Monday, April 30, 2007

Gideon's Bible

Excellent article by Gideon Haigh on the World Cup...

...and if you're looking for a decent read, you could do a whole lot worse than this.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Massive Attack

That was quite simply the greatest ODI innings I've ever seen. Even better than Lloyd in 1975 - which is saying something.

Every other batsman managed to score at around a run a ball - Gilchrist went at one and a half a ball, and that was effectively the game decided right there.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Moody's Blues

Firstly, a word of explanation on the post below. About halfway down I said this: -

Secondly, whilst there's a certain amount of vicarious pleasure in watching the baggy green tie themselves in psychological knots facing Murali you'd like to think that Sri Lanka could win fairly - but I don't honestly think they can.

By that I was simply implying that any Sri Lankan victory would have to be taken in the context of Murali's dubious bowling action. In no way was I suggesting that Sri Lanka as a team cheat - in fact I'd go as far to say that I think the way they play the game is absolutely fantastic... one of the few bright spots in a pretty mediocre, forgettable World Cup.

So, what about the final - who's going to win?

At the start of the tournament I predicted a South Africa / Sri Lanka final - forgetting the South African propensity for being able to 'talk the talk' but totally incapable of 'walking the walk'. It was extraordinary that, in the space of less than a week, the Jaapies humiliated England, and then suffered the same fate themselves against the Baggy Green.

Since their (first) victory over South Africa, Australia have looked awesome. Everything has come together at the right time and they have the strength and the firepower to blow any other side away. (Small hat tip to England, therefore, for giving the Aussies their closest game - even though it was hardly a nail-biter!)

It's hard, therefore, to predict anything except a third consecutive trophy for Ricky and his team. The only possible chink of light is the variety in the Sri Lankan bowling attack, which might upset the applecart.

But don't hold your breath.

Prediction - If Aussies bat first, they win by 50+. If Sri Lanka bat first, Australia win by 5 wickets.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Fiddler's Elbow

I'll admit up front that posting an article now, in April 2007, about Muralitharan and chucking allegations is rather like turning up at a party at the same time as the host is ushering the last guests out of the front door, everyone is saying what a fantastic time they had, whilst the local dustmen are emptying a skip in the front garden full of empty Red Stripe cans and there's a bucket in the corner overflowing with discarded roaches.

The wonderful 'After Grog Blog' for example has covered the issue in obsessive depth - their admission not my accusation, over the past four years. (Link here) It's well worth setting aside half an hour or so, unzipping a cold one and read the whole thing - starting from the bottom. Tis a fascinating story!

Additionally, if you do a quick Google search, you'll find any number of commentators and analysts have had their say - from the sublime (Gideon Haigh) to the ridiculous (Paul Allot)

Why write this now? Why pick at a running sore that might well have all but healed up over the past year or so since the ICC delivered their 'final' judgment on the legitimacy of Murali's action? Well, one reason is that we're coming close to the conclusion of the 2007 World Cup, and Sri Lankas chances of lifting the trophy would appear to stand or fall on the performance of a player, very much in the spotlight, whom over half the cricketing world believe is cheating.

Secondly, whilst there's a certain amount of vicarious pleasure in watching the baggy green tie themselves in psychological knots facing Murali you'd like to think that Sri Lanka could win fairly - but I don't honestly think they can.

Thirdly, and this is the clincher, I suddenly realised last night whilst watching New Zealand batsmen groping blindly at what was apparently a live hand-grenade being lobbed at them that I can spot the doosra! Normally after some careful watching it's possible to spot most bowlers variations - either one delivery is tossed up higher, or there's a different hand or wrist movement, but in Murali's case the difference between his orthodox off break and the doosra is so blatant it's extraordinary. Why is it so blatant? Because the arm is SO bent in delivery.

But apparently anyone thinking that is mistaken - and the bend in the arm is, according to the ICC, an 'optical illusion'. Well, if you haven't done so already go back to the After Grog Blog link and scroll down to a picture of Murali in his delivery stride.... To quote Jim Royal - "optical illusion, my arse"

The most recent ICC report, after the big investigation following Chris Broad's dramatic intervention in 2004 when he reported Murali's action to the ICC, gave a leeway 15 degrees within which bowlers should operate. Well, that picture suggests a bend of more like 15 degrees times 4.

(Incidentally, someone has suggested that Chris Broad's action might make life difficult for his son Stuart, when he comes up against Sri Lanka in the future. I'm sure they might have the odd pithy comment ready for him, but judging by what I've seen of Broad Junior so far, I suspect his response will be along the lines of 'does my face look bovvered?')

For years the 'one that goes the other way' has been holy grail for off spinners. In these days of covered wickets essentially their role has been defensive - movement away was normally 'drift' (almost away-swing) rather than turn. Saqlain and his 'doosra' changed all that and Murali has subsequently taken it to a whole new dimension.

Much of the recent debate has been shot through the prism of the Warne vs Murali debate and I think you can explain some of the Australian hostility by the fact that it's their hero who is seeing his records broken. The same thing happened in baseball - Roger Maris received so much abuse from New York Yankee fans for having the temerity to break Babe Ruth's single season Home Run record that all his hair fell out and he moved to another team for less money for the sake of his sanity and health. In the same way, Hank Aaron didn't exactly make himself popular by beating The Babe's all time Home Run record - but there were massive racial undertones to a lot of that.

To put it in a nutshell - Warne is one of the best things to happen to cricket in the past fifty years, Murali isn't. it's like comparing a ten pound note and an eleven pound note. The latter looks worth more on the face of it - but it's bogus.

Going back to the action for the doosra, try this test out yourself in your back garden. keeping your arm straight, try flicking your wrist (make sure you're holding a cricket ball - the neighbours might start talking, and you could get a visit from Dibble otherwise) and throw the ball underarm down the garden - now flick the arm from the elbow. The difference you can get in terms of dip and spin is amazing - the sky's the limit.

Now think about release points - For your average bowler, it's above your head -roughly where your arm brushes your ear - or if you're Malinga, where your arm wraps itself round the umpires waist. Obviously there'll be some fine tweaking to adjust length. With Murali the release point is way in front of his head, if you've got a straight arm its on the way down. It's physically impossible to do that and not have the ball land about three yards in front of you... unless of course your elbow is bent and you're propelling the ball out rather than simply releasing it.

For the sake of balance, here's a link to a Cricinfo article which comes down firmly on the SriLankans side in the Warne/Murali debate. Now, Cricinfo do a sterling job - but there's a huge elephant in the room in this article, and the author does himself no favours with the sarcastic, and ridculous comment that 'critics such as Botham and Holding turned on a dime and accepted 'new definition of a legal delivery 15 degrees' Erm, yes, well they probably did - 15 degrees makes sense for 99.9% of bowlers, but go back AGAIN and have another look at that picture. What the ICC effectively did by coming up with the 15 degrees rule was the brand every bowler in history a 'chucker' - including Lillee, Lindwall, Trueman, Pollock.. and, yes, Botham and Holding.

For more balance - here's another link, this one to a BBC article which compares Warne and Murali and comes down on the side of the 'Kandy' man. Extraordinarily, Adnan Nawaz (whoever he is) deals with the 'throwing' controversy by totally and utterly ignoring it - not even a reference in passing. He does use the expression 'con artist' - but then suggests that both bowlers are equally culpable. The BBC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing nonsense like that to be published under its banner.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Only in it for the Money?

The following article first appeared on

As a reaction to India’s shock exit from the World Cup the BCCI are proposing to clamp down on players advertising and promotional activity limiting the number of endorsements any player can give to three, and no product can be endorsed by more than two players.

It’s being seen as a rather heavy handed, and has predictably raised something of a stink – and it’s surely only a matter of time before some barrack room lawyer starts talking about ‘restraint of trade’ and, going down a road that English footballers have started keenly navigating – ‘image rights’.

You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe that the main reason we’re hearing about this now is that the BCCI are coming under immense pressure to take some action in the wake of India’s early exit from the World Cup. What better explanation could there be than to blame the players for not being fully focussed on the game and instead concentrating on lining their own pockets.

Other contributors to ‘Holding Willey’ are in a better position to comment on the Indian perspective to all this. My own thought, for what it’s worth, is that assuming a test side is picked purely on merit, then it’s in the players’ own interests to ensure that endorsements and advertising deals don’t affect performance. After all, no company will want to be associated with a player who is performing below par, or playing on an unsuccessful team and a player whose mind is on the next photo-shoot rather than the next innings is not going to stay in the side for long if performance suffers.

So, how is all this going down in England? In short, very quietly! It’s hardly made a ripple in the media and there has been little judgmental comment in favour of one side or the other.

The level of public recognition for English cricketers still extraordinarily low compared with India. Even at the peak of cricket interest in England (Trafalgar Square - September 2005) most of the winning eleven could have walked down the street relatively unmolested and unrecognised. The only exceptions would have been Freddie Flintoff -who would have been hugely embarrassed by the whole thing, and the supreme self-publicist Kevin Pietersen who would have probably had a note pinned on his back saying ‘Molest me, please’.

Very rarely are cricketers in England seen on TV promoting products – there just isn’t the sufficient recognition factor that a marketing department would demand. To use some marketing speak – the English cricketing ‘brand’ isn’t strong enough. It’s noteworthy that cricketer most often seen during ad breaks is someone who retired almost 20 years ago – Ian Botham. That’s a measure how just how big a figure Botham was in his pomp, and how effective his PR agency is.

If an English cricketer were told that he was going to be limited to three endorsements his response would likely be – ‘as many as three - fantastic!’ I’d guess that even some high profile test players would be lucky to get three advertising offers in their entire career – let alone three simultaneously.

If a player is seen advertising in a magazine it’ll most likely be in a cricket one, or maybe a men’s lifestyle publication like GQ. In terms of products, it will primarily be cricket equipment, with the occasional foray into isotonic drinks or generic sports clothing. As an aside, I’d say there might be a lucrative contract awaiting Steve Harmison with Mothercare based on how he’s been acting like a big kid since his return home from Down Under – but that’s a different story.

It’s a different story in Australia – where, unlike in England, cricket is the sport at the top of the pecking order. To my eyes as a visitor last winter, almost every TV ad shown during the recent Ashes series seemed to feature at least one test player prepared to whore himself to the highest bidder – and if any product marketer couldn’t persuade Ricky or the boys to get involved, there was always Richie Benaud who seemed virtually omnipresent on screen at times.

In terms of an England/India comparison, a more instructive comparison would be to look at Indian cricket alongside the English football team. For ‘Tendulkar’ read ‘Beckham’, or possibly now ‘Rooney’. The cost of players ‘image rights’ are astronomical – the total value of Beckham’s recent transfer to the US has been estimated at over a quarter of a billion pounds once the advertisers and product manufacturers have had their share of the cake.

English footballers generally have a far higher recognition factor that cricketers– matching Indian cricketers on the ‘mobbed in the street’ scale.

It’s also instructive to consider the English football comparison because there are eerie similarities with what is happening with the Indian cricket squad at the moment. After 2006 World Cup debacle, certain sections of the media suggested that if they cut down on their advertising deals and promotional work and concentrated on playing the game it might have helped them get further than the quarter finals

Beyond the endorsements issue there was a wider search for scapegoats – some blamed the presence of wives and girlfriends, others blamed media intrusion, which was rather ironic considering it, was the media themselves who were doing the scapegoat hunting! The old chestnut of ‘too much football’ was also trotted out. Cloistered away in their happy world living in the lap of luxury the players weren’t concerned at all – as long as they were still picking up their £100,000 per week pay cheques they didn’t mind who got the blame.

The truth was that side were badly prepared, badly managed and didn’t perform up to the sum of their parts. In India’s case - maybe – just maybe – the same applies and it wasn’t the deodorant ads that caused them to lose to Bangladesh – they just didn’t play well enough on the day and were beaten by the better side.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Mouth Almighty

Now we know why Michael Vaughan batted so slowly in the World Cup - he's had special coaching!

Memo to Vaughan - If you're going to entrust someone with a secret, don't pick on a blabbermouth like Sir Geoffrey. It reminds me of the scene in 'Family Guy' when Peter Griffin was hanging out with Manson Family - "I've been invited to a party at Sharon Tate's house - you can all come too but you've got to promise to behave yourselves!"

And is Boycott really so insecure hat he feels it necessary to post the first comment under his own articles!

PS - Sorry for posting a link to the Torygraph - won't happen again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Money Matters

In the coming weeks, there'll doubtless be a series of post-mortems and long analytical articles over England's abject performances this winter, culminating in the Schofield Committee report, which could make interesting reading.

One issue that's getting a well-deserved re-airing is the suggestion in some quarters that the county structure should be radically overhauled, with a drastic reduction in the number of counties playing cricket at the highest level. Current figures being quoted suggest that 10 counties should be the optimum number.

At the forefront of this campaign is the Cricket Reform Group - the two leading lights of this group are the unlikely pairing of Mike Atherton & Bob Willis.

Regular visitors to this site may be shocked to find out that the TRSM Brains Trust actually agree with Bob Willis on this one - there's far to much dead wood in the county structure which lives by a code of self-interest and prevents a meaningful competition where class can be proven and dross gets found out.

Defenders of the status quo, normally county chairmen who have a vested interest in maintaining their own private fiefdoms and comfortable existence, say that the existing structure is important to the future of the game, and that the counties do invaluable work in terms of finding new talent and coaching it to fruition.

Ok - let's take a closer look at that.

Each year the ECB pay a 'fee' (more accurately a subsidy) to each first class county. In 2005, which is the last figure I can find, the subsidy was £1.47 million per county. This fee keeps at least ten of the counties afloat - without it they would most likely go under.

For example, Glamorgan's total income in 2006 was £2.87 million, their outgoings were £2.90 million - a deficit, yes, but imagine how big a defict that would have been without the ECB handout, which accounted for over 50% of the total Glamorgan income.

With me so far? Ok, let's go a step further...

In their 2005 Report, the ECB justified the hand outs to counties thus: -

"In recognition of the costs they incur in participation in ECB competitions, the counties are effectively 18 Centres of Excellence and the fees paid to them underpin the Boards objective of ensuring a vibrant domestic game"

Going back to the justification that chairmen use for the continuation of the 18 county structure, you'd expect each county to have a big outlay on coaching wouldn't you? After all, coaching talent is the one thing you'd expect a Centre of Excellence to be able to do pretty well - especially with all those first class cricketers wandering around.

Err - well, maybe not.

Back to the Glamorgan figures: - Total expenditure on Coaching in 2006... £138653 pounds. That's less than FIVE PERCENT of the total income. But wait - it gets worse... under 'Income' they also list £121,000 from Coaching fees - so the net outlay on coaching in a supposed 'Centre of Excellence' (ECB words not mine) is less than £15,000.

In fact, Glamorgan spent almost three times as much on 'Catering and Hospitality' (£372,686) than they did on coaching. (I'm not deliberately picking on Glamorgan - their figures happen to be readily accessible on the internet. I'll dig out some other examples and post them here when I get the chance.)

Remember this sense of priorities when the counties start bleating about how important they are.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Blind Before I Stop

I bet Duncan Fletcher is still insisting that Michael Vaughan and Saj Mahmood are looking brilliant in the nets...

Tumbling Dice

Every so often there's a segment of the Sky cricket coverage that surprises you, and goes some way to justifying the monthly fee - and every so often one of those segments actually makes you think, and can even prompt you to post an article.

I touched on one such moment last year (link) and there was another gem last night. Interestingly the common denominators in each case were that Michael Atherton was on camera, and that Bob Willis and Charles Colville had their mouths taped up and were tied to a chair. ('Bring out the Gimp'...!!)

I know I keep ranting on about Colville but he provides plenty of ammunition for the cricketing blogger to fill some space with, whilst at the same time making some Sky coverage virtually unwatchable. When he's on air you're tempted to turn the sound down and listen to something less grating... Lou Reed's 'Metal Machine Music' perhaps, or some Stockhausen. His banal, simplistic banter demonstrates the most shocking overpromotion of limited talent since John Major became Prime Minister - interestingly both Colville and Major are members of the Surrey CCC committee. You have to presume that Colville has expressed instructions before going on air each day; -"talk to the audience as though they are all nine years old"

Ok, that's the gratuitous rant out of the way - back to the Atherton love-fest...

Athers, Michael Slater and 'Digger' Gower were analysing Australia's victory over Sri Lanka, and in particular the decision by the Sri Lanka brains trust to rest Murali and Chaminder Vaas for the game. Athers gave it tacit approval, but warned that it was a pretty high risk roll of the dice which would leave Jayawadene in a pretty uncomfortable position if Sri Lanka went on to lose in the semi final to, presumably, New Zealand - especially as one (unstated) aim of the move was to ensure that such a match up with the Kiwis took place.

They steered clear of deliberately accusing Sri Lanka of losing the game - a charge that they wouldn't have really been able to make stick, but suggested that Tom Moody probably wasn't too distraught at the final outcome.

Understandably, Slater produced the typical forthright Aussie response - 'always play hard to win every game' and so on, and got ready to talk about the next subject up for discussion. Athers wouldn't let it lie though, and very subtly slid the stilletto into Slater's ribcage by referring to the Australia/Windies game in the 1999 World Cup when the Baggy Green soft pedalled to victory to enhance their position in the next round .

Athers also started going beyond the simple explanations that Murali was being 'rested' by exploring some of the deeper reasoning and psychology behind the move -fascinating stuff.

For someone who has previously faced some of the fastest bowling ever seen, Slater looked pretty uncomfortable being on the receiving end of a couple of Atherton's subtle barbs - at one stage I thought he was going to chuck him into the sea behind them.

Next thing, Fotherington-Thomas had waded in too - catching Slats unawares in a pincer movement so that he looked as uncomformtable as a football hooligan stuck between two maiden aunts on the back seat of a bus. Harry Enfield's 'young man!' sketch came to mind.

Happily peace was restored before Slater was forced to give one of them a slap, but I reckon they probably ganged up on him later in the evening as they shared a bottle of Chablis and some cucumber sandwiches, whilst Slater waded through a slab of Toohey's Blue and wolfed down a '4 & 20'.

Australia are, rightly, huge favourites to win the tournament. They are playing some fantastic cricket and, at this stage, no one deserves to win the trophy more. The one possible chink on their armour is that they do have a huge complex about Murali to the point of it being a national obsession. Elsewhere in the cricketing world, opinion is pretty much split over the legitimacy of Murali's bowling action - but in the land of Baggy Green, it's a 100% vote in favour of 'cheat'. A lot of the Aussies I've spoken to reckon that the record books should show a 'Roger Maris' style asterix alongside Murali's name at the top of the test wickets tree - and I'd guess that they'd rather Kevin Pietersen beat them in the final than Murali.

So if you're Jayawardene why not play on this - roll the dice and rachet up the tension slightly. Forget the guff about Sri Lanka not wanting the Australians to see any of Murali's varieties. They realise that they have one trump card in their hand, and want to get maximum benefit out of it.

It's not unheard of for batsmen to work themselves into a highly stressed state about someone with a suspect action. Peter May made himself very ill over Ian Meckiff, and even a hard-bitten character like Ken Barrington worked himself into such acondition about Charlie Griffith that he had a heart attack and had to retire from the game. Now, I'm not suggesting that Matthew Hayden is going to become a gibbering wreck and curl up into the foetus postion on the wicket when Murali comes on to bowl (though it would make fascinating viewing...) but if there's a seed of doubt in some Australian minds, then the decision to draw attention to it by leaving Murali out may be a brilliant masterstroke.

Of course, like most cricket tactics, it can only form part of the entire canvas of the tournament. Both sides have to get to the final first after all, but if, further down the line, Murali does produce a match-winning spell in the final, remember the mind games that will have preceded it.. and also pray to God that Charles Coville doesn't get the chance to commentate on it.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Irresistable Forces...

So, who's going to win the final then... Australia or Sri Lanka?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Out of Time

Maybe now that they've come tantalisingly close to humiliating a woeful England side, Bangaldesh will start to get some of the respect they deserve from the British media. Even after their well-deserved victory over South Africa, they were still being tied together with the Irish under the label 'minnows'. You can imagine some of the crusty old fogeys at Lords spinning their globes frantically saying 'Bangladesh - where the hells that old boy?' (These are people who still refer to Ricky Ponting's home island as Van Diemens Land)

Let's face it, based on performances in this tournament to date, England should perhaps have been considered the underdogs on Wednesday and their subsequent victory be lauded as an upset. In beating India and South Africa, Bangladesh have beaten two top test match nations in the space of three weeks. That's two more than England have in the space of three World Cups.

However much Michael Vaughan might like to pretend otherwise (and his press conference statements are starting to sound like the 'studies in denial' rantings of Comical Ali during the Iraqi invasion) battingwise, England are in a mess. Yesterday it looked tentative and lacking in any coherent sense of certainty or direction. The skipper is so out of touch it's almost laughable. Had there been a viable alternative available he'd have been dropped by now. Strauss's very presence in the touring party owes more to the famouse Fletcher loyalty clause than any current form.

There is absolutely no impetus whatsoever at the top of the order - a situation that became sadly inevitable when the decision was made to favour Strauss over Mal Loye. Reading about Trecothicks 256 - at a personal rate of 13 an over, was rather bittersweet to say the least.

So, in a nutshell, the problems are tentative batting, and poor squad selection. I may be going out on a limb somewhat here, but I'd say that both those issues relate directly back to the man at the top.

All English cricket fans owe huge debt to Duncan Fletcher. The England set up is unrecognisable from the shambles we had seven years ago and you have the sense that there are very deep foundations for a system that will keep England in the top three test palying nations for the forseeable future. Fletcher must take credit for most of this, along with Vaughan, and Nasser Hussain who often gets overlooked when the plaudits are being handed round. In addition to all this, Fletcher gave us one unforgettable summer, but if that summer is not to start taking on the mythological proportions of Brigadoon, we need a change at the top.

Seven years is a long time in any job, let alone one as high pressured as England coach. it is inevitable that you reach a point where there is very little you can add to what you've already said - and very little you can tell or teach anyone who you've been teaching for such a long time. For example, what could Fletcher possibly tell Freddie that he hasn't heard already? He's done an extraordinary job with Flintoff, along with the rest of the England squad, but now the torch needs to be passed to a new man with a new outlook, new ideas and new solutions.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mash it up Harry!!

Harry is a fellow cricket obsessive with whom I've been having an ongoing e-mail conversation over the past six months or so. The conversation has tended to take the form of one or other of us ranting at length about the latest English failures, followed by the other wading in with some equally trenchant views. Harry was the first to point out that, from the safety of 550-6, there was only one possible way England could lose the Adelaide test - and they chose it. He's also a big fan of Mal Loye.

When I got Harry's latest message (the day after the Australia defeat) I thought, 'why suffer alone - let's share it with a wider audience...'

So here it is: -

Apparently the reason why Michael Vaughan is absolute pants as a one-day batsman is that the pressure of captaincy weighs heavily. So says Fletch.

Well excuse me, but isn't he in the side, as was the case with Brearley, because of his fantastic leadership, brilliant decision-making and all-round inspirational qualities ..... which, in this tournament, have taken us to defeat every time we have faced a test-playing nation. And for those who want to argue that two of those losses were narrow: isn't that when a world-class captain might have found a way to find that extra few percent to convert them to wins?

(I'll skip over the "Loye should've been there" bit, because I'm a stuck vinyl platter on that subject now, but I'm bloody well right.)

So, Fletcher has become an idiot, evolving from the inscrutable master cricket coach & tactician for our national side, into something resembling a failing football manager. Sad.

And, whilst I'm feeling disenchanted, let me move on to Pietersen, the gloriously talented South African who now plays for Kevland. What a fantastic day he had on Sunday! A century in the World Cup! The crowning glory for all his magnificent efforts on behalf of, err, Kevland. How wonderful to see him cavorting around the pitch as he notched up his ton. And doesn't it speak volumes for ihs single-minded concentration that it never seemd to cross his mind that whilst the flashbulbs were a-poppin' for him, that team called England was heading inevitably towards a comfortable defeat. 5 an over on a perfect batting track is nowhere near enough, either for a team, or its star batsman.

His ton was by today's standards, in those conditions, almost Boycott-esque. As is his attitude.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Two Sevens Clash

According to Vic Marks (admitted not the most reliable of sources, but sometimes you justhave to go with what you can get) England are seriously considering letting Michael Vaughan bat number seven and twirl his occasional off-spinners for the rest of the tournament.

Three problems with this...

1) It smacks of utter desparation

2) If you want someone to bowl the occasional over of off-spin, what's wrong with Kevin Pietersen? This might also help address another problem that I can forsee a few years down the road when KP starts getting mega pissed off with carrying the England ODI team around on his shoulders and starts looking round for another country to play for - after all, he does have 'form' in this regard. Giving him some extra work to do might occupy his mind and keep him on board a bit longer.

3) We've got a perfectly good number seven who bowls a bit in Jamie Dalrymple - and Dalrymple is probably the second best fielder in the squad after Collingwood.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Dedicated Followers of Fashion

Fancy dress is pretty commonplace at international cricket these days. The guy in the Pink Panther costume is a seemingly ever-present fixture at all England test matches. You do wonder on some baking hot days whether he ever thinks to himself - 'why the hell am I doing this?' It's a paradoxical form of anonymous self-publicity - matched only by the weirdos you'd see dressed in gimp outfits at punk gigs over the years.

Every test match brings out it's fair share of exhibitionists and human billboards and you always get a fair smattering of people dressed up as 'village idiots' - you recognise them because they're wearing Manchester United football shirts to a cricket match.

The most popular costume in this World Cup however, is far more subtle and can be best described as the 'Empty Seat'. it's not the most colourful or exciting of costumes, but has really caught the imagination of Carribean cricket fans to the extent that at most grounds there seem to be whole blocks of fans dressed in this way - demonstration of an extraordinarily efficient organisation

To get so many people to fall in with a specific dress code like the 'Empty Seat' is amazing. The nearest equivalent I can think of is the 'orange' display of Dutch football supporters at international tournaments - but even with them, there's always one person who lets the side down by turning up in blue or white. The 'empty seat' crew have a 100% success rate in some stands, and around 50% elsewhere - a remarkable effort.

it's all the more commendable when you realise that the much-criticised ICC ticket pricing policy means that a lot of these people are paying out almost half their weekly wage to watch games.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Armed Forces

Assuming Simon Jones makes a full recovery, the England selectors will have an interesting problem putting a bowling attack together from this summer.

With Freddie presumably a 'given' for one of the four fast bowling places, you're effectively picking the remaining three from the following seven names: -


A nice problem to have I'd suggest.