Warne the saviour? Punter on the out? FIFA and snow.

It’s cold.

It’s so cold, that when you open the door to head outside, the chill slaps you so hard about the head that you want to run crying off to your mother – well not me because I’m hard – but for most people.  There is snow piled up every where, but at least it is not wet (yet)!  Not like Melbourne is now, or Adelaide has been since about 45 minutes after the Australians capitulated on Tuesday (yeah I am over my magnanimous position towards England from the other day – but they were still clearly the better team).  But anyway, as Billy Connolly famously said, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes – so as I trudged through the snow to work, wrapped up in an overcoat, a beenie and my AFL (technically it’s from the original VFL) scarf – go pies – I got to thinking about things. 

There was politics, there was those crazy student rampages across the UK, sorry student “protests”, the unbelievable FIFA decision recently about the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, obviously the cricket, and various other sports,  and whether it was possible to just follow and write about sport all the time rather than be trudging through the snow just thinking about it! 

Thus, instead of just commenting on the cricket today, I thought I would have a general rant about a number of things, however I’ll start with the cricket for the sake of consistency.

1/ Warnie, flights and the UK

As predicted (not that it was a particularly hard prediction to make, so I’m not patting myself on the back too much) in “One-nil to the Eng-GER-Land and other stuff” on Tuesday, the calls for Warne to return and save Australia have come thick and fast.  Articles on cricinfo, in all the leading Australian papers, most of the English papers, there is even a website dedicated to it – www.bringwarneback.com – the site invites people to donate to a fund that will be paid to Warne if he comes back and plays in a test match during this Ashes series.  Personally I think he would be more impressed if they offered him poker tournament buy-ins rather than pure cash, but nevertheless it is there.  There is some inconsistent and conflicting information out there about the man’s actual response, he has played it cool on his Twitter account, pretending to know nothing about it when he landed in London to do some promotion for his new talk show.

Umm, can I just interrupt this by asking what the hell?  So Warnie is contracted to channel 9 in AUSTRALIA to do 5 hour-long Parkinson-style talk shows, that is shown ONLY in AUSTRALIA (unless there has suddenly been an international syndication that I don’t know about, or channel 5 UK has bought it based solely on it being Australian to go along with Neighbours and Home & Away) … and to promote this show, he FLIES all the way to London to “do some interviews” (I’m thinking that he may soon be about to receive an Ethiad sponsorship given the amount he has been plugging them).  There are a couple of things wrong here.  Firstly, unless the show is being screened here, why is he promoting it in the UK.  Secondly, is it not possible for him to do the interviews from a studio in Australia, thus saving the unnecessary flights, jet-lag, costs etc.?  And finally, shouldn’t he be in Perth training for his imminent return to the team?  I’m not serious about that final one, I think there is some EPT event that he wants to play or something like that.

However, despite the man himself saying he knows nothing, there is plenty of talk in Australia to suggest that he is open to the idea of a come-back, but only if he is also made Australian captain.  Talk about a cat prowling amongst the pigeons!

Clearly Warne has one of the best tactical cricket brains in living memory, and he was probably unlucky never to “wear the armband” in tests during his career – untimely liaisons with News of the World paid prostitutes predominantly put an end to that dream.  Would he get more out of this side than Punter?  Would he be able to get in the minds of the English team?  Would he be able to consistently land it on a 5 cent piece?  Is he fit enough to play 5-day cricket?  Who knows, my gut says no, although it is all a waste of time thinking about it, as he will not play.

What Cricket Australia should do though, is to contract him in to spend some serious coaching time with Smith in particular (and other potential spinners) from the moment he gets back into Australia, leading up to the Melbourne and Sydney tests, where it might be beneficial for Australia to play two spinners.  Smith would also enable Australia to play 5 bowlers.  Cam White should also be included in these clinics – if he can get some confidence in his bowling again, surely he can add to his 4 test appearances!

2/ Punter

I have noticed a lot of talk about Punter being stripped of the captaincy should he be in charge of a third Ashes loss.  No Australian captain has ever lost the Ashes three times.  Most comments seem to automatically assume that Michael Clarke will be asked to take the reins should Australia again lose (which at the moment is looking the likely result – although don’t completely write them off just yet).  However, apparently Clarke does not want it if Punter is still playing, and Punter has no plans to retire.  This raises a number of issues for me. 

Is Andrew Hilditch going to send Punter a gold watch at the end of this series and just stop selecting him?  Although, clearly not in top form so far this series (could this have anything to do with preparation?), Ponting is still the best talent in the line up, so this world be a massive call.  I remember when Alan Border was told enough was enough after the 1994 tour to South Africa, that didn’t feel right to me at the time (I was young and idolised the bloke), but right now, I don’t think I would be comfortable with Hilditch kicking Ponting out of the game either.  Others would obviously disagree with me on that though – and I am happy to debate.

The other, possibly more important, point is whether Clarke is an automatic choice as the next skipper.  Clearly he is the selectors’ favourite.  There can be no other explanation as to why he is still in charge of, let alone still being selected for, the Australian T20 side.  Clarke is an energetic and positive guy on the field, and usually (when his back is alright) an excellent fieldsman, but what of his tactics.  It it very easy to criticise Ponting for the way the bowlers have let England score 6/1137 over their past two innings, and for letting a fantastic chance to take the first test in India recently turn into a defeat, but would Clarke do any better?  On a recent trip back to the great Melbourne Cricket Ground, I was unfortunate enough to sit through the first Australia v Sri Lanka ODI.  I have never been more frustrated with the field positions, bowling changes or general rubbish that I saw from Clarke that day.  Most skippers in North D2 in the VTCA competition have more of a clue.  To me, and the sensationally knowledgeably bloke I was sitting next to, it seemed that Clarke really did not have a clue.  It might be a bit harsh to “judge” him on that one outing – but I haven’t seen or read anything to contradict this feeling from anyone else.

So, if Clarke is not the man to take us forward (again this is probably not really worth talking about, because the selectors have made their position pretty clear), who is?  In the current side, Katich is a very good Shield captain – but his career is essentially finished after the achilles injury – plus he is 35, and probably would have finished up in Sydney anyway.  Hussey is also 35, so that’s a no.   North shouldn’t even be in the side, Haddin is no Gilchrest and the bowlers are an interchangeable mess.  That leaves Watson – hell would freeze over first (and I would be one of many people immigrating)!  Thus, in the current side there is no identifiable replacement.  My preference is for Cam White, but that’s not going to happen, so I guess that means Australia is going to have to put up with Clarke, and even worse tactics than they currently have.   It could be a very long time until they start to climb back up the rankings.

3/ FIFA

What the hell?  Clearly related to money, bribes, oil and possibly the English media – Russia and Qatar have been awarded the 2018/2022 World Cups.  Is there really anything else to say?

Interestingly, the two bids rated the worst by the FIFA forward teams won.  The Russian PM didn’t even bother to go to Zürich to pitch, the day before, in possibly a veiled threat, he stated that the FIFA officials were so corrupt, and the decision had already been made, so there was no point.  Make of that what you will.

I’ve got nothing to say about Qatar – but this is an interesting comment (thanks to my pal in Manchester for pointing it out) – www.news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/9271449.stm  

Oh, it was fantastic to see KP do a KP on the Great Ocean Road!

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