Monday, August 3, 2015

Review: Cricket as I See It

Cricket as I See It Cricket as I See It by Allan Border
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was hoping for more from this than I got. Like most of us who love cricket, I have Beyond Ten Thousand, which means that most of the stuff AB goes over from his playing career we already know. To be honest, I was looking for some real information on cricket since that point, and especially from his point of view of being a selector and a board member. In the long run, we get snippets rather than full shots, and it's more of a tease than anything else. Still, it's an interesting read for anyone who enjoys cricket and has a love of everything on and off the field.

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The Goodes, The Bad and The Ugly Side of Barracking

The past week has seen a media blitz explosion over the continued booing by AFL crowds of Adam Goodes, the varied interpretations of what lies behind these actions, and debate over those interpretations from all corners of the general public up to the so-called leaders of the land. And the opinions have been many and varied, stretching from those that believe it is a racist action and must be dealt with accordingly, to those that believe it has nothing to do with racism at all but is more about the actions of the man himself, and that he has brought it all on himself. Yikes.

Opinions have been noted. None of this is good. It should never have escalated to this point. And this week has really polarised rather than brought together those opinions. There is a big fence there separating two sides of the debate, and neither appears willing to adjust their field of vision. At the risk of sounding wishy-washy and of sitting on that big fence, there must be a little give and take in the minds of both sides, whether or not it is seen rightly or wrongly.

Those out there who say it has EVERYTHING to do with racism are not doing the argument much justice. Crowds at sports events who bond together to take on a collective disgruntlement in booing one player are generally boofheads with the collective IQ of a plastic cup full of beer. Goodes has been outspoken on a number of issues, some of which would go right over the top of the head of the mug footy supporter, and he is also seen as a player who has taken the opportunity to play for free kicks in the game if it arises. This kind of behaviour will always rile up opposition crowds, especially when at their home venue. When this kind of thing catches on with the football fraternity, it can catch like wildfire, and the initial reason behind the protest is forgotten - all that is remembered is that other crowds booed him, so we will too, but louder and longer! This is not meant to be seen as an excuse, but somewhat of a possible explanation for the continued rising of this phenomenon.

Those out there who say it has NOTHING to do with racism are just as blind and out of touch. Goodes has made his stand in recent years on many issues dealing with the indigenous people of Australia. He has made a stand on racism on and off the football field, publicly and on the biggest stage. Amongst that booing mob at every game have been people yelling racism comments, throwing racist taunts. This has been acknowledged and proven. Some of those people were ejected and barred, not all were caught or punished. Does the argument "a few bad eggs doesn't make it racism" count here? How many bad eggs were there? 10? 20? 50? How MANY bad eggs DOES make it racism?
The argument that this concerted booing is solely for his actions on the football field is also not viable. So he may play for free kicks when he can. That's why he's booed, and not for his skin colour? Why don't crowds boo Joel Selwood in the same way then? He has bought more free kicks in the last eight years than anyone by ducking his head at an opportune moment. How about the argument that because the crowds only boo one black man, and not all of them that play AFL - that means it isn't racist? Where does this mentality come from?!?
What about the argument that he's an elite athlete and should be able to handle being booed, just like Stuart Broad was in Australia last summer, or other players from any assortment of sports codes have been in the past, or even us mugs who just play at our club level far beyond where courtesy should be shown? Well, how many of them were booed EVERY SINGLE TIME they touched ball during the game, not just for a week or two weeks, but every single week? Pretty sure the answer is none. Put yourself in Goodes' shoes. If you were booed constantly, every week, no matter how you played or what you did, how long before you cracked? How long before it really began to sink in to your psyche? Think about it honestly, because no one likes being hated, and imagine how that would affect you week in week out.

The round of AFL played this weekend brought forth support from players, clubs and fans alike in many different ways. However, the only way this can be stopped is by the fans themselves. To collectively and individually refrain from targeting one player. That in itself would be a victory. There's no need to participate in cheering the player if you don't feel it warranted. By simply choosing not to follow the mob in booing one player will be enough to conclude this ugly business, and allow the game to return to the players as it should, and not the gossip columnists as it has been this past week.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Tony Tweets

So Few Wins Needed for Finals Spot

With five rounds remaining of the NRL before the finals begin (apart from tomorrow night's non-event between the Titans and the Eels), it once again appears that at least one of the teams that finishes inside the top eight will have lost more games than they have won in the regular season.

It is conceivable that three of those teams in the top eight will have less than a 50% win record and yet still get the opportunity to play finals football. I have a real problem with that. I just don't see that if you can't win a majority of your games over 26 rounds, that you should have the chance to win a premiership if you happen to win four finals in a row. And no, that hasn't happened yet, but Canterbury went close to doing it last year from seventh position, after having 13 wins from 24 matches. And no, it isn't a likely event in any case, but would you ever rule out a team such as Melbourne or Canterbury, currently 6th and 8th respectively, being able to do it?
There is no way of course that Channel 9 will allow the top 8 finals to change. It offers three extra finals matches than the old top five used to, which is all dollars and ratings they would be unwilling to lose. I guess the quality of the games will still be a deciding factor in the future, and the finals in the first week between 5 vs 8 and 6 vs 7 are generally the best of the first week.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

#31DaysOfScotch #Day26

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Josh asked me to play cricket with him this morning, which was the first time in some time. Most afternoons he likes to go out the front himself, and bowl away at the stumps, commentating on the game as he goes. He has also spent six months running around the house, constantly doing his bowling action, never able to be still.
Anyway, it was great to see how much he has improved in everything since the last ime he asked me to play with him. His batting is good. He is trying to watch the ball and wait for the ball before he plays his shot. He is trying to get forward, but will also wait to go back if he needs to. His bowling is quite amazing. His action has smoothed out even more than it had before, and he likes to try and throw in a leggie action on occasions. Most impressive is his catching. He isn't afraid of the ball anymore, and catches about four in every five I throw back to him. At seven and a half years old he is going great.
He asked Helen the other day if he had to play Milo cricket this year, and was disappointed that he couldn't play "real" cricket. I explained to him today that it will be a good way to improve his sills before he plays that "real" cricket, which he will still qualify for Under 10's for two seasons after his year of Milo cricket. It's great to see his enthusiasm and his skills.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

#31DaysOfScotch #Day25

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Review: A Scanner Darkly

A Scanner Darkly A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a long time to get around to finding and reading this book by Philip K. Dick. Now that I have done so, I am happy I got the chance. There's no doubt that it isn't easy to follow, and you have to be in your best frame of mind to get through it. Once you get through the introduction however, and understand the flow of the story, it becomes very enjoyable, and more interesting than you may initially imagine.
Is it predictable? In some ways yes, the story that plays out on the pages does at times follow a well worn path, but the battle that is taking place within Bob Arcter and his alter-ego Fred becomes more interesting as the story progresses.
When it comes to illicit and psychedelic drugs, this novel is most intriguing in that the author was renown for indulging himself. If you can set yourself to wade through the complex layers that Dick has written this in, then it is well worth the effort.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

#31DaysOfScotch #Day24

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Ash vs Evil Dead - Could This Be Any More Awesome?!

Ash is back - Bruce Campbell brings us more awesome-ness.
The trailer looks just brilliant. Can't wait for it to start!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

#31DaysOfScotch #Day21

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The Ashes: The (Aussie) Empire Strike Back

The startling turnaround in result from 1st Test to 2nd Test will no doubt be the result of jaw gnashing in both the England selectors room and for their supporters. Barely a week after they had completed a demolition job on Australia at Cardiff, with celebrations on a grand scale, as well as plenty of comments from the players in the media and from the media themselves, the tide has turned 180 degrees after England's shambolic performance at Lord's. Australia's calm response to their defeat, and England's frenzied obliteration has reopened wounds that the Poms would rather have seen untouched.

The benign flat wicket that was served up at Lord's was an obvious statement with the home team having gone 1-0 up - blunt Australia's bowlers, rack up big totals, and a high scoring draw leaves England in front in the series. Had England won the toss it would have been a ruse worth adhering to. Once Australia had won the toss and taken advantage of it with the bat, the pitch may have played its part in dullening Australia's pace trio, but their skill, perseverance and fitness was enough that it didn't matter, and they were able to dismantle the English batting line up despite the odds against them. The fact that this match lasted less than four days on this type of pitch is a major source of worry for the home team. Not just the fact that their own bowling line-up was completely ineffective due to the nature of the pitch, but that their batsmen were incapable of making a significant score on the same wicket.

Chris Rogers and Steve Smith both thumbed their noses at recent media speculation and again proved their worth at different ends of the spectrum of their careers. Rogers was flawless apart from the chance given to the slips cordon off the third ball of the match - oh how England must look back on that and moan. His value to this Australian team over the past two years must never be forgotten. He came in when the team has a revolving door of opening batsmen and was crying out for someone to be the anchor, and could get the team off to solid starts every innings. In this respect he has been almost flawless, and his fifth Test century was most fitting given his time as a Middlesex player was what earned him his Test recall five years after his lone Test match. When he retires after this series concludes he will be within days of his 38th birthday. Ultimately his Test career may be comparatively short, but the part he has played from turning around the rabble that finished in India in 2013 to now is as much his legacy as anyone else.
At the other end of the scale, Steve Smith continues to pile on the runs. The consistent diatribe from some of those in the England set up that they don't rate Steve's batting, and that his technique won't hold up under English conditions, is beginning to sound even more puerile the further into the series we go. His innings of 215 and 58 were only ended when he decided to chase faster runs in both innings, and gave up his wicket in doing so. If not for that, the England bowlers could well have still been out on that Lord's wicket, bowling to Smith on 1000 not out. As I posted elsewhere at one stage during the game, it's a good thing that the England bowlers have 'worked out' Steve Smith, as they claimed after the 1st Test - otherwise, just how many runs would he have gotten?

Australia's bowling was superb. Everything that was done wrong in Cardiff has been set to right by the bowlers and their coaching staff. What's more, all three pacemen were quick, noticeably quicker than their England counterparts, and this along with their lines and lengths showed that 20 wickets could be taken on a featherbed. Mitchell Johnson is fast redeeming himself from 2009, his aggression with the ball and not so much from his mouth has been superb. his spells visually shook up the batsmen, and even when he wasn't able to secure a wicket it was his spell that would gain one for the bowlers who came after him. Josh Hazelwood is becoming the bowler the selectors have hoped he would become over the past three years, and while Mitch Starc is hampered by injury he has still done a great job in support, especially in the early overs of the innings. Nathan Lyon again prised out wickets on an unresponsive pitch, and while he never looks a match winner he is at least earning his keep.

The two new boys did themselves proud. Mitch Marsh was a surprise inclusion in front of perennial under achiever Shane Watson, and did everything that could have been expected of him. A relative failure with the bat in the first innings was dwarfed by the three wickets he took in the match - top scorers Cook and Stokes in the first dig, and Ballance in the second. He then blasted Australia to the declaration in the second dig in the perfect riposte. More runs will be the key to his success, but if his bowling output is replicated like this every match no more can be asked of him in that regard. Peter Nevill swift elevation after the unavailability of Brad Haddin has proven to be one of the finest debut performances of a wicket keeper for Australia in memory. A brisk and calm 45 in the first innings, which was only terminated by the search for quick runs, showed poise and skill at the crease. behind the stumps however he was a revelation. Seven catches for the match, including a beauty up to Nathan Lyon, showcased his obvious talent, good footwork and neat glovework. What's more, the delight he showed through the game was refreshing. Even when he was denied a catch off Jos Buttler after being sent to the third umpire (a disgraceful decision that once again favoured the home team) he put it behind him and kept up his good work, culminating in the dismissal of Buttler off Lyon four overs later. A wonderful debut.

England was dreadful, and anyone who didn't see the 1st Test would be left wondering how on earth they won that match. Jimmy Anderson bowled terribly, off line and off length, little movement, and generally looked like a player well past his best. they fact he was so ineffective a week after looking the most dangerous of the English attack is a real concern for them, because they appear toothless without him. Even more concerning was the lack of anything from Mark Wood, who a few weeks ago was being hailed as the next genuine pace bowler for England. At Lord's his pace was mostly stuck in the mid 120kph, and with no movement of the ball in the air or off the wicket. Stuart Broad bowled some good spells in the first innings, and at least looked as though he was putting the batsmen under pressure. his tactics again came under question in the second innings, when he appeared to revert to time wasting and negative lines rather than try and prise out the batsmen at the crease. Moeen Ali was ineffective, with the wickets he took only coming from batsmen trying to up the ante. If he is England's best spin option then they are in serious trouble.
Their batting was completely shown up, and while that may have only been a blip for some, for others they may be approaching a dead end. Cook and Stokes were the best performed. Cook though, in order to prove one again he can be a force, has retreated so far into defensive mode that his strike rate is non-existent, and cannot dominate an attack. Stokes is playing with flair and abandon, but can't expect to continue to succeed if coming in at 4 for bugger all. Root was hollowed out cheaply in this Test, and his output for the remainder of the series will be interesting, to see if he can replicate his Cardiff form, if Australia now have his number again.
The rest of the batting line-up is under enormous pressure, and whether any are left by the end of the series will be a talking point. Lyth looks out of his depth. Ballance, as expected, has been summarily thought out by first the New Zealand attack and now the Australians. His technique is a shambles, and surely he hasn't got long to go before shaking hands with his County captain. Bell is a shadow of his best, and needs a score somewhere to secure his future. Buttler looks a T20 slogger and not up to playing a long match-saving innings when necessary. Ali has gone from opener to number 8, but won't get another ball in his half of the wicket this series after his dismissal on Sunday. The biggest problem they have is that there are no ready-made replacements putting their hand up in County cricket to replace the incumbents. Once again County cricket is being dominated by South Africans and Australians and all manner of washed out players from other countries who then appear like world beaters when they play in this competition.

The series lies at 1-1, and while it certainly isn't over for either team, the Australians will enjoy the break between Test more than the English. Barring any unforeseen injuries the only change for Australia will likely be Haddin to return for Nevill. England appears to be stuck with who they have, and can only hope that somehow the shattered batsmen and under performing bowlers can somehow pull themselves together in a week and rediscover what they need in order to compete in this series.