Having been a solid test match opener, Gary Kirsten knows the virtues of a good, steady start as opposed to a chancy, attractive one. So when he landed in Australia to begin his stint in one of the two toughest coaching assignments in international cricket, one expected him to open as he did on day one of a test match. So he started, with polite noises about the importance of “specialists” when talking of a specialised opener, and a long overdue No. 3 slot for Rahul Dravid.
But very soon, Kirsten nibbled at one outside the off-stump when he said this about Harbhajan Singh: “…the thing I enjoyed was his batting performance in Sydney. We’ve identified that it’s very important that members of the lower order make a contribution with the bat and he did that in the Test.”
After all the events following the Sydney test, one was wondering how the Indian team was going to justify either decision on Harbhajan. Now the answer is clear: Bhajji is the missing link, er, all-rounder in the Indian line-up.
So much has happened over the last few days it’ll be a shame not to read deeper than necessary into some of those.
The Australian cricket team apparently had a team meeting to discuss their Spirit of Cricket pledge. Without references to bolted horses and broken fences, it’s interesting to wonder why the Aussies did it. Apart, of course, for the noble intentions which they surely had. Is it to lead the administrators to believe that they are a chastened lot now? And thus set themselves up for a repeat in future tests? Is it to come across as a more “spirited” lot than the Indians and thus put India on the defensive? Or is there a more mundane, practical explanation? That they have achieved their ambition of retaining the Border-Gavaskar trophy (and 16-on-the-trot) and so can afford to play cricket the way others want them to?
The Indian team is no slouch when it comes to such done-for-this-but-intended-for-that gestures. How else would you explain their dropping charges against Brad Hogg? Surely they’ve put Australia in a fix? How can Australia not play Hogg on the raging turner that is the WACA?
Peter Roebuck’s suggestion that Australia replace Ricky Ponting with Simon Katich as national captain is as original as any. Having played in England for all his career, Roebuck is perhaps still an Englishman at heart. So his suggestion comes probably with an eye on the next Ashes.
The game is indeed being taken beyond its traditional confines – it is much more interesting and closely fought outside the 22-yard strip nowadays. I look forward to the days after the WACA test.