31 October 2009

The R word.

I am retiring from blogging on Island Express. I should have taken this decision several months ago. That would have saved it from the embarrassment of lying there wretched and un-updated, a Kapil Dev-like reminder of the benefits of early retirement.

The timing is always a tough one, aye? You keep thinking you have one more century in you, and you wait. And you wait.

At one time this blog was a feverish passion. Endless productive hours paid for by my employer were spent deciding the appropriate order of the blogroll. I also remember the several awesome hours spent assembling the montage up there, like a Chor Bazaar bike, from stolen cricket pics. But now, to lick the retirement cliche plate some more, let's throw in stuff like 'not giving 100%' etc.

I will continue writing my cricket drivel, but not here. Probably when a blue mist passes over the moon next, you can read what I write at Bored Cricket Crazy Indians.

As for this blog itself, I hope it stays here. And its future? That is now up to TM, Avinash, Sajith and Aj.

18 September 2009

Eng-Aus

You have got to give it to the England and Australian cricket teams. Having played a reasonably exciting Ashes (please read Zaltzman on this one), they have somehow connived bring a modicurm of excitement into a series that is nearly as pointless as watching Rohit Sharma play short balls (had to get it out of my system!).

Despite Australia not having played the brand of cricket that one associates with them (save a superb Ponting century), England have struggled with grim determination to dig themselves into a progressively deeper hole, which while Australia is not exactly helping them out of, is not something that Australia is pushing them into either. That said, there are things that I must greatfully thank England for:

1. The adrenalin rush of watching Shah and Boapra trying to communicate in a language that the other can understand while running - difficult obviously since there are all of three words to choose from. Invariably, their partnerships have been some of the most exciting moments of the last 6 matches - lacking in everything but suicidal running abilities.

2. Moments of Nostalgia - Watching English bowlers bowl to Australian batsmen reminds me of the Indian bowlers bolwing to the Pakistani batsmen in the 80's and 90's. Much like their counterparts of days gone by, England's bowlers have managed by sheer perseverence to bring each and every Australian batsman into form, days short of the biggest but one cricket tournament in the world. Remember how every batsman in the world had his highest score against India at one stage - give it a couple of years and watch the same come true of this bowling attack as well.

3. A reason to write - England's incompetence has atleast got me to write again (and will maybe get this blog working again!).

As a complete aside, whats up with these ICC nominations!!!

13 August 2009

Happy Bored Day

Happy happy happy!!

BCC! celebrate its first anniversary today. Join the party here.

10 July 2009

Getting off the mark......

.... opening your account with that nudge down to fine-leg or guiding one down to third man to get your first runs must be one hell of a cathartic experience. I realize that now as this is my attempt to open my account on Island Express. Well! my credentials are modest.The closest I have been to a live cricket match is when the Cricinfo's ball-by-ball commentator decided to publish a quaint little piece of trivia I mailed back. Evidently my cricket expertise, just like 99% of the cricket experts in the country does not go beyond the "couch-potato"-esque . However, the love for the game has only grown exponentially since I chanced upon the grainy pictures of Doordarsan showing men in white clothes playing for India some time in the late '80s.
This is probably the worst time to make a post about cricket. Ashes 09 is turning out to be as interesting as this and the Sky Sports commentary team is sleep-talking through it. Mercurial Pakistan are living up to their name in the Emerald Isle gifting 18 wickets to Sri-Lankan bowlers whose names don't start with M, which is only marginally better than getting timed out. West Indies is playing Bangladesh with a team comprising of local school-children and the first five ticket holders to arrive at the ground yesterday. And with the most popular team on the planet in hibernation mode for the next couple of months with their slumber to be disturbed only by the odd IndiaTV or AajTak reporter trying to hook them up with a Bollywood starlet, there is something amiss in international cricket at the moment.

I don't know how many of you feel this way, but is there a dearth of genius International Cricket at this moment as compared to say 8-10 years back ? Have we found replacements for the Akrams, the Laras, the Waughs, the Ambroses, the Walshes? We have a Federer in Tennis, a Cristiano Ronaldo in football, a Bolt in Athletics, a Lebron in Basketball, a Woods in Golf , all of whom are taking their sport to the next level. Does cricket have someone like that? I will try to answer that in the next post.

03 June 2009

Dhoni <3 Pak

Dhoni's ODI record is impressive and his love for the Pakistani bowling is well known. His deadly average (helped by god-knows-how-many not outs) climbs to a Bevanesque 57.31. That his batting is as Bevanesquely ugly is hence no surprise. Even his by-no-means-pretty Test average shoots up almost 30 runs to settle at a Husseyesque 64.60. Yuck. Well Indo-Pak matches of the last 5 years have had their share of placid tracks too, but then there is that counterattacking 150 that is still so fresh in memory. So fresh that those hooks are like an Aircel CD of love songs. Feat. Shoaib Malik with shaved armits running slomo through fields of Punju wheat. And is that Younis Khan chasing them with a double barrelled one?

So what is it about Pakistan then that brings out the best in Dhoni? Its only in the two T20s that he has played against Pakistan, that his average against Pakistan falls below his career average. 19.5 down from 23.88. Screw that, because he captained India to a World Cup final victory against them.

The IPL might have just given a hint of what would happen when the Dhoni joojoo wears off. If it did, then he could not have asked for better warm-up.

O teri to!!

Taking note of the thaw in Indo-Pak relations since 26/11, the need for a warm-up was widely recognised. Cricket took the hint and scheduled one. Well, so did the bloggers. On either side.

A Bored Quickie, darlings. See you there.

24 May 2009

Small gloat

Yes, I called one half of the IPL final right, and I was one step away from calling both. So here's showing the finger to the rest of Bored .

Elsewhere: 

Do join us for a Bored Quickie during the IPL finals.
Read about Matty Hayden's conversations with Jesus.


18 May 2009

The Tantrum - an Update

So some civil court in Lahore has passed an order in the case filed by the PCB. For more read here. Can someone please explain to me what this means - what does not being able to move the World Cup Secretariat mean??

How long does the court of arbitration for sport usually take to resolve a dipute? The good news as a lawyer is that we get to learn something about other law firms - Vellani and Vellani - I wonder what they charge!

Its Fixed!

Let me again express the thought that I expressed sometime ago on this blog - taking a side is obviously a dangerous thing for it exposes you to immense criticism and personal attack when someone who disagrees with you gets an opportunity. We are ofcourse talking about Rohit Sharma (the 'cricketer' on the one hand and the legal luminary on the other).

Disclaimer first - I did not want to write this post, I was asked to (and I am rushed).

On Saturday evening, I once again found my faith, for a mircale transpired. The 'talented Mr. Sharma' was able to despatch the brawn of bangladesh for 26 runs in the last over of yet another pulsating encounter (are these games fixed or what?). Mortaza who had bowled only yorkers in the previous overs was able to bowl only knee high full tosses or short balls (again, are these games fixed or what - there must have been pretty long odds on DC getting those runs). I was forced to face uncomfortable facts - of his talent, his fitness, his calmness under pressure and his right to play at this level.

Then he dug the dagger in deeper - against Punjab, he almost did it again!! Fortunately, in that one ball on which we went for the most ungainly slog that a top order batsmen can play, he gave me some reasons for why the first instance was nothing but a miracle. Here they are:

1. They needed 4 of 4 - the slog was totally unnecessary - not so calm after all.
2. I have never seen an international cricketer struggle for breath like he was yesterday. Was 2 back to back games (still less than a ODI) too much for the MAN??
3. The odds on him getting 4 of 4 must have been pretty good and therefore against him getting those runs pretty bad. Interesting that.

On the other hand credit where its due. He did hit full tosses out of the park - couldnt have been that simple!

17 May 2009

Seen elsewhere

Fidel Edwards art is up over at Cricket=Action=Art.

This I would buy right now if I weren't still in the Dark Ages of internet finance.

And did you know the Real IPL player is in da house?


15 May 2009

Fan versus Fan

When I invited an English blogger who markets a sports betting group to write for the blog, I was swayed by the fact that there would be regular content (that none of our authors wrote about) on this blog, that would make up for my tardiness and limited focus. At that time, I did not realise that it would alienate our regular readers. It did.

Most businesses (I use the term to include persons who do not make profits) have to make a choice when faced with quick growth - grow bigger or consolidate, invest incoming revenues in new products and services or increase salaries etc, are some of these dilemmas. Cricket and all its spinoffs are faced with a similar choice right now. The revenues coming in are massive and an unprecedented number of fans are now aware of the game.

Should cricket focus on taking the game to the masses of people that are yet to hear about this game? The discussions about a certain American market and the huge promises that it beholds are evidence of this. At the same time, getting distracted by a potential market can easily alienate your existing clients (fans). Is it possible to get the perfect balance between both? I am certain. But by the cricket suits? Hmm..

I can only speak for myself. I am a cricket fan from as long back as I can remember, and it will need a lot for me to become indifferent to the game. I have been treated like shit for years by the BCCI and the broadcasters that it has sold rights to, but that has not turned me away. Despite large advertisement that covers the Cricinfo homepage, I am patient enough to click 'close' and read the content. The bowlers run up for the first ball of an over may be eaten up by advertisement, but I will watch the rest of the over eagerly. These are minor irritants for me, but it can turn some away from the game. And these some, are cricket's greatest marketing engines.

I am almost evangelistic in my desire to convert some of my European friends into cricket fans. I am sure that a lot of the regular readers of this blog behave the same way. If cricket were to alienate such people, it is a massive loss for the game.

I for one, would love to be treated better. That would make me even more effective in my evangelism. If the game would only provide me with a loudspeaker. If the ICC would seriously consider my views on rules, terms of a broadcast contract etc.

And this is not a strange request. When Google gives me a page of search results, their rankings are a reflection of the internet behaviour of regular users. A certain bar in Delhi had me as a lifetime fan when the owner sat next to me while I was sneaking snatches of a cricket game away from my desk, and asked me for my opinions on the food menu. Customer feedback has been a part of intelligent marketing for years. More and more businesses are getting the hang of giving their ardent customers a mouthpiece, so that they can spread the word. (Are you a cricketwithballs or Bored fan on Facebook?)

Cricket needs to learn from this. What I have written may seem abstract and floosy in its lack of concrete suggestions. So more of that later.

England's Twenty20 options

Not for the first time, England head into a major tournament with little idea of what their best starting line-up is. The ICC World Twenty20 starts on 5th June, but with a new-look squad, the composition of England’s team for the curtain-raiser against Netherlands at Lord’s is anyone’s guess.

The selectors at least have plenty of limited overs cricket to consider over the coming weeks, as there is pure diet of 50 over Friends Provident Trophy and Twenty20 cup matches to digest.

Many of England’s squad owe their inclusion to good form in those competitions last year, so some decent displays this month could be persuasive. Only five players can be said to be 100% sure of a starting place, fitness permitting.

Skipper Paul Collingwood will bat in the middle order and provide a handy medium pace bowling option. Bet on Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff to feature in the top six, despite disappointing IPL campaigns. England’s star players have under-performed in the format and the hosts need them to discover some boundary-hitting form if they are to feature in the latter stages.

James Foster and Graeme Swann are respectively the only wicket keeper and spinner in the squad. Slow bowling is a crucial part of Twenty20 cricket and the in-form Swann must feature in every match.

Big hitting has been one of England’s problems in the format. Graham Napier has been called up to address this, but with Dimitri Mascarenhas and Luke Wright also included, the world record holder for sixes in an innings might be left on the sidelines.

Robert Key returns to open the batting, probably with the in-form Ravi Bopara. James Anderson and Stuart Broad should edge out Ryan Sidebottom to share new ball duties, which leaves county colleagues Eoin Morgan and Owais Shah. It seems only one can play, with Shah’s international experience counting in his favour.

One thing is for sure though, ICC World Twenty20 betting is likely to be very interesting indeed!

Possible England team: Bopara, Key, Pietersen, Shah, Flintoff, Collingwood(c), Foster(w), Mascarenhas, Broad, Swann, Anderson

14 May 2009

The Tantrum

Let me get this right for it is hard to believe – the Pakistan Cricket Board, supported by an ex-president of the ICC (who must at some point be the centre of a post on this blog!), and based on the advice of one of the world’s better law firms (posting about whom we will leave to John), has found the temerity to challenge the might of the ICC? That too in circumstances where India - the Golden Peacock of international cricket - as well as ALL other cricket boards, are siding with the ICC??

From whatever little is available (and though "we don’t know all the facts" – quote from aforesaid ICC president in context of ICC-PCB dispute), I understand that Pakistan is weeping bloody tears because the ICC has, UNANIMOUSLY, decided to cancel Pakistan’s name from the list of hosts, without giving Pakistan the opportunity ‘to be heard’? Big Papa has cut them out and since big brother is on Big Papa’s side, Pakistan has no option but legal recourse??

It’s a laugh –several laughs actually. Firstly, the Pakistan Cricket Board was present and ABSTAINED from voting on the resolution which cancelled their name!! Did they not understand what the resolution meant – or did everybody connive to such an extent as to make it impossible for the PCB to understand the consequences of not raising their voice. Doesn’t abstaining on a vote mean that you don’t care?? So you were in fact heard – atleast to the extent you wanted to be heard.

You were also heard when terrorists (if you have a secular mindset) / freedom fighters (for the religious fanatics that read this blog) decided to attack a defence less touring international cricket team in broad daylight in the centre of town. The world heard the gunshots that were fired, the grenades that were lobbed, the stories that each victim told, what their families felt and how helpless you were. Since the world at large heard all of that, do you in all your wisdom (?????), seriously believe, that any international side (and I mean ANY) will play in Pakistan?? It is for certain that New Zealand and Australia will not – neither will South Africa.

I for one refuse to believe that any human being, or a set of them, that has lived for 50 years on the average can be that stupid. So is it about the money? Will you withdraw your legal proceedings if the ICC agrees to pay you what you would have received had the tournament been played in Pakistan – are the coffers that empty?? If that’s what you want, then that’s what you should be asking for, instead of throwing a tantrum becoming only of a 4 year old that has not been given the ice cream it wants!

One last question – if the ICC wins before the CAS or in whatever proceeding you filed in Pakistan, how do you propose to pay DLA Piper?? Are they not out of your league – 1000 dollars an hour for partner level involvement is, after all, not to be sniffed at right?

13 May 2009

The Gayle Blows

Has Gayle said too much? Should people care if test crciket dies? Is T-20 the way forward for all of cricket?

Personally, I think Gayle, the 'cool maaaan' that he is, has been honest enough to state, what I am certain a lot of cricketers are thinking. Why should any one play 5 days of 90 over cricket? How does it make sense for a cricketer when the rewards are not too dissimilar from playing T-20 cricket? Is it more satisfying to get a test match hundred then it is to get a T-20 fifty? Or to get 3 wickets in five overs as opposed to 3 in 100? Will the longer breaks that result from less days of cricket, the more delirious support of fans for T-20, the larger amounts of money being poured into it run against the interests of any cricketer?

It is a profession - the idea is to do really well and make as much money as one can without letting it take over one's life. What is the argument for test cricket? The technique - mind numbing boredom of watching a batsment block delivery after delivery? Waiting desperately for highlights at end of play so no one need watch a Dravid bat?

Someone give me a good reason for test cricket - a reason to disagree with Gayle.

08 May 2009

Onions writes his own headlines

Graham Onions is now more than just a good county cricketer with an unusual surname. The headline writer’s dream gave the scribes plenty of ammunition in taking five wickets on debut and more importantly staked a strong claim for a fast bowling place for the rest of the summer.

Early season wickets have been a false dawn for some England bowlers of recent years. Richard Johnson and Ed Giddins decimated Zimbabwe in helpful conditions but struggled against better opposition and England supporters should not necessarily expect Onions to be prolific against Australia later in the summer.

However, Onions has the right attributes to succeed at Test level in the long-term. He is sharp enough at around 85mph, accurate and capable of hitting the seam. He also has the right mental make-up to flourish, having recovered from a golden duck with the bat and seeing his first ball disappear for four.

Onions utilised the Lord’s slope well, recognising his wicket-to-wicket action did not require extravagant swing movement to make an impact, much as Glenn McGrath has done at headquarters down the years.

The Aussie legend is a good man to be compared to, but Onions knows he will encounter pitches that are less helpful than the ones at Lord’s and Chester-le-Street which do some of the work for the bowler.

Graham Onions offers something different to swing expert James Anderson and hit-the-deck Stuart Broad and with Andrew Flintoff and Ryan Sidebottom in the wings, as well as the not-yet-required Tim Bresnan, England’s fast bowling stocks suddenly look plentiful. Steve Harmison and Amjad Khan are now a long way from a recall.


Taking 20 wickets has been England’s main problem in recent years and although they know tougher tests await than West Indies, they at least can be comfortable that they have a bowling attack that can capitalise on helpful conditions. Onions is now very much part of that attack.

01 May 2009

Ravi to revel in right position

The number three spot was the most talked about position when England’s first Test squad of the summer was announced. Michael Vaughan, Owais Shah and Ian Bell were thought to be contesting the role, but Ravi Bopara was instead given the nod.

This should come as no surprise. Bopara scored a century in his last Test innings, albeit from number six on a flat Barbados pitch, and is one of England’s current One Day openers. He scored his mountain of 2008 runs for Essex from first wicket down.

Shah badly missed his opportunity to make the role his in the Caribbean and has been sat on the sidelines in the Indian Premier League (whilst Bopara has played one of the best innings of the tournament so far). He is suddenly at the back of the cue.

Bell, the long-time incumbent, cannot be recalled so soon after being dropped – a few runs at county level do not make up for his 16-Test run at number three without a century – and Vaughan has not played the big innings that would have got the selectors’ attention.

They surely still plan to use the former skipper this summer, but will hope he has regained his touch and timing when the opportunity arises. He will slot in against the Aussies if Bopara or any of the top order consistently struggle for runs, as long as he looks ready.

New coach and former county colleague Andy Flower is obviously a big fan of Bopara, who looks to have all the right attributes to succeed in the pivotal position: excellent technique, phlegmatic demeanour and mental toughness.

Some might say having a brand new number three for an Ashes series is risky, and whilst the Aussie pacemen will certainly target Bopara, his self-assurance and swagger mean he is likely cope with the pressure.

It seems a safe cricket bet that England need to be aggressive to beat Australia and Bopara showed in his Barbados dual with Fidel Edwards that he likes confrontation. Shah and Bell are more passive.

Whether the Essex man is the long-term number three solution is another question, but a good start on a flat Lord’s pitch will help justify the faith that has been put in him.

30 April 2009

Sree in the dugout

On the one hand, there is the KKR Management (comprising the Dildo, his minion JB and his minions) which flies out players that 'do not fit into the scheme'. On the other, there is Priety's King's XI which insists on keeping Sreesanth in the dugout even when it was clear a few weeks ago that he would not be playing a single match. So what's Sree got that keeps him there?

24 April 2009

England have Flower power

Andy Flower’s appointment as England coach ended a long, drawn-out selection process that always seemed likely to end with the announcement of England’s second Zimbabwean team leader.

The prolonged nature of this saga attracted much criticism, not least because Graham Ford, an early front-runner for the post, pulled out due to the excessive time frame involved. The ECB used a head-hunting firm that came up with a group of names any English fan could have done for free.

However, whilst the national team’s hierarchy did little to improve its recently damaged reputation, the best man for the job has ended up being appointed. This was not necessarily the case when Duncan Fletcher needed replacing two years ago; indeed, there are many who claim Tom Moody is still the ideal candidate, as he was when Peter Moores was promoted.

Moody did want to relocate to England, a major factor that prevented Ford, Gary Kirsten and Mickey Arthur from declaring sustained interest in the role. All this, as well as Ashley Giles’ inexperience, left the way clear for Flower.

Flower has had a far from smooth progression through the England coaching ranks. His inexperience is easy to miss – he retired from playing in September 2006 – and his appointment as batting coach coincided with a downturn in form of many England batsmen.

Flower was also on Kevin Pietersen’s hit-list over the winter, but the former skipper seems to have softened his stance. Of more importance is the new coach’s relationship with the current captain, and Flower and Andrew Strauss have an excellent understanding.

This, combined with Flower’s straight talking and honesty has made him popular with the media and he should be given plenty of time to settle into his new job.

However, results are what counts and Flower knows England are in a slump. Winning the Ashes might be too much to ask, but gaining revenge against West Indies may be a better cricket bet. It will also help the new coach prove that he really is the best man for the job.

Opinions

The problem with taking a side, especially in cricket, is that sometimes the person you are so critical of plays a good knock and the wolves that have been circling around you, waiting for an opportunity to bite, suddenly see that moment come by.

Ofcourse, the topic is none other than the controversial Rohit Sharma - the man who we post about when nothing else happens on this blog. I missed the supposedly awesome inning that he played, I didnt read anything about it, I didnt even know that it had happened - for that matter, I am not even sure what IPL team he plays for. Yet, earlier today, I was informed in no uncertain terms that I should post something about him so here I go!

Well done Rohit for climbing the Himalaya sized challenge that is Bangalore!! That must have been pretty tough - did it make you call on every ounce of whatever talent you possess? 50 runs in one inning (as opposed to an entire series) - did you dream about it all night, go to Tirupati to thank the gods? But here's the thing - T20 is not really cricket - it is not the place to prove to the world that you can justify your talent. Even if it is a challenging form of 'bat-ball' in its own right - a single inning does not prove anything - it does not take away anything from criticisms that have been levelled at you. Do it in one-day cricket; even better do it in test cricket and I am a convert - shit, I forgot, you arent even on the fringes of the test team now, are you?

And I have money riding on other IPL teams, so I for one, pray that this was nothing more that a flash in the pan - a joke of the cricketing gods. We look forward to seeing the Rohit Sharma of the recent past for the rest of the tournament.

Cheers!!

02 April 2009

Sehwag ki captiancy!

But why all the indignation over Sehwag's captaincy, man? Do people actually believe that Sehwag, because of the way he plays, lacks the authority to chastise teammates? Have I interpreted your sole argument correctly, you infidels?

01 April 2009

Flintoff and Pietersen, overpriced and over there

One of the joys of the Indian Premier League is seeing how much players are bought for. If supporters like to compare the lucky ones’ value, then so do the players, and those taking part can be excused for raising their eyebrows at the fees Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen commanded.

As good as they are, the England duo are not as adept at Twenty20 cricket as many, including the franchise owners, think. Sure, they might do well in a ‘who can hit the ball furthest’ contest, but the newest form of the game is much more than big hitting.

Shaun Marsh and Gautam Gambhir proved last year that orthodox players can prosper in Twenty20, where brains as well as brawn are important.

The two leading runscorers of last year’s tournament are greatly experienced in the format, which is not the case for Pietersen and Flintoff. They have played 15 and seven Twenty20 internationals respectively and rarely feature for their counties in the Twenty20 cup due to England commitments.

Flintoff’s average of 12.66 from those seven innings tells its own story, and whilst Pietersen fares better, averaging 26.78, he has still under-achieved. One half century in 15 T20I knocks shows that he does not play the match-turning innings he regularly contributes in the longer formats.

Pietersen likes to size up the opposition bowling before launching his attack, perhaps explaining why his T20I strike rate is inferior to that of fellow attacking batsmen Andrew Symonds, Yuvraj Singh, Chris Gayle and Sanath Jayasuriya.

As well as suffering from inexperience, Pietersen and Flintoff will both be distracted in South Africa. Pietersen has by his own admission had a terrible few months and will have his thoughts firmly on home; Flintoff is under pressure to stay fit and will not be fully focused. His bowling, his main strength, might be compromised.

Both players will earn a tidy sum for their flying visits and their franchises might be left disappointed with what they get in return. The one winner from their IPL sojourn might be England, who can write off their chances in the ICC World Twenty20 unless their star players find some Twenty20 form.

27 March 2009

England captaincy, position filled

It seems strange that there is even a modicum of doubt surrounding Andrew Strauss’ future as England captain. True, results have been disappointing, but England have been on a steady downward curve for four years and there can be no doubt that Strauss is the best man to lead the battle to reverse that slide.

This might be partly due to the lack of alternatives, which is hardly a reason in itself to throw full support behind the sole candidate, but there is no point in pretending that Strauss has a rival.

Kevin Pietersen has just been removed from the post and does not want it back, even if a massive U-turn was made; vice-captain Alastair Cook has only just cemented his place in the side after spending the last year under pressure, whilst Paul Collingwood has had an even more extreme struggle to retain his place. He also walked away from the One Day leadership role, admitting to difficulty in coping with the demands of the job.

There is no one else who can possibly lead the Test team. Strauss might not be the natural choice to be One Day and Twenty20 skipper, but the ECB must not be alarmed by his apparent unease in the shorter formats should they consider a return to a split captaincy.

England have been so poor in coloured clothing over recent times that starting from scratch under Strauss is no bad thing. There is no status quo to upset, no plans to redraw. He is also in the form of his life with the bat and proved in the second ODI against West Indies that he can transfer his Test purple patch.

Andy Flower appears certain to be given the coach’s job for the coming year, despite an even closer association with poor results, having been a key man in the Peter Moores era.

If the ECB can see past Flower’s poor record, they should be able to do the same with Strauss. England need stability and Strauss is the man to provide it. Name him skipper for all formats for the 2009 season and let the planning for the ICC World Twenty20 and West home series start with at least key position properly filled.

Johnson!!

Is Mitchell the best all rounder in the world today? Outstanding bowling - some would argue, even better batting, an arm that fires in rockets from the boundary and buckets that seldom drop anything.

The way he is batting, he would walk into most sides solely as a batsman. Not even sure whether we can continue to call him a bowling all rounder. How does Australia do it - how can it always have crickets that are this good!!

Done ranting with no particular end in mind. Kudos to Johnson though - even Ponting is considering playing him as a floater.

26 March 2009

Juicy Ryder

Punctuated by bullet sweats, the Juicy One notches up hundreds in consecutive Tests. And what knocks!! Both times, he was prepared to be sedate (like he had a huge meal) while the mortal at the other end went hammer and tongs. Dan then, Taylor today, Franklin tomorrow?
I have to admit that Ryder never struck me as someone who would easily be a good Test bat, but his confidence while leaving the ball and defending the balls on off has me gushing at the Next Big Thing, excuse the choice of words.

24 March 2009

Pseudonationalism

For one with no significant loyalties to any single IPL team, at least none based on geography, the shift to South Africa will not make such a big difference - and certainly not at any emotional level. I mean why the hell should I care if the Indians play the Superkings in Centurion or Chinnaswamy as long as I can pop a beer open in front of the TV? Is this just me?

I just might get really pissed off if the government sold off the Bharatanatyam or the Taj Mahal or the Himalayas. Or lets just say, the Maha Kumbh was shifted to Brazil for security reasons. That would drive me mad. But when the media whipped itself into a frenzy over Gandhi's personal items being auctioned off, I could not care less.

There is no doubt that the IPL belongs to all Indians far less. Its owned clearly by big business, and a year is not enough for a sporting tournament to eat into a nation's ethos/zeitjeist. But the reactions led by the (once?) poster-boy of hate, Narendra Modi, would pencil it down to "national shame". Shorn testicles, if the I in IPL is his rationale!

The IPL does not belong to any of us. Of course, they did try to get us to feel some amount of ownership through the purchase of jerseys and our presence at the venues, but that was never meant to be exclusive, baby. It was just y'know we kinda misunderstood the commitments we took upon.. Certainly never offered us a say in determining venue the next year, and neither did we pay for that right. It might have been sold as a domestic tournament in some quarters but the minority of local representation in teams was a constant reminder that it was not.

Yes, last year I did not catch a single match from a stadium and I will admit I was looking forward to the experience this year. Other than that, as long as I dont have to stay up too long into the night to watch them, I'll be watching almost every single game. Whether there is a massive noisy crowd or not. Aren't there enough Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis around the world to make noise wherever it will be staged?

20 March 2009

Unveiling the T 4000












Anybody else think Guptill should be auditioning for Terminator 4?

19 March 2009

The Prior paradox

England are unsure as to what their best limited overs team is, with one major talking point being the omission of Matt Prior. Steve Davies was handed an international debut in Sunday’s Twenty20 match against West Indies, an apparently bizarre decision considering Prior’s current excellent form.

Prior was one of England’s many batting successes in the Test series and his overall record of 960 runs from 16 Tests, at an average of 48, rightly suggests he is capable of batting in England’s top six. His wicket-keeping remains under scrutiny, but it is widely accepted that keepers’ frailties are less exposed in limited overs cricket.

Davies looks set to retain his place as opener in the forthcoming One Day series, but we really shouldn’t be surprised. The England management tries (sometimes unsuccessfully) to keep ODI selection distinct from Test and Prior’s record in coloured clothing is poor.

He averages just 22.75 from his 33 ODIs, passing fifty only once. This is a particularly poor return for a batsman often used as an opener – he is more than just a ‘pinch-hitter’ – and Prior paid the price for his run of low scores in India before Christmas, ending the series at number nine in the batting order.

Prior is a naturally aggressive batsman seemingly well-suited to One Day cricket, but this disparity in his records is not unique for players who like to attack in Tests.

Michael Slater represents the best example. The Aussie dasher loved to throw the bat at the top of the order in his 74-match Test career, but he struggled in ODIs, averaging just 24.07 from 42 matches. His ODI strike rate of 60.40 reveals the extent to which he failed to transfer his Test form to the One Day format.

Of course many natural aggressors succeed in both formats, but sometimes this style of player fails to adapt, seemingly confused by the space on the boundaries that should suit their game. One Day cricket is all about flexibility and maybe Prior has not yet discovered it.

Written by Philip Oliver

16 March 2009

O-Bala, No-Bala?

Unless Dhoni goes extreme left-field, a third seamer needs to be picked from Munaf, Balaji and Dhawal for the Tests. Balaji (in his new avtar) Dhawal are fairly untested in international waters. Munaf has been weighed and measured and, at least during the third ODI, found desperately wanting under pressure.
For the first Test at least, Dhawal is not in the running and it is a clear two-way knockout between Balaji and Munaf.
dont know how much Dhoni will respect Munaf's position in the pecking order (will someone please give me a better term to use instead, i am fuggin tired of it) ahead of Balaji, at the time the Test team was drawn up. I think it must be respected. Remember how everyone now agrees that Sehwag being dropped from the Test side based on ODI form was a bad idea? The same would apply here.
I can already hear people sing but pressure is pressure maaan and he crumbled. I disagree.. pressure is not pressure, I mean its not the same kind of pressure, more time between spells etc. So there it is - Munaf Patel is my pick for third seamer in the first Test, and it is not because I am not impressed with Bala's comeback.

15 March 2009

It is all in the mind

The Nawab of Najafgarh has finally arrived. For long, Sehwag has been India's greatest paradox. His seeming inability to string a consistent run of scores in the limited overs format where he ought to be at home while scoring hundreds almost at will in the five day format has confounded his millions of admirers. Is it just good form that has sparked of this run or is there some change in his makeup - technical, tactical or mental which has seen him embrace the one day game with such success recently?

To this writer, the major reason for Sehwag's recent astounding success has been a change in his mental makeup. The presence of India's brilliant batting lineup has in a way liberated him and yet shackled him. Liberated him from the fear of failure and shackled him from the reckless stroke play which had plagued his one day career. For the first time, Sehwag has realized that he serves the team better by playing normally and not by looking for superhuman feats of shot making. Take an eg: - For a majority of his one day career, Sehwag lived or died by the upper cut to third man. There were spectacular sixers and shocking slashes straight to third man. Yet, he would persist in such endeavors again and again, ruining many promising innings. But, now with restraint added to his many undoubted skills, Sehwag waits before pouncing. The scoring rate is still astounding, India are still off to rollicking starts and Sehwag is at the crease, post, over number 10.

So, roll on Sehwag and delight us with more sixers over point and thirdman !

11 March 2009

England fall just short of victory

First word for today should probably go to the fact that England have lost the test series against West Indies 1-0 after just failing to squeeze a victory out of the first test.

With the cricket odds expecting a draw going into the final day, Andrew Strauss’ men – in particular Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss – batted aggressively before declaring on 237-6.

This declaration came a bit too late for a lot of people, but it gave England two sessions to bowl out the hosts and square the series. In the end, it was a valiant effort, but they fell two wickets short.

So, England have lost a series during which they were they were the better side for large periods. In the end, it all came down to that horrific batting performance on the fourth day of the first test in Jamaica.

The disaster of 51 all out combined with two questionably delayed declarations and a number of flat bowling displays have cost England.

One particular position remains uncertain in the England team – the number three batting position. Ian Bell held the position at the start of the series before being dropped for Owais Shah who is currently in possession of the role.

However, he has failed to make the type of impact that would have guaranteed him a place in the side come the English summer. Shah made scores of 57, 14, 7, 21, 33 and 1 during this series. Hardly the sign of someone in it for the long term is it?

Personally, I feel for Shah. He has been forced to bat in a position that he isn’t completely suited to in order to achieve a much deserved place in the side. The reality is that England have a problem with number three and have done for a while now.

So, who are the options to for fill the role in the tests against West Indies and Australia this summer? Well, presumably Bell and Shah are in with a shout if they show some decent form between now and then. Ravi Bopara is another option as he often bats at number three for his county Essex.

However, if England are to have someone at three they can rely upon, someone who has experience, someone who can make big hundreds - it has to be Michael Vaughan.

If the former England captain can find some form, then he could complete an England top six which – despite the 51 all out – is beginning to look in top form. We shall have to wait and see how it turns out.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about cricket betting

10 March 2009

Predictions?

Though Australia have dominated this series, primarily through the ungainly efforts of Mr. Hughes, the South Africans have battled hard on the fourth day. As a result, the fifth day promises to be a humdinger, with all results still possible (assuming no bad weather), though ofcourse, a lot of people think that a South African victory is extremely improbable.

I for one, think otherwise. Based solely on the assumption that South Africa do not lose more than one wicket to the new ball (ideally none!), I see South Africa extremely well placed to level the series. If Kallis can hold up one end, the likes of AB, Boucher and JPD are more than capable of scoring at 4 an over for about 60 overs especially if it comes down to a 20-20 kind of scenario towards the end of the day, with Morket still hovering in the wings.

The bowlers are tired/injured. There is no spinner to talk off (Katich and North are not really going to trouble the sleep of too many batsmen). The pitch, while not completely reliable, has not demonstrated a propensity to fall into bed with the bowling side. Pride and confidence run high in this South African unit, while the Aussies are low on the latter (something that will get compunded if they fail to capitalize on the new ball). All in all, a target that was impossible till last evening (like the 400 + in Australia), is now fairly attainable.

My prediction - a three wicket win for South Africa!!

07 March 2009

Superb Strauss hundred overshadowed by negative hosts

From the moment the West Indies selected an extra batsman to replace their front line spinner, their intentions for the test match were clear. Chris Gayle’s team – who hold a 1-0 series lead – are looking to tick the box of every session without too many runs being scored or wickets being taken.

Looking for their first series win since 2004, the West Indies are only after one result and that’s a draw. In some ways, you can’t blame them. They will feel that securing their first series victory over England since 1994 should come in anyway they can.

In all honesty, I’m probably just an England fan that is desperate for a match that ends in a positive result. Gayle’s tactics have frustrated me no end, but I guess that’s the intention of them!

The fact is that the first day’s play was probably the least entertaining 90 overs of cricket you will see and this was completely down to the West Indies approach. They weren’t interested in playing competitive cricket and this was a huge disappointment.

One of the shining lights in an otherwise uneventful day was Andrew Strauss’ hundred. The England captain is in some of the form of his life right now and is cashing in with big scores. He really does seem to excel with the responsibility and this is fantastic news for England.

As for the way the match is going to go, well the cricket odds must be favouring a draw already. The pitch looks like it is going to offer very little and this combined with a packed West Indies batting line-up and a negative Gayle means that a third draw in a row is likely.

England need to do all they can to prevent this. One or two of their bowlers need to realise the seriousness of the situation and put in a match-winning performance.

The tourists don’t deserve to lose this series, but unless they manage to produce more with the ball than they have in the previous two tests, that is exactly what is going to happen.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about cricket betting

03 March 2009

Static from Pakistan

"But terrorits never attack cricketers or cricket venues!" is an argument that I will never make again.

25 February 2009

Rohit, where art thou?

Yet another failure for the talented Rohit Sharma. Yet another disappointing game. How much longer?

24 February 2009

Should Flintoff risk his Ashes fitness to play in the IPL?

If England are to regain the Ashes this summer, everyone knows that they need to have Andrew Flintoff firing on all cylinders. He is England’s talisman and was the difference between the two sides back in 2005 when England secured a 2-1 series victory.

At this moment in time Flintoff is recovering from a hip injury that is set to rule him out of the fourth test against the West Indies. Once he has returned to the fold, the only significant gap in the international calendar occurs in April when Flintoff is scheduled to play in the Indian Premier League.

This means that leading up to the most important series of them all; Flintoff is going to undergo a process of recovering from injury and then constant cricket. Surely a rest wouldn’t do him any harm?

Speaking about the situation, Flintoff has declared that he expects to be fit to play for the Chennai Super Kings – who have paid £1million for his services – and that he doesn’t even expect it to be ‘touch and go’.

The all-rounder then went on to say that he is ‘intending to go’ despite speculation that the ECB may prevent him doing so to ensure his fitness for the English summer.

Flintoff’s fitness ambitions aren’t as long-term as the IPL at this moment in time though as he says that the competition isn’t at the ‘forefront’ of his thinking right now.

Instead, he is determined to be fit for the final test in the Caribbean and the One Day Internationals that follow it. The cricket odds would certainly expect more England success if this was the case.

However, there has to be concerns about the amount of cricket Flintoff is set to take on following this latest injury. What if he was to suffer from exhaustion or pick up a new injury during the IPL?

You can’t put a price on playing for England against Australia, after all.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about cricket betting

20 February 2009

Test Cricket the winner as the Windies force a draw

Considering the events that preceded the third match between England and the West Indies, it is quite remarkable that the two teams contested in five days of such fabulous test cricket.

The second test match – which was abandoned after less than two overs – left a sour taste in the mouth of West Indies cricket, but this match will have definitely made up for it.

Given the lack of preparation, the fact that the pitch lasted the entire match is quite something in itself. It acted as a reminder to everyone that Antigua is more than capable of hosting test cricket and that it is, first and foremost, a cricket ground.

Anyway, onto the match itself. It really was incredible wasn’t it? It was test cricket at its finest in my opinion and even though England threw away a comfortable winning position, there is no doubt that every ball of every over was enjoyed by the majority.

Huge credit must go the West Indies batsman for their effort on the final day. The rain delay at the start helped, but the cricket odds still backed England to force victory.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan set the tone with their partnership and it really got the West Indies team believing they could save the game.

Then, the mammoth effort from the tail-enders – in particular from Daren Powell – was fantastic. They dug in and achieved what must have felt like a victory for their team.

As for England, well they contributed to their own downfall really. Why bat on so long in the second innings? Why send in James Anderson as a night-watchman when it was obvious he would struggle to score quickly the following morning?

Fair enough, the injury to Andrew Flintoff couldn’t be legislated for. Had he been firing on all cylinders, England would probably have one the game. As it was, they are left feeling like they have lost it.

The match as a whole will go down in history though and it exaggerated the enjoyment test cricket can bring. In what other sport can five days of intense action come down to the final 30 minutes? Incredible stuff.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about cricket betting for Betfair – check them out for the latest Cheltenham festival betting

17 February 2009

Seaming (ly) Awry?

A mumbling Srinath has terrorized me for a few months now, espeically given that there is so little sensible mumble coming out of someone who has played so much international cricket. Like the proverbial flash in the pan however, Srinath's comments on the third Indian seamer finally add some serious value to what should be a more hotly debated issue.

To paraphrase what he said - Indian selectors must stop playing musical chairs with the position of the third seamer. This role has been fulfilled by Munaf, Praveen, Ganguly, Sreesanth and Ajit over the past few years in the Indian version of the rotation policy. If we accept that batsmen require a longish noose from which to hang themselves, why does the same logic not apply to bowlers, life for whom has anyway been made tougher by pitches that are getting slower and slower? Has Praveen done badly in the recent past to merit an exclusion? Didnt Sreesanth do enough in the little domestic cricket that he played?

I fail to understand how the allegedly best swing bowlers in the country are not on this tour (Zak excluded). Sreesanth and Praveen have been picked to play in India, Australia and South Africa (as the case may be), for their ability to swing the new ball and reverse swing the old one. Yet, when we go to a country which demands swing bowling expertise, we prefer the Soooparrstarr (Balaji, who hasnt played in a long long time and bowls only slightly faster than John) over these two? While I am all for one of them missing out for Ranji's highest wicket taker (preference for youth and all that), selections like Balajis' make one wonder whether the selectors are not suffering from some permanent brain damage received during their playing days.

As an aside, my prediction on the test series is a 2-1 victory to India, weather permitting. What say?

13 February 2009

Balaji - Return of the Ultimate Sooparstaar



Has Balaji's performance since he regained fitness and got back to the game with reduced pace and a remodelled action really justified a Test match recall? Over Sreesanth and Arpy Singh?

Here are three Bala-watchers who have written about his comeback in the recent past.





N Balajhi of TCWJ:

"LAKSHMIPATHY BALAJI has made comeback into the Indian team after a stellar performance in Ranji trophy where he tallied 36 wickets @ 17.50 in 7 matches. The no. of times he hit the stumps, in his come back Ranji season, was the impressive aspect about his come back. His main weapon, straightening on off-stump is still intact. His inswingers are news to me. He swung the ball both ways. ...
Despite his ability to move the ball bothways he is vulnerable in international cricket for his lack of pace. He was never quick but now slowed down to early 120's. At this pace he got to bowl a very disciplined line in international cricket, especially in ODIs and back that up with good length. At this pace Balaji should try to emulate that Kiwi Larsen, in terms of line and length."

Siddharth Monga on Cricinfo:

"His comeback started during the IPL, but then again so did Ashish Nehra's. Both of them impressed, bowling four overs a day, but the real test would be to bowl 20 to 30 overs a day on unresponsive tracks. Nehra broke down again, but Balaji has gone on through the league stages and the quarter-final of the Ranji Trophy. When it comes to unhelpful tracks, none come worse than the Chinnaswamy pitch, where Tamil Nadu played Bengal.
... Balaji did that and more on a pitch where taking wickets in quick succession was next to impossible. He took five of them for seven runs, whereupon Tamil Nadu went on to make an incredible comeback and make their way through to the semi-final. It wasn't easy: he looked innocuous at times, bowling in the mid-120s and not getting any help from the pitch. But he persevered. In the first innings, he bowled what looked like a slower legcutter to Manoj Tiwary, which jagged in and bowled him. Tiwary was closing in on 150, but nobody expects googlies from pace bowlers. "

On the same quarterfinal match,
Soulberry of The Ranji Trophy Chronicles


"My good friend and fellow Ranji Chronicler, N Balajhi advised caution to my enthusiasm on seeing L Balaji swing it both ways. He was correct of course...the speed was off and all that stuff which makes you less effective on the international stage...but he was lethal today. It was as if he had a magic wand to the ball as he sliced through the Bengal order to end up with six dangerous wickets. dangerous because they tempt you to call him up for national attention. I am tempted to ignore my friend's good advice and call for more of Balaji! Anyway, the gist of the story is the ball moved out, the ball moved in, the batsmen didn't have a clue. Not since Irfan Pathan lost it have we seen consistent swing like Balaji showed us."

11 February 2009

A 'class' act disappears?

Rohit Sharma, the supposedly talented right hand batsman, captured the imagination of millions with his performances in the World T20 and the CB Series in Australia. Some people on this blog sang his praises and heralded the coming of the next great right handed Indian batsmen, who had rightfully claimed his place in the pantheon of Indian batting gods.

Today, despite the confidence that Dhoni continues to show in him, Rohit does not command his place in either the one day or T20 teams, leave aside the test arena. Like Dravid, who the test team continues to carry through his slump, Rohit continues to be carried by the might of the Indian batting order, with even Ravinder Jadeja and Yusuf outdoing him consistently. While his fans will continue to argue that it is nothing more than a loss of form (and his class will eventually prevail etc.), in keeping with what I have said earlier on this blog, after yet another dismal performance last night, I am forced to reiterate that he does not belong in the international arena. He lacks the full range of stroke making that is essential at this level, as also the power that someone like Yuvraj or Yusuf weild with nonchalence. Add to this his inability to dominate spin or even rotate strike and you have the pull package of all that a one day team does not need. His fielding, while continuin to remain steady, has shown no flashes of brilliance - some may argue that even the intensity of his fielding has dropped.

While I am all for investing in talent and leeting it find its feet in international cricket, lets remember that the cost is a career for Venugopal, Badrinath, Pujara and other talented youngsters that continue to line up behind him. How long does India carry him? John??

10 February 2009

English media play the blame game after humiliating defeat

As far as embarrassing defeats go, England’s loss in Jamaica to the West Indies last week was right up there. Andrew Strauss’ men were blown away in their second innings for just 51 and this has led to many members of the English media bringing up the dreaded ‘crisis’ word.

The defeat followed a month of great controversy surrounding the England team, with Kevin Pietersen and Peter Moores stepping down from their respective roles as captain and coach. With this in mind, it wasn’t the best time to be getting hammered by a team below you in the world rankings.

Where has the blame been placed though? Who is responsible for England’s recent demise? Well, many cricket pundits and former players have been having their say….

One time England spinner Robert Croft believes that the players were ‘too matey’ with their West Indian opponents. He says that there was a lot of ‘smiling and chatting’ between the two teams and that this doesn’t help the teams cause.

Former England captain Graham Gooch has also been critical of the team, by saying that they have ‘no direction’ and that they are ‘standing still’ without progressing forward in the slightest. In terms of blame, Gooch feels that the distraction of the Indian Premier League has played its part.

Elsewhere, BBC Sport’s Robbo Robson says that there is a ‘chummy clique where you have to know the password to get in’ and believes that far too much faith has been shown to the likes of Ian Bell and Monty Panesar, both of whom should be dropped.

Finally, one of the most significant voices in English cricket - Jonathan Agnew - says that that Bell ‘must be dropped’ to show that the batsmen’s places are not fireproof.

In terms of these opinions, the one that I agree with the most is Graham Gooch. Where is the direction? Where is this team going? Where are the youngsters? Are we going to sit and wait for the likes of Strauss, Collingwood, Pietersen and Harmison to retire at the same time and then change the whole team?

Before the test match, I was relatively positive about the team’s chances against the West Indies and so were the cricket odds. However, there was always a chance that they could self destruct - much like they have done. If the performance in Jamacia isn’t enough to suggest it is time for change, I don’t know what is.

Given the fact that Owais Shah is the only batting cover though, not too much can be changed in the rest of this tour. However, let’s freshen it up a bit. This is the team I would choose to face West Indies in the second test on Friday:

Andrew Strauss, Alistair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Owais Shah, Andrew Flintoff, Matt Prior, Adil Rashid, Graham Swann, Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom.

This means that there is no place for Bell, Harmison or Panesar. It also means that Pietersen will be batting at three. It is worth a go though, because there is no way it can get any worse. Hopefully.

By Thomas Rooney - a sports writer who blogs about cricket betting for Betfair - check them out for the latest cheltenham odds

08 February 2009

Cool, ei maaan?

"Of course, Suleiman Jamaal Benn is not the most threatening of spinners"

Yes I did say that in March last year when the Lankans were touring. 

Now I say, of course. Height, flight and accuracy - all the makings of a world class spinner. He is not too bad at gully either. All the awkwardn limb movement of Ishant Sharma married to the athleticism of Anil Kumble, but there is a bit of Roger Harper seed in the bwoy. 

He is Cool, ei maan, that Suleimaan. 

Congrats West Indies. Hats off, Jerome for the ruthless expose of the England smugness. This year's Ashes will be a the test of who is less worse off. 

05 February 2009

That’s two centuries KP has thrown away, but can he be criticised for scoring 97?

As far as cricket debates go, this is one of the more difficult ones to decide which camp to go in. After Kevin Pietersen hauled out to Sulieman Benn for 97 during England’s first innings in Jamaica, there were groans all around the ground.

“Why has he gone and done that? He could have nudged his way to 100 and then started to build a huge score for his team. Instead he has gone for the glory shot and thrown it all away. That’s why he should never have been captain.”

The above view is similar to that of many England cricket fans. They lay into Pietersen for failing to go on and make a big score. Then, they point to the fact that he did exactly the same thing against New Zealand last summer when he was nearing a century.

Some people disagree with the criticism Pietersen has received though.

“How can people criticise someone who is clearly the best batsmen in the team? If it wasn’t for Pietersen’s innings, England would be in a lot more trouble than 236-5 at the end of day one. Would people have been happier if he was out cheaply like Strauss or Cook so that he wouldn’t have thrown anything away?”

Which view am I closer to I hear you ask! Well, to be honest the second one. Yes, it is frustrating when a player gets out just before making their century and yes, KP played a silly shot at the wrong time. However, I find it very hard to criticise someone who has dug his team out of a hole with a gritty 97.

Pietersen must be thinking that he can do nothing right. Strauss, Cook, Bell and Collingwood didn’t make 97 runs between them and yet the one who did make a significant score is the one being singled out for criticism. I guess it is just a testament to how good a player KP is and how much is expected of him.

The only thing that I would be critical towards Pietersen about is his comments after the day's play. The ‘that’s they way I play’ line annoys me because for the majority of his innings, he was watchful and sensible. Then, he tried to shrug off the fact that he didn’t reach 100. I’m sorry KP, but your face said it all when you got out – you were livid with yourself.

Like I have mentioned though, I can’s criticise him too much. He is England’s best player by a long, long way and the team would be a lot worse off without him. In fact, I dread to think of life without KP at the moment.

In terms of the test match as a whole, well I would say that the cricket odds still expect an England win. As long as they can move beyond 300 in their first innings, they would have done OK. Then, on what is a surprisingly wearing pitch, the West Indies have to bat last and that has to be encouraging for the tourists. Monty Panesar in particular.

More from me next week.

By Thomas Rooney – a sports writer for Betfair – check them out for a grand national free bet

The Royal Conundrum?

In the IPL’s first year, the unheralded Rajasthan Royals, a coalition of hardened professionals and fearless youngsters, demonstrated the value of team work over individual brilliance and experience. In a format that often rewards individual brilliance with a win, the Royals marched to victory on bits and pieces contributions from the mighty Australians, the temperament Pakistanis, the Goans and the powerful Pathans.

The lack of expectation would have gone a long way in the Royals being able to play their brand of cricket. As would have the leadership qualities that Warne demonstrated - the heart of a gambler helps- he was the adhesive that held together and strengthened the coalition.

But, would the Royals would have won without the performances of Pakistan’s best fast bowler or the world’s best all-rounder in Shane Watson – definitely not. Yet, as the IPL juggernaut completes an entire circle, the Royals start this season as defending champions, a title that will force each and every member of that outfit to carry a tremendous burden. Champions that would otherwise have carried this pressure for the Royals have been forced out by injury (Watson) and ridiculous political posturing (Tanvir) by Pakistan, leaving only the experience of Warne, the guts of Salunke and the power of Pathan to battle the might of other cash rich franchises.

The Royals need atleast one of the world’s most explosive batsmen and one of the world’s canniest bowlers if they are to launch a viable defense. Peterson’s flair and relationship with Warne would undoubtedly allow the Royals to mount an Arsenal like challenge, but like the addition of Arshavin to Arsenal, it is not going to be enough to hold the fort. In any event, he is too popular and too expensive for the Royals. Freddie perhaps- a man who is second best only to Watson and would without doubt, form permitting, elevate the Royals to the status of title contenders? Or Duminy, Stuart Clark or Samit Patel?

It does make for an interesting auction tomorrow and I for one can’t wait to see who Warne wants. Whoever it is, Warne will be in his element, for he will be betting close to a couple of million dollars over performances on which he will eventually have little control!

As an aside, since there is a two million cap on each franchisee, what happens if more than one franchisee bids two million for the same player?

30 January 2009

Why England’s bowling is a great concern ahead of crucial year

It has been well documented that the England cricket team have a huge few months ahead of them. First up there is two test series against the West Indies, both of which England are expected to win. Then, as we all know, is the much publicised Ashes series.

With this in mind, it is worth taking a look at how the team are shaping up ahead of these three extremely significant series. Well, first things first – the batting seems ok. I believe there is enough there with Strauss, Cook, Pietersen, Collingwood, Flintoff, Shah or Bell to score big runs this year.

However, the bowling department is completely different. In fact, as an England fan, I am very worried about the way in which the bowling attack has been performing. Every single one of the bowlers, with the exception of Flintoff, will feel they need to prove their critics wrong.

This isn’t the healthiest position to be in because in reality, this is just a different way of saying that the majority of England’s bowlers are out of form. To emphasise this point, let’s take a closer look at the men that will be looking to haunt West Indies and Australia’s batsmen in the coming months. Again, with the exception of Andrew ‘England’s best bowler by miles’ Flintoff.

Stuart Broad – This is a young man with a huge amount of talent. He can bat, bowl and field. However, he needs to show the selectors that he can take regular test match wickets if he is to nail down his place in the side.

James Anderson – Mr Inconsistent. On his day, Jimmy can be one of the best swing bowlers in World cricket. Unfortunately though, these days seem to be few and far between. Does he truly believe in himself?

Steve Harmison –
It seems as though Harmy will be fighting it out with Anderson for the final position in the side. He needs to show everyone that he can perform on tour after his dismal showing in New Zealand last year. Figures of 0-60 on the first day against West Indies ‘A’ aren’t that encouraging either.

Ryan Sidebottom –
The Nottinghamshire man was England’s leading wicket taker in 2008, so form isn’t something that he needs to prove as such. Instead, because of a long injury lay-off, he needs to prove his fitness. He didn’t look that threatening against West Indies ‘A’. Can he find the same rhythm as last year?

Graham Swann – Swann had a decent series in India that started with him taking two wickets in his first over as a test match player. Whether he has enough to take regular wickets is another matter though. He has to prove that he is in the team for the long haul.

Monty Panesar –
Another England bowler that has had his fair share of criticism in recent months. Many say that he hasn’t progressed enough as a bowler and he will want to use the games against a weak West Indies team to remind everyone what he is capable of.

Adil Rashid – How much this young Yorkshire man will figure this year is questionable. He has been earmarked as one for the future, after all. However, if he is given the chance he will want to tempt the selectors into giving him a run in the team.

So, overall there are too many players that are going into this year without being completely satisfied with either their place in the team, their form or their fitness. The cricket odds still expect England to beat the West Indies, but it will mean that a couple of their bowlers perform above the standards they have been in recent months.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about cricket betting

Nouveau Fab

Crests and troughs, rise and fall - a feature in most..

Fuck it, Sick Boy said it best, didn't he?

"Well, at one time, you've got it, and then you lose it, and it's gone forever. All walks of life: George Best, for example. Had it, lost it. Or David Bowie, or Lou Reed..."

Now he can add Australia to the list. That's it. I have joined the army of people singing dirges for Australian cricket. Long may it push daisies.

Simulataneous to its demise, is the rise of another superpower. Looks like South Africa are finally beginning to fulfill the promise of Kepler, Peter Kirsten, Andrew Hudson, Brian McMillan, Cullinan, Gary etc. The newest in fab batting line-ups. The FabFour for cricket fans born after 1997.

Graeme Smith: Has seen the worst, and now close to leading a side crafted in his own image to the best of times.
A B De: Has proved everyone that he is already much much better than Rhodes. Has done it in India which seems to be some kind of benchmark for white batsmen. And has done well against the Australian and English bowling attacks.
Hashim Amla: Beard. Wrists. Zen.
J P Duminy: Too early? Pencilled in for future fabness.

The eye of the Lara

"Adrian Barath, a right-hand opening batsman, is considered to be one of the most promising young batting talents in the West Indies."

Thus spake the Cricinfo player profile. I'd already heard of some young Trinidadian who'd caught Lara's eye, but I did not make the association till I clicked on his name on the scorecard and went to the profile.

He lived up to the billing, and in true Lara style, started by putting the English to the sword. Island Express will keep watching this yaang fela, that Adriyaan.


24 January 2009

Chokin traffic

A smile on workhorse, that stole some thunder from the swingin' Pathan at the other end. An outswinger that India fell in love with, at Jo'burg. Both being re-engineered.

Central Zone v. South Zone, Duleep Trophy Match

Not on Neo. Out of focus, they got 3 wickets apiece. 3 run lead. Long long way to go. The road to become a fast bowler in the national team is like the one outside Andheri station. Choked with people, all of whom want to go to same place. If you get on it, you have to be prepared to spend some time on it.

23 January 2009

England players cleared for IPL – who will be the most wanted?

England’s cricketers will play in the Indian Premier League later this year after the England and Wales Cricket board agreed to release them for a period of three weeks. It is a decision that has prompted the players to finally sign their central contracts that they had originally been offered back in September last year.

It seems clear that the England players are keen not to miss out on the opportunity to earn a significant sum of money from playing in the IPL and who can blame them? The tournament was a huge success last year and the only major cricket nation missing some players was England.

It is all very well the players being released for IPL duty, but which of England’s players will be in demand for the Twenty20 competition? It’s hardly a form of the game that the team have excelled in so far. Nevertheless, let’s take a look.

Former captain Kevin Pietersen will not only be the most sought after England player, but one of the hottest properties amongst all of the world’s players. Many IPL teams will want him in their team and will look forward to seeing his unique batting style, including the infamous ‘switch-hit’ that he has adopted.

KP’s reputation in India was enhanced even further when he led his England team back to India after the Mumbai terror attacks. There is no doubt that he will the subject of many bids and could earn as much as $1m in total from his IPL experience.

Andrew Flintoff is likely to be England’s only other genuine ‘hot property’. Freddie could well earn as much as Pietersen as his reputation as one of the best all-rounders in the game will make him a very wanted man.

He has hit form at the right time as well and if this continues throughout the English summer, he will be a huge asset for any IPL team. Flintoff is also a very likeable character and he will be the main attraction in some games.

Other than these two, there are arguably no England players that will be in as much demand. Perhaps this reflects the team’s poor record in Twenty20 cricket, I’m not sure. Samit Patel is someone that has already been linked with the Delhi Daredevils and he admits that it would be a great ‘opportunity’.

Elsewhere, Paul Collingwood’s experience will probably land him a place somewhere. He averages 34.30 in 154 One Day Internationals and can also offer something with the ball. Speaking about the prospect of playing in the IPL, he said that there are plenty of ‘benefits’ other than the financial ones. By this he means that England’s players can use it as preparation for the Twenty20 World Cup.

Finally, the only other players I would expect to make a significant impact in the IPL are Ravi Bopara and Owais Shah. Both of them are flamboyant batsman and I’d expect the cricket odds to back them scoring plenty of runs in India. They would suit the competition down to the ground in my opinion, especially Shah.

Stuart Broad
’s all-round abilities also could mean that he proves a success, but there is no getting away from the fact that Pietersen and Flintoff are the main men to come out of Team England.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about cricket betting

16 January 2009

What now for England after the Moores / Pietersen saga?

I think that Vic Marks summed up the current state of the England cricket team perfectly – it’s a mess, but not a terrible mess. Would we all have preferred Peter Moores and Kevin Pietersen to have put their problems to one side and agreed to continue working together for England? Probably, yes.

In all serious though, even if they had agreed to continue in their roles, surely it would only have been a matter of time before Pietersen or Moores were unhappy with things again? Had they ‘kissed and made up’ for the West Indies tour, only for their relationship to break down again just before the Ashes – that would have been awful.

So, although the current situation and the circumstance that preceded it were far from perfect, it could have been a lot, lot worse. Believe me. It is now time for English cricket to move forward with Andrew Strauss, starting with a successful tour of the West Indies.

Speaking of Strauss, it has to be said that he was the only choice once Pietersen stepped down. Many have described him as ‘a safe pair of hands’ for the job, but he’s more than just that. His image and personality is more like a traditional England captain than Pietersen and that has probably led to this expression being touted.

There is more to Strauss though – he is an acute tactician, he is respected by all the players, he has succeeded in the role before, he is in form and he has been known to excel with the bat when performing as skipper. So, like I said – he was the only choice when it came to selecting a new captain.

Some cricket odds were favouring Andrew Flintoff for the role, but this would have been a ridiculous decision. Flintoff needs to be left to excel in his role as one of the greatest all-rounders in the game. He is the man that the captain can turn to for something special, not the man to lead the team. There is no way he should have been asked to take on the captaincy as well as batting at number six and being the best bowler in the side.

Another benefit of having Strauss as skipper is that Pietersen can now concentrate on being the best batsman in the side. It has always been said that your best player shouldn’t be the leader and perhaps this belief is relevant for English cricket today. Strauss will open the batting, leading from the front with his star men Flintoff and Pietersen to follow. Perfect.

The only factor that remains uncertain is that of who will succeed Moores. Andy Flower will perform in the role for the West Indies tour and should England put on a decent performance, then he will put his name in the hat for the job on a full-time basis.

Other than that, Tom Moody and Graham Ford appear to be the front runners. Personally I would go with Moody who I feel should have got the job ahead of Moores back in April 2007. Like mentioned though, if England perform well in West Indies, the ECB may well persist with the Strauss / Flower combination.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about cricket betting

09 January 2009

Jihad on ugliness?



Has Islam outlawed ugliness in batting?! The Caliphate (or whatever) forgot to send me the memo.

Outside of Salman Butt and Younis Khan, the evidence is overwhelming. VVS might not be a Muslim, be he does hail from Hyderabad. And I have not even started about Inzy and Yousuf.

06 January 2009

Captain Pietersen wants it all his own way – will he get it?

At the start of an Ashes year, the ongoing news story involving the dispute between England captain Kevin Pietersen and coach Peter Moores is far from ideal. The frosty relationship has left the future of England’s coaching team in doubt and means there is great uncertainty ahead of the West Indies tour.

Overall, it is fair to say that the England cricket team is in a small state of crisis. As well as the disagreements between captain and coach, there has been rumours of unrest in the camp, a divide in the opinion of players and perhaps most importantly – a poor run of results.

All of this has meant that even though Australia are being comfortably beaten at home by South Africa in response to their equally destructive defeat in India, England are the team in crisis. At this moment in time it seems as though Australia are in better shape ahead of this summer’s Ashes series. Considering the negativity surrounding their current form, that’s really saying something. All in all, the cricket odds will be expecting an extremely tight series.

Where has all this Moores / Pietersen stuff come from though? Well, the most significantly annoying factor is the fact that this has all come out in public. Captain’s and coaches have arguments about certain things and that is to be expected. Former England captain Nasser Hussain admits that he and Duncan Fletcher didn’t always see eye to eye for example.

So, that’s the first thing – it should have been dealt with behind closed doors. However, if we are being honest, there appears to be more to this than a simple disagreement. Moores and Pietersen’s differing views on the future of Michael Vaughan would have played their part, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

With Moores and Pietersen, there is quite simply a character clash. From the moment KP was appointed captain, I was concerned about his relationship with the relatively reserved and calm Moores. Pietersen is such a huge character that he will want nothing to stand in his way of getting success for this England team.

The Vaughan situation is an example. Pietersen wanted him back, Moores didn’t. Eventually, the coach got his way on this one, but will this be the case in the long term? I don’t think so. The captain of the team will have more power than the coach – it’s his team, it’s his players and it’s his decision making that will affect results.

This view is exaggerated when it’s a player and personality like Pietersen in charge. He isn’t going to want to be compromised by a Peter Moores decision and he won’t want to play second fiddle when it comes to selection. Pietersen wants to run his team in his own unique style and this will probably mean that Moores will have to move on.

The fact that Pietersen, a relatively new captain, has challenged the decision making of the coach says a lot about his personality and about his direct way of thinking. Will this will benefit the team as a whole though? Should the ECB put all their trust in KP to do things his way?

Let me know where you stand in this captain v coach row.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about cricket betting

01 January 2009

Have a great one

Hope you and yours woke up to brilliant sunshine and warm sandy beaches. I did!

Also, Congratulations fellers. We might just be in store for a New Year gift from the BCCI and the ECB. Best!
I am telling you, it's all that man Soulberry's doing!Hum huve kamyaab or some such?