The Roar
The Roar

Greg Russell

Roar Guru

Joined September 2007

98.9k

Views

27

Published

939

Comments

Published

Comments

Many years ago when I was a young fella I met a similarly aged Pom in the youth hostel at Padua. We started talking cricket. He made a comment something like “What, do kids at normal schools actually play cricket in Australia? In England it’s a game that everyone has a bit of an interest in, but no-one actually plays it, except for rich kids at private schools”.

In a nutshell this is what Peter Roebuck’s excellent book “In It to Win It” is about. I would recommend it as compulsory reading for the Viscount. In England the “unique selling point” of cricket is indeed “sheer elitism”, but in Australia the “USP” of the sport is its egalitarianism. This is why – and I am not being jingoistic here – the broad future of England-Australia battles is for Australia to triumph.

Of course there will be perturbations of this order, as there are at present, with England holding the Ashes and likely to retain them this summer. Put this down to two things: (1) The southern African influx into English cricket (in which category I also include the excellent coaching of Andy Flower), and (2) Cricket Australia taking its eye off the ball and allowing AFL a period of recruiting dominance.

Luke Hodge is emblematic of the latter: a champion schoolboy cricketer who instead opted to become a champion AFL player (All-Australian captain in 2010). He is exactly the age of Midfielder’s sons and their friends, who have little interest in cricket. Ten years earlier the Waughs, Ponting and Warne all opted for cricket over the other sports they were excellent at. These are exactly the athletes missing from the current Australian side, making it weaker than usual.

There is evidence that Cricket Australia has turned this around. Amidst much hullabaloo, Mitchell Marsh has opted for cricket over AFL, at which he also excels. There was a similar example in Victoria recently (the name escapes me). The number of young and enormously promising fast bowlers in Australia at the moment is frightening (Hazlewood, McDermott, Starc, Pattinson, George, etc.). A big factor in this turnaround has undoubtedly been the money washing into the game from T20, so let us not be too dismissive of the IPL.

I just wanted to make these comments because I feel it is important to set the record straight on the nature of cricket in Australia. Whatever it is that attracts Australians to the sport, it is certainly not elitism, old worldliness and and eccentricity.

How Test cricket can be improved: Part II

Thanks to everyone for the unexpected interest. It’s all just opinions, even the guy who said he’s sick and tired of us talking cricket!

Sorry for joining this late, but as Vinay implied at the very beginning, I am busy doing other things at the moment. To be precise, I have been giving some seminars at various places in France, and now am having a few days of sun in Nice. For one of the first of the first-world countries, internet access is surprisingly scratchy in France.

I just wanted to say that I wrote my “essay” for Vinay a few weeks ago, before a ball was bowled in the current India-Australia contests. Fortunately the tests in Mohali and Bangalore did not make any of my thoughts look stupid, in fact the Mohali test only added weight to some of them, as follows:

* The last day saw Australia have to do without the services of Doug Bollinger because of injury, but at the same time the injured VVS could still contribute for India. Both these turned out to be vital. Further, how much more interesting would the last day have been had VVS not been able to have the services of a runner (as per the suggestion of Steve Waugh).

* The Mohali test was rather like an Adelaide Oval test, in that for the first 3 days it looked like being a rather dull batting draw, but then suddenly it sprang to life on day 4 and delivered a day 5 that will be remembered for a long, long time. I think this emphasizes the point that a good test, like Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children”, can take a long time to get going, and so one should not rush to judgment on a match.

How Test cricket can be improved: Part I

Malcolm Knox has rightly dubbed 2009/10 as ‘The Summer of Our Kidding Ourselves.’ I first saw this quote in June, and even then I thought it accurate. Subsequent events in England and India have confirmed this.

And so to the win over Pakistan at Lord’s a few months ago. After it, cricinfo reported Ricky Ponting as saying

“It’s not about rebuilding now for us, I feel that we’re through that and once we get all our guys back to full fitness we’re going to put a really formidable side on the park”

I beg your pardon? For one thing this was a very strange thing to say in the wake of a victory that had been achieved by part-time bowlers, viz. Shane Watson’s 5 wickets in the first innings of that match and Marcus North’s 6 in the second.

But taking a longer view, any right-thinking person would immediately have wondered: “How many of the present Australian test side will still be in it in 5 years?” The only three I would feel any confidence about are Watson, Clarke and Johnson. Therefore the only conclusion is that the rebuilding has barely begun, something that subsequent events have confirmed.

Personally I have no idea who will be playing test cricket for Australia in 5 years. But here’s a list of plausible young candidates that is notable for its length, even though it is not exhaustive: Phil Hughes, Nic Maddinson, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Marsh, Callum Ferguson, Matthew Wade, Steve Smith, Steve O’Keefe, Ben Cutting, Trent Copeland, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Peter George, James Pattinson [please add more].

As I said, the rebuilding has barely begun.

Australian team at its weakest in decades

Steve Smith has a great eye but at present he lacks the tightness of technique to survive the examination that is test cricket. Basically he is all just hand-eye coordination. One needs a lot more than that to be successful as a specialist test batsman. So he has a lot of work to do if that’s the role he wants.

And it goes without saying that he is not good enough to be a specialist test spinner.

The best spinners in Australia currently are Hauritz and Steve O’Keefe. It’s hard to say which is better because there isn’t the data for an apples-versus-apples comparison. As Vinay commented last week, “If there is no suitable spinner don’t play one. There is nothing that says you HAVE to play a spinner.” Geoff seems to share this view.

Tim Paine is inferior to Matthew Wade and probably also to Chris Hartley. But he was in the right place at the right time, and so he’s the current test keeper. It’s hard to say how this one will develop, but suffice it to say that Tim Paine is not good enough to be a driving force for a return to glory days.

Australian team at its weakest in decades

“Which A-League players will leave a legacy?”

Mike, I put much the same question to myself about a year ago, and the answer seems blindingly obvious: Kevin Muscat (as you say) is the standout defender of the A-League’s history, while Archie Thompson is the stand-out goal-scorer.

This is not to say that at any instant they have been the best at their particular sort of work. Rather, it’s just to say that for sheer consistency and excellence of performance over a very long period, they stand head and shoulders above all others.

I don’t think there has been a midfielder or a goalkeeper who has had an impact as great as the two Melbourne players, nevertheless for completeness you might want to nominate the best in these categories over the A-League’s history.

If I had to choose between Muscat and Thompson for greatest I would go for Muscat. He may not be a good example in terms of behavior, but in terms of professionalism, will to win, making the absolute most out of one’s talent, and dedication to the A-League cause, one could not recommend a better role model for young Australian A-League players.

FOOTNOTE: I just saw that Axel V has written much the same as me!

Which A-League players will leave a legacy?

Geoff, another thought-provoking article, but in this case I do not find your argument nearly as compelling as that of Part I. I’m totally convinced from Part I that a fix did not occur until the end of day 3, but overall I still find it likely that there was a major fix of some sort.

Some general points to think about:

1. You make the assumption that every single incident has to make sense in terms of the overall direction. It is understandable why one would be drawn to this assumption, but I don’t believe it is true. Too much happens for this to be the case, and human beings – even expert fixers – are too instinctive and too irrational for everything to be in a deliberate overall direction.

2. It is possible that there were fixes over certain individual events – a far more controllable way of fixing things and making money, after all – and that these happened to lead to an unlikely loss, as opposed to the loss itself being the fix.

3. It seems likely that fixers have players semi-permanently under contract, as opposed to one-off arrangements. So it is not important that every single match turns out as a fixer wants it, but rather just that overall the fixer can make a pot of money. In fact it is important that not every match turns out as the fixer wants, otherwise the fixer would get rich too quickly, and would come under inescapable suspicion from all sides (i.e., authorities and fellow underworld figures). Further, it is only via such an arrangement that the bribed players can play with any sort of naturalness. I mean, if every match turns out as decreed, then bribed players have to do suspicious things all the time, as opposed to being able to play their natural game most of the time, and occasionally doing something deliberately “bad” (for want of a better word).

Seen this way, the events of day 4 assume a more natural light. The Pakistan players know that it is desirable to lose, but at the same time they know that not everything they do can be directed towards such an end. So they do things like play some good shots, ask for video referrals, slog the ball to the deep without knowing if it will go to a fielder and if he will catch it, etc. If it all works out and they lose, then that’s good. But if it doesn’t and they win, then there’s always the next match for them to do some money-making deeds for their bosses. The only important thing for the bosses is that over a long sequence of matches, they make a handsome profit. Having some losses of money in this sequence has to be part of the procedure for staying afloat.

Was the Sydney Test rigged? (Part II)

I agree with all what Spiro and Vinay have said about Chappell’s intellectual ability. Most great players do things largely on instinct, but Chappell is rare in that, as also comes through in his brother’s TV commentary, he’s a great player with a deep intellect about the game. He is also a talent spotter par excellence.

However I am not as sanguine as Spiro and Vinay about Chappell’s appointment in the here and now. I agree that Chappell assembled the 1989 team, which subsequently transformed into the great team of the 1990s and 2000s, and I also agree that probably no-one else could have done the talent spotting behind that 1989 team. But it arose from an era where Australia was so low that it had nothing to lose. Under such circumstances one can have a theoretician and change agent as head selector. But is Australian cricket at the point once again? Yes, the team is still undergoing transformation, and contrary to what Ricky Ponting said after the Lord’s test against Pakistan, the process of change is not coming to an end: the Headingley test against Pakistan made all too clear that there is more change to come than there yet has been. But I still don’t think that the current times call for someone as theoretical as Chappell, and so I am made nervous by him being on the selection panel again. He did some interesting things with India, but any objective reading of his tenure is that the Indian team only reached its potential after he left the job, not while he was in it. Oddly for someone who was a very good and seemingly popular captain, his man management skills are lacking, and these are times where man management skills are important. But anyway, let’s see how it goes.

Incidentally, Spiro suggested that Chappell might help for the Ashes. I think it’s too late for that. Andy Flower has already won the battle of long-term planning for the Ashes, having assembled a team with the specific ingredients to succeed: the height of Broad and Finn, the swing of Anderson, the middle-order aggression of Morgan and Prior, and so on. This is not to say that it will all work for England, but it is to say that England have done the better long-term planning, and it’s too late for Chappell to change that. Spiro was probably thinking of short-term planning, but I have never seen that as Chappell’s strength. He is good at seeing where players will be in five year’s time, which is why he selected Healy and Steve Waugh. What he can do is things like have a look at all the players in Australia’s victorious U19 side from earlier this year and discern who of them has what it takes to be good or great at senior international level. As with Healy and Waugh, the benefits of such work will take years to accrue.

And I would hope that performances in Australian first-class cricket remain the primary index for selection. Josh Hazlewood is a terrific talent, but it makes me nervous that he gets selected before he has really done anything for NSW.

Chappell appointed first fulltime cricket selector

I saw an interview with Wynton Rufer at the end of his playing career. He was asked what he would advise an up-and-coming player to do. Rufer was adamant: “Stay at home”. His reasoning was simple. If you are an import player at a European club, you are expected to be a finished product, not a development player. So the club is not interested in developing you – such money they use for local players. This means that if you are good enough, then you play, but if you are not good enough, then you do nothing, and therefore you go backwards at a rate of knots. So Rufer said he advises kids to stay in New Zealand and Australia until they are at least 20. He said the standard is OK, the competition is fierce, and at least you get to play. And remember he said all this before the advent of the A-League, which has raised standards.

Rufer himself says that he was lucky: although he was not a finished product when he went to Europe, the Swiss league was at such a level (and I guess his own level was abnormally high) that he could get game time even though he was still not fully developed. But most players aren’t going to be this lucky.

Anyway, if this is Wynton’s opinion, that’s good enough for me. However what it ignores is the question of money. I don’t know what amount of money was involved in the case of Vukovic, but let’s make a reasonable guess that the offer he got from Turkey was at least 2-3 times what he was on at Newcastle. It’s hard to knock back that sort of temptation, even if one knows that one might go backwards as a player. How does Vukovic know that he’ll ever get this sort of chance again? It’s easy enough for Rufer to say “Stay home until you are fully developed”, but very, very few are going to to turn out to be anywhere near as good as him.

Australia has a strong economy, but the reality is that football is but one of many professional sports, and therefore it cannot offer as much money as countries where it is by a long way the major sport, and the economy has development that is near (or exceeds) Australia’s. So there will always be cases like Vukovic’s.

Should Australian players move to Europe?

Sheek, I hesitate very strongly before disagreeing with you, but:

* Jonah Lomu was unstoppable at both the 1995 and 1999 World Cups, having missed a lot of rugby in between due to serious kidney disease. It’s very wrong to suggest he was a one-hit wonder (1995), and I find it hard to believe that a person of your stature could entertain this idea. How many other rugby players have managed to be tournament best at two RWCs? Perhaps Horan and Eales (1991 and 1999), but it’s hard to think of many more. And by no means am I suggesting that Lomu was only good in 1995 and 1999. I mean, pretty much any time he took the field against Australia he was a colossus (remember the match-winning try after the final siren in the “match of the century” at Stadium Australia in 2000?). Much the same could be said for Jonah against England and France. Really the only blot on Jonah’s career over an extended period was that he never scored a try against South Africa. I’ve thought a lot about that and I cannot explain it. Against South African Super rugby sides he was a phenomenon, but somehow the Springboks had his measure.

* “It must be said Thommo probably struggled for motivation at this time since most of his mates were with WSC.”

It was all of his own doing that he wasn’t playing with his mates at WSC.

* From reading your description of Thommo’s career post 1975-6, it’s hard to believe that he averaged 30 as a test bowler during this period. He must have had a lot of bad days at the office in between the good ones that you recount. It’s a very dangerous game to cherrypick someone’s best performances and ignore their overall statistics. I mean, let’s take VVS’s best 5 innings against Australia, and one would have to argue that he was as good as any batsman of his generation. Of course he wasn’t, because one can’t ignore all his other innings.

Thanks for the interesting perspective on Larwood.

Picking Australia's Top Three quickies after 1950

Vinay, one hesitates to read too much into one day of cricket between England and Pakistan, but this and a lot of other things point to Australia being likely to lose the upcoming Ashes series (not that there are any certainties in sport, I hasten to add). I am contemplating writing a Roar article on this …

What does the future of cricket look like?

Can you imagine how exciting it was as an 11-year-old boy to watch Thommo lay waste to the Poms in 1974-5? The next season against the West Indies was barely less electrifying. And then came all the confusion of World Series Cricket, and somehow we forget about the rest of Thommo’s career.

In truth it all changed for him at Adelaide Oval in December 1976, when he collided with teammate Alan Turner and did in a bowling shoulder that was already very dodgy. Prior to that collision he took 80 wickets in 16 test matches at an average of under 24 (here I am ignoring his inauspicious test debut of 0/110 in 1972/3), while subsequent to it he took 120 wickets in 34 tests at an average of 30.

So really there were two Jeff Thomsons: the devastating firebrand before the collision with Turner, and the rather modest pace bowler after it. The truth is that he was never the same again after the collision. Indeed, were it not for the WSC schism he might have played only sparingly for Australia after 1976. In fact he rarely played test cricket again with Lillee, and whenever the great man was available for Australia it didn’t seem that Thomson’s diminished services were required.

Clearly the enthusiasm expressed by people above for Thomson is based on the two Australian seasons of 1974-5 and 1975-6, and the rest of his career is ignored. Is it right to base someone’s place in cricketing history on what is a relatively small slice of their career? I think this sets a very dangerous precedent.

While I’m at it, let me draw your attention to the following recently written by Harshe Bhogle (http://www.cricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/468395.html):

“Among the many delights of being in South Africa for the FIFA World Cup final was the opportunity of sharing a dinner table with Adam Gilchrist. Inevitably the topic moved to Australia’s current predicament (not a particularly unpleasant one, given they still win a lot of games) and just as inevitably he was asked what he thought was the most significant reason for it. “Two” he said, raising his fingers like he might be asking for leg and middle. “Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.” The query came immediately: not Gilchrist himself? “No, that’s been the most seamless actually. But it’s the bowling that wins matches and those two – actually make it those three, because Jason Gillespie was outstanding – were just special.””

Gillespie may be underrated by fans and critics, but not by fellow players. For example, I’ve heard both Nasser Hussain and Mark Richardson say that he was in the same class as McGrath.

Picking Australia's Top Three quickies after 1950

To Vinay and others: what this is all about: I recently pointed out at Kersi’s article www.theroar.com.au/2010/02/26/tendulkar-stakes-his-claim-as-best-batsman-in-all-forms/ that

“It has been evident to me for some time now that the aims for which Tendulkar continues to play are (1) to become the first player to score 50 test centuries (currently on 47), and (2) to become the first player to score 100 centuries in international cricket (currently on 93), ideally by having tallies of 50 in each form.”

Now Sachin has reached 48 test hundreds to go with this 46 ODI hundreds. He may not reach 100 first-class centuries, but I’m betting he will reach 100 centuries in international cricket. That will be a stupendous achievement, probably every bit as “immortal” (given that centuries are very rare in T20) as Murali’s 800 test wickets.

What does the future of cricket look like?

On the other hand, Kersi, the pitch in Colombo has now brought Tendulkar just two centuries away from the amazing achievement of a half century of test centuries. We have discussed this before. Tendulkar is not selfish (the accusation you thought I was making), but many, many Indian people are selfish for him. For many people in the world, the purpose of test cricket is not to have entertaining cricket, but to set records. So a test is worthwhile if Tendulkar scores a century, or if Sehwag hits the fastest ever triple century, or something like that – it does not matter if otherwise it is just a run festival of a draw. I am not saying I am like this, but many people are, and this test in Sri Lanka will therefore satisfy them. This is the sort of attitude you will have to contend with if Vinay gets you voted in as ICC president!

On this point, let’s give credit to the Australian selectors over the years, who have always put the team well above end-of-career milestones.

BTW, what do people think of Chris Doig for ICC president? Apparently he’s at the top of NZ’s thinking. He would be very interesting, and would quite possibly leave Indian powerbrokers wishing they hadn’t knifed John Howard in the back. What’s the old phrase about “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know?” No-one notices what happens in NZ because it’s such a small country. Doig was an excellent CEO of NZ Cricket in the late 90s and was extremely progressive … and he had no hesitation in kicking heads to get what he perceived to be necessary action … just ask Glenn Turner!

What does the future of cricket look like?

I must admit I am confused by CA’s proposals. Not by the changes per se, which of course I understand. Rather, by the wisdom of Australia alone introducing them. Haven’t we been down that road in rugby, where the ARU was desperate for a more entertaining product, and so it gleefully adopted the full suite of ELVs, only to find out a year later that the rest of the rugby world wasn’t interested, and so only a small package of the ELVs were universally adopted? It has taken Australian rugby some time to adjust to this false dawn. So why would CA introduce a whole lot of radical changes to the 50-over game when there is absolutely no indication that the rest of the cricket world will make the same changes? I know the ICC is not exactly renowned for showing leadership, but it seems very silly to me to make radical changes until there is at the very last a firm indication from the ICC that said changes are in the pipeline for all.

One also wonders how all the poor cricket statisticians will cope with things like David Warner being able to bat twice when everyone else can only bat once.

A lot of the discussion above revolves around the wisdom of trying to make 50-over cricket into a form of extended T20. Too right! If T20 is the form of cricket that people want, then give them that, and can the 50-over stuff altogether. It seems totally daft to try to make one-day cricket like T20 when one could just play T20 instead. If the Australian people really don’t want a Ford Ranger Cup, then just can that competition and give them a double or triple dose of KFC. What is wrong with doing that?

What does the future of cricket look like?

I’m just reading your article having yesterday seen the selection of the cricinfo experts. You were very close, differing only in wicketkeeper (Jackie Hendriks rather than your Jeff Dujon) and one middle-order batsman (Brian Lara rather than your SFW). I can understand the discrepancy over wicketkeeper: the cricinfo people were primarily interested in ability with the gloves, whereas you want an “all-rounder”. As a wicketkeeping colleague of mine once said “Dujon could only take a catch if he was diving”. In other words, he was not a great keeper. But with the middle-order batting position, what on earth were you thinking? Worrell was undoubtedly one of the greatest men to have played the game, but selection of teams like this is about cricketing ability, not personality. Anyone who saw Lara bat knew pretty quickly that they were watching not just a West Indian great, but one of the game’s greats. OK, his career statistics might have fallen short of his ability, but they are still pretty awesome (and are far superior to Worrell’s). Further, why does no-one ever hold it against Keith Miller, for example, that his test batting fell far, far short of his ability, but with Lara this seems to be an issue? Yes, Lara behaved like a child for large parts of his career, but that’s not what this is about.

I don’t disagree with the choice of Ambrose, Holding and Marshall, but how quickly we forget some of the spells bowled by the likes of Joel Garner and Courtney Walsh against Australia. These were no ordinary bowlers, and yet no-one even mentions them as being unlucky to miss out on the all-time XI.

Selecting an all-time best Windies Test XI

Evaluation of performance must consider the difficulty of the circumstances. There has been very little mention of this above. Two factors in particular are important to the present debate:

1. It is far harder to open the innings than to bat anywhere else.

2. The quality of the bowling faced.

Because of factor 1, Matthew Hayden must be in the top 5 (notwithstanding that any sort of balance demands that a list of 5 batsmen should include at least one opener). I don’t always agree with Peter Roebuck, but he certainly voiced a very interesting opinion when he wrote that Hayden – not Warne, Ponting, Gilchrist or McGrath – was the player who best defined the great Australian team of 2000-7 and was the most important member of it. An opening batsman who can destroy opposition morale is a priceless commodity, and that is what Hayden was. And to think that for many of his best years he had to bide his time playing first-class cricket.

(If one looks at Mark Richardson’s immense influence on NZ’s performance one sees that any sort of opener who can deliver runs and bat time – even a painfully boring one – is a priceless commodity.)

Because of factor 2, one must include Allan Border. He faced and regularly repelled the most intimidating and highest qualify fast bowling attack of all time, and he did it without nearly the level of protective equipment that subsequent generations have profited from. (And let’s not forget that unlike a lot of the West Indian batsmen of that era, Border could also play spin very well.)

Ponting, Gilchrist and Greg Chappell pick themselves as the other 3.

It’s really this simple, and I find it very hard to see even a weak argument for anyone else. (Mark Waugh? Forget it. A test average of 42 and really just an Australian version of David Gower.)

In making the above statement I remind people of my oft-stated view that one should not try to select players one has not seen. So I cannot judge Neil Harvey, for example. My top 5 is post-1968.

One should also not treat 5 as a magic number. In this case it works for me, because I see the 5 I have named as being in a class above all others (from my years of watching Australians bat). If Neil Harvey belongs in this class, then make it a top 6. Doug Walters I saw and he does not belong. An amazing player on his day, but no test centuries in England from many attempts is a damning statistic from which he cannot escape: he could not bat when the ball swung.

The five best Australian batsmen since The Don

“the real power lies elsewhere. Not with the broadcasters or the indulgent tycoons with money to burn, but with the players and coaches from Australia, South Africa and England.”

I find it hard to agree with this. Remember there was a season where all Pakistanis were banned from the IPL, I think it was 2009? The same could arbitrarily be done to any nationality of players, and then in the twinkling of a board meeting that nationality of players would have no power. Sure, an IPL without Australians would be a diminished product, but it wouldn’t cause the IPL to collapse economically, far from it. That could only happen if the big-name Indians didn’t participate. But it’s impossible to imagine that Tendulkar, Dhoni, Yuvraj, Harbhajan et al. could all agree to “strike” or something like that.

Elsewhere the Viscount has made an analogy between English football and Indian cricket. At times it can seem as if a foreign contingent of players and coaches has massive power in English football. But the truth is that if the FA were to arbitrarily ban, say, Spaniards from being involved in the EPL, that would make very little difference to the economic size of the competition.

Australians are only in the IPL by the good grace of the Indian authorities, and the Australians know it. Yes, they have had a huge influence on events on the field, but this does not mean that they are in a position of power.

Will the IPL ultimately diminish power of ICC?

David Hookes died in January 2004. So one has to remember that when Hookes made his assessment, Collingwood wasn’t nearly the player that he now is.

Darren Pattinson was born in England but grew up in Australia. He had already played for Victoria when he was plucked from obscurity to play for England. It is still reasonable to suspect that this mysterious selection was to some extent motivated by a desire to make him ineligible for Australia. My point is that Darren Pattinson should not be seen as a foreigner who has played for Victoria. Rather, he should be seen as an Australian who has played for England.

Darren’s brother James is 11 years younger, was born in Australia, played for Australia U19, and according to my spies in Melbourne is a super prospect who is likely to become a formidable pace bowler for Australia. The Pattinson parents may have been born in England but their boys are Australian.

It's a World Cricket XI with a mysterious twist

Hi Vinay, that’s an interesting reply with interesting speculation. To be honest, though, I’m starting to tire of the worldwide debate on this. Most of it is becoming ad hominem and has moved away from the principles at issue. Of course Sambit Bal is correct that one side of the spectrum should “Stop canonizing Howard”, but Bal seems to have missed that this is only being done because the other side won’t “stop crucifying Howard”. These exaggerated reactions are irrelevant. What is at issue is the abandonment of process, for selfish reasons at the very least, possibly vicious ones also. Bal’s initial reaction to the whole thing focussed only on this side of things, and it was good. Like the rest of us, he has become sidetracked since then.

I know you responded to Ken “I am not endorsing Mark Taylor.” However others are. For example Bal’s canonisation article concludes “Bring on Mark Taylor. Now that’s what you’d call a worthy candidate.” One wonders how many of these people are aware that Howard admires Taylor and the feeling is mutual. Politically there would be very little difference between them.

Why Howard was wrong and Taylor is right for the ICC

It’s a surprise to have got to the end of this thread and realize that no-one has mentioned Sir Ian Botham, who had a season at Queensland with his great mate AB. It was a poor season, but that doesn’t change that Beefy is eligible for Kersi’s World XI, and really would have to be selected.

It's a World Cricket XI with a mysterious twist

“To this day Victoria has never selected a non-eligible Australian player in its Shield team (as far as I’m aware).”

Paul Collingwood played several seasons of Melbourne grade cricket while David Hookes was at the helm for Victoria. Collingwood, a fringe England player at the time, was eligible for Victorian selection. Whenever Hookes was asked about this, he would respond “The reason I don’t pick him is not because he’s English. It’s purely because he’s not good enough.”

One wonders what Hookes would say to this now. I suspect it would be “He’s still not good enough to play for Victoria”! And he may have a point. Just at look at the way Andy Flower flopped at South Australia. Australian first-class cricket has always proven a very difficult environment for foreigners, even the most highly credentialed ones. That is why Barry Richards’ season for South Australia is so amazing: not just of itself, but also because he did it as a foreigner. Sir Donald Bradman, the man who got Richards to South Australia, chose Richards in his best XI of all time, and said that his season for South Australia was a major reason for this.

It's a World Cricket XI with a mysterious twist

Hi Vinay, thanks for your passionate response, we are obviously both happy in our different positions, and can live happily with each other. There are a number of things I find inconsistent in your response, but I shouldn’t labour them. However having mentioned inconsistencies, it would be unfair not mention some at least briefly. One is that you write “The President’s role is that of a “greet and meet” maitre de. He can influence didley doo.” That being the case, why the fear of Howard having the position? Another is “The notion of Howard being tough and cleaning up the ICC is naive and wishful thinking.” That being the case, why would he be divisive? (Incidentally, you are right about the wishful thinking. But it doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t try.)

Really your whole argument seems to rest on two things:

1. You feel in your bones that Howard is racist. OK, please document the evidence for us. Probably you will say Tampa Bay or aboriginal reconciliation or detention camps or things like that. Yes, there is a sense in which these are racist. But Gideon Haigh shows how these accusations do not survive deeper scrutiny. For example, “mandatory detention was an innovation of the administration before his.” One of the things that so infuriated Howard’s opponents is that they could never get mud to stick on him. You feel in your bones that Howard is racist, and you may well be right. However you won’t be able to prove it. People associate Howard with a long time ago, but as Kersi pointed out in his opening comment, Howard didn’t actually come to power until the mid-1990s, when Australia was already firmly multi-cultural. It became even more so under Howard. Usman Khawaja could not have happened in the Menzies era but the fact is that this kid learned his cricket in the Howard era, and there seems little doubt that Howard would be absolutely delighted by this.

2. You simply don’t like Howard. This is a better reason, and I’ll give you this. You are within rights to exult in your victory like a World Cup football fan. However you shouldn’t make it out to be a victory for reason.

This being said, the parameters of the nomination process are not whether the nominee is liked. There is no doubt that other nominees have not been liked in some quarters, however protocol has been kept and the nomination has proceeded. If, seeing Howard, the Indians and others decide that suddenly they don’t like the process for nominating vice-presidents, then they should work on getting the process changed.

Finally, your mention of Sonia Gandhi is interesting. What price that Howard knows her and can get access to her? As I wrote elsewhere, it’s not for nothing that Howard was dubbed “Lazarus with a Triple Bypass”. He can come back from the dead. If he stays in this game, it will be because he has a means of coming back from the dead. As you yourself said, it would only take one raised eyebrow from Sonia Gandhi.

Why Howard was wrong and Taylor is right for the ICC

“you sense Villa would be better utilised in the centre, away from Lahm.”

Tony, you are right to highlight this looming battle between two of the finest and most underrated footballers in the world.

Anyone who watched Munich closely this season could see that the Arjen Robben show was actually the Lahm-Robben show, with Lahm pretty much playing the role of Sir Humphrey to Robben’s “Yes, Prime Minister”. He actually seems to have gone off the boil a little in Germany’s last two games, but perhaps that’s simply because others have been so much in the limelight?

As for Villa, he was no secret, but his performances at this WC have highlighted just how good he is, for mine the tournament MVP so far. You nominate Schweinsteiger and Müller for this, and indeed they are tournament XI players. However they have been part of a humming engine, whereas Villa has had to do it pretty much on his own for Spain. His goals have single-handedly kept them in the tournament, whereas many Germans have been creating goals.

Regarding Müller’s replacement for the Spanish match, I wonder whether Löw will take a punt on the prodigiously talented Kroos, who has been referred to as “the next Beckenbauer”. It’s true that he plays like Schweinsteiger rather than Müller, but the much more modestly talented Trochowski doesn’t duplicate Müller either – he is irreplaceable for Germany.

I have been trying to work out why van Gaal has recalled Kroos to Munich. Is this just to weaken an opponent (a move countered by Leverkusen signing Ballack), is it because Schweinsteiger will be moving (an offer from Mourinho and rumoured interest from Chelsea), or it is because van Gaal will try to fit them both into the Munich side?

And do you have any thoughts on how Xavi, Messi and Villa will fit together at Barca? I mean, if these three can gel, then who can stop Barca?

Work without the ball sets up German success

Vinay, in a posting elsewhere you asked for my opinion. I responded there without knowing what your views on this issue were. Having seen this article, now I’ll respond again.

Basically I feel that Brett McK has hit the nail on the head. The issue is not whether Howard was or is the best candidate. Rather, the issue is that process has been violated without reason. And the reason there are no reasons is because, as Gideon Haigh has catalogued and argued with great care and detail (see “The case for Howard” in cricinfo), none of the speculated reasons stack up. Maybe in the bottom of his heart John Howard is a racist, but there is not even any flimsy evidence for this, let alone any solid evidence (see Gideon Haigh).

To return to the issue of process, “[Malcolm] Speed added that Australia and New Zealand have previously accepted nominations despite reservations.”

Let us call a spade a spade: Cricket Australia put forward Howard because they would like the ICC to be a more effective organization. Whether they arm-twisted or convinced NZ of this is irrelevant: Cricket NZ went along with it, and Justin Vaughan is still standing very strongly with Australia on it. Of course the Indians don’t like this, because they would prefer a patsy to be at the helm. David Morgan was uncomfortable enough for them, and John Howard will take the game to a much higher league altogether.

I can see that this has the potential to be “divisive” in the cricketing world. Strong governance often is. But there are many of us who are desperate for stronger and more effective governance from the ICC. Maybe Howard will be a dud, but he could not be any worse than the succession of ineffective leaders who have occupied this role. In all likelihood Mark Taylor would be another patsy. Can you really imagine him having the political skill to make any progress on the big issues of cricket? I think what you always have to do is imagine these people in talks with someone like Lalit Modi. He would have Tayor wrapped around his finger, however Howard would be an altogether different proposition.

I could swear that at most times you, Vinay, have been a man strongly in favor of better governance in cricket. I can well understand that you don’t like Howard – not many people do. However it seems odd to me that you would be so strongly against a man who does at least have the potential to make the ICC a more effective body and to make some progress on the issues that ail cricket.

I don’t suspect I have changed your mind one iota with this comment, but I just wanted to give you some insight into how the other side feels and thinks. My argument is not one that follows blindly from my skin color, because you’ll find that Sambit Bal of Cricinfo is of the same opinion (i.e., that proper process has been violated without any good reason).

Why Howard was wrong and Taylor is right for the ICC

It’s hard to disagree with Spiro’s simple but powerful logic. Assuming everything that Spiro has written is correct, the only real way I can see the Qatar bid coming unstuck is on technical grounds, for example:

* “The carbon-neutral technology developed for the tournament”

Who seriously believes it would be carbon-neutral? And why would a country whose wealth is founded entirely on oil and gas want to develop and promote such technology? If they did they would be putting nails in their own coffin!

* “Fans, players and officials will be able to enjoy cool and comfortable open-air conditions, not exceeding 27 degrees celsius climate.”

I am not an engineer, but I would have thought that the only way of achieving such conditions would be to have indoor stadia, much like a giant shopping mall in the middle of the desert. I mean, how could you have open-air conditions and yet 27 degrees Celsius for players and (all) fans in a giant stadium? As far as I am aware, FIFA does not countenance indoor stadia.

Qatar will host the 2022 Football World Cup