Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Do England's Selectors do anything?

Wikipedia has this entry:

"In many sports, a selection panel consist of selectors who choose teams or individuals to represent a country or club in sporting competitions."

I had a sneeking suspicion that England's Test selectors don't actually do much selecting so I went through the Test records for the past couple of years to find out. In the table below you can see the selection changes made to the England batting line-up since the last Ashes Test 2005. The astonishing fact is that there have been virtually no other players selected than those that played in that famous Oval Test. Virtually all the personnel changes have been because of injury. The line-up that has just played at Old Trafford is the same as the one that played in the 1st Test in New Zealand and the 2nd against West Indies (2007) and with the addition of Andrew Flintoff (who could very well have been playing) is the same line-up that played the first Ashes test in 2006.

The truth is that despite England's general poor form with the bat no-one gets dropped for it and the cosy club of Strauss, Bell, Cook, Pietersen, Collingwood and Vaughan seem to somehow to deflect the blame for England's poor results onto the bowlers. Surely these six players cannot have been the best in England for the best part of three years?

England v Australia 5th Test
Trescothick, Strauss, Vaughan, Bell, Pietersen, Collingwood, Flintoff

England in Pakistan, 2005-06 (0-2)
1st Test (Lost): Vaughan injured, no batting replacement
2nd Test (Drawn): Vaughan replaces Collingwood
3rd Test (Lost): no change

England in India, 2005-06 (1-1)
1st Test (Drawn): Collingwood replaces injured Vaughan, Cook replaces Trescothick (left tour)
2nd Test (Lost): no change
3rd Test (Won): Shah replaces Cook (Illness)

England v Sri Lanka 2006 (1-1)
1st Test (Drawn): Trescothick, Strauss, Cook, Pietersen, Collingwood, Flintoff. Trescothick and Cook replace Shah and Bell
2nd and 3rd Test, no change

England v Pakistan 2006 (3-0)
1st Test (Drawn): Bell replaces Flintoff (Injured)
2nd, 3rd, 4th Test, no change

England in Australia 2006-07 (0-5)
1st Test (Lost): Strauss, Cook, Bell, Collingwood, Pietersen, Flintoff. Flintoff comes in an Trescothick left the tour so not a like-for-like.
2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th Tests (Lost), no change

England v West Indies 2007 (3-0)
1st Test (Drawn): Strauss, Cook, Shah, Pietersen, Collingwood, Bell. Shah in, Flintoff injured.
2nd Test (Won): Vaughan for Shah
3rd and 4th Test: no change

England v India 2007 (0-1)
No changes from 3rd and 4th Tests against West Indies

England in Sri Lanka 2007-08 (0-1)
1st Test (Drawn): Cook, Vaughan, Bell, Pietersen, Collingwood, Bopara. Bopara in. Strauss was dropped for "Strauss needs to recover his best form and he has not been included in the squad on this occasion."
2nd and 3rd Test, no change

England in New Zealand 2007-08 (2-1)
1st Test (Lost): Cook, Vaughan, Strauss, Pietersen, Bell, Collingwood. Strauss was selected despite playing no cricket since being dropped
2nd and 3rd Test: no change

England v New Zealand 2008 (1-0)
1st and 2nd Test: no change, same line-up that played in 1st Test of New Zealand tour

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Not particularly bad light stops play

Cricket watchers were short-changed on the first day of the Test match between England and New Zealand at Old Trafford yesterday. There was no issue with the cricketers on show, there was some excellent play with New Zealand’s innings ebbing and flowing one way and then another. The problem was the umpiring and specifically their decision to offer ‘the light’ shortly after tea. Once taken there was no real chance it could improve enough to play again. From my position in E-stand the light had become no worse, and was no worse, than at any other time during the day. The light at that time and for at least an hour afterwards, was perfectly playable. In my view the umpires were simply wrong in their assertion that the light was too bad to play in. Don’t get me wrong, the light was not fantastic but it was perfectly playable and the spectators got a raw deal. The umpires, Darrel Hair and Simon Taufel, are both Australian and I wonder if their decision was influenced by the fact that most of their cricket would be in bright Australian light rather than battleship grey English summer days.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Kolpak, sounds a bit South African to me

There has been a lot of news and discussion about the number of ‘Kolpak’ players playing in English County Cricket -- but what is a Kolpak player?

The United Kingdom is part of the European Union (EU) which is a political and economic union of twenty-seven member states. One of the principles of the EU is a guarantee of free movement of people, trade, services and capital. This means that any EU resident can work for any European company, including county cricket clubs and that it is illegal to discriminate against people of any member state.

South Africa is not in the EU, so... what has all this EU stuff got to do with South Africans playing in England? In 2003, Maroš Kolpak took the German Handball Federation to the European Court of Justice because he had been discharged from his German handball club because they had a non-EU player quota system. Maroš is from Slovakia which (at the time) was not part of the EU. His argument was that as he was allowed to work in the EU he should be allowed to work for whomever he liked. The Court of Justice found in Kolpak’s favour and ruled that any person who is allowed to work in the EU from a country that has an Associate Trade Agreement with the EU (like Slovakia) must be treated the same as an EU citizen. This has become known as the Kolpak ruling. South Africa have an Associate Trade Agreement with the EU and so if a South African cricketer has a work permit he can legally play for a country cricket team without breaking any ‘non-EU’ player rules.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Fairly Even at St John's Wood

There seems to be a bit of a feeling that New Zealand managed a draw with the help of the weather. However, the match position at the end of the Test match looked, to me at least, that New Zealand was in a good position. New Zealand were effectively 227-6 after England’s small lead was taken into account and very few test matches are won chasing 250 or more. England might be quite glad there was not another day left in the Test match.

It was good to see Vaughan have a return to form; he has told a good number of interviewers that he was in good form and going to make runs. It is a risky strategy but it could be that he thrives on pressure - he certainly seems to produce his best when it matters. He made his test début in the most trying of circumstances: a very green wicket and White Lightning (Allan Donald) at his fearsome best. Now there was a quick bowler, his side-kick wasn’t bad either – Shaun Pollock. Vaughan batted at number four and within twelve deliveries was at the crease. Five deliveries later and England had lost four wickets for two runs. I had to leave the house at this point to take my lad to school, fully expecting (even more) carnage when I got back – but no. With Chris Adams (also on début) he had steadied the ship a little and made 33, which, out of the 122 total was an impressive return for the débutante. Donald finished with 6-53 and match figures of 11-127.

Donald on the Rampage

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Roll off the covers and on with the clouds

I must admit that I am not that big a fan of English county cricket, or as it is now known “The Kolpack Cup”. Don’t get me wrong I do watch some county cricket, especially the day/night games televised on Sky, it is just I prefer to watch international games where the non-British players at least have to hang around for a few years before playing for England... After a couple of weeks of glorious weather the first test at Lord’s has been greeted by grey skies and cool temperatures with today’s forecast (Saturday) not looking much better. The game itself was blessed by an impressive display of hitting by Brendan McCullum, whose 97 included a magnificent lofted extra cover drive for six, certainly one of the best shots I have ever seen. McCullum made 96 in his previous Lord’s Test innings – hopefully he will make that Lord’s century at some point.

The MCC World Cricket Committee has released seven statements about the game. This is a panel of ex-cricketers and although they have no official power the weight of their names must have some effect. You can read the full report here; the seven statements concern:

There should be two three-week periods in the year in which will accommodate events such as the IPL.
This seems a sensible suggestion

There is a trend for the bat to dominate over the ball
I think this is a really important issue. Bigger bats, smaller outfields and T20 has made for very exciting batting. However, we must ensure that ‘hitting a 6’ is still a noteworthy event. If we get 20 six hits an innings then I fear that T20’s gloss may fade and people will grow tired of it. People want to see a contest between bat and ball.

Players conduct
I have said plenty about this before

Slow over rates in Test cricket with run penalties if it does not improve
I am not convinced about run penalties but I suppose it may be worth a try.

Getting rid of the ban on home umpires for Test cricket
As all umpires are from the elite panel this makes a lot of sense.

Day/night Test cricket
I think this could be really exciting in countries where the conditions can allow it.

Use of technology in cricket
More technology is going to come; it is just a matter of when.