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.


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


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


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.