January 17, 2004 | Peter

A Contest, Please.

After a brilliant start, the current one day cricket series is heading south (or is it north in the southern hemisphere?). Zimbabwe have been crushed in the last three games, putting up as much of a fight as my local grade team would (South Perth).
Of course, this Zimbabwean side was hit hard by the desertion of two of its best players for political reasons. That is an interesting precedent. Will we see the scrupulously honest Adam Gilchrist – who is trying valiantly to revive ‘walking’ when the batsman knows he is out, and embarrassing the hell out of all the other batsmen – quit over his national leader’s predilection for the big blowie?
Ah, how I recall the great debate in the mid 1960s over walking. It was, looking back, the beginning of the end of cricket as a game for gents, as opposed to a profitable business.
As I said to Denis Lillee the other day (I have to get my mileage out of a chat down the laundrette with the world’s greatest fast bowler, who has hopefully worked out Brett Lee’s annoying no-ball problem and got him back to something like full pace), there is no game I know of where a player can be so easily out of the game as a batsman in cricket. Sometimes you get another go in the second innings, but not always. So judging a batsman out is inordinately important to the game and of course to the batsman.
This is why cricket is such a psychological game. People talk about golf in these terms, but at least in golf you keep getting more shots to work it out. In cricket you make one mistake, maybe a matter of millimetres, and that’s it, out.
But back to the one day series. There is simply no contest at the moment from Zimbabwe. Even these feats, like Gilly’s huge innings, are suspect against such weak opposition. After all, Mark Waugh made his record total against the West Indies. So watching the Australian and Indian batsmen rack up huge scores and their bowlers whip through the Zimbabwean top order is not really entertaining. It just gets ridiculous. Will Satchin Tendulkar kill a close in fielder with a well-timed pull shot on his way to a triple century? Will Jason Gillespie take five for nought before Heath Streak shows the Zimbabean top order how to bat? Streak should be collecting about half the Zimbabwean match payments right now. Too bad he can’t keep wickets as well.
I know Zimbabwe need experience, but they have been on the international scene for years now – they even beat Australia in a World Cup game decades ago. Furthermore, their weakness is to a certain degree due to domestic politics. This point has been made by WA batsman Murray Goodwin, albeit focussing on the race issue, who was then silenced by the ACB for speaking out. Interestingly, this denial of basic human rights by the ever authoritarian ACB has gone unchallenged as far as I know.
So, if the ACB wants to have these triangular series, it has to come up with three teams that can compete. Each of these Zimbabwean games lets the excitement generated the India-Australia games dissipate.
Perhaps in this day of commercial cricket and mercenary international coaches, Australia could hire out a few of the fringe players to Zimbabwe. Actually, Murray Goodwin is in good form right now…

Posted by Peter at 1:26 pm | Comments Off on A Contest, Please. |
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