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Sight Screen

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Urn -- July 28

1. In the Guardian, Mike Selvey muses on the preparation involved in Tests, then and now.
2. David Hopps, in the same paper, looks at pre-Ashes wisdom that said England's greatest strength lay in five of their top seven batsmen having never played Australia in Ashes before (no wars, no scars, runs the theory -- the corollary, no nous, no experience, being conveniently ignored).
3. This third story, from the Guardian, illustrates more than any other the mental gulf between the two contenders. Check out media reports in the Brit papers on Team England -- they are all characterised by a wistful, 'if only' tone (a sea change from the outright triumphalism of those heady days following the Twenty20 win). And anything on Australia has this undercurrent of awe, a gee-whiz tone -- as in this piece on Buchanan.
It is little wonder, then, that the Australians are regarded as the best prepared team in international cricket, even though many other sides have duplicated their methods over the years. With Buchanan leading the way, and an entourage on this tour that includes Steve Bernard (team manager), Jamie Siddons (assistant coach/computer analyst), Errol Alcott (physiotherapist), Lucy Frost (massage), Jonathan Rose (media manager), Jock Campbell (strength and conditioning coach) and David Woodman (security), the Australians leaves precious little to chance.

4. John Woodcock, in the Times, riffs on McGrath, Warne, the hapless Ian Bell and such -- and I'm not quite sure what the central point he is driving at is.
5. In the Telegraph, this story of an experiment in pitch preparation -- apparently you spread glue on the deck so it doesn't break. Maybe not, but I wonder what will happen if it is a hot, humid day and the pitch sweats a touch under the covers -- or it rains, and dampens the deck? Batsman walks out, takes guard, bowler bowls, batsman elegantly moves his front foot forward -- he thinks; only, the damn thing is stuck in situ, and he overbalances and falls right in the glue. Ah, who knows... mebbe the thing will actually work, though I thought part of the fun of Test cricket is the wear and tear of the pitch over five days, the consequent shifts in play, and the strategies and players required to cope?
6. Essex and the PCB, meanwhile, in a bit of a flap -- the PCB believes Essex is overbowling Danish Kaneria (nice ploy, come to think of it -- wear the fellow down before England tours Pakistan), the latter says not.
7. Having told us, in quick succession, why England will do brilliantly this Ashes, and why it will fold miserably, Derek Pringle shifts his gaze afar -- to examine England's security worries. Nope, not the London bombings -- this is about the 58-day cricket tour of Pakistan.
8. Terry Jenner thinks Shane Warne can top the 700 wicket mark. Don't laugh -- many did, when they first suggested he could take 500.
9. Jonathan Green -- presumably bored already by a seeming no-contest -- tees off on Michael Vaughan's vague-sounding excuses/explanations apres Lord's; that done, and finding some venom to spare, he does a number on the whole business of press conferences.
News conference double talk is just one of the dutifully observed rituals of sport, no more a left-field novelty than the sounding of a siren to end a quarter of football. It forms one arc of a routinely reported cycle in which:
¡öAn event takes place;
¡öThe media seeks commentary from participants;
¡öThe participants offer self-serving cant that in no way addresses the true issues that everyone knows apply;
¡öThe media reports said cant with unflinching gravity.
We do, after all, have columns to fill and face what appears to be an unquenchable public desire to read any insincere dross in the reader's team colours.

Then again, this might just be dyspepsia. Take two Gelusil and call me in the morning.
10. And, finally, there's Gideon Haigh's Ashes diary. Updated daily. Like this blog.

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