The Steve Rixon Ashes Diary 2013-2014

Stumped! Batting the hard way.

889876-steve-rixon

The Steve Rixon Ashes Diary 2013-2014

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Foreword

In England

Chapter 1: The Champions Trophy

Chapter 2: The Ashes preparation

Chapter 3: The First Test, Trent Bridge

Chapter 4: The Second Test, Lords

Chapter 5: The Third Test, Old Trafford

Chapter 6: The Fourth Test, Durham

Chapter 7: The Fifth Test, The Oval

Chapter 8: The One Dayers and an Indian Interlude

In Australia

Chapter 9: The Ashes build up

Chapter 10: The First Test, The Gabba

Chapter 11: The Second Test, Adelaide Oval

Chapter 12: The Third Test, WACA

Chapter 13: The Fourth Test, MCG

Chapter14: The Fifth Test, SCG

Chapter 15 – Part I: The One Dayers

Chapter 15 – Part II: The One Dayers

Chapter 16: Sacked!

Advertisements

The Steve Rixon Ashes Diary 2013 – Chapter 4

 

A week with Watto....
A week with Watto…. urrrrrrgh.

Chapter 4

Watson, DRS & Brighton

The Second Test: Lord’s

Steve Rixon: Well that Test went pretty well didn’t it? About as well as a cow pat in a bowl of soup – just brilliant.

Firstly, and most importantly for me, the fielding standard dropped at Lords and I’m not happy. Steve Smith took a good catch at gully but was denied by the video replay – I was livid. I’m not sure what the third umpire Tony Hill was on but I want some if I’m going to have to watch another batting effort like that first innings.

I am sick of these useless batsmen, burning DRS reviews like a millionaire in a matchstick factory (Phil Hughes I’m looking at you – 2 from 2 wasted in this test) batting like buffoons with no awareness of the pitch (it’s doing nothing, put your head down and make runs), no awareness of the bowler (Anderson can bowl inswing Watto), no awareness of field placing (there’s a leg slip for Joe Root, Clarkey) and no awareness of the game situation (it’s 20 minutes before lunch, time to be circumspect and face out the overs, not lose 3 for 2). They need to learn how to bat for time, how to build an innings (no Aussie batsmen has made a century), how to apply yourself to a task and see it through (Clarke and Khawaja both made half centuries in the second innings and then threw it away), how to tough it out. They need awareness that a test match isn’t won in an hour, a session or even a day just like Dave Warner’s socks they need to work harder for longer. It’s an indictment on all the batsmen that our leading run scorer after 2 Tests is Ashton Agar. A bloke who batted at number 11! The way the bowlers have performed with the willow we aren’t looking at a team of 6 batsmen, a keeper and 4 bowlers but 7 specialist fielders (not overly good ones mind you) and four allrounders starting at no 8!

One thing that is really pissing me off is the loss of wickets just before or after a break. It shows a lack of concentration and application to the task at hand and a lack of awareness that lunch tastes a lot better when you are still in. Watto is the main culprit he was out the ball after drinks at Trent Bridge and now he was out the over before lunch.

The fielding may have dipped, the batting maybe shithouse but at least the bowling has been servicible – Ryan Harris was impressive with his Michelle in the first innings. Yeah we’ve lost 6 tests in a row but as for this being the worst Australian team ever you clearly didn’t see the 1888 team. They were shocking. I can still remember paying a thrupenny bit to watch Australia get bowled out for 42 and 82 – dark days indeed.

We have found a few weaknesses in the England team. Jimmy Anderson isn’t consistent – he can’t bowl 6 outswingers an over, he keeps accidently slipping in an inswinger. Ian Bell has a real weakness on 109 – he’s been out for that score twice now – we reckon it’s his bogie number – like what 30 is to Watto. Prior can be got out cheaply too when he comes in at 5 for 400. Joe Root is susceptiable to the ramp shot – unfortunately he only seems to pull it out when he’s in the 170s. Hmmm.

The squad traveled down to Brighton today or was it yesterday for the tour match against Sussex but I managed to wangle a leave pass to stay in London. Unfortunately that means I’m doing nets with Watto all week, could be worse I suppose, I could be doing keeping practice with Wadey. Dave Warner will be devastated he’s not going to Brighton. It’s the gay capital of England you know and Warner grew that moustache especially for the weekend at Brighton. Talking of Warner he may have smoked a magnificent 193 for Australia A against South Africa A but it was his dismissal in the last over of the day that concerned me. Also that score had to come with a caveat – Big Show Maxwell also made a century and the Saffers replied with 4/600 with some bloke smoking 200 so the pitch and bowling attack must have been something to behold.

Boof decided to give 6 of the test players a rest from the 3 day match. The guys have been playing so well they deserve a break. Anyway here are the ins and outs:

 

OUT

Clarke (back) Clarke’s back is still sore so Kyly has offered to work on it round the clock in a London hotel room…. just like when the team went to Birmingham for the Champions trophy….

Rogers (omitted) Rogers has handed over the reign’s of ball polishing captain to Steve Smith on a temporary basis. There is a vacuum of international polishing experience and a lack of onfield polishing leadership at present in the Aussie team so I stepped in and decided to step Rogers down from this game so Steve Smith could get some real high class polishing experience in the pressure cooker of a 3 day tour match.

Patto (back) The fast bowlers curse has stuck he’s got another stressie so his tour is over. His attention to grooming and kitbag of styling products will be missed.

Watson (general) Yeah Watto’s body is a bit stiff and sore after Clarkey tried his best to bowl him into the dirt at Lords’ but most of the soreness is Watto’s ego, it took a massive bruising with that LBW review in the first dig – I’m not sure he understands the LBW rule – he was shattered afterwards. Watto is still nursing his ego back to full health by doing a lot of nude batting in front of his hotel mirror, merrily plonking his front foot down the pitch and crisply driving imaginary Jimmy Anderson outswingers through the covers for four and dreaming that the inswinger never comes and smashes into his front pad. He also does a lot of nude squat thrusts in front of the mirror – that’s good for his hammy’s and a good opportunity for him to check out his block and tackle which is good for an ego boost too.

Watto practicing a forward defense in front of the hotel mirror.
Watto practicing his forward defense in front of the hotel mirror.

Actually the real reason Watto didn’t go to Brighton is a delicate one. He’s afraid he might get… ahem how can I put this….he’s afraid his dashing good looks might get him undue amounts of attention from the same sex, something he is very uncomfortable with. He’s concerned that one or two of his numerous previous nude photo shoots have made him a bit of a gay icon and if he needs to change his shirt at a drinks break or something, you know get around shirtless for a while like players so often do in cricket, that a lot of unwanted attention may come his way being in Brighton

Fielding training is best done shirtless according to Watto
What won’t be seen in Brighton: Fielding training is best done shirtless according to Watto

He’s a happily married father of one you know. He doesn’t want any rumours to the contrary getting around. He’s still dealing with the fall out from the story that he and Brett Lee shared a single room after Watto “saw a ghost” in his room on the 2005 Ashes tour. Yeah lots of ghosts at Hotel Ibis. Anyway Watto is steering well clear of Brighton and all it might entail. Instead he’ll spend the week in London – he’s booked into a nice place in Soho.

I'm a happily married man in a pink shirt
I’m a happily married man in a pink shirt, OK

So Watto and I will be doing throwdowns in the nets all week. I’ve tried to explain to Divvers that they have things called bowling machines these days so I don’t have to throw my arm out giving Watto the 150-200 balls he should be facing in a test innings. But we all know Watto will only last about 40 balls so my shoulder should be fine to run the technical fielding drills I do on the morning of each test match. I can’t give away my secrets except to say the fielding drills are a lot about me hitting the ball and the guys fielding it.

Haddin (priorities) Hadds has been so flat out organising team bonding events and restaurant bookings for the team we’ve decided to give him a break from the on’field stuff so he can focus on the off field. He had a ripper week in London – organised some of the best events in the history of the Australian cricket team. Not since Bill Lawry instigated the shuffleboard competition on the 8 week boat trip to England in 1964 has there been such a good team building event. The day before the Test we decided not to bother giving the batsmen and extra net session instead Hadds had organised a ‘Race Around London’ competition. He paired up all the boys and sent them on their way on public transport. Starcy and Patto couldn’t see any train track’s anywhere (no one told them they were underground) so gave up on the transport option and instead decided use the Race as a training run. Patto was complaining of a sore back after running on concrete footpaths all day. Hughes and Khwaja got lost on the tube network and in the end one of the Fanatics was able to chaperon them back to the hotel. Hadds probably could have made it a little bit more intellectually challenging – Cowan and Rogers didn’t bother with the Race part and just went to a café and answered all the question in about 10 minutes.

However far and away the best thing Hadds has organised was the karaoke night after the first days play at Lord’s – it was a cracker. Siddle’s rendition of was “Stand by Your Man” Steven Kernaghan style complete with pouring a beer over his head at the end was judged best mainly for his popped collar and shiny pearly whites. The night did get pretty rowdy I must admit particularly when Hughesy, Wadey,Starcy, Watto & Ussie did a Backstreet Boys number in their whites. It was like some of the boys had never been to a pub before. All of us, except Tank Karpinnen who was on the alkalised waters all night, were heroically drunk by the time we rolled into the hotel at 3am – it’s probably why we batted like a bunch of busted arseholes the next day. Hmmm Boof was fine though – I think he’s had a lot of experience playing and watching cricket with a hangover of biblical proportions.

Hughesy, Wadey, Starcy, Watto & Usssie hamit up in their whites as the Back Street Boys on karaoke night
Hughesy, Wadey, Starcy, Watto & Usssie ham it up in their whites as the Back Street Boys on karaoke night

Siddle (rested) – Invers and have decided to rest Siddle from this tour match so they don’t have to rest him from the 3rd Test – like they did against South Africa in Perth.

Ryan Harris (wool) – A couple of the boys thought it would a good idea to play a prank on Bung. As he’s so injury prone they thought they’d wrap him up, well wrap up his most important parts, in cotton wool as the saying goes so they stuck a heap of cotton buds in his protector. Rhino’s a ‘box stuffer’ as they saying goes – he sticks his protector in just as he’s about to go out to bat. When he went out to bat in the second dig at Lords Ryano just grabbed his protector and shoved it in without looking as he headed out of the dressingroom toward the long room and out onto the ground. Unfortunately the boys forgot Rhino wears 100%nylon cricket whites because he’s allergic to cotton. Rhino had a bit of a reaction to the cotton balls you might say – his testicles had swelled up to the size of a pair of fists. He was in a lot of pain but I’m not sure what hurt more, his enflamed love spuds or when the Doc had to give him the rectal examination, the old thumbsky up bumsky treatment, to check everything was ok. As a precaution Rhino’s not playing this weekend – imagine the chaffing issues – hopefully he’ll be right for the next Test.

Watto models how Harris will be wearing his protector next test.
Also not for Brighton eyes: Watto models how Harris will be wearing his protector next test.

IN

Cowan – Ed’s back as skipper ( which is sort of ironic that his last games in an Australian team could welll be as captain) Hopefully he get’s some runs – and not just to the toilet like at Trent Bridge

Wade – He takes the gloves and I’ve got my fingers crossed it goes as per usual as I decided to hand over Hadds role as fielding captain to Matty. I told him it was part of the Ahes tour tradition that the fielding captain had to pay the fielding coach $50 for every catch the team drops, every missed stumping and every missed run out. He bought it hook line and sinker – should be a nice little earner for me.

Faulkner, Bird & Starc – The Three Amigos as the boys call them because they’re all left armers…except for Bird. Hmmm shit nickname. Anyway Bird will probably play in the next Test.

Ashton Turner – No idea who this bloke is but with Patto gone with stresses and Warner still on safari in Africa, Boof was short a player so rather than call up any of the first class cricketers kicking about the Old Dart, like for example say Simon Katich or Brendan Nash, some kid I’ve never heard of will make his first class debut that’s right his first class debut for an Australian XI. It’s bizzare that’s for sure but that’s the way it is on modern international cricket tours.

Back in the day teams use to stick together and look forward to spending time together in each other’s company and living out of each others pockets for a couple of months or more, but with this current squad it’s better they don’t stay together as they all hate each others guts and Watto has cancer too. Sorry Watto is a cancer.

Me: That’s great that you were able to give me the ins and outs for a tour match after it happened but what about changes to the Test side? You need some awareness of what day it is, Awareness that the next Test starts in two days.

Steve Rixon: Sorry mate, I’ve lost all track of time since I’ve been doing throwdowns with Watto – it’s felt like a year. The Test line up, well, I think Bird will come in and Warner will displace Phil Hughes at number 4 – the team needs someone who can get into a spat with Matt Prior. Can you put a sneaky $20 on Steve Smith to top score for Australia this test?

Me: Can do mate, enjoy MADchester. And Wade owes you $300.

 

 

The Steve Rixon Ashes Diary 2013 – Chapter 3

I don't trust this teenager  - the hero & the villain
I don’t trust this teenager – the hero & the villain

Chapter 3

Ashton Agar, Stuart Broad and DRS

The First Test: Trent Bridge

 

 

Me: Steve , you crusty old blighter, you’ve been bloody hard to get hold of since the last test…

Rixon: What are you doing ringing me on the morning of a Test Match? Boof has brought down the cone of silence since the last test and there has been no communication possible. It was very successful keeping Ashton Agar debut’s quiet.

I’m was pretty drained after that last Test match to be honest – I don’t think I’ve ever sworn as much and for such a sustained period after Stuart Broad wasn’t given out. Fark I was pissed – we had even practiced that flick off the keepers gloves to first slip catch and it worked – I was wild when Aleem Dar didn’t give it out. Stuart Broad was as cool as a cucumber too after smashing it. I’m surprised Graeme Swann had no comment about the incident given his previous stance calling a Sri Lankan who didn’t walk a cheat. Swann really hates Sri Lankan’s I reckon, that’s why he celebrated catching Agar like he’d just got The Don out.And what is with that buttoned up shirt popped collar look?

Talking of Ashton Agar – well I have to take a fair bit of credit for his debut I am the spin coach after all. See how well he answered all the questions thrown at him by the press? And yeah he played pretty well too. Johnathan Trott – I noticed was fielding at fine leg for the pace bowlers but at first slip for the spinner. That’s one of the subtle things you pick up as a fielding coach.T rott was a bit unlucky with the old Hot Spot too. I hope you aren’t buying that bullshit that they couldn’t record while there was a replay – we put a man on the moon when I was in short pants and we can’t replay and record in real time. Spare me. It was all user error no the technology at fault. Not many people know Hot Spot is actually a bloke on a laptop using MS paint to putting white blobs on a picture. I heard a whisper that his laptop crashed right as Trott was dismissed so he couldn’t doctor up the pictures. True story.

Infrared camera shots: before and after Hot Spot
Infrared camera shots of Brad Haddin’s dismissal before and after Hot Spot

 

We weren’t out bowled or out fielded , maybe out batted as they made more runs than us, but we were definitely out DRSed. So Boof has decided to make a move – I am now fielding coach, spin coach and DRS coach. I’ve taken on the responsibility of educating the players on the correct use of DRS when batting. DRS is all about Awareness. Awareness that DRS is for overturning howlers, Awareness that DRS is not for trying to get away with a nick behind – nice one Clarkey, Awareness that DRS is not for guessing you are 1cm off plumb on an LBW like Watto. The only bloke who had the awareness to use DRS properly was Chris Rogers, the umpire triggered him caught behind to one he didn’t hit, so he got it reviewed. He has the awareness that DRS is for fixing the stinkers and will now have the dual responsibilities of ball polishing captain and DRS captain. I’ve set it up so Clarkey and Hadds still feel involved as Captian and Vice captain – I’ve called it the DRS committee and Rogers is the Chairman. Clarkey and Hadds will have 1 vote each but Rogers will have 3 votes so he can overrule any of their bullshit. Those bloody fast bowlers won’t be getting a say at all. They reckon that anything that hits the pad is out! Fark don’t they realise their not bowling to Shane Watson?

Speaking of Wattto did you see that LBW, the review was bad enough but the worst thing was it was the first ball after a drinks break. Boof was wild. When will this bloke learn? Out in the 40’s again! Boof was so wild he came up with a plan. The next test when there is a drink break and Watto is batting Di Venuto is going to be sent out to the middle. Watto won’t be allowed to have a drink instead he and Watto will shadow bat an over on an adjoining pitch. Running singles for a good imaginary punch through the covers of the imaginary ball or meeting mid pitch for a glove punch after Watto has crunched a another shadow square drive of the imaginary ball to the boundary rope. We think it should have a twofold effect of keeping Watto focused during the drinks break and help him get through the nervous 40’s – 60’s as we’ve told him to add the ‘imaginary’ shadow batting runs to his total. You know one third of all Watto’s test innings have been between 30 & 57 and a quarter of his innings have been single figures.

Me: I didn’t know that. It must be different not having Dave Warner with the squad anymore?

Rixon: Divvers is distraught that he won’t be training Warner up to be the greatest throwdown batsman of all time now that The Cannon has gone to actually play games of cricket in Zimbabwe & South Africa. It’s a cruel and unusual punishment Cricket Australia have forced upon Davey, touring with the A team that is, and Divvers reckons it’s ruined his throwdown career. Warner was pissing everyone off – he kept playing that damn sock ad on his phone after every over. It was like I was at home watching the cricket on GEM. It was bloody annoying all those ‘game of numbers’, ‘facts and figures’, 1% adding up to 2% garbage. Everyone in the dressingroom was sick of it.

Me: What about the speech Michael Clarke gave at the Australian High Commission the other day having a dig at the team?

Rixon: Yeah well you don’t think he wrote that all by himself do you? As spin coach I was responsible for putting together most of it. This is what I gave to Clarkey though I think he might have made a few changes in the drafting process.

The Players

Watto is a massive flog, and we all know it, but he did bowl a superb spell there in the second dig of 15 odd overs for fark all runs, so he’s with us for another test. I’ll bowl him even more at Lords to see if I can break him. Stop the Presses: Another injury to Watto.

Ashton Agar – what can I say…..Nathan, you’ll need to hand over the words to Under the Southern Cross.

Dave Warner – loves boxing, And moustached growing competitions…. by himself. Enjoy going harder for longer in Zimbabwe champ.

Peter Siddle – called Hollywood not because he’s a vegan – which is very Hollywood – but because he got his teeth whitened to appear in this Qantas video with his Academy Award winning eyebrow raise.

Mitch Starc – the boys love to wind Starcy up by calling him Mitchell Johnson. They both bowl left arm erratic so why not? Starcy hates it. How’s the tattoo Mitch?

James Pattinson – taken over the role that Brett Lee made his own in the team – biggest pretty boy. Doesn’t go anywhere without his hair product and mirror

Haddin – he’s come a long way since the Haddinuff and Haddout days when he was using the hoola hoop keeping technique [hold your arms in a circle and look aghast as an imaginary ball passes through – another dropped catch]

Hughes & Khawaja –The odd Couple – these two are like Oscar and Felix…or am I getting my sitcoms’s confused… more like Laverne and Shirley.

Steve Smith – the joker – everyone loves having a laugh with… no sorry at him. The running style, the fidgeting at the crease, the batting without bending the knees – what’s not to laugh at?

Nathan Lyon, Matthew Wade & Jackson Bird – The Roadies, they’ve got really good at packing up and carrying stuff and we all know they’re not going to get a gig on the ‘big stage.’

Rogers & Cowan – The twins – If they aren’t sharing roast lamb recipes, they are reading poetry together or pulling each other’s umm … leg.

The Coaches

Boof: loves a smoke a beer and a bet – preferably all at the same time. He’s also said he’ll sprint nude across Lord’s if we win the Test.

Stuart Karpinnen, strength and conditioning coach. When Tank was told Boof played for Australia his response was “Bullshit! That fat bastard?” Tank has realised his role will be seriously down graded under Boof.

Michael Divenuto – Batting coach. We love asking Divvers about his Test career… sorry one day career…. if you call 9 matches a career.

Ali de Winter – Fast bowling coach. Who? I’m not sure what this guy even looks like?

Grant Dover, team manager. We have a team manager?

Me: Hmm not some of your best work, not as good as your last tip – 1st innings under 250 – which came in. Any tips for this test?

Rixon: Righto you little runt, put $50 on Rogers to get a ton can you? He’s played county cricket for Middlesex at Lords for the last 3 years. He know’s this ground well.

Me: Can do, see you mate.

The Steve Rixon Ashes Diary 2013 – Chapter 2

Boof & Pup after hearing Ian Healy has called for Steve Rixon to be sacked.
Clarke & Lehmann after hearing that Ian Healy called for Steve Rixon to be sacked.

Chapter 2

Boof is back & Rogers & Haddin & Watson is back opening

The Ashes tour begins

Me: Good morning Steve. How are things?

Steve Rixon: What do you want, you little runt? I’ve been working my ring off under Boof. I’ve had to shred all the documented team rules that we had under Mickey. Tough work, anyway I did hear a little whisper that Mickey Arthur actually quit his post but Cricket Australia acted quicker and announced he was sacked to the press before Mickey could. Apparently the final straw for Mickey was when John Inverarity told him Steve Smith had been added to the Ashes squad. He said he couldn’t take it working with a bunch of talentless hacks anymore and stormed off.

The final straw: “Fark Invers, Steve Smith again?”
The final straw: “Fark Invers, Steve Smith again?”

I’ve been working on some drills to develop the player’s awareness. I quietly sneak up behind a playerwith my trusty stump until I’m really close and I mean really close – invading their personal space ,just about pressing on their sphincter with the stump, and see how long it takes them to notice I’m there. I’ve copped quite a few “Piss offs ” and “Why are you getting up my @rse ” and almost got in a fist fight with Phil Hughes but generally the players responded positively and I certainly enjoyed doing it. Unfortunately it has no practical application to a cricket match

Another time I got all the players to line up in a circle at square leg as I wanted the players to develop an awareness of where they are fielding, an awareness of where they are positioned in relation to one another on the field . So I blindfolded the players and using their awareness of where the pitch is I got them to walk to their preferred fielding position. It worked pretty well except that Rogers, Khawaja, Siddle and Starc all went to mid off. I quickly stepped in and sorted out that problem – every good fielding team needs their ball polishing captain at mid off and Rogers is right up there with some of the best in the world at ball polishing so he got the gig at mid off. All of us gained an awareness of where their team mates want to field and an awareness of who they don’t want in the team stealing their fielding position. I think it was mainly positive.

Once I’d sorted out the polishing captain we moved into stage 2 of the drill: awareness of where the ball is, awareness of how you are going to field the ball, awareness of how you will catch the ball. Your awareness of these factors is very much heightened when you’re blindfolded and I’m smashing around 156 grams of Duke leather, batting with my trusty stump.

Awareness that a stump is not as good as a bat
Awareness that a bat is better than a stump

Anyway it was all going swimmingly until I hit a catch to Watto and clearly he wasn’t focusing on his awareness of where the ball was, probably picturing himself shirtless, and copped the ball right in the face, breaking his nose. After all the guys stopped laughing we got Watto some ice. That drill definitely had positives

Awareness has become a real buzz word on tour. Boof has really run with it: Awareness of what we are here for – to play cricket. Awareness of who we are playing against – England. Awareness of what you have to do – make runs, take wickets. Awareness of where you are batting has been Boof’s top priority. Cricket Australia love to have countdown shit on the website, if they are not getting you to vote for the greatest Australian Test player of all time [ie Steve Waugh v Doug Walters – vote now] then they are doing a countdown of the top 20 best free agents of the Big Bash. Who gives a fig about that when the Ashes is about to start? Anyway these countdowns and vote offs are about connecting with young audiences through social media or something or other that Mick McKenna and his marketing gurus at HQ talked to us about for nearly 8 hours the day Mickey was sacked. Announcing the XI on the morning of the Test match after you’ve assessed pitch conditions etc is too old school instead Boof has been told he needs to release the order from openers down to number eleven over about 15 days so the CA website and social media guys’s can do an Ashes First Test XI countdown . It’s been painful, Watto hasn’t shut up about how he loves Boof and how he’s going to go out and score a heap of well crafted half centuries now that he’s back in his rightful spot opening . Spare me Watto, he’s like a spoiled little child.

Me: How is your awareness of your job security going? Ian Healy has called for a clean out of the coaching staff.

Steve Rixon: Ian Healy’s commentary on coaching is about as good as his commentary for Channel 9 – shithouse. If he reckons Wade can’t catch why doesn’t he coach him full time?. Heals is so full of shit and always ready with advice from the Channel 9 commentary box yet he’s never coached anyone to keep or coached a team. The day any of us coaches take advice from Ian Healy well… just put it this way it’s not going to happen. All the coaches and support staff have been getting along great with Boof. We both enjoy a dart and a beer and the odd, strictly non-cricketing, punt. After play we get together as a playing group and a coaching unit and debrief on the days play around an esky. It’s what Boof calls ‘esky time’ and he has made it very clear how highly he rates ‘esky time’ and how important it is for all players and coaches to participate fully in ‘esky time’

Esky time: A critical part of the Australian Cricket team under Boof’s leadership
Esky time: A critical part of the Australian Cricket team under Boof’s leadership

The first time Boof wheeled out the esky at the end of the day’s play I think a lot of the players were stunned – they didn’t know what to do. They’d already packed their bags and had their iPods in their ears ready to hop on the coach and do their own thing – they just stood around looking at each other in silence. When Boof saw this he cracked it and banned iPods from the sheds and made all the boys sit down and showed them the esky contained a slab of West End and slab of diet coke Boof and I had  a West End while most of the players had a diet coke except for Cowan who pulled out a bottle of red from his bag and poured himself and Rogers a glass

Nath Lyon is really hoping the iPod ban continues during the Test matches so he can lead the team in the traditional ‘Under the Southern Cross’ after a win rather than the 8 and a half minute dance remix that Wadey & Patto put together last year.

The best thing about esky time is the players have to talk to one another about how they think they played that day. It’s really challenged some of the blokes like Khawaja ,Watto, Wade and Warner that aren’t exactly skilled in the art of conversation. Or the art of thinking to be honest – they’ve found it really challenging. Particularly Warner given he hasn’t been playing but gee he’s been dominating the throwdowns from the batting coach, Michael Di Venuto. I saw him crack a 50 off just 22 throwdowns the other day – he is a talent. I’ve put the wicket keeping on hold so Warner can focus on his throwdown batting –I reckon he could become the best throwdown batsmen of all time if he keeps this up

Me : Right so Warner is going to make his way into the Test lineup by dominating throwdowns. Hmmm. Are any of the other coaches worried about their jobs? Craig McDermott has said he’s available again?

Steve Rixon: Ali de Winter, the fast bowling coach, isn’t worried as far as I know – he hasn’t changed anything since McDermott left. McDermott revolutionised fast bowling coaching by introducing two rules:

  1. Don’t bowl short shit
  2. Pitch it up

Fast bowlers are a simple lot aren’t they – imagine if I tried that with Wadey. Ok you see the ball so move your feet and your gloves so you can catch the ball and remember don’t drop the ball. Ok we are done. Haha – if only it were that simple

Wicket keeping is a lot more complex than that. It’s about Awareness. Awareness of where the ball is coming from  the bowlers hand,  awareness of what you need to do – catch it, awareness of what you don’t want to do – drop it. Already we are seeing three awareness levels and that’s not factoring in the batsmen: Awareness of what the batsmen is doing – playing a shot or leaving the ball, Awareness of where the stumps are – in front of you.

Me: What about Michael Clarke’s back, how is that going?

The team physio, Alex Kountouris, has been working the hardest of the lot of us doing double shifts with Kyly working on Clarke’s back. They are doing 12 hour shifts, Alex from 9am to 9pm and Kyly is doing the overnight shift so Clarkey can get round the clock treatment. Clarke was pretty happy when Boof said WAGs were allowed on the whole tour as he was concerned who was going to work on his back overnight….

Overnight shift? My back hurts too...
Overnight shift? My back hurts too…

Me: Ok so Clarke is in good hands and Rogers is the polishing captain but who is the Australian team’s fielding captain?

Steve Rixon: That’s Brad Haddin.

Me: Seems pretty obvious – he is the wicketkeeper.

Steve Rixon: Righto you little upstart let me explain. Haddin wears many hats not just the baggy green. He is the team vice captain and the fielding captain and he’s also the off field captain. With Clarkey banged up in a hotel room with Kyly most of the time… due to his bad back, Hads has been running the show off the field. Here’s an example of the sort of important work Hads is doing. After the win in Taunton Cowan, Rogers and Lyon wanted to have Indian while Watto, Pattinson and Wadey wanted to go out for Chinese. Haddin was able to bring both parties together and suggest Malaysian – it combines the best of both Chinese and Indian cuisine you know. Admittedly the guys sat on separate tables but they were at the same restaurant – Hads has really brought the team closer. The best thing about Hads is he talks to everyone in the team – that’s a rare commodity these days even with Boof’s enforced esky time.

I’m not just some crusty old blighter you know I have a great awareness of statistics, an awareness of what we can learn from history, an awareness of what has happened in previous Ashes series. In the last 4 Ashes series in England there’s been a massive collapse on the first day of the first test.

1997 – At Edgbaston, Australia were 8/54 until Warney helped them to 118 all out in 31 overs. England were 3/200 at stumps

2001 – Again at Edgbaston, England were 9/191before Alec Stewart & Andy Caddick (of all people) helped them to 294 all out in 65 overs. Australia were 2/133 at stumps.

2005 – At Lords Australia were bowled out for 190 in 40 overs and then had England at 7/92 at stumps before bowling them out for 155 on Day 2.

2009 – No collapse but it doesn’t count as the Test was in Cardiff, Wales

So can you put $50 on the team batting first to make less than 250 runs.

Me: Can do see you mate.

The Steve Rixon Ashes Diary 2013 – Chapter 1

Steve Rixon reacts to the news Mickey Arthur has been sacked
Steve Rixon reacts to the news Mickey Arthur has been sacked

Chapter 1

The Champions Trophy and Australia A tour

Beers, beards, beat ups and Belfast

Me: Steve, how are you?

Steve Rixon: Good but I’m sick of being in Belfast. We couldn’t get our mojo going in the damn Champions Trophy so Mickey sent me over to Belfast to chaperone Pete Crimmings around as he plays for Invitational XI’s in Northern Ireland.

Me: You mean Pat Cummins, I think. When are you linking up with the Ashes squad?

Steve Rixon: Well I’m hoping to get down to Taunton next week to get around the boys and touch base with Mickey as we finalise the opening combinations. Rather than a single opening combination we are going to have opening combinations all the way down the order. We’ve decided to divide the top 7 into 3 sets of openers .Yep , we will start off with the first opening combination of Cowan and Rogers, then there will be the second opening combination of Hughes and Khawaja, Pup will bat as normal at number 5 then Watson and Haddin will be the third set of openers.

As openers they hate sitting around watching their teammates out in the middle, waiting for their turn to bat. So when the real openers, Cowan & Rogers, go out to bat I will take the rest of the batsmen out the back and simulate match fielding. When a wicket falls in the Test I will get a signal from Mickey, something like “Fark! Cowans out for 31 again!” and the next opening combination will abandon the fielding drills and charge to the dressingroom to don their pads, thigh guards etc as if the 10th wicket had just fallen and it was a ten minute change of innings. The not out bloke on the field, Rogers in this case will feign some sort of injury [something like an Iraqi soccer player, or a Bernard Tomic ‘headache’] and come from the ground retired hurt. Then the second opening combination Hughes and Khawaja will stride to the crease as the ‘new’ openers and face the first ball of the innings (in their minds.) Clarke is a proper Test batsmen so he doesn’t need anyof this stuff –he’ll just come in as normal at 5. The members of each opening combination who have retired hurt will then partner up and form new combinations to ‘re-open’ the innings at a later stage. Clarke should be able to retire hurt at any stage of his innings due to his back issues so overall we are pretty chuffed with plans. In their minds all the players get to ‘open’ in particular Watson and the team benefits by having him actually bat at 6 and bowl – like a true allrounder. I just hope Swann doesn’t ‘open’ the bowling to Watson. Ah well no plan is perfect but Mickey and I did spend the whole Champions Trophy nutting this one out so it better work – we didn’t bother coming up with a back up plan.

Me: Hmm interesting plan, but will it still hold with Darren Lehmann as coach?

Steve Rixon: Nice hypothetical there mate, Mickey Arthur is the coach. You know, the South Afircan guy

Me: So you haven’t heard that Mickey has been sacked and replaced with Darren Lehmann?

Steve Rixon: What? No! Fark! Why am I always the last to know about these things? Just like I was the last one told about Warner in the Walkabout. Luckily I was able to come up with some top draw spin at the last minute with that ‘wig as a beard, taking offence at impersonating Hashim Amla’ defence. Joe Root was lucky it was Clint McKay that was in the Walkabout to break it up. If it had been the King of Northbridge, Adam Voges, I’m pretty sure Root would  have copped a Perth handshake for his troubles. That’s a glassing you know

Me: Yeah. Did you ask Rhys Muldoon to tweet after the Warner incident and put a positive spin on things?

Rhys Muldoon: Unaware that all Ashes Test in England are sold out & Hashim Amla is South African
Rhys Muldoon: Unaware that all Ashes Test in England are sold out                     & Hashim Amla is South African

Steve Rixon: No I didn’t. I’m pretty sure he knows nothing about cricket.

Me: So what is Dave Warner going to do with all this spare time now that he’s banned from playing cricket?

Steve Rixon: Well I’m actually going to teach him how to keep. He looks a better prospect than Wade just quietly.

Me: Really? I didn’t think you taught blokes how to keep anymore, you just looked after the outfielders in the IPL.

Why would a keeper need a fielding coach?

Me: How are you going to go working with Darren Lehmann? Are you concerned that you might lose your job? You were appointed as Mickey’s assistant.

Steve Rixon: Look I’ll be fine mate. I knew there was something up when I got sent to the Champions Trophy and then Belfast and Boof got to run the Australia A tour –  A tours use to be my gig you know. I’ve had a lot of different masters in my career, I’ve been in this coaching game for a long time, plus I coach in the IPL – it’s a nice little earner. And most importantly no other coach is going to put up their hand up to spend as much time with Matthew Wade as I have to. They’re not going to get rid of me unless they cut Wade from the squad or play him in the tests and that ain’t gunna happen – as long as Wade’s around my job is safe.

Can you put $20 on India to win the Champions Trophy?

Me: Can do, chat to you next week.

The Champions Trophy

It’s had more format changes than the NAB cup (and almost as many name changes), is about as relevant and held in approximately the same regard by fans, players and teams alike. It is, however, a television rights cash cow for the ICC. It is the Mini World Cup/ICC Knockout Tournament/ Champions Trophy But expect few tears to be shed by ICC officials during this final instalment of the Champions Trophy – it has been supplanted by another cash cow – biennial World T20’s.

It seems odd that this will be the last Champions Trophy as looking at the future tours program there is another World Cup in 2019 in England so another Champions Trophy installment in 2017 would seem logical. No it’s been replaced by a Test play-off in 2017. Can’t wait for that to not happen and be changed to a host of meaningless 7 game bilateral one day series, some triangular one day tournaments or perhaps even an extended Champions League T20 – that really brings in the fans.

 

The history

The rich tapestry of  the Champions Trophy’s/ICC Knockout Tournaments stretches way back to all of 15 years ago in 1998  with the first installment being a week long knock out tournament in Bangladesh. South Africa managed not to choke and won its only global tournament to date. Kenya hosted in 200o with the highlights being former Canberra Comet Mark Higgs making his debut for Australia and the Black Caps winning their first international event. Ever. Who can forget Sri Lanka in the rainy season as host in 2002. Remember that rained out final – what drama! Both the final and the reserve day were washed out and India and Sri Lanka were named co-champions – Remember that one? England 2004 was an abomination of stupidity as highlighted here and included minnow teams getting their pants pulled down and then pulled back up over their heads in a massive wedgie. Witness USA v Australia. India 2006 is when Australia started getting serious about the Champions Trophy (ie they won it for the first time) and South Africa 2009 is remembered for the great form and unfortunately knee injury to Cal Ferguson and these magnificent white jackets.

The Champions Trophy 2009 and the marvelous jackets that would have made Richie Benaud proud
Storm the commentary box: The Champions Trophy 2009 and the marvelous jackets that would have made Richie Benaud proud

 

The format

This one is probably one of the better formats even if it is a bit light on for teams: 8 teams in 2 groups of 4, 3 group stage games for each team with the top two from each group through to knockout semi’s and then the final. And all done in dusted in  just a touch over 2 weeks – pithy and purposeful(perhaps).Seeing as there are 10 test playing nations and 16 countries with ODI status I would have thought at least 12 of them could get a gig in a Champions trophy. If the ICC could see their way clear to have 3 groups of 4 teams and play 2 games of cricket on the same day (heresy for TV rights I assume) save for India games being standalone (gold dust for TV rights I’m guessing) then the tournament could still run in the same timeframe. It’s not like England are short on cricket grounds wanting to host international cricket. How does the ICC expect countries like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Afganistan etc to improve if they don’t play in these sort of events against the ‘big boys’?

Whatever it’s merit’s the Champions Trophy kicks of this year’s Ashes tour. Australia is in a group with England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka and appropriately their first game is against England. The other group contains India, Pakistan, West Indies and South Africa.

 

 

The schedule

Saturday June 8 , England v Australia, Edgbaston, 19:30

Wednesday June 12, Australia v New Zealand,  Edgbaston, 19:30

Monday June 17, Australia v Sri Lanka, The Oval, 22:00

 

Semi finals: Wednesday June 19 & Thursday June 20,The Oval & Cardiff

The final:  Sunday June 23,Edgbaston

 

 

Warm up games.

Why wouldn’t you have warm up matches for a tournament no one cares about. Don’t say that to Pakistan fans, the national team have been touring Scotland and Ireland for the past 3 weeks. Pakistan are giving this tournament ‘due diligence’ (pity their fast bowlers weren’t so diligent with the landing position of their front foot a couple of years ago) which must be the first time they have ever prepared for a tournament without a crisis. Expect them to implode shortly. Anyway as if to highlight Ireland deserving a slot in the tournament the first ODI between Pakistan and Ireland was a tie.

 

A fan at the Ireland v Pakistan ODI - or is that Shahid Afridi?? As the original caption said... "some [fans] more enthusiastically dressed than others!"
A fan at the Ireland v Pakistan ODI – or is that Shahid Afridi?
As the original caption said… “some [fans] more enthusiastically dressed than others!”
South Africa went on a home coming tour of sorts playing aginast the Netherlands in Rotterdam, where they played against a host of their countrymen (good preparation for playing against England I guess) and an Australian –Tom Cooper,. AB de Villiers played international cricket AGAINST a childhood friend for the second time in 6 months  – first it was a test against Kiwi/SA Neil Wagner (who was in the same school First XI as ABdV) and now Dutch/SA Stephen Myburgh.(who AB has known since he was 9)

Australia had been keeping a low profile and progressing smoothly until they played a match and it all started to go wrong. First Shane Watson made a commanding 135 opening against the West Indies – no doubt strengthening in his mind that he should open the batting in the Ashes. To me Watto is the new Bevo, a limited overs specialist. Fortunately the Australian test batting order was a little stronger in Bevo’s day and he only managed 18 tests – Watto has played 40. In the second game Austrlaia capitualated like a bunch of hacks to be humbled for 65 losing by 240 odd runs to India.( must have been a dodgy deck) Yep it was a return to the limpwristed batting efforts which blighted the bilateral ODI series against Sri Lanka in January. Once this Australian batting order puts it’s mind to collapsing there is no stopping it, not even Bevo could help this bunch.

NZ and England took a unique approach to the warm up games by playing a bilateral 3 game series. England has been horrid but equally New Zealand has been magnificent lead by Marty Two Toes Guptil with back to back tons including 189 in their most recent game. Wow.

The other sides have pretty much pleased themselves with a couple of games of 15 a side.

 

The tip

For their dedication to having a two country 6 game warm up tour, my tip is Pakistan. They have form in tournaments in England – winning the 2009 World T20 – and imagine how excited that fan will be.

 

 

Ashes series – past, present and future

The little urn - what it's all about
The little urn – what it’s all about

Back in the day an Ashes tour started in May after a herculean effort on the flight over and finished with the 6th test at The Oval  in August. It consisted of four months of tour matches against Invitational XI’s at exotic locations like the traditional tour opener against the Duke of Norfolk’s XI at Arundle Castle (England’s answer to Perth’s Lilac Hill festival match so I’m lead to believe), tour matches against the lions share if not all of the 18 English county teams plus the MCC and one day games against Scotland and Ireland, even the Netherlands and Denmark, 3 day time ODI’s (played in whites of course) followed by 6 Tests against the Mother Country. Forgotten touring party members were a must (Brendon Julian made 2 Ashes tours!), obscure back up wicket keepers (Wade Secombe, 2001, Graham Manou, 2009),  and even more obscure call up’s when injury hit the squad and any available Australian cricketer plying their trade in the Old Dart was a chance of a Test cap. Witness the bowl off between Shane Lee and Shaun Young in the tour match prior to the sixth test in 1997 which lead to Shaun Young becoming a member of the one test wonder club.

Coincidentally 1997 was the last ‘proper’ Ashes tour and yes they were playing ODI’s in England in whites in 1997!

In 2013 the Ashes tour will look as follows:

June 6 – June 23:  Champions Trophy

June 7 – June 23:  Australia A tour (consisting of 3 x 3/4 day tour matches  for the test ‘specialists’)

June 26 – July 5: Two x 4 day  tour matches

July 10 – August25 : 5 Tests

August 29 & 31: 2 T20I’s

September 3 – 16:  6 ODI’s (including one against Scotland)

And if you can still muster enthusiasm for more Ashes then England come to Australia the very next month – yes their tour of Australia kicks off just 6 weeks after the last ODI in England when they face WA on October 31. ( No traditional tour opener at Lilac Hill unfortunately)

Why are we having these back to back Ashes series I hear you ask? 10 tests, 11 ODIs and 5 T2o’s against the same opponent in just 6 months. The answer is the World Cup in Australia in March 2015 – this would be the same summer as an Ashes series if the current four year cycle was retained – and Australian can’t host an Ashes series and a World Cup in the same summer. [I’m still convinced this is the reason what should have been the 1991 World Cup ended up in 1992 so as not to clash with the 90/91 Ashes]

Not enough Ashes? Never fear we get to tour England again for another 5 tests in 2015! Yep stuff the usual 4 year cycle of Ashes in each country  – an Ashes series every 2 years so to speak  – let’s have 3 Ashes series in 2 years! Then the following Ashes in England will be in 2019 – the same summer that England hosts the World Cup! How the hell will that work?!? It’s the whole reason the Ashes cycle was changed in Australia!

Confused? I sure am. Is any of this necessary? The answer is of course no. The 2014/15 Ashes could simply have been moved to 2015/16 to avoid the Word Cup and the Ashes in England could have stayed on their current four year cycle ie 2009, 2013, 2017, etc. avoiding a clash with the 2019 World Cup. The reason for this surfeit of Ashes series, of course, is money. The result, of course, will be overkill.

Roll on the continuous Ashes!