Category Archives: Ashes

One-sided cricket matches are here to stay. Why would you attend?

World cricket is in a parlous state, not in terms of the money it makes, but in terms of the contests it provides. The games are one-sided to the extent that patrons at the grounds are few and far-between.

There is no better illustration of this than in the ongoing Australian games, where the home team is playing New Zealand and the West Indies in three Tests apiece. The first Test against New Zealand was won convincingly, and the second looks like going the same route. As to the West Indies, they are not expected to last beyond four days in each of the three Tests.

The man who is responsible for this farcical outcome, where Tests are mostly one-sided, died recently. Jagmohan Dalmiya was the one who set in motion these unending Test matches, where cricket goes on round the year, and the same bunch of players have to play, and play and play. Dalmiya’s so-called Test championship was set in motion after he became head of the ICC with the help of Australia and England. His first attempt to become the chief of the ICC in 1996 failed, thwarted by England and Australia with support from New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies. England and Australia insisted that candidates needed the support of at least two thirds of the ICC’s full members, the nine Test-playing countries. Dalmiya was backed by Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, and also 19 of the 22 associate members. Test-playing countries have two votes against one for associate members.

In the 1996 poll, Dalmiya obtained 25 votes against 13 for Australia’s Malcolm Grey in the first ballot. A third candidate Krish Mackerdhuj from South Africa withdrew. But at the second ballot, five of the Test-playing nations supported Grey and with South Africa abstaining, Dalmiya was shut out. The ICC then decided that incumbent chairman Sir Clyde Walcott would continue for another year until July 1997.

But in 1997, Dalmiya cut a deal with Grey that he would be the next ICC head if Dalmiya was given the reins, and he ascended to the throne. Dalmiya is from the Marwari community which is known for its business acumen. He is also a Bengali.

Thus it was not surprising that he managed to give Bangladesh full Test status soon after he became ICC chief. At that time, Kenya had a much better team. Bangladesh is the eastern part of the Indian state of West Bengal, which became a part of Pakistan at partition in 1947 due to its majority Muslim population, and finally a separate nation in 1971 after a war.

Dalmiya’s other interest was to make money for the ICC. Hence the future Test tours programme where every nation had to play every other nation at least once in a certain cycle. Points were awarded and rankings created.

But the standard of the game, apart from contests between a few countries, dropped like a stone. Players are human beings and get tired, in body, mind and spirit by playing too often. Apart from the Tests there have been countless one-day series and also Twenty20 games. Each country has been interested in organising games that result in more income; India and Pakistan, for example, still capitalise on the age-old enmity between their countries and try to play whenever possible. Due to political tensions, that has not been possible in recent times.

Dalmiya was later embroiled in a TV rights controversy and had to leave his ICC post in 2000. But he has hovered around, being in the Indian cricket board or the Calcutta cricket board and was head of the Indian board when he died.

Nobody has done a thing to try and rectify the abnormal amount of cricket being played. Money is the sole criterion and while countries have to adhere to the ICC-mandated timetable, they organise other games which will bring in money as and when they like. The players could complain, but the money keeps them from doing so. But then they cannot perform like trained monkeys and the quality of the games is very low.

Australians normally turn out in large numbers for cricket in summer. This year, the crowds are poor, very poor. New Zealand played before 1373 spectators on the final day of the first Test and 6608 on day four, when the contest was still open, though the target set favoured Australia. It does not look very good at the second Test either with 13,593 attending on day one and 10,047 on day two.

Let’s be clear about one thing: national cricket bodies do not need crowds to make money. That is already done through TV deals. Not a single spectator needs to come through the gates for the books to be in the black.

But is that all the game is about? It is on life support now, with few, if any, Tests going to the fifth day, and big wins for one team all the time. People are losing interest and that is a dangerous sign.

South Africa will be the real test for Australia

HAVING just come off a 5-0 win over England in the Ashes series Down Under, Australia must be on a high. But, no matter the margin of victory, there are several serious issues to be considered in the run-up to the tour of South Africa that begins in February.

There have been writers who have started comparing the Australian pace attack – only one man has genuine pace – to the West Indies attacks of the 1980s. This is a fanciful comparison and if anyone among those who are involved in selection swallow this myth, then they will be stripped of the illusion in South Africa. While Mitchell Johnson bowled fast and with hostility for most of the series, the other two pacemen, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle, are medium-pacers who looked very good against a team that was itself suffering under some big illusions.

When England defeated Australia 3-0 in England in 2013, it began to believe that it was that much superior to Australia. In truth, the actual series outcome should have been 3-2. In the third Test, where much of the final day was lost to rain, England was 3 for 37, chasing 332 for a win. Only 20.3 overs were possible on the final day and it is highly likely that Australia would have won this Test. That would have made the margin 2-1 in favour of England at that stage and could well have meant a different outcome after the next two Tests were played.
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Why Geoff Boycott should stop lecturing the England team

THROUGHOUT Geoff Boycott’s cricket career, he was known as a player who was bothered only about himself. He did not care a fig for the team, nor for his teammates.

In fact, he was even suspected of running out his teammates in order to save his own wicket.

Now this man, in his 70s, is criticising Kevin Pietersen and accusing him of playing the game the way he (Pietersen) wants, and not in the interests of the team.
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Johnson doesn’t need to behave like a thug

CONTRARY to all expectations, Australia has won the first two Tests of the ongoing Ashes cricket series against England. But it has done so in a way that leaves much to be desired.

The teams played a series in England during the northern summer too and England prevailed 3-0 with two Tests drawn. England has held the Ashes since 2009 when it won them back from Australia.

In the current series, the main factor behind Australia’s surge has been the fast bowler Mitchell Johnson. He has undergone a considerable change after being trained by a man who is probably one of the two best fast bowlers of all time – Dennis Lillee.
Continue reading Johnson doesn’t need to behave like a thug

Why is so much taxpayer money wasted on sport?

How much taxpayers’ money does Australia spend on sport? It appears to be a huge amount and something the governments, both federal and state, would prefer stayed hidden.

Sport is an obsession in the country and politicians know that when the country is occupied with it, then the people won’t bother about the comings and going of those in power.

Hence, they encourage sport to the hilt. Wealthy associations receive big handouts for this and that even though they do not need the money and can manage on their own. This keeps the sport and the sportsmen on-side.
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Australia’s Test losses: six, and counting

THE last time Australia lost six Tests in a row, it lost a captain with the fifth of those losses. That was Kim Hughes who wept openly at a press conference as he resigned.

He had led the team to three defeats in the Caribbean in 1984 and his team lost the first two Tests of the return series in Australia. The opposition was the mighty West Indies; Allan Border took over and suffered defeat in the third Test to complete the run of six losses. A draw broke that run of defeats, before Border led the team to victory in the final Test.

This time, after being brownwashed by India in a four-Test series and losing the first two Ashes Tests, Australia will not lose its captain. One must, however, question whether the players should shoulder all the blame for the hammerings they are taking.
Continue reading Australia’s Test losses: six, and counting

Whinging Poms or whinging Aussies?

BACK in March, when Australia played India in a Test series, the Decision Review System, the use of technology to query on-field umpiring decisions, was not used because India had not agreed to it.

During the series there were often howls of protest in Australian circles.

Australia played four Tests and was roundly thrashed 4-0. Several decisions which were said to be critical to the result went against Australia. There was no way to cross-check these decisions and the lament always was “if only these Indians had agreed to use the DRS…”

In other words, four months back, DRS was A Good Thing™.
Continue reading Whinging Poms or whinging Aussies?

Much ado about nothing: sportsmen are not the moral compass of any nation

SINCE when did cricketers – or any other sportsmen for that matter – become the moral compass of the people? Since when was it wrong to do anything that passed muster with the authorities in a sport in order to win?

The shrill chorus that has erupted over the action of England cricketer Stuart Broad, who did not walk after he was clearly caught at slip by the Australian captain Michael Clarke on day three of the first Ashes Test, is truly astonishing. Of course, the Australian media has a good reason to shout: this would be the ideal excuse for the defeat that is surely coming on day five.

All that happened was that the umpire, Aleem Dar, got slightly confused by the fact that the ball first hit the hands of Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin and then went to Clarke. Haddin fumbled at it and missed it and Dar was unsighted by this. He gave it as not out. Each side has two chances to review decisions but by then Australia had no chances left; the second was wasted on a stupid review that Clarke called for.
Continue reading Much ado about nothing: sportsmen are not the moral compass of any nation

When the Ashes come around, everything else loses its importance

WHEN sport comes along, major sport that is, international contests, everything else is pushed to the background in Australia.

And you can’t get bigger than the Ashes, the contest for cricket supremacy between Australia and England. There is a lot of history which gives the contest its importance: for example, Australia is a former convict colony of Britain and that rankles a lot, even to this day.

This time around, it may not be the most even of contests, given that Australia is comparatively weak on paper and based on its most recent outings against other countries.
Continue reading When the Ashes come around, everything else loses its importance

Some myths about the Australia-India Test series

EVER since the Indian cricket team was two months away from its current tour of Australia, the media and the PR people have been boosting it as being based on some kind of “traditional” rivalry. This is just one of the many myths that was being spread about this tour in an attempt to draw crowds.

There is no such traditional rivalry. Australian teams have been historically reluctant to tour India, because of the conditions. Indian teams have been similarly reluctant to tour Australia because of the one-sided umpiring. (A good example of this was seen in 1999 when Sachin Tendulkar was given out lbw in the second innings for a duck after a ball from Glenn McGrath hit him on the helmet! The umpire was none other than the corpulent Darryl Hair, the same man who tried to extort money from the ICC after he was embroiled in a row after making Pakistan forfeit a Test in England.)

Yet another myth being spread is that India is a very strong team. Wrong. India’s famed batsmen are all on the verge of retirement. And their bowling attack is not that good either – Zaheer Khan is recovering from an injury, as is Ishant Sharma. The third paceman, Umesh Yadav, is only four Tests old. And the spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is a better batsman than a spin bowler.

After Australia lost a series at home to the West Indies in 1992-93, the next time they lost at home was to South Africa in 2008-09. They were then beaten by England in 2010-11. These three teams were immensely strong in the years when they defeated Australia. In each series, Australia did win one Test. But this is a statistic few will cite for it would hardly bolster the claim everyone has been making, that India had the best chance to win a series in Australia this time. It is extremely difficult to defeat Australia at home.

India has never won a series either in Australia or South Africa, where the wickets are somewhat similar. And they never will until their batsmen are weaned off the Twenty20 diet that is beginning to markedly affect the quality of batsmen turned out by the country.

The mentality of the players who are coming off the Indian treadmill is encapsulated by Ashwin. As the garrulous Indian commentator Harsha Bhogle, a malaprop of no ordinary proportions, put it on ABC radio, Ashwin was trying to “force the pace” when he skied a ball to be last out in India’s second innings at the SCG. What pace was he trying to force? India was trying to save the game and make Australia bat again; it was still 68 runs short of that target when Aswhin lofted the ball unnecessarily.

To make big centuries in Test cricket, you have to either play against a team with a very weak attack or else do what Alastair Cook did during the England tour of 2010-11 – let everything outside the off-stump go by without being tempted; play the ball along the ground and avoid as much as possible hitting aerial shots. Cook scored more than 900 runs in that series, including two double-hundreds.

The flow of myths never stops. When the Australian captain Michael Clarke declared his team’s innings at 4 for 659 with his own score at 329, he was credited with putting the needs of the team before himself. Clarke had only to make six runs to beat the score jointly made by Mark Taylor and Don Bradman; he needed 52 to make the highest Test score by an Australian. The match was only at its halfway point when he declared – an Indian innings had never lasted more than a day in the two Tests to date.

Clarke could easily have gone for the record and, had he got to one, even tried to overtake Brian Lara’s 400 not out, the highest Test score of all time. He declared because he was afraid that if he went on, the media would write him off as being selfish, a charge he has had to fight ever since he became a Test cricketer. He had a fancy car, a model as girlfriend, and was as far away as possible from being the rough, blokey person that cricketers are expected to be. One writer even described him as a tosser. That image is what Clarke has been trying to live down. And that’s why he declared, to try and win respect.

He pulled a bit of spin in the second innings, after he came on to bowl, solely to preserve James Pattinson and Ben Hilfenhaus for the new ball, and, by chance, got the wicket of Tendulkar. It wasn’t planned, it was a fluke. But did he tell the truth? No, Clarke used it as one example of his brilliant captaincy skills.

No commentator pointed out that when he had a lead of 468 runs and India was really under the gun, Clarke set extremely conservative fields. Two slips at best when a team was desperately trying to avoid a second successive loss in Australia and a run of six Test defeats abroad. And when Australia was under the gun in South Africa recently, Clarke was among those who surrendered meekly.

No comment on the series would be complete without some mention of the monkey on Tendulkar’s back. The wisest thing for him to do would have been to play a couple of the one-dayers against the West Indies last year and score his 100th international century. Instead, he sat out all the ODIs against the Windies and now the entire team is hostage to his quest for this elusive hundred.

But other teams should be happy when Tendulkar scores a hundred. Of his 51 Test hundreds, on 20 occasions the team won. On 11 occasions, India lost and on the remaining 20, the games were drawn. If the eight centuries made against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are removed, then of the 43 times he made hundreds, only on 14 occasions did India win.

With his ODI hundreds, it is a similar tale: of his 48 ODI hundreds, 33 were made on occasions when India won. On 13 occasions India lost, and there was one tie and one no-result. But of those 33 hundreds made in a winning cause, nine were made against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Namibia.

Will India win a single Test? The short answer is no. But the crowds will flock to see the Tests as Indians are crazy about cricket and there are plenty of them in Australia.