Gabba Test, Australia v India – Day One : Sports Scientists: Have They Too Much Control?

 

What has been a much anticipated day of cricket, two months in the planning and a with a two week delay left the crew feeling totally underwhelmed and questioning the role of sports scientists in the modern climate.

An 8am pick up and we were on our way. Bottles of water, food and optimism (the first Test match for my 12 year old nephew), I have been thinking about my Test match experiences and was hoping young James would feel the same.

We arrived at the ground a little after 9am and climbed the stairs of the Gabba coliseum to take our seats. We wanted to see the warm up, watch how the teams prepare. To my dismay I saw twice as many support staff than players. I thought AFL was controlled by the scientists, but to my horror Cricket is literally overrun by the plague of support staff. I remember the days when I used to turn up to the MCG and they had nets up on the practice wickets and bowlers used to bowl flat out to batsmen. These days there are cones everywhere, sections of the ground paced out, lots of people running around madly except the important ones, the players. They spend more time being talked to by the myriad of commentators analysing the pitch.

India won the toss and batted, the three wise men in the crowd – myself, Stuart and Rob – all agreed it was a good toss to win and bat. We are old school brought up in the Ian Chappell era where you ‘bat first, think about it and bat’. We all agree runs on the board are important. The crowd is smallish but vocal for the first ball, it starts a couple of minutes late so the patrons who have been patiently waiting for the bar to open have the chance to bring their beers up in trays and watch the first ball (side note: The lack of XXXX does leave a bitter taste in your mouth).

The opening bowlers trundle in and look like they expect the pitch to do all the work. Rob suggests they have been told to only exert supreme effort every couple of balls as the iPads have told them their outputs have been too high. We imagine a group of tech nerds relaying the information to Steve Smith via a chip implanted in his body. The Indians are on top as they have prepared for 140km plus deliveries, but the Aussies struggled to reach that mark. The pitch, talked up as a green minefield played like a synthetic pitch at a suburban ground: a bit of bounce, but no danger.

Then it happened, the thing that shook the crowd. The groans could be heard, Mitchell Johnson is spelled after only three overs. What is going on in the world?  He has the Lillee moustache, the pace and the attitude. But three overs? We imagine Ian Chappell trying to rest DK Lillee after three overs –  he would have told him where to shove it. He would have bowled all session and rested at lunch and kept bowling. Thommo and Maxy Walker would have done the other end. It’s the first day, by crikey!

But this continued, Hazelwood four overs, Starc two, Marsh five and then Lyon on before lunch. The sports scientists would have been in orgasmic heaven, their computers would have been working overtime analysing workloads, balls bowled, supreme efforts, what percentage of fluids are needed. There would have been high fives in the stats box everywhere, maybe even a couple of chest bumps from the nerds who would quickly relay to the assistant coaches and support staff how the plan is working; the bowlers haven’t used up too much energy and should have some fuel left in the tank.

But Boof, we only took one wicket. The idea is to take 10 wickets then bat, the best way to conserve energy is to take them quickly, then bat for a long time.

The discussion at lunch was the ineptitude to take wickets and how costly the dropped catch by Shaun Marsh was going to be. A couple of beers were sunk to hydrate; Stu said we should log our hydration for the nerds.

The second session was the great one for the day, we put the screws on. 2/62 : great cricket, but could have been more except for another S Marsh dropped catch and a Hazelwood dive in vain. India was on the ropes, but we left them off the hook. Even the umpires helped, giving a caught behind off the helmet.

The last session started. Rob and I were hydrating madly, and the bowlers were starting to go down, cramp here, calf here. We had never seen a bowler just walk off the field halfway through the over without a limp. SPORTS SCIENTISTS, PLEASE EXPLAIN! We remember Max Walker’s eight wickets in the heat of the West Indies when Lillee went down. D.K.Lillee bowling 35 overs on a dead MCG wicket, some off a short run. Andy Bichel in Dohar, Mike Kasprowicz in India. This is what we want to see. Fast Bowlers gutsing it out, showing heart. They are the front rowers of the team, yet they are playing like wingers.

India smashed us in the last session, but we stayed till the end. Even the umpires couldn’t wait for it to finish. After every ball a bowler would stop, grimace, stretch, walk back slowly. You could see the Indian batsmen grinning wildly. Never before have I been so upset at a fast bowling team effort.

Comment of the day from Terry Alderman when asked by Drew Morphett on ABC radio,

“Terry, the boys look like they are waiting for the ice bath, how many did you have when you bowled?”

Terry replied “None, I only had a hot bath after the game in England because of the cold.”

Sums it all up really.

Comments

  1. Write on the ball David! At one stage yesterday there were 27 people on the ground. Sure it was hot but there were breaks every few overs.
    As I mentioned in my report “there is far too much ho ha in the game”. The man in control of cricket in Australia is not even a cricketer. High Performance – bullshit!
    Runs, wickets and averages is all the high performance I need.
    I maybe long in the tooth but I remember when Australian bowlers bowled 8 balls in an over and wearing heavy boots. Did they get injured? Not as much as today. They were cricketers and trained like cricketers.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    I agree qld pies , the 1 which really annoys me is there has been a drinks break a wicket falls and out comes the 12th man with another drink , quite often the subs aren’t off the ground when the next ball should be bowled , poor umpiring as well .
    I do wonder re bowlers breaking down yest comes back to the point that the
    Brisbane test is always 1st and quite often the bowlers have been up there for a while and acclimatised to the heat and humidity , but there did seem a degree of softness
    thanks qld pies

  3. Mick Jeffrey says

    No excuse either for the 2 fresh bowlers who would have had enough net time and conditioning post 408.

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