Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Racism in Australia

Oh dear. After the problems South Africa struck early in their tour, Sri Lanka recently complained of racist abuse at Australian grounds. Now the ICC are investigating (whoop dee do) and the South Africans are threatening to boycott future tours.

I can’t really see the latter happening, because the future tours programme gives South Africa as much leeway to refuse to tour Australia as New Zealand had to refuse to tour Zimbabwe last year. But this is a kick up the backside for the Australians.

I think I have mentioned this before, but one of the stand-out features for me on my trip to Melbourne in October was the overt racism I noticed at the cricket ground. The sight of Brian Lara racing to reach a beach ball and return it to the crowd before a policeman confiscated it caused the girl in front of us to stand, laugh, yell and point because a “black man is being chased by a copper”. She thought this was a hilarious piece of wit. Her boyfriend meanwhile simply resorted to pointing at the “Aussie Pride” slogan on his t-shirt every time someone from the World XI got out.

New Zealand is not a multi-cultural paradise of acceptance, but I can’t imagine the same thing happening here without at least one person in the crowd yelling “sit down and shut up you dick”.

Roebuck on Gilchrist

I am sure we have been here before. Each time Adam Gilchrist does something wonderful it seems the press can’t wait to tell the world how he changed the role of wicket-keepers for good. At least this time we have a decent journalist writing that particular angle, Peter Roebuck.

Under 19 World Cup

The New Zealand under-19 side left for Sri Lanka yesterday to play in the World Cup. Their first real match is against Bangladesh – a tough opponent at the junior level despite the struggles of their senior side.

Sunday, 29 January 2006

A bonanza in the Herald

The Herald has a plethora of cricket stories this weekend. Richard Boock kicks things off with a look back 25 years to the the underarm incident. Chris Cairns joins in as a guest columnist and blames two-metre Peter for causing his retirement. Mark Richardson provides a "eulogy" for Chris Cairns, who he describes as a genuine "leader". Mark will probably regret using both "eulogy" and "leader" in his piece when he notes the final article of note, a eulogy for Geoff Rabone, former New Zealand cricket captain and genuine war hero.

More "new Chris Cairns"

A few days ago Chris Cairns talked up James Franklin as the promising new all-rounder on the block and the Dominion-Post instantly asked "is James Franklin the new Chris Cairns?". Chris has been a busy boy ever since, he has gone to the Herald and talked up Jacob Oram and been to the Sunday Star-Times and talked up Scott Styris. He might start running out of all-rounders to talk about soon.

"That ball"

There is a dispute brewing with the Beige Brigade calling the West Australian Cricket Association's claim that it owns the ball used in the underarm incident.

Saturday, 28 January 2006

More praise for Cairns

Geoff Longley, in the Press, heaps further praise on local boy Chris Cairns and outlines the highlights of his long career.

The decline and fall of Glenn McGrath

Last week it was Adam Gilchrist who was being mourned, this week Peter Roebuck announces that the end of road is approaching for Glenn McGrath. McGrath himself might be giving something away, as he appears to be hunting around for a new career. Is this just another false dawn or the real beginning of the end for the oppressive Australian side? We can only hope. And when a new Aussie "star" takes the form of the distinctly average James Hopes, I think we can hope with a fair degree of optimism.

Richard Boock on Chris Cairns - again

Hasn't Richard already written his piece on Chris Cairns? Well, yes - but he wants to correct some of the "errors" made by other commentators (such as Chris Rattue) so has written another. Richard gets especially touchy over the comment that cricket is only a "very small international sport":

I can only assume that this was a leg-pull, or that someone had forgotten to factor in the 1.5 billion sub-continental Asians who consider the game their religion.

Outside soccer or basketball, cricket would be among the most international of team sports; far bigger, wealthier, and involving more participants than rugby, league, Aussie rules and American football put together.

Richard might be exaggerating slightly, but he is absolutely right to pour scorn onto any rugby-head who dares to suggest that cricket is a "very small" game.

Friday, 27 January 2006

Cairns to end his career at Notts

In a move which has a nice circularity to it, Chris Cairns has announced that his last games of serious cricket will be for the same Nottinghamshire side that he made his debut for as a 17 year old in 1988.

The new world order

Over at Cricinfo Kamran Abbasi expresses hope in the new world order refleted in India throwing its weight around. He outlines the pluses of this order ("the benefits ... are many"), but admits in passing that it will suck for "Bangladesh, New Zealand, and Zimbabwe". Oh goody then.

Thursday, 26 January 2006

Another tribute

Herald columnist Chris Rattue is the latest to heap his praise on the retiring Chris Cairns. In doing so he also manages to heap something else on the rest of the New Zealand cricket team. I think this line sums it up best:

Cairns was so good, he could turn the Black Caps into lovable losers instead of just losers. And that takes some doing.

Oh dear.

Shane Warne in "Neighbours"

I have been holding onto this story for a couple of days now. It was announced on Tuesday that Shane Warne would be making an appearance in the Australian soap Neighbours. I knew that it would be hard for any writer to resist expanding on this news, and Joe Bennett was the first to give in to temptation - at the same time sticking in the boot over Australia's new found "Australian values" and national pride.

Wednesday, 25 January 2006

James Edward Charles is not the new Chris Cairns

The retirement of Chris Cairns has predictably led to a search to find "the new Chris Cairns". Jonathon Millmow kicks off the search by repeatedly telling us that Jimmy Franklin is NOT the new Chris Cairns - although there are certain similarities because he is an all-rounder, and he is working on his big hitting...

Expect to see similar articles about Jacob Oram in the Palmerston North press, about Andre Adams in the Auckland press and about, ummm, Chris Harris in the Christchurch papers.

More tributes for Chris Cairns

Newstalk ZB reports that, as usual, a cricketing event cannot happen without a comment from Shane Warne. There is something of the New Zealand press's little brother psyche coming out here, because the NZPA sought comment from another Australian, Steve Rixon, while Radio Sport's D'Arcy Waldegrave staged a painfully sycophantic interview with ABC commentator Jim Maxwell in which he desperately sought praise for Cairns. Do New Zealand commentators think that the New Zealand people won't believe them that Chris Cairns was any good unless we hear it from an Australian?

Elsewhere in the world, the Times looks at Cairn's retirement and sees an example for ageing cricketers everywhere - get out now before you start embarrassing yourselves.

Tuesday, 24 January 2006

Michael Vaughan on Stephen Fleming

Michael Vaughan's new book contains a whole bunch of praise for Stephen Fleming.

Richard Boock offers his tribute

Boock passes judgement on the career of Chris Cairns in this morning's Herald.

Monday, 23 January 2006

Chris Cairns

I don't think many of us would have expected Chris Cairns to end his career on an anti-climax, but that is exactly what has happened. Jonathan Millmow was first to break the story and Dylan Cleaver opens the tributes.

I think every commentator I have heard has said that Cairns never "fulfilled his potential", whatever that means. But for a period of time, from 1999-2002, he was probably the most devastating cricketer in the world. And despite our frustration that this peak didn't last for longer, we should be grateful for that.

The trial of Brett Lee

Cricinfo conducts a mock-trial of Brett Lee. The charge? Bowling beamers deliberately of course. There is no way of course that any publication's lawyers would let them find a "guilty" verdict, but Cricinfo comes surprisingly close.

Friday, 20 January 2006

Don't fear the Windies

Former West Indian fast bowler and current Canterbury player Nixon McLean has run his eye over the West Indian team picked to tour New Zealand, and he is not impressed.

Rosemary McLeod

I have never really had much respect for columnist Rosemary McLeod, she has never quite understood the distinction between man-hating and feminism. Now I have no respect for her at all.

An empty summer

Oh dear lord! It seems that the only cricket team we will see in New Zealand next summer will be Bangladesh. Richard Boock has provided an excellent analysis which reveals a few more clues about what happened with the Indian tour. "Sources" tell Boock that New Zealand Cricket had no option but to agree to India's wish to cancel the tour after the ICC shifted the dates of the World Cup, something which meant New Zealand Cricket had to enter into further negotiations with the Indians. He also reports that the Indian Board is getting even stroppier, with its secretary saying the ICC "cannot force us" to play in tours from 2007 to 2015 - despite his previous administration agreeing to the future tours programme schedule last year.

Now I know that the ICC is about as effective as a wet blanket and that the only time it ever springs into action is when a bell tinkles to indicate that the buffet lunch is ready - but the Indian Board has just destroyed the next New Zealand summer and I really hope that just this once the ICC will come down on them with all the weight it has gained from years of prawn sandwiches, chilled chardonnay and two helpings of dessert. The BCCI reminds me of the New Zealand Rugby Union - selfish egotists who think that just because they hold the purse-strings they can hold smaller countries to ransom.

Ponting cops it

Listen to these words from former Australian umpire Lou Rowan:

Ponting is a smart-arse and a disaster as leader. The conduct of him and his players is absolutely disgraceful. He has no control over his players. It is an insult to former players and people associated with the game.

The standard of conduct that was common-place in my time has been contemptuously trampled underfoot by certain Australian players who cannot grasp the significance of the honour bestowed on them by the baggy green cap.

The ever-present and accepted practice of sledging, obscenities, excessive appealing, the questioning of umpires and the accompanying dissent leaves our Australian team quite correctly dubbed 'the ugly Australians'.


Thursday, 19 January 2006

Poll results and a new poll

My last poll asked you whether New Zealand domestic cricket was of a high enough standard to produce international class cricketers. 15 of you said "yes", and 9 of you said "no". My new poll takes a look at this domestic game and asks you to tell me why the Auckland team is so awful at the moment.

Zimbabwe suspend themselves from tests

In perhaps the only wise thing they have done in some years, the Zimbabwe Cricket Union has decided to suspend its own side from test cricket.

India tour to New Zealand off

The Indian tour has been cancelled "by mutual consent", which presumably means that the Indian board offered New Zealand Cricket a bit of a bribe and promised to play us at another time. The Indian excuse is that they do not want to prepare for the World Cup in the West Indies by playing on New Zealand surfaces - which rings true given they prepared for the last World Cup by getting thrashed on our green seamers.

New Zealand summers have been terrible in the past few years. Barely a season hasn't gone by without a huge hole in it for some reason or another, and when we do get play games are usually of a one-sided and dull nature. I hope New Zealand Cricket has a plan 'B', because the fans need some international cricket to watch and our own World Cup preparations need to consist of something more than Otago vs Central Districts at Molyneux Park.

Wednesday, 18 January 2006

West Indies vs New Zealand

The West Indies team to play New Zealand has been named. Interesting points are the dropping of fast bowlers Tino Best and Jermaine Lawson and batsman Marlon Samuels. Shivnarine Chanderpaul has been retained as captain despite a disappointing tour of Australia late last year.

ICC raps BCCI over the knuckles

In what seems to be a very pre-emptive piece of aggression the ICC has written to the Indian board of control to warn them not to cancel any tours they had previously committed to - including the tour to New Zealand next year. It seems that the sight of Sharad Pawar throwing his weight around so early in his new role is sending a few shivers through stiff ICC spines.

2011 World Cup

New Zealand and Australia have teamed up to enter a joint bid to hold the 2011 World Cup. The bid will be up against strong opposition though - because India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have combined to promote a multi-national Asian competition. The 1992 World Cup did wonders for cricket in this country, and I think it prove a great coup if we could stage it again. I wonder if Helen Clark will lend as much support to the bid as she did to the Rugby World Cup?

Auckland selectors wield the axe

Carl Cachopa, Matt Horne and Tim McIntosh have all been cut from the Auckland one-day team as the selectors struggle to reverse a terrible start to the domestic season. Given the amount of injuries the Auckland team seems to have suffered, I am surprised that they actually had players left that they could drop.

Sharad Pawar

New BCCI president, Sharad Pawar, is starting to come across as a complete wanker. First of all he makes threats to the media, and now he is fuelling rumours that he wants to cancel India's tour to New Zealand next year.

Tuesday, 17 January 2006

End of another career?

Injuries have yet again been a real blight on the New Zealand season, and one of those injuries just took a turn for the worse. It looks highly likely that double international Jeff Wilson's cricket career could be at an end after an ankle injury has sidelined him for the season.

The decline and fall of Adam Gilchrist

Adam Gilchrist has been a shadow of himself lately. For so long the slashing and dashing fulcrum of the Australian team, his batting has recently been more ordinary than legendary. Now he has been both "rested" from the Australian team and cited for umpire abuse. At first glance it seems doubtful that a player of Gilchrist's talent will be down for long - especially as the selectors have already announced that his "rest" will only last a week. But the Australian selectors are notorious for their loyalty to members of the playing side. Having taken a long time to drop Gilchrist they might find themselves in an awkward spot if his replacement (Brad Haddin) performs well.

Gilchrist is 34 and this would be a sad way for him to end his career. The citing casts a partcularly sad shadow over his decline. The Australians are all pushing the limits when it comes to applying pressure to the umpires, and they remain defiant in claiming they play within the laws and spirit of the game. Gilchrist however might be regretting this stance. For a long time now he has been holding himself up as a "walker" and has earned considerable respect and goodwill for his honesty in this. But it doesn't take much to tarnish a reputation and a couple of over-exuberant appeals and a mouthful of abuse are likely to make people forget his past.

World cricket is the poorer without heroes. And much as I hate to admit it about an Australian, but Adam Gilchrist is a hero. Let's just hope that he manages to straighten that halo a little before he leaves the game for good.

Monday, 16 January 2006

The continuing farce that is the Indian cricket team

Oh dear. As might have been predicted every move made by Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Greg Chappell is being watched as though they are a car crash in motion (which they may well be). And when footage appeared which seemed to show Dravid and Ganguly yelling at each other while Chappell looked on, one television station didn't hesitate to replay the images again and again.

You might have thought that this was a big story in itself, but this is just where things start to get interesting. The real story begins when rumours surfaced that the head of the Indian cricket board had asked the television network to stop showing the images. The press quickly descended on the President of the board, Sharad Pawar, to find out exactly what he said to the television executives. Pawar clearly decided that things were still not quite interesting enough. "Its all a creation of the media..." he said of the story. And that really should have been all he said. Instead he couldn't quite resist a last word and a not-so-veiled threat. "If they want to show the pictures, it is up to them." he added, "But they will have to come to my country next."

I wonder if this threat has any connection to the story that the Indian cricket board wants to deprive broadcast rights holders (like the television network in question) of their exclusive privilege to televise cricket? A legal challenge which incidently could deprive New Zealand Cricket of a small fortune in television contracts with Indian broadcasters.

Mr Larsen

Gavin Larsen should have been a primary school teacher. In his latest column he dishes out a report card on the New Zealand team, and ends up giving little "stars" to virtually everyone (except Scott Styris). I think Larsen might be on to something. I am going to suggest that John Bracewell takes a leaf out of his book and tells Craig McMillan to write out "I will not play ugly leg-side swipes" 100 times on the blackboard. Meanwhile, I am going to start campaigning for the introduction of an additional interval, "little playtime", midway through the afternoon session.

Good nickname

South African quick Monde Zondeki is known as "All Hands". Try saying "All Hands Zondeki" out loud.

Friday, 13 January 2006


You wouldn't know it from the lack of media coverage, but this country's first domestic Twenty20 competition starts tonight. I have to admit I am little surprised New Zealand Cricket hasn't dedicated a little more time promoting the event and it'll be interesting to see how many people turn out to enjoy the spectacle.

Binga's Beamers

At first glance this Peter Roebuck article (which calls for Brett Lee to be dropped from the Australian side because of his beamers) appears to have come from nowhere. But Roebuck has long been highly critical of Lee's bowling and has always expressed doubt about the authenticity of Lee's claims that those neck croppers are accidental. And what better time for Roebuck to repeat his concerns than just before the Australian team for the VB series is to be announced?


Good lord. Look at this list of injuries to New Zealand players:

Scott Styris - knees
Jacob Oram - heel
Daniel Vettori - unknown but advised to rest
Brendon McCullum - unknown but advised to rest
Chris Cairns - unknown but advised to rest
James Franklin - unknown but advised to rest
Andre Adams - broken fingers
Craig Cumming - face rearranged by ball
Kyle Mills - groin
Stephen Fleming - groin
Shane Bond - virus.

Richard Boock reports that Craig Cumming was "struck flush in the face while fielding for Otago, had 24 stitches, one reconstructed tooth, one capped tooth and a wired jaw, but was hoping to play within a week." Ouch.


This is fascinating. The Pakistani high court judge who oversaw the match-fixing trials has admitted that he let Wasim Akram off easily because he had a "soft corner" for him and didn't want the great all-rounder to end his career in disgrace. He also stated that his investigation into some matches - including Pakistan's World Cup loss to Bangladesh - was blocked, presumably by the Pakistan board.

Thursday, 12 January 2006

Great tail-enders of our time

Cricinfo's stats gurus have come up with a fascinating analysis of tail-enders with stickability. And it is not surprising to see a whole bunch of New Zealanders in there. Geoff Allott's 101 minutes duck in 1999 tops the page, but classic performances such as Richard Collinge's 68 not out from number 11 and the Boock and Bracewell partnership of 124 against Australia in 1985/6 also make an appearance.

Tuesday, 10 January 2006

Sourav Ganguly

Is there a more fascinating soap opera in the world at the moment than the continuing travails of Sourav Ganguly and the Indian Cricket Board? In short summary:

Indian captain Ganguly had a public spat with Indian coach Greg Chappell
Chappell and Ganguly made up
Ganguly was sacked as captain
Ganguly was dropped as a player
Ganguly was picked again
Ganguly was dropped again
Ganguly was picked again to play in the single most important tour in the Indian calendar - the tour to Pakistan
The team manager (who is not a selector) announces that Ganguly will play in the test matches.

I can't help but shake my head and laugh. Ganguly is such an icon of Indian cricket that his presence in the side cannot help but be felt by his comrades. And that feeling cannot help but be negative. Pity poor Rahul Dravid who must attempt to unify a faction-riven side while somehow also incorporating a bitter predecessor. Have even more pity for poor old Greg Chappell. How on earth can he be expected to motivate Ganguly without opening up more breaches in their relationship, especially when the player has already been guaranteed a spot in the team?

I have hunted around to try and find some insights into this chaos and have found a couple of references. Javagal Srinath pretty much confirms the obvious - that Ganguly should have stepped down before he was pushed. And of course the almost omniprescient Peter Roebuck manages to get to the nub of the matter via his usual array of pretty and pithy soundbites.

Monday, 9 January 2006

New Zealand vs Sri Lanka statistics

Here is a summary of the batting and bowling statistics for the recent series against Sri Lanka. 264 runs at an average of 88 and a strike rate of 80.73. Could we have asked anything more of Two-Metre Peter? Stylish, simple and sensible and further proof that New Zealand has yet to lose its Lord of the Rings fever. After finding a sensational hobbit in Hamish Marshall last year, we have just uncovered a gifted giant.

I am trying to resist pointing out the striking resemblance between Scott Styris and the albino Orc general who led the assault on Gondor in Return of the King.

I guess I failed.

The 4-1 scoreline did mask a couple of genuine concerns. The main issue I have is that we get complacent awfully quick. Having won the series we almost lost the fourth match and then did lose the last. So cocky did we become that it was almost as though the series against Australia and South Africa did not happen. As always, consistency and an ability to keep the foot firmly on the opposition's throat were missing.

My second concern is around some of team "plan". Primarily around the role of Lou Vincent. I think it is very clear that John Bracewell has instructed Lou Vincent to attack from the first ball. From a team perspective this makes a lot of sense - New Zealand's lower middle order is so strong that it can survive the loss of an early wicket and if a Vincent assault actually comes off then it could be devastating. My problem with this approach is that it can only have a negative impact on Vincent's game. He is a batsman who is being transformed into a slogger, and - as Mark Greatbatch showed - good technique usually does not survive that transformation.

But enough with the gripes. Here is the really good news. Shane Bond is bowling above 150kmph again and has re-entered the ODI bowling top 10, and with 692 points he has almost returned to the point he reached before injury struck him down (he reached a peak of 711 points in May 2003). Vettori (7th), Mills (15th) and Oram (17th) round out a highly ranked attack. Even better is that New Zealand is now the fourth ranked ODI side and should qualify for exemption from the preliminary rounds of the World Cup - skipping straight to the knock-out competition.

Friday, 6 January 2006

Further delays

Blogging might have been light lately, but it is going to get even lighter over the next few days. I am off to attend the wedding of occasional contributor Dan and his lovely bride Katherine. The site should return to some form of normality next week.

Wednesday, 4 January 2006

Game two

So Nathan Astle makes a triumphant (if somewhat fortunate) return to form, helps New Zealand to victory and is promptly dropped. Hamish Marshall must be counting his lucky stars.

I am not sure what sort of precedent this type of selection sets. What incentive does a batsman have to do well if a good score counts for naught, a poor run keeps you in the side and domestic form is deemed irrelevant? Selection seems almost to be by whim. If John Bracewell likes the cut of your jib you are in, and if he doesn't like you then runs are not going to get you in the team no matter how many you score. The New Zealand public seems relatively tolerant of this, but then we are a relatively tolerant lot. I suspect the mood might begin to change if things start to go pear-shaped.

Sunday, 1 January 2006

Dylan Cleaver

I imagine Dylan Cleaver hunched over an old fashioned type-writer rattling out cricket stories like a machine gun, but only remembering to submit them on a very occasional basis. Dylan Cleaver stories are like classy New Zealand batsmen. We go for ages without a new one coming along, and then several arrive at once.

Today we find Cleaver stories on Nathan Astle, Dipak Patel's quest to find leg-spinners, Jamie How and the New Zealand victory and Kyle Mills.

Backing up Cleaver come Mark Richardson and Chris Cairns, again commentating on the New Zealand performance from a New Zealand perspective. Coverage from the Sunday-Star Times is mostly hidden off-line, but they do bring us one interesting story on the on-again spat between Murali and Shane Warne.

I tried to find some Sri Lankan perspectives to share with you, but unfortunately I can't seem to locate an online Sri Lankan newspaper updated to include coverage of the cricket. The nearest I came was an Indian story in the Express, notable mainly for calling Jamie How "squat".

Queenstown ODI

Do I call yesterday's match against Sri Lanka the "first ODI", or (given the series officially started over a year ago) the "second ODI"? Perhaps I just call it "yesterday's crushing victory"? And crushing it was. Ignore the commentators bleating that the Sri Lankans were limp and revel in a match which had Shane Bond taking wickets and two New Zealand youngsters scoring runs in a stylish, nerveless and thoroughly comprehensive manner.