Showing posts with label Ashes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ashes. Show all posts

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Warne would be ready to come back if made captain

More than the million dollars, it is Australia's captaincy which can pull spin legend Shane Warne out of retirement to rescue the team's floundering Ashes campaign, claims cricketer-turned-commentator Dean Jones. 

The 41-year-old Warne has been offered a million dollars to come out of retirement by a group of businessmen in Melbourne which has created a media frenzy around his possible return after Australia lost the second Ashes Test to be 0-1 down in the five-match series. 

The flamboyant leg-spinner has chosen to remain mum on the issue but Jones said Warne would definitely consider a comeback if he is handed the captaincy for the next two years. 

"Warnie, without doubt, no joke, could actually come back," Jones told '3AW' -- a radio station in Melbourne. 

"He's the Rolls-Royce. He can do anything he really wants in that regard. He just has to get himself fit. But I'll say this, categorically, because I want everyone to understand it, if Cricket Australia walked up to Shane Warne and said 'Would you come out of retirement and we'll give you the captaincy for two years?', I know for a fact he would take it. He would play," he added. 

Jones said all the talk about Warne being unprepared for the grind after three years of retirement means nothing as the legendary spinner remains a magician with the ball. 

"With bells on, he'd be running out of his house right now putting on his cricket shoes and putting on the runners to get himself fit," Jones said of the bowler who grabbed 708 Test wickets during his 15-year career. 

"He makes out that it's really, really difficult to bowl leg-spin and do all that type of stuff. 

"But really, he just walks in off three feet and bowls the ball. So it's not too hard. Let me tell you, he's the Rolls- Royce. He can do anything he really wants in that regard. He just has to get himself fit," he added.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Reputations, Expectations and Australia's impending Ashes success - Part 2

continuation of Yesterday article.....

If England's self-regard appears to be less than misplaced, it is only because Australia have looked alarmingly poor in the last 2 years or so. Since Stuart Clark and Brett Lee left the Test Match scene, Australia have not done as well as usual. This is even though, since their Ashes defeat in England they have beaten West Indies 2-0, Pakistan 3-0 and New Zealand 2-0. Their last two series results have been a 1-1 draw against Pakistan in England and a 0-2 defeat in England (which should have been 1-1, but for VVS Laxman and some amazing tactical choices from Ponting).

Yet, if you compare a bowling line up comprising of Bollinger, Siddle, Hilfenhaus, Johnson and Watson with one comprising of Anderson, Broad, Bresnan, Finn and Tremlett, Australia, in my view, have the edge, especially in Australia. Against the non-minnow Test playing nations, these bowlers have the following records:

Bollinger 49 wickets at 23.79 in 11 Tests
Siddle 60 wickets at 31.53 in 17 Tests
Hilfenhaus 48 wickets at 31.06 in 12 Tests
Johnson 166 wickets at 29.06 in 38 Tests
Watson 40 wickets at 27.25 in 21 Tests

Anderson 168 wickets at 32.88 in 48 Tests
Broad 91 wickets at 33.53 in 30 Tests
Bresnan 3 wickets at 32.33 in 2 Tests
Finn 13 wickets at 22.92 in 4 Tests
Tremlett 13 wickets at 29.69 in 4 Tests

There isn't much to choose between the two sides batting wise either. Australia have been using a makeshift batting combination - Katich and Watson, who have done well. These are followed by Ponting, Clarke, Hussey and North, a formidable combination. Haddin is a solid wicketkeeper, and Johnson is quite capable with the bat. England will field Strauss, Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Morgan, Collingwood, followed by Prior and Broad. These are two evenly matched line ups. The most telling thing about these line ups is that if you asked the punditocracy in England and Australia, almost to a man, they would point to Marcus North as the weak link. Why? Is it because North averages 37.4 in Tests? This is low for a specialist batsman, especially one who plays for Australia. 

Yet, if you dig deeper into North's record, his batting average is low on account of having made only 77 runs in 8 innings against Pakistan. In all, in 32 innings, North has reached at least 50 9 times. Keep that figure in mind - 9 out of 32. He has also been dismissed for single digit scores 14 times. So Marcus North is a nervous starter who reaches 50 once every 3.6 innings against non-minnow Test teams.

What are the numbers for England's players?

Andrew Strauss: 36 out of 135, or 1 fifty plus score every 3.8 innings
Paul Collingwood: 29 out of 106, or 1 fifty plus score every 3.7 innings
Ian Bell: 29 out of 93, or 1 fifty plus score every 3.2 innings
Kevin Pietersen: 33 out of 110, or 1 fifty plus score every 3.3 innings.
Eoin Morgan: 1 out of 6
Alistair Cook: 33 out of 101, or 1 fifty plus score every 3.1 innings

Not very different from North's are they? Ironically, the two most criticized England batsmen are Ian Bell and Alistair Cook, and they both do better than the England captain, and England's Steve Waugh - Paul Collingwood.

What are the numbers for Australia's other batsmen?

Ricky Ponting: 71 out of 188, or 1 fifty plus score every 2.6 innings (over the last 10 years)
Michael Hussey: 31 out of 91 or 1 fifty plus score every 3 innings
Michael Clarke: 33 out of 100, or 1 fifty plus score every 3 innings
Shane Watson: 13 out of 37, or 1 fifty plus score in every 2.9 innings
Simon Katich: 33 out of 92, or 1 fifty plus score every 2.8 innings

The Australians are consistently better than the Englishmen.

Sachin Tendulkar is right though. Eoin Morgan and Graeme Swann are the players to watch out for. Morgan is a promising player. The comparison between Morgan and North is an interesting one and I'll get to it in a minute. Swann could turn out to be the difference between the two sides. He has been called the best England off-spinner since Fred Titmus, and I think he's a complete orthodox spin bowler. But is he good enough to be the difference between the two sides and give England the decided edge? I doubt it.

Swann's impressive career record (113 wickets at 26.55), is built around tremendous success against Bangladesh (22 wickets at 27.9 in 4 Tests), Pakistan (22 wickets at 12.22 in 4 Tests) and West Indies (26 wickets at 22.15 in 5 Tests). Against Australia, India and South Africa, Swann's record is decidedly more modest (13 wickets at 40.5 against Australia, 8 wickets at 39.5 against India and 21 wickets at 31.4 against South Africa). Swann's record mirrors England performance almost perfectly. With his zany sunglasses and his swagger, he embodies England's Test team, and holds the key to the Ashes. He is the one plausible spinner playing in this Ashes series.

In conclusion, the 2010-11 Ashes series is decidedly a mid-table clash. It will decide whether or not Australia have declined sufficiently to be a solid mid-table team, just like England have been over the last couple of years. The formbook is being read, in my view, in two contradictory ways. As far as Australia are concerned, the reading is mostly negative, mainly because they are unlikely to match their 5-0 performance. As far as England are concerned, it is a narrative of excellence and ascendancy, mainly because they are unlikely to suffer the kind of humiliating defeats that have been the norm for them in Australia over the last 24 years. Hence, Eoin Morgan is England’s great hope, while Marcus North is Australia’s weak link.

The facts, as they ought to be read, tell a different story. Australia’s decline only makes this a plausible contest, instead of an easy romp for the hosts. But the hosts still start as favorites, as most hosts should in Test Cricket. Graeme Swann could change that, but I doubt that he will.

I favor Australia to regain the Ashes in 2010-11, at least as convincingly as England regained them in 2005 and 2009.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Reputations, Expectations and Australia's impending Ashes success - Part 1

England are favored to win the Ashes by many observers, including Sachin Tendulkar. This is not as straightforward as it sounds. England last won the Ashes 2-1 in Australia in 1986-87 under the captaincy of Mike Gatting. That team had David Gower and Ian Botham, and the Australians of 1986-87 were probably the weakest Australian side of the 20th century. Yet, England only won a narrow 2-1 series victory.

Since then, England have toured Australia in 1990-91, 1994-95, 1998-99, 2002-03 and 2006-07. In these 5 series combined, they have not won a single Test match when the Ashes were still up for grabs. In 1990-91, they lost the Ashes in 13 playing days, in 1994-95 it took them 15 playing days to lose, in 1998-99 13, in 2002-03 11 and in 2006-07 they lost the Ashes in 15 days and went on to lose 5-0. It only took 15 days in 2006-07 because Australia didn't enforce the follow-on after taking a 445 run lead in the first innings in the first Test at Brisbane.

It is not excessively harsh to say that England's tours of Australia over the last 24 years have been unmitigated disasters. When it is said that England are favored to win the Ashes, this must be read in the context of these disastrous tours. If Australia were to win the Ashes 1-0 or 2-1, England should probably consider that to be a successful tour.

But there is another dynamic at work which might reveal why England will take great offense at my last statement. Since Michael Vaughan took over the England captaincy, England have projected a sense of superiority that every good team should aspire to. In the last 7 years, their most notable results have been a 2-1 win in South Africa in 2004-05 and two 2-1 Ashes wins in England. Apart from this, their performance has been decided modest against good teams, but quite dominating against the lower half of the ICC rankings - Pakistan, New Zealand and West Indies. What's more, England's performances have been in decline for some time now, even as their assessment of their own abilities reveals a lot of confidence. In the last 4 years (since their 5-0 Ashes thrashing), they have lost to South Africa and India in England, lost a Test match in New Zealand, and Test series in West Indies, Sri Lanka and India. But yes, they did win the Ashes in England last year, and they did draw a Test series in South Africa in 2009-10. 

Since their Ashes defeat in 2002-03, England have won 47 Test matches and lost 24. But if you look into the details of this 47-24 record, it includes a 12-1 record against West Indies, 8-0 against Bangladesh, 7-1 against New Zealand, 2-0 against Zimbabwe and 6-3 against Pakistan. That amounts to a 35-5 record against West Indies, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Pakistan in 49 Test Matches. Against Australia, India, South Africa and Sri Lanka, their record is 4-7, 1-3, 6-6 and 1-3 respectively - a total of 12-19 in 50 Tests.

Since the start of the 2003 season (Vaughan took over when Hussein retired during the New Zealand series in the 2003 season in England), England record then, is as follows:

35-5 in 49 Tests against Bangladesh, New Zealand, Pakistan, West Indies and Zimbabwe
12-19 in 50 Tests against Australia, India, South Africa and Sri Lanka

This leads me to question the basis of their current confidence - victories over a dysfunctional, inexperienced Pakistan side in England, preceded by victories against Bangladesh. They did achieve two good results against Australia and England before that, but they had Flintoff for the Australian series, and they could have easily lost the series in South Africa 3-1 had they lost 2 more wickets. This was despite the fact that Dale Steyn was an uncertain starter and came into the series without too much match practice following injury. On the same wickets on which Morne Morkel took 19 wickets at 21 and Steyn took 15 wickets at 24, England’s fast bowlers managed 13 wickets at 33 (Broad), 16 wickets at 34 (Anderson) and 8 wickets at 46 (Onions). In the batting, only 3 Englishmen made more than 250 runs in the series, while 5 South Africans achieved this. England also scored only 2 centuries in the series - one each from Bell and Cook. South Africa in contrast managed 5 - 2 each from Smith and Kallis and another from Amla.

to be continued....

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Vodafone - Australian cricket team's new sponsor for Ashes

In the first official announcement surrounding the upcoming Ashes Series, cricketing greats including captain Ricky Ponting, vice captain Michael Clarke, Nathan Hauritz, Doug Bollinger, Phillip Hughes and Shane Watson gathered at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) to announce Vodafone as the new sponsor of the Ashes Series.
Vodafone’s sponsorship of the Australian Test Team and forthcoming Ashes Series represents a changing of the guard following 3 mobile’s proud sponsorship of the Australian Test Team over the last seven years.
As part of the Vodafone and 3 mobile merger, which was completed in 2009, Vodafone Hutchison Australia will increase the prevalence of Vodafone branding to the Australian and worldwide cricket audience, while offering exclusive cricket content and behind the scenes footage to more than seven million Vodafone and 3 mobile customers in Australia during the Ashes Series.

Australian Cricket Captain, Ricky Ponting said: “I’ve never been more excited about an Australian summer than I am about this one.
"The Australian Cricket Team is focussed on regaining the Ashes and we are delighted to have the support of Vodafone as we embark on a wonderful summer of exciting cricket against the old enemy.”
Australian vice captain Michael Clarke was also announced as the new Vodafone ambassador, further cementing Vodafone’s passion for Australian cricket.
Painting the town red in his new whites, the new Vodafone logo for the player’s marked the official launch of the legendary cricket battle between Australia and England, which will begin in November this year.

Commenting on the series, Australian vice captain and Vodafone brand ambassador, Michael Clarke, said: “The team are training phenomenally hard in the lead up to the Vodafone Ashes Series and we’re more than ready to take on England in November.
"This is such an exciting time for Australian cricket and we’re delighted more people across Australia will be sharing that excitement with the team.”

                                        Australian players pose with the new Test kit and team sponsor
The Vodafone Ashes Series between Australia and England is from 25 November 2010 to 7 January 2011, kicking off at The Gabba.

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