The week in Australian cricket: Bradman theories and the $1,000 tweet

Thoughts on the South Africa tour; the women's Ashes; what was behind the Don's obsession; and Wasim Akram in Melbourne

Donald Bradman
A new theory on Donald Bradman's career has sparked controversy. Photograph: Newspix/Rex Features Photograph: Newspix / Rex Features
A new theory on Donald Bradman's career has sparked controversy. Photograph: Newspix/Rex Features Photograph: Newspix / Rex Features

Last modified on Wed 21 Feb 2018 13.18 EST

Faulk off the road

Just as the cricket public began to fall hopelessly in love with the charms of the galloping, gut-busting and always grinning James Faulkner, he’s crocked himself and thus been ruled out of Australia’s tour of South Africa. The all-rounder will undergo surgery on his right knee and hope to be back in time for the World Twenty20. Faulkner’s misfortune actually represents far more of a bind than you’d think at first glance. With national selectors having chopped the incumbent No6, George Bailey, Faulkner was well in the frame to step up from 12th man duties and play as a genuine all-rounder.

Now Moises Henriques gets his chance on the back of modest Sheffield Shield returns (202 runs @ 33.66 and five wickets @ 36.6 in three games this season) and much the same in the Big Bash, in which he sits seventh on the run-scoring list but has taken only four wickets with an economy rate of 8.17. National selectors no doubt factored in the New South Welshman’s fine Test debut in Chennai last year, during which Henriques compiled a pair of half-centuries in a heavy defeat.

No multi-talented rival can count himself desperately unlucky as a result of the call with Nathan Coulter-Nile still hovering close. The mere mention of Mitch Marsh’s name might have made the internet combust. Luke Butterworth might have been a candidate but having the misfortune of being out of sight and out of mind during the Big Bash schedule, he’s also short on big wicket hauls this year. One of Australia’s most consistently underrated cricketers, Butterworth has played no professional cricket since Tasmania’s last Shield clash in early December.

So with Faulkner out, Jackson Bird and Shaun Marsh under further injury clouds and James Pattinson noticeably struggling in his return to limited overs action, Alex Doolan must be feeling more confident by the day of a Test debut. To be honest there might not be anyone else left standing in the lead-up to the opening clash at Centurion.

Our acquisitive, ruthless and self-interested loner Don

For all the many forests that have been pillaged, planed and pulped in honour of the publishing industry that surrounds Sir Donald Bradman, few writers have gotten to the nub of the issues surrounding the Don’s private life with any great success. Now Monash University academics David Dunstan and Tom Heenan have decided that since “myth-making” abounds, it’s high time that someone investigated the facts. Well not actual facts, but some pop-psychology speculation, a bit of cut and paste and what basically amounts to clickbait gold.

To accept their remarkable new theories holus bolus, we must also view the public deification of the Don, some selective secondary research from cricket biographies and Dunstan and Heenan’s own enthusiasm as the primary evidence for the prosecution. Oh, you’ll want to know the theory. Well, apparently the Don might have been on the autism spectrum.

“Whether or not Bradman was on the autism spectrum is open for debate,” said Dunstan and Heenan and then in the absence of, oh I don’t know, the professional opinion of a certified autism specialist, add: “He certainly lacked empathy and had a near obsessional ability to concentrate intensely for long periods on repetitious tasks.”

Their contention that Michael Clarke’s famous contretemps with Jimmy Anderson this summer (described as “clinical, ruthless, and detached with a touch of the school bully about it”) was “a more fitting testimony” to the Don’s greatness than a recent restoration of Bradman’s boyhood home seems like a bit of a cheap shot, but it’s probably worse when you consider that it’s a kind of implicit slight on Clarke too. Also, by that definition administrators might have to call off the next couple of weeks of professional sport because the queue for diagnosis will be a long one.

The rest is too unwieldy and groan-inducing to take apart in these confines (though the SCG Trust chairman Rodney Cavalier got a right of reply, calling it a “scabrous attack” unworthy of an Australian hero), bit it's at least an original addition to the canon of Bradman theory. Hopefully the full version of the study digs with greater purpose. Dunstan and Heenan are absolutely correct in stating that when it comes to Bradman, “myths are better than reality”, but a reality based on such half-cocked nonsense as this is surely no more illuminating.

Stayin’ alive

Firstly, the current state of the Women’s Ashes series is the best possible endorsement of the points aggregate system that was employed for the first time during England’s home series. It’s not outrageous to think that the concept has even piqued the interest of cricket fans who’d otherwise be sitting on the fence when it comes to the women’s Ashes.

With Australia needing to win every remaining limited overs clash to claim back the Ashes, Ellyse Perry again stepped forward to spearhead an Aussie triumph in Hobart. Her innings of 90 from 95 balls was the catalyst for a thrilling comeback with the Southern Stars recovering from 6-199 to chase down 269. Perry and Erin Osborne combined for 70 runs in Australia’s last eight overs and chased down England’s total with three balls to spare. The action continues in Hobart on Wednesday with a T20 match beginning at 2:00PM AET.

The $1,000 tweet

One thing you won’t hear around these quarters is players being criticised for expressing commonly held and quite reasonable opinions. On that note it is worth mentioning the $1,000 fine handed out to Sydney Sixers wicketkeeper Daniel Smith for his distinctive take on the selection of Shaun Marsh in Australia’s squad for the upcoming tour of South Africa.

The “I’m sorry but Inverarity has to go” part was probably a little harsh from the former NSW stumper but his view that “picking players in a ‘good space’ over players with runs on the board is a joke,” was closer to the mark. Similar sentiments were common in the aftermath of the squad announcement, but a heftier price tag applies when you’re a CA subject.

King Wally speaks

It’s been another fascinating and slightly maddening week in cricket politics, but the Cricket Australia chairman, Wally Edwards, at least provided the first official Cricket Australia comment regarding the joint proposals put forward by the respective boards of India, England and Australia in the much-discussed ICC position paper.

Edwards, responding in particular to the criticism of the Fica chairman, Paul Marsh, said "Traditionally, CA does not comment on ICC discussions it is about to have – we talk to other ICC nations across the table rather than via the media, but we were today disappointed to see the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations question whether CA and others have met their fiduciary duties as ICC members.”

The first administrator of the “Big Three” nations to discuss the issue, Edwards continued, “Setting aside the fact that we are yet to discuss and vote, CA's approach internationally is consistent with its approach at home where we have made significant strides improving the governance of Australian cricket.”

"CA's view going into that discussion is that we need to continue to promote international cricket competitions including the primacy of Test cricket, we need to improve global cricket leadership and we support that members should be working to promote the interest of the game as their priority."

Marsh had previously stated that Fica, the representative body for the respective player associations within the 10 full member countries, was “extremely concerned” by the proposal and feared it would leave cricket’s have-nots to “wither on the vine.”

Around the grounds

Heading into the closing stages of Big Bash 3, the Melbourne Stars maintained their unbeaten season with a 20-run victory over the Scorchers and will now face off against the Hobart Hurricanes in a 4 February semi-final. The other semi will be a clash between the Perth Scorchers and Sydney Sixers, with the latter having warmed up by thumping the Thunder for one last time, this time by eight wickets.

Elsewhere the suddenly-fashionable Ben Dunk piled on 87 to help the Hurricanes wallop Brisbane and the Renegades won a thrilling dead rubber, if such a thing exists, against the Adelaide Strikers. Proving that the finals system may require some work over the coming years, fourth-placed Hobart, with just three wins from their eight matches could conceivably knock the all-conquering Stars out of the competition before the final. It feels like there are at least 840 games in the schedule, surely we could stretch to a three-stage finals series, right?

In player discipline news Perth Scorchers veteran Brad Hogg, the man who once inquired, “Is that where they run the Melbourne Cup?” as the Australian team bus rounded Royal Randwick racecourse in Sydney, has been docked 20% of his match fee for a verbal altercation with Stars batsman David Hussey. No hearing was required to come to the decision, thus the world has been deprived of another Brad Hogg anecdote.

Player of the week

For almost single-handedly getting the Southern Stars over the line and keeping this Women’s Ashes series alive, it’s hard to look past Ellyse Perry.

Tweet of the week

A joke that never gets old.

Weekend warriors

Have you ever wanted to watch Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis strut their stuff on a suburban cricket ground? If you currently reside in Melbourne don’t even answer that question, just get yourself down to Jubilee Park in Ringwood on Sunday 16 February for the Community Cricket Cup.

The Australia v Rest of the World clash will also features the likes of Dean Jones, Michael Bevan, Merv Hughes, Carl Hooper and Robin Smith, so take a picnic rug down and enjoy the sight of 50 year-old men attempting to play like they’re still 20. And maybe even succeeding.

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