intriguing cricket intrigue

So I've been working on my DMin thesis most of the week. It is on The Role of Intrigue in Communicating with Contemporary Skeptics ... which reminds me - for those of you skeptical about the wonders of cricket (particularly the Test match variety), here are a few intriguing happenings in recent days.

Can you believe it?! The most embarassing moment in all of New Zealand sport was almost trumped by our trans-Tasman buddies last night. They were 21-9 chasing our all-time low score of 26 - until their last batsmen top-scored and they made their way to 47. The story is made all the more intriguing when it can be stated with confidence that there is no suggestion of match-fixing...

[Added later] Can you believe it? One of the finest writers of all time on cricket, with his columns mastering the language as much as the subject, Peter Roebuck, is dead at 55. Having read some of his autobiographical material I just knew from the very early moment when I read the news that the circumstances would carry a story of deep tragedy. A piece in Melbourne's Age expresses it so well that for a moment I thought it must be Roebuck writing. But it isn't and it never will be again.

Can you believe it?! M.D. Crowe, my all-time favourite batsman, continues for the Cornwall reserve team against Papatoetoe tomorrow in his comeback match - at 49 years of age. He is 15* overnight. I wonder if I could sneak down tomorrow and watch a bit... [NB: He was out on his overnight score of 15].

Can you believe it? Chris Martin brought up 200 Test wickets last week. Unfortunately of the 59 bowlers in the history of the game to have reached that mark, the ones with the highest averages (therefore, arguably, the least impressive of all) are: 1. Chris Martin (34.94); 2. Danesh Kaneria (34.79); 3. Gary Sobers (34.03); 4. Daniel Vettori (33.61). I hate to spoil the party but our two leading current Test match bowlers are average performers - something I have addressed here, in the case of Daniel Vettori. If you'd like to drool, consider the top three performers from the West Indies with three remarkably similar records - can you believe it?! - Malcolm Marshall (20.94); Joel Garner (20.97); and Curtley Ambrose (20.99).
[NB: Kiwi's Shane Bond (22.09) and Richard Hadlee (22.29) are not far behind and remarkably similar as well. Of all the bowlers from all the countries in the history of Test cricket (let's say, since 1900 and the subsequent era of covered pitches) who have bowled at least 3000 balls - that is a reasonable career - Shane Bond has the best strike rate of them all. Every 38.7 balls he got someone out...]

Can you believe it?! Well, Martin Crowe can't - and nor can I. Over this upcoming summer there is an 80 day period where there is no first class cricket. What's more, I have the solution :) The window for Twenty20 cricket is far too big. Six weeks?! Ridiculous. Twenty20 is not that different from baseball in terms of time and energy expended. In professional baseball in the USA they often play six days out of seven, with a lot of excitement generated by the occasional back-to-back games, or doubleheaders. Cricket can learn from this without going quite to this extreme. Six teams - home and away - 10 games + finals' weekend. I reckon the window could be three weeks (and four weekends - the last one being finals' weekend). On each weekend three teams could gather in one location (for example, Queenstown) and the other three in another location (say, Napier) - with each team playing twice and there being one double-header in each location. So that would be 6 of the 10 preliminary games played on the weekends. The other 4 games to be played are then fitted in as one-off games on the weekdays. Slightly larger squads. One game every two days... Run it roughly from 26 December - 15 January. Even a Twenty20 skeptic like me would find this intriguing. Go on - elect me to the Board of New Zealand Cricket :) It is a great idea...

Can you believe it?! The ICC has recently released rankings - team and individual - for Twenty20 cricket. New Zealand is ranked third. WOW - third is pretty high for us these days. But here is the bit that is hard to believe: the top six bowlers in the rankings are all spinners - the ones that are supposedly so much easier to hit.

Can you believe it?! In 12-18 months, the New Zealand test team will be world-beaters ("ah, Paul, always the optimist with NZ cricket, aren't you?!"). If a lawn-bowler (ie an underarm bowler) from Australia can lead our selection panel, why can't I have a crack at selection as well (unless, of course, I am on the Board)? Here it is:
1. Martin Guptill
2. Brendon McCullum
3. Daniel Flynn
4. Ross Taylor
5. Jesse Ryder
6. Kane Williamson
7. Reece Young
8. Daniel Vettori
9. Tim Southee
10. Hamish Bennett
11. Neil Wagner
with Dean Brownlie, Doug Bracewell and James Franklin on the bench.

I find that this kind of intrigue really energises me for the other intrigue to which, rather sadly, I must now return.

nice chatting



Mark Forrest said…
6 days out of 7, almost sounds like test cricket Paul :-)

I'd suggest cricket, even T20, would be more physically demanding than baseball though, yeah? More running for both bowlers and batters; pitchers don't run and batters only run a lap of the diamond at a time at most, whereas an opener carrying his bat through an innings could do at least a 100 20-yard shuttle runs.

I'm looking forward to 3 games in 6 days at the Mount this summer though, 29th Dec, and 4th/5th Jan. You'll not find a venue like that in baseball... ;-)
Greg said…
I can't believe Roebuck is dead, and under such horrible circumstances! Dreadful! One of my favourite things to do every morning when the Oz team was playing was to open the SMH and see what Roebuck had to say. So insightful and erudite, managing to be simultaneously profound and original (so rare!), just a master with words. I really hope the implications about him aren't true - that would so taint his writing. (In my eyes at least, I would find it hard to separate the man's actions from his writing).

BTW, (and a lot less importantly), I think most baseball teams have a rotation policy that enables them to do 6 days out of 7, don't they. Wouldn't cricket teams have to do the same kind of thing. Not sure I like that idea. Rotation policies and NZ don't seem to go together too well. :-)
Tim & Lizzy said…
Looking forward to some first class cricket in Lincoln on days off soon. It's great for me to be able to walk to the games, but I already know that there'll be more umpires than spectators and that's just ridiculous. Cricket is a great game (obviously), but I'm not convinced that the administrators market or promote it well.
Paul said…
Mark & Greg

I'll stick by what I've suggested, if I may :) ... A three week window for Twenty20 is critical for NZ cricket for all kinds of reasons.

That is 3-4 games every 7 days (so NOT at the baseball level, even if a bit closer to it) for three weeks. That means core bowlers are bowling 16 overs A WEEK! I'm sure they can manage that. Interestingly, that is almost exactly the same as a starting pitcher in baseball who will throw 100+ pitches every 5-6 days.

In the professional era where they are paid to do a job that they love, it should be possible. And while we are at it, let's narrow the IPL window a bit as well (although travelling is a bit more of a challenge over there).

I'd like to think Roebuck was blackmailed (it is a plausible scenario), rather than guilty - but I guess we will find out one day. One thing is for sure. I am going to miss those columns of his.

Listening to Martin Crowe the other day (he was caught up in the ugly Somerset affair with Roebuck and Botham that drove Roebuck from the UK) and he reckoned that Botham predicted to Roebuck's face that he would one day "top himself", such was the complicated anguish going on in his being.

I wish some of these people would open their lives to Jesus.


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