Thursday, January 31, 2008

He’s not a pariah, he’s a very naughty boy

The BCCI is cracking the whip, enforcing their power and giving their players a bit of a telling off. There are reports that, if Sourav Ganguly doesn’t behave, he’ll go to bed without watching Chucklevision.

Harbhajan Singh’s appeal has reversed the judgement that he used racial abuse in the course of test match. It was decided that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that he used racist language, but there was evidence to indicate he had been generally abusive.

The question is just what kind of pillock is Harbhajan? The answer is not as much as a big one as we first though. However, he is still has a propensity to deliver the feared “Harby Super Knee-to-the-groin Special”, even to his team mates.

In any case, the mums in charge of the BCCI said,

"We have told the players not to get into altercations,”
You rather wonder what the advice was before this unfortunate affair. I suppose it followed the standard Australian approach of verbally engaging with the opposition at every available opportunity. I don’t know, I’m just some guy, you know.

Anyway, the Indians: behave! Or they’ll be consequences. Perhaps they’ll send you to the naughty corner, which, I understand, is being dubbed the “Indian Cricket League”.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sluggo sloshed?

Tapper John brought some incredible news to my attention yesterday. He informs us that “three prominent players” have failed a routine drugs test, and are facing a lengthy ban.

Seeing as Sluggo is three men in one, this can only mean one thing.

I sent about a million emails to the Bermudan Cricket Board yesterday to confirm some details. Sadly, there seems to be a media black out, at the moment.

This is especially enforced towards the major cricket news sources, like Ayalac.

Coupled with the non-appearance of my new camera, this potentially, nay, literally mind-blowing event has seriously undermined my well-being.

I suppose it does add up. How can a human being excel to the highest levels of left-arm orthodox spin, how can one mere mortal take the catch of the century without the aid of some helpful substance?

This scandal is only the latest in a serious of unhappy events that have bedevilled the Bermudan team since the World Cup. Players stopped attending training practices, defeats in ODIs became ever-larger and a massive government-sponsored cash injection has resulted in nothing.

In amongst this turmoil, Sluggo’s days of glory seem to be coming to an end, with his 2007 average equating over 40. It is, perhaps, understandable that the team would consider other options.

Although, saying that, there isn’t much in the way of performance-enhancing drugs for cricket out there. Perhaps it’s just recreational? In which case, I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, right on.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Indians inflict mental disintegration on Tait

In a surprising move, Shaun Tait was retired from all forms of cricket, citing physical and emotional exhaustion.

He has always had elbow problems and has undergone major surgery on his shoulder in 2005. But you wonder if the main problem isn’t line and length?

In the one match that he played in the recent Indian series, he bowled 21 overs for 92 runs and taking no wickets. He was milked like a highly promiscuous cow.

He did alright in the World Cup, taking 23 wickets, but he has always struggled at test match level. I remember the English battering him about the place a while ago, and indeed, his test match average is 60.

It is confusing that he says he is “emotionally exhaustion” when he has played so few matches at the top level. This isn’t an Andrew Strauss, “oh, it’s all too much for me”. Perhaps he thinks he’s not cut out for the “highest level”? Then again, Bret Lee also took a long time to find his feet.

No, I put it down to the Indians. Seeing as they are nasty sledgers now, it seems obvious that they deliberately mentally disintegrated him. Who’s next on their international hit-list? Their out to get us.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Australia: unworthy winners?

This was a hum-dinger of a series. A really close one. And, if you discount the first two matches, India were the run-away champions.

However, with the run-glut boredom of the last test, everything just faded away. In stead of watching that, I decided to do this. For hours and hours.

We found out some new stuff from this series as a whole. We found out that Irfan Pathan is not really opening batsman material. Virender Sehwag stills has it in him. Anil Kumble is still god-like. Michael Clarke isn’t all that bad. Michael Hussey isn’t all that good. And the Australians are still the embodiment of all that is evil.

This might go down as one of those series that people talk about for ages and ages. Like the Ashes 2005. I hope not, though. I’m English, and I get pissed off when people go gooey and start banging on about the past.

I wish we could all say, “Yeah, there was a series. Some stuff happened, you know?” And then we can get on with appreciating the present world, the new world of Australia being really good and England being really crap.

So yeah. India showed us that Australia aren’t invincible at home. Which no one has done since we realised that Neighbours wasn’t popular at all over there. I suppose that’s some progress in world cricket.

But, truth be told, this series won’t really be remember for the quality of its cricket. India were caught on the hop at the first match, and were robbed of the second test in a highly emotional and unpleasant game. Thereafter, once the administrators stepped in and removed the Ausslers key strength of being complete pillocks, the series rather tailed off.

Yeah, India one a match. The first time Australia lost at Perth since the country was founded in 1975. But, you know, so what? We were all geared up for some eleven-a-side fights; we wanted to see Bret Lee clobbered by Sourav Ganguly with a wicket. We wanted violence, revenge even.

It never happened, and some blokes just ponced about a pitch frolicking about with some sticks for a bit. Disappointing, to say the least. We don’t like Australia.

So, it’s disingenuous to say that Australia didn’t deserve to win this series. They just don’t deserve to win anything.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Shahid Afridi goes mental, with predictable results

Normally, when cricketers do a mental they do really mad stuff, like burn down the Harare Cricket Club or attack a team-mate's offensive thighs with a bat. But, for Afridi, doing mental means playing some crazy shots for a bit until you have an unlikely high score in a short space of time.

This is what he did against Zimbabwe, when Pakistan were in trouble. Here’s what he said:

"It was a tough situation to come and bat in. We had just lost quick wickets and we needed to rebuild effectively and post a good total."
Right. So you come in and things are looking shaky at 78 for five. You need a steady rebuilding effort. So, what new approach does that entail, Afridi? Oh, well, I’ll just try and batter every ball for six. Same as usual I suppose.

What kind of deranged nutter thinks, “We need to preserve wickets now, TOOOONK!” This bloke is dangerous.

He also got “a key wicket” with his increasingly handy bowling in Zimbabwe’s faltering reply.

The Zims only lost by 37, which doesn’t seem that much. In fact, it seems especially close given that they were chasing a hefty 272.

Robin Brown, Zimbabwe's coach, argued that they failed to finish the Pakistanis off:
"We basically lacked the killer instinct that is required to polish things off."
Before you get a killer instinct, Robin, it might be an idea to get some basic game skills and generally not be rubbish. At the moment, I think that the Zims are improving, as they always have been, but they’re probably playing at 1990/91 levels at the moment. Which isn’t too bad, considering where they had been. But they have been repeatedly annihilated in this series.

Anyway, Afridi: respect to the nutter.

Friday, January 25, 2008

How to bat: be boring

India’s approach to this match has been fantastic: grind down the buggers until they plead for a swift coup de grace.

The best thing about their innings, the mighty Anil Kumble’s unlucky 87 aside, was the fact that they sent their tail-enders to defend. Brilliant!

Almost every other tail-ender in the world has his ears so clogged up with testosterone that they ignore the batman-at-the-other-end’s supplications for sensible shot selection. “Look,” says Recognised Batsman, “I’m on 94; can you just defend this next over for a bit, mate?”

What the tail-ender hears:

“Lash ‘em around the park. You the man! You the man! HONK! HOOONK!”

This is why these players are bowlers instead of batsman. The most you can hope for the world’s lower orders are an entertaining 14. Take Darren Gough, for instance. Will any English fan forget his stand of 90-odd-crazy-runs with Phil DeFreitas? Tail-end batting in its purest form.

But, India’s brilliant, and wholly novel, move in this match was to ask the bowlers to bat, as if they knew what they were doing.

So, they played to percentage game. Knocked a single here, and maybe risked a two there. Even Harbhajan Singh batted as if he wasn’t a psychopathic lumberjack.

Now I’ve reiterated endlessly that boring cricket is my cup of tea. I was disheartened when Rahul Dravid lost his wicket. But the match definitely improved when the tail-enders started prodding and poking away.

I suppose that would make the world’s tail-ends into a roster of Matthew Hoggards. This is not a bad thing. We should all strive to be more like the Hoggler. Perhaps this is what Kumble is trying to tell us?

Yes. Yes that must be it.

Oh Anil, you ol’ genius you.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sachin Tendulkar: worthy of some respect

So, ol’ Sachin wangled his way to a 39th test century. Not bad. He receives the official AYALAC wink of approval.

The last Tendulkar run-glut I remember reading about was an account of his one-off game with a Cambridgeshire village team. Apparently, he more or less hit every ball for a nonchalant boundary. It wasn’t a Shahid Afridi onslaught, it was classic batting, or, in the words of an opponent,

“He just timed the pants off everything.”
Of course, he did go after Brenda Hogg a bit in this match, but it wasn’t slogging. And that is the genius of Tendulkar. If you or I wanted to beef some quick runs, we’d leap around the crease, close our eyes and throw everything we had in the vicinity of the ball. Of course, we’d pirouette onto the floor and cause much mirth.

But we mortals have no other option. There’s blind battering or Ol’ Trusty: the forward defensive.

Tendulkar, on the other hand, is aloof to all this unseemly bat flying. If he wants to score, he twinkles his toes into the perfect MCC manual position, and caresses the ball with effortless, pant-removing timing.

It is as if his poise at the crease naturally makes the ball seem slower, and others rubbisher. Although, when facing Hogg, even Shaun Tait would look a more elegant.

Sadly, this style had rather abandoned the Little Master as late, he was reduced to gritty innings in an almost constant rear-guard. People started talking about his bowling ability.

But this innings was like re-finding an old pack of chocolate biscuits that you forgot about, that needed to be eaten immediately lest they go off and whose existence were unknown to anyone else. Joy upon joy, Sachin is playing like a pack of chocolate biscuits again.

Not only that, but the pants that these Tesco’s Finest Biscuits removed were none other than Australia's. Ha! Take that, pants of Australia! Take that!

Hilariously, and rather honestly, Hogg admitted that Tendulkar hit his best ball for six. Although, rather like the heavy-set Suave thinks he can have most of the England team in a one-on-one death match, I would fancy my changes against Hogg’s best ball. (That is the ball which isn’t a long-hop, right?)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Video 2: Australia vs. India highlights, Perth Test

The highlights of the Third test of the Australia vs. India series. Sadly, a promising match was abandoned half-way through because of technical issues.

Bloody digital cameras and their unquenchable battery-eating appetite.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

No news of Chinese domination

OK – serious technology problems in the AYALAC HQ. Firstly, someone, who shall renamed nameless but silently persecuted, downloaded a virus onto the main computer. All my files, and beautiful, beautiful temporary internet files, may be lost forever.

Secondly, I sort of sat on my laptop, whilst something was sitting on the keypad. Result: a huge crack, which has rendered the entire display screen unusable. In all, this last day may end up costing me thousands in replacement computer bits. Although, if anyone can beat £130 for a new laptop screen, be my guest.

Anyway, more importantly, what about the cricket? Well, Zimbabwe explore the meaning of ineptitude further in their small, but no less important, essay on ineffectiveness.

But, most ominously, we haven’t heard anything much from the Sleeping Giant, and my new champion, China. I rather suspect that they are on “silent running” – a hunter-submarine sneaking up on the other, older and clunkier submarines, hoping not to bump into them.

Sadly, rather like the taking of Formosa, their campaign doesn't seem to be going to plan. I can report that their team have been thrashed recently by the mighty Saudi Arabians in the Asian Cricket Council Cup. Their under-19 team was beaten by 191 runs in 50-over game.

However, young Zhang Yu Fai impressed by taking two wickets as first change bowler, and whacking 47 off 49 (with ten fours) as first change batsman. One for the future, eh?

What China need is someone to advise them. An expert in the game. Perhaps a commentator. Someone who is both adapt at passing an opinion and creating strong publicity on the web.

I offer reasonable rates and have a proven track-record in working with weak teams. So anyone from the Chinese sports authorities, you can feel free to drop me a line to discuss an arrangement.

Long live our glorious leader!

Monday, January 21, 2008

What manner of man is this Anil Kumble?

JRod at Cricket with Balls rolled out the dictionary in a lovely little tribute to the Indian captain, Anil Kumble:

“Kumble turns batting into an introspection of life itself. The batsman has many questions to face during his spell. … A normal bowler tries to beat the batsmen, Kumble makes you define the very idiom of bastmanship.”
An unexpectedly philosophical turn from a normally raucous blog added a poignancy to the homage.

Kumble is a great bowler. His figures are out-standing, his leadership inspiring and even a test centurion. But watching him bowl jar with this image; he’s not a million miles away from Shahid Afridi.

But the beauty of Kumble, much like Shane Warne, is that he is made for international cricket; he’s a bowler custom-built to get the wickets of the very best batsman.

As JRod points out, this is partly due to his solid mental approach of stripping the game to the basics of consistent line and length with some variation.

But, there are some aspects of his bowling which make him disruptively difficult to face. His fast, fizzing leg-breaks bounce and spit at batsmen. Unlike Afridi, whose deliveries kiss the surface as he pushes through the ball, in a rather complicated, rushed action, Kumble’s overs are full of dangerously rising balls which are naturally produced from his springy, elegant action.

Moreover, given his speed, it only takes a subtle variation to beat the batsman. The old adage is that you only need to move the ball half the bat’s width to take the edge. But this is an old wife’s tale, batsmen play for the movement and try to anticipate it. But the problem when facing Kumble is that you have no time to adjust your shot.

Remember when Ian Bell left a googly, all he could do was twitch as his saw the ball skid into his stumps. When you faced Warne’s googly, everyone saw it coming. But, even if you didn’t, you could adjust at the last moment. But when facing Kumble, batsmen are never completely sure where the ball is going to be.

It is in this marginal space that Kumble occupies: he’s not going to get you with a ripper, but he’s going to constantly probe at your bat’s edge. One ball after another is going to test the precision of your defence, and if you have slightly miscalculated the movement, then it’s game over.

This is why I love Kumble so much. His unswerving brilliance is to examine the techniques of the best batsmen makes for great cricket and enriches the game.

(By the way, the Dead Frog is still there. It has been there for weeks now. Through the rain, storms and hail. I think it is fossilising into the pavement. Unnervingly, though, it has rotated 90 degrees.)

Monotone work experience kid appointed National Selector

After the rampant matches between Australia and India, I am slowly moving down the pecking order to England’s level. Although, rather like deciding to watch “Alien vs. Predator”; I feel it is rather demeaning.

But I suppose I should: Old whathisface, David Graveney, was sacked. After ten years, I think Graveney can look back at his decade in office with some pride.

I mean, if you’ve only got potatoes, you can only make a pie…a potato pie. Right?

A central, and I hope persisting, policy in Graveney’s approach to selection was to turn the decision to select into a long term commitment. Graveney backed his players over an extended period, based on the enlightened premise that it takes time for a player to mature into international class.

This didn’t always come off. Look at Geraint Jones – the GoJo who wouldn’t go. Steve Harmison – the incompetent magician’s monkey that would never disappear. But he got it right more often than not.

His departure now is much like the recent Barbadian election: the current lot were solid enough, but people just fancied a change.

And what a change. In a brave move, they have brought in Ashley Giles and James Whitaker. Whitaker has been out of the game for three years – after being sacked from an administrative role in Leicestershire. And Giles is the newly appointed Director of Cricket at Warwickshire – but only 13 months out of professional cricket, his coaching/administrative/strategic skills are unproven.

More worryingly, however, is the appointment of Geoff Miller as the new “national selector”. Miller used to be Graveney’s “assistant”. I’m not sure whether a PA would make a good selector, but the ECB are game to find out.

Miller may at heart be a confused economist. Here’s a statement from the office junior:
“We are in a transitional period now in both kinds of cricket but the curve from 2000 has been pretty good. It has been an upward curve.”
There you go, young Miller, if in doubt, start talking incomprehensible jargon, like “natural games” or “curves”. It’s amazing how much you can pick up during work experience week.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Ding Dong! The witch is dead

Rejoice! Rejoice! Australia were beaten by another team. It doesn’t matter who. Defeat is everything.

Ricky Ponting tried to smile about it. I suppose, in some twisted way, it sort of justifies his possibly evil tactics in the hitherto successful 16 previous matches. That’s the way a bastard’s mind works.

Now, being an England fan of many years, I know how to lose. I’ve witnessed a kaleidoscope of collapses. There’s the inevitable slump, the enfeebled chase, the honest walk-over, desperate draw-seeking and unexpected suicide. So long has it been since Australia lost a match, that it is difficult to classify the Australian defeat into one of these categories.

I wasn’t sure if they were going for the draw (which, as an Englishman, is my first thought in most situations) but it didn't seem as though they were charging for the ridiculously unlikely win. Michael Hussey’s 46 from 113 would suggest that the Ausslers didn’t really plan how they were going to lose all.

Amateurs.

I suppose you could label their defeat as “undirected flapping”, which, now that I think of it, is another common English approach to falling on your sword.

So, why did they lose? JRod thinks that Australians can’t handle swingers. JC suggests that umpire decisions may have had a hand. King Cricket sort of mentions seam. I happen to think India won because they were led by a spin bowler.

Anil Kumble made amazing decision after amazing decision. Much was been made of one moment, where, after a spell of seven overs, Ishant Sharma was about to be taken off. Ricky Ponting stated:

“RP Singh had already taken his cap and jumper off when the young lad [Sharma] grabbed the ball off him.”
Allegedly, Virender Sehwag had advised giving Sharma one more over. With his next ball, the young quick took Ponting’s wicket. Indeed, later on, Sehwag himself was given the ball at a touch-and-go point. The opening batsman took two wickets, including that of Adam Gilchrist.

Only a GOD can make such prescient decisions. This is Anil’s victory. And his alone.

(He also took his 600th test wicket. That is, under official AYALAC taxonomies, “really good”.)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Two things

A quick update. I discovered two interesting things yesterday.

One, Adam Gilchrist has probably been to Twickenham

Apparently, he has a blog. And on this site he claims to have played for Richmond Cricket Club, in London. Twickenham is right next to Richmond (indeed, it’s in the borough of Richmond). So, Adam “Gill-like” Gilchrist has probably visited my home town.

He must have played on Twickenham Green – indeed, been in the same pavilion as me. I would have remembered a deranged Ausso destroying the windows of all those Indian restaurants lined up against the Green, so I probably never saw him play. But still, that makes me special, right?

Two, are Indians more bastardlier than the Australians?

A wonderful and established blog, Mike on Cricket, has compiled a list of disciplinary offences committed by team. The Indians with 43 offences since 1997 are well ahead -with apparently Sourav Ganguly representing 12 of those. Australia are fourth, behind Pakistan and South Africa.

Of the major teams, England and Sri Lanka are the nicest. But we new that, anyway. Didn’t we?

So, the Indians are the bad guys. Didn’t expect that. But, I don’t mind if they are unpleasant pieces of work, just so long as they beat the Australians…the goodies.

The news has disturbed me. Australia can't be nice. It can't be true. The papers say they are mean. If you can't trust the media, then you might as well stop believing in your mum.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Australia undone by flying Indians

So, with every passing day, and each new post, the genius video blog gets further and further away.

*sigh*

So anyway, if you watch the highlights of Australia’s uninspired innings, you will notice something about the dismissals. The wickets were wangled out – the bowler genuinely beat the batsmen on every occasion. Perhaps only Stuart Clark gave his wicket away – the rest were beaten by balls that were too good for them.

This is the cricket that we snobby purists love: the bowlers are on top, the batsmen are struggling and girlfriends are mystified by the whole thing. The world is as it should be.

More importantly, Australians are losing. Even more wonderfully, the Indians are showing the Ausslers how to bowl, on their own turf. All these things are fantastic and marvellous and wonderful.

It also shows that lesson in cricket that has been forgotten in recent years: if you bowl well, you take wickets. Put the ball in the right place and move it about a bit and any side is vulnerable. The last time that Australians faced consistently good bowling was in 2005, when they lost the Ashes. Since then, the Australian batsmen have had it easy. Just look at Michael Hussey for Crickey’s Sake.

If India continue to bowl this well, in Australia, then we might have to give them the Ashes. The Borders-Starbucks Trophy was never really a worthy prize for the two biggest teams in world cricket.

If we can’t give them the Ashes, we should go for something better. How about an environmentally friendly pile of compost? Ricky Ponting, and the Australian team, could learn to contain some of that aggression through the gentle past-time of gardening.

It would be like those prisoners that unbended themselves through a love of gardening in the gaol yard, and won the Chelsea Flower Show.

Dammit. This idea is brilliant. All teams should be forced to have “garden-off” on the fourth day of test matches, to cool off and add a little colour to the proceedings. Say, the team with the most audacious juxtaposition of acantholimon glumaceum and helleborus hybridus is awarded a hundred extra runs.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

India, exits are to your left and right

Right. Well, I’m not sure whether I have the mental strength to degrade myself back to pen and ink-cartridges after yesterday’s multi-media extravaganza. But, frankly, videos are too much bloody effort to do every day. So you’ll have to endure my dodgy spelling for now.

So, anyway. Who’s watching the disappointing third match of that India/Australia series? Although one of my favourites, Rahul Dravid, neared a century, this day’s play was remarkable for its total lack of agro.

No racist taunts were thrown. No argy-bargy. Not even a single melee between psyched-up, overpaid cricketers. Dreadful. W.G. would be turning in his grave.

However, one good thing did come from this match. Shaun Tait (that nasty-looking bloke with the scarred rottweiler that always hangs around your local off-licence, but hasn’t uttered a single world for all the years you have been scared of him) is still rubbish. He went for four and a half an over. Against Dravid. Ha!

Mitchell Johnson, however, looked disappointingly solid.

There was a bit of “ooh! Will it kick off again?” when there was a suspect umpire’s decision. But India’s batsmen were determined to help the umps out with a bit of creative hari kiri.

Anyway, here’s hoping for some manly cricket tomorrow. I want to see blood.

(By the way, I popped down for a walk on the beach today. The duck had gone. I assume this means that he wasn’t dead in the first place. He was just resting. The water’s edge is a bit like a fowl’s Jacuzzi. He was just resting. That’s why he didn’t notice the dog sniffing at it. It’s all ok, really. Right?)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Video 1: Sledging



Ding Dong! How’s that for a post! Apologies for various errors. It’s worth sticking around to the end though. It gets exciting there.

Anyway. Sledging. It kills. Don’t do it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Bangladesh as useless as a washed up duck

Bangladesh lost to New Zealand by an innings and a million runs. It was an effortless, easy, pitiless victory. Their performance reminded me of this duck. It had been washed ashore near my house. “Poor duck” thought I, imagine how the Kiwis felt.

Well, not too much happened in the international cricket world today. To be honest, I’m to be honest I’m too distracted by tomorrow’s* post. It’ll be a hum-dinger, and will doubtless blow your puny minds into still punier bits.

So, let’s go through the motions anyway:

West Indies, still disappointing.
Shaun Pollock, still good, even though he’s old enough to captain England’s rugby team.
New Zealand, still rubbish.
Bangladesh, still uber-rubbish.

All in all, it has been more of the same. Which is remarkable, when you come to think of it. The cricketing landscape hasn’t really changed in twenty years. Australia are still dominant. Pakistan/India/South Africa are competing for the Number Two status. And England occasionally spark into something that isn’t useless at all.

As an intentional sport, cricket is very small: with the “elite” countries numbering only eight. This said, the relationship between these teams have stable throughout the past two decades. Of course, the decline of the West Indies has been dramatic. But other than that, nothing has really happened.

Bangladesh has been granted the status of a test nation. Sri Lanka are pretty decent at the five-day stuff now. But there’s nothing else of note, is there?

That’s quite depressed me. I’ll go away and do more interesting things now. Be sure to tune in tomorrow. It’ll be more amazing than this post. Honestly.

*Hopefully.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dead frog down

Here is a picture of a flattened frog on my road - I have come to know her as “Squashy” . She reminds of the West Indies cricket team. Not only is this frog dead, but it has been completely crushed.

Unaware of the forces that removed is from the third dimension, it has accepted its fate by laying back and submitting itself to devastating rolling over.

As you can see, the parallels between Squashy and the Windies’ current performance are stark. As noted previously, the West Indies were bowled out for just 139 and allowed South Africa to rack up 556 for four – with three Saffers notching centuries.

In reply, the Windies have just managed to scrape together a hundred runs for their three wickets. Two words: Pah thetic.

The team is welcome to use the deranged drivers on my road to help dispatch them in a dignified manner. They are useless. So at least they could transform themselves into street art. They could learn a few things from Squashy.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Pakistan spring forth from India’s can of worms

The ensuing madness that India have created has emboldened the Pakistan Cricket Board to request the ridiculous: Overturn the forfeited test.

Never mind the fact that it is only a year and a half late and unnecessarily re-opening old wounds, it’s just a bit daft. Can any imagine a possible world where the ICC would reverse its own rulings? Perhaps the key change in context is that subcontinental sides feel they can bully the ICC to do anything.

Well done India. You’ve completely cocked up international cricket. Nice one.

At the heart of this ridiculous series of events is the unsportsmanlike pressure behind the scenes. The ICC succumbed to Pakistan’s insistence that the ball tampering charges were dropped. Yet, despite the lack of any novel evidence to suggest that there was no interference with the ball and Daryl Hair’s maintained status as a “pukka bloke” by the ICC, the accusation was dropped.

Just how pathetic, derisible and shit the ICC is begs belief. Could they not foresee by granting Pakistan this impossible request that the PCB would inevitably move to annul that test match? Now the ICC has admitted that Inzy was right to protest a decision – so the match was unfairly forfeited. So, the only logical course of action is to annul the test.

Even though no new evidence has emerged and the ICC still considers Hair a reliable arbiter.

The ICC: installing confidence through incompetence.

I'd like to take this opportunity to honour my great blogging friend, the most unwormlike and tolerably opinionated J-Rod. If I had a real, live, proper cricket team, I'd definitely make him the side's photographer. Some of his shots are stunning.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

West Indies: All your dreams are dead

Well, I say “dead”, it would be more accurate to say “killed”. Borrowing catch-phrases from a fellow internet phenomenon aside, there was something cute about the resurgent West Indies.

Their recent success wasn’t an arrogant dispatching of the Saffers, but a boy’s own tale of team spirit and happy-go-lucky cricket. From this, the world wondered if they could resurrect their 1980s confidence. However, the South Africans effortlessly crushed all these hopes in Durban.

Disappointment is part of the Proteas’ natural game. Much like the Four Eyed Monsters film, which promised heart and quirky charm, but only delivered unendurable, introspective whining. Of course, South Africa don’t so much as whine the elbows off you, but rather, they gradually dismember your optimism, extract your joy for the world and leave your happiness a shrivelled, moist lump.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not like this guy, I don’t hate South Africa. They’re not like Australia. It’s just that they’re beating the underdog, indeed, they’re slaying the puppies.

After bowling the Windies out for 132, South Africa finished the day on 213 for 1. Graeme “Smug Saffer Number Seven” Smith managed to biff his day into a rapid century.

Even the creaking and newly recalled Shaun Pollock eased to 4-35 from his 11 overs.

What this means is that the West Indies’ are back to where they were a few months ago: rubbish. OK – they’ve had a few injuries that denied that competitiveness. But, at this level, you have to have some depth in your squad. Depending on a handful of key men will lead to disaster.

I like towels.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Windies defend their last international cricketer

After the ensuing insanity pants which resulted in the indefinite canning of Steve Bucknor, the West Indies Cricket Board have hit back.

Julian Hunte, WICB President, wrote an angry letter to the ICC.
He condemned the ditching of Bucknor as “extreme”. Not as in skate boarding on a collapsing glacier extreme, more planting daffodils next to snow drops extreme. Another irritated party in this happy episode of pisspoor public relations and insipid administration.

"There is no question that even the best umpires make mistakes. They are human and there are circumstances which may affect their judgement. What worries us is whether the action of the ICC in the case of Bucknor might create even more problems for the ICC and international cricket down the line."
The press has lapped up this ever-growing debacle. I noticed that it was page five in yesterday’s (London) Financial Times and page three news in the Guardian. This is no mean feat, in the context of American primaries, a collapsing Kenya and continued Pakistani bonkerness. Only cricket can cause such an international firestorm. One wonders whether it is a sport at all, and not some sort of geopolitical death match.

I heard Navjot Singh Sidhu give an interview on the radio last night. He pointed out that world create is “dependent” upon sub-continental revenues and, as such, “India rules the roost.” This means that India should get its way in all matters; racism be hanged. This, more or less, is exactly what happened.

The ICC, ever conscious bean-counters, trembled at the BBCI’s chest-beating, and caved in. Consequently, they have annoyed the West Indies, Australia and tacitly condoned racism.

Glad to see world cricket in splendid health.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Oh no, they got Bucknor

Well, next victim in this elasticated rollercoaster of insanity pants is Steve Buckner. One of the most loved umpires in international cricket, Bucknor delighted millions by apparently doing nothing.

It takes a great man indeed to inspire such loyalty through sloth.

As well as his apathetic approach to the game, he also was a good judge. Never roused. Never riled. Never seemingly interested much in cricket. Weirdly, he was charismatic in his quiet way.

And now the sub-continental madness has subsumed this noble figure. Of course, Bucknor made a series of unfortunate mistakes; India bizarrely claim turned the match decisively in Australia’s favour, but we all have off days.

With Daryl Hair’s recent deposition, the infallibility of umpires’ is beginning to crumble. First, technology robbed them of their omniscience and now cocky players and have-a-go boards are stripping their omnipotence.

Cricket is a game that stands on respect: for the spirit and for its institutions. Australia did their bit by destroying the spirit, and now the sub-continental teams and steadily undermining its institutions.

Cricket is supposed to be aloof to petty concerns about minor events and “winning” – it is about conducting yourself in a gentlemanly manner. Now all we have left is high political intrigue in the ICC and Shane Warne’s marriages.

Perhaps the Empire was wrong to export it? Damned natives can’t be trusted with it.

Monday, January 07, 2008

What the hell is going on?

In an unexpected move, the world has reportedly “gone mad” today, with the collapsing in the laws of logic.

The integrity of reason first began to disintegrate in the final moments of the second test of the Australia/India series. In a suspicious series of events, Michael Clarke was awarded responsibility in knocking over the last three Indian batsmen with two remaining overs. He decided to stretch the tension, by single-handedly wrapping up the Indian innings in the last over of the match.

During the bad natured game, in which India placed a novel accusation at Australia’s door by calling them “cheats”, Harbhajan Singh allegedly racially abused Andrew Symonds. Mike Procter, the match referee, ruled at the end of a four-hour hearing that Harbhajan had breached Level 3 of the ICC's Code of Conduct. He was consequently served with a three-match ban.

In a mature move, the Indians accused Brad Hogg of “using offensive language” and another hearing is likely.

It was reported by the BBC this morning that, not only is the BCCI appealing against the verdict, but they are also pulling out of the remainder of the tour in protest. I was a little surprised. Hissy fits are not unknown in India, but this was a huge toy ejected from a gargantuan pram.

Now, the Indians claim that these were only “rumours” and that the tour is going ahead. Which means, it’s ok, because someone from the ICL collected the toy and sent it back from whence it came.

Whenever India do anything, really, anything at all, it will be imbued with bonkerness. Nothing seems to be straightforward over there. It’s like the PCB has stapled insanity pants permanently on them.

We could appoint a sensible coach – nah, we’ll pick some bloke who’s once coached his way to Durban. We’re above twenty20 – sod it, we’ll win the world championship. We could have a twenty20 tournament - oh wait, we’ll go mental and divide world cricket instead.

What the hell? WHAT THE HELL!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Come on, Tim!


In a rather surprising development, Matt Prior has been dropped. Generally, I don’t like Matt Prior; he’s a bit of a twat, really. But paradoxically, I’m not too keen on this decision.

I’m in agreement with Angus Fraser when he says:

“It is easy to call for Prior’s head and those who do would have little idea of how physically demanding it is to keep wicket in such heat in back-to-back tests… Prior is a very capable cricketer and he deserves one more opportunity to show that he can do it.”

Indeed, he certainly proved himself with the bat: scoring the fourth highest in the recent Sri Lanka tour. Overall he averages over 40 and scored a century in his debut.

OK – he dropped about a million catches in Sri Lanka, but he’s not exactly the only player to under-perform in difficult conditions.

Compare Prior’s treatment to Geraint Jones’. Jones scored a century early in his career, and that, despite uncertain keeping, got him about three years of ECB support. Prior, who looks dominant with the bat, gets the boot after about half a year after one dubious tour.

Harsh, unfair and, frankly, arbitrary. Choosing Ravi Bopara over Owais Shah was another mistake. But why, when with even my dodgy foresight, did they not see the overwhelming argument in favour of Shah’s inclusion. Why so? I wonder if these “brave decisions” might have anything to do with the Selectors having to apply for their own jobs again? Justifying your existence with feck-brained decisions may not be the best approach to secure your position.

Anyway, who’s this young Tim Ambrose fellow? He averages in the mid-thirties with the bat, and not as many drops as Prior with the gloves. He first rose to prominence with a double century against Cobden second XI last season. He seems competent enough but, to be honest, I don’t think he’s going to much different.

The England keeping debate will not find resolution for some years. There are a lot of “quite good” keepers at county-level, but all of whom are only “mediocre” at best when playing test matches. May as well stick with one and hope he improves, you would think. Oh no. Let’s drop the bugger and try another one for three months.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Angel of Cruelness intervenes in Cape Town

The West Indies have played superbly in this tour. Not only did their new captain, Chris Gayle, lead them to a handsome 126-run victory over South Africa in the first game of the series, but the Windies are battling hard in this match too.

During their tour of England, the buzz word in the Windies camp was “capitulation”. All aside from the god-like Shivnarine Chanderpaul and always lively Dwayne Bravo, the team looked hopeless and were deservedly battered.

The most saddening element of their loss was the totally ineptitude of their bowling attack – a once terrifying squadron of batsman-eaters, deflated into a feeble dud’s army.

Yet, from the pits of ineffectiveness, their bowlers suddenly skittle the Saffers for only 195 in Port Elizabeth – with that man Bravo taking four wickets.

The West Indian all-rounder galvanised his side once again with three quick wickets during his marathon 24-over spell. His over-use was indicative of a crippling problem in the Windies’ attack: an epidemic of crockitis.

Jerome Taylor and then Fidel Edwards both received injuries. Although Taylor eventually recovered, Edwards is out for the remainder of the match. With Daren Powell bowling his usual mix of threatening wides and under-cooked half-volleys, Gayle was forced to turn to some part-timers.

Letting the Proteas of the hook. If their attack was fully stocked the Saffers would be struggling to save the follow on. It would be na├»ve and foolhardy to say that the Windies are back. But it is this blogger’s hopeful, desperate belief that The Windies Are Back, Baby.

2008: proving as predictably depressing as 2007

Well, just as you think that India might create an interesting match against Australia, the Ausslers grind out a strong position and begin to press home their own advantage.

The seemingly effortless success of those bastards is all the proof I need for the non-existence of god.

New years always start badly for me. First, you struggle with verticality. Can I do it? After hours of trying you manage this feat, by sitting upright in bed, trying not to fall on the ceiling. Most of the day is spent man-handling yourself into your trousers and seeing whether you can cope with a cup of tea.

After two day’s recovering, I decided to look up the cricket score. I think that this reckless act reversed all progress on my condition, sending me staggering back to bed with a grey illness. This is what Australia does for you.

V.V.S. Laxman, however, like a bad joke, keeps repeating the same, desperate rear-guard in the SCG. His century improved my mood a little. But, you already feel that, once the Ausslers take the advantage, they do not yield it.

It is interesting to note that, if Zaheer Khan was playing, Australia would probably been skittled for less that 200. It is even more interesting to note that if my dead Aunt Gwendolyn was an Indian out-fielder, they’d probably be all out for 150. Sadly, the BCCI opted for hopeless butterfingers instead of my expired relative. A mistake that they never seem to learn from.

With a little intent and some well-time injuries, India may squeeze a draw from this match. I have my well-stabbed Bret Lee voodoo doll at the ready. It’s never worked in the past. Although, when my little niece started inviting it to her tea-parties, the Australian fast bowler started releasing pop songs. It would make for an interesting match if I invited little Sarah over for some Earl Grey tomorrow.