It might just be me, but it’s pretty uncool to ridicule the FC comp of another country while using dubious stereotypes for a cheap laugh…
A glittering debut for Mayank Agarwal (76) at the top of the order set the tone of the day as Australia’s bowlers toiled away on the dead MCG track. The home side managed just two wickets, both to Pat Cummins, before the close of the day as rival skipper Virat Kohli 47* and in-form star Cheteshwar Pujara 68* steered the visitors to a comfortable position.
Here were the big talking points from the day’s play.
O’KEEFFE JOKE HITS A NERVE
Aussie cricket icon Kerry O’Keeffe has been on fire this summer in the commentary box but his latest quip from behind the mic appears to have struck a nerve.
The former Aussie spinner took a lighthearted swipe at debut opener Mayank Agarwal, suggesting he’d scored his maiden first class triple century against “canteen staff” in India.
“Apparently he got the triple against the Railways canteen staff,” O’Keeffe said before joking about a kitchen hand opening the bowling.
But Agarwal had O’Keeffe eating humble pie shortly after, tallying up a solid 76 on debut, the best effort against the new ball from India this series.
ESPN Cricinfo journalist Melinda Farrell tweeted out against O’Keeffe for his joke, which attracted a significant reaction from fans on social media.
Mayank Agarwal has given a fitting reply to him and Kerry O Keefe who were ridiculing Indian domestic circuit as consisting of “Canteen XIs”. They tried to undermine Agarwal’s credentials too. More than Waugh, it was O Keefe who was offensive & borderline racist #AUSvsINDAmrut Thobbi@amruttiReplying to @navneet_mundhra
Ur thots on Mark Waugh’s comments on the quality of the Indian domestic cricket?
O’Keeffe addressed the hubbub later in the day, apologising for his quip.
“I was mentioning the runs Agarwal got in first class cricket in India and there’s been a reaction,” he said. “There was no way I was demeaning the standard, it was tongue in cheek. There are lots of runs scored so apologies if anyone out there took offence.”
Former Aussie batsman Mark Waugh also came under fire for comments made about India’s domestic league after he said averaging 50 with the bat in the subcontinent was like averaging 40 in Australia.
Waugh quickly bit back at fans on Twitter and applauded Agarwal’s effort on day one.
All I said was averaging 50 in first class cricket in India is equivalent to averaging 40 in Aust mainly because of the number of players who achieve that. For the record Agarwal played very well in his 1st test innings.
‘DISGRACEFUL’: MARSH BOOED IN MELBOURNE
Mitchell Marsh, recalled to the Australian team at the expense of Peter Handscomb, came into the attack in bowled five overs before the lunch break but was booed by some sections of the MCG crowd.
Marsh is a polarising figure who is yet to cement his spot for Australia in any format and it’s clear he has a lot of work to do to win over cricket fans. Part of the reason for the booing was probably because Marsh, a West Australian, took the place of a Victorian in Handscomb.
Marsh conceded just 11 runs from his five overs, impressing former Test opener Ed Cowan.
“It’s been a really great entry back into the series,” Cowan told ABC Grandstand. “He hasn’t bowled a bad delivery, he’s asked a lot of questions of the batsmen.
“It’s been good, lively, brisk medium pace.”
He finished the day with tidy figures of 15 overs, three maidens and 23 runs.
MCG COPS IT FOR DEAD PITCH
Despite curator Matt Page leaving 10mm of grass on the pitch in a bid to ensure there’s no repeat of last year’s boring Ashes Boxing Day Test, the early signs suggest there’s not much pace or bounce in the strip.
Wicketkeeper Tim Paine was taking balls around his ankles and occasionally they’d bounce before they reached him when Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood opened up.
“When it’s a third over of the Test match and it’s not carrying through … you just want it to carry through,” an angry Glenn McGrath told Macquarie Sports Radio. “First over you’ve got two bowlers bowling 140km/h plus and it’s not carrying through.
Commentating for Channel 7, Ricky Ponting was surprised at the lack of zip in the track on the opening morning. But given there’s some moisture under the surface in anticipation of hot, dry days for the rest of the Test, the former Aussie skipper said the wicket will likely harden up and get quicker as the match wears on.
The rest of the day saw batsmen wear some leather, but by stumps the tourists well and truly had the upper hand.
Half an hour into play Mayank Agarwal pushed at a wide delivery from Mitchell Starc and his edge flew centimetres wide of Mitchell Marsh’s outstretched hand at gully before there was more drama in the same over.
Starc dug a ball in short of a length and it barely got above ankle height, sliding down the leg side and bumbling along past Paine, who was unable to stop it going for four byes.
“That’s unbelievable, really,” Ponting said. “Look at the lack of bounce there. Worrying signs that, not just for the teams, but for the game.”
Former Aussie coach Darren Lehmann told Macquarie Sports Radio: “I’m in shock, four byes in the first morning.”
The pitch was so slow, spinner Nathan Lyon was brought into the attack in just the eighth over. It’s the earliest a spinner has bowled in a Test match at the MCG since ball-by-ball records began.
WARNE BACKFLIPS ON PAINE
Earlier this year Shane Warne questioned Tim Paine’s leadership credentials, but the legendary leg-spinner has changed his tune after the skipper’s strong start to the summer, endorsing him as the right man for the job.
In May Warne said he didn’t believe a wicketkeeper should be captain and in August he said the leadership position was still open. Then, in October, Warne called for Test rookie Aaron Finch to captain Australia in all three formats
“To me, he (Finch) should be captain. I’d like to see him captain all forms for the game,” Warne said.
But on Wednesday the 49-year-old revealed he had become one of the converted after Paine won plaudits for his strong leadership and refusal to back down in the second Test in Perth. In a video posted to his Facebook account, Warne said: “Now he have an Australian captain in Tim Paine. Well done mate, class act.”
In Fox Cricket’s pre-game coverage, the tweaker said: “We found our Australian captain in Tim Paine in Perth. I think he stood up and he believes he’s the Australian captain.”