Sometimes the Diggity Doc and the Wildcard talk to each other...
Diggity Doc - El Wildcardo, what's doing? The last time I saw your lovely self you were pouring some of your beer on Marcus Thornton in Sydney, classy mate, all class.
Wildcard - It wasn't me, I swear, Doc. And if it were, it was an accident. Wasn't it funny how that dude pretended he was all innocent and all? Man, we've been talking about silly Aussies a bit this week and then this happens. It was hilariously Australian. The Americans got a hold of it too and they loved the whole thing, it's Crocodile Dundee all over again to them (that's not a transgressive fan, here THIS is a transgressive fan). In seriousness though, I love how funny this was but I hate when fans think they can interfere with a game like they're the only ones there. Streakers, people who throw things, etc. Very frustrating.
DD - It was a very 'dumb Aussie' thing to do wasn't it? Shout out to the guy's wife who clearly wasn't happy and let him know about it, she's the real MVP. Mate the sporting world is heating up as we enter the last month of the year so what's tickling your sporting tastebuds this weekend?
WC - Plus the guy looked like Charles Bukowski, which was fun. Ooh, well it's gonna be a weekend of cricket and football for me, most likely. But the ol' Thanksgiving NFL went down nicely and it's hard not to love the NBA these days. Let's talk test cricket, you had a few ideas about the experimentation that I kinda wanna chat about. Sum it up for the faithful reader.
DD - Well simply put, I really don't mind the experiment aspect of all of this. We need to find new ways ... wait, we need to at least try new ways of getting test cricket the love it deserves and the prospect of change should be embraced. However, test cricket - the test cricket that you and I and millions of other people around the world love - shouldn't have to go through dramatic changes just to cosy on up to casual cricket fans. T20 is the game to get new fans on board and to expand cricket around the world, even if expansion isn't exactly an ICC thing (unlike rugby, etc.). While I like change, we must find a balance of keeping test cricket and its lovely ways intact because there are plenty of people around the world who love it just the way it is.
WC - Yup, T20 is the gateway, right? Test cricket needs to maintain its distance to an extent without pandering to people who don't currently like/care about it. Ease them in on T20, win them over with ODIs and they'll come around to tests on their own. You don't just go out and run a marathon, you need to train and build up that endurance. But I agree there's a difference between protecting the integrity of the game and sitting stubbornly in the past because test cricket has always evolved. They used to play timeless tests, bodyline was a thing, the follow on mark's been changed several times... even the DRS. If you don't think test cricket can adapt then you need to read more books about test cricket. I'm not sure that day-nighters are the answer, for one, but it's worth a gamble. In the very least we'll finish this test with a match that'll live on in history in fame or infamy.
DD - And that's the exciting thing sir, this is very much an experiment. We are going to see how the pink ball holds up in test cricket, how the evening conditions influence a test, how the fans respond and whether they pop in after work and how the Test rates on telly. There's no point being for or against it before the test because it's an experiment and the only way you can judge it is to wait and see what happens.
WC - Exactly, that and we can also give them the room to try this thing without crying about it. The only worry is that they'll judge it not by player or fan enthusiasm but by TV numbers (which are related, at least). They have done a good job of not making it gimmicky in the build up too, to be fair. Much less gimmicky than the India vs South Africa series currently being played on pitches cultivated in the fiery depths of hell. Did you know the devil was a leg spinner? (Make a Shane Warne joke if you must...). Pretty farcical stuff, and probably a direction that cricket needs to steer well clear of. But it won't, for certain reasons.
DD - Wait, so after we have heard all about how lame it is when bat dominates ball you're not liking it when the spinners get their chance to shine? I love it!
WC - Haha, well, more down to the obviously doctored pitches, ya know? I did see the funniest wicket I've seen in a long time watching some of that in between the ASB Prem and the Nix on Thursday night, this fella goes for a lil paddle sweep and completely misjudges it so he tries to slam his bat down on it like a fly swat, but he cops an edge, it hits the keeper's foot on the full and loops up for first slip. It was incredible. But then I saw a better one in the ENG-PAK T20 when two Pakistani batsmen ended up running to the same end and it became a race to see who'd be run out. We all love a bit of slapstick cricket. But when no team can score 250 under any circumstances in a test series then it's a bit dumb. Hey, but it's fun, and conditional variety is one of the great things about test cricket. Just, like, find somewhere in between where it's possible for both bat and ball to do something. Like all of this stuff, it's a balance.
DD - Matey, doctored pitches are great and we've seen this time and time again ... remember the Ashes? Plus it always spins in India so nothing new there. Tough crowd I'd say as there's apparently too many runs in Australia and too many wickets in India. Again, I love it so I refuse to see your perspective. The Phoenix mate, too many times this season we have seen an attack group fail to combine in any way, which when you consider the talent in that attacking group is a travesty. Graham Arnold showed what a silly Aussie he is by employing a Hack-A-Nix tactic after talking up a fuss about that very tactic but the Nix were their own worst enemy as too many passes/free kicks sailed over the backline or to a Sydney player.
WC - Hey, all I'm saying is we've gotta leeevel this stuff out. Smoothen the edges. Tidy it all up. The away team's gotta at least have a chance, right? But the Nix, let's go. Umm, the Hack-A-Nix is a great term for it, haha, and it was frustrating. It took the flow out of the game and confined us to a padded-walled room of false-start football. As a Manchester United fan I'm fast growing to enjoy games without that many chances so maybe I'm becoming conditioned to see the result over the process of getting it. A draw away is a good result and while they aren't scoring the goals they should, and there's no doubt that they aren't giving themselves the best opportunities all the time, I think Sydney come away from that game much more annoyed. That's sort of a win for us. This Nix team never used to draw, they'd win or they'd lose. I think going to Allianz and getting a point is a sign of progress, so long as the goals show up at home. Plus they kept a clean sheet with Manny Muscat in the middle (though I'll admit I thought Alex Brosque had done us in late on before that shot rattled off the post). After losing late last time, this was a positive. But I definitely feel you on the attacking front. So unstoppable against Adelaide and kind of ghostly since. Any solutions, other than better delivery into the box?
DD - Aah but South Africa have bowled India out for 215 and 173 in this Test with both SA spinners doing the trick: Simon Harmer taking 4/78 in this first dig and Imran Tahir taking 5/38 in the second. So it's just different but equally as fun in my eyes. Hack-A-Nix didn't help and it just seems like the attackers are all on different wavelengths as they can't really connect with each other. I see that lack of connection as a far greater problem than delivery into the box. Half the time no one is even in the box anyway.
WC - Yeah, I thought it was interesting that Sarpong got dropped but also that Fenton started ahead of Powell, for a few reasons. Powell's more of a central player, maybe offers less balance but has more of a goal threat whereas Fenton now plays mostly as a fullback except for this one and a few off the bench. But Sydney are very good, so it's best not to overreact, even though these games have been more common than the Adelaide masterclasses. I trust Roly, I just wish he didn't have to pick himself off the ground so often with all the times he's chopped down. There are a few guys who excel at drifting around into pockets on attack but I think as a team they're best when they can get three to four guys running directly forward. Not easy to manufacture that, short of on the counter. Anyway, nobody's stopping the Golden State Warriors in the NBA. 16-0 and counting... is there a more simultaneously likable and ruthless superstar than Steph Curry in all sport right now?
DD - Hmm Powell came on in Fenton's wide right spot though which was weird. Fenton was great further up the pitch so it'll be interesting to see how Ernie plays his cards. Short answer is no on Curry. No one else in the NBA can do what he does, which is always a good starting point and then he's got that Richie McCaw/Dan Carter impossible to hate type of vibe to him as well. That's all fine and dandy but will it all result in another ring this season?
WC - He's got the Richie/Dan level of likability but he dominates a basketball court like an assassin with that jump shot of his. Even Dan Carter was never so capable of just taking over like that. I'd say Lionel Messi is the closest I can think of, but he's got a different kind of vibe. An unattainable vibe. For whatever reason, Curry seems real down to earth about it all. Hmm, another ring. Well that's what they'll tell you it's all about. Record win streaks to start the season are one thing but history best remembers the champions. I'm real big on the Spurs this season, and the Cavs are clearly saving themselves for the playoffs. Plus maybe the Raptors or Thunder or even Grizzlies (who GSW pumped by 50 a few weeks back) can muster something. Impossible to say. But betting against the Warriors is very hard. They look motivated too, which not all defending champs can say, obviously taking it personally when people called them lucky last time (mostly for not having the injuries that others had). Doc, we may have a dynasty on our hands in the NBA...
DD - I do like the odd dynasty. Although after years of following sports it rarely works out that way and with my Lakers certified poo, I'm backing the Spurs to ensure the Warriors don't go back to back. Have you been enjoying the T20 Super Smash or ASB Premiership more?
WC - You only have to look at the state of the OKC Thunder to see what a fine line it is between dynasty and so-so-close-but-no-cigar. But maybe they stay healthy and make that run for Steve Adams this time. There's a good chance that this Warriors team is the best since Jordan's Bulls though, and that's an exciting thought for basketball. LeBron's Heat and Kobe's Lakers were always the villains, for whatever reason. Hey, that's a good question. I'll say the ASB Premiership though there's a definite novelty factor with that at the moment. I'll also add that it feels like maybe the Redacted Sponsor Super Smash is settling into a nice groove, which is cool. Beats the crazy hype they tried to give it the other year like it was the do or die of NZ domestic cricket. Yourself? T20 or ASBP?
DD - Cricket's the winner for me as is usually the case. There's some oddities about the coverage of both though. Every T20 game has Laura McGoldrick amongst a group of kids at least four times per game telling us what a great time it is. While the ASB Premiership is packaged with that cringe-worthy NZ Football Weekly show. I spent a good 10-15 minutes cringing at both.
WC - McGoldrick is a top quality presenter though. One of the best in NZ sport (which makes it a bit annoying when she's made to peddle like that). The ASB Prem stuff is great in some aspects and tough to watch in others, but I'm willing to let them have the time to tighten all the screws. Obviously we'd both agree that having domestic NZ sport in the limelight is best for almost everyone. I do think it's interesting how the cricket goes so hard at getting people to the ground while the footy is almost ignoring that. Which is why I really wish they'd play up the grassroots side of it, make it feel local and welcoming so that people will go, and the main thing there is to stop playing games at those concrete echo chambers like North Harbour. I wanna see Auckland City at Kiwitea Street (which they'll do for the first time on telly on Sunday), and I've gotta think most other teams have a similar sized and atmosphered ground.
DD - Yeah step one is getting on the telly and step two is getting the telly stuff right. As you said, quaint football grounds are exactly where ASB Premiership footy should be played, especially when it's gonna be on telly. And if I can't get around Aotearoa to enjoy all these little football grounds, I want to be able to experience some of that vibe from my couch.
WC - 100%. And I hope that they're working towards that and are given the opportunity to evolve towards whatever's gonna best represent the national football league. How about the NRL telling the Rabbitohs to shove it with the Sam Burgess return until they get under the salary cap by enough to fit him, aye? Makes you wonder why this doesn't happen more often in a league that tries to value such things (I mean, look how they dealt with the Storm). Or maybe we just don't get to read about those times in the papers.
DD - I don't think the NRL's decision is as dramatic as it is being made out to be. The Rabbits will move Dylan Walker on which was always going to happen when Burgess signed and there has been whispers about Chris McQueen being moved on for about six months and they have come to a climax ... since Burgess signed. The Rabbitohs will just confirm these deals and then Burgess' deal will be gravy.
WC - They didn't really have a choice, I mean if they're over they cap then you cannot register that contract. So fair play to 'em, I'm mostly surprised we don't hear of things like this more often. I highly doubt that teams aren't filing the wrong forms or forgetting to carry the one every now and then. After all this is the same group of boards that forge signatures and try to restructure deals without player consent. But just like test cricket, the bottom line is doing fine, so whatever. They've also just confirmed a new TV deal worth almost AU$2b so there won't be many sober NRL bureaucrats for a few days. (Now might be the perfect time for the Rabbitohs to crunch those numbers, actually).
DD - Not dramatic from the NRL, dramatic reporting about a situation that will be easily solved. And we don't hear of this more often because it's not every year a team signs a player like Burgess in November when the roster is signed, sealed and waiting for the carrier pigeon. Everyone in Australian sport acts drunk so nothing new there chief. While all this is going down Wildcard, I will like to remind you and our readers not to sleep on Will Hopoate as a summer signing by a certain team who don't really need him ... and who you hate.
WC - That's true actually, I guess this is a bit of an extraordinary circumstance. Though the Dragons didn't make this mistake with Dugan or Benji. Which brings me to your question... The team that I most hate? That would be the Canterbury Bulldogs, kind sir. I guess if they're gonna sign a new lad then they may as well be another winger-turned-fullback. Good job, like God forbid they might sign a decent halfback, the muppets.
DD - I would suggest that Burgess is worth a lot more than Benji and Dugan at the time they were signed. I would also suggest that if any other club signed Burgess, they would be in the same situation as they scurry around off-loading players to fit him in. And I would also suggest that we will probably see the dangers of splashing cash on a player like Moses M'bye who has had one season of excellent footy.
WC - Benji and Dugan are coming up for contract renewals now, which is curious, but I reckon they weren't in the best bartering situations when they it's joined - Benji especially. I might be in the minority here but I'm not at all sold on Moses M'bye yet. Seen him do some great things but I've never seen him dominate and control a game for 80 mins, not even close. He's Sione Mata'utia until further notice for me, and so for that matter is Sione Mata'utia. But then the wonder of the new season is that everyone gets a fresh start, be you defending champs or wooden spooners. (I'm pretty pissed at the Dragons' sched, btw. Tough stuff).
DD - Precisely, so welcoming Dugan and Benji wouldn't have done as much damage to the books as welcoming Burgess has. The schedule in the NRL is that much more important as you don't play each team twice. Some teams double up on harder games and some get the easier run. Hoppa to the Doggies this year and SBW to the Chooks after the Olympics ... with that I'll give myself some peptides for putting my street cred on the line.
WC - Yeah, like how the Dragons play seven of last year's top eight twice (and are the eighth team). Street cred you deserve, my friend, though I get the feeling you'll have a few followers with those theories. If you have any pink peppy pills, send them to Channel Nine, they're all about that. Otherwise save a couple for whoever's playing the Golden State Warriors next and we're all away flying.
DD - Roger dodger!
WC - Good gig. Buenas noches, Doc.