Australia’s problem with plumbing

The story, in briefs:

Justin Langer, who seems to have installed himself as rabble rouser in chief for this Ashes series, did a ‘dossier’ on the England team from his vantage point as captain of Somerset.

Ricky Ponting says the Aussies have read it. No shit?! And here we were thinking they were a bunch of illiterates who couldn’t read something labelled ‘Enemy Dossier’ and served up on silver platters, with a side of fries.

Turns out, so has everyone else read it — and Justin Langer is gutted. It is not immediately clear to me why he is gutted — this is one person’s thoughts on the strengths [admittedly, not much to think of there] and weaknesses of one of the teams, so what’s the big deal? It could as easily been a column in the popular press.

Michael Vaughan — who, after the fourth Ashes Test ended inside three days, can be fairly certain his successor isn’t going to emulate his Ashes-winning effort — says the dossier is largely true.  It’s a strange sort of defense, this — a one-line precis would be: Yeah, well, okay, so who’s Langer to talk, has he ever been part of a team that sucks as badly as we do, says Michael kindly. Gee thanks — now show us what you can do if you spit on your hands and set out to be cruel.

So that’s the story. Me? I’m bloody bored. Exactly what is it with Australia, that it cannot seem to keep its private correspondence private? John Buchanan appears, at some point in his immersion into Sun Tzu, Clausewitz and, for all I know, Chanakya, decided on this as a ‘tactic’. Remember this history? In fact, the Aussies seem so taken with this tactic, the leaks don’t stop even when you are no longer part of the establishment: Greg Chappell leaks or is leaked while coaching the national team; Buchanan leaks while coaching KKR; Langer leaks while captaining Somerset… and nary a sign of a plumber in the offing.

James Bond said something about once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, thrice is enemy action. And the 10th time? Mate, the tenth time, it is merely a transparent device long since past its use-by date — give it up already.

As for the dossier itself? Five ‘pages’, that boil down to this: England are good only when making the running; can’t take pressure; tend to disintegrate. In other words, “… they will taper off quickly if you wear them down in all apartments.”

Update: Skimming through the Brit press for Ashes related content, stumbled on more on the famous dossier. Here’s Ian Chappell, asking what the fuss is all about?

I hate to be a spoilsport for all the conspiracy theorists, but the document is actually worth less than the official scorebook being used at Headingley. You show me a bowling plan that is regularly successful and I’ll point to a limited batsman…..

It’s easy to produce plans for batsmen who are recidivists but try coming up with a sure-fire method of dismissing Ricky Ponting cheaply on a regular basis. I’m certain Jimmy Anderson and Graham Onions know where to bowl to trouble Ponting early in his innings but they are also aware that if they miss that spot by a few centimetres either way, the ball will disappear to the boundary.

When it comes to bowling plans, a top-class batsman can shred one faster than an Enron executive handling a top-secret document.

Anyone with a decent knowledge of the game can draw up a few foolscap pages of plans to dismiss batsmen and unsettle opponents but unless the author is accountable for the end result, they’re mostly window dressing.

A captain has to make the decision who to bowl and where to place the field, and if all goes astray, as it did for Andrew Strauss at Headingley, he better be able to change tack quickly and inspire confidence in his team.

Strauss was anything but inspirational during the productive Michael Clarke and Marcus North liaison on the second morning; in fact, he was culpable. The general consensus was that England had bowled too short and wide on the first day. So what did Strauss do? He gave the ball to Steve Harmison, placed a field for short-pitched bowling and then had a ring-side view of the resultant carnage.

Vic Marks has more history on dossiers and leaks.


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