On the day the Abbott Monarchs took on the Turnbull Rebels, Lachlan Barker considers what else has been going in the world of competitive sport.
MONDAY and time for sport; but even I have been finding it a little difficult to concentrate on sporting field activities, with the Federal Government leadership spill going on in Canberra, however as the famous expression says, “the sun still rises tomorrow”, and so we go on.
Tony Abbott survived by the way, and really that whole thing wasn’t far short of being a sporting event itself. All the elements were there, two teams going head to head, players on both sides digging deep and holding their nerve.
There was even a score: 61-39 and an analysis of what this means once you look behind the numbers. For the record, apparently Tony Abbott’s supporters were hoping to get 70 votes and confine the other side to 30. The 61-39 scoreline seems to indicate that more people wished for a spill and a change of leader than Team Abbott would have liked.
Abbott’s leadership is thus still uncertain and another spill may be coming soon.
But with the main event over and done with, at least for this week, we move to the sporting field.
A packed January saw the Tour Down Under bike race, the Australian Open tennis and the Asian Cup soccer, all competing for our attention, these events are all over now, and the next major event is the Cricket World Cup, starting this Saturday 14 February. The first match is in Christchurch, New Zealand between the co-hosts, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
Later that same day across the "dutch", in Perth, Australia kick off their campaign against the oldest cricket enemy, England, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), or ‘The G’, as it’s known informally by locals.
The established cricket nations are here, of course, with India, South Africa, West Indies and Pakistan joining the above mentioned four teams on the first tier. Then there are tier two teams, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, that have played some test matches against major nations, and then the cricket minor nations, known as associates, who usually attract a lot of affectionate "they’re my second team" support.
In this World Cup, the minnows are Afghanistan, Ireland, Scotland and the United Arab Emirates. The Netherlands, Canada and Kenya were three associate nations, possibly known to you, who didn’t qualify for this world cup. Less known are Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea, who also compete on the world cricket stage, both did well in the qualifying tournament, but not quite well enough to make it over the line into the World Cup.
It is good (in my opinion) to see Afghanistan here. Most of the time when Afghanistan comes across our news radar it is more usually associated with the so-called ‘War on Terror’ or fighting in the Swat Valley by Australian forces.
Thus, I feel cricket is a way of engaging with the Muslim nations with friendly sport, rather than hideous war.
Scotland may also surprise you, but they do play cricket in Scotland and clearly they do it pretty well, as well, as indicated by their presence here.
And just a quick personal anecdote to highlight that. In the early nineties, I was living in Glasgow, working (I’m sorry to say) for Murdoch’s tabloid the Daily Record. One Saturday afternoon, I was out walking near my home in Hillhead, in the shadow of Glasgow University, when I came across a cricket match. So I stopped in to watch for a while.
It was a lovely northern summer’s day and the match went forward at its usual peaceful pace. I don’t know who was playing, or who eventually won the match, but it was the juxtaposition of the voices that got me. Scotland, as you may know, is mostly, almost wholly, focussed on soccer. I had indeed played for a Scottish soccer team in my home town in Australia. So I was more used to Scottish accents making soccer related cries like "man on", "square ball", "pick up nine" and so forth.
To hear the players using cricket terms like "square leg", "keep your head down", "play a straight bat" and "sticky wicket" in broadest Scots brogue was something to behold I can tell you.
So, well done the Scots for making this, their third, World Cup. They did this by winning the 2014 ICC World Cup Qualifier with the United Arab Emirates also qualifying in that tournament. Ireland and Afghanistan had already qualified in positions one and two of the associate members for the world cup, thus Scotland and the UAE round out the 14 team draw.
So the minnows will go into battle against the giants of the game and most neutrals will be on their side, hoping for some giant killing to occur.
I might add, when I used the "old enemy" tag above referring to Australia and England, that term really comes from Scotland, with the "auld enemy" for the Scots being always and forever, England. England play Scotland in the Cricket World Cup on February 23, and I am predicting that this will be the first time that cricket has been the top rating show in Scotland.
If the Scots win that, then the hostelries of Christchurch better be well stocked with whiskey as the celebrations will be something else.
On the home front, Australia showed they are in top form for the World Cup with an unholy spanking of India in a warm up match in Adelaide.
Glenn Maxwell top scored with 122 off, wait for it, 57 deliveries. And he wasn’t out, he retired undefeated. The fireworks were added to by that perennial stick of cricket TNT, Dave Warner, with 104 off 83.
India, for their part, were never really in the hunt and were dismissed after 45.1 overs for 265, over a hundred runs short. Best at bat for the Indians were Ajinkya Rahane (66), Shikhar Dhawan (59) and Ambati Rayudu (53).
So, come Saturday it will all be on, while locals will of course wish to see Australia lift the cup, there will be plenty of support for the associates along the way.
I, for one, will be tuning in to Scotland vs England with interest and shouting, "och aye get tore in" (or however it’s said) at the TV from beneath my Tam o’ Shanter with all the other kilted cricket followers.
Apart from wanting Scotland to win – Lachlan is a Scottish name, by the way – so I have some ancestry pushing me this way, but apart from that, like everyone else in the cricket world, I support anyone playing England and am never happier than reading that England lost.
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