Visiting Lord’s: Captain Clarke, Watto the rotten apple, and other reflections

I have always loved wearing my Aussie Cap to whichever part of the world I might be following our “team”- and this goes beyond our Test cricket team. I wear it proudly because it seems like I always can. If Australia or an Australian is ever in an event, we might not always get the winning result but I am totally confident we will give it our best shot – and often against the odds.

So a few reflections following the disaster of the second Lord’s Ashes Test are worth consideration. Day 2.

Ray Wilson of Hawthorn Premiership fame to many but an all-round good bloke to most, Ern Pope, another fine gentleman, and myself, started the day early by going to the Burrough Market, built within a lovely iron structure under London Bridge Underground Station. It was busy at 8am with the traders setting up shop for the day. I was assured by Ray that I would get the ” best coffee in London ” from the Monmouth Coffee Shop alongside the market. When I saw the queue already building I knew he was going to be right and he was.

We indulgently wandered around the market, tasting and buying. It was food for our return to Lords later in the morning. The traditional sausage and onion in a bun sustained us along with the coffee.

As the bag-wielding shoppers arrived, I discovered that we needed sustenance. Why were so many people looking at us with a hint of disdain alongside a suggestion of “unlucky bastards”? I realised it was because we were wearing our Australian Cricket caps and the whole of London seemed to know. Even non-English stock seemed to be in on the act!

How could anyone miss a full Front Page headline which read: ” Laughing Stock”? The previous day we had just seen one of the lowest points in Australian Test cricket history- or at least in my 66 years of it. The papers got it right.

It started well. Bresnan was out to the first ball of the day. Maybe they wouldn’t get to 300. Some hope. It was the last skerrick of joy we were going to experience for some time. An Agaresque tail saw them past the 350 but for us with short memories we expected “game on”. And then Watson came in to open.

He represents everything wrong with our side. He takes the t,e,a,and m out of team. He’s played 42 Tests for Australia, made 2 centuries, holds the Test historical batting world record for the highest percentage of LBW decisions, and by the end of this innings has referred to the DRS 7 times in his career against being LBW and failed every time. For good measure, he doesn’t do his homework.

His wicket before lunch took me straight back to the Coronation Gardens. The old Pimms lawn has been my favourite part of Lord’s since 2001. It used to be a place of celebration: it has now become a place of reflection.

The Gardens are where the gentle folk of England meet at the end of each session of play and after the days play. My London host Ian Johnston spends his time between England and Australia and we were fortunate to meet a fine Englishman David Bell in the stands in 2001. He took us to the Lawn and alongside a plethora of other Aussies who have become attached to David’s hospitality, it seems none of us ever leaves.( Unless our fortunes change, we might continue to go to Lord’s and just spend our time eating and drinking on the Lawn.)

The aforementioned gentle folk appear to have a prescribed uniform. Of course, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) tie is de rigeur. The “bacon and eggs” gold and orange stripes are ever present but it seems light brown summer suits and jackets are now part of an outfit. Whilst we in Oz worry about boatloads of people from South Asia, England must have concerns about just as big a problem: boat loads of Lord’s clothing coming from Eastern Europe and beyond. It was from the Lawn on Day1 that I stood about 2 meters from The Queen as she was drive into the Members forecourt. Was the consternation on her face because of her worry about Philip’s health, the arrival of her great-grandchild, or because she was late enough to delay the start of play by 15 minutes? My mate didn’t give any heed to the latter because he felt that she probably owned the ground and couldn’t give a stuff.

It was time to take in the afternoon of day 2. The English heat wave was in full force! The wicket looked laden with runs- it suddenly looked to be filled with gremlins. With our former Vice-captain Watson out before lunch it became a parade of lemmings after the interval. I don’t need to add to what has been already written. We couldn’t read Swann, we couldn’t fathom Anderson, the DRS system had us totally bamboozled, we were mesmerized by the occasion. Maybe a little of Her Majesty’s angst rubbed off on the lads. When Swann dismissed Rogers with a ball that slipped out of his hand and almost plugged in the batsman’s groin about a foot out side the leg stump, he agreed after the game that it was one of the worst pieces of cricket ever but he had a pleasure being part of it! Glad you enjoyed it Graeme.

Back to the lawn. More reflecting. On human kind for starters. The old chap in the wheel chair who was being supported out of the stand- surely he will become ashes himself prior to Lord’s in 2015 ?! The classic cigar-chomping Banker- well, at least he looked and smelt like “City”. The impeccably dressed navy serviceman who manned the aisles- he with the reddened face that looked far more officers mess than sunshine. And finally the two huge bouncer types who pushed past me in unEnglish haste. I started protestation only to realise that I was eye to eye with David Cameron, their Prime Minister. Guess he had right of way!

With play starting again it took me a while to regather interest in the action. More thoughts. How do we expect to build a team around 32 year old Watson. We must build for 3-5 years hence and he is the rotten apple in the basket. He is of no further value. Michael Clarke is a superb batsman but is he a leader? Great sportsmen don’t always make great leaders. This one seems to have let friendships and quirky characters play tricks with his ability to lead. If he is going to retire soon we must be grooming the next skipper. Maybe from left field.

We must let players develop careers rather than chopping and changing. Khawaja looked like a rabbit in the headlights in the first innings. How would you feel like with everyone looking over your shoulders? His second Innings on Day 4 was full of guts.

The final session of Day 2 saw our innings end and Peter Siddle giving us the thinnest bit of hope with 3 early wickets. When Bresnan came in as night watchman there was a feeling that they could be 4 for at stumps. Well into the next day Bresnan had become the day watchman and, together with Joe Root, put us into an impossible position. No more needs be said.

Stepping out from Lord’s on that Friday afternoon, the only reflection I had remaining was in the pool of some watery substance that was flooding the urinal floor. Similar to the old footy cold showers, it provided me with the same sort of ignominy I had experienced after a losing game at St. Kilda or Collingwood.

As Ian and I headed down Lisson Grove in St John’s Wood a fellow dressed up fully in a peacock outfit cycled past us with tail feathers flying. He made about as much sense as anything else did on the day. The only difference was he looked totally happy. Perhaps we were the fools. Cricket remains only a game.

About Gareth Andrews

GA continues his life-long passion for sport and the sporting life. His head survived a football career with Geelong and Richmond and has enabled him to follow other pursuits, including his love of cricket and his regular journeys to wherever sport is played. His journeys of the mind are equally important to him and his Blogs can be read on www.lifeagain.com.au He has enjoyed the past 15 years as Vice-President of the Mighty Cats and is hungry for one more Flag.

Comments

  1. Gareth, like many others you’re quite scathing of Watson, similarily you have Q’s re Clarke as captain. On these two points you’re certainly not Pat Malone but the paradox is; who else can fill these spots?

    Re Watsons role, who is putting up their hands, with a copious tally of runs at shield level? The leading run scorers last seaason were Ricky Ponting, and Mark Cosgrove. Al rounders, Christian, Maxwell, Smith.’nuff said.

    Similarily who has displayed the sort of leadership skills to be captain? Watson, Haddin, White; it’s rhetorical. Maybe in the current mess, it might be worth doing what England used to do, which is pick a good captain, who might not have the batting requirements, but can lead a team. In that case, let’s include George Bailey.

    One final point re the use of ignominy, by being OS in 1971, you missed the ignominy of playing in the rain and mud at Moorabbin, followed by the cold shower. That would not have been a pleasent experience in R12, 1971, the Cats going down 3-3-21 to Saints 14-15-99; a score line similar to our recent Lords performance.

    Glen!

  2. Glen firstly we now have both a new future king and rain in London. A bit later than expected for the former and later than wanted for the latter.

    In reference to Watson, I am not looking for someone who is necessarily a better batsman than Watson at the moment. I am looking for someone who is a better character. Teams are built on proper values first and foremost .

    I am not talking about looking for an immediate replacement for Clarke. But it must be front of mind. We chose Tom Harley at Geelong in 2007 because he was a leader of men rather than the best player in the team.

    And Clarke should be batting at 3 or 4.

    Gareth

  3. Mark Doyle says:

    Gareth, I am a bit bemused about your willingness to support Australian sport whilst travelling overseas. I have done a lot of travelling overseas in Europe, North Africa, Asia and Asia Minor but have never been inclined to keep up-to-date with Australian sport whilst travelling and have always been bemused when Australian friends have been desperate to ring ‘home’ for the latest footy results. In my opinion the travel experience of meeting people and learning about their culture and history puts Australian sport into the background. In a lot of places I have not heard any news about Australia for weeks and months. The only time that I thought about watching an Aussie sportsperson perform overseas was in the early 1970’s in Oslo, Norway when I saw in a newspaper that the Aussie runner Ron Clarke was performing; I missed this opportunity because my German girl friend was not interested.
    I think that your comments and headline are a bit unfair concerning Shane Watson. I believe that some of the blame for his poor DRS record must be attributed to poor advice from his batting partner at the non-strikers end. In my opinion the problem with Watson’s batting and that of most Australian batsmen is poor footwork and lack of concentration and patience. Your comments about Watson’s lack of team ethic and leadership remind me of the Geelong Footy Club team leadership of 2000-2006. The appointments of Ben Graham as captain and Peter Riccardi as vice-captain were poor choices similar to the appointment of Shane Watson’s appointment as vice-captain of the Australian cricket team. There were no obvious candidates for Geelong captain in 2000 as was the case with the Australian cricket team vice-captaincy position. I thought at the time that Brenton Sanderson with 4-5 years experience would have been a better choice as captain of Geelong with Steven King as vice-captain. King was a good captain after Graham, but was disadvantaged because of chronic injuries. The best thing for the Geelong Footy team leadership was the ‘Leading Teams’ role in 2006 facilitated by a bloke named Murphy and the subsequent appointment of Tom Harley as captain and the leadership group support of blokes such as Cameron Ling and Joel Corey.
    I am also not sure that this recent Lord’s test is one of our worst cricket performances. The second innings in CapeTown, South Africa when we were dismissed for 47 was pretty ordinary as was being dismissed for about 120 in the fourth innings against South Africa in Sydney about 20 years ago.

  4. Fair point Gareth.

    I was suprised Bailey did not get a spot in the Ashes touring squad. He has captained Australia in limited overs matchs with varying degrees of sucess, but he seems to have the acumen required to lead teams. His record in Tasmania has been quite good, with a number of shield, and limited overs titles won under his tutelage.

    Clarke 3 or 4? Good in theory, but being a bit of a person who is intrigued by statistics, his batting average is far more appealing at 5 than any other spot in the batting order . Sometimes your best batsmen/captain bats 3/4, Pointing, I& G Chappell, Bradman, others bat in a position where they can deliver consistently, Border, S Waugh.

    We can only improve; can’t we ?

    Glen!

  5. Tony Wilson says:

    Impressed Dad knows his way around London coffee shops.

  6. Over here in Perth we don’t know who Tony Wilson is. I vaguely remembered that he used to be a comedian on Channel 7. So I checked out his website and realised that he’s brilliant.
    Check this out:
    http://tonywilson.com.au/i-dont-no-what-i-did
    I have recommended to Cookie that the Cats use the final letter for their frequent appearances at the MRP. Saves on lawyer’s fees and gets the same result.

  7. Peter Flynn says:

    Old Mate,

    If you were Sid Snot, old mate Doyle would’ve gone berserk.

    I detect a watering down from old Mate here.

    Lift Old Mate, The Bellarine hangs on your every word.

  8. Peter Flynn says:

    G’day Gareth,

    By the way terrific article.

    I must say Lord’s isn’t my favourite English Test ground.

    I much prefer Trent Bridge, Old Trafford and Edgbaston.

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