Before I start, I’d like to get my excuses in first. I’ve had far too much beer and mulled wine this Christmas – therefore it’s quite possible that my mind is playing tricks on me. However, after what I’ve witnessed down under over the last few weeks, I can stay silent no longer – even though the accusation I’m about to make is going to sound absurd.
Basically (deep breath, here we go), I’m convinced that the Aussies have started to fiddle with the bowling speed gun – by which I mean they turn it down when the opposition are bowling, then turn it up when Australia are in the field. Therefore, the public are led to believe that every Aussie trundler is bowling thunderbolts, whilst India / New Zealand’s pacemen are bowling no faster than Ronnie Irani on a cold day.
‘Why would they want to do this’ I hear you ask? Well, err, I don’t know to be honest. That’s what’s got me stumped. Surely fiddling with the speed gun is childish and more or less pointless. However, I can find no other rational explanation for the following …
In the recent series between Australia and New Zealand, Peter Siddle, a bowler England fans have seen plenty of over the years, was consistently clocking speeds of over 150kph. That’s mid-90s in old money.
Meanwhile, Ben Hilfenhaus (a Matthew Hoggard style medium pacer if ever there was one) was bowling around the 140-145kph mark in the Boxing Day test – despite running in off nine paces, and looking about as threatening as a teletubby. Shoaib Akhtar he is not.
Indeed, Brad Haddin frequently had time for a quick cuppa before he took the ball behind the stumps (that’s about five yards behind the stumps by the way, and mostly at shin height).
Although, the Aussie commentators kept telling viewers that Siddle and Hilfenhaus had ‘found an extra yard of pace in the off season’, my eyes (and common sense) told me otherwise. Why would two bowlers who have been around the block a few times – and who are much nearer to thirty years old than twenty – suddenly start bowling like Malcolm Marshall?
The truth is, if one ignored the speed gun, Siddle and Hilfenhaus looked like exactly the same bowlers who failed so miserably to trouble England’s batsmen last winter. The slips were no further back; their short balls still ballooned into Haddin’s gloves, rather than rocketing into them; and the batsmen rarely looked rushed. Yes, they took a few wickets, but we all know that India’s batsmen are about as useful as a condom with a hole in it outside of the subcontinent.
On the other hand, the speed gun frequently clocked Zaheer Khan at 125kph and Umesh Yadav, a bowler who was frequently measured at over 140kph in the recent ODI series against England, in low 130s. I swear that Yadav looked no slower than Siddle, and a good deal more slippery than Hilfenhaus.
Although I feel a little ridiculous raising this issue – surely not even the Aussies are stupid enough to think that fiddling with the speed gun gives them some kind of psychological edge? – one must remember this: Australia is a country that produces ‘entertainers’ like Rolf Harris, and is the only place where Neighbours gets a prime time TV spot. Is it therefore really beyond the realms of possibility?