Taking note of cricket's future dilemma
Sri Lanka's four day loss to New Zealand at the Basin Reserve has opened Pandora's Box in cricket once again. Airing their concerns about the relentless dominance of Australian cricket, have been former Australian fast bowler Rodney Hogg, the much venerated former Australian skipper Steve Waugh and the world's highest wicket taker Shane Warne.

In an article published in the Daily Telegraph, John Pierik writes: "New Zealand's innings and 38-run win over a Sri Lanka side -- albeit minus master spinner Muttiah Muralitharan -- at the Basin Reserve in Wellington completing a 1-0 series victory, has prompted more concerns".

"Only last month Australia completed a six-week spanking of the Black caps in their Test and one-day series". Adding to this Rodney Hogg says: "Test cricket is not a sport at the moment. I don't want to see Test matches over in three days. I don't want to see blokes averaging 75 with the bat all the time. I want to see Australia win but I want to see competition too".

The article goes on " Australia's sustained dominance has sparked concern about the welfare of the game, at least in the short to medium term. From May 1995 the Australians have won 55 of their 76 tests while adding an extra 40 days holiday after romping to early victories. Australia's dominance will probably end once Warne and McGrath retire. Still whether serial disgraces of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh will ever improve is not so certain".

Shane Warne is of the view that the Test strata should be changed to two tiers. He said: "Too many people are getting cheap wickets and cheap runs. I think a two division is something that should be thrown up and talked about. Otherwise I think it devalues the brand".

The ever consistent Steve Waugh was of a different view. He said: " There is not a lot of value in it when you have eight or nine teams". And he put it down to the dearth of talent at present in the rest of the world. "There's some great batsmen around the world, but at the moment bowling is thin. When I started in the mid-80's the bowling depth was very strong and each team had at least two or three strike bowlers. But with the exception of Australia and England to some extent it's very thin".

At the same time one has to ponder whether this is the real yard-stick that they are using? During the post 1999 period Australia won one series in Sri Lanka after Sri Lanka had committed hara-kiri by appointing the wrong captain and converted a series that they could have won into a 3-0 loss. In the preceding series they lost 1-0. Even in India Australia were lucky to win their last series after the weather gods were unkind to the home team when India had Aussies with their backs to the wall in the rain affected second Test match.

There is no question that at present Australia has a near perfect cricket machine. At the same time, no country has ever been unconquerable whilst playing away. Even Australia who have won 68 percent of their home matches goes lower when it comes to away matches at 55.22%. Sri Lanka on their part has only a 22.91% success rate whilst playing out, but when playing at home they have improved it up to 56.66%. This means, playing at home has its own advantages to any side.

To get a local epilogue to this cricketing tangle Sunday Musings, sought the assistance of former Sri Lanka leg spinner and a member of the elite umpires unit Asoka de Silva. The former leg spinner attributed this factor to the innovativeness and the boldness of the Australians in experimenting with youth. He said "Australia has got into a winning trend. However at the same time they are still experimenting with their team. For instance, when they discovered the talent of Michael Clarke they offered the opportunity which Michael Clarke knowing that he was playing along with ten of the best cricketers in the world had very little pressure on him and played to his true potential.

Even with the English team I think Rod Marsh has done wonders. Now with the advent of the likes of Steve Harmison, Flintoff, Strauss and a few others they not only have brought in flexibility to the side but they have also brought down the average age from over 30 to under 28. They have not been afraid to infuse youth to the side. A blend of youth and experience always gives a side a lot of confidence and resilience.

As for Sri Lanka we have been afraid to experiment. For instance, Thilan Samaraweera could not find a permanent slot in the side even after he had scored a couple of centuries. Other than Mahroof who are the other young cricketers who have come in? Are we not keeping a lot of guys in the periphery when they really have to be in the side?

Another factor is that unlike Australia, England and New Zealand, we here in the sub continent play the game the year round. But, still our fixtures keep on changing. For instance the proposed Indian tour came up all of a sudden. But, for countries like Australia and England they have a clear cut fixture calendar.

The other anomaly that I like to point out is that while the West Indies, South Africa, England and Australia play five Test series, the most we get is a three test, two Test or a one-off tour. We have not even played a four Test series so far. This also attributes to a team's good performance".

At the time of writing this piece Sunday Musings read about a warning given by former BCCSL secretary Neil Perera about the timing of the tour to New Zealand. He lamented that New Zealand was coming in for their winter which is bitterly cold and our cricketers may not be able to cope with chilly conditions whilst out on the field. We wonder if there was any truth in what he said.


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