Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Monty: says the right things

In a recent interview, Monty Panesar has said that although Michael Vaughan is very important to the team, Andrew Flintoff will be just as good. The justification being:

"Michael Vaughan likes everyone to be captain out on the field"

So, it doesn’t really matter who is captain, as Vaughan has ingrained leadership onto the entire team. Apparently, the best test of a manager (in the business world) is someone whose loss isn’t noticed, as they have created a stand-alone, functioning outfit that doesn't require mirco-management or constant crisis control. Presumably, Vaughan has constructed a similar framework. Anyway, Monty goes on.

"He's got a lot of experience and led England to an Ashes win. He's very excited about going to the World Cup and it's great to have him.”

Vaughan is good.

"But if Andrew Flintoff replaces him then we are still in a very good position because he's a very good captain who leads from the front. Andrew is an inspiration on and off the field."

But Flintoff is also good.

A fine piece of PR: he said the right things and didn’t put his foot in it. And complied with the normal rules of remaining blindly positive, humble and open. I am wondering whether the spinning superstar might be taking over from Paul Collingwood’s media duties. If so, this paradigm shift would certainly make him into a multi-dimensional cricketer, who is well-adjusted to the information economy and human resourcing through a sustainable holistic synergy strategy.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

At last! Blessed negativity.

According to Viv Richards (another God) reckons that Australia are stuck in an inevitable decline.

"A lot of the other sides see the Aussies as a team with stars of the past nearing the end of their careers. They now believe they can beat the Aussies - and none more so than South Africa and New Zealand."

They are old and finished. This is a truly refreshing outlook on cricket: you are crap, don’t bother. I wish more people thought like this.

But they don’t.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

How England can win the World Cup

Assuming he doesn’t catch diphtheria in the next week, the England and Wales Cricket Board should enrol young Jonny Wilkinson.

Occasionally, he plays a spot for his local village team. Here’s a photograph I took of him on Twickenham Green. I think that you will agree, he has a fine cover drive. Obviously, his technique is rather unorthodox. But we found strapping a bat to his leg was more effective for big hitting required at the death.

This man is a god. He single-handedly won one World Cup; he can easily win another. Furthermore, in cricket, people won’t deliberately try to remove his shins. A doddle!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Murali attacks me

A recent cricinfo piece quotes Muttiah Muralitharan saying, due to the use of power plays, spinners will struggle in the World Cup.

"The rules have changed now with the 20-over power plays coming so the spinners go out of the game, you can't play two or three spinners any more," he said. "We have only one spinner at the moment so fast bowlers have more chance [of success] because they bowl in the power play."

Obviously, this is a defeatist point of view, and one that also could be characterised as “wrong”. Especially considering my own air-tight argument, made elsewhere.

Once you accept that spinners are easy slog-fodder for the batsman, then all is lost. In fact, spin bowling has many weapons against sloggers. Variety, spin and flight are key tools in the spinner’s arsenal to confuse pinch-hitters.

Moreover, unlike fast bowlers, batsmen actually have to generate their own pace onto the ball to hit big: they cannot deflect a spinner for six. Batsmen have to come after the bowler, immediately making him more vulnerable. 20-over power plays, therefore, are a key attacking opportunity for the spinner.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Scotland: We will fly to the moon

Scotland’s coach, Peter Drinnen, thinks that his team has a good chance against Australia.

“We don’t fear anyone at this World Cup and we won’t be losing any sleep over playing the world champions.”

There is no point in drawing up detailed plans on defeating Ponting’s team; it is a waste of effort. Scotland will lose against the Ozzies. They need to be realistic, and attempt to fell a weaker team: like England.

Besides, the whole point of a “surprise victory” is that it is unexpected. A minnow cannot simply expect a win, that would take the fun out of it.

However, that Scotland fancy their chances against the Ozzies, after defeats by England and New Zealand, is indicative of Australia’s rapid fall from hegemony. And a sign of things to come, surely? It is also hilarious.

Anyway, this is all in keeping with my world cup predictions.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

This is too wonderful

Australia get thrashed. Again.

This is stupendous news. Now, consider Australia’s condition:

- They can’t seem to win any ODIs.
- Their best players are injured, or old.
- Their captain is away.
- There bowling attack is full of youngsters, that are totally incapable of containing the batsman.
- Players that used to dominant, are going through an inexplicable bad patch.

That’s right. The Ashes Tour have exposed the Australian team to a deadly virus: Englanditus. There is no coming back. Teeheehee.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Brilliant. Australia lose. Badly.

I had a suspicion, during the Ashes, that the Ozzy bowling attack was a little vulnerable. Beyond Shane Warne and Glen McGrath (when he was good) – there wasn’t much else. Now, the lowerling bowlers have received injuries, we are really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Let’s consider that barrel sludge, in their recent loss:

N W Bracken 10.0 -1 -66 -2
G D McGrath 9.4- 0- 50 -0
S W Tait 9.0- 0- 64- 0
S R Watson 10.0- 0 -58 -3
G B Hogg 7.0- 0- 58- 0
C L White 3.0 -0 -29 -0

Appalling. But brilliant. Too.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Collingwood: We will win the Noble Peace Price

Here are some remarks by Colly “Paul Collingwood” Coleslaw, regarding England’s chances at the World Cup:

“We hope we can take that kind of form and the momentum from the last four games into the World Cup – and we hope we’ll go a long way. We hope we’ve peaked at the right time.”

He went on to say: “Sod it. We’re unstoppable. I’ll have that trophy, next to my MBE medal, on m’mantelpiece before long, man.”

OK – I may have used some tricks from political journalism there, but I think we all know what he’s getting at. Because England have demonstrated that it is possible to win a match, they’re certain to win the World Cup.

This may be true, but I’m more interested in Colly’s constant use as England PR man. His prolific output is almost McGrathian. For instance, scoring a double hundred gave him a "great feeling"; England are good at “fighting back”; Shane Warne would be a handy addition to the back-room team, etc. Throughout the many crushing defeats he was always there to note that it wasn't all lost yet. Until it was. But he still didn't shut up.

However, he did produce one very illuminating comment to the Metro the other day, saying that Michael Vaughan had brought “calm” to the outfit. Suggesting that a previously positive team were in a state of panic. The spirit of the team was never mentioned publicly and, I suspect, privately either. If the England team had acknowledged these feelings of inadequacy, they may have moved on from them. Instead, the platitudinous wittering about “taking positives out of a loss” were counter-productive. We need to be honest and embrace our lameness. Collingwood builds “knowing his limitations” into his game – why can’t England do the same and start talking sense?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Spinners will run away with the World Cup

My prediction is that spinners will be the deciding factor in the World Cup. Contrary to generations of over-whelming fast-bowling success on Caribbean pitches, the World Cup will serve as a major turning point for West Indian and world cricket.

The pinch-hitter won the 1996 World Cup. The 2003 World Cup was won by the all-rounder. 2007 will be dominated by the spinner.

With most proper sides convinced of the necessity to have a few tidy overs from that young lefty, the slow bowler will finally prove his worth in ODIs. Once spectacular batsman will be constrained and bamboozled by overs of intelligent variety in spin and flight. This may result in the most crushingly boring World Cup of all time. But it’s a price worth paying if the spinners lead the way to this new era of tedious cricket.

Ones to watch:
- Chris Gayle. I think his bowling is much under-rated. To be honest, I think he should give up batting, and focus on his real talents. Will bowl Inzy around his legs.
- Monty. I’m not sure he’s as good as Gayle. But I like to watch him leap about. Will steal trophy, fending off attempted tackles, and will score an amazing try at the Pavilion End (see above).
- Vettori. Long over-due some success at this level. Will bore six English batsmen out.
- Kaneria. Apparently it was an "unexpected move" by the PCB to include this weird leggie in their campaign, but he will single-handedly beat the Windies by taking 7-22 in the early rounds.

Elevens to forget:

- South Africa and Australia will not make it to the Second Stage

Thursday, February 08, 2007

World eleven

Sanath Jayasuriya
Michael Vaughan
+Kumar Sangakkara
Sachin Tendulkar
Kevin Pieterson
Chris Gayle
Shahid Afridi
*Anil Kumble
Paul Adams
Monty Panesar
Muttiah Muralitharan

My world team requires the following: a) you must be currently available for international duty and b) pretty good at spinning.

The main struggle was over the wicket keeper. Thankfully, cricinfo claims that Sangakkara bowls a bit of off-break, when he isn’t conquering the world, so that’s good enough for me.

As for the bowler bowlers, I tried to pick the best of each of the four spin bowling disciplines. As I couldn’t think of any other chinaman, I thought South Africa’s Paul Whatsit should do the job. The rest, I think, are fairly uncontroversial.

The batsmen were selected for bowling reasons alone. It is a handy coincidence that they are some of the best batsman in the world, too. Why do good batsman make good bowlers? Are they naturally amazing? It is also interesting to note that most of the batsmen are openers. Why do opening batsman bowl spin quite well? I assume that, after they get out quickly, they have nothing better to do than bugger about in the nets, trying to be Shane Warne. Which is less amazing, as it is something I do.

I decided to make Kumble captain, in the face of seriously good candidates further up in the order. I think bowlers are better people than batsman, and they are routinely and unfairly over-looked in the captaincy. They need some support.

I think I will have to do an All Time Greats soon: Carl Hooper and Graeme Hick, here we come!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

How to beat Australia

Well, it seems as though England have now won the opportunity to be thrashed again. As a pub-frequenting Englishman, I feel it is my patriotic duty to pass on my advice to the England administration, on how they may avoid this.

Now, much has been made of “matching the Ozzy intensity” and “being more determined to win” etc. etc. You know the sort of thing I mean – strong mental side of the game, and all that clap-trap. I decided to search “intensity” in Google images and, amongst the many pictures of cats, there was this:

This is an “intense” person. Would you describe this man as normal? Quite. But, if we keep asking for the England team to look intense, they will, eventually, all end up like this bloke.

“Intensity” is part of the Australian game. Ozzies have been brought up on a deep-seated need to win and do well at sport. Why? Because they are a messed up nation of weirdoes. Think about it: this is about a bunch of grown men poncing about on a bit of grass waving about bits of wood. Is it worth the effort? Getting worked up about bits of wood. Really?

“Yes” says the weirdo Australian “I could get worked up about global poverty, world peace and making lots of money. But I decided to invest ALL my mental efforts in dominating the attack of Lower Dingo’s first XI.”

This is the wrong way to look at sport. It treats it as if it was important. Consequently, the Ozzies don’t play within the spirit of the game. They play in a prattish way, pushing their weight around and trying to intimidate the opposition.

“Bugger skill” say Ozzy “I’ll bully ‘em. Then I’ll win. And that is all that matters.”

This can spill-out onto acts of violence, racism and simple prattishness.

No one can compete being bigger prats than the Ozzies, so, what is needed, therefore, is for the Englishmen to use our absolute advantage: No Fear of Failure. The Ozzies are TERRIFIED of losing, it actually affects their soul when they lose. We Englishmen are well-acquainted with our ol’ chum Failure. It frees us. It liberates us.

Once we realise we cannot win, we cannot lose. The melting away of mental anxieties is in itself a serious mental edge. What is needed is nonchalance. Ease. Charm. Thus, I propose, bringing back amateur cricket. Perhaps Flintoff can pursue his career as a politician. Strauss can return to the Manner, and “dabble in crickers on the side”. Maybe David Nevin can bowl us some of his fierce leg-cutters. It doesn’t matter if they don’t do too well, it’s the taking part that counts.

This will infuriate the hell out of the Australians. Creating a total collapse of confidence, over-reaction and mental disintegration, meanwhile, the indifferent Englishman will saunter in and politely win the game.

There are some cliches to support my argument: He who cares, loses. Fight fire with water. The past: it’s the way forward.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

England’s natural game.

There has been much talk over the last few months, and possibly years, as to one-day cricket being second-favourite in England’s Top Ten Forms of the game. Test cricket, it is argued, it the highest and most challenging examination of a player’s ability, and thus should be our chief concern. They say that this has been a long-held snobbishness in English cricket that looks down on the vulgar, cheap-thrills slog-a-thon that is limited-overs cricket. We English perfer more high-mind things, like test cricket.

This is nonsense.

I remember reading Michael Atherton’s book as a lad. (This was my introduction to “thinking cricket”. I received it for a Christmas present in about 1995/6. I studied it like a bible. It’s where I learnt my field settings for a leggie. I always had the same Atherton-approved field, until I realised that if I put Nathan The Giant Child at short cover, his bulk would more or less stop everything.) In this book, he (Atherton, not Nathan) argues that England, who were losing the test matches but not the one-dayers at the time, were more naturally suited to limited-overs cricket.

Now, not having the book any more and not being able to remember much from it, I cannot tell you why he thought this was the case. But, I vaguely recall mentions to the English inventing it, be better at it and Neil Fairbrother. Indeed, his arguments are born out by the evidence. Consider the following summers, when Athers was about:

1995: West Indies in England
- ODIs: England 2, Windies 1
- Tests: England 2, Windies 2

1996: India in England
- ODIs: England 2, India 0
- Tests: England 2, India 0

1997: Australia in England
-ODIs: England 3, Australia 0
-Tests: England 2, Australia 3

Now, the picture for the one day internationals obviously isn’t the stark, depressing image that exists now. We beat India (who love the shorter format) and we even thrashed the Ozzies in 1997. Arguably, over these seasons, we were even better at playing in the one-day stuff than tests.

What does this mean? This: it is false that England are “naturally” pre-disposed against one-day cricket. The track record for success in this form is there – we were once better at limited-overs than test cricket.

I rather suspect that this is a rumour that the ECB has put about to explain the English failure in ODIs. However, I do not think that these two elements of the game are as distinct as people like to believe. If you look closely at the above result, you will see that (relative) success in one form of the game seems to feed into success in the other. And the reason that England are currently rubbish at one-day cricket is probably due to being rubbish at test cricket.