Monday, 1 August 2011

Ian Bell

Ian Bell has had his fair share of criticism on this blog. Some people didn’t like it, I am not sure why his form was terrible as can be clearly seen on his career graph above which resulted in his average dipping below forty in December 2009. Whatever it is that has happened since then has had a remarkable change in his form and statistics. His career average has gone from 38.9 at the end of 2009 to 47.58 today. In that time he has averaged a very impressive 84.6. His record this English summer is remarkable having made 566 runs at an average of 113. So may it continue.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Stop wasting time

Ever since I started watching cricket on TV on issue has raised its head time and time again: over rates. Hardly a match or two goes by without someone remarking that the over-rate is poor. So it was at Lords earlier in the week with India getting the criticism. Here are a few measures which would help:

1. Stop people moving behind the bowlers arm. It’s amazing this not only happens but it happens a lot. The administrators spend months planning some test matches. They fiddle with all sort until every little thing is perfect. We get four balls into a match and DOH, people can move behind the bowlers arm. It is ridiculous. Stop them; prevent them from being there; threaten them with expulsion. something. Sachin Tendulkar had lots of problems on Monday with people moving behind the bowlers arm and it wasted quite a bit of time. He shouldn’t have had the problem in the first place.

2. Drinks for batsmen. There is a drinks break every hour so why do batsmen have to have a drink or new gloves every ten minutes (yes Graeme Smith I am looking at you)? Make them wait until the hour is up.

3. Injuries to batsmen. This one David Lloyd gets in a lather about. If a batsmen is hurt either through injury or the ball hitting him he should have two minutes to get ready for the next ball. If he isn’t ready he should retire hurt and continue later. Bowlers don’t get a ten minute break if they stub a toe so why should a batsmen. They have plenty of protection- if they get hit it should be “get ready or retire hurt”. If they need a runner then they should either come out with one at the start of their innings or session.

4. Stop wicket keepers bowling. This doesn’t happen much but it did happen at Lords and wasted lots of time. If the wicket keeper wants to bowl then someone else should keep wicket for that session. We don’t need a protracted swapping of pads in the middle of a session.

5. Don’t go off for light unless it is at the end of the day. It is never that dark in the middle of the day. Sometimes it goes very dark but that is accompanied by lots of rain. The batsmen and fielders should just put up with it. They don’t go off because the ball is swinging a lot, so why for a bit of bad light?

6. Stop fielding substitutes. Players seem to be always leaving and re-entering the field. The substitutes have to swap and be moved into the correct position. Stop it. Don’t allow substitutes and fielders will not leave the field! On Monday I saw Anderson and Broad leaving the field together. That is fine but they shouldn’t get two substitutes there is no way they are injured.

I think that is enough of a rant for now. Does anyone have any more suggestions?

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

DRS takes a leap backwards

So the Indians don’t like the DRS being used for LBWs. I had assumed this was for completely selfish reasons: they believed their batsmen would suffer compared to other countries. Today was a perfect example of this. Sachin Tendulkar and Suresh Raina were both given not-out to balls which were not only clearly out but would have been overturned using the DRS system used against Sri Lanka. Billy Bowden seemed to claim that Raina’s decision was because he had hit it. He didn’t get near hitting it. It was simply a poor decision. We have had 2000 Test matches now and we have a system that can stop these poor decisions and we should be using it.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Party like its 1999

England will host India at Lords on Thursday. This will be the 2000th Test match! The first match now designated as a Test was in March 1877 at the MCG. The 1000th was played between Pakistan and New Zealand in November 1984. Test matches come thick and fast in 2011 and so I wonder how long it will be before the 3000th Test match. Of course that always assumes there is a 3000th Test match and that we are not just playing Twenty20 cricket. I am pretty confident that Test cricket will outlast the Twenty20 fascination mainly because Test matches, by far, produce the best cricket.

A few comments on the last 1999 matches:

A tied Test match is a one in a thousand happening: there have been two (both concerning Australia)

There have only been seven matches abandoned without a ball being bowled. Old Trafford and Dunedin hosted two each. Old Trafford ‘s were prior to World War II.

Only three tests have been won by a side that was made to follow-on. Not unexpectedly the recent two at Headingley and Kolkata are infamous . Australia was on the receiving end of all three turnarounds.

Sachin Tendulkar, who will play in the 2000th Test match, has scored 51 Test centuries. His nearest competitor is Jaques Kallis who has 40.

Muttiah Muralitharan has taken ten wickets in a match 22 times. His nearest competitor is Shane Warne who did it ten times (yes Murali more than doubled Warne’s ten wicket haul count)

Don Bradman has the highest batting average in Tests at an astonishing 99.94. His nearest competitor is currently Jonathan Trott at 62.23. Jonathan will also play in the 2000th Test.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The Rose Bowl: Good wicket, no people

The first ever Test match at The Rose Bowl has ended in a draw. There was some trepidation about the wicket but that was unfounded. Indeed it was a really good Test wicket. Maybe it could have worn a bit more but the weather played its part there. However, there is a big problem: the crowd. Specifically, there wasn’t one. Given that this was the first, and much anticipated, Test in that part of world I expected a full house every day. Ticket prices for Test matches in England are very high – ridiculously so really. However, admission for the last day was £10 and the ground was pretty empty. I don’t know what the official attendance was for the last day but there were stands with much less than fifty percent occupancy. If Hampshire cannot fill their ground there are plenty of other grounds that can.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Pakistan's long wait continues

Pakistan has never won a test match in the West Indies and now they have to win in St Kitts to level the series. West Indies were just about in front for most of the first test, their disciplined bowling and obdurate tail end batting winning them the game. This was the West Indies first win since their remarkable win against England two years ago .

The wicket in Guyana was pretty poor for a test match – variable bounce and plenty of spin on day one – but I don’t think that is a bad thing. There are lots of test matches played on flat wickets where the bat always dominates the ball. It is a refreshing change to see the converse. I am not advocating a policy of producing poor test wickets but I think a bit of variability is a good thing.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Out with the old

The World Cup is over and so, it would appear are quite a few careers. Since the beginning of the competition:

  • Ricky Ponting has resigned as Australian captain
  • Shaun Tate has retired from ODI cricket
  • Daniel Vettori has retired from ODI and Twenty20 International cricket
  • Shoaib Akhtar has retired from Internation cricket
  • Graeme Smith has resigned as captain of the South African ODI and Twenty20 sides
  • Kumar Sangakkarra has resigned as captain of the Sri Lankan ODI and Twenty20 sides
  • Mahela Jayawardene has resigned as vice-captain of the Sri Lankan ODI and Twenty20 sides
  • Muttiah Muralitharan has retired from cricket

There are eight above, does anyone recall others? We have the making of a pretty good ‘Gone XI’.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

India: ICC Cricket World Champions

What a great way to end a great competition. India and cricket are victorious. MS Dhoni take a bow.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

World Cup: one week left

Overall the cricket at the current World Cup has been very good. We have not had too many poor matches. Of the four quarter finals:

West Indies were thrashed by Pakistan and rightly so. Pakistan, like West Indies are a team that can beat anybody one day and lose to anyone the next. Pakistan at least have more ‘good’ days and could easily will the competition.

India beat Australia in a close game that in the end India deserved to win. India have, to quote the Heath government, been walking around the battlefield looking for someone to surrender to. In this match they got their act together. I was really impressed with Australia even though they lost. Not for one minute did they stop trying to win. There is no shame in being beaten by a better side, especially if in doing so you give everything. Australia, and Brett Lee in particular, embodied that. It was good to see such dominant champions going out on their shield.

South Africa has a side that should have won the 2011 world cup. They can beat anyone. Unfortunately that extends to themselves and the serial underachievers did just that. Credit must go to New Zealand who was clever enough to see it coming and exploit it. A World Cup just wouldn’t be a World Cup without a South African choke.

Sri Lanka looks like a side that might be peaking at the right time. Their bowling was superb to restrict England to 229. The Harath, Murali, Mendis, Malinga quartet are superb with the ball; Dilshan and Tharanga similarly so with bat. England looked a tired side at the end of a long set of tours. However, the reality is that they were beaten by a better side.

Roll on the semi-finals. Who will win? Toss a coin.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

After weeks of cricket...

After weeks of cricket, what have we learned about the teams playing in the ICC World Cup:

  1. Pre-tournament favourites India haven’t won a single significant game
  2. Australia haven’t played a significant game
  3. South Africa, for once, has a balanced-ish side
  4. Pakistan can beat anyone (we knew that)
  5. Pakistan can lost to anyone (we knew that)
  6. England are more unpredictable than Pakistan and couldn’t play in a dull match if they wanted

India has sunk pretty much out of sight as favourites for me. Take away Sehwag and Tendulkar and I suspect they wouldn’t have won any matches, let alone qualified for the quarter finals. South Africa look to have a balanced side but they also demonstrated against England that they are still world class chokers. Maybe they can get over that. It is difficult to know much about Australia they have hardly played a competitive game – if nothing else they must be fresh! Personally I think anybody could still win this tournament.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Collingwood takes the blame

We have to have someone to blame for the shambles that has been England’s form against Ireland and Bangladesh. Paul Collingwood seems to be the fall guy. His batting has been, frankly, rubbish for quite a while. He is not deserving of his position in the team and batting him at 8 (yes eight) indicates that the ‘management’ don’t think he is any good either.

Batting at eight – isn’t that where the bowlers usually hide? Collingwood did bowl against Bangladesh and his figures were: 7-0-24-0, which was the most economical English figures (and second most of the match). Against Ireland Collingwood’s economy was only bettered by Swann. So bowling a pretty full complement of 10 overs and batting at either doesn’t seem that bad an idea. He might have lost his ability to bat but I think he should keep his place as a bowling all-rounder – at least until the end of England’s world cup (which will be on Thursday if they don’t beat West Indies).

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Irish eyes are smiling (this time)

Watch out, watch out, there is a thief about. The ICC wants to steal Ireland’s ability to shock in the World Cup by excluding them from the next World Cup. The problem with the World Cup is not the associate teams. Sure they may hammered into the ground occasionally but that can happen to any team. The real issue is the ridiculous amount of time the competition takes. Six weeks! Leave the associates in but take the dawdling out.

Monday, 28 February 2011

One week gone: not many clues

We have had a week or so of the ICC Cricket World Cup – what have we learned?

  • India aren’t as good as everyone thinks they are – it turns out they don’t have a bowling attack
  • Pakistan is better than everyone thought they would be. A well-deserved win against Sri Lanka serves notice they may be a significant force
  • Sri Lanka has outstanding players but somehow they collectively underachieve.
  • England can be terrible, brilliant and terrible again in the space of a few days (or overs).
  • South Africa has a very top heavy batting line-up
  • Australia look a decent team again (how did that happen) but Tate just looks a liability.
And most of all:

A good, tight, 50:50 is fantastic entertainment. Bring them on.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Dutch lose to some schoolboys

England produced an amateur bowling and fielding performance against Netherlands. It was a disgrace. Dropped catches, fielding mistakes, overs with multiple beamers and even they even managed to be no-balled for not having enough people in the circle. Swann’s bowling was very much the high point although he managed to drop a sitter at the death. Andrew Strauss has shown great leadership for England but he must take quite a bit of the blame for today’s schoolboy-like display. He showed very little imagination and was badly behind in the game.

On current form England have no chance against India on Sunday – unless they think they can chase 500 that is.

It was nice to see Netherlands put up such a good display, they really did themselves proud. Excellent batting, good fielding and a solid bowling performance. They fielded England off the park.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

World Cup at the Starting Gun

The Cricket World Cup 2011 starts tomorrow. Whatever happens, and this is probably the most open competition for a long time, what is vital is that we see good, close cricket. Four years ago we had a pretty tame competition. Six weeks of pretty tedious cricket ending in darkness and near farce. The T20 game has rejuvenated cricket and injected large sums of money. The future of the 50-over format will be damaged, possibly forever, if tomorrow’s competition doesn’t deliver.

Having all said that we should be in for a pretty good competition. There are more, earlier, match-ups between teams that should produce good games (starting with India and Bangladesh tomorrow). The test playing nations are much more equal than they have been for a long time and the winner could easily come from quite a few sides: India, South Africa, Sri Lanka maybe even Australia – with the others pushing hard. Mind you … those first two are real chokers…

Monday, 10 January 2011

Australia in denial?

So the mighty Australia cricket team has finally got what was coming to it – a good kicking – made all the more painful because it was administered by England. I say ‘England’ but the 3-1 dismantling of Australian batting, bowling and fielding was just the latest instalment. Australia lost 2-0 to India in October and so has lost five out of their last eight test matches.

It is uncanny how the Australian slide from all conquering bully to has-been is mirroring the decline of the West Indies in the late 80s and early 90s. A once invincible team, the West Indies dominated for 15 years before it slowly lost its great players – leaving two or three to try and carry the side. They inevitably could not halt the decline and as they retired the side went into free-fall. Australia now has Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke left from their great side. They seem compelled to get rid of their captain, the greatest Australian batsman of any recent generation; with Hussey surely following soon. That doesn’t leave much and there are no new players of test standard coming through. Strewth. They are stuffed.

The reasons for the West Indies and Australian decline are obvious: they lost great players and did not replace them. The West Indies went through much soul searching. The influence of Baseball, Athletics, NFL and better jobs were all used as excuses. No doubt in Australia there will be similar scape-goats. However, I would like to suggest a different reason: coincidence. In any walk of life great players, musicians, engineers, etc. often appear in clusters. For the West Indies in the mid-1970s and in Australia in the 1990s there were clusters of remarkable cricketers. Players who would define cricket for a decade or more. Maybe their appearance was just coincidence – channelled by cricket into remarkable sides. If that is so then coincidence can also produce a dearth of talent. Periods of time when there are no great cricketers. Maybe Australia are in such a lull in which case all they can do is wait for the cycle to come around again. They say Cricket Australia is in denial about their slump – I doubt it; there is just nothing they can do. Although getting rid of their most experienced and talented players would seem like a mistake by any measure…