The world cup squad


There’ve been a couple of tight, competitive ODI’s with India since the test series ended. Australia won the first, India the second, and the decider is tomorrow in Melbourne.
With the World Cup in England later this year everything is geared towards this – not just finding form, but putting together a team for the comp. That’s especially true of Australia, whose ODI form has been generally hopeless lately, and who will have Warner and Smith available again come tournament start.

That was the background when this ODI squad was announced, and there were a few surprises. For a start, none of the frontline test bowlers were picked. The reasoning behind that was to rest them, and fair enough, and also to blood some alternatives to see how they measure up. Then, some of the notable limited over batsmen were left out of the squad – Lynn, Short and McDermott particularly. Handscomb was a surprise inclusion, and Khawaja finally got another go.

In both matches we’ve batted first. In the Sydney game I thought we lacked urgency with the bat but posted a respectable score. In the second match we were heading towards a ver good score until a late order collapse left us probably 25 runs shy of what was likely.

I was sure India would easily surmount our score in Sydney, but some excellent bowling had them 3-4 at one point, and they never fully recovered. In the second match excellent partnerships and a century by Kohli saw them get up in the last over.

I’ve always got an opinion about cricket, and my first impressions were that we were too conservative. I was disappointed that Maxwell was coming in so late, but I was pleased with our application. On reflection my opinion is unchanged, but my perspective is. I understand that we are trying to build a template, a platform going forward. Get the architecture right and once it’s in place we can push it more, particularly with the players returning.

By my reckoning, with Warner returning and Finch back in form (I have doubts about his long term tenure, however) I reckon there’s an extra 15-20 runs in the initial powerplay to be had. I reckon there’s another 20 runs through the middle overs, and another 20-30 in the last 10 overs. That makes for an imposing total – assuming, of course, we keep our wickets. No-one said it would be easy, but limited overs cricket is inherently full of risk. It’s the game.

There’s still a match to go, but in my mind at least a shape is forming.

Warner and Smith are walk-up starts, probably for Khawaja and Handscomb in the first XI. We should adopt a floating batting order which changes depending on the situation of the game. In this series Maxwell has come in too late, regardless of what Langer says. He’s one of the best ODI players in the world, let’s capitalise. Stoinis can be a bruising batsman also, but he needs time to get in. In both cases I think they should’ve been batting ahead of Handscomb. In the WC teamI see Carey dropping back to the middle-order (from opening), which I think is a bonus. He’s a very capable and clever batsman and I see him – particularly in run chases – as being a critical cool head in the later overs, much like Michael Bevan was. In fact I see Carey as a future Australian captain.

Bowling is more interesting. I think we’ve lacked the variety previously, but now have the options. Richardson and Behrendorf have been impressive, and should be in the squad – not so sure about Siddle. Starc, who I’ve been critical of through the test matches, is possibly the best ODI bowler in the world. He’s the x-factor who can devastate opposition batting line-ups. I’d partner him with Cummins, who is just a winner, with the heart of Phar Lap. Both are pretty handy with the bat, too. Hazlewood is the one who misses out – he has his moments, but he’s neither really one thing or another. Stanlake is the other unknown.

For me the spinning option is clear-cut. Lyon has played the first couple of games and fair enough. He’s one of the best test spinners in the world, why not give him another go? The problem is he never really looks like getting a wicket, and doesn’t. He’s tidy, but unthreatening. And he’s an offie. Maxwell bowls clever off-spin, and leggies are all the go in limited overs cricket these days – and Zampa has the score on the board. Lyon out, Zampa in.

I’d be adding Darcy Short and Ben McDermott to the squad also. Both are explosive batsmen, and I think Short, particularly, will replace Finch some time in the near future. Lynn probably misses out because of his dodgy shoulders, which means he can’t dive and barely throw and isn’t up to it in the field.

The other thing I want to see is more urgency. Have been impressed with the attitude so far, no I want some of that fear factor back. Everyone has written us off, but I have confidence still, if only because we’ve done it so many times before.

Today, I expect Zampa to come in for Lyon and Stanlake to come in for either Behrendorf or Siddle.

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Spinning the treadmill


I spent an extra hour in bed this morning reading. This came after a night when I slept for nearly 9 hours. I eventually got into work a little after nine, an hour later than normal. I still feel weary, but better than this time yesterday.
I did some figuring last night. I reckon since Christmas day I’ve worked every day bar maybe a couple – that includes public holidays as well as weekends, and the days of annual leave I took off. On those days it may only be a couple of hours’ worth spread over the course of a day, but then you factor in that pretty well every night for the last couple of weeks I get home and do more work to align myself with the folk in India. Last night it came to a head.

Yesterday the piece of work I’d scheduled to spend a good 5-6 weeks on reviewing, discussing, editing, and reviewing again, was crammed into an afternoon because it was announced it had to be submitted by that night.

I was quietly seething. My plans had been disrupted because all this time I’ve been waiting to get the information I needed, originally due on November 30. I got them yesterday morning, followed by the conversation that it all had to be submitted that night, meaning all the careful review and editing and discussion was impossible. Instead there was a helter-skelter afternoon quickly going through the document.
Last night I got home and I was bone tired. It was like I’d been wrung out. All I wanted to was collapse and stop thinking. But then I knew I had work to do. There was stuff with India to sort out, but before that I had to finish the last section before sending it on to my manager. I spent an hour on that, another ninety minutes with India, then in bed by 10, much earlier than normal.
Today, I discover, it didn’t need to be submitted last night after all, and hasn’t been.

I’m pretty ticked off. I set myself high standards, and though I may grizzle commit completely to the work I do. This shambles means that I’m putting my name to something I know is much less than it could be – because others didn’t show equal commitment. Despite all this I’ve raced around and taken it home to work on to ensure it’s as good as it can be – only to be advised I didn’t need to do that.

This place takes a lot for granted.

I don’t mind putting in the hard work. When you’ve got a level of responsibility it goes with the territory. There’s two problems with that, however. For a start I’m on not nearly the salary that would justify putting in so much of my own time and effort – except I’m a committed individual and so I do. The other problem is that they exploit that commitment. They know I’ll bend over backwards, and think no more of it. That’s just not right.

I’ve asked for support, particularly with the chatbot project, so I can take a step back occasionally. They just shrug their shoulders and do nothing – never mind that if I get hit by a bus tomorrow they’ll be in desperate trouble. And so, without anyone else to help or with the required knowledge it’s left to me on my days off, my nights after work, to manage and coordinate with the vendors in India to make sure everything runs smoothly.

All this has worn me down. I’ve been sleeping erratically since Christmas. I’m normally a solid 7.5 hours a night. Through this period I’ve varied between 6.5 and 9 hours nightly, like a compass lost its bearing. No matter how long I sleep it’s of poor quality, up to last night. None of that is helped by the hot weather we’ve been experiencing.

I’m feeling disillusioned. I know not to trust these place, but I feel totally used. They don’t deserve this effort from me.

I have to get out of this job, if not somewhere else altogether, then some other part of the business. I’m talking to someone later in the week about a potential role – the vendor, as it happens. And there may be a role upstairs otherwise. I’ve had it with the people here, though.

The smarter state


I remember the last state election I was staying in Rosebud. I voted there and in the evening my entertainment was watching the election broadcast. By coincidence I was once more in Rosebud over the weekend when the latest election took place.

I was busy out and about through the day but caught up with latest reports and results as they filtered in as I sat down for dinner. Very early on it was a clear that Labor where going to bolt it in. As it turned out that was spot on. The Libs in Victoria have been decimated and Daniel Andrews and his government given a ringing endorsement. It’s well deserved.

I’m a big fan of Daniel Andrews. I was a sceptic when he took on the role of Labor leader but I’m a convert. As premier he’s done what few of his predecessors have managed to do. He’s set out an agenda and delivered on it. It’s been a bold, innovative agenda too – removing level crossings, starting on the much mooted but forever delayed metro tunnel, he’s brought in assisted dying legislation, the safe injection room in Richmond, has championed safe schools and initiated a ground-breaking inquiry into domestic violence – among many other things.

Andrews has made things happen and my admiration on that front is shared by many Victorians. That’s a big reason he got so many votes on Saturday: he does what he says he will do, and he does a lot.

That’s not the only reason he go re-elected. The Libs, both federally and at state level played into his hands.

The rank dysfunction federally, the policy confusion, the stupid booting of Turnbull, along with an embarrassingly buffoonish PM don’t go down well in Victoria.

At state level Matthew Guy is a uncharismatic, slightly shifty character it’s hard to warm too. He might have had a chance, however, but for the ridiculous policy direction and campaigning.

Their slogan for the campaign was ‘Getting back in control’. I guess they’re trying to make a point, but fact is most Victorians would have laughed at the idea that things weren’t in control. The corollary of this slogan was law and order.

Law and order is a classic election theme, especially for the conservative side of politics. The problem in this case is that the scare tactics so much in play over the last twenty years have worn thin. It’s taken a while, but people are beginning to see them for what they are – hysterical attempts to inflame outrage and fear. Most of us have become cynical, if not disgusted, by the hyperbolic attempts to politicise what are matters of humanity.

It might work in Queensland, but there’s no chance in Victoria. Victoria is the most progressive state in the land. Victorians are not prone to knee-jerk reactions and will make their own judgement. Much has been made of this post-election, but I think it’s true. The Liberal tradition here has always been small ‘l’. We are liberal by inclination. With the Liberal party swinging to the unpalatable right a successful Labor party becomes a much more attractive option. Add to that a pretty handy protest vote directed at Canberra there’s no surprise it was a Labor landslide.

What is surprising is how the Libs have been ignorant of this. None of this comes as a surprise to the man on the street. I’ll tell you what’s important – climate change matters and we should be doing more about it, rather than playing politics. Education and transport matters. We’re tired of the demonization of asylum seekers and pity the children marooned offshore, and we’re cynical of the dog whistling regarding Muslims and ethnic groups – the likes of Dutton and Abbott have been disastrous in Victoria.

I expect the Victorian result will be largely replicated come the federal election next year. The Libs show no ability to learn and Morrison is a fool of the highest order. And I expect the lunatic right wing fringe will continue to hold the party to ransom. Reality is they’re too damn stupid to deserve power. I thought Abbott was a shocker, but Morrison comes a close second.

Old Melbourne


It’s easy to develop a fat arse when you work at a desk and so most lunch breaks I’ll go for a walk. I’ll head out in any direction with some destination in mind. It could be the Vic Market or the Aldi, it might be a book shop or department store or a little boutique. I’ll aim to walk for 30-40 minutes at least, rain, hail or shine.
Yesterday I set out for the Hill of Content book shop at the top end of Bourke Street. I’ve been going there since I was a kid, and recall – I think – actually visiting with my bibliophile grandfather. It’s a beautiful store with the just the right ambience for fine literature to nestle in. These days I browse the shelves without buying anything much, such was the case yesterday, but I had no intention of buying. I went for the walk and to survey books I might want to buy one day.

After the Hill of Content I walked the short distance to the Paperback Bookshop, which likewise has been there forever. It’s very different from the Hill. It’s small and inelegant but crammed full of nourishing books. I reckon I’ve been visiting it for 30 years and probably bought 30-40 books from there in that time. As much as anything else it was good to be back in such a familiar and warm environment. Once more I bought nothing.

Between the two book shops is Pellegrini’s, another Melbourne institution. Pellegrini’s has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. It was a couple of weeks ago when the alleged terrorist threatened with knife in hand, injuring some, and killing one – the co-owner of Pellegrini’s, Sisto Malaspina.

You’d have to have been living under a rock not to have heard of this. The outpouring of grief at the death of an iconic Melburnian has been immense. Everyone had a Sisto story, including me, such was his influence on the café society in this town.

Yesterday Pellegrini’s was shut. Not far away a state funeral was in progress for Sisto. Still, there was a small crowd outside the restaurant, loitering there and peering in the window and taking pics with their phone. There’s a strange, ghoulish aspect to many people that I can’t come at. I admit I looked twice at Pellegrini’s as I walked by but I wouldn’t dream of stopping. That’s just a bit too shabby for me, and somehow disrespectful.

Why it’s always good when Collingwood loses


There was a lot of talk last week before the grand final about who neutral supporters should follow in the contest between the Melbourne team, Collingwood, and the team from interstate, the West Coast Eagles. A few naïve souls, as well as many hopeful Collingwood supporters, proclaimed that as Victorians we should set aside our tribal hostilities and barrack for the local team. Fat chance that. Those tribal hostilities trump any regional loyalties, slim as they are, and it’s odd to me that anyone might think different.
We love our football teams, we identify with the history, the guernsey, the colours, and the players. Over time rivalries blossom as our team takes on others, and tribes clash. A great part of the joy of following a team is in getting the better of bitter rivalries. We take great joy from our team’s success, but we also celebrate the failures of our rivals. It happens everywhere, in every sport and in every land. It’s human nature.

That’s not an issue for the inoffensive teams in the comp. That’s why most of Victoria plumped for Footscray a couple of years ago. Perennial losers, no-one was about to get their nose out of joint if they won for a change. And certainly, in that case, we would support the local team over the interstate.

That was never a chance this year. Every right thinking Victorian hates Collingwood – the wrong think Victorian’s barrack for them. The thought that Collingwood – a team I don’t mind – could very well win gave me goosebumps. But I note that Fremantle captain when asked who he wanted to win said “anyone but the Eagles.” See, it cuts both ways.

In fact in the lead-up to the game I postulated my ideal outcome: Collingwood lose to a kick after the siren from a dodgy free kick. And, you know what, that’s just about what happened.

It was a great game. Probably the best grand final since 1989. The maggies got out of the blocks quick, as they have all finals series. They led by up to 28 points in the first quarter, before the Eagles got the last two, very important goals. From their on in they gradually ground Collingwood down. They hit the lead briefly in the third quarter and scores were level at the break. Collingwood jumped quick in the last again, kicking two goals in a minute. The Eagles pegged one back before Collingwood got another – all in the first five minutes. From there on in though the Eagles took a stranglehold.

Had they kicked the goals they should the Eagles should have taken the lead with ten minutes to go. As it turned out the game was much the better for their inaccuracy. A extraordinary passage of play with about ninety seconds to go led to a mark taken by Sheed on the boundary. It was a low percentage spot to kick a goal from. Maybe one in twenty would be kicked normally. On this occasion Sheed’s kick was dead straight and the Eagles took an unlikely lead. They were never threatened after that, and so went the premiership.

It was a just result. The Eagles were clearly the better team on the day. They were jumped early, but controlled the game thereafter.

The contention regarding the goal was regarding an alleged block that allowed Sheed to take the mark. I thought the umpiring was excellent throughout the game (not something I’ll say often). They let things go, which always makes for a better game. It was a borderline free in my view. Given that there’s about a 50/50 split in opinion I think it’s fair it was let go. In the wash-up the Eagles were disadvantaged by the free kick count, but it’s gratifying to hear the Collingwood fans squeal, and to see fat Eddie (a great reason to dislike the pies) go red in the face.