Saturday, March 31, 2007

England look alright, but not great, you know?

England beat Ireland by 48 runs. So well done. Some people don't think this is good enough. But, considering their"go slow" strategy, they're never going to whallop the minnows in the way Australia do. We can only hope they can grit it out agains the good teams.

I haven't spoken much about England. It's all been a bit depressing, really. I suppose I should talk about them at least once. Just in case they win. England put on an OK score, thanks, in the main, to that bloke with the bat on the left. Again, the top order failed, again Kevin Pieterson got in and got out, and again Paul Collingwood saved the team from certain embarrassment.

Trent Johnston, the stately Ireland captain, stated, “We spoke about Paul Collingwood in the team meeting before the game and he is the quality player in England’s team”. See that? The quality player. Never mind Pieterson or Andrew Flintoff, they’re afraid of Colly.

Johnston goes on: “He’s the guy that gets you a run-a-ball hundred and gets you three or four wickets [I’m not sure about that part]. He’s also their best fielder in the team too so we expected him to come out and do that and he did.” I’m not really sure what that last bit means, but I suppose living in Ireland for so long has got to rub off, doesn’t it?

Collingwood has now become England’s only hope with the bat. The rest aren’t firing at all. KP, despite his new number one status, hasn’t impressed during the tournament so far. And this go-slow business is making the rest of the line-up look pedestrian and distinctly unthreatening. So, essentially, we’re dependent on one man. And he’s a ginger Northerner. Prospects have never looked so good for the England team.

However things aren‘t all bad. Paul Nixon also chipped in with 19 off 15. A lot of people don’t like Nixon. Principally because he’s a gobby irritant of a man, but also because, they claim, he’s not very good. However, I think he’s alright. He averages 18.8 in ODIs, with a strike rate of 86. In addition, he averages 32 in first class cricket, striking 16 hundreds. He is also the most experienced man in the world when it comes to twenty20. This is exactly the sort of thing you need at the death: quick, irresponsible runs, boundaries, speedy running and annoying the elbows off the opposition. This combination of fast runs and being an arse is working for the England team. Although, his keeping isn’t great, but that has never seemed to be an issue in the past.

Also, what on Earth is going on with Ravi Bopara? Apparently, he is being picked because he is an all-rounder. Yet he didn’t bowl a ball, but came in at number eight. What? You’re picking a batsman for the number eight spot? Whereas Michael Vaughan seems to have become a bowling all-rounder, bowling nine tight overs and taking a wicket. Surely, if you wanted to play this game you could stick Andrew Strauss in at one, and put Vaughan in at eight. Maybe you could promote young Bopara to smash some quick runs opening the batting? Sadly, this is probably a little too creative for the ECB. Damn their pants.

Lastly, did anyone notice how cheerless Flintoff looked? Not a smile throughout the whole occasion. Normally, I quite approve of people moping about and depressing everyone, but even poor old Monty received the cold shoulder. After Flintoff caught a skier off Panesar’s bowling, Monty leaped and twirled about, as he does, beaming at Flintoff. The all-rounder, as the commentator described it, was nonplussed. Monty looked embarrassed, and shuffled off, deflated. How could anyone do that to the Monster? That’s almost cruel. Defusing the joyous heart of the young lad can almost be considered a crime against humanity. I’m starting to like Flintoff less and less. Here’s another picture of him looking gloomy.

Miserable sod.

The "Irish" jig

Here’s a picture of another dancing cricketer to add to my collection.

It’s Trent Johnson, after dismissing Andrew Flintoff. When I saw this on the telly, I was impressed with his moves. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find a picture of it online – all I could get was this one. It looks more like an air punch than a jig, but I promise you he IS dancing.

Maybe I should watch the cricket with a Polaroid camera at hand? I wouldn't want you to miss any more magic moments.

I’m hoping to see a few more Irish jigs before the tournament is out. However, maybe from people who are actually from Ireland. Like Ed Joyce. Ed Joyce doesn't have a bald patch. I bet his hair is his own, too.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Why are all the sides I support rubbish?

Well, it looks like Brian Lara’s confidence was misplaced. Yesterday, the Windies failed in their objective of not looking like tits, and were battered by New Zealand.

The Predictoron, predictably, was wrong, And I feel more pain.

As an England fan, I have suffered greatly at the hands of my team. I have lived a vicarious life: I feel woe when they lose and disbelief when they win. It is an intimate, if disappointing relationship. I have invested so much into my support, but what do I get in return? More agony.

So, I thought it would be ok to have a little fling, a small, meaningless affair. A wee dabble on the side, whilst still committing, in the long term, to my true love. It turned out that the Windies was not a good choice in crumpet. I am being punished by GOD for my treachery. Or, more likely, the ICC.

The ICC and me, on the other hand, have had a more straightforward relationship. I hate them, and they hate me. This, too, has been one-sided - they being a hugely powerful supra-national quango and me being a pathetic imp. Worse still, they are winning. They have successfully eroded my quality of life time and time again. Observe: I do not like 20twenty; the ICC forces everyone to play it all the time. I like watching high-class cricket, the ICC grinds the players into the ground to make loads of money, compelling teams to rotate their players and field muppets. I like watching videos on You Tube; the ICC takes them away from me. It is obvious, I think you will all agree, the ICC is out to get me.

Perhaps I should channel all my feelings of disillusionment and frustration with my chosen teams into a campaign of hatred against the ICC. Yes. That would be the healthy way of dealing with this.

Bloody ICC. I’ll have my revenge! Heed these words!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

South Africa win! And nothing else happened.

*Mumbles something about the West Indies doing something unrelated to cricket.*

This was a decent win by South Africa, and despite some Malinga-inspired craziness towards the end, the Proteas won the game by winning. Well done.

Today, the Windies have an opportunity to recover my confidence in their abilities by beating New Zealand. I’m not too hopeful, especially since Brian Lara said “we're confident we can get our act together." This is not “we will crush them like the worms they are”, oh no, they’re “confident” that they won’t make complete tits of themselves. Fantastic. Not sure I'd put my mortage on that.

Fortunately, the Kiwis have lost some good players: Lou Vincent who, is a bloke I like, broke his wrist in the nets; Ross Taylor still has hamstring trouble; Mark Gillespie and Daryl Tuffey are still buggered; and Craig McMillan is struggling manfully on despite his manly toe-injury. Whereas the Windies are all fit.

The West Indies are always fit though. And they always lose. I am still blindly backing them, however. This day will be different. What do you say Predictoron?


The New Zealand will lose to the West Indies by one wicket.

The New Zealand upper order will lose quick wickets, being reduced to 34-3. Scott Styris and Craig McMillan will put on 30 each and Jacob Oram will blast a quick 60, with strong support from Brendon McCullum. But would 213 be enough?

Shivnarine Chanderpaul will finally produce that hundred. With a nice half century from Dinesh Ramdin in the lower order to save the day in the nick of time. Thus winning.


H’mmm… are these predictions are beginning to look quite similar? Perhaps my machine is broken? Maybe it’s working on the “law of averages” – if it says the same thing enough times it’ll eventually strike gold. There’s only one way to find out.

Predictoron, will Ireland win the Eurovision Song Contest?


Ah crap. I wonder if it’s still under warranty?


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The West Indies can still beat Australia

OK - they can’t. There is no way in God’s Earth that the Windies could possibly hope to chase down such a huge total. Which is a bugger.

But this is defeatist! And certainly not in keeping in my hopeful Windies to Win campaign. Remember: the Ozzy bowlers are useless. Trust in that. Chanders still owes me a century too, so he might cash that in today. Lara hasn’t really filled his boots yet. Nor has Gayle. So, something extraordinary could happen…

I don’t have much to add to this. I went for a meal with a friend last night. He thought that New Zealand would come second.

I thought he was mad. But I was too polite to say anything.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Batting second

Ok – it’s the start of the Super Eight. So, I suppose I should do a follow up of the Batting Second issue. In my previous post on this subject, I examined Simon Widle’s thesis that sides batting second have an advantage. This seemed correct, as I found that 78% of chasing sides win*. Now that the first stage is complete, does this result still hold?

Adding to the list, there have been the following matches:

12. India beat Bermuda.
13. Zimbabwe lost to West Indies.
14. New Zealand beat Kenya.
15. Scotland lost to South Africa.
16. Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh.
17. Pakistan beat Zimbabwe.
18. New Zealand beat Canada.
19. Scotland lost to Netherlands.
20. Sri Lanka beat India.
21. Ireland lost to West Indies
22. Australia beat South Africa.
23. Kenya lost to England.
24. Bermuda lost to Bangladesh.

From this above list, on 6 occasions the chasing side won, whereas 7 times the side batting first had posted enough to win. Of all World Cup matches, sides batting first won 13, sides batting second won 10 and there was one tied game. Not decisive either way, but certainly not supportive of Wilde’s argument.

On the first blog, I eliminated all those matches involving minnows. I will do the same leaving numbers (20) and (22). In both these matches, the side batting first won: 100% record in intra-Big Fish battings. The reverse of my previous findings. However, if I integrated these results with my previous findings, which include warm-ups and upsets, this leaves 11 matches. Of these, seven times the chasers have won, whereas the side batting first has won on four occasions. That is to say, 63% of the time, the side batting second wins, which is a reduction from the original 78% found in the first analysis. Is the World Cup becoming friendly for those batting first?

Anyway, not particularly interesting, really. But I’ll take another look at this after the next stage is complete.

* In matches between Big Fish or upsets.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Goodbye pork pie bat

All good things must come to an end. This thing was bloody brilliant, which makes the conclusion to a magical moment in cricket all the more painful.

Sluggo delighted us with twinkling finger-spin, his stunning catching ability and his easy charm, and now the dream is over. Bangladesh dispatched the Bermudans by seven wickets. It was the minnow’s final game of the tournament. Now they are going home.

I imagine that a few hopeful Indian eyes were watching Sluggo, as the India’s needed Bangladesh to lose to proceed to the next stage. Yet, it was only an over-optimistic reverie, and another upset would have been too much for an already fantastical World Cup. In the end, Bagladesh eased home, knocking Bermuda and India out of the World Cup.

In another possible world, either India or Pakistan could dominate the international arena. Their talent should overwhelm any cocky Australian side, and yet these sub-continental sides never fulfil their potential. This is deeply distressing for the cricket fan. More ominously, however, their deficiencies are a sign of something profoundly wrong with organisational cricket at the national level.

The murder of Bob Woolmer, match-fixing, spot-fixing and structural instability has unbalanced Pakistan and injured the integrity of its Board and players. In India, disputes about central contracts, sponsorship, and the role of the coach coupled with the bubbling expectations of a billion zealous fans have also created an awkward situation for the team. Both sides are now struggling under these severe crises.

Yet, such is life. The world of business requires coping and flourishing under sometimes intense pressure. There may be obstacles, bureaucratic hell-holes, negative colleagues, or back-stabbers, but you are expected to perform under these difficult circumstances, to adapt and to tackle creatively the problems in front of you.

The Pakistan and Indian cricket teams have folded under the pressure, succumbed to their own systemic weaknesses and allowed their disparagers to affect their performance. Yes, the sides need to find stability and security, but their mental fragility must also be addressed by the cricket boards. For the good of world cricket, and also because we don’t want the Australians to win all the time. In fact, at any time.

H’mmm… This was supposed to be a post praising Sluggo, but I seemed to be ranting about other issues. Sorry. Dwayne Leverock: the King. Will we ever see his kind again?

I doubt it. I very much doubt it indeed.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The giants decide our fate

What a game. The historians will record a substantial Australian victory, but this was a tightly fought match. The Ozzies broke various records to post an intimidating 377 – with Matthew Hayden scoring the fastest century in World Cup history. The South Africans required 7.5 an over to win. A brutal attack by Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers almost made the target look possible. Unfortunately, a freak run-out and cramp saw the SA’s challenge fizzle out, but not before posting a sizable 294.

The most interesting product of this match is the emergence, I think, of a new era in world cricket. Arguably, this process may have started since Johannesburg, but I think this match indicates the existence of a trend. No longer are the Ozzies automatically dominant in all forms of the game. The South Africans now occupy the number one spot in ODIs. Yet, this is not a change of hegemon, it is a duopoly. International cricket has two powerful sides that fight each other as equals, pushing each other forward and ultimately improving the global standard.

This last point is vital. No other Big Fish would have been able to seriously challenge the Australian score as the South Africans did in St. Kitts. Maintaining over seven runs an over throughout the course of an entire innings would have quickly exhausted most batting line-ups. Although the Ozzies did bowl out the South Africans, the steel and determination never left the Proteas’ chase. England would have simply folded without a squeak. Well, maybe a squeak, but nothing more than that. Bloody squeaking is all they do.

Anyway, these two mighty teams are driving each other to achieve greater feats. The performances required for victory are ever bigger in scale. What was impossible is rapidly becoming accepted as standard. The Australians hit 11 sixes in their innings, the SAs only 6. This may not have been the decisive statistic in the match, but it illuminates a change in the nature of modern cricket: exceptional and sustained batting is the norm in the highest level of cricket. At the moment, there is no way that any other nation can compete with either of these sides. Yet, the rivalry between two truly great sides is certainly engrossing. Long may they both continue to improve world cricket.

Whilst I was watching this match, I saw possibly the second-greatest catch of all time. It was a spectator, who, I believe, caught one of Ricky Ponting’s massive sixes. The ball shot from Punter’s bat like teeth from gran’s mouth – a real wizzer. This beer-belly in the crowd was merrily chatting away to his mate, whereupon he saw a missile streaming over his head. In a flash, a pork-pie sized fist jabbed into the air and plucked this rocket from out of the air before it broke the stand behind. Only one hand was available for this deed, as the other was holding a beer. I was stunned by this skill. I was going to put a picture of this accomplishment on my blog, but I think a cartoon will better convey the brilliance and instinct of the moment.

It was like that, only more beautiful.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Dancing in the World Cup

There have been many jolly jigs performed by successful bowlers in this World Cup. Some have the moves, and some are embarrassing. This post tries to sort the groovy from the graceless and presents a definitive list of the World Cup’s Best Dancers.

The qualification procedure for this honour is difficult and complicated. We must define “dancing” as distinct from “jubilant celebrations” or “happy uncoordinated jiggling”. There is a clear difference between a jig and a jiggle. Air-punching, wild running, high-fiving and arm-raising do not count as dancing. What I am looking for is The Groove – the intentional, rhythmic wriggling that makes you, apparently, “cool”.

Here’s a good starter, on the right. This is Zimbabwe’s Tawanda Mupariwa celebrating a wicket in style. He is overjoyed by taking a scalp, but he is also intensely serious when it comes to the dance. This is a solemn art, and much practice goes into perfecting his piece.

Next, on the left, we have a couple dancing the Sluggonese waltz. This is performed by members of the Bermudan team. Notice the unbalanced nature of the moves. This one-side whirl, followed by an eventual collapse, is particular popular from these regions of the cricketing world.

Now, the winners for team co-ordination: Bangladesh.

Observe the rhythmic pumping of arms, and the stamping of feet. I think I will call this the “Tiger Tango”, or the “Bangladesh Bop” I’m not sure. But seeing as they go through this routine nearly every time they take a wicket, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of further opportunities to mull over possible names. Here’s the whole team at it.


Lastly, the prize for outstanding individual performance, especially in the category of stamina and balance goes to the former England captain, Andrew Flintoff of the Northern Lands. Congratulations Fred:

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Predictoron

OK - I admit it. My seeming prophetic forecasting skills are false. I have a machine I bought off a bloke in a pub. It’s called “The Predictoron”. It provided me with all my previous predictions, hence the computer-like accuracy. Today I asked The Predictoron the result for today’s game, Sri Lanka vs. Bangladesh.

Port of Spain: India lose to Sri Lanka by four wickets.

Both sides will field unchanged line-ups. Sri Lanka correctly calls “heads” and bowl.

The Indian innings will start brightly, with 70 on the board before the first wicket is lost. Then a bit of carnage from Malinga: India will lose four wickets for nine runs. However, Dravid will hold things together with a 72 that provides the backbone of the innings, whilst Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni, and Harbhajan will provide some fireworks in the late-order to see India recover to 272.

Sri Lanka won’t start too well: they’ll lose Tharanga and Jayasuriya cheaply. Nevertheless, those legends, Jayawardene and Sangakkara, will put 124 for the third wicket. The scene is set for Maharoof, who scores a quick-fire 73 to see the Lankans home, with vital some lower-order support. There will be five balls to spare.

The Sri Lankan fans will cheer; the Indians will not. Although, for some pessimist fans there’s hope:

The only way India can surmount their problems is by playing out their skins. We don't think they can do it for more than 2 or 3 matches. So, better to lose now, get knocked out of the tournament and start afresh for the busy cricket season ahead.

That’s the sort of negativity will like to hear here in Ayalac, and there should certainly be more of it about.

In Jamaica, the omnipotent West Indies will devour the Irish like the minnows they are. Hurrah!

In yesterday's play, Scotland did lose against the Netherlands. By eight wickets! Ha! That certainly made my day. The Scots completely capitulated. It was like taking one of my souffl├ęs out of the oven: excitement at the prospect of my achievement, and then despair at watching it pathetically collapse inwards. Only, I wasn’t despairing; I was smirking. The Scotch were annihilated in every match of this tournament, it was a comprehensive disaster. Suddenly, the sun is shining again.

Hang on. Why on earth do the Dutch play cricket? How did that happen? Were some cricket-obsessive pirates blown of course in the 17th century and, instead of raping and pillaging the locals, they taught them how to ponce about in white flannels on a cryptic stretch of grass. They must have been the worst pirates ever. And, by the looks of things, not great at cricket, either.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Scotland might lose

You can’t help but think that that Scotland should have invested more of their energies into beating the Netherlands, than trying the improbable of beating Australia. Today Scotland slumped to an appalling score of 136, being bowled out in 34.1 overs. The penetrative bowling of the well-known Billy Stelling getting three for 12, and the dangerous Mark Jonkman taking two for 22. Look at Jonkman in the picture. Look at that tenacity. He face is saying, “I bowled you out, Scotchman. I bowled you out, and now I am going to knock you down. I knock you down easy.” That’s the sort of attitude I like to see in minnows: undirected, futile aggression.

This Scotch failure brings joy to my heart. As I have noted, I have immature yet good reasons for wanting Scotland to lose, and lose badly. The problem is I don’t have pets, or children. I have nothing to nurture or help develop. So, I have decided to nurse a bitter grudge, feeding it with sulky remarks and sour observations. My precious one is growing strong.

In other news, New Zealand are showing England how it is done, and are destroying the Canadians. No fuss, no messing about with batting strategies. Just good, straight-forward slogging. Lou Vincent hit 101 in 117 balls, with nine fours and a six. None of the top-order deliberately played slow, and the crowd did not give them a slow hand clap. The reason for this is that the Kiwis are playing proper cricket, which is something the England Cricket Board may like to think about.

I’m starting to wonder whether the Black Caps might do a Sri Lanka, and sneak into the Semis without actually being that good. I don’t think so, though. There’s something indefinably mediocre about the New Zealanders. They have players of flair, and match-winners, but there’s just something of the defective about them, but I can’t put my finger on it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sluggo update

Apologies for the brevity of this post, but I found a great video of the catch of the century.

"Leverock has flown like a gazelle, I can't believe it”

In true cricket spirit, the commentators indulge in a prolonged analysis of the post-catch celebrations.

“Leverock. The big 'un. He’s off"

There’s hugging.

“You can’t pick him up, put him down.”

And running.

“It’s all moving again.”

And a pile of Bermudans.

“It’s his first ball of the World Cup, first ball of the spell and then they squash him. Please don’t let that Leverock get on top of them.”

Sluggo shows us, once again, how it’s done.

Jayasuriya: old but good

Today’s update comes rather late. I just went to a gruelling job interview. They gruelled me just as much as they grilled me. I am feeling a bit too tired to blog.

Not that any of you care. You unfeeling bastards.

I was going to write a bit about Pakistan, seeing as there is so much going on there. But I think this issue has been examined more than enough elsewhere, and it is a bit sad, too.

So, let’s talk about Sanath Jayasuriya. What a guy. He’s old enough to be my ancestor, and yet he manages 109 off 87. OK – it was against Bangladesh and all the Sri Lankans were scoring freely, but this is still an impressive performance from the old war horse. Plus, at the time of writing, the supposedly “good” batsmen of Bangladesh are being torn apart (42-5). Anyway, here's the scorecard...I only hope the Tigers don't turn the game around by the time you read this. I wouldn't want to look silly now.

Sri Lanka are the dark horses of the tournament. They have quietly been getting on with low-key, yet impressive victories. Here’s a record its campaign so far:

  • Beat Scotland by 159 runs, bowling the Scots out for 135.
  • Only just lost to New Zealand.
  • Tonked Bermuda by 243 runs.

Admittedly, they have only played minnows, and the one time they were genuinely tested they lost. But, in warm ups it’s not a question of who, but how. Their victories have been confident and unwavering, and their loss was fought tooth and nail. There don’t seem to be many question marks in the team, and all disciplines seem to be functioning effectively. Moreover, they finally have an influential all-rounder in the form of Farfeez Maharoof, making them into a very complete side.

Saying that, I still feel claims of their regaining the trophy are still fanciful, but I would back them to get into the semi-finals. Perhaps they will lose to South Africa, to meet the Windies in the final. I’m still backing the West Indies to win. They will do it. They will do it for me, because they read my blogs. Now that you have read the end of this entry, you too should do something constructive, like do some filing, or give to charity. Go on. Do it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sluggo soars, India roars

It’s the catch everyone is talking about. Sluggo launches himself into a Jonty Rhodes-like jump, soaring horizontally at full extension and seizes the ball the last possible moment. Poetry in motion.

Here’s what cricinfo had to say about this nimble take:

"Jones to Uthappa, OUT, OMG! what a catch by Dwayne Levorock! And what wild celebrations! Let no body say anymore that a fat man can't jump! Uthappa has a nervous poke, away from the body, at a length-delivery outside off stump. It flew to the right of Leverock hurled himself - hard to visualise, I am not lying but that's what happened- to his right and plucked it single-handed. And the celebrations followed. He ran off to nowhere in particular, changed directions and again went on a jig. The players mobbed him, few other went down in heap in midwicket in celebration. All over each other. Bermuda are overjoyed. The bowler is the bottom of that heap and hold on he is crying. Tears of joy! What a start!"

Sadly, despite this awesome display of athleticism, Bermuda received a thorough battering at the hands of the Indians. Interestingly, Virender Sehwag came up with the goods after a long spell of bad form, scoring 114 off 87. The Indians posted a World Cup record 413 off their 50 overs. Neat work.

Once again, the Bermudan batting lacked steel, and they folded for 156. However, Sluggo was promoted up the order, and contributed, with David Kemp, 44 for the ninth wicket. This made up, I suppose, for conceding 96 from his 10 overs.

But what a catch.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Batting first

I think we are far enough into to the tournament to begin looking at the “Simon Wilde Thesis”. The Sunday Times cricket correspondent argues that the side batting second should expect a greater chance of victory:

"Figures show 57% of all one-day internationals are won by the team batting second, and the figure is higher in matches in the West Indies."

So let’s test the hypothesis. So far, I count 11 completed matches. The full list is as follows:

1. West Indies beat Pakistan
2. Australia beat Scotland
3. Canada lost to Kenya
4. Sri Lanka beat Bermuda
5. Ireland tied with Zimbabwe
6. England lost to New Zealand
7. South Africa beat Holland
8. India lost to Bangladesh
9. Pakistan lost to Ireland
10. Australia beat Holland
11. England beat Canada

From the above, the side batting first has won six games, the chasing team has won four games and one match has been tied. 60% of the total victories has been won by the side batting first – which is a result which flatly contradicts Wilde’s thesis.

However, considering the large number of minnows in this data-set, we cannot hope to glean much useful information for aiding our predictions over Big Fish matches. I shall, therefore, refine the analysis a little more. So, let me eliminate all those games involving minnows and the keep only intra-Big Fish matches and the upsets. Preserving, in the above list, numbers (1), (6), (8) and (9), with the following additional warm-up matches (in accordance with the above criteria):

a. New Zealand lost to Bangladesh
b. West Indies lost to India
c. South Africa lost to Pakistan
d. New Zealand beat Sri Lanka
e. England lost to Australia

Of this nine, only twice has a side batting first won. 78% of the time chasing sides win. Far greater than the originally percentage predicted by the theory, and a dramatic departure from the previous conclusion.

I’m not sure whether my cleaning of the data has been legitimate, but if these results are prescient, it may create a horribly predictable World Cup. No one really wants the Final to be determined by the toss of a coin. I hate it when Simon Bloody Wilde is right.

Nevertheless, although I will revisit this issue in the future, I do not believe there to be enough results to produce meaningful statistics. A conclusion on the Wildean Hypothesis will remain on hold until I have seen more Big Fish on Big Fish action.

Bob Woolmer dies

This is really terrible news. I don’t think I can add much to what has already been said. King Cricket has written a touching obituary, and the BBC has collected some tributes from around the cricketing world.

After losing to Ireland, Bob Woolmer came under immense pressure, and was pondering his the future of his career. However, this does not explain the tragedy. He died in frightening circumstances, alone and far from his family. It is awful that any human being has to endure such ordeals, especially in the context of a prosperous career and potential to use his skills to help develop more cricketers.

One wonders where Pakistani cricket will go from here. As Inzamam has retired from one-day cricket, the team has lost its foundation. But moments like this expose the unimportance of the game, relative to value of a human life. A genuinely upsetting day for cricket.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Hungry hungry minnows

By buggery! They did it! The Irish knocked Pakistan out of the World Cup. On the same day, Bangladesh smote India. The minnows have changed world history. This justifies all I have said about the minnows. And everything else I’ve written, too.

There is a lot of talk in the blog community about Pakistan’s dismal batting. Ahmer Azhar Karimuddin in the Pakistan Cricket Update raises an interesting point:

"Who would have thought that it would be the batting that would be the biggest hang-up Pakistan would have in this tournament? "

Indeed, with the Big Three, you would think they would secure a minimum of 200 in every match. This was not the case; the batting was rubbish. Whereas the bowling was, despite the doubters and lack of stars, pretty good.

India, on the other hand, were all-round crap.

What is it with these sub-continental sides? Why aren’t they trying? Is it the old “they don’t care enough” clap-trap? Perhaps it’s the pitches? Perhaps it’s the lack of practice? Perhaps the administrative issues or off-the-field distractions? What ever it is, I wish it would stop, otherwise it looks as though no one can stop the evil Australians winning again.

As a final thought, I think we can all agree that Pakistan is a side that has not fulfilled its potential. Part of this problem has been the management issues. However, Inzy, in his current spell as captain, has done a good job. I really hope they don’t axe him, as another sacking would add to their state of confusion. I also think that Bob Woolmer has brought stability to the team, and deserves to stay on. However, the Pakistan coach has said:

"Coaching is what I like to do but whether I continue to do that at international level is under discussion. I'm going to give it some thought."

It would be a shame if he gave up coaching altogether over one mistake. It’s not his fault. We need a scapegoat. I blame Mohammad Hafeez. I had high expectations for him. He bowls off spin. A spinner should know better than losing a match. This traitor to the cause should be ruthlessly persecuted and banished from the team. It is not Inzy’s fault. Or Bob’s.

Saying this, there is clearly an attitudinal problem in the Pakistani dressing room, and something needs to change if they are to sort themselves out.

Ah well.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Cricketers at leisure

Here is a picture of Pakistan Coach Bob Woolmer and fast bowler Mohammad Sami I saw last week.

These two naked men seem to getting very close. And by the look on Bob’s face, things might get a little closer.

Actually, what is going on with his face? What is he about to do? Maybe he’s about to “dunk” Sami? I’m not sure he’d look that keen, though. Sami’s knee seems to be moving across. Perhaps he is trying to ward Bob off? “Keep off!” he says through a feigned smile. “Not in front of the cameras.”

It shows you the changing times of cricket. You certainly wouldn’t have seen Devon Malcolm and Raymond Illingworth caught in a similarly semi-nude embrace. Saucy cricketers: it’s the way forward

England rediscover their natural game

Yes. We lost again. Just like the good old days. I can’t say that many of us our surprised. But it’s a pity as their performance was rather spineless. The Kiwis didn’t really do anything special. They just turned up, bowled some good balls and tapped the ball around. Nothing spectacular. They just waited for England’s inevitable slump.

And what a slump: England lost four wickets for five in a rather nostalgic middle order collapse. There was some nice batting at the death from Paul Nixon and Plunkers, but 209 was never enough. A slow pitch and poor fielding saw New Zealand ease home.

This doesn’t mean the World Cup is over for the English - they still will go into the Super 8 (albeit with less points). However, the great “Play Slow” plan was not productive. As I predicted (sorry, smugness getting me again) this strategy is dangerous if you lose quick wickets - as you have not accumulated a buffer of runs. If you invest batsmen’s energies in “getting their eye in” you are totally reliant on them staying in to covert this into a decent score. England’s batsman failed, and thus the innings was a disaster.

More importantly, they need to work out how to play on the St. Lucia ground and, ultimately, develop of game that is well-suited and productive on Caribbean pitches. Otherwise, the dynamic Kenyans will have us for breakfast.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Sluggo down and out

A sad day for lovers of teddy bears – Sri Lanka destroy Bermuda. Normally, minnow-swotting wouldn’t bother me. However, in this instance, cuddly Sluggo was involved. Sluggo didn’t perform well at all. And this makes me sad. :(

His bowling statistics are: 10-0-67-1 .

Not the usual standards we expect here in Ayalac.

Whilst batting, he scored one run, and his eighth ball brought the end of his, and Bermuda’s, sorry innings. (He also dropped two catches – hence the droppy picture.) Despite a brave effort from the extras (9), they only managed 78, and didn’t last half their allotted overs. Coupled with allowing the Lankan to ease over 300 runs, this made for a sorry show.

Although I noted elsewhere that I thought the minnows were a cheery addition to an otherwise formulaic international cricket scene, I am beginning to have doubts.

The rather predictable dispatching of the Banana Republic’s finest cricketing postmen doesn’t seem to mirror the intense competition in other sports – like the Football World Cup. It’s more Twickenham under-12s FCC than Inter Milan. The incorporation of the minnows might turn more people off. I’m still not sure.

Saying that, the Ireland/Zimbabwe game was a cracker, to be sure. It gave international exposure to two developing squads, which surely can’t be a bad thing? The standard of cricket wasn’t the best, but, as any England cricket fan will opine, quality isn’t a vital element in enjoying a match.

Generally, I am finding this phase of the tournament rather unsatisatisfying. The groups have been organised in such a way to ensure that the Big Fish are guaranteed to get through. Yes, there may be a surprise result – but the Test Level sides will all make it to Stage Two. There is no real drama – no tension over who might go. I can only assume that the ICC has decided that the teams require an extra long warm-up period, or perhaps they wouldn’t mind some more cash?

No… I’m sure they’re thinking about the players.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Spaceship Scotland crashes and burns

This match was always going to be a lose-lose situation for me.

Like the rest of humanity, I obviously want to see the Australians humiliated by a minnow. However, after a nasty break up with a Scottish girlfriend, I have turned rather anti-Things-North-Of-The-Border. I am now an advocate of full Scottish independence, isolation and saturation bombing. So, it’s probably best if I take the little drop of bitter glee from the match and do like any good journalist by Focusing On The Loser.

So it brings me great joy when I say: Scotland were crushed by an opposing team. Hurrah!

This, yet again, matches up to my forecasts on the matter. The Scocthmen’s bizarre strategy of targeting one of the most awesome cricket machines in history was a mistake. Why not quote myself? It saves on effort.

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.

OK – admittedly this wasn’t exactly sticking my neck out. But still, one group of barbarians defeated another. Isn’t that enough?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Ayalac curse strikes

I’ll try not to smug in this post. I’ll probably fail, but at least I’m trying.

So! The first blood is drawn. As per my prediction, the West Indies dispatched Pakistan. I even got some things right: Pakistan won the toss (although, contrary to my advice, chose to field); Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq contributed with the second and third highest scores; and, erm, Chanderpaul scored a century.

I wouldn’t read too much into this match, however. As two teams will go through to the next round, and there’s two ‘good’ sides in each group, the first stage is rather like a glorified warm-up. Even if there is an upset, the same old pros are sure to get through.

Still, I pity the poor Pakistan fans. Unlike England, they are packed with talent and should win matches. Unlike England, you don’t expect them to lose. And yet somehow they do. Hence, I was also amused to read the desperation in Omar’s blog. It was a lot more sweary than usual. These made me laugh, so let me share:

“Imran Nazir's …. is a fucking idiot. …Someone needs to bumjack him in the dressing room”

One shudders to think what this entails.

“What in the world was [Younis Khan] doing? Did you see that shot? What the fuck?”

Eventually, the laws of physics are attacked:

“Inzi was unlucky with the decision. I think it was going over the wicket. Fuck what Hawkeye says!”

However, as we all know, it was not science that stopped Pakistan, but my predictions. I have back the Windies. Fear my wrath all those that defy my champions!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

It is nearly upon us

OK – the hype for this World Cup has been near BBC Grandstand proportions. You know the feeling, you look in the paper to see when the match starts, you read “3:00pm”, giving you just enough time to make some tea. You sit down, with a biscuit in a comfortable “I’m ready to watch the match now” position. Then, they talk and talk, you see footage of past matches, interviews, statistics, pretty pictures and it seems to be tomorrow before the game has even started. By which time, you have imbibed your drink, leaving you tealess and distraught before it has even started.

This blog is rather like that.

So following on from soon-to-be-accurate predictions, I will give you a summary of today’s match straight to the point.

West Indies vs. Pakistan, Jamaica, 2:30pm GMT start.

Pakistan will win the toss and bat.

Pakistan will score 238. Inzamam-ul-Haq will score a useful 41, but Mohammad Yousuf and Mohammad Hafeez will top-score with 52 and 62 respectively.

The quicks will chip away, but Chris Gayle will do most of the damage taking 3-38 in his ten overs.

The Windies reply will start disastrously. Rapidly being reduced to 34-4, losing Brian Lara, Ramnaresh Sarwan, and Gayle for not much. However, Shivnarine Chanderpaul will hold the side together with a tremendous 109 not out. He will receive solid late-order support, with most players chipping in. Despite the efforts of Naved-ul-Hasan (2-34) and impressive spinning from Danish Kaneria (2-45) Chanderpaul will hit the winning runs on the third ball of the 48th over, with a nice flick through mid-wicket.

Winning the game by two wickets. Nice.

Monday, March 12, 2007

AYALAC Official Backing

I’m not sure I like the look of that acronym. It sounds a bit like a health-food shop for hippies. “This organic tofu contains essence of Ayalac, which decleanses your spiritual pores.” Ah well. It’s too late to change my name now. I’ll have to live with this humiliation for the rest of my blogging life – which, on average I understand, is about five minutes.

So anyway! On the World Cup’s eve, I have decided to champion the cause of one team, and one team alone. Normally, I would give my total support to the England team. Obviously, they are a bunch of useless losers, so there is no point in getting my hopes up. Besides, England teams are supposed to lose. I think our fans prefer it like that. It feels normal; losing make my insides warm and cosy. “It’s like I’m home in front of the fire” I think when we are whitewashed again.

Hence, the essence of Ayalac gives its backing to the WEST INDIES.

Sir Vivian Richards finally swung us when he said:

“Brian Lara is retiring from one-day cricket at the end of the World Cup and it would be fitting to see him smash the winning runs in the final.”

Now that, you must agree, would be a superb way to finish the tournament. To be honest, I think most of the world wants the Windies to win. A West Indies win would surely rejuvenate a sport that increasingly less popular in the region. There’s an adage in England: “When Yorkshire are strong, England are strong.” I have a feeling that when Caribbean cricket is strong, world cricket is strong. And, at the moment, I would rather fancy the Martians chances against us. Also, the hosts have to win at some point…

Go on Brian! Do it for your spiritual pores!

(I actually think that South Africa will win. Don’t tell. But I fear it is rather prosaic to pick a side that you think will actually succeed.)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The ego and cricket

There‘s an interesting blog on Gentleman‘s Game No More on pressure. The article trots out the old Keith Miller quote, who piloted Hurricanes during the Second World War:

"Pressure? I'll tell you what pressure is. Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse. Playing cricket is not."

Mephistopheles concludes that "pressure" is an over-used word in modern cricket, and suggests that it is not applicable in the context of a sporting event. There are two reasons why this is wrong.

Firstly, the key word here is the pronoun "I". Our characters are partly formed by our past. Major or traumatic events are significant in affecting our current proclivities. Miller is alluding to a subjective episode that correlates tightly with particular circumstances in his life experience.

Yet, fortunately, the present cricketing generation has not fought in a war. Our point of reference for our concepts and language come from the notable instances from our rather less turbulent history. We deploy a vocabulary that seems, in our view, most relevant to the situation before us. As, thankfully, we all have not experienced such peril, we apply words that others (say, soldiers) who have may not feel suitable. However, surely language does not fit the extremes of the human emotions, but the middle ground. Or, more accurately, it matches with the usage of the current generation of the English-speaking community. Moreover, is this not simply too high a benchmark for our language? It is not the cricketers that must struggle to formulate an applicable phrase - but the fighter pilots.

Secondly, the nature of modern cricket has changed. I have noted elsewhere that "intensity" is just as much a part of the international game as bats and stumps. For better or for worse, this is a fact of life. Indeed, it also reflects the changing focus of society. We are no longer are stirred by national prestige, as sport is now the chief channel for our emotional energies and passions. This is surely an improvement. But also, it irresistibly heightens the role for sport in language as well as society. Consequently, cricket has become professional. Sponsorship deals are worth millions. Players give 110%. They give their all to the team; those who fail to fully commitment lose. Careers, the lives of men, hang in the balance. Like businessman and stockbrokers, they feel pressure because their future, and the team's future, is uncertain.

Moreover, as we are social animals, the pressure is felt because of the over-spilling anticipation of the millions of fans, the expectation of the coach and the demands of the press. This additional dimension adds to the excitement and to the enjoyment of the game.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Pot. Kettle. Black.

Do you remember the summer of 1998? In that summer, a new bloke started playing for England. He seemed promising. The only problem was his fatness. Despite being only 20, this weight problem persisted. It even started to give him back problems. The ECB issued an ultimatum: shape up, or sod off.

Now that bloke is super-fit, and is one of the best players in the world. Although, he’ll never forget his roots. His heart is with the fat people. He feels for them, he empathises with them. He knows their pain like no other.

Hang on. This picture doesn’t seem to be saying these things. The picture says: “Betrayal.” It says, “Ex-Fatty is being mean to my new hero, Sluggo.” Well I won’t stand for that Andrew Flintoff of Lancashire! You leave the teddy bear of Bermuda alone! He is my hero. This is a warning: blogging can turn nasty.

Lets all by nice to Sluggo. I’ll start: he has the best hair-do of all the world’s cricketers.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Vaughan: Back to Basics

I notice that the BBC stole my Michael Vaughan picture in the post below. Should I sue them? Best not draw attention to myself, really… Anyway, sorry for the repetition, but here’s some more Vaughan.

In a recent interview, Vaughan has claimed that England’s recent success is due to their “back to basics” approach. I normally associate back to basics with John Major’s desperate attempts to hold a divided and toppling government together in the face of inevitable annihilation. But I’m sure it’ll all be cheery for Vaughany.

Anyway, in this interview, the England captain believes big-hitters are not central to the England plan:

“Paul Collingwood is not that explosive, but he’s very, very valuable. JD [Jamie Dalrymple] is very explosive towards the end, Belly is a nice little player who knocks it around and KP [Kevin Pieterson] is coming back. These guys are all going to play their part.”

This cerebral, clear-thinking approach for Vaughan is really refreshing. It rejects the contemporary obsession with rope-clearing; it is not the only tactic worth considering. Building an innings in a deliberate and methodical way is just as effective when compiling a score. Rather like the old adage: “It’s not how, it’s how many”.

For Vaughan, England won in Australia because of

“…going back to basics, working together as a team, trying to prepare in a way that was specific to one-day cricket and then just having that little bit of luck. We got together and talked about every aspect of one-day cricket as a team – we left no stone unturned.”

This is a very interesting comment. It shows that England are willing to scrutinise their approach and diversify their tactics. One-day cricket is not about predictable variation (rotating bowlers and field settings for the hell of it) it’s about conforming to a carefully constructed plan and being flexible in the use of tactics. Similarly, when batting you must look to your team’s particular skill-set, and build a plan that emphasis and even exaggerates this natural advantage.

I have now convinced myself: Pinch-hitting is not the only method to victory.

It seems, rather like me, Michael Vaughan is challenging the hegemonic discourses that many take for granted. Is there nothing the man can’t do?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Playing it slow

England have announced another ex post facto change of tactics. Instead of promoting a pinch-hitter to take advantage of the early fielding restrictions, they will “build a foundation”. Angus Fraser states:

“The plan is for England to make up for a slow start by scoring heavily in the final 15 overs of each innings. It is hoped the tactic allows them to consistently post scores of 260-270, totals that will ensure they are competitive in every match.”

Weirdly, this puts a lot of pressure for the bowlers to perform well. As others* have pointed out, the days of an “unchasable score” seems to be over. This means that the bowlers must (and there is not derogating this) must contain or skittle the batsman. Achieving containment is extremely difficult given the quality of current international slogging, and taking wickets depends on the penetration of the bowlers. However, considering last summer’s performance, I doubt Sajid Mahmood, Liam Plunkett, James Anderson et al. are capable of defending scores below thee-hundred.

Saying that, the approach is a practical and realistic acknowledgement of England’s modest boundary-spanking resources. Thus, we must make the most of Kevin Pieterson and Andrew Flintoff by giving them a licence to slog towards the end of the innings. As always, we can only hope for the best with the bowlers.

Anyway, is this really a conservative return to old-fashioned one-day play? Well, consider this: if Adam Gilchrist gets out swinging the bat, there’s plenty of talent below him to recover the innings and put on a decent score through nudging ones and twos. But, what happens when England lose their upper-order cheaply? The sloggers are exposed and, if they lose their wickets, an imperfect start turns into a disastrous end.

Arguably, the insurance of consequence-free early hitting provides a greater buffer to a side wanting to “play it safe”; obtaining quickly the comfort of runs. Whereas nurdling singles can only succeed if executed over a long duration, and with wickets in hand. Pinning our hopes on preserving wickets might undermine confidence further, and place more pressure on the lower order to “catch up”. Digging ourselves further into a hole of negativity. Which is something I generally approve of.

So, accepting reality might be another ECB cock-up. Who knows? So, we’ll see how it goes with England. But at least Michael Vaughan has implemented some strategy to proceedings.

* The link feature appears to be broken on blogger. Here's the article I wanted to link to:

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The minnows fight back

Despite the efforts of the ten-fingered Jacob Oram, minnow Bangladesh consumed the big fish New Zealand.

Poor batting reduced New Zealand to 34 for 4, whereupon Oram added a steady 88 to leave them with 226. Bangladesh’s reply was solid, with Javed Omar and Tamim Iqbal putting on 85 for the first wicket. Thereafter, Bangladesh commanded the game. Mashrafe Mortaza finished the Black Caps off with 30 off 14 balls, striking three sixes, with an over to spare.

Clearly, the Kiwis didn’t really turn up to Bridgetown. They’re only Bangladesh, after all. But, this is the strength of the minnow: deceptive ability. They are not a push over, like Twickenham under-13s were, you must apply yourself to win. When international teams become complacent against such sides they lose.

All these little teams are trying hard to win and deserve respect from their opponents. To fail to give this respect teams run the risk of “doing a New Zealand”.

Minnows play to an international standard, only they do not contain the consistent quality of the bigger teams. It’s more like a football World Cup, with plucky Ghana trying to fell mighty Brazil. As such, minnows are an important part of the World Cup. Their presence diversifies the international cricket experience and makes it more interesting to a wider audience.

Let them play!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

England beat a fat man at his own game

When I looked up the score during the interval, England looked on the ropes. The press’ main theme was “Uninspiring England scrape a score thanks to Jamie Dalrymple’s nurdling”. This morning the headline in the Metro is “England cruise to crushing win”. 22.2 overs is a short time in cricket.

After posting a respectable 286, England blew Bermuda away, scoring 45 all out. Hopefully, our boys got some practice out of it.

There has been a lot of talk of the minnows’ place in the World Cup. I, for one, have not issued a comment on the matter. I will continue this precedent.

However, I would like to note that the Caribbean island has two decent players: David Hemp, who captains Glamorgan and 21-stone Dwayne Leverock who bowls tight left-armers. The latter is now one of my favourites in the international cricket arena – his nickname is “Sluggo”. What a name. What a man. What a spinner.

The rest of them are rubbish.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Obsession with injury

OK – I may not have a great memory,but I don’t remember
cricketers always being a bunch of old crocks. Angus Fraser (champion) used to plug away for years without injury. Alright, that may not be entirely true, but in my unfounded opinion, cricketers are receiving more injuries. There are two schools of thought explaining this development:

1. Geoff Boycottism (They’re all a bunch of girls). This thesis asserts that modern cricketers have become increasingly fragile because of universal use of “shoes” and banning corporal punishment in schools.

2. They’re over-worked. This re-iterates the usual complaint that cricketers play too much cricket.

The reality is probably a mixture of the two. Or probably not. Anyway, here is a list of international players that are either injured or have an injury “scare”.

- Mathew Hayden
- Michael Vaughan
- Herschelle Gibbs
- Justin Kemp
- Jacob Oram
- Andrew Symonds
- Abdul Razzaq
- Brett Lee
- Simon Jones
- Shoaib Akhtar
- Mohammad Asif

I decided to stop at eleven. But it’s enough for a whole team – a pretty good team, now that I look at it. It seems that at any point 5% of the world’s cricketing talent has some sort of injury.

It’s worth noting that none of the above crocks is a spinner. Look at the above picture. Anil Kumble continuing to win matches, despite the major head trauma. What does that tell you about spinners?

Friday, March 02, 2007

There is a very interesting article on the Canadian cricket website, about the under-development of cricket in the Americas.

It documents the first overseas tour in 1859, as All-England took on the Americans.

…the tour concluded with the notorious 'Frosty Match' played at Rochester, NY, on October 21, 24, and 25 between Eleven of England and Twenty-two of the United States and Canada. The home side was wrecked by the round-arm bowling of John Wisden (of the Cricket Almanack). But dismissal appeared to come as relief to the half frozen batsmen. "Shiver my timbers, I'm out!" was the relieved cry as they made a dash for the warmth of the pavilion. The home side was beaten, early on the third day, by an innings and 70 runs, but in fact, it was cricket that was defeated on the fields of Rochester.

Cricket simply failed to attract a broader audience that day. A PR disaster; cricket beaten by bad weather. It may have been the first such instance, but it wasn’t the last.

The article goes on to place partial responsibility for the death of cricket, on those that attempted to preserve it, specifically those in Philadelphia:

Indeed, I sometimes think that it was the snobbishness of Philadelphia which was largely responsible for branding cricket as a 'stuck-up' game in popular American perception

Compared to the everyman’s game of baseball, cricket didn’t have a chance. It was seen as exclusive. Which is, in itself, part of the contradictory nature of cricket: its charm lies in its antiquated and rather archaic rules that baffle outsiders. Cricket stops for tea, plays with a straight bat, and have you ever tried to explain a forward defensive to someone who knows nothing about the game? Cricket feeds on these snobberies, and appeals to those who are dissatisfied with American culture.

In another possible world cricket could have survived in America. But imagine the game if the yanks got hold of it. It would be a vulgar spectacle, with unnecessary American rules with silly titles like “power plays”. Games would last no more than twenty overs, and awful music would blare out when boundaries are scored. Ghastly.

Thankfully, this never happened, and cricket remains the better game. Conversely, baseball did catch on over here. Only we call in “rounders” and it is played by children.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Ian Salisbury agrees with me

After reading Muttiah Muralitharan’s savage attack on me, former England spinner, Ian Salisbury comes to my defence. In a recent interview, he states that Monty Panesar will be a big player in the World Cup and that “spin may play a big part in the tournament.” Take that Murali!

Moreover, he goes on to support another thesis of mine:

“…why is that a fast bowler can get away with being a No. 11 but a spin bowler can’t? Spinners are always expected to bat at seven, eight or nine. You look at Glenn McGrath, he’s in the Australia side for his bowling but he can’t bat to save his life. So why was Monty given stick for his batting when he was in the side for his bowling?”

Hear, hear! Spinners are indeed oppressed. Spinning is an important discipline in itself, and should not be sullied by the demand for batting skills. In fact, rubbishy fast bowlers should be the ones expected to swan around with the willow, and keep wicket.