Wednesday, 30 November 2005

Green Aussies

Perhaps it is to demonstrate solidarity for their green bowling attack? Or perhaps it is because they have rediscovered their mongrel and want to ditch the yellow image? Whatever, the Australian team will be in green when they play New Zealand.

Aussies rediscover their mongrel

Peter Roebuck thinks Australians play much better when they are being rowdy, obnoxious jerks and don't try and pretend that they are nice chaps who eat cucumber sandwiches and walk when they nick behind. Sadly, he also thinks that they have rediscovered their mongrel side just in time for the Chappell-Hadlee series.

Boock on Marshall

Richard Boock has produced an unusually conservative piece in the Herald this morning on Hamish Marshall. Its a little bit disappointing when Boock comes over all conventional, it makes it hard for bloggers like me to find something to talk about.

More injured fast bowlers

Darryl Tuffey will be out for six weeks with a bicep injury and Ian Butler's season has just gone from bad to non-existent after a bulging disc has ruled him out until next year. Still, if there is any consolation to the news about Butler's injury it is that he is clearly onside with New Zealand Cricket again - high performance coach Ashley Ross is the one in charge of his recovery programme.

Tuesday, 29 November 2005

Umpires in Oz

Billy Bowden has been accused of being overawed by the Australians in the past and of being too easily convinced by their appeals. It looks like those accusations might pop up again. Billy is not the only umpire guilty of this and it does seem incredible how many poor decisions go in the Australians favour when they play at home.

I am not sure whether the decision-making is affected as much by the level of appealing (although the Aussies do appeal an awful lot and always with supreme confidence), or by the flow of a game or series. It seems to me that the side on top always gets decisions in their favour, and perhaps the Australians just get more decisions in their favour because they are on top more than most. The recent Ashes series is an example of one series where Australia has been on the recieving end of bad umpiring, and that was when the English side was in the ascendance.

Monday, 28 November 2005

Karl on ... A weekend of club cricket

With nothing much on, the Waikato Times report on Black Caps playing club cricket over the weekend. Dan Vettori took 7 for 20 off 17 1/2 overs. Hamish Marshall was apparently "looking good" in getting 49 on a flat track. Ian Butler got a half century but didn't appear to do anthing with the ball.

With five days to go until the first ODI against Australia, Vettori doesn't seem to have any nerves about taking on the captaincy. The batsman don't inspire at the moment but there's not any choice - the State Championship starts next Monday, which will start us all talking about who should be tried in place of Marshall/Vincent/Marshall/McMillan.

Strange what passes for news sometimes

This is the biggest story in Australia at the moment. In summary, the execution of an Australian drug-smuggler caught in Singapore is scheduled to take place on the same day as an Australian "Prime Minister's XI" match several thousand miles away. Oddly enough the Australian Prime Minister is expected to attend this particular cricket match, much to the absolute outrage of opposition parties who all but call for an outright ban on cricket and a national week of mourning.

Yes, Australia (like New Zealand) feels that it has an obligation to exert pressure on countries who still execute criminals (unless they are the US of course). Yes, what is going to happen to Nguyen Tuong Van is ghastly. But the fact is, the guy knew the law, broke the law and has been convicted by a fair and impartial justice system. In this case, there is absolutely no political value in the Australian Prime Minister making a martyr of him. I would suggest that a campaign should instead ask "does the threat of capital punishment really deter criminals from breaking the law?" and look at those who have been wrongly convicted and executed. One guilty person's death should have nothing to do with any Australian anti-capital punishment campaign, and should certainly not impinge on the actions of the Australian Prime Minister or a bunch of cricketers.

Lou Vincent needs YOU!

You. Yes, you. Lou Vincent wants a word. Stop being such a worry-wart and start cheering the New Zealand team on. All of you. And yes, that does include you Richard Boock.


If West Indian cricket has any hope of regaining the heights of the '70s and '80s, then it probably lies in the hands of Dwayne Bravo. What a series he is having against Australia, he missed the first match through injury but scored a priceless century in the second and just took 6-84 in the third - including the caught and bowled of the decade to dismiss Shane Warne.

Bravo looks innocuous with his technically sound but unspectacular batting and his steady medium pacers. He sounds innocuous too, being a timid and quietly spoken interview subject. But Bravo is probably exactly what the Windies need after a decade where flash and arrogance has got them nowhere. Hard work, a level head and concentration are Bravo's virtues and I hope they take him far.

Sunday, 27 November 2005

Poll results and a new poll

My last poll asked you to predict how New Zealand's season would pan out, and most of you (twelve votes) were of the same mind - we would lose to Australia and beat everyone else. Two cocky bastards thought we would beat everyone, one thought we would only beat the West Indies and two sad souls see nothing but doom, gloom and thrashings all round in the future.

My new poll looks at Craig McMillan. He is perhaps the most polarising figure in New Zealand cricket and I want to know what you think of him. Is he just a clown who is always going to be a clown, or is this season going to be the one where he puts the stupid shots aside and becomes the world-class batsman he should be?

A round-up of the Sunday news

As seems to be the trend, the Herald on Sunday is packed chokka full of cricket, while the Sunday Star-Times looks blankly around the sporting world ignoring everything which is not rugby or league.

Adam Parore kicks off the Herald's coverage with a plea to the New Zealand selectors to be more adventurous and select more new players while, ummm, not making the current crop nervous by dropping anyone. Hum.

We get a bit more sense from Mark Richardson who calls Australia's non-selection of Glenn McGrath arrogant and a move which has the potential to back-fire. Let's hope he is right.

Chris Cairns is the next in the Herald's impressive stable of ex-cricketers and he, showing his increasing maturity, discusses his thought process after being dropped and echoes Richardson in seeing exploitable arrogance in the selection of the Australian team.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Star-Times grudgingly gives us a story about the non-selection of McGrath and, at the same time, speculates that Dan Vettori might open the batting against Australia. Hmmmm. Just focus on your bowling Dan. Stick to what you are in the side for and let specialists do their job.

Our final article of the weekend looks at a predictably confident Craig McMillan.

An angry gesture?

Oh dear. I had thought that with Ganguly removed from the captaincy, Greg Chappell's reign in India might be in for a period of stability and calm. But no. He has apparently been caught on film raising his middle finger to an Indian crowd.

A tragic anniversery

Ten years ago today nine people were killed during a one-dayer between India and New Zealand at Nagpur when a wall at the ground collapsed.

Friday, 25 November 2005

Bond and Marshall in county cricket

Shane Bond and Hamish Marshall have just signed contracts and will join Craig Spearman at Gloucestershire next season. I am sure the stint will be of benefit of Marshall, but are we really willing to risk Bond's fragile back on the exhausting county circuit?

The Australian team to play New Zealand

The team has just been announced and is:

Ricky Ponting (c)
Adam Gilchrist
Simon Katich
Michael Clarke
Brad Hodge
Michael Hussey
Andrew Symonds
Brad Hogg
Brett Lee
Nathan Bracken
Stuart Clark
Mick Lewis
Cameron White

Notice the obvious omission? Glenn McGrath is apparently being rested, and that leaves a very inexperienced looking pace bowling line-up. Lee we know about and I suspect early season New Zealand wickets will be one of the few places in the world to suit Bracken's dobbers - but who the hell is Mick Lewis? Ah, here we go - he is a 31 year-old pace man who bowls with "tremendous pace and hostility". Apparently.

Can it get any bleaker for Zimbabwe?

Tatenda Taibu, Zimbabwe's young captain and best hope for the future, has just resigned from the captaincy and announced that he no longer wants to play for his country.

Cap'n Dan

Richard Boock tells us that New Zealand Cricket will confirm that Stephen Fleming will miss the first two matches against Australia and that Dan Vettori will take over as captain for those matches.

How does Boock do it? There must be something about the grumpy old git that people like, because he is always first to break a story.

A New Zealand side without Fleming at the helm seems almost unthinkable. And since his batting has improved so dramatically in recent years, a New Zealand batting order without him looks pretty slim. I guess a side permanently without Fleming is something we are all going to have to get used to one day.

At least we are unlikely to experience the same traumatic change of power that India has. For those of you who have missed the news, Rahul Dravid has been appointed captain of the test side - but he will have to work with his bitter and influential predecessor Sourav Ganguly, who has been selected to play as a batsman.

Thursday, 24 November 2005

A round-up

There are quite a number of news stories floating around this morning, so I thought I would lump them all into one posting rather than drip-feeding them to you. First up is actual, you know, cricket with the match between Pakistan and England at Faisalabad threatening to end in a result.

Next up is a list of the best and worst performed players in the fourth innings of a test match. The reason I have included this is not because of the predictable news that Richard Hadlee ranks as one of the best fourth innings' bowlers, but because Chris Cairns surprisingly ranks as the worst. Also of interest is how badly Geoff Howarth performed towards the end of matches, averaging a pitiful 14.27. I am tempted to make a comment about nocturnal activities on the previous four nights of a match leading to that decline, but I am going to restrain myself.

In this piece Henry Olonga offers the ICC another convincing argument why they need to take action on the Zimbabwe issue, an argument which I am sure they will ignore.

Moving onto more local stories, Richard Boock refuses to tell us what Stephen Fleming's "personal medical matter" is and repeats requests to respect Flem's privacy - but does it all in such a way as to provoke more interest rather than deflect it. Just to show Richard that Aucklanders are not the only people who can tease, Jonthan Millmow decides to do the same thing for readers of the Dominion-Post. People in Christchurch don't take kindly to such underhand and provocative behaviour, so the Press simply offers them some nice comments about that nice chap Chris Cairns.

Gavin Larsen is a nice chap too, so he can't help but follow the Press' lead and write his own article on Cairnsy. Larsen does show a little bit of spine though in commenting that he agreed with the initial dropping of Chris.

Okay. There are a few other stories I could bring you, but they are pretty dull and one of them might force me to say nice things about Scott Styris so I think I will stop right here.

Wednesday, 23 November 2005

New Zealand team to play Australia

The New Zealand team has been named for the Chappell-Hadlee series and it contains no surprises (well, maybe one). Hamish Marshall is retained and Chris Cairns has been recalled. The one slight alarm is that comment that Stephen Fleming "may not be available for the first match following a personal medical matter".

The full side is:

Stephen Fleming (captain)
Daniel Vettori (vice captain)
Nathan Astle
Shane Bond
Chris Cairns
James Franklin
Hamish Marshall
James Marshall
Brendon McCullum
Craig McMillan
Kyle Mills
Jacob Oram
Scott Styris
Lou Vincent

Good news on the injury front

According to Richard Boock, both Chris Cairns and Jacob Oram should be fit and firing to face the Aussies in two weeks' time.

I do still worry about Jake's bowling. By all accounts his revised action (designed to preserve his back) makes him about as lethal as a marmalade brick and, unlike Boock, I am not taking too much comfort from figures of 2-26 in an early season match against an Academy side.

Richard also tells us that Hamish Marshall is still looking in terrible nick, but nevertheless is likely to be selected to play Australia. Putting a man who can't seem to stop edging behind into bat against Glenn McGrath seems to me to be the purest of follies. Let Hamish find his feet again in domestic cricket.

Tuesday, 22 November 2005

Pakistan vs England

Golly, the second day of the second test in Paksitan had almost everything; controversial wickets, big-hitting, a player doing something so bad he was immediately slapped with a three-match ban, explosions - you name it, it was there.

Surprising then, given the quality of viewing on offer, that this piece of blogging should appear on the same day proclaiming "the strange death of test cricket". The piece might be about Indian cricket, but I suspect it could be applied right across the test playing world.

Monday, 21 November 2005

Pre-season knockabouts

As the domestic sides gear up for the start of the first-class competition, there are a number of trial matches going on around the country. Scott Styris and Kyle Mills impressed as Auckland played Northern Districts in a two-day match, while Jacob Oram was the star as Canterbury beat a High Performance XI at Lincoln.

The Postman returns

Gavin Larsen has begun writing a column on the Black Caps' website. His first offering is here, and resembles Gav's bowling - an innocuous little piece but right on the mark.

Sunday, 20 November 2005

The Herald on Sunday

I flicked through my Sunday-Star Times this morning with something approaching despair. I thought last week's cricket supplement might herald the start of summer and the arrival of cricket on the sports pages. But no, this week all we get are twenty pages of rugby and a small piece about Chris Cairns hitting 50 in a club match. Sigh.

Still, if the Sunday Star-Times won't oblige us, then the Herald on Sunday will. In the Herald we can read Dylan Cleaver on the rise of Jesse Ryder and the fall of Hamish Marshall; an article proposing that Brendon McCullum be pushed up the batting order for the Hadlee-Chappell series given Hamish Marshall's terrible form; and Mark Richardson on, ummm, the grim form of poor old Hamish Marshall.

Roebuck on Zimbabwe

Combine one of our favourite cricket writers and one of our pet crusades and what do you get? A well-written piece calling for the heads of Zimbabwe Cricket thats what. Not that Roebuck's article is going to have any impact of course. If threats on the life of an international cricket captain won't get the ICC to act, an internet-bound diatribe is not going to do much.

Friday, 18 November 2005


For a Pakistani perspective on the series against England, you could do far worse than visit the excellent Sundries.

Matt Hart's benefit

Northern Districts stalwart Matthew Hart is to have a benefit match in December and it is looking to be a star-studded event. I don't want to repeat myself - having given Hart a bit of a rave when he announced his retirement a few months ago - but he is one of those players who deserves recognition. Hart was one of the most promising players of his generation, but got caught up in the disastrous "dope-smoking" tour of South Africa in 1994/5. While Dion Nash and Stephen Fleming shrugged the scandal of the tour off and went on to great things, Hart seemed shell-shocked and his New Zealand career never recovered. That didn't stop Hart from playing cricket though, and he spent the next ten years with his head down and dedicating himself to his Northern Districts side. Between 1990 and 2005 Hart played 95 matches for ND and if anyone deserves a bulging Westpac Park on 16 December, then its him.

Thursday, 17 November 2005


This excellent piece updates us on the state of cricket in troubled Zimbabwe. And it is not good. What does it take the ICC to act? As Martin Williamson says:

When a national captain is forced into hiding by threats made against his family by someone who has been brought in as some kind of enforcer by the national board, then it should concern the ICC. When all the provincial chairmen of a country produce a detailed document highlighting some serious governance and financial issues, then it should concern the ICC. When almost all the professional players of a Test-playing country are prepared to stand up and accuse their own board of intimidation and demand the resignation of the chairman and managing director, then it should concern the ICC.

Art and cricket

Oh dear, I picked up this link from Cricinfo. If you want to see what happens when an artist decides to cash in on the Ashes, go and have a look.

Roebuck on the Windies

Peter Roebuck has cast his rule over the West Indies side and has found them wanting, not merely as cricketers - but as men as well. It seems to be the month for cricket writers to be crotchety.

Injuries, injuries, injuries

Jake Oram and Andre Adams are both struggling to the be fit for the Chappell-Hadlee series, Oram with a bruised foot and Adams with a busted finger.

England vs Pakistan

What is it with England and exciting cricket lately? Its as if the '80s and '90s never happened. If the first test in Pakistan doesn't bring the crowds there back to test cricket, nothing will.

Taranaki's finest

Yep. It had to happen. Sooner or later the rest of the world was going to notice the yobbish behaviour in Taranaki. Here is how the Guardian's cricket correspondent reported the incident involving Aftab Habib:

...The Spin still remembers disturbing the right-on gentility of Guardian Towers by thumping the desk in disbelief when Aftab Habib, making his debut, was bowled by Chris Cairns to make it 40 for six (soon to become 45 for seven). Habib played once more for England, scoring 6 and 19 at Lord's before being dropped for ever with a Test average of 8.67 and a new-found reputation for gross negligence on and around off-stump.

Now news arrives that Habib was recently forced to retire during an innings because he was being sledged to hell and back. In itself, this is remarkable enough. But to discover that the incident took place during a club game in New Zealand is an indignity too far: if Margaret Thatcher felt sheepish after being roughed up in the Commons by Geoffrey Howe, imagine how Habib must feel after being driven from the field of play by a bunch of amateurs from a country where all the tough-nuts play rugby.

The three assailants reportedly believed Habib should have been given out caught behind, but when the umpire disagreed they surrounded the batsman and imparted their wisdom. "It was completely out of order," said Habib. "If I'd stayed batting, I felt it would have carried on because the umpires weren't dealing with it how I felt they should. And anyway, I should be established in the England middle order now, not squabbling with third-rate Kiwis." Well, he didn't say that last bit actually, but then he probably didn't need to.

Thanks Taranaki. Once again you have done your country proud.

Wednesday, 16 November 2005

Hooking kids on cricket

It is interesting to note that this initiative came from the Players' Association and not New Zealand Cricket. In principal the concept of taking international cricketers to talk to kids in low-decile schools is an entirely good idea, but it does make me wonder about the role of the Association. It seems a short step from the Players' Assocation doing promotional work like this, to the Players' Association controlling when and where players make any kind of "appearance". It would be tragedy if we were to end up with a situation like that in rugby and football, where all contact between players, the public and the media is heavily controlled and usually requires some kind of fee.

Tough journos

If you think Richard Boock can be harsh, you haven't seen Osman Samiuddin in action. Mohammad Yousuf (formally known as Yousuf Youhana) might have a test record which includes over 4000 runs, an average of 47 and 13 centuries, but that doesn't stop Osman from saying that he lacks substance and damning him with almost every word of this essay. Perhaps the lowest moment comes when he contrasts Yousuf's cameo ("and that is an insult to cameos the world over") in the thrilling first test against England with the determination shown in the same innings by ... Shoaib Akhtar.

Tuesday, 15 November 2005

Dan on top

Dan Vettori has told the Waikato Times that he wants to bat at the top of the New Zealand batting order. Sigh. Maybe as a pinch-hitter in the odd ODI Dan, but please, please, please can we have just one bowler who wants to concentrate on his blimmin' bowling?

Marshall's woes

If Richard Boock is the grumpy old man of New Zealand cricket, then the Black Caps website is the insanely cheery and optimistic fanboy. Hamish Marshall's problems must be heavy indeed if Black Caps are starting to diss him.

Another "Dad's Army" joke

Only this time the joke is Australia. Richard Boock will be pleased.

Oddly enough the author of this joke appears to be a bit of a grumpy old fuddy-duddy too. His hypothesis is that the Australian team is doomed (doomed, doomed!) because the state sides are all full of old lags hanging around because they get paid well and all the youngsters are off playing Aussie Rules instead.

The latter part of this argument is ironic, because Aussie Rules was originally designed as a game to keep cricketers fit during the winter (you will need to scroll down to "origins of the game").

Monday, 14 November 2005

Dan signs for Warwickshire

Dan Vettori has signed to spend the 2006 English season with the Mark Greatbatch coached Warwickshire. The interesting thing about this deal is that it covers the entire season - which makes it different from the contracts recently enjoyed by Scott Styris and Nathan Astle amongst others. Given the state of Dan's back, I am not entirely convinced this is a good thing.

Taranaki's shame

Blimmin' idiots. You'd think that of all the places in New Zealand, Taranaki - with its bloody history of inter-racial violence and hatred - would have learnt a little bit of tolerance and acceptance by now. If the local associations aren't going to act, I suggest that it is time New Zealand Cricket stepped in.

Sunday, 13 November 2005

Poll results and a new poll

My last poll asked you about the future of the Super Series and, if you lot are anything to go by, the future looks bleak. Two of you thought the future had a series and that the World XI must get better with time. Two thought that the fact the series made a profit means the future is bright. The rest of you saw the concept consigned to the dustbin of history - with five saying the small crowds are the kiss of doom and six saying that the pathetic efforts of the World XI are the primary reason we will never see Dan Vettori play in the same side as Graeme Smith ever again.

My new poll looks at the season ahead. The New Zealand side started the season in a blaze of glory against Zimbabwe and India, but the wheels fell of a little in South Africa. How do you think the next few months are looking?

Friday, 11 November 2005


In today's Herald, Richard Boock talks with John Bracewell. Although Boock jibes at Bracewell with a sneer about "yelling don't panic in the best tradition of Dad's Army's Corporal Jones", Bracewell is actually refreshingly honest in admitting that his top-order failed in situations that should actually have suited them.

Boock and Bracewell go on to discuss the role of all-rounders in New Zealand cricket. Usually when you talk about New Zealand all-rounders you are talking about bits and pieces players - bowlers who aren't quite up to international class but can also swing the bat a bit, and batsmen who struggle in the top order but can also throw down a few dobbers. I find the whole subject a bit depressing because this is the type of player who only ever fits into a team that can't do better. You can also find them in sides like Kenya and Bagladesh (is there a better example of the type than Khaled Mahmud?). Boock's contention is that the lack of these players is why New Zealand failed in South Africa - my response to that is to say that we should stop trying to turn players like Franklin, Mills and Adams into all-rounders and should concentrate on making them the best bowlers they can possibly be. If Bracewell is as confident in his top-order coming right as he says, then he should be comfortable with the New Zealand side having a long tail.

As an aside, does anyone else find Boock's Dad's Army jibe oddly amusing? Richard Boock is such a grumpy old fuddy-duddy that it seems entirely appropriate for him to use TV shows from the 1970s as a cultural touchstone. When I read that line I instantly had an image in my head of Boock composing a letter to TVNZ complaining about the poor standard of modern comedy and couldn't help but laugh out loud.

Thursday, 10 November 2005

The "rift"

Yesterday (see below) Richard Boock told us that a rift had developed between Stephen Fleming and John Bracewell over the non-selection of Chris Cairns. Today he is busy pointing at Jonathon Millmow and saying "he said it!" while quoting Snedden, Fleming and Bracewell - who all deny that the rift ever existed.

I s'pose its a good way to sell newspapers. Make up a story about conflict and then follow it up with the angry denials.

Wednesday, 9 November 2005

Kath and Kim visit Lord's

According to this TVNZ feature on Lord's, floodnights cannot be installed at the ground because of opposition from local residents in "effluent" St John's Wood. Oh dear. I suppose that explains why the Lord's grass is always so green...

Is it cowardly to pray for rain?

The Guardian's online cricket coverage is superb. It is the John Parker to the Bryan Waddle which is Cricinfo. Cricinfo and Bryan tell you what happens with each ball, the Guardian and Parker keep you entertained between the balls and only occasionally veer off to discuss the game being played infront of them. The Guardian's coverage reached its apogee during the Ashes and now its coverage has been turned into a book.

As one reviewer says "Other sites might have told you it was overcast but no sign of rain, but where else would you read that skies were 'John Major grey and about as threatening as meeting the former PM in a dark alley'".

Graeme Smith is a dick

The Guardian's weekly cricket newsletter, the Spin, points out that Graeme Smith is becoming the new Dean Jones or Greg Matthews - the cricketer everyone loves to hate:

Ever since the retirement of Sri Lanka's Arjuna Ranatunga, a man who made Napoleon look like a doubt-plagued ditherer, the cricket world has been crying out for a captain to love to hate. But the evidence is mounting that Graeme Smith, the South African wunderkind, appears to be cultivating enemies at a strike-rate that even Ranatunga at his most Machiavellian might have struggled to match. And while Ranatunga used to attract venom for his overly generous embonpoint ("You don't get a runner for being an overweight, unfit, fat c*nt," as Ian Healy once pointed out to him), it is Smith's attitude that seems to be rankling.

Australia, of course, have never forgiven him for telling tales about their sledging after his Test debut in March 2002. And in his autobiography Michael Vaughan recalls how Smith kept calling him "queer" during last winter's series. Vaughan even claims to have discerned misgivings among South Africa's senior players about the then 24-year-old Smith's "power freak" approach to captaincy.

Now the Spin should point out at this stage that it has never found Smith anything other than personable, but then it has never upset him by scoring a Test century at the Wanderers [Nor is it likely to - Ed]. And a couple of incidents over the weekend suggest that Smith is increasingly not the flavour of the month. First came a stinging indictment in a Sunday Times interview with Kevin Pietersen, whose defection to England did not impress Smith. "I didn't speak to him," he said of his recent trip to Australia, where Smith captained the ICC World XI in the Super Test. "I don't waste my breath speaking to him." And if that left anyone in any doubt, Pietersen added: "It's a waste of my breath even opening my mouth to say hello to the bloke."

Then there was a strange moment in the fifth ODI against New Zealand at Centurion, when Stephen Fleming, Smith's old nemesis, took a slip catch to dismiss AB de Villiers. Fleming stood motionless for a second, then ran in a strange circle to the bowler via short extra cover, whooping like a banshee. A couple of glances in Smith's direction at the non-striker's end betrayed his intention: he was taking the mick. Vaughan notes how after every wicket during the South Africa tour Smith was "the one celebrating most". And Fleming, about to go 4-0 down in the series, had clearly had enough. The Spin suspects that what really riles opposition captains is that Smith is an old head on young shoulders. But, hey, while he continues to rub people up the wrong way, the Spin will not be complaining.

Sign me up for the bandwagon.

New Zealand in freefall?

Hmmm. Maybe it is not Richard Boock who is the crazy pessimist, but me who is the crazy optimist. Dylan Cleaver has just leapt on the bandwagon to proclaim that the New Zealand side is in "freefall", while Boock tells us that the situation has just gone from bad to worse with a rift developing between Fleming and Bracewell.

It is interesting that both Boock and Cleaver use the word "freefall". It is also interesting that they both work for the Herald. Similarly, it is interesting that while Boock seems quite happy to jump up and down and point out that Scott Styris got fined 25% of his match-fee for umpire abuse in the final match - he seems to have forgotten entirely that Charl Langeveldt got fined 75% of his fee and that the South African coach got fined 25%. If Styris' offence is a sign of a side disintergrating, what do the South African offences herald?

I think I'll wait for further developments, or December's Chappell-Hadlee series, before I start getting too depressed just yet.

Tuesday, 8 November 2005

A Gayle full of hot air

Chris Gayle was perhaps the most lacksadaisical of an extraordinarily lacksadaisical West Indian team during the first test against Australia. He mooched in the field, tossed down little offies and swung his bat in the most uncaring of manners when the team really needed to knuckle down. Peter Roebuck was as unimpressed as I was with his performance and gives him both barrels in his latest column.

Monday, 7 November 2005

"Stupid super-sub rules"

In discussing last night's lose Stephen Fleming said:

"...the only influence the toss had was that it meant it was 12 versus 11 because of these stupid super-sub rules. I have no time for them."

(link here)

Which is fair enough, given that the rules are actually stupid. But I do wonder if, and how, the ICC might respond to Flem's comments. At this stage I am willing to bet that their only response might be to punish Fleming for daring to speak out of turn.

"The quicks and the dread"

I like the title of this article, which helpfully supports some of the points I made in my last post and which also decries the lack of pace bowlers coming through the Australian system. Interestingly one of the people interviewed for the piece, former quick Geoff Lawson, bemoans the involvement of bio-mechanists and technicians. He points to Shane Watson as one player who has had his action remodelled to give him a longer career, but at a detriment to his ability to take wickets. Lawson sees a future in which Australia is full of "a bunch of blokes who can bowl medium-fast" but can't actually get anyone out.

Australia vs West Indies

I spent some of my weekend watching the West Indies collapse in a heap against Australia. Some quarters of the Australian press seem to see this result as some sort of redemption after the Ashes - but truth be told the Windies were far more miserable than the Australians were glorious.

The West Indian batting and bowling was abysmal in the second innings and the feilding was so lackadaisical you had to wonder if they realised this was a test match and not a warm-up game against a bunch of long-haired yokels.

The fact that half the Australian team were long-haired yokels probably contributed.

Of those long-haired yokels I didn't think many were up to test class. Hussey was out twice to the pull shot and that doesn't herald well for an opener; Watson was leaden footed with the bat and really needs to do more with the ball if he is going to be a threat as a bowler; Katich and Clarke both continued poor trots; and - despite his second innings figures - I really don't rate Nathan Bracken. Hussey can blame nerves and Katich and Clarke are both players with talent going through a dim spell, but Bracken at least really doesn't look like a long-term prospect. I am probably going to be proved wrong, but four wickets of dubious merit on a Gabba pitch on a moist and humid morning just after rain don't count for much in my book. I can see him being effective in New Zealand and England where pitches seam and the ball swings, but unless he shows hidden reserves of talent then his 125kph dobbers won't do much more than block up one end on most grounds.

125 kph dobbers? A bit of swing and seam in loaded conditions? What's wrong with that you might ask. And fair enough too, given that this describes almost every New Zealand bowler since the dawn of time. But while those attributes do suit New Zealand conditions they don't often crop up in Australia - the 'Gabba apart. I can't see Nathan Bracken performing any better at, say, the WACA than Simon Doull (1 for 78), Shayne O'Connor (3 wickets for 109) or Willie Watson (1 wicket for 170).

End of an irritating tour

The tour of South Africa ended last night on a sour note - with the most comprehensive defeat of a reasonably balanced series and some bitter on-field antics.

It was a tour with few positives and exactly the same negative notes that we have been hearing for a while now - early wickets proving a problem at the top of the order and a bowling attack that lacks much firepower once Shane Bond's first spell comes to an end.

Hamish Marshall is one player who really does need to take a good, long look at his technique. He has had a miserable start to his summer and the number of times he is being caught behind the wicket says to me that there is something fundamental wrong with his cricket at the moment.

Unlike Richard Boock however, I don't like to dwell for too too long on the negative. And there have been some positive aspects to come from the tour. Despite our problems, and injuries to players like Scott Styris and Jake Oram, we were still largely competitive and there were real glimpses of talent from players such as Lou Vincent and Andre Adams. The form of Kyle Mills was also a big plus (who would have thought those words would ever leak from my keyboard). I think we should go into the Chappell-Hadlee series against Australia next month without too much trepidation.

Saturday, 5 November 2005

Astle's 200th

Nathan Astle's 200th ODI might have been a wash-out, but it still made a good excuse to bring the statto's out. Cricinfo, as always, was the first to oblige with a very interesting analysis of Astle's career. Amongst the interesting gems they tell us are that he is a match-winner; averaging 55.46 in victories, and just 21.60 in defeats. He has also been crap against some of the minnows - his combined average against Bangladesh, Canada, Netherlands, Scotland and UAE is just 12.89. And finally, his bowling is much better in the second innings of an ODI than in the first. A reflection perhaps that his style of bowling suits wickets which have lost their juice and bounce.

Friday, 4 November 2005

Attitudes to cricket

I read Richard Boock's article in the New Zealand Herald this morning and then I read Peter Roebuck's column in the Sydney Morning Herald. This got me to thinking.

Boock's article is entitled "Tour so far produces more questions than answers" and Roebuck's is entitled "Captain's knock fails to make the young guns fire". Both then are clearly intended as critical pieces. However, Roebuck gets distracted from his stated purpose (pointing out the failings of Australia's newest cricketers) by his clear love of spectacle and his pleasure at seeing performances as good as those given by Ricky Ponting and Corey Collymore. Roebuck's writing can't help but reflect this enjoyment and admiration. In contrast Boock's piece is such a tightly bound knot of negativity that you have to wonder if he actually likes cricket at all. There is absolutely no sense of pleasure in his writing. He reminds me of a smoker who wants to quit but finds himself outside in the rain sucking on a cancer-stick despite himself. I suspect Boock can't not watch New Zealand play cricket, although he has grown to hate it.

Thursday, 3 November 2005

Summer is almost here

By "almost here" I mean that it has reached our near neighbours Australia. The first test of the Australian summer begins tomorrow when the Aussies take on a West Indies at the 'Gabba. And with the return of summer comes the return of our favourite English/Australian columnist - Peter Roebuck. The Aussies are sporting a few newish faces in their side and Peter sees a warning for Australian in the way their opponents lost their way after dominating cricket in the '70s and '80s. I don't think it is too cruel to hope that Roebuck's warning goes unheeded.

Wednesday, 2 November 2005

TVNZ on Bond

This article was clearly written before Bondy got tonked for 73 runs in the third one dayer, and that performance certainly puts a dampner on the opening few lines. Nevertheless the article does demonstrate what an asset Bond has been to New Zealand so far in his short career.

New Zealand will persevere with Astle

As they should, given his form against India and Zimbabwe just a month or so ago, the New Zealand selectors have decided to stick with Nathan Astle at the top of the order. Lord knows what they are going to do with Hamish Marshall though. If he gets caught behind once more in this series I think there is going to have to be some serious analysis of his technique.

A shining example

New Zealand cricket might not be going through a great phase on the field, but off it we have one over our international opponents - apparently the board of New Zealand Cricket has the world's best (equal) website. "[Q]uick and easy to navigate - New Zealand is the shining example..."

Yay us. I wonder if some of the less successful countries would consider swapping the odd player or two for one of our website designers? Rahul Dravid for that spottie techie who eats chips all day downstairs from me maybe.

Tuesday, 1 November 2005

Segregated cricket grounds

I like this move by New Zealand Cricket. In future cricket grounds will have a designated "National Bank Neighbourhood" which will provide a space for families and those who just want to watch cricket without having to sit next to the usual braying idiots. The best part of this move is that the "National Bank Neighbourhood" is not a dry zone - so Dad and the cloth-capped Grandad (and probably me) can still have the odd beer or two if they choose.

To balance this move New Zealand Cricket has also decided to have an "Export Gold Zone" to cater for those "looking for a party experience at the cricket". I wonder if the person who came up with this idea has studied ancient Greek history? I just have this image in my head of a smiling Martin Snedden inviting all the "party people" into one section of the ground and those people entering that section, never to return. If this is his plan, I hope he gets that guy with the whistle who sat behind me at the Stadium last year...

India vs Sri Lanka

New Zealand might be going down in South Africa, but at least we have not fallen in a heap in the same way that Sri Lanka has fallen against India. They too are 3-0 down, but have been thumped convincingly in every match.