Opinion: XI lessons from 2013

Blog Opinion

Peter Miller knows it wasn't always South Africa that choked, protocol is important, Ireland are the best of the rest, a dozen weeks is a long time in cricket and more.

<b>1. The Warnifesto Was The Answer</b><br>At the beginning of the year Shane Warne told us that he was going to produce a manifesto for change in Australian cricket. Then he actually did it. While most of it was a relentless attack on grammar and logic, followed by him telling us he thought his mates would brilliant, he got some bits right. First and foremost he called for Darren 'Boof' Lehmann to be installed as Australian head coach. That came to pass and the rest is history.

<b>2. It Isn't Always South Africa That Choke</b><br>There is little that is more cliched than accusing South Africa of choking in the big moments of big events. That is not to say there is no truth in it, as with all cliches they become one by being based on fact. The part that is wrong is the assumption that it is only the Saffers that do it. England went into the Champions Trophy final with a team performing well, with home conditions on their side and hopes of winning a 50 over ICC event for the first time. In the final England needed 20 runs from 16 balls with six wickets and two overs of Powerplay left, and they lost. That is a choke.

<b>3. There Can Be Too Much Of A Good Thing</b><br>The Ashes are brilliant. They are a representation of everything that makes Test cricket special. It is as much the context that goes before a Test as the match that is played on the field that makes it special. Then England and Australia played each other ten Tests in a row. While separating the Ashes away Ashes from the World Cup to prevent burnout for England players, it has left the Ashes feeling a bit like less like a shiny toy on Christmas and more like a scratched CD featuring Take That's greatest hits. In just 18 months they will be doing it all over again. It is difficult to be excited.

<b>4. Every Dog Has Its Day</b><br>Zimbabwe haven't beaten anyone apart from Bangladesh in Test cricket since they had a win against India back in 2001. So when they took the field having lost the first of two Tests against Pakistan in September it would have been a brave punter that put money on them to win. Five wicket hauls for Brian Vitori and Tendai Chatara and fifties for Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor and Tino Mawoyo set up their biggest win in over a decade. While Pakistan will be devastated to have lost seeing the little guy chalking up a win is always fun to see.

<b>5. Getting Your Goodbye Right Is Hard Work</b><br>Sachin Tendulkar soldiered on to his 200th Test in a series that was put on for his benefit (and the benefit of the BCCI) and at the expense of South Africa. The emotion that surrounded his departure was obvious to see and very real, but there was a feeling that he had gone on too long. At the other end of the spectrum we have seen Graeme Swann depart just over halfway through an Ashes series. Again there was a feeling that his departure could have waited just a few more weeks until the denouement of England's crushing Ashes defeat. All that we can know for sure is that the timing of the retirement of a player needs to be their choice, or one made for them by the selectors. Our criticism of it will always be ill informed from the distance we are observing it from.

<b>6. Protocol Is Important</b><br>Cricket South Africa appointed Haroon Lorgat as its Chief Executive Officer. Lorgat is far and away the most experienced cricket administrator in South Africa. The only issue was that Mr Lorgat has few friends within the BCCI. The Indian cricketing authorities feel aggrieved with Lorgat for his handling on things while he was in charge of the International Cricket Council (ICC). The BCCI told CSA not to appoint this man, they went and did it anyway. The immediate effect of this was to see India's tour of South Africa being shortened to make way for the Sachin Tendulkar memorial series against the West Indies. The reason we were given was a breach in the protocol of announcing fixtures. You can believe that if you like.

<b>7. Even The Rich Get Greedy</b><br>Spot fixing in cricket has been an ever present undercurrent for too long. It has always been considered too risky for it to be undertaken by those that are earning the big bucks. Poorly paid cricketers from countries with boards that don't have the cash for big salaries were considered the easy targets for those who want to fix outcomes. Then fixing allegations from the IPL appeared. Not only were high profile and well paid cricketers like Shantha Sreesanth implicated, but the son in law of N Srinivasan has also been linked to it. As Team Principal of the Chennai Super Kings it would be surprising if he was in desperate need of the money. These allegations remain under investigation, but no longer can we assume that it will be the badly paid that will be caught up in these charges.

<b>8. All Good Children Do Their Homework</b><br>Australia went to India with little hope, a muddled squad and an impending sense of doom. In what must surely be the nadir of Australia's recent cricket history they went to India and were hammer 4-0. While that in itself was bad enough there was also a complete breakdown in relations between management and senior players. After losing the first two Tests the Australian coach Mickey Arthur set the players a task of coming up with ways they could improve before the next Test. Four players, including vice-captain Shane Watson, failed to complete the task and were dropped from the next Test. Watson flew home in disgrace. He was back for the 4th Test, as captain.

<b>9. Ireland Are The Best Of The Rest</b><br>Ireland have won the first class and T20 competitions for Associates this year, to go with their one day title, confirming their place as the biggest "minnow". They are now running out of things to win and their continued exclusion from a place at the top table is becoming increasingly bizarre. There is a cricket loving public, a good playing base and the will for it to happen. The ICC should be helping them develop a first class structure to back all this up, not finding reasons why they can't join the feast full time.

<b>10. A Dozen Weeks Is A Long Time In Cricket</b><br>England won the Ashes against a dispirited and down trodden Australia in England. They even won the series playing badly. They arrived in Australia with a list of dietary demands and the expectation of making it four Ashes wins in a row. By the evening of the second day of the series England were reeling and were unable to even make a slight recovery. Credit must be given to Lehmann for picking up the pieces of the shattered team that Mickey Arthur left, but Mitchell Johnson may feel that Boof doesn't deserve all the credit.

<b>11. Misbah-ul-Haq Can't Win, Even When He Does</b><br>In 2013 Misbah has scored 1892 runs at an average of 52.55 in international cricket. He has overseen solid performances against South Africa, India, West Indies and Sri Lanka. He has scored runs when no one else has and kept the team

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