It was pleasing last night to hear the soothing, possibly contrived noises coming out of both the New Zealand and Australian cricket camps that none of the ill-feeling of Hamilton would spill over to the first test starting in Wellington on Friday.
The reaction to THAT Mitchell Marsh dismissal, even by the standards of cricket media who feast on the merest sliver of controversy, was way OTT. To the point where the Australians have come across as a bunch of crybabies.
I choose that word carelessly. Over the 30-odd years I've followed Australian cricket like a religion, I've been at various times enthralled and occasionally appalled by the way they go about their on-field business. Through it all they have remained a compelling watch and you learned to respect the fact that while they might have been contemptuous winners they were also, on the rare occasion they needed to be, good losers.
Under recent leadership they appear only to have the first part of that equation sorted.
Claims of spirit of cricket hypocrisy and "feral" crowds are pure bunkum and serve only to deflect. I'll grant you that the booing of Steve Smith at the trophy presentation when he was trying to explain his displeasure at the process that led to Marsh being dismissed was unkind (though on the scale of crowd booing, some way behind jeering an Aboriginal footballer who tried to tackle racism head-on, but that's another story).
Australia should have cantered home in that match but were undone by poor batting and an inspired bowling and fielding performance. End of. The process that led to Marsh's dismissal was hinky, but it was still a better decision than the Adam Milne lbw, which could have denied New Zealand another 20 or so runs at the tail.
These are strange days when we get apoplectic about the right decisions being made.
Even if you wear tin-foil headgear and believe that a sharp-eyed television producer was the only person in the ground absolutely convinced Marsh was out in real-time - except Marsh himself - and therefore pushed forward an astonishingly quick big-screen replay to encourage "mob rule" (which is at best unlikely); even if you believe an appeal is only an appeal if it reaches a certain decibel level (which is unmitigated crap); and even if your hatred of the Black Caps and Brendon McCullum is such that you feel they somehow contravened some edict of sportsmanship by politely asking for a decision to be made (which is mental), then it doesn't alter this one fact - Marsh was out.
When you accept that fact it ceases to become a worthwhile debate. Bad process, right decision beats bad process, bad decision and right process, bad decision every time.
Ask yourself this: what would the Australian reaction have been if it was, say, Stuart Broad batting and he'd been the one to chip it back to the bowler off his foot and stayed there hoping he'd get away with it. Cricket may be a sport rich in double-standards, but some standards are more double than others.
As for the baying "mob", I was one of the close to 10,000 paying customers at Seddon Park, so can provide an eyewitness account of what is being reported variously as "savage" or "feral" crowds, except the word I'd choose is "funereal".
I struggle to recall a capacity crowd as down-in-the-mouth as this one was. From about the time Kane Williamson chopped on until Ish Sodhi took two wickets in three balls, it was like everyone had gathered for a concert but the band forgot to turn up.
This whole nasty crowd nonsense is pot-and-kettle stuff anyway. I've stood under the scoreboard at Adelaide Oval and heard New Zealanders - both on the ground and in the crowd - being given dog's abuse. The Beige Brigade were once forced to stay inside the ground for an hour after a game and were then given a police escort to taxis by police who feared for their safety.
Ask any New Zealander what it's like fielding on the boundary at the WACA. Shane Bond once recalled being berated for a supposed carnal connection of the ovine variety and turned around to see the abuse was being delivered by a young kid, whose gurning parents thought it was a hoot.
The owner-operator barbs being sent David Warner's way are low-rent and do not reflect well on this nation's ability to source original material, but are we seriously shocked that New Zealand are playing their nearest rivals at home in front of a partisan crowd? Quelle horreur!
Cricket fans have waited a long time to play Australia at home in a test series when we can genuinely say we anything but massive underdogs.
I just hope it is close and hard-fought and that we see, in the words of the great poet-philosopher Ozzy Osbourne, No More Tears.
GIVE 'EM A TASTE OF KIWI ...
This is usually the place to celebrate NZ excellence, but the whole technology and cricket umpiring is such a rich topic. To those who have their Y-Fronts in a twist about the Marsh dismissal, do you really want to see cricket return to these days?
Dick French eh, bless him.
I'm buying... The Nines
Went along for the first time and was surprisingly taken by the concept. While I'd take the 15-man game over the 13 most days of the week, I'm just as certain that nine is better than seven. Neither, though, should be anywhere near the Olympic Games.
I'm selling... The Nines
It shouldn't be in New Zealand every year. Familiarity has all-too-quickly built apathy. Not having the home team play last on day one was baffling and led to the embarrassing sight of Eden Park leaking people while games were still being played. Given that it's too freaking hot to consider playing it in Queensland at this time of year, I'd suggest the two southern outposts, Auckland and Melbourne, host on alternate years. It becomes a hot-ticket again that way and the two cities can engage in behind-the-scenes competition as to who can bring in the most revenue. Everyone wins.
I'M READING ...
Yeah, our crowds are just shocking compared to everywhere else...
MY LAST $10
I've even started getting grief about this segment from strangers beguiled by my inability to pick a winner.
Last week: $10 on the first over of the first ODI to go for more than 3.5 runs. It didn't.
This week: I'm not even concentrating now, so I'll throw some dough at Boston Celtics by 10 or under at Milwaukee Bucks today. It's paying $2.40 and Boston are a better team, but this is a bet with zero conviction.
Total spent: $20 Total collected: $0
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