I thought that totally naff phrases and silly tags were mothballed in cricket after the departure of John Buchanan. But no, Australia has continued its recent proud tradition of producing naff tags — and this latest pearl may be from the Guru Greg Chappell stable — to come up with “new age cricket“. They were going to try out new-age-cricket (NAC) in the ongoing series against India!
It basically involves hassling the opposition continually for runs — presumably because the opposition is old or unfit or lazy or all of the above! NAC also means setting innovative fields so that the opposition’s run rate dries up — presumably because the opposition is too old, fat, lazy and unfit to run singles and depend on 4s to keep the scoreboard ticking!
So this is what NAC is.
Firstly, what’s wrong with just plain cricket?
Second, this NAC stuff does not appear to be working! Early signs are that it has bombed in the face of Ricky Ponting!
After the Australian 1st innings (a report on the 2nd day has been compiled by Mahesh) an admittedly early review of NAC indicates to me that naffness is not restricted to the term — the theory is as naff as the term!
Australia wanted to hustle the old-fat-lazy Indian fielders when batting and restrict the scoring rate of the opposition when fielding. Results show that Australia scored at 2.81 runs per over and are giving away runs at about 4 an over right now. Yes, it is early days, but will someone tell the Australian team that it is time to mothball this NAC stuff?
As an admirer of Australian cricket, it was painful for me to see Australia crawl at 2.8rpo through the innings. This is not the Australia I know. And if this is what new-age hustling of old-fat-lazy fielders results in, give me the old-age stuff any day! Another facet of their cricket that I did not like much was the way Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey played. They were just too cautious. They gave the conditions and the opposition bowlers way too much respect. If an Indian batsman had played the way Ricky Ponting, most newspaper analysts (ok, I use that term very lightly), bloggers and TV anchors would have termed it a “selfish” approach that put self ahead of the team! Homer alludes to this in his blog post. Ponting made 123 runs off 331 balls and Hussey made 146 off 402 balls at batting rates that would have made Anshuman Gaekwad and Chetan Chauhan proud! This wasn’t Australia, was it? Or was it the NAC Australia?
Moreover, Australia should continue to play the way Australia plays best. To get on top of the bowling. To keep the scoreboard ticking. To keep the foot on the pedal and to not let the opposition back into the game. That’s the way Australia has won over the last 10 years or so. And that’s the only way this team will continue to produce results as impressively as it has. These theories are good for the paper they are written on. They give people like Buchanan and Chappell something to do when they are in the dressing room and when sleep threatens to overtake them on a hot summer day! However, cricket is played by able bodied men who do things the way they have been doing.
For some time now, we have been critics of India trying to play the “Australian Way” — in your face, aggressive, high-adrenaline cricket, when it doesn’t quite come naturally to them! Similarly, it is time to question this new approach that Australia seems to have adopted — a very Indian way of playing grinding cricket on dust bowls. A style of game that comes quite naturally to the Akash Chopras and Rahul Dravid’s of the world. In my view, this over-cautious approach of eking out runs and looking for singles all the time in a bid to wear out the opposition is very un-Austrlian-like.
Moreover, it is this very facet that kept India in the game right through the Australian 1st innings! If I were an Indian bowler/fielder and if I had been on the pitch for 5 sessions (approx 150 overs) against Australia and if I had looked at the scoreboard to see the score read only 400 for 6, why would I not launch into a wild dance? Why would I allow my shoulders to droop? Why would I allow my spirits to flag? In previous Tests gone by, after 5 sessions against Australia, the scoreboard may well have read 615 for 6!
When batting, Australia kept India in the game through over-cautious NAC and while fielding these supposedly innovative field-settings are leaking runs at nearly 4rpo — admittedly things may be different if/when Sehwag departs. And admittedly this is all early days yet. But in my view, if it ain’t broken there’s no need to fix it!