Thursday, 31 January 2008

Harbhajan gets off?

Harbhajan Singh’s appeal for his ban for allegedly racially abusing Andrew Symonds has been upheld. Quite often in these cases we are left with a bad taste in the mouth, a feeling that there is no smoke without fire and that Singh ‘got away with it’, probably on a technicality. That was my initial reaction and I have heard a few people voice the same. The Australian cricket team certainly feel this way. To quote Ricky Ponting:

"The judge has made it pretty clear today that even he was a bit disappointed with the severity, or non-severity, of his findings, basically because he wasn't handed some pretty vital and important information," ... "There's no doubt that there'd be a few players in the Australian dressing-room that would be a little bit disappointed with the outcome as well, knowing what we now know.”

However, before we consign another spat into history and secretly blacken Harbhajan’s name it may be worth a quiet discussion of what actually happened.

You can read the hearing transcript at Some points from it (italics denote direct quotes)

1. Brett Lee bowled an excellent yorker at Singh who just managed to get a bit of bat on it and scored runs. As they passed Singh patted Lee on the backside, anyone who plays cricket will recognise this as an indication of ‘well bowled’.

2. Symonds took exception to this action and “approached Harbhajan Singh and told him that he had no friends amongst the Australians (he admits he used the word ‘fuck’ or a derivation thereof). Singh used similar language to Symonds and neither took offence at that stage.”

3. However the exchange caused Singh to become angry and he motioned to Symonds to come towards him. Singh then said something to Symonds.

When asked why Symonds took exception he said (and I kid you not, this is his reply at the hearing):

MR MANOHAR: You had any objection to that patting on the back?
MR SYMONDS: Did I have an objection to it – my objection was that a test match is no place to be friendly with an opposition player, is my objection.

So… Symonds deliberately walked up to Singh and used abusive language just because he showed a bit of sportsmanship and friendship. What sort of an attitude is that? I think Symonds should take a long look at his actions and consider setting an example for others to follow rather than deplore.

What Singh said to Symonds is the point of the hearing. Several people (Symonds, Clarke and Hayden) say they heard the word ‘monkey’ or ‘big monkey’ although only Symonds was close to Singh. Tendulkar did not hear ‘monkey’ and was quite close. Singh and Tendulkar claim the word ‘teri maki’ was used which is an insult in his native tongue and could be misheard as ‘monkey’. Symonds does not deny ‘teri maki’ was used.

I am personally disgusted at Symonds attitude and actions; they have no place on a cricket field. It seems fairly likely that Singh used ‘teri maki’ and quite rightly was cleared of the offence.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

The Gilchrist Effect

There are very few players who have genuinely changed cricket; a handful at best over the last fifty years. Adam Gilchrist is one of these rare cricketers, someone who has changed cricket forever. Gilchrist is the best wicket-keeper batsman there has ever been. He is not just a wicket keeper who can bat a bit. At his best Gilchrist is one of the most destructive batsmen of all time, his ability to hit a good ball out of the ground is the stuff of nightmares for the world’s bowlers. Conversely, he is not just an exceptional batsman who can keep-wicket; he holds the current test record for most wicket-keeping dismissals.

Gilchrist has taken a role that was considered something that would be nice to have, a wicket keeper who could make useful runs, and converted it into “a world class batsman who is also a world class wicket-keeper”. He has redefined the role and in the process forced all wicket-keepers to work much harder at their batting. As it stands if a wicket-keeper cannot average forty with the bat then his place is in jeopardy and he may fall victim to the Gilchrist Effect. The England Test side is a perfect example of this, they have been choosing mediocre wicket-keepers for years hoping their batting skills will compensate. They don’t of course.

Adam Gilchrist will play his last day of test cricket tomorrow at Adelaide. He will be applauded on the ground and hopefully cheered off it. He is one of the greats and will be sadly missed.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Just what the (Freemantle) Doctor Ordered

India winning in Perth, what will they think of next? It was a complete and utterly deserved win; India controlled the match from the get-go. The final margin of victory, 72 runs, belies India’s superiority over the four days. Some spirited tail-end wagging by Johnson and (Stuart) Clark brought the margin of victory down – those Australians don’t know when they are beaten.

There were two crucial passages of play on the final day:

Firstly Ishant Sharma bowled an impressive spell at Ricky Ponting. He worried the Aussie captain on numerous occasions, hitting him on the body and gloves. Ponting was fortunate to get an LBW decision go his way but eventually succumbed and Sharma got his man. At 19, Sharma is a real find for India; let us hope he stays fit...

Secondly was Kumble’s decision to bowl Sehwag when Gilchrist and (Michael) Clark were making hay. Sehwag ambled up and bowled Gilly around his legs and followed it up by getting the dangerous Lee caught at silly point.

Australia’s run of sixteen consecutive victories comes to an end at the hands of India, just as it did in 2001. I am looking forward to the series decider in Adelaide – Hayden will be fit, so look out India.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Shaun Pollock

Shaun Pollock played his last day of Test cricket last Saturday. Pollock, along with Allan Donald, have been the two class-acts for South Africa since their reintroduction to international cricket. He has provided valiant service to South Africa both as strike bowler and captain.

As a bowler he took 421 test wickets at 23 apiece in 108 test matches – 8th on the all time list and the first South African. His accuracy and ability to move the ball in both directions made him the perfect foil for the quick and aggressive Donald. Pollock himself was quite quick although he has slowed a little over time.

Pollock is a much underrated lower order batsman who could get his runs quickly if needed. He made two test centuries and sixteen fifties, many of them at critical times for South Africa.

Pollock took over the South African captaincy after the Hansie Cronje debacle in 2000. He won 14 of 26 test matches.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Double Standard

The controversial Australia v India Test Match at Sydney has attracted much media attention and this blog has started just too late to get involved. However, there was one incident that was not given the coverage it deserved. In the Australian first innings Andrew Symonds was given not out when he edged a ball from Ishant Sharma. Symonds had several more dubious decisions go his way and went onto make 162 not out. At the press conference at the end of the first day, Symonds said:

"I was very lucky. I was out when I was 30, given not out. That's cricket though. I can sit here and tell you about my bad decisions as well, but I won't"

How can he get away with saying that? Surely this is undermining the umpire at the very basic level. He is not giving an opinion, he is saying that he knows he hit the ball and umpire was wrong. What would happen if Ishant Shama had said (which he did not)

"I was unlucky today. I had Symonds out when he was on 30 but the umpire was wrong. That may have lost us the test match"

I would suggest that Sharma would have had a severe reprimand and at the very least been fined. Why was Symonds not fined for undermining the umpire?

First Post

I live in England and have watched cricket since I was a lad. The first cricket I remember was Lillee and Thompson giving us (English) a right thumping. I have watched a lot of the Test cricket that has been played in England since and via the miracle of Sky television I now watch games from all over the world. My main interest is in international cricket, so expect it to be biased in that direction. I started this blog because I had things to as the umpire would say: "Lets play".