Tag Archives: Australia

A New Era Begins

Finally…..finally Cricket Australia has listened to all the calls for heads to roll in the higher echelons of the selection table. With the Argus review reaching its conclusions on Thursday, it has been reported that head selector Andrew Hilditch, Greg Chappell and current coach Tim Nielsen have all no longer got their jobs. Continue reading

Cricket Australia Contracts

Cricket Australia yesterday released the names of those players they have offered contracts to for the 2011-2012 season. Andrew Hilditch, current chairman of selectors, updated the world on the latest inclusions to the contract listing as well as a couple of big names that have had their contracts torn up. In a period where there is an expectation of CA to prepare for the future and also quickly remedy the increasing problem of performing in Test match cricket, the public needed to see that Hilditch and CA were prepared to make changes. Well, they certainly haven’t disappointed!

In terms of exclusions Simon Katich, James Hopes, Andrew McDonald, Clint McKay, Marcus North, Shaun Tait and Adam Voges are the unlucky players to miss out on a new contract.

Patrick Cummins, Xavier Doherty, John Hastings, David Hussey, Usman Khawaja, Jason Krejza and James Pattinson are the players who have been granted a contract within CA. This makes the list of players who have a contract look a little something like this –

Doug Bollinger, Michael Clarke, Patrick Cummins, Xavier Doherty, Callum Ferguson, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, John Hastings, Nathan Hauritz, Ben Hilfenhaus, Phillip Hughes, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Usman Khawaja, Jason Krejza, Brett Lee, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, James Pattinson, Ricky Ponting, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, Shane Watson, Cameron White.

The call to not renew Simon Katich’s contract is a tough call that won’t be accepted by a large number of people. Katich has been one of the most consistent batsmen that Australia has had over the last few years, being near the top of runs scored per year each year since his re-introduction into the Australia team in 2008. While a large number of people will be unhappy with his axing, it does show that CA and the selection panel may finally be making some changes within the team and the outlook they have moving forward. As for Marcus North being dropped, it was always going to happen and as opposed to the way everyone could be feeling about Katich, most people would probably be glad North won’t be around.

A couple, other than Katich, who could consider themselves unlucky are Andrew McDonald and Clint McKay. McDonald performed well when he got his opportunity, a very slim one at that, and is in some great form at the moment over in England. Clint McKay was a great bowler in the ODI’s for Australia and possibly with some more chances to be around the team, could have become a better Test bowler.

I am really glad to see the inclusions of Patrick Cummins and James Pattinson, both are very exciting young fast bowlers and if started in the Test team now we could see them grow into top-line international bowlers. Put one, or both, of those young guns in the side along with two of Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson or Doug Bollinger and we can be considered looking to future. Hopefully the selectors chosoe to go with that sort of a setup seeing as that is what the side has needed for the last couple of years, an injection of youth that can play for 10+ years and perform.

The contracts given to Nathan Hauritz, Xavier Doherty and Jason Krejza still show that the selectors are unsure which spinner to choose in the team. Although most people think he is crap, Hauritz has got to be the first choice for the selectors as he has done the most when given his chances. We need to stop believing that any spinner can equal the heights reached by Shane Warne and take 7 odd wickets a game. If a spinner gets 2 wickets an innings I believe they have done their job. Krejza was given his chance in the World Cup and failed badly, rarely taking a wicket and leaking runs at an alarming rate. Doherty performed well in Australia for the ODI’s and perhaps deserves his chance again, however as I said, I believe that all depends on the fitness of Hauritz.

My makeup for the Australian Test team would be as follows with the current contracts –

Shaun Marsh
Shane Watson
Ricky Ponting
Michael Clarke
Michael Hussey
Brad Haddin
Steve Smith
Nathan Hauritz
Mitchell Johnson
Peter Siddle
James Pattinson

With Usman Khawaja, Patrick Cummins and Doug Bollinger to be rotated into the team due to injuries or the strange “rest” policy CA seems to have going on.

Two players that I’m disappointed haven’t gotten a contract, because then we would really be looking to the future, are Mitchell Marsh and Steve O’Keefe. Both bright prospects and should be given the opportunity to be 12th men in a Test series to get a feel for what it’s like around the international team.

MV

World Cup Match-Fixing

We all knew this was going to be a big topic during this World Cup after the last year that Pakistan have had in regards to match-fixing scandals. However, there have been more allegations in the past week than anyone would have thought could have happened. The main surprise, or non-surprise depending how you look at it, is that all allegations have come from some form of sub-continent media! No whispering of alleged match-fixing from the English, from the West Indies, from New Zealand or from Australia, just the sub-continent. We already know that the Indians run the game of cricket as they are the ones that throw their money around and around, just look at the IPL and the Indians coming on board the KFC Big Bash next year. But seriously, these allegations that they have come up with are just plain stupid!

First there were allegations against Brad Haddin and Shane Watson for playing too slowly against Zimbabwe. Sure they scored 0-5 off two overs and only 23 odd runs from their powerplay, but that is a cause for match-fixing allegations, seriously? Surely you would then look at the rest of the innings, Watson made 79 off 92 with a strike rate of 85.86, he was clearly trying to lose that game. Haddin had a lower strike rate of 43.93, however all you need to realise is that Haddin isn’t a great player of spin, most of the Australian team is fairly average when it comes to facing spin. Australia finished with a score of 6-262 so the opening batting obviously hurt them overall, I’d also like to point out that the strike rates of the two Australian openers against the strike rates of the two Zimbabwean openers, when added together, comes out higher so maybe the sub-continent media would like to look at Zimbabwe for not chasing fast enough!

The second set of allegations is even more ridiculous, Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera were accused of match-fixing in the match against Pakistan. Why you ask? Simply because they got out without making many runs! This was a joke wasn’t it, I mean come on, they only made two and one runs respectively so obviously they are match-fixing! There was no way it could have been the bowling of Shoaib Akhtar or the bowler of the tournament so far, Shahid Afridi. Sri Lanka had just lost a couple of quick wickets, namely the two batsmen who had settled at the crease and Pakistan had their tails up, the adrenalin flowing and took advantage of having new men at the crease. Now correct me if I’m wrong but that is what the bowling side is meant to do is it not? Try and get the new batsmen out as quickly as possible before he can become settled and score. Ryan ten Doeschate was out for seven against the West Indies a couple of days ago, after making 119 against England, was he involved in match-fixing too, seeing as he went out cheaply? Seriously, open your eyes and don’t allow utter stupidity to leave whoevers small mind it came from.

But wait, I saved the best until last…

Before the match between England and India, Shane Warne on his Twitter account said “Looking forward to the game between India and England – should be a cracker. My prediction – a tie!” Now this was clearly a tongue-in-cheek prediction, one that every single person would make many times in their life when watching sport because games could be too close to call. The difference here is that the game actually ended in a tie! Now how could Shane Warne have done that from his house over here in Brighton? As Rashid Latif, a former match-fixing whistleblower, said on FoxSports “I fail to see who stands to gain from the teams drawing as per international betting rules a tie results in a ‘fog’ or ‘void’ where both betting parties have to be returned their money as a settlement by the bookmakers,” so Warne clearly had a hand in match-fixing so he could gain… Oh yeah that’s right, nothing! I mean come on, a few mates of mine predicted a draw in the AFL Grand Final last year as a tongue-in-cheek tip and sure enough the Grand Final was a draw, I knew right away that they had done some sort of match-fixing agreement with the teams, or not.

The media in the sub-continent need to pull their heads out of their regions of no sun and view the game without bias and stupidity. They are hosting the Cricket World Cup, they should do so in a manner that is respectful to all teams and parties involved and these allegations of match-fixing are downright ridiculous. Just in case the media over there were looking for more match-fixing possibilites allow me to point out a few – England not bowling out Netherlands, Kenya making 69 runs total against New Zealand, Pakistan openers going out cheaply against a Kenyan bowling attack that conceded 46 extras and be sure to keep an eye on the Sri Lanka-Australia game coming up, I’m sure you will see plenty of suspicious activity in that match.

Seriously, heads out of the region of no sun, thumbs out of mouths, fingers out of noses, dummies back in, glasses back on and start coming up with some proper news, maybe its time for stupidity to take a back seat for a while!

MV

Cricket World Cup Preview

The ICC Cricket World Cup begins in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh later this week and it is proving to be a difficult one to pick a standout favourite. Any one of five teams can be named the victors this year and after pouring over the facts many people are still unclear who to lean towards. This is where we come in, what you will read in the following article is an in-depth analysis of every team in the World Cup – covering an 11 man squad we expect to take to the field, the key factor, the “x” factor and where we predict them to finish.

GROUP A is made up of Australia, Canada, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. GROUP B is made up of Bangladesh, England, India, Ireland, Netherlands, South Africa and West Indies.

Australia
Potential Lineup- Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Cameron White, David Hussey, Steve Smith, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Jason Krejza, Doug Bollinger.

Key Player – Shane Watson: He is the main man in Australian cricket at the moment, certainly the most consistent performer over all forms of the game for the Aussies in our summer of cricket. He has the important role of opening the batting, most likely paired with Brad Haddin, and he will be expected to give the Australians a good base to launch their attack off. Opposition teams will be wanting to get Watson out very quickly because he has the ability to lash out and score at a run-a-ball or better, or manipulate the ball around the field for the singles and twos. The Austalian batting score will hinge immensely on what Watson produces. He is also a very handy seam bowler and is usually used as the second change bowler and he is known to get a wicket almost immediately when he comes into the attack. Opposition teams shouldn’t underestimate his bowling ability either, this is isn’t a Test match so he doesn’t have to bat again, which means he will bowl his alloted ten overs each game.

X-Factor – Mitchell Johnson: Most people would say Johnson I know, however understand that he isn’t my first choice. Steve Smith would have been my choice as x-factor, but he is injured still and fighting to be ready in time, so Johnson it is. When Johnson bowls well, he bats well. Or if he bats well, he bowls well, it’s that simple with him. His game is built on his own confidence and if that confidence is high, opposition teams watchout! He can be devasting when brought into the bowling attack and can easily take a number of wickets in a limited amount of time. He will play second fiddle to Brett Lee in terms of leading the bowling attack. In recent years Johnson has been upgraded to all-rounder status and at times he legitimately is just that. If he plays his natural game of trying to thump the ball out of the ground, he does well and will score very quickly. Australia will look to Johnson to bring some aggression and will hope that his confidence peaks at the right moments.

Predicted Finish – Winner

Canada
Potential Lineup- Hiral Patel, John Davison, Ruvindu Gunasekera, Ashish Bagai, Zubin Surkari, Amabhir Hansra, Tyson Gordon, Rizwan Cheema, Henry Osinde, Harvir Baidwan, Khurram Chohan.

Key Player – John Davison is their opening batsmen and a devastating one at that, anyone else remember that 100 from 67 balls? This man is one of the few recognised cricketers in this Canadian team. The people from Victoria and South Australia would recognise him and remember his hard hitting style of batting as he suited up for them from 1995-2002 and 2002-2005 respectively. Davison isn’t a key player in terms of gaining a result for Canada, they will be few and far between, he is the key to Canada posting a respectable score.

X-Factor – Ashish Bagai, the captain and the wicketkeeper, possibly second only to Davison in regards to batting talent. He is a very good batsmen that can either stick around at the crease or blaze away. Expect him to try to occupy the crease and build a score. As the wicketkeeper/captain the opposition teams can expect his voice in their ears at all times. Also as a player born in India, the conditions and wickets may suit him more than others in the Canadian team, further solidifying his value to them.

Predicted Finish – Group stage exit for the Canadians unfortunately

Kenya
Potential Lineup- Seren Waters, Alex Obanda, Collins Obuya, Steve Tikolo, Maurice Ouma, Rakep Patel, Jimmy Kamande, Thomas Odoyo, Peter Ongondo, Elijah Otieno, James Ngoche.

Key Player – Thomas Odoyo: The main man in the Kenyan team, this guy is expected to make runs and take wickets each and every match. He is the star of Kenyan cricket and holds a number of records for them. If he doesn’t get a couple of wickets and 20+ runs a match, he hasn’t done his job.

X-Factor – Steve Tikolo: Touted as the greatest to come out of Kenya! If Tikolo can hit a big score then the Kenyans can post a reasonable total. They are capable of worrying a few teams, not overthrowing them, but at least making the matches interesting and Tikolo will be the determining factor in that. If he turns it on, its on!

Predicted Finish – Unfortunately for Kenya, an exit in the group stage beckons.

New Zealand
Potential Lineup- Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, Jesse Ryder, Scott Styris, Jacob Oram, Daniel Vettori, Nathan McCullum, James Franklin, Kyle Mills, Tim Southee.

Key Player – Daniel Vettori: The New Zealand skipper is possibly their most important player. Even more so in this World Cup where he may be the strike bowler for the Kiwis, who have no Shane Bond to bully opposition batsmen. Aside from his excellent spinners, Vettori is a more than serviceable batsmen and an outstanding tactician in the field. While an outside chance to win the World Cup, they can never be discredited.

X-Factor – Jacob Oram: This was a tough call, could have had Ross Taylor or Brendon McCullum here instead. I’ve gone with Oram because time and time again he proves to be a difficult batsmen to get out. When he is there, no opponent score is safe because he can put a massive dent in any buffer they may have had. He is also a very handy medium pace bowler, that has the ability to break partnerships.

Predicted Finish – QuarterFinals

Pakistan
Potential Lineup- Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akhmal, Umar Akhmal, Misbah Ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Abdul Razzaq, Saeed Ajmal, Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Shoaib Aktar.

Key Player – Shahid Afridi: The man that can hit the ball further than the majority of players in this World Cup. Also a very handy spin bowler for the Pakistanis. If this man is on song he can be one of the best ODI players in the world, which he has demonstrated a number of times in the past. Pakistan will be looking to Afridi to steer them through to a grand finish.

X-Factor – Umar Akhmal: This is the young superstar that has Pakistan fans and international fans alike salivating. He has burst onto the scene and if he performs to the high standard expected of him, could win Pakistan a number of games in this tournament. His combination of pure technical brilliance and his ability to power hit the ball makes him a key wicket for opposition teams.

Predicted Finish – Semifinals

Sri Lanka
Potential Lineup- Tillakratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaweera, Chamara Kapugadera, Angelo Matthews, Nuwan Kulasekara, Ajantha Mendis, Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan.

Key Player – Kumar Sangakkara: One of the best wicketkeeper/batsmen in the world today. Sri Lanka will be looking to him to lead from the front with the bat and continue to make the right decisions that saw Sri Lanka beat Australia in Australia.

X-Factor – Lasith Malinga: Slinga-Malinga is the out and out pace option for the Sri Lankan team. He has the ability to change his deliveries and keep the batsmen guessing or dodging or closing their eyes or anything else they can think of doing when a ball is coming at your head at 150km/h. If he rips through opposition top orders then Sri Lanka will win more games than they lose.

Predicted Finish – Semifinals

Zimbabwe
Potential Lineup- Brendan Taylor, Charles Coventry, Tatenda Taibu, Sean Williams, Craig Ervine, Elton Chigumbura, Chris Mpofu, Ed Rainsford, Greg Lamb, Shingirai Masakadza, Ray Price.

Key Player – Greg Lamb: A spinning all-rounder for the Zimbabweans, that started off as a batsmen that could bowl a bit. In the recent warm-up match against Ireland he took 3 wickets off his 10 overs for a very economical 3 per over. If he is a batsmen that bowls a bit he could be a darkhorse in the lineup for Zimbabwe. With everyone focusing on the larger names of Taylor, Ervine etc. he may just be able to make the opposition pay

X-Factor – Tatenda Taibu: Strange I know that a wicketkeeper could be the x-factor however, he will be. Zimbabwe has named three keepers in their 15 man squad, so if Taibu wants to continue to play in the WC he has to perform. He can strike a ball, however is inconsistent with the bat. So with the threat looming over his head that there is not one, but two backup keepers ready to play, expect him to suddenly find some form and consistency.

Predicted Finish – Again will only be a group exit for Zimbabwe who have never been as good since Heath Streak left, and on a side note that is an awesome name.

MV

Much like a small child being gently eased into the shallow end of the swimming pool, after MV’s brilliant analysis of Group A, I’m left with the group where only three of the top four qualifying teams actually deserve to make it to the quarters. Lets begin

Bangladesh

Squad
Shakib Al Hasan (c), Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Shariar Nafees, Zunaed Siddique, Mohammad Ashraful, Raqibul Hassan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah Riad, Abdur Razzak, Naeem Islam, Shafiul Islam, Suhrawardi Shuvo, Rubel Hossain, Nazmul Hossain.

Key Player
Sakib Al Hasan – Bangladesh’s captain may be only 23 years old but he’s lead the Tigers to possibly their most successful year ever.  After leading Bangladesh to their first Test series win over a current Test nation in 2009, 2010 saw him lead the team to a 4-0 brownwash over New Zealand. He’s sort of like Bangladesh’s Andrew Strauss.

Eventual Outcome
I know that Bangladesh are playing at home and this will annoy fans of Bangladeshi cricket, but really they shouldn’t really make it past the group stage. With South Africa, India and England in their group, Bangladesh better be praying that the Irish don’t repeat their performance at the 2007 World Cup if they want a chance to make it to the finals. Quite frankly their development is pathetic for a Test nation. Sri Lanka was granted Test status in 1982 and won the Cup in ’96 for crying out loud.

England

Squad
Andrew Strauss (captain), Jimmy Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Ajmal Shahzad, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott, Luke Wright, Michael Yardy.

Key Player
Graeme Swann – It’s the sub-continent and these pitches are usually very spin friendly… if you’re from the subcontinent that is. Even Shane Warne couldn’t turn a doorknob on Indian wickets so if England want to get a bit of silverware in their trophy cabinet Graeme Swann must start bagging wickets. The shorter boundaries of the Indian grounds make scoring runs easy so wickets will win matches.

Eventual Outcome
As we saw in the Champions Trophy in 2009, don’t let England’s one day thrashing at the hands of the Aussies post-Ashes be any indication of how they will fair in the tournament. Andy Flower seems to have done what no other English coach has done before him, and actually made a team where each person has a specific role. The only downside to England’s march to glory in 50 over cricket is their inability to win when it matters against Australia. Semi final exit for the English.

India

Squad
MS Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Piyush Chawla, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Ashish Nehra, Sreesanth.

Key Player
Sachin Tendulkar – It is absolutely amazing just how great this man’s form has been in 2010… in the Test arena. Yes I know he scored 200* in an ODI and it’s fitting that he holds the record, but in 2010 he only played two ODI’s where he scored 4 and 200*. Sure bouncing back from four runs to make 200 is an impressive feat but his two innings against South Africa in January netted him a total of 31 runs.  If he’s at the form he was in when he made that 200, then we’ll be looking at one hell of a matchwinner.

Eventual Outcome
The good thing with India in any form of competitive cricket that they participate in, is that there is always only two outcomes. India don’t win, effigies of the players are burnt and the people riot. Or India do win, everyone celebrates and the people still riot. If looking at the way the crowd reacted to India’s impending defeat in the 1996 World Cup Semi Final, India have to win this tournament. Anything less is failure especially with the exit of Gary Kirsten as coach. Either India win or they become runners up. My gut says runners up but I’m assuming we’ll get plenty of commenters saying how this is India’s time.

Ireland

Squad
William Porterfield (captain), Andre Botha, Alex Cusack, George Dockrell, Trent Johnston, Nigel Jones, Ed Joyce, John Mooney, Kevin O’Brien, Niall O’Brien, Boyd Rankin, Paul Stirling, Albert van der Merwe, Gary Wilson, Andrew White.

Key Player
Ed Joyce – If Ireland was a Test playing nation (and I’ll say it, they should be) Eoin Morgan would be the name highlighted in this column. It’s ironic that in Ireland’s superb 2007 World Cup campaign Ed Joyce was a part of England’s squad and Eoin Morgan was a big part of Ireland’s rise. Well how times change and after 2007, Ed Joyce made it his ultimate goal to re-qualify so he could play for Ireland. With only room for in the quarters and Ireland reasonably better than the ever failing West Indies and the never progressing Ireland, the veteran (and lets face it Ireland doesn’t have many that still play for Ireland at least) will want to get is team past the group stage at least.

Eventual Outcome
India and South Africa are world class teams and on their best day, Ireland is an associate nation that is too good for the minnows yet don’t get the exposure and amount of games that they deserve as a team with ODI status. They’ve applied in 2009 to the ICC for Full Member status but let’s face it the Asian bloc wont want another team that could tip the balance of power, but that’s neither here nor there. Ireland will look to have West Indies and Bangladesh in their sights and if they play to the ability they are capable of they should easily make it into the quarters.

Netherlands

Squad
Wesley Barresi, Mudassar Bukhari, Atse Buurman, Tom Cooper, Tom de Grooth, Alexei Kervezee, Bradley Kruger, Bernard Loots, Adeel Raja, Pieter Seelaar, Eric Szwarczynski, Ryan ten Doeschate, Berend Westdijk, Bas Zuiderent, Michael Swart.

Key Player
Ryan ten Doeschate – Why him? Because he’s the only person in the entire playing squad I’ve actually seen play. He did pretty well for Tassie in the Big Bash and he’s taken player of the series in New Zealand domestic competition, plus he’s the first ever player from a non-Test playing nation to score a big money IPL contract. However all the highlights I’ve listed none of them matter since this isn’t T20 cricket.

Eventual Outcome
It’s the Netherlands. They’re always involved in something big that happens in the World Cup. Be it upsetting a Test nation, to having six sixes clobbered off their bowlers in an over something eventful will happen in this Tournament and somewhere there’ll be Dutch fingerprints on it. As for their progression in the Tournament? They’re just making up the numbers.

South Africa

Squad
Graeme Smith (captain), Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Colin Ingram, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Morne van Wyk.

Key Player
Jacques Kallis – Jacques Kallis is the statesman of the South African team. While this is Graeme Smith’s last time playing for the Proteas as captain, this tournament is one that Jacques Kallis will attempt to stamp his authority on. Being the only one in the squad who was there during that infamous World Cup semi final in 1999 which was the last time South Africa legitimately had a chance at winning the cup. With the squad that South Africa has at the moment and the form (and new hair) that Kallis has combined with the scars from ’99, Kallis will be the key player for South Africa.

Eventual Outcome
There’s something about South Africa that I just can’t put my finger on. Their batsmen make runs, their bowlers take wickets and they field like a team of eleven Jonty Rhodes’s. They just don’t win. They’ve been labeled as chokers so much since 1999 that hell, most of us are finding it difficult to breathe. All I can guarantee is that Jacques Kallis won’t get what he deserves at the end of this tournament. Interpret that however you wish but I’ll bet when every South African cricket fan looks back at their prior World Cups, they wish that the Duckworth-Lewis method was around in 1992.

West Indies

Squad
Darren Sammy (captain), Adrian Barath, Carlton Baugh Jr., Sulieman Benn, Darren Bravo, Dwayne Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle, Nikita Miller, Kieron Pollard, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Andre Russell, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Devon Smith.

Key Player
Chris Gayle – It’s a strange situation with Chris Gayle. Sometimes he looks so indifferent when he’s standing there in the slips with one of his many fashionable pairs of sunglasses and the other times he’s taking wickets and belting bowlers into the second tiers of the boundaries. Ever since he was stripped off the West Indies captaincy, Gayle has been unleashed scoring a triple century against Sri Lanka in the Windies last Test series and pulverizing Aussie domestic bowlers in the Big Bash.

Eventual Outcome
Since it’s not 1975, labeling the West Indies as a favourite isn’t really a smart thing to do. This is a team that doesn’t really gel together as a unit like the other squads. In the past couple of years they’ve had players strikes, team infighting and the refusal of their top players in signing contracts. In short they’re the new Pakistan minus the match fixing. The West Indies haven’t been competitive since 1995 and considering their earlier dominance of the ODI format its quite sad to watch what they’ve become today. They’ll make it through to the quarters but they don’t deserve to.

That being said, this really is the world cup where at least six of the competing teams actually have a shot to reach the cup. It’s mainly the decline of the Aussies, but even a bad Australia can beat a good Pakistan any day of the week. The 2011 World Cup also marks the last time we’ll be seeing any Associate nations take part as the 2015 Tournament is reduced to the Test playing nations only. Which, as Graeme Swann so elegantly put, “removes the world from the World Cup”.

AA

Looking ahead to the Sydney Test

With The Ashes safely back in the hands of England, the joyous shouts from all English supporters will be heard for months. The loss of the urn will haunt every Australian whenever an Englishmen decides to get one-up on his mates, we would do the same of course if we had of come close to winning them back. However, with the overall reward locked up and the only thing for the Australian team to play for now is respect, we need to begin rebuilding and looking to the future now and there is no better time than the SCG Test. Changes need to be made, of that there is no doubt, this time though, the changes need to be with an eye looking forward instead of the simple gap-filler, fix-it job that has been happening. One of the reasons that nobody seems to be talking about in regards to Englands success over the Aussies, is the fact that their Test side is settled and has been settled for a while now. A side that is constant will garner more results than a side that is constantly changing.

It makes sense to start at the top of the line-up and work down to the 12th man, who I am going to include in this article. With an eye to the future the 12th man becomes an important position as it gives whoever it may be the experience of net sessions, team meetings, match day agendas etc. at the international level. I am also going to be looking at this from the perspective that Ponting will not be playing in this Test due to his finger, in my eyes he played at the MCG only because of the occassion, there is no such glamour about the upcoming Test at the SCG.

The opening pairing of Shane Watson and Phil Hughes needs to remain as it is, both men have an aggressive style and in the first ten overs of the second innings at the MCG, that style was working and had the Aussies sitting at 0-52 off nine overs if I remember correctly. Once that solid foundation in the initial overs is set both batsmen can then settle into some sort of rhythm that will allow them a prolonged stay at the crease. Watson deserves to stay at the top of the order, he averages 41.55 which is decent enough and is always contributing a start, as shown by his 15 Test fifties. His only downfall is  that he doesn’t continue on with those fifties, shown by his two Test centuries, he has some sort of mental break and finds himself walking back to the team rooms. Hughes deserves to be in the side, let alone opening the batting because he is a specialist opening batsmen, it is what he does. He has an average which is a tick better than Watsons, 41.75, has the same amount of Test centuries and two Test fifties in a handful of matches. While his technique has flaws and his style of batting comes under scrutiny, that will follow him no matter what. Anytime he gets dismissed someone will always say it is his technique that caused him to come undone, not a brilliantly bowled ball or a spectacular catch or, as was the case at the MCG, a bad decision by his opening partner to go for a run. If we are looking to the future, Hughes is one of the faces that needs to be seen now, so he can continue to be seen later.

The number three spot has become a massive talking point this past week, with Ricky Pontings failings yet again with the willow and his age and his seemingly quickening pace down the backend of his career. Usman Khawaja is the name that is being thrown around to take the mantle of first drop and to be honest, even though I personally don’t care much for him as a player, I have no argument to his being mentioned. He has great skill that has allowed him to average 51.70 with the bat for NSW in the same position with six centuries and ten fifties in under 30 matches. He is reported to being technically sound in terms of his technique and also as a man not easily flustered while standing at the crease.  Another youngster that could be around for ten years in the international arena, but again he needs to be bred into the scene now.

Michael Clarke will remain at the four spot and will also be captain for this Test, even though I believe that both occurances should not happen at all. He is in poor form and is a questionable leader, why else would Cricket Australia be continuously sending him off to leadership training? You either have the nouse to be a leader, a tactician if you will, or you don’t and there are other men that could have been in this role sooner. Anyway, Clarke needs to show some glimmer of form at the SCG to maintain his spot in the side, otherwise another man, Callum Ferguson, Shaun Marsh or even Mitch Marsh will be snapping at his heels.

This next position is locked in and will not be changed, Mr Cricket, Michael Hussey will be batting at number five. I believed that the selectors would have made a grave mistake, again, if they had dropped Hussey at the start of this series for the simple reason of – Cometh the hour, cometh the man. In his international career to date Hussey has given Australia some sort of respectable score countless times after the top order failed and this series has been no different. Hussey has been the man to rescue Australia many times when those around him off fallen by the wayside and this series has shown just how important he is to this batting lineup.

Positions six and seven need to be switched around from their current format, Steve Smith to seven and Brad Haddin up to six. I’ll start with Haddin. Aside from Hussey, Brad Haddin has been the man to save Australia’s bacon from a meaningless score, aside from all the other meaningless scores we have put up this summer. In this series he has made three fifties and one century, second only to Hussey (three fifties and two centuries). He is batting too far down and as seen from the second innings at the MCG, has no time to settle himself because he invariably ends up with the tailenders. Steve Smith, like Hughes, is the face of the future. Right now, however he needs to be a batsman that bowls. I have mentioned this before in previous articles I have written on this site. However, get him in as a batsman, allow him to bowl 10-20 overs a match and groom him from there. In his 18 overs that he bowled at the MCG he showed just how good he could be as a bowler, there weren’t many pies thrown up and although he didn’t succeed in actually getting a wicket, he was close many times. More experience and those close wickets will become meaningful scalps. He needs to be in this team, he needs to be allowed to grow in this team.

Australia is after a spinning option yet they’ve gone to the bar and asked for Beer instead. No, no, no, no and no! Steve O’Keefe anyone? I can make it on the rocks if you prefer? Anyway, the SCG Test is known for providing assistance to the spinners, especially in the last few days of the Test. Why not introduce a young NSW spinner, who plays at the SCG consistently, who faced England while playing for Australia A, who made a half-century with change and who got a couple of wickets? That would be a novel approach, wouldn’t it? Steve O’Keefe has all the makings of a fine all-rounder, averaging 46.30 with the bat and 23.50 with the ball in 11 matches are good figures by anyones standards. He and Steve Smith could provide a great tandem for the Aussies in more ways than one. They provide variety to the bowling attack, one a left-arm spinner – the other a right-arm spinner, and they also provide a longer batting lineup. If O’Keefe plays, which he should, he can fire with the bat and the ball.

The number nine spot will be occupied by Mitchell Johnson, I’m going to leave him there for now, but I don’t like it. He is very hit and miss and at the moment, it is more miss than hit. His stunning spell in Perth was a once off for the summer and in Melbourne he never looked like replicating it. His batting was also dismal, along with the rest of the team, after his 62 at the WACA. Perhaps he needs to be dropped, I’m sorry I meant rested, every second Test so he can recharge? If thats the case, for those second Tests move Peter Siddle up a spot and bring in Peter George from South Australia, Josh Hazelwood or Mitchell Starc from NSW or James Pattinson from VIC. 

The man just mentioned, Peter Siddle, fills the number ten spot. After his performance in Melbourne how can you drop him? However that is not the reason he gets the nod, the reason is that he has passion. When he gets a wicket, he celebrates and does it in style, glaring at the batsmen as they walk off the pitch, jumping high into the air to high-five teammates. Passion and excitement is what a bowling lineup and a team need. A bowling lineup needs to have one fast bowler that is the dedicated aggressor, the one that is sent in to get the batsmen jumping around the crease, not necessarily to get wickets. In this style of ploy the wickets tend to come from the other end, as batsmen seek to redeem themselves from the previous over from the aggressor. The Australian team needs a bit of fire, a bit of mongrel and a bit of attitude to their lineup, Siddle provides that and as seen from the MCG, he brings wickets, catches and batting to the table too!

The final spot in the lineup goes to Clint McKay in place of Ben Hilfenhaus. When the Victorian team played England, McKay had four wickets and shot through the English top order. Alastair Cook was out for under 20 in both innings courtesy of McKay, after making 400 odd runs in four innings against the Australian seamers! McKay like Siddle has a fire in the belly and can play the role of aggressor, however he can also keep it straight and tight. Averaging 25.80 with the ball in domestic cricket with eight four-wicket hauls at an economy rate of 2.48 an over he needs to be in the side in place of Hilfenhaus, who has done nothing in this series at all.

The 12th man spot, often a forgotten man in the team, but still potentially important to the teams future. Mitch Marsh gets the nod as my 12th man, he is 19 years of age, captain of the U19 champions, youngest debutant for WA in 70 years when he made his debut at the age of 17. He is a future batsman at the top of the order and when the day comes for Clarke to get the flick or retire due to back problems, or Hussey to retire, he should step into the team. Make him a permenant 12th man and the experience he gains will be invaluable.

Overall my team looks like this –

1. Shane Watson 2. Phil Hughes  3. Usman Khawaja 4. Michael Clarke 5. Michael Hussey 6. Brad Haddin 7. Steve Smith 8. Steve O’Keefe 9. Mitchell Johnson 10. Peter Siddle 11. Clint McKay 12. Mitch Marsh

A team made up of faces for the future that need to be groomed now. If you take a look at other international teams, they have brought players to Australia that are approximately 18 years old, for example Ishant Sharma from India. Australia take players that are over 30 years old when they travel, its time to change that.

I was reading the other day an article that involved an interview from Steve Waugh and what he said made me think that people need to keep this in mind for the current situation. Bare in mind that I am paraphrasing, I can’t remember the exact quote – it took him 26 Tests before he scored his first Test match hundred and he finished with 10927 runs in 168 Tests. The other thing, in terms of bowlers, to remember is that Shane Warne received figures of 0-100 and something in his first Test match and we all know how he finished his career. Give the young players a go, the future for Australian Test cricket should begin in four days time at the SCG!!

MV

Australia’s darkest day… Marsh, Khawaja, Copeland and O’Keefe must debut in Sydney.

Boxing Day is, and has annually been since 1980, the biggest day of the calender year for many cricket fans all around the World, in particular in Victoria, Australia. It’s an opportunity to venture to the home of Australian cricket and watch eleven Australian’s fight against the summer’s touring side, giving their best for their nation of adoring fans. This year, as it is every four years, the British were in town, fighting for Cricket’s holy grail, The Ashes.

The Ashes, fiercely fought between Australia and England since 1882, is the pinnacle of Test Cricket and a series which has grown in stature since England’s revival in 2005. It’s a series when players’ reputations are both made and broken, where careers are defined, and individual acts of brilliance can change a series in just a few overs. It is, undoubtedly, cricket’s finest series, and a series which compels viewers all around the globe in a true celebration of the amazing game that is cricket.

Unfortunately though, there wasn’t much to celebrate today as Australia sunk to, arguably, an all-time low after being bowled out for just 98. In addition to this, they allowed England to muster up 0/157, a 59 run lead with 10 wickets in hand heading into day 2.

To put things into perspective, Australia have never, in over 133 years of Test Cricket, been behind at stumps on Day 1, with the opposition still having 10 wickets in hand. Today, history was created at the MCG, for all the wrong reasons, and as Australia head into the 5th (dead rubber) Test Match in Sydney next week, things need to change.

A fantastic display in Perth last week in the 3rd Test Match covered up numerous cracks in the Australian line-up, cracks which showed again today as the Aussies were simply smashed in all departments.

Phillip Hughes is a fantastic young batsman who burst onto the international scene against South Africa in February 2009, scoring 350 runs in his first 2 Test Matches. However, since then he has made just 295 runs at a paltry average of just 26.81. In addition to this, Hughes has managed just 231 runs at 19.25 this summer, clearly highlighting his lack of form. There is no doubt that Hughes is a fantastic young player who has a limitless amount of talent, the question remains though, is his talent suited for the opening batsman position? I fear not.

Hughes is a flashy young batsman, eager to play his shots and score at a rapid rate. His debut century against South Africa was scored at a strike-rate of 76.15, which despite sounding attractive at the time, is almost impossible to maintain over a prolonged period of time. This is simply due to having technique flaws discovered by opposing bowlers and captains.

Hughes really never should have been selected for the 3rd and 4th Tests, not only because his form didn’t warrant it, but also due to the fact that his technique needs tightening before being thrown out to open the batting in the game’s most important series.

The second weakness in the Australian side is the lack of runs from the captain and vice-captain, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke. Ponting, who has averaged just 15.50 in his 7 innings this series, is in serious danger of losing his spot in the starting eleven, with questions continually being raised about his ability to pick-up the ball early in his innings. His foot-work, despite never being amazing at the start of an innings, has deteriorated rapidly over the past 12 months, which is making him vulnerable early on in his innings. This vulnerability is highlighted by his 14 scores below 15, in 25 innings since December 2009.

Clarke on the other hand is suffering from a sever lack of form, which is largely due to his extremely low-level of confidence whilst batting. Clarke, despite his experience, is similar to Hughes in that he is extremely flashy and at times, possesses a very loose technique, especially for a number 4 batsman. When Clarke is confident in his own ability and plays his shots with assertiveness and conviction, his flashy style produces countless runs. However, when his confidence is low, he seems nervous, tentative and plays his shots half-heartedly, which is proving to be his downfall as he has managed just 262 runs in his last 13 innings. A match or two in the Baggy Blue of New South Wales could be just what Clarke needs to rediscover his mojo.

The batting isn’t the only concern for the Australians, with Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus the main culprits of a struggling Australian attack. Since Siddle’s devastating spell of 6/54 in Brisbane three weeks ago, he has produced figures of 1/257 and despite bowling well at times, the figures don’t lie, highlighting a severe lack of wicket-taking ability. Hilfenhaus, without a 6-fa to hang his hat on this series, has produced figures of 1/237  since taking the wicket of Andrew Strauss with the third ball of his series in Adelaide. Similar to Siddle, despite bowling well at times, the ability to strike when needed most seems beyond him and serious doubts are lingering over his head for the upcoming Sydney Test Match in early 2011.

Steven Smith is the sixth concern for the Australian team and despite the youthful enthusiasm he brings to the team, the fact remains that he has yet to take a wicket in the series and has managed just 49 runs from his 3 innings. Marcus North, despite his poor run of form, managed exactly the same amount of runs from 3 innings however he also contributed with a wicket. With young batsmen like Usman Khawaja waiting in the wings, Smith needs to fire in the second innings in order to keep his spot because at the end of the day, when one asks himself who the best number six batsman in Australia is, the answer is unlikely to be Steve Smith.

The remaining five players, despite a poor day, are in relatively good form and have shown numerous moments of brilliance this summer. Watson, Hussey and Haddin are leading the batting attack, whilst Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris both found some much-needed form with the ball in Perth.

With the urn likely to remain in England’s possession for another few years, Sydney provides an opportunity for the ultra-conservative Australian selectors to blood some youth in what appears likely to be a dead-rubber. Ponting, given his captaincy, is likely to keep his spot, however the match is a perfect opportunity to omit Hughes, Clarke, Siddle and Hilfenhaus, and bring in youngsters such as Sean Marsh (414 runs at 59.14 this summer), Khawaja (611 runs at 61.10), Trent Copeland (25 wickets at 21.40), James Faulkner (19 wickets at 11.94) or Steve O’Keefe (16 wickets at 16.93).

Now, more than ever before, is the time where the Australian selectors need to pick young Australian cricketers based solely on age and Domestic form, not just reputation. There is simply no better experience for these youngsters to debut and perform in front of a sold-out Sydney crowd… I just hope the selectors don’t miss this opportunity.

DJC

Selecting Brad Hodge for the 2011 World Cup.

Australian cricket is at, arguably, the lowest point in over a decade, dating as far back to their outstanding World Cup victory on June 20th 1999. Since that memorable day at the home of cricket, Lord’s, no fewer than 47 men have made their One-Day International (ODI) debut for the green and gold, ranging from a 150 game superstar in Michael Hussey, right down to a 2 game under-achiever in Moises Henriques. Of these 47 players, none may consider themselves more unlucky than Brad Hodge, who has managed just 25 ODI’s since his debut against New Zealand on December 3rd 2005.

Hodge, who has also played 6 Test Matches and 8 Twenty20 Internationals, was unceremoniously dumped from the Australian Test team, despite an impressive record of 503 runs at an average of 55.88. The reasoning given at the time was that his technique was flawed and was, at times, ‘too loose’ to be a Test Match batsman. Whether this is actually the case or not is something that can be left for another argument, the issue in discussion here is his lack of opportunities he has received in the ODI team.

Despite his technique being blamed in the longer version of the game, no reason has officially been given for his absence from ODI’s over the years, largely due to the fact that an excuse of ‘looseness’, simply doesn’t apply to ODI’s where shot-making is the key to success. Examples of this include ODI champions in Andrew Symonds (who I might add received more Test Match opportunities than Hodge) and Cameron White, both of which are attacking and at times, even reckless in the shorter version of the game.

The last last time Hodge played for Australia, on October 17th 2007, John Howard was Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd was simply a friendly bloke promising to say sorry, and Julie Gillard was an unknown red-head from the Western Suburbs of Melbourne. A closer look through the list of batsman given an opportunity at ODI level since Hodge last played makes the scenario seem even more profound, as highlighted below;

Phil Jacques: 6 games, 125 runs @ 20.83
David Hussey: 23 games, 598 runs @ 28.47
David Warner: 7 games, 106 runs @ 15.14
Marcus North: 2 games, 6 runs @ 3.00
Moises Henriques: 2 games, 18 runs @ 9.00
Steven Smith:  9 games, 139 runs @ 27.80

When these records are compared to that of Hodge’s 575 runs at 30.26 (including one century), it’s clear to see why both his fans and himself alike are continually left bemused and frustrated.

As highlighted, a lot has changed since Hodge last played, however one thing remains the same, he continually scores big on the Domestic circuit both here in Australia and also in England. In addition to his impressive ODI’s statistics, Hodge has scored no less than 8,669 runs in his ‘List-A’ career, at an outstanding average of 43.56. This includes recent Australian Domestic campaigns of;

352 runs @ 50.28 in 2007/08
311 runs @ 38.87 in 2008/09
622 runs @ 69.11 in 2009/10
414 runs @ 138.00 in 2010/11

There are those who claim that given Hodge’s age (35), his time playing for Australia is well and truly over, and in addition to this, it is often said that statistics don’t often tell the true story. However in the case of Brad Hodge, the statistics simply don’t lie and selectors need to take notice of the sheer volume of runs he scores at Domestic level and the impressive record he already has whilst playing for Australia.

With this in mind, Greg Chappell and his fellow selectors need to ensure Hodge plays in Australia’s World Cup campaign later in the summer, or the chances of winning our fourth straight world title will be greatly diminished.

Jr.