Wednesday, September 28, 2005

1st Impress and 2nds Decompress

A marginal first weekend of competition has raised as many questions as it may have answered for the Kiama Cricket Club.

1st Grade, playing for the first time in coloured clothing and with a white ball, couldn’t have been much more impressive in their defeat of The Rail at Croome Road Oval. Bowling out their opponents for just 165 was a great effort with a virgin bowling attack, while the chase was one of Kiama’s best in the past 15 seasons, losing only two wickets in the chase, and with more than 13 overs to spare.
This was the type of performance that announces a team’s intentions for the season. Some will scoff that it was “only against The Rail”, but most Club’s will have taken the result very seriously indeed.

The performance of 17 year old Matt O’Brien was outstanding. In just his 10th 1st Grade match, he took 5/26. It was his second five wicket haul in 1st Grade, in just his second season. He becomes just the 41st Kiama player to take multiple 5 wicket innings in 1st Grade. Not since Darren Gregory has the Club had a spinner so young with so much talent and maturity. His will be a season worth watching.

Dale Scifleet’s all-round effort is the kind of performance that Kiama has been looking for from him for the past couple of seasons. His start is excellent news for 1sts, and very encouraging.
He should almost definitely have secured himself a start in the Burns Cup side as well, where no doubt he will do himself and his Club proud.

As an opening effort, Matt Meurant would be pleased with the victory. The boys were certainly on a high back at the Grand Hotel beer garden after the match. Their enthusiasm and excitement bodes well for the coming weeks.

On the other side of the coin, 2nd Grade could not have been more disappointed with their loss to one of last season’s stragglers, Shellharbour City. Though it was a side that was not at full strength, the team should still have defeated the opposition they faced.

Apart from John Simon, whose patient 53 held the innings together, the batting failed to fire against some excellent patient line and length bowling from the Shellharbour side. Their bowling was, in fact, a perfect execution of what is required in one day cricket.
2nds always appeared a bowler short, especially after Jason Wills’ knees buckled for the ninetieth time in his career. Josh Elliott finished with 3 wickets, and though he was not at top pace, will expect to get better as the weeks roll on.

Things will be clearer following the next round, especially with the beginning of the lower grade competitions. Already, however, Kiama are beginning to feel very confident about the season ahead.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Charge of the Cav Brigade

After six months of dissection, decision and discussion, the new South Coast cricket season begins this Saturday, with First and Second Grades kicking off their 2005-06 campaigns. The eager anticipation, following the recruitment of Matt Meurant as Coach and 1st Grade skipper, can now be funnelled into on-field enthusiasm and performance.

Apart from the confidence that is currently flowing through the Club at all levels, it is important to view the coming season as the beginning of a rebuilding and reinventing phase, and not the end. Both 1st and 2nd Grades are likely to be bursting at the seams with youth, and as always, that youth will take some time to adjust to what it is facing, and what is expected from it.

1st Grade will spend the first two rounds without key all rounders Josh Jones and Tim Richardson. This will place more pressure on their replacements, and on the established players in the squad. 1st Grade also has the added bonus of playing the first match in coloured clothing and with a white ball for the first time, with little practice behind them. It will be a test of their character as to how they are able to cope with these innovations on such short notice.

Over the course of the two trial matches held over the past weeks, the fielding and bowling from the 1st Grade players has looked sharp and enthusiastic. The fielding will be important, as every run saved is one less left to chase.
The bowlers will need to step up and deliver their best to cover those players who are unavailable in the initial rounds. Early breakthroughs will be important, and Dale Scifleet and Sam Wolf will need to achieve these in the first round clash to help their bowling partners once their opening burst is complete.
The batsmen have had one good day and one ordinary day. Last season, the batting was the side’s weak link. That needs to be rectified this season. It wasn’t through a lack of talent. Many of the same faces will be doing the job again this season. This season, however, they need to start converting. It is highly unlikely players will be persevered with this season if they are unable to perform.

Several changes must occur within the culture of the Club for greater success to be achieved. The attitude, and performance, of some of the players would be at the top of that list.
There has never been any doubt about the standard of players within the Kiama Cricket Club – their ability is not in question. The problem has stemmed from the fact that, in general, these talented youngsters suffer from one, or a combination, of the following afflictions – a fear of the opposition, a confidence–sapping negativity towards cricket, a lack of heart and determination, an inability or unwillingness to train, and a deplorable lack of team and Club spirit.
These problems must be identified and agreed upon. Then they must be cured. Not an easy thing to do on any count.

The individual must take responsibility for their own behaviour and performance. It is all well and good to blame poor umpiring, a dodgy deck, or a team mate’s dropped catch or bad call. In the long run, it is the individual’s responsibility to come back from that – rise above it, and continue to put in the effort that is required. If an individual gets dropped a Grade, spitting the dummy impresses no one, and does themselves, their team mates, and the Club, no good whatsoever.

The good news is this appears to be happening already. For our sake’s, let’s hope this continues.

We can either be a Club that strives to be the best it can be, while retaining the humour and enjoyment of the game that we have always had, or we can become a social club, that eventually would fold because all of the people in our Club who care about Cricket would play elsewhere, or not at all.
The answer appears obvious.

The season looks to be one of the most important in the Club’s history. Despite the loss of some players, the playing roster for 2005-06 appears stronger than was originally feared. The kids in the squad (i.e. – those 18-22 years) have shown the willingness and desire to step up and become better cricketers, and attempt to win a 1st Grade Premiership. The first steps have been taken.

It’s time to rally the troops, and roll out the cannons – time for all Cavaliers to stand up and be counted, be they players, partners, ex-players or supporters.
It’s time to get some fire in the belly, some steel in the heart, and make ourselves a force to be reckoned with again.
Nothing can hold back this Club, except itself.
Let’s sweep past the doubts, and beyond that lies the secret to winning those elusive Premierships…

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Relationship is Over

I lost someone close to me today. They walked out on me for another. We had been together for sixteen glorious years. And now it is over.

I guess the signs have been there for awhile. There is no doubt that I have been faultering recently, my form a little below par. Perhaps I had forgotten how important it is not only to show that I care, but to put the effort into maintaining that care.

There had been rumours circulating for the past eighteen months of this other "beau". That they were staking a claim for what was mine. Of course I heard all of this, but I never really believed it could come true. How could they entice from me what I had held so dear for so long?!

Sure - we've had the usual hurdles in our relationship. I remember during June of 1997, we had a rocky time. There were thoughts that we may part company, that we had fallen apart. But we held together, fought our way through that rough patch, and consolidated our relationship stronger than ever.

I still remember fondly our union in 1989. The excitement. The passion. The joy of coming together. It was all unforgettable. Over time, our bond just seemed to grow stronger. I had begun to believe that it would never end. That we would never be separated from each other...

And now - "they" are together. My Prize, and the Heathen.
It is so difficult to accept or believe after sixteen years together.

But I haven't given up hope. We may be apart now, but maybe there is still a chance for us. If I give those two their time together - maybe 12 to 14 months.
And then, I will launch my bid to win my Prize back.

And I will stop at nothing, to reclaim what is rightfully mine....


I have just one thing to say.

I hope the Poms enjoy the next 12 months as holders of the Ashes.

Because in the first week of January 2007, we shall complete the 5th Test of the next Ashes series in Sydney, and we will have them back!

And I intend to be there to celebrate the beginning of the our next 16 year reign as holders of cricket's greatest prize....

Through the Crystal Ball

Now that the unpleasantness is over, it is time to look into the crystal ball, and seek out the future of Australian cricket.

Despite losing the Ashes, the comparative closeness of the series in all barring the First Test could theoretically allow the national selectors to continue with the current side during the upcoming domestic summer - especially against the weakening West Indians.

But the Ashes series only proved these things -
a) That without Warne and McGrath, Australia would struggle to bowl out any other international side twice.
b) That Langer and Ponting are the only batsmen assured of long-term national selection.
c) That the majority of next-best options are either under-prepared or aged on the wrong side of 30.

You can be almost assured that the international careers of Gillespie, Kasprowicz and MacGill are effectively over. Gillespie was given enough chances for three men in an attempt to overcome his form slump, and still failed to find any cure for his ineffectualness. Kasper was given two Tests, albeit at late notice, to do enough to be retained, but was also unable to find his old zip and ball movement. MacGill was a victim of poor programming, which led to a lack of consistent match bowling, which therefore gave him little chance of being injected into the series - this despite the fact that Australia's other leg-spinner took an astounding 40 English wickets in just five Tests!!! Despite his continued credentials, one suspects that, when an opportunity comes along this summer to play two spinners in the same Test eleven, that the selectors will begin blooding a youngster to be the successor to Warne's throne, while the King still reigns to guide him.

Those on notice that the end may be approaching include Hayden, Martyn and Katich. Hayden's epic knock at The Oval was a bonus for him and the team, but doesn't eradicate the twelve months of struggle he has been through. He won't be immediately abandoned, but he will need to rediscover his touch to last the summer. Both Martyn and Katich were victims of some dreadful LBW decisions during the Ashes series, which stymied their progress, but both must still face the reality of the numbers they posted. They were not good enough, in a batting line-up that struggled.

It is not a time to panic. Nor is it a time to stand idle. The selectors must continue to be vigilant in regards to the ageing of its player base, and ensure that there is a smooth and consistent transition within the team.

A glut of runs and wickets over the Australian summer will make careers of those on the fringes. Players such as Phil Jaques, Dan Cullen and Cameron White are the next generation. Their time may soon be upon us. Following the Flintoff phenomenon, players like Shane Watson, Dominic Thornley and even Andy Symonds may find they have a chance to become Test all-rounders.
Any player, with age on their side (sorry Michael Bevan), who comes out this season, and can score 1000+ runs, or take 40+ wickets, may find themselves fast-tracked into this Australian team, such is the need to find some youthfulness.

This now shapes up as the most important 12 months in Australian cricket in two decades. Our champions are heading towards the exit door, and new ones must be found to replace them.