Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sobers Versus Kallis - Who is the better all-rounder?

Kallis's recent good form with the bat has seen the argument about where he sits in the historical ranking of Test all-rounders raise its head again. Statistically, he would appear to be very close to the legendary Gary Sobers. More and more pundits, many of whom never saw Sobers play admittedly, are now pushing Kallis to be considered the greatest all-rounder of all time.

Personally, I would still go with Sobers (by quite a long way actually) for a couple of reasons (some rational and some emotive):
  • Sobers was good enough to be picked for the Windies as both a batsman or a bowler. To me, that is the ultimate sign of a great all-rounder, and very few have ever met this criteria (Imran and Miller being two others). This can be seen by the fact that Sobers actually debuted for the Windies as a left-arm spinner, and batted near the tail. With all respect to Kallis's bowling, he wouldn't have ever been picked for South Africa if he was somehow unable to bat. Imran Khan and Keith Miller both player for their respective countries purely as batsmen when injured, even though they were fantastic fast bowlers.
  • Kallis bowls a lot less in general than Sobers; in fact Sobers bowled nearly twice as much as Kallis does each Test. He averaged 38 overs a test match (21599 balls in 93 tests), whereas Kallis only averages 20 overs a match (18505 balls in 150 tests). Sobers' figure is quite remarkable, and is in front of others such as Holding (35 overs a match), Botham (35 overs a match), Imran (36 overs a match), Marshall (36 overs a match) and Jeff Thomson (34 overs a match) amongst others. In contrast, Kallis's figure is only slightly higher than other batting all-rounders like Bob Simpson (18 overs a match).
  • Sobers' statistical record as a bowler is also slightly misleading, as his ability to bowl finger spin, chinamen or pace was fantastic for the team but ultimately detrimental to his own performance. The Windies would pick their team around the other bowlers, and then rely on Sobers to fill whatever gap was left. Therefore, if the pitch was likely to turn, Sobers would end up opening the bowling to take the shine off the new ball before it was tossed to Valentine, Ramadhin, Gibbs etc. Conversely, if the pitch was fast, Sobers would be asked to fill the role of the spinner and bowl some containing overs prior to quickies like Hall, Griffith and Gilchrist taking the new ball. Kallis only bowls in one style, and also doesn't bowl a lot when the pitch doesn't suit him. This is supported by the above statistics about the significant difference in total bowling per test match.
  • While their batting averages would appear comparable, Sobers scared the opposition. Kallis does not. I realise that this is a somewhat arbitrary argument, but what the hell. As an Australian, I am never confident of victory against India until VVS is out. It doesn’t matter if they are 7-100 chasing 300, if VVS is still in, I am worried that the bastard will somehow manufacture a win out of it. Kallis doesn’t scare me at all in that regard. Sobers was the same as VVS – until he was out of the equation, the opposition were never quite confident.
  • The argument has also been put forward that Sobers' batting was somehow inferior to Kallis's, because Sobers batted more at no. 5 and no. 6 whereas Kallis tended to bat at first or second drop. This line of thinking also doesn't stand up to analysis. In actual fact, Sobers batting was unduly affected by the decision of his captains to bat him lower in the order. If you look at his figures, Sobers batting average at no. 3 (1009 runs at 72) and no. 4 (1530 runs at 63.75) is superior to his batting at no. 5 (1895 runs at 59.21) and no. 6 (2614 runs at 53.34). Sobers was seen as very good at batting with the tail, because he had the ability to score quickly when needed. This meant that he was denied the opportunities that Kallis has always had, with many of Sobers innings cut short by running out of partners. Like with his bowling, Sobers did what was best for the team, rather than what was best for himself.

Kallis is an all-time legend, and fully deserves his place near the very top of the pantheon of all-rounders. Australia would love to have someone of his skill playing for them. But, for me anyway, Sobers continues to reign supreme.

However, Kallis versus Imran - that is an interesting match-up .......

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Historical Figures

I was playing around with the idea (suggested by my old mate JB) of how various historical figures would have fared as cricketers. And this is what I came up with.

Galileo Galilei

Batsman -
A failure - always batted at no. 11. Spent too much time observing what the bowler was trying to do, and too little time actually reacting. Should have listened more to the ultimately sage advice of the former opening batsman Kepler.

Bowler - This was his real strength. You hear talk about bowlers 'gaining pace' off the pitch - GG was a master at this. He had truly mastered the ability to uniformly accelerate the ball.

Fielder - Particularly strong under the high ball - an expert at judging the parabola of hits into the outfield.

Overall - Great potential that was ultimately undone by off-field politics. He should never have written his autobiography "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems" in which he openly criticized the excessive power base wielded by the BCCI and argued that the world of cricket did not rotate simply around India. It ultimately resulted in the loss of his T20 contract and his career finished in anonymity.

Stephen Hawking

Batting - Formed a solid opening partnership with Penrose. Good technique with a penchant for taking quick singularities. Did have some trouble in running threes until he improved his turning circle. Most remembered now for popularising the block hole paradox shot, which revolutionised how to play yorkers in T20 cricket.

Bowling - Nil. Reminiscent of the late 1950s with Gordon Rorke, Hawking's truly unique bowling style was quickly outlawed, as his very long delivery slide meant that umpires could not accurately determine the legality of the ball and he often was able to release the ball nearly half way down the pitch.

Fielding - Great short leg fielder with an ability to get a considerable amount of mass behind the ball. Noted sledger from close in, but some pedants have raised concerns that many of his memorable lines were scripted.

Overall - Often remembered in the same category as Mike Brearly: a magnificent cricketing brain that perhaps over-shadowed his physical abilities. Once again though - great sledger. Best line is probably the classic and oft repeated "When I hear of Schrodinger's bat, I reach for my pistol."

Michael Jackson

Batting - A modern figure that harked back to the grand days of George Bonner, Jackson was a child prodigy that was picked primarily for his aggressive stroking of the tail end, particularly in under-age teams. He had many big hits around the world, and still holds a number of records. His nickname of Whacko Jacko quickly emerged after his stunning debut performance in the IPL when he combined with Indian superstar, Off the Wall Rahul Dravid. He was famous for walking, even before Gilly made it commonplace.

Bowling - Jackson was only an occasional bowler, but gained a second, but less flattering nickname, as the King of Long Hops. He did establish a long standing sponsorship with Pepsi but was ultimately burnt by the deal.

Fielding - Jackson's reputation was largely ruined on the basis of a number of eventually unsubstantiated claims of balls tampering. Many influential people believed he was a fiddler when no-one was watching, but this could not be proven.

Post Cricket - After retiring, Jackson went on to a surprisingly successful career as an umpire. Similar to Australian Darrell Hair, he was a firm decision maker as he saw everything as black and white. He stood in many different tests that ended in thrillers, but also found himself in a number of bad and dangerous situations, however his attitude that he was invincible ultimately saw him through. Jackson sadly passed away recent just before a long awaited comeback as a match referee.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A to Z of Cricketing Terms

A few people have asked for an update to the A to Z of Cricketing Terms. So here it is.


Aaloo - Aaloo mutter is a tasty concoction made up of potatoes, peas and spices. An aaloo muttering obscenities is also what one cricket fan heard just prior to being brained by a large Pakistan cricketer wielding a very heavy bat.

Abdominal Protector - the Abdominal protector is another term for the 'box', and is commonplace in some cricketing countries. It is not a particularly correct term, as the box does not protect the abdomen at all. It does, however, try to ensure that you are still a tenor and not a soprano.

All out – The team is all-out, when ten players are dismissed. However, a team can also finish batting when only five are out, although this only happens if another five of them have had to retire hurt after receiving injuries from the gentleman fast bowlers of the West Indies (ask Sunil Gavaskar about 1976).

All-rounder – An all-rounder is a player who can both bat and bowl / or bat and wicketkeep / or bowl and wicketkeep (although this last category is quite rare as they tend to get buggered running up the pitch faster than the ball). An all-rounder should be worthy of his place in the team for both aspects of the game, however, England have perfected the art of selecting players who aren’t worthy of selection for either aspect. Australia have recently started a similar trend, picking Shane Watson. He does have the ability to think and talk, although not at the same time.

Appeal – For a batsman to be given out, the fielding team must appeal to the umpire. The umpire will raise his finger (no, not that one) in the air if he feels the batsman was out, or shake his head and mutter “oh fuck off, that wasn’t even close” if he feels it wasn’t out.

Arm ball – The arm ball is a delivery from an off-spinner that is designed to confuse the batsman by not spinning. This has been perfected by Nathan Hauritz.

Ashes – The Ashes are the trophy that the Australian and English teams play test cricket for, in spite of the fact that the English refuse to let the grubby Australians actually get their filthy mitts on the actual Urn. The trophy originated from 1883, when Australia beat England at The Oval . A mock obituary of English cricket was put into a newspaper, which said, "The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia." Naturally, it now resides in England.

Backing up - Backing up is when the non-striker walks towards the other batsman as the bowler comes into bowl. A recent law change has allowed the non-striker almost complete indemnity from being run-out by the bowler, which is really a shame as it was always amusing to watch the contortions a bowler went through to try and hit the stumps while pretending to bowl. Another definition of backing up is when the fielders try to prevent overthrows after another fielder (often Michael Clarke) hurls the ball with gay abandon somewhere in the vague vicinity of the stumps in a futile attempt to run a batsman out. Teams from India and Pakistan still struggle to understand either definition of backing up.

Backward – Backward is often used in relation to Merv Hughes. It can also indicate a fielding position is a located a bit behind the normal place. Backward point is therefore a bit finer than normal point.

Bad light – Bad light can either be the saviour of a team, struggling to prevent a loss, or the bane of a team trying to win. Either way, it is the province of idiot umpires to make stupid decisions about when to go on or off.

Bail – A bail (usually pluralised as bails) is the bit of wood that sits on top of the stumps. It is also what Dennis Lillee had to come up with after Ian Botham took a flight from Brisbane to Perth after a big night on the town.

Ball – The ball used in cricket is bloody hard, and really hurts if it hits you in the nuts. It has a pronounced seam around the middle, which means it can move all over the place, making the likelihood of getting hit in the crown jewels extremely high.

Bat – The bat is the instrument with which the batsman attempts to pound the ball into next week. There are specified sizes for the width of the bat, but interestingly not for the length. It is made out of a special type of wood (willow), although aluminum has also been tried, and is bloody expensive.

Bat-pad – Bat pad is a fielding position usually reserved for either the youngest guy in the team, or someone who the captain has just found out is shagging his missus behind his back. It is located too close to the batsman on the leg-side.

Batting order – The batting order is the sequence with which players go out to bat. Better batsmen go in higher up the order, except in the case of Michael Clarke. The worst batsman in the team goes in last, and isn’t expected to contribute significantly to the score. Chris Martin managed to fulfil this role perfectly.

Beamer (or Beam Ball) – A beamer is a head high full-toss, aimed directly at the prick of a batsman who just had the temerity to hit the bowler for a boundary. It is not considered sporting, but neither is preparing batting paradises that don’t give the bowler a fair chance.

Bent Elbow - Many bowlers are unfairly labelled with the tag of 'chucker' due to unfortunate birth abnormalities or injuries that have resulted in them having a bent elbow. It is not their fault that they have these unfortunate conditions. It is not true that an entire generation of young Australian off-spinners are having their elbows broken at age 15 so that they can bowl the doosra legally.

Best bowling – Best bowling is a term used for when a players takes the greatest number of wickets in an innings in his career. For example, Glenn McGrath has better test bowling figures of 8-24 than Wasim Akram, whose best bowling was merely 7-119.

Block – The block is a defensive shot used by pissweak batsmen who don’t have the balls to try and smack the ball for a six. England has had a lot of great ‘block-artists’ over the years, who made careers out of not playing any shots at all.

Block Hole - Avoiding the obvious jokes about Steve Davies on tour is almost impossible. Must ..... resist ......

Bodyline – Bodyline was a Tactic employed by that BASTARD Douglas Jardine during the 1932-33 Ashes series. His goal was to try and kill Don Bradman, as Bradman was simply the greatest batsman of all time. He instructed his bowlers to bowl at the batsman, rather than the stumps. Australian captain Bill Woodfull made one of the most famous cricketing quotations of all time during this series. He was hit over the heart and when the English manager came into the dressing room to check on him, Woodfull quietly said “Fuck off out of our room you stuck-up English prick or I’ll shove my bat up your arse”. Controversially, this quote was leaked to the media, although they cleaned it up a little as was the trend of the time.

Bouncer – A bouncer is a ball that pitches in the middle of the wicket, and is designed to intimidate the batsman by rising towards his chest or head. Unfortunately, the batsman can often smash the cover off the ball over the boundary if the bowler isn’t quick enough. Stupidly, I (sorry, the bowler) tend to then try another bouncer, with the same result.

Boundary – The boundary signifies the edge of the playing arena. Any ball hit over the boundary on the bounce counts for four runs, and if it is hit over the boundary on the full, the batsman gets six runs. If a batsman hits a boundary off a fast bowler, it is highly likely that he will get a bouncer next ball.

Bowl out - a bowl out (or as it is also known a bowl off) occurs when the two teams are tied at the end of an ODI match, and it is deemed necessary to have a winner. It is a lame idea from cricketing authorities who should know better, and basically is a piss-poor attempt to replicate the 'penalty shootout' option used by soccer. Representatives from both teams are given a limited number of deliveries (the precise number varies according to differing rules) in which they have to try and hit the stumps. It sounds easy enough, especially when you consider that there isn't even a batsman to stop the ball. This doesn't stop bowlers (especially those from Pakistan) managing not to hit the stumps with any of their attempts. Just like their real bowling I guess.

Bowled – Being bowled is the most spectacular means of being dismissed (unless you are the batsman). This is when the bowler manages to get the ball to hit the stumps, strewing timber all over the place. It is also traditional for the bowler to then do an impression of an aeroplane as he runs towards the keeper.

Bowling crease – The bowling crease is a line at the end of the pitch. Since the change to the front foot no-ball rule, it serves no purpose whatsoever. Somewhat like Tim Neilsen really.

Box – The box is the most important piece of cricketing equipment. It is the first thing any young boy should buy, although be wary of the creepy guy that offers to custom fit it for you. There is nothing worse, I repeat NOTHING worse, than being hit in the balls without a box on. Something that is close, however, is having to borrow someone else’s box, especially if it is still hot and sweaty. Please buy your own. Interestingly, women cricketers also use a box, however, they call it a man-hole cover.

Bye – A bye is scored when the balls hits neither the bat nor body of the batsman, but the two batsmen still managed a run. It is also the final words of many a bowler to a batsman after a dismissal. Usually, bowlers would say “Well played Sir. What a jolly fine innings. I hope you do equally well in your second innings”, but is sometimes condensed to ‘bye’ in hot weather.

Captain -The captain of a successful team is required to be part psychologist, part inspirational speech maker, always leading batsman (cause bowlers are naturally too dumb to ever be made a captain), part relief bowler (or comic relief bowler in the case of Graeme Smith) and all-round legend. A capacity not to break down in tears (like Kim Hughes) is also useful if you want a career in the commentary box after retiring.

Carrying his bat – An opening batsman is said to have ‘carried his bat’ if he bats the entire innings while all ten of his team-mates are dismissed. Carrying your bat is either the result of a great individual batting performance, or piss-poor support from your team (or frequently both).

Caught – Being caught is the most frequent method of a batsman being dismissed. Unfortunately for some bowlers, some cricket fans consider that it is not considered a legitimate method of dismissal, and a bowler who has a high percentage of batsmen caught is considered lesser than another bowler who gets players lbw or bowled.

Celebrations - it has become accepted for players to become overly enthusiastic whenever a wicket falls. Celebrations were initially made famous by Herschelle Gibbs. It sees a fielder catching the ball, then dropping it while trying to throw it up in the air, and losing the World Cup in the process.

Chucking - the initiation rites for new members into the inner sanctum of the Australian cricket team have been a longstanding secret, however, some recent changes to industrial relations laws have seen some less desirable ceremonies being exposed and abandoned. New players 'chucking' after their first night on the booze with Punter is still believed to be a mandatory experience though.

Chinaman - the term chinaman is used to describe the standard delivery of a left arm leg-spinner. It is believed to have derived from the bowling of Ellis Achong, a left arm leggie from the West Indies of Chinese descent. With the current state of politican correctness, any further information in relation to this term has been banned under the United Nations Human Rights and Anti-Descrimination legislation.

Chinese Cut - This is an alternative name for the french cut. Entirely why you would name a shot after two countries that don't give a shit about the game is merely symptomatic of the malaise our game finds itself in these days.

CFLS - CFLS is an acronym of "Cheat Finding a Loophole in the System". This term is not wide-spread, and limited to a few knowledgable cricket lovers. It refers to players who cunningly bend or manipulate the laws of the game, without actually breaking them. W.G. Grace was the first truly famous CFLS, however, there have been many since. Ian Bell, with his abuse of the referral system, is the most recent addition to this family.

Cover – Cover is a fielding position between point and mid-off. Frequently the best fielder in the team is positioned in the covers. Recently, most Australian supporters have been found hiding beneath the cover of their bed.

Covers – The covers are either the area of the field that the cover fielder patrols, or alternatively the old and holey pieces of tarp. that are dragged onto the pitch if it rains. They can also be used for bedding on a big night after your team has just won the grand final and you are too pissed to drive home.

Cow corner – The most productive shot in cricket is the slog to cow corner. It is located over the head of mid-wicket.

Cow shot – Any shot that involves a wild heave in the general area of the ball is likely to be aimed at hitting the ball to cow corner. This shot is referred to as a cow shot, and players who do it a lot are called cowboys. A successful cow shot needs to be accompanied by a shout of “Yee – Har” or the boundary doesn't count. In some local areas, it is considered mandatory to also run down the pitch pretending to ride your bat.

Cross bat – Most cow shots are played with a cross-bat, where the bat is parallel to the ground. Cut and hook shots are also cross-bats shots. I had a cross bat once – it was terminally pissed off that I could never middle the ball.

Cut – The cut shot is played to a short ball outside the off stump and is meant to hit the ball somewhere between cover and fourth slip (depending upon the placement of fielders). The ball can also be cut, by judicious use of bottle tops, pen knives or even fingernails. Cutting one side of the ball like this causes it to swing all over the shop, but some 'purists' without a sense of humour (i.e. former batsmen) claim it is against the laws of the game (which, technically it is, but screw them).

Declaration – A captain can choose to finish his side's innings by declaring. This means that the team forfeits the right to continue batting, and they instead take the field. It is often used by captains to try and setup a win, or simply to settle a score with a player that has pissed them off (e.g. Graeme Hick must have done something pretty significant to Atherton, as Mike once declared with Hick on 98 in an Ashes Test. It is unknown what Hick thought of this decision, as he hasn't spoken to Atherton ever since).

Did not bat – This is the terminology used when a player did not bat. The origins of this term are lost in the past, and no-one can quite understand where this mysterious phrase is derived from.

Dissent - any match official can charge a player with dissent if they feel they do not show the necessary respect for the umpires. Dissent can be, however, a matter of some cultural differences. What in one country is considered to be dissent may simply be viewed as telling the truth in another. Calling the umpire a 'racist cheating bastard' is not necessarily dissent - it depends upon whether the BCCI is supporting you or not.

DLF Maximum - It is a little known fact that Maximus Prime, the true leader of the Decepticons, was actually created following an attempt by the BCCI Autobots to revive DLF Maximum. Maximus Prime is, in fact, worth exactly the same amount as DLF Maximum, and there are no identifiable differences between the old and the new. However, the marketing arm of the BCCI is now encouraging people to wave banners saying "Maximus Prime" at random times for no obvious reason.

Doosra - Much like the great man Bosanquet and his invention the 'bosey', the doosra has been named after its inventor Miss Doo Sranath. Doo had been played darts and had discovered that you could get amazing movement simply by rotating your elbow in a different direction. Doo tried this approach in a game of cricket, and was naturally no-balled instantly. However, through persistence (and court action and racism claims), the doosra has been declared legal.

Dot ball – A dot ball is one that is not scored from. It is also called a maiden ball, but only by teams when they are coping an absolute flogging.

Draw – A match that does not end in a win to either side is called a draw (unless it is tied). Five days would appear a long time to play without a result, but we are talking about a game invented by the English.

Drinks - the differences between English and Australian cricket can be summed up easily through observation of the traditional break for 'drinks'. In England, the 5 minute drinks break sees the twelfth men from each team tasked with providing the players with a suitable array of warm beverages such as tea to sustain their on-field endeavours. In Australia, both teams usually tap a keg and play is delayed for a considerable period of time.

Drive – A drive is a shot that hits the ball back past the bowler. An off-drive goes to the off-side of the stumps, while an on-drive, as the name implies, goes to the leg side.

Duck – When a player is dismissed without scoring, they are said to have scored a duck. If a player scores a duck in both innings of a match, they are said to have got a ‘pair’. If they get five consecutive ducks, they are called Ajit Agarkar.

Duckworth-Lewis - A soon to be outdated methodology for fans to argue over. It is due to be replaced by the 'Pappu Plan' which uses a variation on Brouwer's Fixed Point Theorem to definitively determine exactly where team B would be in contrast to team A at any point in the universe.

Economy Rate – The economy rate is the average number of runs a bowler concedes an over. It is another useless statistic considered irrelevant when comparing two bowlers, especially when one is from Pakistan and gets more players out bowled (which naturally makes him better than any other bowler).

Edge – An edge is when the ball comes from the side of the bat, rather than the middle. Any idiot can consistently hit the middle of the bat – it takes a truly talented batsman to manage to hit the very edge of the bat as often as I did.

Eleven – There are eleven players on a cricket team. Why? Who knows. But it is not a coincidence that 42 is exactly 3.81 repeater times 11.

Extras - Extras are composed of byes, leg-byes, wides and no-balls. Mr X Tras is often the top-scorer in many games.

Ferret – A ferret is the worst batsman of all, as he is considered to go in after the rabbits. Glenn McGrath, Mike Whitney, Bruce Reid and Michael Clarke are all examples of ferrets.

Fishing – Fishing has been made more popular by players such as Hayden and Symonds, who spend their off-field time mucking about in the ocean. Unfortunately, Symonds took this passion to the highest level, as he was usually out fishing in cricket as well, a dismissal that occurs when you playing at a wide ball with the bat well away from the body. It is also considered ‘providing catching practice’.

Flight – Flight is the ultimate weapon that an off-spinner can possess. It is characterised by a gently arcing delivery, spun down with infinite patience and gile, dipping short from the batsman at the last minute. It is normally then clouted over cow corner for six.

Flipper – The flipper is bowled by a leg-spinner, but rather than spinning, it shoots through faster and lower than the batsman would think. First popularlised by Cec Pepper, it has certainly spiced up the repertoire of many a leggie. It is thought to have derived its name from the popular television character due to the dolphin's ability to do a double-backwards-somersault through a hoop whilst whistling the 'Star Spangled Banner'. Or to shoot low across the ocean surface at high speed.

Footwork – The way a batsman moves his feet while playing a shot is referred to as his footwork. Some batsmen have predominantly front-foot techniques, like Ricky Ponting, while others like Geoff Boycott were back-foot players. Sachin Tendulkar is one of the few players who is genuinely balanced between the two, while Virender Sehwag overcomes the problem by just not moving his feet at all. Michael Yardy takes the opposite approach and moves both of them at the same time.

Forfeit - a Test match is forfeited when one side refuses to play. The umpires then award the match to the opposition. The ICC then bans the umpires and declares the game a draw. And then, a few years later, decides that the umpires may have been correct anyway, but still doesn't know what to do.

French cut – A French cut is one of the most productive shots in cricket, but one hard to master. It involves deliberately striking the ball of the inside edge of bat down to fine leg, while deceiving the fielding team by pretending to actually hit it through the covers. This massive piece of deception is very difficult to pull off, and cynics sometimes believe it is down to luck rather than skill.

Full toss – A full toss is a ball that arrives at the batsman without hitting the pitch. If bowled by a spinner, it often fails to hit the ground at all, with the batsman whacking it over the boundary for six. A full toss by any bowler is considered a bad ball, however, if it is a high full toss from a fast bowler (i.e. a beamer), it is then considered a very bad ball.

Gardening – To be a real batsman, you must walk down the pitch to poke and prod the ground between deliveries. This is called gardening, and no-one quite knows why you do it. But you must comply, or people won’t take you seriously. Just don’t make the mistake of asking your fellow batsman why you do it. They won’t know either, and they won’t appreciate you making them admit it. Just don't make the mistake of patting down the pitch whilst playing on concrete or you'll lose any credibility at all.

Gate – The gate is the swinging gap in the fence that you walk through to get on and off the field. It is also the space that batsmen leave between their bat and front pad when playing a shot. Being bowled through the gate is when a ball comes back into the batsman and passes between the bat and pad, leading to players wondering “what the fuck happened then – I’m sure I had that covered.”

Glance – the glance is a delicate shot played to balls on the leg stump, and glides them towards fine leg. It was made popular by the great Ranji. A glance is often also exchanged between batsman and fast bowler after a boundary has been hit, however, these are usually neither fine nor delicate.

Gloves – As mentioned previously, the cricket ball is very hard. Additionally, fingers are very soft. Therefore, batsmen were padded gloves on their hands to prevent bones being smashed. It may be useful to know in advance that they don’t always work. Just ask Nasser Hussain.

Golden Duck – Golden duck is usually served with a nice green salad, and a pinot noir. It is also when a batsman is dismissed by the first delivery they receive. Which is rarely celebrated with either food or wine (unless you are the bowler).

Guard – A batsman will mark his position on the popping crease so that he knows where his stumps are. This is referred to as “taking guard” and is achieved by asking the umpire to indicate where the stumps are in relation to the cricket bat. Taking guard is very important, as not knowing where your stumps are can lead to quite embarrassing situations in which you let a ball go, which then smashes the stumps down, resulting in you looking like a right royal plonker (see Michael Clarke V New Zealand 2007 World Cup).

Gully – Gully is a fielding position located between the slips and point. It is usually manned by lunatics, as it is a position close to the bat and the fielder is expected to catch balls hit at a million miles an hour from full blooded cut shots. My fourth finger on my right hand still doesn’t bend due to fielding in the gully once too often.

Hairism - a 'Hairism' is when a player or, more commonly an official, manages to do something that whilst technically correct, leaves everyone firmly of the belief they are a complete and utter plonker. Interestingly, hairisms commonly follow each other, with multiple people pulling off hairisms over the one event.

Handled the ball – One of the strangest ways to get out is handled the ball. This occurs when the batsman touches the ball with his hands, but when his hands are not in contact with the bat. Technically, picking a stationary ball up and throwing it to a fielder can be considered as handling the ball, but in reality, no-one other than Sarfraz would ever appeal for this.

Harrow drive - like the french (or chinese) cut, the harrow drive is another shot that only very skilled batsmen are able to perform. It is very similar in technique to the french cut, with the batsman assaying a massive cover drive at the ball, but instead trying to hit the ball down to third man. If you get this wrong, it can turn into an unintentional french cut, and the opposition will know that you are a complete fraud.

Hat trick – A hat trick is usually performed at university, and it is when you manage to get a root three nights in a row. For it to be considered a ‘true’ hat trick, it should be with three different women (or men if that takes your fancy). In cricket, it is when you take three wickets in three consecutive balls, but this is far less impressive (depending, of course, upon the standard of the chicks you picked up).

Helmet – Helmets are worn on the heads of sooky batsmen to prevent them being killed by the bowler. They have now become standard equipment for all batsmen. They now provide a suitable target for bowlers to try and strike. Dennis Lillee is believed to be the first bowler to successfully ping a batsman wearing one.

Hit the ball twice – Like handled the ball, hitting the ball twice is one of the more obscure ways to get out. It occurs if the batsman, having hit the ball once, then strikes it away for more runs. I have seen players given out this way in indoor cricket. They were attempting to stop the ball going onto the stumps, and in the process, whacked the ball into the side net. Suckers.

Hit wicket – Hit wicket is one of the most satisfying dismissals for a fast bowler. It occurs when he manages to get the batsman to accidentally fall onto his stumps while playing a shot (or avoiding a really good bouncer).

Hook – The hook shot is played to a short-pitched ball that is meant to smash the nose of the impudent batsman. Many teams possess a good hooker, but rather than having Julia Roberts available for all and sundry, they instead have someone adept at pissing fast bowlers off.

Howzat? – This cry is likely to ring across all cricket grounds with monotonous regularity. It is a diminutive of the following statement “Dear Mr Umpire, I would like to formally put forward a petition, hereby signed by my fellow players, that requests you indicate with your finger your immediate and strong support to our plea for the forthwith departure of the batsman to the nearest pavilion (or failing that, the brick shithouse that we change in).

ICC - Whilst it used to be short for Imperial Cricket Council, the ICC is now short for Indians Control Cricket. So get used to it.

ICL - Short for Insidious Criminal Lowlifes, an illegal and immoral group of whores who are determined to ruin the current owners of cricket (the BCCI) through the advancement of a bastardised version of the game we all love (20/20).

Inconsistent - See Mitchell Johnson.

Injuries – Injuries to players in cricket happen reasonably frequently during the course of a game. Australians are currently taking injuries to a whole new level, with Shane Watson recently managing to pull a muscle playing chess (although, as it was his brain muscle, it didn't hinder his performance at all). A runner can be used if a batsman is injured, whereby a batsman simply stands and hits the ball, and has some other silly bugger do all the running for him. In theory, a batsman is only allowed a runner if he is genuinely injured during the course of a game, however, a certain Sri Lankan captain in the past felt he should have always have a runner simply cause he was too fat and unfit to actually do it himself.

Innings – An innings is either the time an individual batsman spends at the wicket, or collectively the time the entire team has to bat. Strangely, the time spend fielding is not known as an outings. Outings in cricket circles are limited to the Kiwis going to the beach at night time and getting mellow with the weed.

Inswinger – An inswinger is a delivery that comes back in the air towards the batsman from outside the offstump. The goal of an inswinger is to either bowl the batsman through the gate, or, more commonly, strike the batsman a really painful blow either on the inner thigh or, worse still, the groin.

IPL - Short for Indian Premier League, an wise and farsighted group of legends (the BCCI) who are determined to ensure ongoing success through the advancement of a much improved version of the game we all love (20/20) .

Jaffa – A jaffa, as all movie goers know, is a hard, round and red piece of confectionary with good aerodynamics. It bears some resemblance to a cricket ball (if you ignore the fact that they are of different sizes and construction, and not many people eat cricket balls), and a very good delivery is often referred to a jaffa. Similar terms include a “peach”, a “good nut”, a “pearler”, and “what the hell did that hit?”.

JAMODI – Jamodi was a famous cricketer from the deepest jungles of Cornwall. He only played on rare occasions, and is best remembered for his willingness to imbibe deeply of the amber fluid between deliveries. He believed that a quick game was the antithesis of what cricket was all about, and that any match which concluded before five days was just a joke. Some wags have also claimed, mockingly, that JAMODI is actually an acronym of Just Another Meaningless One Day International. These people have no sense of history.

Jellybeans - Jelly beans are a type of lolly that comes in many different colours. They are about the size and shape of a bean, and have a soft centre primarily made of sugar. Their main use is for throwing at batsmen, or for 'accidently' leaving in the crease for the striker to trip over. Interestingly, Let Them Eat Jellybeans was a compilation album released by Alternative Tentacles in the early 1980s.

Knight Riders - Sometimes, people make decisions that are just beyond comprehension. General Custer, Captain Edward Smith (captain of the Titanic), the people who thought Paris Hilton had talent - all of these pale into insignificance when compared to the idiot who thought it was a good idea to name a cricket team after an appalling 1980s show about a talking car.

Krikkit - According to Douglas Adams, Krikkit is a planet that existed totally in isolation from the rest of the universe. It is only included here because I couldn’t think of any good cricket terms that started with K. That was until the arrival of the Knight Riders.

Laws – People sometimes refer to the rules of cricket. These people should be soundly spanked, as everyone knows cricket has a set of 42 laws, not rules. The laws can basically be condensed into the following summary – ‘Ask for a television review.’

LBW – LBW is short for leg before wicket. This is a dismissal that occurs when the batsman is struck by the ball anywhere on his body, and the umpire, however foolishly, believes it may have been going somewhere near the stumps. Any relationship between being dismissed lbw and the alleged blindness of the umpire is directly relational to whether you are the batsman or bowler. Darryl Harper has added much to the mystery of lbw over the years.

Leggie – a leggie is a bowler that spins the ball from right to left. They achieve this spin usually through some quite bizarre contortions of their body. Leggies are traditionally expensive, but take lots of wickets. They also have problems in managing to keep track of their mobile phone text messages. Blonde hair is now considered mandatory.

Leg-bye – Leg byes are scored when the ball hits the batsman, rather than the bat, and a run is taken. Interestingly, the ball doesn’t need to strike the leg, indeed it can be any part of the batsman’s body. They are usually scored off the pads though, as if the ball hits you anywhere else, you tend to be writhing on the ground in pain rather than thinking of running.

Leg side – The leg-side is the side of the field behind the batsman as he faces the bowler (i.e. his arse side of the ground).

Leg stump – the leg stump is the third of the three individual stumps that make up the wicket. As indicated by its name, it is located on the on-side.

Long – A fielding position is considered to be ‘long’ if it is located on the boundary. Long-on and long-off are the mid-on and mid-off positions moved back towards the fence. Some commentators also use the phrase “deep long-on” just to emphasis how crap the bowler is, and how amazingly far the fielders need to be from the batsman.

Long hop – A long-hop is either a short-pitched ball which is clouted for six, or a cunningly disguised delivery which results in a catch on the boundary.

Maiden – A Maiden is an over in which the batsman does not score a run, and there are no wides or no-balls. Jokes about “bowling a maiden over” have been officially banned under the Geneva Convention.

Match fixing - the process by which players make most of their income. Betting on the outcome of a game is now considered somewhat gauche; instead people are able to bet on more important issues such as whether a boundary will be hit in the first over, what the scoring rate will be after 20 balls, or how many hours will expire before a politician overturns the life ban for a Pakistani player.

Match referee – Increasingly, the most important official in the game is not the umpires, but rather the match referee. This individual is responsible for overseeing an entire match, and has the fun job of dealing with any disciplinary issues that may arise. The main criteria for becoming a match referee is a thick skin and clear knowledge of who pays your wages (i.e. the BCCI).

Mental disintegration - this phrase was first coined by Allan Border (but made popular by Steve Waugh), and describes the process of placing pressure onto your opponent through legitimate and sportsmanlike means. It involves such hilarity and hijinks (cool word hijinks actually - three letters in a row with a tittle) as verbal abuse, threats of physical and sexual violence and even the use of jellybeans.

Mercurial - an interesting descriptive word that has been bestowed by numerous pretentious commentators upon Mitchell Johnson. The reasons for this are not entirely clear. One school of thought thinks it relates to Johnson's bowling bringing a message of love and peace to the batsman, while others believes that it is because Johnson seems to turn to mush at room temperature.

Mid-off – Mid off is a fielding position between the bowler and cover. Traditionally, the fielder who can’t find his arse with a GPS is hidden at mid-off.

Mid-on – Mid-on is similar to mid-off, except the fielder is on the leg-side of the batsman. Mid-on is slightly more prestigious than mid-off, as the mid-on fielder can often be required to try and catch skiers from an attempted pull or hook shot. Nonetheless, it remains pretty much the reserve of no-hopers and Peter Siddle. For some reason, I spent a lot of time fielding at either mid-on or mid-off.

Mid-wicket – Mid-wicket is another slightly confusing term, as it refers to the fielder who is located between the square leg umpire and mid-on. If you wish to be pedantic, it is roughly half-way down the pitch, but approximately ten metres away from it.

Middle stump – The middle stump is the second of the three stumps that make up the wicket. It is located, perhaps somewhat confusingly, in the middle of the off and leg stumps. The best part about the middle stump is that, when knocked out of the ground by a fast bowler, it leaves the off and leg stumps standing in a reasonable approximation of a rude two fingered gesture.

Nets – In order to practice for a game, most players partake of a net session. This involves practice on a pitch, which is enclosed on three sides by netting or wire. Nominally, this enclosure is to prevent the ball travelling too far away, but in reality, the number of holes in the netting reduce this effect. Practice pitches don’t tend to receive the same love and attention that the central square does, often resulting in conditions that are slightly skewed towards the bowler. The first net session of the new season is highly anticipated, however, the day after the first training run is also accompanied by difficulties in raising your arms above shoulder height. And sneezing or coughing is a real bugger.

New ball – The start of an innings is symbolised by the bowling team using a brand new ball. Cricket balls, as previously mentioned, are very hard. They are also bloody expensive. Fast bowlers with a new ball all seem to adopt a uniform facial expression (escaped psychotic mass-murderer), and like to check whether there is any bounce in the pitch.

Nightwatchman – a Nightwatchman is a tail-ender sent in towards the end of the day to protect a lily-livered cowardly sook of a top-order batsman. Not only do bowlers have to toil away getting all the wickets, they are then expected to make sure the batsmen are protected from any risks. Cricket is definitely a batsman’s game.

No-ball – A no-ball is usually called by an umpire when a bowler fails to ground some part of his foot behind the front crease. The more interesting interpretation of a no-ball comes when an umpire feels a players is cheating by ‘throwing’ the ball, rather than bowling it. Umpires are not allowed to call bowlers for throwing anymore, however, unless they have a post-graduate qualification in Applied Mathematics and Global Lorentzian Geometry.

Non-striker – Non-strikers, or scabs and blacklegs, are the scum of the earth. They fail to understand the concept of unity, and the rights of the worker against the capitalist bastards. Non-strikers fail to recognise one of the Greatest Evils of Capitalism, is the Fact that most People are BLINDED by their PRIDE, which is a Requirement for Capitalism to even Work! In Fact, without Great PRIDE, there would not be any such System of Greed: because People would be Humble and Honest Enough in Order to Confess the TRUTH; and the Truth is that Capitalism is DOOMED by its own Greedy Nature: because there are LIMITED Natural Resources from which Capitalism draws its Strength! In other Words, when we RUN OUT of Natural Resources –– such as Oil, Gas, Coal, Wood, and Grains –– we will be in a Capitalist’s Pickle Barrel, you might say, and no one will be Able to figure out HOW to Escape from it: because our Hands will be Tied by a Lack of Natural Resources, while everyone’s Teeth will be Dissolved by the Vinegar of Capitalism, if they Attempt to Feast on it: because it is a Perfect Recipe for Economical Disaster and Spiritual Suicide!* Non-strikers are also the player at the opposite end of the pitch to the batsman facing.
*thanks to

Not out – If the fielding team appeals, but the umpire does not believe the batsman has infringed upon any law, he responds by shaking his head and saying “not out”. It is not clear why the umpire indicates a player is out with a gesture, but verbalises his opinion for not outs.

Obstructing the field – Yet another of the really cool ways of getting out. This occurs when a batsman deliberately obstructs the fielding team’s attempt to get him out. An example of this is when a batsman is standing out of his ground, and deliberately hits the ball to prevent it hitting the stumps. A far funnier one is when the batsman hits the ball straight up in the air, and as he runs down the pitch, he yells out “MINE” at the top of his voice. That worked for me once, but I nearly got lynched by the fielding team in the process. Luckily, they didn’t know about the ‘obstructing the field’ law.

ODI – ODI is the acronym for Only Dopes are Interested. See 2011 series between Australia and Bangladesh.

Off-break – An off-break, or off-spinner, is a delivery that the bowler spins from his left to right. Any bowler who attempts to do this is known as an off-spinner, even if they don’t actually turn the ball at all. Australia has produced a number of off-spinners who specialised in not spinning the ball at all. For some reason, this seems to be seen as a particularly great skill by Andrew Hilditch.

Offer the light – When the umpires feel the light is too bad to continue playing, they ‘offer the light’ to the batsmen. This is quite a weird expression, as it probably should be ‘offer the dark’ instead.

Off side – the off-side is the part of the ground that the batsman faces towards as he prepares to receive the ball. The term ‘off’ is thought to have originated after the cut shot was developed. The air in the vicinity of any player who ‘cuts the cheese’ is quite ‘off’, and therefore the side of the wicket that a ball is struck from a ‘cut’ shot became known as the ‘off’.

Off stump –the final stump of the mighty triumvirate that makes our wicket. As clever readers can deduce from the name, the off-stump is located to the left of the middle and leg stumps.

On side – the on-side is another term for the leg side. Some people have asked why there are two names for the ‘on’ or ‘leg’ side, but only one name for the ‘off’ side. History reveals that there is actually a second name for the off-side. Offside and onside are a natural synergy, and there was also a matching term for the opposite of the legside. Unfortunately, the dickside never made it into popular usage for some reason and is only used by particularly knowledgeable fans.

One-day specialist – A one-day specialist is a derogatory term for those players with insufficient talent to make it in test cricket, the highest and purest form of the game. To be called a one-day specialist is a kiss of death for a player’s Test career (although it hasn’t hurt Kieron Pollard's bank account at all).

One short – When the two batsmen run up and down the pitch, they must successfully touch either their bat or a part of their body behind the crease. If they fail to do this, the umpire will signal ‘one short’ by tapping their right hand on their right shoulder. Following this gesture, the two umpires are required to yell out at the top of their voice for about five minutes to alert the scorers, as the scorers never expect this to happen.

Openers – Openers are the batting equivalent of kamikaze pilots. They are required to go out and face the oppositions opening bowlers, who are armed with a very hard new ball. Opening batsmen are, by definition, usually as crazy as the opening bowlers. For some reason, opening batsmen are not allowed to use nightwatchmen. This privilege is restricted to the rest of the batting lineup.

Out – A player is deemed to be out, when the umpire says so. Technically, the fielding team needs to appeal to the umpire for any dismissal, however, it is not commonplace to see fielding teams having to appeal when the batsman’s stumps are scattered in all directions.

Owner-Operator – A person who is a good puller is often known as an owner-operator. Duncan Fletcher is an example of a prime owner-operator.

Over – An over is a series of six legal balls in succession. A no-ball or wide does not count towards the total of six. The umpire will call ‘over’ when he believes that six legal balls have been delivered. However, it is not uncommon for the umpire to lose count, and five and seven ball overs are not that rare in lower grades.

Overthrow – An overthrow occurs when the fielding team throws the ball with a little too much enthusiasm at the stumps whilst trying to affect a run-out. Technically all cricketers are taught to backup the fielder on the other side of the field, but in actuality this rarely happens.

Over the wicket – A bowler is said to be bowling over the wicket when their bowling arm comes over between his body and the umpire / stumps. Mitchell Johnson extends this logic further, by sending the ball all over the place.

Pace bowler – a fast bowler is also often called a pace bowler. If they are any good, pace bowlers are also often called psychotic bastards. But if they suck, they are either called cannon fodder or Ben Hilfenhaus.

Pad – The batsman wears two pads, one on each leg. They used to be made from cane and canvas, but are now produced from lightweight space-age polymers that can predict the future. They protect your legs from being smashed to bits by psychotic pace bowlers.

Pinch-hitter – the pinch-hitter, like in baseball, is a batsman promoted up the order in an ODI to try and smash a few balls out of the park. It rarely works.

Pitch – the pitch (NOT TO BE CALLED THE WICKET) is the area of the ground on which the bowler and batsman face off. It is traditionally grass, although other surfaces such as concrete and matting are common in lower grades. It is usually 22 yards (or 20.18 metres) long, and ten feet wide. The pitch appears much shorter than 22 yards when facing a real quickie.

Playing for his average – (also known as a Boycott). A batsman is said to be playing for his average if he tries to remain not out (and therefore boosting his batting average). This can be achieved by either taking singles towards the end of the innings (thus leaving tailenders exposed) or by refusing to hit out when quick runs are needed. Lots of English players are good at this, although Steve Waugh also appeared guilty of this sin at times.

Point – What is the point of this A to Z of Cricketing Terms? Beats me. Point is also a fielding position that is located at 90 degrees to the batsman on the off-side.

Popping crease – the popping crease is located four feet in front of the otherwise irrelevant bowing crease. The bowler must ground some part of his foot behind the line when bowling, and the batsman must touch some part of his body or equipment over the line for a run to be scored. It is called the popping crease, as the batsmen are often forced to perform extreme contortions around the popping crease to avoid being stumped, and these moves are very similar to popping dance style made famous by the Electronic Boogaloo Lockers in the 1970s.

Powerplay - The concept of a 'powerplay' has been adopted by cricket as a means of trying to liven up boring JAMODIs. It occurs when the umpires chose to send one player from the field, which leaves the other side with a numerical advantage on the ice. Sledging and personal abuse are the most common reasons for players being sent to the box, however, a few certain unnamed players seem to enjoy touching other players on the box a little too much and seem to cross the line deliberately. The power play ends if the batting team scores. If a powerplay ends without the batting team having scored, it is clear that you are playing against England.

Pull – Many Australian players are considered to be fine pullers. Ricky Ponting in particular is known around the world as a complete and utter puller. However, Graeme Smith is also gaining a strong reputation as one of the biggest pullers of all time.

Quickie – Another term for fast or pace bowlers. Every team needs a quickie to put the fear of death into the opposition. Alternatively, a quickie is usually what happens first time around for teenage males.

Retired hurt – If a batsman is injured during the course of his innings, he is allowed to retire hurt. He is able to then either resume his innings upon the fall of a subsequent wicket, or cowardly hide in the pavilion if the bowling is too nasty. There is a movement among certain anti-sledging campaigners for a ‘retired - feelings hurt’ option for sooky batsmen, but it is unlikely to succeed.

Return crease – The return creases is the two lines located either side of the pitch, four feet from the middle stump. The only purpose to this line is to prevent the bowler going too wide, however, the rule strangely relates only to the placement of the bowler’s back foot.

Reverse sweep – the reverse sweep is a shot made famous by Mike Gatting. It entails the batsman attempting to hit the ball onto the off-side, but instead merely edging it onto his pads, being caught behind, and losing the World Cup.

Reverse swing – Reverse (or Irish) swing is when an old ball suddenly starts to move in the opposite direction to what normal swing does. While reverse swing has been subject to many wild accusations about ball tampering, it is perfectly possible to get the ball to reverse swing by normal means (such as breath mints, fingernails, bottle tops or a pocket knife). If a player from the sub-continent achieves reverse swing, they are clearly cheating. If a player from England does so, it shows their amazing skill and ability to adapt to the conditions. While maintaining minty fresh breath for some reason.

Round the wicket – A bowler who delivers the ball with his bowling arm on the far side of his body (with respect to the stumps) is said to be bowling around the wicket. Naturally, due to the placement of the stumps, bowlers must either bowl over the wicket, or around the wicket (unless you are Colin Croft, in which case you may try to deliver the ball after running over the umpire first).

Run – a run is the basic unit of scoring in cricket. Every time the batsman successfully run up and down the pitch, they are rewarded with a run. Ranatunga attempted to introduce a new scoring system, involving a ‘walk’, but this failed to catch on.

Running between the wickets – when the batsmen decide to try and score a run, they are said to be running between the wickets. This process of deciding to run involves a simple process of negotiation, referred to as ‘calling’. Running between the wickets has five basic calls ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Wait’, ‘Fuck’ and ‘Sorry’. It does get more complicated, as the intonation of these calls is particularly important, and can carry additional meaning. An example of this can be seen through the following exchange between two batsmen;-
‘Yes, wait, no..., Yes? YES!, NO, NO, NOOOOO! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!…… Sorry.’

Runner – A runner can be used when a batsman is injured during his innings, and can no longer run. Its main purpose is to add a third dynamic into the whole ‘running between the wickets’ environment. With three different opinions on whether a run is possible or not, there is often the need for a mid-wicket conference to determine a clear consensus.

Run out - If, whilst attempt to score a run, the batsman does not ground his bat over the popping crease, and the fielding side is able to break the wicket with the ball, the batsman is considered run out. Being run out is one of the most frustrating methods of dismissal, however, it does come with the satisfaction of always having someone else to blame.

Scorer – In order for a game to be played, someone needs to actually keep count. This person (or persons, as there are usually two) track the scoring of each team. It is traditional for each team to provide one scorer each. It is also traditional for the two scorebooks to never quite tally up, leading to an incredible amount of headscratching and confusion towards the end of the match.

Seam – The cricket ball, in addition to the previously noted states of hardness and colour, also possesses six rows of stitching that holds the two halves of the ball together. It is also gives bowlers something to grip onto. In higher class games, the ball is a ‘four-piecer’, with additional seams (not raised however) splitting each half into quarters. If you can get your fingernails under these half-seams and raise them slightly, you can get the ball to do all sorts of stuff. Not technically legal, but heaps of fun if you don’t get caught.

Selectors – the selectors are a bunch of guys whose eyesight and judgement are only slightly better than the umpires. Nah, that's just being unfair to umpires. Being a selector is a thankless job, but, in Andrew Hilditch's case, there is a legitimate reason no-one thanks him for it. Nonetheless, there are always power-hungry megalomaniacs that put up their hand to be a selector, regardless of the level of play.

Shooter – a shooter is a delivery that hits the pitch, but then fails to bounce more than shin height. If a bowler could do it on purpose, they would take enough wickets to make Shane Warne jealous.

Sightscreen – The sightscreen is the board situated on the boundary directly behind the bowler. Its purpose is to assist the batsman to pick the ball up against the background. I never saw the need for them myself, but that is possibly due to the fact I didn’t watch the ball anyway.

Silly – Silly is added to the front of fielding positions (such as silly mid-on) when they are located suicidally close to the batsman. Contrary to popular belief, the prefix ‘silly’ is not a reference to the famous cricketing town of Silly in Burkina Faso, but rather the village of Silly (also known as Opzullik by Dutch speakers) in Belgium.

Single – a batsman is said to have scored a single when they successfully score one run. A batsman who scores a series of singles one after another is said to be building a picket fence.

Six – The most satisfying sight in cricket (well, for the batting side anyway) is when a ball soars gloriously over the fence on the full. The batsman is credited with six runs, and the umpire gives a silly signal by holding both hands above his head. There have been many noted six hitters including Gilbert Jessop, Learie Constantine, Chris Cairns, Ian Botham, Adam Gilchrist, Shahid Afridi and Chris Tavare.

Skier – A skier is a ball where, in a misguided attempt to smite a six, the batsman instead hits it straight up in the air. In theory, this should present an easy dismissal for the fielding team, but in practice it often results in highly amusing situations in which three or more fielders all look at each other and the ball lands safely in the middle.

Sledging – Contrary to the beliefs of many modern cricket fans, sledging has existing in cricket for centuries, and is not the sole province of Australians. Many historical examples of players abusing each other verbally can be found going back the days of the Hambledon Club in the mid 1700s. The term ‘sledging’ is relative recent, and is derived from the phrase ‘subtle as a sledgehammer’. Kumar Sangakarra is the reigning world champion at sledging, just edging out Graeme Smith and Chris Gayle.

Slip – Slips are located behind the wicket on the off-side, and are expected to catch edges from the batsman. The fielding position of slip is a particularly diverse one. In test cricket, the slip fielders are the players with the fastest reflexes and best eyesight. In lower grades, the slip fielders are traditionally the old farts who cannot run far anymore.

Slog-sweep – A slog is similar to a cow-shot, where the batsman aims a wild swipe at the ball. It is easily distinguishable from the cow-shot, as the slog-sweep is only done by top order batsmen, whereas the cow-shot is performed by tailenders.

Soft hands – The phrase ‘soft hands’ is used a lot by ex-players who have made their way into the commentary box. It is a reference to the wimpy current day pansies who use hand cream, cologne, moisturisers and blush before every game. Shane Watson and Michael Clarke are an example of this appalling trend towards sissyness, but they are only following in the footsteps of Damien Martyn.

Spinner – a spinner is a slow bowler that attempts to impart revolutions onto the ball as it travels through the air, resulting in it changing direction sharply on landing. That is the theory anyway, however, Ashley Giles had a quite long career for England as a purely slow bowler without ever bothering with the spin component.

Spirit of the Game - As with most facets of the modern game, Australia is leading the world with their 'Spirit of the Game' campaign. This is a promotion aimed at re-dressing the recent unfortunate on and off-field incidents that threaten to bismirch our great game. Ricky Ponting, universally recognised as world cricket's unofficial leader in gentlemanly behaviour, identified a series of shared standards that all Australian cricketers pledged to uphold. These standards include respecting your opponent (so long as the bastards lose gracefully), immediately accepting all decisions by the umpire (unless they are clearly wrong or made by biased officials from India or Pakistan), and through positive body language and banter (i.e. 'accidental' shoulders or beamers and calling the opposition "useless fucking poofters").

Spot fixing - one of the main problems currently facing Canadian cricket administrators is the issue of "spot fixing". Possibly as a result of the bi-lingual nature of the country, the cut shot has been confused with a seemingly simple medical procedure in the cricketing province of Labrador, with numerous complaints about botched spaying and neutering operations on cricketers. Dr Fletch has been called in to consult on the fixing epidemic, and to see whether the unkindest cut of all could be avoided.

Square – the square is the location of the turf pitches on a ground. As turf pitches wear over the duration of a match, there has to be a number of different pitches available to the curator over the period of a season. Some test grounds like the Adelaide Oval have as many as ten or twenty different pitches, and yet they still can’t manage to find one that is fair to both bat and ball.

Square leg – A fielding position is said to be square if it is located at right angles the batsman and pitch. Square leg is located directly opposite point. When the umpire needs a rest at the end of the over, he moves to square leg and has a quick kip.

Sticky wicket – In the past, pitches were not covered when it rained. This meant that a team could be forced to bat on a wet pitch. When the sun comes back out, the pitch starts to dry out and it became almost impossible to bat on. This type of pitch was referred to a sticky wicket. Useless bowlers can suddenly appear to be world-beaters. It is therefore unfortunate for South African spinners that sticky wickets are no longer seen at test level.

Strokemaker – A strokemaker is a batsman that is attractive to watch, and plays stylish shots. Traditionally, strokemakers were seen as fast scorers, however, strike rates are now showing this up as a fallacy. Supposedly stodgy players like Justin Langer often have a faster rate of scoring than a pretty player like Mark Waugh. It just doesn’t look as nice.

Stumped – A batsman can be stumped when, whilst trying to strike the ball, he leaves the safety of the popping crease and the wicketkeeper successfully removes a bail with the ball. I was only ever sent in as nightwatchman once – I was stumped third ball for 12.

Stumps – the stumps are the three bits of perpendicular wood (usually ash) that the batsman must protect from the bowler. Stumps is also the term used for the end of play, thereby signalling the commencement of the pissup.

Sweep – sweeping is quite simple. It has five key components. Firstly, you must choose an appropriate broom for the task at hand. Rough floors will probably be cleaned better by a broom made with natural fibres, while synthetic brooms are suitable for smoother floors. Secondly, you must pick a place to start sweeping from. The Sweeping School of London teaches the “sweep from the edge into the middle” technique, however, the Washington Greater College of Sweepers and Cleaners prefers the “move the dirt from one end to another” system pioneered by Thug in 8,499 B.C. The third step of successful sweeping is the actual cleaning stage. It is important to always keep the broom in contact with the ground. Slowly and carefully drag the broom towards your body – you can either use a short and fast action or a longer and more deliberate motion. Don’t try to go too fast too soon, and wait until you are confident with your technique. The fourth stage of sweeping is collecting all the dirt. Use your broom to arrange the rubbish into a pile, and then sweep this pile into a dust pan. For heaven’s sake, don’t try to do this too rapidly, or you could suffer the potentially fatal ‘dust billow’, where dirt can be accidentally pushed back into your face. The final stage of sweeping involves putting all the equipment back where you got it from, so that it is ready for the next time you wish to experience the joys of sweeping.

Swing – swing occurs when the bowler is able to swerve the ball through the air prior to it bouncing. There have been many famous exponents of swing bowling including Alec Bedser, Alan Davidson and Wasim Akram. Swing bowlers can be devastating in the right conditions, but they can also turn into Ben Hilfenhaus (i.e. cannon fodder) if the ball isn’t swinging.

Television replay - if the on-field umpire is unsure of what transpired, they can perform the traditional distress signal from Team America to signify the need for assistance from the third umpire. In this event, the third umpire is charged with viewing the events from all possible angles before always deciding that the batsman is not out.

Tesco Tuffers - this very embarrassing situation is where a player, such as Greg Matthews on his Test debut, is not recognised by the gatekeepers at the ground and refused entry. There is no truth to the rumour that the gatekeeper was well aware of an English left arm orthodox's identity, and the subsequent refusal to enter was merely his attempt to bring some reason to the English selection process.

Test – a test match is the highest pinnacle of the great game of cricket. It is between two international sides and is played over five days. The number of teams entitled to play test cricket is limited, with only nations that have demonstrated their capacity to perform at the highest level allowed to compete. The exceptions to this rule are Zimbabwe and Australia.

Third man – the player who is located on the boundary in a line behind the gully fielder is said to be at third man. The term ‘third man’ is derived from the 64th page in the Karma Sutra. Enough said really.

Tie – a tie is a when a game is not won, lost, drawn or forfeited by either team. Makes it all seem a bit pointless really.

Timed out – Definitely the coolest way to be dismissed. The incoming batsman has two minutes from the fall of the previous wicket before he must appear on the field, or he can be given ‘timed out’. I have a recurring dream in which I am due to bat after three quick wickets have fallen, and I cannot find all of my equipment. I am madly searching for my pads, box and gloves, and the umpires are holding up a large watch to indicate my two minutes are nearly up. I spoke to a Freudian psychologist about this, and evidently I have some issues with my mother.

Timing – perfect timing is achieved when you manage to get out the back door, just as her parents are coming in through the front. It requires particularly good hearing, and a capacity to keep your ears open (in spite of some quite serious distractions taking place on other parts of your body) for tell-tale noises of impending disaster.

Top-spinner – Tops are usually made from wood, although recent experiments with plastics and Kevlar have also been successful. Some of the top-spinners over the past decades include Don Winters, Fred Mills, Dwight Paulson and, the father of top-spinning, Jim Schreiber. A top-spinner is also a ball delivered by a leg-spinner that doesn’t spin. It hurries onto the batsman, and often bounces more than expected. What this has to do with childrens' wooden toys is beyond me.

Toss – the toss is a very traditional part of cricket. The two captains go to the middle and the home captain throws a coin into the air. The opposing captain has to call either ‘heads’ or ‘tails’ in an attempt to guess which way the coin will land. The captain that wins the toss is then entitled to choose to either bat or bowl first. Winning the toss should not influence the outcome of the game, but it sometimes does. Winning the toss, sending Australia in to bat at the Gabba, and then losing the match is a sure-fire way to lose the Test captaincy.

Twelfth man – aka a big loser.

Twenty/20 - this new form of the game has gained incredible popularity amongst the modern Y-generation who have the attention span of a goldfish. Its name is derived from the number of experts who are now using 20/20 hindsight to say that they always knew it would be a success.

UDRS - now taking the place of the umpire (see below), the UDRS is a foolproof, 100% reliable system of technologies that have been extensively tested and trialled across numerous different environments. It is guaranteed by the ICC as being more accurate than umpires, as the method of determining the accuracy of the umpires is through using the UDRS technology. Questions about who determines the accuracy of the UDRS are not entered into. For those who are unaware, UDRS is short for Umpires Don't Really See.

Umpire – the umpire is the man who arbitrates and rules over the game. In order to become a successful umpire at international level, you need to have a very thick skin, failing eyesight and hearing, poor posture, and some cool dance moves when the score is on 111 (or 222, 333, 444 and so on). Why anyone would chose to become an umpire of their own volition is beyond me. While I am assured it is a rumour, I have reliably heard that most umpires in local cricket are there as a result of a court enforced community service order due to a combination of beer and a lack of public urinals.

Underarm – Underarm bowling refers to a style of delivering the ball whereupon the player releases it in a manner reminiscent of a lawn bowler. This was once the norm, however, some sheila who thought she knew better than men started bowling over-arm (well, side-arm anyway) and it caught on around the world. Technically, under-arm bowling is still legal, except in ODI games between Australia and New Zealand.

Use his feet – a batsman is not required to remain stationary at his stumps. If he chooses, he can move up and down the pitch as the bowler delivers the ball. This is called ‘using his feet’. It is more commonly used against spin bowlers, however, some batsmen has also shown it can be used (albeit not successfully) against faster bowlers. Coincidentally, the helmet repair business have flourished since batsmen started charging the quicks.

Walk – A batsman, bereft of his mind, may voluntarily choose to leave his wicket upon appeal from the bowling team, thus relieving the umpire any need to do anything. This is called ‘walking’. Adam Gilchrist is famous for walking when he believes he is out. Ricky Ponting is famous for making Gilchrist walk back to the team hotel after the Australian wicketkeeper stupidly did this at a crucial stage in a World Cup semi-final.

Wicketkeeper – the wicketkeeper is the fielder who stands directly behind the batsman, and whose task it is to catch the ball if the batsman either misses it, or chooses not to hit it. The wicketkeeper has specialised equipment to help him perform this role. It includes small pads, a box and well padded gloves to catch the ball with. The wicketkeeper position is a specialist one, and if you wish to play for your country, it requires considerable skill to perform successfully. Not that this stopped the Akmal brothers.

Wide – a wide is a delivery that, in the opinion of the umpire, the batsman is unable to play a legitimate cricket shot at. This is an interesting definition. I unsuccessfully argued that every ball I faced from a certain quickie should be called a wide. As I couldn’t even see the ball, there was no way I could play a legitimate shot at it. The umpire rejected this logic, so I had to be content with playing a wild slog at the next ball and ‘accidentally’ letting go of my bat in the general vicinity of the bowler. The fact that he ducked and it hit the umpire is in no way my fault, and this is the line my solicitor will be taking at the appeal hearing.

World Cup - Beginning in 1975, the cricket World Cup is held every four years (give or take a year here and there between 1992 and 1999). Once seen as the pinnacle of ODI excellence, the 2007 debacle was so poor that I don't even need to take the piss out of it here. Very sad. Happily, 2011 showed some signs of improvement.

Wrong'un – the wrong-un is a delivery that, whilst looking like a normal leg-spinner, actually turns the opposite direction. If the batsman fails to recognise the deception, he can be made to look foolish. Unfortunately, if he does pick it, he can often launch it onto the roof of the grandstand.

Xavier Tras - Xavier is a consistent scorer in lower grades of cricket, and can often be the top-scorer. A much under-rated player. He usually performs especially well against teams from the sub-continent. He always performs better than his namesake Xavier Doherty.

Yellow - the traditional colour of both canaries and the Australian ODI team. This colour is considered particularly appropriate by many Pakistan supporters (as they feel the light lemon colour offsets Shane Watson's peachy complexion just nicely).

Yorker – a yorker is a ball that is aimed to land on the popping crease on the full, and slip under the batsman’s blade. Performed correctly, it is very hard to hit. It can be hard to bowl though, and will often instead turn into a tempting delivery that is smashed out of the park.

Zooter - I don't quite know what a zooter is. I think it is a Red bull and vodka mixed together and served ice-cold. It is only here cause I needed a 'Z' word to finish this A to Z of Cricketing Terms off. And thank fuck for that everyone says.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What is wrong with Australian Cricket?

It is clear now, hopefully to the hierarchy at Cricket Australia and not just the fans, that Australian cricket is not simply struggling, but in fact is in serious trouble. There are a number of 'Ashes' autopsies going on at the moment, however, that approach fails to correctly identify that this problem has been a number of years in the making and not a phenomenon of just the past three months. Similarly, the blame being aimed at the players does not delve deeply enough into the quagmire that is now besmirching Australian cricket in general. All aspects of the game need to be considered if the national side is to firstly arrest their current slide towards the bottom of the Test playing nations, and to start moving back towards being competitive with the top sides.

Cricket Australia
The problems in Australian cricket start right at the top. Cricket Australia needs to take a serious step back and re-consider their approach to the prioritisation, scheduling and marketing of the game both nationally and internationally. While England was preparing for the Ashes battle, the Australian team was still in India. In the scheme of things, it turned out that the players from the home team were actually less ready for the series than the tourists. While credit for England's planning should by acknowledged, it doesn't change the fact that Australian players should have been home and playing Shield cricket well before they actually did. However, that wasn't the main scheduling issue. Instead, the Australian cricketing public were treated to an isolated and completely useless series of one day internationals against Sri Lanka in November. Spectators responded to this series by largely ignoring it. However, the Australian players were distracted from their Ashes preparation by having to play a sequence of games that no-one cared about at the time, and almost no-one even remembers only a few months later. Why Cricket Australia thought this series was more vital than the Ashes preparation remains unknown to everyone. During the same period, England were preparing diligently for the longer form of the game. The term, JAMODI (Just Another Meaningless One Day International), is gaining traction around the world, as more and more of these pointless and futile matches are scheduled. Cricket Australia, and the ICC for that matter, need to urgently re-consider both when and how many JAMODIs take place.

It is also worth considering the injury that Doug Bollinger experienced during the Indian tour. He went into the Test series against India under-prepared, as Cricket Australia had insisted that both he and Mike Hussey play T20 cricket for a club team. While there are escape clauses in their contracts that mandate for release for national duty, it was his own country that insisted Bollinger not join the national team until his club duties were completed. Bollinger was selected in the ICC's World XI last year, but the injury he picked up in India due to his lack of preparation effectively removed Australia's most dangerous bowler for the summer. While it is impossible to know for certain, it is not too big a jump to assume that Brett Lee or David Warner would have been told to get back for national duty if required while they were playing for provincial sides in New Zealand, but the same standards were not applied with respect to the Indian series.

The big money in cricket is in India; that fact is inescapable. This is also unlikely to change at any time soon, as India has a population more than double all other Test playing nations combined. It is also perceived that the big money has traditionally come from the 50 over game. However, it doesn't mean that Cricket Australia should bankrupt its future for some cheap dollars now. 50 over cricket has lost much of its appeal with the introduction of the T20 format, but the plethora of ODIs doesn't appear to be lessening. Australia and its cricketers have been seen as a valuable commodity in India, however, that is only while they are considered the best. Now that South Africa, Sri Lanka and England have overtaken them, it will be interesting to see if Australia remain attractive to Indian cricket authorities and the wider Indian fan base. The Indian dollars will quickly disappear if Australian cricketers are no longer seen as being desirable. The marketing of the national side needs careful analysis. The debacle we saw prior to the Ashes, in which the selectors named a larger squad of potential players for the First Test than what the entire touring England team had in the country, was a nightmare born of marketing idiocy. Too many more examples of this type of mistake and the lustre of our national side will be tarnished for many years to come.

The Australian selection panel needs to be seriously re-shaped. Any good management team needs to have a balance of perspectives and experience. The current panel are all former top-order batsmen who played in the 1980s. There are no fast bowlers, no swing bowlers, no spinners, no wicket-keepers. While you naturally don't need one from every category, the current group is seriously unbalanced. It has been evident that our batting has been a serious issue for a couple of years now, with a collapse on the cards almost every game. However, the changes to the batting order have been minimal whilst the bowlers are dropped almost on a whim. It would appear, perhaps sub-consciously, that the current panel appear far more sympathetic to the plight of a batsman short of runs than a bowler short of wickets. If there were some former bowlers on the panel, some of these biases may be less likely to occur.

The selection panel's decision making over the past few years has been one of the major factors in the situation facing Australian cricket now. Their inability to make the hard decisions, and their unwillingness to accept their own mistakes, has been disastrous. Many people in the media have commented on the panel's poor timing in their choices, dropping players when in form and then re-instating them when out of form. Poor Phil Hughes is just one example of both ends of this spectrum. The sheer number of spinners they have tried since the retirement of Shane Warne appears indicative of their inability to actually know what makes a good Test bowler. They finally fluked a spinner in Nathan Hauritz who could perform at a reasonable level, and yet they jettison him for a ODI specialist journeyman with a first class bowling average well the wrong side of 40. While Doherty's performances in the first two Tests were, in light of his previous career, not surprising, his failures were then compounded by the selectors who picked Beer instead of admitting they made a mistake in discarding Hauritz. They told Hauritz to go back to Shield cricket and perform. He did this with distinction, recording both his best ever bowling and batting figures, but that still wasn't enough for the selectors.

This selection of an unwanted Victorian finger spinner is perhaps the worst of all their recent ones. Beer had nothing for Western Australia to indicate he would succeed, and was not in anyone's thinking going into Adelaide. However, Shane Warne talked up Beer out of left field, and stunningly, Beer was then named in the Test squad. This was the point at which Andrew Hilditch should have been sacked. There are only two possible scenarios that can have occurred. Either the selection panel blindly picked a player they personally seemed to know nothing about, as evidenced by their own statements after the event, purely on the basis of what Warne had written in a newspaper article. The second option is that the selection panel talked to Warne and asked him to do a big write-up for this player to try and justify why they were going to chose Beer from nowhere. In either case, the sheer desperation underpinning either situation shows that the selection panel have totally lost their direction and must be subject to an immediate shakeup.

The recent development of Haddin's sacking is another sign of desperation, rather than forward planning. The selection panel appear so concerned about the leadership of the current team that they are willing to ditch one of the only decent performers in the past twelve months, in the hope that his replacement will cover the holes in other areas. Hilditch has publicly commented that they want to smooth the transition over between Haddin and Paine, which is a pretty big hint that Haddin is about to be completely gotten rid of. Haddin is only 33. In the normal scheme of things, and taking into account the recent history of Marsh, Healy and Gilchrist, he has around another 3 years of good performances. Why is he being axed now? Who is to say that Paine would be the first choice replacement in three years time anyway, as we have seen other options such as Ronchi and Manou used within the last 3 year period. This change is reminiscent of the inclusion of an allrounder in place of a top order batsmen, in order to fix a problem with the bowling. Rather than fixing the actual issue at hand, they try to put in stop gap measures and then wonder why it doesn't work in the long term.

Hilditch's recent comments that the selectors have done a very good job further underline just how far from reality he is now operating. The conclusion that Hilditch has to go is inescapable; the sooner the better.

Coaching, Planning and Leadership

It is interesting that the coaching staff seem to have escaped most of the criticism aimed at the players. One of the best ways you can determine how a team is being coached is through their performance of the '1 percenters', a concept pushed by a previous Australian coach. In this regard, it is clear that Australia is underperforming, and the coaching staff need to bear a significant proportion of the responsibility. You can tell how a team is going by their ability to do the little things well, such as fielding, bowling no-balls, running between the wickets and so on. In the last series, Australia bowled twice as many no-balls as England, and were run-out four times while affecting no run-outs of their own. Australia were clearly outfielded by England, a concept that is particularly hard to accept in light of the past twenty years of fielding excellence. Neilsen is supposed to be the head coach, and therefore should take responsibility for these failings.

Technically, the coaching staff are failing. The Mitchell Johnson situation is a prime example of this problem. He has technical issues with his action that are obvious to anyone with even a basic knowledge of cricket. Surely the remediation of problems such as this are the main reason for having a coaching staff. His issues have been evident, not just recently, but for a number of years. Why have the coaching staff not fixed them? Early in the series, Damien Fleming was interviewed on the ABC radio and asked why Johnson couldn't resolve the basic flaws in his action and release position. There was a long pause, before Fleming just said "I don't know". Getting Johnson to bowl with his wrist into the correct position behind the ball isn't rocket science, but it took him being dropped after Adelaide until we saw an improvement. Then, magically, he started swinging the ball again. Why did this transformation take years to affect? There are three possible reasons for this. Firstly, the coaching staff simply don't know what they are doing, which is unlikely. Secondly, Johnson is not willing to do the work necessary to improve and the coaching staff lack the authority to discipline him. Or finally, the players simply do not respect the coaching staff enough to listen when they are being advised of their problems. In any case, the current coaching setup is not working and Neilsen needs to take the rap for this.

It is hard to identify exactly what Neilsen brings to the table as a coach. It certainly can't be planning. Australia have been comprehensively out-thought by their opposition in recent years. This is exemplified by the confusion demonstrated by Ricky Ponting in setting fields. Why does he need to talk to his bowlers for five minutes at the start of first over of the day? What are they doing off the field? Surely the team would have the basic plan of attack for each batsmen in place, and only need to have further discussions if things are going wrong? Australia does not seem to have any concrete method of attack, and quickly disintegrate into panic tactics in the hope of getting a wicket, rather than working towards a plan. All of the long discussions only further diminish Australia's already poor over-rate, and lead to pressures in later stages. This then results in ridiculous situations like Mike Hussey bowling to tailenders in India, purely to increase the over-rate rather than as part of a plan to win the game.

It is particularly galling to read comments from Neilsen that basically put all the blame for the poor performances in the Ashes onto the players. That is just gutless. It is hard to come up with any reasons why Nielsen should remain in what is arguably the most prestigious coaching job in Australia.

The Australian media also must take a long hard look at their role in this problem. It is beyond belief that we are still hearing commentators saying 'no-one saw it coming'. If you read the myriad of message boards around the world, genuine cricket lovers with a strong understanding of the game have been predicting this precise problem for the past three years. So how can the media claim that this recent thumping was a surprise? Rather than admitting that the occasional victory over the past few years was merely papering over the ever widening cracks, the media instead would talk about resurgence of the side. It is understandable that journalists have pressure from above to produce positive articles, however, they have failed to realistically portray the weaknesses that were rapidly emerging.

If the media had done their job and actually reported more accurately about the slide of the team, more pressure may have been placed upon Cricket Australia to actually try and fix the problems. Instead, there is a now a huge crisis that could have been averted with proper planning. It is possible that the media is now too close the players and hierarchy, and are therefore afraid to be publically critical. One possible problem is the inundation of the media with former cricketers, rather than trained journalists. There is an old tactic used by many cricket viewers, in which the television broadcast picture is watched with the radio commentary. Why is the radio commentary considered so superior? Fundamentally, the entire television commentary team is composed of ex-players with little or no media training, while the radio has actual journalists supplemented by expert comments. It is no coincidence that Richie Benaud, noted as the Doyen of Cricket Commentators, is actually a trained journalist who did the crime beat during his training. However, the main issue with the media having so many former players is that they are often afraid to be openly critical of people they know well and are friendly with. There can be an advantage in having the 'inside' perspective from a former player who has been there, however, this needs to be complemented by appropriately analytical comment.

Prior to the Fifth Test, a number of Australian fans uttered the sacrilegious words - 'We hope that England win'. The rationale behind these statements were that, if Australia won and the Ashes were tied at 2-2, the media would accept Cricket Australia's positive spin on a drawn series, and no pressure would be placed onto the hierarchy to actually make the changes that are needed. It was only with another humiliating loss by an innings that the media has really started to make noises about the need for change.

The Fans
It was amusing to read comments from current and former players, as well as support staff and Cricket Australia, criticizing the fans' reaction to Australia's poor performances. Evidently, the fans are meant to never voice their disapproval when things are going wrong. Instead, they are just meant to blindly support the national side, regardless of how they are going. While supporters should remain loyal to their side, it doesn't mean that they shouldn't recognise obvious problems. True supporters of Australian cricket need to make sure that they continue to loudly voice their disapproval of the current system that needs overhauling. Otherwise, no changes will be made, the slide down the rankings will continue, and Cricket Australia will ultimately face ever more problems in attracting the 'fair weather fans' away from the rival football codes.

There has been enough criticism of the actual players. Such discussion simply deflects the attention away from the deficiencies evident in the larger structure of cricket in Australia. It is clear that the current squad of players is not at the desired standard, and cannot successfully compete against the top world sides in 2011, let alone bear comparison with their predecessors in recent years. However, unless the support structures are fixed as a matter of priority, the team will continue to stagnate near the middle of the field of Test playing nations.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Unconscious Bias of Australian Selectors

If we assume for a moment that the Australian selectors are making decisions that they consider the best for Australian cricket, and not merely to piss me off (and I am not yet convinced of this argument, but anyway), I wonder whether there is an unconscious bias towards batsmen.

Recently, Australian cricket has been plagued by batting collapses, and an underperforming middle order. North and Hussey in particular have been considered by most judges (other than the selectors) to be under pressure to hold their places for over 12 months. However, in spite of losing our last three tests, the only change (other than the return from injury by Haddin) that appears likely for the first Test is the dropping of Hauritz (and potentially Bollinger evidently).

While I don't think Hauritz should be anywhere near our national team, why is a bowler the sole victim of our recent poor form? Haurie's form against India was crap, but he was actually better than expected last summer. Why does his two failures in India result in his dropping, whereas Hussey's three years of underperforming doesn't similarly result in demotion?

If you look at the composition of the panel, all are former batsmen. I wonder whether they are, perhaps unconsciously, more sympathetic to the plight of struggling batsmen than bowlers? Would a selection panel made up of Shane Warne, Geoff Lawson, Terry Alderman and Merv Hughes (hypothetically) been as likely to drop a bowler as our current group? Should there be a better balance between former batsmen and bowlers on the national panel, as there appears to be both currently and historically a strong trend towards former batsmen being selectors rather than bowlers.