Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Ricky Won't Lose That Number

Australia skipper, Ricky Ponting, has stepped down from national Twenty20 commitments, siting the need to maintain his freshness if he is to have longevity in the game. In particular, he has his sights set on a third Ashes tour as Captain. Clearly, he wants the record he shares with Billy Murdoch to be his alone. Without jest, he wants to still be there in 2013 and not a burnt out husk sitting in the corner of an endless dressing room with the number 14 fading on the back of a collection of sponsors logos, occasionally separated by yellow.

Likewise, the decision to maintain playing status in one day cricket, where a rotation of players including the captain, has been happening for some time.

It's a sensible step and one that all players must eventually do and it highlights the broader issue which has been floating about ever since one day games started making money for the Packers. Players can serve two or now three masters in the games of cricket but they can't do it forever. Two types of player recognise that fact - the player to whom reputation is everything and the player to whom money is everything.

There is too much cricket being played at an international level and too little attention being given to tending the grass roots. There are also too many varieties , with the addition of Twenty 20 cricket in the last few years - a development which shows us we are so lazy as punters that we can't even be bothered to play our own backyard cricket anymore but would rather watch the stars doing it in our stead.

The big game - Test cricket - has survived and been made stronger by the money from one day cricket, true and the players remain committed to it being the form they would rather play, even if Chris Gayle finds it "a chore". Changes in over rates and a desire for results which started from Australia under Mark Taylor and soon spread to South Africa and India, has infected the world to the point that even England prefer to win than draw. That attitude brings a level of unpredictability to Test cricket that had died and makes it far more interesting to the consumer. Fielding is better, bowling lines are tighter and shot making improved all as a result of 50 over cricket.

What will Twenty20 bring us?

Money from and entertainment for the feeble minded whose attention span mostly carries them through an SMS but not always, which is why they sit with mates. This is a puerile waste of a cricket ball but at least Mum's roses will now have a chance to grow and that patch on the back lawn might get a covering of grass. It is the greatest possible confidence boost we could gain in Ponting that he would choose to no longer play this hit and giggle farce and concentrate on real and unreal cricket.

It's time for more separation. Different squads - completely different - for one day and Twenty20 games, not because some blokes can't play all but because they shouldn't play all. Some of the skills may be similar but the approach and mindset are totally different. We are supposed to be a great cricket nation - forget the No 4 thing - so we should have more than enough resources.

But we won't.


Marketing. We create a brand in one form of the game and spectators want to see that brand in all forms.

It lacks brains or long term planning but when did the pursuit of the holy dollar ever have much of either. Remember, they are appealing to a short term market both in terms of how long the consumer will be in the market to watch Twenty20 and how long they concentrate when they are there. They want to make their puppets dance.

Ricky Ponting has cut the strings. I say, well done!


  1. Fantastic piece, Lango.

    I’m of the belief that the 20/20 national side should be entirely made up of non-test regulars – like Brad Hodge (he he). The reason CA would never do this though is that it would show they treat the format as a joke (like it deserves). I agree that Ponting has made a smart move but think this should extend to ODIs as well. You could almost draw a line under the ages of players and say ‘noone over 32 plays 20/20’ and ‘noone 34 or over plays 50 over cricket’. With the 50 over stuff, surely it’s not advisable to put the guys with niggles, already heavy workloads or getting toward the end of careers in there every bloody match. I realise this is fantasy as CA is focused on getting the best team up for the Champions Trophy but let’s keep things in perspective.

    While 20/20 is just a hit and hope exercise, I think there is some value in having a look at players through the 50 over format. I still maintain that reverse sweeps and dips over the keeper tell you little about how someone responds to sustained pressure in a test scenario but, as we’ve seen in Ferguson, you get some indication of the level-headedness of a guy. Get the young blokes – like Hughes! – give them a taste of the big time and leave most of the seasoned campaigners to battle out the tests. This is my dream which I realise is just that, but when we talk about player management it seems there are only 3 that it applies to mainly.

  2. Ditto with Lefty Lango,
    i dont fully agree with you guys on the completely different squads thing.
    I think expanded squads for t20 and odi, and expanded touring test squads- obviously.

    there will be blokes that in the peak of their careers want to play as much as their fitness/social life/ mental capacity will allow... and others that don't- particularly as they start to govern how they will round out their time in the game.

    for this reason i think a core (corp!)of guys will be the nucleus of most of the teams- not locked in and Gibraltar, just a backbone. Then, with more people secured by CA contracts a larger group can be rotated for form/fitness/function through the remainder of places.

    the big difference between game formats must be, (1)Test must have a further looking agenda for players careers- give experience to players, and have a bigger more stable core group.
    (2) Specialist focused more on the short form- obviously big hitters, and bowlers that are either Hiroshima out of the blocks or totally watertight like a constipated fish with the ball!

    In regard to Ponting and his stepping aside, it may be one of the best calls of his captaincy, and gives me the belief that at least his head is in the right place when it comes to cricket and the importance of test; or is it only about changing the ledger of his Blighty campaigns? I'm such a cynic!

  3. Agree on the "Ponting's best call" comment Stoph. It's the first time the man has exposed a knowledge that his is not invincible.

    Or ... maybe its a deal worked out to save his Test bacon by the CA spinners?

    Nah, let's go with the former.