Through the ringer
There is no secret potion or cheat code as Steven Smith and David Warner are reintegrated into the Australian ODI squad following what would have been the most torturous 12 months of their lives. I experienced it for a month and it’s not something I’d wish on anyone.
I felt like I had it bad. These boys have been put through the ringer for a full year and it’s a credit to both of them that they didn’t retire to a life of living-room seclusion given the amount of scrutiny on both of their lives over that period of time.
As of right now, there is only one avenue to salvation.
Score runs. It is that simple. ABRACADABRA – sins no more.
The World Cup, hosted by England, is the perfect place for them to re-enter international cricket.
English conditions right now are harsh … for the bowlers. There is nothing in the wickets, the size of the grounds or the hardness of the surfaces that is helping the bowling teams. Nothing.
Surprisingly, when I chat to Aussie chums from home, no-one seems to know that Dukes don’t make a white ball. County cricket uses a white Kookaburra for its 50-over and T20 formats. And yes, it performs like the red Kookaburra.
It’ll swing for about three overs – six overs in the game because you get a new one from each end – and then the batters are just completely dominating.
If you look at the scores from the early county season, 350-370 is about par for 50 overs. At Trent Bridge, 400 isn’t enough.
Every journo was coming up with a new word for ‘fat’. ‘Rotund’ is one I remember. I had to find it in the bloody dictionary. Thought it sat under the hood of a car.
Also, people seem to forget – perhaps because of our exposure to T20 cricket – that in ODIs you are only allowed to have four men out of the circle as boundary savers, as opposed to the five men on the boundary for a T20 game.
Batsmen are way too crafty in the modern day not to take advantage of a gaping hole in the outfield.
Add to this the extended square blocks in England. Some grounds have 20+ wickets in the middle of the oval which are used alternatively for practice and match day. Hitting cricket balls across them is like playing billiards on a glass table, or Phil Mickelson putting his ball on the 13th at Shinnecock.
It is scary fast and, like Phil, can lead to some epic tantrums – bowlers when they go the journey and batsmen when they miss out.
It’s why the return of the nation’s two best batsmen is integral to Australia’s chances of being a World Cup contender. I’m glad CA didn’t punish them further by holding them off for re-selection via domestic cricket or an A tour.
It’s an approach that would have been fair and easily justified, given the recent cultural review that exposed some of the ugliness that had bled its way into the game. Ultimately, they’re our two best and the conditions are cherry ripe for their dominance.
One thing I know for sure is that if they’ve had anywhere near the support I got from my teammates during my own period of suspension, then they are well placed to return as motivated as ever. For me, it brought about perhaps the best cricket I’ve ever played.
Of course, the SACA would stake a claim to that saying their stance on expectations and high performance are what brought that on. That my punishment and weight loss are the reasons for the red-hot patch of white ball cricket that had me in Australian colours no more than six months later.
Let’s be honest though. An extra few kilos has never impacted my ability to get the ball out of the middle of my blade. Yet, when I reflect back on that time, it’s clear that the love and support of my teammates did.
It’s why Steve Smith and David Warner will explode during the World Cup. They’ve got their identity back, they’ll feel loved again and they’ll want nothing more than to repay those people who stood by them through the worst period of their lives.
Runs = ABRACADABRA.