Charlesworth backs up cricket rotation policy

ONE of Australia’s most versatile elite-level coaches, Ric Charlesworth, has emphatically endorsed Australian cricket’s contentious rotation-based selection philosophy.

The inclusion of Tasmanian bowling all-rounder James Faulkner for Monday night’s Twenty20 loss to Sri Lanka took the tally of Australian representatives this summer to 33 in the 13 matches played across the three formats.

The spread of appearances exceeds last summer’s tally of 29 players in 19 matches.

Charlesworth, a former shield stalwart for Western Australia who has held top-level roles in cricket – he was New Zealand’s high-performance manager from 2005 to 2007 – AFL and hockey, hailed the emergence of fast bowler Jackson Bird in the summer’s last two Tests as a tangible benefit of not relying on a clique of elite players.

“It would seem to me that the workload, the number of games played in the different formats, [requires rotation],” he said on Tuesday.

“I was arguing in the 1990s we needed separate teams almost, and that’s started to emerge.

“People don’t really believe they can do it until they’ve done it, and unless you provide them with a lot of opportunities, you don’t find that. Unless people get an opportunity to play, you don’t really find out about their mettle.”

Charlesworth played 47 first-class matches for WA between 1972 and 1979, juggling a domestic-level cricket career with an international-level hockey career that took him to four Olympics.

He played more than half his matches alongside John Inverarity, now Australia’s chief selector, and about one-third with fast-bowling great Dennis Lillee.

The former opening batsman said Lillee was the fittest and hardest-working teammate he encountered during his cricket career but nevertheless predicted that “if he had to play all the [current] different varieties of the game and field with the quality that’s expected now, that it would not be an easy task at all for him”.

As coach of the national women’s and now men’s hockey teams, Charlesworth has been an advocate of rotation, on the basis that “if you want a sustainable performance then you need depth and flexibility”.

“The spin-off from that was many more people believing – and knowing – they could do it,” he said. “You never picked your best team until the big series or the big competitions. That’s one of the issues cricket has to face, that every time Australia plays there’s an expectation it has to win.”

Charlesworth lamented cricket as “neanderthal” in some areas, such as rotation and the depth of statistical analysis, compared with sports such as baseball. He commended his former teammate Inverarity for his much-derided emphasis on “informed player management”, the term Inverarity prefers to rotation.

“There’s a whole range of people in Australian cricket who don’t think you need a coach. Either cricket’s wrong or every other sport in the world’s wrong,” Charlesworth said.

“In baseball you manage your pitchers. In cricket you manage your fast bowlers I would’ve thought, and even the spin bowlers depending on what their loads are. To be fit for bowling, you need to bowl – I have no problem with that – but how much is the issue.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Fresh quad muscle strain for Zaharakis

Feeling the strain: Bomber David Zaharakis.ESSENDON midfielder David Zaharakis could miss next month’s NAB Cup after straining a quad muscle at training on Monday.

Bombers acting football manager Danny Corcoran told Fairfax Media that Zaharakis had scans on Tuesday and was diagnosed with a grade one strain.

”We got the MRI this morning and he is not too bad,” he said.

Asked if Zaharakis would miss the NAB Cup, Corcoran said: ”Potentially. He is pain-free today and we just have to work our way through it and see how he pulls up.

”He has had a super pre-season. Fortunately it’s a different injury [to last season], which is always good to know. He will miss a couple of weeks, no doubt.”

The Bombers will desperately hope this is not the start of another soft-tissue epidemic which cruelled their 2012 campaign. They had more than 20 injuries in this area, prompting a post-season review.

Zaharakis suffered a severe quad strain at training last year heading into the round 11 clash against Sydney and did not return until round 21, when he admitted he may have returned too early.

The 2011 best and fairest had been in brilliant touch before the injury. He eventually played 13 games last season.

Despite Zaharakis’ setback, the club has had 90 per cent of its players complete 95 per cent of the pre-season program, something midfielder Dyson Heppell said had contributed to a higher standard of training throughout summer.

”It’s definitely a massive help and it’s allowed us to be able to [rotate players],” said the 20-year-old, who plans to increase his time in the midfield this year.

”It has been a really good, really big pre-season, but I think in terms of our training it’s been a lot of endurance type running which has allowed the boys to get that real fitness base up.

”We’ve got some real quality in our training sessions.

”I reckon we’ll definitely benefit from the pre-season we had last year. It was a big pre-season in terms of our weights and the running we were putting in.”

Essendon opens its NAB Cup round-robin campaign against the Western Bulldogs and Collingwood at Etihad Stadium on February 15.

■Melbourne has moved Max Gawn back on to its long-term injury list, with the ruckman recently suffering a hamstring injury after missing the entire 2012 season with a knee injury.

Gawn had his right knee reconstructed in December 2011 and will need to spend a minimum of eight weeks on the long-term injury list, allowing the Demons to promote a rookie if he is unavailable for round one.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Mundine sounds warning

Anthony Mundine and Daniel Geale at the weigh-in on Tuesday.ANTHONY Mundine says his best fights have been when he is the underdog and predicts a win over IBF middleweight world champion Daniel Geale will put him a step closer to his dream bout against Floyd Mayweather.

With bookmakers and critics predicting a Geale win, Mundine insists he is ready to prove them wrong and will then pursue big-name opponents to cement his legacy.

‘‘I have always thrived under pressure, when I played league and in boxing,’’ Mundine told Fairfax Media on the eve of Wednesday night’s bout at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

‘‘My best fights have been when I am against the odds, and I am against the odds again so I am going to come out swinging.’’

Mundine, who hit the scales at 71.95 kilograms in Tuesday’s weigh-in and then engaged in some last-minute mind games with Geale, refuses to consider the possibility of a loss ending his 13-year boxing career.

Mundine says the fight will be the beginning of a new phase in his career if he can win a fourth world title – one of which includes the IBO middleweight belt he took from Geale in 2009.

‘‘There is a lot of interest around the boxing world because this guy is really a unified champion and I am the only man who beat him, and I am going to do it again,’’ Mundine  said of Geale’s wins over Germany’s IBF world champion Sebastian Sylvester and WBA title-holder Felix Sturm.

‘‘This will put me up there with the best pound for pounders and catapult me to the fights I want to get. I want to fight the best – I don’t care if they are middleweight, junior middleweight or what weight division. I want to fight the best of all time and that is Mayweather, but this fight is going to get me in the position to fight an Austin Trout, a Miguel Cotto, a Sergio Martinez or whoever comes up and is the best deal for us.

‘‘But I have got to get past this test first, and he is a champion, so I am going to have to go and take it from him.’’

As the pair came face to face for the last time before stepping into the ring  – Geale weighed in slightly heavier at 72.5 kilograms – Mundine did his best to get under his rival’s skin by blowing bubblegum in his face.

Geale said he was used to Mundine’s antics and was determined not to let the 37-year-old rile him.

‘‘There has been a couple of times I started to get angry but I take it all in my stride. He wants me to get upset and I understand that.’’

After losing their previous bout, Geale said he was motivated by revenge. ‘‘A statement needs to be made. All the talk has been done and I am just excited by this.’’

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Last days of summer

summer Spatchcock with spicy escabeche dressing. Photo: Marina Oliphant

It’s that time of year when we’re clinging to our holidays but really have to get back into the swing of the working week. I hope these three recipes help cross that divide: a spicy chicken escabeche that’s perfect for a summer feast with friends, a fragrant curry that makes midweek meals simple, and my take on roast beef for a family meal.

Spatchcock with spicy escabeche dressing

Escabeche is a classic Mediterranean marinade used to lightly pickle meat or fish while infusing it with spice. Typically, freshly cooked fish, chicken or rabbit is doused in the pungent, sweet-and-sour dressing and either served straight away or left to marinate overnight, and served cold. My roasted spatchcock is best served warm or at room temperature, when the meat is most succulent and the fragrance of tarragon, paprika and saffron is in the air.

12 eschalots (golden shallots), unpeeled

2 bulbs garlic

100ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little extra

2 large tomatoes, very ripe

2 punnets cherry tomatoes

2 pinches saffron threads

2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds

1 tsp sweet smoky paprika

2 tsp ground cumin

2 fresh bay leaves

Salt flakes

120ml sherry vinegar

2½ tbsp brown sugar

4 poussin, size five – ask your supplier to spatchcock the birds (removing the backbone)

Freshly ground pepper

½ bunch tarragon

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Cut the unpeeled eschalots lengthways and toss into a roasting pan with the whole garlic bulbs. Drizzle with the extra oil and roast for 30 minutes.

3. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Squeeze out the garlic pulp and peel the skins off the eschalots. Increase the oven temperature to 200 degrees.

4. To skin the tomatoes, bring a pot of water to the boil. Score a cross in the base of the large tomatoes and in half of the cherry tomatoes (use the others unpeeled) and drop them into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and refresh in cold water. The skins should slip off easily. Chop the large tomatoes, leaving the cherry tomatoes whole.

5. To make the sauce, in a large, wide-based saucepan over medium heat, add the 100ml of oil, chopped tomatoes, peeled and unpeeled cherry tomatoes, eschalots and garlic paste and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes.

6. Add the saffron, spices and bay leaves, season with a little salt and stir for another minute.

7. Add the sherry vinegar and brown sugar and cook for another five minutes. Don’t overreduce; the sauce should be loose and the cherry tomatoes should hold their shape. Take off the heat but keep warm.

8. Place a large frying pan over high heat. Season the birds with salt and pepper and lightly oil. Sear the flattened poussin for three minutes on each side. Transfer to a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes.

9. When the birds are nearly cooked, gently warm the sauce, add the picked tarragon and check the seasoning.

10. Remove the birds from the oven and lay on a serving platter with any roasting juices. Immediately pour over the warm dressing and rest for five to 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4 to 8

Drink Provencale rosé

Roasted porterhouse with cinnamon rainbow chard and horseradish bread sauce

This is my take on roast beef, served with braised rainbow chard scented with cinnamon, and a non-traditional rendition of an old-school sauce. Bread sauce has never tasted so flash; I’ve whipped it into shape with creme fraiche, heaps of fresh horseradish and a good spike of mustard.

1.5kg porterhouse, in one piece

Salt flakes

Freshly ground pepper

Bread sauce

300g creme fraiche

375ml milk

1 large clove garlic, finely sliced

1 fresh bay leaf

1 eschalot (golden shallot), sliced

250g white sourdough bread,

no crusts, diced

60g fresh horseradish, grated (or quality preserved horseradish)

½⁄ tsp English mustard

3 tsp Dijon mustard

1 lemon

Braised chard

1½⁄ bunches rainbow chard

(or silverbeet)

100ml extra-virgin olive oil

1 brown onion, finely diced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cinnamon stick

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Place a heavy frying pan over high heat for three minutes.

2. While the pan heats up, score the fat on top of the porterhouse and rub the whole piece of meat with salt and pepper. Cook the meat, fat side down, for five minutes (you won’t need oil as the fat will render down). Flip and cook the other side for five minutes.

3. Place the porterhouse on a rack in a baking tray, fat side up. Roast for about 35-45 minutes (depending on your oven) for medium rare, or until a probe thermometer registers an internal temperature of 60C. Remove from the oven and rest the meat for 15 minutes before slicing.

4. To make the bread sauce, take the creme fraiche from the fridge to take the chill off it. In a small saucepan, add the milk, garlic, bay leaf and eschalot and bring to a simmer.

5. Tip in the bread and remove from the heat. Allow to soften for 10 minutes or so, then puree, adding a little milk if it’s too thick for the stick blender (bear in mind the creme fraiche will loosen the sauce).

6. Tip into a bowl and mix through the creme fraiche, horseradish and mustards. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze in lemon juice to taste. Serve immediately.

7. For the chard, wash and trim it, leaving the stalks on, and cut into thick slices on the diagonal. Leave in a colander to drain.

8. In a large pot, add the olive oil and cook the onion and garlic for three minutes. Add the well-drained chard (a bit of water sticking to the leaves will help it steam) and the cinnamon, cover the pot and cook over high heat for two minutes. Stir, replace the lid and cook for another three minutes. Stir again, cover and lower the heat to medium and cook for a further 15 minutes or until tender. Season.

9. To serve, place the chard on a platter, slice the beef and place it over the hot chard. Serve the bread sauce on the side.

Serves 6-8

Drink Grenache with no new oak

Blue-eye, tomato, potato and ginger curry

This is a light and fresh curry that you can make in a flash on a summer’s night. It doesn’t rely on heat from chilli or from the warmer brown spices, but rather highlights the freshness of ginger, the spicy crackle of mustard seeds and the unique smoky, citrus character of curry leaves.

800g whole piece blue-eye trevalla, from the thickest part of a single fillet, skin on (or 4 x 200g fillets)

100ml extra-virgin olive oil

Salt flakes

1 brown onion, sliced in rounds

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

8cm piece of ginger, julienned

1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds

2 potatoes, peeled and sliced in ½cm discs

6 large ripe tomatoes, in chunky dice

5 stems curry leaves (try Asian or Indian grocers)

1 lemon

1. Slice the fish lengthways down the middle of the fillet, along the line of the pin bones. Run your knife down the other side of the bones to remove them and the blood line; discard. You will now have two portions of fillet (from one side of the fish). Cut these across into three-centimetre-thick slices. If you have four 200-gram fillets, simply cut them in half crossways.

2. Place a large wide-based frying pan over high heat. Add half the oil and heat for one minute. Season the fish and fry, skin side down, for a minute or two to crisp the skin. Remove from the pan and set aside.

3. Add the remaining oil to the same pan and heat through. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and mustard seeds and cook, stirring, until the onion starts to soften (about one minute).

4. Add the potato slices and cook for a few more minutes, stirring until they begin to soften. Add the chopped tomatoes, stir, season and cook for a few more minutes until the tomatoes break down and start to form a sauce.

5. Add 200 millilitres of water and the curry leaves (still attached to their stems) and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. The potatoes should be just cooked and the sauce will have thickened.

6. Check and adjust the seasoning. Make sure the sauce is on the drier side as the fish will release water and moisten it. Add the fish, skin side up, and cook for four to six minutes, or until cooked, with the lid on. Squeeze over the lemon juice and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4 to 6

Drink Margaret River semillon

■ Photos: Marina Oliphant■ Styling: Caroline Velik

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Beijing’s blanket of smog sparks fresh idea

A CHINESE entrepreneur is selling fresh air in soft drink cans, similar to bottled drinking water, as north China is once again choking in toxic smog.

The concentration of airborne PM 2.5 particulates – the smallest and most deadly – went off the chart on Tuesday morning for the second time this month, according to the pollution gauge at the US embassy in Beijing.

The Air Quality Index, designed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, cannot cope with levels beyond 500, 20 times the World Health Organisation air quality standard. The embassy gauge had been hovering in the ”hazardous” 300-500 range since Friday.

Chen Guangbiao, whose wealth is estimated at $740 million according to the Hurun Report, sells his cans of air for five yuan (A75¢) each. It comes with atmospheric flavours including pristine Tibet, post-industrial Taiwan and revolutionary Yan’an, the Communist Party’s early base area.

Mr Chen said he wanted to make a point that China’s air was turning so bad that the idea of bottled fresh air was no longer fanciful. ”If we don’t start caring for the environment then after 20 or 30 years our children and grandchildren might be wearing gas masks and carrying oxygen tanks,” Mr Chen said.

Earlier this month the concentration of airborne PM 2.5 particulates in Beijing and other cities reached the highest levels since measurements began, comparable to those recorded during the infamous London Fog.

The event dominated even state-controlled news outlets, hospitals reported a sharp rise in respiratory-related admissions and political leaders took emergency pollution-reduction measures and vowed to tackle the underlying problems.

Since then the Beijing skyline has remained mostly bleak, with visibility dropping as low as 200 metres several times in the past few days. NASA satellite photos show a thick grey haze has rendered the densely populated plains of north China invisible from outer space.

As the smog worsens, residents of Beijing have begun snapping up products to survive the toxic air.

Chris Buckley, proprietor of Torana Clean Air Centre, said there had been a particularly dramatic increase in the flow of local Chinese customers through his stores, reflecting more open coverage in China’s tightly controlled media as well as the severity of the pollution.

”We used to be told in days gone by that ‘it’s mist and fog’ but I think the game is up now,” said Mr Buckley, who sells air purifying machines and pollution masks.


The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.