Should Ricky Martin be part of an A-League ad campaign?

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Football

March 31, 2013

Over two months ago, singer Ricky Martin arrived in Australia for his new gig as judge in one of 2012′s biggest rating shows, The Voice Australia.

Martin will replace Keith Urban as judge after Urban left the show join American Idol.

While I’m sounding a little like Richard Wilkins here, there is a point to this. Martin came to prominence in 1998 with his song The Cup of Life (La Copa de la Vide).

That song not only propelled Martin to international fame, but it was also the official song to 1998 FIFA World Cup in France.

So it then got me thinking. Why don’t we use Ricky Martin to promote the local game, the A-League in an ad campaign for season 2013/14 and beyond?

The FFA’s headquarters is based in Sydney. The Voice is based in Sydney. So why doesn’t the FFA take advantage of the situation?

Some people may think of this as a left field idea, but then again, it could be an idea that could transform Australian football through a catchy, hippy, happy tune in that it might bring new fans to the game after listening to either the single, ads or promos involving Martin.

You may ask, would the FFA afford a marketing campaign that involves someone like Ricky Martin? Well, the FFA will soon begin their $160 million four-year deal in mid year, so there is an influx of new cash.

There could be extra incentive for the FFA to find new owners for the Western Sydney Wanderers, and therefore offload their financial responsibilities from the club, and redirect that money to market the game, like it has never been marketed before.

In the first season of the A-League it had Queensland Roar player Chad Gibson in a starring role where the football was dipped into paint, then kicked up against a wall to cleverly spell a word. The slogan of the ad was “It’s football, but not as you know it”.

It was nicely done. It sent a message to the mainstream that a new era of football, not soccer was born with the commencement of the new A-League competition. However, as good an ad as it was, I still think it fell short of been iconic or timeless.

The song used in the ad was Not Many by Scribe.

The game of football needs an anthem. It needs something stirring, inspiring, uplifting. It needs something that is mainstream. It needs something where every generation can shake their Bon Bon to. I can understand in recent years where the “We are Football” slogan has done well.

That slogan can be used as an anthem, which would be performed by the Puerto Rican singer.

We have seen it in the past with other sports in this country that a great advertising campaign with a great tune can work wonders for a sport. A couple of examples that come to mind are cricket’s brilliant iconic piece of C’Mon Aussie, C’Mon and rugby league’s Tina Turner-inspired Simply the Best.

In world football, one of the most recognised anthems is Liverpool’s You’ll Never Walk Alone. Could an anthem similar to YNWA work for the A-League?

Maybe not, especially if Martin sings it. We could look for an anthem that picks out the best bits from a range of different sporting songs.

Or if it’s possible, maybe we could rehash The Cup of Life single, change a few key words in the lyrics which would then be relevant to the A-League. Something like:

“Here we go! Ale, Ale, Ale! We are Football! Ale, Ale, Ale! Tonight’s the night we see Archie play! We are Football! Ale, Ale, Ale!”

I know…it’s ordinary, but you get the drift.

Maybe SBS should have a program to find performers who could deliver the anthem for the A-League. It would be good timing on SBS’ behalf since they will be covering the A-League for the first time in season 2013/14.

I remember back in 2006  prior to the World Cup, SBS had a show called  “Song for the Socceroos”. It was a show designed to find and identify a World Cup anthem for the Socceroos. The winner of that competition was won by an urban rock  group called Freedom of Thought.

The winning song was Green and Gold. The song had lyrics like “I wanna jump and scream in a stadium full of Australians”. I thought that song was supposed to be a World Cup anthem. In a world cup, you don’t have a ”stadium full of Australians”.

The song missed it’s mark.

I like to see the ad where it shows a montage of great goals from the likes of Alessandor Del Piero, Archie Thompson, Marco Rojas etc. Also in the ad, show great images of active supporters singing and dancing  from clubs like WSW and Melbourne Victory and also  show images of young kids playing football on a Saturday.

All throughout the ad, have Martin shown in spits and sputs just to simply engage the mainstream audience. I would have Martin more as a narrator in the ad, rather then the star, because at the end of the day, its the players that are the stars. By the end of the ad, show the upcoming round of matches, as this ad will be shown on a weekly basis right throughout the season.

However, if Martin doesn’t work out, the FFA could always look towards the likes of Shakira, Enrique Iglesias or maybe the Gypsy Kings to fill the breach.

Football fans, do you want to see Ricky Martin be involved in an A-League ad campaign?

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Who is the better commentator: Andrew Voss or Ray Hadley?

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Rugby League

September 17, 2012

Channel Nine’s coverage of the 2012 NRL season saw a change in commentary when Ray Hadley replaced Andrew Voss as the network’s second caller, a move that has brought plenty of conjecture.

The origin of this possibly traces back last year when Andrew Voss on the Sunday Roast quipped that the Ray Warren statue (which Hadley’s station 2GB and Channel Nine boss David Gyngell were heavily involved in putting together) looked nothing like him.

Gyngell wasn’t impressed, while Hadley led a tirade on the radio against Voss to the extent where Voss was sueing Hadley for defamation.

That case was recently settled out of court with Hadley apologising and Voss receiving a six-figure settlement.

With Hadley doing the second Friday night games, Voss has been demoted to calling the Queensland Cup.

He has also been sacked from hosting the Sunday Roast, a show in which he played a major part in making it the best rugby league show on television in my opinion.

Voss’ future at the network is clouded, and  bringing a defamation suit against a Nine employer may have hurt his chances of renewing his contract at Nine.

Anyway as far as calling is concerned, who is the better commentator out of Hadley and Voss?

At the start of the year, Hadley’s commentary resembled that of someone who was calling horse racing. He was so quick he made the players out on the field look slow. He also didn’t allow his co-commentators much of a word in either, and I found that his voice was very low at times you could barely hear him.

But as the year has gone on he has slown down, and is starting to look comfortable. He is allowing the pictures to tell the story and is flowing along with it.

Another weakness Hadley has shown is his lack of research on players who are new coming into the top grade. In his defence, it is hard to combine football calling, with radio program Monday to Friday.

So is Hadley’s work on Nine quality or quantity?

Sometimes when people in general have multiple jobs, sometimes the quality suffers, thanks mainly to fatigue or not enough time. It’s probably the case with Hadley.

When I listened to Hadley 15 years ago on radio, I thought at the time, he would make it as a television commentator.

Now whether the years have gone by, or I was mistaken in my judgement, I’m not so sure. It depends how he calls the NRL next year. I give him the benefit of the doubt. Hadley’s a wonderful caller on radio, but as it showed this year, he does lack experience with television commentary.

It does show that radio and television commentary are required to have two different types of skills. On radio you have to describe where the team with ball is on the field, example “Broncos 30 metres out from their own line”. But on television you don’t need to – the pictures tell the story.

Andrew Voss has been with Channel Nine since 1994. When he first started he was raw with a high pitched voice, and sounded like a work experience kid. In the early years, he would fill in for Warren when he wasn’t available, or would occasionally be on the sidelines.

But from 2007, with Nine televising two Friday night games, it gave Andrew Voss the opportunity to be a regular caller. In the period of 2007 to 2011, Voss has improved quite a fair bit.

In some ways for Voss this year it is a shame that he is demoted down to the Queensland Cup. Voss has been demoted because of an off-the-cuff comment about a statue, not his commentating.

When Hadley has been missing calling the games, from other commitments, like the 2012 London Olympics, Voss did fill in on those few occasions and gave me the impression that Voss is a far superior commentator to Hadley.

Voss does his research on all the players, he seems genuinely excited in calling the football, and his commentary  runs smoothly and compliments his co-comentators. The years of experience as a commentator for Voss is becoming more evident at this point in time.

In fact, not only is Voss a better television commentatror to Hadley, I also think he has gone past the network’s number one caller in Ray Warren. Warren these days is slowing down a bit and is making more mistakes, such as incorrectly calling the wrong players names.

Warren also appears too busy arguing with Phil Gould during the game about things that are not associated with the game. Earlier in the year in a City vs Country game, Warren and Gould were too busy talking about Tommy Lee Jones movies.

In my opinion, Voss is the best commentator on Nine’s rugby league coverage. It’s a big turnaround for, due to the fact that earlier in the year in one of my articles, I did state that perhaps he wasn’t capable to have the mantle of the number one caller.

But thanks to ego and personality, there is a chance Voss may not be at the network next year. I do think he was hoping that Channel Ten got the rights, but alas, Nine has it for five more years.

Voss may end up on either radio, or Fox sports. Than again, with an industry as small as this, Voss may be lucky to get a gig next year. That is unfortunate.

Rugby league would miss out, all because of a trivial matter over a statue!

Oh, Andrew Voss is a far superior Sunday Roast host to Tim Gilbert.

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Who is the best batsman in the 10,000 Test runs club?

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Cricket

May 10, 2012

Over a week ago, Shivnarine Chanderpaul became the tenth batsman to get to 10,000 test runs.

He became the second West Indian batsman to achieve that milestone behind Brian Lara.

It than got me thinking, out of the ten batsmen who have past 10,000 runs, who is the best?

Here are the candidates:

Tests
Inns
Runs
HS
Ave
100s
50s
S.Tendulkar (IND)
188
311
15470
248*
55.44
51
65
R.Ponting (AUS)
165
282
13346
257
52.75
41
62
R.Dravid (IND)
164
286
13288
270
52.31
36
63
J.Kallis (SAF)
152
257
12379
224
56.78
42
55
B.Lara (WI)
131
232
11953
400*
52.88
34
48
A.Border (AUS)
156
265
11174
205
50.56
27
63
S.Waugh (AUS)
168
260
10927
200
51.06
32
50
M.Jayawardene (SL)
130
217
10440
374
51.17
31
41
S.Gavaskar (IND)
125
214
10122
236*
51.12
34
45
S.Chanderpaul (WI)
140
239
10055
203*
50.02
25
59

The great thing about this list is the different styles all of the ten batsmen have at their disposal. From classical strokeplay, to tight defence. From a flamboyant player to a stubborn street fighter, it’s what makes this list of players so interesting!

Judging who the best batsman is, you have to take into the account how the individual plays and also what impact that player has on his team. It’s those other factors in which a statistical list doesn’t reflect the full story for every player.

But here we go!

The best batsman in the “10,000 runs club” in my opinion would have to be Brian Charles Lara, with Sachin Tendulkar a close second. I found Lara to be the aggressor of the two, who would take the game on – this is probably a reason for Lara’s very low number of not outs.

Here is my ranking:

1. B.Lara

2. S.Tendulkar

3. S.Gavaskar

4. A.Border

5. J.Kallis

6. R.Ponting

7. S.Waugh

8. R.Dravid

9. S.Chanderpaul

10. M.Jayawardene

Lara, not only scored quick, but made big hundreds. Lara made 9 double centuries and 2 triple tons, compare that to Tendulkar who managed 6 double centuries.

I believe the difference between the two, is that Tendulkar would take the game away from the opposition in a full days play, while Lara would do that in a session.

There’s the argument that Tendulkar has the better technique (a technique Bradman once said was similar to his), and the better record. But for mine what tips the scales towards Lara was that he played in fairly weak West Indies side for at least half of his career.

When Greenige and Haynes retired in the early nineties, Lara has played behind some very ordinary openers, except for perhaps the hit and miss Chris Gayle.

Lara would always come out with the West Indies in trouble, facing the new ball all too often. Apart from himself, Chanderpaul, Gayle and one or two others, the Windies batting hasn’t been up to scratch for some time now.

While with Tendulkar throughout his career, the Indian side would always have a strong batting line-up with the likes of Ravi Shastri, Virander Schwag, Mohammad Azharuddin, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly and VVS Laxman.

But between Lara and Tendulkar, I’ll never forget the respective innings where they announce themselves to Australian cricket fans at the SCG 20 years ago. Tendulkar’s 148* in 1992 was more than matched a year later at the same ground where Lara scored a brilliant 277 before being run out.

In their careers, they did combat two of the best spin bowlers of all time in Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan, showing that they were both outstanding players of spin.

The next two I’d rank come from very similar eras in Allan Border and Sunil Gavaskar. Both had to overcome the fearsome West Indies attack of Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Colin Croft etc. But also other great fast bowlers like Ian Botham, Bob Willis, Dennis Lillee, Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee, Imran Khan, Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram.

Gavaskar, an opening batsmen from India, could bat all day. Border, however, was a street fighter, ready for battle at every opportunity. He was also regarded as perhaps Australia’s best player of spin in the last 50 years.

I give the edge to Gavaskar and rank him at 3, with Border at 4. Gavaskar is without doubt one of the best opening batsman of all time with close to a perfect defensive technique, and against the fearsome Windies attack he averaged a whopping 65.45 with 13 centuries in 27 tests.

Border deserves to be ranked at 4. This is simply because he took over a rabble of an Australian side in 1984, where for a long time, he was the lone ranger. Imagine if he didn’t have the added pressure of being captain, he might’ve pushed towards 12,000. When Border retired in ’94, he took the Australian side to the cusp of been number one again.

Also, if both Border and Gavaskar played Test cricket in the last 15 years, from 1997 onwards, their batting records would’ve improved thanks to improvement in bats, ropes brought in for boundaries, and only facing 2 bouncers per over.

Also they didn’t play minnows like Zimbabwe or Bangladesh (although Sri Lanka was a minnow during that period). There’s a fair consideration that “AB” and “Sunny” could’ve scored more than what they have and perhaps be a lot closer to Sachin and Lara, than to all the others are on the list.

Another player in that era was the one and only Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards. As you can see by the list above, he didn’t reach 10,000 runs (8540) and his average (50.23) is lower than many of the others.

They always say that stats don’t always tell the true story, and I think this is the perfect case in point. I argue that “Viv” perhaps is a better player than Lara, but thats another debate altogether!

At the number 5 position, I put Jacques Kallis ahead of Ricky Ponting at 6. Kallis just keeps on keeping on, while Ponting’s last few years have seen him struggle for consistency. On pure talent, Ponting’s the better batsmen, who along with Lara, is the most dynamic, uncompomising batsman of his generation. However, on the technical side of things, Kallis has the edge. It’s that better technique that still enables Kallis to still score runs well into his mid-thirties.

Since 2009, Ponting in 38 tests has scored 2649 runs at 40.13 with 4 centuries. While Kallis in 25 tests has made 2432 runs at an average of 62.35 with 12 centuries. The other thing in Kallis’ favour is he has nearly 300 test wickets to his name.

Steve Waugh comes in at 7, with Rahul Dravid at 8. Both very similar players, both the rock of Gibraltar for their respective sides and both with classical strokeplay. Dravid prefers batting for two days, while Waugh likes coming in when the score is 3/30, rather than 3/300!

“Iceman” Waugh and “The Wall” Dravid had many memorable innings between them. Waugh’s 200 in Jamaica evidenced the changing power at the top of world cricket, while in 2001 Dravid batted all day with VVS Laxman to change the 2001 Test series in India’s favour. Dravid scored 180, as India beat Australia, after India were forced to follow on after being 274 runs behind.

Bear in mind, however, Dravid did score more than 1500 runs in 16 tests against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Waugh on the other hand played five Tests and managed just under 550 runs against the same nations. It’s this key reason why I have Waugh ahead of Dravid.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul comes in at 9, ahead of Mahela Jayawardene. I felt “Chanders” deserved to be ranked higher than Jayawardnee, simply because Chanderpaul has been carrying the Windies side on his back the last 5 or 6 years since Lara retired. Jayawardene, however, has probably taken advantage of the flat pitches the sub-continitent has provided.

So there you have it. I chose Brian Lara the best player in the 10,000 runs club. I get the feeling not everyone will agree with that choice, or any other choices that I made.

In the coming years, players like Kumar Sangakkara (34), 9,382 runs, Graeme Smith (31) with 8042, Alistair Cook (27) with 6184 and Michael Clarke (31) with 6097 are a chance to join the 10, 000 list. Cook might be a chance to get close or even beat Tendulkar’s record. But at this stage, it is a long shot.

Even if all four make the list, I’d still pick Brian Charles Lara ahead of them.

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Who are Australia’s next top six batsmen?

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Cricket

November 22, 2012

The focus and attention is on the second Test at Adelaide this week, a match that’s predicted to favour batsmen very heavily.

In the lead up to the first Test, there was an element of doubt whether Australia’s inexperienced top three could handled the much vaunted South African bowling attack. There were doubts if debutant number three Rob Quiney could handle Test cricket.

One innings of nine doesn’t say much, so in effect, Quiney does deserve more of an opportunity to see if he can handle at that level.

There are continual doubts about Watson’s place in the team, with regards to fitness, and his continual failure of turning fifties to hundreds, which so far has him with a disappointing ratio of 18 fifties, 2 hundreds.

Opener Dave Warner needs to score runs in Adelaide, while his batting partner, Ed Cowan had a Gabba Test to remember, making his maiden Test century.

Also there’s the lingering doubts over the two old stagers in Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. How long will they be around before they are replaced by members of the new generation?

With so many question marks hanging around Australia’s current top six  here is a look at Australia’s possible next top six batsmen:

Phil Hughes

On November 30,  he will turn 24. Already he has 19 first class centuries to his name. Obviously with that record Hughes is talented, which is hard to ignore. However, what’s also hard to ignore is that Hughes needs to iron out his batting technique if he is to have a future in the baggy green.

Recently I have seen him in a Shield match, via online streaming from the Cricket Australia website. From what I can see, his technique does look a little more solid. He doesn’t back away to the leg side, and his bat is pointing towards the covers, rather than the slips.

In my opinion, I still think he is one or two years away from getting back in the Test side. So far this season, Hughes is averaging 44 with 352 runs.

Another thing to highlight is Australia’s lack of opening batsman. The quality is not there at the moment.

Here are the openers gracing the scene at Shield cricket 2012/13: Liam Davies, Marcus Harris, Ryan Carters, Chris Rogers, Sam Raphael, Hughes, David Dawson, Scott Henry, Mark Cosgrove, Ben Dunk, Wade Townsend and Alex Kemp. Some familiar names like Rogers and Cosgrove, but again the depth isn’t there. The next couple of years are crucial to Hughes’ career.

Usman Khawaja

Had a difficult 2011/12 season last summer, where he was axed from the Test side following Australia’s shock loss to New Zealand at Bellerive Oval. It was cruelly unjustified from the national selectors at the time.

Two Tests previous to Hobart, Khawaja, notched up a match winning half century against South Africa in South Africa, which enabled Australia to chase down over 300. In the next test at the Gabba, he was involved in a run out with Ricky Ponting and made 30 odd.

What makes his axing terribly disappointing was that apart from Dave Warner, everyone failed with the bat. However, Khawaja was the scapegoat for Australia’s loss.

That was followed by an unhappy return back to Shield cricket for NSW where in five matches, he made 260 runs at an average of 28.88.

In season 2012/13 he has moved to Queensland to play for the Bulls as he opted for a change of scenery and a change of luck. So far it’s proving fruitful.

Currently he is the leading Shield run scorer with 430 runs at 47.77. What those stats don’t tell also is Khawaja has made runs in various pitches around Australia that have favoured very heavily towards the bowlers.

In his last match, Tasmania made 95 in their first inns, Khawaja made 138 off 178 balls including two sixes in brisk fashion. Khawaja is coming back a very determined player, and if given the opportunity to play for Australia, one gets the feeling that this time he will take it with both hands.

Overall in his career of 59 matches he has made over 4000 runs at around 44 with 11 centuries.

Alex Doolan

Came to prominence when he was selected in the Australia A side against South Africa where he scored 161 not out. A number 3 batsman for his state side Tasmania, in 36 first class games he has scored 2,269 runs at an average of 39.12 with five centuries.

This season in Shield cricket he has amassed 367 runs in four matches at an average of 61.16. The big question for the 26-year-old is can he continue with this consistency for the rest of the season and back it up next season and beyond?

Or is Doolan another version of Peter Forrest, whom this time last year did have similar stats to Doolan. Time will tell.

As a batsman he is counter attacking player, although at times he may struggle against the spin. South African leggie Imran Tahir troubled him from time to time. At the moment he is in the next six batsmen to be picked.

Joe Burns

Burns is a promising young old top order batsman from Queensland. So far in his career in 22 first class matches, he has accumulated 1466 runs at an average of 44.42 which includes four centuries.

So far this season in the Shefield Shield he has had a modest return of 291 runs at an average of 36.37 from four matches. He is an attacking batsmen who likes to go after the bowling.

He just needs to be more reliable and bring in more maturity to his game. The inclusion of Khawaja to Queensland will help Burns lift his game so he could to stay with Khawaja.

Glenn Maxwell

The Victorian all-rounder is slowly building up a reputation for been a hard hitting batsman who can easily adapt to three forms of cricket. He also bowls handy off breaks, but at this stage of his career, its his batting that is coming along in leaps and bounds.

So far in his first class career in 14 matches as a batsman he has contributed 924 runs at an average of 46.20 with only one century, but eight half centuries.

If Maxwell wants to take it to the next level, he needs to convert those fifties into hundreds. While in his bowling he has made a modest start with 23 wickets at an average of 37.86.

Maxwell was selected in the Australia A game, where he scored 64 and took 2/70 to complete a good double for the match. Due to the terrible scheduling thanks to the T20 competitions (World Cup and Champions League) Maxwell has only had two Shield matches to date so far this season, which makes it very difficult to judge his form.

Whenever I see Maxwell play, there is something about him which makes me think he’ll go far. My belief is many cricket fans around the country are underestimating his ability.

Andrew McDonald

Another Victorian all-rounder who made the Australia A side, McDonald has had his taste of Test cricket in 2008/9, where he played four tests against South Africa. He had modest returns, scoring just  over 100 runs and picked up nine wickets.

At the time, I felt he was picked before his time. Now four years later, McDonald is a better player now than at the time of his Test debut.

The 31-year-old has played in 91 matches. As a batsman, it reads 4,573 runs at an average of 39.76 including 11 centuries. With the ball, he has taken 201 wickets at 28.64 with five 5 wicket hauls (or as a Kerry O’Keefe would say “5 Michelles”).

If anything, those stats show that he has the qualities to contribute something to the Test side. McDonald is underrated. He could do a job for Australia at number 6, where the side could use him as a fifth bowler, and therefore allow Watson to be relieved from his bowling duties and concentrate on his batting.

McDonald would be a good short term option for a year or two, until youngsters like Moises Henriques, James Faulkner and Mitchell Marsh come to the fore. He is an experienced first class cricketer who could also provide a good sounding board for Clarke, as inevitably Australia will lose Ponting and Hussey sooner rather than later.

However to throw a spanner in the works, McDonald has been ruled out for the season for Victoria after suffering a hamstring injury. Such rotten luck. It does put McDonald’s chances for the Ashes tour in severe doubt. But once McDonald is fit and firing, the selectors should keep a close eye on him.

So Hughes, Khawaja, Burns, Doolen, Maxwell and McDonald are the next six batsmen in line. In fact I would have no hesitation in bringing Khawaja in the Test side immediately.

Others like Hughes Burns, Doolen, Maxwell, and even other players like Ferguson, Henriques and Faulkner, need to have two or three good years playing consistently at Shield level.

Hopefully with those players developing, other young players can also come through in that same timeframe.

I hope that when the likes of Watson and Clarke retire from the Test side, Australia will again have a strong batting line-up. If they put the right succession plans in place, with players coming through matching their potential, Australian cricket is on its way to becoming a feared Test side again.

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When will Matthew Wade get his baggy green?

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Cricket

January 9, 2012

The more astute among Australian cricket fans would have been following the progress of Victorian wicketkeeper-batsman Matthew Wade since he debuted in the Sheffield Shield season of 2007/8 as 19 year old.

Early in his career, Wade left Tasmania for Melbourne after seeing he was stuck behind Tasmania wicketkeeper and fellow Test aspirant Tim Paine. On his Shield debut he compiled a well composed 83 and picked up six catches as ‘keeper.

Wade, who turned 24 on Boxing Day, hasn’t looked back since that day. In his 50 first-class matches to date, he has accumulated 2440 runs at an average of 40.16, which includes four centuries. As a keeper he has taken 188 dismissals, including 183 catches.

Wicketkeeping is the area of his game that Wade has improved during his time with Victoria. He needed to, due to the fact that his main rival Paine is a very accomplished gloveman.

His batting has been good all along. Wade has played some crucial innings for Victoria, notably in the Sheffield Shield final in 2009/10.

In their first innings against Queensland, Victoria were in terrible trouble at 6/75, but ended up getting to 305 thanks to a gritty knock of 96 from Wade. It was so influential that Victoria would go on to win the final by 457 runs.

Early this season, Wade represented Australia in the T20 against South Africa. Since he came back to play for Victoria he has scored 316 runs at an average of 63.20, to continue putting pressure on incumbent Brad Haddin.

Haddin hasn’t had his best 12 months of Test cricket. He’s probably had his worst. In his last 10 Tests, Haddin has scored 335 runs at an average of 20.93, well below his career average of 35.54, and the early stages of his career when it was around the 40 mark.

In recent times Haddin has also struggled with the gloves, dropping key chances in the last Test match at the SCG.

So with Haddin struggling, and in the twilight of his career aged 34, Wade only needs to continue to be consistent in all forms of the game, in particular first-class cricket. With that in mind, it’s only a matter of time before Matthew Wade has a baggy green cap on his head.

It may well be sooner rather than later.

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What happened to Saturday afternoon NRL?

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Rugby League

May 22, 2012

For years, rugby league fans have been treated to “NRL Super Saturday” on Fox, with three games across the evening. However, with the first match kicking off at 5:30pm, there have been no Saturday afternoon matches.

In the past, Saturday afternoon football was broadcast on ABC TV live and uninterrupted. However, with lack of crowds and ratings, Saturday afternoon football was put to bed in the late nineties, around the time of the Super League war.

However, as the new TV deal is currently being negotiated, the NRL are considering a return to Saturday afternoon football. If this was to kick of at, say, 3:30pm, there is the possibility of three consecutive live afternoon matches.

This maximises ratings. League fans can watch all three games, instead of choosing which 7:30 match to watch.

However, there have been suggestions that NRL clubs won’t want to play in that timeslot.

But here is my strategy that could establish successful Saturday afternoon matches that would get the clubs on side.

There could be up to 20 matches staged in that timeslot per year. There will be no Saturday football where rounds include teams having a bye.

Also when there’s public holidays, like ANZAC, Queens Birthday and Easter, there would be no games.

The NRL should initially pick just two clubs that they think would handle the timeslot successfully. I would pick the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors. With Melbourne Storm, people flock to watch AFL on Saturday afternoon, so you would think that at 3:30pm or 4pm on a Saturday would not be a problem for Melbourne folk.

The Warriors are an obvious one due to the time difference in New Zealand. The draw should ensure that the Storm and Warriors only play Sydney teams.

Another thing the NRL could do is provide options for the rest of the NRL clubs. The options are, clubs could play a couple of their home matches either Saturday afternoon or Monday night. If an NRL club chooses Saturday afternoon football, then that club won’t host a Monday night game.

Vice versa for clubs that host Monday night games, where they don’t host any home matches on Saturday afternoon.

It would be even more beneficial if the NRL expanded to 18 clubs by 2015, that way you could spread the load evenly among those two questionable timeslots, Saturday afternoons and Monday nights.

Then again, with Saturday football, you may get decent crowds at 4pm, rather than in the past at 3pm. One hour could make a difference. Or to put it at another angle, the 5:30pm game is brought forward by an hour and a half.

And if Saturday football grows in crowds and ratings, than you can have normal flexible scheduling taking place.

Whether my strategy is something the NRL could employ remains to be seen, although I wouldn’t count on it.

As far as broadcasting is concerned, it would be nice if there was a free to air match on Saturday. However, word is that Fox would be reluctant to relinquish it’s successful “Super Saturday” programming. Also, Nine probably isn’t super keen to televise a free-to-air game on Saturday.

While the television stations may not want to change the Saturday status quo, the NRL has an interest in Saturday afternoon matches. This is especially as the Saturday afternoon timeslot is a strong one for the AFL.

The beauty about the NRL going to the open market with Channel Seven and Ten coming into calculations is that if Nine doesn’t want to broadcast a match on Saturday, but Seven and Ten do, the NRL could sell this game to one of those stations. They are guaranteed to get more than they would from Fox for the game.

Basically, the NRL needs to play hardball with the networks.

Nine could look at broadcasting a game from 4pm live, right up to the news. While Saturday evening news isn’t as big as the Sunday edition, at least you have viewers get used to watching the network news at least more than once a week.

Then, Fox can still have their normal football from either 5:30pm or 6pm. They’ll still get the prime time audience. But of course, with one game on a FTA, it would reduce their “Super Saturday” matches from three to two.

Unless Fox simulcasts all of the NRL matches, that is. Simulcasting would be a great thing for rugby league fans, both outside the league states and within.

NSW and Queensland viewers could watch the Friday night match of their choice live. And viewers in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia wouldn’t have to stay up to watch replays of the games.

Nine may not be happy with that part of the agreement with losing the exclusivity of Friday nights, but if it helps them get the NRL rights, than they may be willing to a compromise.

The sweetner for Nine and Fox is that the NRL is considering staging up to four Thursday night matches, including the season opener, and a few Sunday night games. So in some respects the NRL is also willing to compromise.

I think Saturday afternoons should be given a chance. You would have a genuine “Super Saturday” in place with games on at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm, all live. If the NRL can promote Saturday football, and if all the clubs are supportive of it, rather than whinging about it, there’s a good chance that it could be a success.

If that happens, the NRL would gain a new timeslot. If Channel Seven and the AFL can have two games of Saturday afternoon footy at roughly 2pm, I’m sure the NRL can manage one at 4pm.

By 4pm, you would think that majority of children’s sport would be finished and the majority of people would have finished their work.

If the NRL wants a free-to-air on Saturday afternoon, it must balance the wishes of the clubs, fans and broadcasters.

However, if they achieve this, they will have done a brilliant job.

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The Big Bash is as fake as Kim Kardashian

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Cricket

December 27, 2012

Ricky Ponting. Shane Warne. Chris Gayle. Brad Young. Scott Coyte… wait, who?

Roarers, here is the second edition of the city-based Big Bash League Twenty20 tournament, where you’ll see players collide in the form of geriatrics, mercenaries and Neville Nobodies.

Among the promotion and hype, the standard of cricket has been mediocre.

It began promisingly from a ratings point of view. Last year’s first-round BBL match, which featured Warne’s first appearance in five years on Australian soil, attracted ratings of 478,000, giving it the fifth-highest pay-TV ratings of all time.

This year’s first match, with Warne again the star attraction, dropped to 344,000.

Ratings have declined as the tournament continues. Last week the Sydney Thunder versus Adelaide Strikers attracted 219,000, while the Melbourne Renegades versus Hobart Hurricanes match got 197,000. A far cry from last year when matches were regularly watched by over 300,000.

The crowds have also been a talking point, highlighted by a dismal turn-out of 4,101 between Sydney Thunder and Adelaide Strikers at the 83,000 seat ANZ stadium.

The average crowd this season has been 10,026. Last season’s was 17,750. The state based Twenty20 comp in season 2009/10 averaged 18,153, and had some crowds of well over 30,000 particularly when the Victorian Bushrangers were playing.

Cricket, like any sport needs new stars. Having the likes of Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan, Gibbs, and Simon Katich, are gone from international cricket. Then there’s Brad Young, a 39-year-old spinner who hasn’t played at a decent level for nearly a decade. The BBL looks like a retirement home.

At the same time you have guns for hire like Chris Gayle, who seems uninterested in playing for the Thunder.

There has been talk of some rivalry between the BBL and the A-league, given the BBL have convincingly beaten the A-league in the ratings. You can’t compare apples with oranges, where one tournament goes for six weeks and the other six months.

The rivalry between the BBL and the A-League is about as fake as a Kim Kardashian marriage. Kardashian and the BBL have things in common – they lack substance, seek attention and appeal to those people with short attention spans.

Is Cricket Australia really insulting the fans’ intelligence? Do you really want to see the Sydney Thunder (who haven’t won a game for over a year) send out the likes of Scott Coyte and Sean Abbott: grade cricketers who can’t make it in the Shield.

But enough criticism. Here are some things that CA could do to improve the BBL.

Have one team in Sydney and Melbourne. Two teams called Sydney and Melbourne makes no sense. Have our state players play for their home cities. NSW player Doug Bollinger playing for Hobart… please!

If it’s a city based competition, why don’t the BBL branch out to regional areas like Geelong, Newcastle, Illawarra or the capital itself.

If you bring big time cricket to these regional areas, it gives the sport good promotion and perhaps helps with grassroots cricket.

Reduce the BBL from six weeks to three of four. The smaller time frame you have, the more likely you’ll have Test players available for the whole BBL. As the BBL has shown, there is not enough talent to go around to fill eight teams. Have the BBL after the Tests in early January. Than in February have the international ODIs and Twenty20s.

With extra weeks available from a reduced BBL, our state teams would have a chance to play against the touring sides. NSW v South Africa, Victoria v Sri Lanka. Remember the days when our state sides gave the touring sides a walloping, and did the Australian Test side a favour by not allowing the touring side any good form leading into a series?

The Australian A and Chairman’s XI games were played over two days and were nothing but meaningless. So meaningless that Chairman’s XI captain Usman Khawaja had to leave on Day 3 of the match so that he could travel back to Sydney to play for Sydney Thunder.

At the end of the day, I don’t mind Twenty20 cricket. But when it takes over a good portion of the summer, and the cricket itself is of low quality, than it becomes a concern. Our Test team and Shield cricket should always take a higher priorty than the BBL.

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