From the Blog
Steve Smith: a batting genius who does it his way
Date: November 27, 2017 / Posted by control
If Steve Smith was to now make 20 consecutive ducks he would still average 50.1. No, that is not a typo but rather a stunning statistic. It simply underlines the career that the Australian captain has compiled so far. His unbeaten 141 in his first innings of this Ashes series leaves him with an aggregate of 5511 runs at an average of 61.2 from 105 innings. Of all batsmen to have played 20 or more Test innings, only two men have averaged more – Don Bradman 99.9 from 80 innings and Adam Voges 61.9 from 31 innings. It was Smith’s 21st Test ton. It means he scores a century every 5.0 innings. By comparison, his contemporaries Virat Kohli (5.5), Kane Williamson (6.5), Hashim Amla (6.6), A B de Villiers (8.4), Joe Root (8.5), Alastair Cook (8.6) all lay in his wake. None of those batsmen average over 54. Smith is the third fastest batsman in terms of innings to score 21 Test centuries behind Bradman (56) and Sunil Gavaskar (98). While some have been burdened by the weight of captaincy, Smith has thrived. In his 27 Tests at the helm, he has scored 2971 runs at 72.5 with 13 centuries. And, let’s not forget that he is still only 28 years of age. It has been a remarkable career, even more so when you consider how it started. He debuted against Pakistan at Lord’s in 2010 as a leg-spinner batting at number eight. His first century – against England at The Oval - came in his 12th Test and 23rd innings. Since then, he has scored 20 hundreds in 45 matches. His latest innings at the Gabba was grafted out in concert with the position he found his team in. It was quintessentially a captain’s knock and has all but certainly provided the backbone for an Australian victory. He largely eschewed driving down the ground after Shaun Marsh chipped a slower ball from Stuart Broad to James Anderson at mid-off, highlighting the sluggish nature of the pitch. One of the exceptions was a crisply struck cover drive that brought up his century. He spent over half an hour navigating the nineties, not through nerves or uncertainty, but as a result of the scoreboard with his team looking to reel in England’s first innings with eight wickets already in the shed. In the end he guided Australia beyond parity to a 26-run lead. There is little orthodox about Smith’s technique. Indeed, if you were coaching a 12-year-old with a similar technique you would be advising him to make considerable changes. His bottom hand is turned way around on the handle, a position that normally greatly inhibits the ability to drive through the off-side. It provides no such encumbrance for Smith. His exorbitant lateral movement across the crease allows him to access the leg-side from deliveries that most batsmen would play to the off. So many times he gets into the bowler’s head and messes with their line. In essence, he is a master at getting them to bowl where he wants them to. At times he can border on looking ugly from an MCC coaching manual perspective but his effectiveness is undeniable. While his footwork can at times look awry, his bat swing is exquisite. In the latter portions of his downswing the full face of the blade is brought to bear towards the delivery. It can give the impression that his bat is wider than his counterparts. Smith is also a master at playing the ball late which eliminates lofted shots down the ground and allows him to access gaps in the field with nuanced wrist work at the very last moment. He is currently in complete mastery of his game and has been for quite some time. From his pre-stance choreographed fidgeting to the time he strikes the ball, Smith may look awkward at times. But, more often than not, it is the bowlers who are the awkward ones as they strive to breach a technique that has been honed to perfection. It is a methodolgy that is never likely to be widely taught nor mimicked, but for Steve Smith it works an absolute treat. His first innings at the Gabba was another salient reminder of that fact. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 27 November 2017, soliciting 12 commentsRead More →
If Shaun Marsh is the answer, you have to wonder what the question was
Date: November 18, 2017 / Posted by control
Shaun Marsh has been recalled to the Test side for a eighth time. Yet, the Gabba Test will be only his 24th for Australia. Not every omission has been due to form but the significant majority have. Not even John Farnham can boast as many comebacks. Given his Test record – 1476 runs at an average of 36.0 – when he did not have his Cricket Australia contract renewed recently it was considered there would be no further opportunities in the baggy green. When Winston Churchill spoke famously about Russia in 1939, he could well have been speaking about Marsh: “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest”. Marsh certainly is a riddle, mystery and enigma. However, the national selectors – Trevor Hohns, Greg Chappell and Darren Lehmann – feel selecting him is in the national interest. For so long we have heard past and current players extol the virtues of Marsh as a batsman. Much of the comment surrounds his style and attractiveness when he is at his best. Sadly, history indicates that he is not as his best regularly or for any extended period. For a man who topped the IPL run aggregate in its maiden year and averaged 43.0 in List A matches, he has looked a pale imitation at Test level. His Test strike rate is a mere 44.7. The likes of Chris Rogers (50.7) and Justin Langer (54.2) were seen as doughty players but both scored considerably quicker than Marsh. At Test level he often appears to freeze up. Numerous times he has found it hard to rotate the strike. Nudging into gaps does not appear a forte when beneath the green helmet. As a result bowlers have been able to build pressure and work to a plan in bringing about his demise. There must be several players around the first-class traps in Australia shaking their head at Marsh’s latest reincarnation. The incumbent number six, Glenn Maxwell would be at the head of that cue. In the three Sheffield Shield matches that have been used as a barometer for Ashes selection – although the Tim Paine recall may devalue that notion – Maxwell has scored 200 runs at 40.0 and Marsh 236 runs at 39.3. Maxwell made a Test century four matches ago. To date, each of his seven Test appearances have come in Asia. He could feel aggrieved that he has been denied playing a maiden Test on home soil where his career first-class record is superior to Marsh’s. At 29, he is also five years younger than Marsh Callum Ferguson was called up for his Test debut last summer after many years in first-class ranks with South Australia. Heading into the Hobart Test against South Africa he had averaged 51 in his previous 17 Sheffield Shield matches during which he compiled six centuries. At Bellerive he was run out for one and scored two in the second innings. With Australia being bowled out for 85 and 161 to lose by more than an innings, the selectors made wholesale changes for the next Test at Adelaide. Ferguson was one of the casualties, dropped after just one appearance. This season in Shield ranks he averages 68.6 and boasts an unbeaten 182 against Victoria. His ODI record – an average of 41.4 from 30 matches – shows he has succeeded at international level when given a decent chance but, at 32, he may not be accorded the luxuries again that have regularly gone the way of Marsh. And then there is Ed Cowan, who last season was the leading run scorer in the Sheffield Shield – 969 at 73.7 – who was told at the start of the season his age was an issue in currently being selected for New South Wales. He has not been chosen for the Blues this summer. He is 11 months older than Marsh who has been given an international reprieve. The selectors could have also opted for generational change. Twenty-five-year-old Jake Lehmann has been in good form for the Redbacks with 249 Sheffield Shield runs this season at 49.8 on the back of averaging over 40 last summer. His South Australian teammate, 23-year-old Jake Weatherald caned the Warriors attack in the last round of Shield matches with innings of 152 and 143 to go with a knock of 71 in the opening round. Both Lehmann and Weatherald are far more experienced than Matt Renshaw was when he made his Test debut last season. It was back in January 2003 that then Test skipper, Steve Waugh witnessed first-hand a young Shaun Marsh. He scored his maiden first-class century in a Sheffield Shield match at Newcastle. Waugh was effusive in his praise, saying, “It is the best innings I have seen from a 19-year-old. He looks an outstanding talent. The quality of stroke play was superb.” Such praise from a legend of the sport did not go unnoticed. Big things were expected from Marsh. Sadly, despite abundant natural talent and a solid work ethic, he has underperformed through his 16 years in first-class ranks. He has scored 21 centuries in that time. That equates to 1.3 centuries a calendar year throughout his entire career. Once again the selectors have placed their faith in him. He is likely to bat at number six as a direct swap for Maxwell with his uncapped West Australian teammate, Cameron Bancroft expected to open in place of Renshaw. Surely this will be his last chance to grab an ongoing place in Australia’s Test line-up. For the sake of himself, the team, the selectors and the fans he has make the most of his ninth life. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 18 November 2017, soliciting 150 commentsRead More →
Should the selectors punt on Cameron Bancroft?
Date: November 14, 2017 / Posted by control
Adam Gilchrist changed the way we look at wicket-keepers in Australia and it has little to do with what he did with the gloves. In 96 Test matches he amassed 5570 runs, compiled 17 centuries and averaged 47.6. He finished his career with a then Test world record 416 dismissals. His predecessor, Ian Healy, previously held the record of 395 dismissals. The general consensus is he was a better gloveman than Gilchrist. With the bat, however, he was vastly inferior – 4356 runs at 27.4 with four centuries in 119 Tests. Australia’s third most prolific ‘keeper, Rod Marsh (355 dismissals) played the same number of Tests as Gilchrist, scoring 3633 runs at 26.5 with three centuries. They were both seen as very fine contributors with the bat despite averaging less than 28. After Gilchrist, those numbers are largely seen as unacceptable. Gilchrist’s successor, Brad Haddin, averaged 33.0 through his 66 Tests. Whilst it was a far cry from Gilchrist’s mark, it is markedly superior to the two men who have donned the gloves since he retired. Through 22 Tests, the incumbent Matthew Wade averages 28.6 while Peter Nevill’s 17 Tests have produced an average of 22.3. After being recalled to the Test side last November – at the expense of Nevill – Wade has played 16 innings, scored one half-century (57) and averaged 20.2. Those numbers have had him under the microscope ahead of this month’s first Ashes Test. With three rounds of Sheffield Shield matches ahead of the Gabba Test it appeared to be a race in three as to who would be behind the stumps – Wade, Nevill or uncapped South Australian Alex Carey – with all three men having their supporters. A quarter of the way through the third game the waters are as muddy as they were before the first ball was bowled this Shield season. Wade, returning to his native Tasmania, has failed dismally with the blade with a meagre 38 runs from five innings. Nevill has batted three times for scores of 20, 32 and 11 not out. Carey has made 12, 4, 36 and 20. None of the threesome have made a solid case for inclusion. Each has spilled catches as well, further adding to the selection fog. It provides a quandary for the selectors, especially given the numerous top order batting collapses that have plagued Australia’s Test performances in the last few years. Matthew Renshaw and Peter Handscomb have done little by way of scores leading into the Ashes series. Both men – who debuted at Adelaide last summer against South Africa – have struggled to make an impact in Shield ranks this season. Each has batted five times with Renshaw averaging 18.8 and Handscomb 28.8. Both are expected to play at Brisbane but their modest lead-in form will add further concern to the selectors with respect to the ‘keeping position. The poor showing by Wade, Nevill and Carey has resulted in another name being thrown up – Western Australian opener, Cameron Bancroft. He went to stumps yesterday after the opening day at the WACA against South Australia on 161 not out – a chanceless knock until he was dropped off Travis Head’s bowling when he was on 104. That innings comes on the back of an outstanding match double last start against New South Wales at Hurstville Oval. He was confronted by the quartet that will form Australia’s bowling attack at the Gabba – Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon. He carried his bat in the first innings, scoring 76 in a team total of 176 and followed up with 86 in WA’s second innings 223. Bancroft also kept wickets for the Warriors in that match and by all accounts outshone Nevill behind the stumps. He will keep again in the current match against the Redbacks. From a rank outsider three weeks ago, he is now very much in the frame for the wicket-keeping role at the Gabba. But, just how big a risk would it be for the selectors to back him in? Effectively, in recent years, Bancroft has been his state’s third string ‘keeper. The Warriors’ number one gloveman is Sam Whiteman, a player many have feel is among the very best wicket-keepers in the country. He suffered a badly broken finger while keeping to Mitchell Johnson in last summer’s BBL final. He has twice undergone surgery and will not play this summer. In his absence, Josh Inglis was picked for WA’s first Sheffield Shield match of the summer, having made his first-class debut last summer. He too suffered an injury and for the Warriors’ second game, Bancroft was chosen behind the stumps. He is no stranger to wicket-keeping, having done so for WA in limited form cricket as well as the Scorchers in the BBL – although often on both accounts when Whiteman was sidelined. Bancroft made a shock T20 international debut against India at the SCG in January last year. But, in first-class ranks he has hardly been sighted with the gloves on. The current match at the WACA Ground is Bancroft’s 49th Sheffield Shield match. It is also just the third time he has been behind the stumps following his performance last week against New South Wales and a stand-in role for an injured Whiteman in March 2016. The selectors now have to weigh up whether Bancroft should be elevated to the role at Test level. In years gone by it would have been a no brainer. The thought of selecting a state’s third string wicket-keeper with just three games behind the stumps in 49 Shield matches for a Test match would have been unthinkable. However, in this post-Gilchrist era it is a distinct possibility. The wicket-keepers role was long seen as a specialist position where a player was required to do the hard yards for many a year, like Haddin, before getting the nod. Nowadays, how you handle a bat can be seen as almost as important as to how you glove the ball. We will find out soon just how the selectors view the country’s wicket-keeping stocks. Safe to say, we live in interesting cricketing times. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 14 November 2017, soliciting 344 commentsRead More →
Don Pyke is the saviour Adelaide needed
Date: September 28, 2017 / Posted by control
The vast majority of focus heading into Saturday’s grand final has centred on Richmond. Like the Bulldogs this time last year, the Tigers are the sentimental favourite. A premiership drought that extends to 1980 and the re-emergence of one of the code’s most powerful and strident forces – the yellow and black army – has captured headlines. The scenes at the MCG for last Saturday’s preliminary final against GWS were unparalleled in the sport’s history with around 85,000 Tigers fans in rapturous delirium. The ‘G on Saturday will once again be bedecked largely in yellow and black. Seemingly lost in the hype surrounding the inexorable march of Richmond this season is the journey Adelaide has undertaken and endured in the past two years. The country awoke on 3 July 2015 to the incomprehensible news that Crows coach Phil Walsh had been murdered by his own son. He was universally beloved in football circles. His passing gutted the entire football community with on-field post-game tributes the following weekend bringing the most hardened hearts to tears. Walsh was only 12 games into his first year at the helm when he died. He may have been nascent in his position but he left an indelible imprint on the club and its players. Walsh’s assistant, Carlton premiership player Scott Camporeale took over as interim coach with former West Coast mentor John Worsfold hired as director of coaching. The club’s board was charged with the onerous task of finding the best man to lead the Crows out of its darkest period. They settled on Don Pyke. It turned out to be a masterstroke. Pyke arrived in Adelaide on the back of a richly decorated playing career in the AFL and WAFL – two premierships and a best and fairest at both West Coast Eagles and Claremont. Immediately following his AFL retirement in 1996 – at age 27 due to a chronic shoulder injury – he was the Eagles’ team runner for two years before coaching Claremont for two seasons. In 2001, he started a four-year term on West Coast board. In late 2004, he headed to South Australia to be an assistant to Crows’ coach Neil Craig. It was an interesting partnership given Pyke had interviewed Craig for the West Coast coaching job after the sacking of Ken Judge in 2001. After two seasons, Pyke returned to Perth to concentrate on business, utilising his tertiary qualifications in co-founding a seismic data firm that aided oil and gas exploration. He was born into an academic family. His father Frank, a star footballer himself with WAFL club Perth in the 1960s, posted two top-three finishes in the Sandover Medal. Frank was a lecturer at Illinois State University when son Don arrived in 1968. The family returned to Perth in 1972 with Frank Pyke continuing to build a career as one of the world’s most respected sports scientists. In the mid-1970s he was responsible for the rehabilitation of Dennis Lillee following career threatening stress fractures in his back. Some of the techniques that were pioneered during that period were adopted globally for the treatment of such conditions. In 1977, Don moved with the family to the ACT where his father took up a posting as Head of the Centre for Sports Studies at the University of Canberra before becoming the inaugural executive director of the Victorian Institute of Sport. Don was an exceptionally talented junior sportsman, not only an outstanding footballer but also a member of WA’s state under-19 cricket team – his brother James played Sheffield Shield cricket for South Australia. But it was football that became the staple. Pyke was a no-nonsense, hard-nosed player. He started as a free running midfielder before Malthouse turned him into one of the most respected defensive run with players in the competition. By the time he through his hat in the ring for the Adelaide job, Pyke boasted a well-rounded resume – decorated player, club director, successful businessman and a coaching apprenticeship behind him. It is a set of credentials that few coaches could boast and it was the type of broad background that the Crows needed in the circumstances they found themselves in. Pyke has used his analytical brain and life lessons to transform the Crows into a powerhouse. In his inaugural year at the helm the club’s 16-6 record during an exceptionally tight home-and-away season saw the club finish fifth. An elimination final win over North Melbourne was followed by a season-ending semi-final loss to Sydney. This season, the Crows took out the minor premiership, finishing clear of Geelong on percentage with 15 wins and a draw. The club now sits just four quarters of football away from a possible first premiership since its back-to-back triumph in 1997-98. Through 48 games in charge, Pyke boasts a 72 per cent winning record. He has developed a team that has few chinks with winners across all lines. Adelaide provided eight of the 40-man preliminary All-Australian squad, underlining the side’s consistency through the season. The Crows have the most potent forward line in the competition, averaging 110 points per game through the regular season, two goals ahead of the next best, Port Adelaide. It boasts x-factor players like Eddie Betts and Charlie Cameron up forward and a hard-running midfield – Brad and Matt Crouch, Richard Douglas and Rory Sloane – fed readily by one of the league’s most improved ruckmen, Sam Jacobs. Their defence is the fourth most miserly in the league. Pyke has great faith in his men, as they do in him. He is happy to leave things run for as long as he can rather than make kneejerk changes. On Saturday, he has the chance to take his team to the Promised Land. A little over two years ago it seemed a task that would be beyond most. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 28 September 2017, soliciting 48 commentsRead More →
Nathan Lyon: From near zero to hero
Date: September 05, 2017 / Posted by control
Ten months ago Nathan Lyon’s Test career was hanging by a thread. Today, once again, he is firmly ensconced as his nation’s number one spinner. In the past two weeks he has leapt over Richie Benaud (248 wickets) and Jason Gillespie (259) to sit seventh on the all-time Test wicket-taking list for Australia. The man who heads that exultant list is Shane Warne, the only spinner above Lyon. Twenty-seventeen has been his year. Presently playing his seventh Test of the year, he has 38 wickets at 24.7. Since 1 January he has claimed four five-wicket hauls, including a career-best 8-50 against India at Bengaluru. Yet, in November last year, Lyon was on the cusp of being dropped from the side. He was struggling to make an impact with the ball and, in the process, had seemingly lost the confidence of his skipper, Steve Smith. In the opening Test of last summer, against South Africa at Perth, he went the journey. After capturing 2-38 in the first innings, he was bizarrely handled by Smith when South Africa batted a second time. He was not used at all in the opening session on the third day despite the fact that the rest of the attack could not conjure a breakthrough. At stumps, on a 37-degree day, he had sent down only a dozen overs. The likes of Warne were scathing in their attitude towards Smith’s use of him. On day four, he sent down a further 22 overs, ending the innings with 0-146. South Africa won the Test by 177 runs. They sewed up the series at Hobart, winning the second Test by an innings and 80 runs after Australia was shot out for 85 on the opening day. Lyon finished with 0-57 from 17 overs in South Africa’s innings. The selectors were under intense pressure to make changes for the final Test of the series at Adelaide. Many felt Lyon should be one of those jettisoned. He likely would have been dropped had the man touted to replace him, Steve O’Keefe, not gone down with injury just prior to the selectors naming their squad. Lyon captured 4-105 in the third Test. He survived the summer, albeit without setting the world on fire, capturing 11 wickets at 45.6 in the three Tests against Pakistan. In February, he headed to India where he and O’Keefe went head-to-head. On spin friendly decks the pair each claimed 19 wickets – Lyon at 25.3 and O’Keefe 23.3. When the selectors sat down to choose the squad for the current tour of Bangladesh they faced a conundrum. O’Keefe had been suspended by New South Wales for next month’s Matador Cup and fined $20,000 for offensive comments while intoxicated at the Steve Waugh Medal presentation. They opted to leave him at home and chose a spin trio of Lyon, Ashton Agar and Mitchell Swepson. In the first Test loss, Lyon held up his end of the bargain with hauls of 3-79 and 6-82. Australia went into the current Test at Chittagong with three specialist spinners for the first time since 2006. O’Keefe was on the plane and straight back into the side for an injured Josh Hazlewood. Lyon , however, was clearly the standout. Opening the bowling with Pat Cummins, he claimed the first four wickets. He chimed in late in the day with the second new ball to add a fifth scalp, finishing the day with 5-77 from 28 overs – O’Keefe returned figures of 20-0-70-0 and Agar 17-6-46-1. Where the first Test at Dhaka was played on a surface that provided abundant spin and variable bounce, the deck at Chittagong was a tough one for the bowlers on the opening day. There was minimal turn, even bounce and all-in-all, it was a pitch favourable to the batsmen. Lyon bowled an impeccable length with his first four wickets all coming as a result of beating the batsman on the inside and removing them leg before – a mode of dismissal that has beset so many Australian batsmen in that part of the world. It marked the first time in history that the same bowler trapped the top-four leg before wicket. It was a highly intelligent display of off-spin bowling as he quickened his pace and bowled a consistently questioning length. Had it not been for Lyon, Australia would likely be in a particularly parlous position. As a finger spinner, Lyon is 120 wickets clear of his Australian counterpart – Hugh Trumble – hence his sobriquet, GOAT. Traditionally, finger spinners have never been as potent a force on the hard, bouncy Australian pitches as their wrist-spinning colleagues. In terms of aggregate wickets for spinners, Lyon is the only non-wrist spinner in Australia’s top-six. Some of the game’s finest off-spinners have struggled on Australian pitches – Muttiah Muralitharan averaged 75.4; Harbhajan Singh 73.2; and Graeme Swann 52.6. Given those performances, Lyon’s home bowling average of 34.6 is highly commendable. He is the most experienced member of this current Australian team with 69 Tests under his belt. Yet, in spinner’s terms, he is still a young man at 29. With 261 wickets already to his name he is every chance to finish ahead of Dennis Lillee’s career total of 355, which would leave him third overall behind two other legends of the game in Glenn McGrath (563) and Warne (708). Speaking of Warne, it is interesting to compare his record on the sub-continent with Lyon. To date, Lyon has taken his 72 wickets at 28.9 compared to Warne’s 111 wickets at 29.3. Presently, he is doing the job for his country and doing it very well. And, he is destined to continue for quite some time yet. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 5 September 2017, soliciting 37 commentsRead More →
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 →
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 →
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CPA Australia State Congress
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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.
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Ben Williams. Ravensdown 2009 Agents Conference
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Cricket Club of India