From the Blog
It’s the week Test cricket needed
Date: August 31, 2017 / Posted by control
The past week has breathed life into Test cricket, the sport’s venerable old lady. In the space of 15 hours, West Indies ran down 322 to beat England at Leeds, while Bangladesh recorded a 20-run win over Australia at Mirpur. Just as one swallow doesn’t make a drunk, these results in isolation are not guaranteed to bring about extended periods of success for either team. But, there is no doubting the importance of the two matches played thousands of kilometres apart. The West Indies, a one-time all conquering juggernaut, has been in a seemingly perennial malaise slipping to the ignominy of number eight in the world. Bangladesh’s victory was a historic result – its first win over Australia. The crowd swelled at Mirpur as the seminal moment approached. Even the Prime Minister, a cricket fan herself, arrived to see the last rites. The triumph continued an upward trend for a country that has carried the moniker of “minnow” since it was granted Test status in 2000. Its first 34 Tests – before its maiden win against Zimbabwe at Chittagong in 2005 – resulted in 31 losses and three draws. That first up win over Zimbabwe was followed by another drought – 24 matches for 21 losses and three draws. In those first 58 Tests, 33 were lost by more than an innings. It was a baptism of fire. Finally, in recent times, the positives have outweighed the negatives. At home in July last year, Bangladesh played out two rain affected draws against South Africa. In the first Test it took a 78-run lead on the first innings before the match was washed out soon after. In October, it completed a one-all draw against England. The tourists win at Chittagong was by a mere 22 runs, leaving the hosts just shy of a series sweep. In Sri Lanka in March, Bangladesh again played out a one-all draw. Given Australia’s visit to Sri Lanka last year resulted in a three-nil loss it showed how much Bangladesh has improved. And yesterday, it took Australia down. The current team boasts some handy players, headed up by Shakib Al Hasan who made 84 and captured ten wickets with his left-arm spin. That performance solidified his number one all-rounder ranking ahead of the likes of Ben Stokes, Ravi Ashwin and Moeen Ali. Off-spinner Mehidy Hasan has 40 wickets at 31.4 from his first eight Tests and 21-year-old paceman, Mustafizur Rahman has taken 12 wickets at 24.9 in his first five appearances. Tamim Iqbal’s knocks of 71 and 78 have elevated his 50-match Test average to 40.3, while wicket-keeping skipper Mushfiqur averages 35.4. Bangladesh now faces two challenges – one immediate and the other longer term. Firstly, it has the opportunity to sweep the current series. It will take a large measure of confidence into Chittagong, where Australia will be under the pump and nervous. From there, it is a matter of Bangladesh showing it can match it with the better teams overseas, especially beyond the sub-continent. That will be the real acid test. For West Indies, the Leeds result was a triumph of epic proportions. England had just downed South Africa 3-1 and beaten the Windies in the first Test at Birmingham by an innings and 209 runs. The prospect of a Caribbean victory at Headingley appeared a nigh impossibility. Clearly, Jason Holder’s men had not read the script. A fit and rejuvenated Kemar Roach along with Shannon Gabriel combined for eight wickets as England was dismissed well inside stumps on the opening day for 258. Centuries to Kraigg Braithwaite (134) and Shai Hope (147) helped secure a 169-run first innings lead. When England declared, however, at 8/490 and with a lead of 321 runs it seemed inevitable the hosts would take an assailable 2-nil series lead. Again, it was Braithwaite (95) and Hope (118no) who dominated the England bowling, guiding the tourists to a five-wicket win. Their match-winning performances came against a seasoned and experienced attack – James Anderson (497 wickets), Stuart Broad (386), Stokes (89) and Ali (128). Hopefully, for the likes of Braithwaite and Hope their efforts will prove to be a seminal moment in their careers. Holder is a young captain who, by all reports, is a popular leader. This win will infinitely boost his confidence. His team will head to Lord’s for the decider with genuine belief, a commodity not in abundance in recent years. For too long the West Indies have been searching for a potential catalyst. Leeds may have provided it. Contract and selection dramas have often captured more headlines in recent times than on field performances. The current side’s showing at Leeds has given both Caribbean fans and the media something positive to talk about. By dint of its history as an English sport that was transported to the colonies, cricket has a finite and small constituency of any note. The recent anointing of Afghanistan and Ireland with Test status has expanded the number of nations at the very top to a dozen. Test cricket has been fighting a battle for relevance in many people’s eyes in recent years. The proliferation of Twenty20 leagues with their glitz, glamour and increasingly appealing salaries allied to dwindling Test crowds and frequent one-sided series has brought pressure to bear on the longest form of the game. For it to prosper in this modern era, serious competition between the select group of Test playing teams is crucial. Hopefully, performances like those we have seen in the past week will be a precursor to a more competitive Test arena. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 31 August 2017, soliciting 30 commentsRead More →
Australia’s credibility is on the line in Bangladesh
Date: August 25, 2017 / Posted by control
Australia’s last four Test series in Asia have produced one win and 13 losses. The two-match series against Bangladesh, which gets underway at Mirpir on Sunday, is very much a test of Australia’s cricketing credibility. Australia enters the series ranked number four. Its opponent sits at number nine. A two-nil series loss for Australia would see it drop to sixth. Many casual followers of the sport most likely see the series as a relative no contest with the expectation that Steve Smith’s men will sweep the series. This encounter, however, is no gimme with Bangladesh having shown considerable improvement in recent times. Its last Test series, over two matches in Sri Lanka in March, produced a one-all result. That alone should serve as a warning to Australia. When the Australians played in Sri Lanka in August last year they were thumped three-nil. Earlier this month India travelled to Sri Lanka and won three-nil with two of those wins coming by an innings. In underlines the improving nature of Bangladeshi cricket. In October last year, on home soil, it shared a one-all series result with England. It could have easily been two-nil in Bangladesh’s favour with England winning the opening Test by a mere 22 runs. Australia’s last Test series on the sub-continent – against India earlier this year – contained some positive signs. They need to be built upon if this series is to be won. At various times, the batsmen showed the application and patience required to succeed on Asian pitches. Sadly, except for Smith, none could readily produce those innings on a regular basis. Smith reigned supreme with three centuries in averaging 71.2. Matt Renshaw twice faced over 150 balls in compiling innings of 68 and 60; Peter Handscomb’s 200-ball, unbeaten 72 to save the Ranchi Test; and Glenn Maxwell’s breakthrough 185-ball, 104 in the same match. Yet, by series’ end Smith was the only Australian to average over 40. Leaving out Maxwell, who played only the last two Tests for an average of 39.8, Matthew Wade (32.7) was the only other batsman to average over 30. The two biggest disappointments with the bat were David Warner (24.1) and Shaun Marsh (18.9). For Warner, it was more of the same in Asia, where his 26 Test innings have produced an average of 30.4 against a career average of 47.4. Once again, he seemed to lack a consistent approach, fluctuating between aggression and patience. Marsh’s performance has cost him his spot, most likely for good. He was selected ahead of Usman Khawaja by dint of his previous performances on the sub-continent. Khawaja, who has not played an official red ball fixture since the first week of January, will likely bat at three with Smith dropping back to four, restoring the order that profited last summer. He is almost certain to play both Tests, and with it, has a chance to prove to the selectors that he should not have been omitted from the side in the first place. Australia must produce consistent batting performances across the board as Smith can only shoulder much of the responsibility. The key will be regular application and patience. Fleeting moments will not be good enough. On the bowling front, it has all but been confirmed that Australia will play two specialist quicks – Josh Hazelwood and Pat Cummins – and two specialist spinners, Nathan Lyon and Ashton Agar. Lyon was a solid performer in India with 19 wickets at 25.3. Steve O’Keefe also grabbed 19 wickets in that series but off-field indiscretions since then have effectively ended his international career. It will be Agar’s first Test appearance since the tour of England in 2013. On debut at Nottingham he made 98 at number 11 but was discarded after just one further Test as his bowling lacked penetration, claiming 2/248 across both matches. Across the board, he is a very handy cricketer – a reliable lower order batsman and fine fieldsman – but it his bowling that needs to truly stand up in this series. The Bangladesh attack will be built around spin which should give Australia’s tweakers cause for confidence. Australia will again play an all-rounder at number six with Maxwell’s batting in India and the dry pitch seeing him get the nod ahead of pace all-rounder, Hilton Cartwright. As for the hosts, they boast some capable players. Heading that list is Shakib Al Hasan who is currently the number one ranked all-rounder ahead of Ravindra Jadeja, Ravi Ashwin, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes. At 19 years of age, off-spinner Mehidy Hasan has made a solid start to his international career with 35 wickets at 31.8 from his first seven Tests. He and Hasan will be a formidable spin duo. Twenty-one-year-old, left-arm paceman Mustafizur Rahman has become one of his country’s most prominent cricketers through his exploits in the IPL. He has played just four Tests to date, capturing 12 wickets at 23.2. The batting can best be described as steady with skipper and wicket-keeper, Musfiqur Rahim (35.5), Nasir Hossain (37.3), Tamim Iqbal (39.5), Soumya Sarkar (37.0) and Al Hasan (40.9) charged with the responsibility of providing enough runs for the bowlers to defend. Australia should win this series. Mind you, it was tipped to easily account for Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka last year too. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 25 August 2017, soliciting 29 commentsRead More →
Cricket Australia is running out of time, and it knows it
Date: July 28, 2017 / Posted by control
After months of posturing, claims and counterclaims, CA is looking to bring the current pay dispute to a head. In a break from its previous policy of containing the dispute as best as possible behind closed doors, CA went public yesterday. Very public. CEO James Sutherland held a hastily convened al fresco media conference at which he laid out CA’s plan to resolve the stand-off. He was blunt and to the point, “What we’re proposing out of this is that we do go into some intensive discussions over the next few days that will hopefully see the matter come to resolution. Failing that, we believe that the best course of action is to get the matter resolved through arbitration, get the show on the road and move on”. Sadly, the show has been on the road for many months now – a rocky, potholed and poorly signposted one. The ACA’s response last night to Sutherland’s plan was to say arbitration was “adversarial” – hardly a glowing endorsement. For CA, time is now an imperative with potentially crippling financial issues on the horizon. Doubtless, CA believed it would have won this battle a fair while ago but the players have held firm and refused to buckle. But, on the cusp of August, CA can no longer risk this dragging out any longer. Cricket’s two free-to-air rightsholders need to go the marketplace to secure advertisers for the international fixtures and Big Bash. The Nine and Ten networks need certainty. Time is now of the essence. And on the horizon before the Australian summer is next month’s Test tour of Bangladesh and a one-day series in India in October – both of which hold significant ramifications for CA should they not go ahead. Australia has not played a Test in Bangladesh since Jason Gillespie’s famed double century in April 2006. Australia was programmed to play two Tests in Bangladesh in October 2015 however the series was postponed. In June, CA announced it was prepared to go next month. Another no-show would be a major slap in the face to Bangladeshi cricket and the country in general. Social media on the sub-continent has been rife with suggestions that the pay deal would be finalised after the proposed tour as the players do not wish to travel to Bangladesh and they are holding out because of that. The reasoning is fanciful but it is another indicator of how the Australian team is viewed in that part of the world. Of greater concern is the financial maelstrom that would be predicated on a cancellation of the ODI tour to India. If there is one bear that you do not want to poke in the cricketing world, it is the BCCI. When West Indies cut short its tour of India in October 2014 over an internal pay dispute, leaving several fixtures abandoned, the BCCI did not take kindly to the snub. It sent the WICB a bill for US$42m, stating it was liable for the cancellation of the tour and the associated financial damage the decision had wrought. At the time of India all but suing the WICB it had just declared a US$5m loss and was on the cusp of bankruptcy. India withdrew its claim. CA faces no such financial pressures, and as such, the BCCI would likely be far less tolerant should Australia be a no-show. To get the sport back on the park and avert potential series cancellations, CA has effectively offered to roll over contracts under the previous MoU as it entered arbitration should it get to that point. Male players would be offered short-term contracts under the recently lapsed pay model while women would be paid under CA’s recently proposed model. Whilst those contracts are running, a new MoU would be designed and signed. This would clear the way for the tours to Bangladesh and India to go ahead and save the Ashes series. Whilst the ACA sought mediation two months ago, arbitration is a different process. Where the ACA had hoped to have a neutral third-party assist talks in the hope of finding an agreed resolution, CA’s arbitration suggestion would see both parties present testimony and give evidence to an arbitrator, in a manner similar to a court, but in a less formal fashion. Given the gulf that has existed between the warring parties, Sutherland’s planned “intensive discussions over the next few days” are unlikely to bear fruit. It will then be up to the ACA to decide whether to accept the offer of arbitration. Sutherland indicated that CA’s preferred arbitrator is “someone like a retired Supreme Court judge” rather than the Fair Work Commission, the country’s official industrial relations arbiter. The ACA would need to agree to such an umpire. Some of Sutherland’s comments yesterday are likely to draw ire from the ACA. His assertion that “we seem to be bogged down at times in process and strategies that are perhaps designed to slow things down” will be seen as a red rag by the ACA. As too, will his comment, “I have had increasing concerns just about whether everyone is going at the same pace and is dealing with this issue with the same level of urgency”. Given 230 players have been unemployed since 1 July, the ACA may disagree. Sutherland reiterated several times yesterday that CA would accept the arbitrator’s decision. Firstly, we have to wait and see whether he will actually be called into play. CA has taken the ACA by surprise with this latest proposal. The ball, to a large degree, is now in its court. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 28 July 2017, soliciting 118 commentsRead More →
Cricket’s pay dispute has gone up a notch
Date: July 07, 2017 / Posted by control
Generations of cricketers have grown up in this country with the dream of playing in an Ashes series. The current crop is no different despite the increased presence of myriad Twenty20 leagues. Yet, players yesterday took a step that may harm their prospects of being selected for this summer’s series against the old enemy by boycotting the Australia A tour of South Africa. CA initially set down today as the deadline for the players to confirm their standing for the tour but brought it forward 24 hours for what it said were logistical reasons. As one, the players elected to turn their back on the tour. The decision, made in unison by the playing group which was to be led by Usman Khawaja, has moved the current acrimonious pay dispute into even rougher waters. On Sunday, following an Australian Cricketers Association meeting in Sydney, the players resolved to abandon the tour if there was not material progress made this week on the MoU talks after having drafted 14 non-negotiable resolutions. Yesterday they deemed that there had not been sufficient progress towards ending the stand-off. CA expressed a different view, believing there had been enough progress following discussions this week to see the tour proceed. Not for the first time, the battling parties are diametrically opposed in their view of proceedings. While the dispute appears a long way from being resolved, the abandonment of the Australia A tour will be of great concern to CA. Among the touring party, which was scheduled to play two four-day matches against South Africa A were Khawaja, Glenn Maxwell and Jackson Bird. The national selectors chose that trio, and others, as an audition for the Ashes series. It would be a way for them to enhance their prospects of selection come the summer. The fact they have opted out of the tour is the most potent signal to date that the players remain united. As is the case in all disputes of this nature there is a level of brinkmanship with both parties making threats. While CA would have foreseen the boycott of the South Africa tour as a real likelihood, the fact that it has occurred will cause some gnashing of teeth. Both parties remain at loggerheads over the revenue sharing agreement that has underpinned successive MoUs since 1997 but there is an equally large issue at play – CA’s desire to dilute the power of the ACA. It is a classic case of a business entity endeavouring to dull the strength of its constituent union. The genesis for the current dispute stems back to the 2012 Crawford Report into CA’s governance. The report recommended the most significant shake-up in the cricket board’s 112-year history with a reduction from 14 to six state-based directors and the introduction of three independent directors. The move away from the board being merely a collection of state bodies was the catalyst for the appointment of current chair, David Peever. As former managing director of Rio Tinto Australia, Peever has a history of taking on the unions. Whilst at Rio he was an ardent fan of the Howard government’s Work Choices legislation and used it as a catalyst for many of the anti-union measures undertaken at the multinational miner. Peever is opposed to collective bargaining through third parties and believes workplace agreements should be negotiated with employees rather than unions. While the players see themselves as equal partners in the game, Peever views them as contract employees, believing the pair should negotiate directly without input from ACA. To date, the players have held firm in the belief that they are best served by ACA taking up the baton on their behalf at the negotiating table. Previous chairmen, Jack Clarke and Wally Edwards – both cricket administrators of long standing – and current CEO James Sutherland have previously questioned the revenue sharing model. Peever is staunchly against it continuing, as are many on the current board. Clarke, Edwards and Sutherland all previously agreed to ACA being a representative of the players in the drafting of earlier MoUs. Peever does not and he is ardent in his desire to remove its power at the table. Those at the top of CA would have been hoping by now for fractures within player ranks. Yesterday’s decision to opt out of the South Africa tour is a clear indication that there is nothing but unity across the playing group. Yesterday’s announcement by ACA indicates the parties are still poles apart. Curiously, Sutherland is still having limited exposure in the negotiations. While he has been in talks this week with his ACA counterpart, Alistair Nicholson, CA’s chief negotiator remains Kevin Roberts. Should Roberts attain the goals set down by CA’s board for the next MoU, he may be the body’s next CEO when Sutherland, who has been in the role since 2001, departs. Despite ACA’s desire for mediation, CA refuses. Without it, it is hard to see how a resolution acceptable to both parties can be found. The players want to assure that all players – male and female – are remunerated fairly. They believe it can only happen with a revenue sharing model similar to the one in place for the past 20 years. They are also concerned that funds that could be directed to the grassroots level of the sport is being drained by a top-heavy bureaucracy. ACA has voiced its concerns that the number of CA employees has almost doubled in the past five years. With a line ruled through the South Africa series, the next hurdle for CA is next month’s two-Test tour of Bangladesh followed by a lucrative limited overs tour of India. And then, of course, the Ashes. Such is the standing of that series, federal sports minister Greg Hunt has stated that the government would be prepared to intervene in the dispute should things still not be resolved. At this rate, he may be needed come November. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 7 July 2017, soliciting 141 commentsRead More →
The stats that matter for the Australians in India
Date: March 29, 2017 / Posted by control
Seven months after a 3-nil series loss in Sri Lanka, Australia has gone down to 2-1 to India. Sri Lanka is ranked number seven in the world while India is a clear number one and has lost just one Test in its past 23. This latest trip to the sub-continent has indicated improvement in testing conditions but there is still a way to go before it can be said it is near an even footing in that part of the cricketing world. As is always the case with every series, the players’ personal stocks varied. Matt RENSHAW 6 (232 runs at 29.0) Turning 21 on the last day of the final Test, Renshaw looked unflappable throughout the series. There was doubt in some circles prior to the first match as to whether he should be in the XI. He started well with a masterful 68 in the first innings at Pune in conditions that would have been completely foreign. He followed that with 60 at Bangalore and 44 at Ranchi. His performances tailed away as the series wore on. He also dropped a vital chance at Dharamsala. At such a tender age, he will be better for the experience and is a certain starter for the Ashes. David WARNER 3 (193 runs at 24.1) Warner’s woes on the road continued. As vice-captain and an experienced opener, his series was simply not good enough. From 16 innings in India, he now averages 24.2. Ravi Ashwin continued to be his nemesis, picking him up three times as he extended his hold over Warner to nine dismissals, the most of any bowler in Tests. Just as he was looking good at Ranchi, Warner hit a return catch off a full toss to Ravindra Jadeja. It took him until the last Test to reach 50. If the selectors continue with a horses for courses policy his place in squads to the sub-continent must be in question. He also struggled in the field too, grassing three catches early on at leg slip. Steve SMITH 9 (499 runs at 71.3) Once again, Smith led by example with three centuries. The first of them, in the second innings at Pune, was one of his finest, and was followed by knocks of 178no at Ranchi and 111 in the first innings at Dharamsala. He has seven centuries in his past eight Tests against India. Again, the home side lacked an apparent strategy to bring about his downfall. The team must be able to support him better in the future and not allow him to be the sole barometer of the side’s batting performance. When he fell in the second innings at Dharamsala there was a universal feeling that Australia’s hopes departed with him. His self-confessed “brain fade” with the DRS at Bangalore was an unwanted sidelight. He was, again, easily his side’s best player. Shaun MARSH 4 (151 runs at 18.9) Picked as a sub-continent specialist, his selection proved to be a failure. At 33 years of age and with a 23-Test average of 36.0, we have likely seen his last series in the baggy green. He looked good for 66 in the first innings at Bangalore and his half-century at Ranchi helped stave off defeat, while his other six innings comprised 16 and five scores under ten. It has been a perennial problem – handy innings interspersed with numerous failures. He will surely lose his place to Usman Khawaja for the first Test of the Ashes series. Peter HANDSCOMB 5.5 (198 runs at 28.3) Yes, it was his first Test tour of India, but more was expected from Handscomb. He has long been touted as an excellent player of spin, however aside from his unbeaten 72 at Ranchi, he was unable to make an impression. One single figure score was accompanied by six between 16-22. When you get starts like that, some of those innings need to be converted into significant scores. Like Renshaw, he will be better for the experience, and will be in the first Test at Brisbane next summer. Mitchell MARSH 2.5 (48 runs at 12.0, 0-6) The younger Marsh fared worse than his brother. A shoulder injury saw him fly home after the second Test. He was likely to be omitted anyway. He averaged 27 in Sri Lanka and less than half that in this series. He was trapped dead in front in the first innings at Pune by Jadeja having failed to pick his straight one. He was unlucky at Bangalore when one from Ishant Sharma crept along the pitch. Selected as an all-rounder, he sent down just five overs in his two appearances. A prolonged successful, injury free period at Sheffield Shield level is needed before he can again be considered for Test selection. Glenn MAXWELL 7.5 (159 runs at 39.7, 0-18) Mitch Marsh’s misfortune proved a godsend for Maxwell. Overlooked initially, despite numerous supporters, he flew in as a replacement for the last two Tests and seized the opportunity. His 185-ball innings of 104 in his first knock at Ranchi showcased what he is capable of when he shelves the unorthodox. His reaction to his maiden Test century smacked of a man who felt he finally belonged after some uncertain times on the outer. He top-scored with 45 in Australia’s calamitous series conceding 137 at Dharamsala. He is almost certain to be at number six at the Gabba. Again, Smith used him sparingly at the bowling crease, sending down a mere six overs. His place in the team next summer potentially opens the door for Australia to throw a four-prong pace attack at England early in the Ashes series. Matthew WADE 6.5 (196 runs at 32.7) No one was under more scrutiny pre-series than Wade. Safe to say, he performed better than most expected. The pitches at Pune and Bangalore were as difficult for keepers as they were for batsmen. Whilst he may not look copybook he was, in the main, effective in trying conditions. His batting improved as the series progressed with his half-century in the first innings at Dharamsala helping his side scramble to 300. You get the feeling that Wade will be under the microscope every Test he plays, especially with Peter Nevill having averaged 56.8 in the Sheffield Shield this season. Expect Wade to be behind the stumps at Brisbane. Mitchell STARC 7 (118 runs at 29.5, 5 wickets at 30.2) Injury to Starc to the opening two Tests, in which, he made an impact. His swashbuckling, counter-attacking 61 at Pune rescued Australia from 6-190 and took them to 260, as he scored nearly every run in that period. He removed Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli in the space of two deliveries in India’s first innings, the latter for a morale boosting duck. He narrowly missed a hat-trick in India’s second innings at Bangalore. Pat CUMMINS 6.5 (33 runs at 11.0, 8 wickets at 30.2) The selectors rolled the dice with Cummins. He was being nursed back to first-class cricket in readiness for the Ashes but when Starc went down and the series alive he was on the plane on the back of 8-104 in his first Sheffield Shield match in over five years. It was a risk that paid off. In two matches, Cummins bowled 77 overs and his raw pace set up many wicket-taking opportunities, not all of them being grasped. On the low and slow pitch at Ranchi he was still able to extract bounce and at times at Dharamsala he would have reminded England of the threat he will pose next summer. Expect him to play a major role in the Ashes. Josh HAZLEWOOD 6.5 (6 runs at 2.0, 9 wickets at 32.8) Once again, Hazlewood did what he does best – plugging away in a no-nonsense fashion. His 6-67 in India’s second innings at Bangalore was a masterful performance. In concert with Cummins, the pair ignited the game early on the second day of the final Test with a prolonged spell of fiery and incisive pace bowling. Early in the series, when Starc was at times bleeding runs, Hazelwood’s miserly efficiency kept India under wraps. Steve O’KEEFE 7 (45 runs at 7.5, 19 wickets at 23.3) O’Keefe’s pair of 6-35s at Pune was the stuff of dreams. On a pitch that turned square from the start, he used the footmarks to torment India’s batsmen. The last three Tests produced seven wickets at 53.1. One of his trademarks at first-class level is his miserly economy rate. At times, he slowed the scoreboard in this series. At Pune, his slider undid several of the Indian batsmen. As the series wore on they became more adept at handling it. For a player with a first-class batting average of 27.6, he offered little with the willow. Nathan LYON 7 (31 runs at 3.9, 19 wickets at 25.3) The second Test at Bangalore provided polar opposites for Lyon. A career-best 8-50 on the opening day was followed by 0-82 in the second innings. One of the knocks on him during his career has been his inability to make solid inroads late in a match. Bangalore was yet another example. He toiled through 46 overs at Ranchi for just the one wicket before claiming 5-92 in the first innings at Dharamsala. On balance, throughout the series he looked slightly more threatening than O’Keefe. He needs two more wickets to equal Richie Benaud’s career tally of 248, leaving only Shane Warne ahead of him in the list of Australian wicket-taking spinners. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 29 March 2017, soliciting 78 commentsRead More →
Glenn Maxwell at six could help destroy England
Date: March 24, 2017 / Posted by control
Glenn Maxwell came of age as a Test cricketer at Ranchi. He faced 185 deliveries in compiling 104, his maiden Test century. It was an innings built around patience and caution rather than inventiveness and gusto. It was a knock that some thought Maxwell was incapable of producing. It has all but guaranteed that he will bat at number six in the first Ashes Test at the Gabba in November. And that may prove to be a massive plus for Australia. While Steve Smith does not seem overly enthused about utilising Maxwell’s spin bowling at present, his inclusion in the side provides an opportunity for Australia to go with a four-prong pace attack for much of the summer. And the likely quartet has the potential to be akin to those the West Indies fielded in the 1970s and ‘80s. If they are all fit, an attack comprising Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson could prove devastating. It would allow Australia to go for the jugular early in the Ashes series with the Gabba, a traditional fortress for Australia, being followed by a day-night Test at Adelaide. Both venues will provide the home side with favourable conditions for an all-out pace assault on England’s batsmen. Starc (148 wickets at 28.3) is one of the most destructive quicks currently going around. While he may at times go for a few runs, he is also a regular wicket-taker, often doing so in a brace over the space of a few deliveries. His ability to tail the ball back into right-handers at speeds approaching 150km/h makes him an ever-present threat. The fact that he is a left-hander would add another dimension to the three right-armers. Hazlewood is metronomic in his method. Comparisons with a young Glenn McGrath, his childhood hero, are a regular occurrence. While he lacks the pace of the other three, it in no way diminishes his effectiveness. His 117 wickets at 25.0 have been achieved with an economy rate of 2.8. He can bowl sustained, miserly spells. He is forever at the batsman and his ability to nip the ball off the pitch has the slips cordon constantly on their toes. Cummins has made a seamless return to first-class ranks. After a stunning man-of-the-match winning debut as an 18-year-old against South Africa at Johannesburg in November 2011, a succession of injuries kept him predominantly out of red ball cricket until two weeks ago, when he played his first Sheffield Shield match since March 2011. He returned figures of 4/57 and 4/47 against South Australia. The plan was to continue to ease him back into first-class ranks in readiness for a Test return next summer. After just one Shield match and a series-ending injury to Starc, Cummins was parachuted into Ranchi for the third Test of the Border-Gavaskar series. With the series still very much alive, the selectors deemed it an acceptable rest. He did not disappoint, sending down 39 overs, picking up 4-106 in India’s marathon first innings. He bowled with genuine pace and, on occasions, extracted bounce that the other quicks could not. Pattinson, similarly to Cummins, has spent more time on the sidelines than in the middle in recent years. He made his Test debut against New Zealand at the Gabba in December 2011, and like Cummins, picked up the man-of-the-match award ahead of being named Player of the Series. He was accorded man-of-the-match honours in his third Test when he claimed eight wickets against India at the MCG. Subsequent appearances were spasmodic with a series of stress fractures in his back and shin leaving him regularly sidelined. To date, he has played 17 Tests, capturing 70 wickets at 26.1. He boasts an impressive strike rate, claiming a wicket every 47 balls. He returned to first-class ranks last month after a lengthy lay off. In four Sheffield Shield matches he has taken 20 wickets at 16.3, including a stunning 5-7 to bowl Victoria to victory over Queensland last weekend. He will be back in action on Sunday, spearheading his state’s quest for the Shield title in the final against South Australia at Alice Springs. Aside from his stunning bowling figures since returning to first-class ranks, he has also had scores of 29, 39 and 57. He has a Test batting average of 27.7 and a first-class average of 21.7. Cummins has also worked diligently on his batting while unable to bowl. He has a first-class average of 26.3 from his ten matches. When you factor in Starc’s performance with the bat – a Test average of 24.8 with nine half-centuries – the trio bring more to the side than merely their bowling. Hazlewood is also capable of holding up an end. Often innings can be defined by the performance of the lower order. With this quartet Australia would bat very deep. There would be a massive upside in unleashing the quartet against England next summer. Collectively, they could do some serious psychological damage to England’s batsmen, especially at the Gabba and the Adelaide Oval, where grass is left on the pitch to accommodate the pink ball. If needed, Smith could bowl himself or Maxwell to break up the quicks’ spells later in the innings, if required. Both are currently under bowled at Test level. History does not bode well regarding this pace quartet all staying fit for prolonged periods, but those waiting in the wings could easily slot in, with Jackson Bird, Jason Behrendorff and Chadd Sayers heading the list. But if that quartet does stay fit for extended periods they could define this current era of Australian cricket. Each has many years of quality Test cricket ahead of them – Starc (27yo), Hazlewood (26), Pattinson (26) and Cummins (23). While they all have time on their side, the opposition won’t if they are all unleashed in the one match. Brisbane in November would be a fine time to see it. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 24 March 2017, soliciting 64 commentsRead More →
Dharamsala’s pacy pitch should suit Australia
Date: March 22, 2017 / Posted by control
If Australia could choose a venue for a deciding Test in India it would most likely be Dharamsala. Following a 210-over stint in the field during India’s only innings in the heat at Ranchi, the climate at Dharamsala will be a relief. The pitch may also be to Australia’s liking. This domestic season in India, the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium has hosted three Ranji Trophy matches, India’s four-day equivalent of the Sheffield Shield. The results of those matches will be of interest to Australia. The first match was a high scoring affair with scores of 524, 480 and 1-114. The next two were quite different. Scores of 205, 105, 214 and 271 were followed by innings of 217, 164, 293 and 114. Of most interest to Steve Smith, however, will be the style of bowler who claimed the wickets. In the three first-class matches played this season, of the 99 wickets to fall to bowlers, 89 of them were claimed by pace. I doubt another first-class ground in India would boast such a disparity in favour of the quicks this season. India must win the final match to reclaim the Border-Gavaskar trophy, a draw will not suffice. Virat Kohli, and all of India, will be hoping for a result pitch. A strip similar to the one at Ranchi could prove problematic. India markedly outscored Australia in the first innings but there was insufficient time in the end to claim all 20 wickets to secure victory. Australia also gifted some soft wickets in its first innings of 451, and with a bit more diligence, could have posted a more substantial score. India was hoping that Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja would spin it to victory on the final day but they failed to do so. Ashwin looked tired after a long international summer and failed to produce his customary venom. In the main, he has been short of his best during the series. Boasting a bowling average of 22.1 on home soil prior to the opening Test, he has claimed 17 wickets at 28.9. Jadeja was miserly in Australia’s second innings at Ranchi, bowling 44 overs for figures of 4-54. However, try as he might, he was unable to remove Shaun Marsh until he had faced 197 deliveries, despite having significant rough to target outside the left-hander’s off stump. Marsh’s 124-run stand through 62 overs with Peter Handscomb in the end determined the outcome. The fact that the tourists lost just two wickets in the 71 overs it faced after Smith was dismissed before lunch on the final day will have bolstered their confidence immeasurably. All the pressure now rests with India. It came into the series on the back of an unbeaten streak of 19 Tests. The last time the two sides met in India, in early 2013, the hosts produced a four-nil whitewash. Yet, with one test remaining in this series, the world number one is caught up in a dog fight with its pride on the line. If the pitch at Dharamsala bears any resemblance to those that have hosted first-class matches earlier this season, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins will be licking their lips and the odds of India taking the series will lengthen. Cummins belied his lack of first-class cricket in recent years by being Australia’s best bowler at Ranchi with figures of 4-106. He had a heavy workload, sending down 39 overs. How he backs up will closely monitored. If there is some pace and bounce in the surface, he could be a handful. The tourists may contemplate taking in just the one spinner with Jackson Bird engaged as a third quick. If the selectors go that way, it would likely be Nathan Lyon who would miss out. Since his historic 8-50 in the first innings at Bangalore he has found it hard going. His calloused spin finger may be a factor. In his last two innings with the ball, he has sent down 79 overs for a return of 1-245. By contrast, over the same period, Steve O’Keefe has bowled 98 overs and taken 5-235. In the past two innings, O’Keefe has bowled 20 maidens and Lyon just six while the former has an economy rate of 2.4 against Lyon’s 3.1. Should Lyon be dropped, Glenn Maxwell may need to be called upon to deliver more overs. Like so many Tests in India, great fascination has surrounded the first three pitches used in this series. The trend will continue at Dharamsala. Australia will be hoping its pitch mirrors, in many ways, those already seen there this Indian summer. India will be looking to deaden the surface, but if has even a little of the characteristics seen of late, it will add some real pep to the tourists’ step. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 22 March 2017, soliciting 158 commentsRead More →
It’s time for David Warner to turn around his record on the road
Date: March 16, 2017 / Posted by control
David Warner is a cricketing Jekyll and Hyde. On home pitches, he monsters opposing bowling attacks, averaging 59.2. Away from home his average is a modest 37.6, a drop of 21.6 runs. The stark nature of the differential between his home and away performances is mirrored also in his career century tally – 14 at home, four away. Three of those four centuries on the road have been compiled in South Africa, including one in each innings at Cape Town in March 2014. His other away century was scored against Pakistan in the UAE in October of the same year in a match that saw 1259 runs scored for the loss of 32 wickets. His Test average in South Africa is 90.5; in the UAE, it is 59.8. Beyond that, his away record makes for very ordinary reading: 24.4 in India, 13.0 in New Zealand, 27.2 in Sri Lanka, 26.9 in West Indies, and 37.1 in England. For a man who has a career average of 48.3, the gap between his home and away performances seriously reduces his standing in the game. On the pitches in Australia and South Africa with their consistent bounce and pace onto the bat, Warner has been as explosive as any top-order batsman to have played the game. He confidently backs himself to play through the line, marrying a good eye and quick hands to great effect. It is very much a case of see ball, hit ball. However, when there is sideways movement – through the air in England or off the pitch in the sub-continent – he looks an entirely different batsman. The current Border-Gavaskar series in India has provided more frustration for Warner. He has reached double figures in each innings – 38 and 10 at Pune and 33 and 17 at Bangalore – but has been unable to produce a truly meaningful knock. In the first innings at Pune, he dragged a wide ball from Umesh Yadav onto his stumps while attempting to drive on the up through the covers. In the second innings, he played down the wrong line to Ravi Ashwin and was trapped in front. First up at Bangalore, his dismissal was ugly. He was caught in two minds when Ashwin delivered a full ball outside leg stump. He looked to be shaping to pad the ball away before following it with his hands as it spun across him, beat the outside edge and clattered into off-stump. In the second innings, Ashwin had his measure again, with Warner adjudged leg before having attempted to sweep a ball that was too full. Ashwin has become Warner’s nemesis. The wily off-spinner has dismissed him nine times, the most by any bowler during his 62-Test career. Next best is England seamer James Anderson, who has claimed him seven times. Prior to the current series, Australia’s on-field leaders espoused different strategies. Skipper Steve Smith proffered defence as being the key to succeed in India. His deputy believed aggression would be the best way for him to prosper. Warner said pre-series, that he hoped, “to keep playing his way and our way as Australian cricketers. ‘Boof’ [coach Darren Lehmann] is a massive fan of taking the game on and trying to win from every situation.” Speaking specifically about Warner prior to the series, Smith challenged him to go big on this tour, saying, “I’m going to be different from Davey, you don’t want to get rid of someone’s natural flair and the way they play. But if he gets a hundred it might be about knuckling down again and going big, get 200 or 300”. Currently, a century looks a long way off, let alone a double or triple ton. Warner has eschewed his normally aggressive approach in this series, despite saying before it got underway it was the best method for him is he was to succeed. Against a career strike rate of 78.2, he is going at 56.0 through the first two Tests – still a healthy click for most players but considerably pedestrian by Warner’s normal standards. At times, he has appeared to be in two minds as to which is the best way to go about his innings. Warner is one of the few batsmen who is adept at switch hitting and said after the Bangalore loss that he had considered it as an attacking option to combat Ashwin when he was targeting the rough outside his leg stump. He said he shelved the idea because he was fearful of being given out leg before wicket if he missed the ball. According to the laws that would not be the case. The determination of leg and off-side is based on the position of the batsmen’s pads at “the moment the ball comes into play”, which according to the laws of the game, occurs when the bowler commences his run-up. With that having been pointed out to Warner it may be a tactic that he adopts on occasions in the remaining two Tests. To date, a softly-softly approach has not borne fruit for him. Perhaps he would be advised to look to his traditionally more expansive game for the rest of this series. To date, none of the Australian batsmen have succeeded in putting the Indian bowlers onto the defensive. As a result, Virat Kohli has had the luxury of employing attacking fields with men huddled around the bat. A more aggressive Warner could help alleviate that pressure. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 16 March 2017, soliciting 83 commentsRead More →
In the media
Reliving Eden Gardens 2001 through the voice of Australian radio
By Sandeep Dwivedi, ‘The Indian Express’, 14 March 2015 – Sitting on a wooden bench at King’s Park at Perth, you are at a height, the vantage point providing an enchanting view of the serene city and the sparkling river Swan. Sitting on that same wooden chair, facing Glenn Mitchell, sipping coffee and feeding on […]read more →
FIFO induction must contain mental health advice: Mitchell
By Michael Washbourne, December 2014 edition of Australia’s Paydirt – Renowned broadcaster and mental health advocate Glenn Mitchell has called for a greater emphasis on suicide prevention and mental wellbeing during the induction process for FIFO workers. Mitchell’s plea comes in the wake of a parliamentary inquiry into the mental health impacts of FIFO work […]read more →
Back from the brink
As part of Mental Health Week in 2014 I did a video interview with Marnie McKimmie from ‘The West Australian’. In the interview, I discussed the journey that I have been on and what I have learned as a result of being sufferer of mental illness. Click on the link below to view it. http://bcove.me/acr130arread more →
"Glenn was the perfect guest speaker for our Sports Star of the Year Awards. His speech was engaging and most appropriate for the intergenerational audience in attendance. Overall excellent presentation."
Chris Thompson, Manager Great Southern, Department of Sport & Recreation. Albany
"Glenn is a thoroughly entertaining speaker who can highlight the serious side of sport whilst simultaneously having the audience in stitches. A most enjoyable speaker who can clearly tailor a speech to suit a variety of audiences. Excellent presentation."
Ben Williams. Ravensdown 2009 Agents Conference
"Glenn's presentation was great using his experience and knowledge of sport mixed with humour. Importantly he was able to engage the whole audience from all parts of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Rating: Excellent"
Lisa Lynch. Capricorn Society Limited.
"Glenn Mitchell is a man with a powerful personal story to tell. He is an accomplished sports broadcaster who has walked the path from despair and illness to hopefulness and well-being.
As a story-teller, Glenn's ability to openly "speak his truth" is inspiring many people who are in a dark place to reach out to find and accept the support they need and deserve.
As a host and presenter, Glenn's professional approach and capacity to engage an audience with his unique blend of humour and whit, are exceptional.
Amanda Wheeler. CEO Lifeline WA
"Excellent speaker. Glenn was exactly what we wanted and participated really well."
Clare Thompson, IWIRC Network (W.A.Branch)
"Glenn had our audience captivated. His presentation 'What We Can All Learn from Sport' was excellent."
Stacey Martin, 2006 Ausnet Real Estate Services Conference
"Glenn spoke superbly about the relationship between Australian society and cricket. The audience was hugely impressed by his knowledge and humor"
Cricket Club of India
"We appreciated Glenn's professional approach as MC for our Emerging Leaders Program Launch, and his prior preparation. We were very pleased with the outcome of the launch. Excellent MC".
Kim Ellwood, Department of Sport & Recreation
"Many thanks for the fantastic job you did as MC for our Jumper Presentation Evening. The success of the night can be largely attributed to the insightful and informative style of your presentation, and we thank you for making our event a night to remember for all involved."
Scott Ballem, W.A. Football Development Trust.
"Excellent presentation which provided our audience with an entertaining and informative insight into the world of elite sport. We've had much positive comment and feedback from our members and guests."
CPA Australia State Congress