The secret of Australian success

Robert “Crash” Craddock writes about Shane Warne’s list, and about Warne’s animosity towards Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist.

But underneath it all there is a fascinating, essentially untold story about how two superstars of the modern game somehow managed to survive and thrive year after year in the same side despite a fallout which left each man cold.

Waugh will never expand on the details because he could not be bothered starting a bushfire from which no one could win.

Warne’s definition of Gilchrist as “still a batsman-keeper rather than the other way around” is not flattering (even given Gilchrist’s freakish batting skills) and one which Gilchrist would not enjoy.

You can call Gilchrist a madhouse slogger and he will laugh along with you but dismissiveness of his keeping skills hurts him because he sees himself as a keeper first.

…..In a perverse sort of way, Warne’s modest rating of Steve Waugh and Gilchrist gives us a hint of why Australian teams have been so successful over the past decade – they simply put the personal stuff to one side and go out and play for the team.

It sounds easy to do but it has been beyond many fragmented England, West Indian, Indian and Pakistan teams of the same era.

Warne and Waugh might not have been each other’s cup of tea but you would never have known it on the field.

The ability of Australia’s players to put their personal stuff to one side and play for the team is undoubtedly a big part of Australia’s success. I don’t know, but I suspect that New Zealand are also good at doing this, which is why they are able to punch above their weight in international cricket.

The Indians who can do it all

Being a cricket journalist while on holiday in India has its advantages, no doubt. Most people I encounter are keen to know my job (and even more importantly which company employs me), and quite a few know of Cricinfo and are desperate, it seems, to prove their cricketing worth. One young chap today (whose friendly nature threatened to descend into irritating begging) is surely the future of Indian cricket, if not the world.

He bowls leg-spin better than Shane Warne and models his off-spinner’s doosra on Murali; he opens the bowling at the speed of light, not unlike Darren Gough apparently; he keeps wicket with the feline-feet of Alan Knott (!) and bats like Marcus Trescothick, Michael Warne (it’s the accent, but I couldn’t help chuckling) and Adam Gilchrist. A killer player, then, if fantastical.

Watch out for him. He, and the identical dozen other youngsters who I’ve come across, will be dominating the world shortly…

The Nilgiri Mountains

Use the force, Luke

I was a little sceptical about Luke Wright’s succession to the England 20-20 squad on the basis that he scored the most runs in this year’s campaign, not least because Chris Schofield was picked for taking the most wickets. Graeme Swann must be uber-gutted! But while I am delighted the selectors have decided to go with a specialist squad, I had developed the opinion that Wright was just a slogger-got-lucky.

Not for the first time, I was dead wrong. His 60-ball hundred last night for Sussex against Gloucestershire was stunning. While there was the odd smear and hoik, almost every shot was orthodox, including a dreamy cover drive and on drive, all hit with terrible power and timing. Gloucestershire are not the very worst of attacks – I’m sure Wright will meet some worse bowlers at the 20-20 World Cup – but he made them look inept. Even Michael Atherton was purring by the end, shifting his stance from, “if you’re good enough for international 50 over cricket, you’re good enough for 20-20” to “if this lad’s good enough for 20-20, he should be good enough for 50 overs too.”

There were various comparisons, such as he grips and rips like Tendulkar or has the speed of hands through the ball as Ali Brown. Indeed, not since Brown have I seen an Englishman so dismantle an attack in the way Jayasuriya or Gilchrist do for fun. As a right-hander, he had something of Michael Slater about him, although I’ll go for a more modern Aussie as a comparison, who likewise has plenty more to prove. Shane Watson batted in a very similar fashion in the World Cup, matching power and timing with elegance. He bowls a bit too and has the same bottle blond hair. Time will tell whether Luke Wright can mix it on the same stage.

Thanks for coming

Gadzooks – yet another one sided match. And in a tourney of one sided matches, this was about the most imbalanced. “They’ll choke,” said the Aussies on the boat this morning after a choppy overnight crossing from Musquite, and choke they did. All the confidence the Boks showed in Barbados against the English had evaporated. What they could have given for the captain’s performance that Jayawardene provided yesterday!

And so on to Barbados for the final. All we want is a proper game of cricket. Can the plucky Sri Lankans test the Aussies? So far they have lost no more than six wickets and they’ve bowled out every opposition – it would be harsh if they are not recoronated world champions. But all the more delicious for all that! That said, it would be wonderful to see Adam Gilchrist score some runs in the final. So far he was scored two runs in the two innings I’ve seen.

Before we get stuck into a few sundowners on St Lucia, here’s a team we’ve put together entitled ‘Thanks for coming’. It’s a team that at the start of the tournament could have been the stars, but they have flattered to deceive. No doubt, we have missed out the odd loser or two.

1. Michael Vaughan 2. Chris Gayle 3. Sachin Tendulkar 4. Ross Taylor 5. Inzi 6. Michael Hussey 7. MS Dhoni 8. Shaun Pollock 9. Shahid Afridi 10. Saj Mahmood 11. Makhaya Ntini

Ian Valentine is a freelance journalist blogging the World Cup for The Corridor

It is too late for a firesale

Adam Gilchrist has called for cut priced tickets to help fill the stadiums and create some atmosphere in the remaining fixtures.

“You come to the Caribbean to experience that unique atmosphere that is Caribbean cricket,” Gilchrist told AFP. “There certainly is an element of the sterile feel about it. I don’t know whether that’s because administration hasn’t let it flow or whether people just aren’t turning up. It’s a little bit frustrating.”

Restrictions on what items can be taken into the stadiums, ticket prices and the poor form of West Indies – not to mention India and Pakistan’s exits – have not helped the situation. “Whatever the [pricing] policy is at the moment, it doesn’t seem to be working,” Gilchrist said.

“So maybe we can look at dropping the price and have a sale. I know retailers with over-stocked merchandise certainly have a sale every year … maybe that’s something we can look at.”

A nice idea but I fear it is too late now for that sort of thing. The West Indies cricket public are knowledgeable and they know a red-herring when they see one. In many ways, the 2007 World Cup has already flopped.

There has been some good to come out of this tournament; the rise of Bangladesh, the splendid surprise of Ireland, and the excellence of Sri Lanka and Australia. But as  Jack Warner put it, it has not been a World Cup of the people.  And that has doomed it from the start. And the next tournament is in India and Pakistan. What chance that is going to be any better?

Big Brother isn’t watching you

All you people who have been watching this ‘Big Brother’ imbroglio should hang your heads in shame. When the British Prime Minister is commenting on it, then it’s a sure sign that England’s sense of priorities are warped. No wonder England’s cricket team doesn’t win much.

Mind you they came close last night- a four wicket victory and a bonus point to Australia doesn’t indicate how tense it was out there for a while. That Australia won was due to the nerves and good luck of Michael Hussey, who got a clear edge early in his innings. However, unlike Adam Gilchrist, he’s never been a walker.

Who knows what might have happened if England had set Australia a decent target?  England got their first opening partnership of 50 thanks to the introduction of Mal Loye. The rest of them went down to McGrath and co very meekly.

And to make matters worse for England, Michael Vaughan won’t be available for another couple of matches. England’s one day summer is turning out as bad as was feared.

Meanderings on the Commonwealth Bank series

Well, so far so good from an Australian point of view. It’s nice to see the Australians decked out in something other then ghastly canary yellow for a change. Easier on the eyes.

For me the best thing is that Adam Gilchrist is back in form. That is great news for spectators as there’s not many players in the world who hit the ball better. Add to that the form of Andrew Symonds and Cameron “Bear” White and there’s some real firepower in the Australian batting lineup. Hits Away!

Not that I think that it will be a cakewalk for the Australians; I expect that both England and New Zealand will do much better in their remainding games against Australia. There are some quality players in the England and New Zealand teams, something that the Australian media tends to forget. I just hope that the Australian players do not forget it either.

My favourite non-Australian player is Shane Bond, and I’m glad to see his titanium-filled back is holding up well enough. He bowled well again against the Australians in Hobart, and Englishmen who have had trouble and strife with the Australian bowlers this summer will be dismayed to find that he’s actually better then any of the Australian pace attack. They’ll have to be on their toes against him in Hobart today.

Given that, I think New Zealand should be favourites to win today’s game, simply on the Bond factor alone.

Goodbye Gnome

Justin Langer made it a hat-trick of retirements this week, with the most low-key of announcements. He’s the most low-key of players too, who is uber-passionate on the field, but not particularly noticable away from it.

His career has been an interesting exercise in constant reinvention. He started out as a middle order batsman against the likes of Curtly Ambrose. The 1992 West Indians claimed he was afraid and bowlers have been targeting ever since. They often hit him, too. South African’s Makhaya Ntini conked him so hard in the Johannesburg Test that he doesn’t remember it, which was a pity as it was his 100′th.

But for me the serious reinvention was in 1999/2000. He shared that famous partnership with Adam Gilchrist, in which Langer scored a century in his usual dogged style. That innings came at a time when his place in the side was under serious question, and it was only Steve Waugh’s faith in him that kept him going.

But between Waugh’s faith, and Gilchrist’s example, Langer was able to turn himself from an ugly duckling to a.. well, not so ugly duckling. I think swan would be pushing it. But he could be a mighty fast scoring duck. By the end of that 1999/2000 summer, Langer was able to score hundreds at a run a ball in the fourth innings.

And that was before he reinvented himself into half of an amazingly successful opening partnership with Matthew Hayden. That partnership has declined somewhat, for the strange reason that although they are still very effective batsmen, their successes have not conincided recently.

So I’ll miss the Brown-Nosed Gnome, a harsh nickname given to him by critics who disliked his adulation of Steve Waugh. He was a rough diamond, a real hardcase who could dish it out and take it in good measure. He was a man who took playing for Australia seriously, and never lost sight of how good it is to represent your country.

Gilchrist scotches retirement talk

The ‘latest gossip‘ is that Justin Langer will retire after Sydney but that Matthew Hayden will play on until next summer at least.

I dunno. If Australia win the World Cup, I think Adam Gilchrist might call time.

An unmissable horror show

By the time I’d reached double figures, my brother had subjected me to most of the vile horror and thriller movies Britain and Hollywood had churned out. Older brothers are good for this. I’d worked through the initial mind-bending disgust and learned to appreciate their cinematic qualities, or so I insisted. And today, watching Adam Gilchrist smack the second-fastest Test century, I was transported back to my youth.

Like England, I no longer feared Gilchrist. Bring Freddie around the wicket and let the ball do the rest. But once Gilly passed fifty, everything clicked spectacularly. England were sinking like ten Titanics piled on top one another, and Australia were beating the urn from them like an unruly bouncer confiscating a teenager’s alcopop. The sixes were worthy of 12 and the unrestrained violence was just too delicious to ignore. You wanted him to get there. Viv Richards? Who’s he? Let Gilly beat it, and some. I was urging him on like a true blue Aussie (or a true green’n’gold).

One feedbacker to Cricinfo proclaimed Matthew Hoggard as the most unsporting bowler ever to draw breath (or words to the effect of) by preventing Gilchrist from taking the record from Richards. Yes, Hoggard did send the ball wider and Gilchrist couldn’t quite reach it – but that is the bowler’s job. I’m not convinced Hoggie was even aware of the record, anyway…

Epic. Sometimes, foes are just impressive not to admire. (read his full innings via Cricinfo’s ball-by-ball. Shouldn’t take long…)