Sunday, February 20, 2005

Thank you Davenell

Finally there's one person who agrees with me. Dav Whatmore, one of the men responsible for the change in approach to one-day cricket in recent times, has said the rules were fine, and it's the players that are making the game tired and boring. Whatmore used the aggressive pair of Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana at the top of the order with amazing results, forcing people to re-evaluate the tried and tested strategy of beginning slowly and keeping wickets in hand for the death. Now virtually every team plays like that.

Speaking to the Melbourne Age, Whatmore said, " ... making big rule changes is not the answer. It just so happens that the tri-series you had over there was drab because players didn't perform well." This comes as a breath of fresh air amidst calls from experts around the world to make wholesale changes to the format of one-day cricket. Whatmore, however, does think one tweak may help. "If there was one change I'd make, it's that you could take to the field with 11, but your 12th man could be a replacement and come on to bat and bowl," he said, suggesting the substitute be given full empowerment, just like in the case of football or basketball.

Whatmore stressed the point that it was unimaginative bowlers and captains that made games dull, not the format itself. "I was watching a game this week, which was a perfect example of that," Whatmore said. "Ashley Giles was bowling, a new batsman at the crease and both mid-on and mid-off were back and there were just four in the ring ... it was crazy. You've got to think on your feet and be flexible."

Call me a traditionalist, but one-day cricket is pretty much fine as it is. There's room for all sorts of players, even bits-and-pieces cricketers, and to me this just adds to the charm of the game. There's only so much you can optimise excellence without losing out on relaxation and joy.

Thank you Davenell Frederick Whatmore for striking one blow for us chaps from the other side of the fence.

Pot calling a kettle a pot

It's official. It's not only selectors of the subcontinent who are incompetent, bumbling, parochial, and political when choosing teams. The holiest of the holy, the Australians, are apparently just the same. That is if you believe Mark Waugh, the former Mr. Lazy Elegance of Australian cricket. Junior is being heavily pushed by New South Wales, his home state, for a place in the National Selection Panel. And Waugh has already fired his first salvo.

Writing in The Sun Herald he has had a solid go at the current selection panel, accusing them of favouring Queenslanders when it comes to making tough selections. He begins by listing the members of the panel - Trevor Hohns (Qld), Allan Border (Qld), David Boon (Tas) and Andrew Hilditch (SA) - and then has a go:
"A fine selection of men, no doubt, but half the selection panel is from Queensland. I, like many, believe there is some bias towards Queensland players."

Bias towards Queensland players? "You cannot be serious", I can hear the Queenslanders raving, John-McEnroe style. But, Waugh doesn't stop there.
I think there are a couple of Queenslanders in the past season or two who have been lucky to gain a spot in the one-day or Test teams. Andy Bichel is probably the exception, but I can count three players and situations that would support the theory that the bananabenders are receiving a leg-up.

As examples Waugh cites the selection of Andrew Symonds ahead of Simon Katich for the Sri Lanka tour, the selection of Nathan Hauritz over Stuart MacGill for the India tour and, most recently, the selection of James Hopes over Cameron White.
For each player he has a barb:
Symonds - "That was one of the worst decisions I'd seen for years."

Hauritz - "... it was a shocking selection and one that could have come back to bite the selectors."

Hopes - " I played against Hopes last season and I couldn't see him wearing Australian colours."

Incredibly, Waugh goes on to qualify Hauritz' omission by calling MacGill "the second-best spinner in world cricket." One assumes Waugh considers his old pal, and partner in providing pitch and weather information to punters, Shane Warne, the best spinner in the world. In that case is he suggesting MacGill is a better bowler than Muttiah Muralitharan, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh?

I don't know about bias, although I have heard casual mentions of how you get a baggygreen free when you get your New South Wales Blues cap, but I certainly know that this is one piece of judgement no other sane person in the world would agree with. Why, I don't think even Stuey MacGill's mother would agree with Mark Waugh's absurd claim!

PS: I'm as big a fan of Mark Waugh the batsman, as anyone about. Here's what I wrote on Cricinfo when he retired.