Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hi Ho.....

Shortarse Eleven

Sunil Gavaskar
Justin Langer
Gunduppa Vishwanath
Habibul Bashar
Alan Knott
Harry Pilling
Aravinda Da Silva
'Tich' Freeman
Sonny Ramadin
Darren Gough
Malcolm Marshall

Another decent line up with at least five legitimate Hall of Famers, who could certainly give the 'All Irritatings' a run for their money...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Likely Lads

Rather belatedly, here's an interesting post by Norm on his experiences at the Old Trafford test earlier this season.

A few random thoughts: -

There's a big difference in crowd behaviour on a Saturday compared with other days. Even Sunday is quieter than Saturday - presumably all the 'lads' are in church...

Trent Bridge have a specific stand that is 'alcohol free' and clearly advertised as such. I'm surprised that other grounds have not introduced such a scheme - it's easy to enforce. At Durham they've even gone so far as to have a 'Barmy Army' stand - the theory being that if all the noise is in one place, it's easier to police/steward.

One problem the 'official' Barmy Army have is that they are attracting every pissed up arsehole who sees a day at the Test as an opportunity for an eight hour drinking binge, whilst paying little or no attention to what is actually going on in the middle. The 'official Army are fantastic people - passionate about cricket, and about following the England team abroad. The parasitical leeches who are now clinging to them are only passionate about themselves. There's going to be a backlash from the authorities pretty soon - which means that all genuine cricket lovers within the Barmy Army will suffer.

Another thing grounds could do is to improve the standards of stewarding. More often than not, when I've seen someone complaining to a steward about the drunken antics of a minority the response has been to have a 'quiet word' with the culprits and then leave them to carry on with their 'hilarious' behaviour five minutes later.

Another alternative would be to take a leaf out of the MCG book and serve weaker beer.

Another (slightly tongue in cheek) suggestion - deny entry to the ground to anyone wearing an England football shirt.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

They ate all the pies

Colin Milburn
Arjuna Ranatunga
Alan Ealham
Inzamam Ul Haq
Matt Walker
Mark Benson
Lance Cairns
Jock Edwards
Shane Warne
Ian Blackwell
Jimmy Ormond

Umpire - David Sheppard
Mascot - Karen Carpenter

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More Tea Vicar?

If he weren't already safely esconced in the celestial Green Room, I'd have guessed that Brian Rix, he of 'Whitehall Farce' fame, was running the ECB Public Relations machine at the moment, such has been the ludicrous nature of recent events.

In the past couple of weeks, Michael Vaughan has been quoted as saying that dual captaincy didn't work. (He hasn't tried to lie about that quote either) What he neglected to add was that it didn't work for him. Atherton and Hollioake managed to make a fair fist of it.

Yesterday morning we had an announcement that an announcement would be made at the end of the day about Michael Vaughan's ODI leadership. Presumably giving Vaughan the day to fall on his sword?

Now that the reluctant Vaughan has aceded to their wishes, we are told that the new captain will be announced at the end of the week. Why? Don't they know yet? Or are they waiting for a media driven tide of momentum to evolve before releasing the name. Can tides evolve? - that's one for the creationist loons to ponder on...

If it's Collingwood - why not just say so now? If it isn't, then say so.

It's a new England One Day International captain for heavens sake, a job that current has all the allure of being head of the German Army in 1945.

Maybe the PR people are going to try to spice up the announcement. Perhaps David Graveney's trousers will fall down as he walks on stage in front of the cameras, and whilst trying to help pull them up Peter Moores will trip over a end up with his head stuck in a wastepaper basket...

Or maybe they'll simply announce that KP will be the new skipper - that really will be a farce!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Arise Sir Ian...

Here at the TRSM Socialist Republic, we've long thought the Honours System is a total establishment fix, and that there are all sorts of people wandering around with undeserved letters before or after their name. ("Cough" Paul Collingwood "Cough")

However, we're prepared to set aside our principled opposition for this: -

102 Test Matches
5200 Runs
383 Wickets
120 Catches

....and over TEN MILLION POUNDS raised for Cancer Research.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Change is Gonna Come

Here's a very good article by David Conn in yesterday's Grauniad about the reducing numbers of people following the West Indies at this summer's tests.

Coincidently there's an excellent documentary on TV this Friday (originally shown on BBC4) which is based around the 1976 West Indies tour. That was the series of Tony Grovel, Brian Close using his chest as a bat, Vivian Richards scoring about seven thousand runs at an average of four hundred and the awesome sight of 'Whispering Death' - Michael Holding at The Oval.

The programme puts the series in its social history context. 1976 was the time of the rise of the 'sewage' (the National Front, to give them them their official title) SUS laws (SUS? - ask your parents) Steven Biko and Black Conciousness and the Notting Hill Riot at the end of the summer. The programme suggests that black people in the UK took strength from the West Indies team and used it as inspiration in their own struggles against the forces of oppression and reaction.

Dig out your old 'Rock against Racism' T shirt, unzip a can of Red Stripe, watch the programme and and have 'Handsworth Revolution' keyed up to play on your Dansette once its finished!

It might sound a rather trite statement, but Test cricket needs a strong West Indies side. There are few better sights than a Windies batsman in full flow, taking apart even the most consistent attack, or a couple of quick bowlers terrorising a previously imperious batting line up. In the same way that Irish rugby players are often described as the 'soul' of Lions touring squads, then the West Indies are the 'soul' of world cricket. The body can survive without one, but it's a pretty maudlin and unemotional body.

It's been a long term decline as key players have retired and and no one has taken their place, but the catalyst that has provoked everyone in the world of cricket to start facing up to reality has been the sudden retirement of Brian Lara. All the time Lara was there, his presence could paper over some of the cracks. IIf Lara had been playing at Old Trafford for example, the fourth innings run chase would have taken on an entire different complexion from the word go. There would have been genuine concern in the England camp that if he got going and posted a big hundred then the target would be perfectly attainable.

Two effects therefore -

1) England could breathe a little easier knowing that it would have taken something totally extraordinary for the target to be reached

2) The West Indies now have to adapt to life without Lara - Chanderpaul's long haul effort and the support he got from Bravo, Ramdin and Sammy shows that realisation is sinking in.

It's probably not exagerating to say that the current position is so fragile that a three year bad spell of results and performances echoing those in the Headingley test (and the first three days at Old Trafford) could seriously threaten the West Indies status as a test playing entity.

So what of the future? In addition to the Chanderpaul inspired rearguard at Old Trafford, there are a few positive signs that maybe the current decline isn't going to prove terminal. Probably the strongest sign has been the reaction of ex West Indies internationals on our TV screens to what's been going on in this series. Viv Richards, for example, has almost been omnipresent on television over the past couple of weeks. Sir Viv is a very proud man. Whilst he's saying all the diplomatic things in public, you can bet your bottom dollar than inside he's seething. It's becoming increasingly clear that, along with Jimmy Adams and Michael Holding he's reached the point of 'something must be done - and quickly'

The other positive sign is of the dollar variety. Allen Stanford is a Texas billionaire who, in his own words, 'wanted to prove that something positive for the world could actually come out of Texas'. In the past couple of years Stanford has pumped huges amounts of money into Antiguan cricket - more money than any individual has given to the sport since Kerry Packer. He sponsored and paid for the Stanford 20/20 tournament that was on Sky TV last year, and has now centrally contracted seventeen cricketers and will fund their progress and development.

It doesn't take much of a stretch to believe that if that kind of largesse can be extended to the other Carribbean islands, and harnessed to the drive and determination of a whole host of ex-internationals then, in a few years time, the West Indies could be a force in world cricket again.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Independents Day

Excellent article by James Lawton in the Independent, which puts ‘Fredalo-gate’, and what Michael Vaughan did or didn’t say to a journalist, into the context of what’s happened over the past six months.

Welcome to my Nightmare

An 'All Irritating' XI (Sponsored by Preparation H)

Hershelle Gibbs
Geoff Boycott
Greg Chappell
Javed Miandad
Arjuna Ranatunga (Captain)
Jonty Rhodes
Mark Boucher (Wkt)
Phil Edmonds
Dermot Reeve
Lenny Pascoe
Greg Matthews

12th Man - Kevin Pietersen
Umpire - Shakoor Rana

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Complete Control

A lot has been written over the past 24 hours about the abject bowling performance turned in by Steve Harmison, and to a lesser extent Ker-Plunk at Old Trafford on Friday.

One angle that hasn't been picked up on is the captaincy of Michael Vaughan. 'll bet a lot of money that the presence of Vaughan at mid off when Harmison is bowling is not helping the bowler one little bit.

He might mean well, but the little conversations he seems to be having about three times an over are ikely doing more harm than good.

I've been in exactly the same position as Harmison myself - albeit at a much lower level in the cricketing foodchain. Your brain seizes up and everything you've done previously and taken for granted in terms of running up and delivering the ball becomes problematic when it should be automatic. You end up thinking too much, and try to 'place' the ball rather than just bowling it. All you want to do is just go back and bowl. Simplistic comments like 'keep it up there' and 'relax' offer no help whatsover. You just get to the position where you're tempted to sarcastically respond "Really skipper? I hadn't thought of that." Even the well intentioned 'well bowled' when you manage to put one in roughly the right place just sound contrived and gratuitous to you.

I'd also suggest that what has added to the turmoil in Harmison's head is al the talk about his eleven wicket haul at Old Trafford last year - and the fact that 'this wicket is made for him'.

Harmison is in the position now where he just needs to empty his mind, run up and bowl fast - and bugger the consequences.

Let Allan Donald try and sort out the mechanics of wrist and body position - but do it after this test has finished. Tell Harmison now that he's not going to be playing in the next test, but instead is going back to county cricket to bowl - and bowl and bowl and bowl until he gets back into the groove.

Luckily, the lack of a challenge from this West Indies team means that they are getting away with having two bowlers in their attack who are currently performing at less than test class and couldn't hit a cows arse with a banjo - even if the cow was tied down.

England won't have that luxury when the India series starts.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Re: Your Comments

Some thoughts on three issues that were raised in the 'Comments' section below my recent post about life without Freddie.

1. All Around the World

Since the early seventies, which is as far back as my personal memories go, England have had a whole series of all rounders. When you look through the list it becomes clear that the reason Botham and Flintoff stand out is that, with the exception of Tony Greig, they've been far better than anyone else who's pulled on an England cap during that period.

Consider some of the names - Miller, Capel, De Freitas, Ealham, Pringle, Hollioake Major, Hollioake Minor, Ian Greig, Cork, White, Clarke, Lewis... and Uncle Tom Cobleigh & all. (I'm not that list isn't exhaustive - feel free to enlighten me if any other names come to mind!)

As we know, Greig 'Packered' himself - but all the rest were triumphs of hope over expectation. Some burned brightly for a short time but never provided the solidity and longevity we were hoping for.

If you take as a definition a 'great' all-rounder being someone who can justify their place in the side on both their batting and bowling it becomes clear that they are the exception rather than the rule. In the same timeframe as above, I can think of only four players who have reached that lofty peak, Mount Olympus if you will for any extended period - Imran Khan, Gary Sobers, Mike Procter and Botham. You should probably add Hadlee to that list because of the relative weakness of the New Zealand side during the time he was carrying them almost single-handed, and possibly Kapil Dev at a stretch.

So, from an English perspective it's more a case of appreciating just how extraordinary Botham (for ten years) and Flintoff (for two) were - rather than being concerned that we don't seem to be able to produce class all-rounders as a matter of course.

2. Gang of Four

You can get away with a four man bowling attack, but it has to have balance - and has to be four bowlers you can actually rely on, whilst realistically accepting that everyone will have an off day once in a while.

If everyone is fit the ideal 4 man England attack now would be Fred, Monty, Matty Hoggard and Simon Jones. (Of course, with Freddie in the side you can have a 5 man attack if he bats 6 but that's a different story) You need a mixture of bowlers who take wickets (Think 15-2-77-4) and bowlers who can provide you with a semblence of control (23-8-54-2) It was often said of the Australian side in the 90's that they could get away with a four man attack because they had McGrath and Warne and would regularly bowl sides out in 80 overs. That's fine as long as they aren't piling up 400 plus in those overs.

Think back to Day One at Edgbaston 2005. The Australian attack still took wickets, but England scored runs because the control wasn't there - there was no McGrath to provide the '23-8-54-2' control so the four man strategy didn't work.

What you want are bowlers who can cover both bases - attack when necessary but also fall into the defence mode if necessary. It's not really too much to ask, but it does seem strange how many England quick bowlers seem to have an issue with it.

Then the question of injury rears its ugly head. I don't thing you can really plan extensively for this - If you think you're taking a chance on selecting someone in a four man attack who might pull up lame during a game, you shouldn't really be selecting them at all. By the same token you shouldn't go in with a 5 man attack because you think a bowler might break down. You need to have some consideration for your supporting cast. With KP, The Pies and Captain Fantastic (his words, not mine!) England have three back ups who can all usefully turn their arm over so they can probably afford to risk a four man attack more often than they do - but generally, should you really be dropping a good batsman in favour of a bits 'n' pieces all rounder who then becomes bowler number 4.5? (Think Ian Greig...)

3. A Land Down Under

Finally - the question was posed about the lack of all rounders produced by Australia since Alan Davidson.

I't's only a half formed theory - but dare I suggest that cricket below test level is far more competitive in Australia than in England. The competition for places at Grade and State level is so fierce that players have to spend all their time and effort looking to specialise in one skill rather than on both. It's therefore only once they are established in the side that they can start looking to diversify.

Further comments and thoughts welcome!