Archive for category ODIs
I first saw Grant Elliott play in 2008. New Zealand were playing England in an ODI at Old Trafford, and, batting first, had lost their top 5 batsmen for less than 50 runs. Adding insult to injury, two of those wickets had been taken by Stuart Broad, his accuracy miraculously unimpeded by his combination emo-bangs-Flock-of-Seagulls hair. Broad and Tremlett, enormously tall bowlers both, were extracting vicious rearing bounce and movement off the pitch, and the Kiwi batsmen had looked alternately clueless and frantic in the brief moments they were actually at the crease.
I was watching for Daniel Vettori. He may have batted like a man still learning how to control all four of his new prosthetic limbs, but everyone knew he was the only one who could save New Zealand.
I had never seen nor heard of Grant Elliott before – unsurprisingly, as that was only his second ODI. After leaving his native South Africa for New Zealand, doing time in domestic cricket, and playing for Weybridge in the Surrey leagues to hone his skills, he’d finally earned a call-up to the New Zealand side, as injury cover for the all-rounder they would clearly much rather have had, Jacob Oram.
Jacob Oram is tall, burly, a well-known presence with his shambling walk and shaggy hair and broad gleaming grin, promising big hitting and salvation in the middle order. Grant Elliott, lean and rangy, walked out to the middle wearing a New Zealand kit at least two sizes too big for him, every inch a stoic yet forlorn substitute for the Real Thing, epitomizing the hopelessness of the cause. A club cricketer being unceremoniously tossed to the wolves that had decimated the heavyweights, his presence barely registered. A bored-sounding Geoffrey Boycott mentioned that, though this was Elliott’s second ODI, it would be his batting debut, then promptly resumed talking about how terrible New Zealand were. He didn’t mention that though Elliott hadn’t batted in his debut ODI (rain had curtailed New Zealand’s innings) he had bowled…well enough to return figures of 3-23, claiming Owais Shah, Paul Collingwood and Luke Wright. Perhaps Boycott didn’t remember, or thought it wasn’t relevant. Surely one of Broad, Tremlett or Anderson would take out the newcomer and the England juggernaut would roll on.
Two dot balls, a few moments of Daniel Flynn’s wild slashing, and Elliott was facing up to red-hot Stuart Broad. A ricocheting short ball sent him leaping, arching back as it whistled past his helmet, far too close for comfort. Broad grinned his best version of a shark’s smile; and I saw Elliott smile also, wide and easy, considering, amused…relaxed. It wasn’t a shaky grin of false bravado, or the sweaty anxious involuntary grimace-smile of a newbie who knows he is cannon fodder. Suddenly the overlarge shirt, not being Jacob Oram, and the direness of the situation didn’t seem to matter. He resumed his stance, touched his bat to the deck. Looked up again, directly at Broad standing at the top of his runup, and smiled again, even wider this time. A lopsided, Han Solo smile.
Bring it on.
He didn’t set the ground alight that day with explosive hitting. Grant Elliott is not that kind of player, quite, and Brendon McCullum had already tried that only to hole out for 17. What he did instead was stay at the crease, calmly leaving good deliveries and putting away bad ones, remaining as Flynn, Hopkins and even Vettori the saviour came and went in quick succession. When Kyle Mills opened up and began to hit long and hard, Elliott let him, concentrating on his self-imposed task. Leave good balls, hit anything that’s there to be hit. Only at the end of the penultimate over, in a bid for a final quick haul of runs, did he go, misjudging only slightly, but enough for Luke Wright to hold the catch a step in from the boundary. He’d made 52, but he’d stayed for 102 balls and over 2 hours.
Later in the day, he would run in, send down a fast fullish delivery to Chris Tremlett, and watch it balloon up off the top edge of the bat directly into his captain’s hands – his second wicket, winning the game for New Zealand with 22 runs to spare, and he’d smile again, a huge triumphant grin as his teammates mobbed him.
He wouldn’t be remembered for any of that, though. Five minutes at the Oval ensured that Grant Elliott would be permanently stamped That Guy Ryan Sidebottom Smashed Into and Paul Collingwood Screwed Over. Even as Mark Gillespie hit the winning runs, in the glorious chaos as Kyle Mills completed the run and leapt, punching the air, and the usually mild-mannered Daniel Vettori, who had sat glowering with cold, barely-suppressed rage on the balcony though the final overs, sprang to his feet screaming obscenities and pounding the railings with clenched fists, the cameras only briefly caught Elliott, laughing with joy before disappearing into a tangle of hugging New Zealanders.
The next time I saw him, he steadily took New Zealand to victory against Australia at Melbourne in the Chappell Hadlee series, and I wondered if he’d do it again to give them the series in Sydney.
I didn’t see the Han Solo smile in Sydney. The Sydney innings was pure grit, and running. Lots and lots of running. Watching big-hitting batsmen rack up boundary-runs is what people seem to want to see, but I couldn’t stop watching Elliott, sweating profusely, chest heaving, pale eyes intense and staring in his narrow dark face, pounding the SCG pitch. Always forcing one more run, darting in and out of the crease in a way that most Indian batsmen can’t even visualize as part of an aspirational yoga excercise, tempo never easing until a final, tired swing at the death found Michael Hussey at deep midwicket. He sweated and bled for his runs the same way Iain O’Brien did for his wickets, because he had to.
I was riveted.
He became a stabilizer, a composed middle-order striker with correct, technical strokes and the ability to stay at the crease instead of perishing in a flurry of misguided shots. And he kept chipping in with the ball, economically bowling wicket to wicket, getting swing, prising out a wicket here, two more there, a strong solid extra bowler. And every now and then, breaking through the earnest intentness: the incongruous wide, lopsided Han Solo grin – a misplaced swashbuckler’s smile.
The Champions’ Trophy would be the pinnacle. A ripping bowling spell, produced out of nowhere, in his home city of Johannesburg, was more of a joyous fairy tale than you ever usually get in real life, a bellow of incredulous jubilation ringing out at each wicket. After the high, he was out for just 3 at New Zealand’s turn at bat, which went mostly unremarked on in the wake of the Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill blitzkrieg that carried New Zealand through to the semis. It emerged later that a spitting delivery from Stuart Broad had snapped his thumb. It was still broken as he fought his way to an unbeaten 75 in the semifinal, and as he shook hands with a Pakistan team gracious in defeat.
The thumb was the beginning of what looks to be the end. Injuries forced him out of the New Zealand side at the highest point of his rise, and the window closed. In 2011, he was 32, still fighting injuries, and not selected for the Test or ODI teams, remaining instead captain of the domestic Wellington Firebirds. In that capacity, a few days ago, he reached 188 not out against the Central Stags in the Plunket Shield, breaking free of a lean run of form, just shy of a maiden first-class 200. He then declared the innings, remaining on 188, to give his team the best chance of bowling out the opposition for victory in the rapidly worsening weather.
It didn’t work. It’s difficult for a non-player like me to comprehend the frustration of something like that, but despite the fact that it’s kind of heartbreaking, it’s reassuring in a way. It’s always nice when an awesome, classy player does something to remind you of that fact about himself.
Grant Elliott turned 33 yesterday, which is why I’m writing this. Because I was a fan ever since that first ODI and that first awesome Han Solo smile, all the way through. Because I still listen to Plunket Shield on the radio in the middle of the night to see how the Firebirds are going with him at the helm. Because cricket is great at fêting its rockstars and celebrities, but usually ignores the quietly classy, and the gritty, driven guys who do the hard unglamorous stuff well. For reasons I can’t begin to understand, ESPNcricinfo didn’t include Grant Elliott’s birthday on their list of notable happenings in cricket for the 21st of March. I’m not sure why they didn’t feel they needed to acknowledge him, but they didn’t, and it’s not the first thing they’ve done that I disagree with, but it is something I can combat. So I wrote this.
Happy birthday, GE.
So this is how it ends for Ricky. I had truly hoped it wouldn’t happen this way. He was never my favourite player in the world, but he is still Ricky Ponting, bona fide legend, one of the best there’s ever been with a bat and in the field. One day, even his hairy arms and that constant disconcerting hand-spitting will be discussed with respectful awe, in the tone used to discuss those chosen, near-mythical few, because he is a legend and there’s probably not a cricket fan in their right mind who would seriously attempt to dispute it.
Today, though, seated behind a table with flashes going off left and right in his face, he looked almost painfully human. Ricky is not a small man. He’s still in the shape that befits an elite sportsman, and he remained entirely composed, not visibly distraught, not stricken or anguished. But he looked, even if only infinitesimally, diminished, because there was no way to escape the fact that he was there not to announce a decision of his own choosing, that he was there because the axe had been dropped and everything about Ricky that makes him legendary wasn’t enough to stop it. He was there because he had not seen the writing on the wall, had not taken the many chances tacitly offered to him to accede to the inevitable on his own terms. Dignified as he was, he was there to talk about the fact that someone had been forced to finally tell him what they’d been hoping he’d figure out for himself but didn’t, and with such a thing comes stinging humiliation no matter how you try to slice it.
I started watching cricket properly late in life. In 2005 I still didn’t know too much about things, but I knew enough to quake slightly for England when Steve Harmison’s bouncer smacked into the side of Ricky’s head on Day 1 at Lords and sliced open his face. It was as reflexive as when, in the split second after you see someone tread on a cat’s tail, you know with complete certainty that bloody retribution will follow. It’s the natural law of things. In 2005, I didn’t have to formulate a conscious thought to know for sure – for SURE, beyond a shadow of a doubt – that cutting Ricky Ponting’s face open would result in truly terrible vengeance, so much so that I didn’t even have to particularly like England to wince at the thought of the ravaging that awaited them.
That Ricky seems a distant, dim memory now. Even though Ricky will still play Tests, even though I have no doubt that he will still continue to prove his immense worth there, he’s not the same Ricky.
He’s never been a favourite. I’ve never even really liked the man. But that still makes me sad.
There’s been a trend in recent years of younger men captaining their national sides. The current captains of India, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Bangladesh are all in their twenties. (I am going to leave Pakistan out of this equation because their captaincy issues – well, issues in general – are myriad, and give me stress headaches when I think about them.) England and Sri Lanka have guys in their early thirties, and Australia has either a 28-year old or a 35-year-old depending on what format they’re playing.
Chris Gayle and New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori have a couple of things in common – they’re both national captains, they’re both 30 years old, both are key players in their respective IPL teams, and they both put in an all-rounder’s version of what is usually called a captain’s knock in ODIs this past week – Vettori’s a fighting 70 off 49 and 2-43 from his ten overs against Australia, and, against Zimbabwe, Gayle’s an 88 off 111 and 1-25 from his ten (he also took a catch and was instrumental in a runout.) Gayle’s performance helped the West Indies win, Vettori’s wasn’t quite enough to allow New Zealand to do the same.
Here are ways in which they are different. Gayle has a carefully cultivated image as Mr. Cool, all shades and bling and diamond earrings; while Vettori is occasionally bearded, laconic, and wears prescription glasses – you know, like a geek. Gayle loves his lucrative high-profile endorsements and his million-dollar-deals; Vettori, presumably content with the not-inconsiderable revenue from his own IPL contract, is known for commercials promoting sunglasses for schoolchildren, New Zealand Libraries and Visique Optometrists. Despite both being key batsmen for their sides, Gayle is a top-order striker of skill and elegance, where Vettori comes in at number eight with a small and homely repertoire of shots that somehow brings him lots of runs.
Those don’t really matter very much, though; they’re just interesting tidbits of trivia.
Here are the important differences.
What he just about failed to do the other night, Vettori does all the freaking time. He’s New Zealand’s rock, a man who started out as a bowler of finger-spin in a country filled with quicks because of its fast seaming wickets and made himself one of the best in the world at that, and then worked on his mediocre batting with single-minded focus that couldn’t make it any prettier to look at but did quadruple its effectiveness. He’s now New Zealand’s talisman, their beardy lanky Superman who does it with his glasses on. The side has suffered in ODIs, where they are usually strongest, with the loss of people like Jesse Ryder and my beloved Grant Elliott to injury, but it’s Vettori’s presence or absence that makes or breaks this team. Ever since he took on the responsibilities of national selector, coach-of-sorts and Lord knows what else, the jokes have been coming thick and fast – it’s only a matter of time before the ‘Vettori for PM’ shirts hit the market. They already have ones reading ‘Give Dan More Jobs’ – in what I can only assume is a fatalistic attempt to see just how many things can be dumped on him before he cracks, like a reverse game of Jenga with weights added instead of bricks taken away…and, you know, a real-life dude instead of a toy tower. (Or, as Dave Tickner has pointed out, a really sadistic real-life version of Buckaroo. Crickaroo?) The sight of him coming in late in the game, face set in concentration, to save the innings and take New Zealand home, has become so familiar it’s a wonder they haven’t come up with ‘doing a Vettori’ as verbal shorthand for it, like the way ‘being Mankaded’ came to represent being run out by the bowler because you backed up too far in anticipation.
The reason I’m mentioning all this is to explain why, despite Gayle’s performance and the fact that it was the only thing that saved the West Indies from another in a long, long string of emphatic and embarrassing defeats, I haven’t written a post praising him, and don’t plan to. He doesn’t deserve it. The contrast between him and a man like Daniel Vettori is significant because of their many similarities in age, IPL-involvement and all-round ability, but there’s another comparison I can make that’s even more telling: with Bangladesh’s captain. Another man who this week has had, like Vettori, to be key bowler and batsman for his side while also serving as their leader, only to fall agonizingly short of victory (in his case, to England.) And having done that, to face the international press with grace, optimism and a relentlessly positive attitude.
His name is Shakib-al-Hasan. And he is 22 years old.
So this, Chris Gayle, is why you don’t deserve to be praised. You don’t get to come in after months of fuckery and think you can make up for it with one game. Not enough. You’ve been put to shame by a No. 8 batsman and a kid barely out of his teens – in my humble opinion, they are twice the captains, twice the cricketers, and, yes, each of them is twice the man you are. It’s clear you have an extremely high opinion of yourself; well, take off them shades, boy, I’ve got a photo to leave you with.
This is Daniel Vettori the other night, in the process of trying desperately to take his team over the line. Fun fact: Dan’s got chronic back issues, stemming from an incident in his teens when he actually broke his back; an injury to his bowling shoulder that he’s opted not to have surgery on because that would mean not being able to play for up to 12 months; and on the morning that photo was taken, a stiff neck that almost forced him not to play in the match at all.
Yes, that is him diving. After having spent the first session in the field, and already having batted for an unknown period of time. That’s commitment, Chris. (It might also be stupidity, but it’s certainly not stupidity on the level of some of the stuff you’ve come out with.)
Look it up.
And when you’re done, go talk to young Shakib and take notes on how to be a real man.
As a self-confessed Kiwi fan (I said it on Cricinfo, it’s now set in stone) I should be deliriously, breathlessly happy today. And I am, kind of. Even though the people that arrange these things had decided, in their infinite wisdom, that neither I nor just about anyone else outside the Tasman should be able to actually watch the Chappell-Hadlee series being contested (well, legally, anyway) I followed the 1st ODI via dodgy streaming video and ball-by-ball internet coverage right down to Scott Styris’s very last bludgeoned six. I went crazy with ALL CAPS! and profanity on Twitter when New Zealand won. I was more delighted than I can express that Australia had been beaten – and for the second time in a row! – thus wrecking their winning streak that oh-by-the-way happened largely against the West Indies. (Yeah, the side that were bowled out for 79 in the course of losing to Zimbabwe a few days ago. Those guys.)
It was glorious.
And then, because I love photography, and I wanted some visual connection to this fantastic match, I went to Getty and Daylife and Photosport NZ to check out their shots from Napier. As they usually do, they had some wonderful stuff: Martin Guptill flinging his bat in the last of the fading golden light; Ross Taylor joyously embracing the man who had given him a hard-fought win in his first match as captain; Mike Hussey captured mid-dive, catching out Peter Ingram; and Shane Bond.
(Ok, so that last one wasn’t from the match. But still: so pretty!)
Aaaaand then there was this.
Ok. So part of me is aware that cricket, despite being a game of boundless complexity requiring mental fortitude and no small amount of intelligence both to play and to appreciate, is still a sport. And the fact remains that, like all sports, a certain percentage of the fine athletes who play it will be, for lack of a better term, jocks.
So much claptrap has been written about ‘mental disintegration’ that it makes me tired to even think about it, let alone consider rehashing it here, but the impression I get is that the words and in-your-face confrontations are meant to be part of a finely-tuned mind game meant to unsettle and intimidate the opposition. Fine. I could maybe see this when, say, Allan Donald used to work on batsmen with fiery bowling interspersed with choice epithets as the gears turned and he tried to out-think and out-play them. That was a battle you could see unfold – even if he did cross the line, as he did on that one memorable occasion with Rahul Dravid, I could understand what he was up to.
With Mitchell Johnson (and, last time, Shaun Tait), and the dozens more like them that seem to be springing up like weeds all over? I have no idea.
This is not mental tactics. This is moronic chest-thumping by immature little boys trapped in the bodies of grown men who are meant to be professional sportsmen. What’s it meant to accomplish, boys? Are you hoping that the batsmen will be so distracted by laughing incredulously at your childish tomfoolery that they’ll make a mistake and get themselves out? That they’ll stop hitting your bowling for boundaries because you snarl at them in a manner that you fondly imagine to be menacing?
I find this so incredibly tiresome. You’re not 21 any more, fools. Grow the hell up and start behaving like adults, for the love of all that is holy. If I’m going to see a battle on a cricket field, I want it to be a real one, not two man-children engaging in a metaphorical dick-swinging contest to see who can demonstrate the most ludicrous display of idiot machismo.
Besides, face facts, boys, you’re not exactly hurling verbal grenades there, on account of you’re really not the sharpest knives in the drawer. I can just imagine the Johnson-Styris exchange now:
MJ: “You f**ker, you think you can just hit me for four like that whenever you want?”
SS: “Well, I just did, twice, so yes, actually.”
MJ: “F**K you! I’ll show you…you…you f**ker!”
SS: “Please, feel free. What have you been waiting for, by the way?”
MJ: “SHUT UP! DON’T YOU DARE F**ING HIT ME FOR FOUR AGAIN!”
SS: “No. Oh – wait, OK. I’ll just hit you for six then, shall I?”
MJ: “ARGH! THAT’S IT! I’m going to HEADBUTT you now, like this rhino I saw once on the Discovery Channel! Because I am an animal! I am a fighter! I am all raw, naked aggression! I will teach you to disrespect me and my crappy-ass wayward bowling that is still FAST which is all that matters! I will TAKE YOU DOW-” *clonk* “–OWWW! Son of a BITCH!”
SS: “Yep, that’s a helmet. I’ve been wearing it all evening. Hadn’t you noticed?”
Yeah. That’s some powerful stuff, right there. Indomitable spirit of man and the fighter eternal, and all that.
I should point out that I don’t think Scott Styris was nearly as blameless as this little imaginary dialogue makes him out to be. Engaging with the immature idiot makes you a bit of an idiot, too, Scott.
Today was a grey day.
Literally, because the weather gods, having well and truly lost their marbles, decided that pouring rain, thunder and lightning were exactly what this corner of the Middle Eastern desert needed this week. And metaphorically, because young Shakib-al-Hasan and his valiant Bangladeshi tigers once again almost won a cricket match before having it slip away agonizingly at the last minute – this time courtesy of an England player who isn’t even English. (Although, half the England side are, you know, South African, so I’m not sure what the deal is with all the fuss being made about Eoin Morgan being Irish. I just figured I ought to mention it.) I would mention his excellent steely-nerved hundred, but I kind of wish he hadn’t made it because it was the sole reason that England ended up winning, so it may take a few days for the rawness to subside before I can appreciate it for what it was.
But, courtesy of the wonder that is Twitter, I have found the key to brightening up any day – even if you’re a Bangladeshi supporter and have had to install extra drainage on account of your house being constantly awash with your own tears, and extra handrails because the constant abrupt swinging back from the edge of victory to the grim depths of defeat is making you dizzy and prone to falling down a lot.
I have linked to Dave ‘The Bard’ Bird’s cricket poetry website already – it’s over there at the right-hand side of the homepage – but one of his more recent mad genius offerings deserves special mention because he produced it totally out of the blue and it just happened to be a tribute to one of my favourite players of all time.
I have reproduced it in full below, with Dave’s permission:
Ode to Lance Klusener
Klusener could whack it, yes Lance,
To spinners, down wicket, he’d dance,
No defensive tricks,
He smote them for six,
The same for the quicks without prance.
Sometimes he could bowl pretty quick,
Sometimes the batsmen he’d trick.
Gave balance to the side,
Served country with pride,
All without ever being a prick.
His best score V England, remember?
Our bowlers he got to dismember.
Zulu hit it so high
Way up into the sky,
It didn’t come down ’til November.
Dave adds, as a side note: ‘Lovely Long-Limbed Lance was, challenged only by Jonty Rhodes, my favourite South African cricketer for YEARS.’
Mine too, David. He wasn’t even second to Jonty – or anyone else for that matter – in my book. I even have the song ‘Impi’ on my iPod because of him. I may go hunt down highlight reels of him playing to help me get over the match result today.
The rest of you, get on over to David’s site and immerse yourself in mad limericky genius. Go on. Why are you still here??
Bangladesh v. New Zealand.
This is not, I will admit, a contest to set the world on fire. Certainly not in comparison to India v. South Africa, which starts the day after the first ODI at Napier and will in all likelihood draw the attention of most of the cricket-watching world, including probably a good number of less-than-patriotic Bangladeshis and Kiwis. (Yeah, you know who you are. Shame on you.)
Logically, it shouldn’t have been a tough call, which series to watch. On one hand, my national side, riding an unprecedented wave of not-being-crap, facing a wounded, cornered tiger of a South African team: one supremely confident side on home turf facing one with a severely dented collective ego to rebuild and an extremely large point to prove. Both high-ranking teams with explosive, brilliant players. There is no way that this series will fail to entertain.
By contrast, there is New Zealand facing Bangladesh – the perennial runners-up versus the eternal optimists. New Zealand are, as has become the norm for them, without several of their key players because of injuries – Jesse Ryder, Shane Bond, Kyle Mills and one of my personal favourites, Grant Elliott (yes, really. Shut up! He’s awesome), are all MIA, which has the effect of making the series much less interesting (to me, anyway) while affecting the probable outcome very little. Because Bangladesh have just been pounded into the ground, then dragged back out only to be fed through a meat grinder and then tossed down a mine-shaft by India, and New Zealand have turned winning ODIs while shedding players like autumn foliage into something of an art form. Making predictions in cricket is a fool’s game, but you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a convincing rationale for this being anything other than a series weighted heavily in the Kiwis’ favour.
So, no contest, right? India-SA all the way. Unfortunately, no. Because I love NZ, and I love Bangladesh possibly even more, so I’ll be watching every moment, if not necessarily from the edge of my seat. This might seem like a good thing, in that either way a side I like is going to come out on top at the end of it all, but in actual fact it’s an extremely surreal feeling. I’m not entirely sure that I like it. When New Zealand pummelled Bangladesh to a pulp at the T20 in Hamilton, I experienced something of an epiphany: this must be what genuine, bona fide masochism feels like. There’s the pleasure of your side sailing effortlessly to a thumping win, mixed in with the simultaneous anguish of your side suffering a thorough walloping. It’s probably not quite on the level of whips and chains and weird arrangements of rope, but I’d be willing to bet it’s on the low end of the same scale.
As a subcontinental cricket fan, there are certain things you tend to do almost without realizing why you do them. Loathing Pakistan (if you’re Indian, vice versa if you’re Pakistani), loathing Australia, and wilfully ignoring Anil Kumble’s mountain of achievements and general awesomeness are among those that come to mind. I , personally, never did the first, and believe that if found guilty of the last you should be soundly beaten, with your own shoes, by a mob of intense, moustachioed men in spectacles. I will, however, admit to having been guilty of the second.
The Australians have been hard to like, none more so than their grizzled veteran Captain Ricky. Like the team he’s led with distinction for so long, he’s turned out consistently brilliant performances, and accepted victory after victory with a confident (some would say arrogant) grin, a man claiming what was rightfully his. There is much to admire about the man, not least his complete and self-driven turnaround from the early days when he might easily have become another Andrew Symonds. There are still many things I don’t like about him – dude needs to work on not getting riled by the media, for one thing – but in recent months, my resistance has been steadily worn down. It was dealt a death-blow when Ricky made the declaration that will probably endear him to me for ever, even if it emerges at some point that he enjoys drop-kicking puppies in his spare time and takes twice-daily baths in the tears of orphans.
Ricky Ponting loves ODIs. 50-over cricket. Not 40-over cricket, not ‘modified’ 50-over cricket, not sexed-up-glamorized-ODI-cricket. ODI cricket the way it’s been played all along. No caveats.
I freaking LOVE him for this.
Last night, when he admitted that had he been the fielding captain during an incident like that which befell poor Khalid Latif, he would have considered leading off his team, I realized that, dammit; I may be a Ponting fan. A reluctant, I-will-still-probably-support-any-team-that-plays-against-Australia-instead-of-them kind of fan, but a fan nonetheless. I give in. You win, Ricky. I say this with extreme reluctance, but I will still say it: you, sir, are maybe kind of awesome.