Cricketers say some strange things sometimes

Yesterday on Australian television, Adam Gilchrist had some interesting things to say.

Most of Australia’s players did not want to tour New Zealand for the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, according to the vice-captain Adam Gilchrist. Gilchrist, who was resting while his team-mates lost the series in two games, said the side did not need the three-match contest and freshening up at home would have been a better exercise.

“I’m going to be brutally honest here and say I don’t think too many people wanted it on at all,” Gilchrist said on Inside Cricket. “We’ve had a very hectic summer. We had a brilliant summer in Test cricket, but then we fell away in the one-day series, and that was very disappointing.”

Gilchrist said the administrators had a difficult job trying to fit in the games and New Zealand Cricket was keen for the contest. “But if you had to be really specific about the Australian cricket team, we probably didn’t need this series at the moment,” he said. “It would have been nice to have that little bit of time for everyone to be at home freshening up and getting ready for the World Cup.”

Now why would he say that? I can understand the old veterans Gilchrist and Ponting not being particularly keen to go. Glenn McGrath didn’t look like a man full of the joy of bowling while he was getting tonked around Eden Park on Sunday either. But stand-in captain Mike Hussey is famous for being enthusiastic, and it showed while he was scoring a century. Matthew Hayden has barely missed a game since the DLF Cup in Malaysia in October, and when he’s been available for Queensland, he’s turned out for them as well. And my eyes may deceive me, but he looked a happy and contented old bear while he was scything 181 not out today, broken toe and all.

The other players in the Australian outfit that have played in this series are not Test players, so they can not exactly complain of relentless overwork. Are we to credit that Brad Hodge, Shaun Tait, Mitchell Johnson and Brad Haddin were not itching to get out there and represent their country? Shane Watson has spent the summer in rehabilitation wards getting over his hamstring- I bet he was keen as mustard to show what he can do.

So while I can understand why Adam Gilchrist might have had other things on his mind, I would have thought that the Australian team that flew into New Zealand last week was not short of enthusiasm. Bowling abilty? Well, not so much.

I don’t really know what to say about today’s events on the cricket field though. I’ll grant you that there was some spectacular batting. Matthew Hayden’s innings was truly majestic, but it was totally overshadowed by the evening mayhem. I wrote yesterday about the effects that a lack of confidence can have in a side, but not in my worst nightmares did I imagine that it was so bad that Australia couldn’t defend 346 when they had reduced New Zealand to 41 for 4.

Obviously, when a side is 41 for 4 chasing 346, the only sensible recourse is to give up any thoughts of sensible batting, and to go out onto all-out attack, and this is what they did. Peter Fulton led the early charge, and then McMillan and McCullum stole the show. They rode their luck to some extent, but the point is that once batting momentum is acheived against a bowling attack that is completely out of confidence, it is very hard to turn around.

And the New Zealand lower order did bat very well; the improvisation was a notable feature of the innings.

New Zealand will go to the World Cup full of confidence, although their own bowling looks weedy; they did concede a lot of runs as well, except in Wellington. Australia’s confidence though is as shattered as Hayden’s toe.

Ghosts in the Machine

The ghost-written sports column is as old as sports columns. It is where the sportsman talks to a reporter, who converts the players views into a column that is fit for printing. Or so goes the theory.

Michael Atherton lifts the lid on the ghost-writing process. It is quite an eye-opener to see how the process works. He comes out against the practice, and I have to say that I agree with him.

Just by the by, is it not odd that the cricketers who are often the dullest to watch are often the most interesting sort of people off the field, and vice-versa?

Earnings for international cricketers

I was interested to read of the England cricketer Andrew Strauss’ reputed earnings. Feb 2004 he was a county captain earning £80,000; now, though, that figure has been quadrupled. I’ve read elsewhere that Andrew Flintoff is thought to earn close to £1m/annum.

These are tiny figures compared to footballers but they seem excellent in cricket terms.

I’d be really interested to hear from others about their respective countries. I know there are Indian, NZ, West Indian and Australian readers lurking…so cough up and let me know! Oh God – under an hour until 2005…