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I’m sorry Gilly

As part of my preparation for the 2009 Ashes series, I have just read Adam Gilchrist’s auto biography – “True Colours – My Story”. And I have to say it is not bad. I’m not going to review it here but a couple of things made me think, and I will relate those to you.

In the foreword, Gilly shares that one of his friends asked if he was going to show his true colours in the book. Remember that AC Gilchrist is not just the best keeper/batsman to ever play but he is a philosopher and author. What I’m saying is that Gilly took this question seriously and gave it quite some consideration. He makes some interesting observations about who really knows his true colours. Gilly makes the point that he is a very public figure and lot’s of people “know” him, or think that they know him, but it is only his close friend and family that really know his true colours. So that’s how the book’s title was struck.

As with most books, I went straight to the photographs section. I know it is childish but please forgive me – I am making progress. Up until a few years ago, all I looked at in a book was the pictures. At any rate, I tell myself that familiarising myself with images of the subjects of the book is a sensible thing to. Back to Gilly – There are several photos of the 2005 Ashes series and the captions leave you in no doubt that the series was the low point of Gilly’s career. One photo, of Gilly grassing a catch, refers to the worst day in Gilly’s life. I instantly knew what it was and recalled the details.

When you eventually get to the 2005 series in the book, Gilly expands, in great detail, of how bad that series was for him. I remember his worst moment. At the time, dongles wrote an article titled, “A calculator for Mr Gilchrist, please” (the calculator was for Gilly to work out how many runs his dropped catches had cost – about 170, from memory). Reflecting on that, I feel badly. Most of you would be aware that Gilly has long been my hero. We Aussie’s were distraught about losing the Ashes. But not as distraught as Gilly and his team mates. They were trying their hardest, after all. I’m sorry Adam – I was way harsh.

Another topic around the 2005 Ashes that Gilchrist delves into is cultural. I think that we have all heard about the WAGs (wives and girlfriends) on that tour. Gilly does not spend much time on that but did confirm that there were some clashes. What Gilly did expand on was where most of the players were in their lives. You will remember that the 2005 Australian team was mostly of veteran status – most of them had wives, children and other interests. Five years earlier they had lived and breathed cricket – the Australian cricket team was their family. Come 2005, interests were divided. As already established, WAGS were allowed on tour. In fact, Gilchrist and Hayden has booked apartments for their families so that they could follow them around on tour (Cricket Australia did not allow them to stay in the team hotel).

While Gilchrist did not speak for Hayden, he was quite clear that his own interests were very divided. He was torn between family and cricket and this certainly affected his focus. I think his actual words were, “I was trying to be all things to everyone and succeeded in being nothing to anyone.” Gilly was also quite clear that the team did not have the same unity and bond and that affected the strength and spirit. In fact, in the 2005 England team, he saw the very same single-minded characteristics of the Australian team for a few years earlier. See, I told you Gilly is a philosopher.

What any of that has to do with the 2009 series, I have no idea. I’m just trying to get our minds off the tennis and footy and onto the main event. Oh, did someone say Hewitt has reached the quarters? Well, perhaps one eye on the tennis would be OK.

Four years is a long time

The first Ashes tour match has concluded in a draw. Nothing further developed since my last piece at the half way point – the Australian bowling line up is still under question. The one update is that Siddle booked his place for Cardiff.

I thought it would be interesting to look at the way both teams have changed in the past four years. In 2005, we all knew that few of the Australians would be playing in the 2009 series. This has proven to be the case – natural attrition has taken place.

However, that glorious, all conquering England team of 2005 would have been expected to go on and indeed improve right through until 2009. Rather, the wheels fell off immediately. For England, the attrition has been far more due to injury and loss of form. It is surprising to see that there just a few 2005 Englishmen as Australians.

Below, I have compared the 2005 1st Test teams with the respective teams that last played for county (I haven’t bothered speculating about the 1st Test teams for 2009). Ages at the time of the match appear along side the players names – I have simplified and stuck to whole years – a player who was say, 34 years and 260 days has been listed as 34 years old. The team average age appears at the end of each list.

Australia 2005 Australia March 2009
JL Langer 34 PJ Hughes 20
ML Hayden 33 SM Katich 33
RT Ponting 30 RT Ponting 34
DR Martyn 33 MEK Hussey 34
MJ Clarke 24 MJ Clarke 28
SM Katich 29 BJ Haddin 31
AC Gilchrist 33 AB McDonald 28
SK Warne 35 MG Johnson 27
B Lee 28 PM Siddle 24
JN Gillespie 30 BE McGain 37
GD McGrath 35 BW Hilfenhaus 26

31.27 29.27

England 2005 England May 2009
ME Trescothick 29 AJ Strauss 32
AJ Strauss 28 AN Cook 24
MP Vaughan 30 RS Bopara 24
IR Bell 23 JM Anderson 26
KP Pietersen 25 KP Pietersen 29
A Flintoff 28 PD Collingwood 33
GO Jones 28 MJ Prior 27
AF Giles 32 SCJ Broad 23
MJ Hoggard 28 TT Bresnan 24
SJ Harmison 26 GP Swann 30
SP Jones 26 G Onions 26

27.55 27.09

I for one, am truly surprised that there are just five players left from 2005 and that none are bowlers. Flintoff and perhaps Lee will come back but that is still a lot of new faces. Well, not so many new faces – rather, different faces. However, I admit that I know very little about Bopara, Broad, Bresnanm, Swann and Onions (and McDonald haha).

The Ashes Tour has start – Match One

In the blur that is modern international cricket, the focus in English cricket has morphed from the T20 World Cup into The Ashes. That’s right, the main event of 2009 has started. The first class match against Sussex is underway. Hooray.

The match has passed the half way point and one thing is sure: Australia’s selection dilemmas are in no way resolved. I don’t even know what the selectors intentions are. The choice to take two and a half all rounders was truly puzzling and is no less so now.

North, presumably competing with Watson, did himself no favours, scoring just one first innings run.

Horrie, the number one spinner took 0/98 at 5.44 rpo. Meanwhile Katich took 1/32. Interestingly, North, whom I thought would be regarded as the first backup spinner wasn’t given a ball. What should we read into that?

We have five seamer playing for three spots. I am assuming that Horrie or Ronnie will play in Cardiff. Cardiff is supposed to take spin so the selectors will want a specialist spinner. If he is not good enough (obviously he is not), the selectors seem hell bent on McDonald. Unless of course, Watson is preferred to North (see what I mean – who knows what the thinking is – perhaps it’s each way betting by the selectors). I guess we have two seamers playing for fours spots, assuming Johnson’s place is assured. Those four are playing – Lee and Clark took three wickets each. Sidders and Hilfie took 3 wickets between them – all top order batsmen – and conceded less than 3 rpo – Lee and Clark conceded more than 3 rpo (Lee 3.97). Personally, I would stick with the three who did the job in South Africa – they have earned it. The fourth bowling spot can go to Lee or Clark. Stuff Horrie and McDonald. There are three competent part time spinners – not ideal – but the selectors need to be honest about Horrie’s ability.

One interesting and worrying thing for the Aussies is that Lee bowled 8 no balls in 13 overs. The team managed 22 in 80 overs. That is a disgrace. Does anyone remember 2005? How many wickets were taken from no balls in 2005?

And a personal interest story to conclude: Robin Martin-Jenkins is playing for Sussex. He is 33 years old, is six foot fix inches and is the son of Christopher Martin-Jenkins – or “CMJ”, one of the revered BBC commentary team.

All in the twinkling of an eye

One minute England were rejoicing over defeating India by a slender 3 runs and simultaneously staying alive in the T20 World Cup and eliminating India. Just 24 hours later, England had joined India on the scrap heap.

It seems everything is fast and furious T20. The matches are over before you can blink. At times they are won or lost on the back of just 10 overs of lusty and lucky hitting. The matches come around quickly with two per day/night. The whole cricketing experience is concentrated and condensed. Last night, in the winner takes all match of Group E, the Windies needed to bat well for just over 8 overs to book their place in the semis via the D/L method. It seems ridiculous but good on them.

Tonight, the Kiwis take on Sri Lanka in the do-or-die final match of Group F, to decide the last semi-final position.

In keeping with the essence of T20, this piece is long enough already.

Congratulations on your 10 years anniversary, Waqas! Sorry that I missed you today.