Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Terry’s question and Berry’s spin

It’s proving to be quite an education trying to decipher what different people have to say about Australia’s defeat at the WACA last week. Terry Alderman, that smiling England-slaying assassin of the 1980s, had me scurrying to my favourite search engine when he ordered “an inquisition into why India have been able to swing the ball and Australia haven’t” in a Herald Sun story.

My first understanding of the word “inquisition” was Inquisition (with the initial capital letter), the Roman Catholic Church’s strategy to suppress heresy and anti-religious thought and sentiment. The Spanish Inquisition came in as a logical next connection.

Surely Alderman wasn’t suggesting that the Indians did something heretical by swinging the ball? Or the Australians by not swinging it? Surely swing or the lack of it is not against the (how I hate to use this much-abused and well-past-its-expiry-date expression) spirit of the game?

Then I did what I should have done in the first place. I referred to the good old dictionary. The trusty favourite, www.dictionary.com, gave the following definitions for inquisition.

  1. an official investigation, esp. one of a political or religious nature, characterized by lack of regard for individual rights, prejudice on the part of the examiners, and recklessly cruel punishments.
  2. any harsh, difficult, or prolonged questioning.
  3. the act of inquiring; inquiry; research.
  4. an investigation, or process of inquiry.
  5. a judicial or official inquiry.
  6. the finding of such an inquiry.
  7. the document embodying the result of such inquiry.
  8. (initial capital letter) Roman Catholic Church.
    1. a former special tribunal, engaged chiefly in combating and punishing heresy. Compare Holy Office.
    2. Spanish Inquisition.

I saw where I slipped. I could only think of the last definition from this list. And good old Terry was probably thinking of meaning no. 3. Or was he? Boy, this game is proving to be tough to follow. Speaking of which brings to mind Scyld Berry’s piece in The Telegraph a couple of days ago.

The true Englishman that he is, Berry sees India’s performance at the WACA as an eye-opener for what England can do when facing Australia in the Ashes in 2009.

In planning their strategy for 2009, England need to think about slow, turning pitches, negating Australia's advantage in pure pace and playing to their own strengths of swing and left-arm spin.

The swing factor is understandable, considering the success (albeit one-off so far) of RP Singh, Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan at the WACA, and England’s undeniable strength in that department, in the form of Mathew Hoggard, Ryan Sidebottom et al. But spin?

England hasn’t had a glorious track record with spinners since Derek Underwood a few decades ago (okay, Phil Tufnell for all you romantics). And while Monty Panesar is good, I’m not sure I’d plan my team strategy around him yet. Even if England plays its cards right and gets Saqlain Mushtaq into the squad, I am not sure the idea will still have enough legs. Saqlain’s test record for Pakistan hasn’t quite been outstanding, with an average almost touching 30 over a 49-test career. Moreover, Saqlain is bound to be rusty – after so many years of relaxed cricket with Surrey and Sussex, coming up against the hard-as-nails Aussies in the big cauldron of test-match cricket may be just a bit beyond him. But all ye Englishmen can be romantic and hope for fairy tales.

On a different note, how would the cricket world react if England does indeed manage to create slow, turning pitches? The sub-continental nations, especialling India and Sri Lanka, have always been “accused” of providing turners and thus creating an unfair advantage for themselves; will it be acceptable if England does so? I remember a saying about sauce and geese, but then like with “inquisition,” I may be looking up the wrong meaning.


Samir Chopra said...

What a disappointment. I was hoping some Torquemada would go to work on the Aussie team.

Geetha Krishnan said...

Or may be something like that would happen, Samir. My interpretation is perhaps a bit too generous.

Jrod said...

Is there a country that regularly provides pitches that play to their weaknesses?

Geetha Krishnan said...

England, I think, owns the patent on that, uncle rod.