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Adam Gilchrist – The cricketer of a lifetime

It’s hard to write a piece that does justice to Adam Gilchrist. Firstly, there is the practicality of seeing the screen through teary and bloodshot eyes. The keyboard refuses to work, shorted out by a flood of tears. Then the there is the shock – while on the one hand, retirement could be expected from one so advanced in years, yet many of us lived in denial, thinking that Gilly would go on forever. But most of all, writing an article befitting the great man is difficult simply because I am but an ordinary scribe, and Gilchrist was anything but an ordinary cricketer. He was extraordinary.

We have not seen Gilchrist consistently at the peak of his powers for 2-3 years now. Of course, in the past twelve months we have been treated to some truly momentous innings, but they have been peaks with increasingly long troughs.

Adam Gilchrist was just under 25 years of age when he made his first appearance for Australia, on 25 Oct 1996. That was a one day match against South Africa, as he stepped in for a couple of matches for the injured Ian Healy. At the end of the next summer, the one day revolution began and as Tubby and Heals faced the firing squad, Gilly became a permanent member of the One Day team.

Gilchrist had to wait until November 1999 – another two and a half years – for his Test debut. For me, his transition into the team is one of the intangible barometers of Gilly’s greatness. I was a big Ian Healy fan. Huge. He was a great gloveman and I think most would say that Gilchrist never quite achieved his standards. As a batsman, Healy was a fighter. He was a gritty, determined and could nudge, deflect and graft a score. He made runs when Australia needed them most and had no less than four Test centuries and 22 half centuries to his name. Not too bad – he could easily lay claim to being the best keeper batsman in the world. Then Gilchrist strode up and on his first attempt, stroked 81 from 88 balls against Pakistan. While it should be remembered that he was only the fifth top scorer for the innings (and was indeed behind Warnie), he did make it look rather easy. After just one match, memories of Healy started to fade.

In Gilchrist’s second match, he really showed the world what Adam Gilchrist was made of. Gilchrist made his way to the crease in the final innings of the match with Australia 5-126, chasing 369 for victory. With the confidence and ease that came to typify Gilchrist, he smashed a chanceless 149 runs from just 163 balls, departing with Australia just 5 runs short of victory. While Langer stole the man of the match award, it was Gilchrist who stole the match from Pakistan. Remind me again, “Ian who?”. As it turned out, Steve Waugh has Gilly to thank for the record 16 match winning streak – that was the second match of the 16.

Over the next few seasons, Gilly kept well – that is, his keeping was of international standard, without being Don Tallon. And he scored like a machine. No. Machine creates the wrong impression – while he was as reliable as a machine, the manner in which he scored, went way beyond mere machinery. Most of his hundreds were scored at better than a run per ball and yet he averaged more than 60 for several years. Gilchrist could take a match away from an opponent in a session. One of the tangible measures of Gilchrist’s greatness is that his Test strike rate (runs scored per hundred balls) is the best of anyone and yet he still averaged almost 48 (and averaged more than 50 for most of his career – until the end of 2005).

I believe that Gilchrist was at his peak in early 2002 when he toured South Africa. He gave them a mauling that would not be forgotten. He scored 204* (the fastest 200 in history at the time), 138*, 24, 91 and 16. To score 366 runs at better than a run a ball without getting out, defied belief. The South Africans could not believe it. And it was all a bonus for Australia – this was the wicket keeper – not even one of the top six. Gilly was dubbed the best number seven ever, and it is hard indeed to argue with that. Gilchrist’s achievements were acknowledged as he was named the Wisden Cricketer of the Year for 2002.

Over his career, Gilchrist’s batting saved and won many, many matches for Australia. For more details and analysis see “Anything but an Arthur Morris” (http://www.dongles.org/cgi-bin/article_display.pl?article=20050415.txt). He was still doing it in March 2005 as along with Katich, he saved the Aussie’s hides against New Zealand. That was another hot streak, in that series he made 121, 162 and 60*. Ponting can also thank Gilly for “his” 16 match winning streak. I draw your attention to Fatullah, April 2006. It may have been “only Bangladesh” but Australia was 6-93, chasing 427. Oh dear. Gilchrist made 144 out of 269 and Australia scraped out of the match by 3 wickets. That was match six of the streak.

In the past twelve months, though he may have fallen away, Gilchrist has treated us to two of the landmark innings of all time. In the 2006-07 Ashes series, he made the second fastest Test hundred ever (not counting the second hundred of Nathan Astle’s iconic double century) – a 57 ball effort in Perth. The hitting in that had to be seen to be believed. As Jim Maxwell said, “Take me out to the ball game.” For me, it typified Gilchrist. He always had the ability to tee off and score in bursts that didn’t seem to be possible. The first 50 of that innings came from 40 balls – pretty good going but not unexpected from Gilchrist. The next fifty came from just 17 balls. Holy smokes, Batman.

Gillie’s second gift to the cricketing world was at the 2007 World Cup. The final, no less. After dozing his way through the lead up matches and the semi-final, Gilchrist awoke with an “innings to behold” as his captain was moved to declare, in a rare display of eloquence. In a rain shortened match (38 overs), Gilchrist still managed to score 149 and get out with 7 overs to spare. His innings was 104 balls and included 8 sixes.

In 96 Tests, Gilchrist scored 5,570 runs – more than any other keeper/batsman (I’m not counting Sangakkara here because he has not always played as wicketkeeper). He made 17 hundreds and 26 half centuries. Gilchrist cleared the boundary exactly 100 times – more than anyone else in Test cricket. He leaves the game with 416 Test dismissals – more than anyone else. Boucher will overtake him again shortly but like Lillee, Border and Warne before him, it seems fitting for Gilly to leave on top.

Captain Gilly lead his side a total of 6 times when Waugh and Ponting had injuries. He was in charge for the first three Tests of the famous victory in India. Australia was up 2-0 (thus securing the series) before Ponting took over to lose the final match. While it may not have been due to the Gillie touch, the fact is that Gillie was captain when Australia finally won in India. The Chappells couldn’t do it. Tubby failed. Steve Waugh was driven to despair and Ponting still hasn’t done it (and I don’t like his chances). But Gillie did it.

I have rather focussed on Gilchrist’s Test cricket career. It’s obvious that he was a giant in One Day Cricket. He was voted by his piers the best Australian One Day cricketer of all time. He was the international One Day Cricket of the Year in 2003 and 2004. He played in three World Cups, all of them won by Australia and scored at least 50 in all three finals. He has scored over 9,297 runs with a high score of 172. He scored 15 centuries (including the third highest by an Australian) and 53 half centuries. And let’s not forget that he transitioned from number seven in Tests to opener in One Day cricket, without batting an eyelid. From his 277 matches, he has claimed 454 dismissals.

When it comes to mere stats, although Gilly is up there, he is not at the top of the heap. When it came to watching him bat, he was at the top. I saw Gilchrist in full cry at the SCG on one occasion. It was against Pakistan and he started the day having been not out over night. He passed the hundred and scored 95 runs in 100 minutes. That included 5 sixes in the space of about 10 balls (see http://www.dongles.org/cgi-bin/article_display.pl?article=20050106.txt). I’ve heard Gilchrist mentioned in the same breath as Graeme Pollock and Garfield Sobers. Now that is something. As Gilchrist left the field for the final time, Richie described him as one of the greatest players he has ever seen. And Richie has seen some.

But there is even more to Gillie than that. Madeleine, my 14 year old daughter cried – really cried – sobbed – when Gilchrist announced his retirement. She cried when he was dismissed for a disappointing (except for nearly taking Billie Bowden’s head off) 14. Why was that? Not a tear was shed for Warne, McGrath or Langer. This is the reason: Gillie was the player of dreams. The player of legend. He wasn’t just the player of a generation, but he was the player of a lifetime. Through all of his staggering achievements, he kept his feet on the ground and remained true to himself. He was candid, affable and approachable and in my view, remained humble. He always showed respect for those in authority (even the coach) and spoke well of his piers and superiors. I was always impressed by the way Gilly spoke of Healy, while he patiently waited his turn to don the whites. While his powers may have faded slightly in recent years, you wait and see. In 2099, when a panel of people not yet alive, vote on the five players of the century, Gilly will be one of them. Over the years, the legend will grow – the astonishing things that he has done over the past decade, that we have come to take for granted, will be re-visited, relived and cherished so that Gillie will take his rightful place alongside the very greatest cricketers.

In closing, as a demonstration of how a grown man can be moved to write poetry, I’ll republish a poem that I wrote in honour of Gilchrist’s tour of South Africa in 2002:

Adam Gilchrist – A Cricketer who Matters

What can you say about Gilly?
The ice in his veins is chilly.
He has an eye like a hawk and timing so sweet
He swings freely and often, and is light on his feet.

His defence is attack with flashing blade
It’s hard to keep count of the runs he’s made.
The score board spins as he clubs away
The bowlers look on in utter dismay.

Over the top or through the field,
Those bullet like shots net a heavy yield.
And when the opposition is on its knees
He keeps on going, his captain to please.

By dongles, 11 March 2002

Over rated

No, I’m not talking about the Little Master – he could never be over rated. I’m talking about that Australian captain and his mismanagement of bowlers and over rates.

Before I go onto the lamentable affair of slow over rates, let me say “well played” to India and in particular, Sachin Tendulkar. As he belted the bowlers, especially the spinners around the park, it was shades of Perth. Or was that Sydney or Melbourne? Or Chennai or Bangalore? I think it was all of them. Today was Tendulkar’s 39th Test century and his 9th against Australia.

In the Perth Test, Australia managed just 84 overs in a full day’s play. Let’s remember that “a full day’s play” is supposed to be six hours of play but these days, the optional half an hour of over time is taken as a given. Until recently, the extra half an hour seemed just right. Now, the rates have slid so that it’s not long enough. What is going on?

Firstly, what does it matter how many overs are bowled in a day? For starters, people are paying to watch and are entitled to see a certain amount of cricket. More importantly, if fielding skippers area allowed to slow the game, and hinder momentum when the batting team is dominating, they will. They most certainly will and it cannot be allowed. And I’m afraid at the moment, it is being allowed.

Today was interesting, in that Ponting exhausted his main strike bowler just before the second new ball was due. That new ball was deferred as Stuart Clark is obviously unworthy to take the new ball. Australia tried to bowl as few overs as possible, limp into day 2 and start afresh with a new ball and a revived Brett Lee. As it was, they elected to take the new ball at 6:56. We were then presented with the sight (once again) of the bowler running back to his mark so that another over could be bowled. Well it didn’t work. All it did was waste the first over of the new ball. Ponting must be going soft in the head.

Is it possible to bowl 90 overs in six hours? That is 15 overs per hour or one over every 4 minutes. Ponting might tell you that it is not but of course it bloody well is. In one day cricket, they are required to bowl 50 overs in 3.5 hours – that is 14.28 overs per hour. It’s hard to get data on the good old days, but I can reliably say that they easily bowled upwards of 100 overs per day. How did they do it?

In analysing this, we need to remember that we are talking about an event that is happening many, many times over a long period of times. That is 540 deliveries are to be bowled in six hours. All we need to do to help Ricky finish before the extra half an hour is up is to find 24 minutes (6 overs x 4 minutes). That is an improvement of just 6.15%. That’s our first step. Then we can look at finishing on time so that the fans can get home in time for dinner.

Australia today balled 8 no balls and wides. There’s the first problem. That’s quite good – 12 is more like normal. That’s two overs that need to be re-bowled so you’re two overs behind already. In the good old days of the back foot rule, no balls were rare. While I acknowledge that in days gone by, there may have been more spin at times, Ponting is most deluded if he thinks that having four quicks is a reasonable excuse for the slow over rate. Today, 23 overs were bowled by the spinners (just over 25% of the bowling). Now I admit that during those overs a lot of time was spent retrieving the ball from far away places, but really, what’s Ricky’s excuse today?

In a recent article, I referred to the length of time it takes to set fields. That is the key. The length of time some of the end of over, or mid-over consultations take is staggering. It is ridiculous. I reckon there would be 10 of these a day that go for 2 minutes. That’s 20 minutes. That is five overs. Then there are innumerable stops for 20 to 30 seconds for less complicated adjustments to the field. These all add up. You’d have to be looking at 40 minutes in total for setting fields and gas bagging. For crying out loud! We are told at length of the countless hours of scientific analysis that is done on each batsman. The bowlers know where to bowl, and the captain and even the fieldsmen know the field settings for each batsman. There is no excuse.

While the penalties are inadequate, the situation will not improve. In Perth we actually saw Ponting pay for the slow over rate. But that was more by a twist of fate – it’s not going to happen often. At a critical time on day three, Ponting chose not to bowl his best bowlers, just when he needed quick wickets, because he had allowed the cumulative over rate slip to such a deplorable margin behind, that he was in danger of being suspended for a match. Now that brought results. Fines mean nothing. The guy earns $4 million a year. Losing a few grand in match fees does not matter. A suspension does.

In one day cricket, they bowl their overs on time because if they don’t the punishment is felt where it matters – on the scoreboard. If a team has bowled only 48 overs when time is up, the have to complete the 50 overs. However, they receive only 48 overs when they bat but the score is not amended. Something similar needs to be done in Test cricket. Run penalties are an obvious solution. How about this: For every two overs behind you are, the opposing team gets to chose a batsman who is “counted out” of the next innings. Something needs to be done.

And now for some jokes.

How do you reinforce the Australian slips cordon?
Give them all baseball mitts.

How do you reinforce the Australia wicketkeeper?
Give him a butterfly net.

Boom tish.

And one parting remark. How long will Ponting mismanage his bowlers? His under-bowling of Stuart Clark is unfathomable. He bowled by far the least amount of overs today, will not be given the new ball and it is hard to understand. It can’t be good for Clark’s confidence. A three hour period went by today when Clark did not have the ball in his hand. And Brett Lee bowled nine overs straight, immediately before the new ball was due, leaving him unable to take that said new ball. Ian Chappell you are wrong about Ricky. As far as his cricketing talents go, he’s a great batsman.

Instant Sharma’s gonna get you

Before I make any comment on the recently concluded Test match, please allow me to express belated endorsements regarding India’s decision to drop the charges against Brad Hogg. It was a marvellous, unexpected gesture and a class above the actions and words of both teams during the previous week. One act of grace – giving up one’s right to get even – seems to have had a very healing effect. The Perth Test had as much pressure and as many bad decisions (more, in fact) than did Sydney but all was well. Especially for India!

Cricket scribes will have already noted the irony of India twice stopping Australia’s record-winning streak of 16. Both matches were quite extraordinary. In 2001 in India, it was extraordinary because Australia had the match done and dusted. In Perth it was extraordinary because no subcontinental team has ever won there. In fact, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka have lost all nine Tests contested at the WACA (http://stats.cricinfo.com/ausvind/engine/records/team/match_results.html?class=1;id=213;type=ground).

Every Australian expected the Perth Test to be a foregone conclusion. Australia would win the Perth Test, break the record and seal the series. I think that included the 11 Australians charged with executing the plan.

I’m not going to recap the entire Test. India outplayed Australia and deserved to win – no question. Pathan (where have you been?) was magnificent. All of the Indian bowlers bowled well and that was the difference. Australia has only two Test standard bowlers and this weakness could be exposed over the next few months. The spell of Ishant Sharma bowling to Ricky Ponting on the final day was a highlight. I was stunned by the movement off the pitch. So was Ponting. I thought Ponting was very, very lucky not to be lbw twice before his eventual demise. One of the pad-ups, where Hawkeye showed the ball hitting top of middle, should have been given out. You just can’t allow batsmen to do that. Even if your name is Billy ‘leg before what?’ Bowden. Ponting was paramount to Australia’s effort and his relatively cheap dismissal was key.

Ishant Sharma joined this tour of Australia not too much past his 18th birthday. He looks like he needs a good feed, a haircut and to have his trouser hems let down. He also has the biggest Adam’s apple ever seen in the cricket world. Ishant had played two Tests prior to this series with one encouraging haul of 5-118 versus Pakistan, in Bangalore.

Sharma was not selected for the 1st Test in Melbourne but was brought into the team for the ‘Monkeygate’ Test in Sydney. Sharma took no wickets in that match while conceding 146 runs but he did take part in one of the key moments of the match. One of the triggers of the acrimony in that match was Andrew Symonds being given not out, caught behind from … guess who? Ishant Sharma. Symonds clearly hit the ball and inflamed the situation by acknowledging overnight that he did hit the ball. This admission came when he was still not out, en route to 162 not out.

Sharma took just three wickets in this successful Perth Test but he dismissed Ponting twice in the match, caught by Dravid at first slip, on both occasions. These wickets were vital to the Indian victory and the working over that Ponting received from Sharma, especially on the final day, will long be remembered. With some help from the pitch and his height, Sharma extracted bounce and considerable movement off the seam. On the morning of the fourth day, Sharma bowled and bowled. Ponting never seemed comfortable and looked like being dismissed at any point. And just when it looked like Ricky had survived, and that RP Singh would replace Sharma, Ishant had just one more over and put an end to Ponting’s misery.

Is Instant Sharma going to get Ricky yet again? India won in Adelaide four years ago. Can they repeat the dose, square the series and forget the lamentations of Sydney? It is titillating indeed.

Instant Sharma's gonna get you

Instant Sharma’s gonna get you

Roebuck demands Trueman be removed from the record books

Now that India have their own way – Steve Bucknor has been sent packing and Harbhajan can play in Perth – and the tour can proceed, the hysterical (and I don’t mean funny) Peter Roebuck has cast his gaze further afield. While surfing the internet for information on sledging, he came across these beauties (see Appendix 1). Roebuck was horrified to realise that the great Englishman, Fred Trueman was a sledger and in fact, a racist (see below comment to Subba Row).

The batsman edged a Trueman thunderbolt to first slip. It went right through Raman Subba Row’s hands and legs and down to the boundary. Fred didn’t say a word. At the end of the over, Subba Row ambled past Trueman and apologised sheepishly, “I should’ve kept my legs together, Fred”. “So should thy mother,” replied Trueman.

Paragraph 3.3 of the ICC Code of Conduct refers to players or team officials “using language or gestures that offends, insults, humiliates, intimidates, threatens, disparages or vilifies another person on the basis of that person’s race, religion, gender, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin”.
http://www.icc.cricket.org/icc/rules/code-of-conduct-for-players-and-officials.pdf

Clearly, by referring to Subba Row’s mother, Trueman was referring to his descent. In additional, while Subba Row was an Englishman, and played Test cricket for England, he is of Indian stock and Trueman must therefore be a racist. Seeing that Trueman is no longer playing, and sadly, is in fact, dead, he cannot be sacked from the team, so Roebuck sees no alternative than to have Trueman removed from the record books.

But it does not stop there – sources have indicated to Roebuck that the great Bradman once appealed for a caught behind that was given not out. This was clearly excessive appealing and I’m afraid that as Bradman also happens to be an Australian cricketer (the very worst type there is), Roebuck says that he has to go as well.

I used to like and admire Peter Roebuck. He was easily the best journalist and commentator I had heard (except for Richie, of course). Not any more. Not since his ridiculous article on Tuesday. It’s not because he clearly dislikes Australian cricketers. I think I’ve made it quite clear that there are plenty of things that I dislike about Australian cricketers, especially the current captain. Roebuck stated that the Australian cricket team is self-obsessed. I agree. The manner of the Australian cricket team at times is lamentable. Remember the platform scene at the presentation of the ICC Champions Trophy? It is ugly, insensitive and undiplomatic. I believe that with some well-chosen, humble, and circumspect words, Ponting could have helped smooth over this current crisis. Instead, Ponting has been dogmatic, single-minded and self righteous. I see these as character flaws that particularly present when there is pressure. That is human nature. However, it is absurd and irrational for Roebuck to call for Ponting to be sacked because of these character flaws. Perhaps Ponting needs some charm lessons from the master himself, James Sutherland. A good bollocking even, but sacking? It is even more absurd in the same breath to also call for the sacking of Gilchrist and Hayden. Roebuck didn’t bother to state what Gillie did wrong (he did drop 4 catches and get out for less than 10 on two occasion but I don’t think that was what Roebuck is getting at), and the only justification for Hayden’s sacking was that he crosses himself in Tests when the century is reached but not at state level, and that crossing oneself is at odds with swearing like a trooper.

At one point in Roebuck’s Tuesday article he claims that the celebrations at the end were the worst aspect of behaviour. Here it is:

“Probably the worst aspect of the Australians’ performance was their conduct at the end. When the last catch was taken they formed into a huddle and started jumping up and down like teenagers at a rave. It was not euphoria. It was ecstasy. They had swallowed a pill called Vengeance, among the most dangerous on the shelves. Not one player so much as thought about shaking hands with the defeated and departing. So much for Andrew Flintoff consoling a stricken opponent in his hour of defeat.”
http://www.theage.com.au/news/cricket/ponting-must-be-sacked/2008/01/07/1199554570948.html?page=2

For crying out loud, if that really is the worst of it, there is not too much to worry about! Who cares if it was euphoria or ecstasy or what the difference is anyway. A pill called Vengeance? Oh please. As Roebuck rightly points out, Ponting and his men are desperate to win. They were just 12 balls from the end of the match and nowhere near closing it – who would not be excited about the part time spinner miraculously claiming three wickets in five balls. And as for not shaking hands, that is a shameless lie. The players did in fact walk from the field shaking hands. The image of Flintoff and Brett Lee was indeed an enduring moment of the 2005 Ashes. It was special because Freddie Flintoff is a special guy. It is somewhat romantic and unrealistic of Roebuck to expect all winning moments to end like that.

I seem to remember a day in 1993 when McDermott was out c Dujon, b Walsh and the West Indies won by a single. The West Indies ran around like deranged maniacs. I don’t know whether they were euphoric or ecstatic but even though I was crying I did appreciate seeing how much the win meant to the Windies. How was that behaviour any different to the Australians on Sunday? What did Roebuck expect? Should the Australians have immediately looked terribly solemn and disappointed and apologised for winning because the umpire had made some bad calls earlier in the match?

Peter, I suggest that you get off your high horse. Very few people on this planet are in a position to indulge in such moralising.

“Roebuck in 2001 was given a suspended jail sentence after admitting caning three young cricketers he had offered to coach. He pleaded guilty to three charges of common assault involving three South African teenagers between 1 April and 31 May, 1999. Roebuck was originally accused of indecent assault but pleaded guilty to lesser charges of common assault. However, the judge said he did not accept the purity of Roebuck’s motives. He said: “It was not appropriate to administer corporal punishment to boys of this age in circumstances such as these. It seems so unusual that it must have been done to satisfy some need in you.” Ian Fenny prosecuting said: “Roebuck then pulled the boy towards him, in what appeared to be an act of affection. He then asked if he could look at the marks on the boy’s buttocks, something which he in fact did.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Roebuck

I acknowledge that nobody is perfect but Roebuck’s pontificating and moralising is even more rich than the sledging Aussies complaining about copping a few back. And it has to be said that the Aussies rarely complain about what is said back – the Harbhajan comment was reported because that specific comment had caused trouble in India and had been outlawed before the series.

This latest international cricket incident was a storm in a teacup. A bush fire in a thimble and the flames were mostly being fanned by hysterical journalists and commentators all competing for a slice of the cricket media pie. Just who could say the most outrageous and inflammatory thing? (Answer: Roebuck) Who could get on the front page of a national paper? (Answer: Roebuck). Roebuck did more harm to the game with his illogical and hysterical claims than any cricket player or umpire.

I’m done with Roebuck. Now for the ICC.

The ICC have added to this mess by undermining the integrity out of the neutral umpiring system. What will happen next? Will teams be demanding that umpires be changed mid-match when they cop a bad decision or two? There is no denying that Steve Bucknor had a shocker of a match. I don’t believe there is any assertion that he was cheating or deliberately favouring Australia. What if this was New Zealand instead of India? Would they have demanded that the umpire be changed? Even if they did, nobody could seriously suggest that they would have been successful. I think we all know why but I’ll say it anyway: India has over one billion citizens of which only 11 are not passionate about cricket. (Hint: People = Money $$$). On the other hand New Zealand has under five million people of which only 11 care about cricket. Isn’t accepting the umpires decision, however bad, in the spirit of cricket? Would it not be in the spirit of international cricket not to undermine an already stretched elite neutral umpiring panel? And for that matter, why is that India have not managed to provide an umpire or two for the international panel? They have the most people, and the most cricketers and yet they are not contributing to what is claimed to be an under-staffed and over-stretched panel (see Appendix 2).

I read one journalist who applauded the move to sack Bucknor. The rationale was that umpires should be dropped if they do not perform. They should not be untouchable. That in itself is a fair remark. However, it seems to me that while Bucknor may have deserved to be sacked, he was sacked because India demanded it. If India had suffered the bad decisions in the spirit of the game, would the ICC have taken the initiative to immediately sack Bucknor? I don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong – India was entitled to complain about Bucknor’s performance, as was Australia. But publicly banging on about it and demanding his axing simply because you have enough clout to, is just not cricket.

The other thing that the ICC needs to do is tighten up is the process of hearing and sentencing misconduct charges. It has reached the point where legal people need to be involved. One of the main problems here is that it seems the charge has not been proven satisfactorily. Mike Proctor stated “This was not a case of just taking the word of an Australian over an Indian” but he didn’t elaborate….
http://content-aus.cricinfo.com/ausvind/content/current/story/329599.html

The same situation existed with the “Hair Affair” in England in 2006. Things would have been so different with Hair and the ball tampering charge if it could have been proven. However neither the ball in question nor video evidence could be produced. Either the ICC officials need to be trained with a better process, or they need some adult supervision. And all players will have to agree to be wired and monitored at all times. Silly isn’t it. All this effort and expense. We need to remember that these charges are not resulting in players being sent to gaol or even in being executed. They are potentially going to miss a few games of cricket.

And back to sledging – what is allowed and what is not? I suspect that we are about to see Brad Hogg suffer the same punishment as Harbhajan. But there will be one difference: Harbhajan will get off but Hogg will not. I believe Hogg called someone a bastard. I think we all know that when an Aussie calls someone a bastard, he’s usually not literally bringing into question the marital status of the sledgee’s parents. However, we all know that is the literal meaning of “bastard”. That constitutes offending the players descent and there you have it. Players will need to think before opening their mouths at all. But that’s probably a good approach to life in general! Perhaps players will start issuing sledges through their media managers after their lawyers have given it the once over.

I know, the ICC could release a book of acceptable sledges:

Welcome to the crease, smelly.
Suffer in your jocks.
You’re ugly.
I don’t like you much.
Lolly legs.
You old fart.
Your mother wears army boots.

Oh bother, the last one just won’t do as it is insulting the player’s descent.

Of course, the complete demise of sledging will mean that the likes of those slap stick geniuses called Hughes, McGrath, Marsh, Warne, Waugh, Healy, Trueman, Botham and the rest will be lost to the game. Some, even many, may not care – it’s just another step towards homogenising everything in a world of political correctness and over reaction.

Appendix 1 – 10 Best Sledges

Warning: Some (most) of these contain explicit language and/or sexual innuendo. Readers under 18 years of age and Peter Roebuck should not read on.

http://ellisnz.com/2006/01/10-best-cricket-sledges-and-comebacks.html

Fred Trueman – While bowling the batsman edges and the ball goes to first slip,and right between Raman Subba Row’s legs. Fred doesn’t say a word. At the end of the over, Row ambles past Trueman and apologises sheepishly. “I should’ve kept my legs together, Fred”. “So should thy mother,” he replied.

Rod Marsh & Ian Botham – When Botham took guard in an Ashes match, Marsh welcomed him to the wicket with the immortal words: “So how’s your wife & my kids?”. Botham: “The wife’s fine. The kids are retarded.”

Daryll Cullinan & Shane Warne – As Cullinan was on his way to the wicket, Warne told him he had been waiting 2 years for another chance to humiliate him. “Looks like you spent it eating,” Cullinan retorted.

Mark Waugh and John Ormond. Mark Waugh: “What are you doing here, you’re not good enough to play for England.”
John Ormond: “At least I’m the best cricketer in my family.”

Glenn McGrath to Eddo Brandes (also known as “Fat Eddie”): Why are you so fat? Brandes: Because every time I sleep with your wife she gives me a biscuit.

Robin Smith & Merv Hughes – During 1989 Lords Test Hughes said to Smith after he played & missed: “You can’t f**king bat”. Smith to Hughes after he smacked him to the boundary – “Hey Merv, we make a fine pair. I can’t f**king bat & you can’t f**king bowl.”

Merv Hughes & Javed Miandad – During 1991 Adelaide Test, Javed called Merv a fat bus conductor. A few balls later Merv dismissed Javed: “Tickets please,” Merv called out as he ran past the departing batsman.

Merv Hughes & Viv Richards – During a test match in the West Indies, Hughes didn’t say a word to Viv, but continued to stare at him after deliveries. “This is my island, my culture. Don’t you be staring at me. In my culture we just bowl.” Merv didn’t reply, but after he dismissed him he announced to the batsman: “In my culture we just say f**k off.”

Malcolm Marshall was bowling to David Boon who had played and missed a couple of times. Marshall: “Now David, Are you going to get out now or am I going to have to bowl around the wicket and kill you?”

Ricky Ponting & Shaun Pollock – After going past the outside edge with a couple of deliveries, Pollock told Ponting: “It’s red, round & weighs about 5 ounces.” Unfortunately for Pollock, the next ball was hammered out of the ground. Ponting to Pollock: “You know what it looks like, now go find it.”

Appendix 2 – ICC Elite Umpiring Panel

Aleem Dar, Pakistan
Asad Rauf, Pakistan
Mark Benson, England
Billy Bowden, New Zealand
Steve Bucknor, West Indies
Billy Doctrove, West Indies
Darrell Hair, Australia (currently suspended for therapy)
Daryl Harper, Australia
Rudi Koertzen, South Africa
Simon Taufel, Australia
http://www.icc.cricket.org/icc/rules/code-of-conduct-for-players-and-officials.pdf