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THURDAY 16 November 2000
Matthew Mott comments on the Bushrangers' early struggles and the lingering curse of the 'Dak'

Since the last time I reported in, things haven't really gone to plan within the Bushrangers' camp. Whilst there have been some very encouraging individual performances, we haven't really clicked as a unit in season 2000-2001.

The batting form of Brad Hodge has been exceptional so far. His unbeaten hundred in the last Pura Cup game with Queensland was a blend of guts, determination and a touch of class. Many good judges are tipping a big year for Brad, one of the most talented batsmen in Australian cricket, who is still only 25 even though he has played over 60 first-class games.

© AllSport & ACB
Ian Harvey looks to have matured as a batsman
© AllSport & ACB
Ian Harvey displayed his immense talent up in Brisbane as well, making an even hundred in partnership with 'Hodgey'. Harvs looks to have matured with the blade during his second stint with county club Gloucestershire, or perhaps it is the thought of impending fatherhood that has had a calming effect.

The emergence of youngsters Michael 'Maxi' Klinger and Ben Oliver in the Mercantile Mutual Cup games has been very encouraging. The ever-consistent Paul Reiffel has led from the front with some typically miserly spells.

Colin Miller, who is the only Australian to do 'the double' (score 1000 runs and capture 100 wickets) in the Lancashire league, has looked just the sort of quality bowler he has shown himself to be on the international scene. Colin has also been a keen mentor to my flatmate, off-spinner John Davison, who is ready and raring to go if 'Funky' is called up for international duty.

Overall, we have under-achieved so far and we are keen to confront the issues head on in a bid to rectify any problems before the season gets away from us. Although we have had our fair share of injuries with Warne, Fleming, Miller, Harvey, Elliott and Harper all spending some time on the sidelines, we aren't looking to make excuses. Any side wanting to win the domestic competition must have suitable depth to stand up when injury and international cricket takes its toll.

The often criticised batting has shown glimpses of the right stuff but a failure to capitalise on solid starts has been a common thread. It is no secret that Elliott is a huge loss to our batting unit. Apart from the fact that he is a world class batsman who generally scores 1000-plus runs a year, he also adds a presence to the line-up. Personally, I have learnt a hell of a lot over the last couple of years working with 'Herb', and Jason Arnberger has even been heard talking in his sleep by his new 'roomie' saying "Herbie, come back I miss you".

Talking of 'Arnie' it was pleasing to see him in such good shape in Brisbane after the barrage he copped about his girth from the Queensland crowd during last year's Pura Milk Cup Final. The new, slimline 'Hamberger' (which was the name they put on the Bulls autograph bats) slipped in virtually unnoticed and batted exceptionally well for 64 in the first innings, until he decided to stir up Adam Dale.

The bowlers have been performing well considering that we have had some difficult totals to bowl at. The effort at Punt Road in the Mercantile Mutual Cup game against the Blues stood out as our best display, as we skittled the high class Blues outfit for 140. It is a great pleasure to report that yours truly is sitting right on top of the national bowling averages with the amazing figures of 2 for 2 off one over. I have consequently requested that skipper Paul Reiffel doesn't throw the ball in my direction again this year!

On a personal front, the scores so far haven't been as fruitful as I would have hoped. I have had some consistent starts but nothing really to show for it. I am very happy with the way I am hitting the ball, so hopefully it is just a matter of time before I convert that into some big scores. This is a big month with three first-class games in a row against the West Indies, Queensland and Tasmania - all at the MCG.

As for that 'bloody Daktari' (our punishment for stuff-ups on tour), its curse is following me around. As usual I forgot to take something on tour, and it just happened to be the dreaded 'Dak'. I had escaped relatively lightly at the post-match fines meeting until the boys clicked that the 'Dak' was actually still at home in Melbourne. I now have to wear it on the next tour unless someone makes a major stuff up between now and then. Maybe I'll have to set up one of the youngsters like Maxi Klinger or Ben 'Water Pistol' Oliver. I'll keep you informed of any developments in the near future.

I look forward to reporting back in the next few weeks after the next block of games. Fingers crossed, we will have three wins under our belts and be ready to make a big assault on the Pura Cup ladder. Until then, take it easy.

Matthew Mott

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MONDAY 25 October 2000
The new season is underway and a few cobwebs are out of the closet