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T20 whack action is the stuff of Mike Whitney’s dreams

Matt Cleary Columnist

By Matt Cleary, Matt Cleary is a Roar Expert

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    On Day 3 of the Centenary Test of 1977, 20-year-old David Hookes took to Tony Greig’s bowling with the gusto of a hungry, athletic kid on a piñata chock-full of Cherry Ripes.

    The great Hookesy whacked five – five! – straight boundaries to all parts of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

    In a game that could often be staid – and which had seen its first ever ODI just six years previously – Hookesy’s whack action had the masses verily baying.

    For there they were in their tens of thousands, these shirtless, thong-clapping larrikins called Wayne and Trevor, Kevin and Bruce, proclaiming through the warm sweet fug of KB Lager-breath that Hookesy’s batting was “unreal” and “grouse” and other vernacular in vogue at the time – could’ve been “groovy”, don’t think it was.

    Regardless, the late, great Hookesy flogged the late, great Greigy, and people are talking of it still today.

    Which is sort of interesting given the other day, on a phone smarter than the greatest super-computer hidden in a purpose-built bunker in the bowels of the Pentagon in 1977, a vibration in my pants pocket informed me that Usman Khawaja of the Sydney Thunder had just whacked 85 off 51 balls, with 8 fours and 4 sixes, in a 20-over Big Bash match against the Brisbane Heat.

    And I thought, “Well – how about that.”

    But it wasn’t like, “Well! How about that!” It was more, “Well, I don’t really give a stuff.”

    Don’t get me wrong – I was a bit irked I didn’t get to see it given I was eating mother-in-law’s chicken surprise (I first thought it was fish). It would’ve been good to see the great Uzzy – my man – whack the white ball about.

    But it wasn’t like I was all hot-freakin-beauty-amaze-balls that the silky left-hander with the flashes of David Gower had so rendered the Heat asunder with a display of beautiful, power whack-action. Because they’re all doing it. It’s how you bat. In the BBL, that’s just… batting.

    Ten years ago, maybe, it would’ve been a bit wow. Even five years ago you might’ve thought, wow! But today? Not so much. Been done, the big whackin’, low ballin’ bat action. Done and done.

    Usman Khawaja celebrates a hundred

    AAP Image/David Mariuz

    What can it all possibly mean?

    I dunno. It’s all happening so fast. Pink Kookaburras are pinging about under blood-orange skies in Adelaide while loose-limbed Caribbean cool guys are just about ex-communicated from Australia because they’re hopeless at flirting with girls on TV.

    How can one make sense of this? What is doing, Modern Times In Which We Live?

    Chris Lynn is doing, for one. How about him? What a big whacker he is. He’s always been a big whacker, Lynn, but his Big Bash whacking, he’s been the biggest whacker of all.

    Kumar Sangakkara once described Lynna as a “force of nature”, comparing his big whack-action to Matt Hayden’s, which is something I once did on the Twitter with Andy Maher from the radio, and if you’d read this paragraph aloud to someone in 1977 they’d have called you a drongo and donged you on the bonce with a half-crushed tinnie.

    But that Lynn, he sure can whack ‘em.

    But then so can plenty of them.

    Couple years ago, Darren Lehmann’s young bloke Jake whacked his first and only ball for six to win a match for Strikers against Hurricanes, something that was only contemplated in the fantasy realms of Toohey’s advertisements in 1977.

    Fantasy? Too right. Because, Pfffft – please. As if Steve Rixon could hit Dennis Lillee for six at all, let alone last ball with six needed to win.

    See also Mike Whitney getting a half-volley from Joel freakin’ Garner – the Big Bird, nearly seven foot tall – on the last ball of some NSW versus Windies match, unleashing a cover-drive, and running three to win the game.

    That would not happen in Mike Whitney’s dreams. If Mike Whitney dreamed that, even in his dreams he’d be like, “This is bullshit.”

    Regardless, today Lynn is the best and biggest whacker of all, which is saying something given he plays in the same team as noted whack man, Brendon McCullum.

    Lynn took over from Aaron Finch, who took over from Chris Gayle, who took over from Virender Sehwag.

    And around Lynn there’s any number of giant whack men, all whacking away, in big whacking leagues, all over the world.

    Again: what is the meaning of this? You know what? It’s all happening too fast; nobody really knows.

    There is speculation. Like the kid John Connor says in Terminator 2, “The future is unset.” Which means there is excitement and fear in equal parts.

    Some of us are enjoying the ride. Some of us worry what it can all possibly mean. Political ideology can be like this. Left and right. Yin and yang. One man’s progressive whack-action is another’s conservative hellscape, something like it.

    Just like World Series Cricket in 1977, merchants of doom would have it that T20 cricket is “destroying” Test cricket.

    Yet apart from Tests featuring cricket’s Big Money Three – Australia, England and India – Test cricket is… well, it’s not very groovy, is it? Test cricket is a square, man.

    And T20 is Austin Powers without the bad teeth. T20 is groovy, and happening, man, and there appears to be no stopping it.

    Bats are bazookas and bowlers are the stuff they fed into cannons on Russell Crowe’s battleship in that crackerjack movie Master and Commander: Something Blah Blah on the High Seas.

    But here’s the thing: How long, oh Lord? How long?

    How long before all this big-whacking man action becomes, to coin some of today’s vernacular, myeeah. How long until a batsman hitting six or eight or 12 sixes in a row becomes normal? How long until it’s expected that batsmen hit every single ball for six?

    And then how long then until we get tired of every ball being hit for six?

    Might bats – and hence sixes – have to get even bigger? Might you get eight or ten for certain massive bits of a big whack-man action?

    I dunno. Maybe. There’s stuff happening today if you’d told people ten years ago would happen they’d have said, “Please, there’s more chance of Donald Trump being president.”

    What’s certain is this: big whack-action cricket leagues have blossomed around the planet. Marquee men ply their wares on globe-trotting FIFO cash contracts, short-term employees of corporate franchises who horse-trade man-flesh for many score crore rupees – crore being an Indian term useful for counting numbers with too many zeros.

    We’ve come a long way in a short period of time. So far that 5 fours in a row – sorry, Hookesy – it wouldn’t itch the phone in your pants pocket.

    Matt Cleary
    Matt Cleary

    Matt Cleary is a sports writer from Sydney. He enjoys golf, footy and Four Pines Pale Ale, and spends as much time as conscience allows at Long Reef GC. Tweet him @journomatcleary, or read him at his website.

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • January 12th 2018 @ 7:50am
      Kangajets said | January 12th 2018 @ 7:50am | ! Report

      what if we bring the Boundary ropes closer and make the bats and bigger and the pitch any flatter .

      Why don’t we make it nick and run

      Sounds like backyard cricket

    • January 12th 2018 @ 8:05am
      JohnnoMcJohnno said | January 12th 2018 @ 8:05am | ! Report

      Excellent read. So many memories encapsulated in one article. Hookesy, Whitney and KB Lager. My Dad used to buy it cause it tasted like crap and he knew I wouldn’t drink it. Surely Wayne, Kevin Trevor and Bruce would have been drinking Fosters at the MCG I thought. Then I remembered – you used to take your own Esky to the ground, so they could have taken any beer they liked, even my Dad’s. An Esky was way better than a mobile phone because you could sit on it. Those were the days.

      • January 12th 2018 @ 8:20am
        Kangajets said | January 12th 2018 @ 8:20am | ! Report

        I did love those Mike Whitney adds

        And remember Hookesy

        We used to sit on the hill at the scg and the crowds threw beer bottles at each other . Crazy days

      • January 12th 2018 @ 11:23am
        beepee said | January 12th 2018 @ 11:23am | ! Report

        Yes, Johnno – I had the same thought about the beer. Back then, the beer you drank was much more aligned with where you lived, and in Vic, Fosters was the one. So KB at the Centenary test – doubt it.
        On a more serious note, Matt, I think you have to take context into account when speaking of Hookesy’s 5 x fours off Greig. This was the Centenary Test – a huge occasion, on a pitch that had been difficult for both teams in the first innings. The pressure was sky high, and Hookes was playing his debut test. Test match fields, moving ball, fence WAS the boundary, etc……not really your average T20 scenario.
        Years before, Sobers had already hit 6 x sixes in an over in county cricket, so Hookes knock was more about the situation than being the start of the T20 mindset.

    • Roar Guru

      January 12th 2018 @ 10:51am
      Paul D said | January 12th 2018 @ 10:51am | ! Report

      I much prefer the T20’s where one side wins because they managed to hit 4 sixes to the other teams 1, rather than because they hit 15 and the other guys could only manage 12

      The key is moderation and balance. I think the BBL has been pretty good in that respect. Very few scores over 200 this season (can’t even remember one of the top of my head, although I’m sure there has been) which is usually the benchmark that the game has been a blowout.

      The occasional massive over, yes, but that’s part of the game. Occasionally you get a guy like Simon Milenko who relies on the ball doing a bit to offset the fact he’s bowling 125km/h straight breaks, it doesn’t do a bit, and it goes the journey.

      I think 20/20 cricket should look to tennis & other sports for some inspiration about how to modify the game by modifying the surface – you have grass, hardcourt, clay court etc, perhaps the same could be done with pitches. Grade wickets by the estimated number of runs, almost like par on a golf course.

      You could have wickets prepared ahead of time that are rated 180+, 150, and maybe have some real greentops or dustbowls rated 110+ to mix it up. Have teams compete on a variety of wickets that aren’t just flat roads and you’ll ensure that the game remains new and different. There’s a hell of a lot of appeal and tension in low scoring games too. That ODI game Australia played against the Windies around 92 where they made 101 off 30 overs and defended it, courtesy of some deadset screamers from Tubby Taylor – the crowd was on the edge of their seats.

      • January 12th 2018 @ 12:22pm
        matth said | January 12th 2018 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

        Good comment.

      • January 12th 2018 @ 12:46pm
        Kangajets said | January 12th 2018 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

        Paul

        I think the windies era was the golden age of cricket. Any time the Aussie’s could snatch a win was memorable.

        Taylor was a great slips fielder

      • Roar Rookie

        January 12th 2018 @ 1:53pm
        El Loco said | January 12th 2018 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

        There was a domestic final a few years back where SA narrowly failed to defend a 150-ish total against NSW, Shaun Tait took something like 6-40. Bowled a bunch of wides but the cost was worth it, he just about pulled off the win. Close low scoring games can be outstanding.

    • January 12th 2018 @ 8:03pm
      Peter said | January 12th 2018 @ 8:03pm | ! Report

      Ah, Saint David of Hookes, who defended the loathsome Shane Warne by saying that he couldn’t understand all the fuss, all Good Bloke Warney wanted to do was shag a hairy-back.

    • January 12th 2018 @ 10:43pm
      Chris Love said | January 12th 2018 @ 10:43pm | ! Report

      “Test cricket is… well, it’s not very groovy, is it? Test cricket is a square, man.”

      Though shall not even joke about test cricket.

    • Roar Guru

      January 13th 2018 @ 7:54am
      Dutski said | January 13th 2018 @ 7:54am | ! Report

      Interested that this came out on the same day as Ronans piece highlighting how the English ODI side will be hard to beat because they come out and whack it from ball one. You two should sit down with a beer and discuss the merits or not of whacking.

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