Ball One – In the aftermath of Mervyn Westfield pleading guilty to charges of spot-fixing in English county cricket, I am indebted to GM for drawing my attention to an extraordinary quote. ”What we are aware of is the very, very strong culture within the Australian team and throughout international and national Australian cricket, male and female,” a CA spokesman said. ”It’s just an article of faith that it’s un-Australian to contemplate some of the things we have seen happening in sport overseas.” (http://www.smh.com.au/sport/cricket/as-westfield-stares-at-jail-ca-confident-home-players-are-clean-20120113-1pzbi.html). 400 years ago Shakespeare wrote in Julius Caesar of events that took place 2000 years ago. The key message of the play is that every man has their price. We are invited to believe that cricket in Australia is unique in the annals of human history in being incorruptible. I’m afraid I agree with Shakespeare.
Ball Two – I wrote last week of my desire to see pitches with a bit of help for the bowlers in the Ranji trophy semi-finals. At Rohtak, it seems my wish was granted with a match completed and in just over 200 overs to boot. Rituraj Singh caught the eye with match figures of 12-82, which should keep his place for the final at least. I’m not in a position to tout him for the national side, but at just turned 21 and with India’s Test XI facing reconstruction of its batting and bowling, it will be an indictment of India’s premier First Class competition if the lad is ignored.
Ball Three – The other semi-final saw Tamil Nadu bat 250 overs to secure their slot in the final ahead of multiple Ranji Trophy winners Mumbai. One of the many batsmen vying for places in the Test XI is Murali Vijay, who batted over eight hours for his 189 runs in the match at a strike rate just over 50. He’s had 12 Tests, but is still only 27 and is running into form at an opportune time. A good performance in the final will build his case further.
Ball Four – I am urged by Pakistani friends to take the ages stated for Pakistan players with a pinch of salt – but nobody can deny that the young talent just keeps coming and coming. The latest player to catch my eye is Sami Aslam, just turned 16, whose century steered his side to a match-winning total of 260 at Stellenbosch. He has four (probably five) more chances in this tournament to improve his credentials still further and I shall be highlighting his work next week.
Ball Five – Not many players score centuries in both innings of a three-day match and lose, but that was the fate of Qaasim Adams as Boland cruised to their target of 305 to defeat Western Province. I’m not convinced that three day cricket benefits players aspiring to play five day Tests nor limited overs ODIs or T20Is; nor is it a convenient format for the talented recreational player to manage around professional or academic obligations. But three day, four innings matches demand positive batting and bowling and proactive captaincy and that can only be a good thing for everyone involved – and it’s often great fun to watch.
Ball Six – Mismatches in any format of the game can be dispiriting to play in and to watch, but I like the idea that the Caribbean Twenty20 has invited Canada, Sussex and The Netherlands to the tournament . Too many beatings like the one Barbados handed out to the Dutch will give critics of this openness ammunition – the invitees have to step up and soon.