From the Blog
It’s time for Glenn Maxwell to step up
Date: July 09, 2019 / Posted by control
Glenn Maxwell’s World Cup has been lukewarm. His performance has to heat up as Australia enters the finals. Yes, he boasts the third highest strike rate in the tournament and is the best of the Australians at 163.1. But unfortunately that strike rate has been accumulated across an aggregate of just 95 balls from nine innings during which he has scored 155 runs at 22.1. Facing on average just ten balls each innings is simply not good enough regardless of the strike rate. When I outlined those stats on social media a few days back I was met with some responses along the lines of, “He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities”. I have seen similar comments elsewhere. They are blatantly wrong. Maxwell has had ample opportunity to go big – not by distance of shot, but by the number runs on the scoreboard. His first appearance of the tournament against Afghanistan was always going to be brief as he struck his only delivery faced to the boundary as Australia secured a comfortable victory. Against Sri Lanka, he was unbeaten on 46 from 25 deliveries as the team posted 7-334. The only innings where he was dismissed inside the last few overs was against Bangladesh when he was run out for 32 off ten balls in the 47th over. In his other innings, he has squandered opportunities when time and overs were on his side. Against the West Indies he was out in the 8th over; the 41st against India; the 34th against Pakistan; the 39th against England; the 22nd against New Zealand; and the 25th against South Africa. In those matches he had the chance to build an innings. There was no need to go full throttle from ball one. His dismissal against the West Indies was his nadir, coming when a responsible and watchful knock was needed. He fell to a top-edged pull shot off a bouncer from Sheldon Cottrell – the second ball he had faced – leaving Australia teetering at 4-38. The scoreboard demanded that that was not the shot to play but play it he did. Aaron Finch has used him at various spots in the order. He came in at number five in the first three matches before alternating between there and number four in the next four games. In his last two innings – against New Zealand and South Africa – he was held back, coming in at number six. It was perhaps a sign that the camp was concerned about his approach when time was not an issue. In the latter stages of the preliminary round he was exposed by some heady fast bowling. Against England, he was caught behind off Mark Wood while attempting to run a bouncer to third man. He was out to a top-edged hook shot off Kagiso Rabada in the game against the Proteas. Safe to say when he comes to the centre in his remaining appearances the opposing skipper will turn to his principal strike bowlers in an endeavour to rough him up. Given the order of the call-ups as members of the squad have fallen to injury it appears likely that Peter Handscomb will get the nod ahead of Matthew Wade for the spot vacated by Usman Khawaja due to a hamstring strain. With Marcus Stoinis suffering a second side strain in a few weeks in the loss to South Africa Mitchell Marsh will probably suit-up in the semi-final against England. It then remains to be seen how Australia will structure its batting order. Finch and David Warner should be followed by Steve Smith, who must surely move to number three. The former skipper has had a modest World Cup – his nine innings producing 294 runs at 32.7 with a strike rate of 91 – but now is the time for him to take the pivotal first drop position. Handscomb will slot in at four and from there it gets interesting. Alex Carey has been a revelation at number seven. He has been totally unfazed while accumulating 329 runs at 65.8 on the back of a strike rate of 113. There have been calls for him to move up the order, some saying as high as number five. For me, it should either be Carey or Marsh at five with the other at six. I would be holding Maxwell back for the last dozen overs or so. He could still be used as a floater if the top order gets off to a flyer and bats deep into the innings but given the way he has imploded when given significant overs to face I would be holding him back towards the end of the innings. Wherever he bats, he has to be more selective in his approach if he does come in with ample overs remaining. Ten to 15 ball cameos in the semi-final and decider – should Australia get there – will see him depart England having had minimal impact on the tournament. His bowling has yet to provide a wicket with his 49 overs producing 0-295 with an economy rate of 6.0. But it his batting that is the most important ingredient for Australia. The time has come to display his wares on the biggest stage by mixing controlled aggression in concert with the state of the game. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 9 July 2019, soliciting 71 commentsRead More →
Mitch Starc may retire as Australia’s greatest ever ODI bowler
Date: July 01, 2019 / Posted by control
Mitchell Starc is building a body of work that may soon see him as Australia’s premier one-day bowler of all-time. He is also on a trajectory that will see him mentioned in the same breath as the best from any nation. His form at this World Cup has him in the frame for Player of the Tournament honours. With a last preliminary game against South Africa, a guaranteed semi-final appearance and the possibility of a final he will surely rewrite the World Cup record books. This, on the back of being awarded Player of the Tournament four years ago. In the 2015 addition, jointly held in Australia and New Zealand, Starc cut a swathe through the opposition to finish with 22 wickets at 10.2, tying him at the top of the wicket aggregate with Kiwi Trent Boult. His stunning 6-28 in Auckland against the Black Caps was the highlight with the hosts nine down when they reached the victory target of just 152. His 2-20 off eight overs against the same opponent in the final at the MCG concluded an outstanding tournament. Move forward four years and it is a case of Groundhog Day. Starc currently heads up the wicket aggregate with 24 scalps at 15.5 through eight games. Next best is Kiwi quick, Lockie Ferguson who has produced 17 wickets in his seven matches. Starc has claimed a wicket every 18 deliveries. Two more victims will see him equal Glenn McGrath’s 2007 record of 26 wickets at a single World Cup, which he achieved in a dozen matches. No player has ever topped the wicket aggregate at a World Cup twice. At this stage, Starc appears odds-on to achieve that feat. He has already claimed two five-wicket hauls this time around – against West Indies and New Zealand – to make him the first man to register three five-fors in World Cups. For good measure, he also has three four-wicket hauls to his credit. Thus far, across two outings in the sport’s premier white ball tournament he has 46 wickets at the phenomenal average of 13.0 and with a strike rate of just 18 – all from just 16 matches. That places him sixth all-time on the wicket-taking list. McGrath is at the top of the tree with 71 wickets from 39 appearances. If Starc maintains his current strike rate for the remainder of this tournament, and at 29 years of age, he will be well positioned to surpass McGrath’s record with another solid performance in India in 2023. While Starc was rightly ranked number one in the world around the period of the last World Cup heading into this year’s addition he looked well short of those lofty heights. Injuries restricted him to just seven appearances in 2018 during which he claimed 11 wickets at 37.4 on the back of a strike rate of 36.5. The lethal swing – at both ends of the innings – which had been the hallmark to his success was absent. He started this year with three matches at home against South Africa in which he claimed just four wickets at 38.8. In essence, few could have foreseen the destruction he has wreaked during this tournament. The swing is back and allied to his famed yorker he has quite literally proved unplayable at times. England’s Ben Stokes can certainly lay testament to that having been shot out by one of the deliveries of the tournament at Lord’s. It has not been just his yorker that has had batsmen on the hop. His high octane short deliveries have the venom of old. England skipper, Eoin Morgan was clearly unsettled by Starc’s well focused bouncers. At his best, Starc is Australia’s talisman. When on-song his bowling makes him a one-man weapon of mass destruction. His value at this tournament to skipper, Aaron Finch is best summed up by looking at the spread of his wickets throughout the matches played to date. Of his 24 wickets, he has dismissed the openers five times, numbers eight to ten in the order three times each and numbers three to seven twice each. Whether it has been his opening or closing spells, or those wedged in the middle, he has provided Finch with regular breakthroughs. It is a luxury that few captains have possessed. Starc has played 83 games although it feels he has donned the coloured uniform far more often which is testament to his destructive nature. His career record stacks up well when compared with the all-time great one-day exponents. To date, he has captured 169 wickets at 20.6 with a strike rate of 24.8. McGrath is the most prolific Australian, having taken 380 wickets at 22.0 His strike rate however is 34.0. Brett Lee is second on the list with 380 wickets at 23.4 and a strike rate of 29.4. Lee has also claimed the most five-wicket hauls by an Australian – nine in 221 matches. McGrath and Starc are equal second with seven. McGrath achieved his across 249 games while Starc has done so in a mere 83. Globally, of the 74 bowlers to have claimed 150 or more wickets Starc has both the best average and strike rate. Whilst others can claim greater longevity, Starc is well on the way to sitting alongside the very cream of the crop in the coming years. In fact, he deserves to be in the discussion now. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 1 July 2019, soliciting 96 commentsRead More →
It’s Groundhog Day for the Proteas
Date: June 24, 2019 / Posted by control
“It’s a little bit embarrassing.” Those were the words uttered by South African skipper, Faf du Plessis after his side lost by 49 runs to Pakistan at Lord’s. That result saw the life support system on the Proteas’ World Cup campaign switched off. The South African team has won just one of its seven matches. Only Afghanistan sits below them on the table. Their last two games will have no impact on their future as they are heading home early regardless. Alas, for South African fans, failure at the World Cup is something they are used to. Since re-entering the international arena post-Apartheid, the country has contested eight World Cups. They have made the semi-finals four times, only to be denied a finals berth on each occasion. Along the way the most unwanted sobriquet in sport – ‘chokers’ – has been applied at various times. None more so than 2003, when South Africa hosted the tournament. A fourth-place finish in their pool saw them miss out on the super six stage. This time around, the current team was seen as a legitimate semi-final prospect. Most saw England, India and Australia filling three of the four slots in the semis with New Zealand and South Africa the most favoured to make up the final four. As it has turned out, the Black Caps are currently sitting atop the tree with five wins from six starts. In a bid to end its World Cup drought, Cricket South Africa produced what it called ‘Vision 2019’, a concerted effort to produce a team with the ability and wherewithal to lift the silverware. A major snag was hit in May 2018 when the side’s talisman, A B de Villiers made the shock announcement that he was retiring from all forms of international cricket, effective immediately. It was expected that he would pull the pin on his Proteas career after the World Cup having said numerous times in the previous few years that winning the trophy was his ultimate aim. Bizarrely, on the day that South Africa finalised its squad for this year’s tournament, de Villiers approached the captain and coach and said he wished to make a comeback. The skipper reportedly was keen to have de Villiers back but the selectors thought otherwise. News of his plans to abandon his international retirement at the eleventh hour became public after South Africa had lost its opening three matches of the tournament. It provided a substantial distraction to a team that was firmly under the pump. The selectors did take a risk, however, with the selections of pacemen Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi. Both were sidelined with injury in the lead-in to the tournament. While Steyn has been a great of the game, he has barely donned the coloured uniform in recent years. Since January 2016, he has played just 13 one-day internationals. Not surprisingly, he was withdrawn from the squad with his ongoing shoulder problem before he could bowl a single delivery. Ngidi, who was suffering a side strain in the build-up, has missed three games with a hamstring injury. For much of the tournament, quick Kagiso Rabada and 40-year-old leg-spinner Imran Tahir have been required to shoulder the bulk of the load. Both have toiled manfully and done their best to keep their side in games. But it is the batting that has been particularly lacklustre. Quinton de Kock is the leading run-scorer with 238 runs from seven innings at 39.7, considerably down on his career average of 45.2. His strike rate has been a rather pedestrian 84 against a career mark of 95. His 68 against Afghanistan is the highest of his team’s seven half-centuries. Hashim Amla has had a woeful tournament. His six innings have netted 123 runs at 24.6 with a strike rate of 59. Compared to his career average and strike rate of 49.0 and 89 respectively it underlines his fall from grace. His last 22 ODIs have produced a meagre average of 32.6. He has been kept in the side more on sentiment than performance. At 36, this World Cup will surely be his last hurrah. J P Duminy, at 35, is likely to follow him on the ride into the sunset. He has contributed 56 runs in three innings. The captain may be a casualty of this campaign as well. While du Plessis has stated that he wishes to bow out following the T20 World Cup in Australia next October, he may not be accorded that luxury. Throughout the tournament, South Africa has appeared to be tentative, almost afraid to take risks. There has been a distinct lack of flair with the willow. This is not the way the modern game is played. They have played a brand of cricket more akin to the way the game was played a decade ago before T20 reinvigorated the one-day game and brought to it a more expansive 360-degree approach. With every loss, the collective body language has appeared more and more fraught. The pressure of expectation from a desperate supporter base appears to have ground them down. South Africa will face a significant rebuild following this World Cup. Successive sides have carried healthy expectations to the sports premier white ball tournament, often far greater than this time around. Each time they have fallen short. They have four years to get it right ahead of the next World Cup in India. History indicates that it will be a monumental task. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 24 June 2019, soliciting 29 commentsRead More →
Bangladesh’s performance is a cause for celebration
Date: June 03, 2019 / Posted by control
In the words of Rachel Hunter, “It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.” Bangladesh’s progression to its stunning demolition of South Africa at the World Cup has been slow with the odd pace forward followed by two backwards. In the early days the progress appeared glacial and the country’s journey towards holding its own against the big boys often drew derision. It is worth remembering that New Zealand played its maiden Test against England in 1930 and had to wait 26 years – at its 45th attempt – to savour victory for the first time. That stilted start is now largely forgotten and the Black Caps are heralded as a highly competitive side – in many people’s eyes a strong chance to reach the World Cup semi-finals. Bangladesh has won five of its last 15 Tests. Amongst those results a 1-1 drawn series in Sri Lanka, a 2-0 home win against West Indies and a 20-run victory over Australia in Dhaka in August 2017. In a country that bears the traditional sub-continental fervour for the sport it was always a safe bet that, given time, Bangladesh would prove its mettle. A population of 160 million was also a plus. Whilst its long form cricket is still very much a work in progress its best showing has come with the white ball. Since the beginning of last year, Bangladesh has won 18 of 28 ODIs with wins against Sri Lanka, Pakistan, West Indies, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and now South Africa. The Bangladeshis arrived at the World Cup on the back of three consecutive and convincing wins over West Indies by margins of five, five and eight wickets. But it was the taking down of the Proteas at The Oval over the weekend that is the apex of the country’s time in the international arena. In 2011, South Africa humiliated Bangladesh in Dhaka – bowling them out for 78 and winning by 206 runs. Eight years on, it was Bangladesh that did the bullying. The side posted the county’s highest ODI score, finishing on 6-330. Had the team possessed a pure middle order power hitter in the ilk of a Glenn Maxwell or Jos Buttler the score could have been north of 350. The fact that such a score was compiled away from the sub-continent is a huge plus for a team that is still a questionable commodity on the road. The innings started with a solid 60-run opening stand through the first 50 balls and was further consolidated by an outstanding 142-run third wicket partnership between Shakib Al Hasan (75 off 84) and Mushfiqur Rahim (78 off 80). It was a stand that epitomised the current day confidence of the Bangladesh side. Yes, the Proteas may have lost paceman Lungi Ngidi to a hamstring strain but the four overs he sent down before limping from the field haemorrhaged 34 runs. Kagiso Rabada toiled away but his ten overs went unrewarded and he finished with 0-57. In reply, South Africa was held to 8-309 and with it consigned to a second consecutive loss to kick off its campaign. Al Hasan’s wicket allied to his performance with the bat gifted him the Player of the Match award. He has been the heart and soul of this modern-day Bangladesh outfit. For several years he has been ranked number one in the ICC ODI all-rounder standings. If he played for one of the power nations his reputation would be far higher. Five of the top-seven that Bangladesh fielded against the Proteas have career averages over 35, providing a depth that has previously been missing. Importantly, the country is developing some talented young players who will form the backbone of the side over the next decade. Six members of the team that took the field against South Africa were 26 or younger. Fast bowler, Mustafizur Rahman, at 23, has already taken 86 ODI wickets at 22 while 21-year-old all-rounder Mehidy Hasan is an exciting talent. To date, the Bangladesh board has sourced its coaches from beyond its borders. Englishman Steve Rhodes is currently head coach and follows in the footsteps of fellow countryman Richard Pybus and the Australian trio of Dav Whatmore, Stuart Law and Jamie Siddons. As the country continues to mature as an international competitor there will no doubt be former players who will ascend to senior coaching roles. Bangladesh’s remaining opponents at this World Cup will have sat and up and taken notice of the win over South Africa. How the team reacts to that additional pressure will provide a further window into where they currently sit on the journey to consistent performance. Bangladesh (90 points) is currently ranked number seven in the ODI arena – ahead of West Indies (79), Sri Lanka (76) and Afghanistan (63). It could leapfrog Pakistan, which sits just two points ahead, with further showings along the lines of those seen at The Oval the other day. More power to them. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 3 June 2019Read More →
Is Australia building to a crescendo?
Date: May 27, 2019 / Posted by control
In the space of three months Australia has completely turned around its prospects of defending its World Cup title. From mid-2017 until March this year, Australia won just four of its 26 ODIs. The nadir during that period was a 5-nil loss to England in England in June last year. Twelve months on, Aaron Finch’s side is back in Britain and it is a very different story this time around. The turnaround started in India in March when the side came from 2-nil down to win the series by claiming the last three matches. It was a comeback of epic proportions in a country where Australia has suffered inordinate disappointments. The momentum was carried on to the UAE with an historic 5-nil clean sweep over Pakistan. In the space of 23 days, Australia had won twice as many ODIs as it had in the previous 21 months. It will be looking to extend its eight-game winning streak when it commences its World Cup campaign against Afghanistan at Cardiff on Saturday. A squad that appeared in tatters a few months ago is now on the third line of betting behind England and India. Australia’s about turn was achieved without the services of its two premier batsmen, Steve Smith and David Warner. The pair are back after their 12-month suspensions and both have shown in recent times that their talents have not been blunted by their exile. Warner arrived in England on the back of a destructive IPL campaign where he scored 692 runs at 69.2 in 12 innings for Sunrisers Hyderabad. Smith has reintegrated in style with 394 runs at 131 in his five warm-up matches ahead of last night’s final pre-tournament hit-out. Warner’s return provides a conundrum as to who will comprise the opening partnership. In his absence, Usman Khawaja partnered Finch at the top of the order and did so with aplomb. The come-from-behind triumph in India was largely predicated on Khawaja’s batting as he reeled off scores of 104, 91 and 100 in the last three games. He continued his rich vein of form in the UAE with 272 runs at 54.4. Finch returned to form with a bang in the UAE with 451 runs at 112.7 on the back of two centuries, one a commanding unbeaten 153. He will definitely be one of the openers at Bristol. There are strong arguments for either Warner or Khawaja to partner him. In the pre-tournament practice matches both left-handers have shared the top of the order with their skipper. Khawaja even found himself at number five against England in the warm-up game at Southampton. Warner was rested from last night’s final warm-up match against Sri Lanka with reports suggesting he was suffering from tightness in his thigh. He is expected to be fit for Saturday. Regardless of how Australia structures its batting it will field a healthy balance of heavy hitters and accumulators. While the focus has been on the return of Smith and Warner and the undeniable recent form of Khawaja one man who could have a big say in Australia’s fortunes is Shaun Marsh. He was a beacon during the humiliating five-nil series loss in England last year with two centuries. He also averaged 60.7 in the UAE. Glenn Maxwell is likely to be a floater with an injection up the order likely at times during the World Cup should Australia get off to a flyer. If recent ODI series in England are anything to go by we are likely to see numerous high-scoring matches. After the first match of the England-Pakistan ODI series earlier this month was declared a no result, the remaining four matches featured seven innings in excess of 340 runs. Barren pitches, a white ball with minimal seam and short boundaries will all conspire against the bowlers. We are likely to see plenty of spin throughout the tournament with Australia flagging the possibility of playing both Adam Zampa and Nathan Lyon in tandem in some games. Wrist-spin has proven to be a valuable commodity in both forms of white ball cricket in recent times and the prospect of Zampa’s attacking nature from one end allied to Lyon’s more defensive mindset from the other could prove valuable. The x-factor for Australia could well be Mitchell Starc. When Australia lifted the trophy four years ago it was on the back of a stellar tournament by Starc. At that time he was the most feared ODI bowler in the game with his combination of withering pace and late swing a handful for many teams. If he can reclaim some of his best form, in concert with Pat Cummins. Australia will have two potent strike weapons. The pressure heading into this tournament rests on the shoulders of England, a country yet to win the World Cup. The host nation has been undefeated in its past 11 bilateral ODI series and has won its last eight series at home. Since the last World Cup, England has had a 66 per cent winning record, the best of any nation. But tournaments are not won in the lead-in. Between World Cups Australia has endured a 49 per cent winning record but the team is peaking at the right time. A few months ago they did not appear in the frame for a sixth title. There is still much work to be done but the momentum is there. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 27 May 2019, soliciting 12 commentsRead More →
The day Australia’s World Cup winning streak was broken
Date: May 27, 2019 / Posted by control
The Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat is a venue with a proud history in Indian cricket. It was at the ground in 1987 against Pakistan that Sunil Gavaskar became the first batsman to surpass 10,000 Test runs. In 1994, Kapil Dev broke the world Test wicket record, surpassing Richard Hadlee’s career tally of 431. Eleven years earlier he claimed 9-83 in an innings there against West Indies. n 1999, the ground played host to Sachin Tendulkar’s first Test double century with an innings of 217 against New Zealand. And, on 24 March 2011, the ground played host to a World Cup quarter-final in which India ended Australia’s tournament. The game was a clash of the Titans when it came to the one-day game and one that had the cricket mad hosts in a frenzy. I was lucky enough to be in the commentary box to watch it unfold. On the day before the match hundreds of fans made their way to the ground and formed an impromptu honour guard for the Indian team bus as it delivered the squad to a training session. The following day the stadium pulsated to the throng of a 54,000-strong crowd. When the teams filed out on the field for the national anthems, they did so behind massive flags that were being carried onto the ground. Between the two teams stood the sport’s one-day Holy Grail – the silver trophy glinting in the afternoon sun. Only one of the two sides later that day would still be in the hunt to hold it aloft come the final. Australia arrived in Ahmedabad following a loss to Pakistan in the last pool match at Colombo. It ended a remarkable 34-game World Cup winning streak that spanned a dozen years during which time the Aussies had lifted the trophy at Lord’s, Johannesburg and Bridgetown. Ricky Ponting won the toss and chose to bat. The skipper himself had had an underwhelming tournament to that point with just 102 runs from his five innings in the group stage. For Australia to have a legitimate prospect of winning through to the semi-final it was generally felt he would need to retrieve his form. He entered the fray at the end of the tenth over upon the demise of Shane Watson (25). His walk to the middle appeared more purposeful than usual, his gait more accelerated. That outward appearance indicated a man who was feeling the pressure of the situation, his lean form and the importance of the task ahead. So often he had set the example for his team to follow. He would once again be locking horns with his nemesis, Harbhajan Singh. In the Test arena, the bouncy offie had claimed Ponting’s wicket a record ten times, many of them on the dust bowls in India. Ponting started watchfully, adding 70 with Brad Haddin (53) before the ‘keeper fell to Yuvraj Singh (53). He continued to blossom with his footwork to the spinners becoming crisper with each over. But it was by no means Ponting as his best – his first 50 runs were punctuated with just three boundaries. He eventually fell for 104, lobbing a reverse sweep off Ravi Ashwin to Zaheer Khan at short third man It was first international ton in 13 months. The highlight of his 118-ball knock was a cover driven six off Yuvraj. His celebration upon breaching three figures was muted as if to underline the cut-throat nature of the match. With the help of a 26-ball unbeaten 38 from David Hussey Australia reached 6-260 from its 50 overs. It was a highly competitive score on a pitch that was slightly irregular in bounce and taking spin. Once again, the crowd’s focus fell squarely on the shoulders of Sachin Tendulkar. The roar when he and Virender Sehwag made their way to the middle threatened to lift the roof off the grandstands. Despite losing his opening partner early, the Little Master looked in total control as he worked his way past fifty. His dismissal came against the flow. Having been spanked for 23 runs off his first three overs, Shaun Tait got Tendulkar (53) to spar at a ball outside off-stump, providing Haddin with a regulation catch. Not long after the hosts slumped to 5-187 with their future in the tournament balancing on a tight rope. What followed was a cool-headed, unbroken stand of 74 between India’s talisman Yuvraj Singh (57no) and Suresh Raina (34no). Yuvraj’s innings included a massive six over mid-wicket off a stunned Tait. The knock provided him with his fourth Player of the Match award from seven matches in the tournament. He brought up victory with a cover-drive to the boundary off Brett Lee. That shot was a cue for delirium in the stands, a scene no doubt mirrored in lounge rooms across the country. It was akin to knocking the top off a termite mound as the stands literally shook with joy. India had slain the dragon. Australia’s quest for a fourth consecutive title laid asunder. India marched through to the final after despatching arch-rival Pakistan in the semi at Mohali. In the final at Mumbai they became the first nation to triumph in a final on home soil, comfortably accounting for Sri Lanka by six wickets. For Ponting, the loss at Ahmedabad marked the end of his World Cup odyssey having cast a disproportionately long shadow over the sport’s premier white ball tournament. He left India with numerous World Cup records – most matches (46), most matches as captain (29) and most catches by a fieldsman (28). Those records still stand heading into this year’s tournament in England. Only Tendulkar has bettered his aggregate of 1743 runs (scored at an average of 45.9) and his five centuries. Along with teammates Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist he holds the record of being involved in three successful World Cup campaigns. When the dust had settled on the match and the media conference was concluded I interviewed Ponting behind the sightscreen at the member’s end. Some Indian fans were still in the stands, leaning over the railing shouting their platitudes at one of the game’s greatest. He looked like a knight who had been worn down by conflict. It prompted me to ask whether he would consider resigning the captaincy. He response was a firm “no”. The flight home must have swayed his mind, however, as five days later he stood aside. As a footnote, the stadium that hosted that match and those other seminal moments in Indian cricket history is no longer. It was demolished in October 2015 with the site currently construction zone for what will be the largest cricket venue in the world with a new 110,000-capacity mega-stadium heading towards completion. It will stand not far from the world’s tallest statue, a 180m colossus of Indian activist and statesman, Sardar Patel whose name was honoured on the previous stadium. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 27 May 2019, soliciting 7 commentsRead More →
West Coast is primed for a premiership
Date: May 22, 2018 / Posted by control
Having been tipped by the vast majority to miss the eight, West Coast are homing in on a grand final berth. Their defeat of Richmond on Sunday has the club a game clear on top of the ladder with their current eight-game winning streak the best since 2005. Before the season began, when Champion Data (the AFL’s official stats supplier) crunched all its projected numbers, it had the Eagles finishing 12th. It has been a remarkable, pundit-defying turnaround. With eight wins already in the bank, a top-two finish is within reach, and with it the possibility of a qualifying and preliminary final at Optus Stadium. Across the past five seasons, the average number of wins for the second-placed team at the end of the home-and-away season has been 16.8. The Eagles’ remaining six home games – against St Kilda, Essendon, Greater Western Sydney, Western Bulldogs, Fremantle and Melbourne – all look highly winnable, as does the Round 23 encounter against Brisbane at the Gabba. That would give the club 15 wins, with further away games against Hawthorn, Sydney, Adelaide, Collingwood, North Melbourne and Port Adelaide. Strangely, West Coast’s only loss has come at home, Sydney winning the opening round encounter by 29 points. The Eagles have posted away wins at Etihad Stadium, the MCG and the Sydney Showgrounds, albeit against a trio of teams that were struggling or injury riddled. The club’s game plan has undergone a dramatic change this season. Last season, the club averaged 214 kicks and 163 handballs per game. This season, the numbers stand at 231 and 129 respectively. It has become a game of meterage this season with a more direct style and increased urgency in getting the ball inside 50. And it is within that arc that the club has had its most stark improvement. Jack Darling has been a revelation and would be one of the first chosen if an All Australian side was selected after nine rounds. Slightly too young to qualify for the 2009 draft, he was touted early as a prospective number one pick the following year, however some off-field incidents saw his currency drop. The Eagles ended up taking him at number 26. The talent was always there but consistency, despite over 150 games, was lacking prior to this season. Currently, he sits second behind Nat Fyfe in the AFL Coaches Award voting and in a similar position in the race for the Coleman Medal, three goals shy of North’s Ben Brown’s 31 goals. Darling’s hard lead-up footy and pack marking has been a feature of his game. He leads the league in contested marks (30), is third in the competition for total marks (74), and ranked second in score involvements (77). With dual Coleman medallist Josh Kennedy sidelined until Round 4, Darling was the primary go-to big man inside 50 at the start of the year, a fact that the coaching staff would have been focusing on through the pre-season. He relished the opportunity, kicking 9.1 through the first three weeks against a career average of 1.9 goals. On Sunday, against the Tigers, he kicked a career-high six goals. Immediately upon his return, Kennedy kicked five goals against Gold Coast and has kicked 18 in his six games to date, although in recent weeks he does not appear to be as smooth in his movements. Mark LeCras, who looked well past his best for the bulk of last season, has rebounded in style, booting 18 goals through nine games. If the 2010 All Australian continues to average two goals a match it will be an invaluable contribution alongside the two power forwards. Livewire rookie Liam Ryan had an immediate impact, slotting seven goals in his first three games before going down with injury. Two other first-year players, Willie Rioli and Jake Waterman, have also contributed up forward, while Jamie Cripps continues to combine goals with solid defensive pressure. The slicker ball movement and greater reliance on kicking has seen West Coast increase their inside-50 entries – last season the club was ranked 13th while this season they sit fourth. Down back, Jeremy McGovern continues to rule the air, with his 23 contested marks bettered only by teammate Darling across the league. Skipper Shannon Hurn is heading toward a potential maiden All Australian guernsey. He is repeatedly used as a link coming out of defence – he has the second highest number of marks in the league – with his accurate long-distance kicking providing a springboard into the forward half. The defensive unit also looks to transition through Lewis Jetta, whose pace and effectiveness by boot can also hurt the opposition. Interestingly, despite the return of Nic Naitanui, the Eagles are barely in front of their clearance count from last season – 38 vs 37 – but the disposal efficiency is superior. The team’s leading clearance players are reigning club champion Elliott Yeo, Luke Shuey (currently sidelined with injury) and Jack Redden, who in his third season with the club, and tenth in the AFL system, is having by far his best season. Andrew Gaff has become more of an inside player and leads the side in disposals. The midfield is being overseen by four-time Hawthorn premiership player, Sam Mitchell. After one season on the ground with the club, he has transitioned into the coaches’ box and his impact on the players at the coalface cannot be underestimated. Around the ground, the likes of Dom Sheed, Liam Duggan, Tom Barrass and Tom Cole have all continued on an upward trend. Heading into Round 10, the Eagles are chock-full of confidence and self-belief and they have every right to be. They have laid a launching pad that can quite conceivably take them to the last weekend of September. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 5 May 2018, soliciting 133 commentsRead More →
Why Justin Langer is the right man to lead Australian cricket forward
Date: May 03, 2018 / Posted by control
I have known Justin Langer for over 25 years and from what I have observed, he is the right man to coach Australia. In March 1993, I was sitting alongside him on a flight from Adelaide to Perth, both returning home from a Sheffield Shield match. While I had flown from Perth to commentate the match for the ABC, Langer had flown in from Auckland. He had just completed his second series for Australia and it was an ignominious end to it. He faced 17 balls at Eden Park and failed to score in either innings. His prospects of being selected for the Ashes tour in a few months’ time looked decidedly bleak. Even though he was heading home from a Shield match, he was required to be dressed in the Australian travel uniform as he was still officially returning from an overseas tour. As we began our descent, the stewardess brought Langer his Australian blazer. He lay it across his lap and spent the rest of the flight in silence, simply staring down and gently rubbing his thumb across the national coat of arms on the breast pocket. It is an image that has always stuck with me and one I have mentioned to him on occasions since. It smacked of a man who wanted just one thing in life – to play for his country – and at that point, it appeared he may have lost the opportunity. Playing for Australia meant infinitely more to Langer than the money and fame that came with it. And, on that flight, he was no doubt pondering when he would get another chance. It was cutting deep into him. He did not get selected for the 1993 Ashes tour and had to fight his way back into the side. Fast forward to September 1999 – he had been back in the team for a while and we were both in Sri Lanka. It was a bad tour for Australia, the weather, and him. The tourists lost the opening Test at Kandy on the back of a frightful collision in the outfield between Steve Waugh and Jason Gillespie, while the next two Tests were heavily rain-affected draws, handing Sri Lanka an historic maiden series win against Australia. Langer had a poor tour with scores of 7, 5, 7 and 32. He had looked all at sea, especially to Muttiah Muralitharan, who he freely admits he found nearly impossible to pick. The word back home, as it so often was, was he needed be dropped. Again, he looked at the crossroads. On the last day of the final Test at the Singhalese Sports Club at Colombo, with the pitches under cover, I strolled out into the middle just to break the boredom. While I was out there, Langer arrived and we struck up a conversation. During the course of it, I asked what he thought about the future – he was in his 23rd Test and averaging 33. He looked at me with his traditionally steely eyed gaze and said he aimed to play 100 Tests – and he believed that he would. I have mentioned to him several times since that while I was smiling and nodding at his response, internally I was thinking, “you’re kidding yourself”. One of us was right. He went on to play 105 Tests and averaged 45, while his first-class tally of 28,382 runs is the most scored by an Australian and his 86 centuries is bettered by only one countryman – Sir Donald Bradman. Langer was not a gifted player in the Mark Waugh or Damien Martyn mould. He succeeded by dint of dedication and devotion to the cause, which bordered on monastic at times. I covered a Shield match at the Gabba one season early in Langer’s career. Western Australia had won and the victory came in time for the side to retire to the dressing rooms and watch the Caulfield Cup on television. Langer had had a lean match and while the players were whooping and hollering in the rooms he was out running lap after lap of the Gabba. For much of his career, Langer, in many people’s eyes, was just another failure or two away from being dropped. There were times when eastern states scribes were extremely harsh in their musings yet, almost without fail, Langer would rise to the occasion and peel off a big score. In the back half of his Test career, with Matthew Hayden, he formed one of the best opening partnerships in the game’s history. For Langer, the player, it was always about the honour of playing for your country and the steely determination to prove others wrong. His coaching career with Western Australia and the Perth Scorchers has mirrored that philosophy; he has immense pride in his state and has instilled that upon his charges. He has been a hard taskmaster, a mentor and a motivator for his players. When he was chosen to coach WA in November 2012, there was a distinct cultural issue. On-field performance was lacking and off-field there had been some severe misdemeanours, resulting in players being sent home from tours and playing bans being imposed. Langer changed the culture of the WA side. One of the mantras of his coaching style is personality over performance and how players fit into a group. The Scorchers have been the most successful and consistent T20 franchise in the game’s history, contesting five of the seven BBL finals, winning three of them. The side has traditionally relied more on homegrown talent than other teams, which is again an indication of Langer’s approach to building a team culture. There have been celebrated individual turnarounds under his stewardship. Both Andrew Tye and D’Arcy Short have spoken about how Langer’s stern words and tough love provided the impetus for them to rebuild their careers, with both going on to play international cricket. With the Australian team at its nadir with regard to its behaviour and culture, Langer is the right man to restore respect. He played the game hard and never took a backward step. He will approach his new role in the same manner. When Ricky Ponting ascended to the national captaincy he bestowed the honour of singing the team song – Beneath the Southern Cross – after victories to Langer. He saw it as arguably the greatest award of his career and sung it with pride and gusto. He will want to stand in the rooms in the future when Nathan Lyon, the current choir leader, belts it out, knowing that the team has performed in his image. I wish him well. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 5 May 2018, soliciting 38 commentsRead More →
In the media
"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.
"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
"Excellent speaker. Glenn was exactly what we wanted and participated really well."
Clare Thompson, IWIRC Network (W.A.Branch)
"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
"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 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
"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 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 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