Speaker by Various Artists

19

Part 1: Thoughtful, intellectual and occasionally made-up analysis

by Aye Calypso

And to my left, and indeed to everybody's left: An Introduction.

Alex's wife lets him take the transistor radio to bed, Hamish gave up a glittering law career to think about cricket full time, and Grant's mother still looks after his full set of DB Cricket Annuals from the 1970s and 80s. We are cricket fans- part tragic, part loyal, and all about the boys.

We aim, as John Campbell would say, to go behind the news of the 2007 Cricket World Cup. If you want reliable statistics and earnest and occasionally emotional ball by ball commentary, go to CricInfo. We want to provide thoughtful, intellectual and occasionally made-up analysis of the quest for cricket's Holy Grail, as Gavin Larsen hyperbolically termed it in the emotion after the final Chappell-Hadlee game in Hamilton.

We will also give you the inside word from the NZ Camp through a number of regular features and columns, and provide links to the best of World Cup comment from around the blogshpere. We are not there, but since we plan to spend the next six weeks consumed by the event, we will try to make you feel like we are.

So who are we again?

Alex Gilks, makes his living teaching design, but his real passion is for the Invitational Fat X1, Dunedin's finest twilight cricket team. Twilight cricket is only really possible in the long Southern summer hours, and is a kinder, gentler version of 20:20. Alex specialises in playing long, methodical innings. His greatest wish is to find out why Nathan Astle is referred to as "Dirty" by Brendon McCullum.

Hamish McDouall is well known to cricket fans the world over as the man who made Chris Cairns' life into a bargain bin staple. He was controversially denied the right to have the History of Wanganui Cricket as his Mastermind subject, and so had to settle for David Bowie. Hamish went to the Windies with the NZ team in 1995, and for a price will tell you a great story about Dion Nash, a beach and some local produce.

Grant Robertson is a wannabe politician residing in Wellington, who's cricket passion was shaped by long, lonely hours watching Otago Shell Trophy games through the 1980s. After years spent attempting to mimic Mystery Morrison's autumn leaves style of bowling, Grant gave away the game for extended sessions in front of the telly.

So, what next you say? Over the next few days we will bring you profiles of the teams that the Black Caps will play in the group round, before the action begins in earnest. To finish, our question for the day, Where is Jeremy Coney? Answers on the back of a photo of Martin Crowe please.

Team Profile- Canada: Thank You For Smoking

In about 1986 on a slow Saturday afternoon on the Kings High School No 2 ground in Dunedin, Ian Billcliff was bowled around his legs by a ball that turned the most of any I had bowled to that point or have since.

Billcliff, already a young man with a reputation and having hit about 70 off 40 balls at the time, was deceived by local knowledge.

The groundsman at Kings at the time had a habit of smoking as he rolled the pitch last thing on a Friday. If you looked carefully you could see where the butts were not quite rolled in. This particular nicotine ridge lay just outside the right hander's leg stump, and undid a few that day. By the sounds of things Billcliff and his merry band of international friends that make up the Canadian World Cup squad- or as it is quaintly referred to in the continent of baseball- World Cup roster can expect a similar wickets in the Windies, though perhaps the butts might contain something of more interest than tobacco.

But before assessing the roster, what sort of cricket is played in a land of snow, mounties and a fair dollop of French influence? The long and the short is not much. Despite getting cricket along with colonisation just like the rest of us, it has not taken hold outside of elite schools and the relatively warmer parts of British Columbia and Ontario. The lack of a place for royal mounted policemen and huskies might have been the problem. Interestingly there is one Quebecquois in the squad, so the Canadian government directive to do half the calls for running between wickets in French might just work out. (ok, that last bit is made up)

Canadian coach Andy Pick reckons they have six or seven players who can single handedly alter the result of the game- presumably he means to a positive effect. It is hard to see who those players might be.

Billcliff, (who was born in Canada) and Blenheim based Geoff Barnett (who knows where Canada is on a map) look like the best of the top order. Billcliff's game has not changed since those schoolboy days in Dunedin. On his day he will pepper the boundary with well timed cuts and hooks, but often gets out when he looks like he is going to make a big one. Our sources tell us he has been in reasonable nick in Auckland club cricket, and Barnett is reliable at the top of the CD order.

Other than the Kiwi connection the Canadians will look to Australian raised John Davison to put up a competitive total. Davison has come a long way since hosting TV show That's Incredible in the 1980s, and made the fastest century in World Cup history (off 67 balls) against the Windies in the 2003 Cup in South Africa. Actually it is fair bet that record might go on one of the smaller grounds in the early stage of this tournament.

The emerging star is Ashish Bagai. Curiously Bagai is an investment banker in Los Angeles, but stored away the suit in order to average 86.25 at the ICC World Cricket League tournament in Kenya recently. He is also the wicket-keeper in what is starting to sound like one of those schoolboy teams where there are a couple of good players who do everything, plus the coach's son who gets to have a bowl every now and then.

Otherwise the team is a mix of quirky names and occupations. Let's play a game, match these players with their occupations:

(1) Desmond Chumney, (2) George and (3)Austin Codrington and (4) Umar Bhatti.
(A) Forklift Driver, (B) Accountant, (C) Salesman and (D) Teacher.

Answers on the back of a maple syrup label please.

The Canadians open up against Kenya on March 14, and have to be a good chance against the team they beat at home last month. Then it is England on the 18th of March before Billcliff and Barnett renew acquaintances with the Black Caps on the 22nd of March.

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