Friday, November 28, 2008

Summers in the Sun

Apologies for the dearth of posts in the past couple of weeks. Partly caused by 'blogger's block', and partly due to the fact that I'd regularly have an inspired idea for an article on the walk to the station, but by the time I'd read the paper on the train I'd realise that Mike Selvey had beaten me to it.

As Selvey wasn't a Kent fan in the 70's - in fact he was actually playing the county game during that time rather than watching it, I'm hoping the following will jump-start things here at TRSM -

The format is simple. I listed all sixteen counties besides Kent, and then went down the list and quickly jotted down the first thing that came into my head when thinking about their team in the 70's, particularly from when they were playing Kent.

(Remember these are all knee-jerk responses, so apologies for any factual errors - or sweeping generalisations)

Derbyshire - Rubbish - so no change there. Keeper Bob Taylor promoted 'Pony' Cricket bats, which says it all really. Brought in Eddie Barlow to do a Proctershire (see below) which didn't work.

Essex - Something of a joke until Gooch turned up and they then started winning everything in sight. Ray East was always good for an autograph whilst he was fielding. Had a leg-spinner, which was noteworthy then.

Glamorgan - Otherwise known as 'maximum points' whenever we played them. One decent batsman named Jones, like most of the side, and not much else.

Gloucestershire - Aka - Proctershire. We got a real shoeing in the '77 B&H final when Procter was bowling at about 120mph. They also had two of the best Pakistani batsmen ever, a bowler called 'Brian Brian' (or was it 'Brain Brain') and David Sheppard, who has since made a career of standing on one leg.

Hampshire - Won the championship in 1973. Then added Andy Roberts to that side - and never won another thing. Richards and Greenidge, and Peter Sainsbury who was about seventy.

Lancashire - The loathed, hated, bitter rivals. Azkerban CC. Probably explains why it took me so long to appreciate David Lloyd in the Sky commentary box.

Leicestershire - A mate of mine's claim to fame is that he saw Gower bat in 1976, was told that he was a big England prospect, and told all and sundry that 'he'll never make it'.

Middlesex - We reckoned that they had butlers serving their teas in the Lords pavilion.

Northants - Harmless and their supporters were good fun. Nice smattering of watchable overseas players including Bishen Bedi - we were all then masters at imitating his action, like Monty Panesar is today. (Only Monty still can't bowler the freaking arm-ball....)

Nottinghamshire - We saw Sobers, but didn't see the real Sobers, if you get my meaning.

Somerset - Yokel supporters who made a lot of noise and used to drink very strong apple-juice. Pretty feeble on the pitch and we always beat them - then Richards, Botham and Garner came along...

Surrey - I probably spent more time at The Oval than any other ground during that period - but never managed to form any attachment to Surrey whatsoever. Probably because they were so drab. Overseas star was Geoff Howarth - which says it all really.

Sussex - Apart from when he ripped Kent to shreds in the 1973 Gillette Cup, we idolised John Snow.

Warkwickshire - Whenever Kent played them up to about 1976, you can make an entire international eleven from the twenty-two playing.

Luckhurst, Amiss, Denness, Kanhai, Kalicharran, Asif, Knott, Gibbs, Brown, Willis, Underwood.

And that doesn't include Shepherd, Murray or Woolmer.

Worcestershire - Had an opening bowler called Cedric - cause of much hilarity. Also had another opening bowler called John Inchmore, who looked like a Black Sabbath roadie.

Yorkshire - We were the first generation ever for whom Yorkshire were little more than a laughing stock, well since the generation that won at Bosworth in 1485 anyway.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ryan - the broken-down engine

It's time for another TRSM fearless prediction. Ryan Sidebottom is unlikely to bowl for England again.

For years he made a name for himself on the county circuit trundling in at a steady 82 or 83 mph. Being left- arm-over gave him a head start, and excellent control and movement brought success. At county level that's plenty - the wickets are helpful enough, and there are enough cheap wickets around to help you make a fairly tidy living.

Then Peter Moores came calling, and someone obviously suggested that a few more mph on the radar gun could mean a decent run in the England side.

It thus came to pass, and for a year he nobly led the England attack. Indeed, in the absence of Flintoff, Harmison throwing the toys out of the pram, and Anderson showing all the self-control of a teenage girl watching Robbie Williams, Sidearse was the England attack for the best part of that year.

Then it all started going wrong.

Every bowler finds a groove within which he's comfortable. A bowling action becomes repeatable, so that you can do it with your eyes shut. You start your run up - 1,2,3,4,5 strides, leap and deliver. (At this point I'll 'fess up and say that I've never tried this in an actual game - and the only time I even did it in the nets ended with me running into the stumps, but you get the idea) Because the action is so repeatable, the ball will, more often than not, land on a decent length. It's why a lot of bowlers take time to acclimatise when they tour abroad - the length your instinct lands the ball on is a couple of inches wrong and it takes time in the nets to get your radar re-adjusted. It then takes further adjustment for the one that's just short of a length to stop in turning into a rank long-hop... and so on.

Sidebottom's physique was attuned to bowling in the low 80's. To suddenly demand that he perform in the high 80s was ultimately going to cause problems. I've had it myself, asked the question from a new captain - 'can you bowl quicker?' At the time I was too young and naive enough to answer 'no', then tried to prove it- quicker yes, the odd ball even made the batsman hurry up a bit, but for every good ball there were several bad ones that were put away on the 'harder they come onto the bat, harder they come off it' theory - so I ended up going for about 60 off 9 overs.

At first his undoubted fitness based on a heavy county workload saw him through, but then when one thing went, the body over-compensated and gradually the stresses have transferred themselves elsewhere in his body. He's tried to play through it, which resulted in the rather controversial decision to play him at Edgbaston last summer. He clearly wasn't fit, England were therefore a bowler light, and it effectively cost them the game and the series, and Michael Vaughan his job.

It's like having a basic, reliable saloon car which works perfectly as an 'A to B' machine, but which you then decide to flog to death on the motorway every week. At first it will cope, but gradually bits will start dropping off - and you're soon looking for a new model.

He'll bowl again, but not in the high 80s, and therefore not effectively for England.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Easy Money

If I could have a fiver for every time the Sky commentators have referenced the 'wonderful atmosphere' in Antigua, I'd have around half a million quid (million dollars)

New World Order

I'm not sure if I'm breaking copyright laws here, but this letter in today's Grauniad is worth reprinting in full. I'm not suggesting that I agree totally with it, but it certainly maps out a feasible and interesting future!


Stephen Moss (It's all over now, G2, October 29) ably summarises the current situation of Sir Allen Stanford's Twenty20 for 20 project. However, like most cricket commentators, he fails to consider a crucial question. Stanford is too good a businessman to be spending $100m over five years on outraging traditionalists and influencing the small-scale business of cricket boards. So he has to have a longer-term, possibly quite risky plan for larger profit. And actually, once looked at in the right way, it's quite obvious.

Moss quotes Ed Smith, captain of Middlesex and author of Playing Hardball, an excellent book about baseball from a cricketer's perspective. Reading that book in the current context makes several things quite obvious.

Twenty20 cricket has a lot in common with baseball, for the audience. The games are of similar length, similar complexity, and their forms of action are similarly visceral. This brief, violent form of cricket stands a far better chance of appealing in the US. The Twenty20 game has a chance to cross over into the baseball audience. Success is not certain but the rewards would be huge.

The team sports that have serious mass appeal, and thus large TV revenues, in the US are baseball and American football. Those are not major sports anywhere else. The only sports popular both within the US and the wider world are individual games: golf, tennis and so on. If a sport becomes popular in both the US and India - where Twenty20 is already hugely popular - the rivalries, fan bases and revenues will be measured in the tens of billions of dollars.

Obviously, the US will form its own teams. They'll learn, fast and well, if there are fortunes to be made. Some of their players and audience may discover the appeal of the longer game. Test cricket will survive in some form because it is financially viable in the UK, and will retain an audience in India and Australia, at a minimum.

It may well be the case that the game will fragment into two codes, like rugby. I doubt that a powerful US cricket board, in alliance with an even richer Indian board, would be very patient with the MCC's priorities in the care and maintenance of the laws of cricket. But rugby has shown that such a split does not automatically doom a sport, if both codes have enough supporters.
John Dallman