Monday, February 27, 2012

What is it with Tim Southee?

With talent to burn, the twenty-three year old could discover that he has a career on his hands that is positively teeming with adulation for many a year to come.

Yet, instead of making the most of his ability, he appears more intent on becoming a self-appointed verbal gangster for the Black Caps as he constantly sledges his way through bowling spells while interspersing this by sending down balls so wayward that instead of paddling their way into that famed corridor of uncertainty and detonating on opposing batsmen with lethal accuracy, they – and his mouth - both end up squirting out nothing more than minute doses of insignificant puffery that embarrassingly fail to hit the mark.

Like all gangsters, he is only as big and tough as he’s allowed to be in his current environment until someone with more ammunition enters the fray.

And that person came along in the form of Richard Levi. A hulking, powerfully built character, the South African responded to Southee’s childish antics by belting the Northlander over the fence on consecutive balls on his way to an outstanding century during last week’s second 20/20 encounter. And still the young New Zealander kept up the verbal barrage. Go figure.

Fort Knox would have presented more viable attacking options for any would be foe than what Southee’s bowling did to the health and safety of Levi’s wicket that night.

Not only did this oral diatribe fail as it fell on deaf ears, his bowling wasn’t up to much either. Maybe if he took the novel approach of concentrating on the task at hand (getting the batsman out, Timothy, by the bye) he might present more of a threat to opponents.

And, really, how many greats of the fine art of bowling have resorted to wasting extra breathe on discussing the intricacies of life with batsmen?

Certainly the great Richard Hadlee didn’t. Why not, you ask. Well, it’s simple, really. You see, throughout his test career, the great man had this method of taking a wicket every twenty-two deliveries. Something Southee has yet to master, it must be said.

Now, let’s be fair; Hadlee was one of the best in the history of the game.

Talent became him. Disdain for mediocrity was his constant companion as he methodically set about dismantling the techniques of the world’s best batsmen. No one is expecting Southee to emulate Paddles, just set out to take the same approach. There could be no better way of putting a halt to the wicked ways of a batsman than to send that little sphere hurtling into middle stump.

This means that he would be required to let his actions do his talking.

Now there’s an idea.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An injury free, fit Jesse Ryder is much like the Loch Ness monster; there have been many supposed sightings, but, in the end, they always turn out to be nothing more than a cruel hoax.

Five weeks after tearing a calf muscle, Ryder is back in the thick of the action in tonight’s 20/20 decider against South Africa.

Reputedly, he has never worked harder. Five weeks of blood, sweat and tears, and here he is, fitter and stronger than ever, keen to show his wares. He’s lost weight, and, in John Wright, gained a mate. An improved attitude has overcome the twenty-six year olds disposition, leading to a spiffy new clean slate.

Gone, it seems, are the bad old days, where, without a moments notice, an innocent window pane could have its confidence shattered in an unprovoked attack. Or that he would arrive at training inebriated from the effects of the previous night’s alcohol consumption.

Yes, the lad’s growing up. After having the hard word put on him from New Zealand Cricket, the penny finally dropped. If Ryder wanted to be part of the Black Caps, he had to shape up or ship out. Thankfully for fans of the game, the Wellingtonian chose the former before father time passed him by.

And, after all, everyone deserves a second chance in life. It’s not like he’s the only person to have made a mistake.

No one expects him to be saint.

Razor blade thin, he does not need to be. It’s not like cricket is played in countries where he is required to be the shape of a matchstick to slot through customs. There is no need for him to abstain from alcohol entirely, or from enjoying life. The only requirement needed is to conduct himself in the manner with which any member of society would be expected to. And remember that his income is derived from New Zealand Cricket who in turn gathers their revenue from sponsors, not to mention the paying public.

In other words, respect the hand that feeds. Which he now seems to be doing.

The thought of one so talented wasting an opportunity to obtain his plentiful potential does not bear pondering.

With this new attitude, now is the time for him to show his gratitude with a continuation of the hard graft, not to mention putting runs on the board. He has already showed he is heading in the right direction, having plundered some hapless provincial attacks over the last couple of weeks in the domestic competition.

Tonight, though, he’s back in the big time, up against the might of a South African side with some seriously heavy artillery to fire in his direction. But Ryder has shown in the past that he can handle the best of bowling attacks.

There is nothing he likes more than to erase his faminousness on a veritable feast of so called delicacies inhabiting the real or imagined armouries of the invaders of his sacred domain, cracking open the epidermis of the bowler’s mindset with his often thundering, intimidatory batting presence as he takes an intoxicating path towards redemption, scything his way towards the epicentre of his potential, cultivating a surreal sense of self-belief within his own mind.

And there couldn’t possibly be a better time to allay that hunger for runs at the top level, than at Eden Park, tonight.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

If Martin Guptill’s form were a bottle of wine, then the 2012 year is turning out to be of a splendid vintage.

So nicely has it matured that he has now averaged 113 over his last six innings, courtesy of two not outs. That’s six consecutive scores of fifty or more.

What more could he possibly do?

Some will point to the obvious that five of those came against a Zimbabwean bowling attack that hardly strikes terror into the minds of batsmen. But, then, all Guptill can do is amass runs against whichever opposition is put in front of him.

And this he has done.

This just goes to show that you can’t please everybody. There’s always a few out there willing to whine and whinge no matter how much success one generates. Not that Guptill would be taking too much notice of such folk.

After all, he’s too busy scoring runs with the myriad of shots that he possesses in his batting armoury.

His latest innings of 78 not out also came against the might of South Africa in the opening game of the current series.

Sure, South Africa are not ranked as high in twenty/20 as they are in the longer versions of the game, but Mornel Morkel and his cohorts are hardly the easiest of foe to smack around the cricketing arenas of New Zealand. Or anywhere, for that matter.

Those doubters would also be delighted to bring to everyone’s attention Guptill’s seeming inability to go on to three figures. Of the two criticisms, the second does have some validity to it. Guptill would be the first to admit that, at this level, it is imperative, not to mention expected of him to go on with the job.

Still, his vein of form currently courses through him like a raging torrent of effervescent batting elan floating effortlessly and serenely above all as he confidently and elegantly paints a stunningly colourful vista of finesse filled shotmaking supremacy, putting a sword to the aspirations of an army of marauding, bloodthirsty wannabe bowling leeches who’ll stop at nothing to weasel their way into his spotlight, fending off their malicious and often dubious intentions all the while sitting firmly ensconced and residing in the upper echelons of the run scoring merriment that he has embarked on as he heads off in search of that holy grail of batting – consistency of runs.

Such is his form; nothing appears to trouble the right hander.

Most forget in time, but an unlucky few have the grave misfortune to remember everything.

Guptill has found such form, perhaps, through the ability to put out of his mind what has gone before him and concentrate on the now, unlike those who hold onto the past, no matter how recent or distant, letting it affect their ability to perform to their optimum.

The great thing with the Auckland born star is his form is not restricted to only one form of the game. He has scored centuries in both test matches and onedayers. And his current run of good form has been over all three forms of the game.

Which he will be hoping will continue for some time yet.

And teammates and fans alike will be hoping that this is not the last of the summer wine.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

After a stellar rookie year, some stagnate into a vortex of expectation.

Then the second year blues set in.

Though, not for Shaun Johnson, we hope.

He has long since made his acquaintance with supreme talent. One could suppose that there could never be any reason for him to feel sad. After all, the twenty-one year old whizz kid is blessed with such a vast array of talent that bedazzles even the most ardent of critics.

The dreaded second year syndrome, surely this will not abound in his sphere of being.

Maybe it will, maybe it won’t – for now, we don’t know.

But the day is nigh, the day to soar, to aim high, bid for the sky, reach for the stars; to dutifully attend to embellishing further on what you already are – a star.

Dream long, dream hard, dream big – dream for all you’re worth; but, just do it.

This is exactly what he is doing. Having gained his opportunity midway through the 2011 season after the incumbent, Brett Seymour, relented to injury, Johnson hasn’t looked back. He has made every post a winner. Such was the success of his opening forays into the NRL, Warriors management moved with haste to re-sign the emerging superstar.

This they successfully did.

With a three year contract signed that sees him plying his trade in Auckland until the end of 2014, Johnson is hardly one that resembles a malady of cash strapped despair. With the paper work all sorted, there is no need to concern himself with money – only with improving his game.

For opportunities abound from lands afar.

And with Johnson, that usually means endless reasons to visit an opposition’s in-goal zone. He doesn’t just go on short trips, either. For there are plenty of long range tries scored that are his par.

That’s what one can do with speed. And he has it in bountiful measures; speed that sears with intensity; speed that seethes with unadmonished glee; and speed that strikes a dagger into the defensive heart of his foe, leaving them looking like a talentless cask of blandness sinking into a downtrodden quagmire of desperation and despondency while he continues on his way with a riotous riposte of rip-roaring attacking ingenuity.

It’s not fair is it? That one person can be so blessed with talent, that it mocks the rest of us into insecurity. Though, it’s one thing to be one of the lucky ones; it’s another to be able to take that talent through to its true destiny. But one gets the impression that the level headed Johnson has as much chance as any of achieving the ultimate.

You may be getting the impression, by now, that he’s solely an attacking player.

Not so, at all. Nothing could not be further from the truth.

He is the proprietor of a more than adequate long kicking game. If he can’t extricate his side from their own red zone with one of his specials, he can be counted on to generate a sixty metre clearance.

His short kicking game is regularly on hand to heap pressure on the opposition by forcing them into repeat goal line drop-outs. And, of course, there is his defence. Yes, that thing that his detractors proposed as the reason to hold him back for now. They said he would be targeted, and that he would be responsible for conceding more points in defence than he is worth in attack. If they had had their way, he wouldn’t have been there to orchestrate that remarkable winning play against Melbourne in the dying minutes of the grand final qualifier.

Well, those naysayers couldn’t have been more wrong. And thankfully so. In reality, his defence was solid and no more a hindrance than that of any other halfback in the competition.

So, even though he regularly appears to resemble a constant stream of unerring attacking notions transcending the corridors of the Rugby League’s attacking fraternity, which display a cautionary tale to the maligment forces that circle in eager anticipation, he sends those defensive frailties headlong into a cavass of the unending, deep dark recesses without so much as a glimmer of hope shining through the black hole that has sucked the life from them, not even spasmodically allowing them to escape the ravages of the dark menacing attacking force that Johnson is the keen perpetrator of - there is more to this potential Rugby League megastar.

Many said that the great Stacey Jones could never be replaced. Not only does Johnson have the potential to match the deeds of Jones, he could very well surpass them in a canter.

He really could be anything.

If he dreams long, dreams hard, dreams big – dreams for all he is worth; and, just does it.