Monday, September 28, 2009

Never a truer word

Overheard at The Oval last week: -

"Why would Rob Key want to join us? We're shit!"

Friday, September 25, 2009

Home Advantage

Forgive me for sounding like a worn out record here.

There will be 55 days of international cricket in England next summer - of which EIGHTEEN will be at Lords.

That's three test matches (England v Pakistan and Bangladesh, and then the neutral Australia/Pakistan game) and three one dayers.

It's always said by defenders of this sort of monopoly that touring teams always want to play at Lords. Well, that may be the case, but sometimes you can't always get what you want. Bangladesh played at Lords back in 2005 - a game which lasted about two days, and haven't done much to suggest that they actually deserve another one quite yet. That's not to say that they don't deserve full tests - just not at Lords.

And surely what touring cricketers want to do is play against England at Lords. So why the Pakistan/Australia game?

Grounds around the country are being encouraged to improve their capacity and facilities to become international grounds. Surely the other side of the deal is that they are actually granted internationa cricket to give them the opportunity to recoup some of their costs.

Too Much Pressure

This is a very troubling article.

After all, you always think of Paul Collingwood as one of the most resilient and mentally strong members of the England set up, so to read something like this really does put things in perspective.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Andrew Flintoff plc

To my mind, 'freelance' means self employed, going it alone and, effectively, managing yourself.

The omens aren't good.

After all, the first time Freddie managed himself, he ballooned up to 18 stone and had to have Bobby Simpson read him the riot act.

The next time he had any managerial responsibility, he stayed up drinking all night and turned up at nets the next morning still under the influence.

And finally, even with a reduced management role, he then nearly drowned himself in the West Indies.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Fredo, you're nothing to me now."

Call this a somewhat hard-nosed, uncaring reaction if you want, but any mention of Andrew Flintoff in the press these days is accompanied, at TRSM Mansions at least, by a stifled yawn.

We’ve had the operation, the recovery, the DVT, the planning for the future and now the turned down contract.

Then we’ve had Chubby Chandler saying that Freddie is going to play for teams in, respectively Australia, South Africa, West Indies teams. Oh really? On one leg or in a wheelchair? Chandler’s bizarre statements remind me of one of Saddam Hussein’s spokesman during the Iraqi invasion, totally out of touch with reality. The guy has just had, what, his fifth surgery in the past six years, and yet here’s his agent mapping out a worldwide mercenary tour that someone fully fit and ten years younger – and with no family, would find arduous.

I hate to say it, but the ‘stifled yawn’ is rapidly heading up to dial to a more outright ‘why should I care’ reaction.

Yes - he was instrumental in England winning back the Ashes – but in the cold light of day one fantastic bowling spell at Lords, and a decent 70 at Edgbaston hardly measure up to the heights of 2005, nor the apparent heights that retrospect appears to be bestowing on the series. If I’m being picky, I’d say that the staged celebrations ever so slightly too staged – a bit too much about Freddie thinking about his place in history and not about the team.

So he’s now retired from test cricket, and is unlikely to be playing ODIs in the near future, if at all.

Maybe all this is a bit strong; maybe I should temper it slightly by saying that it’s the antics of his agent that have prompted this outburst. From promoting himself to the committee of selectors at Headingley, to mapping out a fantasy career for his client, Chandler is approaching Scott Boras in the popularity stakes of agentdom.

So ultimately I wish Freddie well – and I’m sure we’ll see him back on TV soon – some guest appearances on sports TV – and some sort of special award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year shindig.

But I happen to think his cricketing days are over, the final act the immortal run out of Ponting – a dismissal right up there with Strauss’s catch of Gilchrist and Warne’s ball of the century in the Ashes pantheon.

Not a bad signing off really.

Sweet Home Ally Bamma

Another vignette from the Oval visit referenced below was the sight of Alex Tudor opening the bowling for the Brown Stuff.

Tudor is just one of a long line of ‘might have beens’ in English test history, and is now having one final go-around. At least you like to think it’s a final go around, though with Surrey’s record it’s likely he’ll be forming a seam attack with Robin Jackman and Peter Loader in 2018.

The lovely flowing action is still there, but that’s about it. No threat, no bite, no aggression – an empty shell.

Although whilst he was bowling, there was plenty of noise. Not some Sharapova-esque grunting from Tudor, but incessant rabbit from his team mates. Every ball – regardless of whether it beat the bat (one did) or get thrashed through the covers by Ricky Wessells (plenty did) there was an continual babble of vocal support from the Surrey fielders – almost to the point of self-parody.

What may have contributed to Tudor’s disorientation, and ultimate figures of something like ten overs for seventy four, was the series of nicknames bestowed on him by his mates… and the non-stop parroting.

I counted eight different nom-de-bowlers in the space of four overs -

Big Fella
Big Man
Bamma (Ally Bamma?)
Ally Boy

As a bowler, I find this sort of thing can be utterly self defeating. ‘Come on’ ‘at the stump’s, ‘get us an early one’ ‘put it up there’… – if your mind isn’t right you end up thinking ‘damn, why didn’t I think of that.’, or ‘just f***** shut up and let me get on with it, ok?’

Monday, September 14, 2009

Missing in Action

With summer clinging on by its fingernails, I cleared some space in the diary for a quick trip down to the Oval to see the hapless Surrey take on promotion hunting Northants - my first view of the Cobblers in the flesh since the days of Alan Lamb.

The most notable sight of the day was the everso depressing one of Monty Panesar wandering around at third man and mid on like a lost sheep. It was the end of the Surrey innings, there were cheap wickets to be had, yet he was second choice spin option behind Nicky Boje - one of a crop of Saffies in the Northants line up.

Monty has now, presumably, been overtaken by Adil Rashid on the selectors spin depth chart – so there’s another person of Asian extraction for Bumble to patronise during his commentary stints – viz, the constant references to the ‘little lad’ in the Sky box during the Oval ODI'er..

The patronising meme still has its followers among spectators too. Even at the Oval with no more than a couple of hundred of people in, someone was still shouting ‘Montee’ in that horrible sub ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’ voice – and a few goons were even applauding the most mundane bit of fielding.

Panesar is very unlikely to feature in the South African series (you don't take three spinners there). Swann and Rashid can both bat and it's hugely ironic that Monty's last memorable act in an England line up is going to be a batting rearguard.

It's clear that since his debut in 2006 he's been practicing his batting and fielding - and has made advances in both. Evidence the fact that not only did he hold out at Cardiff, but actually looked comfortable doing it. But in the meantime he seems to forgotten to upgrade his bowling. Shane Warne’s '30 test debuts' comment still carries weight.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Selfish Gene

Odd game at the Oval today.

Australia had eleven men on the field, England had ten - and then there was Ravi Bopara...

All Rounders

'David Beckham's occasional off-breaks'

A blog well worth getting to know by the way. And that recommendation is irrespective of the fact we used to play for the same team...

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

'What a catalyst you turned out to be...'

Alongside the frustration caused by the Old Trafford ‘wet patch’, was the equally frustrating behaviour of the Sky TV coverage.

To begin with, as the story broke, they did everything right.

There were suitably grave faces on the three panellists. I haven’t had the same love affair with Bumble enjoyed by most other England fans but you could see he was genuinely livid and verbalised his mood well, Nick Knight, by contrast, was trying to sit on the fence – but because he’s genuinely intelligent and seems to be natural commentator, it was a nice contrast to Bumble’s pent up rage. With Ian Ward as the host it was a decent studio line up, unfettered by the Botham ego or the Blewett ‘rabbit in the headlines’ expression.

There were interviews with a suitably embarrassed Paul Collingwood, and a rather touchy Michael Clarke, then Alittle had a word with an incandescent Jim Cumbes who was understandably hacked off, but his comment about the pitch ‘sweating’ seemed rather odd. Just sweating in a two metre square area then Jim?

The crowd got a namecheck too - ‘’they are going to be very angry and who can blame them’’ said Bumble, and Wardy made reference to some booing – although to me it was more akin to the sound of a discontented cow mooing in an adjoining field.

They called for e-mails and, apparently, had over a thousand – though fluffed it slightly by admitting that they couldn’t read them because they are next door.

But just as things started getting interesting, Ian Ward made some comment about English cricket shooting itself in the foot, and it was all over.


Any journalist will tell you that the best time to get opinion that is genuinely worthy of the name is immediately after the event – before the PR teams and spin doctors can get hold of the story and weave it the way they want it to go.

By this morning you had the ECB coming out with the usual – ‘we’ll have an investigation to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again’ blandishments and that’s it – lid firmly on the story, time to move on chaps.

Here’s what they should have done –

- Vox pop some of the crowd. After all, you’ve told us they are angry – well prove it. Make sure you don’t simply get the drunken ranters, but some people who can string a sentence together. Be cynical if you want and get someone with a human interest angle like ‘my ten year old son has been saving his pocket money for six months to come here – it’s his first ever international game’.

- Then put that to an ECB official. If Sky couldn’t get one in front of the camera initially then they should have simply reminded them who pays their bills and put the request in again.

- Also put Shane Warne’s idea of only bowling from one end to them. Alongside that, suggest that the game could have gone ahead with bowlers with short run ups bowling from that end. Before anyone suggests that this would have turned it into a farce, remember that a lot of games take place with external conditions having an influence on who bowls from which end – short boundaries, two paced wickets, wind direction, the ‘blind spot’ at Edgbaston which Andrew Flintoff used to torment Jaques Kallis last year. What’s the difference?

- Put the thought that 99% of the pitch is playable, so how farcical is it that the crowd won’t see any cricket

- Also make the point that it was a ‘one off’ 20/20 game with no long term implications, so they could have easily stretched the rules slightly to facilitate some sort of game.

- Then go back to Jim Cumbes and suggest that no pitch should ‘sweat’ selectively like that, and maybe we’re looking at Old Trafford incompetence here – especially in the wake of the £600,000 present they had from the ECB last year to improve covers and drainage…

- Finally get everyone’s opinion about Nick Knight’s good point/future exam question – “20/20 – cricket or entertainment?”

Intersperse all this with some e-mails from viewers – (after all, why ask for them otherwise?) and you’ve got a decent hour’s viewing. Instead, we got another re-run of the ‘How the Ashes were won’ programme. Very watchable, of course, but something that’s been on a seemingly permanent loop since last Monday.

Sky had a real story, the airtime to fill, the cameras and all the important characters in place, and ignored it.

(PS – Why wasn’t there a bowl out?)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Mackem... or Magpie in the nest?

Throughout the summer we've grown used to hearing the new Australian verbal tic in all its glory - every answer to a question prefaced with a "Oh, now look..." a "Hey, listen..." or a variant on the theme.

Odd, though to hear Paul Collingwood coming out with the same thing last night when Paul Alittle thrust a mic up his nose.

Then you start thinking that the evidence is starting to mount:- Steve Waugh saying that Colly is the 'nearest thing England have to an Aussie', the original VFL surname...