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Sight Screen

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Ashes watch

Wow... just got back after a few hours, and Somerset has actually pulled it off against the Aussies.
I notice Rahul Kulkarni, commenting below the Aus in trouble post, beats me to the obvious thought -- there are shades, here, of the Mumbai-Australia curtain-raiser to the 1998 home series.
Amol Mozumdar told us, at the time, that the team had a chat the evening before the game; Sachin Tendulkar apparently told the guys that he did not care if they won or lost, the real job was to demolish Shane Warne. Because, he argued, Warne was the main weapon the Aussies had -- dent his confidence, and the national team's work was half done.
Everyone -- even normally sedate players like Amol -- went after Warne; the outcome was history. This defeat, in a sense, is a bigger blow (even considering the absence of Gilchrist and Gillespie, and the presence of Grame Smith and Sanath Jayasuriya at the top of the opposition batting) -- Somerset, as Saurabh Wahi points out, is in sixth place in the second division of the county championship; to lose to them by such a convincing margin has to come as a shock.
It's set everything up nicely: Ponting's lot haven't found themselves on the receiving end in a long while (actually, not since India last toured Aus under Saurav).
The pressure is now on Australia while England, already on a confidence high after its recent successes, gets another boost thanks to Somerset's heroics.
Makes the Ashes series a must-watch. For me, it's simple enough: Australia is number one, England is number two -- and India is number three. What fun -- numbers one and two can beat up on each other, while number three sits in the sidelines, watches, and hopefully, learns where each is vulnerable.
Derek Pringle, in The Telegraph, has much to say about the aggressive attitude of this England team (a recurring theme of media commentary these last few days).
Great teams retort, and as this Australian team have touched some of the highest peaks in cricket, their riposte is awaited with a mixture of anticipation and dread. Yet judging by the bouncer barrage against Australia's fast bowlers at the Rose Bowl, that saw Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath struck about the body, England are getting their retaliation in first.
The view that Michael Vaughan's team will have to beat Australia in the serious cricket rather than rely on them donating the game, as they did on Monday, has clearly struck a chord with the England captain. You certainly get the impression that he and his team will not die wondering and with former Australian players like Mark Waugh questioning the temperament of McGrath and Shane Warne when ruffled, the roughing-up process has clearly begun.

Hold on, says Mike Marquesee in the Guardian, is it really as simple as that?
Sadly, but predictably, much of the sports media has decided to frame the summer's fun in macho stereotypes. The cricket has yet to get under way, but already we've been treated to a season's worth of platitudes about "toughness", "competitive zeal", the abysmally named "killer instinct", and how the Aussies' traditional willingness to "win ugly" is now matched by England's. Here the unspoken assumption seems to be that England have gone down to defeat in the past because English cricketers were too timid, too gentlemanly, too friendly, too wedded to outdated higher principles - historically preposterous, but carrying a message suitable to the devil-take-the-hindmost ethic of neoliberal economics.

And from that premise, he moves to a conclusion you find yourself nodding agreement with:
The real excitement of the cricket this summer - at least for those of us whose addiction to the game is unconnected to the fortunes of the England team - lies in the chance to enjoy a close-fought seesaw contest showcasing skill, sweat and inspiration. Like an ample 19th-century novel, the 12-week Australia-England showdown promises plot and subplot, major and minor characters, a wealth of incident and (if we're lucky) a result that is unpredictable yet somehow just, and in genuine doubt until stumps are drawn on the last day of the final Test at the Oval in September.

7 Comments:

  • I agree with Mike --- The game is still about the skill more than anythign else. The previous english teams which were routed by Aussies lacked the skill and game to beat Aussies. Now that they are playing good cricket as well, other factors can be looked at --- gamesmnaship, mind games, strategy etc.... But if the English team loses their focus on the "Cricket" part it will be difficult to beat this Au team. Mind you, even after the loss in this county game, the Aussies are not a pushover.

    You require to play quality cricket to beat them.

    Eng can do that. They have the quality in them, but the game is not over until the fat lad sings.

    Prem - you had previously opined that Aussies may still end up beating the English pride. I for one beleive that the series is 70 - 30 in favor of Aussies ...

    I am not taking bets though...

    By Blogger @mit, at 15:51  

  • in my opinion the key to aussie team is McGrath and Gilchrist (for India), and McGRath, Gilchrist and Warne for other teams.
    The rest of the team is great and full of match winners, but these three turn the balance overwhelmingly in Aussie favor. Yes they have great batsmen but even india has those. So does WI (lara, Sarwan and Chanderpaul. England to some extent (vaughn, Strauss, Thorpe, and Flintoff). SA has Kallis, Smith, Gibbs.

    McGrath consistently gets top order, and Gilchrist has amazing consistency in terms of coming at 220 for 5 and taking the total to 500 in 2 sessions and put the match beyond opposition.

    For me -- the key and -- probably only difference between the tour in Australia in 03-04 and the tour last year in india was presence and effectiveness of Mcgrath. He got the openers out almost everytime and Dravid was in at the score of 15 to 30 in 5 out of 6 innings I guess. That puts pressure on our midddle order. Our middle order clicks when openers score heavily (bangalore being exception in the recent times).
    I think if England can dent McGrath, then they would do great. And hope that Gilchrist is out form. (Gilchrist being out of form is a common theme to Indian wins and draws in 2001 and 2004).

    If not, I dont see England beating Australia in the test matches. Another thing for England is to counter Warne. Indians do that much better than any other team. But I think if they can counter McGrath, Warne wont be very effective. i.e. if the opners put up a good partenership, England will score 450. Warne will get his wickets but at an average of 35-40 rather than 20. And thats good enough.

    Of course thats my analysis. Might not be the case at the end of Ashes.

    -i

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 15:58  

  • I saw Ricky Ponting's press conference after the game and he was devastated. He made no bones about the fact that he was not happy with the performance and to me it looked like Somerset have woken up a sleeping lion!

    By Anonymous Harsha, at 16:11  

  • Of Course Ricky wont be happy but If you guys really think that England are going to beat Australia this summer than I bet pigs are going to fly this summer.

    By Anonymous SP, at 16:40  

  • Prem!!!!But i dont accept ur rating England 2nd..they just beat a depleted S.africa and WI..and thmped Bangla..
    we cud/wud have done the same..they had a good one day season with harmison in prime..now he is not the same as last season..still may be in one day they r better than us but not in tests..
    it can be a good fight for 2nd place between us and england but they dont get it!!

    By Anonymous Ananth, at 16:56  

  • Australia being beaten 2 times in 3 days should have dented the perennial Aussie confidence for sure. These losses the most recent one in particular must have at least infused a thought in every Aussie player that suddenly they are not invincible anymore. I do not know whether England will win th Natwest trophy or even the Ashes but what I do know is that Australia has been cautioned now and cautioned well. Somerset may have woken up a sleeping lion who knows?? Imagine a scenario where Australia would have won the 20:20 match adnd comprehensively beaten Somerset. Well, then their confidence would have been sky high and Warne and McGrath would have made journalist's day merry by talking about how and whom they will target in the Ashes. But at least they will be quiet now.

    Natwest Trophy is bit of lottery as all of us know that even if England lose all their matches to Australia in preliminary rounds but beat them in final then England will win the Natwest trophy. I think the ECB should make Natwest Trophy a best of three final affair.

    By Blogger Rahul Kulkarni, at 17:00  

  • I think 'i' is right on target. McGrath, Warne, and Gilchrist are the three most important players for Australia. I think one of the biggest differences between Australia and other teams over the past few years has been Gilchrist. He bailed them out on innumerable occassions and I think he will be the key to this Ashes tour as well.

    Although Australia have not started their tour very well, I don't think England is capable of beating them. The most optimistic result for them has to be 3-1.

    By Anonymous Mohan, at 00:12  

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