Sunday, 30 November 2008

Intestinal Fortitude required

The ECB is allowing players to choose whether they want to go back to India and play the test series. Given what has just happened in India I think that is sensible. It also allows everyone to find out which players have some backbone and which will give in easily. I would suggest that the players that refuse to go back are looking for an easy way out of a tricky situation and that should be borne in mind for future selection. The England team needs to be full of players who have balls -- real men if you like, not wimps.

Indian cricket needs the England test players to turn up and play cricket; to show the world that India (and England) are not going to be put off by the actions of a few. After 7/7 in England ordinary people who lived in London didn’t get up the next day and hide in the cupboard; they went out there and did their thing, using the Tube and buses. They showed real courage, just as the people of Mumbai have shown in the last few days.

I presume that anyone who decides they cannot possibly go to India to do their job will a) not get paid and b) not be allowed back there to play in the IPL...

Sunday, 23 November 2008

4-0 will it be 7-0?

Four games played, four games lost. Obviously not a good situation and the spectre of a 7-0 whitewash is looming large. I said a week ago that:

“Even if India wins, England has to show that it could have won. KP has to show what he is made of and get the players to perform better.”

Although England has lost both games I think that England could have won both games. Today’s match was a little cracker and when Shah and Flintoff were together it looked like England might do it. Shah played a fantastic innings and showed what a good player he can be. However, I also think today’s loss also showed what is wrong:

  • The bowling of Anderson and Broad was again erratic. A lack of control at the start of the innings lets the opposition get off to a flyer. This happens far too many times and England is absolutely dependant on Flintoff to recover some control. Flintoff is bowling really well but he only has a fifth of the overs.
  • Patel looks ineffective with bat or ball and a little out of his depth.
  • We always knew Prior was a weak wicket-keeper and he has done little to dispel that impression but I think we can live with that in ODIs if he makes runs. So why on earth would he be batting at 9? Is this the same Prior that topped the county championship?
  • Collingwood looks a shadow of his former self and it’s quite sad to see. He came in straight after Shah and Flintoff and there looked no chance he was going to chase down the runs. Still the best fielder in the side but 44 runs in four starts if nowhere near good enough
  • Pietersen looks a worried man. In shots of the dressing room today he looked like a guy who had just been told he had a large tax bill. He looked broody and irritated. This is not a state of mind that will help him. He needs his thoughts to be clear and mind uncluttered. That is always going to be difficult as captain but if it is getting on top of him already it is going to be a long winter for him.
England is outclassed by India pure and simple. Realistically all we can hope for is that they fight like tigers.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Brace for Impact

That went well. For a good four or five overs it looked like England might get near winning a game. But no, normal service was resumed. I am sure international teams have noticed this: England cannot win against sides that have spinners. The other side puts the spinners on – England collapse to 150-7. It’s a given. It seems fairly obvious that the reasons England keep losing is because they are not good or skilful enough, particularly in non-English conditions. Pace-off-the-ball equals loss. Odd really because when England take pace off the ball there is a repeated delay while the ball is fetched from the next street or park along -- back to that skill level again...

Darren Gough has given an interview that sounds like some of comments made in this blog. He has accused the selectors of showing favouritism:

Another story which caught my eye relates to England players playing in the IPL. The ECB are talking to the IPL about how long England international players will be able to play in the IPL. What I found amazing was this comment:

“The England players have not yet signed their central contracts for the year, with the players' association keen on clarifying the position on the IPL.”

Whoa. England players have not signed their contracts? So are they getting paid? I bet they are. What about Michael ‘on sabbatical’ Vaughan? If I was an England player I would be signing that contract pretty darn quick before they took it away from me! Presumably the players are thinking that they could make a large wedge of cash in the IPL – well they would wouldn’t they, after their heroics in India over the past week. The IPL sides must be queuing around the block to get at them...

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Crunch time for KP

September 4th this year must have been pretty sweet for Kevin Pietersen. He had been captain of England for one month, had won a Test match (with a century) and thrashed the ever impressive South Africans 4-0 in a one-day series. The new captain had sailed the good ship England into calm balmy waters. How different it looks now just a few matches later. England has lost three of its last four matches, all by large margins. In the last match England were thrashed by a rampant India. Some stunning batting by Sehwag and Gambhir complimented by some ferocious hitting by Yuvraj saw India make 387. For most of their innings England looked woeful and a target of 187 looked out of reach. Bopara managed to push England to 229 but in the end India was victorious in every aspect of the game. KP’s reaction was to suggest that India had played really well and there wasn’t a lot he could do about it. That may work for the first match of a series but it is England’s job to stop them playing well!

Tomorrow’s match is a key one, England must show some fight and resolve. Yet another big loss will damage confidence and England has to be competitive. Even if India win, England has to show that it could have won. KP has to show what he is made of and get the players to perform better.

The reef is looming large for Her Majesties Ship will KP be able to turn her around?

Sunday, 2 November 2008

England the new Choker Kings

Since its return to International cricket, South Africa has been known as the ‘choker’ of world cricket. That is that when the pressure is really on and the chips are down they fail – finding ways to lose. However, when it comes to one-day cricket it really should be England that should be kept away from small toys and gas ovens. Last night’s debacle in Antigua was the latest in a long line of embarrassing vital matches for England. This time it has cost the England players a cool $1m each. Stanford’s Superstars played excellent 20:20 cricket. They bowled, fielded, caught and batted with real professionalism and passion, neither of which was evident in England’s pitiful display.

There is a strong choker pattern in England’s last three big ‘must win’ matches; they were annihilated in all three:

20:20 for 20 Nov 2008: Eng 99, SS 101-0 (12.4 ov)
World 20:20 Sept 2007: Eng 135, Aus 136-2 (14.5 ov)
World Cup 2007: Eng 154, SA 157-1 (19.2 ov, yes it was a 50 over match)

Amusingly the 20:20 for 20 was supposed to be a way for England players to make some ‘serious’ money to make up for their absence from this year’s IPL. That is why the side did not include 20:20 specialists, the ECB only wanted England players there, whether they deserved a place or not.