5 Cricketing Dreams for New Year 2015

I’m looking forward to going back to work on Friday. I don’t love my job or anything like that, but the end of 2014 has been a bit of a ball-ache in my personal life; I’ve got a minging cold at the moment, and a ton of stuff to sort out in January that make actual work seem like a mightily trivial concern. Well, more of a “mightily trivial concern” than normal…

So I got to thinking about my hopes for 2015. Of course, “personal life” hopes are boring as hell, so more specifically, I got to thinking about my hopes for cricket in 2015. Happily there were 5, which if I wasn’t an adult could well be one of my favourite numbers.

1. I hope the England and Wales Cricket Board can provide me with a cricket team worth getting behind again.

It is difficult to describe how I feel about them at the moment, but it certainly feels quite ‘cool’ to enjoy them not winning. It’s not that I particular want any individual to fail, but when there is a confused mess of an England set up, from top to middle, providing me and many others with practically countless occasions where it has been too easy to shrug off a loss or shocking performance and just think “I told you so”, it isn’t a great situation for anyone really. I want to feel anger about losses, not ambivalent – and certainly not borderline smug.

2. I want to watch more cricket live this year.

A combination of time constraints, employment, botheredness, car issues, and even (bloody) weddings put paid to most of the times I had earmarked to attend cricket last year. I saw one day of cricket in total, at Lords against India…Day 4. I enjoyed it, in spite of it being one of the worst days English cricket has seen since…Headingley, about two months previous? I always enjoy cricket though. I’ve lined up a day at the impossible to reach Bowl against New Zealand in an ODI, and I must watch Hampshire/Somerset more this year too.

3. Weather. 

I’m actually planning on playing some cricket again this year. Hopefully at a terribly low standard. I want to bowl leg spin, and bat at 7. I want to field at cover point. I want at least one score above twenty, all via boundaries. I don’t want to be stood at deep backward square leg in the drizzle. I want one of those terrible cricketer tans; above the neck and on the forearms only.

4. A Resurgent West Indies.

They have Kemar Roach, averaging less than 26 with the ball in Tests. In Kraigg Brathwaite they have a 22 year old opener with 3 Test tons to his name in his last 11 Tests. They have Shiv Chanderpaul, defying the ageing process, with his stance becoming squarer by the innings – (the next time you’ll see him he’ll be batting right-handed!*).. They’ve also got the most fractious relationship between their board and their players in world cricket. They’ve got the threat of a £30m fine looming over their heads following the withdrawal from the tour of India. They barely play any cricket and have sacked their three best players. I don’t know how, but please get good, West Indies. If you can’t do it for regional pride, or to pay homage to your glittering history, or just for the sake of the global game of cricket, then please…do it for me?

*not my phrase, but worth stealing.

5. A good World Cup.

Check out how shit this looks..

 

First of all, let me state: the format is fucking terrible. Like, genuinely god-awful. I actually looked into going out to Australia to visit family/friends during the period of the World Cup – I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the fixtures and format. There is no incentive for anyone to travel to any of the host cities. You’ll get one game, two at most if you’re happy to stay for 3 weeks. Given there are only 12 teams competing, I can’t believe one country doesn’t host the tournament on it’s own; at least then fans might see some cricket for their mileage.

What’s the thinking behind the two groups of 7 teams format? Surely there’s more to it than just an excuse to get India to play more games in the tournament? SURELY?!! I literally have no other reason as to why else it could be a good idea.

Anyway, I hope the associate nations come good; best of luck to Scotland, Ireland, the Afghans and the UAE. I also hope the low ranked, useless nations who are Full Members perform well too – I’m thinking Zimbabwe, the aforementioned Windies, and, yes, even England. I’m hoping for tight finishes in every game I watch. I’m hoping for, well, a World Cup that won’t happen. A winner not from India or Australia, ideally.

Happy 2015!

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Australia’s Two-Tiered Test Team

Tier One

  1. Warner
  2. Smith
  3. Johnson
  4. Harris

Tier Two

  1. Rogers
  2. Watson
  3. Marsh
  4. Burns
  5. Haddin
  6. Lyon
  7. Hazlewood

How this lot engineered a 5 zip result last winter is still utterly beyond me.

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Festive Cricket

New Zealand vs Sri Lanka

The two best international sides, with both sides having a strong core at the moment and more than being competitive in spite of ‘the odds’. A healthy, sunbaked crowd on a grass bank. Winning the toss, Sri Lanka get New Zealand 3 down with less than 100 on the board. Enter Kane Williamson’s solid accumulation. Enter Brendon McCullum smashing an almost double ton at a rate I don’t think I’ve seen before, en route becoming the first Kiwi to reach 1000 Test runs in a calendar year.

A quiet word about James Neesham. He’s had a ‘nice’ start to his Test career, coming in after the strongest middle order trio in perhaps New Zealand’s history. Yet after 6 Tests he’s averaging a tad above 44, and he’d be disappointed to have fallen 15 runs short of his third Test ton last night. Another nugget unearthed?

Australia vs India

Two of the self proclaimed Big Three, and two sides it’s always quite nice to see struggle. Almost 70 thousand souls within the glorious MCG. India have managed to remain competitive in this series in spite of not looking like actually winning a match, which is a bit of a bonus. I actually quite like their quicks at the moment and, combined with Ashwin who bowled nice and tight through the day, they won’t be too distraught at the scoreline. The issue they have is Steven Smith, who has completed an unlikely ascent and emerged a weaknessless, immovable object at the crease. A ‘crucial first hour’, cliché etc, to come.

South Africa vs West Indies

By god, the Windies are a listless bunch.  I don’t know what to do about them. They need help, support and direction; they’ve got the WICB, the WIPA, and the self-proclaimed “Big Three”-led ICC. They could die. I have no answers.

On the other hand, South Africa’s system possibly isn’t a fair one, but it produces some darn good cricketers. I wouldn’t even recognise half of the current team, but they certainly appear to be of the same metronomic ilk as their predecessors. I’m interested to see how the black lad does on debut. I don’t particularly like singling someone out as a result of their race, but it feels important at the moment – in the absence of practically any “top level” black players worldwide.

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Cook’s England ODI Side

Cook’s England ODI side (“CEODIs”?) had an ethos. It was the “laptop approach” ethos, which is just about the least glamourous ethos there is, but, you can say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos. The ethos demanded discipline, steady accumulation and an almost clinical obsession with following the ethos. It required Jonathan Trott.

For Cook’s England record can be split into two categories; avec Trott and sans Trott. Trott played 39 matches under Cook, averaging an impressive 49.72, at a less impressive strike rate of 76.62. England under Cook, with Trott in the side, won 23 of their 36 matches (64%). Without Trott, Cook’s England won just 13 of 33 games (39%). He didn’t score quick runs, but he at least scored runs, and his donkey work freed up others to express themselves. England cricket’s answer to Claude Makelele; the side didn’t work as well without him and couldn’t cope when he was no longer on the scene.

Alternatively, CEODIs might be summed up more figuratively by my completely hunch-based assertion that they were either pretty good if there were less than 450 runs in a match, mediocre with around 500 scored, or utterly and shamefully woeful when there were 550 plus. At a time when other sides were making the most of rule changes and batsmen friendly pitches to rack up more regular scores of 300+ than ever before, this probably isn’t the best way to go about trying to win a World Cup.

When faced with the possibility of getting inevitably knocked out the moment a side hit above 280 against us, this was a relatively simple decision. Cook’s own form was awful, terrible, a scourge and an embarrassment. Even at his best, though, he isn’t suited to this format. Barring disaster, I would be surprised if he plays another ODI match…you don’t take a Pomerian bowling.

Obviously it would be remiss to fail to point out, at the very least as a footnote, the absolutely shambolic decision-making which has left us in this mess 6 weeks from the World Cup, which was frankly obvious in both hind and foresight to everyone except for Paul Downton and, well, Peter Moores every other day.

I have been left frustrated, angry, and in no small part completely turned off English cricket by these parasites. Cook has taken a significant amount of flak which might have been better aimed at the likes of Downton and chums, and in this respect the split means nothing. What are you saying, ECB lackeys? When you get divorced you turn in your library card? You get a new license? You stop being Jewish?!

Nope, Downton et al are utterly responsible for this reprehensible shambles. However, I do not do seething and rational contempt as well as either Dmitri or The Full Toss – all I do is insert irrelevant quotes from The Big Lebowski – so if you want a proper footnote, go there. I can get you a toe by 3 o’clock this afternoon… with nail polish. These fucking amateurs…

 

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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

this guy needs answers from people less lazy than me.

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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