Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cricket Sadist Hour - A Transcript - Nov 27, 2012

Cricket Sadist Hour – A Transcript

November 27, 2012

Faf wears an apron

Gideon Haigh joins Jarrod Kimber to discuss the great Faf, Imran's heavy hand, the end for Quiney, fair pitches, Rory's comeback and Josh's free hotel rooms

JK: Welcome to the Cricket Sadist Hour. I’ve got the man who gives us all goose-bumps with me, it’s Gideon Haigh. How are you?

GH: I am great, terrific, euphoric.

JK: You had to think about it. Have you had an Adelaide hangover?

GH: Not as bad as Peter Siddle’s but there is a process of decompression after a Test Match. You return to the normal world. I don’t want to get too normal because I’ve got to go to Perth tomorrow.

JK: You’re going that soon, are you?

GH: Yeah, I am. I’m home literally to give my daughter a cuddle and then it’s back to Skyping her.

JK: The good news is, if I read the situation correctly, and the way that American President’s elections go, is that is the press calls a Test Series, that means it happened. So, according to Malcolm Conn’s column, Australia has won this series already?

GH: Yeah, all through yesterday, in the press box, the uppermost was the back page of the Adelaide Advertiser with the headline, Top of the World. You gotta say, first with the latest, the Adelaide Advertiser, a dreadful paper. We all had it written down as an Australian victory on the last day, even South Africans. But it was a wicket that was fair to batsmen all the way through. The ball continued to play at one height, didn’t give too much assistance to the spinners. And these days, a modern batsman, when he puts his mind to it and puts his body to it, is a pretty formidable fortification to get around. Padded and Armored and equipped with a massive powerful bat. The batsmen don’t often find themselves in that situation or don’t necessarily have the commitment or the temperament to doing it because these days the game privileges spontaneous stroke play and innovation. Funnily, yesterday, it was Faf du Plessis, who is considered a one-day specialist proving that he’s been a Test Match player in the making all along.

JK: I always thought he was a county specialist, so he took a huge step up for me from average, middling first-class English player to at Test player. But that was a phenomenal effort but even more impressive was the fact that Morne Morkel was out there. Had he stuffed up that drive in the end that would have been the end of him. He would have ended up in an asylum; his psyche would never have been able to handle that.

GH: I did have a fantasy early on that it would be Imran Tahir doing the (herocious on the bridge act), in much the same way that Monty had at Cardiff in 2009 but want quite that good.

JK: No. To be fair, when Morne came into Test Cricket, there was talk about him being an all-rounder. He could possibly spell the word all-rounder and that’s about it. But I just like the fact that he decided at the end to unleash some drives. I just love the idea of I am so settled at this point after I’m at 10 balls, just going to start peeling off drives. Just one of those goes to one of the catchers, even if Imran stays out the over, you just fell like you’ve let down everyone at that point.

GH: Yeah, he certainly would have felt devastated to let down du Plessis. That was just a staggering act of adhesion. de Villiers in defense looked like a man playing against his natural brand, but du Plessis still had this propensity for hitting the odd bad ball for four, almost with a hint of self-reproach and never seemed to get bored. He’s probably still playing that front foot defensive prod now, woke up on the middle of the night and jumped to his feet and prodding a prod.

JK: I know. It’s also a shame because I’ve been making lots of jokes about Faf that his best performance before this was in AB de Villiers’ music video. Now, I’m gonna have to retire that joke, at least for a couple of months until people forget about this innings.

GH: They do look uncannily alike. When they batted together briefly in the first innings, I literally could not tell them apart. It was like Twiddle de V and Twiddle de P. And they didn’t bat for long enough for me to be able to distinguish them in the first innings but in the second innings, I learnt that one of them, I forgetten who now, wears one of the Stuart McGill kind of aprons while he bats, so that was very helpful.

JK: They’ve both got this amazing posture at the crease, which I remember looking at a couple of times when I watched Faf play. But it was an amazing innings. What stage does the Australian press start to go – this is gonna be embarrassing if this doesn’t go the way we want.

GH: I know that at about 11:45, the sponsor’s question came up on TV, who will break through for Australia. That’s got a certain plaintive note about it because no one has to break through; it doesn’t have to happen at all. It was interesting to see batsmen playing so defensively. Because these days batsmen are so often encouraged to play their natural game at all times. Both these batsmen were discovering things about themselves that they perhaps didn’t even know that they were capable of. They were formative, defining innings for both of them. So du Plessis isn’t only that semi-anonymous figure who’s gonna play one game for the Melbourne Renegades next month.

JK: He’ll be that as well, hopefully. (I’d like to run into Big Bash’s semi at one point in their career.) Bigger picture, you and I both jumped on Rory Klienveldt, a little bit. He brought himself back, didn’t he? He gave us something with the ball in this match? I know eventually Australia declared anyway but I felt good for him that even if it is his last Test, he did something.

GH: Definitely. He actually improved all the way through. He probably gave Clarke the hardest time on the first day and he was one of the few bowler to get consistent swing for two or three spells in the second innings. It cost a little. The Australians hadn’t begun to undirected by that time.(unintelligible) They could pick off, which meant that he did get a couple of wickets by default, but you could definitely see what the South African journalists have been talking about. There was a word out that he was a good first-class player, at one stage, even Vernon Philander’s superior. Hits the deck hard, gets the ball to do a little bit, can bowl all day. They are valuable adjuncts to any attack.

JK: And amazingly Imran Tahir had the game that Rory Klienveldt was supposed to have in that it all fell apart. And now, people are talking about him never playing again. Probably a bit over the top, but, that was probably the worst game from a frontline bowler since Bryce McGain.

GH: Bryce’s name did come up a few times in the Test Match. The unfortunate thing for Tahir was (a) he didn’t bowl very well but (b) this was a really difficult ground to defend on, with the building work they have reduced the square boundaries by six meters and the traditional long boundaries at the Adelaide Oval have been cut by fifteen meters. And the outfield was absolutely red hot. Balls were being pushed gently down the ground for three and almost everything else went for four. In fact, on the first day, there were only five threes out of 482. It was like everything that was going past the inner ring was going for four. So he may have picked a bad day to lose his length. I also take my hat off to him. He continued to race through his overs as he does in that Imran Tahir way. He was game for it. I don’t think that his captain gave him all that much support at various times. And he continued to bowl good deliveries, wicket-taking deliveries. One of them he did actually take a wicket and had it taken away from him. And he continued to beat the bat every so often. His googly is a good ball. It could be useful potentially against this phalanx of Australian left-handers. It’s just that every single bad ball he bowled got hit for four or six.

JK: it reminded it me of, I was gonna say an off-spinner, but that’s probably being kind to you. But you bowl the other spin occasionally and I bowl leg spin and there’s this thing where when you’re dragging the ball down your hand feels really heavy and it’s like it drags straight down. Then you try and over correct it, it’s like the ball flies out the back of your hand. You can actually see that happening to him. It’d be great to show it to a young leg-spinner and just say this can go wrong for anyone. There’s been a lot of talk about how South Africa tried to change his bowling and that Graeme Smith doesn’t understand leg-spin bowling. All of that is true but I think his biggest problem was he got through to the age of, I don’t know how old he is, but he’s probably older than (he claims to be). But he got through all that part of his life and then suddenly no one ever got him to run off the wicket when he was bowling and now he has to run off the wicket when he’s bowling. I think that’s actually what is causing him all new these problems. He doesn’t feel comfortable in the new run-up.

GH: That’s interesting. He alternated between over and round the wicket like he couldn’t get comfortable doing either. It wasn’t because he was pursuing a particular tactic or plan. It was because he just was improvising. He looked like someone who was struggling to find a method with which he felt comfortable and it was elusive for him. And they were not the circumstances to get comfortable anyway. This is the way that spinners get related these days. It’s the Duncan fletcher axiom that only the very best spinners do you play defensively. You get on top of spinners immediately that they come into the attack. You don’t give them a chance to settle and Mickey Arthur has clearly imbibed that advice from his old mentor and passed it on to the Australia batsmen.

JK: It can be tough as well. I think it was just after lunch, when Australia got that flyer and he bowled two full-tosses, I think to David Warner. One of them was mishit and the other one was smashed. And as Bill Lawry said you’ve still gotta hit them but realistically you and I could probably have hit those two balls for four. He got taken straight out of the attack and they tried to change his end. They did all this stuff and I just thought that’s the worst thing you can do. I remember when Bryce had his problems against South Africa, he bowled two or three overs and Ponting took him out of the attack and he didn’t bowl for another 40 overs. And I thought if you’re gonna do that, then you might as well not bowl him again. I thought on two or three occasions that’s what Graeme Smith did. He didn’t know how to react to a leg-spinner bowling the odd bad ball. Instead of just saying I know you are a leg-spinner and you might bowl a bad ball, for two or three overs but then you’ll get your rhythm. He just kept changing things and he couldn’t quite ever believe in him. If your captain doesn’t believe in you, you’re just road kill on that small ground.

GH: Although, he had to bowl him, because Kallis was unfit. He didn’t really have the third line bowling options that Australia have got. Du Plessis bowled a couple of rather arthritic overs. He was stuck with him and it did look like Smith was bowling him under sufferance.

JK: The funny thing about last summer, I thought Tahir actually bowled quite well at times against England. But the funny thing was that South Africans kept telling me that Faf was a better leg-spinner. He did not look like one. I’ve seen him bowl in one-day games where he can get through quick bowls. But when it actually looked like bowling proper leg-spin, he looked like he was gonna bowl a full-toss pretty much every second ball at times. What about Kallis? There’s gonna be a lot of talk about how Australia dominated this game but you almost get the feeling that if Kallis hadn’t gone off when he did, this Test could’ve looked completely different.

GH: Yeah, although, interestingly, we heard at Brisbane, that Kallis wouldn’t bowl much, that they didn’t want to depend on him for too many overs. I was actually surprised that he bowled as many as he did in Brisbane. And here it was this brief hiatus where the ball actually swung and he bowled the fullest length of all the South Africans on the first day for sure. What was amazing was to watch him bat in both innings. He bats the way that Shane Watson would bat. Stand there and hit fours. But when he and du Plessis were running together, they weren’t running, they were jogging together, it was a little bit like watching a father and sons game on a school oval. This giant, towering, toddling figure of Kallis just ambling through and du Plessis obligingly keeping pace with him. In a sense, Kallis’ ability to bat in this game was the difference between South Africa losing and drawing. You basically counted him out when he was injured in the first day. But I guess maybe he interdicted against his injury early enough that they could treat it. That just implies an incredible degree of self-knowledge from Kallis. Even when he is lame, you see Kallis’ greatness.

JK: You talk about the self-knowledge. It was almost as if his hamstring hadn’t even gone, the way he pulled up. It was amazing, there was no talk to anyone. He just literally went up to the umpire and his hand across to Graeme Smith and left the ground. For all Graeme Smith knew at that point, Kallis had diarrhea. There was no communication at all. Kallis just said Look Lads I’m not quite right and I’ll see you guys later and left the ground. There is something amazing about him and it’ll be very interesting to see how they go if they don’t have him in the next test. Because Rory is clearly not an all-rounder. Whether Peterson comes in as a spinner who can bat a little bit, I don’t know. But they seem to be an attack that almost depends on the fifth bowler. They almost feel awkward or naked without him.

GH: He only actually ran in about two paces too, very unusual kind of strain. Normally a bowler gets towards the crease before they pull out. He almost sensed the injury before it had taken place. I guess when you play as much cricket as Kallis and Smith have together, you have an extrasensory understanding. Smith would know that Kallis wouldn’t do that unless it was serious. Interesting contrast between Watson and Kallis. Watson insists on being 100% fit before he goes into any Test Match. Kallis is prepared to do it at 90%, take a chance and back himself to perform while injured.

JK: That’s always quite a tough one. South Africa are gonna limp into the next test but Australia have decided on Ponting, Watson and perhaps even Mitchell Johnson for the next Test. It’s not exactly a step forward for new Australia.

GH: I think there is a sense of temporary measures and horses for courses selection here. Johnson’s record at Perth. If you were going to pick him on one ground in Australia, you would pick him here. I think he’s got 30 wickets at 18 in four Test Matches here, pays 34 per wicket elsewhere. So, he’s got form on the board as far as the WACA is concerned. Watson has worked quite hard here for Watson. He has been adding to his workload in the nets outside the ground. He doesn’t run between wickets very much anyway so I guess that’s not important.

JK: He bowled, didn’t he, in the nets?

GH: Well, yeah, he’s bowled an increasing number of overs. He has improved a lot compared to the way he looked in the days leading up to the Test Match where he looked like a arthritic granny in slippers, the way he was moving around the outfield. I think they are committed, really, to Ponting. It’s possible that Quiney’s misadventures at No. 3 have done Ponting a bit of a favour. I wouldn’t like to tamper with two positions in the order rather than just one. He goes to Perth knowing that he has to get runs. He did a very interesting interview to Mark Taylor on Sunday morning before the day’s play. He’s a very honest cricketer, he’s a very candid cricketer, he hid absolutely nothing. I just got the feeling that maybe something in Ponting had shifted. The positive responses that were intensely realistic. They countenanced the possibility that he would be dropped. It wasn’t the relentless upbeat, just got to go about the business, kind of quotes. It was a man who had quite a sane appraisal in his position in the world and he could see the end coming, which I guess for every great cricketer is the ultimate test. Some of them don’t see the end coming but Ponting has.

JK: What is interesting is that he has basically just one Test to stay his career a bit longer. If he does make even a fifty or something along those lines, he probably will be kept for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka have done okay against New Zealand in this series but I think Herath has three five-wicket hauls, so they are pretty much a one-man bowling attack at this point. If he makes it, there is nothing to say, a bit like what he did against India last year, that he won’t make a couple of big hundreds against Sri Lanka and Australia has him around for longer. I wonder, if it isn’t worth doing a gentlemen’s agreement saying would you like to go out at the end of the Summer. Because he doesn’t seem like, at this point of his career, he is beyond having people talk about whether he’s gonna go every minute of the day. It seems like every time you go on Twitter, there are more people talking about Ponting. It would make sense, wouldn’t it, to say to him, look do you want to leave?

GH: It feels different this time to last Summer. Having done it once, there’s room to doubt whether Ponting can do it again. Ponting turns 38 next month. He has pipe dreams of playing in the Ashes. But there’s more in his life these days. Perhaps the hunger isn’t quite there. One of the things that he keeps coming back to is the fact that he had this great preparation going into this Summer. He keeps going back to it. It’s almost as though if I can’t do it now with this ideal preparation behind me then perhaps I’m not gonna be able to do it.

JK: What do you think about Jackson Bird getting overlooked. Like you said, Mitchell Johnson was horses for courses. John Hastings also seems to be horses for courses, bowled really well at the WACA earlier this year. I was wondering what Jackson Bird has to do? Does he have to start taking his wickets at 5 runs?

GH: He probably has to take his wickets away from Bellerive. It’s become difficult for the selectors to make any sort of judgment about the cricket that’s taking place in Tasmania.

JK: He actually does have a very good record away from Bellerive as well. Isn’t he only averaging only 19 away from Bellerive as well?

GH: Yeah, it’s hard to tell, I think the selectors really want to have another look at Johnson. Inverarity is a Johnson fan. He likes the fact that Johnson adds batting talent at No. 8 because Siddle’s probably slightly over promoted. Of course, if Johnson doesn’t succeed, then he can safely be discarded. Jackson Bird is a very good prospect. Perhaps he’s unfortunate in not coming from New South Wales. Josh Hazelwood seems to come with a natural advantage for all those Sydney Boosters behind him.

JK: Josh Hazelwood just seems to be in every squad. Whether he will ever play again, I don’t know but he seems to get a lot of free hotel rooms, so well done to him. We’re pretty sure that Quiney is gonna go the Wayne Phillips way? By Wayne Phillips, I mean, the Victorian, might even have been from Geelong, who played one test against India once.

GH: Poor old Quiney. It was ghastly to watch. In an alternative universe, he plays and misses at those deliveries and he gets a hundred. It’s his misfortune to be living in the same era as Shane Watson, I suspect. They are desperately trying to find a niche for him and No. 3 is the latest prospect. Certainly, in other aspects, he has looked the part. He’s fielded very well, he’s bowled usefully. He looks like an Australian cricketer. And he’s got a well-made nine behind him.

JK: I think you’ll find it’s a polished nine. Let’s not get crazy. I just can’t see him getting back again. I do think he is a more talented cricket than we’ll ever see but you would say that Khawaja and Hughes are much more likely to come in next from here on in.

GH: I think so. They liked Quiney’s experience and his all-round resourcefulness. One of the demerit points against Khawaja and Hughes is that they don’t bring much except their specialist skills. They are poor fielders, they are not particularly deep thinkers about the game, they are not particularly mature individuals. Quiney’s face fitted an identikit portrait of the Australian Cricket character as John Inverarity would like to see it. But I think that it was a temporary measure that if it had come off, everyone would have congratulated themselves. Khawaja and Hughes have made the runs this year that justify having a look at them again.

JK: Definitely. The last thing I wanted to talk about was Michael Clarke’s comment about how he wanted a fair pitch for the WACA. There was a Shield game there that I think he played in, that only went to three days. There’s been a couple of them so far this year. He’s asking for a fairer pitch. Surely, what we need actually is a result pitch. Forget fair, we just need a result in this series, otherwise, we might as well go back to 1960s.

GH: There should have been a result in this game, really. If Australia had held even one of those catches on the last day, then we would be talking about what a fantastic pitch Adelaide was, you get a result in the last hour and isn’t it great that a Test Match runs it’s full course.

JK: It’s also the last pitch in the world we need two bowlers to go down on. Because, Pattison and Kallis, between the two of them, they would have hurried the game up a little bit.

GH: It’s also the last pitch in the world they should be digging out which is what they are gonna do at the end of this Summer. Yet another triumph for football in Australia, they are introducing a drop-in at the Adelaide Oval. That’s just cultural vandalism as far as I’m concerned. I said as much in Adelaide and I got a visit from the South Australian Cricket Association CEO who was looking very, very embarrassed.

JK: Mr. Bradshaw, is it?

GH: Mr. Bradshaw, yes.

JK: I wouldn’t think he’d be the firmest person in the world. I think in a fist-fight you’d get a couple of quick ones into his ribs, at least.

GH: I think he’d been sent around to have a word. He did say it very mildly and very politely, in that Keith Bradshaw way.

JK: What did he say though? Did he say you’ll have to wear a full suit to come into the press box? They can make you wear shirts.

GH: I was wearing a shirt. I did take my collared wardrobe to Adelaide. I’d remembered that from years gone past. But the press call we were invited to, lunch on the last day, I didn’t go. But Malcolm Knox came back from it and quoted David Foster Wallace saying - a supposedly fun thing that I will never do again.

JK: I remember, last year, they had lobster on the last day. I was a very big fan of that.

GH: Only lobster they had at Adelaide was Peter Siddle because he looked like one at the end of yesterday’s play.

JK: Yes he was. Alright, we’ll leave it there and we will chat again after the Perth Test.

GH: Indeed. Pleasure, Jarrod.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cricket Sadist Hour - A Transcript - Nov 20, 2012

Cricket Sadist Hour – A Transcript

November 20, 2012

Shane Watson's ex-problem

Gideon Haigh joins Jarrod Kimber to discuss ears, food, moustaches, bunnies, refugees and other people discussing Shane Watson

JK: Welcome to the Cricket Sadist Hour. With me I have everyone’s favorite Gideon Haigh. It’s Gideon Haigh. How are you?

GH: I am very well. Happy to be Gideon Haigh for you, Jarrod?

JK: You’ve still in Melbourne?

GH: I’m still in Melbourne, off to Adelaide tomorrow.

JK: Luckily you are still on Melbourne because there is a terrible case of food poisoning going around with Dale Steyn. He’s ill. He’s eaten something and he’s not feeling well.

GH: Don’t tell me he’s made of flesh and blood. This is news to me. And he eats as well? I thought he lived on pure blood.

JK: You wouldn’t think he could get sick because the way the talk about him at times seems like he eats raw food.

GH: He’ s remarkable physical specimen. In the flesh, there doesn’t seem to be terribly much of him. It’s all in the rhythm, it’s all in the technique where he’s concerned.

JK: It’s all in the pseudo moustache he always has. There’s some sort of menace behind it.

GH: There’s some feeling about him. He’s got that look of one of those American back woodsmen who has quested himself in a shack full of () and semi-automatic weapons.

JK: Most of the people I talk to, see him as a prison guard, slightly sadistic. He’s the guy who watches the Green Mile and actually cheers for the creepy one. There hasn’t been a lot going on between the two Tests if Dale Steyn’s food poisoning is making articles.

GH: That’s true. Frankly, this is a period you’ve got mandatory amount of space to fill and anything that is out of the ordinary – Shane Watson eating toast instead of muesli at the buffet – that qualifies as news. Actually anything that Shane Watson does qualifies as news these days. If he opens his mouth we take dictation.

JK: We will get on to Shane Watson news but you were out with Eddie’s father and he became news, didn’t it?

GH: Yes, this was quite funny. The night that Eddie made his century, the tabloids ran a story where Ed Cowan’s father was taken to hospital yesterday and it got the Exclusive tag in the news from the tabloids. In fact, he’s had an ear infection and he went to the hospital to get his ears syringed out. Now that his son had made a 100, he was feeling pretty good about things and he wanted to be fit for dinner that night. I did get a call later that night from one of my Australian colleagues saying “Do you know anything about this Rich Cowan story? What are we gonna do? Have we missed a big yarn?” I said, he’s actually sitting right across the table from me and looking pretty well.

JK: It is highly possible that the Australian syringed Rich Cowan’s ear and then fed it to Dale Steyn.

GH: It’s all a conspiracy.

JK: Let’s get on to Watson. I have all these RSS feeds that I follow. And a lot of them are Australian. And it seems like I had an RSS feed this week it was ex-player says something about Watson. He shouldn’t bowl, he should bat, he should bat down the order, he should go up the order, he should never play again, he should quit ODIs. It seems like all these years of Shane Watson giving his own press conferences, every other player has now decide to do it for him.

GH: Well he’s a sitting target, isn’t he? He’s a perpetual enigma. Everyone’s trying to unravel or decode it. Everyone’s got their pet theory about the role that he can perform for Australia. These days this is the way a lot of the cricket media runs. You have a roll-a-decks of ex-players who you contact to provide you with ready-made content and sound bytes.

JK: The Neil Harvey quote on my website was a parody of that way back in the day.

GH: We’ve left Neil Harvey way behind. Cricket is full of bloviating former players who can be relied upon to fill a tabloid column. I guess, in a way, in the days gone by, they would have been writing columns themselves. But these days the environment within newspapers is so austere that we supplicate ourselves before them and take what they say as considered wisdom. It’s interesting that Jeff Thomson seems to have changed his view about Shane Watson. He was one of Watson’s main detractors some years ago. There’s a passage in Watson’s autobiography that is very puffy about Thomson. Well, Thomson’s changed his mind now and thinks that whatever Watson wants to do, he should be allowed to do. It is interesting, this argument about whether he is in the top six Australian batsmen. You don’t pick the best six batsmen, do you? You pick your best two openers, you pick your best No.3 and your best 4, 5 and 6. There’s no point picking six openers or six No. 6s. It is confusing to see where Watson fits in the pantheon of the best No. 3 in Australia. There’s arguments that his value is as an opener and frankly, at the moment, there are no opening vacancies.

JK: The biggest problem with Watson is, if he was making a lot of runs coming into this, he wouldn’t have a problem coming back into the side. He really hasn’t made runs for a long time now, so it’s easy for everyone to sit on the side and say he should do this, he shouldn’t do that, if he doesn’t bowl or whatever. He he’d been making the runs that he was supposed to make in the first place, he would be picked as a batsmen.

GH: He made a lot of runs in the World T20 and he was making runs in the Champions League. Unfortunately, it was in the wrong kind of cricket. That’s not necessarily his fault. He was going out and he was performing in the genres of cricket that we was selected for. But the ability to withstand a three- hour game of cricket doesn’t tell you much about a player’s ability to get through five days.

JK: I’m not sure if this is exactly right but I think it is roughly right. He’s opened in 30 Tests and made 2 Test hundreds. If he’d made 7 or 8, we probably would be saying he deserves to come back but he’s in a position where he doesn’t make hundreds, he goes out at important times a lot and if he is not bowling he does actually lose something. Even though all these players are lining up to give him a kick, or tell him what to do, realistically, he’s left his future open for everyone to have any opinion they want.

GH: Psychologically, he does seem to be attached to opening and he’s expressed strong preference for that, both in media conferences and in his book. In his book, he says that he likes to go in No. 1 because that enables him to create match situations rather than respond to them. A slightly strange remark and suggestive of someone who doesn’t really trust themselves in responding to match situations. He also says in his book that he likes bowling. He feels that it takes pressure off his batting. Now, someone who goes around saying that they need to feel as though they are taking pressure off their batting is not a person who is particularly confident about their ability to contribute consistently. He’s an interesting psychological case study. Perhaps, that’s why we go around soliciting opinions of him. He’s a very rich subject.

JK: Yeah. You talk about how he likes opening. The madness about someone like Watson is that five minutes before he started opening, he said he was training himself to be a killer middle order player because that’s where he could make his biggest impact. He literally changes his mind more than Thommo does.

GH: And then he found that the opening quite suited him because the attacking fields in use when the new ball is in operation suited his ability to clump early boundaries. But we all know that the trajectory of the average Shane Watson innings, which is four 4s in his first 20 runs and a steadily declining scoring rate after that as fielders fall into run saving positions and a seeming inability to convert 40s into starts. The fact is that Watson looks a million dollars when he bats. He sticks that front foot down the wicket and loads up and punches the ball magisterially through the covers. But that’s a bit deceptive because that’s not what batting is all about. His ability to turn the strike over, his ability to play spin bowling, his ability to form partnerships down the order. I think all these things are in doubt. You can’t look at Watson’s statistics alone and form an evaluation of him. They are a pretty static measure. The other thing that the selectors find slightly confounding about him is that he doesn’t really seem to take a hint. He said in the press conference yesterday that he hadn’t been told whether his ability to bowl was integral to his selection. He hasn’t been told directly but frankly the remarks that Pat Howard made last week were very explicit, very explicit.

JK: Didn’t Clarke and Mickey Arthur also say it?

GH: There just seems to be something deliberately obtuse about this. No one said it to my face directly, therefore, I do not know. I think the selectors are getting into a position where they want players who don’t need to be told, who are quick on the uptake, who are in touch with the game and can make their own judgments about it and evaluate themselves in relation to the general philosophy surrounding the team. Watson at the moment doesn’t seem to fulfill those criteria.

JK: I sometimes see him as sitting on some throne of bean bags with women around him fanning him as his manager, his agent and his PR person come up and they try and tell him what the news is and they edit it a little and he doesn’t really listen, he just asks for more chicken or something.

GH: Peel me a lotus.

JK: Exactly. One of the reasons I was so interested about the Watson thing was Stuart Broad came out on Twitter today and basically attacked a lot the ex-players for having a go at him. Because they wanted him here and whatever and it was at the same time that Ian Botham came out. I wonder that the players who don’t like being abused in the media are most likely to end up in the media.

GH: I do remember reading in Mark Taylor’s book, A Captain's Year, describing his 1997 tour of England, where he was under immense media pressure leading up to the century that he made in the first Test. I remember him saying that if I was ever to be a commentator in the future, I would never be critical of players. I thought at the time thinking Oh My Goodness Me, Mark, I hope you don’t stick with that. And perhaps he has as a commentator. I don’t know if that is because of his own experiences of being on the receiving end. Players respond differently to criticism. When they leave their eventual media careers. Some of them become desperately equivocal and say nothing; some of them become tremendous blowhards and dish it out left, right and center. I think in the main, someone like Mike Atherton is extremely even-handed where it comes to criticism. I think he understands how difficult it is to play the game well and understands that the psychological exigencies involved international cricket. I think the media makes a convenient whipping boy for players who are under pressure about their own performances. The pressure really comes from the procrustean bit of statistics, not from ex-players and the media.

JK: I think Nasser Hussain and Mike Atherton are almost two perfect cases of what to do if you are a player who goes into the media. Having chatted to them and watching what they do, you can love them or hate them as actual commentators or writers but what they are trying to do is continue to learn about the game. I hate it when someone we wouldn’t have done that in my day. Well, in your day, you didn’t have iPhones. I don’t care about the world before iPhones, is what I’m saying. And we’ve got the opposite of it in England. Nick Knight is the person who doesn’t want to offend anyone. He can’t answer a question on air. It is so frustrating to listen to him. Then you’ve got the Australian commentators who’ve turned completely into cheerleaders. They’ve always been quite pro but … Slater, Healy and Taylor are now cheerleaders rather than even give you any insight into the game. I feel like a casual cricket fan knows more about Cricket than these three do.

GH: That’s interesting; I suspect that one of the reasons for that is perhaps it sounds more like cheerleading because of the absence of a visiting commentator. There are now so many commentators in the Channel 9 box, there almost seems to be a competition as to who can be the most ingratiating and the most adulatory. Even Ian Chappell was reduced to saying nice things about Ed Cowan during the first Test. What’s the world coming to!

JK: He almost exploded on that. I had this really good chat with Iain O’Brien once about this sort of stuff and as a player he was so angry at commentators who would point out the negatives but as a spectator, I was so angry about commentators who wouldn’t. We definitely want two different things out of our commentators between the players and the fans.

GH: Is there an assumption somehow that an ex-player who is critical of a current player is breaching some free masonry or some poly test about the ways in which players should relate to one another? They should be able to understand what it’s like.

JK: I think players definitely think that. From the few players that I’ve chatted to, they almost feel let down when a former player comes out and says you should try harder or you should think more. They feel like they are trying as hard and are thinking as much as they can. They feel like Wait a minute, you must have had bad days in the field as well. But that’s not really commentary, is it? You look at a performance in front of you and if it’s not good enough you say it’s not good enough. But they feel like if it’s an ex-player doing it then they don’t get it but they almost don’t mind if the fans do it as much because the fans don’t understand any way.

GH: There was a slight variation on this, years ago. Shane Warne was intensely critical of John Buchanan and Adam Gilchrist came out and defended Buchanan and implied that Warne had breached the code of the baggy green. There was this exclusive club and one of the rules of the club was that you were not critical of another member of that club. John Buchanan did not have a baggy green but somehow got the baggy green by extension. That was at the high point of the creepy baggy green cult. It was interesting that in a country that prides itself on an egalitarian myth, that there should have been this extreme elitism surrounding the players in the Australian team that had to behave towards one another in a certain way.

JK: I am not overly surprised at all. What I am surprised about is that anyone came out on John Buchanan’s side. That always surprises me. This is a completely different thing but I heard this week that Glenn Turner and Martin Crowe were hired by NZ Cricket to be talent scouts to have a look at players in domestic cricket who may be able to go to international cricket. I think we used to call them selectors. They’ve got a bowls guys and they’ve got John Buchanan. They’ve got all these people working there but then actually have to hire old school selectors and call them talent scouts. What NZ Cricket are doing is going to change Cricket forever in some sort of Moneyball situation or they’re going to continue to lose by 10 wickets to teams like Sri Lanka.

GH: A lot of the time, in Cricket, you see a tendency to want to reinvent the wheel in complete ignorance of the fact that the wheel already exists.

JK: And it’s run over John Buchanan before.

GH: Another one I wanted to talk about is Nathan Lyon. Ashley Mallet, another ex-player, who writes columns for Cricinfo and I think might write for a couple other places as well. He’s come out and said that Nathan Lyon has a bunny in Jacques Rudolph. That just seems like an amazingly unnecessary thing to say to a guy who’s just found some sort of form again.

GH: And an amazingly unnecessary thing to say about Jacques Rudolph too. It’s not as if this series will hinge on Australia’s dominance over Jacques Rudolph. Can’t we sway Nathan Lyon to do something slightly more useful?

JK: I like that. It’s like Lyon’s taking a look at the opposition and he’s like this is the weak link and I’m gonna take him down. But this Amla guy, someone else’s job.

GH: I do think that Rudolph in the South African team is a player who’s under considerable pressure. It’s not exactly clear what his role is. He’s not a counter-punching No. 6. He’s there because as we said last week, apparently, he’s good for morale and who knows what form that contribution might take. These are not characteristics of the No. 1 team in the world that they people around good for morale.

JK: It’s an interesting one. Makhaya Ntini has come out and said that Tsolekile, I think I pronounced his name right, I had a whole summer over here and I still forget how to do it. He said Tsolekile, if he was white, would have been picked in the side to keep ahead of AB deVilliers. That seems the opposite of their policy over the last couple years. It seems Tsolekile would have been picked if he averaged more. I think he averages in the 20s in first class cricket. He’s not an obvious selection. Having said that, I still think he should come in ahead of AB deVilliers before they actually kill him.

GH: Indeed, so do I. I think they are really cheapening and underselling AB deVilliers by forcing him to take the wicket-keeper’s gloves. I think his vitality and his electricity in the field. Because they look a terribly inanimate unit in the field, they certainly did at Brisbane. I suspect that some of this might have to do with the power vacuum that’s opened up at Cricket South Africa since the defenestration of Gerald Majola. There are a lot of people around at the moment trying to endear themselves to the authorities, trying to carve out niches from themselves and perhaps Ntini is one of them. He seemed to become very disaffected with the setup towards the end of his career and perhaps he’s living out some of this grievances by vicarious means.

JK: It’s interesting because during the last summer when Boucher was first injured, Tsolekile was obviously picked and if you went on any South African website you could find people saying that he wasn’t in the best two or three keepers and being called a quota selection even to get into the squad. It’s almost like you’ve got white racists who are angry because he’s been picked at all and you’ve got Ntini who’s angry because he’s hasn’t made the squad ahead of AB deVilliers. It’s quite an interesting situation where Tsolekile without having played a Test seems to have annoyed so many people.

GH: And, of course, in South Africa, they can’t go to all that many ex-players to get quotes from because, according to Cricket South Africa, most of them don’t exist.

JK: To be fair, Tsolekile said he grew up with Ntini as a mentor but let’s be honest it’s not like there’ve been that many mentors from those townships. If you’re gonna go for a quote about a black South African cricketer, you pretty much, nine times out of ten, going to Ntini, aren’t you? Hershcelle Gibbs is probably not the same sort of guy. And Hershcelle Gibbs probably doesn’t even know who’s in the team.

GH: Not exactly a role model.

JK: I want to talk about Fawad Ahmed, who is the Pakistan-born, Taliban-victimized leg spinner, who was told that he was couldn’t practice Cricket because it was a Western game and he’s now got, not citizenship, but what has he been granted by the Australian government? Residency. I should know all this since I’ve had to go through it with another country but I don’t remember.

GH: He was not approved the first time and he appealed with the help of Cricket Australia and he was approved.

JK: I’ve got two questions about this and I love Fawad Ahmed. I hope very soon he has bunnies in Test Cricket.

GH: Hope not Jacques Rudolph.

JK: I hoping his bunny could be Daniel Flynn or some of the big names in World Cricket or Johnson Charles perhaps. I know a little bit about Pakistan but I don’t know that much. I believe they played Cricket under the Taliban in Afghanistan, they liked Cricket a little bit at that stage. But in Pakistan they’d be so anti-Cricket and think of it as a Western game. That seems to be opposite of the World-wide feel of Cricket at the moment.

GH: Well I think there is different stand of extremism so perhaps by generically referring to the Taliban we’re distorting things. There would be people in Pakistan who would regard Cricket as a seduction of the West. For the very same reason that they attacked the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009. Anything that allows Pakistan to maintain links with the outside world and potentially be poisoned by external influence is to be resisted.

JK: Good point, that’s my first part which you just basically took a dump on. My second one is the more interesting question. Do we think he would have been accepted with residency in Australia had it not been for Cricket? You said he’d been knocked back once. He would have appealed anyway, I assume. Do we think he would have got through without Cricket Australia.

GH: It’s a very good question. I don’t know have the answer to it. Definitely sport has been an avenue to accelerate acceptance. I’m not sure that we should necessarily be surprised about that. I think there were other things that stood in his favor. He is a well-educated young man. He’s got some sort of international relations degree. He’s very well-spoken. He’s got a continuous employment record since he arrived in Australia. He has an existing network of friends here. I am not sure about family. So there are probably other reasons why he recommended himself eventually to the immigration authorities.

JK: It just seems like it’s not the first time. I know Tennis players and athletes, there’s been quite a few that seem to jump the queue in Australia. I’ve got no problem with him getting it. If he was really victimized over there then he should definitely get residency. I just wonder if sometimes we’re just like well we could do with a leg spinner.

GH: If you’re on the way to Australia, if you are planning to enter Australia legally, practice your wrong ‘un. It’s obviously a sound recommendation. I enjoyed watching him bowl in the nets in Brisbane. He’s good to watch and he does have a wonderful range of variations. It’s interesting that Ed Cowan apparently batted a lot against in order to prepare for playing against Imran Tahir because he saw the two bowlers as having a lot in common. I think he’s fitted in really well around that particular unit. And he’s been well accepted. What an amazing experience for him. It is a feel good story and there’s a general absence of them.

JK: For sure. It does seem at the moment that I am in charge of who gets into Australia and who doesn’t although let’s be honest I wouldn’t have knocked hi back the first time. We’ll finish off with one final thing. I want to get your thoughts on this. It’s one particular quote in one particular piece but it might sum up where Australian Cricket is and may be even World Cricket is at the moment. Malcolm Conn when talking about Rob Quiney went he made the most polished nine possible on debut.

GH: Well, it was certainly the most discussed nine in the history of Australian Cricket. I thought we were aiming pretty low when we devoted acres of space to Usman Khawaja’s 37 two years ago but certainly Rob Quiney has recalibrate the equation for Australian achievement.

JK: It gets worse though. He made nine but if I’m not mistaken, did he not get an edge through about third or fourth slip at one stage as well?

GH: Yeah, second ball went down to Third Man for four. So, five of the nine were extremely polished.

JK: It’s just amazing. Like you said, Usman Khawaja was another one and James Taylor in England recently was another one. It just seems like if anyone comes into Test Cricket and doesn’t fall on their actual face, they’re going to be a hero. I mean Quiney’s a 30-year old man, he’s quite experienced. He’s played in the IPL, he’s played around the world, he played in Sri Lanka as well. He’s a fairly well travelled guy. I’d expect him to at the very least in Test Cricket to put a nine together.

GH: I must say, of all the Australian players in the nets, in the lead up to the game, he looked the most solid. He hit absolutely everything off the middle. So perhaps if Malcolm Conn had been working really hard he would have commented on the sheer excellence of Rob Quiney’s net form. No Australian cricketer has looked quite as impressive in the nets before a Test Match before.

JK: You say that, but had he not made the nine, that’s all you could have gone back on. There’s nothing left. He was amazing in the nets. I saw him doing his shoelaces up before the game, God, he looked good. Alright Gideon, thank you very much. I’ll talk to you after the next Test when Australia will be 1-o up, 1-0 down, draw?

GH: Adelaide, draw, how about that?

JK: I always think Adelaide’s gonna be a draw, it’s never a draw as much as I think it’s going to be.

GH: These days teams find it terribly, terribly difficult to draw Test Matches. Even in Brisbane, with the loss of an entire day, they probably wouldn’t have needed all that much more cricket to get a result out of it. I suspect it will be quite a high scoring game too, particularly if South Africa bowl short to Michael Clarke. Of all the Australian Test Match venues, Adelaide is the one that probably provides the greatest scope for individuals on either side. So both teams should be looking forward to it. One thing I am not looking forward to is the atrocities that have been perpetrated at the ground’s expense. What used to one of most beautiful grounds in Australia is apparently looking like a building site these days. Ian Chappell told me in Brisbane that he doesn’t even know where his bar is anymore. He could probably find out if he asks for directions but that’s a pretty top sign that the place is in disarray.

JK: You’re never gonna get anywhere with me saying that the Adelaide Oval is pretty. I’ve always hoped that it would be ugly just to shut people up about it.

GH: You’re about to get your wish.

JK: Exactly, we’re both out to get our ears syringed. Thank you very much for listening.

GH: Cheers Jarrod, Bye.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cricket Sadist Hour - A Transcript - Nov 15, 2012

Cricket Sadist Hour – A Transcript

Nov 15, 2012

South Africa have lot to work on

Gideon Haigh joins Jarrod Kimber to discuss Australia v South Africa, and the effect of white whites

JK: Joining me again this week to talk non-sense about Australian Cricket is Gideon. How are you?

GH: Good Morning, Jarrod. How are you going?

JK: I’m very good. You’re back from Brisbane, you’re back in the sweet embrace of Melbourne’s bosom. What was it like up north?

GH: For one thing it was unseasonably mild. It was a little bit like the test match of 2010/11. It certainly wasn’t as tropically hot as we’re used to in Brisbane. Except, of course, for the Saturday when it rained cats and dogs and ruled out the entire day. It’s interesting that we still very nearly got a result in the game. Probably another half a day might have done it.

JK: Which is weird because the pitch just looked dead.

GH: Absolutely dead. But these days so often Test matches end in four days. Interesting that two teams who are Top 3 in World Test Championship still needed the rain’s assistance to achieve an honorable draw.

JK: There wasn’t much in it for bowlers. I suppose it was it was good to bat on but it was a bit slow. They said they had the right preparation, so I’m quite not sure how we ended up with that pitch. The Queensland government were protecting the Gabba from drop-in pitches, but that played as much like a drop-in pitch as anything at the MCG.

GH: Exactly what had crossed my mind. It seemed to me to be bearing some of the impact of football on the ground. The outfield was very slow as well. And certainly the rain didn’t help things. The Gabba usually quickens up on the second and third day. I think a day under the covers probably slowed the pitch’s maturation. I thought the Australians bowled as well as anyone in the course of the game, on the last day. It suggests to me that perhaps they need some overs in their legs in order to achieve optimum penetration.

JK: Everyone wants optimum penetration.

GH: Jeez. Pattinson was terrific on the last day. Hilfenhaus seemed to have fallen back into the mechanical ways of two years ago, the appearance that he gives of being on a treadmill where he is running in and almost running back to his mark.

JK: He does that semi-circle like he finishes his delivery and just goes straight back around.

GH: And then he doesn’t pause at the top of his mark at all. It’s almost like he just wants to get through and bowl a maiden and take his sweater. And Siddle improved over the course of the game and so did Lyon. There wasn’t much spin for Lyon but he took advantage of the match situation in the last innings to throw a few up and he looked a better bowler for it.

JK: It was quite interesting that Australia was in disarray after Day One. There was so much talk, even someone like Steve James said that I am glad to wake up to find out that Australia doesn’t have a bowling attack. But pretty much by the end of the test you can almost reverse that statement.

GH: Certainly when Morkel and Steyn were not bowling, I thought, South Africa looked terribly, terribly ordinary and actually embarrassingly abject when Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla were turning their arms over. What kind of No. 1 Test nation in the world has two bowlers like that who really would not get a game in the Top 3 XIs at the Yarras.

JK: They were a bit unlucky though because Duminy can bowl, maybe not brilliantly, but he can bowl better than that.

GH: Little bit unlucky, but I think you make your luck to some degree. I thought that was a poorly selected team too. I can’t really follow the rationale for choosing Rudolph. He’s an honest cricketer but at No. 6 he doesn’t really provide them with any kind of counter-punching power. He’s not a particularly outstanding fielder. I understand that he is quite good for the morale, but teams at No. 1 in the world should not be in need of morale.

JK: He's the best Andy Bichel they could find. I want to talk about Kleinveldt. He’s an amazing selection. When his record came up, when he was bowling that first over, he had a first class bowling average of 27. And I thought okay he’s a guy that’s not too old. He’s obviously massively out of shape. He’s shaped pretty much like one of your teammates at the Yaara and much of the testmatchsofa crew. And he bowls with this amazingly whippy action where it doesn’t look like he can get much swing or seam movement. And he decided to try and bounce Eddie out for a day. And he couldn’t stop bowling no-balls. He just looks like a club cricketer who is just lost.

GH: Exactly. I don’t know whether you saw the South Africans wear this very brilliant white strip, it’s almost luminous. (unintelligible) He looked like a refrigerator on casters. I think he bowled a couple of no-balls in his first over. He just looked like someone who was either (a) nervous or (b) a case of mistaken identity. Apparently he’s a teammate of Philander’s and to he was Philander’s mentor and, to a degree, Philander overtook him to take his opportunity. But he looks a mile off being a test-class bowler and I’d be very surprised if we saw him at Adelaide.

JK: Yeah, that first over, he went for ten, with two no-balls and twice Eddie hit him for four. But Eddie also picked out the fielder with two even worse balls that he should’ve smashed. It could’ve been an eighteen run first over. But it wasn’t so much that. You can understand first over nerves even though he is a very experienced player, as you said. It’s not like he’s a young talent coming in. But what was more amazing is it was hard to see how he’d ever averaged 27 in first class cricket. There didn’t seem to be any wicket-taking ability, really, other than the fact that for the first couple of balls you’d probably say to yourself - that’s a weird action. Or you might say to yourself - he’s a bit chunky. But other than that, he’s the sort of guy that, if I was playing first class cricket, I’d go okay against. It’s interesting that him and Philander are from the same area because neither of them looked fit and you have that white strip, it is so unforgiving. You know the whole Samit Patel thing, of looking worse in the white, that definitely happened to those two guys. What did you think about the whole sledging furor on the last afternoon?

GH: Just absolutely nothing to it, really. I was glad to see some intensity in the cricket on the last day because at times the match had drifted. South Africa, in particular in the field, they have so many poor fielders that they just don’t seem to be maintain pressure. You’re hiding three or four blokes in that team and when the batsmen are on top and it looks like the entire field is down ill, which is what Michael Clarke makes it look like at the moment, they really looked like a mid-table team. They’ve got a lot of work to do before they get to Adelaide.

JK: It’s interesting that, when I was watching England-South Africa, last summer, on four different occasions, when I had nothing to write, I started to write a piece about how un-athletic they were in field and how bad they were. Morne Morkel, it’s almost like he can’t see the ball. And Imran Tahir, it is brilliant. Then you’ve got someone like Vernon Philander who puts a lot of effort in but he is not particularly the best mover. They looked marginally better than India did the summer before but that’s not what you think of from South Africa. You think of these amazing athletes and they are not really like that anymore.

GH: You look back to the South African team of 1952-53 which probably invented the idea of fielding being an offensive weapon in international cricket, Jack Cheetham’s team. You’re not meant to talk about that in South Africa anymore, that period, of course, did not exist.

JK: I don’t think those players have numbers, Gideon. I’m not sure if they count.

GH: They’ve really missed de Villiers in the field. It’s almost bit of a club cricket situation where your most athletic guy in the field happens to be the only guy who can handle the gloves so you put him behind the wicket and, all of a sudden, your fielding looks absolutely hopeless. It’s happened to us often enough. They really needed some energy and some vitality in that in-field to just keep the batsmen on their mettle. Because for periods, the Australian batsmen, particularly when Hussey and Clarke were batting, were just coasting.

JK: The AB thing also accounts for the run-outs. Because he doesn’t think like a wicket-keeper, which is a problem when he is keeping. But the biggest problem is, I think Eddie should have been run-out. He hit the ball straight to mid-on, to be fair they might have even made a run in it but Clarke didn’t want it. I’ve counted about seven or eight times in the last summer, where it just took AB a second to work out that he had to go to the stumps. It’s funny because Matthew Wade who isn’t a keeper from Perth, even though he looks like he should have been a keeper from Perth, but when you watch him or Matt Prior, they take off straightway, whereas AB de Villers doesn’t take off. That’s almost like what South Africa look like at the moment, they’re that team that who is just not sure what they want to do, because their first innings was really confused for me.

GH: Yes it was. It looked to me, at the end of the first day, that they were building towards a massive total. I think they made 69 in the last 27 overs of the first day and both batsmen didn’t mind coming back the next day and dictating. Australia bowled quite well in the first half hour although not all that well after that. Throughout that period Australia were not good at building pressure either. But then there were a couple of wickets, both the establish batsmen got out. You had two new batsmen at the crease and they showed no particular initiative or game awareness. Perhaps because Duminy was out and that had thrown their plans awry, Rudolph has a question about his place in the team and Philander really is an over promoted tail-ender. And it was a very low intensity period of cricket which allowed Australia to re-establish themselves in the game.

JK: I watched the first session and to go to bed and then get up. I didn’t expect Australia to bowl them out but I also didn’t expect them to score that low in that period. The one thing I’ve noticed under Kirsten is they actually have been far more aggressive. I noticed that Ian Chappell and Ian Healy were making jokes about the fact that they are still the same old South Africa but everything I’ve seen of them in recent times hasn’t been like that. They’ve actually done fairly attacking declarations. I’m pretty sure I had a heart-attack at one of their declarations in the UK. I wasn’t sure if it was Graeme Smith or someone had taken over his body. And yet, it almost looked like they retracted to that old style team. When you’ve got Kallis and Amla, those guys can roll on forever and they don’t always kick on, but surely it’s up to the other guys to get going and AB and Rudolph didn’t look like they could.

GH: In hindsight, one of the inflection points in the game was when Kallis failed to advise Amla to review the LBW. I’m surprised that Amla needed help in that. If you’re hit above the knee-roll and the ball feels as though it’s decked back in, fair dinkum. If it’d happened to me and I would have been given out, I’d have been furious. It was que sera sera with Amla.

JK: It is a bit like his personality. My first call was that’s a bit high. No way it couldn’t look that way. That was quite interesting. Let’s talk about Clarke. Its hard to talk about him because he’s had so many different periods in his career. He’s probably, in the future, only gonna be remembered for his amazing start and this bit.

GH: I’ve actually written a column in the paper today about the perception battles that both Clarke and Cowan have undergone in their careers. They both played together in the U-19 world cup in 2000. That was the tour from which Clarke was recalled to play first class cricket for New South Wales. There was huge investment by the media and by fans in the idea that Clarke was a continuation of the glorious green and gold tradition. We fell in love with the idea that he wore his baggy green when he scored his maiden test century in Bangalore. We had Darren Lehmann offering to stand down for him because he was obviously so special. Then there was this period of bitter disillusionment about three years ago when he became associated with a high-profile, accident-prone girlfriend and boot was in the other foot for a change. The Daily Telegraph was describing him as the most over-rate cricketer in Australia and saying that personally he was a tosser. We’re very difficult to satisfy in Australia and no one changes that much in the course of their life. Clarke certainly has matured as a person over the last 18 months or so, he’s had to. It’s interesting, if you have memory longer than a goldfish, these are quite strange times in cricket to find that Michael Clarke is not only Australia’s captain and go to guy but he’s also a columnist in the Daily Telegraph.

JK: That was about the period that everything started changing. He changed management, he changed girlfriend, he, sort of, changed everything in his life. I suppose, he had to because he was massive under-achiever, purely on talent. You were talking about he was the continuation of the line. I heard the phrase ‘once in a generation’ about Michael Clarke so many times that it almost lost meaning. It was like people were punching me in the head with that phrase.

GH: They said the same thing about Mitchell Johnson, didn’t they?

JK: They did.

GH: So it was twice in a generation, wasn’t it?

JK: There’s a lot of ‘once in a generation’. It comes around more than you think. But it was quite weird and then for him to drop off. I thought he struggled not so much tactically but he struggled with handling players. It seems like everything is changed in his life and he’s just become a real boy. He wasn’t really a real boy at any time and now he is (unintelligible). The form, you can’t make up form like this, can you?

GH: That’s right. I think he was always a super dedicated cricketer and a terribly, terribly hard worker and an enormous talent. The one thing that has been immensely useful and under-rated in Clarke’s ascendancy is the role of Ricky Ponting in legitimizing his captaincy. Having an ex-captain in the ranks is not historically a formula for tranquility and congenuity.

JK: More importantly, it is un-Australian

GH: It is un-Australian. But Ponting has actually helped make it Australian. There’s no doubt that Ricky Ponting, of all the cricketers in my time, has said (lets draw) by public image and personal glory than any other. This last period of his career is, in some respect, his finest moment. He’s become a senior pro and first among equals as far as the Australian team is concerned and a bench-mark for other players in this team. If you train as hard as Ricky Ponting then you will as successful has Ricky Ponting.

JK: Ponting’s changed a lot too. He became very bitter and very angry when he was captain and things weren’t going his way and once he let go of the captaincy he looked at the world a little more and went it’s not the end of everything, it’s just me being a captain. I remember moment when he couldn’t accept the third umpire’s decision of Kevin Pietersen at the MCG and that was about the last time I can remember him being, what we used to call, the hairy-armed troll. It’s the last time I can really remember him being that angry little man. Since then he’s just become a normal human being. From everything I’ve heard around the team, you can’t go past the fact that players just talk him up at all times and wasn’t happening five years ago with Ponting. So he’s obviously had a lot of change and Clarke’s had a lot of change. I don’t think three years ago, had neither of them changed, this situation would wotk for either of them.

GH: That’s true. For Ponting the source of confusion and dissatisfaction was the fact that he, sort of, led Allan Border’s captaincy career in reverse. He started off with this great team and watched it disintegrate around him whereas Border started with a middling team and built it up into a team on the brink of being World Champion. And the first half of his captaincy career didn’t prepare him for the second half. Your bowlers couldn’t bowl to one side of the wicket. When you’ve gotten used to handling Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, it’s just baffling. What do you do then? I think part of the truculence that Ponting displayed in that period was a sense of disorientation. Why can’t bowlers do what they have been used to doing for years? Bowling used to look so easy.

JK: Yeah, definitely. Have you got any amazing insights for us for Adelaide? What are you expecting? Tahir has to play, doesn’t he?

GH: Definitely, Tahir has to play. Tahir worries me a little bit. l know you are a big fan. He does seem to bowl his overs in a terrible hurry. He does seem terribly, terribly excited as he’s bowling. With the short squares boundaries at Adelaide, he could go for a lot of runs. That’s one of the reasons why I would have liked to have seen him play at Brisbane. It is a more forgiving ground for a spinner.

JK: He can start very bad. He needs to find a rhythm. Sometimes, it can be hard for him to get into it. Once he gets into a rhythm, he doesn’t get scored off that much. Of all the bowlers I’ve seen in the world, he’s probably the most in love with his own bowling which is actually something I like.

GH: Yeah, but these days in international cricket, there is a tendency to want to attack every spinner as soon as they come on. I have no doubt that that’s the tactic that Australia will pursue if all things are equal. I think Smith has sent a message of ambivalence about Tahir by leaving him out in this Test match. If the current formation continues, there will be seven lefthanders in the Australian team for Tahir to bowl against. That’s not an easy challenge for a leg-spinner.

JK: It isn’t. But if any leg-spinner is gonna do it then it’s gonna be the one with a very hard to pick wrong’un. That definitely brings him back. If they pick anyone other than Tahir, they are almost saying that they’re gonna try and win this series by attrition and I’m not sure that’s the message they should be promoting. Having said that, Kallis didn’t bowl many overs. So perhaps Tahir not playing wasn’t as much to do with him as much to do with the fact that Kallis doesn’t look like he can get through anything more than five or so overs in a day.

GH: I think they were banking on not using Kallis too much because after a while it did look like a draw for the last day and a half. They weren’t gonna take too many risks on busting a bowler, they’d keep him back for when he’d have maximum impact. I actually think that he looked alright with the ball. He wasn’t taking a lot out of himself and I think that from what we saw of him in England he’s still potentially an impact bowler. He’d still bowl that 140-145 kph ball out of nowhere with that little bit of extra grunt. He’s not a bowler that you can afford to take a too many risks with. He’s just so sagacious.

JK: I think you’re right but the one thing that I found interesting is that we know that the Kookaburra ball doesn’t swing that long. And he was brought in well after it was going to swing. I just wondered whether they just didn’t want to give him too much to do. Whether that’s just that he’s not that fit. He never really looks fit. Does he? And he never really looks like he wants to bowl.

GH: None of the Kookaburras swung at all in Brisbane. To be fair, the climactic conditions didn’t really suit it. But it was amazing that when the odd ball did swing, it was completely out of the ordinary. There was a little bit of reverse swing but not very much.

JK: That’s because the Kookaburra ball is from the Southern part of Melbourne and the Platypus ball is from the Northern suburbs, it would have swung sideways.

GH: You’ve used a Platypus, obviously, rubbish balls. They used them in the BTCA.

JK: We should talk about how rubbish Platypus balls are every podcast. I wanted to talk about Greg Ritchie. It’s an amazing furor about a guy who since the early 90s has had a racist comedy act and it’s taken this long for it to upset anyone to the point where he’s not being invited to cricket grounds.

GH: It was interesting that Ritchie delivered that routine several times during the course of the Test match. Neil Manthorp, who was sitting next to me in the press-box, saw the first one the day before the game and he was extremely unimpressed. He didn’t do anything about it. When in Rome. I’ll just let it go. Telford Vice, from the Sunday Times who reported the story, only came upon it quite by chance. He walked past an open door and heard the sound of Ritchie’s voice and pours to listen in to some of the material and was shocked about what he heard. So he wasn’t actually attending the lunch, he was just overhearing it. So, it’s, kind of, a fluke story. I dare say that Ritchie’s being giving the same routine in Queensland for fifteen years and hence his consternation and confusion that anyone should begin to complain about it now.

JK: I don’t think it would be the same routine. He probably originally would’ve had it against Aboriginals or Asians and then he (moved it on). Let’s not forget Mahatma Cote, who became an icon of a brown- faced comedian. He was the only dark face we had on Australian TV during the 90s, wasn’t he?

GH: Yeah, but don’t forget we had ()

JK: The difference () was that it happened once and everyone seemed to not like it anymore. Whereas Greg Ritchie, when I grew up, he’d be on Sport 927 in the mornings, doing Mahatma Cote’s voice. Whether he put the make-up on to do the radio interview, I don’t know but that’s been going on a long time and it’s just a thoroughly unlikeable person. But the thing is that the report I read and you might know more talking to Telford, but the report I read was everyone just laughed at it.

GH: Yeah, at the lunch that (Manners) attended, the laughter was somewhat embarrassed, somewhat uneasy. You might just have gotten away with it. Oh No, maybe you didn’t.

JK: At your book launch for the Shane Warne book where Eddie Cowan stumbled over some words, did you perform anything there in brown-face?

GH: No, I didn’t but there was a hysterical moment at my book launch. We now have a lift in the South Yarra pavilion, which is one storey. Apparently it’s for the throng of hand-kept cricketers that over the years have been turning away. The fact is we only use it for getting slabs upstairs. And just as Eddie finished his speech, the lift doors opened as if by magic and there was an intake of break. Was it Warnie turning up with Liz? When, in fact, it was one of our committee members and his wife turning up with a bowl of salad. He looked around the room at everyone looking at him and ws wreathed in this imbecilic smile. Why is everyone looking at me?

JK: I suppose we better talk about Ed. He’s the one person we haven’t discussed at all, considering he’s probably going to be one of the seven listeners of this podcast. How was it being there? I missed out, I didn’t even stay up for the actual 100 because I was so angry he couldn’t do it before lunch.

GH: From a purely personal point of view, it’s a unique experience for me to see a friend of mine make a Test century. For the first half hour of the innings, I was extremely nervous. I was actually physically shaking in the press box. I had to cross my legs in order to stop that happening.

JK: I’m glad it’s not just me that it happens to.

GH: We live every ball with Ed. But after half an hour, he asserted himself early. He got to 20 very quickly and his wife always says that he’s the calmest, he’s nervous. And he certainly didn’t look it.

JK: Can I just say something about that? She says that a lot. I’ve got a lot of documentary footage of Eddie that I think completely takes that theory apart. Also, talking to George Bailey about him, I think you’d find he is quite often nervous.

GH: Well, nervous energy can help you perform. You wouldn’t want to be sleepy or indolent facing an attack including Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. He looked very decisive. I saw him batting in the Victoria Shield game, he didn’t make many – he got 42 and 16, but I thought he looked in terrific form and seemed to me to be batting as well as he ever had. He just hadn’t been getting the results that he would have wished. Here we are the irrelevance of form in domestic cricket. Ricky Ponting’s average over 100 in domestic cricket and got our fifth ball and Ed’s averaged in 17 and looked to me in (barks).

JK: He was helped by South Africa. It reminded me about the Marcus North and Phil Hughes thing. When they bowl to batsmen they are not really used to, they quite often get it amazingly wrong for an entire innings. They, suppose, did in the session the following morning when they didn’t bowl him as many short balls. I didn’t think they put any pressure on him; they still let him score a bit easily.

GH: He’s very good at getting off strike. He’s got lots of options off the hip, to the left hand of cover. This was an innings of someone who had planned for every bowler, was thinking about the ways in which the bowler might try to get him out and had come up with means to counteract it. It was an innings that he had been thinking about for five or six months and it showed.

JK: It was very obvious the way he batted against Philander especially. He was so far down his crease. He was thinking about how he was gonna stop the late movement and all that sort of thing. More importantly and probably the most important thing we can finish a podcast with is that Ian Chappell was forced to say nice things about him over and over again.

GH: I didn’t hear that but I wish I had. It would’ve been a great moment. Ed was in England with Australia A over our winter and he watched the South Africans bowling to Strauss. So he had an idea of the way in which they would approach bowling to a left-hander. He had anticipated all the situations that he was gonna find himself in. This was not an innings that was won or lost on the day in question. It was one that his whole life had been leading up to. I know how much he’s longed for the opportunity to show what he can do. And so far in Test cricket, he’s been typecast as a limited player, as an old-fashioned grinder, an old-fashioned attrition cricketer. Well, there’s more to him than that and you began to see it. This was an innings that he’s hankered to play. It’ll be a defining one for him.

JK: I think when he retires from the big time, I think he’d do very well in one-day cricket for the Yarras but I don’t wanna put any pressure on you for having to select him at all.

GH: If I can play one-day cricket, then Ed can too.

JK: Thanks you very much, Gideon. We’ll talk to you next week.

GH: My pleasure, Cheers Jarrod.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Cricket Sadist Hour - A Transcript - Nov 7, 2012

Cricket Sadist Hour – A Transcript
Nov 7, 2012

Jarrod Kimber chats with Gideon Haigh on Rob Quiney, Graeme Smith's future, cricket balls and what's not-so-good about the Gabba

(unintelligible) joining me is the man, the myth, the legend, that's what everyone says about him but actually he's a F-grade cricketer that basically is trying to hold on to Cricket any way he can.  It's Gideon Haigh.

JK: How are you?

GH: If you flatter me, Jarrod.

JK: It was great the way that you got your, basically you were asked to do the Bradman speech and you spent about 25 minutes talking about yourself and how you play Cricket.

GH: Well, I talked about my sponsors, the sponsors pretty mad at me; I was on message to put on a gratuitous LockLand Fisher reference (unintelligible).  It hasn’t done me any good at club level – last three  innings I’ve had two dodgy lbws and a dodgy caught-behind.

JK: But that’s what we love about Club Cricket, that you can say everything nice about it but at the end of the day, if you can’t play…

GH: it just turns around and bites you in the arse.

JK: Now, you’ve got a new book as well.  I think, I could be wrong, but you are the first person to ever write a book about this young man, Shane Warne.

GH: Ya, first person to write a proper book, anyway.  Even Shane wasn’t able to do that.  He’s written two autobiographies and they’re really book-shaped objects rather than books.  It was interesting to sort of study the existing literature on Warne. It’s vast but it’s not deep. There’s an awful lot of very pedestrian, very superficial, very, quite puerile stuff that’s been written about it. And, to my surprise, I found relatively little that was actually a physical description, of him bowling. I guess, because people saw him bowl, fifty thousand deliveries at international level, there’s a general assumption that people have seen it all before and if they are curious they can go to Youtube.  But it was one of my paramount objectives to write a description of Warne bowling that kind of, explored exactly how wonderful it was and the sensations that you experienced while watching it. Because I suspect that in ten-twenty years time when we don’t have the physical specimen to study, people will have forgotten what a transcended experience it was.

JK: You talk about the physical specimen and the first thing I noticed when I got the book was he just doesn’t look anything like the person on the cover of the book anymore. I mean, it’s impossible not to notice that. It’s almost like, because we’ve seen him change, not slowly, but quite dramatically, quite quickly. But at the same time, we’ve all seen the pictures as it’s been happening. And then to actually, suddenly get that image in front of you of what he used to look like, it’s phenomenal how much he’s changed.

GH: Yes, I’ll never forget being in the press-box at Lords in 2009 and seeing out of the corner of my eye this orange streak pass through the back with this blue rictus. His teeth were so white, they are almost blue. And it is quite spell-binding; you almost can’t take your eyes off him.  He actually reminds me, little-bit, these days of Bert Newton (not sure).  I remember I once went on the Bert Newton show and the advice that I was given before I went on was, “Don’t start staring at his head.  You just can’t take their eyes of his hair. Just try to look elsewhere”.

JK: Ya, that wouldn’t be hard with him. Talking of people with big heads, I want to go into Shane Watson a little bit. Brydon’s written a piece saying that if Shane Watson doesn’t bowl anymore, he may not get picked for Australia.  I know, last summer, that was the big rumor - that Australia could do without him. And since then he performed superhero like in the World Twenty20.  What do you think about Watson and do you think they will pick him if he can’t bowl and he clearly can’t bowl?

GH: Watson has created himself, over the last three or four years, a bit of a niche that suits him at international level. He likes opening the batting, because as he says in his autobiography, he likes the fact that when going in first, he doesn’t have to respond to a match situation, he can create a match situation for him. And he likes being able to bowl, because he thinks it takes pressure off his batting. Psychologically, he seems to be unable to step outside that and do anything else.  He’s created a world that suits him or a role that suits him and I think any changed to that role, he finds, disproportionately difficult. So, if for physical reasons, he has to change his role, then that will stretch him psychologically.

JK: “Watson’s world” is a very scary concept.  Basically, what we have got is, we’ve got a guy who doesn’t make enough hundreds in Test Cricket.  He does get a lot of good starts but he is probably not batting like a top-order batsman if he’s not making big hundreds. We’ve got a guy who can bowl decently and take wickets and has taken five-wicket hauls in test matches and occasionally change the game but everytime you bring him on to bowl you’re afraid you want see him again for six to eighteen months. And you’ve got a guy who, for whatever reason, maybe doesn’t quite fit the new team, the new Australia way of working

GH: Yes, I think that it’s interesting that Australia was able to get by with four bowlers last year, they didn’t necessarily need a fifth bowler’s input, and his position in the field has closed up. He can’t field at first slip anymore.  First and second slip are taken. Where do you put him in the field? He’s not quick in the midfield, he’s not a natural gully fielder, do you stick him at mid-on? He’s not gonna look a little bit obtrusive at mid-on. Somehow, the role that he performed has closed up and he hasn’t been able to re-invent himself.

JK: Ya, it’s quite odd and obviously with him out, we’ve gone straight to Rob Quiney.  Have you seen much of him from Victoria?

GH: Yes, Little bit.  I’ve always quite liked him as a classic, he’s a very Australian looking player.  He’s one of those players who couldn’t come from any other country – lean, (ranging), hungry, aggressive, plays all three forms.  A bit home-spun, even sometimes a little bit crude in his methods but looks as though he’s played a bit of cricket at lower levels, knows what it’s all about. You’ve seen a bit of him too, Jarrod.  I enjoyed your piece about the night that made Rob Quiney.

JK: Well, I’ve seen a lot of him early on, I’ve not seem him that much recently except in IPL and they odd game in the Big Bash. I’ve always said, he gets a lot of abuse in the IPL because he plays spinners dreadfully. But I think he’s as good a fast bowling batsman there is in Australia and I think that’s essentially why he is being picked.  I can’t think of too many other batsmen outside the main team at the moment who could play fast bowling anywhere near as good as him and he probably plays it better than some of the others.  And I think that’s a massive advantage coming up against South Africa. He’s gonna face two of the fastest bowlers in the world and probably the smartest seam bowler in the world.  I am worried though that they picked him, perhaps, too much because of this whole thing that Dale Steyn doesn’t like bowling to left-handers. I think Morne Morkel could bowl to a left-hander in his sleep and let’s be honest he usually plays in his sleep.

GH: You got (hostile) rationalization, isn’t it? The whole left-hander shtick.

JK: Ya, it’s interesting. What do you think about Doolan?  He’s made 160 in that game.  He’s usually a top-order batsman, usually a No. 3, and he is also four-five years younger than Quiney.  It’s interesting that they went with Quiney, it’s not like his record or his form this year has demanded it.  I wonder if they were just looking for someone who wouldn’t be fazed.

GH: Ya, I really liked Doolan. He’s essentially another classic, old-fashioned Australian player, who hasn’t come through the new-fangled path.  He’s got a very traditional upbringing of club cricket.  He’s a bit of an enigma, Doolan.  I’ve seen him look absolutely terrible like he’s almost got no idea which end of the bat to hold. Infact, I saw him batting at Bankstown earlier this season and he looked in all sorts playing against Trent Copeland with Brad Haddin standing up.  He seemed to lack any sort of fluency and any sort of shape. And then two weeks later, I saw him playing at the MCG and looking a million bucks. It’s almost as though he doesn’t quite understand how good he is.  I’ve met him when he came to the South Yarra cricket club last season.  He’s a very mild mannered, softly-spoken and dryly-humored young man.  He doesn’t strike you a natural, gregarious, aggressive, out-going, international sportsman.  He’s done it the way that Australian players used to it, by steadily accumulating experience at the first-class level. The fact that he has batted at No. 3 for such a long period suggests that he actually might have been a better bet than Quiney. There is a difference between opening the batting and No. 3.  It’s actually asking quite a lot of Quiney to essentially bat out of position in his test debut.

JK: Ya, you’ve got, Doolan, Davis and Klinger who were the other three. And I just that wonder whether they are all too similar to Eddie Cowan and whether they were just thinking we know that Quiney’s not sort of guy that’s gonna get over-awed, we know that he’s gonna attack a little bit, we are willing to take a punt on him batting at No.3.  We don’t want to get stuck in the mud with Davis or Klinger.  Maybe they were worried about having too many defensive batsmen in the top order.

GH: Well, I tell you what.  Watching Doolan in the Shield match here, he was smashing them, they were peeling off the middle of his bat.  It looked as though he almost could not believe how well he was hitting the ball.

JK: That’s a good place to be.  I don’t know if I’ve ever done that myself.  Let’s talk about South Africa.  Graeme Smith. This could probably be his last test tour to Australia, if not, his last test tour anywhere.

GH: Ya, this is a South African team that’s at its peak that perhaps over the next two to three years faces a fair but of man-power turn over. That creates its own kind of pressures for a side with the need to achieve, the need to make the most of this environment and the opportunity to win in Australia. He’s obviously closer to the end than the beginning.

JK: The signing with Surrey was quite interesting. I know for a fact that surrey were looking for someone who was going to be available a good period of the year but basically they were looking for someone who wanted to retire and become their captain. It sounded like he originally said No to the deal and then signed a three year deal. It almost sounds like, I want to beat Australia, go back home, finish on my own terms, and then maybe just head off to England.

GH: And I think probably dealing with the South African administration on a daily basis would probably wear you out. And Smith’s had his problems over the last eighteen months. I think every one of those circumstances has a limited life-span.  And the turn-over at the top of Cricket South Africa means that everyone’s operating in a normally uncertain environment too.

JK: And I think his wife is Irish or Scottish. There might even be more, he might just think, I can play probably five to six days of County Cricket without too many problems. It’ll be interesting to see who they go with because AB de Villiers is obviously their golden child but he is very close to becoming Dan Vettori. It seems to be that almost every job you need they go “Well, AB will do it”.

GH: It’s got to be Amla, I think.  Amla’s got the authority, he seems to have to personality, he’s got a bit of grounding in the job and I think he’s got universal respect and authority. He would be my selection.

JK: He’s the person I would have selected as well but I talked to Telford Vice in the UK Summer and Telford said that he doesn’t think that Amla wants to do it. He doesn’t want to take an extra job and that he’s quite happy being the guy in the background who smiles and makes the runs. So it could be an interesting one if Smith does go. How do you think they’ll go in this actual tour?  Because they’re a good side but they also generally play their worst cricket after they’ve played their best cricket.

GH: That’s a little bit like the Yarras.

JK: I’m gonna have to start beeping out references to the Yarras.

GH: You look up and down that side and it is quite hard to discern weaknesses in it.  One thing that stands in Australia’s favor is that I think both teams have explosive attacks that could break the back of an innings in an hour. That’s often all that it takes to win a Test Match. So I think that probably Australia is a better chance of taking a Test Match off South Africa than England was, England being a steady, consistent, rather humdrum, sometimes professional outfit.  You never quite know what Pattinson is gonna do on a daily basis and he was very, very sharp against Western Australia. Having looked a little bit indifferent against Tasmania, he’s coming into some prime Test Match form at the perfect moment.

JK: Ya, him and Siddle. I hate to say something nice about Cricket Australia but the idea of putting the videos up online of Shield Cricket.  I’ve seen a few spells, especially when I was in Sri Lanka and him and Siddle just looked amazingly primed to take down Test Cricket. They’re at that level where they are almost too good to get the edge in Shield Cricket right at the moment.

GH: Pattinson just seems to have gotten better spell by spell this Summer and he was scary in the late evening on Friday against WA. He looked like he was gonna take a wicket every ball.

JK: I wanna talk about both bowling attacks because when I was leaving Australia last summer, Bill Lawry, Craig McDermott and a bunch of drunk people were saying that Australia had the best bowling attack in the world. And South Africa arrived with the best bowling attack since the West Indies. What’s happening?

GH: I thought England had the best bowling attack in the world.

JK: That depends on who you talk to on what day. But that did seem to happen. I noticed the minute the South African team turned up, the Australian press couldn’t stop telling them how good they were.

GH: But that’s just the fifteen second gold-fish memory of the likes of most Australian cricket journalists. We’re infinitely suggestible and once we pick up a line, we like to repeat it to enjoy the sound of it.

JK: But what do you think? I’d say that there are weaknesses and strengths in both attacks.  South Africa have got an extra bowler with Kallis which gives them a huge advantage and Tahir gives them something else completely. Vernon Philander is a very good bowler but I don’t think he can keep up this run.  I think he will eventually have to slow down and this may be the series on flat Australian wickets. Morne Morkel is always one cheeseburger away from ending up in an asylum from what I can tell. They are an attack that could collapse and they weren’t always bowling that brilliantly against England. England gave them a lot of advantages with lot of stupid shots.

GH: Of course, in a three test match series, less can go wrong than in a five test match series. Perhaps both attacks are suited by the fact that it is a shorter series rather than a longer series. They can go harder over shorter periods without necessarily having to worry about seeing out a full-fledged five test match series. It’s interesting the venues that have been chosen for this series. Brisbane and Perth, Australia’s taken actually a bit of a risk in programming games involving South Africa at those two venues rather than on more benign surfaces. It could be quite explosive. Certainly, if you are in the top three of either side, you will have earned your runs for sure.

JK: The Perth one is probably more interesting. The Gabba generally gets the first test now I suppose but the WACA would be the one that you would throw to Sri Lanka so that you give yourself an easy win. They haven’t done that. I know you are not up in Brisbane yet, but do we know much about the pitch? There’s talk about Gabba green tops and then quite often they are shaved the last moment.  Do we know much about the pitch?

GH: I’ve heard it’s pretty flat. I’ve heard it’s designed to last the full five days. Of course, what you can’t reckon is the climactic conditions. It’s both an innovating environment and a potentially enticing one for a bowler who moves the ball in the air. You’d suspect that if Philander is gonna bowl well anywhere in Australia, it’s gonna be at the Gabba.

JK: Ya, that’s a good point. Although I bet you that he might need to get used to going up the wind at the WACA. I think it was New Zealand, this time they toured or the last time, there was an early November pitch that moved around everywhere up there. It’d be interesting to see if they take that because it could be a series, if you win the toss on the first day you could almost book yourself a chance of not losing.

GH: The scores last time against New Zealand at Brisbane belie how good the pitches were. Batsmen were being beaten once an over, they just weren’t good enough to get an edge. I thought Clarke’s hundred at Brisbane was a first rate one. The season before, the preparations were compromised and they ended up with a pretty flat wicket and that it was very difficult to get the batsmen out on the last couple of days. But the scores have been middling at the Gabba this year which leads you to suspect that the groundsmen are trying to do something to make things a little bit interesting and none of batting top sixes have had an awful lot of recent form on the board. They’ll be doing their acclimatization to five-day cricket in a five-day game which has a lot of challenges.

JK: It’s interesting, actually, I forgot to mention it earlier that Quiney’s record at the Gabba is phenomenal.  I’m not sure why he hasn’t moved to Brisbane. Maybe he’s afraid they play at the Allan Border Oval too much, but he seems to be the only batsman excited that that’s where the Test is being played.

GH: The other thing about the Gabba is those ridiculous seats that they have, it’s probably one of the worst seeing grounds in the world, those dabble seats, the multi-colored seats.  You often see slip catches go down the first couple of days because the back drop to vision from slip is unlike any other ground in the world. So don’t be surprised if you see some crucial catches going down.

JK: The South African journalists haven’t been there in a long time so they might get lost. When I was there for The Ashes, I had no idea where I was going and I kept looking up and everything looks the same, there’s nothing to tell you where you are, you just keep walking around. I’m pretty sure I did three laps once just to try and find the nets.

GH: And you can’t get outside the ground. I went to the Gabba for the first time in the mid-1980s. It was like the Queenslander, that classic kind of indigenous architecture. It felt like a sub-tropical cricket ground. The architecture was quite varied; these bizarre crenellations like the place had been built on the run. Back in the 1950s, apparently the place was so covered with barbed wire to keep the hoi polloi out of the members stand; the visiting cricketers called it the Belsen, not a politically correct reference at all.  But it had a certain home-spun charm; you couldn’t have been anywhere else in the world.  Well, you could be in Melbourne; it feels like a Football Oval.

JK: But at least there’s the gladiatorial aspect at Melbourne. It feels like no matter where you are sitting, how far you are, you can still spit on a player, which is what I like about Melbourne.  I want to talk about one other thing.  There’s been a lot of talk in the India-England series about the fact that India won’t let England face any spinners in the warm-up. It was quite interesting that South Africa who haven’t really complained about this so much; Smith might have mentioned it at the first press conference but they arrived in Australia to prepare for a Test at the Gabba by going to the SCG, which is about the opposite.

GH: They tried to get it changed, didn’t they? But it was too little, too late. It was almost as though they hadn’t paid any attention to the itinerary until they looked at their plane tickets and then went oh what we can do about it. The system as you and I know used to be that you used to play a first class game at the arena that you were going to play the Test Match immediately before hand.

JK: And you play at Lilac Hill when you first arrived, quite often.

GH: The fact is that traditionally there has been such a great variety of conditions at the different Australian Test Match venues that playing a game at the venue on the eve of the Test Match was disproportionately valuable, perhaps more so then in England or in India. But now what dictates the itinerary is more player workload than actual preparation to play under particular conditions and particular times or particular venues.

JK: Ya, the England pre-tour, I am surprised at how many matches and how long they seem to be in India and preparing. I’m pretty sure they arrived in India before South Africa arrived in Australia.

GH: Ya, South Africa only arrived it seems like yesterday …

JK: When did the Champions League finish? Maybe that hasn’t finished, maybe it is still going, you never know.  Pat Cummins is probably still bowling over there.

GH: World Cup 2007 is still going somewhere…

JK: I just got one final thing actually.  It’s the thing that maybe will only be interesting to you and I.  And it is not about LockLand Fisher Bats, for once. It’s about the fact that they are using different balls. They are thinking about using Dukes and then eventually phasing in SG balls and Kookaburra came out and said that if they don’t have Cricket Australia’s support then they might actually end up going broke. Is this not the same Kookaburra that took over balls and basically made the company Platypus go broke.

GH: It is the same company that’s had a monopoly on the Australian Cricket ball manufacturing since the Second World War and frankly, rightly so. They make the best ball. We used to use Platypuses in our local comp and they were rubbish. They never seemed to have a seam which is a bit of a problem when you are making a ball. Have you ever noticed that a Kookaburra sits nicer in your hand? It just seems like a better put together, more compact ball. It seems to retain its shine a bit longer. I certainly could never get used to bowling spin with a Platypus. I suspect that this is more maybe the authorities reminding Kookaburra that their monopoly isn’t a natural one, balls can be imported from overseas and that if they should decide to charge that extra 10% then Cricket Australia has ways and means of making sure that the internal market for balls is competitive.

JK: I wonder if it is not worth for first-class cricket, especially, using Duke balls in Hobart and Gabba, using SG balls in Sydney and Adelaide, and using Kookaburra balls in Melbourne and Perth.

GH: That is such an esoteric scheme, Jarrod, that only you could have dreamed it up.

JK: I spend a lot of time thinking about balls, Gideon.

GH: All rays on (unintelligible)

JK: It is. Thank you very much. You are gonna be popping in and out during the Summer and we will talk about things, generally, when there’s actually been Cricket rather then this non-sense that we have tried today.

GH: Well, there was Cricket, I played at the weekend.

JK: But you failed, ya?

GH: Yes, we lost by 1 run.

JK: I think every time I ever talk to you about Cricket, you’ve always lost by 9 wickets or 1 run.

GH: That’s the glorious game for you.

JK: Beautiful, Thank you very much for joining us.

GH: No worries, Jarrod, See ya.