31 May 2007

England team for 3rd Test

Barring disasters, the news that Hoggard is still struggling with his groin, ensures that England will play the same 11 as at Headingley next week. Of course, there is still plenty of time for injuries to occur between now and next Thursday though!

West Indies have drafted in Marlon Samuels to help their batting giving Sarwan's return home due to injury, but the make up of their team is much harder to predict.

ICC Meeting in Dubai

Ball tampering, ODI playing conditions, the use of glue on pitches, referrals to the TV umpire and the volume of cricket have among the subjects discussed by the newly constituted ICC Cricket Committee over the last couple of days in Dubai.

You can read more on the ICC's site.

It will be very interesting to see what comes out of the meeting...check back at Cricket Burble to see what, if any, progress has been made.

Thorpe backs Pietersen as ODI skipper

I was a big Graham Thorpe fan, but what is he saying? He seems to think that Vaughan should have stepped down as ODI captain after the World Cup and that Pietersen would be a good candidate to be captain. Maybe eventually Graham, but let's not overburden the poor guy right now...especially when we have a quality captain ready and willing to do the job as has been discussed on Cricket Burble before.

With Fleming stepping down for New Zealand, you could easily make an argument for Vaughan being up there with Jayawardene as the best captain in the World - let's just let him get on with it.

30 May 2007

India v South Africa in Ireland off?

If you've been reading Cricket Burble for a while, you'll know my views on internationals being played at neutral venues purely to try and generate extra revenue for the various boards. So it was good to see that the deal between the BCCI and Zee TV has fallen through, putting the June series between South Africa and India in Belfast in doubt. Why negotiations were going on so close to the scheduled date of the matches is difficult to understand, but if the result is that a pointless series is avoided then there is at least a positive....

Flintoff faces ankle surgery again

But don't panic England fans...it's only investigative surgery and he's still targeting the 1st Test against India on 19th June to play again.

It's not that surprising that he's having problems given his physique and bowling style - reportedly he took several injections to enable him to play during England's over-congested winter schedule. But while Moores will undoubtedly want his star bowler back as soon as possible, he now has at least one more game to look at the likes of Strauss, Bell and, much though it pains me to say it as I would pick him, Collingwood, with a view to dropping one of them when Flintoff returns, assuming that Prior's batting continues to excel. Ideally, Moores may well want to bat Prior at 6 and Flintoff at 7 so that he pick 5 bowlers but for now that decision can be put off.

India's coach...

Well Dav Whatmore will be India's new coach...you heard it here first. Not certain I'll be proved right, but we'll see. It's interesting to see how people react when a foreigner is appointed, or even considered, to coach a national team. Take for example, Sven Goran-Erikkson as manager of England's football team - a few loved him, many hated him. India have had 2 foreign cricket coaches prior to the appointment of the next coach and it appears that there is some pro-Indian coach lobbying going on. Sunil Gavaskar has not been very subtle in criticising Dav Whatmore as part of the Bangladesh back-room team that India thrashed comprehensively recently...but why would anyone would listen to him? A great player but very temperamental - how else can we explain him playing for a draw in a one day game and trying to take his batting partner off the pitch with him when he didn't agree with an LBW decision? So his opinion should be listened to...and then ignored. But Kapil Dev? He normally talks sense but he's weighed in arguing the next coach should be Indian too...

There are 7 cricketing nations that have a rich history - India, Pakistan, Australia, England, New Zealand, West Indies, South Africa - if you subscribe to the theory that coaches should have played top-class cricket, which I don't. On top of that you have nations like Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka, who can produce top coaches - eg. Duncan Fletcher. So at best there should be a less than 15% chance of the next coach of India being an Indian....there are lots of other options in today's global employment market. If the best candidate turns out to be Indian then of course that's great, but to close your eyes to other options would be extremely foolhardy.

Was Warne out?

The reporting of Shane Warne arguing over his LBW decision and being given 6 points has been interesting. No-one seems interested in whether he was out or not! I, for one, am interested...very interested. If he wasn't out then he should be treated more leniently - if he was he should be banned outright - the 6 point ban is a cop-out given that 9 constitutes a ban.

Until all decisions made are correct this will happen from time to time, and the only way of ensuring that is with the use of technology...

29 May 2007

Dav Whatmore to coach India

Dav Whatmore's latest interview makes it sound like a near certainty that he'll be coaching India soon. Speaking having completed his Bangladesh contract, he was asked if he would prefer a break or to start the India job straight away if the BCCI were to offer him the job. "In an ideal world I would have preferred a break. But international cricket does not give time."

We'll see, but my guess would be that big Dav is set to take on the toughest job in cricket...good luck to him. And if the BCCI have any sense they will give him the break he needs before he takes the healm.

Too easy for England

Sad though it is to say it, it was all too easy for England against West Indies at Headingley. I hope Andy Roberts and the others that criticised Brian Lara in the Caribbean and pushed him into retirement are suitably ashamed now. The West Indies had one class player and 4 or 5 others well capable of supporting him (Gayle, Sarwan, Chanderpaul, Bravo, Powell...at a push) but they have paid the price for pushing out their best player now as, without two of those support players at Headingley (Sarwan and Chanderpaul), they looked pitiful. They are better than the likes of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe but not by much without Lara.

What a pity it is that Lara isn't playing. A pity for him, a pity for all spectators in England and most of all a pity for West Indies cricket. Such was the standard of the batting at Headingley that Sir Viv Richards suggested that he was tempted to make himself available and no-one would put it past him to do better than the current top order. If 55 year-old Viv thinks he could do better, what must a 38 year-old Brian Lara be thinking right now? And more to the point, how embarrassed must the likes of Andy Roberts feel in the Caribbean having successfully hastened his retirement?

28 May 2007

The ICC avoided another crisis...just

It's long gone now for everyone, but it turns out that the World Cup Final, which was soured by the inability of the Match Control Team to know, and implement, the match regulations properly, could have easily thrown up another anomaly that the ICC were aware of, it appears, but had done nothing about. I pondered the use of the powerplays in the final and, having checked into the match regulations for the World Cup on the ICC's website and it turns out that but for Ponting's tactics, the ICC would have been completely embarrassed. To refresh your memories, the match was shortened to 38 overs each and it threatened rain from early in the Sri Lankan innings, the rain eventually falling after 24.5 overs, so the innings had to be further reduced to 36 overs. From there, the players were taken off for bad light after 33 overs and, as has been commented on many times, were wrongly asked to play out the last 3 overs. In fact, the game should have been considered over after the players went off for bad light, Sri Lanka having completed 33 overs of their innings. The shortening of the game to 38 overs meant that after the initial 10 overs, only one more powerplay of 5 overs was required to be used.

Seeing that the rain was coming, Sri Lanka's batting was very attacking, as they knew that they had to be ahead on the Duckworth/Lewis system because rain was inevitable. Ponting must have known rain was inevitable too, but he perhaps wasn't aware of the intricacies of the Duckworth/Lewis system, because if he was he may well not have used his powerplay until the final overs. Alternatively, he may have been fully aware but decided to use it anyway, knowing that in the semi-final and final teams averaged over 6 out of powerplay overs but less than 5 in them. But despite that, leaving the second powerplay to the end of the innings could have been the best tactic because the Duckworth-Lewis method does not take into account powerplays in calculating runs required, so in this hypothetical example below, the team that batted first could get away with using only 10 powerplay overs when fielding, rather than 20, which they had received.

Team 1 bats 50 overs
Team 2 bats 20 - 40 overs, then it rains making any more play impossible (20 overs constitutes a match)

Of course, the likelihood of a captain fielding second being able to tell exactly when the rain will come is unlikely, but if they are able to tell that it will come within, say, 5 overs, or even 10 overs, they have a pretty good chance of increasing their chances of winning by leaving powerplays to the end of the innings, knowing there is a very high chance that they won't be used at all, as the players will have left the field. While Ponting didn't do this in the World Cup final, he could have done and it would have left the ICC with egg on their faces as it would literally have meant one set of rules for one team, and another set for the other.

Here's the ICC's thoughts on why the D-L method doesn't take into account powerplays:

"If any allowance were made for the different scoring abilities for overs with fielding restrictions, then the identities of the different types of overs would have to be input into the target calculation, and this would be a considerable and unwelcome complication for the scorers and would prevent targets and par scores being known instantly they are required. But a thorough analysis of several thousand match scorecards covering the different rules in place over the years has shown that the effects of these rules on scoring patterns are not statistically significant. So no allowance for the effect of rules on fielding restrictions have been considered necessary."

I find this statement very strange. The first sentence seems to suggest that to take into account powerplays would be too much admin for the scorers, then later in the same sentence they refer to needing to know par scores instantly. As the D-L method in use at the World Cup was the "Professional edition" that requires a computer to calculate the par score (rather than the Standard edition that uses a table that can be printed so that players and umpires can read off the par score), there is no concern over how quickly the par score can be calculated - a computer is needed whether powerplays are considered or not. I also don't understand why they were looking at thousands of matches to look at scoring rates...the matches that were relevant were the games since 7th July 2005, when the powerplay rule was brought in, and of those matches, only the ones where the powerplays weren't taken as quickly as possible. The games that are relevant to look at are those that would have constituted a match at 20 overs or more, but where powerplay 3 had not been completed at that point.

I'm not sure how many matches there were like this, but there were only 272 from when powerplays were brought in to the last game prior to the World Cup, so it's not going to be a decent sample from which to prove whether powerplays need to be accounted for in the D-L method. That being the case - until proven otherwise - the logical argument is that, all other things being equal, a side will score more if they face a greater proportion of powerplay overs within their innings. So rather than using excuses to avoid the issue, the ICC should address this now before it effects a key match in a key tournament. If they really find it too difficult to get their heads around the formulae required, then perhaps this would be a simple part-way solution in the mean time:

*Powerplays must be completed with 10 overs of an innings to go

That way it is less likely that a captain can correctly judge when the rain may fall and avoid using powerplays 2 and 3 when fielding second (although it's still completely possible). It also gets back to the reason for powerplays in the first place - when fielding restrictions were in place for 15 overs without any decisions from the captains, overs 16-40 were considered "boring" with the game livening up again in the last 10 as sides looked to increase their scoring rates dramatically. Powerplays aren't needed in the last 10 to increase excitement, so this would seem like a reasonable measure while the ICC considers the issue of taking into account powerplays in a weather affected game. Ignore this at your peril ICC - it's another PR disaster waiting to happen and you came very close to embarrassment in the 2007 final.

"Real" averages

Given that the cricket match I was meant to be playing in today was washed out, it has allowed me to be very sad and calculate the various "real averages" of the England and West Indies players over the first two Test Matches so far. What are "real averages"? Well I've started to think that far too much of a player's success or failure is based on luck over recent months and years. Their batting average can of course be affected by the standard of bowling they face, the quality of the wicket, the speed of the outfield, the quality of the oposition captain (i.e. does he place his fielder's in the right place), the quality of the ground fielding, the quality of catching and the quality of the umpiring. Most of these can't be accounted for - or at least they could be, but it would take a lot of analysis and work. The last two, wrong decisions by umpires and dropped catches can be accounted for pretty easily, so that's what I've tried to do below.

The person most affected from England is Collingwood - this isn't an attempt to slate him - if you have read Cricket Burble for a while you'll know that I'm a big Collingwood fan. But his official average is very different from his real average as he's been dropped in every innings he has played so far in the series. For West Indies Morton has been affected twice by real averages. His scores in the series are officially 14, 5 and 25 but given that he was dropped on 1 in his innings at Lords and he was incorrectly adjudged out by Rudi Koertzen in the 1st innings at Headingley, his scores which create his real average are 1, 5 not out and 25.


RA = Real average
OA = Official average
* = not been out in series yet, so has no OA


Pietersen, RA = 115.33, OA = 120.33
Prior, RA = 108.5, OA = 111
Vaughan, RA = 103, OA = 103
Cook, RA = 70.67, OA = 70.67
Bell, RA = 58.5, OA = 58.5
Plunkett, RA = 33, OA = 44
Strauss, RA = 24, OA = 24
Collingwood, RA = 22.67, OA = 58
Shah, RA = 5, OA = 5
Harmison, RA = 2, OA = *

West Indies:

Chanderpaul, RA = 74, OA = 74
Bravo, RA = 36, OA = 43.67
Sarwan, RA = 35, OA = 35
Ganga, RA = 31.33, OA = 31.33
Gayle, RA = 30.67, OA = 33.67
Ramdin, RA = 22.33, OA = 23.67
Powell, RA = 22, OA = 22
Taylor, RA = 22, OA = 22
Smith, RA = 21, OA = 21
Morton, RA = 15.5, OA = 14.67
Joseph, RA = 7, OA = 7
Collymore, RA = 2, OA = 2

I'm still to consider how to create real averages for bowlers...

27 May 2007

King Pair

I'm not sure I can remember a king pair in my life time but there must have been one before this weekend? Javed Omar managed the feat over the last two days for Bangladesh, out first ball of each innings to Zaheer Khan. He must be eligible for a very special tie from the Primary Club!

Bashir resigns from ODI captaincy

It remains to be seen if Habibul Bashir will be retained as a player or captain when the next Bangladesh coach comes in to replace Dav Whatmore, but he has already said that he's resigning as captain of the ODI side, although he is still available to play. Such are Bangladesh's woes, it makes sense for Bangladesh to keep picking him in the short-term, even though his form over recent months has been atrocious.

I felt a bit sorry for him in the latest Test Match v India which Bangladesh lost by an innings and 239 runs. Clearly he made the wrong decision in putting India in as they made 610-3 with all of the top 4 scoring hundreds, but it shouldn't be forgotten that there were two dropped catches early on. Given the lack of support he got from his team mates, I'm surprised that he's not resigned the Test captaincy as well...

Happy 50th anniversary to TMS

As I'm sure you will have heard, it was the 50th anniversary of Test Match Special this weekend. Let's hope it makes it's century...it's loved by young and old alike and attracts anything up to 4 million listeners, so it' popularity is undoubted. If we could just get rid of those shipping forecasts...

Bell is ginger...

Turns out that in our survey, 60% of people thought Bell was ginger and 40% didn't, so ginger it is. One more on the list. Still think we must be missing large numbers of flame haired players from the past...

Did you notice how I didn't change the figures to make it look like more people voted? Yep, just the 5. It was 3-2. And one of them was me. Eventually you'll get the guts to comment and vote etc - I know you will. For now you are all happy lurking, but one day you'll take the plunge...

You get LBWs if you bowl straight

Turns out that bowling straight gets you LBWs as it seems Sidebottom proved yesterday. Didn't see any of it because I was playing myself...in a dire game which involved no less than 5 farcical decisions (that's conservative). I won't go on about it because we lost, but when we win and there are some shocking decisions you will - bet you can't wait! In the league we play in you score the umpires as skipper...I was always nicer if we'd lost because I knew that a poor mark would be interpreted as being a sore loser, but when we won and there were some shockers then I was able to be more honest. I guess if you want good umpires you have to be better at cricket and play at a higher standard - one week I was told that a score of 0 wasn't allowed - 1 was the lowest score you could give! Sometimes I wonder if the amateur umpires at our level actually have their eyes open...ok, maybe I did go on about it having said I wouldn't...sorry!

Moving on, good that KP kicked on to his double ton - we can now forgive him for his show pony antics when Vaughan scored his hundred. Interesting that Plunkett opened the bowling in the second innings....I wonder if that was a Moores, Vaughan or Harmison decision?

26 May 2007

Travelling with the cricket bag again...

After last week's trip with the cricket bag, yesterday's deserves a mention too. Try travelling around the district line at 5:45pm on a Friday with a cricket bag, large rucksack on your back, a shoulder bag and a small rucksack carried in one hand. A little tough. In comparison getting to and from today's cricket match on the tube with just the cricket bag will be a doddle...

India v Bangladesh

What is going on over there in the India v Bangladesh game? Bangladesh aren't the greatest team in the world but they seem to be rolling over against India. Good to see Tendulkar get another ton - still think he should "have a long hard look in the mirror" Ian Chappell? Yes, he needs to make runs against the top teams too, but it's good to see him playing well as I think he's got years left at the top...

Pity for Dav Whatmore that his last game looks like a thrashing at this stage. He's done a great job for Bangladesh as coach and it will be interesting to see where he ends up coaching next, if he does...

Over exuberance

It was great to see Michael Vaughan make a century yesterday (not that I saw much of it unfortunately) and readers of Cricket Burble will know that I was very much in support of him coming straight back into the side so it's always nice to be right. Just need him to create a few wickets with innovative tactics in the field now to prove that point too....

But I have a problem with his celebration. Look back at the footage of cricketers in the 50s and you don't get any of this jumping around and punching the air business....it's as if they only raised their bat back then so as to not be rude given that the crowd were applauding them. These days it's as if they've just won the rollover lottery. I've tried to think of an equivalent in my job - get a new million pound contract...if you are really lucky the occassional bottle of champagne is bought by the MD and you quietly digest that while patting each other on the back...but most of the time it's just a quick celebratory pint or two after work.

And what was Pietersen doing? It wasn't your century KP, it was Vaughan's! Given his undoubted show pony status, I can't help wondering if KP had already considered that there would be a lot of camera lenses pointing Vaughan's way at that moment and the more he was in shot the more he could share the reflected glory and show his support for the skipper. Get a double ton today KP and we'll forgive you....

The prospect of Prior and KP putting together a big stand is a mouth-watering one - let's hope they continue...

25 May 2007

Only in England

How to create pressure on Michael Vaughan where there should be none. Why do the media do it in England? "All of England should wish him well" says Nasser Hussain. Here here. But thanks to the media we seem to have created pressure on our most critical player. It's the West Indies...there really shouldn't be any pressure on him....it's not the Ashes. Let's hope he can get runs - he doesn't seem to be playing only the West Indies bowlers, but the English media as well...

Sidebottom in and Chanderpaul out

The teams have been announced and Sidebottom is in, while Chanderpaul has a knee problem and is ruled out for the Windies. Botham mentioned that the left-armers footmarks could help Panesar and there could be something in that....


The dreaded cramp seems to have returned again in Bangladesh - this time it's Dinesh Karthik. Having been put in to bat India are cruising along without having lost a wicket but Bangladesh have dropped two relatively simple chances. Jaffer looks set to get his hundred any minute, but Karthik was carried off, causing the players to take an early tea, and didn't return afterwards.

In the first ODI Dhoni used a runner because of cramps, in the second Ghambir, and now this. Having just returned from India I know it's pretty hot out that way at the moment, but surely the Indian's can look at their pre-match diet and nutrient intake? In these days of specialists covering everything that could determine performance, it seems more than fluke or bad luck that so many players have been affected by cramp, and India need to look at this part of their match preparation it would seem.

Disagreeing with Atherton again...

I'm a big Atherton fan but I find myself disagreeing with him again, this time over whether Vaughan should have come straight back in. If he'd been out with a recurrence of his knee injury, or if we had someone who could do as good a job as captain, then I might be swayed Michael, but not when he's been fit for a while now barring a broken finger, hardly the most dangerous of injuries unless repeated several times on the same digit. And let's face it - we hardly have anyone knocking on the door in terms of captaincy credentials - even if Vaughan bags a pair he'll effectively average 40 with his captaincy decisions versus Strauss, and plenty more than that compared with Flintoff.

Sidebottom or Anderson?

The selection of the 3rd seamer seems to be England's only selection dilemna this morning. While Plunkett isn't completely safe his batting ability is likely to get him in as we 8-11 consisting of Harmison, Sidebottom, Panesar, Anderson doesn't look too handy.

David Lloyd came up with a quality comment on Sky when asked who would play. His view was that Sidebottom may just get the nod as "tactically England need someone to bowl at the stumps".

No shit sherlock!

24 May 2007

Play Sidebottom

Apart from the fact that he's ginger and has a stupid name, having selected Sidebottom in the squad it would be great to see him play. He has the advantage that he can, generally, bowl 6 relatively straight balls in a row, and his variation could just give us an edge. Fingers crossed.

The Schofield Report

As had been leaked before the publication of the the Schofield report, one of the recommendations made was to bring in a Managing Director to sit above the Head Coach and oversee things. I don't disagree that it's a role that can help a great deal but I find it interesting how it has come about, when comparing the situation in cricket with that of rugby.

When Clive Woodward was employed by the English Rugby Football Union as their first professional full-time coach, he soon realised that an overseeing role was required, as well as the hands on coaches. While his job title may well have been Head Coach (I think!), he assumed a lot of the responsibilities that the potential Managing Director of England cricket would take on. One of the roles that he took upon himself was to ensure that the players had literally nothing to worry about other than playing to the best of their abilities. Can you imagine the England rugby team under Woodward handling in an issue similar to the Zimbabwe cricket issue? It certainly would have been dealt with quickly and as quietly as possible, with minimal involvement from the players - i.e. the complete opposite of how the ECB handled things in 2003.

There's still lots of time for people to digest the report as it won't be fully considered until the Autumn, so it will be interesting to see what action the report brings about. But it's headline grabbing recommendation of creating a Managing Director is a good one, in my view.

You can view all 19 recommendations listed on Cricinfo here.

Richie Benaud

While I was away I stumbled across a copy of "On Reflection" by Richie Benaud in an Indian bookshop, published in 1984. It was a facinating read - apparently new balls were once allowed after only 40 overs! - and I liked the story he related when explaining how it was important it was for the media to maintain respect for those they wrote about.

"You certainly do have to be careful when writing, broadcasting on radio, or commentating on television, that you do no offend, either by accident or design. The splendid writer Alan Ross managed one day to get into his copy that Bob Cunis had spent part of the previous day purveying bowling much like his name..."neither one thing nor the other"."

You can still get hold of On Reflection via Amazon by clicking the link to the right of this page.

More England gingers...

Gareth Batty
Paul Collingwood
Peter Martin

I'm sure there must be plenty from years ago that we're missing...

23 May 2007

Ginger England Cricketers

The selection of Ryan Sidebottom in the England squad started me thinking about gingers who played cricket for England. So far I have a very short list - there must be plenty of others!

Sidebottom R
Sidebottom A

Manufacturing results

The recent India v Bangladesh match petered out into a draw despite the bes efforts of India to make a game of it. If games are played when rain is likely and umpires take the players off whenever it's imperfect light this is going to happen more and more regularly. Please don't let things get like County cricket where results are routinely manufactured resulling in some meaningless cricket.

Ryan Sidebottom in England squad

Well apart from his name and his mullet, there isn't too much wrong with Ryan Sidebottom. Since his move to Notts he's been a consistent performer and such is the dearth of accurate seamers in England right now, it's a good selection. Add to that the fact that he's a left-armer and could offer England a bit of variation and it is easy to see the selectors' thought processes.

I hadn't seen his selection coming, expecting that it might be Graham Onions to get the call up, but it's one that should be applauded. The only concern that I have is that the selection clearly comes from Sidebottom's good County form over the last 3 years, and that is both a good and a bad thing. Moores seems closer to the Counties than Fletcher was so he'll know who is considered to be pushing for a call up, but equally doing well in County cricket isn't, unfortunately and though it should be, any guide as to how a player will do in international cricket any more. That is a failing of the County system and of course Moores and the others in the England set up have to work with what they've got.

At 29 Sidebottom is being selected because he has played consistently well one rung down from Test cricket, and one hopes that he's got the maturity to deal with the likes of Chris Gale attacking him without going to pieces, but only time will tell as to whether he can do it at Test level. He can swing the ball both ways which makes him a good substitute for Hoggard, so I'm now rather hopeful that he'll play to offer England both variation and some control - he won't bowl as many wides as Plunkett and Harmison surely. Given Anderson's county form it would certainly be a surprise if he got selected ahead of someone who has so clearly been selected based on his County performances.

The full England squad announced was: Strauss, Cook, Vaughan, Pietersen, Collingwood, Bell, Prior, Flintoff, Plunkett, Harmison, Panesar, Anderson, Sidebottom.

22 May 2007

Basics - England squad announcement

They say you should under promise and over deliver, but England seem to have overlooked that. The squad will now be announced at 4pm UK time, not 12 noon as stated before, or Monday as stated before that! Why not say the squad will be announced at the end of Tuesday and bring it forward if you can?

Less ODIs urge MCC

I agree entirely with the view from the MCC that there are too many ODIs, although we differ a little on the detail. As has already been burbled about on this site (Why is Abu Dhabi hosting international cricket?), I don't think that any ODIs should be played outside of the home country of one of the home sides. So no games in Abu Dhabi, Scotland or Ireland unless the home nation is playing. Where games like these are arranged, the ICC should not recognise these matches as official ODI matches.

The MCC urge further change though - they want best of 3 series to be the maximum ODI series length. This I completely disagree with for one very simple reason - the shorter the series the greater the chances of the worse team winning. Again this has been burbled about before (May the best team win?). The problem is that an ODI is part way towards the lottery that is a penalty shoot out in football, and the best of 5 or even best of 7 series ensure that the best team is almost certain to win, even if they are dogged by bad luck or bad umpiring etc.

So, yes MCC, less random ODIs scheduled by greedy Cricket Boards trying to cash in, but no to shorter ODI series.

Tom Moody and Sri Lanka

Spotted this article on Cricinfo about Tom Moody's legacy and thought it was worth a mention. Under his management and, as the article says, with decent support from the Sri Lanka Board after a shaky start which saw the dropping of Sanath Jayasuriya. Hopefully everyone in Sri Lanka will remember him very positively despite a losing final ODI series against Pakistan.

Misdirected bowling

Steve Harmison and Liam Plunkett seemed to have all sorts of problems at Lords in finding a decent line, but in the India game yesterday Ramesh Powar went one better and managed to get the ball to go to mid-off despite completing a full rotation of his arm - that was pretty special I thought.

What is it about the bowling these days? Comparatively the standard of batting in Test Cricket seems so much higher than the bowling and with McGrath and Warne gone things will only get worse in the bowling department. I wonder how these things come about....will we find the bowlers on top of the batsmen in a decade and sides bowled out for 120 all the time?


There's a lot of criticism around for the Bangladesh Board as they decided to schedule a Test Series during the monsoon season there. It does seem like common sense that the series against India would have been better placed in the dry season but it's not anything to get too het up about.

With the draw already favourite overnight, Paul Allott and John Emburey have just been trying to convince themselves on Sky that there could still be a result despite a rescheduled start of 2pm on the final day and India requiring 12 wickets, not to mention the fact that they'll have to get some quick runs having finished of the Bangladesh 1st innings!

It will be a boring draw like England v West Indies and if games are to be played at times of the season that used to be considered unsuitable, we'd better get used to this as spectators - especially given the prevailing attitude from the umpires where they consider slightly imperfect light to be dangerous.

I can only see two possible solutions:
1. Using a 6th day if necessary much like some ODIs have a spare day that can be used if weather intervenes
2. In a decade or two we could see cricket stadiums with roofs that can come over in the case of bad weather - I don't like that idea much given how much the atmosphere changes how much the ball swings etc so a 6th spare day it is!

21 May 2007

Afridi takes 32 off an over

Did anyone notice that Shahid Afridi took 32 off an over including hitting four consecutive sixes last Friday against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi?

I think I may have had one too many at Lords causing me to miss that....

England squad for the 2nd Test

Suddenly the squad is looking threadbare, especially in the bowling department with Harmison and Plunkett struggling to say the least. But I'd go for:


Anderson likely to be the one to be left out unless they think that Flintoff can't bowl as part of a 4 strong attack as he may break down, in which case Anderson would play. Or if they were really bold and played 5 bowlers, Strauss could be the unlucky one. Harmison and Plunkett have bowled some excellent balls, indispersed with some rubbish. Given the scarcity of bowling resources (as there really doesn't seem to be anyone knocking on the door), they have to be given another chance to get things right.

There has been some talk about Vaughan needing to get runs for Yorkshire before coming back in. That would be a wrong move surely? Even if he bags a pair, he's probably about 40 runs better than Strauss and Flintoff in terms of tactics per innings, so he's worth his place on that basis alone.

Here's a little prediction for you. England's top 6 by the end of this season could be:


with 5 bowlers making up the rest of the selection. Watch this space - in some ways I hope I'm wrong because Strauss is quality and he has been so unlucky with decisions over last winter. Bopara is scoring runs for Essex though, so if he carries on doing that he's going to get his chance eventually....

Batting averages

Which Australian bowler is 4th in the English Division 1 County batting averages?

Find out here.

Pics of Day 1 at Lords

I thought I'd make those of you that haven't made it to Lords for the West Indies Test Match a little jealous. Despite the gloomy conditions on the first day, the calypso band on their steel drums made sure that we all got in the mood.

Did we need any encouragement? I'm not sure anyone did...more time with the players off just meant that after a little grumble about how the light seemed perfectly playable, most spectators hit the bars. Even by lunch time several were dancing away to the band.

Clouds - as you can see it was a pretty overcast day. But it was incredible how play carried on in the late morning and early afternoon in gloomy conditions, and then as soon as we got to the evening session the umpires started getting all twitchy about the light.

You can read my burble about bad light issues here, but suffice is to say that this photo was taken before lunch and it was the same gloom when the players were taken off. On Day 2 of course they were even taken off against the will of the England players it seemed!

I'm not sure if you'll be able to make it out but in the background is the list of match officials. I couldn't help wondering why there needs to be four umpires and a match referee. What on earth do they all do? As far as I can see the 4th umpires duties seem to entail taking spare balls and light meters out to the umpires in the middle occassionally. The rest of the time they get to sit back and enjoy the Test Match.

I'd like to see their job descriptions....jobs for the boys maybe?

20 May 2007

Olduns come good

The press seem to always find an ex-cricketer somewhere willing to slag off any player in their 30s who has a bad series or two, irrespective of their previous record. Unfortunately, that is the way it is always going to be but I just hope that selectors don't always listen. I was gutted when Graham Thorpe wasn't selected for the Ashes in 2005 - he'd been England's best batsman in the preceding 18 months and then was suddenly dropped when someone needed to make way for Kevin Petersen despite the fact that he was only 35. The subsequent series showed that he clearly should have been selected ahead of Bell (as I told anyone that would listen at the time such was my disgust!).

When I was in India I was worried that India would make the same mistake as they inexplicably dropped (or rested so they said) Ganguly and Tendulkar from the ODI squad to play Bangladesh. But thankfully both those players were retained for the Tests despite pressure created by the media. And given my views on axing older players too early, it was great to see that they both made centuries. Those that always want to find fault will say that the opposition was Bangladesh - hardly a great bowling attack - but none of the others managed to make a century despite the apparent advantage of greater youth.

Runako Morton

This guy is quality - Runako Morton threw himself to the ground, thumping the floor and rolling around is complete dispair when his team mate Ganga dropped Collingwood on Day 1 at Lords. It takes someone with real lack of concern for his team mates confidence to do that, or someone who is absolutely desperate to win - you can decide which category you think Mr Morton fits into.

It turns out that Runako is a character off the pitch too. Before he even played international cricket he found himself expelled from the West Indian academy for "a series of regulation breaches" according to Cricinfo, but he still managed to come back to make his debut in 2002. But later that year he was back to his old tricks pulling out of the ICC Champions Trophy due to the death of his grandmother. At least that is what he claimed - it turned out that she died several years earlier.

He then followed that up with arriving at a hospital with stabbing wounds along with another member of his family who had even more stab wounds in January 2004 and he was subsequently arrested.

This guy is a character as some might say, but I still don't think rolling around on the floor in dismay when your mate drops a catch is quite the way to go....apart from anything else my cleaning bills and those of my team mates would rocket if we did that!


I presume from the post I left on Friday morning that no-one could think that I don't love going to Lords - of course I do. I'm sure everyone else does as well or otherwise it wouldn't be so hard to get a ticket. But there's always some moaning from people around me and I can't help a lot of that could be easily stopped with a bit of extra thought from the cricketing authorities. Here's just a few examples:

Getting into the ground:

There is clearly a problem getting spectators into all sports grounds - cricket is not alone - and the tightening of security due to an increased threat of terrorism lately makes things worse. But I can't help feeling that the problems could largely be avoided. By that I don't mean that there should be no security checks as some whiners around me in the queue seemed to be suggesting....far from it. I think my exact words to them were "I'd rather queue up for a while than die from a bomb". But there could be a few other things that would help.

The time that people arrive is clearly a big issue. All the moaners around me were struggling to get into the ground at 5 to 11, desperate to catch the first over. One guy even fell over and injured himself as he tried to break into a run to catch the first ball. But there was no-one else to blame but himself as he'd left it so late to get into the ground. The same was true for all those around me having a whinge (and me which is why I wasn't complaining!). It's common sense that spectators should get there early so that they aren't under time pressure if they want to see the first ball. The ground authorities could help with this by putting on entertainment of any variety before the game. Imagine the TMS team taking questions from the crowd between 9:45 and 10:30 from the centre of the pitch etc etc. With a little thought, the authorities could make it more enticing to arrive at the match early. Free bacon roll before 10 anyone?


The grounds want to make as much money as possible, that's common sense and I don't blame them. They do this by restricting the amount of alcohol you can take in, or not letting you take any in at all. Then they charge premium prices to buy alcohol you could have brought with you. We feel hard done by, because we always used to be allowed to bring in as much alcohol as we wanted. But that's not really the main concern. The concern is that there are a couple of idiotic rules that serve no purpose other than to frustrate the paying customer.

Buying 4 beers at a time or one bottle. Why, oh why? Does it reduce the number of people getting drunk? No. Does it create longer queues at the bar? Yes. If common sense was used and any number of cans were allowed the result would be less draught beer being sold as it's impossible to carry many pints. But, 12 or 16 cans can easily be carried by stacking 4 packs on top of each other. Net result: less time at the bar waiting for drinks to be poured, maybe even less bar staff required, customers who can watch more of the game, far less drinks spilt over others as people try to carry four pints back to their friends.

Opening cans at the bar? Some staff do and some don't but I gather there is some legal requirement to do that. Surely that can be got round?

Returning to your seats with you beers is often comical. Clearly your hands are full. You've sat in your seat for a bit before going to get beers so it's not like you don't know where you are going. But the ticket guy always needs to see your ticket. I found myself having to ask the guy to pull out the bottle of mineral water in the inside pocket of my jacket and then find my ticket, which he did and I was then allowed through to my seat. It doesn't bear thinking about what could have happened if I had my ticket in my trouser pocket! Let's see - an alternative ticketing system that involved wearing a band around your wrist once you are in. That should solve that one.

Had a great day at the cricket and fancy a last round of drinks before the close. If that's ever been your thought process you'll know that the bars are shut at this point. How is this sensible? The authorities have shown some commercial nouse by reducing the amount of alcohol people bring in so that you can make the money instead of supermarkets and off-licences outside the ground. So why alter that view later in the day? The sensible thing to do would actually be to encourage drinking towards the end of the day because people will then mill around a lot longer after the game, rather than all 28,500 people trying to get through the exits at the same time. A lot of spectators hit the local pubs to discuss the day's play - I can't help feeling that grounds are missing something here - why not take a share of that post match drinking revenue and help crowd control as everyone tries to leave after the match in the process?

Bad Light

This is increasingly becoming rediculous and a serious problem given that spectators have paid £60 for their entertainment. On Thursday morning the umpires were quite happy playing in what is sometimes considered bad light, but in the final session of the day on Friday they seemed desperate to get the players off, despite the fact that England wanted to carry on. Sarwan was grinning from ear to ear. The cynics around me suggested that umpires never worry about bad light until 25 overs are played and spectators therefore can't claim their money back. The more the players come off for bad light, of course, the more a one-sided match can be extended to the 5th day to ensure the authorities coffers are filled to the maximum.

Here's an idea. Bad light is part of the game. When you elect what you would like to do having won the toss you must consider the chances of bad light. On Thursday, for example, with cloud everywhere it was always going to get pretty dark later in the day, so Sarwan could chose to bowl with the advantages that come from bowling in slightly darker light (or is it all physchological - after all there's a huge sightscreen to help the batsman?), but also knowing that his fielders will find it tough given poor sighting conditions. Come 6pm, the umpires can take the players off if they consider the light poor, but only after 6pm.

As someone that loves going to the cricket I'm a little concerned that these things need to be considered now rather than in a few years time. After all, if I can sit at home with a group of friends bantering in the same way as we do in the crowd, but it takes 30 seconds to get beers from the fridge, rather than 20 minutes in a queue, and we have access to all the replays such as Hawkeye and Hot Spot, won't there come a time when even people like me think that it's easier and cheaper to watch at home, but without the cost?

18 May 2007

Great to be back at Lords

Having got back to the country only 2 days ago, it was great to be back at Lords immediately! But such a pity that the day was marred by weather. The bad light issue is one that I'll no doubt burble about as soon as I get time.

Hopefully I'll be able to put up the odd photo too, although I'm not certain it's allowed to publish pics of Lords on a blog - trying to find out what is allowed and what isn't.

Speaking of things that are allowed or aren't there were the usual slightly annoying issues yesterday....I didn't want to keep going up and down to the bar as I wanted to watch the cricket so I bought 4 cans of John Smiths....only to find that the bar staff have to open them all on the spot. They can't allow you to open them when you want to. Of course the guy by our seats wanted to see my ticket, so I had to ask him to rumage through my pockets to get my ticket out as I was carrying 4 beers and had no hands free - is that really necessary? At 5:30ish I wanted to get another beer, only to find the bar was shut. Only little niggles, but I can't believe there aren't easier ways of doing things....

So I'll be burbling for Britain on this and England's performance some time soon. Until then, I'm off to Lords again today!

16 May 2007

Off to the cricket tomorrow...

I hope it warms up a bit....

Good to see that England cricketers still have the ability to get injuries in strange ways, given that Harmison got hurt playing a slapping game. At least he was with the team at the time - I seem to remember Daffy Defreitas missing a test abroad a while back after pulling something slipping coming out of the shower.

Of course there will be those wondering why England were playing a slapping game anyway. I've got to say that as a player I am always completely bored when training unless it is a new exercise or something that really stretches my skill levels, and most training at amateur level does neither. So I don't have any criticism of trying new things within the coaching of elite players - if you have to train every day it really must get deathly boring.

Anyway, come on the sun for tomorrow, and come on England!

15 May 2007

Have cricket bag, will travel

Having got back from India this morning, it was time to get myself organised for my first game of the season on Saturday. Wanting to go off for a night out on the beers after our last game at the end of the 2006 season, I left my cricket bag in the boot of a team mates car, and then went travelling for 8 months, leaving him to store my kit in his garage for the winter. The rest of the week was out, so no sooner had I landed at Heathrow as I was on the phone to my team mate to organise the rendez-vous to get my kit back and ready myself for Saturday. All went well, in case you are worried, and the cricket bag is now in my possession so when I take 0 for 150 and am out for a duck, I can't blame it on a lack of equipment. And what's more I was able to enjoy a couple of pints with my friend in the process....

But I then remembered just how this situation had come about. As I struggled onto one rush hour train, and then another, to get to my destination I was reminded why I left the bag in my friend's car in the first place. For anyone without a car, the transporting of cricket bags is a nightmare, especially on the London Tube.

As someone who has often not had any reason to own a car, except to travel to Saturday's sports match, I have done more than my fair share of lugging a cricket bag around on the tube. And up and down the various steps and escalators, and walking to grounds from the station. But having gone more than 8 months without doing this, I forgot just how painful it can be - and this comes from someone who has been lugging around a rucksack for 8 months!

First, as I stood on the platform there were the looks from businessmen and women wondering why I had the audacity to travel with my bag at the same time as they were trying to go home. Then there was the slight sighs as they squeezed past my upright bag to get into the central bit of the carriage (as I had the bag I had to stay in the more open area right by the door). Then the inevitable slight shove to get past when they become over-agitated and think they won't make it out of the door before it closes again. Then there's the people who won't move even slightly to give me space to pull the bag out, so I end up having to barge through using the bag as a weapon of sorts. Then as I glance back to check was all ok, a couple of shakes of the head showing their disapprovement to send me on my way.

So business as usual then. Last season I promised my fiancee that I would be back to meet some of her friends at the pub down the road from our flat, but the metropolitan line was shut for maintenance and the return journey from my cricket match took over 2 hours, rather than the 30 minutes it would have been with a car. So I was left to phone with my apologies and get the inevitable earbashing (well in as much as my now wife goes in for that sort of thing anyway). Of course, even if I had turned up at the pub earlier, I would have got a black mark for wheeling my cricket bag in, and in some busy places, may have been turned away altogether by the staff.

As I passed through Kings Cross station after 11 on that Saturday night I remember seeing a couple of other poor souls on the same mission to get home after enjoying their hobby on a Saturday afternoon. I wonder just how many have to go through the same ritual every Saturday, leaving well before 11 to make an early afternoon start, and arriving back home after 11. My fear is that it's more people than you think, so I ask you this: the next time you see someone like me trying to get around on public transport with their cricket bag, give them a reassuring smile. They probably won't be making last orders at the pub that night, so don't make things any worse for them!

14 May 2007

Botham criticises Fletcher's handling of the media

Ian Botham seems to find it difficult to give credit where credit is due. He's labelled Duncan Fletcher as "miserable" and "paranoid" when dealing with the media. It's a little like a small child that doesn't get his own way. Fletcher didn't give the media everything they wanted and instead focused on getting results from a team that didn't look on paper as if they could challenge the best in the world. I seem to remember Botham's handling of the press when he resigned the England captaincy before he was pushed as a little on the miserable side too.

Botham was at least able to say a few nice words about Fletcher before the criticism: "Duncan Fletcher did some extremely good things for the England cricket team but everyone has a shelf life but I'm afraid his had expired. England were going nowhere. There was no communication and at times I think Duncan took being miserable to a new level. You have to communicate with people. You have to be able to talk to the media and I think that Duncan didn't want to. In my opinion he was becoming paranoid about the media and what they were saying. That became a major concern and it possibly undermined his position in the team. He seemed totally withdrawn and you can't be like that.

I think the media take some of the blame for this - you only have to look at the way Sven-Goran Erikson was treated by the British media to understand why Fletcher may have been a little paranoid. So which came first - the chicken or the egg?

Can't we just thank Duncan Fletcher for a job well done? After all he took us from complete nobody's on the world cricket stage to a team that is second only to Australia in the Test Match rankings. Admittedly he couldn't replicate that success in ODI's, but we shouldn't hold that against him. Let's just thank Duncan Fletcher for working hard for England and leaving us in a hugely stronger position than when he started. As he has said himself, "One thing you can say is that when I got the job not many people wanted it. Now everyone's clamouring for it."

I know my praise is not worth anything compared to the views of Ian Botham, but thanks very much Duncan. If you go on to coach the West Indies, as Clive Lloyd wants you to, then good luck - that's an even harder task than the one you took with England 7 years ago.

Bopara shows what England will miss

Ravi Bopara answered the disappointment of being left out of England's Test Match squad in the best possible way on Sunday with a run a-ball 101 and 2 for 43 to help Essex beat Ireland. If he can continue in this fashion then it will only take an injury or two and he will be drafted into the England side later in the series.

Meanwhile Matt Prior didn't shy away from the fact that Moores has guided his career from the age of 12. "It's the perfect scenario. I will be playing at Lord's, the home of cricket, and Mooresy is going to be in the dressing-room with me."

All England fans will be hoping that Prior can rise above his relatively poor county form and show enough ability with the bat to be considered a batsman as well as a keeper.

13 May 2007

England omit Bopara and include Prior

Well it wasn't a huge surprise that Moores has gone with Matt Prior as keeper, given the Sussex connection, although I feel very sorry for Paul Nixon given his good performances in the winter. And there was no captaincy surprise as Strauss had been widely tipped for the captaincy, despite support for Collingwood on Cricket Burble.

But Liam Plunkett has managed to sneak in again at the expense of Simon Jones and other candidates like James Anderson, which is a difficult decision to fathom, unless you consider his age. The selection of Prior over Nixon and the inclusion of Plunkett suggests that Moores already has one eye on the future, and he can do this without to much fear given the opposition are West Indies. But despite this policy of looking to the future there was still no space for Ravi Bopara.

Having selected this squad, which included Owais Shah as cover if Kevin Pietersen isn't fit, I hope Moores bats Prior at 6. Flintoff has proven that he isn't a Test number 6 and the conclusion from this selection is that Moores believes Prior can make it as a Test number 6. Bopara would have been better choice for number 6 in my opinion, and given his Academy connection to Moores, it's a little surprising that he hasn't got a look in.

England: Andrew Strauss (captain), Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Matt Prior, Liam Plunkett, Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Monty Panesar, Owais Shah.

Australia pull out of Zimbabwe tour

John Howard has told Cricket Australia that they are not to go to Zimbabwe and the ICC aren't going to fine Cricket Australia so sense has prevailed. But it still would have been far better if the Aussie government could have met Cricket Australia and then issue a joint statement.

As an Englishman I find it completely shaming that the UK goverment didn't show some balls when dealing with the same issue. But they aren't alone. The ICC are similarly gutless, and Malcolm Speed proved as much by saying, ""it's not the role of the ICC to make political judgments ... that's for politicians. The ICC is a sporting organisation and our role is to ensure that the game of cricket is played wherever possible."

If you wish to stand behind that facade like a coward, Mr Speed, then you may do so, but you couldn't be more wrong. By stopping all the normal things that happen in a vaguely democratic society, until Magabe either resigns or is overthrown in some way, you make it clear to Mugabe and all his supporters that life will simply deteriorate for everyone in Zimbabwe until there is a change of leader and outlook. Every person who is in charge of decisions that relate to Zimbabwe functioning "normally" makes their own moral judgement. Sadly I think Mr Speed has tried to avoid the issue rather than being strong.

It seems that Mr Speed has an equally weak counterpart in the Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland, who seems to be talking about Australia playing Zimbabwe at a neutral venue. It can only be assumed that he needs to stay in with the ICC given his comments: "We are obliged to do what we can to help Zimbabwe cricketers and we could help them by playing somewhere else." But this is an exceptional circumstance, so you should be argueing vehemently against playing Zimbabwe and resigning if the ICC in any way coerce Cricket Australia to make the Australian team to play Zimbabwe, Mr Southerland. Either that, or struggle to look yourself in the mirror.

Enough said....for now.

12 May 2007

England squad for Thursday

The England squad for Thursday is named tomorrow and there are a few decisions for the selectors. If Michael Vaughan is fit, should they play 6 batsmen and 4 bowlers + Collingwood, or see if there is another allrounder to fill the number 6 position. Surely, they won't ask Flintoff to bat at 6 again, as it seems generally accepted now that this is one place to high for him.

Then when it comes to the bowlers, Simon Jones is fit again and pressing for a place, while Harmison and Hoggard have both started the season well at county level. And the position of wicket-keeper is not certain either, with both Nixon and Prior, who England coach Peter Moores has worked with before at Sussex, fighting it out for one spot.

Here's our 13 man selection (13 as Vaughan is so doubtful):

Jones S

Likely line-up:


Although I've selected Nixon, it will be no surprise if Prior is selected given that this should be an relatively easy series for England and Nixon's age, but dropping Nixon would be hard on the old man. It would be a shame not to take advantage of Harmison's good early season form, and also not to capitalise on one of the big positives from the World Cup campaign - the emergence of Ravi Bopara. His bowling may not quite be there yet, but his batting is and that is why, if Vaughan isn't fit, Bopara should move to 3 and Bell should come in at 6. Fingers crossed Bopara gets his running right which seems an area of concern with his batting - but then it is with Bell as well. Simon Jones is the unlucky bowler but he will get his chance during the summer.

West Indies are currently struggling against Somerset, 4 wickets down at lunch, so all those in the frame will be eagerly awaiting Sunday's announcement given that if they are selected, there could be easy pickings on offer.

India go 2-0 up

Not too much to report from today's game. You can view the Cricinfo scorecard here.

India got what wasn't much more than a par score on a decent wicket, 284 in a game reduced to 49 overs each, but still beat Bangladesh by 46 runs. Gautam Ghambir was the hero, scoring 101 while, like Dhoni two days ago, batting with a runner for part of his innings due to cramp. Fortunately this time, there were no wrong umpiring decisions that changed the result of the game.

The spinners Chowla (10-0-37-3) and Powar (10-1-32-1) put the squeeze on Bangladesh's reply which never really got going, right from the opening wicket where Iqbal ran like a schoolboy as he'd middled it to mid-off. He was rightly sent back and run out comfortably. Habibal Bashar top scored with 43 which says it all - there wasn't a decent partnership to help Bangladesh get close. The Indian leg-spinner, Chowla, at just 18, looks like one to watch for the future. Once he bowled over the wicket rather than his inexplicable decision to start round-the-wicket, he looked a threat at all times and the Bangladeshis didn't pick his googly very well.

Dravid at 3

Interesting to hear Daryll Cullinan agreeing that Rahul Dravid should bat 3 for India in one-dayers. He averages 48 from 5 as opposed to 40 regardless of his batting position, but 5 just isn't right for him.

As we burbled about a couple of days ago, the Wall is better off going in at 3 unless the 1st wicket doesn't fall until the second half of the innings. That way he can be the player that all the others play around, and during power-plays he can take advantage without any aerial shots because of his class....

Show ponies....

Unsure what a show pony is? They are the guys or girls who make a regulation piece of sporting skill look as if ti was difficult. There are a number of them about - I'm sure you can name one at your club and certainly several amongst professional cricketers.

Dinesh Karthik - take a bow - you are Cricket Burble's first official show pony. Bangladesh's 2nd wicket today involved Karthik taking a catch above his head but it was one of those that he would have been distraught to miss. He took a small jump in the air to take the catch - so far so good. But then, inexplicably, rather than land on his feet and go and celebrate with his team, he curled his feet up underneath himself and fell backwards, so that he landed on his thigh and back, thus making the catch look a lot harder than it was.

We need to stamp this out asap, or otherwise it will be an epidemic like it is in football where goalkeepers make a diving save and rather than fall on their side, they manage to somehow roll over several times so that can be no doubt amongst the crowd just what a great save they have made.

Another show pony moment that comes to mind is Mike Hussey's catch of Kevin Pietersen in the final Ashes test earlier this year in Sydney. Hussey took what was a pretty tricky catch over his head, but just to make sure he didn't miss out on any admiration from his team-mates or the crowd, he really show-ponied it up. He took the catch with his hands out in front of him as he ran. So what did he do? Keep running in a semi-circle so that he could run back to his team to celebrate? Stumble slightly as his weight was a little off-centre and then regain his balance? No - he thrust his hands out at full stretch after he'd caught the ball (they were slightly bent when he caught the ball), and then threw himself to the ground landing on his chest, waiting on the ground for a second to make sure that he'd got maximum exposure before getting to his feet.

Show ponies must be stopped, before it's too late!

Fashion statement

Ramesh Powar needs to change his sunglasses. So says my wife. I think they just make him look stupid. But she tells me there is a reason for that - red doesn't go with the light blue India ODI strip. Apparently Youvaj Singh's black sunglasses work a little better with the strip.

You can see Mr Powar's sunglasses here. Ramesh - my wife is available at a fee to be your fashion consultant!

Indian Press

Interesting the reaction of the Indian press to their win against Bangladesh a couple of days ago. "Dhoni wins it on one leg" seemed to be the sort of headlines that came out, as Dhoni ended up on 91 not out despite batting with a runner for most of his innings due to cramp. But the Times of India went further, blaming Abdur Razzaq of Bangladesh for their defeat given that he fumbled the ball when Karthik would have been run out almost as soon as he came to the wicket. As it was he made a half century undefeated and won the game for India with Dhoni.

But Dhoni was as plumb as plumb can be with very few runs to his name and not given out by umpire Asoka de Silva which changed the game. And the bowler? One Abdur Razzaq, the guy that according to the Times of India cost Bangladesh the game. He must be cursing his luck....

11 May 2007

Good news for England....

It sounds like Kevin Petersen will be fit for the West Indies at Lords and the chances of Michael Vaughan making it have improved (i.e. they are better than zero) according to reports. Come back tomorrow for discussion about who should be named in the England squad on Sunday.


The needless statements from politicians prior to a yes or no statement being released in Australia continues. This time it is PM, John Howard, who had the right sentiments but no answer to the debate.

"I am jammed between my distaste for the government getting involved in something like this and my even greater distaste for giving a propaganda victory to Robert Mugabe," Howard said to an Aussie radio station. "I think there is some evidence emerging that even in those countries that would be very reluctant to see the ICC do anything, that something ought to happen. How long can the international cricket community - not just Australia - go on doing things that give aid and comfort to somebody who has thus far been totally impervious to any entreaties?"

I couldn't agree more. I hope the members of the ICC that are against calling off of tours to Zimbabwe can sleep at night. But there are those that don't think pulling out will do much good and one of them, Geoff Marsh, is someone who should have a pretty good grasp of the situation in Zimbabwe having coached the national side from 2001 to 2004.

Marsh's comments were, "The feeling I get - and it's the opinion of some of my Zimbabwean mates as well - is what difference will stopping a cricket tour make? Whether it's the right or wrong thing to do is another matter, but, in real terms, I just wonder what it will achieve. I generally don't like to see sport and politics mix. I think strong action definitely needs to be taken but I think it has to happen in areas broader than just sport. It is a beautiful country that has become a living hell for a lot of people."

But perhaps last word on this issue (for today at least) should be left to Henry Olonga, who bravely wore a black armband to signal the death of democracy in his country at the 2003 World Cup, along with Andy Flower. Olonga's views are simple, "The picture they've tried to paint to the rest of the world is that if the reigning world champions are willing to tour Zimbabwe, then there can't be too much amiss. Once in a while, once or twice in your career perhaps you have the opportunity to make a real difference in a way that is above just another bundle of Test wickets or another couple of hundreds."

I, for one, hope that someone is listening to Olonga amongst the ICC members who currently think that tours to Zimbabwe should go ahead as planned.

Afro-Asia Cup team squads

What is the Afro-Asia cup I hear you ask! The tournament was first held in 2005 and features the best players - in theory at least as it depends on your views on the selections - from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya against those from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The last series was drawn 1-1.

This edition of the tournament will be played on 6th, 9th and 10th June in India. There is also a Twenty20 game before the one-dayers.

African squad:
Graeme Smith (SA, capt), Steve Tikolo (Ken, vice-capt), Johan Botha (SA), Mark Boucher (SA, wk), Elton Chigumbura (Zim), AB de Villiers (SA), Herchelle Gibbs (SA), Andrew Hall (SA), Jacques Kallis (SA), Makhaya Ntini (SA), Thomas Odoyo (Ken), Peter Ongondo (Ken), Shaun Pollock (SA), Vusi Sibanda (Zim), Hiren Varaiya (Ken).

Asian squad:
Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri), Virender Sehwag (Ind), Upul Tharanga (Sri), Mahela Jayawardene (Sri, capt), Sachin Tendulkar (Ind), Mohammad Yousuf (Pak), Yuvraj Singh (Ind), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Ind, wk), Harbhajan Singh (Ind), Chaminda Vaas (Sri), Shoaib Akhtar (Pak), Lasith Malinga (Sri), Mohammad Rafique (Ban), Mohammad Asif (Pak)

10 May 2007

The Wall to bat 3

Rahul Dravid should bat 3 for India - it's as simple as that. Unless the first wicket doesn't fall for 25 or more overs, which creates a case for Dhoni to be sent in. Dravid would give the innings someone for the others to bat around, and it makes the most of his talents. If you are going to bat him at 5 is there really much point him being in the team?

India edge past Bangladesh

India today chased down a target of 250 off 47 overs with an over to spare. But things didn't always look comfortable, and but for a monumental umpiring error, India may well have lost to Bangladesh. India started their reply fluently at well over the required run rate, but first Gambhir and Sehwag fell having got set, the latter playing a rash uppish shot into the covers to get caught off the last ball of an over when he's already hit 16 off the first five balls.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni came in at 3 and played extremely well, ultimately steering India to victory with Dinesh Karthik despite a pulled hamstring which meant that he needed a runner for the second half of his innings. With the pressure on India after three wickets had fallen before the 10th over had been completed, Bangladesh skipper Habibal Bashar turned to left-arm spinner Abdur Razzaq, who trapped Dhoni stone cold in front first ball of the 13th over. But the umpire remained unmoved, despite the fact that the ball would have hit two thirds of the way up middle stump.

This decision proved crucial, but Bangladesh still had other chances to take further wickets after the sixth wicket pair of Dhoni and Karthik came together with 107 still required. Almost as soon as he had arrived at the wicket Khartik should have been run out by several yards, but Razzaq failed to take the throw to the bowler's end. Dhoni and Karthik then batted very sensibly to bring the total well within their grasp only to have another heart-stopping moment when Yuvraj Singh, running for Dhoni, called for an unnecessarily tight second run with the score on 210 - all India needed to do at this point was not lose wickets and the game would be theirs. But Singh called for a dicey second that would have resulted in Dhoni being run out with a direct hit. As it was replays showed Singh's bat was over the line but in the air at one point as he dived to make his ground, then seemingly down just in time, but what was really needed was a shot between the two screens that showed the exact moment the stumps were broken, although this wasn't available to the 3rd umpire who correctly ruled Singh, and Dhoni, in.

Karthik, after his early run out scare, batted very sensibly employing the sweep with great regularity against Bangladesh's 3 left-arm spinners, and ended up with 58 not out, while Dhoni ended up with 91 not out. Dhoni was named man-of-the-match and was India's hero, but he really shouldn't have been there if the umpire had made the right call in the 13th over, and Bangladesh can feel rightly peeved.

India v Bangladesh scorecard

South Africa also reviewing performance

I ranted a little about the number of people involved in the Schofield report that the ECB are putting together to review the performance in the national side of the last 4 years. South Africa appear to go about things differently, preferring a meeting of their top cricket administrators today to discuss how the team has done over the last year.

Let's hope there isn't an over-reaction that halts South Africa's recent successful progress. In the past season South Africa won 19 ODIs and lost 7, and in the Test arena they won series against India and Pakistan. Judging from South African reports, coach Mickey Arthur looks safe, as does team captain, Graeme Smith, despite some concerns about the fact that Smith "wields too much power".

The South African team have no more natural talent than England or New Zealand but are making the most of what they have to the extent that they went into the World Cup as the number 1 ranked team in the world, a tag they understandably struggled to live up to. It would be a great shame if they take a backward step today after the meeting, by changing the structure they have in place, but it looks as it they might do. Convener of selectors Haroon Lorgat is likely to be replaced according to some reports.

England Vice-Captain Laura Newton retires

The English women's cricket team has lost it's vice-captain to retirement - another player struggling to mix the huge demands of international cricket without any money as recompense . Laura Newton is only 29 but the demands of international cricket don't balance with the rewards for her any more. “It has been an extremely difficult decision for me to make but the demands of being an England cricketer require a sacrifice I am no longer able to undertake from this point onwards. Playing cricket for England has given me wonderful experiences, opportunities and memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life," Newton said.

Newton opened the batting for England having originally started as a middle order batsman and captained the Super 4s team, as well as vice-captaining with both Lancashire and England. She made her test debut in 1999 against India and since then has become a regular in the Test and ODI sides, despite a relatively low average of 20.

She contributed a lot in the field as well as with her bowling where she started out as a medium pacer but recently converted to bowling off-spin, bowling very effectively in the most-recent series in India.

England will announce a new vice-captain in due course, but the loss of an experienced player will be of great concern to England skipper Charlotte Edwards as she faces the prospect of leading an inexperienced side to Australia for the Ashes series next year.

9 May 2007

May the best team win?

Possibly in a minority of one outside Australia, I was supporting Australia to win the World Cup final. It seems strange to me that anyone should have wanted otherwise unless they were Sri Lankan - after all Australia had proved comprehensively they were the best team in the tournament hadn't they?

But the problem with wanting the best team to win is that the audience, be they at the ground or watching on TV want a close match, and that doesn't always happen or, in the case of the 2007 World Cup, rarely happens. But that still doesn't mean that the game should be allowed to be shortened when it comes to the knockout stages - there is simply too much riding on the game to allow the chances of the lesser team winning to increase.

This contradicts what Michael Atherton was telling everyone in commentary during the World Cup final - and for one very good reason, I couldn't disagree more! He reckoned that as Australia had more big hitters this made them greater favourites in a shorter game, so let's take that to a hypothetical (and admittedly ludicrous conclusion). Australia were hot favourites to win the 50 over game before the final, but if they had played one ball each? The odds wouldn't have been much more than 50/50 as to who would win.

Let's hope that the best team is given the best chance of winning cricket World Cups, because the alternative is the situation in football where the best team certainly doesn't always win. Greece the best team in Euro 2004? I don't think so...

Why is Abu Dhabi hosting international cricket?

Ready yourselves for another rant. Why are Sri Lanka and Pakistan playing in Abu Dhabi from 18th - 22nd May? Yet more strange scheduling brought about by money, much like the World Cup schedule - you can view that particular rant here.

After lots of uncertainty, Zakir Khan, PCB’s Director of Cricket Operations, has publicly stated that the Abu Dhabi series will be played from May 18-22 as the hosts have sorted out all the financial concerns. “The Abu Dhabi cricket officials have informed us that there are no financial issues anymore and the series would go ahead as planned."

Originally the organisers in Abu Dhabi wanted a triangular series to go ahead between Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Africa, but South Africa rightly refused to enter a tournament so shortly after the World Cup. There is something very different about a tournament held in a neutral country between 3 countries, and a series held as part of a tour to another country such as India are going to play in Bangladesh and West Indies are going to play in England. This particular series should never have been scheduled, and it's no wonder that the hosts have had so much trouble getting sponsors and bidders for the TV rights given the proximity of this series to the World Cup.

As always money is at the forefront of the decisions made by the Sri Lankan and Pakistani cricket boards to send their teams to Abu Dhabi - both teams have been reportedly offered $500,000 each, but this hasn't been enough to stop several top players ruling themselves unavailable - Younis Khan and Shoaib Akhtar from Pakistan, and Kumar Sangakkara, Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas from Sri Lanka.

It will be interesting to see if the cricket produces games that create even the slightest interest. Pakistan can't really be taking the series too seriously - they haven't even appointed a coach for the event following Bob Woolmer's death at the World Cup. Another case of turning up to collect the money then - one wonders if there is anyone that this particular series is benefitting?

Even better bats

Bowlers could be forgiven for thinking about throwing in the towel. Grounds seem to be getting smaller and bats have been improving at a staggering rate according to the Australian Andrew Symonds, who told Ian Chappell that bats have improved hugely in the last 5 years. But that comment came before the latest advance, called the "Smart Cricket Bat" that was announced today in Australia.

The bat is designed to reduce vibrations when shots are played and uses "active vibration control" which is already used in baseball bats and tennis racquets. The handle of the new bat apparently converts shock waves into heat and dampens the vibrations by generating waves in the opposite direction.

But English bowlers just starting their season don't need to worry for a bit - the smart cricket bats aren't expected to be available for 18 months - and club cricketers may never need to worry as they will cost more than even the most expensive bats currently available so the bats will be a rare site in club cricket.

Sanity prevails...

Fortunately sanity has prevailed when it comes to "Gilchrist-gate". Perhaps some Sri Lankans are a bit embarrassed by what their Secretary has said - it certainly seemed that way when Muttiah Muralitharan was asked what he thought about the Secretary's remarks, “This is his personal opinion, the team doesn’t think that,” Muralitharan said.

Australian officials have rightly joked about the situation. “It’s a storm in a teacup, or a batting glove,” Australian spokesman Peter Young told the Australian Associated Press. “It’s been suggested that if shoving a squash ball into your bottom glove makes you bat like Adam Gilchrist then perhaps the ICC should make it compulsory.”

If you are interested to see the statement from the MCC Laws Sub-Committee, you can view it here.

Sri Lankan secretary Kangadaran Mathivanan questioned if Gilchrist's actions had been within the spirit of cricket, so to read about the spirit of cricket, the text which comes before the laws, you can view it here.

8 May 2007

England about to make the same mistake as India

It seems, according to all press reports, that England are about to appoint Andrew Strauss as captain when Michael Vaughan doesn't recover in time from his broken finger to lead the team in the 1st Test against the West Indies at Lords. As discussed a few days ago on Cricket Burble (England Captaincy Candidates), Strauss needs to concentrate on getting runs under his belt to cement his place in the side after a very unlucky series in Australia that saw hm wrongly given out 3 times in a row in the 2nd and 3rd tests. And perhaps he's just too much of a nice guy to lead England?

Geoffrey Boycott's recent comments on Indian skipper Rahul Dravid are interesting, "Rahul Dravid is a superb batsman, a lovely lad who nobody dislikes but he needs to stand up and take charge. he is not a born leader. A strong leader is a must. india's best period in recent years has been with a strong captain Ganguly, and a nice man behind the scenes in John Wright. They complemented each other."

It would be interesting to hear what Geoffrey thinks about Strauss if he leads England out at Lords.

Politicians and cricket boards

More controversy about Zimbabwe and whether to tour there - or at least a little bit of controversy where there should be none. Put aside the fact that Australia are so much better than Zimbabwe that sending their full strength team there would be like men against children still in nappies, they clearly also shouldn't go because of the political situation in Zimbabwe.

The Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, said as much, "My view is that the tour shouldn't go ahead. If it were to go ahead then Australia, which is after all the world champion team," (just had to get that in there didn't he - typically Australian!), "would give Zimbabwe's regime and it's President, who has been patron of Zimbabwe Cricket Association, a propaganda victory. We shouldn't do that - this is a horrific regime in Zimbabwe and we should take a stand against it."

Couldn't agree more. But why did he have to go public with that statement now when he's meeting Cricket Australia next week? How much stronger would the statement of not sending the team have been, if he had kept his mouth shut until after the meeting and then the government and Cricket Australia had held a joint press conference utterly condemning Mugabe's regime and publicly stating that the Australian team will not tour Zimbabwe until things have changed. No fuss, no controversy, no big build up. Just the correct decision at the correct time, publicised in the correct way.

Obviously the situation isn't unique to Australia - England had all sorts of problems in the lead up to the last World Cup and the team's refusal to play in Zimbabwe ultimately meant that they didn't make it through the group stages. The difference here though, and this is something that the Australian government should be applauded for, is that the government has already said they would pay the $2m fine from the ICC when Australia decline to tour there. The England team in 2003 unfortunately didn't have that support from their goverment, as Nasser Hussain outlines in his autobiography.

The fact that the ICC are ignoring moral issues and continuing to fine sides that don't tour Zimbabwe is outrageous and surely it's a matter of time before a cricket board or group of national cricket boards gets together to challenge the ICC in a court of law. Until then though, aren't the ICC missing something? If they scheduled back to back series in Zimbabwe then the amount of cricket would be the same - zero - but their revenue would go up through all the fines. Given their stance on Zimbabwe that compleletely lacks and moral considerations, this would seem an obvious road for them to go down.

Surely Sri Lanka can't think they have a case?

Can the Sri Lankan's really be suggesting there is a problem with Gilchrist's use of a squash ball in his batting glove in the World Cup final? Surely, they can't...can they?

It appears they can. It could have been hoped that Tom Moody's presence in the Sri Lankan camp might have brought about some sensible thinking, but unfortunately things don't appear that way judging from reports.

What exactly is Gilchrist guilty of? He has been quoted as saying "I had a squash ball in my bottom hand to help with my grip in training and I decided in this World Cup to use it in a match."

He clearly doesn't think there's anything wrong with using a squash ball in his glove or he wouldn't have said this publicly, and Cricket Burble agrees entirely. After all, had he asked a glove manufacturer to produce a glove with an inlay of squash ball material, they would undoubtedly have done so, and surely even Sri Lanka wouldn't have considered that unethical? As it was, things were made tougher for him as he had a loose squash ball in his glove.

But Sri Lanka do seem to be more than a little peeved about Gilchrist's admission. Sri Lankan cricket secretary Kangadaram Mathivanan has let reporters know his opinion on the matter. "We are of the opinion that it was unethical for Gilchrist to use a squash ball to give unfair advantage." He went on to say that Sri Lanka could even call on the ICC's cricket committee to enforce stringent application of law 42 on fair and unfair play to ensure that only approved protection equipment was used.

According to The Goan paper, Herald, the "revelation" made by Gilchrist caused uproar in Sri Lanka and many letters have been sent to Sri Lankan newspapers from members of the public "accusing the Australians of resorting to unfair tactics to win the game". The reaction of both the public and the administrators continues to go over the top in situations where even the most biased person must see that there is no reason for complaint. Before the 2003 rugby World Cup England Manager Clive Woodward asked Nike to produce a tight fitting shirt for the England team, which Nike did, but did the teams that weren't supplied by Nike complain? Of course not, they knew they could have done the same, and perhaps kicked themselves that they hadn't.

As always when something is done legally to advance sporting performance, there is a sense of jealousy from others that they didn't think of this tactic themselves. And the change will no doubt mark an improvement in the grips used on the inside of batting gloves, which all countries will be able to take advantage of because whether it made any difference to Gilchrist's performance is immaterial - the perception is that it did. Please Sri Lanka, you had a great World Cup, don't make yourselves look stupid by pursuing any line other than to congratulate Gilchrist and Australia on their win.