Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fixing the Basin

According to the vacuous New Zealand news website, Stuff, the Basin Reserve is shabby and needs a makeover.

Well no shit.

The Basin Reserve is shabby. As a visitor from overseas, I was struck with how provincial it was. On top of any earthquake strengthening works, it needs better general admission seating and floodlights (seriously, even the WACA has lights) for starters. Then overall logistics (some kid holds a piece of string restricting the movements of spectators during overs, true story) needs some major attention. But it’s shabby because someone, or a group of someones, have neglected it to the point that it got shabby.

Then there’s the issue of the flyover, a road that has been proposed to ease traffic congestion in the area. I’m not going to pretend to be fully informed to make an opinion on this, though generally speaking I’m pro-infrastructure (and I hate traffic), but many are calling for this sweet little cricket ground to be downgraded or struck off the map because improvement works are expensive and it’s in the way.

But cricket-mad locals freaking love the Basin Reserve (and the fact Test cricket is played there). To an outsider, it’s a little bizarre, but they do. In true Kiwi style they are proud of it, and they love it for its flaws, not in spite of them. (In fact most would probably disagree with me for saying it even needs work, so I’m probably entirely alone here in my views.) If someone offered to steamroller the WACA and replace it with something better, I’m fairly surely the prevailing Perth attitude would be at last, we deserve better. But in NZ, this is not usually so.

For example, after the Canterbury earthquakes, people petitioned, lobbied and literally begged for critically-damaged buildings to be repaired, not replaced. If a building has to be earthquake strengthened or rebuilt, I guarantee they will choose strengthening, even if it cost more than rebuilding. Kiwis like things just as they are. It’s their shtick. Further, a rugby stadium was prioritised for repair over houses and other important city infrastructure, some of which took years to complete, if it’s even done yet... But it's cool to let the Basin go?

And here we arrive at the crux of the matter.

Cricket, particularly Test cricket, is but a blip on the horizon of sport in New Zealand. Many people love the Basin, unfortunately just not enough with the power to do anything about it. Many more would sooner discard the country’s primary Test cricket spot than improve it. But it would be so wrong to downgrade or throw away a nice ground because the All Blacks don’t play there. And that is, really, what this comes down to.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A cricketing malignancy

With Mickey Arthur suing Cricket Australia and airing the family secrets, Australian cricket hasn’t been so scandalous since Shane Warne bought a mobile phone.
It’s a bit of a shame that it coincides with the second Test. How can we thank him for snitching when there’s an urn to be returned? You don’t make friends with salad, Mickey.

Now, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that I don’t like Michael Clarke.

If you were to ask me, I’d say he pretty much encapsulates everything that is wrong with the Australian side. In fact, without him, I believe they would be significantly more successful than they currently are.

Let’s have a look at the comments he made after the first Test. I have translated his words for the non-Australians out there.

"I need to get better." Everyone else needs to get better.

"Unfortunately if I had used my reviews better it would have helped our team.” It’s not my fault my team can’t bat unambiguously.

"I am not happy with my use of DRS but both teams are using it and England have used it better than I have.” That was a shit game.

“It is consistent for both teams.” I am the greatest.

"I'm going to concentrate on getting my referrals better.” Because my batting is so awesome.

"Sometimes you find out you did hit it, like in my case.” I didn’t hit it. Fuck you all.

“Other times you find out you were right.” I’m always right.

“That's how the game is and you learn to live with it.” My job is safe because I’m the golden boy of Cricket Australia.

"That's the way it goes with the DRS system.” Yeah, that’s right, I just said Decision Review System system.

“At the end of the day it was a great Test match." I want to saw your face off with a teaspoon.

I’m sure you’ll agree the problem here is not Shane Watson.

I’ve seen comments around the traps that if Australia had any hope of winning a match this series, it was the first Test. That ship has sailed but I stand by my prediction of a 2-1 series victory. Partly out of blind, misguided faith, partly... no it's probably all blind, misguided faith.

On balance the sides were fairly evenly matched, and with a few extra runs (I’m looking at you, skipper) we’ll be alright. I'd say Ed Cowan's on his last chance. England were solid but not brilliant. Australia didn’t lay down and die in the first, and they won’t for the rest of the series.

A lot hinges on the toss, and this too is probably Michael Clarke’s fault.

Onward to glory.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ashes Ashes Ashes

This series has completely crept up on me. And not because I was too busy reading this gem (thanks @M_Littlewood84!), but because it seems to be thought of as a foregone conclusion.

Not even Cricket Australia’s TV commercial, which has far too much John Howard in it, places any confidence in our team. Make no mistake my friends, they’re trying to tell us the glory is in the struggle. This is not true. The glory is in the win, win after win, series after series. We may be perched on the edge of our seats but we don’t want to be. We want it to be done and dusted by game 3 and the rest is quiet contempt for the Barmy Army and the satisfaction of knowing that equilibrium has been restored.

Oh heady days of yonder.

Basically, I don’t give a flying piranha whether the two teams catch up over chai lattes after the match. I care about sporting success. We’re here for the win. Yet, this team is a shambles. They are the cricketing equivalent of the little boy who is so proud to run in the school athletics carnival and dawdles his way to finishing last, waving at his mum the whole time.

So Michael Clarke and Shane Watson don’t get along. Somehow this doesn’t work in the same way that Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne didn’t get along (eg productively). I would suggest vanity might be a factor in this. But everyone knows being on the Australian cricket team for the Ashes is pretty much the most prestigious thing an Australian man (or a Pakistani refugee) can be, so please, just step up! Unlike others I take no comfort in Michael Clarke scoring a century against a county side last week. Is it so wrong to expect nothing less? Where were the staunchly high standards we once had?

The English will be seeking a glittering trifecta after the Lions’ success and ‘winning’ Wimbledon.

The Australians are hoping to avoid a crushing defeat.

And as for me, I’m expecting Mickey Arthur’s sacking to be justified. Game on.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Don't be boring

You could be forgiven for thinking the current Australian cricket team are a touch on the bland side. By a touch on the bland side, I obviously mean the blandest thing since the Poms started making curries. A team consisting of a few stalwarts, a bunch of who-the-fucks, and Michael Clarke.

A decade ago I loathed cricket with a fervour that I now reserve for hippies and gun-happy Americans. But I knew who most of the Australian cricketers were. Not because of their skill (a low score meant it would all be over quicker - yay) but because they had a bit of personality.

Maybe you can’t entirely blame a cricketer in these modern times for being completely devoid of personality. To be fair, they are media-managed to the point of having their personalities surgically removed.

But Ricky Ponting was on Australian Story just last night talking about how liked to be seen as miserable. Wonderful, a personality trait! Not a likeable one but hey, I’ll take it.

Lately, the biggest personality on the team is arguably Michael Clarke. Why? Because everyone thought he was gay and then Lara Bingle.

I’m not asking them to go Andrew Flintoff on us, or drink their weight in VB (those may be the same things) but jeez, Mitch Johnson, having a gaudy, bogan tattoo is not a substitute for personality.

Certainly the ask was ridiculous (ask Ross Taylor, a PowerPoint presentation won’t make you good at cricket) but this act of not doing their ‘homework’ then effectively blaming the dog, is a small mercy in the pit of despair that significant losses in India brings during an Ashes year.

You may be shit but you do have a third dimension!

Thank you, thank you. Thanks for chucking a hissy fit and leaving, Watto. Maybe you’re not just a man made out of jellybeans after all. Viva la revoluciĆ³n!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's raining, it's pouring... let's play cricket

Holding a Test match in Wellington at the end of March is a pretty stupid thing to do.

It has rained more than half the days so far this month, and while the MetService often get it wrong, (the weather can change from rainy to sunny faster than Jesse can down a XXXX), rain is forecast from Friday through until Monday.

Who in their right mind would commit to that scheduling in a place where the weather is so reliably unreliable?

People who want the match to be rained out. Who would take a draw over a loss. I know, it sounds like an England thing to do, but when you consider how desperately NZ models itself on England in other ways, that’s not so surprising.

I’ll be shot down for saying this, because after all the Black Caps did beat us (in December, but here you’re always as good as the last time you defeated Australia), and that will be clung to for the next 20 years.

There will undoubtedly be a thousand apparently-legitimate reasons (read: excuses) for it, but whoever decided to schedule the Test at this time of year in this city had an agenda, and I don’t think it involved a genuine attempt at a five-day game of cricket.

Ah well. Given how quickly the Black Caps surrendered in Hamilton, it’s not like the Proteas will need more than a few patches of blue sky to finish them off here either.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Nice one Shane

James Brennan's entry into this year's Bald Archies.

Pretty spot on, no?

For the uninitiated, the Bald Archies is a satirical portrait competition, contrasting with the Archibald Prize.

Maybe it's just not quite orange enough.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A brief history of cricket in Afghanistan

As Afghanistan is embarking on their ODI against Pakistan as I type, I thought I’d have a look at how they’ve evolved, as I’ve heard conflicting stories.

Cricket was played in Afghanistan in the 1800s, the earliest recorded match being against British troops in Kabul in 1839 during the Anglo-Afghan wars, but it didn't take off. In the 1990s it was picked up again by Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, and continued to play after their return to Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Cricket Federation was formed in 1995, but within a year the country fell into the hands of the Taliban militia, who banned all sports.

Remarkably, in 2000, cricket became the only sport allowed to be played in Afghanistan, as the Taliban overturned the ban for this one exception to all sport.

In 2001 a national team was formed and became an affiliate member of the ICC. The team was touring Pakistan when the war in Afghanistan commenced in October. Despite this, they continued playing in tournaments in Asia and the Middle East. In fact, they even defeated an MCC side featuring Mike Gatting, who was dismissed for a duck.

Obvious security risks mean their home ground is Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium in the UAE, but have also played home matches in Sri Lanka. The Afghanistan Cricket Board, however, is based in Kabul, and in April 2010 the foundation stone for Afghanistan’s first cricket stadium was laid by the chairman of the Cricket Board (also the country’s finance minister) in Jalalabad. The Sherzai Cricket Stadium was to cost US$5 million and be paid for by the government. It was still under construction in June 2011 when the photo below was taken, and I haven’t been able to find anything more recent.

Stadiums are also planned for Kabul and Kandahar, and standard cricket grounds for each of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces were due to be completed in 2012, also with no update on their status.

Despite this, there are 320 cricket clubs and six turf wickets in Afghanistan. In fact, there’s even a domestic competition, in which 22 provinces play a 25-over or 40-over format, aiming to make the game's appeal more widespread, as well as develop talent. Crowds of up to 5000 watch these matches. Not without its own politics, the tournament also aims to remove perception that cricket in Afghanistan is played by one tribe exclusively.

Maybe most brilliantly of all, in 2010 a national women’s cricket team was formed in Afghanistan. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the team was forced to withdraw from a T20 tournament in Kuwait a year later because of ongoing and strong opposition to women’s participation in sport. Baby steps, but they are steps.

Leaps and bounds for the men’s team, on the other hand, who have gender on side. Only four years ago they were in Division 5 of the ICC’s World Cricket League. In 2010 they played in Division 1. Although they failed to qualify for the 2015 World Cup in 2011's qualifying tournament, they were awarded ODI status for four years. Next month they will play in the ICC World T20 Qualifier in the UAE. They are currently ninth in the ICC T20 rankings.

The Afghan National Cricket Academy has only four training nets and one bowling machine. Imagine what they could accomplish with the resources that are available to teams like Australia or New Zealand - even Canada. Sure, the gulf between Afghanistan and the top-ranking teams on the table above is enormous (and teams like Bangladesh haven’t played enough to qualify), but their potential equally enormous.

In February 2011, the BBC premiered Out of the Ashes, a documentary about cricket in Afghanistan. The film crew had unrestricted access to the team as they travelled to qualifying tournaments around the world. They also visited refugee camps in Pakistan. A book of the same name is also available to buy here.

Grassroots cricket success in a country torn apart by war. Are you not inspired?


Images via Wikipedia, IndianExpress.com, and afgcric.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cricket in the red dirt

More photos, in stark contrast to the last one. Cricket in Outback Australia.



Coaching clinic in Santa Teresa:


Santa Teresa is a tiny town about 70km out of Alice Springs. Good see Cricket Australia going remote.

Photos were tagged Imparja Cup, which is Australia's national indigenous cricket carnival, an annual tournament being held in Alice Springs this week, and came from @melindafarrell.

(When will the obsession with Instagram end?)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Oval in the snow

It's a low-res image, and still beautiful.


via @CowCornerCrikey.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cricket in the rain, and other travesties

There is something very special about a sporting event that commentators keep telling you is amazing.

T20 cricket is a nice idea, and I really do believe it has a place in the game. However, what I don't need is the 15,000 tonnes of marketing hype and bullshit that administrators, marketing suits and commentators feel the need to bring into the concept.

Between the Big Bash League describing certain teams as "rock stars" and Michael Slater doing everything but dropping to his knees and fellating David Warner during Australia's games versus India, as a cricket fan I'm actually being turned off the shortest form of the game.

Having watched a summer of fantastic cricket in which Australia rebuilt itself into a credible opposition and India, arguably, showed that it was on the downside of a short-lived golden era, the last thing I need is to be marketed at in regard to how good cricket can actually be.

The T20 cricket sell is a hard one anyone for people like me that regard it as little more than a glorified opposed net session, but without the nets. From the way that bowling and fielding is all but negated from the contest, to the gimmicky switch hitting. The players, who even die-hard cricket fans have never heard of, all of a sudden turn up representing their country and worst of all, the complete forgetability of every single contest.. the memories of a T20 match have a shelf life slightly less than the devastating effects of a dodgy kebab.

Channel 9 doesn't help at all.

From the constant yelling of their commentators during matches, the need to try and make up new terms for a game that is a couple of hundred years old, all the way to stupid concept like their "Money Ball Rating" in a sport where we have simple and established record keeping that already can tell you everything you need to know about a player's ability, it all comes off as hyperbolic marketing crap.

The people marketing T20 cricket will tell you that this form of the game is aimed at youngsters. Apparently kids like anything with bright colours and lots of yelling. The problem there is, cricket will need to wait 10-15 years before their new supporter base has the ability to make T20 cricket truly popular as a mainstream sporting choice.

Slightly older viewers such as myself (31) can seen through the rubbish and are horrified at what we see.

When a reported 60,000+ turned up at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night, the rain didn't stop tumbling down. Of course, the game went ahead, and was always going to go ahead. Administrators were never going to send that many people home without playing a match. So, we watched as cricket was played in the rain, something that hasn't happened in the past for a number of very good reasons.

The funny thing is, I don't think T20 cricket needs all of these bells and whistles. Just play the game. People aren't turning up to hear music playing and watch huge balls of fire being blasted off into the atmosphere. They aren't tuning in on television to hear commentators yelling or to hear that David Warner's 25 runs were "some of the most significant in cricket history."

If you want to sell this form of the sport with fluff, you're going to be very disappointed, because it won't work.

Cricket fans tune in to watch cricket and anyone that is tuning in for anything else will simply walk away at the first sign that someone is jingling some car keys in the next room.

The sooner administrators and broadcasters stop carrying on like a bunch of teenage girls at a Justin Beiber concert, the better.

I'm trying to watch some cricket. Just let me watch the damn cricket!!!!

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