Countdown to the Ashes: is IPL the best preparation for the Australian team?

Today marks 98 days until the 1st Ashes test starts. In those next 98 days the two combatants for the Urn will be undertaking various preparatory steps with an eye on victory in the most time honoured contest in cricket.

Also during that 98 day span the annual hit and giggle, sorry T20, tournament that is the Indian Premier League will also be fought out on the sub-continent. The English and Australian teams are contributing the following players who might play in a roll in the Ashes campaign to the IPL this season:


Ben Hilfenhaus (Chennai Super Kings)
David Warner (Delhi Daredevils)
Ryan Harris (Kings XI Punjab)
Shaun Marsh (Kings XI Punjab)
Brad Haddin (Kolkata Knight Riders)
James Pattinson (Kolkata Knight Riders)
Glenn Maxwell (Mumbai Indians)
Mitchell Johnson (Mumbai Indians)
Phil Hughes (Mumbai Indians)
Michael Clarke (Pune Warriors)
Steve Smith (Pune Warriors)
Moises Henriques (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
James Faulkner (Rajasthan Royals)
Shane Watson (Rajasthan Royals)


Kevin Pietersen (Delhi Daredevils)
Eoin Morgan (Kolkata Knight Riders)

Three problems immediately come to mind when looking at the impact of the IPL on the preparations of players for the Ashes:

1. The English are not effected indeed they are probably enhanced: Simply put the English team are not effected by the imposition of the IPL on its team because of the few players they have playing in the competition. The remainder of their players will be playing in the County Championship in England and, by my count, will have the opportunity to play in no less than 15 County Championship matches as well as a three test series against New Zealand before taking to the field on June 10 at Trent Bridge.

2. Is playing T20 cricket good preparation for a test series? The IPL runs from 3 April until 26 May. Those Australian players who are committed to IPL franchises, and it is conceded there is a whole squad of them, will be in India for the whole of that time and then will travel to England (those who are selected) to play in the ICC Champions Trophy from 8 June until the final (if Australia makes it) on 23 June. The next first class or red ball game of cricket the players playing in the IPL will actually play will commence on 26 June against Somerset at Taunton. There is one first class game after that against Worcestershire at Worcester in the week following before the first test.

If the recent results in India taught Australian cricket nothing else it is the importance of the need for a solid preparation before a series. It is incomprehensible that the Australian team could be getting anything like that given the forgoing schedule. For a start the players participating in the IPL will be expected to move from Indian conditions to those of England with very limited lead time to prepare. Further, a season of hit and giggle will not prepare anyone for the seaming decks one can surmise will be produced in England. Defence with the bat will be at a premium in England and the Australian players are preparing with a competition that is focused on scoring rate not occupation of the crease.

3. Sitting on the bench in India is not good preparation either: One of the real problems that I foresee for the Australians playing in India is not that they will be playing too much cricket but too little. The IPL is replete with stories of players who are international stars or, at the very least, developing stars getting large IPL contracts and then spending the seven weeks of the tournament mixing the cordials and sitting on the pine. I see that as a real risk for players like Steve Smith, James Faulkner, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ryan Harris and James Pattinson. Rolling the arm over in the nets in India once every couple of days for seven weeks is not the kind of intense physical training one would expect these players to need in advance of the Ashes.

I concede that I am traditionalist and I am not a fan of T20 cricket. I also concede that no matter what fans like me think domestic T20 cricket is here to stay. Frankly, I do not begrudge anyone wishing the supplement their income from playing in tournaments such as this. Equally, I want to see Australia win the Ashes back in England, preferably on or about 5 August at Old Trafford (end of the third test) but I fear that, on top of the type of squad the Australian selectors are likely to name (see my blog on that topic here: ), the preparation that the Australians are going through in advance of the series is giving the English an extra advantage that they do not really need.

For the love of golf: the lament of a hacker

I love playing golf.  Scratch that: I love everything about golf. Getting up early in the morning, walking for many a mile, searching for the ball, putting: all things that often send golfers mental I still love and I really can not explain why.  I was never a golfer as a kid: cricket was more my thing and my Dad has only really come to the game through me.  My first experience of the game came when a mate of mine from school (Neil Leigh: 5ft 5in and built like a brick outhouse) and I started to load the clubs into his old Cortina and head to Karana Downs Golf Club on every other day of school holidays in our final year of school.  It was a great deal they had back then: $10 to play all day with a pie and a drink.

Right from those earliest games, when I was woeful, I was drawn to the game.  Back then (some would say what has changed) I hit a high fade, could not putt, could not chip and was easily frustrated.  Actually, I confess not much as changed but for the fact I rarely hi,t a high fade anymore.  

So what was it back then that hooked me?  I had pause to consider this and my ongoing love affair with the game as I rushed to try and get 9 holes in yesterday afternoon in the fast descending bad weather at Coolum.  Any sane person, having just sat through 8 hours of a work conference would have just wanted to get into his car and go home.  Instead here I was hunched down in my car trying to change into my golf clobber and rushing to get on the course.  

Back to the key question: what hooked me? There are a few options that I often hear when discussing this topic:

  • A round of golf is 4 to 5 hours out in the great outdoors that I would probably otherwise spend indoors watching sport, indeed watching golf.  This answer does not wash for me.  Regular readers of my twitter feed will know how much I love a few hours spent on my couch watching sport so this answer is not the answer. 
  • It is an opportunity to catch up with your mates and have a chat for an extended period.  No, that is not it.  If I wanted to catch up with my mates I would call them or I would catch up with them at the pub.  
  • It is a sport that former sportsmen can play.  If I was given the option and the body would allow me to I would still be playing cricket but I would still be playing golf anyway.  In theory I get this one but in practice I don’t think it washes: plenty of blokes I play golf with have never really played sport.

So, those theories dispelled, I think I have the answer.  Right from my first round of golf there was always that one shot or that one hole, in amongst a score card then littered with scores of 7, 8 and sometimes more, that I hit (or in the case of a hole, that I played) perfectly.  The ball, just for that hole, avoids the water, whizzes off the club and all of a sudden the putt is easy to read and you nail it.  That is the shot or the hole that you talk about with your mates at the 19th hole and it is the hole that you remember the next time you are packing your golf bag for the next round. 

17 years have past since my first round of golf and whilst my score cards are now less littered with triple and quadruple bogeys and a score in the triple figures is a real rarity, I still have rounds where I need that perfect shot or hole to keep me coming back.  One such round was yesterday at Coolum.  After no warm up and the rush to get on I was just woeful.  So woeful that for the first time in a long time I had a 10 on my card after the first hole (lots of water around Coolum I have found).  On my second hold (par 3 11th) I judged that I could hit a soft 8 iron the 129 metres to the front of the green where the hole had been positioned by the greens staff.  In a moment straight out of the movie “Tin Cup” my first shot was as pure an 8 iron I can hit, BUT it was just a little to the right and I put it in the water.  Normally I would have taken a drop but I was incredulous: 8 iron was the right club so I reloaded … three times.  I hit four of the best 8 irons I have hit but my radar was off by a metre at most and each one hit the water.  Needless to say at this point I took the advice of my playing partner and took another double figure score.  

What happened next is what keeps me coming back to the golf course.  After a short walk to the tee of the long par 5 12th amid much swearing from me and good natured ribbing from my playing partner, I stood over the ball with my favourite club (9 degree stiff shafted Callaway Razor driver for the golf junkies) and just swung the club as hard as I could. And that was the moment: the swing was a great swing, the impact of the club on the ball gave off only a minimal “ting” and I knew that the only place it was going was about 260 metres down the middle of the fairway.  Which is where it was heading when I looked up.  From the depths of despair, or better put the watery depths of the par 3 11th, I was on top of the world again having just hit a drive about as well as I can hit it.  

That is what keeps every hacker coming back to the golf course in my view: that one shot or hole in the previous round.  

Of course there is the other side of that perfect shot or perfect hole that truly is the hacker’s lament that I refer to in the title.  It is the moment immediately after the perfect shot or the perfect hole where the hacker says to either himself or everyone around him (quote censored for obvious reasons): “why can’t I do that every time?”.

Which all gets me back to my love of the game: I am never going to be a good player of golf.  Bad knee, bad hip and bad shoulder plus a lack of desire at the age of 34 to pay a coach to tell me everything I do wrong have put paid to notions of my game being anything other than hackery for the rest of my life.  I love the game (having established what hooked me and why I come back every time) because, no matter how badly you play, there is always another round to play, on a new course or an old favourite, which could be that round where it all comes together you repeat that perfect hole for the full 18.  

It may be your next round or it may be your last round, but the hacker will keep coming back with the hope that today is the day all thanks to the mindset that manifests with the hackers lament.

All that being said: anyone for a round this weekend? 



A drive to Coolum and reflections on my hero: gone but not forgotten

I strongly believe that the term “hero” is one that is inappropriately and often overused in today’s society.  Let me be clear: I believe that service men and woman serving in foreign lands are heroes.  I believe that police, ambulance and fire officers who put their lives on the line daily to protect us are heroes.  I believe that a sportsman who had done something particular impressive or the latest singing “sensation” from a reality TV show are not heroes.

You will forgive me then for writing about my hero.  He was not a service man, he was a miner. He was not a sportsman but he did play bowls.  He was however my grandfather and his name was Alan Humphreys.

Now many of you are probably wondering why I am writing about Alan (I confess I never called him by his christian name to his face but I am sure he would not mind me doing it now).  You see, today on my way to Coolum I drove past the Bribie Island turn off.  Every time I drive past it I am always hit by competing emotions to, on the one hand, turn in and, on the other hand, to flee. This is because, of course, that is where Alan lived with my grandmother Elaine until the day he died some 16 years ago.

Driving past that turnoff always brings to the forefront of my mind some of the happiest memories of my childhood:

  • Sitting in Alan’s boat in the middle of Pumistone Passage fishing for whiting for hours and listening to him talk;
  • Waiting for him to come home from bowls to regale Nan and I will stories of matches won and lost;
  • Our nightly battles to see who would answer more questions correctly on Sale of Century;
  • Late night Uno battles in the caravan; and
  • The sound of his voice catching ever so slightly as I told him that I had been accepted into university.

I worshipped the ground he walked on: plain and simple.  Now I pause here to say that I am not in anyway seeking to diminish the role that my father, John, played and continues to play in my life.  He is my best mate and my closest confidant. 

That said, Alan was and still is my hero and I have never gotten over his death.  It is for that reason I have such mixed emotions every time I get to the Bribie Island exit.  I have, at best, returned to the Island no more than 10 times in the last 16 years and that is despite my grandmother continuing to live there after Alan’s death until her pass nearly two years ago.  I have not visited where his ashes are: I can’t.  I can not face fishing (aside from the odd deep sea charter) and everywhere on the island reminds me of times we spent together.

The problem with having a hero that is so close to you is that you want to everything within your power to make him (or her) proud.  If I look deep into myself I have always been scared that I was not making Alan proud.   I hope that I have. I have tried, during this period of rebuilding and reflection in my life, to do what I think he would have advised which is to be true to myself and to live in accordance with a set of values that I am proud of.

That is the very essence of a hero to me: someone who has such a profound impact on ones life that even when they are gone they continue to have a positive impact on your life. Alan, and the way he lived and the lesson’s he taught me, continue to form a significant part of the way I live my life today.

So, at the end of this most personal of blogs (I promise that future writings will not all be so personal), all I want to finish with is what I was say to granddad if I had the chance to talk to him now:

“I hope I have made you proud mate”


Shumpty on tour: the trip review

Today dawns as the final day of my 12 day trip to the South Island of New Zealand which leaves me to reflect on this trip and to consider the good, the bad and the ugly from being on tour:

The Good

New Zealand in general

I just love this place so it is easy for me to say that as a travel experience New Zealand ticks all of the right boxes. Specifics to follow.

The food

As establish in earlier blogs, I love food but am no gourmet. That said the food I have experienced on this trip has been nothing short of excellent. From “the best meal of my life” at Saffron through to the simplest cheese toastie at the cafes of small towns like Milton and Roxborough, everything put in front of me on plate has been eaten with relish and joy.

The drives

I had never really considered New Zealand as a place to come for a driving holiday but two particular drives left me breathless and my palms more than a bit sweaty: Invercargill to Queenstown by the Southern Scenic Route and Queenstown to Wanaka over the Crown Range. The former gets the nod because of the sheer beauty of the scenery that invades your senses as you drive first through lush farming country and then along side Lake Wakapitu. The later is a windy, curving drive over the range which had me holding my breath in the mighty Yaris on more than one occasion.

The people

Aussies and Kiwis have had and will always have a love hate relationship. That point acknowledged, and this is something that also came through on my last trip to these shores, every person I met on the trip was always keen for chat, willing to help and always had a smile on their face. It is the people of New Zealand that will get me coming back again.

The bad

Camper van drivers

As regular readers will be aware a lot of time on this trip has been spent on the road. Which has meant a large amount of time has been spent behind Camper vans. Now I appreciate that the roads are narrow in points and a camper van is a heavy piece of machinery to drive but it must be said that the most worrisome moments I had whilst running the Yaris around NZ were when I encountered camper vans. Education program’s for their drivers are a must me thinks.

The ugly


The only really negative of my whole experience in New Zealand was seeing the plethora of hitchhikers waiting desperately for lifts on the side of the road. No doubt a large part of tourism in NZ is back packer based however it struck me that such a large number of young people begging for rides, particularly young ladies, is just a recipe for danger. Forgive me for getting on the pulpit on this it it was just something that bothered me every time I saw it and I was seeing it every day.

All in all though I have had one of the best holidays I have had on this trip. A measure of how good any holiday one has, I think, is how you feel on your last day of said holiday. I feel refreshed, relaxed and ready for home: which indicates for me that this has been a pretty good trip.

Thank you all for reading. I hope you have enjoyed this blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it.