Shumpty’s Punt: 22 / 23 June 2013

I know I said that I was hanging up the punting boots after a run of multi bets that had, simply put, done my head in and been rendered nugatory in the first leg. I have given some thought to having a couple of bets this weekend for the first time in a while and have come up with a couple of bets at Eagle Farm and a 4 leg multi that I reckon are well placed to get punters a return.

Horse Racing

Eagle Farm Race 6: Rothera

Eagle Farm Race 7: Red Tracer

Sports Multi

Leg 1: New Zealand All Blacks to cover the line (-19.5 points) against France at $1.90.

Leg 2: Canberra Raiders to cover the line (-8.0 points) against Wests Tigers at $1.92.

Leg 3: British and Irish Lions to cover the line (-3.5 points) against Australia at $1.92.

Leg 4: Fremantle Dockers to defeat North Melbourne with the margin 1 – 39 points at $2.00.

This multi will pay $14.00 for every dollar invested.

I am aware that I am betting against the Wallabies here and it goes against everything my heart is saying but, as I wrote yesterday, I think the Wallabies are massively underdone for this test match.

Good luck and good punting all and, as always, please gamble responsibly.

Wallabies Squad for the First Test: the Deans XV

Robbie Deans has this morning confirmed that the team for the first test against the British and Irish Lions will be:

Starting XV: Barnes, Folau, Ashley-Cooper, Leali'ifano, Ioane, O'Connor, Genia, Palu, Hooper, Mowen, Horwill, Douglas, Alexander, Moore, Robinson Reserves: Fainga'a, Slipper, Kepu, Simmons, Gill, Phipps, McCabe, Beale

First some credit where it is due: Christian Leali'ifano and Ben Mowen have been the form players in their positions all season and wholeheartedly deserve their selections to debut in Brisbane.

That is where my credit to the coach ends I am afraid. I am on the record elsewhere in this blog about the selection of Folau. Nothing has changed there: simply on form alone I do not believe he warrants selection. Add to the history of his joinder to rugby and the likelihood of him leaving rugby at the end of the year and my view is complete.

My other major objection to the selection of this team is its obvious lack of “battle” readiness. One would have expected that with the Super Rugby season nearly complete that the players selected for the Wallabies would be in such a state of readiness but it is clear from the amount of playing time they have had that they simply could not be. Take the following examples:

  • Berrick Barnes: 5 games for the Waratahs mainly off the bench. Has played in 152 minutes of top class rugby this season.
  • Kurtley Beale: 4 games for the Rebels but 3 of those were the first three games of the season and since then he has played 32 minutes of Super Rugby and two club games.
  • Wycliff Paul: 9 games for the Waratahs this season averaging 55 minutes per game.
  • Pat McCabe: 7 games for the Brumbies including 5 from the bench for an average of 30 minutes per game (that number is skewed by him having started in the Brumbies Round 17 clash against the Rebels when all of the other Wallabies players were excluded from playing).

More to the point, the Wallabies squad has not played a minute of rugby “in anger” since the end of May (Round 16 of Super Rugby). That means that by the time the team runs out on Saturday night it will be have been 21 days, at least, between competitive rugby games for the Wallabies players. In that time the British and Irish Lions squad has been tested with 5 games of rugby. Simply put: if readiness is what the Wallabies need they do not have it.

Finally, the slavish devotion that Robbie Deans has to not selecting Quade Cooper in this team obviously has lead to the decision to play Berrick Barnes at full back, a position that he has not started at for his franchise all season and has only played in 4 times in a Wallabies jumper. This team would have looked much better balanced with Cooper at fly half and O'Connor at the back for mine. Then again, to select the team that way, or even this way to be honest, is to ignore the standout claims of Jesse Mogg to the number 15 jumper. To select a player with limited playing time this year in a position he doesn't play instead of one of the rising stars of the game beggars belief.

Obviously, I want Australia to win. I want Australia to win every time an Australian team graces a court, pitch or ground. I have a real fear though that this Australian team has very little chance of doing so being as underdone as it is.

Channel 9 selects the team for Cricket Australia? Well … duh!!!!!!!

It has been another interesting day in Australian sport. Probably one of the most of interesting pieces of news and one that has been responded to almost immediately by Cricket Australia has been the position taken Channel 9 with respect to the selection of the Australian cricket team.

For those who missed it, the Managing Director of Channel 9 Jeff Browne told a business lunch in Sydney yesterday that as part of the network's record $400million winning bid for international cricket rights, he expected to have a say in both team selection and in the scheduling of fixtures during the Australian summer.

James Sutherland, the CEO of Cricket Australia has been swift today to retort:

“Cricket has a long-standing and successful relationship with the Nine Network, but team selections and scheduling are matters for Cricket Australia''

No matter who you believe, and frankly I am prepared to believe the MD of Australia's largest television network over a CEO who has presided over the biggest decline in standards of player behaviour seen in the Australian game in my memory during his 12 years at the helm, one only needs to examine the players currently being selected by Cricket Australia to represent this country to see that whether or not it is Channel 9 selecting the team, marketability of players has become a factor in the selection process.

 

In this regard I am already on record apropos my contempt for the selection of players such as Glenn Maxwell and David Warner without, frankly, a semblance of form or even a solid first class career behind them. In the case of Warner, many are quick to forget that he had not been selected by his state for a first class game before he was first selected to play for his country.

 

That said, it is the other piece of cricket news today that really shows how far down this track the powers that be at Cricket Australia have gone in the name of marketing. Again for those who missed it Cricket Australia announced today a squad to tour Africa in July and August to play 3 first class games and a series of 5 one day fixtures. Here is the squad announced:


Smith (c) Finch (vc) Agar Ahmed Coulter-Nile Doolan Hazlewood Henriques Maddinson M. Marsh S. Marsh Maxwell Paine Sandhu Sayers


There are undoubtedly a number of players in this team who deserve their opportunities to represent Australia A. Doolan had a brilliant season for Tasmania as did Henriques for New South Wales. Sayers is a bowler of the future and was unlucky in my view to not be in the full blown Ashes squad.

 

That said: I refuse to believe that some of the other players selected in this team have been selected because of their exemplary form in first class and other domestic cricket in Australia this season. Now don't get me wrong: there are some players in this team who have the potential play for Australia in the years to come; of this there can be no question. However, you can not tell me that some such players are not in this team because of their marketing appeal rather than form.

 

Take the case of Gurinder Sandhu: no doubt he is a fine cricketer and, indeed was selected as state cricketer of the year last season for New South Wales. Kudos to him for having such a great start to his career. However, is he, off the back of two first class games in the Sheffield Shield really in the top ten fast bowlers in the country? That must be what his selection in this squad must connote must it not? I know he took 14 wickets in those first two first class games but how can that be enough to assess whether he is that good as yet? The simple answer is that Sandhu already has a marketing contract with Cricket Australia. They are pinning their hopes on “diversifying” the bandwidth of their marketing message by using the image of Gurinder Sandhu in their marketing material. In order to do that they have to, of course, select him don't they?

 

How must a player like Luke Butterworth from Tasmania be feeling in the face of this selection news today? Off the back of a season in which he played every first class game and took 45 wickets at an average of 20.89 runs per wicket he is seemingly not even in the frame to be in the top 10 bowlers in the country according to the selectors. Of course, he does not have a marketing contract with Cricket Australia.

 

For that matter, what about Trent Copeland who took 30 wickets for his state in 8 first class games last season and is bowling the lights out in the English Country competition this season? He has been a faithful servant of the game in this country and did nothing wrong when he was called up for the baggy green but, seemingly, because he is not a marketable commodity. Can anyone else come up with a cogent reason why he is not in the best 10 bowlers in the country? I have wracked my brain and can not.

 

I am not, repeat not, attacking Gurinder Sandhu: I hope he succeeds but I find it to be an abomination that players who clearly are ahead of him in both experience and the pecking order on form in domestic cricket are ignored because they do not fit a demographic that Cricket Australia wishes to market too.

 

So if you are surprised that Channel 9 think they can pick the team, then consider this: what reason have Cricket Australia given them to think otherwise? A marketing contract leading to selection on tour to represent this country despite there being other more qualified and in form players available for selection can only be an indication that selection for Australia is clearly for sale. I never thought I would see this day and to say that I am disappointed that it is here now would be an understatement.

 

And don't even get me started on Chris Hartley not being in the Australia A team!

 

What next in the Blake Ferguson saga: an explanation of the legal steps

I have long been bothered by the rampant disinformation about matters of law sprouted by the sports journalists of this country when a player gets into trouble. To make matters a bit clearer for fans I thought I would commit to writing what the process is from here, as I see it, for Blake Ferguson.

Let’s start, obviously, with the charge: Ferguson has been charged with, as far as I can glean, one count of indecent assault. I have no knowledge of the facts leading to the charge and make no comment about them. What follows is a generic explanation of the next steps based on my experience and a little confirming research.

Obviously, though rarely it seems reported in cases involving sportsmen, every defendant charged with a criminal offence in this country is considered to be innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. This is a immutable right that every individual in Australia has and which is enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which has been ratified by Australia.

Most reports make much about the fact that there is another Court date coming up for Ferguson in July. If you are a watcher of American legal dramas you may have cause to think that this will be when the trial occurs. Sadly, justice does not operate that quickly in Australia or, frankly, in an 1st world jurisdiction.

Assuming Ferguson pleads not guilty the process between now and a trial could take anywhere up to twelve months or more. This is because, in part, in Australia for offences such as that which Ferguson is charged with it is necessary for the parties to go through a committal hearing which is a hearing before the Local Court at which the prosecution must place before a magistrate its evidence to determine whether there is sufficient evidence upon which the defendant may be convicted at a trial.

The period between the charge and the committal hearing is punctuated with mentions of the matter before a magistrate that deals with matters such as the continuance of the defendants bail and the provision of the evidence upon which the prosecution wishes to rely at the committal and later at trial.

At the committal hearing the magistrate can decide whether the matter proceeds to a trial before, in the case of an indecent assault charge before a District Court judge or to dismiss the charges. If the matter proceeds to a trial that will be another delay for another series of mentions that will again go to the question of bail, the evidence that both sides want to put at trial and any legal questions the parties have. All of this takes time and thus a swift resolution to this matter should a not guilty plea be made is unlikely.

It is, of course possible for negotiations about charges to occur before a committal and before a trial. Following negotiations between the prosecution and defence, in some cases the accused may agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge e.g. assault occasioning actual bodily harm becomes assault, or to the same charge but with the facts changed in some respect.

All in all this is a long and drawn out process, in the case of a not guilty plea at least. A swift resolution could only come from negotiation between the parties, if the complainant withdrew her complaint or upon a guilty plea. I, for one, will be watching with interest the next steps the parties take.

Player Behaviour: Ferguson, Dugan, Tamou, Warner and the lament of a fan

The events of today in Rugby League in Australia have again led to a player being suspended from a representative game and have his contract, for all intents and purposes, ripped up (I am aware that his registration has been suspended and not cancelled but lets be honest, that is the next step). The punishment meted out on Blake Ferguson tonight, it must be noted, is as a result of a series of breaches of the rules surrounding player contracts regarding alcohol and bringing the game into disrepute. Tonight’s incident was just the straw that broke the camel’s back it seems.

If the ultimate outcome hypothesised tonight, that Blake Ferguson will be out of a Canberra Raiders jersey for at least the rest of the season, becomes a reality then the issue of player behaviour will leave the Canberra Raiders without, arguably, their two best players for the remainder of the season. I am a Canberra Raiders fan and as a fan of this proud club that fact leaves me feeling more than a little let down.

Add to that the fact that the other Canberra Raiders player to have his contract terminated this season is already playing rugby league for another club and, apparently, is about to rewarded with a multi-million dollar contract and my anger at the state that the conduct of these two players has left my club in rises.

Just to focus on the impact that player behaviour is having on the Canberra Raiders though it short sighted in the extreme though. The indefinite suspension of Blake Ferguson is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bad player behaviour this season. Indeed until the Ferguson issue many thought the problems with player behaviour in the NRL had reached their epoch with the dangerous driving and unlicensed driving charges laid against James Tamou last week. I am sad to concede that this week’s events have raised the spectre of player behaviour to a whole new level.

The events of last week though also show that the issue of player behaviour is NOT isolated to the NRL. David Warner’s alcohol fuelled punch of an opponent should leave watchers of sport in no doubt that it is not just the NRL that has a problem.

Now many will say that to suggest that a particular sporting code has a problem because of the conduct of a few is a sweeping statement that is ill considered and ought not be made. However, I am not just saying that: the facts indicate a much worse scenario; that sport (in general) in Australia has problems with player behaviour. I have mentioned four examples from a veritable smorgasbord of conduct that goes to this point. If you need any further convincing you can easily add the drugs in sport scandals that are going in the AFL and the NRL, the issues had by the St Kilda AFL club a couple of years ago and the ongoing poor conduct of Kurtley Beale and Digby Ioane in Rugby Union to the list of conduct that even to a sight impaired observer must be indicative of a broader problem.

I think it can be plainly stated, and I am not going to shy from saying, that there is a problem with behaviour in the ranks of professional sportsmen in this country. As a fan of sport I openly lament that the conduct of whom I believe to still be a few in a minority has such a broad impact on the standing of the whole of codes of sport and indeed sport in general but that is where I think we are at at the moment.

As a sports fan I have heard every excuse under the sun for poor player conduct from the players have too much spare time on their hands through to it is society’s fault for placing these young men on pedestals. I am sick to the back teeth of the excuses: just because players have a massive disposable wealth, only work a couple of days a week and are treated like gods does mean that they can, without penalty, break the law and last time I checked kids are still taught at school that breaking the law is wrong.

That fact gets me to the second lament of this post: have we as a society moved so far that the players of our sports actually do not believe that the law applies to them? I heard a very interesting interview with the player welfare officer from the Parramatta Eels on the weekend (on ABC Grandstand) in which he mentioned that getting young players to actually get a license, despite the often high powered cars they drive at least to and from training, was a massive problem for clubs. If it takes a player welfare officer to ask for a copy of the license of each player to start the process of actually getting these 18-25 year old men their first license is that not indicative of a disregard for rules and the law that is both alarming and also obviously has the potential to escalate into incidents such as those of yesterday evening?

I have no solutions that have not already been raised or that are not obvious. The fact is though that if these young men do not respect the basic laws of the land such as having a license to drive a motor vehicle will any of the solutions work? I am a strong advocate of a duel approach of holding all but money for the bare essentials in trust for young players until they are retired from the game coupled with forcing young players to have a job outside of the sport they play. Whether this would have the effect of stopping the players breaking the law I do not know. What I do know that making the players live on $50K a year out of their contract surely would make it less likely that they would on the grog on Sunday night before going into State of Origin camp, for example.

Sport in this country has problems and player behaviour is right at the forefront of those problems. With competition for kids activities never stronger from the likes of Apple, Nintendo and the like why would an unknowing parent chose to place their child into an environment as obviously troubled as one of the sporting codes when they can stay at home fully supervised? I know that is an extreme example but can anyone tell me that is not where we are heading?

The fact that things seem to be heading that way is an abomination and an affront to the 99% of sportsmen who work extremely hard to play the games that they love and who do not wantonly break the laws of this country. It is those players for whom I lament the state of the games they play because all of the good that they do is washed away by the conduct of a few. It is easy to forget that almost 250 players took the field in the NRL at the weekend and only 1 has been suspended indefinitely because of his conduct off the field at the end of said weekend.

So I leave this post with a challenge for readers: whilst we, as sport fans are lamenting another case of poor player conduct bringing one of the games we love into disrepute, do not forget the exemplary conduct of those many many players who do conduct themselves in a manner befitting their station in life. To forget such conduct means that sport in this country could find itself in serious trouble sooner rather than later!

The Nathan Lyon Conundrum: the second inning fallacy

I wrote earlier in the week about Nathan Lyon and the obscene haste with which Fawad Ahmed seems to have been pushed forward as his replacement. I received a large number of comments with respect to that post but a common refrain was that Lyon was not a performer under pressure in the second innings of matches. I found this to be an interesting argument and sought to look deeper at it.

Simply put: I consider the argument that Nathan Lyon is not a performer in the second innings of matches, when he is supposed to be winning games for Australia, is an absolute fallacy. What follows are my reasons for this view:

Venue

Nathan Lyon has played 22 test matches for Australia. Those test matches took place at the following venues for the following results:

Lyon #1

Considering the venues in question, it can only clearly be said that the Indian venues and possibly Sydney and Adelaide are what might be termed spinning wickets or even wickets on which a spinner would be expected to win a game for his team. Simply, Lyon has not played a plethora of games at “spinning venues” to date.

How much is Lyon actually bowling?

Obviously comparisons will be made between the various spinners in the game at the moment. Here are the statistics on current spin bowlers playing test matches for their respective countries presently and their records in the second innings. I have filtered this table to only include performances since the retirement of SK Warne:

Lyon #2

The results of this analysis are obvious: Nathan Lyon only bowls some 14.54 overs in the second innings of matches. This, when compared to his fellow spinners, is arguably consistent with significant underbowling. The best bowlers of this period have consistently, in the second innings of said matches bowled, on average, more than 10 overs an inning more than the Australian spin bowler. Simply: if he is not being given the overs to bowl how can he be expected to take wickets?

The 4th Innings: that is the real question

The problem with the blanket statement that Nathan Lyon is a non-performer in the 2nd innings of matches ignores that quite often a bowler will actually be bowling in the 3rd innings of the game rather than the 4th innings. If the question is one of performance under pressure by Nathan Lyon then surely the 4th innings of matches needs to be considered and, further the target that Lyon has had to bowl at. The following table is instructive:

Lyon #3

There are some compelling points that come from this table:

1. The last 3 tests Lyon has played have seen the opposition team, India, run down small targets. He has bowled a high proportion of overs in those innings in obvious losing causes. He can not be blamed for this.

2. If you exclude the last 3 tests in India, Australia’s record when bowling in the last innings of a test match to win it is simply outstanding with only one loss to the South Africans in Capetown the only blemish. It is compelling that in that game Lyon was only given 3 overs over 50.3 on a seaming wicket and that Australia was trounced by 8 wickets.

3. I concede that there are some games in this list that Australia has won where I would have expected Lyon to play a bigger role in the win. However, there are reasons for this: for example the game against Sri Lanka in Hobart was one dominated by fast bowlers and in which Lyon played a key roll in keeping one end tight whilst the fast bowlers where rotated.

4. The draw against South Africa in Adelaide is a game that sticks in the mind of many. I think people need to look again at this game though because Lyon is the only spin bowler in a game that took a wicket. Indeed the spinner from South Africa, Imran Tahir, had game comparable to that of Bryce McGain’s first test and has not been sighted since for the Proteas.

So where does this leave N Lyon?

The fact is that at venues where one would expect Nathan Lyon to lead the Australian bowling attack to victory, particularly in India, he has never been given enough runs to actually bowl at to do so. In games that Australia has won and he has bowled a large number of overs in the final innings of the game he has, to be frank, played a significant positive roll in those victories whilst not always being the match winner. That, of itself, is admirable given that he is bowling for captain who does not bowl him anywhere near as much as his contemporaries from other countries.

To suggest that Nathan Lyon is not a “pressure bowler” and does not bowl well in the final innings of games is not supported, in my view, by the objective evidence. Of course many people will have a subjective view and that is based on their own experiences watching him play. I simply ask those of you with that different view to take a look at the numbers above and reconsider!

I think Australian cricket has, continues to, do Nathan Lyon a disservice by the seemingly constant pressure being placed on his position. He can only bowl when he is asked to and within the construct of the match situation given to him by the other ten players on the field. To say that he has done anything other than his job and that he is anything other than a solid international spinner is just a fallacy.

Postscript: the tables created for this post have been done by me from score cards retained on the Cricinfo website. Any errors are my own and I apologise for the bad formatting!