Two Metre Peter and his Two Ton Test

New Zealand is a small country with a matching small population and a proportionally smaller cricket community.  I once heard someone remark that in New Zealand, to call Rugby a religion just doesn’t seem to do justice to Rugby.  Not so cricket.  But the Black Caps have a batsman who would look at home in the scrum for the All Blacks.  Peter Fulton is a giant of a man with a long reach and plenty of leverage and he has put in a giant performance in the third and deciding Test against England, in Auckland.

New Zealand are on the verge of beating England in this Test match and this is in no small part due to “Two Metre Peter” Fulton.  Fulton was the backbone of New Zealand’s first innings with 136 runs.  As a result of a fine effort in the field, New Zealand held a massive lead of 239 runs.  Batting again, rather than enforcing the follow-on, the Kiwis had slumped to 3-8 and was teetering on a disaster.  My impression from the other side of the ditch is that New Zealand has had a long history of putting in a strong first half of a Test and capitulating in the second half.   Here was New Zealand with a golden opportunity to beat England and in danger of throwing it away.

To put into perspective how much a win would mean, consider this:  New Zealand has won just eight Tests against England.  Ever.  They have won just three Test series and the last time was in 1999, in England.  And for that matter, New Zealand has won very little in the way of Tests against anyone in the past decade.

Late on day three, Fulton steadied the ship and dug in with Brownlie as they held out to stumps.  On day four, Fulton added almost 100 runs at around a run a ball.  He got better and better, finishing with 110, which included 5 sixes and 14 fours, as he and McCullum (67* from 53 balls) took the game way beyond England.

Fulton has put in a lion-hearted effort which is astonishing when you look at his career.  He is just over 34 years of age and prior to this Test had played just 12 Tests since his debut in 2006.  His average was a shade over 25 and he had made no centuries and just two fifties.  Prior to this series, he hadn’t played a Test in over three years, not since December 2009.  It seems with Fulton, it never rains but is pours.  Many moons ago, he turned his first 1st Class century into a triple.  And for the record, Fulton is actually 198 cm (six foot, six inches) but 1.98 does not rhyme with “Peter”.

New Zealand needs just six wickets in Auckland tomorrow to win the Test and the series.  The Auckland weather looks like it will hold and the forecast chance of rain is 0%.  No prizes for picking the man-of-the-match – Peter Fulton has stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Root Cause: Gen Y

I had an unexpected encounter yesterday which makes for interesting relating.  I went along with my wife to view a second hand lounge which had been advertised on Gumtree.  That’s not the interesting bit.  On the way out, I glanced into the office and blow me down if I didn’t spy a Baggy Green in a glass case.  That’s not something you see every day.  So I told my wife.  She mentioned this to the owner of the longue.  I’m much too shy and wouldn’t have said anything.  To cut a long story short, the Baggy Green had belonged to Glenn McGrath and I was in the house of Kevin Chevell.

This is not going to be an article about Kev but I need to give a little background.  I must admit that I had momentarily forgotten who Kev Chevell is but it all came quickly back once explained.  Kev Chevell was both Mark Taylor and Glenn McGrath’s personal trainer.  I have read Tubby’s autobiography (“Time to Declare”) and I did remember a whole chapter dedicated to Tubby’s physical renaissance and that was all about Kev.  Yes, there was a time when Tubby was not tubby.  This was before the 1997-98 season, after the “Great Slump”.   In 1998, Taylor carried the bat against South Africa (169*) and later in the year scored the 334 not out against Pakistan.

It was a similar story for McGrath but more so.  Taylor had an “on off” association with Chevell over many years but McGrath had a much closer relationship and gives Kev much credit for his success.  Hence the very significant gift of his Baggy Green.  I will get back to this theme presently.

Kev and I, and my wife and Kev’s wife had a right good chat about cricket.  I found this very useful as I was interested in validating a few of my own opinions, which I have aired in recent weeks.   Things such as the rotation policy is bollocks, right?  Bowlers need to be doing more work, not less, right?  The homework episode was ridiculous, yes?  Kev agreed with all of these things.

I asked if a certain, young, fairly local, one-Test wonder had been to see him.  He said no and that he probably wouldn’t – the young man wouldn’t want to do the work.  At this point I was on the verge of an epiphany.   I asked if this was indicative that the bowler was Gen Y.

Kev then stated something that should have been obvious to me, which has been right before my very eyes but I had not seen.  The current problem with the team is Gen Y – it now comprises only members of Generation Y .   When Michael Clarke entered the Australian cricket team in 2004, Australian cricket joined the Generation Y.  Over the next (almost) ten years, all the other guys retired and leaving, you guessed it, a team of “gen-y”ers.  When Michael Hussey retired, it was obvious to all that his experience would be missed and that Clarke was on is own but I admit, I did not see the deeper sociological implications.

I am not going to say that all Gen Ys are lazy.  Not by a long shot.  But there is some truth in all of those Gen Y jokes.  Much truth.  The captain himself seems to be maturing into a fine citizen and leader.  He has his act together and there can be no questioning his  dedication and drive but it is interesting to note his start.  A century, a big century, in his very first Test.  Three Tests later, he took the third best (at the time) six wicket haul in history.  From his next Test, his first Test back home, another sparkling century.  It all came too easily for Clarke.  Then came the struggles, being dropped from the team and the long and bumpy road to the top.  Perhaps this is typical of any generation when something comes easily to a young man.  A boy king.

Now we have a team of boy kings and while Clarke may have his own act together it can be another thing to lead others through something you only experienced recently yourself.  Perhaps it is even hard to indentify those symptoms as problems.  Perhaps that is where Mickey Arthur comes in.  Not that I will ever agree with the way in which the homework scandal was handled by team management.

We now have a group of young men who are on big bucks, most of whom are yet to reach their potential.  Is this because they are not prepared to do the hard yards?  Perhaps this is at the root of the “Homework Scandal”.  It is hard to get to the bottom of the true situation because of the vague and euphemistic nature of communication from the Australian cricket team.   But one can glean some.  Here is a quote from Arthur: “I’ve not ever been in a position to doubt Shane Watson the person or Shane Watson the cricketer. Usman Khawaja is different. This will be the catalyst I think for Usman Khawaja to realise we’re pretty serious in the Australian cricket team.”

Talking to Kev Chevell, I got the impression that he is on the outer because he is seen as being “old school”.  I don’t think that is a fair assessment of Kev but it probably is of the situation.  Today’s coaches, doctors and conditioners are scientists and sports medicine specialists.  They are men of science – they fear no worldly terrors.  I wonder in all of this science whether they overlook common-bloody-sense.  They suppress instinct and misunderstand a sportsman’s mindset.  And the sad truth is, that CA and the selectors admit they don’t even know if the rotation policy is beneficial.  But it is the safe route.  The legally and politically safe route.

I suggest that technology is a big part of the problem.  In fact, it is technology ultimately, that has bred Gen Y characteristics.  There is no doubt that technology and Gen Y are intertwined.  While it is true that portable technology presents more distractions than ever known, I think that is the tip of the iceberg.  Gen Y has known nothing but instant gratification.

Since the industrial revolution, technological advances have changed all aspects of life.  It has furthered science, causing science and religion to separate (the earth is round, and it does in fact, go around the sun).  Its impact on primary industry and commerce has been profound.  It has even allowed governments to kill and destroy each other during war in ever more efficient, wholesale and violent ways.  In all areas of life, technology has an impact.

Technology is a driver for business.  It saves times, makes things more efficient and increases profit.  At a personal level, people in the Western World have more leisure time and more wealth and it is largely because of technology.  Is it possible that modern sports science is about achieving strength and fitness in the most efficient way?  Or to put it another way, by cutting corners.  Replacing good, old-fashioned hard work with perceived enlightened methods.

I once read this as the definition of a coach: The coach’s role is to make men do what they don’t want to do, to enable them to achieve the things they want to achieve.  That’s what Chevell does.   When he started training McGrath, McGrath was a weed.  He trained hard, lived with Chevell and was fed around the clock.  Chevell would wake McGrath, just like a newborn, for his 2 a.m. feed.  Whatever it takes.  Chevell commented that he didn’t use dietary supplements – if you eat the right food and drink and enough of it, that is all the fuel you need.  I get the impression, that like any niche occupation, that the sports medicine people try to make it more complicated than it is, to ensure that their job is necessary.

Early this year, I saw Mike Whitney interview Pat Cummins and the topic got onto the bowler rotation policy, fitness and injuries.  Whitney gave us his fitness regime from his playing days.  He ran at least 10 kilometres everyday, in the middle of the day, on the road.  He did that because that is what he had to do in a match.  He bowled in the heat of the day on rock hard surfaces.  Is that seen as too simplistic?  Not scientific enough?  Well, it makes sense.  Kev Chevell used similar approaches.  He used a lot more varied training methods but the approach was to make the athlete do things that were harder than they had to do in a match.  That was good for the mind and the body.  I just don’t see that happening today.

Hard work has worked in the past and there is no reason why it should not work today.  The cricketers’ bodies are physiologically the same and the game is the same.  There are some factors like travelling and playing more, and varied types of cricket but perhaps too much is made of that.  And I’m sorry to say, we didn’t buy Kev’s lounge.

Hughes Ate My Homework

Now that the cricket world is getting over the shock axing of four Australian cricketers for omitting to do their homework (although most of it is still laughing), dongles has had time to get some more information – what really happened.  And there were more surprises awaiting, ranging from amnesia to conspiracy theories.

Firstly, the coach, South African, Mickey Arthur is involved in a conspiracy.  In creating turmoil in the Australian team, he is helping his home country remain at the top of the Test ladder.  In these cosmopolitan days of international cricket, where we see legends of the past become hirelings (not that Arthur is in any way a legend), subversion has become prevalent.  We saw it with Greg Chappell in India with his feud with Gangers.  It is hard to tell sometimes if it is simply the coach not coming to terms with the local culture or deliberate efforts to undermine.  Now we see it with Arthur.

Then there is the gambling aspect.  I am currently reading the Ed Hawkins classic, “Bookie, Fixer, Gambler, Spy”.  I don’t know what to make of it yet but it is eye popping.  Apparently all manner of factors can be used to sway and manipulate the betting market and the composition of teams is very important.  There is talk around Mumbai that some of the players that have been punished actually submitted their homework via email, only to have it deleted from the mail servers by the hackers who work for the fixers.  Wild times indeed.

Possibly a more plausible explanation, but still on the conspiracy line is that certain players, specifically a top order batsman, stood to benefit from the disappearance of certain other players from the squad.  I was today discussing with some colleagues just who will be in the team for the third Test.  We were, trying to recall who of the squad was left and Phil Hughes’ situation came up.  Until yesterday, tt was widely accepted that Hughes would be dropped for the next Test and everyone would move up the order by one and Khawaja would come into the line up.  Now, in fact, Watson has been dropped and Khawaja is not available.  So Hughes is still in the team and another batsman is still needed.  I guess we will see Steve Smith’s return.  Anyway, I have looked into this and it is official.  Hughes ate Watson and Uzzie’s homework.

Who knows what else will come out of the woodwork before Thursday and the start of the 3rd Test but I am glad that to provide a sample of the work done by one of the players (obviously not Ed Cowan).  Thankfully, this masterpiece survived the jaws of Phillip Hughes.



David Warner's submission to Mickey Arthur (stolen from cyberspace)

David Warner's submission to Mickey Arthur (stolen from cyberspace)


King Arthur wields Excalibur

We now know more about Australia’s great “Indian Exam Scandal of 2013”.  But before I continue, I will say that I have had some disagreement with the view I expressed last post.  I have listed some of those points below.  I have also provided a link to some of the Tweets from various luminaries – mostly ex-players, journalist which included plenty of non-Australians.  It seems Australian cricket has become an overnight laughing stock.

Of Crininfo’s Twitter round-up, my favourite is this:

“On a positive note Ed Cowan’s presentation has just been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize” – Damien Fleming

Below are some remarks from dongles subscribers:

…the joy of going to press early is being able to make racist comments about mickey arthur without knowing the full level of support and synergy with the captain on this issue

…the game owes these guys nothing..

I believe the prima donnas that take themselves for Australian cricketers have needed a kick up the arse for years.

This is more about culture and it has been very bad a long time and they all need to pull their heads in and do there jobs, just like I have to.

While I don’t disagree with some of the sentiments expressed above, I still disagree with the nature of the punishment handed out.  I agree that cricketers are owed nothing by cricket.  I agree that there could be some bad attitude and if there is, that it should be addressed.

I am sorry if I sounded racist with my remarks about Mickey Arthur.  I guess I was alluding to the stereotypical view of the draconian South African boarding house master who hands out heavy-handed, indiscriminate punishments.   I support this with a quote from Arthur:

“I have never ever doubted, not for one moment, the drive of Shane Watson,” Arthur said. “Not for one moment. Shane Watson prepares well. He’s very professional and he goes about his business in a very professional way. I’ve not ever been in a position to doubt Shane Watson the person or Shane Watson the cricketer. Usman Khawaja is different. This will be the catalyst I think for Usman Khawaja to realise we’re pretty serious in the Australian cricket team.

Arthur admits that Watson is thoroughly professional and his drive is not doubted.  Yet, he received the same punishment as Khawaja, who apparently is a slacker.  It is unfair, lacks integrity and I would suggest, from a management point of view, lacks professionalism.  I will admit that I am not a fan of Watson and I don’t think he is a great loss but he is the vice captain and has been treated in a humiliating way and I protest on principle.

When I posted last night, there were some key questions that I did not have the answers to due to the breaking nature of the news.  The most  important was what was Clarke’s position in all of this.  It was stated that the management, including Clarke had made the decision.  But was it Mickey’s idea and Mikey just followed?

On this morning’s news, I saw Clarke speak on the subject. As usual, he was very convincing and on the face of it, made good sense. I was almost brought around.  But not quite.  For one thing, Clarke is always convincing when he fronts the cameras.  He always says the right thing, supports the management and his players (even when they are about to be dropped). So I couldn’t be completely certain of his buy in.  I have to believe that he thinks he is doing the right thing but I wonder if he is being misguided by Arthur.  I would have doubts that it was Clarke’s idea in the first place!

I quote below from another Cricinfo article:

“While Clarke did not elaborate on what other standards had not been met, Arthur earlier in the day said that some players had failed to fill in the daily wellness forms required to allow the sports science and medical staff to monitor their health. Clarke said an accumulation of minor infractions – regardless of the players involved – had led to a decision that an example had to be made.”

Similar to my previous point a draw your attention to his part of the above: “accumulation of minor infractions – regardless of the players involved”.  I take that to mean that the players being punished in this instance are not necessarily the ones guilty of previous infractions.   From Arthur’s comments about Watson (and Johnson), I take it that they were not.  Treating players harshly and inconsistently is not a good way to raise team morale.  Nor is treating grown mean like juveniles, especially when they are not acting like it.

I would also like to know how the assignment was framed.  Was it made quite clear that this was important and not optional?  Was it made clear that there was a precise deadline?  Were any reminders issued?  These are sportsmen, not university students.  I agree that they should not have any objections to being asked to do what might appear a simple exercise, which makes me puzzled as to why they didn’t do it if they understood the conditions.  At university, you know that if you hand your assignment in late, you will be penalised. If you don’t hand it in at all, you get no marks and might fail the course.  Many of us have been to uni and now work in the corporate world. We understand this process.

I’m not so sure that applying corporate world approaches to sportsmen is the right approach or that it is even fair, even allowing for the fact that they are rich because of the business associated with the sport.  At the end of the day, they are there to play.  I’m sure Ed Cowan, acknowledged as an intellectual and scholar, would have made a great presentation for Mickey Arthur.  I guess you could say that happens to be a core competency for him – it comes naturally.  Will that will help him play any better?  And is it really an accurate test of a player’s dedication to the team?

Conversely, could Pattinson, just a kid (whom Australia actually needs), have been handled with more tolerance?  The crux of it for me is the question: Was his non-submission an indicator of non-commitment or simply poor management of a practice that he is unfamiliar with?  Based on his on-field performances, which have been great, you would have to think that he is committed to the cause.

And finally, there seems to be a premise that the poor results in the first two Tests are due to a lack of application and commitment.  I can’t say if that is actually the case but it has been a rare day in the past 60 years when Australian batsmen have scored well against Indian spinners in India.  And even more rare for Australian bowlers to prevail against Indian batsmen.  Add to this the inexperience of the current team and it is no surprise to see them being flogged.  Is it really because they are lazy or in the light of the Argus report, are management wanting to be seen to be proactive to get results?

I would have loved it if seven of the players had not handed in the assignment. Would they all have been suspended? Would Australia be fielding 10 men, begging India for a substitute fieldsman?  What do the selectors think? They sent an unprecedented 17 players to India (and a good thing too) and now there are just 12-13 to choose the team from. Sometimes tough action is required. Time will tell if this was the right action.