What I’ve Learned This Summer: Dave Siddall
The 2011/2012 summer of cricket is quickly drawing to a close, and in years to come, we’ll look back with sepia-tinged goggles and reminisce fondly about Pup’s three-hundred, KP’s return to form, and Doug Bracewell’s spell at Hobart. At The Sledge, we get nostalgic about things very quickly; as such, we’ve asked some of the brightest cricket writers from around the world to put together pieces on What They’ve Learned This Summer.
Don’t judge a captain by their media image
When Michael Clarke was appointed the 43rd captain of his country after the 2011 Cricket World Cup, Australian cricket was at an all time low. They’d been thrashed in their own back yard by England and failed in their attempt to win a world cup with a punt on an all-out pace attack in the sub-continent.
Knives were out across the board with the Argus Report being commissioned and the heir apparent could not have been more unpopular. Mike Hussey and Shane Watson were being billed as last minute replacements and a metrosexual man being given the most significant honour in a nation’s summer sport was deemed ‘unaustralian’.
For those of us not wishing to stick the knife in, the real problem was not the media image or the bimbo girlfriends but in fact the lack of credentials in leadership. You couldn’t question the batting (averaging mid 40s in Tests) but you could the tactical nous.
Either way, the doubters have been proved wrong.
Clarke’s captaincy could not have gone better for Australia. They’ve drawn with the soon-to-be number one side in the world in South Africa, beaten Sri Lanka in the subcontinent, and gone one better than England ever could white-washing India 4-0. He’s backed up Nathan Lyon to make him an attacking off-spinner and showed faith in the young guns of Pat Cummins and James Pattinson. He’s perhaps also doubled the number of Weet-Bix Peter Siddle has for breakfast.
And it’s fitting that this week he walks into Crown Casino looking pretty sharp hand in hand with new celebrity girlfriend Kyly Boldy to claim his 3rd Allan Border Medal and his status as Australia’s talisman. With a triple hundred, a double hundred and a series average of 125, who’d not overlook all that other stuff that doesn’t matter?
Bowling just got its mojo back
The old adage that cricket is a batsman’s game couldn’t be truer. But this summer of cricket will be remembered for averting the tide and being a golden time when bowling got its rightful place in the game reinstated.
Vernon Philander, James Pattinson and Pat Cummins arrivals onto the world stage have been nothing short of staggering.
Philander, perhaps the most sensational, has 30 wickets from 4 Tests including 1 ten wicket haul and 4 five wicket hauls, averages 13 with the ball and takes a wicket roughly every four overs. He’s out-bowled the greatest fast bowler in the world by a country mile!
Pattinson, almost as impressive, has been a revelation for Australia. With a frame that belies his years, he’s taken 25 wickets from 4 matches and taken 2 five-wicket hauls at an average of 18.
Cummins looks like he hasn’t gone through puberty in his Cricinfo mugshot. Yet he too gave a glimpse of what he is capable of. Only 18, his cameo onto the world stage could not have gone any better. He pretty much won a Test single-handedly to give Australia the share of the spoils in one of the most unlikely of series given their drubbing by England.
Another sensational departure from the old adage comes in the form of how DRS has transformed the art of spin bowling. And never before has a series demonstrated a transition better than Pakistan’s whitewash of England dubbed the “Decision Review Series”.
37 lbws in 3 Tests and a devastating exhibition of attacking spinning from Ajmal and Rehman illustrated the potent potential of bowling wicket to wicket. Graeme Swann has perhaps been the biggest benefactor of this change to date but now the how world is catching on.
Batsman can no longer just smother the ball with their bat and pad. Bowlers have a joker up their sleeve and it is up to batters to find a way to trump it.
Interestingly enough, the transformation for quicks is just as profound. Where once outswing was the classical stock delivery, the inswinger is becoming more in vogue. Philander’s wicket-to-wicket line of attack and his devastating returns to date – coincidence? I don’t think so.
We need mojo rich bowlers and low scoring Tests are way more fun anyway.
KP is a flawed but better cricketer
Think back to Kevin Pietersen making his mark on the world stage in 2005. He was an unflappable character, an invincible cricketer with the flair and self-belief to mix it with and beat the best of them. His counter-punching knock of 158 at the Oval against a sublime Warne typified the force he brought to the crease and had him earmarked as the greatest batsman in the world.
During this time, KP’s ego was as ridiculous as the skunk inhabiting his head. But he was unstoppable so it was forgiven.
In more recent and leaner times, KP’s ego never waned. His troubles against left arm spin were became elephant in the room yet he failed to acknowledge he had issues.
As the DRS changed the art of spin bowling forever, KP could no longer play the way he knows – getting a huge stride down the wicket to eliminate the lbw. Playing with the bat and removing the pad proved tough and he succumbed on numerous occasions during Pakistan’s spinning (master)class.
In the subsequent one-day series he hit his first ODI century since 2008, a time when he captained England and was the number 1 ranked limited overs player in the world. Then he followed it up with his second in as many matches with yet another majestic performance against Pakistan’s spin-heavy attack.
When asked by Paul Allott whether he’d figured out the DRS we saw KP 2.0. He hadn’t figured it out and he was still coming to terms with how things have changed.
Version 2.0 may have some flaws to his game, but I’d say he’s a better cricketer.
Dave Siddall is the balls and brains behind World Cricket Watch, an essential part of the online cricketing landscape. If you’re a cricket fan, you must look up the One Hand, One Bounce Cricket Podcast.
For more “Things We’ve Learned This Summer”, click here.