Rob Steen
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Sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton

My 2013 wishlist

More Tests, a better New Zealand, more power to Kallis, and Dravid for ICC chairman

Rob Steen

January 9, 2013

Comments: 32 | Text size: A | A

Junaid Khan finished with a five-for, Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Pallekele, 3rd day, July 10, 2012
Will Junaid Khan come of age for Pakistan in South Africa? © AFP

That impoverished woodman of fairytale fame had three wishes at his disposal but cricket's needs are a good deal more pressing than a lump of black pudding. My most fervent ones for 2013 are that, in ascending order of urgency, we witness the following headlines:

Hail Mahela
It says a lot about Mahela Jayawardene's aversion to spotlights that the record most likely to be associated with him 50 years hence is half a record: 624, the loftiest Test stand. To spend one's career competing with Kallis, Dravid, Lara, Ponting and Tendulkar is unfortunate enough; the final reckoning, moreover, will probably also find him trailing (in substance if never style) Kumar Sangakkara, with whom he shared those finest hours. Equanimity, happily, has long been an asset, so it's hard to imagine his autobiography being a moan-athon - beyond, of course, that double-barrelled shotgun of a chapter on the shortcomings and shameful goings of Sri Lankan administrators. With proven class exiting left, right and centre, cherish him while you can.

Fiery Hadlee in blazer blaze
If New Zealand are shaping up as the new West Indies (circa 2004 rather than 1984), the lack of wider concern is alarming. In their last 15 Tests against non-Zimbabwean opponents, stretching back to November 2010, they've scaled 300 four times in the first innings, and not unpredictably, won just twice - albeit mightily so, in Colombo and Hobart. One of these days, when the failed All Black wannabes who run the game there tire of mucking their best player about and Sir Richard Hadlee torches his 1986 England tour mementoes, we may yet see how good Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell really are. Still, let's not judge them too harshly if they reverse the trend and head for the Cape.

Jacques gets more laddish
Pete Townshend once hoped he'd die before he got old, then spent the next five decades wishing he hadn't and striving to prove he shouldn't. "It's better to burn out than fade away," advocated Neil Young, but the ornery old bustard still refuses to do either. In sport, fading away is natural, normal, inevitable, though nobody, plainly, told Jacques Kallis.

While rivals and contemporaries withered, shrank and retreated into retirement, the pride of Pinelands has not only kept a tight grip on his mojo but added new gizmos. In his autumnal splendour he's as effective over 20 overs as 450. Reverse sweep on the first day of a Test? Meet Jacques the Very Laddy. Maybe he's bent on compensating for the grisly exit suffered by his best pal, Mark Boucher? At the risk of sounding ungratefully greedy, please grant us another year at least, o taciturn maestro, if only to keep greatness within our sight and grasp.

DJ Sammy: Champion remixer
It may be some time before the five-day throne accommodates Caribbean bums again but that revival in the shorter formats has been distinctly heartening. Underrated with the ball, hit-and-miss with the bat, Darren Sammy probably shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a Test XI, but where would any contemporary West Indies combo be without that patience, that smile, and yes, that mother hen-ish clucking?

Given that Marlon Samuels has re-blotted his copybook and reverting to Chris Gayle is probably still too big a shift in the reintegration game, the West Indies selectors appear to have no choice but to persist with the Brearley Plan: ten good men under the right coaxer is better than 11 rudderless good men. Few will bid the Champions Trophy a tearful farewell, but winning it would keep such an unfashionably long-term strategy nicely in the groove.

Wasim and Waqar 2.0
I can't recall the last time anticipation exerted its exquisite hold quite as relentlessly as it did in the half-hour before India's chase against Pakistan in Kolkata. This was partly down to the pressing need for a reason, any reason, to be cheerful. The first half of the week, after all, had brought nothing but gloom. First Tony Greig died, then Christopher Martin-Jenkins: the game's foremost salesman and conscience-in-chief, both gone with joltingly premature suddenness. Then New Zealand did what had long seemed inevitable, mistaking a Test for a T20.

Mostly, though, that feverish state was attributable to the impending return bout between India's openers and Pakistan's new-ballers. In Chennai the southpaws had battered timber early and often. Mohammad Irfan might look as if he got lost en route to signing for the LA Lakers but packs a mean yorker and an even meaner bouncer. A year ago, Junaid Khan looked decidedly handy; however much the opposition's suspect footwork sharpened his threat, the way he whipped out the Indian cream, moving the ball both ways at pace, through the air, off the pitch but consistently on the mark, did nothing whatsoever to curb this unbridled enthusiast. In the (extremely) blue corner stood two classy old hands in search of form and self. Gautam Gambhir had been defiant rather than assured; Virender Sehwag had brought to mind a tiger fresh out of root-canal surgery: pissed off but powerless to stem the pain with an act of gratuitous savagery.

What ensued was a page-turner as well as an honourable draw. Luckless at first, Junaid achieved the key thrusts, unseating Gambhir after a steady start then hypnotising Virat Kohli into glancing a wide. Sehwag, though, kept both quicks at bay, venturing perilously yet encouragingly close to head-down, no-nonsense sobriety. Call it a minor triumph over nature: he knows he can't just click his fingers anymore.

In the end, Pakistan romped home, and can now look forward with realistic optimism to the Big One: three Tests in South Africa. Reinforced, one assumes, by Nasir Jamshed, those disciplined bats could unsettle the three horsemen of the apocalypse, Dale, Morne and Vernon, but the blooding of Faf du Plessis has made the hosts' top six the most formidable around. Not even Saeed Ajmal will be as crucial to the hitherto weedy challenge to Protean domination as Wasim and Waqar 2.0.

ACSU fixes it for umpires
This may sound terribly naïve, but when I heard it I couldn't believe it. In its apparently ceaseless efforts to combat match-, spot- and any other sort of fixing yet to be dishonoured with an official brand name, those purportedly commonsensical chaps known collectively as the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit do not routinely consult those closest to the action - the umpires.

Granted, six of the less reputable ones, assigned to World Twenty20 warm-ups, were suspended last October following a TV sting, arguably justifying such an oversight. But is it an oversight? Maybe the ICC and the ACSU sincerely believe the players are too well-versed in the dark and ancient arts of buttering up, suckering and playing umpires for fools, which, not unnaturally, devalues the latter's word.

The best things about the DRS are a) it exists, b) many more nations assent to it than don't, and c) the colossal number of decisions it suggests were bang on the money leads one to conclude, not unreasonably, that those who make them are on the straight and narrow. As the ultimate arbiters of fair play and foul, isn't it time they were equipped with a whistle (of the strictly figurative kind, natch)?

Dravid to sort out ICC philistines
The madness must stop. No, I'm not referring exclusively to the game's divided and ineffectual governance (a Lord took that one on and look what happened to his proposals) but, with marginally less despair, to that brazen thief of quality - the Future Tours Programme. The two chinks of light are the massive decline in ODIs (albeit counter-balanced by an even bigger rise in T20s) and next year's appointment of the inaugural ICC chairman. Time, surely, for someone completely different, someone who can see it from the perspective of both player and nurturer. And while we're dreaming, let's entrust what remains of our faith to someone respected from Wellington to Wellingborough and grant them the sort of dictatorial rights Lord MacLaurin enjoyed in his mixed if largely successful bid to bang English heads together.

Sangakkara will be perfect once he hangs up his jockstrap but the burden that will inevitably take up residence on the shoulders of the initial appointee should be left to someone accustomed to bearing heavy loads uncomplainingly, i.e. Rahul Dravid. We know he's a sensible fellow. We know how passionately he feels. So long as he's his own man as much as we think he is, it may not be too fanciful to believe he can get everyone rowing in the same direction as well as the right one.

As to specifics, he might care to consider the following a campaign donation: four-week IPL uninterrupted by internationals; nine-year home-and-away tour cycle punctuated by a mid-term, month-long World Test Championship knockout featuring the top eight countries, all games played to a finish; minimum of one home/"home" and one away Test series per Full Member per year; at least three Tests but no more than three ODIs and three T20s per tour; Test nations take turns to tour the leading associates, culminating in a four-day first-class match; broadcasters told to like it or lump it.

As Mickey Rourke's Boogie mused in Diner: "If you don't have good dreams, you got nightmares."

Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton

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Posted by DeckChairand6pack on (January 10, 2013, 12:39 GMT)

Nice article Rob. Interesting propostion regarding the Tests programme although I don't think I could wait 9 years for another visit from a team. Broadcasters should definitely tow the line, we all know they bring money into the game, but too often the tail wags the dog.

Very much looking forward to Pakistan's tour later this year, they certainly have the x factor. We should have too much firepower but it will be interesting how the favourites tag sits with the Proteas. I'm going to do a Glenn McGrath and say 3-0 to SA!

It's my hope that JK will keep going until he is 40, held together by magic band aids and blue tack. Please let me dream!

Posted by   on (January 10, 2013, 12:32 GMT)

If there's only one GENTLEMAN who played the game of cricket, it must be Rahul Dravid. The ICC on the contrary carries too many administrative baggages. Hence, there is a serious reputation-incompatability chasam between the two. So, while it would be great to have a man of such distinguished character at the helm of such an important international sporting organisation, the mere fact that the ICC is not willing to to do any administrative introspection of itself to improve its image, and because Mr Dravid is not the bullying and dictatorial type to do whatever is necessary to ensure necessary change, I would not like to see him at the helm of that organisation, less he's doomed to bismirch his flawless reputation. Because, the first thing that the entire world would be calling on him to do, is to see to it that India and the Indian team are made to subject themselves to all the rules of the ICC, just as the other teams are COMPELLED to do, while the Idians are let off - What a task!

Posted by   on (January 10, 2013, 6:00 GMT)

Pak test team: Nasir, Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Younis, Misbah, Adnan Akmal, Umar Gul, Junaid Khan, Saeed Ajmal, Irfan Khan (reserves: Abdur Rahman, Anwar Ali)

Posted by   on (January 10, 2013, 0:33 GMT)

Awesome article Bobbie! No non-sense, to the point, and good points they are. I think that Pakistan is an emerging great in the test arena and will become SA's number one rival over the next few years.

Posted by tfjones1978 on (January 9, 2013, 23:12 GMT)

"nine-year home-and-away tour cycle punctuated by a mid-term" Are you kidding me? It should be two year home-and-away tour cycle with a Test World Cup every four years. It should be two divisions of six tests countries playing four tests (two home & two away) against each team, meaning 20 tests in 24 months. Since you can play four tests home & away (including warm ups against assocs) easily within six weeks and ODI & T20s can be scheduled into gaps, then a quick, two year test championship cycle can occur. Image current SA, Aust & Eng teams playing eight tests (four home & four away) against the other two with the team that wins the most of them becoming number one in the world. And lets not forget former number one India or competitors Srilanka or Pakistan, all teams that could fight with the top teams to move out of the danger spot of number six team, whom would get replaced every two years by WI or NZ. And there is always the chance in Tier 2 of Bang, Zimb or two assocs doing well.

Posted by   on (January 9, 2013, 22:30 GMT)

Pakistan series will be close. South Africa can look vulnerable at times, and Pakistan will be unpredictable, but remarkably good considering the political situation in their country, and their cricket. Nice post about Jacque Kallis being close to the record for most sixes. He's also pretty close to 300 wickets, but I can't see him getting there in the Pakistan series. Maybe when he has 13000 runs, 300 wickets and 200 catches people will start realising how unbelievable he is.

Posted by Syed_imran_abbas on (January 9, 2013, 21:23 GMT)

My Test team for Pakistan tour of SA: (1) Hafeez (2) Nasir Jamshed/Taufeeq umer (3) Azhar Ali (4) Younas Khan (5) Misbah (6) Asad Shafeeq/Haris Sohail (7) Kamran/ Adnan Akmal (8) Ajmal (9) Junaid (10) Irfan (11) Ehsan adil/Abdur rehman (12- Anwar Ali 13- Wahan Riaz)

Posted by   on (January 9, 2013, 19:24 GMT)

Excellent article. Scores on style ,substance and direction.As for DRAVID, he would be an apt choice because he would bring character and integrity , to the job, traits which are a must for ,what would be a stormy voyage through muddled waters.You'll do well to check with Michael Slater ,beforehand,though.

Posted by   on (January 9, 2013, 19:04 GMT)

this is my wishlist for 2013 and forever about who should run the icc. dravid and kumble from india, mark taylor and shane warne of australia, mahela and sanga from s.l., darren ganga and dinanath ramnarine of w.i., mike atherton and andy strauss from eng. and gary kirsten from saf. this is my eleven with sanjay manjrekar 12th man to run world cricket. brilliant minds, honest personalities, selfless and the whole nine yards. i know guys this is more of wishful thinking than a wishlist lol.

Posted by   on (January 9, 2013, 18:45 GMT)

Iam sure Pakistan will give hard time to South africa in Up coming test series I expect Junaid khan and Irfan to stand up And Saeed ajmal always done good job for us

Posted by syedahmed91 on (January 9, 2013, 17:51 GMT)

Pakistan is the best Asian side so I expect them to give some tough challenge to the SA'S.

Posted by sasi on (January 9, 2013, 17:04 GMT)

i would also like to remind every1 that kallis is about to be the world's highest SIX (mAxImUm HITTER IN THE COMING YEAR. MIGHT VERY WELL BE THE NEXT TEST MATCH THIS Jan.) he is on 97 right now, highest so far is Gilly at 100. 4 to go

Posted by rubywoo on (January 9, 2013, 13:00 GMT)

As much as I would like to see WI win the champions trophy, cant see that happening. They need another quality batsman to help Samuels...Chanderpaul perhaps????

Agree that Sammy should remain the test capt but dont agree he as bad a player as the article makes out.

I hope Samuels regains his fitness for the Aus ODI's & Windies come out victorious...that would be nice!

Posted by Selfishkar on (January 9, 2013, 12:57 GMT)

Mahela Jayawardene is ultimate flat track bully who scored more than half of his runs in the featherbeds on Colombo.

Posted by Happy_AusBang on (January 9, 2013, 12:27 GMT)

The advantage PAK have is that not many teams know enough about their bowlers. I think PAK took too long to debut Irfan and kept Junaid waiting for long and persisted with Gul. I think they should rest Gul and introduce Haris Sohail or Anwar Ali or both in conjunction with Junaid and Irfan. I have no doubt they will prove more than a handful for the SA, particularly when they also have Ajmal, Rahman and Hafeez to do the spinning.

Posted by shrey123 on (January 9, 2013, 12:04 GMT)

I TOTALLY agree that Dravid should become ICC Chairman. H is very sensible and can lead the cricketing fraternity forward. And I don't think that Pakistan can match S.A in the pace department.

Posted by AJ_Tiger86 on (January 9, 2013, 11:52 GMT)

Sangakkara is a MUCH better batsman than Jayawardene. It's not even close.

Posted by   on (January 9, 2013, 10:12 GMT)

Great article as usual Rob. Agree about the need for more tests and love the idea of the test countries taking it in turn to tour the leading associates. I'd actually like to see more ODIs and fewer T20s, as the ODI still has the capacity for ebb and flow that T20s don't have.

More triangular/quadrangular ODI competitions featuring at least one leading associate in each 1) England, Ireland, Holland and Scotland playing together, 2) South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Namibia, 3) India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and UAE in a proper 'Asia Cup', 4) West Indies, Canada, + 1 other invited test nation 5) Australia A, New Zealand A, Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong.

Posted by D.Sharma on (January 9, 2013, 10:09 GMT)

@Emancipator007. Dravid's statistically the best captain India has produced from his results. I don't know what you're going on about, bud.

Posted by applethief on (January 9, 2013, 9:38 GMT)

Looking forward to the test series between Pakistan and SA. Pakistan shouldn't be as optimistic as last year when they took on the "number one" team, which was an overrated England side. This South Africa team are the real deal, and unlike last time, Pakistan haven't done any preparation with test tours, only taking their turn at beating India in India.

Posted by   on (January 9, 2013, 8:22 GMT)

It's just amazing how Pakistan produces so many quality bowlers. Greatly looking forward to a competitive battle in South Africa

Posted by gibboj on (January 9, 2013, 7:56 GMT)

I agree completely with the last paragraph, especially with the Test championship idea.

I would also suggest removing either the ODI or T20 world cup and put it into the Olympics instead.

Posted by on (January 9, 2013, 7:44 GMT)

Pakistan can almost match SA in pace and is better in spin department , but when it comes to batting SA is in a different class altogether

Posted by Nutcutlet on (January 9, 2013, 7:33 GMT)

From the moment he announced his retirement, I have hoped that Dravid would get involved in cricket's administration / governance. Clearly, the BCCI is a noxious den of self-interest, so the ICC (sometimes not-too-mistakenly taken for an outpost of the BCCI) must be the place where Dravid can attempt to bring his wisdom & vision to reality. Even there he'll run up against a certain familiar rich landlord & his 'pocket borough'. Should his chairmanship come to pass, he'll need fearless allies in Dubai - ones who share his believe that the larger picture must prevail, wouldn't you say, Rob?

Posted by kh1902 on (January 9, 2013, 7:32 GMT)

Surprised that the writer has such a high regard for Dravid's ability to bring about change in the ICC. Dravid hasn't said much about what's wrong with Indian cricket. I'm sure alot of Indian fans would prefer he make a contribution to assisting India in getting back on it's feet. As for "bearing a heavy load uncomplainingly", Dravid has little to complain about, since like Kallis, he is above criticism. All bouquets and no brickbats for both those players.

Posted by jordan_nofx on (January 9, 2013, 7:18 GMT)

...but simply qualifying for the championship would be prestigious in itself. These test matches should also go for 6 days.

I would then like to see 3 test 3 t20 series as standard (except the ashes). Every t20 win is a qualifier to the world cup (similar to football), so every team must play every other team in a 3 match series home and away once every four years. Associate teams can play some of their games in neutral venues.

The top eight teams that qualify for the world cup play in a round robin format then 2 semis (1v2 and 3v4), a play off game (loser of first game v winner of second) and a final. This format will be around the same length as the current big bash.

Lastly, a straight t20 knockout tournament should be played every two years with 20 teams. Global events would therefore be played every year with TC, KO, WC, KO, TC, KO, WC the order.

Lastly, I think test matches should be 4 days of 100 overs each with a 120 over limit in the first and second innings of the match.

Posted by Emancipator007 on (January 9, 2013, 7:12 GMT)

Kidding right about Dravid?He shud never have been elected captain of India.As one poster had remarked, he wud have made a great CFO at Infosys/Wipro but never a CEO.There is a big difference between captaincy and leadership;and he abdicated when the so-called machinations of Team India and a controlling coach got too much for him. Don't mistake the respect for his immense player achievements by the larger cricketing community to include respect for his captaincy-big diff. The member-sharks of ICC and BCCI's domestic contituencies itself wud chew him up and he will be forced to run again.Max he can be useful wud be in some ICC technical committee.

Posted by jordan_nofx on (January 9, 2013, 7:09 GMT)

With each exciting t20 tournament and absorbing test series that goes by, the more 50-over seems ridiculous. Rather than promoting test and t20 as two vastly different sports, we have a spectrum of three versions that only differ slightly from one another. Its like having 10 man rugby as well as 7s and 15 man. Ending the format is a big call, but after the world cup seems like the perfect time.

Teams will complain less about burnout as fewer players will play both forms. If a complete window for IPL cannot be created, make it tests only during this time so as many t20 specialists can be available as possible.

A test championship is a must. However, with your knockout format, there are 7 games with the possiblility of Zimbabwe taking it out by winning three games in a row (although obviously unlikely). This makes all the lead up to the tournament somewhat pointless. A round robin of 4 teams hosted by the number one team with a final makes more sense. There will still be 7 games

Posted by ejsiddiqui on (January 9, 2013, 5:07 GMT)

I second your last wish, Dravid for ICC Chairman. (Pak Fan)

Posted by   on (January 9, 2013, 3:53 GMT)

brilliant article.Great ideas regarding the FTP.

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Rob SteenClose
Rob Steen Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton, whose books include biographies of Desmond Haynes and David Gower (Cricket Society Literary Award winner) and 500-1 - The Miracle of Headingley '81. His investigation for the Wisden Cricketer, "Whatever Happened to the Black Cricketer?", won the UK section of the 2005 EU Journalism Award "For diversity, against discrimination"

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