Friday, June 13, 2008

Where to for Stuart MacGill

If I was shocked when Stuart MacGill retired from Test Cricket during the current Australian tour of the West Indies then I was astonished when he announced he would like to represent New South Wales this coming summer.
MacGill has nothing to prove. More than 200 Test wickets speaks for itself.
So what is the point in going on?
He said it would have been more embarrassing for him to play in the 3rd Test in the Windies than the decision he made to pull the pin.
Does that mean he feels he can find improvement somehow between now and the start of the new season? Or does it mean that less than his best is good enough for Sheffield Shield cricket?
Stuart is a proud man so the answer to the latter must be no.
The bigger problem facing MacGill is the double whammy in the contract stakes.
Having retired from Australian cricket one assumes his 2008/9 contract has or will be withdrawn.
All states have finalised their contract lists so unless there is a special clause covering retired CA contracted players I don't think Cricket NSW can offer him one. I don't know that for a fact, it is more a guess on my part.
When the dust settles my guess is he will come to a decision that will suit all parties.
As I said earlier, he has nothing to prove so why play on?

spinner matures

I mentioned last month that I would tell the Matthew Gitsham story.
Who is Matthew Gitsham you ask?
In 1999 he was chosen as the very first leg spinner to travel to Adelaide as part of the Elite Wrist Spin Program co-sponsored by the ECB and Brian Johnston Memorial Trust.
Matthew, from Somerset was joined on that trip by Geraint Bowers from Glamorgan.
As far as cricketers go Matthew showed heaps of promise and was rewarded with selection in England under 17 and under 19 squads.
Because he was so gifted he never really worked hard at either his bowling or batting and so drifted along without purpose for four or five years, stacking on the weight as he cruised along . We never left him out of any of the spin programs I conducted in England during that time in the hope that one day the penny would drop.
Out of the blue he contacted Ann and I in Adelaide and asked if he could spend a summer out here playing club cricket. With one proviso we said yes. He had to lose weight.
He arrived still too heavy but we couldn't send him home.
Cullen Bailey arranged for him to play at his club, Sturt.
First night at training the coach sent him on a lap of the oval whilst he was preparing others for a net.
It was reportedy the slowest lap ever.
Chosen in the C Grade for round one he scored 6 not out before injuring his knee at training the following Tuesday.
An operation followed and his summer ended right there.
Twelve months later Matthew returned for a 3 month stint with Sturt.
It was a different cricketer who arrived in Adelaide. He had lost about 10 kilograms and increased that to 15 before he headed back to the UK.
His luck then changed thanks to a meeting with Owen Dawkins who took a shine to him. Owen worked at Lords with the Young England program until an opportunity arose at Gloucestershire.
He kept in touch with Matthew and ultimately encouraged him to try out in the County second team where he spent most of 2007.
Recently he was chosen in the Gloucestershire County first team as THE spinner and managed to take his first first class wicket.
This story is special because it gives hope to all the young spinners out there who have been discarded by counties around the age of 17-19.
I feel it is naive to think a spinner will mature in his teens. Shane Warne certainly didn't.
If Matthew Gitsham doesn't end up as a leg spinner with a 100 or more first class wickets it will not mean he has failed.
Getting there makes him a success and an inspiration to others.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

MacGill a shock

To say Stuart MacGill's retirement half way through the second Test in Antigua was a shock would be a massive understatement!
There has been all sorts of rumours floating around and I guess at some time in the future we will discover the validity of those rumours.
Watching him bowl in the period since Shane Warne's retirement in January 2007 rarely, if ever has he reached the standard he set early in his career.
An operation on his bowling hand followed by another on his knee seem not to have allowed him to bowl with any confidence either in Pura Cup or Test matches.
For him to pull the pin as he did he too must believe a return to his best is out of the question.
He appears to have lost the "feel" in his fingers.
The door is now open for the next generation of spinners. It would now be pointless to go back to Warne, as some pundits are suggesting or choose Victoria's Bryce McGain at the age of 35 or 36.
Australia has three very promising spinners in Dan Cullen, Cullen Bailey and of course Beau Cassin who is the only one of the three to be contracted by Cricket Australia this year.
Cassin is in the West Indies so he is "Johnny on the spot" to get first crack.
Trouble is he hasn't bowled in a match since the Pura Cup final in March so it is unlikely he will become Australia's 401st player on this tour.
It is more likely Ricky Ponting will opt for safety first and use Michael Clarke and Andrew Symons as his spinners. I hope I am wrong.
The next tour is to India in September which means Cassin as the contracted spinner will tour there and probably be joined by Redback's off spinner Dan Cullen who injured his hand during the Pura Cup final when looking good.
Cullen has been working on his spin and pace in the off season and a week at the Centre of Excellence has him going very well.
Should he be chosen for India it may well present Cullen Bailey with an opportunity to impress the Redback's selectors which could (should) lead to the two South Australian's bowling in tandem for most, if not all of the summer.
Bailey lost form and spin last season for a number of reasons but he looks to be back to spinning his leg break again due to work since the season ended in disappointment for him.
Both boys will attend another week or two at the Centre of Excellence later this month.
We must all be patient with these three young spinners who are going to attempt to fill big shoes of Warne (the best leg spinner of all time). MacGill the greatest "understudy" and possibly the unluckiest and Brad Hogg who was Australia's World Cup winner on two occasions.
They cannot be replaced overnight. It will be exciting watching to see which of the boys is the first to place his name in front of the selectors as the year unfolds.
I make no prediction there!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

mum's 90th/ coaching around Australia

I was very fortunate this past week to combine business with pleasure. On Tuesday 27th my mother, Queenie turned 90. What a milestone. Would you believe we went to Kentucky Fried Chicken where she enjoyed a drumstick and a couple of chips followed by a cup of tea.
Mum is very tired now and wishes to rest most of the time which is a far cry from the 80year who went to South Africa and spent a couple of days at Kruger Safari Park pacing it with the young ones. She was still playing competitive bowls into her early 80's until a couple of small strokes slowed her down. I looked at her having yet another nap and thought just how many changes she has witnessed since arriving in Australia as a 6 year old in 1924. The mind boggles!
The business side of the trip to Perth involved presenting my spin program to WACA coaches and approximately 65 young male and female spinners.
I was delighted to see quite a lot of spin in the groups but a little disappointed with the technical standard overall.
My National program continues with 2 days in Darwin followed by 3 days in Sydney, a weekend in Brisbane with the Australian Womens squad before returning to Adelaide for a 3 day clinic there.
Following a few days off it is on to Canberra for 2 days, Melbourne for 3 then Brisbane again for another weekend with the ladies followed by a week with some young male spinners.
My around Australia trip concludes on June 27th.
It is a lot of travel but the pleasure of working with the young Australian talent makes it worthwhile.