Thursday, December 21, 2006

The sheikh of tweak

 In this post I am going to go the way of all the garrulous cricket commentators who irritate me no end with their verbal diarrhoea. I am going to use every platitude, every cliche in the book. Because, try as I might, I don't think I'll ever be fluent enough in the language to describe who to my mind, is the greatest cricketer to have walked the planet. And he's just announced his retirement, leaving cricket much the poorer for it.
Shane Warne, The sheikh of tweak. The blond bamboozler. Hollywood. A genius on the field. A tharki (the Hindi word sounds better than the English one) little bastard off it. He was all of that and more. I've said it before and I'll say it again: In all the 21 years that I have been watching the game, I have not seen anyone who is more capable of making a difference in a test match. If I can stick my neck out, and say another sacrligeous thing; I don't think anyone in the history of the game, ever, has been more capable of deciding a test match, Bradman and Sobers included.
But obviously, this great man, this genius, has been about more than statistics and wins and losses. He has been about the big, looping, drifting, dipping, ripping leg breaks that are so orgasmic to watch. He has been about the flipper, the zooter, the slider and the toppie, which when used as variations with his sharply turning leg breaks, have spelt the death knell for so many batters over the last decade and a half. And about talking up each of those deliveries so that even when he lost the ability to control half of them in the latter half of his career, he still beat the batter in the mind. And he was about the wonderful, intelligent sledge, although Tubby Taylor claims that he was more about the four lettered word followed by some incoherent nonsense. The only flaws I can think of are a) The sparingly used googly, which he rarely bowled, because, in his own words, good batsmen could pick it up and b) An over reliance, sometimes, on trying to bowl the batsman out behind his legs or at slip or short-leg. To those who might wonder why I think he should be faulted for that when he has 700 test wickets, 
the answer is simple: His record in India would have been infinitely better had he mastered the art of enticing batsmen to go over the top or through cover a la Subhash Gupte.
Having said that however, he did revive classical leg-spin, post Qadir. Is he the greatest spinner ever? Yes; I am sure of that. The Indians who bitch about his record against India being poor, and about Murali being the better bowler, can go stuff it. Murali's record against India is comparable.
Warney's action is infinitely cleaner, and he is far better to watch.
I wish he would play on longer, as long as he physically can, but I can understand his desire to quit. Just as well Australia lost the last Ashes, else he would have retired then apparently. Kinda makes me wish Australia had lost these Ashes too. Well, whatever! Warney, you will be missed.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Had enough yet, Fletch?

Today was both exhilirating and disappointing. Exhilirating on account of the greatest champion cricket has ever produced. Disappointing because it's almost decisively turned a test series one would have thought over the previous four days to have the makings of a classic, into a one-horse race. The remainder of the Ashes are bound to be just an academic exercise now.

Before I lay into Fletch and his bitch Gilo, something on the Aussies. Frankly, there's no way they should have won this game. But they did, and to my mind, the only person who can take credit for this is that great genius of our times, Shane Warne. Yesterday, all the elements of what makes him a great bowler were on display; guile, craft, control, turn, drift, loop, bounce and most importantly, his self belief. Warney, take a bow!! Having said that, the Poms had no business crawling to 30 runs off 28 overs in the first session. It seemed to be a hark back to the dark days of the 90s when English cricket was so haunted by its own negativity. Which brings me to my next topic, Fletch and his bitch.

Any which way you look at it, Fletch has outlived his utility to English cricket. He is negative and pig headed. I really cannot think of any other way that the extremely ordinary and mediocre Ashley Giles would be allowed to play as many test matches as he has done. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that if England are to do something great with its talented bunch of players; and they ARE talented, Freddie, KP, Strauss, Harmison, Hoggard, and Vaughan when he returns; Fletch must go.

Frankly, two years ago, I would have laughed hard in the face of someone who dared suggest that there could be a cricketer who annoyed me more than Darren 'Boof' Lehmann did. But now there is; Ashley Giles. And like it was in Lehmann's case, a little celebration will be in order when Giles is sacked.