Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Disgusted in solidarity.

Harbajan Singh gets away with racism.
Muttiah Muralitharan gets away with chucking.
The ICC has Robert Mugabe in their pockets.

It's time for a revolution.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Just thinking

I'm lacking anything really good to read at the moment. Yes I do have some text books to read, but I need some rest for my brain. After a busy couple of weeks of talking, planning, traveling (more traveling to come), I just want to read something relaxing. Melody got me started on John Grisham. Arrggh. I hate getting into something new that I really enjoy. I'm kind of an all or nothing guy. I read "The Testament", "A Painted House" and "Bleachers" consecutively, and then found myself starving for more. They were three very different books. One of them was a lawyer novel, but I am told the best of them, another about a struggling cotton farming family in Arkansas and another about a football team. His writing style is excellent and varied across the different novels. When we were staying at a friends place in Novo, she had a whole stack of Grisham novels. I wanted to read them all but realised I didn't even have time to read one. Reading a book in English is a luxury when you live in a foreign country.

After being away from the internet for 6 days I realised that the world keeps going with out you. I looked up the news pages to find out that Adam Gilchrist is retiring from cricket and Heath Ledger died. Not to say that I don't have compassion for the Ledger family, but his death does sound a little suspicious. Ledger was a good actor to be sure, I really enjoyed him in Ned Kelly. He will be missed from acting. I can't help but think that he may have slipped into a dark eternity. Of course I could be wrong.

Gilchrist's retirement from the Australian team is a bit of a bomb shell. Just a few months ago Hayden and Gilchrist said that they would be around for a few more years to give staibility to the Australian team, considering that 4 players retired last Summer. So it does feel a little strange to see Gilchrist retire now. Nine years in the test team was really not long enough for one of the greatest players the game has ever seen. Perhaps the Australian selectors need to find future stars when they are younger and stop selecting players that are nearly 30. I do wonder if the Indian Premier League in April was an incentive for Gilchrist to retire. The allure of big money there, may have tempted him to cancel his Australian commitment a little earlier than normal.

Regardless of his reasons. Gilchrist is moving on. Ricky Ponting says that the team has done a good job rebuilding in the last year. But have they? They have only played six tests since the last four departed a year ago. Sri Lanka were uninspiring, and India gave Australia a real run for their money. I'm not very worried though, Australian cricket has a lot of depth. Ponting pointed out that Indian players will be retiring soon as well. Considering that India are the only country that can match Australia, they will also have a rebuilding period coming up.

World cricket may be more competitive over the next couple of years. Australian fans actually want a competition to watch. This will present a new challenge to the Australian team, something they will relish. There are fewer players in the team that are capable of brilliance. Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds are now the senior batsmen. Lee is the only senior bowler. That means that more than 50% of the team are inexperienced, and now without an experienced wicket keeper. A wicket keeper is central in a team, and it is hard when one retires during a period of retirement.

Australia have an easier six months ahead of them. The tour to Pakistan is likely to be cancelled (which would have been tough). A series in the Caribbean will not be taxing, neither will a home series against Bangladesh. This should give the team 6 tests to get themselves sorted out before playing India away, and then a tough Summer at home.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Circle time

We had a couple of new people visit our gathering today. They had become quite disillusioned with the church. I commented to them that it is important to be part of a group where people care for you and take the time to pray for you. This often does not happen in so many churches, as they are either too large, or have too strict a program.
They were also given permission to participate as equals. When Jesus died on the cross the curtain in the temple was torn in two. The Holy of Holies was made accessible to all believers. The need for the priestly system of the old testament was done away with. Jesus is now our High Priest. All believers are priests in the Royal Priesthood of all believers. This is controversial stuff in the established church. In the Body of Christ, there is no distinction between clergy and laity. But this seems to undermine the traditional structures of established churches, and removes the power of one man over another. But Jesus said that the gentile rulers lorded over other people, and this was not a system that he wanted to establish.
We are all equal as priests in the Body of Christ, as were our new guests today. If you are a believer in Jesus, you are a priest too. As a priest you have a function to perform. Find a place where you can perform this function. I wonder if I'll get shot for talking like this!

It's not quite sinking in yet

The new hero for India, 19 yo Ishant Sharma dismisses Australia's captain and long time hero Ricky Ponting.

The Australian cricket team were accused of being arrogant in Sydney. They celebrated with great excitement after a very narrow win in Sydney. The two teams later shook hands in the dressing rooms. A storm followed the Sydney test match with many allegations of cheating, arrogance and racism, based in many events during the test match. The two teams made up and apologised before the Perth test match.
An exciting test match followed. Both teams fought hard. India fought harder and won a famous test match. It has been pointed out that the on field rivalry between India and Australia has been the closest over the last two decades. Since 1991-92 Australia have won 10 and India 8 (there have been draws as well). In that same time Australia lead England 27-9. In previous years neither side would win a test match on their opponent's soil. (This is because the style of play between the two countries is quite different, India are the best at spin, and Australia favour fast bowling.) But in recent years both have swapped wins on foreign soil. This only means that the competition is heating up.
Some journalists have tried to say that Australia's reign as world test champions is coming to an end. It is a little early for such comments. Australia have just finished a world record equalling winning streak of 16 tests. The previous streak was by Steve Waugh's team and ended in 2001. That streak was ended in 2001 and was also broken by India. But India did not go on to have their own long winning streak in between.
This was one test match. Undoubtedly India played very well and were the stronger side. Some would say that it is because Mc Grath and Warne have moved on, that Australia are now a weaker side. But the newer bowlers performed well against Sri Lanka (ranked equal 2nd in the world with India), and definitely won the match for Australia in Melbourne.
Three things lost this test match for Australia. Firstly, Matthew Hayden was injured and did not play for the first time in over 90 tests. Phil Jaques his opening partner was playing only his 5th test as an opener and Chris Rogers his first. Having two new players in the most important spots in the batting order brings a lot of instability to the batting order. Hayden will be back for the Adelaide test. Secondly, the Australian team had a very slow over rate. This is still their fault and lead to them losing, but it does not mean they were an under strength side. The slow over rate meant that Australia's number one bowler, Brett Lee did not get to bowl enough, as the over rate had to be sped up. Thirdly India played very well, there were all round strong performances by multiple batsmen, where as there has been too strong a reliance on Tendulkar in the past; Ishant Sharma was a bright new shining light for India.
Australia have had one knock down. Their victory in Sydney was narrow. But this team have always fought hard for their wins. They have never expected things to come easily for them. They are always striving to improve themselves. This loss will not be any different. The team admitted that they are very hurt over this loss, and they are fired up to win in Adelaide. A loss can be a good thing, it will keep the Australian team human. It will also give the Australian public a chance to cheer for their underdog again, a position we are some how more comfortable with.

Congratulations India.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A small prediction

I know I've been on a bit of a cricket thread recently. More than half my readers are Canadian so that may be a bit strange. Anyway, in test cricket it is normal for a fast bowler to bowl a "bouncer" every now and then to the batter. (A bouncer is a ball that reaches the batsman at around chest height or higher.) A bouncer is actually playable, but a lot more difficult than a regular ball. The rules in test cricket give the umpire discretion as to how often such a ball can be bowled. (In one day cricket a maximum of one per over is allowed.)
This is fair and within the rules of the game, but it has a history. Sometimes it is deemed unfair if a bowler utilises the bouncer too often.
My prediction is that as India have been crying foul of Australia so much recently, that every bouncer bowled by an Australian will be seen as unsportsmanlike. How far the game has digressed from the true spirit intended between two teams.

Friday, January 11, 2008

In the archives

Archives sometimes get adjusted to protect the innocent, or the guilty.

Back in 2006 I talked about a weird mystery night sound. Now you can hear it for yourself.

I believe in you Ricky Ponting

I can't believe how much tripe the media forces down our throats these days.

Let's establish some of the facts. Yes Australian players have been guilty of verbal sledging for a long time. But let's not be naive here though, other teams in world cricket have also done the same. Perhaps the reggae loving calypso kings of the 70s did not, but it has been common. Secondly there is a politically correct disease going around which basically says that all westerners should feel eternally guilty for racism while the former victims of the colonial world can lash out as much as they please with no condemnation at all.

Modern sporting institutions have tried to bring some equality to the playing field. I have generally little respect to the ICC, because they are corrupt and have pandered to the unequal demands of sub-continent countries and Zimbabwe in the past. But I do have respect for the ICC when they demand that the rules must be adhered to in the issue of abuse and racism.

Australia have now been the strongest team in cricket for around 15 years, and their reign is beginning to eclipse that of the West Indies before them. Other countries are tired of Australia winning all the time, and are finding any excuse to point the finger.

Back to the cold hard facts. When Australia toured India in October for a series of one day games, Harbajan Singh was guilty of calling Andrew Symonds a monkey, quite publicly. Apparently he believed that Symonds mixed African and European background has the appearance of a monkey. Spectators latched on to this and were also calling Symonds a monkey from the stand. Andrew Symonds was very big about this. Behind the scenes the Australians and Indians talked together and agreed that such talk would not happen again.

In the second test of the current series in Sydney, things flared up again. Harbajan Singh hit Brett Lee on the backside with his bat. Andrew Symonds felt this was over the line and confronted Singh on the matter. Singh proceeded with more monkey insults against Symonds. At the close of play on day 3, Anil Kumble (the Indian captain) requested Ricky Ponting (the Australian captain) to not make a formal complaint, but Ponting informed Kumble he had already done so.

At this point it must be mentioned that Ponting had done no wrong in reporting Singh. Singh had gone back on their verbal agreement from October. Kumble was hoping that it would blow over, but Symonds was offended and Ponting was within his rights to make the complaint.

The media had wildly attacked Ponting and the Australian team as bad sports. They have cited that Australia have often sledged and can not take their own medicine. But what does the media know of the things that have been said on the field in the past? The climate is changing, other teams have been guilty in the past, and all are expected to abide by the rules now, not just the Australians.

During the second test there were some bad decisions made by the umpires. Allegedly, Steve Bucknor made new fewer than 6 bad decisions. Of these decisions one went against Ricky Ponting and the other for him. When Ricky Ponting was given out LBW and he hid not agree, he stayed at the crease too long (as many a batsmen has done before accepting the umpires decision). When he returned to the dressing room he threw his bat on the floor. The cameras should not be allowed in the dressing rooms. this was Ponting's own place to let out his frustration. His frustration would have been as much in his failure for the fourth time this series as with an umpiring decision he did not like.

Whether Ponting was a bad sport over his dismissal is not actually connected to his formal complaint over racism. But the media have put all factors in one pot and labeled him as a cheat. The fact that Peter Roebuck from the Age newspaper demanded Ponting be sacked as a result is extremely arrogant, but that he went on to also demand that Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist resign over the incident makes me wonder if he is being bribed by an Indian bookmaker.

Ricky Ponting has done a lot of good for Australian cricket. In response to the accusation of arrogance he said that if his team were arrogant they would not have jumped up and down like schoolboys when they won narrowly on Sunday. If they had been arrogant they would have simply had a smug face as if they expected to win. This cricket team have always worked hard and they do not expect victory to come easily. Last year against England in Adelaide they looked as if they could lose but fought back hard to win.

The Australian cricket team are humans too. The Indian cricket team spat the dummy when they said they would go home if Harbajan Singh was not cleared. Their suspension of the tour was an act of bad sportsmanship. Ponting made an official complaint and the ICC have dealt with it through official channels. If the Indian team have complaints they can deal with it through official channels too. And the media should take their ball and go home. Let the cricketers get on with their cricket and stop interfering! As to why the Australian public have turned against Ponting, to me says that all their decisions are informed by a media with ulterior motives. Kind of reminds me of a recent election result.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Following cricket from the other side of the world

Australia celebrate as Michael Clarke took the final wicket with 1 over to spare, to defeat India and take a 2-0 series lead.

As in most professional sports, money plays too big a role in cricket these days. CRICKET AUSTRALIA, have banned radio broadcast on the internet outside of Australia. This means that I can not tune into the ABC on the internet to listen to a test match. I wonder how they think they would lose money if it were possible. A few years back I was able to listen. So it is disappointing to have lost this privilege.
I was following the second test in Sydney between Australia and India yesterday by text commentary. It had been a close game and came down to the wire in the end. I managed to get on to a friend in Australia on skype and he talked me through the last 5 overs. Michael Clarke pulled an amazing win out of the bag in the second last over, taking 3 wickets in 4 balls.
A few conclusions can be drawn from this match:

Australia will benefit greatly from a close game. They have won so easily in recent years as their current 16 match winning streak shows. A close and exciting win will invigorate them to play better cricket.

The team does not need Brad Hogg. Yes, he did well to make 79 in the first innings and support Andrew Symonds in his 164, that surely kept Australia in the game. But Brad Hogg is in the side for his bowling and he did not take a single wicket in the match and did not perform that well in Melbourne either. Australia should not pick a spinner for the sake of it. They should wait until a young spinner is ready to play test cricket. In the mean time they can rely on Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds when needed as the showed by taking 6 wickets between them in the second innings to win the test match.

In Melbourne Stuart Clark and Mitchell Johnson performed very well to show that Australia has yet more depth in bowling after Glen McGrath and Shane Warne have retired.

Andrew Symonds has finally come of age as a worthy contributor to the test side, it was a long time coming, but he has filled the gaps left by previous players.

The Indians are a bunch of whingers. Harbajan Singh has been banned for three test matches after being found guilty of racial slurs against Andrew Symonds. The team threatened to go home and abandon the rest of the series. They are staying now and appealing the ban, which they can if they want. But they sound like sore losers to me. Kind of reminds me of Sri Lanka after the world cup.

A mid pitch argument after Harbajan Singh called Andrew Symonds a monkey, which had also previously happened when Australia were on tour of India a few months ago.

In other cricket news, the British government have made noises that they will not allow the Zimbabwe cricket team to enter the country for future scheduled tours, due to Robert Mugabe's evil regime. In an unofficial response the ICC have said that they will move the 2009 Twenty 20 championship away from England. This once again underlines how corrupt they are or spineless to ban Zimbabwe from ICC membership, as they had previously done to South Africa.

Glossary for the uninitiated Canadian:

Cricket- A game with bat and ball' the ancestor of baseball and softball. In England they eat cucumber sandwiches at lunch time, but in Australia it is also very popular among the working class ("the convicts").

Wicket- The near equivalent of an "out" in baseball.

Over- 6 balls. A "ball" is the near equivalent of a pitch in baseball. A bowler bowls one over at a time, before another bowler also bowls an over.

Test match- A test match can last up to 5 days. Each side has two innings. A minimum of 90 overs have to be bowled in one day. This usually takes about 6 hours, therefore a match usually lasts around 30 hours. There are shorter versions of the game- a "Limited overs" game is 50 overs per side. This is around 6-7 hours in length and played in one day. This is a similar amount of time to a Major League baseball double header. A Twenty 20 game (20 overs per side) takes 2.5 hours, and is fast becoming that commercial future of the game.

78, 164, etc- That is the number of runs that a batsmen made, yes that's right. Keep in mind that a batter does not have to run when they hit the ball, and that they can keep batting until they go out.

Spinner- A person who only bowls spin balls. Think of a ball spinning of the table in table tennis; a spinner can do this off the ground in cricket. Australia recently had the best spinner in the world (Shane Warne), but he has now retired. They have been tempted to play another spinner Brad Hogg, because they think their team needs one.

Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds- Both players in the Australian team who are selected for their batting, they do not usually bowl. But they were very successful in this match. This is the equivalent of Barry Bonds pitching a full game on the mound.

Whingers- Extremely sore complainers.