Thursday, 16 February 2012

Everyone Has Their Say

Steve Waugh outspoken on
In a week where Australia finally lost a game of cricket and the visitors remembered who they are and played more to that than recent woes would have encouraged them, the real action has been in comments about selections. The interest rates haven't just risen in banks.

In the one day series, Australia just lasted to beat an Angelo Mathews inspired Sri Lanka and India stormed home twice on the exploits of their formerly sleepy captain, MS Dhoni, to beat the hosts and tie with Sri Lanka.  Like the Tests, Australia's middle order has fired but things have been shaky at the top and the bowling has pretty much lived up to Mahela Jayawardene's suggestion that it had weaknesses to be explored. The who-ha over the little reluctant champion's honesty has somewhat dissipated in the light of its accuracy. England won twice in Dubai against Pakistan, with Captain Cook scoring back to back hundreds as the ODI leader. An interesting enough seven days of cricket ...

... 'till an event in the last third of the Australian loss to India sparked a chain of events which have again put the Australian selectors back into their previous pre-eminent position as the most discussed decision makers in the nation. Forget Ms Gillard's zealous speech writers - a topic of conversation for egg-heads and ABC watchers - Australia was more interested in what former True Blue captain, former Argonaut and former Last Ball Steve had to say about selections. One of the men that damned Andrew Hilditch all to hell and was no fan of how Ricky Ponting cut his jib as a leader, Waugh has been direct in his disagreement with the selectors.

"I'm surprised they didn't go to Warner and go to the future. It's only a temporary thing, you put Dave Warner in there as vice-captain … I assume they think he is leadership material. If he's vice-captain why can't he captain the side as well? Maybe they think Dave's not quite ready but why is he vice-captain? It doesn't make sense to me."

Michael Clarke pulled a hamstring as India surged to victory in Adelaide. During the few overs he was off the field, the selected vice-captain, Dave Warner, seemed at best to be co-director of bowling and fielding changes. The other man waving arms and talking with bowlers was Ricky Ponting. When it was announced that Clarke would be unavailable for the next game against Sri Lanka in Sydney, it was the former captain Ponting who was announced by John Inverarity as stand in skipper, based on the reasoning that Warner wasn't yet ready to lead. Why then was he made vice-captain, when the basic premise behind selection for vice-captaincy is that you are ready for the big job? The other issue to ponder is why this current one-day series is seen with such urgency that the selectors couldn't take a gamble on their own judgment, because that's where the gamble sat: not on Dave Warner's shoulders but on the selection panel. Its a shame to see such a sign of gutlessness so early. The conclusion must be that Clarke himself wanted Ponting to stand in and that opens another huge kitbag of problems that many have concerned themselves with in having the skipper on the panel in the first place. As Waugh said, Ponting will do the job with his eyes closed as he was always a far better captain in ODI cricket than Tests but that's not the point. A chance existed for a short term blooding and it was denied. If Ponting were a boy, he has been handed his job.

Warner has been a good servant and said very little.

Shane Watson spoke up this week on the eve of his return to first class cricket with NSW against the Sandgropers in Perth. Like the man crushed under a palette at the Kleenex factory, he's had more soft tissue injuries than any current Australian cricketer but his is a stoic jaw and he has taken his absence for the majority of the summer on the chin. The winner of the last two Border Medals won't be scoring the trifecta this year and possibly ever again because he wants changes. He expects to maintain the vice-captaincy in Tests, something which might explain the Warner rejection because Brad Haddin appears on a fast track to nowhere. He wants to open because that's where he's played his best cricket. He also wants a reduced workload which can only mean he bowls less in Tests or bowls less often for Australia. The logical extension of these demands is making himself unavailable for one or more of the short form styles and if he plays less cricket, he has a greatly reduced chance of polling well across the Board(er). It will be interesting how Clarke and the selectors react when choosing the first Test team in Bridgetown in early April. Warner and Ed Cowan must be assured of their opening spots and although Watson would best serve Australia at six given his bowling profile under Clarke, he now looks odds on for No 3.

Steve Waugh didn't restrict his comments on the selectors to the part time leadership situation but also had a spray about the manner in which Brad Haddin has been treated during the one day series. Put in a state of perpetual rest by Inverarity and Co whilst Mat Wade has made a strong debut, the feisty Test keeper has taken the Warner option and added little to the debate. Clearly, he's been assured that he's still the Test keeper but that his time has come in ODI cricket. A good result all round but not according to Waugh or Watson, who berated the selectors for not being fair dinkum with Haddin about his standing. Then, Watson has always liked to play all the options and has often spoken out for "friends" rather than common sense - an interesting character trait for a man who clearly wants to be Captain one day.

Whilst disagreeing with the opportunity lost for Warner, what is clear is that there is no confusion between the selectors and the players concerned. Both Warner and Haddin have been happy to react appropriately, something unlikely if either thought they were being shafted. Watson, however, is on the outside looking in and doing so with a pre-Inverarity mindset. He is yet to be chosen in an Australian team under the guidance of John Inverarity. Ponting confirmed the open communications at Australia's training today, adding that both players had had face-to face discussions with Inverarity. The Chairman of Selectors can be forgiven for thinking the media had no need to be part of the communications loop between him and the individual.

As for Steve Waugh ... oops.

Read Justin Langer's opinion from the Cricket Australia website. Let's see ... where would the little bloke stand on the issue?

Meanwhile, a interesting development for international cricket has gone almost unnoticed this week, with former South African keeper Dave Richardson, now the ICC's General Manager of Cricket, announcing that independent testing will be carried out at Cambridge University on the ball-tracking element of DRS technology. Computer Vision Consulting Ltd has been asked to review "the level of accuracy and reliability of the two ball-tracking companies (Hawkeye and Virtualeye) ... In terms of accuracy we want to know whether their virtual depictions of where the ball has pitched and where the ball has impacted the batsman accord with the reality, and whether their predictions as to where the ball would have hit the stumps are correct." The aim is to ensure that the results depicted are accurate in the highest possible percentage of instances. At the moment, with such reliance on the technology, the ICC may need to consider changing some of the rules and factor in technology error in much the same way as human error was always allowed for in the past. The belief that technology never makes mistakes forgets that humans wrote the logarithms which run the programs. Results are expected in May.