With all due respect to the ICC, what a bunch of dickheads they are. It’s a disgrace that ANYONE is even CONTEMPLATING playing sport in Zimbabwe under its present regime, let alone forcing our young cricketers to play there as though nothing is happening. The ICC has been holding a broken gin bottle to Martin Sneddon’s throat during this whole business, and the repercussions for not touring really did seem like they’d set the game back several years in NZ through no fault of our own.
And the players are stuck in the middle. Would YOU want to go to Zimbabwe right now? As a high profile sportsman who may be a target for nutters, or tacitly approving of Mugabe by your presence there? No bloody thanks. In that environment, even a Josh – style personal protest could be dangerous for you and your team mates.
Good on Helen Clark and the NZ Government for getting involved – but the ICC’s policies have made it almost impossible to take action short of putting the players on house arrest. The ICC should be less concerned with getting their photos taken with Warney and Punter at Lords, and more concerned with joining the 21st century. Heads out of the sand, chaps. Good show.
I’ll make a disclosure here – I think Stephen Fleming is bloody fantastic. He came into the team as a young batsman with an elegant style of timing the ball to the boundary that reminded me of David Gower, one of the most gifted batsmen to have played the game. Flem has blossomed into arguably the best test and one day captain playing the game today. He’s given us moments of genius such as the way he sussed out Graeme Smith in the recent series here against South Africa, and of course the way he played the series that may be his finest hour, the tour to Australia in 2002. Recently he has fulfilled his promise with the bat, turning into the run machine we hoped he’d become. Flem’s only trophy is the ICC cup from that year, and I’d bet he would love to win some more before he leaves the international stage. An Australian Tri-series would be fantastic, or a test series win against the Ockers (let’s face it, it’s all about the Aussies). Fleming’s records today (most test runs for NZ and passing RJ Hadlee’s record of 86 test matches) consolidate his position as one of our best ever. Long may he continue.
Richie Benaud, who has witnessed over 500 test matches, speaks about his career, Billy Birmingham (the Twelfth Man), and avoids the retirement issue. Benaud’s experience of the game all over the world for many, many years makes him unique among the great commentators. The Observer’s Kevin Mitchell feels “that if cricket has a Pope, his name is Richie”.
I’ll confess, I’m a huge Sir Richard Hadlee fan. As a cricket mad young boy I pored over this book, and borrowed it from the library many, many times until my grandparents gave me my own copy.
“Hadlee Hits Out” covers a historic period in NZ’s cricketing history, from the underarm delivery (this chapter still makes the blood boil), Hadlee’s time with Notts in England, through the World Cup of 1983, to the first test win in England at Headingly. There’s a huge amount of detail on the games, but the fascinating parts come when Hadlee muses on a wide range of issues, from touring South Africa, to Geoff Howarth’s form with the bat, through to his tussles with NZCC.
The opening chapter has Hadlee’s thoughts on his team mates in that legendary mid eighties team. He obviously handed each one a questionnaire asking their favorite food, TV show, memorable moment, etc. “Charlie’s (Ewan Chatfield) special interests include gardening. The last book he read was the Yates Garden Guide. He likes playing squash”. Despite valiant efforts at amusing anecdotes, his humor free reputation is confirmed – on Trevor Franklin’s nickname “Herman” – “A few years ago on the telly there was a programme called Herman Munster, and he looks very similar to the actor who played that part”.
He has strong views on his NZ Cricket boss Martin Snedden – “He likes all sports and is a bit of an intellectual. The last book he read was The Parsifal Mosaic by Robert Ludlam… He always has a comment to add that has very little to do with the subject being talked about”.
Hadlee has no need for a ghost writer to help with his forthright views, and comes across as a man totally focused on cricket and measuring up to his own exalted standards. This may explain his aloof reputation, but the fact remains that Hadlee remains the greatest cricket player New Zealand has produced by some distance.
You can’t argue with his record as a fast bowler and all-rounder at time when the Zimbabwes and Bangladeshes weren’t playing test cricket. The team that was built around him put New Zealand cricket on the map, and as we saw when it broke up, rebuilding takes a long time.
Hadlee was a marvelous player and we were lucky to have him. Reading this book won’t give you many deep and fascinating insights into his thoughts as he ripped through batsmen, but it will bring back some fond memories.
NZ Herald’s Richard Book is rightly indignant no Black Caps have made the World XI to play Australia, depsite being second in the world rankings. Surely Stephen Fleming would be a certainty as either Captain or as a Batsman. Chris Cairns brings experience and explosiveness, and Scott Styris has been the form all rounder. This suggests NZ is a star team, rather than a team of stars, but surely we deserve better than this.
Mike Selvey is awfully impressed with our cricketers. With one of the best middle orders in the world and the best captain, it’s no surprise to me. Pity it didn’t carry over to the Tests in England.
Tim de Lisle on the Lord’s test. The attacking, aggressive attitude brought to Test matches by Australia (Steve Waugh in particular) has had a trickle down effect, and is changing the way the game is played (by the countries that count). Richie Benaud opines that the best period of cricket he has seen has been in the last year, which I’d go along with, and which begs the question – do we even need one day internationals any more?