Australia's Dream Team selected

Inside Cricket have gathered a crack squad of elite selectors (eg - over-opinionated ex-greats and commentators) to choose the best Australian Test XI from 1995 to 2005. There's some peculiar choices although who can argue with the opinions of Dennis Lillee, Ian Chappell and Greg Chappell? I can, that's who!

Firstly, Mark Taylor as opener. Acknowledged, he was a great captain. Building on the foundation laid by Allan Border, he led Australia into our current golden age. Perhaps I was too young to remember him at the peak of his powers but all I remember was a paunchy out-of-sorts opener who only kept his spot in the side because he was captaining a winning team. It shouldn't be too hard to scratch around for a better opener... Justin Langer, Michael Slater - hell, I'd even take Mike Hussey!

Now I have a soft spot for Boonie but I agree with selecting Ricky Ponting over David Boon - with Warnie and Tubby, one more beer gut in the side would be too many for a supposed elite sporting team.

My second problem is the selection of Jason Gillespie. Maybe I'm suffering from Ashes hangover but his inability to take wickets in England played a large part in us losing that series - our worst loss in 20 years. I'd choose Brett Lee over Gillespie - Lee may be a bit of a wildcard but at the peak of his powers, I believe he surpasses Jason Gillespie at his best.

And lastly, the worst selection decision since Shoaib Akhtar was selected for the World XI, they selected Ian Healy and Adam Gilchrist in the same team. Firstly, that's an insult to Gilchrist's glovework (how weird would it be seeing him field at deep fine leg?) and secondly, it's a decision that's completely out of touch with reality (hence the 'Dream' in Dream Team, I guess). This is a country that selected Wayne Phillips as wicketkeeper - a guy who could barely get a glove on the ball when standing at the stumps. Now Gilchrist is prone to the odd mistake but that's hardly worth sacrificing a quality top order batsman for Heals. Although maybe they selected him for his sledging abilities in which case, fair call.

This is the kind of topic that everyone has an opinion about so anyone else got any thoughts on who should and shouldn't be in Australia's best side over the past 10 years?
Posted by JC on Wed 30 Nov 58 comments

New Zealand accuse Australia of arrogance

The New Zealanders are starting to talk up their chances as Mark Richardson accuses Australia of arrogance after resting Glenn McGrath for the Chappell-Hadlee series. Just imagine if Gilchrist had got his wish and skived off too. I seem to remember the New Zealanders firing broadsides at us last summer before we beat them 5-nil in the one day series and 2-nil in the Test series. In this case, however, I suspect the New Zealand squad would be annoyed as Richardson isn't even playing - he retired last summer. I like to bag the Aussies whenever I see a fault but I don't have to face up to Brett Lee steaming in with a new ball. Richardson isn't doing his countrymen any favours by riling up the Australian quicks, accusing them of being second fiddle duds behind McGrath. However, it's not just retired players that are talking tough. Chris Cairns has announced himself ready to play Australia in the Chappell-Hadlee series:
Cairns added that after New Zealand's success against Australia in rugby union and league, beating them at cricket would be "bloody fantastic".
I'd say that after the Black Cap's recent run of losses, beating us at cricket is bloody unlikely!
Posted by JC on Wed 30 Nov 81 comments

England start 3rd Test against Pakistan badly

You have no idea how much pleasure it gave me to write that headline. They must win the 3rd Test at Lahore to avoid losing the series and while they began Day 1 slowly but steadily, their good start was squandered when England's top order fell to poor strokes to finish the day at 6 for 248. Their batsmen fell to agressive strokes, looking to score well and dominate the bowling. It looks like England really have become the new Australia. England started the 2nd day not much better, as Collingwood fell for 96, just 4 short of a maiden Test century. Usually I feel for a batsmen when they just miss out on the century milestone but I bear the Englishman's anguish with great fortitude. Sami mopped the last 2 wickets in 2 balls and is now on a hattrick when he bowls in the 2nd innings. But as you'd expect in this seesawing series (try saying that 10 times quickly), England took early wickets and it took a partnership between Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq to consolidate the innings. Inzy has been a rock for Pakistan this series and it was a big setback when he had to retire hurt after being struck on the arm from Harmison. Surprisingly, it was from a legitimate delivery, not a gratuitious peg at the stumps. And unlike the Ashes, this time it was England who paid dearly for a dropped chance when Flintoff spilled a slips catch off Yousuf on 16. He was 84 not out at stumps with Pakistan at 4 for 185 so let's hope he can go on to really hurt England. The match is still poised to go either way and based on recent history, the series will probably be decided late in the 5th day in a nail-biting thriller. The pitch shows signs of wearing so any total of substance will be tough for Pakistan to chase in the 4th innings. It's a sign of good cricket when you're constantly thinking "the next session is crucial". During the Ashes, the SBS commentators were repeatedly gushing "the Ashes will be decided in this next session" and at the time, it felt like it was true. Equally, it's vital Pakistan build a big first innings lead today so how Yousuf bats in the first session may go a long way in deciding the series.
Posted by JC on Wed 30 Nov 42 comments

Australia win 3rd Test and clean sweep Frank Worrell trophy

Australia comfortably chased down the runs to win the 3rd Test against the West Indies and clean sweep the series. The only question of interest in the morning was whether Matt Hayden would score 100 to make it 5 centuries in consecutive Tests (only the Don has gone further). At one stage, I had visions of Hayden on 96 with 1 run to win, going for another slog and skying it to cover (a guy can dream). In the end, he missed out as Hussey scored quite freely and frankly, I'm not shedding any crocodile tears. The other point of interest was the West Indians overly boisterous cheering each other on in reaction to Billy Bowden telling the players to tone it down. It was a fairly harmless form of dissent, more amusing than disruptive and embarrassing for Billy Bowden. It reminded me of students razzing an unliked teacher.

Michael Hussey looked solid in the middle order and hit the winning runs for the second game running. I can see him batting in the middle order or opening for Australia for years to come... or at least till he hits a lean patch halfway through the next series against South Africa. I've done some maths and worked out he's hit the winning runs in 2 out of his 3 Tests. Now statistics never lie (at least that's what that nerd says in Numbers) so it follows that if he plays the Ashes series next year, he will hit the winning runs in 3.33 games which is enough to win us the Ashes. So the little urn is in the bag! Conversely, Brad Hodge had a disappointing game. The selectors are likely to persist with him for at least another game or two but Michael Clarke is breathing down his neck, having just scored a career high 201 not out against Queensland. You have to give it to Pup, bouncing back after being dropped.

So overall, it was a disappointing series (as Channel 9 will attest). The West Indies showed sparks of promise here and there but couldn't put it all together, dogged throughout by bad umpiring decisions. Australia performed well but the middle order is still shockingly frail and questions about a 3rd quick and an allrounder are yet to be answered. At the end of each series, Cricinfo always publish interesting reviews of the series including a rating out of 10 for each Australian and West Indian player. Hussey was the revelation for Australia (well, not a huge surprise considering he's been playing in our one day side for years). Everyone assumed he would only play 1 Test in Brisbane with Justin Langer outing him in Hobart. Langer's injury kept him out for one extra game and Hussey took full advantage, scoring his maiden century and earning a middle order spot at Clarke's expense. The 3rd Test saw him cement his spot with another century. Good on him, he had a tiny opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. Dwayne Bravo was the revelation for the West Indies, threatening Australia with bat and ball. One wonders why Bennett King left him out of the team in Brisbane. The expectations of the Carribbean will be heaped upon this guy now and I hope he handles it well.

The next question is what will be the make up of the Australian squad against South Africa. Stuart MacGill will make way for Nathan Bracken in Perth which heavily favours the quicks. But will the selectors retain Brad Hodge and Andrew Symonds? I think Hodge will get at least a few more Tests to prove himself. Andrew Symonds is on the verge of being dropped. In fact, Ricky Ponting is backing Symonds to retain his spot which is almost a sure sign that he's going to be dropped (Ponting's endorsement is the cricket equivalent of the Godfather kiss of death). Problem is who do you replace him with? It'd have to be a fast bowler - that'd give us 4 quicks and a leg spinner which is fair enough at Perth. My thoughts are they'll retain Symonds, give him one more Test - the selectors have a real bee in their bonnet about all-rounders since England. But I'm open to ideas - anyone else have any thoughts on who should make up the Australian squad against South Africa?
Posted by JC on Tue 29 Nov 43 comments

Shane Warne escapes fining for dissent

The ICC have cleared Shane Warne for dissent after he spat the dummy for reacting badly to a turned down appeal. The fact that Warne on a winning side was reported for dissent contrasts starkly with the West Indies behaviour who've made no negative comments to all the crap decisions they've received this series. You have to commend them for that - it reminds me of Frank Worrell's West Indies who were forbidden by their captain from making the slightest reaction to bad umpiring decisions. I don't know if the other countries have a 'Spirit of Cricket' code of conduct like Australia but we definitely need to practise what we preach. Meanwhile, while India play South Africa, Harbhajan Singh was fined while Andre Nel was cleared for gesturing to a dismissed batsman. Some complain that subcontinent players get more harshly treated than other countries. I can't really comment on individual incidents as I haven't seen the footage but I'm doubtful that would be the case (in this case, there seems to be a distinction between physically gesturing and merely speaking). I'd say it's more likely just the typical inconsistency you get with disciplinary decisions which seem to happen with every sport. Matthew Hoggard got fined for over-appealing (although technically it was for not appealing at all) against Pakistan while Brett Lee was not even reported for doing the for an LBW recently against the West Indies. Many thanks to Mahesh for posting me these links.
Posted by JC on Tue 29 Nov 43 comments

Should technology be used more in umpiring?

With all the howlers made by the umpires in the recent West Indies/Australia series (almost all going against the West Indies), Ricky Ponting has spoken against the use of more technology in umpiring. No surprises there. What is surprising is Shivnarine Chanderpaul agrees with him. Ponting's basic argument is this:
"I have never been a big fan of technology just for the simple fact that the technology that has been used and trialled (by the International Cricket Council) over last few years hasn't been accurate enough anyway to give you conclusive evidence on dismissal."
I just don't get this logic. Noone is saying third umpires will give you 100% certainty. But what the 3rd umpire will give you is better decisions. The really shocking decisions like LBWs from a nick onto the pads, or bat pad decisions - decisions that can turn a match and even a player's career - many of those can now be set right. And the ones that you just can't tell - well, then the batsman gets the benefit of the doubt. Easy peasy! The only downside of increased 3rd umpire use is it will slow down the game. Frankly, I don't mind that either. One of the joys of cricket for me is listening to the ABC Grandstand radio commentary and I love listening to the commentators natter about the broader issues of the game during these stoppages. And maybe with all these breaks for 3rd umpire decisions, I might get more 5 day Tests again :-) But I welcome any other opinions - post your thoughts and comments...
Posted by JC on Tue 29 Nov 211 comments

West Indies struck down by Warne and dud umpires

Shane Warne starred today as Australia stand on the brink of clean-sweeping the Frank Worrell trophy. He took 6 for 80 and brought his 2005 tally up to 84 wickets, bowling through 2 whole sessions for 29 overs without taking a break. Why not - he gets a fortnight's break while the Aussies tour New Zealand. If Warne takes just 2 more wickets over the next two Tests against South Africa, he'll break Dennis Lillee's record for most wickets in a calendar year. His only blemish was being reported for dissent after sulking when an appeal was turned down.

But the real star for Australia today was the umpires Billy Bowden and Aleem Dar. The West Indies best batsmen were struck down as much by bad umpiring as by good bowling. One person who would be against using the 3rd umpire or Hawkeye to decide LBW decisions is Brett Lee. Just how many wickets did he take this series with dodgy LBW decisions? His in-swinging yorkers look dangerous and they're great deliveries but invariably they're going past the leg stump. In the case of Ramnaresh Sarwan, the ball barely struck him in front of leg stump - it certainly wasn't hitting the wickets. Dwayne Smith hit the ball before it hit his pad only to be given out LBW. And Shivnarine Chanderpaul hit the ball into the ground before it bounced back onto his gloves and into the fielder's hands. What's the point of having neutral umpires when they seem to favour the home team anyway - it happened in England and it's happening here. If they used Simon Taufel, at least they might get some more accurate decisions. I found the umpiring annoying and frustrating and that was just cause I wanted the match to last to the 5th day. Imagine how much worse if the umpiring cost us something greater... like the Ashes. I'm fast becoming an advocate for more use of the 3rd umpire in LBW and bat pad decisions.

The match could've ended a day early if it wasn't for another fighting effort from Dwayne Bravo and Denesh Ramdin - once again, their partnership ensured the match went past day 4. And the West Indies bowlers were outstanding in the last session - they tied the Aussies down, took 2 wickets and were unlucky not to get Hayden out (dudded by the umpires again). Considering the frailty of our middle order and Australia's tendency to fall apart chasing small 4th innings totals, there is the slight chance of a few hiccups tomorrow as we chase the remaining 106 runs but most likely, it will end a couple of overs after lunch.
Posted by JC on Mon 28 Nov 38 comments

Mike Hussey scores 2nd century in 2 Tests

Day 3 between Australia and the West Indies at Adelaide has me wishing the 3rd Test had been the first match of the series. Imagine the anticipation throughout the rest of the series if the West Indies were competitive for 5 days with Brian Lara scoring a double century in the first Test. Channel 9 may have even outrated MASH. The first session today was all West Indies, who've achieved what Australia haven't been able to yet - find a genuine allrounder. My favourite moment of the day was Dwayne Bravo's glee when he spectacularly caught Shane Warne. Watching him run across the ground with his teammates chasing him like security guards after a streaker was almost as entertaining as the catch itself. Once again, Australia's middle order was our weak link. I was hoping with the new blood of Mike Hussey and Brad Hodge, our middle order would go through a renaissance. We're halfway there - Hussey scoring two centuries in his 2nd and 3rd Test is no mean feat. And kudos to Stuart MacGill for sticking around long enough to get Hussey to triple figures. Andrew Symonds was very disappointing and more than ever, I think he should make way for Nathan Bracken (or any quality seamer). He may have saved Australia on numerous occasions in one day internationals but he just seems to wilt in the Test arena. Still, the same could be said for Brett Lee - it took him years before figuring out how to bowl in Tests (and he still has lapses). And once again, our tailenders had to bail us out of a nasty situation as at 8 for 295, we were staring down a 100 run deficit after the first innings. The question now is can the West Indies set a decent 4th innings total for us to chase? We may have a middle order weakness but this series, the West Indies have had a top order, middle order and tailender weakness and it took a Herculean effort from Brian Lara to keep them in this game. Hopefully, they can rally for one last effort today - any score over 200 will give Australia something to think about on the 5th day.
Posted by JC on Sun 27 Nov 41 comments

Greg Chappell admits to obscene gesture

The Telegraph India have interviewed Greg Chappell confessing to that obscene gesture. Thanks to "reader" for alerting me to the interview and ensui for posting the link. Personally, I'm surprised that Greg Chappell did do it, in spite of the photographic evidence. Chappell has always had a gentlemanly air of, well, an Englishman (and I mean that as a compliment). And I'm not just saying that because he's an Aussie ex-great. I wouldn't be surprised at all to hear of Dennis Lillee making an obscene gesture. And Rod Marsh, he'd probably pull his pants down and press his bum against the bus window!
Posted by JC on Sun 27 Nov 64 comments

Greg Chappell denies making obscene gestures at Ganguly supporters

The conspiracies theories begin to fly as Greg Chappell has denied making any obscene gestures to protesting Sourav Ganguly supporters. Speculation is rife. Was Chappell framed? Was it someone else's hand? Was there a third hand on the grassy knoll? According to M Baladitya, the Indian team's media manager:
He told me that while giving fielding practice to the players, he injured a finger. He was only attending to the finger in the team bus.
Ah yes, the famous 'bird' injury that stiffens the middle finger while strangely folding all the other fingers.
Posted by JC on Sat 26 Nov 63 comments

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