Tag Archives: Cricket

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


436 runs off 215 balls.

The photo above, showing a man who chooses to wear the number 333 on the back of his playing shirt (in reference to his highest Test Match score), begs the question… Is there a cooler, yet more dangerous man in world sport?

Chris Gayle, after recently falling out of favour with the West Indian selectors, arrived in Bangalore almost three weeks ago hoping to prove to the world that he is no spent force, despite losing his spot in his national side. Before his arrival on the 21st of April, his side had lost three games on the trot and were looking for some inspiration. Needless to say, he delivered.

Seven games have since passed and what seems to be the West Indies loss is proving to be a massive gain for the Royal Challengers Bangalore as Gayle continues to tear apart quality bowling attacks.

The carnage started against his old side Kolkata when he smashed 102 not out off 55 balls and easily lead his side to victory. His innings read as follows;


In his second match, against Delhi, he scored 26 off just 14 balls and helped set his side up for a comfortable chase to victory. His innings read as follows;


His third match was against Pune and he once again set the platform early, smashing 49 off 26 balls. His innings read as follows;


His fourth match was most certainly his best as he became the first player in history to score a second IPL century in the same tournament. His innings of 107 off 49 balls read as follows;


In his fifth match of the tournament, Gayle smoked 44 off just 15 balls including 36 of a Prasanth Parameswaran over (which included a no-ball). His innings read as follows;


In his sixth match, against Rajasthan, Gayle again went nuts with the willow, smashing 70 not out off 44 balls. His innings read as follows;


In his seventth match, against Kolkata, he only faced 12 balls, however it was still enough to cause some madness as he smoked 38 runs. His innings read as follows;


In total, Gayle has scored 436 runs at an average of 87.20 from just 215 balls faced. All of this at an incredible strike-rate of 202.79. He has also now moved to the top of the batting charts despite playing just 7 games.

Furthermore, in addition to his batting prowess, his bowling and fielding has also been handy, taking the following figures with the ball and in the field;

0/9 (2) & 1 catch vs. Kolkata
0/20 (2) vs. Delhi
1/8 (2) vs. Pune
3/21 (4) vs. Punjab
1/26 (4) vs. Kochi
1/23 (3) vs. Rajasthan
0/11 (1) vs. Kolkata

Since Gayle arrived, Bangalore have won seven games in a row and they are currently in first place with two games remaining.  They will be looking for finish off strong having already qualified for the finals, for the third successive time. This year however, they have Chris Gayle and with that comes a genuine chance of winning their first championship.

Oh, and one final note worth mentioning, the West Indies lost their series to Pakistan 3-2 and I have no doubt that the result would have been different had Gayle of played.


The Little Master’s improving form and that elusive World Cup.

As Sachin Tendulkar approaches the amazing feat of notching up 100 centuries in International Matches, the cricketing public are wondering just how many runs he will score before he calls it quits. Whatever the final total, it is extremely unlikely to be surpassed, highlighting just how amazing his career has been.

As discussed previously (http://penandpaperblog.org/2010/10/12/sachin_tendulkar/), Tendulkar certainly isn’t slowing down in the longer format of the game, with his Test Match performances continuing to improve despite turning 38 next month. The statistical breakdown below highlights Tendulkar’s continued improvement over recent years in Test Matches;

The most important element of the graph is that of the yellow trend line which highlights just how noticeable the improvements have been over recent years.

In addition to his sublime form in Test Matches, Tendulkar has also improved significantly in recent years in the game’s shorter version, One-Day Internationals, as highlighted below;

The yellow trend line is again the key element and once again it highlights the improvements from Tendulkar.

Currently, Tendulkar comfortably has more Test Match (14,692) and ODI (17,953) runs than any other player in the history of cricket and should he play for a further two years, he is likely to finish with in excess of 35,000 International runs.

One thing however which has thus far eluded Tendulkar in his stellar career is a World Cup victory, despite his best efforts. As the table below highlights, Tendulkar has excelled on cricket’s biggest stage;

If anybody deserves to be part of a World Cup winning side, it’s Tendulkar, and the form displayed in the tournament thus far by himself and his Indian teammates suggest that time is now. If they aren’t successful this time around, Tendulkar may well miss out on having another chance as he’ll be 42 when the 2015 World Cup is staged in Australia and New Zealand.

A World Cup victory, in India, would be the pinnacle of an amazing career and may well be a fitting end to his One-Day International career. Sport in general has a funny knack of delivering fairy tale endings, we’ll know in just a few weeks time if the Little Master will receive his.


Cricket NSW… The breeding ground of champions.

A commonly used phrase amongst Australian cricket fans and critics alike is,

“When you receive your ‘Baggy Blue’, your ‘Baggy Green’ is in the same bag!”

This phrase is in reference to the high number of New South Welshmen who progress up the ranks to represent the Australian side at international level. This high percentage is often the topic of hot debate however, with many people questioning the merit of previous New South Welshmen to represent Australia.

Since the turn of the millennium, 36 men have debuted for Australia in Test Cricket, 13 of them are New South Welshmen. However despite this high number, I believe that instead of criticising the selectors, fans must focus on congratulating the powers that be in NSW Cricket for continually producing Australia’s most talented youngsters. The systems which are in place are clearly producing results and the talent identification process needs to be installed into other state associations.

In addition to the Test debutantes since 2000, a handful of youngsters have more recently burst onto the international scene in the shorter formats of the game. Players such as David Warner, Moises Henriques, Josh Hazelwood, Mitchell Starc and Stephen O’Keefe have all proven themselves on the domestic scene whilst wearing the famous blues and given their young age, have progressed into the Australian side as the selectors look for the future stars of Australian Cricket.

Further evidence of the talent coming through the NSW cricketing ranks was seen just last week when 17-year old Patrick Cummins tore through Queensland’s top order, taking 3/24 and clocking in frequently at over 145kph. He was also ably supported by 18-year-old Sean Abbott to also took 3 wickets whilst only conceding 15 runs. Throw in 24-year-old speedster Trent Copeland who has 60 First Class wickets at just 19.16 in 11 games, and it’s clear to see that the abundance of talent coming out of NSW is far better than rival states.

With an aging Australian side producing their worst results in over a decade, changes are inevitable after the World Cup concludes at the end of March. The critics out there claiming bias towards New South Welshmen will once again voice their concerns, however as Australia look to blood some fresh, young, talented players into the national side, it seems that New South Wales will continue to feature heavily.


Like Taylor and Waugh before him, Ponting deserves some time.

As Australia spiral towards another Test Match defeat at the hands of arch rivals England, speculation is rife about the future of Ricky Ponting, Australia’s gutsy leader since March 2004. His form, which has yielded just 593 runs at 31.21 since making 209 against Pakistan at Hobart in January this year, and position in the side is being questioned, which ultimately leads to issues regarding the captaincy.

However, this isn’t anything new for Australian cricket, with Ponting’s two predecessors, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh, also suffering prolonged periods of poor form towards the end of their careers. In fact, these periods of poor form were far greater and more extreme than the one Ponting’s experiencing at the moment.

Between December 1995 and June 1997, Mark Taylor, one of Australia’s greatest captains, suffered a loss of form much worse than Ponting’s, however he was given more than his fair share of time to turn it around.

Since Taylor’s 96 against Sri Lanka at Perth in December 1995, he produced 367 runs at a paltry average of just 18.35 in an 18-month period, before turning it around with a career-saving 129 against England at Birmingham in June 1997. The headlines were similar to what we’re seeing currently with Ponting’s situation, however the only difference was that the Australian side was winning. Despite the los of form, the selectors retained faith in the opening batsman and it paid dividends, with Taylor amassing a further 1719 runs at 66.11 before his retirement in January 1999. This included his record-breaking 334 not out against Pakistan at Peshawar in October 1998.

Waugh, like Taylor, was experiencing a poor run of form just a few years prior to his retirement, with the period between August 2001 and October 2002 reaping just 345 runs at 21.56, before a career-saving century against Pakistan at Sharjah. Similar to Taylor’s situation, the Australian team was winning most of their games during this period, and despite calls for Waugh’s sacking, the media weren’t as harsh as what we’re seeing now with Ponting. In another similarity to Taylor, Waugh also repaid the selectors who showed faith in him, amassing 1296 runs at 68.21 before retiring in January 2004.

With these examples in mind, it’s dangerous to write off a champion, especially one who has scored in excess of 12,000 Test Match runs. There will be those in various forms of media claiming that the key difference is that the Australian’s are losing, unlike when Taylor and Waugh were in charge. The fact remains though, that despite being talented cricketers, the likes of Hughes, Haddin, Smith and Siddle are simply no match to the likes of Hayden, Gilchrist, Warne and McGrath.

Certainly, there is a concern about Ponting’s individual form, however his captaincy can’t be judged on the (lack of) performance of others.


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.


The heads are spinning at the selection table!

In all due respect to Michael Beer, 16 First Class wickets at an average of 39.93 is simply not the answer to Australia’s spin-bowling woes. Beer, 26, was today selected in the 12-man Australian squad for the 3rd Ashes Test, starting in Perth next week, with Chairman of Selectors, Andrew Hilditch quoted saying;

We expect he will bowl very well against the English on his home ground.”

Firstly, the WACA is not Beer’s home ground, he has only played 3 matches there, ever. Beer relocated to Perth from Melbourne at the conclusion of the 2009/10 season, in order to gain some more opportunities, which he has done at domestic level. However he simply isn’t ready, or deserving of a Baggy Green.

The selection of Beer adds to the ridiculous list of spin bowling options that Australia have tried since Shane Warne’s retirement in January 2007. The list includes;

Nathan Hauritz, 17 Tests, 63 Wickets @ 34.98 
Dan Cullen, 1 Test, 1 Wicket @ 54.00
Beau Casson, 1 Tests, 3 Wickets @ 43.00
Cameron White, 4 Tests, 5 Wickets @ 68.40
Jason Krejza, 2 Tests, 13 Wickets @ 43.23
Bryce McGain, 1 Test, 0 Wickets @ N/A (149 runs conceded)
Steve Smith, 2 Tests, 3 Wickets @ 27.33
Xavier Doherty, 2 Tests, 3 Wickets @ 102.00

With these figures in mind, it’s worth noting that after 8 Tests, Shane Warne had just 14 wickets at 49.93. However, the selectors at the time showed faith in the young Victorian spinner and most importantly patience. Selecting a young spinner for just a handful of matches (if that), as in the case of Cullen, Casson, White, Krejza and McGain, is simply not showing enough faith in their ability. The pressure to perform immediately is far too high and the expectations are all but impossible to live up too.

Jason Krejza is arguably the unluckiest spinner of the eight mentioned, having picked up 12 wickets in his debut match before being dropped just one match later. Krejza however played against a strong Indian outfit, the best players of spin in the world, and never received another chance.

Nathan Hauritz, the best performing and most consistent spinner since Warne’s retirement, was dumped from the Australian side at the start of the series and was requested to go back and perform at domestic level. In his last two matches for New South Wales, he has taken 10 wickets at 21.00 (including 5/39 at Perth) and scored 166 runs at 55.33. If anyone should be replacing Doherty in the Australian side it should be Hauritz.

The other thing that must be highlighted is that since being dropped from the Australian side, Cullen, Casson and Krejza have all suffered from such extreme drops in confidence, that at times they’ve even found themselves dropped from their respective state teams. Do the selectors fully understand the mental scarring that these young spinners are being subjected to?

Andrew Hilditch has been heavily criticised in recent years over a number of controversial decisions. In particular the way in which he never showed enough faith in Brad Hodge and more recently the way in which he persisted with Marcus North for far too long. Both of these decisions however pale into significance with this latest howler and before anyone else can be blamed for ruining Australian cricket, Hilditch needs to held accountable. Afterall, it was Hilditch himself who has previously said;

The panel believes the left-arm orthodox variety Xavier Doherty provides against a predominantly right-handed English middle order is the better option in this Test” – November 2010

Bryce is the premier legspin bowler in Australia, there’s absolutely no question about that. He’s 36 years of age and the reality is he’s still fairly young in cricketing terms and we think he’ll do a really good job” – February 2009

Casson is by far the best-performed of the young spinners on the domestic circuit” – April 2008

The English will be licking their lips in the dressing rooms with the thought of facing Beer at Perth next week, and if selections like this continue, a 4-0 whitewash can’t be ruled out.