.

I don’t know whether to post this, or even where it’s going, exactly.

I was numbed by the news about Phil Hughes this morning, completely numbed. 25 is ‘no age at all’, and thoughts must go to the family, friends, and, well, “the cricket family” who have all been affected.

25 is also the age I lost what was good friend of mine, to a roadside bomb in the Helmand province. I don’t really like to talk about him, and it is something I have definitely bottled up in real life. I don’t expect to chat much about him in future either, but for some reason this Hughes tragedy has made me want to open up. And by open up, I mean write a few words to the one bot and his dog that read this.

My friend, who I’ll call ‘Jack’, was a good bloke. I knew him for 14 years, he was a good bloke, funny in a self-deprecating way, a liability once he’d drunk anything. He was bright if not particularly motivated, bright enough to go to uni and get a degree (of sorts) in Chemistry. After that ‘Jack’ pottered around for a few years living back in his parents’ house, doing a load of dead-end jobs with no relevance to his degree (of sorts), until one day he got completely fed up of his non-existence and looked to the forces for some direction.

I don’t think Jack particularly wanted to join up, he just felt like it was the easiest option to give him something resembling a career. I know from chatting with him on R and R, that he had some camaraderie with his colleagues, but I don’t think they were necessarily his type of person exactly. That might come across as snobby, and it isn’t intended to. I’m sure he was with some good people there.

I think the point is, Jack wasn’t one who grew up desperate to be Action Man. Another set of circumstances would have led Jack to settling somewhere in civvy street and probably, if given the chance, doing pretty well for himself. I know others (in fact I have a sibling) who have intended to – and succeeded in – creating very successful careers courtesy of the forces, but this wasn’t Jack. He wasn’t a hero, he just felt like people expected him to do more than he was doing. I hate that he was out there.

I hope Hughes loved cricket.

I think he would have to have done; as it would be a poor sport to play solely for money, or just for a career. Given the way I remember him on the field, and the tributes pouring in from everyone and anyone who’s actually met the guy, I’m quite confident that Hughes enjoyed what he did. In that sense it’s fitting that he went out trying to belt a ball for a boundary. Utterly tragic of course, but it’s what he enjoyed, and it’s what he did well. Also, I know no-one blames Abbott, and I just hope he enjoys cricket enough to want to play cricket again. He’s too promising to jack it in because of a freak accident.

There are a lot of words that could be said and have been said elsewhere, but I’d be terrible at putting them in any sort of order right now. I’ll leave it by stating that I definitely had a hunch that Hughes would have gone on to reach 10,000 Test runs in spite of the Aussie selectors messing him around a fair bit to date – or at least that was the perception I had from afar. It makes me feel really down.

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The Greatest England ODI Team Ever To Take The Field?

I was looking earlier at the number of times in history that England have surpassed Australia’s ODI total against South Africa today of 329 – the answer is 7 times. Or 4 times if you ignore 55/60 over matches. Or 2 if you ignore the games against perennial minnows and whipping boys Bangladesh. Although it obviously isn’t fair to scrub Bangladesh from history – after all, we scored our highest total against them! And looking through that scorecard, I even wondered if England have ever fielded a more complete XI on paper in an ODI international…

Trescothick – England’s greatest ODI opener.

Strauss – at the time a chippy newcomer looking born to play international cricket, at this point Strauss was certainly not the stodgy player he became later in his career.

Michael Vaughan’s sheer smoothness and range of shots should have translated to a top ODI batsman. I’m still angry and upset it didn’t.

Kevin Pietersen – An all time great England ODI batsman. Destructive, skilled, creative, powerful, technically immense.

Paul Collingwood – An all time great England ODI batsman. Suitable for 5 overs if a front line bowler is struggling on the day as well. Absolutely phenomenal fielder.

Andrew Flintoff – All time great England ODI all-rounder. Excellent death bowler, good middle overs bowler, big six hitter, reasonable run accumulator, excellent slip fielder. I think the best ODI side England have fielded will HAVE to include either he or Botham; the balance of an ODI would depend on a great all-rounder.

Geraint Jones – Not the greatest wicket-keeper, and not a stunning batsman, but a reliable team player who would perform according to the match situation and follow instructions to the letter.

Ashley Giles – ODI economy rate of 4.34 runs per over. That leg stump line held him back in Test cricket, but he suited ODIs quite excellently. Also capable of scoring the odd 20-30 runs in a tight run chase.

Chris Tremlett – a 6″7 behemoth of a man. Had injury not had it’s merry way he’d have NO DOUBT developed into The Greatest Bowler Ever Apart From Malcolm Marshall (TGBEAFMM).

Steve Harmison – it sounds stupid, but GBH was a genuinely feared bowler at the time. He’d destroyed the West Indies the year before and was still very capable of bowling a violent length to even the best – a month later he was battering Australia’s top order. Harmison on good form was one of the best in the world, and in this moment in 2005, he was very in the moment.

Jon Lewis – The slower paced, more accurate foil to someone like Harmison. Tended to stay true to his tricky length and an economy rate of 4.18 in ODI cricket is something that I don’t expect a new ball bowler to match any time soon. I don’t begrudge an ODI side featuring the occasional specialist – especially when that specialist never really got found out.

Any greater ODI XI that England have fielded suggestions?

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In earnest praise of…

Yadda yadda yadda. I don’t really do content over here any more; other people just seem to put things better than I do, or more frustratingly simply get there first. I was going to do a squad review, but in my uniquely lazy way, would I really do any better or offer any other suggestions not already thought up in the article and comments pages of place like here?

I have already offered up a half-baked, hypothetical opinion on the make up of my ideal England XI for the World Cup on that TFT thread. Putting right the obvious wrongs in the way things look to be shaping up – i.e. Cook shouldn’t be near the side, if Bell plays he has to open, we need players who can whack the ball throughout the innings, Tredwell’s record is as good as anything else we can offer, etc – in fact the only place I really differed from consensus was in the portly form of one man:

I like a backfoot shot with the front knee raised. Alec Stewart (preferably wearing a white helmet) and Brian Lara (preferably in Barbados 1999) pulled in a similar fashion.

Yep – I would love it if England picked Samit Patel.

Even though his stats are underwhelming, it is more for what Samit embodies than anything else: he is anti-establishment, he is the anti-Joe Root. The ECB would love to have molded him into a honed athlete capable of making 13% more quick singles. They’d love to have had a 32 man coaching team train him to limit himself to singles between overs 15 and 38. However, instead of looking like the product of a nutritionist’s guide to achieving minor percentage gains, Samit looks like an actual, “real-life” cricketer – he is the solid farmhouse loaf to Joe Root’s buttered croissant.

Actually, halfway through that thought, it is probably pretty harsh on Root, who has something akin to chippiness himself on top of that overbearing youthfulness “thing” he has going on. Perhaps instead, Samit is the BBQ bacon cheeseburger to Alastair Cook’s grilled fillet of salmon? Awkward food-based metaphors aside – you get what I mean, he’s got something mildly interesting about him – he’s a character.

I like Ravi Bop for a similar reason. Both have a bit of oomph to their mindsets, both are adaptable enough ‘proper’ top order batsmen, but can also accelerate an innings by hitting sixes (which to me is a minimum requirement in ODI for positions 1-9). Each man often plays in his own zone, often seemingly nonplussed about whatever carnage is going on at the other end. Between the two, they also offer enough nous and variety with the ball to take the pace off the ball for 10 overs. Obviously, England will never, ever replace Dmitri Mascarenhas. Patel would be an admirable attempt, at least.

Bad stat:

“Samit Patel only has one half century from 22 ODI innings.”

Good stat:

“Samit Patel’s average since 2009 is 36, at a strike rate of 93.12.”

Bad stat:

“Samit Patel has only taken 1 wicket in his last 13 ODI matches.”

Good stat:

“Samit Patel has as many ODI 5-fers as Stuart Broad.”

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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 –…

View original 555 more words

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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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