30 October 2008

Gift horses and mouths...

So, it would appear that Monty Panesar's plans to play club cricket in Sri Lanka ahead of the India tour have fallen through over a financial dispute. But it is not, as one might initially expect, an issue of a local club being unable to meet the player's appearance fee. On the contrary, the club have demanded £7,500 from the ECB for letting him play!

It transpires that the ECB offered a £500 donation to the building of a new clubhouse, but received an email reply with this more ambitious demand, claiming that the ECB would benefit more from the deal - which they, of course, refused.

Unbelieveable! I find it hard to imagine there's any lowly club side in the world that wouldn't appreciate a cameo from a current Test match spinner. I'm sure my club would jump at the opportunity (though I hope that Burble's Mark Davis would still be given choice of ends).

I wonder if Monty would mind changing on the boundary or doing an umpiring stint at square leg...

How bad can it be playing cricket for huge money?

Interesting to see the England cricket team concerned about the Stanford competition. No matter how much of a farce the competition is, personally I'd put up with it for the chance of a life changing amount of money in return for playing the game I love in a beautiful location! The England players would have to feel really strongly to put the 4 remaining years on the 5 year $100m deal in doubt.

Once again it appears that a tiny incident has suddenly been blown out of proportion by the media. Yes, Sir Allen Standord flirted with Matt Prior's wife as she sat on his knee, and if the players think that is unacceptable (although she looked anything but concerned) then they have every right to let him know and feel as disgruntled as they like. But why put the cricket at risk - that's a purely off-field matter. Similarly if they don't want him in their dressing room, just ask him for some privacy at key times - only the most brash of men would want to come into the dressing room when they know they aren't wanted.

I can't help feeling that there's a little bit of a parallel with the absurd over-reaction in England to Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross' radio show in the UK where they left a dodgy voicemail for ex-actor Andrew Sachs (nearly all the complaints have been inspired by the media rather than coming from people who listened to the show live). We have to get a bit of a grip or pretty soon, no-one will be able to say anything or do anything ever!! As the British public we need to have our own opinions and not just be taken where the media would like us to go in order for them to maximise sales.

Please Britain, have minds of your own and don't succumb. Press freedom is vital but free-thinking from the public is even more vital. No ECB sackings are needed, and a routine assessment post-tournament is what is required. Let's hope for an exciting final.

Gambhir taking on Watson and Katich

Interesting to watch the replays of the contact between players and verbals that went on in today's play in the 3rd India v Australia test. From this replay I don't think Gambhir can possibly have any argument about his deliberate arm into Watson. Yes, Watson wasn't making it easy for him, but Gambhir clearly sticks his arm out.

The Katich confrontation is interesting. If I was an Aussie I'd want to see Katich bowl so much more - he's got that Warne like aggression when he bowls, all be it with nowhere near the ability. But nevertheless it appears that something will happen, and that's what the Aussies desperately need. It's difficult to tell if Katich blocks Gambhir deliberately, but obviously the officials didn't think so as Katich hasn't been charged with anything.

Worst case scenario for Gambhir is that he's banned from the next game which could be crucial if Australia hang on in this Test. Given that he's got history and has barged into Afridi only last year, that's got to be a big concern - his previous 65% fine doesn't seem to have deterred him from repeating the incident, so they may feel a ban is now required which will be a big loss to India given his form over the first 3 Tests.

29 October 2008

Edgbaston to grow by 4,000

Interesting to see that Edgbaston is going to be developed to increase capacity by 4,000. I know they sold out quickly for the Ashes Test in 2009 but it's still a risk increasing capacity for one game a year. I wouldn't mind betting the TV and internet viewers is where the real expansion will come rather than in live audiences for cricket, and unless the authorities change the bad light rule, Test crowds could come under pressure.

I wonder if the extra 4,000 seats will have the same amount of room as the other seats. One of the things I really look forward to about Edgbaston is that you have room to sit normally and even stretch your legs as necessary. At Lords you are crammed in just like spectators are in football stadiums - where your knees jam against the seat in front if you're over 5ft and you have to sit alternately leaning backwards or forwards along your row as there isn't enough room to fit everyone shoulder to shoulder!

Not all about winning

Who cares about squillions of quid when you can achieve fame like two reported in today's Times? Peter Buckley is about to retire from boxing after his 300th bout on Friday - he is the undisputed champion of defeats with a mere 31 wins and 12 draws to his credit. His success seems to lie in his ability to persuade opponents (presumably easily) and the authorities (apparently much more difficult ) that he is competent enough to carry on.

But this palls into insignificance alongside the revelation that whilst Philadelphia Philies are in danger of winning Major League Baseball's World Series their more important claim to fame is that they are the only professional sports team in the world to have lost more that 10,000 games.

Awesome !

28 October 2008

Selling books....

For a period of time just before his book was launched Marcus Trescothick was in the news for apparently sucking mints while playing in the 2005 Ashes because they would help swing the ball when mixed with his saliva. No dramatic shocks there but it catapulted Trescothick to number 22 in the Zoo Australia poll of most hated people on the planet, two places ahead of George W Bush.

This time it's Adam Gilchrist with a book to sell. The big news when I was in India last week was that he's claimed that Sachin Tendulkar changed his story in the "monkeygate" hearing and that he was often hard to find for a handshake after games. This has of course provoked a furious reaction in India where Tendulkar is a national hero and that week also became the highest Test run scorer in the history of the game. He's also, as Michael Atherton noted recently, a paragon of virtue.

Apart from realising that we should ignore anything anyone says in the lead up to their book being published (and be sceptical about the quality of the book as it's clearly not good enough to sell itself), what should be made of Gilchrist's comments? The first point about Tendulkar initially saying he couldn't hear anything and then changing his mind and saying he heard a Hindi word sounding like monkey is fact, isn't it? I believe that was recorded at the time for ever more - if that's not the case someone please correct me! The second point about Tendulkar not being around to shake hands is the one that particularly got people's backs up, especially when this clip shows his as the first of the off-field India players to shake hands with the Aussies who spent a lot of time whooping and cheering in the centre of the pitch.

So it's 1-1 in that Gilchrist's comments about Tendulkar's change of mind in the monkeygate hearing shouldn't have been vilified, but his comments about Tendulkar not shaking hands appear wrong on the basis of TV evidence after the close Sydney game, and the evidence of many many opposition players over the years.

The Aussies will be hoping that it's 1-1 on the pitch too after the up coming 3rd Test.

A special over from Vettori

OK, so it is only Bangladesh, but it looks like Daniel Vettori bowled a pretty special over at the end of the 4th day (but the 1st one where they've been able to play due to the weather) of the 2nd Test. Here's the scorecard.

What did Ed Smith do wrong?

Can anyone shed any light on what Ed Smith did wrong to lose the captaincy of Middlesex to 39 year-old Shaun Udal? Looks like a very short-term decision...there must be some rationale behind it?

Mr.Sutton would have been pleased

Like most of us addicts in Planet Cricket I was smitten with the game as soon as I met it and that was in 1961 when Richie Benaud captained Australia to an Ashes win and famously bowled England skipper Peter May behind his legs, causing the selectors to drop Fred Trueman from the next and potentially series-deciding Test Match because it was argued that it was his footmarks that had allowed Benaud his success.

In those days it was always the case that Tests started on Thursdays with the team announced on the previous Sunday and I remember my Latin master being concerned whether the newly emerging Ted Dexter was, as his name meant he should be, indeed right handed. We all knew, of course that he was indeed right handed.

The old boy would have been so pleased with the Middlesex line-up yesterday - 6 left handers then Neil Dexter facing the correct way - perfect.

Another point from yesterday - I bet there's more people who agree with me now that Ben Scott is the best keeper on the county circuit.

27 October 2008


I seemed to time my trip to Goa quite nicely....not just because a friend got married, but also because India beat the Aussies in the 2nd Test, the ICL was in full swing, and Sachin Tendulkar took the record for most Test runs and went past 12,000.

I was pretty surprised by the reaction given what I'd known of India when I was last there around the time of the World Cup. Stoning of player's houses, burning of efiges of players and coach - it was all extreme to the point of a communal loss of any sense of reality. The thought that a country can effectively come to a halt on the basis of going out of the World Cup was a worry, and it was even more worrying to consider that the same can happen in England with football. Mass hysteria is a little alarming at times!

So the reaction to Sachin Tendulkar breaking the record was unexpectedly sensible. He was of course lauded for his achievement, his relatives were interviewed etc, but there was a sense of perspective that I wasn't expecting and was pleased to see. That sense of perspective was perhaps less in evidence when the 2nd Test went India's way - you would have thought they'd won the series already! If they don't win the series the media will look pretty silly given all the hype around one solitary win, but given the Aussies lack of firepower in the bowling department, they may well not have to consider that as an outcome. It is interesting to see the way the Aussies (or at least some of them) see it - that basically it came down to the toss of a coin. I don't think it was quite as simple as that, but I certainly don't think the Indian team or their public should get ahead of themselves!

As always in India, games of cricket were happening all over the place and I found quite a nice little ground. Yes the stumps are a little rudimentary, but I was gutted that I didn't get to play at this ground!

24 October 2008

An opportunity

So Sri Lanka are now unlikely to come to the UK in the first part of next years season because of a clash with Twenty 20 cricket elsewhere and remember that they are only replacements for Zimbabwe. Therefore the ECB has to go into a panic to find replacement replacements and the suggestion is that we get the West Indies to come over, presumably on the same plane that our International players will be on.
It seems like only the other day (well before ICL etc.) that all we heard about was that there was about too much cricket. Whereas we all know that it's all about money (did I see nearly £100 to spend the Saturday at a Lord's test in an uncovered stand next year ?).
Why not just admit that, unlike those of most other financial undertakings currently, cricket's coffers are pretty full and just leave a blank so that we can all concentrate on county cricket. Better still get the Australians (of whom fewer will be in ICL) over here for a proper tour with more (and competitive,please) matches against the counties. Maybe by then they'll need the practice.

22 October 2008

Not momentous enough for The Thunderer

I know there is an awful lot of news about these days but like many people I choose my daily paper for its sports coverage as much as anything else and would have hoped that The Times could have given more than 2 column inches to India's outstanding win over Australia. Not a complaint , more a plea.

18 October 2008

Oh I like that !

Said Mark Nicholas as Dhomi gave and survived a caught and bowled chance ( actually the bowler did very well to get his hands anywhere near and the umpire did even better to avoid being decapitated).
Actually what I saw and liked much more was a bit later.
Amit Mishra. Anybody want to bet me he won't take 200 test wickets?

Gnarled old player sees the future

On Sunday our club had its annual awards do for the colts - we run under 9,10,11 and 13 sides and I got conned into doing the old 'when I was your age speech' and shaking hands with all the winners. What a fantastic atmosphere and it was clear that the discrete colts committee had got nearly as much fun out of their efforts as the amount of work they had clearly put in. I've seen the future of my cricket club and I love it. I'm very glad I went to the do.

Australian batting

Whilst we seem to be surrounded by history at the moment with Sachin's tremendous achievements uppermost I wonder whether we are seeing more crumbling in Australia's ranks. Much has been said about the retirement of Warne and McGrath and the search for replacements especially in the slow bowling aspect but I suspect too that there are concerns about the batting with Hayden having made 0,13 and 0 so far and they must at least suspect that Watson is too high at 6 ? Hope these words don't come back and haunt me in the summer !

16 October 2008

German cricket win in England - the shame of it!

It appears that near me in Worthing, a church side lost to a German side. They are still getting over the shame, and quite rightly. Apparently the German side had to be told that they'd won, such was their rudimentary understanding of the laws!

There is a return match in Germany next year. I don't live far away from Worthing and am available!

The relentless march of technology....

Poor old Dickie Bird. Times are changing, technology is coming in and he believes it's a "sad moment" - I can understand why umpires are reluctant to accept change, but they - as with all people across organisations across the world - need to divorce themselves from what has happened previously. If you started the game of cricket today, with the technology now available, you wouldn't rely on the human eye to make decisions - it really is as simple as that....to me at least!

On a similar note, before the 1st India v Australia Test there was much discussion about catching and whether or not teams could be trusted to have a "pact". And previously Michael Vaughan rejected Ponting's attempts to agree a pact in the 2005 Ashes series. I have a simple way to sort out the issue - at least I think it's simple!

Currently batsmen that are in doubt stand their ground knowing there is no way they can be given out as the benefit of the doubt goes to them and cameras often can't prove the catch was clean. I would simply swop that for catches when it relates to whether the ball touched the ground - the benefit of the doubt should go to the fielder. As the length of grass on a cricket field is often longer than the diameter of a human finger, until this is the case, legitimate catches will often be ruled out. I would add one further disciplinary rule - players who knowingly try to cheat by claiming a catch that is subsequently proven to have bounced, would be banned for the rest of the series and their next one. That would stop a repeat of the incident this English summer where AB de Villiers claimed a catch that very obviously bounced.


15 October 2008

Kumble hits out at media pressure

I couldn't agree with Kumble's comments more. Irrespective of anyone's thoughts on his captaincy, there's no doubt he's a class bowler and the media grief he's getting will only increase the pressure on him. Most players respond better when not under pressure (Collingwood excepted!), so the Indian media are responsible for reducing their national side's chances of winning.

That sort of thing infuriates me - The News of the World trapping Sven Goran Eriksson prior to the World Cup was a classic English example....that story (that had been created deliberately by the paper) was only ever going to damage England's chances in the competition, so why even consider running it if you put the interests of the national side near the top of your priorities. Unfortunately, the interests of the national side are low in the media's list of priorities and sales of course come top. But I certainly have never bought the News of the World again after that story was run and anecdotally I know of several others who felt the same and also stopped buying it regularly, so these stories may create a short-term positive blip in sales, but aren't going to do them any favours in the long-term.

I hope Kumble isn't forced into succumbing like Michael Vaughan was.

14 October 2008

ICC to discuss Twenty20 and technology

According to this article on Telegraph.co.uk, the ICC are to discuss the impact of Twenty20 on the Future Tours Programme and also greater use of technology following the trial in the Sri Lanka v India series. Trying to contain the IPL given the money that is involved will be near impossible, so I wish the ICC luck in trying maintain the importance of Test cricket - the fact that England are on playing two Tests in India this winter signifies the problem. Unfortunately the horse has bolted - it's a little late now.

But using greater technology pleases me for 2 reasons. 1) as Cricket Burble readers will know I am on a constant tirade to try to reduce the role of luck in the game so that best players succeed based on the laws of the game and not an umpiring mistake. But also 2) I can't keep up with the number of wrong decisions that need to be added to the Cricket Burble Wrong Decisions list, given that I have a more than full-time job! I thought I'd get respite in the Sri Lanka v India series where they used technology, but rather than allow umpires access to all the technology they only allowed access to some of it, which meant more wrong decisions. They haven't been added to the list yet, and neither have the recent wrong decisions in the India v Australia 1st Test. If technology is used sensibly, wrong decisions would be limited to an error with the technology, which will be infinitely less often than human error.

For both reasons, I can't wait!

13 October 2008

Told you so !

Did you see that article in The Independent 'Cricket brings calm to state classrooms'?

It seems that one of the side effects of the wonderful 'Chance to Shine' scheme has been that, in schools involved, the standards of behaviour we're used to on cricket pitches is replacing that seen on football pitches.

Well I for one am not surprised and I speak as one who would never use the 'it's not cricket' expression except as a joke. Any student of the game knows that gambling played a huge part in the establishment of the game and that the shenanigans that go with that were therefore there almost from the beginning. We also know that sledging and general fielding-side chatter are more common than they once were but we're still a long way from what the multi-millionaires get up to. (Perhaps the credit crunch will have some effect in bringing fotball and its players back to reality but that's the subject of another rant another day).

12 October 2008

Hotting up

No, I'm not just talking about the weather in England with another two excellent cricket-playing days of weather in mid-October. The Australia v India contest should be hotting up over the next few hours if Katich can find the odd shot or two (his strike rate is below 15!) - with nearly two sessions and a day to go Australia are well over 100 ahead and can push on to leave India a tantalising target which allows Australia to take 10 wickets and win. Ponting's captaincy skills, which Ian Chappell has been praising compared to India captain Anil Kumble's, will come to the fore again.

With a Warne in their side, Australia would have been virtually dead certs, but without the game is in the balance. A draw just favourite perhaps....

8 October 2008

Hong Kong Cricket

As Ed alluded to in a previous post, there has been a little flurry of mentions of Hong Kong cricket on cricinfo and Patrick Kidd's Line and Length blog. For the past 22 months Hong Kong has been my home and for 21.5 of those Hong Kong University CC has been my cricket club. Since the pool of players here in HK is small, I reckon I've played either with or against the vast majority of the HK squad and from my lowly point of view from way down the cricketing ability ladder, they look very good indeed. One of them, Hussain Butt is the best player I've ever played with (which leads to a potential Cricket Burble discussion - who's the best player you have ever had on your side?) - the amount of time he appears to have to play the ball is insulting to fast bowlers everywhere. He hit the headlines a few years ago for hitting 311* in 35-over match, with 36 sixes. I'm just glad he's on my side!

Lack of suitable space (anything that is not a mountain or sea probably already has an apartment block on it) restricts to Hong Kong to having just six grounds, of which only two, the wealthy HKCC and Kowloon CC, have natural pitches. Even the grounds themselves are restricted - HKU has a straight boundary of some 40 yards - and this means the cricket played is different to that back home. The first over of the first match I played went for 24 (and no, I wasn't bowling). The rewards for an aggressive shot are magnified - middle it and you get six, mistime it slightly and you probably have six anyway. Consequently, 'horrible' swipes across the line are valuable shots. It was noticeable when we hosted a touring English team last summer that their techniques were almost too good - while they patted a good length ball back the bowler or caressed a half-volley through the covers flawlessly along the ground for two, a local player would wind up and try to smack the thing into orbit. In the end, we won (against a team who were roughly the same standard as us) by 170 runs. Of course, the fact that they were all monstrously hung over from the previous night's shenanigans in Wanchai probably worked to our advantage!

PS - tickets for the Hong Kong Sixes in November are available this week. If you want a cheaper version of the Hong Kong Sevens with 100% less rugby and infinity% more cricket, then look no further!

7 October 2008

Obesity experts condemn Australian KFC sponsorship

Yes, apparently Cricket Australia have done wrong in accepting the money from KFC and promoting them as their sponsors.

I think they've slightly missed the point there. Next they'll be calling for a ban to advertising of anything that can be deemed to possibly add weight!

The purpose of the sponsorship is to increase the proportion of fast food sales that KFC enjoys. And if total fast food consumption goes up slightly as a result of the campaign, then are KFC and Cricket Australia really to blame? Everyone has the ability to make decisions for themselves and Cricket Australia have nothing to apologise for.

The greater the sponsorship investment, the more Cricket Australia can encourage involvement in cricket, and that would - in my opinion - outway any possible obesity concerns given that involvement = exercise = less obesity.

6 October 2008

Cricketing jobs

There are a couple of cricketing jobs out there at the moment for Cricket Burble readers to peruse....

Chief Executive at Sussex
Sponsorship Manager for the ECB

Good luck! :-)

5 October 2008

The answer to Australia's spin bowling woes?

It's common knowledge that Australia are struggling a little for quality spin bowling now that Shane Warne has retired. But there is a partial solution to their problem that hasn't been explored. Regular Cricket Burble readers will remember my frustration that Michael Vaughan didn't bowl himself more - the value of his bowling was clear for all to see at the 2007 World Cup and yet when England toured Sri Lanka the following winter, his bowling was hardly used - he allowed himself 3 overs only.

Now Australia find themselves in an uncomfortable position. (In the spin bowling department rather than their tour game as it looks like Yuvraj Singh's rediculously late declaration has left that match to be a boring draw). Cameron White is joining the squad now that Bryce McGain has had to leave the tour through injury. Yes, it's possible that White could take wickets, but I don't think there are many observers who will be staking money on that given his career to date. And given his match figures of 0-199 from 31 overs in the latest tour match, it would appear that Jason Krezca is unlikely to take wickets or keep it tight too. So Australia face the uncomfortable prospect of entering a Test match in spin-friendly conditions with only Michael Clarke to bowl threatening spin and that creates issues, as he has back problems that apparently can be exacerbated by long spells of bowling.

Yet one possible answer to this problem already exists within the current Australian squad - Simon Katich. The argument made by an Aussie writing in to Cricinfo seems a good one to me, but given that Katich hasn't bowled a single over in this warm up game, it would appear that he is not being considered to bowl. It's long been known at club level for someone not to get a bowl "because you got a good bat", but at Test level? Unlike Kevin Pietersen, who has claimed that he hardly bowls in the nets (what a stupid admission to make if he's going to bowl himself in crucial situations), Katich has said that he continues to practice his bowling regularly, so Australia know where to turn to. He may not take bundles of wickets, but he should be given the chance to show what he can do.

2011 World Cup qualifying hots up

In case you haven't picked up on it as yet, the Division 4 round of the World Cup qualifiers is happening in Tanzania. You can read a little about the background to Tanzanian cricket here.

It seems Hong Kong are the favourites, particularly having beaten Italy in the first round of matches. Also taking part are Afganistan and Jersey - the finalists from Division 5 - who still have their chance to pull off the most unlikely of qualifications into the World Cup proper. The next round - Division 3 - takes place in Argentina in January with the two finalists from this round taking their rightful place there, and the finalists in Argentina will then compete to get into the World Cup in the Division 2 stage. It all seems a long way from The Ashes or the upcoming India v Australia clash, but the ICC have pledged 6% of broadcast revenue to the lower echelons of the game and it would be great to see the quality and quantity of competing nations increase.

One blast from the past who is coaching Hong Kong in this competition is Aftab Habib, formerly of Reading, Middlesex, Leicestershire, Essex and England. It doesn't feel like long ago (although sadly it was) that I was playing club cricket against him in the Thames Valley League when he played for Reading - he scored a slow but valuable 70odd I remember - but only a couple of years after that he was playing for England. He certainly didn't seem that good when we played him. He now harbours ambitions of coaching at County level and why not? I dare say that the sort of player he was who bounced around a few non-pro teams, he's probably done more coaching during his playing days that most others. And the Hong Kong players certainly seem to hold him in high regard judging by this photo.

4 October 2008

Sport forgets cricket again...

Last week I grumbled (again!) that Sport magazine decided not to cover the cricket despite the fact that only one side in the top division was not part of a scrap for either top spot or relegation. Surely they wouldn't ignore cricket for the second week running, now that the winners and losers are known?

Well it appears they have, with the following all getting coverage ahead of cricket: American football, motorcycling, golf, football, motor racing, rugby league, horse racing, baseball, ahtletics, tennis, ice hockey, yachting and climbing (admittedly that was an advertising feature). Cricket's only brief mention was on the "best sport on TV" page with less than 50 words explaining that Austalia will be playing India in the coming week. No season review, nothing.

What has cricket done wrong? I'm no expert in media matters, but I can't believe that Sport wouldn't have covered the end of the County season had it been properly promoted by the cricketing powers that be, offering up appropriate people for interviews. And yet there have been various quotes from Steve Harmison in the press about what it's like to win the County championship with Durham, and he's a well known England star. So that's at least one opportunity that Sport didn't take up. I'm confused!

3 October 2008

Let's hope cricket doesn't get like this....

There are those that say that Twenty20 will take cricket into the football world with massively inflated salaries and the players drinking too much and getting themselves into trouble. Let's hope not. And let's also hope that no cricket manager or coach launches the same tirade that Joe Kinnear has if Twenty20 does take cricket into that world. I have total sympathy for him in as much as we all appreciate that much of what is in the papers is deliberately mis-leading headlines and exaggerations of the truth.

But even the least media-savvy person could work out that verbally abusing the press for more than 10 minutes will not do him any favours!

*If you are under 18, or don't want to hear a lot of swearing, do not click through on the link above.*

1 October 2008

Playing cricket in October

Our esteemed Cricket Burbler Mark Davis has tried valiantly to arrange a game of cricket for this coming weekend - the first weekend of October - "as the last last game was so much fun". But his attempts have been dashed! 14 players and an opposition and nowhere to play the game! It appears that groundsman everywhere - or those volunteers acting as groundsman - take the opportunity to reseed, scarify etc as soon as the last scheduled game is played....

Given the change in the weather over the last decade I wonder if it will always be this way? The last couple of Saturdays have been the best of the year and yet, as a devoted cricket player, my league season was over well before that! Now that I've retired from playing rugby, I don't see anything wrong with playing cricket up until when the clocks go forward in October....a thought for fixture secretary's around the country?!? Anyone else keen?