Rampaging Roy Slaven revs up Raving Roy Symonds

If you haven’t heard it, have a listen to this (some of the best bits are at the end).

If there are any guys suited to interviewing a drunken yobbo like Andrew Symonds, they are Roy Slaven and more particularly, H G Nelson. Symonds landed in a lot of hot water over the interview, particularly for calling McCullum a “lump of shit”. When you listen to it, you can see how he walked into it (the statement and the excrement). I’m not excusing Symonds’ stupidity but you need to take things in context.

My tip is that we have seen the last of Roy in his Baggy Green or his yellow and/or green pyjamas. So today’s thought is on philosophy rather than cricket. The ODI cricket in Australia is boring. I’m confident that even if Australia was winning, I’d still be saying the cricket is boring. I might be in a better mood, but I doubt that I would be inspired to watch more cricket.

My question is, how much of a role model is a person to be, if they are to represent their country at their chosen sport? For a start, it depends on the exposure of that sport. If it’s ten pin bowling, I’d argue nobody much cares. Does Symonds need to be a saint to be allowed to play cricket for Australia? He is being selected for his cricket playing ability, not his moral fibre. Does he have to be perfect in all areas of life? It is true that the youngsters out there will look up to, and possibly imitate their sporting heroes. It’s also the parent’s duty to teach their children right and wrong. It is always going to be the case that doing the wrong thing is alluring, and temptations arise from many directions.

Is depriving sport of it’s characters and larrikins necessary? And who is caretaker of the moral fabric of sport? Symonds has a known drinking problem. Yet, there is an ad where a guy in a tutu runs around the block to win a dare and runs into Andrew Symonds… who is walking out of… a pub. What kind of a message does that send? Who is responsible for ensuring that sort of thing does not happen? Is it Symonds’ manager’s fault? Is it the responsibility of the fizzy drink company? Surely not Roy himself!

At any rate, we finally find out what Roy caught when he went fishing instead of attending that team meeting. I wondered at the time because that is the only real way of assessing if it was worth it. For those of you who don’t want to listen, it was “a good mixed bag – barra, threadfin, queenfish and maybe estuary cod”. Probably worth it, I’d say.

McCullum Mania

For those of you who don’t know, Brendan McCullum has been signed to play one game for NSW (please see footnote). It will be the Australian domestic Twenty20 final. And what a furore this case created. A storm in a tea cup.

It is a little unusual and probably a sign of things to come. It certainly reinforces the commercial and mercenary direction of the extra short version of the game. It must be disappointing for the incumbent NSW ‘keeper whatever his name is (not Haddin – his fill in). As Roy points out, a real slap in the face.

Symonds’ words on the subject were somewhat humorous, although I believe he was intending them to be serious. He described the move by Cricket NSW “as against the spirit of being Australian”. I’m not sure what he means. Perhaps Roy is just stating the obvious – McCullum is very unAustralian – he is a New Zealander. If Symonds is referring to the monetary side of things, he needs to sniff some salts. In my opinion, he is one of the most mercenary operators out there.

McCullum’s appearance in the domestic T20 final is not going to erode Australian cricket. The thing that I find interesting is that NSW could spend a lot of money for no return. T20 is very hit and miss. McCullum does have the highest “List A” T20 score – 158. But in the hit and miss of T20, he could be just as easily out first ball.

Also note that in a generous gesture, McCullum will donate his fees to his local Otago cricket club. God bless him.

Correction: McCullum will play more than one game for the Blues. He can play for the Blues in the T20 Champions League (some world wide team thing in India later in the year). That’s if he doesn’t want to play for the Kolkata Knight Riders (his IPL team).

History Never Repeats?

As promised, here is a special edition straight from the archives vault. Last weekend I stumbled across the 1991/92 season program. Contained within its covers was some interesting reading material. But first, let me set the scene. The season 1991/92 was quite a long time ago. If you are like me and think that anything in the nineties could not have been long ago, like me, you are wrong. Second hand car buyers beware – some cars made in the nineties are actually quite old by now. I wish I’d been made aware of that before I bought my 1991 Charade.

The 1991/92 season was 17 years ago. Border was still captain. The West Indies were still comfortably number one (although no official rating system existed – this was back in the archaic days when we simply acknowledged the bleedin’ obvious). South Africa was about to rejoin the fold. Australia was building in strength and had reclaimed the Ashes and retained them (the previous summer) without losing a Test in either series. This fortunate position was still a novelty. Warne had not bowled a ball in Test cricket, McGrath was unknown and Phillip Hughes was three years old.

What I noticed about this 1991/92 program more than anything else was the preoccupation with the future. What will happen? Who will succeed? Who is the next “Great White Hope”?

Who will be the next Border?

Tiger Hunt – the search for Australia’s next great leg spinner?

The dynamic duos – hunting in twos – Lillee and Thommo, Lindwall and Miller, MacDonald and Jack Gregory. Who will be the next great opening bowling combination? (Answer: McGrath and Gillespie)

Will Test cricket be able to withstand the onslaught of One Day cricket?

How will South Africa perform when they come back? Who will be in the team and how good will they be after all that time in exile (i.e. will Australia be able to beat them)?

Just change some names and substitute “One Day” for “Twenty20” and you could be reading the 2008/09 program. Split Enz were wrong. History is always repeating itself.

What is particularly interesting is to be able to assess the accuracy of all the speculation and predictions.

Lehmann and Bevan were the worthy contenders (aged 22 and 21 respectively at the time) to be “the next Border”. Border was obviously in his twilight but played another three full seasons. It was Bevan who stepped into Border’s position and struggled to play 18 Tests (without a single century) over the next three and half years. For Bevan, it was all over in Tests by 1998. Bevan did, however, become one of the greatest One Day batsmen of all time. That career for Bevan did not end until 2004. Naturally, that was not predicted – in all the speculation, the concept of a One Day specialist had not yet been contemplated.

Lehmann had to wait a further four years after Bevan (seven years from the time of the article) for his first chance. That lasted a few matches and he had to wait a further four years. It was not until 2002 – 11 years after the article – that Lehmann cemented his place in the Test team and enjoyed a brief career as a Test regular. He played 27 matches with 5 centuries. Not exactly another Border but enough to be placed above Steve Waugh in Warnie’s “50 Greatest Cricketers” list (it’s true).

The article of real interest was “Tiger Hunter”. The search for Australia’s next great spinner (“Tiger”, as in Tiger Bill O’Reilly). There is nothing new in the world. Remember that this was in a different lifetime for Australian cricket. Australia had not enjoyed the services of a great spinner, let alone a wrist spinner since Benaud – for more than 25 years! The article was by Peter Philpott (“former Australian Legspin great” – hmmm 26 wickets at 38.46 – he was one of the long succession in the 25 years between Benaud and 1991). The article has a tone of desperation about it and for pretty good reason. “My own view is that it is a matter of deep regret the Australian selectors were unable to find a legspin bowler with the form to be taken to the West Indies on the recent tour.” The short list of those who might be “it” was Adrian Tucker, Tim May, Warne and Peter McIntyre. Philpott to his credit chose Warne as the primary candidate. Not in his wildest dreams could he have guessed what a winner he picked there.

And here is another thing to remember. Things can change quickly. Warne descended from the clouds… like an angel… with a fag on his lips, a beer can in one hand and his mobile (did we have those in 1991?) in the other. He played his first Test in that very 1991/92 season and was smashed. We all know that. Next season, after being overlooked for the first Test against the West Indies – a match that in hindsight, he most probably could have won for Australia – Warne announced his arrival. Just one season after Philpott’s desperate article, Warne took 7-52 and won the match. Australia went on to narrowly lose the series (by 1 run in Adelaide) and that was the last series loss in Australia until 2008/09. Swings and roundabouts. Over the next 12 months – on the 1993 Ashes tour and then in 1993/94 Warne was at his unplayable best and became a Superstar – less than two years after Peter Philpott’s article. This is no criticism of Philpott. I’m simply highlighting how quickly things can turn around.

There is much gnashing of teeth at present about the lamentable state of Australian cricket and especially the lack of class spinners. But you never know when the next one will arrive. It might be tomorrow. Then again, it might be 25 years. That’s what makes these times so exciting – the unpredictability and uncertainty that troubles those who are desperate to succeed above all else, actually provides the intrigue and substance that floats the boat of true cricket lovers.

About bloody time

Commonsense has prevailed and Matthew Hayden has retired, mercifully bringing to a close an illustrious career, before it became embarrassing. Hayden had been defiantly threatening to bat on until at least the Ashes 2009. However, it became clear with the announcement of the One Day squad that Hayden was omitted from, that he would not be in the plans for the South African tour and beyond.

His career probably deserves more of a wrap but I’ve had IT and health issues. Hayden was the ultimate flat track bully. He scored millions of runs in Shield and Country cricket and was shaping up to be our very own Graeme Hick. He made his debut in Tests in 1994, at just 22 years of age. He played just 13 Test over seven years up until 2001, when he played in “that series” against India and launched himself. He scored 549 runs at 91.5 and never really looked back.

Hayden finished with 103 Tests, 30 hundreds and 8625 runs at 50.73, with a top score of 380. In his hay days, between 2001 and 2004, Hayden was unstoppable and averaged over 70. The past two years have seen his average decline from the high fifties to just over 50.

It has to be said that Hayden has always been troubled by high class swing bowling. He had modest tours of England not only in 2005 but also 2001. He also struggled against the West Indian (Ambrose and Walsh) and South African (Donald and Pollock) attacks before he established himself.

I like to remember Hayden by the most recent World Cup. It was his swan song, really. He had lost his place in the One Day team, fought his was back and was the player of the tournament. He scored three centuries, including the fastest ever by an Australian.

Last breaking news: Australia wins the T20 series 2-0.

Preview: I stumbled across a treasure in the archives recently from which I will be sharing shortly.