The selection of fast bowlers in Australia: time to sack the selectors or should we be looking further afield?

20121114-140015.jpgHere are some quotes from John Inverarity the Chairman of selectors of the Australian cricket team with respect to Mitchell Starc:

With Mitchell Starc the reality is he will not be able to do Melbourne and Sydney coming off two recent Tests, being 22 years old and bowling as much as he has in the previous two Tests.

Its bowling loads.  The science behind it is they’ve got to build up their bowling loads so the oscillations (variations) are not very significant. If they do become significant, as they have for Mitchell, you enter a danger period, a high-risk period.

So on the basis of the foregoing, Mitchell Starc has been ruled out of playing in the Boxing Day test match some 9 days after bowling his team to victory in Hobart.  He has every right to feel very very harshly done by.

The fact of the matter is the way Cricket Australia is managing the workload of its bowlers is simply not working.  Listen to former players (blowhards or not) and they are all saying “they should be bowling more: in games and in the nets”.  Why then are Pat Howard and John Inverarity not listening? Has the review of cricket undertaken since the 2009/10 Ashes debacle so blinded the powers that be in Australian cricket that they are too scared to return to “the old ways”? Is this slavish devotion to sports science the result of a non-cricket person being at the helm?

Let me be clear here: I have no doubt whatsoever that Messrs Howard and Inverarity have the best interests of the players at heart whilst also wanting to put the best team on the field.  However, by “managing” players on the one hand they are failing to reach the goal of playing the best team on the other.

That said, is the current injury “crisis” among the fast bowlers in this country really the fault of the selectors, the sports boffins and Pat Howard? The answer to this question is where one needs to forget the sports science for a minute and actually consider what players of the past are saying.

The former players are consistent in their criticism of the current way fast bowlers are managed and advocate for more bowling rather than less.  This argument is oft expanded to encompass both bowling in first class games and in the nets.  If it is that simple, why then are Australia’s fast bowlers not bowling as much as they should? The answer is equally as simple: in the chase for more dollars and part of the commercialisation of the game the bulk of Australia’s fast bowling stocks have prepared for this coming summer with an international T20 tournament, followed by the IPL Champions series and then one (at most for most) first class game.  How can they be getting enough overs in preparation for a season when they are spell limited to four overs a game every second day?

This is where the science comes back into play and, in my view, Cricket Australia needs to have a long hard look at itself.  Inverarity’s argument is that they wish to avoid too much variance (oscillation) in the workloads of our fast bowlers.  Of course there is going to be a variance when one week the fast bowlers are asked to bowl a four over spell and the next they are asked to bowl 30 overs in a day.

The very playing schedule approved by Cricket Australia is, in fact, causing there to be variances in work load which are seeing our fast bowlers rested for fear of injury.

I know it is a changed world since the days of the great Fred Trueman but I think Cricket Australia would be well advised to consider his approach to preparing for a season ahead.  Dickie Bird in his book “My Autobiography” describes how Trueman would start his season preparations in the nets by bowling off one step two months before the season started and he then built up his bowling strength so that by the time the season started two months later he was bowling in the nets at full pace and ready to go.  Correct me if I am wrong but Trueman was rarely injured, rarely rested and played significantly more days of cricket in a summer than players are asked to play now.

It is at this juncture that the new age thinkers and slaves to science will posit that I am living the past and that the game is different these days.  To those saying that I pose this question: are the positions of Cricket Australia (the avoidance of variances) and those of past players (bowling more in red ball cricket and in the nets) really that far apart?  I think they are closer than they seem and indeed am of the view that if Mitchell Starc had have played in all of the domestic 4 day games this summer in Australia in advance of the test series instead of bowling a white ball he would be in playing at the MGC.  Why? Because his workload, if he had have done, would have been consistent rather than a hodgepodge of short spells, long flights and limited red ball cricket.

Until the schedule is balanced (and goodness knows that seems to be getting more unlikely every day), the dreams of playing in a Boxing Day test match of young men like Mitchell Starc will continue to be dashed.  That, of itself, is a tragedy.

I am a balding man: I am here, it is falling out … get used it!

Kids always seem to say what others avoid or uncomfortable about in my experience and the kids in my life are no exceptions.  Looking at some photos from the past with my nephews a while ago, it did not take long for one of them to quip “did you have hair uncle Steve?”.

Let me be clear here: yes I once had a full head of luxurious hair (often styled in the glorious combination of flat top / mullet) and yes I am loosing my hair at Usian Boltesque speeds.  But here is the thing: I love being a balding man!

It is a funny thing to say because going bald is an “affliction” that seems to raise more comments than most from people.  I have heard all of the jokes before and indeed love nothing more than being self-depricating about the emerging barren skin on the top of my head.  Additionally I have been asked I reckon, conservatively, close to 500 hundred times by family, friends and colleagues as to whether I had considered heading to Ashley Martin or some such establishment.

Having again fallen into a discussion about getting an “advanced hair hat” yesterday, I had pause to think about why I was so virulently against such a proposition and why, indeed, I was so embracing of my impending baldness.  Setting aside the fact that one could see my baldness approaching like the advance of the Light Brigade in the future when one looks at my uncle “Chipsy” who has been bald or balding since he was 21, the fact is there are significant advantages to male pattern baldness that make embracing its war on my fast fading follicles all the more easy.

Off the top of my head (poor pun intended) here are some of the advantages of being a balding man in today’s society:

1. Saving money

When you are balding / bald there is an immediate impact on one’s hip pocket from all manner of sources.  For example, the formerly monthly visit to the barber or hairdresser for a “style cut” is no longer necessary as is the need for, if you are so inclined, an investment in all manner of hair products.  Why? Because you have no hair in the first place and the only haircut you need you can do your self in the comfort of your own home having purchased a set of clippers.  This concept extends even as far at the most mundane of things: shampoo. If you have no hair, shampoo does nothing extra that running a bar of soap over your head will not achieve so why bother with the extra expense.

2. Time savings

To state the obvious, some men spend an awfully long time getting ready for work in the morning.  My only reference points here are 12 months spent sharing a house with one bathroom with two other guys and the obvious fact that some of my staff, past and present, arrive at work so immaculately coifed that they look fresh from the salon.  Think about how much of your morning ablutions are taken up with washing, combing and styling your hair.  I have none of those problems and, indeed, save time every morning by having nature completely cut out the whole process of getting my hair ready for another arduous day behind my desk.

3. Hats, hats and more hats

The fact is that I love wearing a hat and, indeed, wore the same hat for a whole semester of university partly on a dare and partly just to irritate my mother.  Now, I have a more than valid reason to wear a hat at every opportunity.  Simply if I don’t wear a hat I will get a burnt head which: a. hurts like hell and b. has the obvious risks of cancer than run with exposure to UV rays.  I have seen enough of my father’s and grandfather’s mates who have had melanomas removed to not need any convincing that wearing a hat constantly is not a bad thing.  Here is the thing though: I love wearing hats anyway and have a collection that traverses beanies, trilbies, flat caps, akubras, baseball hats and my old Ipswich Cricket Association baggy bottle green.

Point out a man to me who proclaims that he does not like wearing a hat and I will declare him a liar.

4. Baldness and Beards go hand in hand

Have you ever noticed the high quotient of balding men who also have a beard? I am one and I reckon that if someone ever did a mathematical study on this topic they would find that balding men with beards far outweigh those with a full head of hair with a beard.  The rationale for this is obvious: we can not grow hair on our heads so we will do so on our faces instead!  There may be another rationale to this too that is related to the second advantage I posit above.  If you are, as I am, enamoured with the time savings gained from not having hair on top of my head anymore you might also find yourself leaving the shaving part of your morning routine out.  Again, gentlemen think of the time savings!

All things considered then things are starting to look up for the balding man.  So why then the stigma of baldness that I noted above? Deep down I think those of you with more full heads of hair than the balding man are just jealous of the simpleness of the balding man’s life.  I mean why else would there be a whole sub-group of balding men, the “faux bald”, who go out of their way to style themselves as being without hair?

thebaldyman

 

With that thought, I leave  you with a vote of thanks to my Uncle and indeed the whole male line of my mothers family: genetically I could not have done it without you!

A morning of golf: the good, the bad, the ugly

Followers of my twitter feed (@shumpty77) will be aware of my plan to play golf every morning over my holiday break both from the perspective of improving my fitness and to improve my short game.

This morning was my first round on my proposed two week golf odyssey so at 5:30am I stepped onto the first hole of Victoria Park Golf Course. 79 off the stick my score card read by the end of my round but as is always the case there were good parts of my round mixed with bad parts and some down right ugly moments.

First the good: have I mentioned that I love golf? It has all of the elements of an outing that appeals to me and this morning was nothing different: the sun was shinning, the birds were chirping and my swing was smooth.  My best hole of the day was the short par 4 12th hole.  A 3 wood down the middle, chip with my 60 degree wedge and one putt and a birdie was mine.  It is holes like those that keep hacks like me coming back to the game most weekends.

Also good this morning was a renewed appreciation for the set up at Victoria Park.  For readers that do not know it, Victoria Park is 3 kilometres away from the centre of Brisbane and has, obviously, very limited space.  To counter balance this the course designer has used the many hills and valleys around the course to make holes much longer than their yardage.  The 289 metre par 4 13th is a great example of this: it is straight up hill and I needed every bit of my driver to get within 60 metres of the hole for my second which was a blind shot to a smallish green.  If I had to be critical the closing 4 holes are all short par 3s which left me a little bit flat so play the front 9 if you have the option.

Now for the bad: setting aside the foibles of a golf course that finishes with 4 Par 3s and the fact that I had at least four 3 putts (which are always bad) the main bad part of my game today was the lack of courtesy shown by other golfers on the course.  This started on the first hole as I was putting when the second shot of a player behind me whizzed past my left ankle and continued with three near misses from nearby fairways during my round without the usual call of “four”.  I love golf but this lack of courtesy is more than an irritation: it is down right dangerous.  To be clear: I am 6ft 4in, 120kgs and was in clear site of the hitter of the ball: they had to have seen me and simply deign it necessary to warm me of the incoming danger.

Finally the ugly: I concede that point that Victoria Park is a public golf course without members and I concede that I have been spoilt with some of the course I have played on in the past.  That said, seeing a group of six run around the course in their golf carts trying to play “dodgem cars” and generally being unruly at 6am in the morning is not my idea of fun and certainly put more than just me out.  I know I might sound like the Christmas grinch with this but for me to play more regularly (aside from the next two weeks) at Victoria Park they will need to improve on stuff like this.  Having four guys in the pro shop and no one monitoring the course is a farce and it will push golfers away whilst encouraging the hooligan set. I did note when I saw them that they were trying to emulate Ricky Fowler with their flat brimmed hats (assuming they know who Ricky Fowler is) and that should have been enough of an indication of the douchbaggery that was going to follow.

But for all of the bad and the ugly, I still enjoyed my morning and now as I sit here watching one of my favourite TV shows “the Newsroom” and I am already getting ready to hit the course again tomorrow.  That is the fun thing about golf: there is always tomorrow, there is always a golf club open and there is always the prospect of a birdie or two to get the hacks like me back again for another round!

A sneaky Thursday multi: Basketball, basketball and more basketball

After missing out on a multi collect for the 4th time this year because of the Lakers, I am having another look at a multi today that is focused on the NBA and NCAA.

Here is a 5 legger that I am fairly confident about (all prices are from sportsbet.com.au):

Leg 1: New York Knicks at home to defeat the Brooklyn Nets straight out at $1.39

Leg 2: Indiana Pacers to cover the line (-3.5 points) at home against the Utah Jazz at $1.92.

Leg 3: Toronto Raptors to cover the line (-3.0 points) at home against the Detroit Pistons at $1.92.

Leg 4: Cornell to cover the line (+28.0 points) away against Duke at $1.87.

Leg 5: Louisville to cover the line (-27.5 points) at home against Florida International at $1.90

Combined this multi will pay $18.21 for every dollar invested so will be nice little earner if it comes up.

I also really like Xavier to cover the line (+9.0 points) away against Cincinnati at $1.90 in a cross-town rivalry game that last year ended in a brawl and player suspensions.

As always: good luck and good punting!

Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st test, Day 4

It has been a while since I posted on this blog. I apologise to followers for that: work has gotten in the way of writing which is something that vexes me greatly.

That said, having watched basically the full day of play yesterday, some similar themes about what it will take to “win” day 4 of this test match have been reverberating around my brain most of the night like a sirens song drawing me to the keyboard.

So, without further self indulgent preamble, here are my keys to success on day 4 at Blundstone Arena:

1. How many runs is enough for Captain Clarke?

Throughout the summer, Michael Clarke has shown good instincts with respect to timing of declarations only to be crueled, on the one hand, by an improving pitch (Brisbane) and, on the other hand, by one of the best rearguard innings since Atherton’s 185 off 492 balls in 1995 ( Adelaide). He is again faced here with the aegis of being one strike bowler under strength so will need to keenly balance batting Sri Lanka out of the game with giving his depleted bowling attack enough time to get the job done.

2. Who is the leader of the Sri Lankan attack and will he please stand up?

This is a Sri Lankan bowling line up that it would be fair to say is short on experience. Whilst Lasith Malinga plies his trade in the heady world of the Big Bash League (I concede he has not played in a test in over two years), the Sri Lankan fast bowlers together boast a collective experience of some 38 tests. In the first innings they looked to be bowling without a leader and, as shown by the lion hearted efforts of P Siddle, they will sorely need one in this innings to keep the Australian total down to a chaseable target. For me, the real key to a successful day for Sri Lanka will be how HMRKB Herath not only bowls but leads this young attack. With 5 left handers in the Australian top 7 and right arm bowlers foot marks growing today is a day made for a left arm orthodox tweaker.

3. Reviews, reviews and more reviews

The need to get the use of the DRS correct again raised its head yesterday with the Sri Lankans wasting their reviews on plumb LBW decisions only to see Herath dispatched by Tony Hill LBW having nearly hit the ball with the middle of his bat first. The Sri Lankan review methodology seems to be that whatever captain says goes so the pressure will be M Jayawardene to consult with this players and make reviews more prudently today. Two early “bad” reviews could, to state the obvious, be costly by the end of the day.

And that is it: how many runs is enough, Herath and the DRS are the keys to today’s play with the position the Sri Lankans are in by the end of the day largely reliant on Herath’s spinning finger.

Shumpty’s Punt: the weekend multi and a couple of horses to follow

After a woeful run on form, the Shumpty’s Punt weekend multi is back this weekend and I hope that the multi to follow will come in and lead to a return for followers. This weekend’s multi is a 7 legger and mixes up some American sport with some fixtures in the Big Bash League in Australia.

As always: all odds are from sportsbet.com.au

Leg 1: Melbourne Stars to defeat the Melbourne Renegades in the BBL tonight. ($1.52)

Leg 2: Connecticut Huskies to cover the line (-9.0 points) against the Harvard Crimson in NCAA Mens Basketball tomorrow morning. ($1.90)

Leg 3: Atlanta Hawks to cover the line (-9.0 points) against the Washington Wizards in the NBA tomorrow morning. ($1.92)

Leg 4: Brooklyn Nets to cover the line (-5.5 points) against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA also tomorrow morning. ($1.92)

Leg 5: Sydney Sixers to defeat the Sydney Thunder in the BBL Saturday night. ($1.52)

Leg 6: Washington Redskins to cover the line (-2.5 points) against the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL in the early hours of Monday morning. ($1.92)

Leg 7: Atlanta Falcons to cover the line (-3.0 points) against the Carolina Panthers in the NFL also in the early hours of Monday morning.

This 7 legger will return $56.86 for every dollar spent so for punters out there is might be worth a little nibble.

Horse racing tomorrow in Brisbane at Eagle Farm and I have couple of each way chances I will be putting my hard earned on:

BR 3:Horse 10 Business Day

BR 4:Horse 1 Playaction

That will do me on the horses for the weekend unless I find something in the southern states that I really fancy tomorrow morning. I will post those tips here if I do come up with any.

Good luck and good punting all.