October’s Super Series – World XI v Australia

I’ve forgotten about October’s “Super Series,” where the best 30 non-Australians take on the Australians, presumabely in a 3 match ODI series (would prefer them to be Test matches mind). And Mike Atherton, who’s on the selectorial panel, writes about it in today’s Telegraph and makes his usual interesting observations; mainly, the lack of quality bowling in the world.

No one can doubt the amount of high-quality batsmen there are nowadays. Off the top of my head, there’s Ponting, Vaughan, Sehwag, Dravid, Inzy, Kallis, Lara, Tendulkar – and about 6 other very fine players. But are they fine players & fine batsmen, or are they just making easy runs on road-like pitches against 2nd XI bowlers?

Compared to (“just”) 20 years ago, the talent in the bowling departments around the world is paltry and scarce. Only Australia, South Africa and the West Indies produced genuinely outstanding fast bowlers in the 90s: McGrath and Gillespie; Pollock and Donald; Ambrose and Walsh (whose careers started pre 1990). There were, and are, others representing other countries, but none lie in the same class or strike fear into opposition teams. So, Atherton – along with his chairman Sunny Gavaskar, Jonty Rhodes, Clive Lloyd, Richard Hadlee and Aravinda de Silva – had great difficulty in choosing their bowlers for a team of 30 Australia-beaters.

This is not simply the jealous whingeing of a retired opening batsman. A week ago, I played golf in a Michael Vaughan benefit day: Shane Warne and Andrew Flintoff played, and both said to me, independently of each other, that the standard of international bowling is poor

He highlights the most recent West Indies / South Africa match as a key example: eight, separate hundreds scored (not including 3 by Gayle alone):

Sure, the Antigua Recreation Ground is the flattest pitch in the world, but the venue completed another series in which four consecutive Tests were played within about a five-week period.

At the moment, because of all sorts of pressures – financial, television and from the players themselves – the system is one that packs in the maximum amount of international cricket in the minimum amount of time. Producing fast bowlers or genuine all-rounders is less likely in such a physically-demanding environment – and these are precisely the categories which proved most troublesome to the World XI selectors.

As a bowler myself, I hate nothing more than watching huge totals being amassed with ease – and having “only” followed cricket for 10 years, I’ve never seen cricket dominated by bowlers, such as it was in the 70s (so my Dad told me) with the quartet/quintet/sextet of West Indians tearing in. I’d love the balance to be re-addressed, for there is no more exhilarating sight in cricket than a fast bowlers roaring in and knocking several shades out of an opening batsman.

The squad to face Australia, in Melbourne and Sydney, is announced on Monday

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