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'Australia are the underdogs'
India's emphatic performance in the ODIs, New Zealand's hunt for a coach, and the issue of cricket overkill (08:50)
November 2, 2009
The Tony Greig Show
'Australia are the underdogs'November 2, 2009
India v AustraliaNo matter how good the team is it's always been difficult to beat India at home. One glance at the record book will confirm this. I remember well arriving in India in 1976 with my England team. We were certainly confident but an Indian journalist reminded me that the last England team to win in India was before the 2nd World War. It was a sobering reminder.
Ricky Ponting and his team would have felt confident after winning the first ODI on their current tour but at the time of recording they are 2-1 down and now look the underdogs. A glance at the teams would suggest to me that man for man India are a better balanced and more experienced team so it is not unexpected that Ponting and his team have started to find the going tough. There will be those who will point to Australia's injury woes, but that is part of the test of a team.
In my experience well prepared cricketers don't break down. Two of the greats of yesteryear, Sir Alec Bedser and Fred Trueman, told me years ago that the only way to train to be a fast bowler was to bowl. Their formula was to turn up for practice at 9.30 in the morning, have a cup of tee, wander out to the nets, warm up by bowling of a short run for ten minutes and then mark out a full run and bowl flat out for a couple of hours. After a light lunch and another cup of tea, they would repeat the process in the afternoon. There was no stretching or weights or even running involved in their preparation and they never broke down.
There is a message in there somewhere for modern fast bowlers. There will be those of you who will want to draw my attention to how much cricket the modern players is required to play; well, let me tell you modern bowlers don't bowl nearly as many overs in any given year than the Bedsers and Truemans did.
India's dominance at homeI am often asked if I think Indians are bullies at home. Some call them flat-track bullies because they have a reputation for not enjoying fast bouncy pitches. I think this criticism is a bit unfair. India's game has always been developed on the pitches presented to the players in the main, these pitches happen to be slow in the main and also turners. Australian and South African players have developed their game on faster bouncier pitches, so naturally they handle pace and bounce better. The English game has been more defence based because of the movement bowlers have been able to get simply by hitting the seam. As far as I am concerned this variety is good for the game and the challenge it presents is very exciting. Every now and again all the countries I have referred produce batsmen and bowlers who are able to excel in all conditions.
Rahul Dravid's exclusionThe Indian selectors were cursed for dropping Rahul Dravid from the ODIs against Australia. Some say he has been given a raw deal but I don't think so. Dravid has always found the ODI format a little more challenging than the Test format and for this reason his spot is the correct one to use in an effort to unearth another regular Test player. Don't get me wrong here, I don't believe any youngster should be given a free ride, and they haven't been. There are plenty of Indians knocking on the door desperate for an opportunity. It's also pertinent to point out that selectors have historically been inclined to stick with the big guns for too long.
Ishant Sharma's formThe other question Indians are asking revolves around the form of the very promising Ishant Sharma. Sharma broke into the big time in fine style but like so many other bowlers is not living up to the expectations of his adoring fans. Be patient. It's common knowledge in the playing ranks that almost every bowler goes through a tough period after his initial exposure. Batsmen, once they have been exposed to new bowlers, take a little time to work them out. The challenge is to then back the bowler to prove that he has more than that which he initially exposed. Don't worry; Sharma given no injury problems will continue to be a force for India.
Australia in transitionDespite the changing of the guard in the Australian team they are still a good ODI team and there are plenty of players in the wings desperate for an opportunity. It seems to me that the selectors have to find a blend of youth and experience. This has not been easy for them because, as I have said before, the temptations of IPL cash has taken a few players who may otherwise have played on in the ODI and Twenty20 formats. At the moment they are missing Michael Clarke in the middle order and the bowling is not showing, on a consistent basis, that lovely combination of aggression and accuracy. Having said that the time hasn't come to underestimate Australia, they are still the team everyone wants to beat and will be for a while yet.
New Zealand's hunt for a new coachThe New Zealand cricketers were keen to board their plane for the Middle East, leaving behind them the turmoil which led to the resignation of coach Andy Moles. Daniel Vettori will be in total charge of the team during their limited-overs series against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Missing from the trip because of injury are Jesse Ryder, Grant Elliott and Daryl Tuffey, so New Zealand will have to play well to win. Plenty of names are being thrown about for the coach's job. Tom Moody has said he is not available due to his IPL commitments. Stephen Fleming is not interested. John Wright as usual is non committal. John Dyson, who has coached both Sri Lanka and West Indies, is definitely interested, as is New Zealand's former coach Steve Rixon. Over the years the most vocal of the so called wise men of New Zealand cricket have been Martin Crowe and Ian Smith, perhaps one of them should step up at this time of need.
West Indies captaincy issueOn the subject of replacements there is talk in the West Indies that Darren Ganga, after successfully leading his Trinidad & Tobago team to the finals of the Champions League, may be in line to take over the West Indies captaincy from Chris Gayle. There is little doubt that there is no love lost between Gayle and the WICB, but the word is that Gayle will hang on to the job in the short term. God only knows West Indies have been through enough without having a split camp on the field. This is why I found Ganga's criticism of Gale a little surprising. After all this there is no doubt there will be friction in the West Indies team when they arrive in Australia no matter who is captain.
Cricket overkillOne of the hot topics among the players and the administrators is that of cricket overkill; and my views on that subject have been exposed on Cricinfo often. We have to find a balance which gives the players and spectators time to maintain there enthusiasm for the game. The IPL has reduced by two months the time available to the cricket playing nations to satisfy their programs and the Twenty20 format has added extra International cricket. It is time for the ICC to take steps to insist that everyone pulls back. If they don't, cricket overkill will start to kick in and we will see a drop in crowds and TV ratings.
The Champions LeagueIt should become a permanent part of the cricket calendar but it must be understood that it is a domestic tournament and should not be allowed to interfere with the international calendar. It is already clear that while the players enjoyed it, the ratings and therefore revenue generated was hugely overestimated.
Remembering David ShepherdOne of the best umpires I have ever seen passed away last week. David Shepherd was himself a good cricketer but he graduated to be one of the most respected and loved characters in the game. He was obviously good at his job, but he also had a wonderful sense of humour, a characteristic that modern umpires would do well to develop.
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