Cricket Australia: anyone will do, as long as we stem the losses

Ever since the Australian cricket team lost its captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and opener Cameron Bancroft to suspension for ball-tampering, the organisation running the game, Cricket Australia, has been fighting to make the spectre of losses disappear.

The three players were found to have been the prime movers behind the use of sandpaper to change the surface of the ball during a series in South Africa in March 2018; Bancroft, the actual person caught on TV while stuffing a piece of sandpaper down the front of his pants, was suspended for nine months, while Smith and Warner were banned for a year. Warner, in addition, will never be able to hold a leadership position in the team.

After these shocks to the system, Australia has been losing one series after the other, no matter whether it be Tests or the shorter forms of the game. Thus the arrival of the Sri Lankan team to play two Tests has come as a great relief. Sri Lanka is without its skipper Angelo Matthews, a talented all-rounder, who often rescues the team when it is in trouble.
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How long has Australia been cheating to obtain reverse swing?

Australia’s Test series against India has ended in a 1-2 series defeat thanks to rain — else the Sydney Test may also have ended in defeat, making it 1-3 — but though many questions have been asked about the home team, the elephant in the room still remains.

Nobody has told the public how a team which managed to extract prodigious reverse swing during the 2017-18 Ashes series against England — played in the Australian summer — was unable to get even a fraction of that kind of swing in the series against India.
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Australians will whinge, but the Boxing Day pitch was just fine

A great deal has been said and written about the pitch prepared for the Boxing Day Test between Australia and India – but in the end the game only lasted 27 balls into the fifth day, with India winning by 137 runs. Is that a result-oriented pitch or what? Or is it as it was painted, unsuitable for a Test? I think not.

The Australian complaints were (and always are) that the pitch did not afford the faster bowlers any assistance. But then as former Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee pointed out during a lunch-time interview on day two, the MCG has always been a dead wicket. Who is expected to take wickets – the bowler or the pitch?
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The ABC is a good example of inefficiency in Australia

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is a government-funded news organisation that is quite wrapped up in itself. It has radio, online and television news services and a lot of it is about the ABC itself.

TV outlets tend to promote their wares during breaks between programs; the ABC goes one better and treats many of its own programs as being worthy of being news items.

If these were major investigations or ground-breaking programs, then it would be fine. That is not the case; the most trivial program often merits a slot on the ABC News channel that runs around the clock.
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The village experience

India may be a world power in some respects today, but the majority of its citizens still live in the villages that make up some 75% of the country. Despite the growth of industry, agriculture is still India’s mainstay when it comes to occupation.

Few city-bred kids opt to go and work in villages unless they are forced to. I opted to do so back in 1980, giving up a short stint as a journalist and taking up a job as a rural development extension officer with a Bangalore-based company known as Myrada. (It was originally known as Mysore Resettlement and Development Agency, a name that it had due to being originally set up to resettle Tibetans who had fled the Chinese invasion in 1959.)

By the time I joined Myrada in April 1980, the company had a number of projects in operation. The modus operandi was to do a project report for a certain area which had development potential, approach a foreign funding agency and get the necessary money to implement the project.
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Twenty-five years after Oslo, there is nothing to show for it

Thursday, September 13, marked 25 years since Israel took the (then) radical step of recognising the Palestine Liberation Organisation in a Norway-brokered deal that many thought would ultimately lead to a two-state solution in the Middle East and bring an end to one of the most bitter feuds between nations.

Alas, it was not to be. Twenty-five years on, what remains of land that could have been a Palestinian homeland is bantustans, and things seem to be going from bad to worse. With the US recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it is now inconceivable that Tel Aviv will ever countenance giving up part of the city to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

It brings back memories for me, as it was the biggest news event that I have managed in nearly 40 years as a journalist in three countries. In 1993, I was deputy chief sub-editor at the Khaleej Times in Dubai, and that September I was producing the daily editions as the chief sub-editor, my good mate T.K. Achuthan, was on leave.
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Australia: 24m people, but not one decent rugby commentator

Australia is one of the better rugby nations on the face of the earth, with two World Cup wins to show for its efforts in the game, the same as South Africa and just one behind New Zealand.

But despite its producing a number of truly great players – Nick Farr-Jones, David Campese and Mark Ella are three who come to mind – the country still lacks a decent rugby commentator and has made do with Gordon Bray for a long, long time.

Surprisingly, Bray has been commentating for more than 40 years, despite the fact that there are obvious deficiencies in his performance. His commentary sounds more like a coaching class for Australia, and a list of instances where he feels the rub of the green has gone against the Australians. Whinging is the word they use in Australia to describe his complaining.
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No first-time starter needs this kind of pressure

At times, even a polished outfit like the All Blacks can get it wrong. When the team was picked for the game against Argentina on Saturday, a number of second choice players were chosen, in order to get them match-ready and also to establish the depth that the team will need as it builds towards the next World Cup in Japan in 2019.

The major change was the presence of Richie Mo’unga as standoff, taking over from the man acknowledged as the best at that position, Beauden Barrett. Thus, there was tremendous pressure of Mo’unga, more so given that Barrett had put in an excellent performance in the previous outing, against Australia, dominating the game and scoring 30 of the team’s 40 points.

This was Mo’unga’s first start in a Test; he had only come on as a substitute in one earlier Test. That was the depth of his experience when he took the field.
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Time to rejoice: Serena Williams loses another Grand Slam final

Sunday morning brought glorious news. Serena Williams had been soundly beaten in the final of the US Open women’s final by an unknown Japanese player, Naomi Osaka.

What’s more Williams blew a fuse — as she has often done in the past — when she was penalised for code violations. This is the third time she has behaved in this ugly manner, but it is unlikely to be the last because she has been fined a pathetic sum yet again.

For an outburst in 2009, she was fined a pathetic $US10,500. In 2011, she was asked to pay $US2000. And this time, she was again fined a small amount by her earnings – US$24,000. To her, that is chump change.
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All Blacks win because they have developed a winning culture

For the last 16 years, New Zealand has been winning the annual Bledisloe Cup rugby union competition against Australia, with 2002 being the last time they lost. It is a symbol of rugby supremacy, and for the two countries involved the next best after the World Cup itself.

Over the last few years, every time the games approach, the Australian media hype up the chances of their national team and for the uninitiated, it would appear to be some kind of equal contest. But in the end, New Zealand always runs away with the trophy, though some games can indeed be close.

Last year, for example, New Zealand came to Sydney for the first game as usual. By half-time, despite predictions of a close game being in the offing, New Zealand was ahead 40-6. The game ended in a 54-34 win to the All Blacks.
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