion. Lee bowled well because he has a point to prove. hussey batted reasonably well but should have been out on 37 when Tremlett dropped him. Spectators would have wanted to see the onlytwo truly World class batsmen on either side in Peitersen and Watson. Pietersen was not there (a little niggle in the groin) and Watson played an ambitious slog.

        Johnson and Tait both enigmas,were rested. The umpires did not know the rules on the free-hit…perhaps they were also in rehearsal mode.

        The only positive I saw was the australian fielding. A definite improvement on the summer gone by. But it could not have got any worse.

        I listened to the continued exhortations of the 9 commenary team. They were trying so hard to flog a dead horse. Much like the spruikers on Pitt street in the 70’s trying to sell Splayds. Does anyone remember this cross between a spoon and a fork?

    • January 24th 2011 @ 7:27am
      Kersi Meher-Homji said | January 24th 2011 @ 7:27am | ! Report

      Forget the Channel 9 commentary team. I did not listen to them. I watched the action live and enjoyed a fine tussel between bat and ball. A low-scoring match and almost Test-class.
      Why all the hue and cry by the media when Australia loses and why this cynicism when Australia is finally winning?

      • Roar Guru

        January 24th 2011 @ 7:43am
        Vinay Verma said | January 24th 2011 @ 7:43am | ! Report

        Dear Kersi, If all I wanted to see was a tussle between bat and ball I could get my fix by going to a suburban cricket ground. But I ,respectfully,posit that the 36,000 who forked out hard earned money would have expected to see the best players on show. No Pietersen,no Swann and no anderson. This was the second string attack.

        Yardy,normally frugal,was charitable with his hip-high full tosses and rank half-trackers. No tussle there.

        Strauss,normally astute,chose not to attack Hussey at 4-100. Tremlett at this juncture would have scuttled the Aussies.

        When wickets were the priority Strauss spread the field and gave Hussey and hastings the easiest of singles.

        I am sorry,but this to me only emphasised my “prejudgement”

        • January 24th 2011 @ 6:02pm
          Lolly said | January 24th 2011 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

          Low scoring games can be fantastic and I thought that one had some tension in it, but at the same time, it did feel a bit like everyone was going through the motions. The first two have been good matches, this one felt a bit bleh.

          When will the schedulers learn about putting ODI’s before the test series? It’s not fair on the English guys that they haven’t been able to truly celebrate having won the Ashes back in England. As it is such a big deal for them..

          Another thing, I don’t understand is why all the English team, journos and fans seemed to think that Bellerive should have been a walkover. Don’t they look at the history of a ground?

          • Roar Guru

            January 24th 2011 @ 7:18pm
            Vinay Verma said | January 24th 2011 @ 7:18pm | ! Report

            Lolly,it would not have been so bad if at least 5 of these games had been before the squad for the WC was announced. As it was there was only one.

            It is good to see Australia win but lets not get carried away. This was not England’s best team.

    • Roar Guru

      January 24th 2011 @ 7:41am
      Rickety Knees said | January 24th 2011 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      CA has done ODI’s to death. The product is stale and over exposed. There is little joy in beating a side that appears to be largely disinterested.

    • January 24th 2011 @ 7:50am
      sheek said | January 24th 2011 @ 7:50am | ! Report

      Vinay,

      I wasn’t aware 50 overs cricket is still highly popular in India. I was thinking of India as the prime suspect that killed off 50 overs cricket with so many meaningless competitions. But most other countries were equally avaricious. I will obviously have to give this a re-think.

      Meanwhiles, let me provide another picture. Rugby union has 3 forms of rugby – XVs/15s, XXs/10s & VIIs/7s. Rugby is fortunate at present it can allocate all its primary resources to XVs. And XVs in its various sources of international & national domestic, is the primary revenue driver.

      7s will soon be played at the Olympics, & how this changes the dynamic of things remains to be seen. Now imagine rugby’s key resources (players) being required for XVs, XXs & VIIs, just like cricket.

      It’s likely the Wallabies, apart from playing 13-14 tests per year, would also be required for 10s & 7s circuits nationally & wordwide, meaning they wouldn’t be available for super rugby. Now that would hurt super rugby, rugby’s equivalent of first-class cricket.

      This is precisely what is happening with Australian cricket. The requirement of leading players for tests, ODIs & T20, means they get very little game time in Sheffield Shield.

      If cricket is to do the right thing by both the long form & short form of the game, one of the truncated forms must give way. Either 50 overs get the boot, or this new fangled T20 gets the boot. But we can’t have both, & expect to do the best by test & 1st class cricket at the same time.

      By stretching our resources so far & wide, we’re not doing justice to any of them, & the game overall suffers. The basic premise being being that “all forms of cricket cannot be all things to all men (& women)”.

      • Roar Guru

        January 24th 2011 @ 7:59am
        Vinay Verma said | January 24th 2011 @ 7:59am | ! Report

        Sheek,correct me if I am wrong,but the 50 overs World Cup is the most watched after the Olympics and FIFA’s WC. The population on the sub-continent may have a lot to do with this. But then if you look at the struggling economy’s of Europe the money is presently not there for Rugby to gain much more in TV rights. Whereas in india there will be exponential growth for the next decade.

        This is the premise behind my saying the 50 overs format has a lot more growth in the expanding Indian economy. Sponsors also get more value for their buck in a 50 overs game. Double the bang for the same buck,if I can be so crude.

      • January 24th 2011 @ 8:24am
        Jaredsbro said | January 24th 2011 @ 8:24am | ! Report

        Guess what the solution is…have specialist players, like they do in Rugby. It’s not too hard a solution and much of the time it’s happening anyway with Warner and the like (whose form in one format has wrongfully put him in contention for another) Vinay’s point about this approach to 50 over cricket as tho it were 50 overs of twenty 20 is the real issue.

        And any arg about the people only wanting to see players who play all 3 formats becomes less relevant when you consider most fans (the type of people that are all too often derided by many Cricket roarers) want to see good, entertaining cricket, which at the moment definitely involves all 3 formats…but not involving all the currently playing greats. The scheduling is a bit of a problem, but really what’s wrong with letting people turn up to support their boys before they leave for the WC…most people seem not to be too bothered by the relative lack of competiveness.

        And btw Sheek Super Rugby is no equivalent to 1st class Cricket as with a football the highest form of the game is always the one where more people turn up to, not so with cricket and at different times in Cricket’s history this has been the case. Finally this is actually a problem, using the same paradigm for football as for cricket…as cricket has far more fans of the intrinsics in the game, whereas fans of football (may support the game for the intrinsics but there’s other reasons for their support as well)

        • January 24th 2011 @ 9:10am
          sheek said | January 24th 2011 @ 9:10am | ! Report

          Jaredsbro,

          Historically, cricket & rugby have shared a similar structure in the southern hemisphere – tests followed/underpinned by a provincial comp – Castle Cup/Currie Cup in SA, Plunkett Shield/NPC & equivalents in NZL, Sheffield Shield & NSW v Qld annual clashes in Australia.

          I’ve read South African literature whereby the Currie Cup was referred as a first class comp. Makes perfect sense to me.

          Football, AFL, NRL & the like have an entirely different structure, so I agree they would refer to 1st class as something else.

          • January 24th 2011 @ 10:17am
            Jaredsbro said | January 24th 2011 @ 10:17am | ! Report

            In terms of semantics you’re right, but my point was that success for first 1st class cricket is more than about people attending the game live and taking an interest in it as a spectacle. It’s too much to say 1st class is all about developing the core skills of cricket, but in some ways that’s what 1st class cricket is now. It’s about maintaining good/solid standards in technique etc, which should be more important than whether people will turn up or not. I know that in past generations both happened, but these days some things should be more important than crowd attendances. This is not to say that 1st class cricket has a free pass, in that it need not concern itself with fiscal matters.

            1st class is also relative, as it depends on multi-day cricket being seen as the most premier form of cricket. Again this used to be the case, but you can’t really say that Test/1st class cricket is always of the highest standard or of most interest to people…and there are real entertainment junkies out there, but most cricket fans like seeing good meaningful cricket, whichever format. I don’t think you can say with anything more valid than personal taste that 50 or 20 over (or five day) cricket is independent of the complex/interconnected (modern day) realities of technique (or intrinsics) vs profitability (extrinsics). Of course if you believed that 50 over cricket contributed neither to cricket over all your argument would be convincing

            As I have stated elsewhere 50 over cricket has much to contribute to both Tests and Twenty 20… that 50 over cricket is losing not making money is an interesting moot point, is there actually any evidence to suggest this. And about scheduling you have a point, what’s wrong with capping a players involvement at 2 out of 3 rather than get rid of the third wheel altogether

      • January 24th 2011 @ 8:27am
        Seiran said | January 24th 2011 @ 8:27am | ! Report

        Sheek, don’t you mean Xs (10’s).

        XXs is 20’s.

        • January 24th 2011 @ 9:04am
          sheek said | January 24th 2011 @ 9:04am | ! Report

          Thanks Seiran – just wanted to see if people were paying attention…..

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