Friday, February 29, 2008

Three For The Show?

Imagine you're Dmitri Mascarenhas. You have pretty well developed ODI skills, especially in the 20/20 field where your ability to thrash 25 off an over is quite sought after. You're probably never going to be a 'regular' in the England Test line up, so the chances of getting a central contract are pretty slim. You can make a fairly comfortable living as a ODI specialist on top of your county salary, but don't you cast the occasional envious glance at the IPL - a league where your value would probably have been in the region of £250,000 at the recent auction?

Imagine you're Andrew Flintoff. You've just had a fourth operation on a dodgy ankle. Despite saying all the right things to the press about feeling better than you have done for years, you must surely be having lingering doubts about the length of time you'll be able to keep playing at your normal level. Might you not be thinking that a big payday with the IPL might just be what you need to set yourself up securely for the future, rather than chancing everything on staying fit enough to have an extended run in the England test side?

Imagine you're Marcus Trescothick. Although no one's said so publicly, you can be pretty certain that your test career is, regrettably, now over - and a ODI recall is becoming less likely as time passes. Your absence from the England side has thrown both test and ODI sides out of kilter, to the extent that neither has properly recovered. You're still one of the most destructive opening batsmen in the world, and would be a useful man to have at the top of the order, mixing solidity with destructive power. (Sort of like Matthew Hayden, without the nauseating sanctimoniousness) Why the hell aren't you getting ready for a mega-bucks payday in India?

Now, imagine you're Giles Clarke....

By Jingo!

KP speaks out.

I'd love to believe this. After all, he's still one of the few reasons we've got for thinking we might regain the Ashes next year - the only true 'World XI' player in the England squad.

But I don't.

Maybe it's the too frequent use of 'England' - like there seems to be more self-convincing going on, rather than sincerity.

After all, in spite of some recent hiccups he's still one of the most feared and dangerous batsmen in the world - in all formats of the game. Despite the Three Lions tattoos on his arms, there's always an underlying nagging doubt about the total commitment to the England cause, and the thought that if a better financial offer came along he wouldn't think too long before jumping at a big payday.

Additionally he's got an ego the size of Bulgaria, so the idea that the best of his contemporaries will be playing in a high profile tournament while he's strutting his stuff in front of three men and a dog in near-sub-zero temperatures for Hampshire at Durham in the middle of April must surely grate?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Shake Your Moneymaker

There have been a series of predictably snarky comments, both on the crystal box and in the chip wrappers, about the amount of money cricketers will earn from the IPL.

For example, Richard Williams in the Grauniad today suggests that the players should wear their salaries, rather than their names, on their back and there have been any number of other commentators querying whether 'so and so' is really worth a couple of hundred thousand pounds for such minimal effort.

Sorry to get all Marxist about it. but the only 'asset' most individuals have to sell is his or her labour, and it's really up to them as to how much he can sell that labour for. If someone is has got pockets deep enough to pay Dhoni, Hayden, Ponting and Co half a million each for a couple of months work, then so be it. In other words, something is 'worth' the amount someone is prepared to pay for it.

Journalists like Williams are in a similar game as the cricketers - effectively 'public entertainment'. Everything he, like Dhoni and Co, does is there for instant public consumption and analysis. One crucial difference is that he has editors and fact checkers to deal with his mistakes - cricketers stand and fall on their performance out in the middle.

The same applies in football, where there's no end of comment about the astronomical salaries paid out to Premiership footballers. 'Obscene' was the word used by a government minister a few months ago to describe the £130K John Terry trousers each week. If New Labour ministers do want to get hot under the collar about astronomical wages, why not start with some of the ludicrous sums paid out in the City - and, more importantly, the distinctly small percentage of said sums that finds its way to the Treasury coffers. And if they want to start bandying emotive words like 'obscene' around in terms of wages, why not start looking at how much contract cleaners in hospitals get paid...

Of course, there are always some fuckwit who gives justification to the whole 'overpaid sportsmen' angle - ''I wouldn't get out of bed for 55 grand a week'' Ashley Cole for example, and obviously there's a whole arguement to be had about the importance of 'role models' amongst those taking home more in a week than the average fan earns in five years. But the bottom line remains that if Abramovich and Co are prepared to pay 'obscene' sums, who are we to start calling for the return of the 'serfdom' days of the maximum wage?

As Tony correctly pointed out here

That will be one of the attractions of the T20. Will players deliver? The cricket, from a purist's perspective, will mostly be crap, but big money has cranked up the pressure. Who will crack first?

The one big complaint about the Packer circus was that there was a distinct lack of real excitement surrounding a lot of the games. Sure, you could see Dennis Lillee trying to decapitate Clive Lloyd on a regular basis, but beyond that most of the games were virtually meaningless.

Packer paid his players enough money to make them comfortable without going totally OTT about the whole thing. The IPL take it a stage further, but you can be sure that all the players will have had the 'new contract' carrot dangled in front of them before a ball is bowled. Plus if you're playing in front of a full house, and know that there's a TV audience of billions watching your every move, who's not going to be motivated?

As for who I'm supporting - well Mumbai is where these guys are based - and as they are good enough to publish the occasional screed that I send them, I reckon it's only fair that I give their side a shout.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Gathering Storm

How long before a centrally contracted English player decides that the lure of half a million a year for three years from the IPL is a better deal that about 20% of that over a shorter period from the ECB?

On a related note, Jonathan Agnew in today's Observer says that KP is looking 'distracted'. I wonder why that is?!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Eastern Promise

Lawrence Donegan on reaction to the IPL in today's Grauniad.

"Of course there are some who will never be able to find it within themselves to admire anything associated with the IPL lest it be interpreted as approval for a concept they despise. So they deny the obvious and plough on with their howls of anguish, castigating everyone and everything associated with the league for crimes against the true soul of cricket. Thus, we have Andrew Symonds - one of the Australians who has signed on the dotted line for the IPL - being accused of selling out the baggy green for the sake of money. 'Australia must be proud of him', goes the sarcastic cry.

"Criticising another man for trying to make a living is never a good idea but criticising Symonds, who has given such sterling service to Australian cricket, betrays an arrogance more commonly seen in a feudal baron telling the plebs not to get any ideas above their station.

"But then arrogance has always been a characteristic of those who defend the status quo for no better reason than it affords them certain status and privileges. "We know best," the traditionalists say, as if they are the only ones capable of appreciating the aesthetic beauty of a cultured cover drive, the tactical subtleties of a five-day Test match or where the game's future lies.

"At the risk of being cast into the same cesspool of amorality and avarice as Symonds this might be the appropriate moment to pose a heretic question; what if it turned out that the millions of fans who now find themselves gripped by the prospect of the IPL are actually the ones who know best where the future of cricket lies? At the very least yesterday's frenzy in Mumbai suggests these poor misguided fools could be on to something.

"The problem for those who are opposed to the IPL, of course, is one of losing control. It is always thus for conservatives, regardless of where they propagate their ideas, be it in sport, in politics or in sporting politics. The development of the IPL heralds a marked shift in the balance of power towards India and instead of recoiling from this inevitability the game should embrace it. After all, India is where enthusiasm for the sport is at its most intense."

Excellent stuff!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Heroes & Villains

5 players I wish I'd seen live: -

1. Keith Miller
2. Tom Graveney
3. Frank Wooley
4. Wes Hall
5. Colin Bland

5 players I'm glad to have seen live: -

1. Clive Lloyd
2. Sachin Tendulkar
3. Shane Warne
4. Ian Botham
5. Dennis Lillee

5 innings I'm glad to have witnessed live: -

1. Aravinda de Silva's ton for Kent against Lancashire in a B&H final. (Kent lost)
2. Clive Lloyd, 132 v England at The Oval, 1972
3. Freddie Flintoff's ton at Trent Bridge against Australia, 2005.
4. Tresco's double ton against South Africa at The Oval
5. Steve Waugh scoring 150 in about two hours for Somerset in Canterbury Cricket Week, 1988.

5 cricketers I've loathed - for various reasons: -

1. Hershelle Gibbs
2. John Embuery
3. Jack Bond
4. Chappelli
5. Jonty Rhodes

If you have to have three commentators sharing the microphone at all times, as Channel 9 now seem to think, then these are the three I'd want when I finally get to the celestial test match arena: -

1. John Arlott
2. Richie Benaud
3. Mike Atherton

...and if these were the three I heard, I'd know I'd taken a wrong turn just before the Pearly Gates: -

1. Bob Willis
2. Bill Lawry
3. David Lloyd

The best catch I've ever seen live: -

1. Strauss catching Gilchrist off of Flintoff, Trent Bridge

The best/worst drop I've ever seen live: -

1. Lance Cairns dropping David Gower at Lords in the early 80's

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Apologies for the lack of posts recently.

'Normal' (whatever that is...) service will be resumed shortly.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Best Things in Life are Free

Back in the dark days of the Thatcherite Junta, Harry Enfield made a nice living with his comedic creation - 'Loadsamoney'. Much to Enfield's embarrassment, what had been intended as a satirical depiction of the greed and ostentatious excess that epitomised the era, became almost a Gordon Gekko style role model for millions.

In one particular sketch, the character mentioned that he'd paid FORTY QUID for a seat at Spurs, and then complained that it was ''nowhere near enough''...

This 'keep the riff-raff out' attitude seems to have now seeped into cricket. The following is a quote from this months 'Wisden Cricketer'. Paul Blanchard, Marketing Director at The Oval responds to criticism of ticket prices for some ODI seats going over £100.

"You get a lot more value for your money because you are there for a lot longer. There is a strong argument that we should boost the prices. People ring up and accuse us of not charging enough because they have not been able to get the tickets."

(My emphasis added)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Friday, February 01, 2008

Gil Christ Superstar!

A lot of commentators have made the very valid point about Adam Gilchrist, in that he revolutionised the way test sides now view their wicketkeeping position.

It's no longer good enough to be a very capable keeper who keeps byes down to an absolute minimum and catches everything within reach whilst making the odd useful score. Keepers now have to be true all-rounders, averaging around 40 with the bat. And if they can score their runs at a rate of over 70 per hundred balls, all the better.

In theory, there's nothing wrong in having high expectations for the players in the team you are selecting - but wanting all keepers to be able to keep and bat like Gilchrist is like wanting all spinners to bowl like Warne, or all opening batsmen to mix aggression and solidity like Hayden. The insistance on the 'Gilchrist standard' is skewing the judgment of selectors. The importance of being able to score plenty of runs, and score them quickly means that flaws in keeping technique are being overlooked - to the detriment of the fielding, and bowling side of the team.

A good keeper becomes the fulcrum of the fielding side. Everything should revolve around his performance behind the stumps. Of course, the encouragement they give fielders and bowlers, and the pressure they exert on batsmen through their constant commentary has it's place, but it seems that gobbiness and attitude is being promoted over general competence with the gloves. (In his latest book, Duncan Fletcher admits that Jones was selected ahead of Read in Australia on this criteria) This overlooks the simple fact that there's nothing more dispiriting for a fielding side to see a keeper drop straightforward chances, or let through byes and wide balls he should normally reach.

What makes it worse is when the let-off batsman profits from his fortune. No one has ever done any deep analysis of how much dropped catches cost fielding sides, but it would be a fascinating study - and give a real indication of how important a safe keeper is to a side.

Players like Gilchrist him come along once in a generation. Like the persistent England search for an all-rounder to replace Botham, the quest for a second Gilchrist is surely doomed to failure. Phil Mustard's inane comment about being 'the next Gilchrist' was particularly ill-advised. Perhaps the 'Colonel', should start off with becoming the next Bob Taylor (faultless keeping and some handy runs), then, if possible, progress to Alan Knott standard, and start to aim higher when the bowlers have enough confidence in you to know that you aren't going to drop any catches or let through stupid byes.