29 August 2008

Rugby not keen on following Twenty20 route

Interesting to see Eddie Jones' (former Australia rugby coach) comments about the new laws that have been brought in to rugby in an attempt to make it more entertaining. The difference in rugby is that they are trying to convert the "proper" version of the game to be more "exciting", where as cricket has 3 separate versions, rather than tinkering with Test match laws.

You can read his comments here. It will be interesting to see if he's right and a third version of rugby springs up alongside 7 a-side and 15 a-side.

27 August 2008

A quick word on Pietersen and Broad

It would be chirlish not to comment on the sensational start Pietersen has made to captaincy, and the first 5 for of Stuart Broad's career. Both are incredibly exciting for England - I've burbled before about how Broad's bowling might not quite be good enough for international level, but it would be superb for England if it is, and a couple more match winning performances over the rest of this series and the winter will really cement his place in the side.

Pietersen seems to have had a galvanising effect on the side and long may it continue. The only way we'll really know how good he is though is when he's under real pressure with a run or two in it at the end of an ODI, or when he's lost a Test or two and needs to turn it around. But the initial signs are very good which is a better position than I expected England to be in immediately after his appointment....

Batting help to avoid those LBWs...

This is a subject close to my heart - I must have set some kind of record for being out LBW while falling over and playing towards leg over the years. In fact, one year aged 15 I spent a whole season being out LBW almost exclusively - you can tell that it was a big problem as I haven't forgotten it 15 years on!

So this article about how to stop yourself planting your front foot was interesting - I'll be trying - as ever - to put the advice into practice this weekend.

Mathematical help please?!

I once did Maths A-level and got a C, having failed all exams throughout the 2 years (by enlisting the help of an ultra-intelligent friend in the final few weeks before the exam who went on to get a 1st at Oxford), but my C in Maths A-level isn't proving sufficient to work out a vital cricketing formula.

What is that formula? The formula for when it's ok to shower when you're batting second.

You know the score (or perhaps you don't?) - your team is cruising to victory and you're batting relatively low down. You want to get a head start by getting into the bar quickly after the game, and you also want to avoid the peak showering time at the end of the match. So you do a quick calculation and work out when it's ok to risk having a shower, despite the fact that a horrific collapse would see you having to scrabble around trying to get some kit and pads on rapidly. Obviously you can never completely rule that out, but on the balance of probabilities you decide to either watch in kit for longer, or take the risk of showering.

On Monday I was nearly caught out on this one, hence the post. To be fair on me and give you the whole situation, my skipper decided to retire two batsmen to give a couple of others a game, and only one of them hung around with his pads on to go back in if necessary - I couldn't be expected to predict that! But nonetheless I was one wicket away from having to dart back into the changing rooms and quickly get kit and pads on after showering.

It seems to me there are 5 factors to take into consideration:

I = importance of match
R = runs required
W = wickets left to fall before you have to pad up
S = the score you're chasing
C = competence of the two batsman at the crease

There must be a formula that can be created to solve this vital problem, but it's stumped me so far! Your help please maths boffins....

25 August 2008

Things cricket can learn from the Olympics

It's been great watching Great Britain do well in the Olympics and long may it continue over future games. With Clive Woodward overseeing overall performance up to 2012 with a whole heap of investment behind him, I'm confident we'll keep improving. Anyway - two things that stood out for me that may relate to cricket in the future:

1. Did you notice how many people in individual sports were interviewed afterwards and said "we've been training hard for this", "we're got our reward", etc? It seems that individual athletes realise that they are only as good as the sum of their parts which involves their coach, nutritionalist, sports psychologist etc. With the IPL and Stanford money coming in, I wonder how long it is before we find an international batsman or bowler burst onto the scene with an individual entorage they use to guide them (and them alone rather than the team).

2. Avoid farce by using technology before spectators and players lose faith in your sport. Sports like taekwondo, boxing, diving and gymnastics (and probably several others) all need TV replays to ensure that the right person wins. Gymnastics, from the bit of the Olympics that I saw, is the only sport to have brought that in. Cricket is also a sport that is judged by someone - umpires - and we need to sort out the use of technology asap to avoid farce - we've heard about the Sarah Stevenson taekwondo case in Britain, but it was just one of several for that sport. One of the fighters has made all sorts of allegations against the taekwondo Federation - let's hope this doesn't happen to cricket.

24 August 2008

Private-life trouble for Brett Lee

Cricket Burble definitely isn't going to come over all tabloid on you, but given the context of the recent post about depression, and how it's so important for cricketers to be right mentally to play professionally, I suspect the Australian cricketing authorities will be concerned to hear about Brett Lee's marriage difficulties.

While I doubt they're too concerned about England and the Ashes, Australia play South Africa in December for the right to call themselves the number 1 Test side in the world, and Lee is going to have to overcome these personal issues if he's going to be on top form for that series. I hope he comes through it ok.

22 August 2008

The lure of IPL money

I'm sure that Harmison's decision to make himself available for ODIs again has nothing to do with the potential money involved in the Stanford game and the IPL...

Depression sets in...

As a club cricketer, depression tends to set in around this time of year for me, given that the season will end soon....then the clocks change....and then it's back to leaving for work and returning from work in the dark. But for professionals, depression can be a great deal more serious and as Mike Atherton refers to in this interesting article, David Frith has even written a book about cricketing suicides, such is the number of them.

Personally I can't begin to imagine the scenario where you aren't in the right state of mind to play cricket - it's always been a great release - even if, for example, you're working all other hours available to you in your waking day. Having said that, I do remember an innings in a league match a few years ago where I padded up while having a telephone row with an ex-girlfriend. When a wicket fell I told her I had to go and just before I hung up I heard "don't put the phone down on me" - I'm not sure that was ideal preparation for my innings! Surprise, surprise, I scored 0, but such is my lack of cricketing skill, I'll never know if my duck was down to the preparation, or my own lack of ability!

After that 0 I was of course selected for the following week (I was captain!), but it must be hellish to be playing professionally and to know that you could be dropped if you don't perform. That's why I was so pleased for Collingwood when he got his hundred at Edgbaston - I literally can't imagine what he was going through because I've always known that I've got an enjoyable match next weekend, no matter how badly I do. Reading Graham Thorpe's autobiography gave me an interesting insight into just how different it is for pros and just how it can get on top of them, all the more when things aren't going right off the field. Atherton's article is similarly thought-provoking.

20 August 2008

Vaughan gone, next in line Moores

You'll remember various burbles about how Peter Moores could alleviate pressure on his position by using Vaughan as a scapegoat - this post in particular, "Don't lose faith in Vaughan". And of course, as we now know, that concern turned into reality.

I'm surprised that already there are the first murmurs of discontent about Moores though - I thought it would at least take until after the India series (if 2 Tests can count as a series?). The Guardian site is suggesting that Moores is under real pressure if England don't win the ODI series against the South Africans.

I wonder what odds I'd get with a bookie on the ECB panicking after a losing run over the winter and begging Vaughan to reconsider his resignation in time for the Ashes, alongside a new coach?

19 August 2008

David Fulton's view on Pietersen

There has been much burbled about Pietersen's appointment as England captain, along with the enormous amounts of column inches given to it elsewhere. This article, by David Fulton, seems to be a relatively objective view on Pietersen's first Test in charge, and his future prospects. There's one paragraph in particular that rings true to me, which is the last one:

"The best captains for the most part remain an emotional constant. When the team is down it's important he's lifting them up. When the team is on the crest of the wave it's important the captain keeps a proper sense of perspective and is not surfing on top of it."

See what you think of the article....

Asif B sample is positive

I can't quite understand the rationale of Mohammad Asif who now thinks that his case is "stronger" because his A sample and B sample haven't recorded the same amounts of drugs in his system. Surely the only question this throws up is the volume of drugs he's taken and that seems an irrelevance when both samples are shows he's tested positive.

As I've burbled about before, I find it amazing how much of this is in the public domain, but I guess that's the way of these things with today's media...

Using technology to aid umpires

The debate goes on - if you're interested in the latest views of Tony Greig, David Lloyd and Sanjay Manjrekar, have a listen to their debate on Cricinfo.

18 August 2008

Leave the ball alone!

I spent a large part of Saturday's batting (and therefore umpiring ) session watching, with amusement, the antics of an opponent fielding in the gully. Most times the ball went through his hands on its way back to the bowler he'd lick a finger and then apply the moisture to a point on the ball - it was often a random part because he'd not always look at the ball. Then the ball would continue its route to the bowler who was usually by then waiting at the end of his run and almost without exception the throw was short so the ball bounced and undid the work.

All done with the best of intentions I'm sure but odd that none of his team mates pointed out the waste of effort and of time. Additionally as a bowler I'd prefer not to receive a ball with somebody elses saliva on it.

13 August 2008

The England number 3 spot

Interesting to see the table giving the stats for England number 3s on Cricinfo.

Assuming that Pietersen's England, with Flintoff at 6, don't return to Vaughan for the India tour, we have moved from someone who averages 40 at number 3 to someone who averages 34 there. And I also noticed that a certain Mr Key, who is in with a chance of making the squad, averages nearly 41 at 3 in Tests too.

I still haven't got over the Vaughan thing, as you can tell! But if England want to persist with Strauss and are worried about him being too similar to Cook, the table also shows that Cook's average at 3 is well over 50 - that's pretty handy even accounting for the amount of luck he had early in his career with dropped catches and wrong decisions. So Key could open and Cook could move to 3, leaving Bell to fight it out for number 5 with Collingwood, Shah and Bopara.

Several of us have burbled about Ian Bell many times before, primarily because he inspires debate as he never seems to quite come good (enough), and opinion is still divided, despite his own protestations. Given that's the case I think moving him to 3 is a mistake, but it would be nice to be proved wrong if that means England win the series in India (they won't get a better chance given India's recent loss to Sri Lanka and the recriminations taking place).

12 August 2008


After some very rudimentary checks (i.e. if it's inaccurate I apologise but you'll just have to live with it) on how successful the England and South Africa teams were in their catching during the recent series, here are the scores on the doors in case you're interested:

England dropped 14 catches, South Africa dropped 5.

Dropped catches by England: Cook (5), Ambrose (3), Collingwood (2), Pattinson (2), Pietersen (1), Panesar (1). Dropped catches by South Africa: Ntini (2), de Villiers (1), Kallis (1), McKenzie (1).

Interestingly, 3 of the 5 dropped catches by South Africa were in the final Test at which point the series had already been won, while England dropped 4 catches in that match. It occurs to me that a dropped catch ratio of more than 3:1 in the 1st 3 Tests didn't help Vaughan!

11 August 2008

Two spinners in India - who?

In the past we've taken two or even three spinners (and once Tony Greig won a test match out there bowling off breaks !). Where are we going to find them?

No matter how much we all love Monty his novelty is starting to wear a bit thin - his fielding and batting are still embarrassing and he's not really returning the sort of figures we expected; to say nothing about the appealing which is going to start costing him wickets if it isn't doing so already (umpires need to be cosseted not shouted at !).

So that's cause for concern with our no.1 who's next in line ?

10 August 2008

Use Hot Spot to aid referral decisions says Benson

Interesting to see that we now have an umpire calling for more technology. Mark Benson has called for the use of Hot Spot when the video umpire is asked to judge whether a decision from the on-field umpires is correct.

As I've burbled about many times before, it makes no sense to give the umpires less technology than TV viewers, so this is an issue that will continue until common sense prevails.

8 August 2008

Hansie Cronje film

Believe it or not, Hansie's brother has directed a film about the life of Hansie Cronje. Could be an interesting watch, but I guess it will be a little bit one sided!

The latest Botham walk

In October Ian Botham will be doing another of his leukemia walks. Since the first walk in 1985 the survival rate for children with leukemia has risen from 20% to 80% which isn't bad going!

To find out more or donate, take a look at the site - www.bothamwalk.com - and if you want to you even have the chance to walk alongside him on part of the walk...

6 August 2008

"I just roll up and go whang"

I think several bowlers have said something similar to the quote above, but none really "whanged" it like its originator, Jeff Thomson. During a quiet moment at work, I began watching cricket videos on Youtube. What was supposed to be 2 mins of distraction as I waited for the kettle to boil all too inevitably became 45 min of faffing around, watching one video as it linked to another as that linked to another and another and so on. A lot of the cricket clips on Youtube are, to put it politely, rubbish - you can sleep peacefully at night knowing you haven't missed much by not clicking the link to 'criczz83's 'Best ball in the world everrrr!!!' - but some are absolute gems.

Take this video of 1979's World's Fastest Bowler Competition for starters. A few things make this video interesting to watch, not least its similarity in style to Look Around You, but for me it is the opportunity to watch some of yesteryear's great fast bowlers tearing into the crease. The competitors included Thomson, Lillee, Roberts, Holding and many others who terrorized batsmen during the 70's and 80's. Not surprisingly, Thommo won with the impressive speed of 147.9km/h (91.9mph), with Holding second on 141.3km/h (87.8mph). Very quick yes, but wasn't Thomson supposed to be the fastest ever? Was I expecting too much of him when I thought he would hit 95mph plus?

Maybe not. This clip shows that a few years earlier that scientists at the West Australian University clocked Thomson at 160.45km/h (99.7mph) bowling against the West Indies at the WACA in 1975/6, seriously quick. By 1979, he had endured serious injury and at the time of the competition had been 'drinking beer and sitting on [his] backside, for months' because of a ban from cricket. But he turned up, went whang and won it.

And it seems the way he whanged it was very important - apparently, by moving the ball through a longer distance he could achieve the sorts of speeds that a much taller bowler could, and then some. Being a short very non-threatening medium pacer myself, perhaps I should take note...

PS - apologies for my lack of burbling over the past... well, very long time! There is a reason why, I just haven't found it yet.

5 batsman or 6?

Personally I disagree with the way England have gone for the 4th Test. Apparently it's "aggressive" to play with 5 batsman, but it didn't look very aggressive at Headingley. Then again, playing with 6 didn't ensure runs at Edgbaston. I'd prefer to get runs on the board by picking 6 batsman and relying on your best 4 bowlers to take 20 wickets, with support from others like Collingwood or Bopara.

I hope Stuart Broad can come through and get a big haul of wickets as until he does there will always be a nagging doubt that he's an also-ran who isn't quite good enough as a bowler or a batsman. In the same way as Paul Collingwood is judged on whether he makes runs, Broad needs to be judged on his bowling alone and his batting is a nice extra, or he needs to bat at 6 and average 40+. I'm still confused about the batting order....I'd bat Broad at 6, Flintoff at 7 and Ambrose at 8.

I'm going to watch on Friday at The Oval - I hope that I feel truly behind the team by then....I'm not sure I do as yet given all the captaincy going-ons.

4 August 2008

Ramprakash's 100th Hundred

Amidst the mass resignations over the weekend, Mark Ramprakash quietly achieved his hundredth hundred against Yorkshire. It has been mentioned that he will probably be the last player to achieve this memorable feat and I am delighted that he has done so.

He was my first batting hero, primarily as he was a local boy to me (his school was 'just round the corner'). He was also someone who I could quite easily find an excuse for, for not cutting it in the international arena (dropped too many times, played with a tail which started at 7 too many times etc).

I am certain that if he was 5 years younger he would have benefitted from central contracts and would been taken under the wing of Duncan Fletcher (without the baggage of the early 90s) and would have become a true international star and not just a county great.

But rather than reflecting on the woulds and ifs, Ramprakash will still have a memorable and deserved place in cricket history.

Well done!

Strauss and Pietersen

I would have picked Strauss for both the Tests and ODIs. He has already won a test series and is what England need in the middle order for ODIs, ie. someone who can bat for 30-40 overs holding the batting together whilst the others adopt a more aggressive approach, similar to Thorpe and Fairbrother's roles in the past. He has done this before in the ICC Champions trophy four years ago when he scored a hundred against Australia when Flintoff hit a quick fifty.

However, I'm not disappointed that Pietersen was selected. It should herald an exciting moment in English cricket as there is a bit of the unknown about his captaincy and whether we will witness exciting innovations.

Having played under Vaughan and Warne, he might surprise his doubters!

Carlsberg don't make bad decisions...

A work colleague just forwarded me the link to the Cricinfo article talking about Pietersen's appointment, with the subject line "Carlsberg don't do bad decisions but if they did it wouldn't be as bad as this one".


I don't blame the man himself - who wouldn't take the England captaincy if it was offered? But I worry about the people pulling the strings behind the scenes.


Let me say it now so that I'm not accused of being wise after the event. Pietersen is a wonderful batsman and on the 'should he be blamed for batting and getting out positively' debate I'd say let him bat how he likes - there's probably little point in trying to curb him. There are plenty of proper batsman in the side to allow for him as a luxury.

But self-serving luxury he does appear to be and I'm pretty confident that his appointment as captain will be disastrous. They say they want unity but they'll get division.

Mind you William Hill seem pretty certain. To be captain at the start of the 2009 Ashes - Pietersen 2/5, Strauss 6/1, Cook 10/1, Vaughan 12/1, Key and Flintoff 14/1, Collingwood 25/1. No price on Ed Joyce - seems odd !

The role of luck

Personally, I'm gutted that Vaughan has been forced into resigning the captaincy (I just don't believe that he would have gone before the end of the SA series of his own accord). As some observers had noted after the 2nd Test, the lack of support from Moores for Vaughan meant that his days were numbered unless he scored a stack of runs. Since he's come back from his knee injury he's averaged 36.25. Remember that as an undoubtedly class player too, he would have come good in his next innings or two and that average would probably have bounced back to 40ish. Now think of the number of runs per innings that he saves with his captaincy - I'll leave that for you to assess against his nearest competitor for the job - and then work out his value to the team.

I don't agree with the title of the article on Cricinfo - a captain cut short of greatness. This isn't Viv Richards or Clive Lloyd with a devastating bunch of quick bowlers, Steve Waugh or Ricky Ponting with Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist and Glenn McGrath to turn to. This is someone who, with a very ordinary bunch of players, managed to win close games through his tactics. Remember the Edgbaston Test in the 2005 Ashes - many questioned Vaughan's tactics of using sweepers in the final wicket partnership but he wanted to make the Aussies face as many balls as possible to win. That came off through a piece of good fortune, given that the last wicket was a wrong decision. But as an example of how his tactics have won crucial games for England it stands out - he is a great captain given the results he got from a team that lacked much individual greatness.

But Vaughan's luck ran out. There is no doubt that Smith was out at least once during his match winning innings at Edgbaston, and Vaughan managed to pick out Amla with unerring accuracy to get out in the 2nd innings. Amla took the chance well, but no-one who watched Vaughan get to 17 fluently would have made a significant bet against him scoring a century if that chance had been dropped.....or if he hadn't middled it perfectly and it had evaded the fielder - he looked class as he always does. At the Oval he would surely have scored runs on a batsman friendly track.

As it is he's been forced out to deflect criticism from others. And Collingwood has mysteriously decided to resign at the same time - quite a remarkable coincidence. England's competitors for the number 2 Test playing nation must be ecstatic - they now know that England will take time to rebuild and the Aussies know for sure that the 2009 Ashes is theirs. It was going to be hard enough before for England, now it is impossible. So congratulations to those behind the scenes responsible for 2 England resignations on one day and the appointment of someone to captain all 3 forms of the game. Given the incredibly different nature of Twenty20 to Tests, that inspired decision to unify the captaincy only leaves 2 candidates (or 3 if you count Key) - Flintoff and Pietersen. And we've seen first-hand how tactically inept Flintoff is compared to Vaughan - you just have to look at how the two of them use Panesar.

So Pietersen it is, as the last man standing. Not because he's shown the slightest bit of Test captaincy credentials, or because he's a respected tactician, but because he's the only man who plays in all 3 forms of international cricket who hasn't blotted his copy book through some very ordinary previous captaincy. Pietersen will have to hope that his luck is in if he is to be successful, and that's just to avoid the knives in his back if he loses a few games.

2 August 2008

KP bashing has to stop

KP scores 94 runs and shares a 115 run partnership with Collingwood and he gets criticised for getting out for an outrageous shot (not his first in the innings, though) whilst Cook and Bell get out trying to hook the ball (another outrageous shot for the situation) and get 9 and 20 respectively and they hardly get a mention. And considering that Collingwood played a similar shot to KP to get to his hundred where is the notion that he is reckless too?

The KP bashing has to stop. He got England out of a massive hole yesterday and I think is also responsible for some intangible reason for why Collingwood also batted well. KP's innings was no different to the one he played at the Oval in 2005 for which he was lauded for.

But certain ex-Test match players are clamouring for him to be dropped (Derek Pringle) or never be considered for captaincy (Alec Stewart). Either way you demotivate KP, and England risk losing their best batsman.

1 August 2008

Ginger-haired greatness

What a fantastic effort by Collingwood - from one ginger-haired all-rounder to another! It sounds like he still looks in dreadful touch, so his century is surely testament to sheer concentration and determination.

As I've been burbling to anyone who would listen, the very reason we need to keep him in our XI even when he's out of form is that he's capable of hitting centuries playing badly - nobody else has had that ability since Thorpe, Butcher and Hussein. There can be no doubt that he makes 100% use of his abilities - watch and learn, Pietersen! (And after KP's wasteful demise, I love the irony of Colly bringing his ton up with a 6 off Harris when on 94!)

It is remarkable how much pressure we put on our sportsmen when they're struggling. At Edgbaston on Wednesday, the Burble team (and Collingwood) had to look at his paltry 2008 batting average displayed on the big screen in technicolour glory for quite a while, just as the all-rounder was taking guard and beginning his innings. Hardly helpful! Let's hope this century makes the critics get supportive of Colly for a bit at least.

Switch hitting madness

Cricket Burbler Dave McCabe previously commented that shot players like Pietersen need to be given greater leeway to play their shots based on the fact that when they come off they can change the match entirely.

But the attempted switch hit in the last over from Harris was complete madness given the situation....surely?

Pietersen/Collingwood partnerships - tempting fate

With Collingwood and Pietersen batting together at a crucial time in the current match, I'm going to tempt fate by making a point that I was going to make after this Test. Pietersen and Collingwood started to develop a good relationship in the middle over the 2006 season and in Australia at the start of 2007. So what did Peter Moores do? He asked him to bat 6 instead of 5.

It was the wrong thing to do - quite apart from these stats that I've burbled about before - as rather than showing Collingwood that he was a key batsman, it gave the impression that he was there as a bit-part player....mostly for his batting, but also for his bowling and fielding. They are important parts of Collingwood's game (even considering his two drops in this match), but he should have been told that he was one of our top batsman and trusted at 5.

Of course, the key reason he is under so much pressure is his lack of form, but I don't think Peter Moores has helped much, or anyone else who was involved in demoting him from 5 to 6. As a big Collingwood supporter, I hope he comes through this Test - if anyone has the balls to come through this in the England side, then it's him, but the odds are against him given an excellent bowling attack to face and his current form. I hope Pietersen can also play his part to help him through and get a good partnership going after tea.

Flintoff needs to open the bowling

As we sat there on Wednesday afternoon, hoping that England could take a couple of wickets before the end of the day to compensate - if only in a tiny way - for a poor batting performance, myself and a number of the spectators wondered why Flintoff doesn't open the bowling for England. As it happened he came on and got Smith to play and miss first ball, and then got him out with the second.

It's got nothing to do with that wicket or his results in this game, but I definitely think Flintoff needs to open. Anderson and Sidebottom are relatively similar in the fact that they rely on swing, if not in pace, and there's barely an opposition player out there that doesn't identify Flintoff as England's best bowler. It needs to be a strange set of circumstances to consistently ask your best bowler to wait until 1st change to bowl.

This morning at Edgbaston it seems unthinkable that England wouldn't ask Flintoff to open the bowling (doesn't it?) - I hope that continues in the 2nd innings and from here on in.

A pretty handy innings

There's no doubt that Virender Sehwag is one of the world's most frustrating batsmen. Brilliant one innings, diabolically bad shot selection the next - he would drive me insane if he played for a team I supported, and yet he has a Test average of 50 which even the most critical observer would concede is pretty handy.

His innings in the current Test match against Sri Lanka looks pretty special - 201 not out carrying his bat as India scored 329 in their 1st innings....