Too highly rated?

I see Kevin Pietersen has been knocked off the top spot in the ODIs by Ricky Ponting. Very difficult to argue with that – Ponting is surely the stand out batsman in both forms of the game. Looking at the other batting rankings, it is difficult to find fault, although on current form, Shiv Chanderpaul ought to be in the test top three at least. Also, I struggle to understand how Mahela Jayawardene doesn’t break into either top ten, while Hussey retains a top five place in both. He’s very good, granted, but is he top five?

Jason Gillespie

The bowlers are altogether more perplexing. For one, how can Shoaib Akhtar still be at number 10 in tests? He’s played four tests since the start of 2006 and taken only a handful of wickets. Maybe in the current game, not playing is the way to climb the rankings. Likewise, Jason Gillespie (22) is still deemed a better Test bowler than Lasith Malinga (28)!

Agreed, it must be difficult to devise a workable system. Also, stats don’t tell the full story. But things start to look decidedly suspect when you inspect the Best Ever Ratings, which is a list of players at their peak. Ponting at four is just about fair enough, given his recent dominance. However, Peter May above Viv Richards shows a flaw, while Matthew Hayden in the top ten is just crazy. KP (21) is one place higher than Sachin and two places higher than Wally Hammond. Enough said.

For the bowlers, I half expected to see the list packed high with bowlers of yesteryear, given how modern bowlers are meant to have struggled, but it does put Murali, McGrath, Pollock, Waqar and Warne in the top 15. Of course, Warne should be in the top three, if not top of the pile. Wasim Akram limps in at number 57 behind the likes of Ntini, Shoaib and Harmison, which doesn’t seem right.

That said, like most critics, I can’t think of a better way. There must be some bright spark at Cricinfo with a formula….?

Ooh, ahh, Glenn McGrath. Spoofish video

Best watched at about 10am, in your office, and ideally when you’re boss / team-leader / line-manager or someone else is giving a speech. Shortly afterwards, and for the remainder of the day, you’ll be unable to say anything other than Ooh, ahh, Glenn McGrath…

If you can’t see it above, click here.

[via CI]

More injury woes for the Australians

Ye gods, the news keeps getting worse.

While New Zealand will field their first choices during the three games, Australia have left their captain and vice-captain at home and Andrew Symonds is recovering from a serious arm injury.

Adding to the visitors’ lack of power is a Brett Lee ankle injury and a hip problem to Michael Clarke, who is second-in-charge after Ricky Ponting decided to have treatment on his back and Adam Gilchrist rested. The changes mean Australia have picked a raw squad, including Adam Voges, Cameron White, Brad Haddin and the on-standby Phil Jaques, and the competition that has been wedged into a crammed itinerary has become an inconvenience, even though they were upended in the CB Series finals.

If Clarke is ruled out, Matthew Hayden will be the only one of Australia’s top four who is batting in his usual position while Brad Hodge, the No. 5, is keeping Symonds’ spot warm. The third-year series that the organisers pipe-dreamed would develop into an All Blacks-Wallabies rivalry is achieving the credibility of a pre-season warm-up.

Well, rivalries take some time to develop. And this particular chapter of the Chappell-Hadlee trophy is suffering because it is caught in a wedge right before the World Cup. There wasn’t time to hold it earlier in the summer though. I like the concept of the annual series though, and given ten years it will be a highlight of the summer.

The injury to Lee gives Mitchell Johnson a chance to strut his stuff as a key strike bowler. When fit, Lee, Bracken and McGrath are just about certain starters, and there is a lot of competition for the fourth bowling slot. Johnson has a chance to take it.

Meanwhile New Zealand have the chance to win back the trophy against an unbalanced Australia which is collectively as out of form and low on confidence as any Australian side has been in limited overs cricket, at least in the last decade or so. I’m looking forward to watching three very keenly contested matches.

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.

Australia’s retirements

What does it say of a side who, on the verge of losing three established players to pasture – two of whom have almost single-handedly provided the jugger in the naut for the past 15 years – seem unfazed by the effect it will have? Damien Martyn, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne have both announced their retirements and it seems Justin Langer is next.

It just seems Australia all have their rose-tinted goggles on. It’s certainly time to celebrate their careers, but what the hell about the future? Is this blind, cocky, Australian arrogance that these three can be easily replaced? Langer can – Australia have enough batting reserves to form another side entirely – but what about the bowlers? Stuart Clark has been remarkably consistent since he came in, but how will he respond being the attack leader in the absence of McGrath and Warne? The pair fed off each other for 12-15 years: one sucking the confidence and fluency out of the batsmen at one end to allow a more attacking line from the other. Clark has benefited hugely from both of them. And as good as he clearly is, I refuse to believe he is the new McGrath.

Brett Lee is never going to be the Test bowler Steve Waugh expected he would become. He is brilliant in one-dayers but too expensive, too raw in Tests to lead the attack (which makes Clark’s introduction to the side even more important). So, assuming Langer retires, what would your Australia side look like for 2007?

As ever, they have the best part of a year in which to formulate a replacement team; they’re in India for a Test series in November but, before then, one-day cricket reigns supreme.

Buchanan saves the kookiest ideas till last

Sydney is not only the swansong for Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath; it is also the last Test for John Buchanan as Australian coach. And not a moment too soon, if his latest media intervention is anything to go by.

Speaking to reporters at the MCG this morning, Buchanan said Australia was hoping for more of a challenge from England, which he thought had played without aggression, self-belief or thought of challenging the opposition for large parts of the Ashes series.

“I’m hoping that they really enjoy the New Year, come back with a new resolve and are really ready to take us on head-on in Sydney,” Buchanan said.

“I think we’ve been tested at certain periods of time but England haven’t been able to sustain their skills through the course of a five-day Test match. We’re quite looking forward to that in Sydney.

Short of baring his arse at the England team bus, I can’t think of a more insulting thing that Buchanan could have done. As an Australian, I can tell you that I wouldn’t have been too impressed if Duncan Fletcher had come out before the Oval Test in 2005 daring Australia to fire up.

It is a well established rule in all sports, not just cricket, that when speaking to the media of your opposition, you speak of them respectfully, and give them their due as worthy opponents. It does not matter if Australia are playing England, Zimbabwe, or Andorra at Test cricket.

When it comes to religion, I am an atheist. However, I am a devout believer in the cricketing Gods, and I fear their wrath. Buchanan’s actions could provoke a powerful response.

And I give thanks to all the Great Cricketing Gods that this is Buchanan’s last Test in charge. I’ll miss Warnie and Pigeon. Not sure I’ll miss Ned Flanders though.

McGrath 150-0 England

While Shane Warne added a gold lining to his script with his 700th wicket, on his home ground, and another five-wicket haul against England, Glenn McGrath was chugging along at the other end. He might have easily ended with more than a solitary scalp but, on a day of records, one of them nearly passed by unnoticed.

In dismissing Sajid Mahmood, McGrath claimed his 150th Test wicket against England. He has taken them at under 21 runs each and, it occured to me yesterday, I’ve seen nearly every, painful one of them.

The metronome started ticking in 1994 at the Gabba but it wasn’t memorable, and few who witnessed this spindly twig could’ve forseen a future champion. 0 for 40 from 10 in the first innings; 0 for 47 off 14 in the second. His enforced half-step into the stumps on delivery seemed a clever move but awkwardly executed. He didn’t look a natural.

A few months later, picked for Australia’s epic tour of the Caribbean, McGrath showed the qualities which would become a blueprint for fast bowlers. He took 5 for 68 in the West Indies’ second innings at Bridgetown - dismissing Brian Lara for the first time – as Australia took a series lead. After a draw in the 2nd Test at Antigua, McGrath took 6 for 47 to rout West Indies for 136. West Indies won – it remains one of my favourite Tests – but McGrath showed his class. Here’s the Daily Telegraph’s report:

McGrath, 25, a two-metre tall bush bloke from Narromine, held his
press  conference  barefoot  and  in  shirt and shorts yesterday,
hardly the vision splendid of Australia`s knight in shining   ar-
mour.

But with the Ashes new-ball pair of Craig  McDermott  and  Damien
Fleming  injured  and  back  in Australia, that is how “Pigeon“
McGrath has emerged in the Caribbean, having won the  man-of-the-
match  award in Australia`s first Test win in Barbados with 8-114
and now a candidate for the same honour in Trinidad.

McGrath sat in the players` box and scrutinised the West  Indies`
attack  on  Friday, observing how Curtly Ambrose (5-45), Courtney
Walsh (3-50) and Winston Benjamin (1-13) bowled a fuller   length
to avoid being cut or pulled with the ball digging into the pitch
and standing up.

With several hundred Australian spectators following  the  team`s
progress,  McGrath is still coming to grips with the personal war
chant – “Ooh, aah, Glenn McGrath!“ – reverberating  around  the
boundary.

“It`s something I`ve never experienced before,“ he  said.  “It
started  in  Barbados.  Hopefully,  we`ll  bring the cup home for
them.  We`re real confident. We are here to win, and that`s   ex-
actly what we`re going to do. The guys are pretty keyed up. If we
nail this Test, it will be great. It`s a pretty  tense   dressing
room.  The  main thing is that everyone wants everyone else to do
well. The attitude could not be better.“

Even the champions have to work hard. They always seem effortless, filled with luck and fortune but there’s blood and tears behind the smooth veneer. Anyway, he’s finished…and thank God for that!

 

[tags]glenn mcgrath, australia, metronome, australia in west indies[/tags]

Little Australia

The double act comes to an end. This stupendous piece of photoshopping courtesy of Mike at FlintoffsAshes.com.

[tags]glenn mcgrath, shane warne, cricket photos, photo, little britain, lou, andy[/tags]

McGrath calls it quits as well

So he’ll stay on until the World Cup, and then hang up his boots.

No Warne and no McGrath. Who will shower the opposition with verbal abuse and unplayable deliveries now?

Retirements?

There’s plenty of gossip going around that Warne and McGrath will retire at Sydney. Maybe. I think McGrath will say nothing but retire after the World Cup. As for Warne, I don’t think even he himself knows what he’s going to do.

But I’d still be a bit cautious on this one. I’ll wait till there’s an actual announcement.

UPDATE – Warnie has confirmed his retirement. Bugger!