the wrong 'un

Friday, March 23, 2007

Robert Andrew Woolmer (May 14, 1948 – March 18, 2007)

The blog stumbles out of its self-inflicted coma to ask the only pertinent question.

WTF? Seriously, WTF?

When the news broke about the death of Bob Woolmer, it didn't take long for the conspiracy theories to develop, led as ever by the indefatigable rent-a-quote Pakistani former bowler Sarfraz Nawaz. As days went by, the details became ever more suspicious, culminating in yesterday's bombshell.

Pakistani cricket is a microcosm of Pakistani society, riven by cronyism and tribalism, and constantly shifting factions and alliances that are difficult for outsiders to comprehend. Assuming that Woolmer's murder resulted from his employment as Pakistan's coach (and that is still a big if), it might take months or years to unravel the conspiracy even if the perpetrators are unmasked. Therefore I believe it is the correct decision to continue with the tournament, particularly as Pakistan will take no further part.

But it is patently obvious that there are still a large number of 'known unknowns', and should some unsavoury facts about sub-continental bookmaking influence surface shortly, or speculation linking this crime with the strange death of Hansie Cronje, or worst of all, the arrest of one or more persons from within the cricketing fraternity, all bets about the future of this World Cup are off.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Fletch Lives

So, it's the eve of the third test, and the Aussies lead by two. The hapless and hopeless British media have already decided exactly who should take the blame for what they have decided is already a fiasco on a grand scale. Unsurprisingly, as they rarely had a good word to say about him even when England were beating all-comers, the brunt of the oprobrium is being borne by the taciturn Zimbabwegian, Duncan Fletcher.

The consensus is that England have picked the wrong team for both tests, and it is hard to disagree with this, but where I diverge from the consensus is where I place the blame for these selections.

A particular weakness of this England side is that, with the exception of Flintoff, none of the front line bowlers are sufficiently competent to bat as high as eight, in fact I wouldn't regard any of them to be good enough for the nine spot either. Harmison, Hoggard and Anderson, have proved to us that they can't bat, while Panesar, Mahmood and Plunkett have done nothing yet to show us that they can. If England were minded to play five bowlers at every opportunity - and fitness doubts about Flintoff meant that they were - this meant that the tail had to begin at eight.

Thus, when the England squad assembled before the first test, the tour selectors (Fletcher, Flintoff, Strauss) unsurprisingly paled at this prospect, particularly as England were not obliged to make the running in the series. They took the cautious but not imprudent decision to play Giles as the fifth bowler, on the strength of his greater batting ability. Even after the first test was lost, you could make a case for saying that, as a draw at Adelaide would not be a bad result for England's chances of drawing the series and hence retaining the Ashes, the safety-first option was still a viable one. If England had managed to draw the game, as they could and should have, it would have proved a justifiable decision.

That they had to twice take this option is due solely to the structural faults of the squad that was selected for the tour in the first place. Besides Flintoff, the squad contained no-one who could remotely be called an all-rounder, being made up of specialist batsmen, bowlers and keepers, and this while Flintoff was troubled by an ankle injury that could deteriorate at any time. The selectors created a situation so lacking in fluidity, that the only possible team England could have put out for the first test without a tail the length of Chile had Giles at number eight, and Panesar (their second best bowler) nowhere.

So if you are one of those people that desperately needs a scapegoat when an England team loses, you may be better off turning your attention to the person who made those Grave selection errors in September.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

From Our Own Correspondent


Dry weather and near-perfect batting conditions.
Kookaburra ball becomes soft after 20-25 overs and easy to bat against.
Australian batting excellent, bowling on the wane.
English batting adequate (albeit with caveats), bowling bad (possibly awful).
Australia 68% England 10% Draw 22%.


Hype in Australia is enormous, with every news item and story remorselessly analysed. Respect is being shown towards the Poms, though inwardly every Australian believes it will be a massacre. After 2005 they’re a little bit frightened of saying it though.

Weather set fair for a full quota of overs, though Brisbane has a history of sudden and unpredicted storms. Today’s forecast of “a possible light shower or two” needs watching closely.

Play starts at 10 am local time (11 am Melbourne, since Victoria uses Daylight Saving Time). This earlier start can assist the new ball swing common at the Gabba.

The wicket has been assessed for the last couple of days as being drier and less grassy at various stages of preparation than a normal Gabba deck.

Freak weather on the Eastern Seaboard last Wednesday lead the curator to speculate about a greentop and although the intervening weather has been perfect he may have brought this wicket on a little earlier just in case of problems.

The Gabba has taken over the mantle of the WACA as the quickest and bounciest in Australia, hardening up whilst its rival has slowed markedly. Runs for the openers will still be hard-fought but all the sense is of a very true and fair wicket.

How much assistance there will be for spinners later in the game is key to the outcome, though I do not expect variable bounce to come into play as dramatically as it can do in England. The ball may turn but the footholes will need to be very pronounced for things to become impossible. Attacking Langer, Hayden, Hussey and Gilchrist this way could be England’s best chance.

The Kookaburra ball used in Australia is much less rewarding for both seam and spin bowlers than the Dukes. The first 20-25 overs can still be a trial for batsmen (doubled on a typical Gabba wicket, which this may not be) but once the hardness has disappeared then bowlers face a tough 60 overs. The last warm-up game against South Australia that I watched exhibited that characteristic two phases of gameplay very strongly. A morning session spent wondering where runs were coming from was followed by an afternoon and evening of uninhibited strokeplay.



Both in terms of individual talent and collective strength in depth the Aus batting line-up is intimidating. Perhaps they lack recent four or five day first class gametime, with the recent ODI glut, but it is difficult to see England taking 20 wickets in this game. The middle order weakness of Martyn, Katich and Gilchrist that England attacked so viciously and successfully in 2005 is unlikely. Not only is Katich’s replacement Hussey one of the finest players in the world but the middle order will probably be facing a worn, softer old ball that is not reverse swinging. Even should they have to face a new ball after 80 overs the chances are that the bowlers will be tired and the Aussie innings dominant. England must look to attack Langer, Ponting and Martyn, on grounds of age and/or poor recent domestic and ODI form. On the likely wicket at Brisbane this will be a very tall order indeed. Runs can also be expected from Warne and Lee at 8 and 9 respectively if required.


All the signs presage a four man attack of Lee, McGrath, Clarke and Warne.

Lee should find conditions ideal, as his excellent Gabba record serves to highlight. A pacey wicket which offers just enough seam and swing for the new ball is made for him. England may have two left handed openers but Cook in particular will be playing in a much more intense and challenging environment than he has ever had to face before, and Lee will target him.

McGrath lacks proof of his continuing form and ability, having played very little recent first class cricket. His ageing frame could be the victim of the 3 seamer policy, as he might be expected to bowl more than his normal quota of overs. The loss of the extra yard and a half of pace that made him a true champion is significant, though he is so good at adapting his game to the demands of the situation. A question mark hangs over him though.

Clark was by far the best of the NSW bowlers in the warm-up game against Eng, meaning he is the best of the three seamers on show here. With height, control and movement he excelled in South Africa and provided he is given the ball early enough by Ponting to enjoy a modicum of hardness and movement he can be expected to bowl well at Collingwood and Pietersen.

Warne has been finding things tough in the Pura Cup this year, taking 3 cheap lower order wickets in VIC’s rain-affected draw with TAS at the MCG last week from 46 overs at a cost of 159 runs. He was a spent force physically by the end of the 2005 series, too tired almost to walk and with a season of county cricket only eight weeks behind him needs to go to the well again for this series. He remains peerless, of course, but his battles with Pietersen using the older ball will make for gripping viewing.

Fielding and Captaincy.

No side in the world approaches Australia for their “defense”, as the baseball analysts would have it and all aspects of the fielding better those of the English team.

However the captaincy of Ponting was shown last time to lack the tactical acuity of his two great predecessors Taylor and Waugh. They set very high standards but it should be remembered that leading even the world’s finest cricketers is not always a cakewalk.


Much has been made of the age of this Australian squad, and the loss of Watson has left them unable to reduce the burden placed on their oldest and most important players like McGrath, Warne and Langer. England’s bowling doesn’t look capable of laying down the same sort of challenge as in 2005 and the Australian trait of accumulating lots of runs at frenetic pace remains to the fore.

Australia’s bowling can give England a little heart. Each game reflects the series situation – the longer England can last in each match and the more work they can ask of the ageing Australian bowlers then the more major cumulative impact they can have.



Although weakened by the loss of Trescothick England’s batting remains largely adequate. The lesson of past history though is that progress made by individuals against other nations can often be undone horribly easily by Australia (Ian Bell is a particular candidate here).

Strauss was blown away by Tait in the South Australia game and will face a testing spell from Lee at the beginning of the innings. The reason captains have often fallen into the trap of inserting Australia at Brisbane is because the wicket promises early assistance, which more often that not is there. However Australia’s skill overlay allows them to survive the tougher period before making hay in the later sessions.

Cook will also be asked to face this hostile opening burst. A sanguine and elegant batsmen he has not faced an attack of this quality yet in his career and one or two dismissals to back-of-a-length deliveries when out caught behind may mean that he could struggle in Australian conditions.
Bell had a terrible time against Australia in 2005 and collected his MBE more out of sympathy than anything else. He has made giant strides in the past year and made a fluent 132 against South Australia on a very good batting wicket last weekend. However being asked to come in at 5 for 1 against Australia will be a very stern test of his progress. Should he survive the seamers he will then be tested by Shane Warne, who made him look very inept against legspin in 2005. A lot is expected of Bell and he has big shoes to fill. At the current spread quote of 360 I would not be rushing long of him.

The England middle order appears a little better equipped to deal with Warne than previous sides, principally because of Pietersen. Collingwood is a mature player though the 4 slot will be an enormous test for him if early wickets have fallen. The Pietersen/Flintoff/Jones axis is proven and should be able to take best advantage of any weakness shown by Australia in the change bowling department. However batting out time or holding on for a draw under pressure is not natural to any of these players (though one would have said the same about Kemp and Rudolph who managed to salvage the draw at Perth in 2005). Aggression is present here but resilience is open to question.

The prospect of Giles playing largely to shore up the batting is certainly unappealing but he has managed useful runs for England at 8 in the past. To compare England’s 7, 8 and 9 with Australia’s is instructive.


In 2005 a well-coached, well-diversified unit of four seamers plus Giles made the most of their talents and abilities to win back the urn. Aided by excellent captaincy they rose to the challenge magnificently.

Although the names are the same the magic simply doesn’t seem to be there. The pitches and the ball have their part to play in this and the loss of Troy Cooley should not be underestimated, particularly with reference to Harmison. The most disappointing aspect of watching English cricket in the last 15 months has been the performances and attitude of Harmison. The default expectation must now be low, where once it was sky high. Conditions will suit him at the Gabba just as much if not more so than his Australian counterpart Lee and he could go well. However the tools go down at the first sign of trouble, and under hot blue skies that could not be far away.

Flintoff’s injury travails are well known. He pushed the ball through well enough on a slow wicket in Adelaide without exuding any of the menace of Edgbaston or The Oval 2005. The pace may have been cut in that game and he could have been holding something back. In general though the signs are not good – Flintoff simply has too much on his plate.

Hoggard and Anderson seem very likely to struggle with a ball and conditions very largely unsuited to their style of play.

One of the few ways one could imagine England winning is to picture Panesar ripping the ball out of the footholes at the Aussie left handers. In the first innings he figures to be a bit player with a containing role, unlike his counterpart Warne. England’s negativity could be shown early on if they elect to go with Giles ahead of Monty, which in turn could highlight divisions between captain (who is for Panesar) and coach (who is for Giles). On balance though England may struggle to get themselves into a position to bring Panesar to bear on matters and the net impact of the selection issue is limited to 1 % or less.

Fielding and Captaincy.

Much is made of Panesar’s ineptitude but his performance in Adelaide was perfectly tolerable. Concerns relating to Jones’s glovework have been downplayed but chances will be few and far between, making them extra precious. England’s fielding is nowhere near that of Australia’s.

In his limited captaincy experience Flintoff has not shown himself to be a master tactician and his solution to Sri Lanka’s resistance at Lords in 2006 was simply to bowl himself into the ground. Motivating Harmison is all very well but he is nowhere near the standards that the team of Vaughan and Fletcher managed to produce. His rift with Fletcher is not reported widely but their relationship will not be easy to manage throughout the series.


England come here out of form, under pressure and without the edges that they enjoyed in 2005.

The batting looks as though it can cope when things break their way. However the bowling cannot be said to have anything like the potency of 2005 and taking 20 wickets in a match whilst restricting the run rate takes them beyond their capabilities in my eyes.

Raw talent exists in the squad and they have managed to surprise the world in this contest very recently. However the cracks are thinly papered over right now and with exceptional levels of pressure applied by crowds, media and eleven unfriendly men in baggy green caps I expect this to be a very difficult and negative tour for England.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Column of Dumb Certainty

The Twat with the Hat (no, the other one) puts the suede brogue in.

"Saturday's latest one-day debacle has confirmed my feeling that the time has come for a change in the England dressing room."

New coat of paint? Hooks?

"The coach, Duncan Fletcher, has now been with this team for seven years. If you talk to people like John Wright and Bob Woolmer, successful coaches with a lot of international experience, they will tell you the job comes with a shelf-life. And Fletcher has just reached the end of his."

No hint of self-justification from some, ahem, 'well-travelled' coaches.

"I'm not saying he is a terrible coach."

Generous, Geoffrey, care to name a better one?

"In fact, I think he has done a good job — full marks to him for the way he made England's Test team competitive after the dark days of the 1990s. But, after a while, I believe a coach runs out of new ideas and the players get comfortable and complacent with him. He almost becomes too familiar and the players stop listening.

Fletcher's weakness has always been the one-day game..."

So this week's "debacle" is neither here nor there?

"...and there have been some madcap decisions here in India."

Okay, so now you are going to dissect the England games in this, the most meaningless of all competitions, and explain why England need to sack the man who, together with some talented players, has utterly transformed English cricket. But of course, no-one is beyond criticism, and if you have some serious charges to lay against Fletcher, let's hear them.

"It is ludicrous that England have failed to bat through their 50 overs in either of their two matches to date."

I'm not sure ludicrous is the right word, disappointing perhaps. And likewise the coaches of New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and once again New Zealand, will be just as disappointed. In fact, the only team batting first to have completed fifty overs in this oh-so-necessary tournament has been that notoriously well-disciplined (and presumably brilliantly coached) West Indies.

But I am sure that Sir Duncan would agree with Boycs that that the England batsmen needed to do better, but he may be at a loss, as I am, to know precisely what the coach can do to stop his players being dismissed.

"One-day cricket is stacked in favour of the batsman: if you are a bowler, you know you can bowl only one bouncer an over, anything off line will immediately be called a wide and you have to keep a certain number of fielders in the circle. Even when you are having a particularly good day, you have to stop at 10 overs no matter how many you feel like bowling. The whole basis of one-day cricket is batting. It is the total opposite of Test match cricket, where you need top-notch bowlers to take 20 wickets."

Tough to hit that thousand word mark, ain't it?

"And yet, England still keep failing to bat through their overs. I find it astonishing."

Come on Dunc, buy the lads some wider bats!

"Clearly, the batsmen need to look at their own games, but Fletcher has not helped them with some bizarre batting orders."

Aha! Some specifics!

"For a start, what is he doing with Michael Yardy? This is a left-arm spinner with just a handful of internationals to his name. And he went in at No 3 against India and No 5 against Australia. It's crazy."

Crazy.Should have stuck to the tried and tested batting order that had, er... been so successful...

"I've always believed that as a batsman I'm paid to make runs, bowlers are paid to take wickets and just occasionally we can help each other out, by me doing a little bowling and them making a few runs. But if I were playing for England and the team sheet went up and Yardy was batting in front of me, there would be hell to pay. I wouldn't let it happen."

Not content with trying to nit-pick minute flaws in England's coach, the Fitzwilliam Foghorn now dispenses sage advice on how England's batsmen should behave towards their coach and selectors, based on the twenty plus sun-filled and recrimination-free years that our Geoffrey spent getting on beautifully with his his teammates, captains, selectors and county and national officials.

"How do you think it makes other batsmen in the team feel?"

Probably similar to what messrs Ponting, Hussey, Martyn and Clarke think about Shane Watson going in ahead of them

"What sort of message does that send out if a left-arm spinner who bats a bit goes in ahead of you?"

"Maybe I should bat a bit better" ?

"Then England have Andrew Flintoff batting at No 3. He hasn't played for months, so he's rusty, and they still experiment by pushing him up two places. If you're going to experiment with somebody, do it when they're in great form, not completely out of practice."

Another golden nugget, move the player in form AWAY from the position he's been doing well in.

"The same point applies, in reverse, to Paul Collingwood. This is a guy in the form of his life. Over the last year he has had a brilliant tour of Pakistan, an excellent tour of India and a bloody good season at home. He's never played so well, or been so confident. And where is he batting? No 6. By the time Collingwood came in on Saturday the game was over, and there was nothing he could do but hang around with the tailenders and wait for the last rites."

Sheesh! Lunacy! Wouldn't find the brilliantly coached, bat-all-the-way-through-their-overs-West-Indies making elementary howlers like this. Why, they had some know-nothing berk called B.C. Lara batting at six against the Aussies, and he came in when the Windies were in the fantastic position of 63 for 4! And a fat lot of good it did them.

"Surely, if you've got 300 balls in an innings you want your best players in early, so they have the opportunity to bat for longer. But England don't do that, do they?"

Stand up Shane Watson, there may have been doubters, but we always knew you were brilliant.

"Finally, we come to the bowling. Steve Harmison is bowling absolute rubbish. I take no pleasure in saying that about a smashing lad, but it's the way he's been for most of the last year. He has no confidence, his line and length are all over the place and the captain daren't bowl him with the new ball. He's got to come on first change after one guy who is coming back from injury (James Anderson) and one new kid on the block (Sajid Mahmood). Then, after two appalling overs, Flintoff decided he daren't bowl him with the old ball, either."

Oh Duncan, Duncan, Duncan. Why oh why do you keep selecting these terrible player? What? It's not you who does the selecting? David who? Geoff what?

"When I have spoken to retired bowlers out here, every one of them can see that Harmison's arm at delivery point is past the perpendicular, and his wrist is falling over anti-clockwise. If you watch his action from behind, his arm is at five-to-12 and his fingers are ending up at about 10-to-12 by the time he releases the ball, when they should be staying upright. These mechanics are guaranteed to shove the ball down the leg side. But if it is so obvious to all of us ex-players, what are our coaching staff doing?"

Probably the same as the England coach was saying in 1974, about hooking dibbly-dobbly medium pace roobish straight down long leg's throat. But do the players listen? Do they heck.

"This is where I come back to Fletcher."

You left?

"Somebody needs to shake Harmison out of his malaise, but this set-up just seems to be too cosy for anyone to make that happen."

Cosy set-ups are notoriously bad at realigning past the perpendicular delivery points, this was conclusively proved by the Portugese in the sixties.

"Even within the corridors of power there are all these county connections — David Morgan (former Glamorgan chairman) is now chairman of the national cricket board, Fletcher (former Glamorgan coach) is the coach and Matthew Maynard (former Glamorgan captain) is the assistant coach."

Fucking Welsh, undermining our national game

"Morgan may think Fletcher has a job for life, but that is just a recipe for stagnation."

Jobs For Life Causes Stagnation Shocker - Read All About It

"The time to move on is now. The dressing room needs some new personnel with fresh ideas and the ability to stimulate the players. When England have got knocked out of this tournament, struggled in the Ashes and gone out of the World Cup, I'll be telling people: "You read it here first.""

You'll be telling everyone; it's not because of players underperforming, it's not because of piss-poor selection, it's not that crucial players were unavailable because of injury, it's not because Ashley Giles managed yet again, against all known logic, to finagle himself onto an England teamsheet, it's not because administrators had agreed to ludicrous, strength-sapping schedules. It's because that twat Fletcher batted Flintoff and Yardy in the wrong position against India.

You tell 'em, Geoffrey

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Ashes Squad : an official response

Fred may be indisposed for a few days, however on hearing that Giles had been included and both Dalrymple and Clarke omitted, he said (and I quote directly) :

"lkiehvsqrgki;j3v qw;kjqv1sw.kj3 ev.kj3bvk;/3vqjnvqerbnverqkj/;neqvr".

"vr3eljknvrqe.jk ne3vrkj nv3rqkj nfvrq," he added, before signing off with a defiant "veqk.j nqejk vrqemn. vcqk,mj ckmj c/;l c".

Bowl selector

In a perfect world, a cricket team would consist of five batsmen, a wicketkeeper, and five bowlers. Pragmatism then takes over, and selectors insist on at least two of the bowlers plus the wicketkeeper being able to wield a bat in a productive fashion, to give that all-important balance to a lineup. This leaves the England selectors with a problem ahead of the Ashes series. Of the bowlers likely to feature, Harmison, Hoggard and Panesar are shoe-ins for positions nine, ten and eleven, and none of the other possible seam bowlers (Plunkett, Mahmood, Anderson and Lewis) have shown any particular aptitude with the willow, despite some ludicrously extravangant claims on behalf of the first two, that have been shown this summer to be presumtuous in the extreme. I think all England supporters would be wary of a team that had Read or Jones at seven, then four rabbits.

My solution would be to play a batting all-rounder at seven, who would need to be able to bowl ten to fifteen overs in an innings without being a liability, but who need not necessarily be expected to be a wicket taking force. The possible candidates for this slot could be Clarke, Dalrymple, Yardy or Loudon. Loudon seems to have slipped out of contention since last winter, and his bowling would probably be the weakest of the four. Clarke had the opportunity during the one-day series, but failed to make any impression with the bat, ball, or in the field. This leaves Dalrymple and Yardy, both of whom exceeded expectations in the same tournament. A brief perusal of the years averages tells me that Yardy barely bowls in first class cricket, a mere 40 overs this year, Loudon's batting average is a paltry 27, and Clarke has easily the best batting numbers (over a thousand runs at 57), albeit in a weaker division than the other three.

My suggestion would be to play Dalrymple at Sydney and Adelaide, where the pitches are reputed to spin, (and any other possible bunsen burner the Aussies have in store), and Clarke for the other tests. Unusually for a England spinner of recent vintage (Monty apart), JD spins the ball significantly, and although the Aussie batsmen would attempt to get after him, it is much harder to do against a turning ball. Clarke is the superior batsman, and except perhaps on a swinging track, I can't see him posing a great threat with the ball, although as I pointed out above, that need not matter when his job would be to lock up an end for five or six overs at a time to give the others bowlers a breather.

A fifth specialist bowler is a luxury this England side cannot afford.

Oh, and the ICC Champions Trophy is imminent. If it's as exciting as the last one won by [insert winners here] at [insert venue here], won't it be great!

UPDATE: Oh, what's the bloody point.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Fish Rots From The Head

I've now had a couple of days to reflect on Friday's revelations from the ICC, and, with the benefit of hindsight, I can admit that the thoughts that I posted at the time, and my conclusions, were perhaps a little bit hasty.

I was far too soft on the ICC.

The whole farrago was a fucking disgrace from start to finish. Malcolm Speed and Percy Sonn managed to spend two days liaising with lawyers from three different international firms, as to whether or not they had the responsibility to put in the public domain an email from Darrell Hair, that had already been retracted. The supposed neccesity for the public being made aware of this retracted email, was that the Pakistan Cricket Board of Control (which does not actually exist) may have needed to be supplied with the email as part of the defence to the disrepute charge that Inzamam faces, and that it would then probably leak out.

Please bear in mind, that the combined brains of the ICC had not been able to confirm a date for this disciplinary hearing, despite the fact that all the participant are either employed by the ICC, or under obligation to them under the rules.

Despite the seeming unwillingness of the ICC to convene this hearing expeditiously, Messrs Speed and Sonn found the need to fly in to London from Dubai and South Africa, merely for the purpose of blazoning this retracted private email across the front pages of the world's newspapers.

Call me cynical, but this stinks to high heaven.

1. The Timing.

The ECB have been fretful since the Test forfeit that the Pakistanis would not fulfil their (money-spinning) one day fixtures. The press conference was duly followed by a statement from the Pakistan team that they would be playing the games (unless, presumably, they got an umpiring decision they disagreed with). As the disrepute hearing is likely to be at least a month away, can anyone suggest any other reason why Hair had to be humiliated quite so soon?

(If I were Billy Doctrove, I would be bracing myself for revelations emanating from Dubai this week that I had visited two restaurants in London without leaving a tip, and had been seen giving Rachel Hayhoe Flint an admiring glance from the other end of a Kennington bar.)

2. The Import.

Pakistan say - "We Are Vindicated".

This noxious headline appeared in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday morning. The twisted logic that underlies this statement seems to be that because Pakistan took the petulant decision to refuse to play, and because they maintain that an umpire that finds them guilty of wrongdoing must be racist, and because their actions may have forced said umpire to quit his employment at substantial pecuniary loss, his request for compensation (almost immediately retracted) means in fact that they could not possibly have been guilty of ball tampering, nor of bringing the game into disrepute by refusing to continue to play. Or in other words, two plus fifteen equals three thousand eight hundred and eleven. Perhaps if Hair had only asked for A$170,000, they would have pleaded guilty to 'Scoffing Half the Other Teams Tea', and copped a plea on 'Abusing a Bail for Stance Marking'.

If you want any further illustration of the moral bankruptcy of the ICC, step forward General Cricket Manager David Richardson -

"He [Hair] does what he thinks is right regardless of the consequences."

Yes, he does mean that as an insult.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Stiched Up Like A Kipper

Q. You are the ICC. You are faced with an unprecedented forfeiture of a Test match by a constituent country. Do you -

a) Instigate immediate action against the defaulting team, suspending them from all competition until the disciplinary process is concluded?

b) Arrange for a disciplinary hearing to take place at a later date, allowing the accused to play on until the hearing is concluded?

c) Feed the umpire to the vultures?

If you answered (a), you are spot-on, and a very welcome visitor to this blog. If (b), you are a little too wishy-washy, but essentially fair-minded. If you answered (c), you are the ICC, and you are a complete arsehole.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Strop Stops Play

So, it took until the fourth day of the fourth Test for the standard England/Pakistan rumpus to emerge.

Whatever the Umpires saw to make their decision about the tampered ball (and as yet we have not been told what that is) they clearly did not exceed their powers by changing the ball and awarding the penalty runs. And even if the Pakistan team felt they had a grievance, they clearly infringed the relevant Law by refusing to take the field after the tea interval. So, if the Umpires took the decision to award the game to England, as it appeared to the TV viewer (and again, at this time we have not heard the exact chronology of events), they were again acting correctly according to the Laws and playing regulations.

At the risk of incurring the wrath of the estimable Mr Ward, I should explain why it is important that rules are adhered to, and must be seen to be being adhered to. When decisions in sport are left to referees and umpires to decide according to Common Sense - the regular plaintive cry of the exasperated commentator or talk-show phoner in - the actual decisions taken will vary dramatically depending on whose sense, common or otherwise, is being used. Therefore, the recent trend in many sports and pastimes has been to attempt to set down in the regulations as many eventualities as can possibly been forseen, to make it easier on the officials by reducing grey areas.

So if the Umpires did indeed award the match to England, and did follow the procedure as set down, it would in my opinion be a great folly to overturn that decision. It would undermine all Umpires in the future, by showing them that their decisions are subject to potential veto by and aggrieved team, it would encourage teams to dispute more decisions (if possible), and it would tear a gaping hole in the Laws of the Game, a hole that would not easily be repaired.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Police were today searching for a Pakistani male whose movements earlier this week were described as "unusual".

Update: Idiocy amended. Also, strange that I could not find a single usable picture of Inzy's demise to, er, borrow.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What's in a name?

If Kaneria decides to emulate Yousuf Youhana in adopting Islam, can I suggest he renames himself Danish Kartoon Jihad?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sometimes, Injuries Are Your Friend.

Scyld Berry on Monty Panesar:

"It may not be much of a title with Daniel Vettori and Ashley Giles on the treatment table and Harbhajan Singh wicketless save for one dream spell in the West Indies, but Panesar can claim to be the best finger-spinner currently in Test cricket."

Giles MBE 52 matches, 140 wkts, 39.60 avg, 2.84 econ, 83.48 s/r
Vettori 71/219/34.96/2.66/78.69
Harbhajan 57/238/29.86/2.81/63.70
Panesar 8/25/30.72/2.51/73.40

What can we extrapolate from the figures? Obviously, Monty hasn't played anywhere near enough Tests, so we must be wary of the small sample size. But it is worth bearing in mind that, unlike batsmen, who often start with a bang until bowlers find their weak spot, spin bowlers do not generally become masters of their craft until about the age of 30, and Panesar is 24.

What certainly stands out is that Giles is outclassed by all of the others named in every category. In fact, there are many others around the world whose figures rank much higher than the King of Spain (far more likely that, than the intended King of Spin). A brief search throws up such luminaries of the finger-spinning game as Mohammed Rafique 26/87/36.59/2.64/83.13, Ray Price 18/69/35.86/2.89/74.42 and Sanath Jayasuriya 103/95/32.90/2.44/80.82 (1279 overs vs Giles 1948), all of whom have appreciably better numbers than our thankfully injured 'star'.

(As usual, the nominal point of the post gets lost as I turn it into another anti-Giles rant.)

As for the winter, if Flintoff doesn't make it, it's a disaster. Jones, a worry. Vaughan a disappointment. Giles, fan-bloody-tastic.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Fat is a Cricketing Issue

Thanks to the always entertaining late night schedules on Channel Five, I have just watched coverage of an hilarious tournament held earlier this year in Bermuda. Having qualified for next year's World Cup, the obvious preparation was a 20/20 competition featuring seven international over-35 teams, and the Bermudan international squad.

England's team consisted of most of the "new Bothams" of the 1990's (Austin, DeFreitas, Capel, Wells, Lewis), although it was the South Africans who decided to take it seriously, and won the competition at a canter.

But the highlight for me was my first sight of Bermudan slow left arm bowler Dwayne Leverock. A man mountain officially weighing in at 19 stone, although he may have had only one leg on the scales at the time. This giant of the game proves that to play international cricket there is no need to follow a Kate Moss diet, nor to forego those all important mid-afternoon snacks, so vital for the aspiring sportsman. He is officially my new hero, and I can't wait to see him perform in the West Indies next spring.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Oh Mudhsuden, Mudhsuden.

As well as being a physical and mental challenge cricket, like most sports, has its artistic side, and there is little about the game of cricket that is more enjoyable than watching quality spin bowling. In theory, batsmen who can find the time to play attacking shots at balls which seam or swing and are bowled at upward of ninety miles an hour should have no difficulty dispatching spinning deliveries bowled at fifty, but they do. And as it is easier for the spectator to pick the subtle variations of the accomplished spinner without recourse to Hawkeye and Slo-mo, the entertainment to the viewer is enhanced.

And now, glory be, after a long hiatus, England have decided once again to play a spin bowler worthy of the name. Where once the pedestrian Giles would send down over after over of flightless, turnless, over-the-wicket dross, we have now moved into the broad sunlit uplands of flight, drift, turn and bounce. It is never easy to project the likely career progress of young sportsmen, but from what we've seen so far, Monty seems to have the potential to be a world class spinner for the next decade and beyond.

Monty is no Murali or Warne, being neither a freak of nature, nor simply a freak, (although England appear to have found a Murali-like bowler in Pietersen, albeit only as far as the bent elbow is concerned), but I hope that he is told that he will play every Test this summer, in preparation for playing every Test next winter in Australia. No, he isn't what baseball analysts call a five tool player, but somebody has to bat at eleven and his fielding will improve, not that it's as bad as some pundits would have us believe.

The future's bright, the future's Monty.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Where Did It All Go Right ?

Well hindsight's a wonderful thing, and I wasn't entirely sure I'd be writing this at 84-0, but even so backing Sri Lanka at any point in the last day and a half turned out to be money for jam, old rope, or both. Why ? What created the value and how can we spot it next time ? I'm going to post up three potential reasons for discussion.

1) Overvaluing the team batting last. Could it be that people see teams posting 350+ on a regular basis in the first innings and think "325 to win, yeah that's possible". Chasing 300+ is very difficult in any circumstances, least of all against Murali on a turning wicket. Not just because the wicket is rarely going to be good on the 4th and 5th days, but simply because of the pressure involved. It's also possible that a team with as weak a tail as England currently have is going to find it even more difficult. You don't knock 300+ off for five very often that's for sure.

2) Overvaluing England. Heart ruling the head ? There's an interesting theory I read about football, in that England are always underpriced against teams perceived to be weaker than them (Paraguay and Sweden spring to mind), but overpriced against the real top sides. People expect England to roll over no-name teams, but their natural pessimism kicks in when, say, Argentina or Italy come to town. Is the same happening in cricket ? Are England always going to be over-priced against Sri Lanka, and under-priced against Australia ? What about Pakistan who are up next ?

3) Hedging. As Alex pointed out, there were big swings in the odds during this match. It's a possibility that punters who had backed Sri Lanka earlier in the match were now laying them off to hedge, and so adjusting the odds. I'm not sold on this one. I don't think that the people who bet big are as keen to lay back as the likes of you and me (and especially Titmus who is a notorious wussy hedger). I could be wrong though, it's been known.

I'm saying a lot of 1), a bit of 2), but not much of 3) if any. Any thoughts ? Any more possible reasons ?