Posts Tagged Ross Taylor

Does not compute

Some days, when I’m feeling particularly masochistic, I try and imagine what it must be like to be a Pakistan cricket fan. Of all the brutal, frustrating, agonizing, heartbreaking, apoplexy-inducing existences a sports fan could lead, that must at least rank in the top five. From STDs to fixes, factionalism to nepotism, idiocy to instability, and – the shit icing on the cake of festering crap – the continued presence of Ijaz Butt, Pakistan cricket has not merely hit bottom (repeatedly), it’s scraped bottom with a spatula and then broken its fingers trying to claw even further down through the bedrock with its bare hands.

Watching Pakistan play, as a neutral supporter, carries with it certain guarantees. Not many, obviously – after all, calling the Pakistan team ‘inconsistent’ is somewhat akin to calling George Bush ‘a bit dim’ – but there are a few. Umar Gul will send down some perfectly pitched yorkers. Misbah will bat as though caught in the glacial timescape of a Salvador Dali painting. Shahid Afridi will bellow and gesticulate like a deranged orchestra conductor, then do his Messiah impersonation when he gets a wicket. Kamran Akmal will fill silences with high-pitched yodelling shrieks reminiscent of a boy soprano attempting to summon sheep from high mountaintops.

He will also drop catches and miss stumpings. Lots of them.

The incredible thing about Kamran Akmal’s keeping – and, indeed, Pakistan’s fielding in general – is that you expect it to be terrible. You always know what you’re likely to see – but it’s still capable of astounding. I know I’m going to see Kamran Akmal fumble a take – ok, who am I kidding, many, many takes – that a paraplegic chimp could have nailed with ease. But every time I see him do it, I throw up my hands and yell ‘Are you fucking kidding me?!’ – or some variation thereof – at the TV screen. The incredulity is fresh every time.

After a point it becomes surreal. I’ll be as blunt as possible – I do not for the life of me understand how it is possible to be as shit at keeping as Kamran Akmal is. Ok, wait, that’s not entirely accurate – I’m probably a far worse keeper than he is. Same for my 81-year-old grandmother. Here’s the thing though – I AM NOT KEEPING FOR MY NATIONAL SIDE AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL. So I guess it’s not so much Akmal’s breathtaking ineptitude that baffles me – it’s more the fact that he continues to be able to display it every time Pakistan plays. If your keeper’s performance is so consistently shithouse that spot-fixing is the less embarrassing explanation, THERE IS SOMETHING DEEPLY WRONG. Either Kamran Akmal has incriminating photos of Pakistan’s entire selection panel in flagrante delicto with minors and livestock, or…actually, no, there is no other possible rationale for his continued presence behind the stumps.

What makes it even more mindblowing is the Pakistan camp’s reaction every time it is pointed out to them that their keeper is an embarrassment and a liability, which essentially boils down to, ‘He’s not that bad. He just had an off day.’ Really? Ok, well, does he ever have ‘on’ days? Because you could have fooled us! Honest to God, someone needs to check the Pakistan drinks cart for Kool-Aid.

After the debacle of Tuesday’s match against New Zealand, during which Akmal twice missed edges from eventual centurion and MoM Ross Taylor – at least one of which should not have been missed by any wicket keeper at any level of the game unless he or she was experiencing an epileptic fit or bleeding profusely from the head –  coach Waqar Younis stated that the key for Pakistan going forward was not to panic. I entirely agree. Panic does nobody any good, and in any case Pakistan had no cause for panic. They would if they were unable to pin down the reason for their defeat.  But the reason could not have been more conspicuous if it were walking around wearing a neon sandwich board and trailing a 5-piece brass band in its wake.

Let’s be clear, I don’t think that dropping Kamran Akmal will magically turn Pakistan’s fortunes around, or that everything that went wrong against New Zealand was his fault (Ross Taylor’s blitz in the death overs was courtesy some incredibly crappy bowling, for instance). But that’s not the reason he should be dropped. If a player performs badly over the length of time Akmal has, he no longer deserves to be part of the team. Simple. Then again, affairs in Pakistan cricket are never simple. Even so, even knowing the murkiness that surrounds the team and its selection, I still can’t dredge up anything even approximating a good reason for keeping him on. He really is that bad. And Pakistan’s refusal to acknowledge that fact only makes them look like idiots. Although, in fairness, they have had Ijaz Butt for an awfully long time, so that ship has pretty much already sailed.

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Groundhog Day

Yes, it’s been a while since the last post. I’m actually kind of wondering if anyone will actually read this, which is sort of liberating. I could probably talk about anything. Movies, recreational drugs, quantum physics (IT’S THE STRINGS! DAMN YOU, FEYNMAN!) the possibilities are limitless.

The only reason I would have to do that, instead of talking about cricket, the game I love and adore and which is the hallowed pursuit of noblemen and kings, is that NEW ZEALAND ARE FUCKING LOSING THE PLOT AGAIN.

Ahem.

I always swore I’d never be one of those awful people that does nothing but hurl abuse at their chosen team when the chips are down, but, really, New Zealand? You bowled Australia out for 231 and still managed to collapse? It’s Daniel Vettori’s 100th Test, but apparently a dream Day 1 is all he’s allowed on such an august occasion, before it’s back to the usual business of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

It’s always the spinners, too. I’m currently in Bangalore, and everywhere there are large billboards with Rahul Dravid’s face staring down, practically ordering us to follow the Royal Challenge, as the BRC’s IPL campaign is apparently now called. Anil Kumble is on a few as well, and as happy as it makes me to see him get some glory after all those years of being the overlooked stalwart, it’s an equally sharp reminder of how good he is and was, if we’d only been allowed to see it. I’m reading John Wright’s Indian Summers, which I highly recommend, incidentally, and in it he reiterates what the rest of us have known for a long time: that Kumble was underused and underrated at what should have been his peak years. Vettori certainly doesn’t have the problem of being underused – if they used him any more they’d probably actually physically break him – but he’s never allowed to be as effective as he should be as a spinner, being brought on ludicrously early after the quicks have cocked up the job with the new ball, and then inevitably trudging out again to bat the team out of trouble at number 6 or 8. New Zealand have done their best to wring as much as they can out of Captain Dan, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that someday we’re all going to look back on these few years and wonder why the hell they had to do it in the first place. It’s a team sport, gents. Ross Taylor’s doing his best, but there need to be 9 more of you not being bench decorations for this whole ‘winning matches’ thing to work.

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Games Boys Play

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.

*sigh*

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.

Dumb 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.

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