This is probably a sign of how bleak and grey things looked in the cricket world: last week, on the eve of the third Test match between Australia and India -- a crucial match from a still-competitive series, already full of controversy and tension, between arguably the two most popular teams in the world at the momeny -- the entire Outside The Line brains trust chose to go road tripping and camping by the beach, rather than staying at home, following the action on TV, and writing about it.
It wasn't that we didn't care about the outcome
of the series (we did), or that our continual wish to see Australia derailed
from its record-breaking tracks had somehow abated (it hadn't). It was more an
act of protest. (Against what, we're not exactly sure. Against Australia and
the arrogance of incumbency. Against the subjective dogmatism and hubris of
modern umpiring. Against bigotry as the
refuge of the hack. Against bullying tactics and high school jock ethics.
Against business as usual.)
Regardless of our original plans, we still ended up following most the action in some form or another: radio updates as we played poker inside the tent, selective portions of inspired Indian batting on the widescreen of the nearby pub, cricinfo reports, etc. Cricket seems to permeate the air of coastal Australia in the summer, and even if you go out of your way to avoid it, you still can't stop yourself from absorbing some of it:
- We couldn't help but notice, for example, how seriously Stuart Clark is taking the "New McGrath" moniker these days -- shaking his head on the way back to his mark after every delivery, trying to stare batsmen down on his follow-through, always looking awkward and out of place in post-wicket celebrations, etc.
- The first three wickets of the Australian
innings: three left-handed batsmen being dismissed by two
left-handed Indian bowlers. Given that only between 7-10 % of the
population as a whole is left-handed, that series of dismissals must
represent either a freakish statistical oddity... or the future of world cricket.
It's no secret that left-handers have dominated the batting scene for the last decade. In the past few years, however, we've also seen a lot of southpaw bowlers rising in the ranks. Except for the West Indies, every major international team nowadays includes at least one left-arm bowler. Three teams (Australia, India, England) include two left-armers on a regular basis. One team, Bangladesh, is often seen going in with three lefties in their lineup (as well as a few part-time left-arm spinners). It's clear that a lot of those players are not "natural" left-handers, but instead developed their skills with practice and at some point discovered the untapped potential of left-arm bowling in a landscape dominated by left-handed batters with iffy techniques. As such, expect the trend to continue.
- At one point, my friend Geot
referred to Shaun Tait as “lumbersome,” which I’m pretty sure is not a real word,
but somehow seems remarkably accurate in his case.
- Before any Indian fans get ahead of themselves, and start believing that their team's spirited fightback in this series is a harbinger of great times to come, may I just remind them that for most of last week's (and probably this week's) Test match, India had Virender Sehwag standing at point in the field. Sehwag! You're building a dynasty on that foundation? As Ricky Gervais' alter-alter-alter-ego, Mr. Stokes from When The Whistle Blows, would say, "Are you 'aving a laff?!?!"