On one of the most grueling road trips in world sport, against the world’s best, and most fanatical, cricketing nation, the oft criticized Glenn Maxwell has over the past two days – undoubtedly – come of age.
BIG SPORTS & BIGGER OPINIONS
On a warm summer’s morning, the last day of July 1977, American musician Meat Loaf released one of his signature songs, power ballad Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad. From that day on, the song, penned by brilliant lyricist Jim Steinman, would forever be recalled when two-thirds of any given situation came to fruition. As Steinman simply, yet precisely put, “Now don’t be sad, ’cause two out of three ain’t bad.”
Almost 40 years later, as stumps were drawn in Sydney to complete the opening day of the third Test Match against Pakistan, Australian cricket fans watched Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb triumphantly walk off a sun-drenched Sydney Cricket Ground, and for many, immediately recalled that phrase, knowing full-well that Australian cricket selectors had made two very good decisions just six weeks ago.
Following a humiliating loss to South Africa at Hobart, the opportunity had arrived to swing the axe. The Australian Test team hadn’t won since February, losing five consecutive matches against Sri Lanka (three) and South Africa (two), and the One-Day team had just been swept in a five-match South African series. The cricketing public demanded changes and the selectors agreed, dropping Joe Burns, Adam Voges, Callum Ferguson, Peter Nevill, and Joe Mennie. Replacing the quintet were the recalled Matthew Wade and Jackson Bird, as well as three young debutantes – 20-year-old Matt Renshaw, then 24-year-old Nic Maddinson, and 25-year-old Peter Handscomb. The batting trio represented a new era for Australian cricket, and it was hoped they would perform well enough to reverse the continuing, and alarming trend of embarrassing losses.
In the six weeks which have since passed, Nic Maddinson has failed in his bid to secure the number six batting position. Scores of 0, 1, and 4 during his first two Tests, were only bettered by a shaky 22 in his last. Lucky to receive as many chances as he did, he was dumped last week in favour of another youngster, 24-year-old Hilton Cartwright. While Maddinson’s continued failures were, at times, horrific to watch, the other two young debutantes have returned the faith shown by selectors and fall asleep tonight knowing their future, at least in the foreseeable future, is secure.
Handscomb’s 54 on debut against South Africa in Adelaide was an assured knock and one which didn’t fit that of a nervous young man representing his country for the first time. Almost immediately he looked settled, possessing the temperament of a man who knows his game inside out. His approach, which often sees him resting back in the crease and cutting late behind point, was unusual and unorthodox, however it worked. His innings’ since have included a maiden century against Pakistan in Brisbane, and another score of 54 against the same opposition in Melbourne. Today he added an unbeaten 40, boosting his tally to 289 runs at an average of 96.33. Importantly, each of his big scores have come in the first innings of a match, ensuring he is capable of performing when the match is there to be won.
While Handscomb showed his ability to succeed at the highest level from the moment he first walked out to bat, Renshaw took a little longer to have us convinced. A slower, more watchful batsman, he ground out an unbeaten 34 in the second innings on debut against South Africa to see Australia home, before making a patient 71 against Pakistan in Brisbane as the home side’s 429 first inning runs ultimately proved crucial to winning the match. Successive scores of 6 and 10 followed, with both innings being ended by poor shot selection, and in the harsh reality of professional cricket, some critics were already watching with a closer eye. However, while David Warner’s 95-ball 113 stole the show early on the opening day in Sydney, it was Renshaw who finished the day as the main talking point. In just his fourth match, the young Queenslander had batted through the day, ending it unbeaten on 167. His innings https://www.viagrasansordonnancefr.com/viagra-cialis/ was one straight from the opening batsman’s textbook; making a steady start before capitalising after Tea, where he feasted on a weary Pakistani attack and helped himself to 84 runs. His tally now exceeds Handscomb’s, with 298 runs at an average of 74.50.
The success of the duo has contributed, significantly, to the resurgence being seen in Australian cricket. Three consecutive wins, and a fourth now looking likely, has given fans hope of a competitive showing in India next month, where the tourists commence their four-match series in Pune on 23 February. Following that, three further grueling challenges await in Bangalore, Ranchi, and Dharmasala, as the revamped Australian side battles to overcome extreme heat and crumbling wickets. For Handscomb and Renshaw, they’ll head to India full of confidence after strong showings at home, and hopeful of helping their team to a series win which just over a month ago seemed almost impossible.
The Australian U23 baseball team has this week turned in what is arguably the best performance by a national team since the 2004 Olympic Silver Medal, most likely progressing through to the Gold Medal game against Japan at the WBSC U23 Baseball World Cup. Pending other results later today AEDST and confirmation from the WBSC, the Australians will play off for the championship title against the mighty Japanese team which has sailed through the tournament with a 6-1 record thus far.
The Australians started the tournament in Monterrey (Mexico) on fire, with a commanding 8-1 win over Austria, before riding the hot streak through the initial stages, winning four of five games. Following the big win over Austria, the Australians beat Nicaragua 6-5, Chinese Taipei 8-7 (in 10) and Argentina 15-2, before falling 11-2 to Japan in the final game. The four wins were enough to see them progress into the Super Round comfortably, where they bounced back from a 15-8 loss to Mexico on Friday, with back-to-back wins over Korea (9-7) and Panama (8-4) to improve their overall record to 6-2 through eight games.
The stars offensively for the Australians thus far have been a trio of infielders, shortstop Jacob Younis (16-for-28, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 3 SB), third baseman Zach Shepherd (10-for-27, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 12 BB) and first baseman Connor MacDonald (10-for-32, 4 HR, 14 RBI), while designated hitter/catcher Guy Edmonds (11-for-30, 2 HR, 10 RBI) has also contributed significantly to the powerful lineup which is averaging eight runs per game.
The power from 20-year-old MacDonald has been particularly pleasing to see, as he seeks to continue the momentum built during the 2016 Minor League season, where he hit a very solid .267/.322/.441 with Rookie Class Greeneville (Astros). The form of Zach Shepherd, who recently celebrated his 21st birthday, has also been encouraging after a tough Minor League season with Class High A Lakeland (Tigers). The powerful third baseman who is well regarded within the organization saw plenty of game time, yet hit just .186/.301/.350. He did however slug 15 home runs and knocked in 50 through 121 games.
On the mound, the starters have generally struggled, with Nick Hutchings’ six inning, one run outing against Austria and Chris Horne’s five scoreless innings against Argentina being the only two starts of note. The ever-reliable bullpen arm of Josh Guyer has worked through 6.2 scoreless innings, striking out six as he continues to produce the goods in clutch moments.
To watch the Australians in action in the all-important final game tomorrow, visit: http://www.wbsc.org/tournaments/2016-u23-baseball-world-cup/
(Image credit: WBSC, 2016)
Australia’s performance at London 2012 was heavily criticised, winning just eight golds and 35 medals overall. Many millions of dollars of extra funding was thrown into high performance, with a better haul expected at Rio 2016. As the end of the two week campaign nears though, Australia is set to perform even worse, currently securing just six golds and 22 medals overall.
So, what’s gone wrong?
Here’s the harsh reality of the situation. While sports administrators (many of which being ex-Olympians themselves) and mainstream media continue to claim Australian athletes have under-performed, and criticise accordingly, I don’t believe this is actually the case. Instead, perhaps consider this; for many years, Australia over-performed and now the rest of the world has simply caught up.
Australia has always placed an extremely high value on sporting success on a global scale. cialis cannabis For many, it’s even considered generic levitra professional a key indicator of how the nation compares to other countries. While the economy, health, education, crime, infrastructure etc. are all understandably key indicators to national success, Australians have always ensured sporting achievements are valued just as highly. Australia has always been, iconically, a sporting nation, however not all other countries have historically invested in, or valued this success in the same high regard.
There’s been a dramatic shift in recent times though, with other – much larger – countries (i.e. China, Russia, Japan, Great Britain, United States of America etc.) now understanding the important social impact national sporting success can have. These countries have essentially copied the Australian model and invested more funding into high performance than ever before. This has, predictably, transferred into greater levels of success.
The greater success of these countries’ athletes has understandably affected the outcomes for Australian athletes. No longer does the team take home 16-17 golds and 45-50 medals overall, they’re instead now securing hauls far more consistent, and expected, for a country of its size – just 23 million people.
When you next read an article on how poorly Australian athletes have performed at Rio 2016, pause for a second and understand that it’s actually not the case. Sure, there’s been some high-profile failures, however many of the Australian athletes have still broken personal bests or national records. While they may not have the medals to demonstrate this, it’s simply because they’ve been beaten by better athletes from rival nations – rival nations which have more athletes to choose from and more funding available to invest into high performance.
While Australians may not like to read this, in four years time at Tokyo 2020, expect to see similar outcomes.