July 13, 2011


Fletcher's grumble pie

Andrew Hughes
Shahid Afridi speaks to the media ahead of his departure for England, Karachi, June 22, 2011
"When I'm president of the PCB, nobody will be allowed to criticise Shahid Afridi"  © AFP


Sunday, 10th July One series in and Duncan is already hitting his grumpy straps. After the Dominica Test, he came to the media party, stepped up to the plate, picked up the plate and helped himself to a steaming portion of grumble pie. Old chubby cheeks was in the firing line because his new team had offended a certain section of Indian fandom by settling for a draw. Having explained to the gentlemen of the press that he thought it was the right thing to do, he was most put out to have to repeat himself and it kind of went downhill from there. Good to see that Fletch hasn’t lost his PR touch.

But was a draw so bad? The blessed Australians are often invoked at such times, but I don’t recall AB’s team risking a series win with a brave run-chase. We would all like cricket to be played in the spirit of the Golden Age, by characters out to entertain, for whom cricket is a pleasant diversion from more serious pursuits like fox-hunting, gambling and partying. But we are in the era of the drab professional and results are everything. Those are the rules. It’s not Duncan’s fault.

Monday, 11th July Shahid Afridi is unhappy and is promising to unmask the people who are running a smear campaign against him. This is a touch melodramatic. And superfluous. When the smearing is carried out in an interview with a major newspaper, unmasking is not required. Even if the smearer had been wearing a Batman mask, and had given his name as Jazzy B Hutt, we would still have known who was behind it.

And besides the odd smear, as you might expect, Mr Butt’s interview had its share of crimes against logic. For example, the man who appointed Afridi as captain (for it was he) apparently thinks Afridi isn’t captaincy material. And then there was this:

“In my opinion, which may be considered by some people wrong,* he is responsible for losses in the fourth and fifth one-day internationals.”

Really? He may not have had the best of games in Guyana and Barbados, but he was ably assisted by at least ten other suspects, all of whom should have been in the frame for the blame. And oh yes, he won the series. Not to mention reaching the World Cup semi-final. Clearly the man was a failure. Let us hope that when Shahid becomes Chairman of the PCB in around 2031, he too has learned the art of logic abuse.

Tuesday, 12th July Mitchell Johnson doesn’t want anything to do with the BBL. My first reaction to this news was to ask my computer what the Brett Geeves was the BBL? The Big Brother Love-in? The Baked Bean Luge? The Board of Banal Linguistics? Then I remembered. Of course! It’s the Big Bash League, Australia’s answer to the question, “Is there anything we can do to make the world a more irritating place.”

That Johnson has decided to spend time learning how to hold a cricket ball rather than perform for the Perth Ponderers is refreshing, but it isn’t really news. The news is that, apparently, Cricket Australia is encouraging its players to take part in this superfluous franchised-up PR stunt. And why? Because if the top Aussie pros join in, it will help ensure the success of the competition. Clearly the financial viability of the Big Banana League is priority number one for the administrators of the world’s fifth-ranked Test nation.

* Perish the thought, sir

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by Going South on (July 14, 2011, 15:50 GMT)

I am a regular reader of The Long Handle and this is one of those very good posts from you Andrew. For BCCI, the job description for a coach is little different from the usual, with more importance on him being a good PR man that follow the company line that avoids controversy [rather than attracting it]. Thus DF is a very good fit. LOL@Big Banana League, if ACB keep giving more importance to BBL over everything else, they might end up even below that fifth rank.

Posted by viper on (July 14, 2011, 5:13 GMT)

well, one solution is force a result from tests too...for the 2nd innings of the team batting second, if the duration remaining is less than a certain amount (perhaps based on the average time per innings), let D/L kick in and let it be a run-chase to the finish.

this will force the team batting first to think strategically - to put up a large score or to put up a fast score. surely, there are refinements of this idea that they will need to work on...this is just a thought starter.

Posted by Alfred on (July 14, 2011, 0:21 GMT)

We would all like cricket to be played in the spirit of the Golden Age, by characters out to entertain, for whom cricket is a pleasant diversion from more serious pursuits like fox-hunting, gambling and partying - Classic!!!

Posted by Vinay on (July 14, 2011, 0:13 GMT)

The team that doesn't believe they can bat 10 or 15 overs after being 5 or 6 down is not really a champion as far as I'm concerned. I think India still had at least a couple more wickets to Gamble safely enough with before concluding it was too risky to chase.

Posted by sivaraman on (July 13, 2011, 22:02 GMT)

Wonderful Article...Even if India would have been brave and chased and if we would have won the test match at Dominica, ICC ranking does not give great points...We are number one and we stay so...We should be happy with the 1-0 win Vs WI....if there is something to Blame it should be the weather which spoiled our chances in this series so much...Sammy has said they will finish in top 5 by 2015....let us see if they stay in the Test playing Nations list by then....

Posted by Faldo on (July 13, 2011, 19:19 GMT)

Well, I'm sure those actually doing the job on the field knew best and in their wisdom decided that risking a series win was not called for. Point taken. However, could they not have tried to give the West Indians a scare, in attempting a chase at least during the start of their innings? It would have given them a better idea of how much they could be stretched if they faced a similar situation, say against a more formidable opposition.

Posted by CollisKing on (July 13, 2011, 19:17 GMT)

Will the Aussie 'big bash league' find new ways to out-ad the IPL in their TV coverage?* We already have ads at the end of every over, ads at the fall of every wicket, ads at drinks. How about ad breaks at the beginning of the bowler's run-up, an ad break while the umpire is thinking about it before the finger goes up, compulsory ad break during all-run 4's etc. etc. and of course extended ad-breaks when the umpire needs the evidence for tight run-outs and did he or didn't he drag it back in time diving to save that boundary ?

*so they tell me, as a cricket fan I have never watched a T20 game in my life.

Posted by Jingle Bell on (July 13, 2011, 18:14 GMT)

Haha...chubby cheeks!!!!! very nice post.

Posted by praxis on (July 13, 2011, 15:46 GMT)

I followed that test match for 5 days, went crazy when Kirk Edwards almost ran himself out on 99, waited Chanders to score his century, then at late night when I was preparing myself with half a liter of turkish coffee in my stomach for the final hour expecting a miraculous collapse in Indian batting order, then...well, you all know what happened. Maybe Dhoni & co was right with that decision but for most of us who were watching it was very frustrating. But I think that many Indian fans are making a huge deal out of it. "The blessed Australians are often invoked at such times", as Andrew Hughes writes here is quite unnecessary. India surely sits at the top of ranking but they aren't a great side as WI or Australia were.

Posted by crazykric on (July 13, 2011, 10:54 GMT)

Fantastic read. Loved the part about Afridi and Butt.

Afridi is realling thinking everyone a fool when he said he will unmask the people who are running a smear campaign against him. It's like defending the PCB chariman even when the Butt is tarnishing his reputation. Rather than pointing directly at him, Afridi is blaming anonymous people. I seriously hope he doesn't now say that it's actually the US or Israel which is behind his smear campaign.

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Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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