27 May 2014

Shaky start for Downton

By all accounts, Paul Downton is a good selection for the England Cricket MD position, but I can't say his immediately endeared himself to me in his position.   My memories of his playing days are hazey but in short I remember someone who was picked for his batting rather than his keeping, but generally failed to deliver with the bat.   Of course his playing credentials are irrelevant to his current position, so I was looking forward to seeing how things would go.

The subject that's worried me is Kevin Pietersen.   Not the decision itself, as Pietersen disgraced himself with the whole South Africa/Strauss incident and was lucky to get a second chance, but more the rationale behind the decision.

Downton has said that he went to Sydney for the final game of The Ashes and observed a player that was "disengaged".   I watched a fair bit of it myself and there were a few of Pietersen's colleagues who didn't appear to be 100% either....not a total surprise as they were getting beaten for the fifth time.   Graeme Swann couldn't even be bothered to complete the tour.   But most importantly, I thought the comments from Downton showed a misunderstanding of "ego" players and completely undermined Alastair Cook.   Apparently Pietersen was ok to play when managed by strong people around him, but this was a new team and that was no longer the case.   The inference was that Cook is or was too weak to handle him - not a great statement of confidence in your captain.

I also find it hard to believe that Downton didn't come across players of Pietersen's ilk when playing.   We've all played with them - players who when losing can't be seen to be trying their hearts out because that would imply their best wasn't good enough.   Instead, as it becomes clear they'll lose, those players start to lark about, trying to pass off the inevitable defeat that is hurting them so badly as a trivial event.   It's part of how they manage to stroll out to bat as if they own the stage - when they're at their best they win, they believe.   In club cricket, another trait of these players is their desire to integrate with the opposition after your team has been soundly beaten (and no other time)....it's all part of their attempts not to let a terrible result dent their confidence - they're a winner.

Nevertheless, the decision to sack Pietersen was made and, strangely, a non-disclosure agreement was made between both parties.   At this stage it's difficult to see why that was necessary as Downton says there was no one incident that caused a problem on the tour (it remains to be seen if anything important comes out once the NDA runs out, but Downton appears to be talking pretty candidly despite the NDA).   Pietersen himself has publicly stated that he was not disengaged and has also questioned comments from Downton that he couldn't find one supporter of Pietersen.   Of course, we don't know how the questions were asked as any player wanting an international career was unlikely to say anything that could go against the prevailing attitude and potentially threaten their future selection.   But we do know that two of the players who assumed their international career was over after the tour, Carberry and Tremlett, came out and said that Pietersen hadn't been a problem on the tour.

So while Pietersen's sacking was to a certain extent inevitable, and his performances in Australia certainly did him no favours, Downton's handling of things to date have made me concerned for his potential to be successful in his role.   And while he keeps saying things that are opinions only, Pietersen will continually respond publicly and the team won't be able to move on fully.   It's a pity he appears to be doing his media training on the job rather than before taking such an important role.

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Worth all the effort


Up to now all the Middlesex games at the school have been on the old School First XI pitch but on Sunday we saw T20 cricket on our own pitch and judging by what we saw it's as much a road as we clubbies find it. Very proud and the culmination of 15 years of committee meetings and architects and accountants offices. With a bit of luck the rain will stop in the next three days and we'll be a first class ground. "Where are we playing on Saturday?" "on the County Ground". Only complaint? Doombar! Even better photos than mine, by Jay Blanche here.

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23 May 2014

Life in Kent (2)

............and the bar's quite nice, too! Also helps that one of the team is a brewer.

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Life in Kent

So we're starting to plan retirement which means finding a new cricket club (only for odd games until we actually move in a few years time). Would you go for the club that said "come to the nets and we'll have a look at you" or the one that said " have a pint, this is the Second XI skipper who you'll be playing for"?

No brainer, but interesting that the more upmarket club call themselves the Village.

First game in and the oppo. have two aged slow bowlers (one injured) - feels familiar and we win (great stumping to start my tally).

Second game and we've got a mismatch. All out 30 so the oppo who are very serious "give" us 190 runs so they need 221 in 40 overs and get them. I think they have batsman who practice a very flash leave in the mirror. I've never played handicap cricket before and we only saw two bowlers and 4 batsmen . Fortunately our skipper was shrewd enough to resist the heavy hints at the toss to insert them. But very pretty, as you see.

I think this is going to be fun and Kent Village Cricket League Division 7 starts next week.............

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22 May 2014

And back...

OK, so after a (relatively) brief interlude caused by a combination of work and parenting, I'll be trying to get back to my previous levels of burbling.   So there's a quantity aim, but as anyone that's read Cricket Burble in the past will know, there's no guaranteeing quality.

It's tricky to read too much into England's selections for Twenty20 and ODIs so far.   A lot of people seem to have turned against Michael Carberry - or perhaps that's just the pieces I'm reading - but I'm not sure why.   I'm all for players being given an extended opportunity to show if they can be successful.   If they're not then by all means drop them.   Carberry's been in and out of the ODI team, had one chance at Twenty20 and was no failure at Test level while his more experienced colleagues were failing all around him.

Carberry haters will all be pleased to see that he's not selected in today's ODI.   But it remains to be seen if a top 4 of Cook, Bell, Ballance, Root will have enough quality, dynamism and sheer strength to match Sri Lanka's top 4.   I can't help feeling that England go in a little bottom heavy, given that 5-7 are Morgan, Buttler, Bopara.   I'd much rather see Bopara and Root swap in both Twenty20 and ODI cricket.   

In contrast, Sri Lanka's top 4 looks pretty daunting, but interesting to see that they've gone with 6 bowlers + Dilshan, and they still haven't included Ajantha Mendis.   I can't quite see the logic, but I'm sure it will become clear!

Prediction: Sri Lanka to win with 5 overs to spare by 5 wickets.

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