Golf Buggies, Jonny and the Genius of Sehwag

16 02 2010

News emerged yesterday that Andy Powell has been dropped from the Welsh squad for the indefinite future after being caught drink-driving in a hotel golf buggy during the early hours of the morning on Sunday. After celebrating the Welsh win against Scotland, Powell claims to “have got up early to buy breakfast” and taken the buggy to go to a local shop which is probably partly the truth. Many a late night ends with the overwhelming desire for food, although he probably hadn’t been to bed to ‘get up’ again!

The Compulsive Hooker can’t help but think that this is exactly the sort of behaviour that would once have been celebrated rather than punished within the game of rugby. Andy Powell is one of few characters in the game today (a viewing of the latest Lions documentary will confirm this) and would probably have become legendary in another era. In today’s world of media trained players forever giving anodyne and politically correct press conferences, a story of a rugby players harmless misadventures are a welcome relief. (How fast or dangerous can a golf buggy be at any rate?!)

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There is chat in the papers today about the possibilities of bringing Toby Flood into the fly half position instead of Jonny Wilkinson. We feel strongly at the Compulsive Hooker that this would be a mistake and would further ruin whatever little bit of progress has been made over the past few games. Ironically these calls have come after the Italian game, where going forward Jonny looked a great deal better. Standing flatter and sending out good passes to his runners outside him.

The point we feel that has been missed here, is that a fly-half can only play as part of a larger game plan to be truly effective. You need forwards sucking in the defence to create room out wide, quick ball produced at the break down and the ball generally being produced going forward not retreating. Once you have these aspects in place, then it immediately becomes possible for the 10 to play an attacking game.

By bringing in Toby Flood you are not attacking the problems at their source (namely the type of ball Jonny is getting to work with) but are simply expecting miracles. Flood is a workmanlike player and the Compulsive Hooker has always been a moderately enthusiastic fan, but will assuredly not be able to revolutionise England’s play either.

A very sage judge recently posited Jonny’s major strengths as his ability to not make glaring errors. Missed penalties aside at the weekend, this remains true and given time to bed in with Flutey next to him, we back him to come through. It would be instructive to see Dan Carter play in this current England side to see what he could magic up, however we suspect that even he would find it difficult to get England going.

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Virender Sehwag proved once again that he is a true God amongst mortals by scoring 165 against South Africa yesterday. With his first 45 runs coming off 20 balls and his hundred of 87, it was truly a miraculous innings. Remember that this was the same game that Zaheer Khan ran through the Proteas batting to dismiss them f0r 266 in the first innings and that opening the bowling against him was the previously rampant Dale Steyn. Extraordinary.

The usual assumption for someone who plays in this mode is that they will be relatively hit or miss, quick hundreds followed by a run of low scores. To demonstrate the extraordinary level to which Sehwag has taken test match batting have a look at his record below:

Matches     Runs     100’s     Strike Rate     Average
76            6691       19           80.85                53.53

Not only does he score at a phenomenal rate, but he has consistently done so across the board and against all new ball attacks in all countries around the world. The only place where his record drops off a little is England where the extra swing on offer works against him.

This strike rate by the way is considerably higher than the other master blasters of the last few decades, in the forms of Chris Gayle, Adam Gilchrist and Viv Richards. As if this is not enough he also averages more per innings as well.

Supporting him well during this innings was Sachin Tendulkar who moved serenely to his 47th test century in 166 matches and his 92nd international century overall. When you look at these statistics you begin to feel sorry for the bowlers that have had to bowl at these extraordinary players. Even Dale Steyn, touted as the next truly great fast bowler has been unable to make an impression during this game.

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