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Snoozey and Cruisey

The World Cup opened with a bang as Sehwag hit a whirlwind 175 – the highest ever individual World Cup innings.  But it has been a little dreary since then.  And the forecast is for more of the same.  I don’t know if you will be hearing much from Dongles for a little while.

In the first match, India prevailed by 87 runs – at least the Bangers made a fist of chasing 370.  Match two saw New Zealand beat Kenya by 10 wickets (needing just eight overs – I repeat, eight) to get the job done.  Match three saw Sri Lanka beat Canada by just 210 runs.  The Sri Lankan total was almost 200% more than the Canadians.  How many bonus points is that worth?

We have to wait until game seven for a match between two “top eight” nations.  I don’t know how contrived this draw is.  Is it designed to allow the big guns to ease into their campaigns without any stress.  One thing for sure is that people operating heavy machinery should not be watching on their portable TVs.

Patrick’s Hat trick

On the eve of cricket’s 10th World Cup, I beg your indulgence for what really is a cricket story of lesser global importance and more of personal interest.  I admit it is a little self indulgent but isn’t that what bloggs are for?  The subject of this email is Patrick Cummins.

Some of you may have noticed Pat burst on the scene recently, playing for the Blues in the Big Bash.  Many of the some will know because I told you but others may have noticed anyway because he did make rather a splash.  Pat was interviewed on Inside Cricket, ABC Radio and was widely discussed on air during the games he played.  The reason is that Pat is just 17 years old, was bowling in the mid one-forties and took bags of wickets.

Cummins took three wickets in two matches (including his first) and 4-16 in a matching winning semi-final performance.  He ended up equal-topping the wicket taking ladder for the entire Big Bash, taking 11 wickets in 7 matches and conceded just over 6.5 runs per over.

In the current Australian cricket climate, that is crying out for a bowling star, this is newsworthy in its own right (even though it is only T20 cricket).  I am bothering to cover this in more detail because I know a little more about Pat.

Pat Cummins is a Hawkesbury lad but has played all his cricket in my home town, Penrith.  Friends of ours who had their sons in week end cricket told of this kid called Cummins who hit hundreds every other week.  He also wasn’t a half bad bowler.  Pat has been playing 1st grade for Penrith for some time now.

Pat went to St Paul’s Grammar School, where my eldest daughter, Maddie attended.  They both just finished the HSC and were in most of the same classes.  I would have written this piece earlier but I couldn’t think of a way of including unrequited love and milkshakes without embarrassing them both.   So I have decided to leave that bit out.

Pat’s call up had a false start.  His first match was to be in Brisbane during the flood.  When we heard (on Facebook) that he was a definite starter against Tasmania, we arranged to visit friends who had pay TV.  The same friends mentioned earlier who used to get thumped by Pat.  Ironically and coincidentally, while we watched cricket in their house, our friends were at Pat’s first match but didn’t even “twig” that it was the same kid.  Unfortunately, Pat took his first two wickets while we were in transit.  But we did hear them on the good old ABC.

In the past few days Pat has taken a hat trick and scored a half century in the Futures league match between NSW and Queensland.

It is early days yet, and he is very young, but objectively, Cummins would seem to have a very good chance of playing Test cricket in a few years time.  He obviously has huge potential and he plays for the right state.  I’m really kicking myself now that I didn’t ask Pat to sign my menu at the St Paul’s valedictory dinner last September.  It may have been worth a fortune on eBay in a decade or two.

Reality Check

If Australia had any illusions following their recent drubbing of England (6-1), they should now be dispelled.   CA sensibly arranged for Australia to start its World Cup preparation with warm up matches against the two best teams in the world.  While there may have been some encouraging signs against India, Australia was soundly thrashed in both matches.

Throughout the seven match series against England, the batting line up had looked decidedly brittle.  Australia won most matches on the back of individual batting performances or excellent bowling performances.  Significantly in Adelaide – which presented a perfectly flat wicket – England prevailed as the likes of Brett Lee were blunted.  Expect more of the same in India.

Against South Africa, just three batsmen passed 20 runs and the bowlers could not muster a single wicket between them as South Africa polished off 218 runs.  Against India, the bowling was good but once again, only three batsmen passed 20.  Ponting made fifties in both innings which will vindicate the selectors (and Ponting) but who knows if Ponting’s return as captain is what the doctor ordered?

The World Cup officially starts with India playing Bangladesh in Mirpur on February 19.  It is a D/N match and starts at 2:30 local time.  This World Cup returns to a more traditional format of two groups of eight. The group stage lasts until 20 March and then it is straight into the quarter finals (A1 v B4 etc), semis and final.  No Super 8s and much less chance of shock eliminations.  Top teams can lose a match or two and still survive.  The drawback is we have to put up with a longer period of one-sided matches.  Each team will play all other teams in their group.   The final will be on 2 April, which seems (and is) a long way away.

When will Australian cricket fans hold the revolution?

Pardon me for being a wet blanket with all the glam of the AB medal around but cricket fans of Australia, we need to focus.  Let Watson have his day in the sun.  He has earned it.  But aren’t we a little worried about the general state of play?

Convincingly winning the one-day series against England is little consolation, having been annihilated in the Ashes.  England came to win the Ashes and did that in grand fashion.  While I believe that the One Day series will have been important, being England’s World Cup preparation, the truth is with injuries, different personnel and a long tour, they were rather ordinary.  Australia did show signs of improvement but they should not feel too confident, especially with the return of their over-age, out-of-form, under-prepared leader.

To give an idea of the crazies that are running show, you need to read two articles.  The first, in Cricinfo, heralds the Ashes review.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/story/499802.html

CA are going to get to the bottom of the disastrous Ashes campaign.  The article proceeds to focus on the expanded Big Bash format for future seasons.  I’m not sure I see the correlation.

Further, if you read the Sydney Morning Herald http://www.smh.com.au/sport/cricket/the-incredible-shrinking-sheffield-shield-20110207-1ak5j.html, not mentioned in the above Cricinfo article the corollary of the expanded Big Bash –  it seems the Sheffield Shield season will be shortened – i.e. two less rounds!  The truth is that CA does not give a stuff about cricket itself.  They care about swelling the coffers.  Of course, that is a recurring them in the world of cricket today.

Not only did CA mismanage the entire summer by appointing and retaining idiots as selectors and coaching staff, they have allowed it to continue with random and misguided World Cup selections (there is still a chance to correct these with get-out-of-gaol injury clauses).  Now, they are intent on disembowelling cricket itself in Australia.  Get me a valium.

Cricket fans, we need to vote with our voices and feet.  Write to cricket Australia and tell them what you think.  Insist they get rid of Hilditch.  Demand more focus on First Class cricket (don’t forget to explain to them that First Class cricket = Sheffield Shield).  Encourage your kiddies to block the ball and leave it outside of off stump.  Phone ACA and complain – oh, wrong station – better try TT.  Call Derryn Hinch – maybe he will care.

I said a few months ago that cricket was on the long, slippery slope and it becomes clearer by the day.