The cricket blogger survey

wrongunatlongon:

this guy needs answers from people less lazy than me.

Originally posted on Declaration Game cricket blog:

Blogger survey-page-001

If you are a current or former cricket blogger, please take part in the survey by clicking this link: Cricket blogger survey 2014

Cricket faces commercial, political and governance challenges of an unprecedented scale. The fate of its disparate group of unpaid, online chroniclers is trivia in the grand, complex narrative of the sport. This attempt at some informal research will not uncover answers to any of cricket’s dilemmas, but don’t dismiss the subjects of this survey too quickly.

From my vantage in England, two of cricket’s biggest stories in 2014 have been the surrender of collegiate control of the ICC to ‘the big three’ and the ECB’s efforts to establish a ‘new era’ for the senior men’s team. With the exception of Cricinfo, the professional media in the UK were slow to subject both stories to critical scrutiny, denying for some time that there really was a story –…

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KP Batting Masterclass

I was linked to this video on the Graun, BTL on Vic Marks’ latest piece. I’m not too sure who by, but thanks.

Two things stood out for me:

- For someone with every shot in the book, as well as adding  couple of chapters to the book, KP never plays the cut shot. That seems weird to me. I’m guessing it’s cos he’s tall so he drives everything.

- Ian Ward is excellent.

That is all.

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The Great Biblical Tale of Kevin Pietersen

From one book, of everlasting importance to at least dozens of people, to another. Scripted by some of the finest writers of their era, quoted, analysed, counter-analysed, and argued over until the original point was long forgotten. There is, naturally, only one tale in the Bible that runs parallel to The Kevin Pietersen Saga: that of Jesus H. Christ.

Synopsis:

A man capable of miracles, who made waves more or less from debut; sprung unto the world from seemingly nowhere. English cricket was staggering around like a blind man before 2005; his 158* at the Oval gave it sight. England had long been lepers in India; then came the Miracle Innings of Mumbai (capitalised) to cure it’s inadequacies. Walking on water; switch-hitting the world’s greatest off-spinner for six in a Test. How could anyone not love him?

Then the twist plot: Never entirely trusted by the authorities. Some severe man-management issues. Betrayal by friends, sacrificed to save others, denial from within the camp. Destined to never quite fit into the old way of thinking, Kevin Pietersen changed the boundary ropes of the religion of cricket.

(My Tattoo drawing skills on MS Paint aren’t half as good as my ability to give my characters superbly out of scale bobble heads)

Starring:

Kevin Pietersen – Jesus Christ (who else)

Andy Flower – Satan (a complete mood hoover)

Paul Downton – Pontius Pilate (ultimately the man who signed the order, even if he inherited the situation – of course he handled it all appallingly)

Giles Clarke – Caiaphas (made a political calculation, suggesting that it would be better for “one man” (Jesus) to die than for “the whole nation” (ECB) to be destroyed)

Andrew Strauss – Herod the Great/Herod Antipas (there can only be one “King of the Jews”)

Alastair Cook – Barrabas (Jesus was sacrificed instead of this man, who was of course in significantly more murderous form)

Matthew Prior – Judas Iscariot (on the whole, probably not the most villainous character of the tale, but perhaps the one whose name will live on most in association with treachery and betrayal).

James Anderson and Stuart Broad – James and John (disciples in the ‘in gang’, Jesus disapproved them for being generally ill-tempered)

Graeme Swann – Thomas (the disciple better known as “Doubting Thomas”)

Duncan Fletcher & Michael Vaughan – Mary & Joseph (’nuff said)

Paul Collingwood – John the Baptist (a good egg also prematurely sacrificed by a Herod)

Shane Warne – Mary Magdalene (a dalliance that never quite seemed right)

Spoiler Alert:

Jesus Christ’s legacy lived on largely because there is no-one capable of replacing Jesus Christ. It wasn’t that the disciples were not as well-intentioned, or even not as capable of great acts or being martyred themselves – many were, they just weren’t Jesus. The establishment’s reaction to Jesus was that they were threatened, and their instinct was to protect their own standing. They turned something which could have been great for all, and created divisions within what they had.

Needless to say, KP’s film will be directed by Mel Gibson. Go easy on the torture.

I have also copyrighted the twitter username @KPJesus. Back off, disciples, you’re not sharing the account password with me.

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Improving Cricket (Part One)

At lunch at the Ageas Bowl, having paid (well over the odds) for a couple of beers and some food, we perched on some railings and watched most of the afternoon session from a vantage point in between two stands, one of which obscured much of one half of the field.

After a couple of hours at Lords, we sat on the grass behind the Edrich Stand in the sun with our croissants (posh ain’t I), eyes on a large screen, and stayed there until around tea when the area became busy again.

I stream cricket until my monthly data allowance runs out. I play cricket, occasionally and poorly. I follow about 500 cricket fans, players and bloggers/journos on twitter. I even write a god-awful, infrequently-tended-to blog about it. I’m an utter tragic. So why would I sit there, having paid lots of money to watch live cricket, and watch it on a screen behind the stand? Why would I watch the action through a restricted view at Southampton?

The answer to both, is “comfort”. I’m an unremarkable bloke of an unfortunately average height (5″10), I’m generally healthy and reasonably fit, and I’m in my late twenties – apparently the age when I reach my physical prime (as much as I hope this isn’t it!). Don’t get me wrong, I’m no He-Man, but I consider that I have a lot of physical advantages over what I perceive to be the average cricket fan. Yet I can not sit in comfort for 7 hours in the same seat. Certainly not in one of *those* seats.

Lords was packed, busy and stuffy, but how about the Bowl? How is it normal to feel so utterly cramped in a half-full stadium? It’s not exclusively the legroom; it’s also the shoulder room, the shape of the seat itself, the heat and stickiness trapped between thigh and seat, and the duration of a day’s cricket; 7 hours in these conditions just doesn’t work for a normal human body. I don’t necessarily blame either the Ageas or Lords in terms of the seats provided. I’ve also been at ‘state of the art’ sport stadiums with padded leather seats, like they have at The Emirates – and they really aren’t any better. Although at least at football it’s more acceptable to stand up for long periods…

What I’d recommend is for areas within cricket grounds to stretch legs AND be able to see the action. Grass banks don’t tend to work as well on a rainy day in Cardiff as they might in 30+ degree heat in Perth, but perhaps something along the lines of a concrete terrace, obviously akin to the classic, world-renowned Mayflower Terrace (at the world-renowned Home Park) might at least give people the option of an alternative space to watch the cricket from during the day.

I suspect it wouldn’t be too popular in the morning session, of course, but come lunch and the afternoon evening sessions, I expect a rotational uptake would be pretty high. An area for the cricket team socials/stag dos/groups to congregate and enjoy their afternoon beers together rather than simply annoying people ‘by the bar’ under the stand – the refreshments could even come to you. An area where you can move around; an area to get away from the spitting lower class oik in the allocated seat next to yours; an area where you can breathe, a “fun” area.

The members at Lords wouldn’t want it, of course, and to be fair to them they tend to get sellout crowds anyway so there wouldn’t be quite the perceived need for it there. How about the average punter in half-full crowds at Leeds, Southampton and Durham?

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The Crowd At Southampton

It’s rare that I feel the need to respond to an article, so well done Ed Smith in advance for penning drivel on a scale of such a magnitude to force me out of what I had previously thought was a permanent slumber at work.

http://www.newstatesman.com/sport/2014/08/true-meaning-success-and-why-we-should-never-listen-impatient-mob

This paragraph is the particularly painful one:

“The crowd took the opposite view to the newspapers that claim to represent England fans. Cook was cheered all the way to the middle at the toss, then greeted by a standing ovation when he returned to the pavilion 48 not out at lunch on the first day. The England coach, Peter Moores, conceded that he had never seen Cook more moved than after that spontaneous act of collective support. Another standing ovation followed when he walked off, having made 95. The atmosphere of the post-match victory ceremony was driven by deep respect for the England captain.”

Ok, my turn. As someone who was there at the Rose Bowl on that First Day, and had paid the “twenty odd quid” to be there, I absolutely hate (HATE) this notion of the crowd there absolutely loving him, “two fingers up to the doubters”, “Cook 4 Life”, etc.

I’ve sat and (preferably) stood at many sporting occasions in my time, from having a season ticket at Plymouth Argyle, to watching England or Bath play rugby, to of course cricket – usually England, but occasionally Hampshire/Somerset depending where I am.

There have been times I have wanted the manager or captain of ‘my’ side to go. Of these, I would split them into two categories: there are times I’ve watched terrible players not worth the shirt let me down week after week because they simply don’t have the ability. Then there is a completely different situation, where a good, talented player is letting you down because the attitude or focus is wrong.

Somehow Cook bridges these two options. He isn’t a good enough captain: He has no natural charisma or leadership, he has managed 200 international games whilst remaining seemingly obliviously aloof from the finer nuances of the game. He has no confidence in himself. His people-management skills are woeful. His stubbornness and attitude.

As a batsman however, he is gifted. Gifted in his own way, sure. He can bat for a long time, and will probably still break records. He is however in a horrible run of form, is it 60+ international innings without a ton?, which has coincided with the mental pressures of captaining a struggling side. I want Cook the batsman back – at least in Tests.

The Rose Bowl was a peculiar occasion. England hadn’t won a Test in 10. Of course the crowd were pleased that England turned it around. Gary Ballance and Ian Bell’s innings were both wonderful knocks, Jos ‘not ready’ Buttler was a breath of fresh air, and then England’s bowlers including Moeen turned up.

Then there was Cook. I don’t want to talk about his 70* in the second innings because it was a situation completely void of anything resembling pressure, and he scored at a rate about half that of most of his colleagues did in that situation. This innings was an irrelevance, and I wasn’t there anyway. So I look at his gritty, non-fluent, fortunate 95 in the first:

It was a knock by an Englishman which set a platform for not only better knocks by more Englishmen (exclude Ballance who was superb in the exact same situation), but ultimately also a big win – a big win to end a shocking streak of draws and (mainly) losses. It was the knock of a man struggling to justify his position in spite of being an England great (he is an England great by the way). He even fell sympathetically close to that elusive, job-saving ton. Yet his job was saved regardless.

The Rose Bowl, and in fact the entire south of England, doesn’t see very many Test matches outside of London. This first day struggle on a flat pitch up, creeping towards the ton, for a batsman that obviously out of nick – it was always going to be applauded. I stood at the end; I appreciated it, so I clapped. This is not a ringing endorsement of his continued place as captain of the team.

I repeat: this is NOT a ringing endorsement of his continued place as captain of the team. Watching Cook the Batsman struggle manfully, is NOT the same as watching Clueless Cook the Captain struggle out of his depth.

At Lords on Day 4, again I was there, it was utterly embarrassing. Humiliating, even. The Indians didn’t take over Lords that day, as was reported. The English crowd just had nothing to applaud, nothing to get behind. It was shocking. I left with 30 minutes to go – I won’t be hurrying to buy a ticket for the Ashes next summer. THAT is an endorsement of his captaincy.

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***1990s Cricket Memory Alert***

Born in the 1980s, a lot of my “growing up” memories were formed as a child in the 1990s. It was when I got into cricket, and what a decade it was for the game!

From the decline of that great West Indian side, to the emergence of that great Australian side, to the batch of genuinely excellent quicks floating around the international circuit like the glamorous Wasim/Waqar, the fiery Donald/Pollock, Curtley and Courtney, the ominous Glenn McGrath, and even the likes of India and the Zimbabweans had either Srinath or Streak.

Even looking back, I’m not sure how to place England’s Gus Fraser, Goughie, Big Devon et al among that lot. I suspect they’d be some way behind, akin to reluctantly-invited work colleague huddled together getting pissed at the back of a wedding, watching the main players of the day go about their stuff: wholly irrelevant in the big picture, but certainly capable of being mildly interesting if approached.

I’d go into the batsmen of the era too, but it would start and end with Brian Charles Lara.

*gives everyone a moment to think about BCL*

Anyway, the memory which provoked this piece (and my blog posts genuinely have to be provoked these days) wasn’t really much to do with cricket. Well it was, and it wasn’t. Needless to say it was frowned upon by those running the game, and there was even a hint of racial bias to it – as a bit of a ‘foreign problem’.

Regardless, it captured the imagination of this scrawny English kid. It seemed bizarre then, and even more bizarre now. These “disgraceful scenes” were the backdrop of “a sad day for English cricket”:

Pitch invasion

You think cricket has problems these days with mere match-fixing, financial inequalities permanently ingrained by the “Big Three”, texts being sent to opponents, and a god-awful balance to an England side not suited to the format in the slightest. Just imagine all this…PLUS a mad scrum of fans trying to grab a souvenir stump – usually occurring within one of England’s more provincial, “northern” towns. Or if you don’t want to imagine it, just remember it instead. Cos it happened.

This Daily Heil article at the time sums up the prevailing mood at the time.

“If a player lashed out at one with his bat or a fist he would probably be fined his match fee, possibly be arraigned in court and almost certainly be sued for compensation, now the favourite word in the English language.”

The author, Ian Wooldridge, even went on to say:

“What does concern me, since we now have several Indian and Pakistani families living in Britain, is how the Old Trafford match will pan out. A rival newspaper suggested yesterday that it should be transferred to the small Amsterdam ground in Holland where South Africa played Kenya last week. Personally I would favour the Falkland Islands.”

Which is what I mean regarding the semi-racist, “colonial” attitude regarding the horrific terrorism going on at the time: those young chaps going after the stumps. I’d like to say the attitude has faded since, but given the angle put out there on the Jadeja/Anderson incident this summer, I’m not so sure…

Waqar Younis obliquely stated: “We have got to do something about security”. Smart man, Waqar. Good yorkers, and this proverbial delivery would have crushed, well…a proverbial toe.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1393761.stm

 

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Cook’s Last Test As Captain?

2-1 up. India utterly broken; plenty of runs at Southampton… “Role on Australia!”. Etc.

Let’s start this off by stating that England will probably win this Test. India don’t win Tests away from home very often, let alone get series’ results – and make no mistake, a drawn series here would be a huge result for a young Indian side.

However the big picture still doesn’t add up for Cook. By my reckoning this is the most likely Test for a captaincy change since the loss to Sri Lanka, and it feels almost as likely for it as the final Test of the drubbing Down Under did. If India manage to summon the spirit they showed just two Tests ago, and England again fold under pressure, I think it *will* be Cook’s last.

The sacking might not come immediately. In fact at this stage I would imagine it probably wouldn’t – the ECB have invested a fair amount in Cook, and a 2-2 draw is poor – but not necessarily that poor.

However what then comes next would be next to insurmountable for any England captain, let alone a man of Cook’s abilities. Even Cook’s best form still isn’t really suited to one day cricket. Even if he scores lots of runs in the World Cup, he’ll score them at a rate too slowly to be match-winning; and possibly at a rate which is match-losing. His captaincy won’t defy expectations in the field; his off-the-cuff intuition for the game is one of his weakest points. He doesn’t react naturally to things which deviate from the set plan, and the bowling attack at his disposal is going to be pretty poor – Anderson and Broad can only bowl 40% of the overs in ODI cricket.

If England have a nightmare World Cup – and I cannot remember the last time they had anything else, Cook will surely be removed from his post for the 50 over format with immediate effect. If they’re considering his role in ODIs, they will surely also cast a long glance at his record in Tests – which could theoretically look like this:

  • No Test centuries for 33 innings
  • Three Test series without victory, including hosting two ‘weak’ subcontinental sides
  • Complete disintegration of Strauss’s successful side

This is why the Oval could be Cook’s final act as Test captain. So it is now over to you, India. All you have to do is turn up.

English Test Century Makers since May 2013

  1. Sam Robson
  2. Gary Ballance
  3. Joe Root
  4. Ian Bell
  5. Jos Buttler
  6. Moeen Ali
  7. Ben Stokes
  8. Kevin Pietersen
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