dennis does dtg
DTG: The Pakistan-Australia series just concluded. Growing up, whenever we played Australia, we used to get a thumping. Now it looks like the shoe is on the other foot. How does it feel getting taken to the cleaners by Pakistan?
Dennis: (laughs) The premise of your question is wrong because it assumes I care whether Australia win or lose (more laughter). I'm a global cricket watcher. I think it's good for cricket that teams have ups and downs. It's a small sport in terms of teams playing at the elite level,there are only 8 or 9 teams competing. We can't just have England or Australia or India dominating all the time.
Cricket Australia is a train-wreck. Everything about cricket in Australia is a mess. It's probably a good thing that Pakistan and Australia have switched roles. Pakistan are up and Australia are down. These things are cyclical. England is up and down like a Yo-Yo. India I'm sure will come back down at some stage and now it's Australia's turn. It's been a while.
It won't be good for Australia this summer from an audience perspective and an interest perspective. India have a chance in the Test series. But you never know, cricket is a funny game. Zimbabwe beat Bangladesh in an away game. Anything can happen.
DTG: In the Pakistan vs Australia series, we saw the rise of Mohammad Abbas, who has been phenomenal in Test matches. He has performed well in different conditions. He is in the same mould as Vernon Philander and Jimmy Anderson. How do you think he'll perform when Pakistan tours Australia in the next few years?
Dennis: It's interesting you mention Philander because the first time I saw Abbas bowl, he reminded me of Philander. Philander is a great bowler. He's been Number 1 in the world but doesn't bowl faster than 125 Kph. He has an average of 21/22 and a SR sub-50. Speed is not the issue, it's line and length and knowing where to bowl. Abbas is a very skillful bowler who has done well in FC cricket for years. It's not as if he is some 17 year old kid who has been plucked out of the IPL. He knows his craft.
I wouldn't compare him to James Anderson. They are different bowlers. Anderson is good for 3 or 4 overs with the new ball, then becomes pedestrian whereas Philander and Abbas are good throughout the innings. So I absolutely believe he [Abbas] will do well in Australia whenever he tours. He will do well in all conditions. If you can deliver the ball at a good line and length and get it to move around a little, then no matter what the speed, you will get wickets. The great thing about Abbas is his control.
DTG: Australia completely disintegrated in the T20 series following the Test matches. Was it because of an administrative issue or because of the lack of personnel?
Dennis: It's a combination of many things. Pakistan have taken the PSL and made that their pathway to get cricket back into the country. T20, via the PSL, has become the saviour of Pakistan cricket. In Australia, the Big Bash is not seen as a pathway to greatness. T20I's are third in the list of priorities. We also have interesting selection policies at the moment where we're just picking random blokes on the basis of god-knows-what, rather than players who earn their stripes.
Recently, I was speaking to an Australian cricketer and he said that in ODIs and T20Is, it doesn't even feel like there is a team. It just feels like random people put together, like in franchise cricket.
Australian players have the skills to play T20I cricket at a world class level, no doubt. But cricket is not an individual sport, it's a team sport. At the moment, the spirit isn't there, the gelling isn't there. People are playing for themselves and not for the team. These things mean that you cannot succeed on the international stage.
DTG: Do you think Justin Langer can change that? Do you think he is the right person to lead a change?
Dennis: I think he's got good qualities and bad qualities. I hate his sloganism. I hate his ' Elite Honesty' and 'Elite mateship' and 'Eliteness'. That bullshit has to go. Players don't respond to that. Players respond to trust and respect. If Langer just focused on straight-talking to his players, look them in the eye and talk to them, he doesn't need all this sloganism,hand-clapping and all the other bullshit that he's brought.
I think he can be the guy to lead a change. But he has confused leading people with trying to be a marketeer to the Australian public. I think he will fail because of that.
DTG: You said Langer has some qualities which might make him a good coach. Do you think SandPaper-gate (which was during Darren Lehmann's coaching tenure) would not have happened, or the damage would have been more controlled if Langer had been the coach then?
Dennis: Let's go back to the coach preceding Darren Lehmann, Mickey Arthur, the current Pakistan coach.
When he tried to bring discipline to the Australian team after Homework-gate in Mohali 2013,he got sacked. For the exact same things he did in Australia, he's been lauded as a hero in Pakistan. If Cricket Australia had the foresight and strength of character to stand by Arthur back then, we wouldn't have been in this situation. There would have been no SandPaper-gate, because Mickey doesn't stand that rubbish. That's why there are no Akmals playing for Pakistan. That's why Wahab Riaz got kicked out for a while. All that happened because he didn't like unfit players and guys who didn't fit the culture.
He tried to do that in Australia and lost his job. If you had the right man in charge and the right leadership, you wouldn't have had SandPaper-gate. You could see how detached the players were from what was happening just by watching that first press-conference in Cape Town. Steve Smith laughed off the question about using Sandpaper and said everybody was doing it. He had no sense of what that meant or what could play out. Mickey wouldn't have stood for any of that rubbish. He's the best coach in World Cricket at the moment and Pakistan is lucky enough to have him.
DTG: Pakistan were rock-bottom when we got Mickey. Our Limited overs teams were in a rut, there was no structure behind them. We didn't really have any choice but appoint Mickey as coach. Australia have a good domestic and administrative structure, maybe that is a reason why Mickey couldn't survive there.
Dennis: The Australian system is broken at the moment. When you have a strong player-centric structure and you believe in all the crap that is going around, you're going to fail. It doesn't matter how good a coach you are, an example is Greg Chappell coaching India. Chappell is a fantastic coach, but he tried to take on Sachin and his selfishness and got kicked out of town.
Australian cricket doesn't really have a great structure at the moment. Shield Cricket is not the number one First Class tournament anymore. It's a secondary competition where players are substituted in and out of the teams. They only bowl for an innings and get subbed off etc. The best players don't play. The second XI system has gone to shit. All the focus has moved towards the Big Bash.
I'm hoping that the new Cricket Australia board and the new executive can bring back some pride into First Class cricket. I remember Victoria vs New South Wales used to be Australia vs Australia A. That's gone now, no one even knows when they are playing anymore. I remember as a kid when Dean Jones used to be the Captain of Victoria and Geoff Lawson was captain of NSW. When those teams met, there was nothing bigger in Australian cricket. Now it's just a joke.
Performances in Shield Cricket don't matter and aren't the things that get you a Test cap. They aren't the stuff that gets written on the back of newspapers. People used to go, "Hey, Stuart Law averages 65 this season, why can't he get a game?" and "Hey, Greg Blewett averages 60 this season, why isn't he in the Test team?" . Those days of us having our own Fawad Alam's are gone. That is because the pride and the respect for that system has broken down.
Do the systems of Australian cricket support us? No. They are not as strong as they once were and I think we're still hiding behind the perceptions that since it was once the greatest it will always be the greatest. But even the Roman Empire fell.
DTG: You talked about administrative problems that Cricket Australia is facing. Similarly, the ICC is also facing problems because of global match-fixing. Your thoughts on the matter?
Dennis: First of all, the ICC's hands are tied, insofar as the ability to investigate players, ban players and handle corruption in T20 leagues, which is where most of the corruption takes place. It's down to the respective national boards, not the ICC. The ICC's job is to regulate international fixtures, but the boards are in control of these T20 leagues. In the case of the CPL, which is not owned by the board and is privately run, who knows where the responsibility lies?
After the ICC, it's the boards of these countries. For example, in Pakistan, there is the Qayyum report, which was a Supreme Court document, not some Mickey Mouse investigation into the IPL by a BCCI investigator. The Supreme court judge named a whole lot of names in the document. Now you have the chairman of the PCB [Ehsan Mani] welcoming some of these guys back in.
When you try and bring this issue up with Pakistani's, they'll try and justify it with arguing about the differences between match fixing and spot-fixing. Or they'll try and compare it to ball tampering, which is a completely different issue. The nuance is lost for some reason. The same case is with India, with Azharuddin, with Dhoni purging himself from the scandal in CSK and his involvement there with gambling. This rubbish is swept under the carpet or ignored because of the popularity of some of these players. Australia did the same with Shane Warne and Mark Waugh. Back in the day, Rod Marsh betted against his own team. While you have these big names and these cultures where you ignore this sort of stuff, saying "Oh, this bloke did this and that but let's bring him back into the game."
You can't use half-measures for this stuff. Either you're against it, or for it. And if you're for it, you're on the wrong side of history. Only 2 years ago, there was an incident in the PSL with Sharjeel Khan and other players. Who was the coach of Islamabad United then? Wasim Akram, who was also named in the Qayyum report and is now part of the Cricket Committee made by the PCB. How does this shit happen? It's ridiculous!
How is Mark Waugh an Australian selector, when he took money from a bookie? How is Azharuddin ringing bells to launch ODI games in India? It's ridiculous. Why are these guys allowed to be anywhere near a cricket field, or to do anything with cricket? There are so many other players with similar skills that you can pick instead of these tainted players. There are people with similar abilities who have not ripped off their country, their team and their team mates for their own personal gain. If they [the tainted players] say it's been a long time and that they've changed, it's a load of hogwash.
DTG: The argument from the other side is that once the player has been appropriately fined or punished for his actions, he should be brought back into the setup. Your opinion?
Dennis: If you really believe that, you're naive. It holds true in society, where people serve their time and reintegrate. But cricket is a vocation. For example,a policeman who steals or a teacher who is inappropriate with a student, they won't get second chances in their jobs. If you steal from your employer, you will never ever again work for that employer, even if you've done your time.
Why is cricket any different? It's a job, it's not society. I'm sorry, but if you steal from your employer, and you expect after you've done your time to go back, forget about it. Go do something else, go be a chai-wala, go sell shoes, go to sweep stadiums, I don't give a shit. You can still function in society, you can still earn a living. But just not in cricket. And so those that argue that cricket and society are the same in regards to punishment for the crime have marbles in their heads. If you are a journalist and you plagiarise something from someone else, you are done. Why does cricket think it's something bigger than that? It's not.
DTG: Your predictions for the India tour of Australia. Do you think India has a realistic chance of upsetting Australia?
Dennis: India refused to do a lot of things for a long time, they refused to use DRS, they refuse to play Pakistan, they refused to play a Day-Night Test here in Australia. I think they are going to refuse to lose to Australia as well.
I don't see India losing to Australia. I think this might be the tour where India finally win a Test series in Australia. They are a better team, they are better drilled. Kohli is a phenomenal leader, apart from being an arsehat when India are picking wickets. Apart from that, he's on top of his game. India have a fast bowling lineup that is now world class. I don't think many people appreciate the match winners the Indian fast bowlers are now. They are not just relying on their spinners.
And that is the reason why India is No. 1 and will remain number one. I don't want to predict the scoreline but I predict that India will beat Australia.
DTG: From an Australian perspective, what does Australia need to do to stop this Indian juggernaut?
Dennis: They need to forward the clock about 3.5 years, when they've sorted their shit out and got a decent team with a proper administration. At the moment they are in a state of flux, with an unsettled squad fighting for their own spots instead of for the team. There is nothing they can do.
DTG: Do you agree with Mohsin Khan's conments [about Sarfaraz not being captain and Salman Butt coming back into the fold]. Do you think he should still be a part of the Cricket committee?
Dennis: He's allowed an opinion and members of that committee are allowed to have opinions and make decisions based on those opinions. I just don't agree with any of that rubbish.
To be honest, Najam Sethi had the PCB ticking along, whether you agree with his politics or the way he landed his job. He brought cricket back to Pakistan, Pakistan became No. 1 in the World under him. He made a very strong environment there. The First-Class system has a lot of work to be done but he got it moving in the right direction. Removing him was a mistake, because it was done for political reasons. What he's been replaced with is a mess and I fear for Pakistani cricket because there is a lag factor here. There could be a mess in the administration with really poor leadership. That might reflect in the results of the team because of poor selection, poor support etc. And there isn't a guy like Misbah at the helm to steer the ship. Sarfaraz, great guy that he is, is no Misbah.
And as far as Salman Butt coming back anywhere near the Pakistan team, shit no.
DTG: Do you endorse Misbah to be a part of the PCB on an administrative level?
Dennis: I met a lot of people on my visit to Pakistan, a lot of people associated with cricket. I met Imran Khan in his house but the person that intimidated me the most was Misbah. When he looks at you with those eyes and talks to you, you listen, and you don't talk back! And he hits you right in the gut, because there are no politics, just knowledge, wisdom and strength. Whether that makes him a good administrator, I don't know, but that does make him a good leader. Leadership is a strong part of administration because you need to inspire people to follow your vision. If he holds off some of the negative elements of the PCB, I think he could do a good job.
He told me that when he threatened to walk out when Amir came back, the PCB told him to come back and that selection was not his area of concern,but I reckon if he had that time again, he would have taken a different stand. I like having people like Misbah around. I also like the fact that Australian cricket is engaging with people like Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist. These guys had strong values. These guys are starting to go around the Australian cricket team and that can only be a positive thing.
Pakistan needs to do the same. You have guys like Misbah, Aqib Javed and Javed Miandad who were leaders and had strength of character and did the right thing for Pakistan. They need to be around Pakistan cricket. Not guys who are there for political reasons, or tainted players.
DTG: When will you release your documentary on Pakistan cricket?
Dennis: When I went to Pakistan in October 2017, I initially planned to go with an iPhone and a selfie stick to make some YouTube videos. On the back of my announcement of travelling to Pakistan, we were lucky enough to get a sponsorship from Pakistan Cables and then Cricingif came on-board and helped. Because of that, there is an expectation of the quality of the product we should be producing. Both myself and the guys at Cricingif have been putting this together and been very hard on ourselves and trying not to accept mediocrity. It's not perfect but it's quite close. The last thing we're doing is agreeing on the music for the cut scenes, the rest of the documentary is done. We're taking time because it needs to be done right. We'll be done by this week then we'll be talking with the networks in Pakistan about airing the documentary. It's a 90 minute feature documentary and I'm proud of it. I apologize for the delay but it's worth the wait and I'm proud of it. It shows a side of Pakistan that not many 'Goras' have seen. It is a side of Pakistan that I think many Pakistanis will be proud to have out there. It's not all lovey dovey, there are a few challenging bits in the documentary that I think some people will reflect on it saying “Shit, why hadn't I thought of that”. But it has some messages that I'm proud of telling and grateful for being able to tell.
DTG: Can we expect the documentary before Christmas?
Dennis: I would like to think so. Hopefully, we can get it out on one of the networks in Pakistan and Foxtel in Australia as soon as possible.
DTG: Where can our listeners find you on social media? You also have your own podcast.
Dennis: Our podcast, Can't Bowl Can't Throw, is in it's sixth year. You can find it on all the places where podcasts are available, iTunes, Spotify etc. You can type Dennis Does Cricket on the internet and find all my social media pages. I have the most fun on Twitter and Facebook. You can interact with me and I'll try to interact back as much as I can.
DTG: Thank you for being a part of the show. Hopefully we can have you back sometime.
Dennis: All the best buddy. Bye.