What I’ve Learned This Summer: Mr. Smith
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.
That India are truly terrible away from home –
But we already knew that.
Everyone knew that. India are total gobshite away from home. I’m fairly sure even they know that. In fact, in one of his recent press conferences M.S Dhoni was reportedly quoted as calling his team a “raging arseknuckle” away from the featherbed pitches that characterise their home grounds.
It should come as quite a shock to see a team that was until very recently officially the number one Test team in the world so soundly beaten by a team that until very recently was still desperately trying to find the bandages to strap to its defiled back passage after the previous summer, but in all honesty it really doesn’t. No one should have expected India to win in Australia.
And here’s why: because they fucking suck (away from home).
God do they suck. They suck more than Scott Muller does at doing anything, which is a lot, just so you know. It’s almost incomprehensible that a team who managed to get themselves to the number one spot can actually be this terrible away from their home turf, but India manage to astound beyond simply their imposing batting records. Luckily for them, it’s another two years before they’ll have to set foot on foreign soil for a Test series.
Mid last year, they suffered an identical drubbing at the hands of England, losing 4-0 to a team comprising Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell. If that’s not enough to prick your ego, I don’t know what is. Seriously though, how the fuck is this guy good now? How?
You are a penis.
As are you. A shrivelled one. With a terrible haircut.
Anyway, this is nothing new to anyone reading this, I would imagine. Really, this seems to be symptomatic of a strange trend that’s gradually occupying world cricket, being, that everyone sucks arse.
Or at least they do away from home. Recently, India had an entirely winless tour of England. Winless. For the whole tour. England then proceeded to lose five ODIs on the trot in India, managing to salvage one T20 win from the whole tour. India then came to Australia and conspired to lose 4-0 as well as managing to lose a large proportion of the shorter format games as well. England then toured to Pakistan, being whitewashed in the Test series (although winning the ODI and T20 series) by a team who had not all too long ago lost two of its best players to the spot-fixing scandal. Last but not least, Australia managed to allow themselves to be BOWLED OUT FOR FORTY FUCKING SEVEN IN SOUTH AFRICA.
So what is the cause of this shambles? Some people ridiculously claim that it’s caused directly by the advent of the IPL and T20, which is an argument that relies entirely on the premise of the arguer being a blithering twat. Another theory is that players aren’t brought up on wickets that allow them to gauge the conditions of other countries. I say balls to that.
Personally, I think it probably comes down to players being brought up in an era when flat wickets were king, which now that spicy wickets are making a comeback is resulting in their marginally flawed techniques being exposed in alien conditions. Either that or it’s probably just caused by Shane Warne’s face. I leave the decision to you.
That Andrew Hilditch is apparently an idiot savant –
That’s right, the Andrew Hilditch. The same Andrew Hilditch that dropped Brad Hodge after he’d just smacked a Test double century (and thereafter permanently earned the ongoing ire of any Victorian worth his or her salt). The same Andrew Hilditch who terminated the contract of Simon Katich, who since his Test recall had been the second highest run scorer in the world behind Alastair-supremely-square-jawed-Cook and by far Australia’s most consistent batsman throughout that period. The same Andrew Hilditch who, apparently with total sincerity and honesty, thought that Michael Beer was a better spinning option that Nathan Hauritz. The same Andrew Hilditch who seemed to unwaveringly employ a selection policy uncannily reminiscent of a simpleton throwing eggs and a spatula at a brick wall and hoping for an omelette.
Where then, you may very well (although in all probability aren’t) be asking yourself, does the savant aspect of this equation make an appearance?
Surprisingly enough, in the selection of an until recently unknown Adelaide Oval curator as the undisputed number one spinner of the national Test team.
Amazingly, one of Hilditch’s haphazard selections – where you get the impression he was being pressured in a meeting and simply shouted the names of the two objects closest to him in a frenzied panic in the hope that they formed the name of someone who may possibly play cricket at some grade somewhere in the country – has actually paid off and delivered to Australia what they have so desperately been in need of over the past four to five years: a reliable spin bowler.
Sure, at first glance, the selection of Nathan Lyon as the Australian Test spinner – the same position once occupied by Shane Warne, Stuart McGill, Richie Benaud, and Ashley Mallett by a man who had until a year ago been a languishing grade cricketer/above-par gardener in South Australia – may seem like the ravings of a man with about as much nous for his job as a deaf symphony conductor or as Ian Healy does for commentating, but amazingly it’s actually worked out. On his way out, the idiot savant of all idiot savants has somewhat delivered on his promise of shaping Australian cricket for the future, although whether or not he knew what he was doing is another matter entirely.
Lyon hasn’t exactly blown the cricketing world away since his debut in Galle, where he took 5/34 in the first innings, including the wicket of Kumar Sangakarra with an utter gem that looped and spun, but he has shown enormous promise and skill. He struggled against India during the recent series, which was to be expected on seamer-friendly wickets, but on spinning tracks he’s done a serviceable job and shown enough understanding and guile to hint that in the future he could become an extremely gifted spinner.
Hilditch may have almost single-handedly destroyed Australian cricket’s next five years. He may have the kind of face you want to stick in a sandwich press and make you not trust him around your kids – I don’t, but then I don’t trust leathery men. He may be a total arse and lack any sort of definable qualities that would count as good or even human, but goddamn, can the man sometimes sort of select fairly good cricketers a little bit.
That the ICC hates you –
That’s right, you. You in particular. They hate you with a passion. They burn effigies of you in the street. They see photos of you and want to sick up on them. They see children who share your name and kick them in the backs of their knees just to see them fall over. They cut out old photos of you and compile hateful scrapbooks with the words ‘arse gravy’ scrawled underneath in red pen. They loathe you. In fact, they despise you.
Unless you have money.
If you have money, the ICC loves you. They adore you. They want to sprinkle finely chopped hazelnuts on your chest and lick them off with the rough contours of their tongues. They want to nibble your earlobes and buy you trainloads of neatly wrapped presents adorned with personalised cards and those fluffy ribbon things that people make with scissors.
Or at least, that’s the impression given by their recent decision to delay the inaugural Test World Championship in favour of yet another edition of Inconsequential-Homogenous-ODI-Tournament-of-Which-No-One-Gives-Even-the-Slightest-Amount-of-Shit.
Really, I can’t picture a reason other than the ICC hating you for delaying such a wonderful idea; you are fairly detestable, after all. I mean, sure, the ICC gave a reason, but that held about as much water as a camel with a bullet wound (and yes, I know camels don’t hold water, but fuck you).
And don’t mistake this for bile against ODIs and T20s; I honestly think they have their place within the cricketing spectrum. But Tests are, and always will be, the premiere format of the game and any chance to promote and support it should be jumped at, tackled to the ground and hogtied. The public is already losing touch with the game at an alarming rate; any further marginalising of an increasingly marginalised sport is a menace that should be dealt with. Much like Andrew Hilditch.
But really, this all comes back to the ICC hating you. Money is king, and the king sits on the throne of the BCCI, and if the performances of the team they represent are anything to go by in the longest format of the game, they gave up sending you love letters long ago.
Special Fourth What I’ve Learned Factoid: Shane Warne’s face is bloody creepy –
Mr. Smith is the tall, dark, mysterious trenchcoat-wearing stranger you see in black and white films from the 1940s. He likes his cricket like he likes his women, and he likes his women like he likes his alcohol; with alcohol in them.
For more “Things We’ve Learned This Summer”, click here.