It is time for Cricket Australia to be bold in light of ball-tampering scandal

Pat Cummins would be a great choice as a new long-term captain for Australia, taking over from the disgraced Steve Smith, below. (REUTERS)
Updated 02 April 2018

It is time for Cricket Australia to be bold in light of ball-tampering scandal

BANGALORE: An emotionally draining and physically exhausting schedule. A captain reduced to tears in front of the media. Lengthy bans. Administrators wanting to do the right thing years too late. No, it is not Steve Smith, David Warner and the ball-tampering fiasco in Cape Town, rather Kim Hughes, resignation-by-bullying and a subsequent rebel tour of South Africa.
What we are seeing in 2018 bears more than passing resemblance to the events of 1984-85, which plunged Australian cricket into an abyss.
Kim Hughes went into a home series against West Indies (1984) just a few months after having taken a new-look side to the Caribbean. Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh — the spine of a great Aussie side — had retired that January, and the replacements were no match for Clive Lloyd’s rampant team. In a series that was lost 3-0, Hughes managed 215 runs in 10 innings, with a highest score of 33.
For years, he had faced the hostility of Lillee and Marsh, his Western Australian teammates, and dealt with coldness from Chappell. With that trio gone, he was worn down by the relentless fast bowling of Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding. In Brisbane, with the team on the verge of going 2-0 down in the home series, Hughes read out a letter of resignation. Chappell helped him draft it.
In his next four innings, the cavalier batsman made 0, 2, 0 and 0. He never played for Australia again. The following winter, he led a side to apartheid South Africa, taking with him the likes of Rodney Hogg, Terry Alderman and Carl Rackemann. Australia lost the Ashes series home and away, and the darkness lifted only once Allan Border — who replaced Hughes as captain — rebuilt with the help of new faces such as David Boon, Geoff Marsh, Dean Jones and Steve Waugh. A decade after hitting rock bottom, Australia won in the Caribbean to set sail on what would be a decade of domination.
There is no rebel tour to take away talent now, but there is considerable disquiet in the playing ranks over the manner in which the tampering episode was handled. Wounds left by a pay dispute between the players and board last year are threatening to open up again. And if David Warner does eventually reveal that others were also complicit in SandpaperGate, it is not just a costly exodus of sponsors that Cricket Australia will have to deal with.
Smith has been barred from leading Australia for two years. Warner will never captain the national side again. Shorn of 138 Test caps of experience, where do Australia look for a leader, someone who can do the salvage job Border took on so admirably in the 1980s? Tim Paine, who led from the front with a fighting 64 at The Wanderers despite having broken his thumb earlier in the game, is 33 and playing just his 13th Test. After seven operations on his index finger over the years, he nearly walked away from the game last year.
Former opener Simon Katich talked up Mitchell Marsh’s long-term chances after his heroics in the first Test in Durban. That was before Smith and Warner exited the stage. Now, as the selectors consider Marsh’s suitability for the role, they should also look to break the mold.
The last bowler to lead those in baggy green was the great Richie Benaud, who won 12 and lost only four of 28 matches. It would not be the worst idea to take a punt on Pat Cummins, whose superb pace bowling in all conditions is allied to sound batting technique and impressive poise. After the recent dark days, Cummins’ box-office appeal could bring forth the positive vibes Cricket Australia is so desperate for.

Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

Updated 21 March 2019

Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

  • Former Saudi Arabia coach wants to guide the Whites to their first World Cup since 1990.
  • "If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here," Dutchman says of his new job.

LONDON: Bert van Marwijk has told the UAE he only has one thing on his mind: Getting the side to the 2022 World Cup. 

The former Saudi Arabia boss was unveiled as the new coach of the Whites before watching his new team beat his former team 2-1 in a friendly in Dubai (see right). While he was in the stand rather than the dugout — interim boss Saleem Abdelrahman took charge — he would have liked what he saw as he set himself the challenge of leading the UAE to their first showpiece since 1990. 

“I’m here for only one thing, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup,” the Dutchman said.  

“It takes a long time and the first thing we have to deal with is the first qualification round. That’s why I’m here.”

Van Marwijk was celebrated after he led the Green Falcons to last year's World Cup before calling it quits. (AFP) 

Van Marwijk guided Saudi Arabia to last year’s World Cup — the Green Falcons’ first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — during a two-year stint which ended in September 2017.

That was one of the key reasons the UAE fought hard for the 66-year-old and while it is never easy getting through Asian qualifying — 46 teams going for just four direct slots at Qatar 2022 — the Dutchman claimed his experience, combined with his knowledge of the UAE, will stand him in good stead. 

“The Saudis and the UAE are about the same level. With the Saudis we qualified for Russia, so we will do really everything to go to Qatar in 2022,” Van Marwijk said. 

While he is fondly remembered in the Kingdom — only a contractual dispute regarding backroom staff meant he did not stay on as Green Falcons coach for the Russia tournament — it is his time as the Netherlands coach that really stands out on his managerial resume. Van Marwijk coached the Oranje to within minutes of the World Cup trophy, with only an Andres Iniesta extra-time winner preventing him from tasting ultimate glory against Spain in 2010. 

So why did he return to the Gulf for another crack at World Cup qualification in a tough, crowded race? 

“One of the reasons is the feeling. I have to have the right feeling when I sign a contract,” Van Marwijk said. “We analyzed the UAE, we played four times against each other with Saudi, so I can see the potential.

“I have had the experience to go to the World Cup twice. The first time we were second in the world, the second time was with Australia (which he coached last summer) and we were a little bit unlucky — we played very well. 

“So to go to the World Cup for the third time is the goal.”

Van Marwijk is all too aware his task will be difficult. The “Golden Generation” of Emirati footballers, spearheaded by Omar Abdulrahman, tried and failed to make it to football’s biggest tournament, and a lot of the next three years’ work will likely depend on a new generation.

“I heard there were some young talents, so I’m anxious to know how good they are,” the Dutchman said. “I know the team has a few very good players — the UAE has a few weapons. 

“That’s the most important thing. If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here.”