Keep Blowers on till he kicks the bucket!

Henry Calthorpe Blofeld is without doubt one of cricket’s most marvellous characters. That pompous, fruity, old Etonian voice of the mad-as-a-hatter Test Match Special (TMS) radio commentator has been well known and loved by cricket followers across the globe for over 30 years. But it has become obvious in recent cricket seasons that the BBC is choosing to use the old school voice of Blowers less and less.

Blofeld fitted in well alongside the old TMS legends of Brian Johnson and John Arlott but the eccentric old chatterbox will be 70 next year and it is quite clear that he is being slowly phased out of the radio box against his will.

Famous for his flowery descriptions of pigeons, buses, flags, dirigibles and dustbins, Blowers certainly paints the picture in a way that no other cricket commentator does anymore. And while not everyone is mad about the unconventional old toff, English Test match cricket just isn’t the same without him.

From Norfolk gentry stock, Blofeld did not play for England but he excelled as a school cricketer. He was the Eton captain and he scored a hundred at Lord’s for the Public Schools against the Combined Services in the day when that kind of fixture received 800 words in the Times newspaper. Sadly, Henry’s career was cut short by a dreadful incident whereby he was run over by a bus and suffered extensive head injuries.

He then tried his hand at merchant banking but he tired of that quickly and after dangerously flirting with the idea of a career in the wine industry he settled into cricket journalism. And he has been in the writing and talking game ever since.

Blofeld has his fair share of critics. Some can’t stand his ceaseless descriptions of irrelevant activity and others are tired of his propensity to talk utter nonsense. He is easily muddled and on this tour alone has called South Africa both New Zealand and India. He once called Flintoff Botham, without noticing his mistake and at the Headingley Test he said Hashish Amla instead of Hashim Amla. At Edbaston he called him Hamish!

He once remarked that Sidebottom reminded him of Friar Tuck. Vic Marks was on air with him and pointed out that Friar Tuck was bald and fat while Sidebottom is slim and hairy and so he could not see the resemblance. At Headingley he described the fast bowler as medieval looking and I think that is spot-on, so he gets the odd one right!

I have done a lot of asking around to determine Blofeld’s popularity and he definitely seems to be one of those types that people either love or don’t. Some strong words against the old boy were uttered in the press box but generally the average English cricket follower falls into the first category.

Blofeld and the TMS team are often sent cakes and even the Queen once presented them with a cake at Lord’s in recognition of their efforts. Naturally, cakes are another never-ending topic for discussion. In this series Blofeld commentated on the second and third Test matches. I am missing him at the fourth.

This article appeared on Cricket365 during South Africa’s Test tour of England in 2008.

That’s enough of that, thanks

And so ends nearly six months of cricket between England and New Zealand. As per their respective ICC world rankings, England (ranked third in Test matches and seventh in one-day internationals) won both the home and away Test series and New Zealand (ranked third in ODIs and seventh in Tests) won both the home and away ODI series.

There is a neat symmetry about all of this and four series were well contested and enjoyable. The Barmy Army’s presence resulted in record crowds in New Zealand and good weather produced some fine cricket in England. But there is no doubt that cricket fans worldwide will be delighted that it is all over. Watching two of the world’s more mediocre sides in battle for half a year is not what modern cricket spectators are after.

Lord’s was the venue for the final ODI of the Natwest series and is the home of cricket. The hallowed stadium has the best facilities of any ground in the world and everything about the place is absolutely marvellous. Spectators are allowed to bring a bottle of wine into the ground and MCC ties, pink linen trousers and panama hats give the stands an air of old school sophistication.

On one side of the ground members munched on cucumber sandwiches and quaffed claret on the lawn beneath the stuffy pavilion at the lunch break. In front of the pavilion a one hundred-strong marching band in sombre black tunics trumpeted with military precision.

But at the other end youngsters guzzled beer as they suntanned next to the rock band behind the ultra-modern blimp-like Investec Media Centre. The game of cricket is rapidly changing under the influence of public demand for faster and more exciting cricket and Lord’s faces the difficult task of carefully managing its various identities. Doing business with Allen Stanford and at the same time keeping MCC members happy is not going to be easy.

On another note, security officers from Cricket Australia are in Pakistan assessing player safety in that country ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy, which is scheduled to be held there in September this year. South Africa has been named ahead of Sri Lanka as the reserve host nation and the matter will be discussed at the six-day annual ICC conference that begins on Sunday 29 June. The latest from those in the know is that the event will happen in Pakistan unless a major disaster takes place there between now and then.

The issue at the top of the ICC conference agenda is likely to be more controversial. It is the motion of what to do with Zimbabwe. The England Cricket board this week cancelled a future series with that African cricket team and even South Africa, who have until recently supported Zimbabwe cricket, took a strong stand against them. It comes as no surprise that the cash rich and power hungry BCCI (the Indian cricket board) continues to fully support Zimbabwe cricket.

This article appeared on Cricket365 in June 2008

Napier makes a name for himself

On Tuesday evening I made a last-minute decision to hop on a Chelmsford bound commuter train to catch a taste of the English domestic Twenty20 Cup. The fixture was Essex versus Sussex and as I took my seat in the most oddly shaped higgledy piggledy stadium I have ever seen, I could never have guessed at the kind of innings I was due to see.

Essex won the toss and were around 20 for 1 after 4 overs when a fellow by the name of Graham Napier began shifting gears upwards. More of a bowler than a batsman, Napier revelled in his pinch-hitting role at number three as he struck an extraordinary number of aerial boundaries in his unbeaten 152 runs off 58 balls. Napier’s assault was brutal and his 16 sixes smashed Brendon McCullum’s Twenty20 record of 13 sixes in his unbeaten 158 runs off 73 balls for the Kolkata Knight Riders in Bangalore at the inaugural IPL match earlier this year.

Napier’s knock allowed Essex to post a massive 242 for 3 in twenty overs and his record of 16 sixes in an innings may well be the most in any professional cricket match ever. The highest number of maximum hits in a Test innings is Wasim Akram’s 12 sixes in his astonishing unbeaten 257 against Zimbabwe in 1996. The record number of sixes in a first-class innings is also 16 and is held by Andrew Symonds during his innings of 254 runs when playing for Gloucestershire against Glanmorgan in Abergavenny in 2005.

While the boundaries at the already small Chelmsford ground had been brought in to enhance the Twenty20 excitement and to allow more spectators into the capacity crowd, it was nonetheless a remarkable display of big hitting and a fearless innings against quality bowling that those present shall never forget.

Until Wednesday New Zealand had never beaten a Test playing nation in an ODI at the Oval. But that all changed with a certain poetic justice as Graeme Swann’s last ball overthrow handed victory to the visitors in front of a glued-to-the-edge-of-their-seats London crowd.

Enough has been said about the controversial Grant Elliot run-out but I would like to say that no matter the extent to which Paul Collingwood made the wrong decision to not take back the appeal after running out a batsman who had been knocked over by a bowler, it was not very good to see the visiting team refusing to shake hands with their hosts. The wonderful thing about having the moral high ground is just that. And it is especially sweet when accompanied by victory.

With England one down with one to play in the Natwest ODI Series they will be a worried and downbeat camp heading to Lords for Saturday’s final match. Even more distressing for England is that the South African camp has just arrived on these shores.

This article appeared on Cricket365 in June 2008

Four-one to the Proteas

So the Proteas end their tour of Australia with a 4-1 lambasting of a series thrashing in the Commonwealth Bank ODI series. Victory in the final match came by 39 runs on Friday at the WACA in Perth, the same ground where South Africa got the Test tour off to a winning start in December. Indeed the wheel of fortune has come full circle for the visitors, now the number one ranked ICC ODI side. A colossal arrival party is expected at O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg at the weekend.

Unfortunately Herschelle Gibbs will not be afforded the opportunity to break David Boon’s mile high beer drinking record.

There were doubts as to whether Johan Botha had the know-how to fill Graeme Smith’s captaincy boots but no-one can argue that he didn’t do the job with aplomb. He bowled darn well too, returning figures of over the five ODIs of: 47 overs, 188 runs, 8 wickets. To concede exactly four runs per over against Australia is miserly.

The single match South Africa lost was the second ODI at the Bellerive Oval and it was a match they well and truly should have won. After bowling Australia out for under 250 the tourists needed under 8 an over inside the last ten overs of the chase with six wickets and a powerplay in hand. It could so easily have been a 5-0 series whitewash.

It has often been said that when the Springboks play rugby in Perth it should count as a home game as so many South Africans live here. While it isn’t quite the same at the cricket in Western Australia, the WACA has been good to the Proteas this summer.

After all Perth is not much further from South Africa than it is from the rest of Australia. The most isolated city in the world, Perth boasts a few other extraordinary stats. The locals say that it has the highest per capita rate of millionaires in the world and is also reported to have the highest worldwide rate of serial killers. And I thought Australia was boringly safe.

A sell-out crowd here tonight witnessed an exceptional recovery by Hashim Amla (97 runs off 117 balls) and AB de Villiers (60 runs off 71 balls). A good total was ensured by their 138-run partnership after the tourists’ innings looked precarious at 58/2 with the ball swinging. JP Duminy (60 runs off 42 balls) then converted that platform into a total as the South Africans posted 288 for 6.

Lonwabo Tsotsobe (4 wickets for 50 runs) took a wicket with his fifth ball in ODI cricket as he helped bowl Australia out for 249.

Mickey Arthur said at the pre-match conference that “the number one ranking is too soon for a team developing as an ODI unit”. I think he’ll get over it.

Another thing; have you ever noticed the bizarre similarity in appearance between Ricky Ponting and Mad magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman?

This article appeared on Cricket365 in January 2009 following the conclusion of the one-day series between Australia and South Africa.

Back in NZ, where everyone knows Richard Hadlee

Last New Zealand cricket season I received some angry responses to this column from Kiwis who thought that I had been a bit harsh in my descriptions of the lack of excitement in the land of the silver fern. But having been before, I knew to expect scenic landscapes and one-horse towns this time around. And I must say I am really enjoying myself.

When the luggage X-ray operator at Christchurch airport saw on my immigration card that I was in the country to follow the cricket, he told me that he himself was a cricket journalist for 25 years and that he had been at school with Richard Hadlee. I told him that I thought this India series would be close, he said: “I couldn’t give two hoots about it anymore!”

I don’t know what drove him from cricket writing to X-raying luggage for biltong and hiking boots (if they find you with these they take them out and give them to the bio-hazard people to give them good clean for you – a most handy service). But what I do know is that when I hopped on the bus into town and I asked the driver how he thought the Black Caps would fare against the visiting Indians, he told me that he too had been at school with Richard Hadlee.

Now I would have been impressed by this kind of co-incidence on my first trip but, knowing that New Zealand is just one small village on two medium-sized islands, I wasn’t the least bit surprised that the first two Kiwis I had a chat to had been to school with New Zealand’s best ever fast bowler and all-rounder. I also wasn’t surprised that when he answered my question about who would come up tops in the upcoming series, he said: “I’m not bothered, I’d rather be surfing in Jeffrey’s Bay with your lot, mate”.

New Zealanders are great sportsmen and sports fans but, while they like a bit of cricket in the summer, it’s rugby that they are crackers about for the rest of the year. The summer is not very long and the Super 14 rugby tournament is already in full swing. But while Hadlee’s classmates aren’t too bothered about the cricket, this is a potentially huge series on our hands.

Everyone likes to host a tour from India because that is where the money is in cricket and because with the profit sharing structure of ICC series, New Zealand Cricket will earn half of the broadcast rights fees generated from the series. Because India is playing, this translates to a windfall of some $25 million for NZ Cricket. That is a lot of money for a cricket union with only a few hundred professional cricketers.

It is also a lot of money to pay for the rights to broadcast endless drizzle at little grounds with drop-in pitches, 45 metre boundaries, a handful of spectators and a few advertisements for local paint and hardware stores.

With bit of luck they’ll spend some of it on replacing old benches with chairs and putting internet connections and lights in some of the cricket ground’s press boxes!

New Zealand is friendly, beautiful, cosmopolitan, clean and extremely well catered to tourism. The sports section of the newspaper is the same size as the rest of the paper and they make good beer. It’s also not an outrageously expensive place to visit since the old credit crunch crept up on us. A year ago a US dollar bought you $1,25NZ. Today a Yankee dollar buys you two kiwi dollars and I haven’t noticed much inflation – all good reasons to start planning your trip to the Rugby World Cup here in 2011.

Value for money wouldn’t have been Preity Zinta’s primary reason for being on holiday in New Zealand. I had the chance to enjoy a few words with her before play today in Napier and the Mohali Punjab Kings IPL franchise owner told me she is just out here on a bit of a holiday. The A-list Bollywood actress of 36 feature pictures said she has loved going to cricket since the IPL got her into the game. I was jealous after seeing the bombshell give Yuvraj a hug so I asked her if she would come out and paint the Napier town red with me tonight. She said yes but I have a feeling she’s going to stand me up.

While I am name dropping, another very exciting thing happened to me today. Mark Greatbatch came over and gave me a big shiny red homegrown apple. It had a sticker with a picture of him that says “Mark Greatbatch – Cricket Legend, 1987-1997”. I remember him well because I was secretly listening to some Radio 2000 live Test commentary aged 11 in maths class when I got into trouble for laughing out loudly. The reason I was laughing was that Greatbatch was so slow in chasing a ball to the boundary that Jonty Rhodes and his partner ran five runs, without any overthrows.

Over the past few days, cricket lovers around the world have been able to do what’s good for them: watch the civilised game virtually around the clock. Simultaneous Test matches in Pakistan, South Africa and the West Indies (in order of where the sun comes up first). Pure bliss if you live in South Africa or England, countries where for a little bit of money every month you get this sort of thing on your satellite television.

A bad country to be in at such a time is New Zealand where none of these matches was broadcast, even though Sky TV here has something like seven sports channels. This is very good for Cricket 365’s ratings as desperate fans sit up following our commentary all night but I think this lack of international cricket on the telly would even put my mother off moving here.

In every other country I have visited over the past year my clever phone has automatically picked up 3G internet on whichever pay as you go mobile network I have used. But in New Zealand, there is only one mobile phone network and GPRS/3G is only available to residents on a two-year contract. It’s fair to say that for a developed country with high levels of GDP per capita, the place is a bit backward. No wonder the rate of Kiwi emigration (mostly to Australia) is the highest it has ever been.

But it is also no surprise that New Zealand currently gains about 3000 more inhabitants than it loses every month. Immigration is needed to stimulate the economy and there are plenty of people who put their hand up to move to this green and pleasant land where work is easy to come by and the government looks after its residents generously.

A majority of this immigration comes from India, the very country against which the Black Caps are currently doing battle. There must be far more Hindi than Maori spoken in New Zealand and I was amused when Daniel Vettori, a captain who never puts his foot in it, joked that it would be a home series for the visitors. I don’t think he was supposed to say that but it does seem that way at times.

In terms of the conditions however, this is anything but a home series for India. Indeed the principle reason for India’s weak performances in New Zealand over the years has been the fact that the pitches and weather could not be more alien to anyone from the sub-continent. Slow drop-in pitches where dibbly dobblers can look unplayable, more rain interruptions than hot meals, gale force winds disturbing bowlers’ run-ups and grounds that don’t have any practice nets, because they are primarily rugby stadiums, are just some of the conditions to which this young Indian camp must quickly adjust.

After losing the two Twenty20 games in close matches at the AMI Stadium in Christchurch and the Westpac Stadium in Wellington (both Super 14 rugby grounds), India came back with a good win in the first ODI at Napier. In a rain interrupted 38-over match, the tourists posted a substantial 373/4 after Virender Sehwag got the Indians off to a flyer with 77 runs off 56 balls. M.S. Dhoni captained the ship with 84 not out off 80 balls and Suresh Rana finished off the innings with a bang as he sought and found the short square boundary several times as he clobbered 66 runs from 39

The home side just never got gong in the chase and when the rain came down after 20.5 overs in the second innings, five balls after the 20 overs required to find a winner via the Duckworth Lewis method, New Zealand were in all kinds of trouble at 111/4. When play resumed, the Back Caps needed 105 runs off 7.1 overs (a mammoth 14.62 runs per over). It was never going to happen once Martin Guptill was out to Harbhajan Singh for 64 runs off 70 balls. Harbhajan added two more quick wickets and the hosts finished on 162/2, some 53 runs behind the revised DL par of 215 runs.

World cricket is in a very healthy position when there are four close contests between the ICC’s top eight ranked sides simultaneously. India in New Zealand promises to be very exciting and the drama of the recent Antigua and Wanderers Test matches have provided such good advertisements for the longer version of the game. After 14 months in the wilderness it was wonderful to see Pakistan finally play in a Test match in which their new captain, Younis Khan, made a fine triple hundred.

But today will not be remembered for any positives. Instead it will mark one of the saddest days in cricketing history. It was a day when the best game in the world was stolen from a public by audacious terrorists who attempted to murder another nation’s cricketers. Five Pakistani policemen were killed and at least five members of the touring Sri Lankan team and management have been seriously injured.

The cricket world must unite to help Sri Lanka come through such a violent attack on its team and country and it also must offer empathy to Pakistan cricket, which will not be staging any international cricket at home for a very long time.

This article appeared on Cricket365 in March 2009, during India’s tour of New Zealand.

The definitive list of Aussie slang

Apples, she’ll be: It’ll be all right
Banana bender: A person from Queensland
Banger: G-string
Bastard: Term of endearment
Batter: Batsman
Beaut: Great, fantastic
Billabong: An ox-bow river or watering hole
Billy: Teapot. Container for boiling water.
Bizzo: Business (“mind your own bizzo”)
Bloody oath!: That’s certainly true
Bog in: Commence eating, to attack food with gusto
Bogan: Person who takes little pride in his appearance, spends his days slacking and drinking beer
Bonzer: Great, ripper
Booze bus: Police vehicle used for catching drunk drivers
Boozer: A pub
Bottle shop: A liquor shop
Brisvegas: Brisbane, state capital of Queensland
Brumby: Wild horse
Buck’s night: Stag party
Bundy: Short for Bundaberg, Queensland, and the brand of rum that’s made there
BYO: Unlicensed restaurant where you have to Bring Your Own grog, also similar party or barbecue
Cane toad: A person from Queensland
Chrissie: Christmas
Cook: One’s wife
Corker: Something excellent. A good stroke in cricket might be described as a ‘corker of a shot’
Crow eater: A person from South Australia
Cockroach: A person from New South Wales
Cut lunch: Sandwiches
Dagwood Dog: Deep fried banger on a stick
Daks: Trousers
Dead horse: Tomato sauce
Dob (somebody) in: Inform on somebody. Run them in.
Dog: Unattractive woman
Dog’s balls, stands out like: Obvious
Drongo: A stupid, inept, awkward or embarrassing person, a dimwit or slow-witted person
Dunny: Outside lavatory
Durry: Tobacco, cigarette
Dux: Top of the class
Ekka: The Brisbane Exhibition, an annual show
Esky: Large insulated food / drink container for picnics, barbecues etc.
Exy: Expensive
Fair dinkum: True, genuine
Fieldsman: Fielder
Footy: Australian Rules football
Franger: Condom
Fremantle Doctor: The cooling afternoon breeze that arrives in Perth from the direction of Freeo
G’Day: Hello!
Gabba: Wooloongabba – the Brisbane cricket ground
GAFA (pron. gaffa): The big nothingness of the Australian Outback. Great Australian F**k All.
Garbo, garbologist: Municipal garbage collector
Handle: Beer glass with a handle
Heaps: A lot, e.g. “thanks heaps”, “(s)he earned heaps of money” etc.
Hussy: Slutty girl
Jug: Electric kettle
Jumbuck: Sheep
Lair: A flashily dressed young man of brash and vulgar behaviour, to dress up in flashy clothes, to renovate or dress up something in bad taste
Larrikin: A bloke who is always enjoying himself, harmless prankster
Lollies: Sweets, candy
Longneck: 750ml bottle of beer in South Australia
Mackers: McDonald’s
Mappa Tassie: Map of Tasmania – a woman’s pubic area
Mexican: A person from south of the Queensland or New South Wales border
Middy: 285 ml beer glass in New South Wales
Milk bar: Corner shop that sells takeaway food
Mull: Cannabis
Muster: Round up sheep or cattle
Nasho: National Service (compulsory military service)
Naughty, have a: To have sex
Never Never: The Outback, centre of Australia
Op shop: Opportunity shop, thrift store, place where second hand goods are sold
Onya: Good on you
Pash: A long passionate kiss; hence “pashing on”
Pav: Pavlova – a rich, creamy Australian dessert
Pig’s arse!: I don’t agree with you
Pink slip, get the: To get the sack (from the colour of the termination form)
Pint: Large glass of beer (esp. in South Australia)
Pokies: Poker machines, fruit machines, gambling slot machines
Polly: Politician
Pommy bastards: People from the country that will lose the Ashes this year
Pot: 285 ml beer glass in Queensland and Victoria
Pluggers: see thongs
Rage: Party
Rapt: Pleased, delighted
Raw prawn, to come the: To bullshit, to be generally disagreeable
Reffo: Refugee
Rellie or relo: Family relative
Roo: Kangaroo
Root (verb and noun): Synonym for screw in nearly all its senses: “She’s a great root”
Rort (verb or noun): Cheating, fiddling, defrauding (expenses, the system etc.). Usually used of politicians
Salvos, the: Salvation Army
Sandgroper: A person from Western Australia
Schooner: Large beer glass in Queensland; medium beer glass in South Australia
Servo: Petrol station
Shark biscuit: Somebody new to surfing
Sheepshagger: New Zealander
Sheila: Woman
Skite: Boast, brag
Skull/Skol (a beer): To drink a beer in a single draught without taking a breath
Slab: A carton of 24 bottles or cans of beer
Snag: A sausage
Station: A big farm/grazing property
Strewth: Exclamation, mild oath (“Strewth, that Chris is a bonzer bloke”)
Strine: Australian slang and pronunciation
Stubby: A 375ml. beer bottle
Stubby holder: Polystyrene insulated holder for a stubby
Sunnies: Sunglasses
Swagman / swaggy: Tramp, hobo
Tall poppies: Successful people
Tallie: 750ml bottle of beer
Taswegian: Derogatory term for a person from Tasmania
Thingo: Wadjamacallit, thingummy, whatsit
Thongs: Cheap rubber backless sandals.
Throw-down: Small bottle of beer which you can throw down quickly.
Tinny: Can of beer
Top End: Far north of Australia
Troppo, gone: To have escaped to a state of tropical madness; to have lost the veneer of civilisation after spending too long in the tropics.
Ugg boots: Australian sheepskin boots worn by surfers since at least the 1960s to keep warm while out of the water.
Ute: Utility vehicle, pickup truck – what saffers call a bakkie
Vee dub: Volkswagen Kombi / minibus
Vejjo: Vegetarian
WACA (pron. whacker): Western Australian Cricket Association and the Perth cricket ground
Walkabout: A walk in the Outback by Aborigines that lasts for an indefinite amount of time
Whacker, whacka: Idiot; somebody who talks drivel; somebody with whom you have little patience
White pointers: Topless (female) sunbathers
Woop Woop: Invented name for any small unimportant town – “he lives in Woop Woop”
XXXX: Four X, brand of beer made in Queensland
Yabber: Jabber
Yakka: Work (noun)

All set for cricket’s richest match

When I told the esteemed cricket writer, Peter Roebuck, that I was leaving the India versus Australia Test series to follow the Stanford Super Series, he gave me the kind of look umpire Rudi Koertzen gives Monty Panesar when the excitable spinner over appeals for an LBW decision where the ball has yet again pitched a foot outside leg stump.

“Stanford represents everything cricket shouldn’t be” said Roebuck, clearly a cricket aficionado of the old school. I used to agree with him. But if you can’t beat them, join them.

The biggest single event of the Twenty20 revolution is upon us with the winner-takes-all 20 million dollar exhibition match being played this Saturday, the 1st of November. It is the highest prize money of any sporting event ever.

Sir Allen Stanford’s enormous investment in the game in the Caribean has not yet started to show in the performance of the West Indies team but I am assured by the locals here that his cash splashing antics have breathed fresh air into the sport and are keeping the game alive across the islands.

Antigua is extraordinarily beautiful and extremely laidback. The sea is Topaz blue and the island’s population of 60 000 people (just over half the capacity of Eden Gardens or the MCG) are so relaxed they look as if they might fall over. The beautiful Stanford ground seats only 6000 spectators, mostly under palm trees. Sir Allen mingled with the crowd, hugging children and smiling for photographs. It is an unusual setting for the most mouth watering, heart racing, nail biting three-hour reality show.

The warm-up games got underway on Saturday night with the Stanford Super Stars comfortably beating Trinidad and Tobago, the winners of the most recent regional Stanford Twenty20 tournament. A very slow pitch ensured a low scoring encounter, a trait which is not usually relished in the shortest form of the game.

I couldn’t help but notice that the first five high catches turned out be dropped catches as they were all spilled in the outfield under lights. What fun it will be if something similar happens on Saturday.

This article appeared on Cricket365 in October 2008, ahead of the Stanfor Twenty20 for 20 clash in Antigua.

Time for a reality check, India

Winning is everything in the modern era of international sport. To come second, regardless of the closeness of defeat, is never anything like as good. India won the inaugural hit and giggle Twenty20 Championship in South Africa and well done to them for doing so. Looking back on that exciting game of baseball at the Wanderers, it could so easily have gone the other way.

Here in India, that victory is still being celebrated in euphoric fashion. You would think that after the six hour float parade through 30 kilometres of Mumbai streets it was time to focus exclusively on the near impossible task of winning the current seven match ODI series. Not to take anything away from that fantastic team performance, but it is not as if they whitewashed Australia in a five Test series down under.

The Australians are an extremely professional unit and are on a serious business trip without the distraction of this never-ending party. It is guaranteed hangover material for Dhoni’s men. Every time I turn on the sensational 24-hour cricket news channel here, I see pictures of Australians at fielding practice and Indians being paraded up and down red carpets. A cricket tour in India is something like a celebrity road show for its stars. The Indians, a good cricket team, were comprehensively beaten by the best cricket team in Kochi on Tuesday. The same result is likely again tomorrow. But while the Australians were practising hard at the Rajiv Gandhi stadium last night, the men in blue were making money.

The Twenty20 squad was being handsomely rewarded with plots of property at a smart hotel, Sachin Tendulkar lunched a website and then presented a car to the Indian women’s cricket captain, while Dravid promoted motor oil for the second night in a row. Then Pathan, Uthappa, Gambhir, Harbhajan, R.P Singh and Sharma modelled footwear at an apparel showroom. After all of this, the Indian team attended a dinner hosted by the son of panchayat raj minister. It is no wonder Sresanth was so hot headed in the Kochi ODI – the youngster has probably been disillusioned by this instant stardom.

The first time I visited the Australian team in their Bangalore hotel I found them a bit serious. I thought they were being spoilsports the way they treated their dinner table as a boardroom. They didn’t even want to come out for a drink! But they are in India to win and not to holiday and that is what they will continue to do.

Modern professional sports teams spend countless hours analysing video footage, meeting with team dieticians and even psychologists and planning strategic moves. How can India find time to do this if there isn’t enough time for a daily net session?

Ponting didn’t show any signs of his hamstring injury at practice yesterday and I imagine he will take the field for the toss at 8:30am tomorrow. This is ominous for India, who failed to make the winning of a big toss count in Kochi. After an impressive start on a wicket that provided adequate assistance for the bowlers, the Indian attack continued to bowl the wrong line and length and it was all too easy for the Australian middle order as Andrew Symonds taught them a few lessons. He really is about the best there is at the 50-over game.

I cannot see Australia being bowled out by this weak Indian bowling attack. As it was with their recent tour of England, India’s best chance of winning a match is to score lots of runs. In order to do this, two of the experienced campaigners, Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly need to make runs in any given innings. Unlike many of the other Indian batsmen, they have level heads and understand that 50-over games are won by keeping wickets in hand, not by playing rash shots a la Twenty20.

However, it appears that the Indian selectors plan to rest one of the three big guns in every game so as to give the youngsters a chance, another decision they will surely rue.

This article appeared on Cricket365 in October 2007, during Australia’s one-day tour of India.