Shock Horrors – He’s Back!

It must be a nightmare.  He’s back.  Mitchell Johnson.  Not wanting to mix metaphors, but just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, just when you thought the new selectors were sensible, Johnson is recalled for Australia’s most important Test in quite some time.

I don’t want people to think I am indulging in unjustified Johnson hating so I will provide some reasons.  Before that, I will say that I don’t hate Johnson and I love that he tries.  And there was a time when I loved Johnson.  For most of the 2008-2009 season.  Briefly, during the Ashes Test in Perth, in December 2010.  And then when he injured his foot late in 2011 right up until now.

I still hold hope that Johnson’s inclusion is just to play with the South Africans’ minds.  Leaving Watson aside, MJ is just one of six pace bowlers in the squad and only four of them will play, at the most.  Perhaps he will be one of the unlucky two or three.

Now for those reasons.  When looking at introducing players into the Test team, the selectors must look at Sheffield Shield form.  Is that a reasonable assumption?  I had the privilege on the week end of teaching my 19 year old daughter about data analysis and considered evaluation.  It started when she asked me who would replace Ponting for Perth and plucked out a few names.  I told her that it was time to stop using Facebook as the source of all information and I gave her a lesson in drilling into the Sheffield Shield stats.

What followed was a lovely exercise in copy and paste, unmerging cells and sort in Excel.  At the end of this, Maddie announced that based on the Shield stats for this season, Ponting’s replacement should be….  Ponting!  Another lesson for Maddie: stats are only a guide.  But I digress as we must be focussing on bowlers and besides, Ponting is safe for now.  We did move onto the bowlers and at that point, Maddie and I were looking for just one to replace poor old Patto.  What fun we would have had if we knew we could choose three!  And if we could, two of the three chosen would not have been in our calculations.

Based on performance, as evidenced in the stats, the selectors should have been looking seriously at the Taswegian pair of Luke Butterworth and Jackson Bird.  They have 25 and 27 wickets respectively this season at averages of 17.72 and 20.55.  Those are great numbers and contrast to Johnson’s haul of 17 wickets at 29.00.  Funnily enough, Butterworth and Bird were both playing in the same match as Johnson, in Hobart and Butterworth had figures of 6-25 and 5-50, either side of Johnson’s 4-103.  But I guess they nodded off for those spells.

Johnson is well down the bowling list for 2012-13 whether you look at wickets or averages.  He is also headed by Hastings (who at least has been called up), Faulkner, Sayers, Cutting, Putland and Feldman.  Stacks of them.  He is not headed by Hazlewood who has nine wickets this season at 46.33.  Where did Hazlewood come from?

Perhaps the selectors have in mind that Johnson’s two greatest performances were in Perth including the 8-61 in December 2008.  Perhaps if Johnson plays, he might succeed.  With Johnson, it is always a lucky dip and that does not seem to be John Inverarity’s style.  As Maddie discovered, there is more to picking a team than analysing statistics, otherwise we could save a lot of money and have a computer do it.  But the most recent selections have me scratching my head and shaking in my boots.

Sunsets and Comebacks

The sun seems to be setting on two of the greatest batsmen of the modern area.  Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting have scored between them almost 29,000 Test runs and have made 92 Test centuries.  They are both in their late thirties and surely cannot have many Tests left in them.  Both were bowled in both innings, for not many runs, in the respective Tests they are playing in.  Ponting’s dismissal in the first innings of this Test was calamitous, comical and embarrassing and one he would prefer to forget, I’m sure.  Not so the case for many others – I have watched it many times over with the kids on Youtube – but I would think that ungainly dismissal would have caused Ricky to ponder the end.

I have read Adam Gilchrist’s autobiography and I recall his reflections on his decision to retire.  He dropped a dolly of a catch (I remember watching it live and being aghast) and he immediately thought to himself something like (this is paraphrased from memory  because I can’t be bothered looking it up), “That’s it.  I have to go.”  By that he meant he needed to retire.  It wasn’t simply that he dropped that catch.  He had dropped plenty in his time.  It was more his state of mind.  He knew that was a catch that never should have been dropped and the truth be told, his mind wasn’t wholly on the job.

The ball with which Kallis bowled Ponting was a good delivery but it was no “ball of the century”.  Ponting made it look very good indeed but I think Kerry O’Keefe said it well on ABC radio.  He said, ‘It was a good ball but there were ways of playing it.”  And playing it on ones face was not one of those ways.  I added the last bit.  Channel nine’s ball tracking tool plotted the path of the delivery and the predicted path if it had not deviated, and the lateral difference was 6 cm, measured at the stumps.  Ponting made it look like it swung three feet.  Added to that, Kallis had dismissed Cowan with a very similar shaped delivery just the over before.  Ponting was looking to work through mid-wicket a delivery that started only slightly towards leg, seemingly not taking the possibility of late swing into consideration.  And there was Ricky, elder statesman, sprawled on his hands and knees before his shattered wicket.

For the first time ever in an interview (with Mark Taylor), I heard Ponting sound pessimistic about his prospects.  That his demise is near sounded almost inevitable but in the selectors hands.  I would not be surprised to see him jump before he is pushed.

While I don’t see a comeback for Tendulkar, Ponting or South Africa, there have been plenty of late.

England is poised to take the second Test against India. India is seven wickets down just 31 runs in the lead.  Given England’s dismal first innings of the 1st Test, this has been a fine comeback.  England’s resurgence has been fuelled by their ever reliable captain, Alistair Cook and a couple of interesting individual comebacks. Kevin Pietersen, who joined with Cook for the decisive partnership of the English innings, scored a magnificent 186.  You might recall that just a few months ago, Pietersen was in the doghouse, hated his captain, was behaving like a goat and wasn’t expected to be seen for a long time.  I am still convinced that the retirement of Strauss was over Pietersen (I suspect he was told that KP would be coming back).  KP is back and aren’t England glad.

And then there is Monty Panesar.  He was overlooked for the England home summer and the first Test of this series but what an inspired selection.  He had immediate success, has bowled Tendulkar cheaply twice and has ten wickets for the match already and there are still three up for grabs.

And briefly, after a very ordinary tour of Sri Lanka and a poor showing in the first Test, the Black Caps are making a fist of the 2nd Test.  At stumps on day one, they are two down for 223.  Leading from the front, Ross Taylor has 119 and has been well supported by Kane Williamson on 95 not out.

And last but not least, even though this is a few days old now, I should mention the heroics of Bangladesh number 10, Abul Hasan.  On debut, he came to the crease with Bangladesh at 8-193.  He proceeded to score a century on debut, at pretty much a run a ball and was left 113 not out.  This helped Bangladesh make somewhat of a comeback and post an improbable 1st innings score of 387.  It didn’t matter in the end as the West Indies piled on the runs but it made a game of it – at least Bangladesh didn’t loose by an innings.  Not quite.


Something old, something new
Something borrowed, something blue.

The cap is old.  It is not a Baggy Green but in fact was my father’s premiership cap from 1977.
The ball is new.  It was bought at Notting Hill markets and was a gift from my sister.
The bat is borrowed.   It is my daughter’s.
And well, blue – Movember is about recognising men’s health issues and depression is one of the key focuses.

If you would like reward my mo and make a donation to Movember please do so in my “Mo Space”



There are no Adequate Words

Michael Clarke today became the first man ever to score four double centuries in a calendar year.  I guess we all know that but I had to say it.  And those four doubles have been big ones.  The fourth is still going, of course, but those four innings already total 1,022 runs, with just one out.

Those innings were 329*, 210, 259* and 224* (and counting). It makes ones head spin.  Clarke’s average at the beginning of the year was 45.8 and it is right now 52.6.  This is even more incredible when you consider that in 77 Tests before 2012, Clarke’s highest Test score was 168.  Then in the next eight Tests, he has topped 300 once and 200 a further three times.

Today was a day beyond dreams for Australia.  Slumping to 3/55, things look grim.  Just like in Brisbane.  But not to worry, Clarke and Warner steadied the ship, just making it to 100 by lunch.   After lunch, Australia scored at an average run rate of 6.14 for the rest of the day, losing just a further two wickets.  Warner for a spectacular 119 from just 112 balls and Hussey, a slightly less dazzling 103 from 137 balls.  They both hit four sixes.

Such was the Aussie’s dominance that they hit 66 fours and 9 sixes.  That is 318 runs in boundaries – not a bad score in itself.  It has to be admitted that everything went wrong for South Africa but it’s hard to understand how so many runs could be conceded, good as the batting may have been, good as the pitch is and fast as the outfield was.

Back to Clarke, it is hard to comprehend the enormity of his efforts this year, and indeed since becoming captain.  Clarke burst onto the scene just over eight years ago with a debut innings of 155 and big things have been expected since then.  Just over a month later, he scored another sparkling century in his first Test innings on Australian soil.  After that his performance tailed away and his average dropped and dropped from mid-sixties down to mid-thirties, to the point where he struggles to hold his place and was dropped in 2006.  But only briefly.

By mid-2009, he was reaching his potential, had a fantastic tour of England and the average was back to just over 50.  Over the next couple of years, Clarke struggled somewhat, as Australia struggled a lot and many questioned his backbone.  He didn’t seem to show the resolve that was needed to become captain, at a time when it seemed the incumbent captain needed replacing.

When Clarke finally took over in August 2011, not much over a year ago, he excelled from the start, both on and off the field.  Even before his landmark year of 2012, he had made three centuries as captain, one in each series that Australia had played.  Clarke has not lost a series.  There have been a couple of hiccups, including the 47 match against South Africa and an unexpected loss to New Zealand, but Clarke’s qualities as captain have been beyond question at all times.

His super human efforts in 2012 have redefined leading from the front in an incredible way.

To complete the celebration, I have included a photo.  This was taken after Clarke had reached 200 and Hussey 100 (with a six) in consecutive balls.  Reviving memories of a Roy and HG State of Origin call, this photo was taken from the TV, by my daughter, with her iPhone.