Friday, January 5, 2007

The Last Day

They don't come around too often.

I still remember the day when Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh played their final day of Test cricket against Pakistan at the SCG back in 1984. It was a great day - a sad day. Lillee finished with four wickets for the innings and took the last wicket, and they walked off together. Marsh played in the one day series before finally calling it quits.

At the time, we had no way of knowing how these three great players would ever be replaced. The next five years were the hardest years to be a cricket lover in this country. We got creamed by the West Indies. Our captain resigned in tears. A squad of our best and up-and-coming players were banned after partaking in a tour of South Africa, in the days when it was sacrilege to do so, leaving a huge gap in the availability ranks. Our next captain threatened to resign if his players didn't show some heart and guts. All kinds of players were tried in the hope they would be the answer. Some played one game and were discarded. Some were given a dozen opportunities, and were stuck with despite poor initial results.After five dim, dark years, when we *shudder* lost series to New Zealand - TWICE! - we came out the other side, winning the Ashes back in 1989, and have been moving up ever since.

Today will see the end of another era. Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer will play their last day of Test cricket. Damien Martyn has already gone. Adam Gilchrist and Matt Hayden may yet join the exodus. It will be a sad day, but a great day, One that you must see all of, to take it all in, so you can tell your kids about it.

But it's a different feeling from that day 23 years ago. Then, you could feel the concern about how we would replace such legends of the game. Today, we don't believe we can replace these legends, but we know that we have the players who can come into theis Test team, and do the job to the best of their ability, and that we won't suffer more than a slight hiccup.We might be losing over 1200 Test wickets and over 10000 Test runs - but the lessons learned from 1984 have been learned well, and we now have such a talent base in the Sheffield Shield (as it will always be to me) that we can't help but succeed. Because those who are waiting in line want to get their shot, and make a spot in the Test team their own.

So let's celebrate the great careers of those we may never see again -and let's anticipate the next great champions that will soon replace them.


Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Australian Test Team November 2007

With so many players moving on from the Australian Test team, it’s time to have a stab at who will front up for the side when they play their next Test, which isn’t until November this year.

1. Matthew Hayden. If he doesn’t pull the plug before then, he is a certainty.

2. Phil Jaques / Chris Rogers. These two are the standout next-in-line for opening the batting. In all reality, Jaques should now be the opener in the One Day team, especially with the others who have been tried now out of the side or injured. Jaques deserves first crack at it.

3. Ricky Ponting ©. Unless he gets hit by a bus.

4. Mike Hussey (vc). See above.

5. Michael Clarke. His century has shored up his position, and he looks a better player after his time out of the team.

6. Andrew Symonds / Shane Watson / Adam Voges / Marcus North. One is the incumbent. The next is the one the selectors have been wetting their pants over for 24 months. The next was (for some reason) in the Test squad for Perth. The last is the in-form middle order batsman in Australia. This will be one of the most interesting positions when November comes around. Symonds, as incumbent, should be expected to hold his spot.

7. Adam Gilchrist / Brad Haddin. I can’t see Gilchrist playing next season. If he does, he’s it. If he doesn’t, we lose nothing with Haddin, who has probably been the better bat of the two (on form) over the past two seasons.

8. Brett Lee. Must finally get the number 8 with Warne retiring. Surely.

9. Stuart Clark. Just imagine, if McGrath hadn’t taken all of 2006 off, Stu may still have yet to play a Test. And he was our best bowler in 2006. What a discovery.

10. Stuart MacGill / Cameron White / Dan Cullen / Beau Casson. MacGill is the obvious replacement for Warne, but he’s 35 and hasn’t been popular with selectors or team mates for years. White averages almost 50 with the bat, but has let his bowling slip since being made captain of Victoria at age 20. Cullen has been identified as the best off spinner in the country. Word around the traps is that Casson is the one who will be chosen in November. I would plump for MacGill initially. In the long term, I think Casson is a big chance, and that White should be our allrounder at 6 – if he gets serious about his bowling again.

11. Shaun Tait / Mitchell Johnson / Ben Hilfenhaus. All these three should have good international careers ahead of them. Tait is swift with good late inswerve. Johnson is swift, and being left arm offers variety. Hilfenhaus hits the deck hard, moves the ball off the seam and in the air. Any will do a job. Hilfenhaus looks like a 200 Test wicket bowler to me.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Best Albums of 2006

In no particular order.

1. A Matter Of Life And Death - IRON MAIDEN
2. Christ Illusion - SLAYER
3. Inhuman Rampage - DRAGONFORCE
4. Gillan's Inn - IAN GILLAN
6. Holy Diver Live (live) - DIO
7. Tales Of Rock 'N' Roll - MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP
8. Axes 2 Axes - EDDIE OJEDA
9. One Cure Fits All - THERAPY?
10. Score - 20th Anniversary (live) - DREAM THEATER

Mentions to For The Sake Of Revenge (live) by SONATA ARCTICA and Boned! by THE 12TH MAN.
Also mention for As Daylight Dies by KILSWITCH ENGAGE, which is apparently great, but which I haven't heard enough of yet.

The "Hope They Die A Thousand Deaths" goes to the following:
* Operation Mindcrime II by QUEENSRYCHE
* Yeah! by DEF LEPPARD
* 10 000 Days by TOOL

It was quite a slow year in terms of metal releases - at least, the metal that I listen to. I know that as I get older, the number of albums released in the genre of metal that I listen to and enjoy will shrink, meaning that either I have to expand, or stop getting new music.

Damn! :)