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?