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March 30, 2013

Cricket News Hurl

Jesse's perfection

Jarrod Kimber
It was brutal elegance and precision. It was a water buffalo doing a magnificent tango  © Getty Images
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This column usually starts with something on Jesse Ryder, because he is pretty much pure awesomeness. That means finding a way to shoehorn him into the news for some cameo in a domestic T20 match no one watching could remember any details if they were tortured about it.

This week Jesse was shoehorned into the news when two men brutally attacked him, caving in his skull and lung.

For a while it was touch and go whether Jesse would survive, and I was asked to be on standby to write a eulogy for one of my favourite cricketers of all time. I figured it would be easier to write a draft of it before he passed, as I'd be so upset when he did that it'd be almost impossible to write.

This is some of it:

Jesse's worst made the media's job quite easy. He churned out headlines, gave angry middle aged men their moral editorials and gave talkback radio days of free funny. Even on the field he never quite gave us what his wrists promised. Unfulfilled potential is the ugliest phrase in the sporting vocabulary.

At his best he was everything that was great about cricket. A shy man in a large body who could play a square drive so perfectly it would stop you in your tracks. If you ever saw one live, you'd never forget it. It was an immaculate cricket moment. This monstrous beast pushing the ball with statue stillness and perfect cricket hands in a gracefully delicate way. It was pure. It was artistic. It was flawless. It was brutal elegance and precision. It was a water buffalo doing a magnificent tango.

It was what cricket should be.

Most people try their whole life to do one thing absolutely as it was intended. Jesse did that almost every time he batted.

Now because of a seemingly violent act of randomness, Jesse has been taken from us. Leaving us with a few moments of cricket perfection, the sort that live in the stories people tell the next generation of cricket lovers.

Heroes, villains and artists don't often come in the one package.

Cricket exists for men like Jesse Ryder. And men like Jesse Ryder exist for cricket.

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Luckily, my hastily written overly emotional tribute to one of my favourite cricketers never got finished. While I was trying to write something that would honour Jesse, he was giving his doctors the thumbs up and is now in a stable condition. In hospital his family and friends have been reading him all the great things that people have said since the attack. Hopefully someone can read him what I said, but leave out the bit where I called him a monstrous beast.

Before the attack his former team-mates where fighting their own monstrous beast, Matt Prior. Sometimes when I watch Matt Prior bat I sigh out loud, and I am not a sighing person. But he really is that good. He may not make constant Test runs, but he seems to fall over making important ones. This Test, he was the only English batsman in both innings. And this could have been embarrassing for England. They could have, and probably deserved too, lost a series to the 8th ranked Test team in the world who didn't even have Jesse or Daniel Vettori in their side. Instead after three Tests, this battered English team won no matches, and kept New Zealand to the same score. Barely.

Even while England couldn't beat the 8th ranked side in the world in, they stopped to laugh at Australia who failed to beat India in any of their four Tests. Australia couldn't find the intestinal fortitude of England however, as they lost all four Tests to Che Pujara and any bowler who could turn the ball. It was the end of a series where Shane Watson became captain and Glenn Maxwell became a Test opener, so only losing four-nil wasn't too bad. According to Mickey Arthur, "I'm confident everything's still on track". What no one has told him is that his track may infact be straight at a brick wall that has a painting of a tunnel on it.

Anyone who uses the phrase stakeholders must be a good cricket administracrat. I wonder if on his length and breadth tour Cameron actually kissed any babies

Bangladesh is on track again after drawing their one-day series with Sri Lanka 1-1. I've been sucked in by good performances from the play-doh tigers before, and I won't be trusting them until they win a World Cup, or at least 12 of their players get IPL contracts.

The IPL starts next week. And it's started with a controversy over the fact that Sri Lankan players can't play in Chennai due to political interference over the treatment of Tamils in the civil war. This follows on from the fact that the Pakistani women's team were not allowed to play in Mumbai during the Women's World Cup. Indian politics is doing its best to get in the way of cricket any chance it gets. Next English players won't be allowed to play in India because of victims of the sitcom It aint half hot mum will be offended.

Luckily Nishantha Ranatunga, the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) secretary and (in no way is this a conflict of interest) CEO of Carlton Sports who own the local TV rights, said, "I don't think Lankan players should boycott the IPL just because of a political party and its views. The game should be kept away from it. That is the SLC policy." Yes, if there is anywhere on earth that separates cricket from politics it is Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan cricket politics got bizarre this week when current SLC president Upali Dharmadasa (I once rode in his car, long story, tell you another time) was deemed unfit to be nominated for the role of presidency despite being president at the time. Two other nominees also failed to be nominated for similar reasons, so Jayantha Dharmadasa, Upali's brother, is set to be president unopposed. Even though he had earlier pulled out. It seems Upali Dharmadasa forgot to get a letter of support from the Sports Minister, which was required for him. The need for the letter in no way makes Mr Ranatunga's earlier statement ridiculous.

The WICB has a new president. Whycliffe 'Dave' Cameron defeated Julian Hunte 7-5. Cameron said, "It was a long process and I travelled the length and breadth of the Caribbean, from Kingston, Jamaica to Georgetown, Guyana to be able to address the concerns of our stakeholders." Anyone who uses the phrase stakeholders must be a good cricket administracrat. I wonder if on his length and breadth tour Cameron actually kissed any babies.

The propaganda war in the Ashes got ugly this week when two old cricketers said things that contradicted each other. Ian "Beefy" Botham said something positive for England. Steve "Tugga" Waugh said something positive for Australia. There is a chance that sometime between now and the Ashes starting other former players of each country will continue this pattern.

The only thing more painful than pre-series old men talking up their country is a hernia. And Saeed Ajmal may have one. Ajmal is missing some domestic cricket at the moment and waiting to hear back from his doctor whether he needs surgery. I hope the first person to say he got the hernia from carrying his team actually gets a hernia.

Women's cricket batting icon Mithali Raj and Indian pacer Jhulan Goswami have been "rested" (or informed player managed) from India's home serie against Bangladesh. Raj, the captain, and Goswami, the former captain, are India's two best players. And they aren't exactly overworked. The Indian women's team has played no Tests this year, and they played the same amount last year. Outside of the World Cup, which was over a month ago, they've played pretty much no international cricket. They don't even play in the IPL. Although they do watch it, which can be tiring. The Indian selector Gargi Banerjee stressed that they hadn't been dropped, but did say, "They are 30 years old and I don't see them playing in the next World Cup, which is four years away." Yes, how could you expect an Indian player to turn up to a World Cup at 34? I'm sorry Gargi, but that's not cricket.

'That's not cricket' is also the phrase that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissenting statement from the Supreme Court this week when talking about an antitrust case result. Later on in the day, the Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States tried to reuse the phrase but failed magnificently, "To be fair or, as was suggested this morning, to be crickets…" Now, it is not surprising that an American would confuse crickets for cricket, even after hearing the phrase earlier in the day. But the Principal Deputy Solicitor General's name is Sri Srinivasan and he was born in India.

Surely for this faux pas, Sri Srinivasan should be banned from returning to India. Hopefully there is a political action group working on this right now.

Aaron Finch is going to the IPL to replace Michael Clarke's back. Finch was selected for the IPL because he is Victorian, and the IPL has a quota for South African sloggers, nice kiwis, West Indians with quirky names and Victorians.

If you've got anything you think should be in next week's cricket news hurl, email cricketnewshurlatgmail.com or tweet #cricketnewshurl. This column was approved by the minister for sports and candy

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

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