There’s talk today that Shane Warne may return for the Ashes. It’s all speculation and hype, of course. Or is it???
The Punch has today conducted a hard-hitting analysis of photo evidence, and can reveal exclusively that Warne is right on track in his preparations for his midyear assault on the English.
Canny as ever, Warne has undertaken his exhaustive Ashes training in a manner which disguises his true intent. Just as batsmen never knew if he was bowling a leggie or a googly, many people will be fooled and mistake these photos for staged PR shots, paparazzi snaps and twitpics. Not us. These are all evidence of an Ashes training regimen like no other.
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Well, that’ll do me. I give up. The farcical Hughes/Watson runout, the second between the hapless duo in two tests, is all the evidence you need that the Aussie cricketers are completely stuffed in every conceivable way.
This was going to be a piece in praise of England. Because really, as much as we’ve all bagged Australia all summer, the Poms have been brilliant. There are no Capital G “Greats” in this England team, but each player plays his part to perfection.
But forget England. We’ve just had what can only be called a revelation. Slightly unexpected twist here, but let’s switch our attention to Swiss-born psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, whose seminal work On Death and Dying could well have been written for this summer of cricket.
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Tea at the cricket, and your selfless Punch correspondent once again forgoes the petite fours and fresh fruit in the media room to check out the vibe in the dressing rooms.
Talk about a contrast. You simply can’t believe how different the mood is in the England and Australian rooms, both of which you can perve straight into from the back of the Members’ stand.
In a word, the England room is relaxed. The Australian room: flustered.
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Leaving aside the air-conditioned comfort and excellent lamingtons of the media centre, your intrepid Punch correspondent journeys to the other side of the SCG to mingle with the Barmy Army.
So here we are, at ground level on the far side of the ground, on what used to be the hill but is now a mass of concrete called the Victor Trumper Stand. How very quaint.
It’s little England down here. Barmy Army HQ. Wet your whistles everybody. It’s singin’ time. Let’s begin with a Barmy Army standard, to the tune of Yellow Submarine.
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In any sport, some people look the part from their very first minute at the top level.
Michael Clarke was one such case himself when he made his debut way back in 2004, and this day was supposed to be all about his coming of age. The Pup, at last, was Top Dog.
But even before Clarke departed with just four runs to his name, it became clear that this grey, slow, rain-interrupted first day of a dead rubber would be remembered for the emergence of Usman Khawaja.
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When Commonwealth Bank chief Ralph Norris fronted the recent banking inquiry, he shrugged off concerns about his massive potential salary package with a line to the effect that 95 per cent of his shareholders approve, so what’s the big deal?
Ricky Ponting effectively has shareholders too. Or to be more accurate, stakeholders. Or to be even more accurate, fans of Australian cricket.
And it’s safe to assume that something like 95 per cent of them would now like him to step down.
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The original headline for this piece was “Ashes myopia the root cause of ineptitude”. Then I decided to say it in everyday language. Because Australia’s incompetence in this Ashes series, notwithstanding today’s excellent fightback with the ball, has a simple foundation.
In short, we care about beating England too much. While Australia has spent 18 months building for this series, and this series alone, England has been busy building a strong cricket team for all occasions.
While Australia has been hell-bent on Ashes revenge, England has focused on Australia as just one obstacle on its climb to the top of cricket’s tree. Let me explain with two contrasting anecdotes.
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Australian selectors, who generally rate somewhere between journalists and used car salesmen on the vocational popularity scale, may just have gotten something right for a change.
On the face of it, naming an extended 17 man Ashes squad was a classic act of fence-sitting. But in another sense, it shows that selectors have finally heard the public outcry to remove the dead wood.
By picking 17, Andrew Hilditch and his cronies have put the serial underperformers on notice, by picking an in-form specialist for each of the incumbents currently under threat.
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(Update, Thursday): Ricky Ponting is at it again. The Australian captain is master of understating the negatives in a losing performance whilst always finding something good to say about his team. And today, here’s a headline from the Times of India - and OK, it is just a summary headline, but it encapsulates Ponting’s piercing analytical style.
For all his success as a batsman and captain the loss against India has seen the Aussies slide to an unconscionable fifth in the world rankings. Ponting’s leadership was publicly questioned during the game when Shane Warne tweeted: “How the hell can hauritz bowl to this field ?? Feeling for hauritz , terrible !! What are these tactics ? Sorry Ricky but what are you doing”. It’s not often this happens, but Warney was probably speaking for the whole country.
There’s more from Ponting here at Fox Sports. To be fair the skipper did say last night that the Australians have “got to be harsh on ourselves”. Though his preceding sentence was: “If I had’ve made 200 in the first innings, the result might have been different.” No kidding. The original column follows below.
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As Australia’s cricketers started their colossal – and ultimately futile –chase of 546 runs for an Ashes victory at The Oval, it was accepted that the team’s only hope was for someone to play a ‘Bradmanesque’ innings.
Given that it’s more than 60 years since Sir Donald Bradman played his final Test on that same strip of dirt in south London, why is it that his name remains the benchmark against which all cricketers are still measured?
It’s because for more than a century, Test match cricket has seen Don Bradman – born 101 years ago today – separated by a colossal gap from everyone else in the game.
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Ricky Ponting’s shock at his team’s emphatic defeat at the hands of England in the deciding Ashes Test is revealed in his concern for his own future he expressed after the game.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” he said when asked about facing the music back in Australia. “Hopefully most of the questions being asked will be from journalists and not from people above me.”
England’s Daily Telegraph twisted the knife, pointing out that Australia was now fourth in the world rankings and that, combined with the loss of The Ashes, would be “a permanent stain” on Ponting’s career.
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And so it begins, although it seems strangely anticlimactic. The reason for that could be because of the two week gap between matches, which was the norm until a few years ago when International tours became compressed affairs so the Test specialists could be shipped off and the one day specialists freighted in.
Now we add the Twenty 20 specialists to the mix as well, so we’re lucky they don’t run the 25 days of the 5 Tests consecutively, or play a Test during the day and a T20 fixture at night as a double header.
We used to enjoy the fact that five Tests took five and a half months to play during which time the players would play a couple of counties between Tests, get to travel to Scotland or Ireland for a couple of
beers matches on a local village green and come home in time to have a week’s rest before the first Shield game started.
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It’s often said journalism is a mirror to the society it serves. Most cricket fans know which of these papers they would prefer to be reading this morning.
At the start of this Ashes series I set out 10 reasons to love the English and said at the time they would take some comfort from being classed as underdogs. But surely, the underdog tag is too kind this time. Beedogs, perhaps.
Anyway, below are some links to previews from English and Australian commentators on this deciding Test, including Shane Warne’s. But if England’s hopes rest on Andrew Flintoff playing a blinder in his final Test match and Australia are counting on Ricky Ponting, I know which side I’d prefer to be on. Share your thoughts, predictions, and sledges in the comments.
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There’s further evidence today of the growing contempt that modern managers of sporting codes hold for fans of their games, with English cricket managers begging the crowd to be nice to Ricky Ponting when he walks to the middle in the fourth Ashes Test, getting underway at Headingley in a few hours’ time.
For a measure of how patronising and unnecessary this is, look no further than Australian batsman Shane Watson, who says the booing Ponting gets from the crowds is to be expected - and something players enjoy, even thrive on, when playing in England.
Cricket managers in Australia have shown a similar pattern of growing discomfort with what ordinary people consider a good day out. When the Poms were last here, the Barmy Army’s trumpeter was kicked out of the Gabba for playing his instrument, despite getting prior approval to blow it. (He’s been banned from the Headingley Test, too.)
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It’s a good thing the Aussies have their wives and girlfriends along for the Ashes tour.
Had they not been there, it’s quite probable we would have gone down to county side Northamptonshire because we’ve all been assured by Cricket Australia that the boys play better if the WAGs are in attendance.
Seeing as we have managed to win just one of the seven tour games so far, I tremor at the thought of what would have happened if CA hadn’t had the foresight to support the significant others/B-grade celebrities and female wannabes to stay with the cricketers for the first part of the Ashes.
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Mitchell Johnson is having a bad month at the office. It happens to all of us, even Australian representative cricketers.
But when the rest of us let the side down at work, we usually can’t get away with blaming our mum.
Kim Hughes and Shane Warne have both said Johnson’s woeful bowling figures of 8 for 331 in the first two Ashes Tests are partly because of his upset over the embarrassing public spat between his mum Vikki Harber and his fiance Jessica Bratich. Oh please.
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WHEN mounting an argument sure to rub some people up the wrong way - such as, say, listing reasons to love the English on the first day of The Ashes - it can be useful to start by invoking supporting words of wisdom from a unifying, popular figure.
Step forward, Donald Rumsfeld.
The former US Defence Secretary - not exactly of Ghandi-esque stature in global public opinion - had a favourite phrase: that America would be vindicated in “the great sweep of human history”.
In the great sweep of sporting history, the English have been the objects of increasing ridicule. They deserve much of it, especially with their tragi-comic efforts in soccer and cricket during the 1990s. But with the 2009 Ashes series beginning this evening, Australian time, we’re sure to be in for weeks of tiresome jokes about whingeing Poms, underachievers, chokers, yob fans with beer bellies, along with general mirth at moments of English failure.
When Mitchell Johnson gets the ball in hand and eyes off Andrew Strauss in Cardiff before starting his run-up, it might be worth him - and Australians everywhere - pausing for a moment to reflect on England’s place in the great sweep of human history. For England, possibly more than any other nation, deserves respect.
And as one of the 10 reasons below argues, respecting England just might help Australia win The Ashes.
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My mates would say to me “Are you serious? You’re being sent to watch every ball of The Ashes, and you call that work?” It sounds like a dream job ... and believe me it is. But a lot goes in to photographing cricket, particularly an Ashes.
I was lucky enough to be given the assignment of covering the last two Ashes series for News Limited. The 2005 tour of England and then the return battle in the Australian summer of 06/07. In 2005 we set off at the beginning of June and wouldn’t return until mid September. It was a monster of a tour, including the one-dayers it was almost a 15 week trip. And sadly, England won.
The first thing you need to be a cricket photographer is stamina. There is no other sport like it. 540 balls a day, the best part of eight hours of action, five days in a row, countless training sessions, and the series last for months on end.
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Former Australian cricket team national coach John Buchanan is leaving his wooden spoon IPL franchise, the Kolkata Knight Riders.
This was no surprise to the cricket fraternity, not least former leg spinner and noted wine buff Stuart MacGill, who’d heard on the cricketing grapevine that Buchanan’s departure was a near certainty.
Buchanan’s main critic down the years has been Shane Warne. But it’s the thinking man’s leggie, MacGill, who’s unleashed the most stinging criticism yet of Buchanan, in the July issue of Alpha magazine.
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