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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Don't let the facts get in the way

An annual tradition of mine for decades is each October, I purchase the latest copy of the ABC Cricket Book. This venerable little publication has all the information that we cricket tragics shall need for the coming summer. It lists all the first-class fixtures, details the touring teams, provides reams of statistics for even the most anal of cricket fans, along with interesting articles.

I recently purchased the latest Cricket Book. Towards the rear of the publication is an article by Stephen Brenkley of The Independent. To say that I am unimpressed is an understatement.

The piece starts our promisingly enough but appearing to be about the phenomenon of the Balmy Army, those sometimes entertaining, sometimes infuriating, English fans that swarm to Australia during an Ashes campaign down-under. Except that the piece instead descended into nothing but an unwarranted sneer at the Antipodes.

Take this for example. According to Mr Brenkley, when Graham Dilley appeared on his first tour of Australia, we Aussies were so cowed and threatened by him, we hid behind media attacks that accused Dilley of being a chucker.

What an unmitigated load of frog shit (apologies to any amphibian that may be offended by the comparison).

Before I started typing this entry, I did a quick Internet search. I was unable to find any references to Australian media of the period claiming Dilley to be a chucker. I certainly cannot recall anything of the kind and back then I read anything and everything I could get my hands on that had the slightest relevance to cricket. But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story will you, Stevie boy.

How about something of a reality check.

The unkind could suggest that Dilley's biggest contribution was his role in the dream scoreline of Lillee, caught Dilley, bowled Willey. But that would be unfair.

Back when Dilley made his debut in Australia, the West Indies were far and away the dominant power of the time, with its seemingly never-ending stream of quartets of fast bowlers, and I mean FAST. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting Dilley wasn’t fast. He was. In fact in his day, Dilley was regarded as the fastest white bowler in the world, which was no mean thing. I enjoyed watching him bowl because he really put in and hit the track hard. But who was backing Dilley up? He sure as hell did not have another three comparable bowlers in the line-up. Some good bowlers, yes, but nothing like the Caribbean Blitzkrieg. So in comparison to facing the Windies, a visit by a Dilley-lead attack was practically going to be a holiday.

The idea that any English media can be giving Australians a hard time over throwing smears is pretty bloody hypocritical. How about another couple of reality checks? When a certain Australian lefthanded bowler was causing the touring English of the time a lot of trouble, who lead the charge to get him thrown out for chucking? The English team with the whole-hearted cooperation of the English media. What was Ian Meckiff’s real crime? He had a double-jointed elbow which caused a movement in the arm akin to throwing. Meckiff was thrown out of the game. Yet at the same time, the touring English had one Tony Lock in their time. Lock threw pretty much every damn ball he bowled in a first-class career that went on many years after that particular tour. But questioning his action was a big no-no!

Jump forward a few years to 1977. Australia was touring England and the Poms were giving us an all-up hiding. Dour Mike Brearley outcaptained us; Bob Willis had our bats mesmerised like rodents before a swaying cobra; Woolmer and Boycott defied everything the Aussie bowlers could send down. The best team didn’t just win, it slaughtered the Aussies.

In the midst of all this, one Lenny Pascoe made his Australian debut. Now Len Pascoe was a ferocious fast bowler with an almost pathological hatred of batsmen. When he started taking a few wickets, one Ted Dexter suddenly appears in the press, claiming Pascoe was a chucker. Dexter’s ‘evidence’ of this charge? That to Dexter’s eye, Pascoe could produce the occasional much faster ball which could only be explained by chucking. And the English media lapped it up. For the record, Len Pascoe was no chucker and only His Lordship and the English media jumped on that bandwagon. The English frog population must suffer from a terrible case of the trots.

The real question is why did editor, Jim Maxwell, even decide to include this piece of crap in the ABC Cricket Book in the first place?