30 December 2014

No surprise that Dhoni has retired from Tests

Funnily enough I found myself wondering why MS Dhoni was still playing Tests earlier in the Australia/India series - he's now made the decision to retire from Tests with immediate effect.   He had to miss the 1st Test but it didn't feel there was any great clamour to get him into the side - there was a clear contrast to Michael Clarke who was pictured working with the physio a lot desperately trying to get himself fit.   Clearly an element of that is the way the Western media portrays the two captains, but I couldn't help thinking that in Tests Dhoni is an also-ran where as in ODIs and Twenty20s he's a match winner.   

In ODIs and Twenty20s Dhoni's captaincy also seems to suit the game - the batsmen can't defend for long periods.   In Tests Dhoni's "wait for the batsman to make a mistake" style of captaincy doesn't work, particularly against the tail.   There was an interesting tweet from Andy Zaltzman last night - at that point Australia's first 6 wickets had averaged 44 per wicket against India's 52.4, while wickets 7-10 had averaged 62.4 for Australia versus 14.1 from India's lower order.   I'd love to see the analysis of that over a number of captain's careers - I suspect Dhoni would come off very unfavourably, and I don't think Alastair Cook would fare too well either.

Another potential benefit for the game as a whole, not to mention the Indian team, is that Dhoni has never got behind the use of the umpire review system.   Given that some wrong decisions have gone against India in this series, I wonder if Dhoni was under pressure internally to change his stance and accept it.   One of his strengths is that he has a clear view of things and stays true to that vision - that may be to his detriment on DRS given that his original stance (that it wasn't 100% accurate) didn't reflect the overwhelming cricket majority who just want to see more correct decisions, however they're made.

Kohli's ready so Dhoni can concentrate on the form of the game he appears to enjoy more.   Journalists can look forward to more exciting press conferences, and Dhoni can concentrate on ODIs and Twenty20.   He'll be around one month away from his 38th birthday when the 2019 World Cup is played in England so that could be a realistic aim now he's not playing Tests, but equally Dhoni may feel that he's done enough - he certainly doesn't need to play any format of cricket for the money.

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6 October 2014

Difficult to know what to make of KP claims

Obviously I haven't read it and I'm not rushing out to buy Kevin Pietersen's book.   But it's almost impossible to avoid the analysis of the points he raises.   The character assassination of Matt Prior is a bit of a surprise given that it's often been quoted how Prior made the first move in getting him back into the team after the textgate scandal.   And Graeme Swann has made that point in his initial view of the book as "a work of fiction".
Jonathan Agnew has also made the point that he wouldn't have come back into the team after textgate but for Flower's support.   So it's difficult to square the Pietersen account with the reality.   That said, my personal view is that it's unlikely to be invented in it's entirety.   We tend to assume that things remain the same within a team environment, but that's not the case.   Prior could have been a great team man during the period when he was on the up and an increasingly brooding presence lashing out at others as his personal performances dropped considerably to the point when even his greatest supporters would agree he had to be dropped.
And we also know that the bowlers were petulant every time someone misfielded - we all saw that from the TV pictures.   And the commentators all commented on how it was over the top.   So his comment that fielders were asked to apologise to the bowlers for mistakes doesn't seem particularly unlikely.   (Having said that, I automatically apologise to the bowler when I screw up in the field - doesn't everyone?)
One point that I definitely have some sympathy for Pietersen on is the question of wanting his wife and child on tour with him for the whole tour.   Everyone's different and to him it was key, so surely it was in England's interests to facilitate that for any player that wanted that.   There's no debate about how professional he was - he turned up on time and trained hard at all times - surely what he does and who he has with him outside of those times is (a) up to him and (b) in England's best interests to get right.   It's an issue that won't go away, unless of course Andrew Strauss is right and Test cricket is marginalised to such an extent that tours shorten considerably.
Equally, I totally disagree with Pietersen that anyone could have coached England during the period they got to number 1.   He suggested that they were that good that the coaching role wasn't important - I've always thought the opposite.   In the historical context of great teams like the West Indians in the times of Clive Lloyd or the Australian's under Steve Waugh, England were distinctly average and yet they made it to number 1, albeit for a very short time.   That was a victory for the sum of their parts rather than individuals, although Pietersen's right to point to his number of man-of-the-match awards.   He could undoubtedly win games of cricket for England that without him they couldn't have entertained thoughts of winning.
So the jury's out, for me at least.   Over time a consensus will presumably be reached on how much of Pietersen's book is true, how much is an exaggeration, and how much is pure fabrication.   I only hope that it's objectively assessed and that some attempt is made to see if what he says has elements of truth, or if elements of his book are entirely truthful.   If the concensus comes from what the (anti-Pietersen) majority want to think rather than the reality, that will be an extension of the bullying that he claims was so prevalent.
I don't believe that it's entirely fiction, no matter what Graeme Swann would have us think.   What will be interesting now is the reaction in the coming days, weeks and even months and years, as Pietersen's right - players under contract will not criticise the ECB.
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30 September 2014

Is any one else amused.................

that Yorkshire has a player called Ballance and one called Leaning ?
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21 September 2014

Limited media careers

 I suppose it's because I used to drink with the secretary of The Institute of Journalists that I'm very aware of the occasionally acrimonious debate about the relative merits of ex-sportsmen and trained journalists as reporters and commentators ( some of course - Benaud, Agnew for example - are both) and there now seems to be a new debate.
This is about the criticism that newly retired players make of their recent colleagues. Clearly Swann has upset his old mate Jimmy Anderson and Vaughan's pop at Trott was just crass (and I expect he now regrets it).

Whilst I accept that to report on anything properly you need to be able to give criticism, my own view (limited  by being neither a trained writer or an ex-pro) is that Swann has a limited career in the media - once he's another year or so away from being able to give us insight from the players viewpoint he'll be struggling. And as for Vaughan, I'm hugely disappointed ; he seems to veer from the bleeding obvious to the " nothing is as good as Yorkshire" line. Perhaps he's after Boycott's title.
The answer is simple - Charlie Dagnall, no one could ever fault his enthusiasm.

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19 September 2014

Gale harshly treated

There was all that stuff written about how Andrew Gale wasn't allowed to lift the County Championship trophy because of his various disciplinary issues, so I assumed he'd done something serious and didn't really think more about it.   It turns out his exchange with Ashwell Prince was as follows (as reported by The Telegraph):

Gale moved himself in the field in an attempt to squeeze in one further over. He moved closer to Prince who is alleged to have told him to “f*** off back to cover point.” Gale responded by saying “Well you can f*** off back to your own country you Kolpak f*****.
Calling someone a Kolpak is not racist.   It's just not, no matter how some over paid lawyer may argue it.   If as an Englishman I was called a f****** pommie bastard, I wouldn't consider it rude in any way....it's a statement of fact that I'm a pom.   It's a slang description rather than an insult and if I played cricket in Australia I would expect a bit of "f*** o** back to England" type conversations.   Ashwell Prince is indeed a Kolpak as he's South African and represented South Africa in 66 Test matches.

Apparently the umpires reported the "incident" which makes me assume it was the worst thing said in the whole game (which would seem incredibly unlikely).   I'm all for umpires cracking down on sledging if they want to but at the time on the pitch and on all abusive sledging, not just arbitrary interjections/reports.

Once again though, by getting into the slanging match, Gale made it less likely he'd get the wicket he was looking for.   As I've discussed before about sledging, why say things that will make the batsman all the more determined not to get out?

I'm never surprised by strange legal rulings because they happen so regularly, but I hope that this isn't one of them and Gale is cleared of using racist language.   If he is guilty of using abusive language then of course Prince is too but use of a swear word is not something that can justifiably called abuse unless the cricketing authorities make that clear at the start of the season and are consistent in taking action every single time a swear word is used (which will never happen).

What a sorry end to the season for the ECB.

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6 September 2014

Watching cricket isn't always enjoyable

It's accepted that we are all addicts on planet cricket but when we care about the result it's often very painful to watch cricket. And this is always more true when our side is batting since there is always the fear that a wicket will be lost to the next ball. This is why great innings for your side are better in hindsight than live and why your side's batting innings is always the most difficult part for the captain (particularly a bowling captain who can do little about a crisis). So today, still injured, I have to decide what games to watch. My club's 1st XI is on the brink of promotion but what if they fall short?

So I think I'll head down to another local club who are equally close to promotion but where there is no downside for me if they fail. And their bar will be open. Unless. of course James Taylor is batting at the time ( what has he done to make him so ignorable by the England selectors?)

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26 August 2014

Women's cricket on the up despite the Test loss to India

You may or may not have noticed that it's been announced that the England women's rugby 7s team squad has turned professional, following in the footsteps of the England women's cricket team.   Isn't it great that women's sport is finally starting to catch up in some of the traditionally male dominated team sports!   Good to know my girls will have the option to play rugby or cricket professionally if they're good enough and if they choose to!

To get an idea of just how far women's cricket has come over the last couple of decades this interview with Clare Connor and Charlotte Edwards is a good read.   It's clearly not ideal that they lost their first Test as pros to India, but things are going in the right direction.   The next challenge for England's women is to make sure the handover between Charlotte Edwards and her successor - whenever that may be - is as smooth as the handover from Connor to Edwards.

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21 August 2014

Two 23 year-olds struggling to make it in first class cricket

Azeem Rafiq, it was announced last week, will be leaving Yorkshire at the end of the season in search of 4 day and one day cricket after Yorkshire only used him for Twenty20 this year.   That seems amazing to me.   I can understand that he may not always play in the 4 day team as they may choose sometimes to go seam-heavy and use Adil Rashid as the only spinner to support them, but in ODI cricket his non-selection is a bit of a puzzle.

At 23 Rafiq still has time on his side but he'll need to pick his next County well.   I wonder if Sussex will go after him.   They're short of a spinner and have had to resort to taking James Tredwell on loan this year...plus they also resurrected Panesar's career not so long ago (before he hit self-destruct).

Another youngster leaving his County for altogether different reasons is Chris Jones of Somerset.   Despite a glorious century against the visiting Australian's last summer, Jones hasn't quite been able to translate potential into results and has decided to stop trying.   He's going to go into the world of proper work....which must be a wrench for anyone who has put so many years into pursuing a cricket career.   He's not the first (Alex Loudon comes to mind) and he won't be the last, but what a pity.

Good luck to both of them.

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Bopara so so unlucky

Having talked about an Aussie who is clearly very unlucky not to get picked for his country, now we come to Ravi Bopara of England.   I couldn't quite get my head around it when I heard that he'd been left out of England's ODI squad for the India series, as we start the run in to next year's World Cup.   I thought it was very strange to rest a key player with so few matches to go before the competition.

As I checked for why he was left out (was he carrying an injury?) I was amazed to read that he was dropped.   The England selectors don't think he's good enough apparently.   But they do think that the likes of Woakes and Stokes are good enough.   I'm at a loss.   Ashley Giles seemed surprised too, but there was very little in the way of an outcry.   Why not?

For me Bopara is a solid ODI player whose place shouldn't be in doubt.   He's a player who with different handling could have been playing in all 3 formats for a decade, but sadly things haven't worked out that way.   He gets shoved all over the place in the order and in his latest slot around 7 he often batted when England were all but out of the game needing 12 an over, or didn't get in.   His bowling has often been better than his specialist team mates, despite the fact that batting is his primary skill.

So I'd be picking him every time in the Collingwood role batting 5 or 6 and bowling most or all of his 10 overs.   His ODI stats stack up very favourably compared to Stokes and Woakes - don't believe me?   Check them out below:

Batting av 31, strike rate 78.
Bowling av 37, economy rate 4.88.

Batting av 23, strike rate 73.
Bowling av 37, economy rate 5.66.

Batting av 14, strike rate 72.
Bowling av 31, economy rate 5.7.

Bad luck Ravi.   I hope you get back in for the World Cup or otherwise we won't be playing our strongest side.

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Phil Hughes - unlucky in the extreme

When you live on the other side of the world it's fairly easy to come to the conclusion that Australian batsman Phil Hughes is pretty ordinary and just can't cut it against quality bowling.   Perhaps he had a golden start to Test cricket but he's been found out since and was never truly Test class.

This piece made me wonder though - is he the Aussie Ramprakash or Hick?   Some of the stats quoted make him look like a world-beater but he doesn't seem to get any prolonged chance to make a position in the Australian team his own.   On the basis of all his runs in state cricket, I hope he gets another go...he's still young.

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How's about this as a Xmas present for an art loving cricket fan?

I'd like to say that we already have a Jack Russell painting on our wall but the reality is that the painting we have of our wedding venue Durrants sits in the backroom.   As it has cricketers in the foreground the painting is apparently terrible and must never see the light of day!

For those that are a little more understanding about paintings including cricketers, perhaps this Jack Russell collection could work as a Xmas present for some?   It's not just paintings....there's over 40,000 words of recollections from the grounds painted.

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4 August 2014

Tom Alsop playing for England Under 19s

Only a couple of weeks ago, Ravi Patel, and old boy of Merchant Taylors' School, was called up by England Lions for their forthcoming one-day series.   Those affiliated to OMTCC, for whom I played for over 20 years, will also be interested to see who is batting at 6 for England Under-19s in their current match versus South Africa.   None other than Phil Alsop's son Tom Alsop, who has graduated from playing for Hampshire 2nd XI and moved into the Under 19 team.
In his first innings Tom scored 40 off 80 balls so not a bad return and hopefully enough to ensure he retains his place for the 2nd Test starting Thursday.   Phil reports (via Facebook) that watching his son play for England Under 19s was truly priceless.   Good luck to Tom for the 2nd innings if he gets a knock and for the 2nd Test.
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30 July 2014

The laws of cricket explained by Stephen Fry

We've all been there....trying to explain the laws of cricket to someone that starting from zero knowledge.   It's tough to say the least....but here's some great videos to help you!   Stephen Fry has narrated a series of short videos to help explain the laws of cricket.   They're currently being road-tested with Steyning skipper David Kennett's new girlfriend so I'll let you know if she's fully up to speed by the end of the season....

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24 July 2014

Ravi Patel called up by England Lions

Only last week on tour with the OMTs did the subject of England's spinner come up.   Although I think Moeen Ali has done a fantastic job considering he's had missed chances by Prior and been rarely used by Cook, the fact remains that England would love a specialist world class spinner.   I suggested that you have to be a pretty special off-spinner not to get carted in world cricket given that there tends to be more right-handed than left-handed batsmen.   So we started thinking about who could be considered for the role of a spinner who turns it away from the right-hander and someone suggested Ravi Patel.   I think the suggestion came more from the fact that he is an OMT (Old Merchant Taylor) rather than really thinking he could get picked, but I definitely didn't rule it out.

It's definitely a big surprise that Ravi's been called up to the Lions today though.   It will be fascinating to see how he does if he plays.   It's 50 over cricket he's been selected for rather than a 4-day game, but it's still interesting that he's getting a look in given his inexperience.

Good luck fella.

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21 July 2014

Shot selection all wrong

Alastair Cook said to Mark Nicholas that people were probably quite happy watching the England players hook and pull when it went between the fielders.   I wasn't!   Some were more controlled than others for sure, but there were plenty of shots played that were too risky for a Test where you've got 2 sessions to bat.   So no, at no time was I celebrating those hook and pull shots Alastair.   I had my head in my hands knowing that the inevitable would happen and unless they were more selective a wicket would fall.   Little did I know that it wouldn't be one wicket, but three!

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Prior gone

Prior has apparently quit cricket for the rest of the summer to try to get fit....it's on Sky TV but not even on Cricinfo yet.

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Difficult to believe...

If I hadn't watched England get out to 3 pull/hook shots in the last 15 minutes I wouldn't have believed it possible for international batsmen to use so little brain. Cook must be fuming - his captaincy is made to look particularly poor because opposition batsmen don't obligingly hit the ball to our fielders. Yet England's do.

The writing was on the wall before Prior was out. He tennis shotted a 4 from way above his head. It was high risk but came off that time. If he carried on like that it was only a matter of time before he was out, and so it proved.   If that's Prior's last England innings it was a sad way to go.

Someone needs to tell England that it is ok to sway out of the way of the short ball!

England captaincy debate continues....

Interesting to hear the debate on TMS about who could replace Alastair Cook should he go as captain - if it happens wouldn't England have been in a so much better position had they picked James Foster from the start of the summer so that he could have stepped into the captaincy role?   What a pity they didn't go with my selection!   Having said that England would have missed out on their top Test run scorer this summer if they'd not picked Root!

Mike Selvey mentioned Chris Read as a possible keeper/captain but he's a couple of years older than Foster so for me Foster's the man.   Sounds like Jos Buttler will take the keeping slot and Cook will continue as captain but time will tell....

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Jadeja taking too many risks

It's always interesting to observe how the media report on the success or failure of different batsman and yesterday was no different.   Binny was of course reckless in trying to hit Moeen Ali over the top when on 0.   Jadeja on the other-hand played a brilliant counter-attacking innings.   They both did the same thing - i.e. try to hit over the top before they were set - but Jadeja got lucky with the ball skewing past point, where as Binny didn't.

With the game still in the balance at that point, both were crazy shots.   Jadeja's career average of 22 prior to this match is perhaps explained by a lack of appropriate shot selection - he clearly has the talent to average far higher.   To put that in context Tim Bresnan averages 26 and Stuart Broad 24.

Possibly the worst shot played by Jadeja and Binny yesterday was Jadeja's shot to get out.   Coming down the wicket and skying a hook just when India could have pushed on to 350+ ahead and ruled out an unlikely England win.   It's one thing to get out before getting set, but another to pretty much give your wicket away when on 68.

So while effective, for me Jadeja's innings was chancy and over-attacking for the situation.   If I was England I'd be hoping he bats like that every innings.   He'll rightly take the plaudits for this knock but he'd better get used to a lot of low scores if he continues to bat like that.

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19 July 2014

Moeen Ali's attitude to his first ball

There's much to like about Moeen Ali and the way he's approached Test cricket.   He looks unphased and, but for some poor support from fielders and captain alike, his bowling would have been getting many more plaudits than it has done.   Given the lack of other options, for me Ali should be England's spinner throughout the summer and he should be used as a front line bowling option by Cook.

But after all those positives, there's one thing that worries me about Ali and that's the way he plays his first ball when he comes in against spinners.   Against Sri Lanka he came down to Herath first ball and hit him over the top for 4.   Next ball he was out playing a loose drive.

Yesterday he came in against Jadeja and hit over wide mid-on first ball.   It was a terrible shot.   It doesn't matter that it was successful - it will come off sometimes but it's way too high a risk to come in and hit a length ball over the top first ball against world class spinners.

I hope someone gets hold of him and he weighs up his risk/reward a little better in future.

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Lack of UDRS mars series....predictably!

Anyone that knows me probably knew this post was coming!   Once again the BCCI have proven themselves to be more stubborn then sensible, and in doing so there is the risk of some career-ending wrong decisions.   It only needs Cook or Prior to get bad ones over the rest of the summer and it could wreck a hard-worked for career.

There's too many wrong decisions in the series already to list them all, but it would be interesting to know how the umpires are feeling.   I'd be surprised if they prefer to have their howlers upheld with everyone knowing that it's a wrong decision before the batsman has even got to the changing room.

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4 July 2014

Master striker Mark Davis

Clearly Cricket Burble hero Mark Davis is a little too shy to promote his batting capabilities, so it's left to me to promote them for him.   For Herts 60+ 3rd XI, Mark's strike rate is a phenomenal 175 leaving him comfortably top of the strike rate standings! (at least until he next bats!)

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29 June 2014

Controversy at Steyning in the 2nd XI

After the 1st XI away game had been washed out on Saturday we went back and watched the end of the 2nd XI game v Wisborough Green.   Chasing 155, Steyning had to come off after about a dozen overs or so due to a shower and then again after 24 overs, by which time it looked like a game that Steyning were highly likely to win.   Needless to say the Wisborough skipper was reluctant to continue after the second rain break and he suggested that the conditions were dangerous.   
Part of his argument was that one of his players, fielding at gully, had been hit flush on the side of the head shortly before the second shower came.   His suggestion was that the conditions had caused the player to get hit, but the reality was that the player simply shouldn't have been fielding there - most players on the pitch would have caught it, or at the very least dropped it having got their hands to it.   That he didn't was a reflection of his skill rather than the conditions.

To make matters worse, Wisborough had no umpire which left the decision making down to the sole umpire from Steyning.   Not surprisingly he had the Steyning side in his ear suggesting play continue and the Wisborough skipper suggesting it shouldn't!

In the end, the Wisborough captain conceded the game rather than continue which seemed a very strange decision.   He was still suggesting that the conditions were too dangerous to play, so I took a few photos of the conditions, complete with clock so it's clear that at least another hour of play would have been  possible.

 From the square
 From the clubhouse
 One wicket end
And the other!

The question no one was quite able to answer was why you'd choose voluntarily to spend much of your Saturday playing cricket but then suddenly not want to play part way through.   The likelihood of losing surely doesn't answer that one because he conceded the points anyway so theoretically the Wisborough skipper must have genuinely thought it was too dangerous to play.   If so, he was very wrong, which the photos demonstrate.

However it came about, a good win for Steyning 2s, who are top of their league.

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