Sunday, March 25, 2018

Rub 'em Out

A two-and-a-ha;f-year hiatus in posts hereabouts could, to The Casual Observer, be taken as an indication of a substantial decline of interest in Australian cricket.
That's partly true,
There has been a significant drop-off, but until yesterday morning there were mitigating factors.
It's hard to get into a day-by-day, analysis of a test series unless you can start from the beginning and get into a rhythm.
You can't do that if you're away at the start of the series, and you're disinclined to start if you know you'll be away through the middle or towards the end.
Details of international cricket may not be impossible to obtain while you're on the road in Europe, Japan or Southeast Asia, but they'll inevitably be sketchy and incomplete.
And if you're engaged in writing a travelogue, you won't have time to sidetrack onto the cricket.
And it's hard to write lengthy analyses of selection matters as the Sheffield Shield becomes an increasingly under-the-radar concern.
One notes, for example, almost complete silence on the main evening ABC TV news bulletin about the once significant matter of a Sheffield Shield final in Brisbane. (After Day Three, Queensland 3/233 in reply to Tasmania's 477).
No, where once you could look at the first couple of rounds and throw a few names around, these days you won't be able to do it unless you do a fair bit of legwork.
You can, of course, head out and buy a newspaper. If you're inclined to, which Hughesy isn't. Given the almost total News Corp domination of the newspaper sections of Bowen newsagents Mr Murdoch can consider himself lucky to be getting Hughesy's $1.60 per week for the local sausage wrapper.
I refuse to pay for the Currish Snail or the Catholic Boys' Daily due to the blatant partisanship on display in both publications, and the Townsville Daily Babblesheet is, IMHO, an incredibly unfunny joke.
At this point, one feels obliged to point out that there's nothing wrong with partisanship per se. Be as partisan as you like, but don't expect to get the custom of those who are equally biased in the opposite direction.
Which brings us back to the cricket, and this correspondent's deep-held and totally partiisan belief that there are only two default positions for the Australian cricket team.
In the natural order of things, Australia should rank at #1 in any form of the game.
If we're not, having been temporarily dislodged, we should be on our way back having analysed what upset the ap[ple cart.
And, having been dislodged from that top ranking, one will always suspect some degree of sharp practice. That may take the form of doctored pitches, dodgy bowling actions, other applications of the dark arts or, Hughesy's particular bugbear, the co-ordinated crowd sledge.
Seriously, I want to know why the Barmy Army can't be told to sit down, shut up and watch the cricket.
And I note recent comments from South Africa about offensive remarks from Australian crowds. Strange. I thought incidents in Perth were primarily attributable to South African expatriates disgruntled by the inclusion of lesser beings in their national side. I may, of course, be wrong about that.
But sharp practice, any sharp practice, must be called out and given a severe belting.
Which brings us to the insignificant matter of a ball that refuses to reverse when you want it to.
The particular form of the black arts we know as reverse swing has come a long way over the past thirty or so years. Where once the would-be reverser would use a bottle top or some similar implement to rough up the ball now we have more subtle approaches that may or may not deliver the desired result.
Outfielders now get a favourable response if the ball bounces into the wicketkeeper's gloves. Forty years ago that would induce a glare or, in the pre-stump microphone days, a blunt assessment of someone's throwing arm.
There are any number of other subtle little tricks that might achieve the desired result, but almost everything takes time.
And, when it comes down to tin tacks, some balls just won't swing. They won't swing in the orthodox manner, and they won't reverse either. You won't know until the bowler has it in his hot little hand, sends it down with a technically correct action and fails to see the desired result.
Tough luck. That's all part of the game. Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you.
So here we have a situation where the ball refused to reverse, some subset of the Australian side decided to do something about it, and one player volunteered to carry out the assignment.
One is inclined to believe that this has not happened before because, quite simply, if it was part and parcel of the regular arrangements it would have been done competently. We might have heard rumours, there may have been the odd whisper, but those things can be stared down. Watch everybody else do that.
Here, the attempt to tamper with the ball was incompetent and, it seems, ineffective. Did the umpires decide the ball needed to be replaced? That does not appear to have been the case.
So, a dumb decision and incompetent implementation. What do we do? Deliver a little rap over the knuckles and let things blow over?
Not on your nelly.
As far as Your Correspondent is concerned, take all those who were in on the discussion and did not respond to suggestions that they tamper with the ball with a "No, that's wrong."
Suspend that entire group from all forms of the game for twelve months effective tomorrow.
If that means Australia forfeits the next Test, tough luck.
Then, once the twelve months are up, the suspended players should not be considered for selection until their Sheffield Shield form warrants their inclusion.
From March 2019 they may, of course, find cricketing employment somewhere, assuming there's someone who wants them.
Or is that too harsh?
Not when you see headlines like this one: Smith, Warner could face life ban from CA.

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