Like a grenade

I’m watching a brilliant programme by Jeremy Paxman on Wilfred Owen, the great poet of the First World War, and in it they’re looking back on the “Great War” and the weapons that were used, grenades chief among them. For maximum distance, the soldiers were taught to throw them as though bowling “with a straight arm”. No ICC officers back in the day, then.

I was surprised to see a young cadet (or maybe he was in the full army, who knows) sell not a single poppy at Hammersmith yesterday lunchtime. I was further disturbed when one unmitigated bastard shouted “No” to him out of frustration. I doubt he knows what they even signify.

War really is a bit of a bugger. My Grandfather, who I never met, somehow survived the first war by riding a horse in France. That’s all we were ever told. His son, my uncle, then fought in Malaya in the 1950s and was shot through the stomach, again somehow surviving (though he lost all his hair within months). And again that’s all we know of it. I suppose it’s common for ex-soldiers to not say anything of what they saw, but you can’t help wonder…

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Richie Benaud t-shirts

I want one of these now.

richie2.jpg

Brilliant. Sorry for lack of posts lately. Far too busy.

New blog for ABC Grandstand

Rae Allen writes:

Hi Will,

Just thought I’d let you know the new ABC cricket site has been launched in a
blog format at http://abc.net.au/cricket

John Buchanan will do a preview and review of each match over the Australian
summer

Australia vs Sri Lanka

Australia play Sri Lanka in an actual Test match on Thursday, and it is rumoured that the ICC have started an internal investigation to find out how such an anachronism got on the international fixtures list.

Australia haven’t played a Test since they farewelled their trio of stars in January; in that period they’ve played an abomination of ODI games and Twenty20 fixtures. These days, when the Australian players wish to get about town unrecognised, they wear their white Test outfits.

As to the actual game itself, the portents are not promising. Rain is forecast to play havoc for the first three days, no bad thing in itself, given the drought in Australia, but neither side comes into this game with much form. The Australian bowlers who played in four day cricket last weekend failed to impress, with the exception of Stuart Clark, and the Sri Lankans have likewise found the going hard, failing to beat a side comprising the best of Australia’s state Second XI’s, and then being defeated by Queensland. No doubt after so much ODI cricket, the disciplines of line and length, batting judgement and patience, have become a little rusty.

For all that, I’m looking forward to a good contest. Sri Lanka are, in my view, one of the stronger sides in world cricket, with a potent batting line up and a balanced bowling attack. It is a disgrace that Cricket Australia, for commercial reasons of course, has only invited the Sri Lankans to play two Tests. I do expect Australia to still win- even without McGrath and Warne they are a very powerful team, but it won’t be quite so easy as it used to be.

Australia give a first cap to Mitchell Johnson, and Phil Jacques and Stuart MacGill are recalled. Sri Lanka’s team is not quite settled, but they are hampered by the loss of Kumar Sangakarra with a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, in a further outbreak of Test cricket, South Africa host New Zealand. The main talking point there is that South Africa are not playing their veteran Shaun Pollock, preferring the younger brigade. Daniel Vettori makes his debut as New Zealand captain.

Australia vs Sri Lanka preview.

South Africa vs New Zealand preview.

Australian press threaten boycott

Australia are gearing up to face Sri Lanka but a cloud is looming: the Aussie print media might boycott the Test because Cricket Australia have implemented a new policy in which they’re charging news organisations for permission to take photos.

How utterly blinkered Cricket Australia are. Any organisation that makes the ECB look vaguely competent is worthy of immediate ridicule. CA are renowned for major cock-ups. Remember the farce with the tickets for the last Ashes series? And of course the “fun police” inside the grounds. Cricinfo and other media companies also (if my memory serves me) had trouble at the grounds due to CA’s extortionate Wifi fees (all grounds in England are free, as well they should be). As if they don’t make enough money, they now want to risk their reputation and  for the sake of a few extra dollars.

I hope they boycott it. We do not want journalism following the same seedy, greedy path of television rights.

Notes from the pavilion for November 4th

Links of note from the past 24 hours:

John Morrison’s blog

Further to my last post, John Morrison’s new blog can be found here: CricketMystery.com. Worth bookmarking I reckon. I’m always in favour of writers who rant. Wranters, if you like.

‘Mollycoddled’ players can’t think for themselves

Laptops have become a mainstay of the coach’s armoury
© Cricinfo Ltd

There was a piece in the New Zealand press which I Surfered yesterday in which Nathan Astle revealed the “brain washing” he and his team-mates have been experiencing, or whatever the term is.

This is the much-trumpeted forum that as told in Nathan Astle’s just released autobiography includes a session in which each player has to leave the room while the rest of side break into groups and dream up adjectives to best describe him, and a few things they believe he should try to brush up on.Apparently the brainchild of a former Australian school teacher, the supposed aim is to improve the relationship-dynamics between the players, therefore imbuing the squad with a greater sense of trust and, as a consequence, helping to achieve more success on the playing field. That’s the aim, anyway.

And today John Morrison, the former New Zealand batsman, has joined in the debate – even arguing that in terms of “over analysis,” the New Zealand cricket team is heading in the same direction as the All Blacks. He raises some important points:

“I’m always worried when I go to a ground and see cricket coaches poring over laptops but the problem is, now if you say anything to the contrary you’re called old and out of touch.

So instead we’ve created this industry of extras around the team who have to justify their existence by taking any decisions or responsibilities away from the players.

“So we’ve got this mollycoddled generation of sportsmen who might be great athletes but who have lost all ability to think for themselves.

All this (for me, anyway) ties nicely into Giles Clarke’s comments the other day, in which he said “cricket is a business”. And it is. Cricket (and many other top-level sports) is no longer about the players, or even the sport itself. The game has become an incidental extra to the serious business of making money. Now, Morrison’s comments aren’t directly linked to this – but the constant over-use of technology, inspection and analysis isn’t helping anyone, and is another needless obsession away from the actual game itself. As he says, these players are all supreme athletes, but what do they have to show for it?

And what is the solution?

Fletcher’s book not yet in the top 10

On the eve of its publication and in spite of a week’s worth of superb publicity, Duncan Fletcher’s autobiography, Behind the Shades, is languishing at a distinctly Zimbabwean 79th place on Amazon’s bestseller list. The people of Britain clearly rate Karl Pilkington, the gormless radio character infantilised and made famous by Ricky Gervais, more than a former England cricket coach.

Even The Official Highway Code ranks higher, not to mention The Beano Annual 2008. So come on, get ordering – it’s going to be a great read.

Harmison feels betrayed by Fletcher

I asked Stuart Broad for his thoughts on the Duncan Fletcher futore the other day. “Don’t read books,” he announced with a broad smile (sorry). “Not enough pictures!” It was a predictable response, and I applauded his blatant bullshitting.

Steve Harmison, though, doesn’t really care what he says these days – especially if it means coming to the defence of his old chum Andrew Flintoff. Somehow, though, Harmison’s comments don’t carry the weight of, say, Andrew Strauss or Matthew Hoggard. You feel if Flintoff had run over a dog on purpose, before roasting it on a spit, Harmison would say “Andrew has learned his lesson. He might be a canine killer but he’s still great fun to be around; an inspiration. Just ask anyone. Anyone but the dog and its owner of course.”

Nevertheless, his outburst to the Daily Mail made for enjoyable reading and was yet another nail in Fletcher’s coffin. I can’t see how this affair will simply “blow over”. I see Nasser Hussain has also been making comments, in the same paper, about the lily-livered decision makers in the ECB, and their handing jobs to Hugh Morris and Mike Gatting. It feels like 1999 all over again…