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The Roar

Sinclair Whitbourne

Roar Rookie

Joined May 2017

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I think it is appropriate to say there is a question. I didn’t say he was rubbish – quite the opposite. You should read what I write – all of it- before jumping in. After 4 tests none of the players you mentioned were regarded as sure things with no issues. That is not the same as saying they couldn’t be, or wouldn’t be. So, yes, I am serious that there is a question. If Green becomes a long term solution I will be very happy but he will need to build on what he has done, because a long term average of 34 will put more pressure on batsmen 1-5.

No changing of the guard, but hard selection calls required for Australia

The issue of depth in batting in the long form of the game seems to be a fairly entrenched one – an argument might be made that it goes back to around 2009 and the retirement of the last of the extraordinary side of the 1990’s/2000’s. To my observation common issues in the batsmen coming through the ranks are loose techniques that make them vulnerable to the moving ball (not such an issue in short form cricket), inability to rotate strike through singles to reduce pressure building up (not a skill at a premium in short form, especially 20/20) and lack of the type of patience that can be essential against disciplined attacks in 4-5 day cricket.

These problems suggest a systemic issue in the structure of the season and an emphasis on short form. The problem is probably easier to identify than the solution. The money seems to be in the shortest forms of the game and it is understandable that admin and players will gravitate to that end. It might be interesting to look at whether India are doing anything in the structure of their season/s that is helping them produce depth of players who seem well suited to the long form game. They may just be having a lucky run, of course, but if they are it has been running for a while now.

The issues in terms of lack of depth in long form batting candidates is really quite serious, given that Warner might be in his last few productive seasons against strong bowling attacks; Pucovski has a history of missing big chunks of cricket (and whilst he looked promising in his one test, he also was dropped several times in making his one score); Green looks useful but also looks like he may have an issue with a big front foot lunge, a la Watson and are 4 tests at an average under 40 and no centuries really the answer at 6? This is not to minimise green’s potential but it does seem important to look clearly at what is usually a specialist batting position. Outside of this we have players with proven failings of various kinds and/or players in their early 30’s who don’t offer any long term solution, or guys with promise but so-so Shield records (the very promising McDermott, or Kurtis Patterson for example). Can Labuschagne and Smith be relied on to continually pull an innings together?

Let’s hope that our bowling options don’t start to dry up, because then we could be in a world of pain.

No changing of the guard, but hard selection calls required for Australia

The dropped catch after he sprayed Ashwin was a hard but one you’d expect a keeper at this level to take. I thought the earlier ones were more difficult – I don’t think any were sitters but you would probably expect one or two of the three should have been held. It is always a bit subjective but on balance it wasn’t his happiest day at the office. He is still a fine player and captain, I just think he had an off game.

Are the bad-boy Aussies making an unwelcome return?

Jeff, I don’t think many are making the argument it is unique to Oz. The issue is whether calling people d heads etc. is really acceptable anywhere. I don’t think it should be. Comments that are less than that – for example leaving it at ‘No wonder you haven’t got any mates’ doesn’t worry me, although I preferred to try to keep my energy for doing my job on the field. The stuff Paine came up with last tour by India to Oz seemed fine to me as well.

There are conflicting accounts as to what the crowd was saying in terms of whether there was racist abuse, however there seems to be no conflict that there was swearing and general abuse and making fun of at least one Indian player’s name. I don’t understand why people pay money to abuse people who are putting on a sporting match for the abusers. I don’t think players (workers) should have to put up with abuse. We will divide into the ‘I have heard worse/grow a pair’ camp and those who think neither other spectators nor players should have to put up with being sworn at etc.

Are the bad-boy Aussies making an unwelcome return?

That wasn’t the issue for me it was the ‘dickhead’ reference that I think is problematic. I don’t think anyone is complaining about the ‘no friends’. In the context of complaints about crowd abuse I think it was also problematic. The tone of voice with the dickhead part didn’t sound especially jolly either. I would be pretty cautious about referring to someone I work with, or a professional colleague as a dickhead – hard to see how it helps and likely to lead to problems.

I have empathy for Paine, who has generally done a fine job as captain, often under considerable duress. I am not a fan of verbal stuff and the line between banter and abuse often seems to be in the eye of the beholder and leaves a lot of scope for problems. Maybe it was because I was no great shakes as a bowler, but I generally preferred to let my work do the talking. Some of Paine’s verbal stuff has been very funny and hard to object to, but he seemed to lose it a bit during this test. He apologised and let’s hope he regains his equilibrium for the last test of what has probably been a tricky few months.

Are the bad-boy Aussies making an unwelcome return?

It does look a bit like the side is getting frazzled and uptight. Paine seems to have really found his dismissal in Melbourne irritating (and I am not unsympathetic) and his spray at Ashwin was pretty unacceptable to me. Referring to Ashwin as a ‘dickhead’ didn’t strike me as being a good look from the team captain and his previous ‘banter’ had been much more clever and. probably, effective. It has been an intense series and I would really like to see the next match not involve more of the same in terms of borderline (at best) behaviour. The cricket itself has been so good, we don’t need it being tarnished.

Are the bad-boy Aussies making an unwelcome return?

Nesser might be interesting. Brisbane is going to be a ‘big’ test match with the series locked at 1-1 and Oz needing to win to secure the series and to regain the Gavaskar-Border trophy (or the other way around if one prefers). I can see the logic in the Nasser call, but it is a big call, for mine. Personally, I would be reluctant to change the bowlers, when the batting is a more standout area of concern (though one which seems very problematic in terms of alternatives – we really are thin for batsmen with sound technique and temperament for the long form game). My inclination would be to leave the side as is, as much as possible, for this crunch game. There is a fair chance the batting will be subject to one forced change and that might be enough instability for now.

Australia's fourth Test selection headaches

I am a big fan of Pattinson since seeing him v Sri Lanka, but I think I am right in saying there is a big question over his domestic form this season? Having the Shield split into two doesn’t help in trying to work out who the alternatives are.

Australia's fourth Test selection headaches

I still have very fond memories of the 1977-78 tour by India and in every tour since that I have seen here they have shown a lot of resilience and determination. There is a very proud warrior tradition (i.e. Rajputs, Marathi, Sikh, Gurkha, Pathan, Kshatriya etc.) on the subcontinent and we are seeing more and more of that. A lot of teams would have buckled under the weight of injuries on this tour, the radically different nature of the pitch conditions and losing one of the best batsmen in the world right after a test where there had been a terrible batting collapse. I love the matches between these two proud and contrasting sides, whether here or in India. Thanks for the article.

India versus Australia is cricket’s beautiful best

Many thanks for this – I only saw the Adelaide Oz A v India A game and only parts of it but McDermott really caught my eye. He looked to have good balance at the crease, comfortable playing forward or back, a reasonably tight technique and a good temperament. However, I wanted to know more about him, which you have provided.

I am really looking forward to watching some Shield cricket and the relative dearth of international long form games provides some clear space.

Why Ben McDermott is the player the selectors want to pick

I wonder if the refs who don’t have any experience as players in the tight five would benefit from getting some training by doing? My grasp of scrummaging grew from packing as a lock for a while, even though at a very low level of the game. My prop gave me a lot of feedback (much of which would have been a good argument for the reintroduction of obscenity laws) and we talked quite a bit about his job and how I could work to help him. As a result, I found that when I was watching the game on TV I felt I had a much greater grasp of what the props, as well as locks were doing. Refs wouldn’t need to actually play a tight five position, but training in it for a few sessions might really boost their understanding.

For mine, pushing straight (overhead camera, policed by TMO) – with some (narrow) allowance for looseheads; watching for the shoulder roll and pulling down with the bind; having the scrum engage but not shove and the scrumhalf feed on ref command would be keys. I love the scrum and regard it as absolutely integral to the game. Without it you have crypto-League, you will lose the variety of body shapes and the next thing will be butchering the ruck and banning the maul.

Enjoyed the article and the posts, many thanks to all.

The dangerous scrum behaviour rugby must work harder to outlaw

Glad to see your comments re Pucovski, who does look talented, but I felt really troubled by the manner of his LBW dismissal and his second innings dismissal was to a good ball, but the type of good ball that will come often to the top order at the start of an innings and he was off balance. I had similar concern over Green’s LBW. Of course if one looks hard enough then one will rarely find perfection…

At this stage there is a real paucity of batting options for the long form of the game and this pair may as well be given time. I agree as a general rule that players should be given some time to settle in – something Hayden didn’t get early in his career, which I always felt contributed to his disappointing start.

McDermott really did impress me at Adelaide for Oz A, but it’s the only time I have seen him and I gather he may not have been a consistent performer. He looked balanced, patient and with a good range of back and front foot shots. I was also impressed by Kurt Pattinson last year, but I think his record in Shield is quite up and down.

Don't dare drop them – Cameron Green and Will Pucovski deserve long Test stints

Really good point about remembering that these guys are elite players, whatever we might think about their form etc. Too easy to be dismissive, disrespectful etc. I have always enjoyed watching Burns bat, although never feeling comfortable that he was equipped to perform consistently as an opener at this level. Having said that, I wanted to see him prove me wrong (I used to worry about Dave Warner). His 50 in the 2nd innings of the recent first test v India was a fine moment, given the context (a potentially tricky run chase given Oz history of collapses chasing smallish 4th innings targets), the quality of the opposition and his own really awful form at that point. Thanks for the article.

The trouble with Joe Burns, selectors and the blame game

Thanks for this article – it is easy to lose sight of the really deep quality of the Indian side’s performance. I think they are very well coached in terms of bowling plans, but the bowlers have to have the ability to put it into effect and the fielders have to support it. At this level pace, or turn don’t do the trick on their own. Bradman noted that the difference between Tests and what is below is that in the lower levels you get a really good ball sometimes and enough bad ones to release pressure, but in tests you get a lot of good balls and very few bad ones. Watching India bowl I was struck by this.

Personally, I really enjoyed Jadjeja’s batting, partly because I love his sword performance, but mostly because I think he is a genuine warrior. I am not totally convinced by him at 6, but he showed tremendous character. A very fine captain’s knock as well. Australia bowled well, but key Indian batsmen played better. It was great stuff. ‘Boxers’ like Gavaskar, or Vengsarkar, or Patel, or Dev must have felt proud.

India passes test of character with flying colours

I enjoyed this article, thanks for the read. I don’t agree with the general thrust, but that is another matter. What makes cricket (and rugby) great, for me, is that reasonable minds can take different views on how to interpret some shared facts.

I did agree with the comment about social media.

I agree that the injuries to the two most likely (and most justifiable) opening candidates created an option of difficulties, in which any decision had a fair chance of not looking good. I also agree that selection will often come down to more than just looking at some numbers and that numbers can be sifted and selected to suit most needs. A big issue will be ‘fit’ with other team members and assessment of how someone will work with the way the coach/es want to play and the type of team culture they are trying to build. I agree that on the latter aspects, Burns seems, by all accounts, to be an excellent option; he seems to be popular with members of the playing and coaching group and he seems to fit with the culture that Langer and co. have been given the go ahead to implement.

On Burns, one issue I have is that his form was so wretched leading into the series. He wasn’t just a bit up and down, or a bit out of form – he wasn’t making runs at all and he looked in horrible form. There are players who seem to perform better the higher up the levels they go, so that you might be able to put aside some fairly uncompelling Shield form, but what Burns was going through was just dreadful. I say that as someone who has a lot of time for him as a player and, from what I can determine at a distance, as a bloke. The present situation looked very likely indeed, given that India started the series with an outstanding bowling attack and what looked like some depth in reserve.

The negative I see in picking Burns was the message it sent about Shield form and selection at least being substantially based on the merit of runs made. Burns wasn’t an established test ‘great’, with a record of producing at the highest level, despite indifferent Shield form and he was picked ahead of guys with better form, younger guys who might have more to offer long term. I have some serious doubts about Harris against strong bowling attacks at test level but he had Shield and Oz A form and he wasn’t a guy who had a known rep for being ‘difficult’ in a team context. He had earned selection.

I also don’t agree that Burns’ issues are fixable, as an opener, at this level, against quality test bowling attacks. His overall test record is barely acceptable at 38, his record in the last 12 months was even worse and there are fundamental technical issues that mean that short of rebuilding his batting method he will continue to fail against the moving ball. He tends to lurch forward , to play with hard hands, to lead with the bat and there is generally a significant gap between bat and pad. He might get away with this in the lower middle order, against a softer ball and less fresh bowlers (though with reverse swing and/or quality spin these would still likely be serious issues), but a relative few have the eye and reflexes to play like this successfully at the top of the order at test level. The fundamentals for an opener should be a very tight defensive technique, the ability to leave a lot of balls and great patience. A fixable technical issue might be a player having developed a tendency to play across the line before their eye is in, or playing the hook/pull with poor balance, for example. These are not really about the basic way that your batting is constructed.

The entirely foreseeable, even likely, has come to pass. We now know what we knew before about Burns. We are no further ahead. We don’t know if Harris’ form was flattering to deceive, or whether he it to make the next step. We don’t know if any of the possible other contenders have what it takes.

As I said and as you identified, it wasn’t an easy situation and Harris or whoever else was selected might have bombed and I don’t think we should start shooting selectors, players or other bloggers with different views but I think the option that offered the least prospect of upside and the most risk of not just failure, but also of leaving us no better informed than before was taken. Easy, of course, from the armchair.

Why picking Joe Burns was the right decision

Wash your mouth out for bringing the awful Stephen Jones into this decent place! Phil Gifford said it best “You must remember that Stephen Jones is a Welshman who, for a living, has to praise English rugby”.

Let’s just get offsides, in all their varieties sorted. That Augean stable will take enough work. Then, by all means, if that can be bedded down let us try to cover the other things.

1999-2003 was a long defensive cycle. Rather stodgy fare is nothing new. A lot of rugby from about 1992-1995 was also pretty defensive dominated. We just need NZ to do what they have done in the past (1987, 1995, 2003-ish) and break the deadlock. Bring back Laurie Mains! Death to offside loiterers and parasites on the body of the game!

Actually, an alternative that would basically get rid of offside would be to get rid of backs; pack the lot of them off to League. They verge on being a crime against nature. You get the ball for the swine and they drop it, or kick it back to the enemy or, worst of all, pass it, making we workers toil harder and further to get to the next ruck. I could happily watch 80 minutes of scrums, with a leavening of lineouts (mainly so I can watch mauls). I do need rucks (loose forwards will have their moments in the limelight), but I would reintroduce rucking.

An open letter to World Rugby: Part 2

Really enjoyed this start to my day before the grind sets in – thank you. I am totally supportive re offside. I understand the point re ref warnings, but I prefer them to refs who just whistle up the penalty. However, I don’t support repeated warnings at the same ruck, for example. one is enough.

I don’t agree re advantage. I am quite happy with the existing way it is handled. I recall when people moaned about refs not offering advantage because it made the game so stop-start.

I really think an already very complex game needs to make any tweaks in small steps. Fundamentally, I really like the game as it is and I have seen the cycles between attack and defence. I have also seen the failure to implement most refereeing changes and so think that a few simple things that don’t add to the onfield refs burden are the way to go. I do understand and appreciate where you are coming from but I have a different perception as to the extent of the ‘problem’ and hence of the solutions. I probably have a different view of what the history of the game shows as to cycles and the capacity to bring about change through refereeing.

An open letter to World Rugby: Part 2

I thought W looked very promising but I was a bit alarmed by what looked to me like compulsive hooking, with a lot of the shots not looking well controlled. However, he looks to have all the shots and to be an exciting prospect.

Australia forced into yet another squad change for first Test

Gentlemen, for my part I really value the contributions you both make. Please keep your energies for what you both do so well, which is to put forward insightful and generally well thought out posts. Wishing you both a safe and enjoyable Christmas and I hope to see more of your posts next year, just not daggers drawn.

Why Matt Philip is upwardly mobile in the second row

Riccardo, good to see you on the cricket side of things and not just the rugby. NZ at home in cricket are always a handful and for the limited player pool they usually at least put a competitive side on the field and in many years, much better than that. I still miss McCullum, BTW. Great memories of his last, blazing 100 against Oz, in NZ in 2016 (from memory his last test match). A bit like Gilchrist’s rather swift score v England at Perth in 2006 – the stuff of joyous, glorious memory.

What’s the form line for the first Test?

Thanks for this Paul, really enjoyed it. I can’t wait to see Kohli bat and Starc et al bowling to him. There’s lots of exciting mini-contests coming up, but that one really has me geed up. I love Kohli’s style and fighting qualities; a tremendously worthy opponent. I love the first morning of the test series and the night before, with the anticipation is pretty damned good too – it’s like Friday’s; all the promise of the weekend ahead and no time for it to have gone wrong yet.

What’s the form line for the first Test?

I worry that concussion and neck issues may see a concerted move against jackalling, something that I think also appeals to the sensibilities of many in the north. For me, I love the ruck the maul, the scrum. I accept they will always be a bit of a mess and the balance will swing between attack and defence. They will always be a bit confusing and subject to arbitrary rulings on field. I just live with it. The only way to really clean them up is to go down the path of League and even then there are perpetual moans about the scrum (such as it is) and the thing they call a ruck (such as it is) in that game.

An open letter to World Rugby: Part 1

Agree completely. The obsession with all rounders used to be an English disease and marked their tremendously successful period in the 1990’s. Now it seems entrenched here. The truly Test standard all rounder is a very rare beast indeed and they are always capable of justifying test selection based on their bowling or batting prowess.

I think Henriques is a fine player and I wish him well if he does get the gig, but at 32 and having seen what I have seen, I would prefer that they looked at a specialist – I thought the two century makers in the second innings for Oz A (especially McDermott) looked worthy of bringing into the squad as emergency cover in this situation. I thought neither was perfect, but India A had a pretty useful attack and I was taken by the potential of McDermott’s footwork and patience.

Australia forced into yet another squad change for first Test

Thanks for this. The ruck in rugby is a lot like the issue of the trinity in Christianity – a devil of a place to go. Remember that a few years ago Ireland went something like 45 phases in a 6 Nations game and everyone was (rightly) concerned that the defensive side of the ruck was being destroyed. Now it has swung the other way. I think it will ever be thus.

I would try to get the low hanging fruit first. Offside at the ruck/scrum/lineout/maul – AR responsibility. Offside re kicks – agree- AR responsibility. Joining maul in front of ball (another form of offside) for the maul weary – ref in conjunction with ARs. 45 seconds for penalty kicks from time penalty awarded. TMO to handle that. Getting consistency on this will be difficult enough. Once it is bedded down, by all means consider resolving the ruck, along with solving Brexit, the Trinity, Base v Superstructure, the Invisible Hand of the Market, the Chicken and Egg and questions about the General Theory of Relativity.

An open letter to World Rugby: Part 1

My work went into overdrive from March this year, so much less time but also much less rugby. However, I always found time to get to your columns here and whether I agree, or disagree (and you have dished it out today to two of my heroes – Gregor the Great and ‘Squeak’ Moore), they are always well thought out and worth the time; so, thanks, many thanks.

My highlights were the usual joy at the start of Super Rugby, then the emotion and the quality of the opening game of Super Rugby Aotearoa, the Frank Zappa whacky joys of the opening Bledisloe, Caleb Clarke in the next game and, most of all, the stunning performance of Argentina playing 4 tests in 4 weeks, far away from home and family and those magnificent BBQ’s and after so much duress in the lead up.

It’s been a tough year, so bugger the low lights, I won’t give them the time – they’ve taken enough as it is.

The Wrap: All of 2020’s rugby memorables and unmentionables