So Kevin Pietersen is really unhappy and wants to go home. Life is really tough having to spend time in the sunny West Indies and play the occasional game of cricket. Funnily enough he seemed perfectly happy until the IPL was moved and his obligations to England mean he will not be able to play as many IPL games and hence make as much money. Maybe this is the real reason he is unhappy. I am guessing this alleged unhappiness will play out in him spending more time in South Africa making money and less time with England...
Chris Gayle, Dwane Bravo and Fidel Edwards showed today why they are going to be a real threat for the Twenty20 World Cup. Fidel was fast and furious; he scared the England top order and sent the rest into a panic. Dwane continued his comeback trail by destroying the England middle order, taking 4-19 – how the West Indies have missed their talisman. As for Chris Gayle, his innings was simply breathtaking. He took 24 from Mascarenhas‘s only over and made him look like a net bowler – which he effectively is on good wickets. There can have been fewer demonstrations of clean hitting, all around the wicket.
England, of course, was terrible. Beaten inside 15 overs, the batting didn’t seem to have much of a clue and only Flintoff had any control with the ball. They played like amateurs and seem to have perfected the art of mugging themselves. Ian Botham said before the match started ‘It has been a tough winter for England’. A couple of months in the West Indies – he should try it from this end...
West Indies coach John Dyson showed what he was made of yesterday and the insight was not pretty. For the last 50 runs of the West Indies innings the batsmen were complaining about the light. Pollard could hardly face a ball without a squint or a remark. When the end came the match was boiling to a close finish – 27 wanted from 22 balls with 3 wickets remaining – and the crowd was loving it. So, at the first chance Dyson called the chase off at the first chance. No thought for the audience. Cowardice. The TV shot of Dyson calling in the batsmen was interesting because it showed Gayle motionless and looking less than impressed. He wasn’t jumping up to claim a suspect victory, Dyson was. Happily Dyson compounded his cowardice with stupidity by misreading the Duckworth/Lewis sheet.
There have been some remarkable Test débuts recently – People like Phil Hughes and Jason Krezja have turned up and had immediate success. It is almost as if the nervous débutante is a thing of the past. Enter stage left: Bryce McGain who is making his début for Australia against South Africa. Bryce is a leg spinner and is 37 on Wednesday. Yep, almost 37 and he is making his début for Australia. He is only six months younger than Matthew Hayden – you know they guy that had to retire because he was too old. At the end of day two, Bryce’s figures are: 11-2-102-0. Yes, you read that right 11 overs at 9.27. It’s probably worth watching day three because unless he makes a dramatic recovery it is difficult to see him playing a second Test match.
I can be sooo stupid sometimes. Take yesterday for example; in the West Indies v England T20 match England had progressed to 55/1 off 7 overs. At this point I thought to myself “55/1, England might make a decent score here”. Obviously I only said it in my head, saying that sort of thing out-loud results in people pointing and laughing – and that is when there is no one else about. Can you credit it “England might make a decent score”- and I hadn't even had a drink. It ranks alongside other classics such as “Strauss is a natural T20 captain”, “let’s not pick Prior for the game he is suited for”, “I think Amjad Khan may win us the game” and “Spinners? Do they do much in T20?”.
Matt Prior was awarded the man of the match for the Trinidad Test – it wasn’t for his wicket-keeping though. From watching Test cricket for a long time I cannot remember a more inept wicket keeper. To be sure, Gerraint Jones was rubbish and I suppose would push Prior hard in the butter-fingers department. However, Prior reigns supreme when it comes to giving away runs in the form of byes.
At Trinidad and Antigua Prior gave away 90 byes from 1313 runs (6.8% of the runs). West Indies keeper Ramdin on the same pitches gave away 32 byes from 1570 runs (2% of the runs). At Barbados Ambrose let through 15 byes in the West Indies innings of 749 (also 2% of the runs). Prior now has two of the top six highest places in the byes conceded list.
Obviously that does not include the dropped catches, some of which were straight forward.
I have a new system that the ICC could implement for umpire referrals: flip a coin – if it is heads the decision stands. This would have the following advantages:
1. It would be quicker, no more endless replays that show nothing conclusive 2. It could engage the crowd by having a slot machine on the big screen 3. Everyone would understand it 4. No need for arguments about technology 5. It wouldn’t undermine the umpire 6. It would be fairer than the current system
Six good reasons why a coin toss is better than the current system.
Steve Harmison is a bit of an enigma. He has most things going for him. He is six feet four inches (193cm) tall, strong and healthy. He can bowl with real pace, upwards of 90 mph. He has bags of cricketing talent that in 2004 saw him at the top of the ICC world rankings. He is just thirty so has the best part of five years ahead of him on top the world... and yet he cannot even get in the England Cricket Test team. When he does play he is often a disappointment and is out bowled by players who have nowhere near the stature or experience of ‘big Steve’.
In an interview this afternoon England selector James Whitaker was asked how near Harmison came to selection in Trinidad. His reply was telling, he said that instead of talking about Harmison he wanted to talk about Amjad Khan, a man who had worked hard over the past few weeks and was showing commitment to England. He was pressed on Harmison and he said that the back room staff were losing patience with Harmison. This is a pretty sad state of affairs, if Harmison is not mentally committed to being the best cricketer he can be he should not be on tour for England – in the west Indies on a secure 5K a week. This situation has not just happened, there have been question marks over Harmison’s commitment to training ever since the 2006 tour to Australia. Why has the management taken such a player on tour... again? I am sure there are plenty of bowlers who would love to be in his position.
According to the UK Home Office one in every nine people living in the UK were not born in the UK. How does this statistic measure up against the current England Cricket team?
Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior were born in South Africa. Owais Shah was born in Pakistan and Amjad Khan was born in Denmark. That is five out of eleven, or 45.4% of the current England side were born out of the UK. I am not sure what the record is for ‘most people born outside a Test side’s catchment’ is but I bet the current England side is not far away from it...
The umpire referral system has come under quite a bit of justifiable criticism. The two Test matches currently under way have been full of referral incidents – very few of which have showed the system in a good light. The players in interview seem to dislike the system and some commentators have called for it to be stopped. Personally I think the system in some form must stay. We need a system that will reverse obvious miscarriages: the LBW that pitches outside leg-stump, the LBW that has a big snick into the pad, the caught behind that clearly misses the bat or the bat-pad that misses the bat by some distance. How do we get from where we are now to a system that people are happy with?
Firstly a few observations about the current system:
A batsman never thinks he is out. Batting is a difficult profession made more difficult by the fact that the innings can end on any delivery. Batsmen will try anything to avoid getting out, including using a referral when they are clearly out – as Pietersen showed on Friday.
A bowler always thinks it is out. Graeme Smith’s first ball in the second innings was clearly not LBW. It hit him outside off stump and moved away – and yet Australia insisted on a referral. In Ryan Sidebottom’s first over today (Sunday) to Sarwan he appealed to a ball that clearly pitched outside leg stump. It was, of course, turned down so they asked for a referral. Same result.
Darryl Harper is a poor third umpire. He gave Chanderpaul out on replay when it was fairly clear on all replays that it way too high. He also turned over the not-out decision in favour of Brendan Nash when there was no good reason to.
The current system is not very well implemented because no one seems to know what is going on. There is scope for keeping the crowd informed (novel idea I know) and creating some drama. At present a referral seems to take an age with no one having a clue what is happening.
Some have suggested that it is the umpire that should instigate a referral at his discretion. While I think umpires should be able to refer to the third umpire there is a flaw in this as a general principle: if the umpire thinks it is out when an LBW pitches outside leg-stump then, as he has already made the mistake and he is not going to refer it. Umpires always want to make the correct judgement; if they think the decision is correct – they are not going to ask someone else.
A few recommendations:
Let the on-field umpires talk to the third umpire about anything – it’s ridiculous to prevent them from talking freely. There are rules about what the on-field umpire can or cannot ask the third umpire -- how daft is that?
Allow the third umpire to use any and all technology available. The fact that the third umpire cannot see a Hawkeye track – but I can see it - is silly. Umpires can be told to take the prediction with caution.
Give the third umpire lots of training. Umpires are used to making decisions on-field. Sitting in a room full of TV monitors is a different situation and umpires should receive lots of training in the differences – I am guessing they do not (from the mistakes they make)
Enshrine the principle that ‘The on-field umpires make the decision and they can only be over-ruled when a clear mistake has been made’. This has been followed ad-hoc.