March 2009
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John Stern: No more sneering as terrorists betray Pakistan

March 3rd, 2009 by John Stern in Pakistan, Test cricket, sri lanka

It has always been tempting to tut and sneer at the cricketers (Australians especially) who seemed to jump at every chance to avoid touring Pakistan. Whatever the real security fears there or in other areas of Asia, there was always the reassurance that cricket and cricketers would never be the targets of atrocities.

Today there is no sneering. That reassurance has vanished. “This is the end,” wrote the UK-based Pakistani commentator Kamran Abbasi on Cricinfo. His voice was mournful, revealing a sense of betrayal and disbelief.

There will be no international cricket in Pakistan for the foreseeable and that is a terrible shame. Cricket has a power to unite, to cross racial and religious boundaries, especially in Asia, that is unmatched by any other activity. Maybe it is that power that is been targeted today by the terrorists.

When India toured Pakistan in 2004, the warmth between supporters glowed with genuine emotion. Indians who travelled were overwhelmed by the welcome, by the friendliness of their hosts. When will Pakistanis next get the chance to host a visiting cricket team? One hopes it is not long but there seems no immediate prospect.

In the meantime, Pakistan must play, wherever and whenever is practical. The global game has a duty to itself and the law-abiding fans in a great cricket-playing nation. Pakistan has yielded so much cricketing talent and inspired so many followers as a result. It is inconceivable for such fertile ground to lie fallow.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in Pakistan, Test cricket, sri lanka | 2 Comments »

Jrod: See what losing does to you

March 3rd, 2009 by Jrod in Test cricket and tagged , ,

There was a time when Australia thought a defensive field was anything less than three slips and a short leg. Now they think an attacking field has only two sweepers.

Australian cricket has changed, maybe not forever, but for the time being the attacking instincts are on hold. It would be easy to say it happened when Warne and McGrath left but the change in outlook didn’t happen till the losses started.

Well it started after one loss in particular – forget the mess in India, because none of that makes sense. When South Africa chased down 414 in Perth it changed Australia’s mindset. Jason Krejza was picked for that match, he went for four runs an over. Since that time Australia has picked at least one defensive bowler to stem the flow if the game goes bad. And Jason Krejza hasn’t been close to selection, even though in the Test before he took 12 wickets.

When they arrived in South Africa they took it one step further, picking only three front-line bowlers – and Andrew McDonald. McDonald’s medium pace is a weird, mutant version of Mark Ealham and Jacob Oram. It’s always online, it has movement, it’s fairly slow and completely unremarkable. But it is tough to score against.

There is not a time in history that he would be regarded as a front-line bowler. He is a bowling plug. Australia don’t care. They lost two series and got sick of losing. McDonald’s job is to block up one end, while two of the most exciting fast bowling prospects in the world are released at the other end.

McDonald has played two Tests – Australia has won them both. He has taken five wickets in those two matches; Siddle and Johnson have 26. He has helped them take those wickets.

Australian fans of the past would be screaming at every TV in the land at this betrayal of the Australian attacking spirit but Australians have just watched Australia lose two series in the space of two months. Australians hate losing way more than they hate winning ugly. Australian fans are already backing this limp defensive conservative approach – don’t expect that to change while Australia wins.

As for the team, they used the attacking mode when that worked for them, now they will use the defensive mode until that stops working. Then, when they start attacking again, they will accuse other teams of playing defensively. Without a touch of irony.

I would prefer Australia picked four front-line bowlers without a defensive option but I would also prefer Ricky Ponting didn’t spit into his hands every 30 seconds, that Brad Haddin would revel in being a cheat and for Natalie Portman to say she loves legspinners.

Jrod is a legspinner, as well as an Australian cricket blogger. His site won last July’s Best of Blogs in TWC

Posted in Test cricket | 5 Comments »

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