Transcript: Short Jabs Episode 6

Short Jabs Cricket Podcast: Episode 6 (Download)

Short JabsGuests: Josh Taylor, SidVee, Matt Wood


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Welcome to the Short Jabs podcast.  In this episode, Josh Taylor pans the idea mooted yet again by the ICC for a Test Championship in 2017, Matthew Wood vents about “Homework Gate” and Shane Watson becoming the captain of Australia and SidVee talks about Father-Son cricketers and the inordinate burden the sons have to carry in the face of their fathers’ enormous accomplishments.

Opening Spell

joshtaylorSubash Jayaraman: Welcome to the show, Josh!

Josh Taylor: Hi Subash, how are you?

SJ: Doing well. There is a report published in The Telegraph that, Dave Richardson the ICC’s Chief Executive, is in Auckland thrashing out details on this World Championship that is supposed to be held in 2017, in England, followed by 2021 in India. What is your initial reactions to that?

JT:It is absolutely horrendous that even such an idea even exists in our psyche. It is the thought of an actual competition to decide who is the best [in Tests].

SJ:Well, technically, you have a system already in place to decide who is the best in Tests, with the rankings…

JT:Well, the system we have now isn’t that great, which is why I suppose they want to have these one-off Test matches to find out who is the best, and this somehow would improve Tests? There’s a problem – well, there are a lot of problems – but what they seem to be saying is that there is a deep rooted problem with the structure right now, which I can’t really see. There could be no actual reason behind this than the coverage for [the championship], and that coverage means, media rights.

It is to be between the so called Top 4 to play one-on-one, and is scheduled to be in England. Come 2017, what If the top 4 is South Africa, Australia, India and Pakistan? Who’s gonna watch it in England, really? We saw in 2010, when Pakistan played Australia in England, due to the security problems in Pakistan [at Headingley], Yorkshire Cricket said they don’t want to be involved in anything else again, because it was such a disaster.

SJ: True. But there’s a prevalent thought that comes up once every few months that “Test cricket needs to be saved”. Perhaps, this, in the administrators minds is their way oto save Test Cricket?

JT:May be it is. And May be they will have this championship and may be millions will flock to the grounds. But I can’t see that happening. Can you?

SJ: Well, I do not know. You never know something till you try it. But…

JT: The best way to do it would have been to have the best teams of the last couple of years and have them play repeatedly in a series of matches rather than this one-off tournament of 5 day matches which is open to weather and all sorts of things. Surely, regardless of how it is presented and advertised, at the end of those 5 days, someone will be declared the winner but are you gonna accept that as the best team in the world? Well, no one except the supporters of that team. Clearly, the way they are presenting this, the overriding issue that’s killing Test cricket is that we do not have a definitive way of deciding who is the best. As though, that’s the one thing missing, the final missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle. This doesn’t solve empty stadiums, it doesn’t solve poor advertising, it doesn’t solve horrendous pitches where you could bat till the end of next week and Bangladesh would still have lost only 2 wickets . There are so many issues that are lot more urgent and are doing lot more harm to cricket and this championship isn’t addressing none of them.

SJ: I’m just playing the Devil’s advocate here – we have the cricket world cup for ODIs and the World Twenty20 for the T20s, where you have definitive winners. Why do you think it is such a bad idea to have a Test championship?

JT: The other 2 formats, you have a winner in a day,  Don’t you?

SJ:Would you be open to the idea of  having a series of three matches between the top 2 sides in the world at the end of a 2-year cycle, and the winner of the series is declared the champion, with the matches being held in the high seeded nation’s home grounds?

JT:That’s a much better idea. But that’s brings up another set of issues. During these 2-year cycles, you have teams – some playing two Test series which is completely pointless and some 5-Tests series between teams of completely different abilities. If you get that consistency (on the number of Tests for each teams) within that 2-year cycle, then if you want to find out who’s the best – which I’m sure would have been evident in those 2 years anyway – but for those who want the instant gratification of “Let’s bring out the winners on to the podium!”, sure you can have that 3-Tests series [to decide the champion].

SJ: In your opinion, this is only motivated by [the moneyfrom] media rights and nothing else?

JT:The cynic in me says, “Yes”.

SJ: What about the more generous side of you?

JT:Well, if they think there is something wrong with Tests, and this is how they are gonna about fixing it, it doesn’t bode well for the future, does it, if they are willing to address the issues?

SJ: Do you see this definitely happening, in 2017?

JT:Of course. It’s gonna go ahead, I think. Obviously it’s not set in stone but it will go ahead to the detriment of the game.  We have already got the horrendously congested schedule which is causing conflicts with player contracts, player management [with Australia] and also we see these bilateral series that serve no purpose but for media rights. No scheduled international fixtures will be dropped…

I know they say this is gonna take only 15 days but you have got the travel, teams are gonna need time to prepare and acclimatize because they are not gonna go to the championship cold, and they are gonna need a lot of time, and based on our current experiences they do not have a lot of time.

SJ: I want to touch upon one more thing. The ODIs and T20s, they have the world cup which makes all the bilateral series they play completely pointless because the results of those have no bearing towards the full member nations qualifications to the world tournaments. Their qualification is already settled. At least in the way the Test championship is being mooted, every Test match you play has a bearing, doesn’t it?

JT:To an extent. If you are South Africa, and you have already effectively qualified for the championship, and say you have got a home series against the West Indies, why should you bring out Morne Morkel, Dae Steyn and Hashim Amla to go through 20 days in the field with a real possibility of picking up an injury, if your spot in the Top 4 is already set? Teams would want to manage their players as best as they can, and that will include saving them for this championship tournament. So, by presenting the championship as a way of bringing meaning to Tests, they are potentially reducing the draw of certain Tests, because those teams (in Tp 4) are gonna want to preserve their players.

SJ: That’s an excellent point. With a gun to your head, do you go ahead with it or not?

JT:I’m 100% against it. There are hell of a lot of issues that need to be addressed, but aren’t being addressed. This championship is being presented as a strawman. It is almost pitiful, I think, in the way it is meant to solve problems that aren’t problems and it reflects on the ICC that they deem these to be problems of such magnitude that they address it with such a meaningless tournament, which will only compound the issues we already face.

SJ: Thanks for coming on the show, Josh.

JT:I’m glad you invited me.

SJ: My pleasure.

Six Minutes with SidVee

Subash Jayaraman– Welcome to the show, SidVee!

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan– Thanks, Subash. Thanks for having me here.

SJ– It’s my pleasure, again.

In the ongoing recent Test series between England and New Zealand, there was this strange occurrence, where we have Hamish Rutherford, who is the son of Ken Rutherford of New Zealand, Stuart Broad, son of Chris Broad and also Nick Compton, son of Dennis Compton. Let’s step back a little and talk about the father-son relationship and how cricket is handed down from fathers to sons.

SV– Cricket and baseball- there is this stereotype about them in a way that there is a father-son, or a grandfather-grandson bond in these games. Almost like a “me-time” that the fathers get with their sons. Sometimes, in their backyard, catching, or playing a game of cricket in the driveway, or just talking to them about the game, holding their hands, taking them to the stadium. It is not to say that this is a game only for men. But, if you look at it historically, there has been a sense of cricket being vital to father- son bond. It extends to so many cases of cricketers’ sons and grandsons continuing to play the game and doing so very well, like the three players you mentioned.

Hamish Rutherford, a century on debut was probably one of the best you will see this year. it was quirky, given that his dad took so long to get going in Test cricket, but Hamish just got off the blocks.

SJ– But, not so many sons are lucky in the beginning of their career…

SV– No, not at all. I have not done a statistical analysis of it, but I think there will be more cases of aspiring cricketers who have not matched their fathers’ or grandfathers’ records because of the pressure and expectations of what they are battling against is very high.

If you take the example of Don Bradman- his son did not even play cricket to a high level. In fact, he changed his name to Bradson for quite some time until recently, when he changed it back to Bradman. For many, many years he was Bradson, because he didn’t even want that name and aura associated with it following him.

There are various other cases. Sunil Gavaskar’s son, Rohan Gavaskar played only a few One Dayers for India, and nothing more than that. While we look at these cricketers, we must not lose sight of those who did not match the expectations. I remember, in a tragic way, Mohammed Azharuddin’s son. His younger son, who I remember interviewing when he was 13 or 14, had a stance and style very similar to Azhar Sr. It was uncanny. It was like Azhar had shrunk and come back to play again. But, tragedy (struck). He passed away in a car accident. The flip side is also important.

SJ– It seems that the general trend is that the off-spring don’t live up to the expectations because of the pressure. Can you think of some sons who out-did their fathers? The father being a big figure, but still the son outshone their father…

SV– I am sure there are many cases of that. Somebody like Shaun Pollock. Graeme Pollock, his uncle, was tremendous- he is one of the best batsman of all time. But, Peter Pollock, his father, was a good cricketer, but never spoken of in terms of being “great”. But, Shaun Pollock, will always be remembered as one of South Africa’s greatest all-rounders- a great bowler, fantastic one. A very useful batsman, especially in One Dayers.

I am sure you will find many such examples. In the Indian context, maybe someone like Hrishikesh Kanitkar, at a lower level. He didn’t play as much international cricket, though.

Dean Headley, another example. His dad didn’t do much. His grandfather was different though.

SJ– If you look at sons who are now 10-15 years old, growing up in this atmosphere of 24 hour news cycle. The possibilities of pressure are great now.

SV– You have a classic example of Arjun Tendulkar. He is Tendulkar’s son. So, everything he does will get noticed. But, whatever he is doing in the age-group level has been in the news, being scrutinized, people have said that there have been cases of favouritism, allegedly. Now, in the 24 hour news cycle, it is only journalists and news editors are going to want to see what there cricketers’ sons are doing and track them from a very young age. So, yes, the pressure is going to be really high, and to succeed and match or exceed the expectation is going to be really tough.

SJ– Rohan Gavaskar, in the recent interview, said that when you are out there in the 22 yards, the ball doesn’t come any slower or faster because your name is a Gavaskar or Tendulkar. You still have to perform and show that you are better than the next guy.

SV– Exactly. It is even tougher, because those on the outside are always looking at him through he prism of Gavaskar’s son. They are looking at him as Rohan Gavaskar, but at the same time, they are saying “Rohan Gavaskar, who is Sunil Gavaskar’s son.” That sort of expectations can’t be easy. It is definitely harder than someone whose father or grandfather has not played international cricket.

SJ– Alright, then! I hope you hold your son or daughter’s hand and take them to the nearest cricket stadium, SidVee!

SV– Definitely. I do hope that Tendulkar is still playing then, so that my son and my grandfather would have seen Tendulkar bat. So, we are four generations who had seen Tendulkar bat.

SJ– Lovely. Thanks for coming on, SidVee!

SV– Thanks, Subash! Cheers!

SJ– Cheers!

What’s bothering ’em now?

Screen shot 2013-02-18 at 11.30.26 PMSubash Jayaraman– Welcome to the show, Matt!

Matthew Wood– Hi Subash. How are you, mate?

SJ– Doing well!

What seems to be bothering you now?

MW– Mostly, the Australian media, the world cricket media. Amused and annoyed with what went with Mohali and the Australian cricket team, 4 players being suspended from the Test for not doing their homework.

SJ– But, Mickey Arthur and Michael Clarke had a point saying that it wasn’t a singular incident, but a culmination of things that led to this culture within the team.

MW– I couldn’t agree with them more. But, you don’t suspend your most effective bowler for a one-off. Pattinson has been the only bowler who looked like taking a wicket on this tour. You don’t suspend him just because you can. Having said that, yes, they are right. There is a culture problem. The talk in the case is Mickey Arthur and Michael Clarke. That is the culture they have created. It is one of disposability, where the players are effectively dispensed with almost on a whim. The most striking example came last week when Michael Hussey came out and said that he didn’t retire earlier in the series, and didn’t announce his retirement earlier in the series this summer because he feared he might be dropped. Now, Arthur and Clarke, especially Arthur is trying to bring him back for the Ashes, or wanted to have him back for the Ashes- which would be perfect for Australian cricket. But, Hussey doesn’t want to be there. I don’t think anyone wants Hussey to be there, apart from Mickey Arthur because it is going to help cement his position.

But, Clarke’s methods, let us be honest – the Mohali incident has Clarke’s fingerprints all over it, are brutal, and don’t necessarily inspire players to play for him. But, what happens is that they chosen stick over the carrot, that is Arthur, and the result of that is that the people end up being very disheartened.

SJ– Since then, Clarke has said all the right things – he had conversations with Watson and Watson had the conversations with Pat Howard and everybody seems to be on the same page, are one big happy family and etc etc. the most funny thing in all of this is that Shane Watson is on the threshold of Aussie captaincy. Where does that leave you as an Aussie fan?

MW– I’m trying to think of a less qualified Australian captain. Even going back to the Graham Yallop – he was a good batsman when he played in the World Series of Cricket. But, the only one I can come up with is Ian Craig, in the late 50s, when he was promoted above Neil Harvey and Keith Miller. Shane Watson, probably, isn’t good enough to walk into the top-11 simply because his batting hasn’t been as effective since he dropped to lower down the order, and that is where Australia needs him to bat. By removing himself from the attack as a bowler, he has removed the only differentiating factor between him and Usman Khawaja, or Phil Hughes.

The fact that he announced that he was going to weigh his future in the game, especially in Test cricket, and now he is probably going to be  the captain in the 4th Test, it really makes you appreciate how much of a corner Mickey Arthur and Michael Clarke painted themselves into. It really makes you wonder whether or not this culture of disposability that surrounds the team is the only red-headed step child of this policy.

SJ– On that note, thanks a lot for coming on the show, Matt.

MW– Not a problem, Subash. Great to be here

SJ– Cheers.

MW– Cheers.


That concludes this episode of Short Jabs. The blog recommendation for this week is from Dileep Premachandran, the editor of Wisden India, titled “Test Championship is a sham”. I don’t think I have to tell you what’s contained in it. Give it a read.

Thank you all for listening!

Episode Transcribed by: Bharathram Pattabhiraman