Sunday, December 19, 2010

WACA still proves too tough for England

The WACA is the venue that packs an onomatopoeic punch, and England, in keeping with their terrible record at the ground, were whacked out of sight this week, good and proper. One victory in 12 visits is how their statistics now read, after a performance that might feel entirely familiar to the cricket-watching fraternity in Perth, but seems totally at odds with the confidence and expectation levels that England harboured coming into the contest.

Maybe this match will spark an Australian attack into life, or could this work the other way in helping the tourists focus on the task at hand instead of worrying about victory ‘sprinkler’ dances, undefeated series and what they are doing after the Ashes is complete. Australia approached this match with much more hunger than England, and this was showed with the bowling attacks relentless push for wickets, with a swinging and non-swinging ball. Mitchell Johnson showed his class with a spell some are calling one of the best in an Ashes series, yet his nature at the crease during the first innings was too just as much a bigger thorn in the England’s pursuit of victory.

But the very fact that England couldn't pick themselves up off the canvas suggested that they were unprepared for the chinning they received in this Test. Instead they crashed to their sixth straight defeat at the WACA, and - true to Ponting's research - their seventh sub-200 total in their last 12 innings, in which time they've exceeded 300 just once. And since their high-scoring score in 1986, which also happened to be the last time England successfully defended the Ashes in Australia, the nature of the beatings have been particularly traumatic as well.

As England showed all through the summer against Pakistan, they have a collective vulnerability against the moving ball - a trait that another of the world's best batting teams, India, showcased in damp conditions on the first day at Centurion this week. The Highveld, of course, was the scene of another of England's remarkable recent capitulations, as Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel destroyed them in Johannesburg back in January. But when the going has been good, few line-ups have been better at cashing in than England, and it's a fact that they will cling to as the intensity of the series steps up.

As England move forward to Boxing Day at Melbourne, however, there will scarcely be a backwards glance at the WACA. It's not a venue upon which England teams like to dwell.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Around The Grounds: WACA, home of swing bowling in Australia.

Established 1893

Capacity 22,000
End names Members End, Prindiville Stand End

The third instalment to our around the grounds articles takes us to the Western Australian Cricket Association Ground or the WACA [wac-ka] as known by cricket fans.

The first match played on the turf wickets took place in February 1894. However, difficulties encountered in transporting teams to Western Australia meant that the ground was not part of Australia's main cricket community for many years. Even with the building of a trans-continental railway, the trip from the eastern states still took several days. It took the introduction of scheduled flights to Western Australia to make the WACA readily accessible to interstate or overseas teams.

The WACA staged its first Test in 1970-71 and soon established a reputation for being a fast and hard track, and that continued until the last couple of years when the surface flattened out. The often intense Perth heat is famously eased in the afternoon by the Fremantle Doctor, a breeze which sweeps in from the Swan River.

From 1984 to 1988 the WACA underwent major renovations, including a complete resurfacing of the ground and the construction of new terracing and seating in the outer. Also built were the three tiered Prindiville grandstand and two tiered Lillee-Marsh grandstand, which increased the ground's seating capacity. Six large light towers were also installed in 1986 at a cost of $4.2 million, allowing for night time sports such as day-night cricket matches to be played at the ground. An icon of the WACA, the floodlights are 70 metres high and cost $600 per hour to run.

The WACA with its afternoon breeze has seen it become a happy place for Australian bowlers, with both Glenn McGrath and Merv Hughes taking hat-tricks here against the West Indies in different era’s. And with all the talk of Shane Warne’s come back to Test side [joke] this was the sight of his famous 99 runs, where his chance of making his only Test 100 was blown as he tried to sky the next ball out of the ground only to be caught.

On 13 April 2007 the Western Australian Cricket Association announced a $250m redevelopment of the stadium. Seating capacity will be increased, and residential and commercial buildings will be built in the surrounding areas. The project will be done in partnership with Ascot Capital Limited with a three to four year time frame.
WACA members gave final approval for the project in July 2010 and construction is expected to commence in March 2011.

Memorable Moments:
• Donald Bradman played at the ground for the first time and attracted a crowd in excess of 20,000 in 1932.

• South Africa’s Barry Richards while playing for South Australia compiled 356 against Western Australia in 1970/1971, the 6th highest score in Sheffield Shield history.

• Australian Andrew Hilditch was dismissed handled the ball against Pakistan in March 1979. Pakistani batsman Sikander Bakht had been Mankaded by Alan Hurst earlier in the same day to end the Pakistan second innings. Whilst at the non-striker's end, Hilditch interrupted a throw from mid-on and passed the ball to the bowler Sarfraz Nawaz, who appealed. Strictly speaking, Hilditch had broken the law and the umpire was correct to rule him out. But the appeal was against the spirit of cricket and was viewed as gamesmanship. It is the only handled the ball dismissal to occur at the non-striker's end

• Described by Wisden Cricketers' Almanack as "one of the most undignified incidents in Test history", the clash between Lillee and Pakistani batsman Javed Miandad in 1981, in which Lillee and Miandad collided with each other, after which the bowler turned and kicked Miandad from behind. Miandad lifted his bat above his head as if to strike Lillee and Lillee backed off. The umpire Tony Crafter stepped in to separate the two. Lillee was fined and suspended for two matches.

• In December 1979, on the second day of the Test Match between Australia and England, Dennis Lillee emerged onto the field carrying not the traditional willow bat, but a cricket bat made from aluminium, known as a ComBat.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Australia grabs a Beer.

Three weeks ago, the only beer anyone would have expected to see in Australia's dressing rooms was the cases of bitter provided by the sponsors on the final day. Yet this time it’s Michael Beer who has snuck into the Test side. It smells of desperation, or maybe they have listen to Warne too much. As it was he who though up the option of maybe taking a local spinner from WA, one that knows the conditions.

Michael Beer is sadly not that player. For starters he is from Melbourne, playing for Warne’s old club side St Kilda CC and has played a total of 5 first class matches with WA, with only 3 of those being at the WACA where the wind can play havoc with a drifting ball to keep it in the pocket. Maybe the selectors have seen something special from Beer, like when Peter Taylor was plucked from obscurity 24 years ago and bowled Australia to victory in an Ashes Test at the SCG. But is this the same "something special" they have seen in Beau Casson, Cameron White, Jason Krejza, Doherty and others over the past three years?

With this selection also follows Hughes in for the free opening spot, despite scoring 4 & 0 in a recent shield match, this selection makes sense, yes he doesn’t like the short ball, but it is a calculated risk to select the future of the test squad rather than a miracle. Phillip Hughes state team mate Steve Smith has also made the 12 man squad, a choice I personally think should have happened at the start of the series rather than now, replacing the up and down North.

Having had the pleasure of meeting and viewing Smith on his test debut at Lord’s earlier this year I was impressed with his professionalism and his application to wanting to lay test cricket, rather than a flash in the pan youngest who is chasing T20 money [something that is not uncommon these days] For all Smith's flaws as a bowler, it makes no sense to play both him and Beer at the WACA. Ben Hilfenhaus, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson, who can slide back in as a fourth fast man used in short, sharp spells, is the way to go.
Mitchell Johnsons return was a no brainer. He may not be in career-best form, but nor are any of the other openers in state cricket. Choosing anyone but Johnson would have sent another message of desperation, and one such whiff was enough in this squad.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

228 runs in local T20

The local crowd was left speechless on Tuesday night when Kumar Sarna blasted 228 not out off only 65 balls in a suburban Melbourne Twenty20 cup match. Playing for Wonga Park in the Ringwood and District Cricket Association, Sarna, who was on the Bushrangers' rookie list, creamed 22 sixes and 17 fours against Croydon North.

His team smashed 4-277 and won by 148 runs. SCORECARD

The charm in this story doesn't end, because if ever cricket was the ultimate leveler. Wonga Park and the new master blaster Kumar Sarna were looking forward to a Saturday league match [42 overs] where hopefully the same masterful display would be shown, only for Sarna to be done in 3 balls for a total of 2 runs.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Kangaroo in Lions Clothing

An innings and 71 runs, by repeating it to myself I’m hoping it will settle in and make more sense as I digest further highlights tonight. Besides reports of 2 old men fighting over a biscuit in the Adelaide car park, pigs have also been sighted by Qantas pilots as the fortunes of these 2 sides have swapped for the first time in 20 years.

If Australia wants to know what they are doing wrong, they only have to look at the English sides from the past. England wrote the book on Ashes blunders, and Australia is making the same mistakes again. The key issue for Australia at the moment is not solely in the hands of the players themselves, but from the selection table and those that seem to be chairing it. Firstly they dropped Hauritz after an unsuccessful Indian tour, something that many a great spinner has had. Just ask Shane Warne. England learned with Ashley Giles, sometimes you have to make the best out of what you have. Hauritz has an excellent record in his nine home Tests, where he has taken 38 wickets at an average of 29.65 each. Just last winter he took 18 in three Tests against Pakistan . And he is a competent tail-end batsman, with a Test average of 25.05.

Ben Hilfenhaus took more wickets in the 2009 Ashes series, 22, than any other bowler. Unlike Hauritz, he performed superbly on the flat pitches the team played on in India last October, though he had little luck. And poorly as Mitchell Johnson may have bowled at Brisbane , he had played 39 consecutive Test matches up to that point. And given Ponting's pointed comment that "sometimes it doesn't matter what I think" it seems like the decision went against the captain's own wishes.
Then there is the effect on team dynamics by chopping and changing a line-up, you straight away hurt a players confidence levels and start to plant a seed of doubt. Secondly you spread panic in a side on who will be the next player to go. In short, if you are going to drop players you have to be sure that the ones you are bringing in will improve the team enough to make up for those considerations. Ryan Harris did. But Doug Bollinger and Xavier Doherty did not.

England on the other hand seemed have been taking notes for the past 20 years and having given Australia cricket have began to play the Australian way. Using strong opening partnerships that blast huge holes early in the day, then include a strong 3/4/5 batting roles to continue the runs, keeping the opposition in the hot sun for long stretches. Then bowling with a strong upright seam attack whose sole focus is on off-stump at a good length, providing a testing range on Australian wickets. Couple this with a strong desire in the field and a world class spin bowler to mop up on the 5th day. This England team seems modelled on the great Australian sides of Waugh and Taylor.

The English used to call syphilis the French disease. The French used to call syphilis the English disease. It seems a similar reversal may have been taking place in Australia these past two weeks. Such selectorial confusion used to be the bane of English cricket. It seems the Australians have now acquired the habit. There are a host of good players and strong personalities in the Australia team. But they are being undermined by their shambolic mismanagement.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Around the Grounds "Adelaide Oval, Heaven in the City of Churches"

Established 1873
Capacity 31000 (approx)
End names City End, Cathedral End
Home team South Australia

The city of churches as its known holds what I feel, and many agree is the most beautiful test cricket venues in Australia if not the world. Long have I remembered Adelaide for ‘the hill’ and the Edwardian style scoreboard that is heritage listed in South Australia. Most recently the Western stand has under gone some renovation to update it the facilities to a modern standard, but still with St Peter’s cathedral as a backdrop gives this Australian ground a very English Village green feel.

The ground opened in 1873 amid bitter local disputes over boundaries and money, and in its early years the pitches were often dreadful. Things gradually improved, although Adelaide's tendency to attract controversy remained. In 1884-85 it staged its first Test, but that was dogged by arguments with the English tourists over appearance money and who would umpire. In 1932-33, the Bodyline affair reached its nadir at The Oval when Bill Woodfull and Bert Oldfield were struck, and on the third day mounted police patrolled to keep the 50, 962 spectators in order. But these days the pitches are true and disputes rarer.

Known as one of the smaller grounds in Australia, being a true oval it makes shots played square of the wicket hard to defend from a fielding point of view. Before the far ends in front of and behind the wicket were roped off, making the playing area shorter, it was not uncommon for batsmen to hit an all-run five. The pitch itself is generally very good for batting, and offers little assistance to bowlers until the last day of a match.

The first test match was played in 1884 against England in which they won by 8 wickets, where William ‘Billy’ Barnes scored 134 & 28* along with Bobby Peel taking 8 wickets for the match. This was in the days where the 3rd Day was a rest day, and 4 balls per an over. 674 was the highest total placed on this ground by Australia against India in 1948, the most recent high score was Australia’s 575 against New Zealand which included a 215 runs by Justin Langer in the first innings. S.K Warne has always enjoyed bowling Adelaide on the 5th Day taking 56 wickets in total.
Memorable Moments:
• In 1932–33, the Bodyline affair reached its lowest point at the ground when Bill Woodfull and Bert Oldfield were struck, and on the third day mounted police patrolled to keep the 50,962 spectators in order (a record crowd for cricket at the ground). The total attendance for the match was 174,351.

• In 1931–32 Donald Bradman scored the highest score ever at the ground in Test Cricket, compiling 299* against South Africa.

• In October 1982, vs Victoria, David Hookes hit a 43 minute, 34 ball century - in some respects the fastest hundred in history.

• In 1989–90 Dean Jones scored twin Test hundreds against Pakistan.

• South Australia compiled the highest fourth innings winning total in Sheffield Shield history, reaching 6/506 (set 506 to win) against Queensland in 1991–92.

• In 1999, Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was called for throwing by umpire Ross Emerson in a One Day International against England. The Sri Lankan team almost abandoned the match.

• Lights were constructed at the ground in 1997, allowing sport to be held at night. This was the subject of a lengthy dispute with the Adelaide City Council, due to environmental issues relating to the parklands area. The first towers erected were designed to retract into the ground; however one collapsed and they were replaced with permanent towers.

1928-29 Tour Footage

Recently I had a great opportunity to view some footage of England’s tour of Australia in 1928-29 shot by Percy Fender. He later wrote a book on the series, The Turn of The Wheel, but he never mentioned that he had shot the film.

The film is silent, with lovely wobbly old captions added by Fender himself. He takes us right through the tour. He starts with stop-overs in Aden and Colombo on the ship out and continues with his train journey from Perth to Kalgourlie and on across the Nullarbor plain. He intersperses footage from four of the five Tests with clips of an 'Old Crocks match' at Rushcutters Bay; Christmas Day on a packed Bondi beach (where the camera lingers slightly too long on one sunbathing woman); a day out at the Melbourne Gold Cup and a few other social events. It is a charming portrait of how life on tour used to be.

The footage shot on the voyage back home is particularly good. The team take a camel expedition in Cairo to see the Sphinx. And back on board we see Jack Hobbs relaxing in his deckchair while Jack White plays battledore, Patsy Hendren throws quoits and Tich Freeman puffs a fag and chats up two female friends.

The most interesting part for me was the early footage of Don Bradman at the age of just 20 years old, and also the only footage I have or know of Archie Jackson who tragically his life was cut short by TB. Many have written that he was better than Bradman, he made his only test century during the 4th Test of this series.

With all the angles, hot spot and a million tour diary’s that will be written long after the current Ashes series is completed, it is nice to sit back and watch a silent film of cricket with aggressive fields and fantastic shot makers wearing little protective equipment against the earliest signs of Larwood’s short bowling.

I got great pleasure from watching this and I hope you do to.

Australian Tour 1928-29 shot by Percy Fender.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Michael Hussey 195

He walked from the field as the Gabba rose to applaud an innings as much about the match as it was of redemption. A man with his back screwed to the wall nailed his name to the team list with a stroke of his bat.

There are times when watching cricket that you start to feel that something special is building, I felt this watching Warne’s first test in England. As Michael Hussey cut and pulled England during the afternoon session of the 2nd day you started to feel that he was turning the game in his gloves.

Sitting in my lounge observing a ‘testing’ first session of punch and counter punch against the old enemy, Hussey showed toughness that is only shown in the true test of 5 day cricket, as he baked in the morning Brisbane sun to fight off the early use of the new ball. Building an innings from scratch is no mean task and as the sun wilted the once tall poppies in the English bed of roses, Hussey stood tall playing shot after shot, beating fielders with timing over power, mental strength over reckless attitude.

Australia as a country and a cricket side has changed dramatically over the past 4 years and in this time we have seen our pride and passion for being Australian used as a prime excuse to act less that favourable towards our fellow citizens, or behave as yobs overseas. Long had the fighting kangaroo disappeared from the worlds view; Hussey with his no frills cricket. No bombshell women’s magazine wife, tattoo wearing, product placement cricketer. Who in many ways comes across as the suburban man from WA, proved that the ‘average’ man has greatness when he puts others thoughts aside and worries about his contribution to team and country.

The return of the battler. As he jumped for joy at making his 100, hugging Haddin and punching the air with his bat and helmet. An Australian in the fighting sense, a respectful batsman who credits the bowlers for the endeavour and the media for its reasons, but forgot all of that for a day and half to provide the English a glimpse into the heart of a patriot batsman, and to worry England into the fact that Australia is not prepared to just give away the opportunity on home soil.

England’s reply will be quick and deadly, as a nation they are now the leaders in a sport they were laughed at. And when emotion runs high from one side, it can have the effect to muster the troops of the other. England is no longer the ugly step child, which slides into the shadows as its master beats them. A reply will be forth coming and one that shall show all that this series will be special for more than just its holders 20 year mission to win in the sun burnt country.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Winter Season Reads ( I )

As the winter starts to set in, it seems that those without the magic of pay-tv, don’t have the access to the overseas tours happening in the southern hemisphere. I find this time of year great to settle down on the couch or maybe that quiet pub, an Ale next to the fire and tuck in that book you’ve been meaning to read.

Summer is for playing cricket, and winter is for reading about it.
  So with that in mind I’m going to highlight a few books during this winter break that I personally have read, some old, some new, but all worthy page turners.

Blood, Sweat and Treason – Henry Olonga My Story

This first book is a mixture of part biography, part political story as it describes the events and Henry Olonga’s life leading up to the ‘black armband’ protest during the Zimbabwe World Cup. The book starts off with the day of the event and the fear that Henry felt inside knowing he needed to escape the country in order to avoid prosecution from Mugabe’s militant regime.

The book then continues to talk about his rising to become the first black cricketer for the country, as well as his issues regarding his bowling action, and his ongoing injury problems. The book itself is an interesting view compared to most cricketing books, as they tend to follow ‘superstars’ of the game and Olonga by his own admission in the book describes himself as an ‘average’ cricket who on his day is ‘world class’ This honesty provides the reader with a strong feeling of Olonga’s passion not just for cricket, but for life and the future of his once growing country.

As devote Christian, you can feel his faith portrayed in this book. Yet this theme is not pushed on the reader to believe, with Olonga giving examples of times when things have moved in mysterious ways. It certainly alerts you to the fact that there are forces that seem to move to align certain events at just the right time, some call this luck, others faith. Having mainly read books based on English or Australian sides, it is refreshing to take a look at international cricket from a minnow’s point of few, as Zimbabwe went about trying to make themselves into a cricketing nation in both the short and long forms of the game.

The build up to the events that changed Olonga’s life and that, of Andy Flowers is, detailed and insightful, and shows a strong bond between cricket and the country. And it shows in the lead up to this event that it was not a rushed protest, but one that was carefully planned, thought of and achieved with the great help from many other individuals. Post protest Henry Olonga having moved to England now lives a much quieter life compared to his team-mate Andy Flower and it almost seems as if the two were brought to together by this historical moment, yet it was only this that bonded them.

Henry Olonga’s story is one which needed to be written, and I’m glad have read it. A story of a one person’s efforts to, inform others of his countries loss, a protest that cost a cricketer his career. This is a story of courage to stand-up to what you believe and have the conviction to stand by your cause. Everyone should this at least once and then remember the power that sport can have on society.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Around the Grounds "The Gabba"

On the eve of the Ashes Series, here at the Cricket Observer we are going to go beyond the players that are taking the field and walking past the gate towards the centre. And are turning our focus on the grounds of this year’s series, with a brief history of past games, results and events that have shaped each venue, to play its own special part in the legend that is the Ashes.

Brisbane Cricket Ground “The Gabba”

Other wise known as The Gabba due to the shortening of the suburb in which it is located in Woolloongabba. The land on which the ground sits was first set aside for use as a cricket ground in 1895. The first cricket match was held on the site on 19 December 1896 between Parliament and The Press. The Gabba was not used for interstate or international cricket until the visit of South Africa in 1931. A game in which Australia won by an innings at 163 runs, with Bradman top scoring for the home side with 226 and local Bert Ironmonger taking 9 wickets.

In the 80’s the Gabba was notorious for its run down facilities, these were greatly improved in 1993 and 2005, The Gabba was redeveloped in six stages at a cost of $128,000,000 AUD. The dimensions of the playing field are now 170.6 metres (east-west) by 149.9 metres (north-south). The seating capacity of the ground is now 42,000. In its appearance the Gabba now almost resembles a mini Melbourne Cricket Ground complete with light towers and a gigantic modern grandstand ringing the ground providing an intimidating and noisy atmosphere for visiting teams.

Best known as the beginning of all test series for the summer in Australia, a reason on research has found nothing more matches were required to be played at the ground, and now this has been stuck with as the beginning of Cricketing summer. Regarded as a good batting track with plenty of bounce, the ground itself has had some memorable scores. The highest being the 645 scored by Australia in 1946 against England which included Bradman 187, Hassett 128, and McCool with a 95. the most recent ‘modern’ day high score was Australia in 2006 after “that delivery” from Harmison they went on to amass 602 runs. In more recent times it has become a favourite haunt of Shane Warne, with the extra bounce from the often excellent wickets helping his legspin. In early 2006 a record crowd of 38,894 watched the first Twenty20 international in the country. This mark was promptly beaten six days later when Australia played South Africa in a full ODI.

Memorable Moments:
  • 2006 Steve Harmison and that wide delivery that picked out Flintoff at 2nd slip, a defining moment in the series.
  • In December 1960, Test cricket's first-ever Tied Test took place at the ground when Richie Benaud's Australian team tied with Frank Worrell's West Indian side.
  • Queensland clinched it’s first-ever Sheffield Shield title with victory over South Australia in the final at the ground in March 1995.
  • March 2008, Andrew Symonds knocked a would be streaker flat to the ground, in the biggest tackle ever seen in ODI cricket.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Larwood was a Englishman but, also pure Aussie at heart.

To get myself into the mood for the Ashes, not that a series such as this needs much to stir the pot of emotions for a man living on both sides of the fence, I have been brushing up on a few classic books on the Ashes. The first that comes to mind is The Bodyline Autopsy and most recently Duncan Hamilton's biography of Harold Larwood. It's a top-class piece of sportswriting, one in which I wish I wrote myself.

How good was Larwood? Get on YouTube and have a look. It's old, old footage. Larwood is a grey ghost streaking in to bowl. He was only 170 centimetres in height and it is said he ran so lightly he made no sound as he came in to bowl. His action is still wonderful to behold - he has both acceleration and exquisite balance. His various rhythms come together in one fluid moment at the point of delivery much as those of another great fast bowler, New Zealander Richard Hadlee, did.

The YouTube footage shows him hitting Australian Bert Oldfield in the head, Oldfield reeling away like a man who'd had acid flung in his face. This was after earlier hitting the Australian captain Bill Woodfull with a delivery to the heart. Woodfull batted on. Larwood struck him several more times. There was a real risk of a riot. Larwood and another English player agreed which stump they would grab to brandish in their defence. In the aftermath, the governments of both countries got involved. Larwood's story reads like a novel. He was down the coal pits at the age of 14. His family was Methodist, teetotal and cricket-loving. Playing for Nottinghamshire, he impressed Jack Hobbs when he blasted the master batsman's off stump out of the ground in successive innings. Hobbs got him into the English team in 1926.

For the 1932-33 tour of Australia, England was captained by Douglas Jardine. Upper class and severe in manner, Jardine re-awoke old convict memories and personified what Australians silently despised about the English. He and Larwood had a bond which Larwood carried with pride all his life. Jardine was of the officer class; Larwood was proud to have carried out his orders. Jardine had personally investigated every innings Bradman played in England in 1930 to find a chink in his armour. Finally, in a piece of footage, he saw an incident in which, on a rain-affected pitch, Bradman appeared to flinch before a short ball from Larwood. ''Got it!'' he is said to have cried. ''He's yellow.''

Duncan Hamilton is a fine sportswriter and the best of his imagery is startlingly good. The book really comes alive to me when he likens Jardine's plan for Larwood to the invention of the tank in World War I. Before the tank, the infantry on both sides basically ran at one another's machine guns. With tanks, they had cover. Before Larwood, cricket was a different game, one biased - Larwood believed - in favour of batsmen. At the end of what is remembered as the Bodyline Tour, having taken 33 wickets at 19, Jardine insisted on Larwood bowling with an injury. He never bowled as fast again and nor did he ever again play for England.

A teammate said Larwood, a shy, sensitive man, bowled with ''demonic aggression''. He didn't like Bradman - although it seems his appreciation of Bradman as a batsman grew over the years - and Bradman didn't like him. Larwood questioned Bradman's courage, Bradman questioned his action when he bowled his bouncer.

Bradman had reason to be aggrieved. They came to hurt him, not in an accidental way, but thoroughly, until his nerve broke and he threw his great talent away. The tactic created havoc when taken back to English county cricket. In 1935, with the Australians threatening not to tour England, the MCC told Larwood to apologise to the Australians. No such request was made of Jardine and Larwood refused to do so.

Keith Miller loved him, Denis Lillee was in awe of him. The first few English teams that came to Australia after he defected shunned him, but then a new generation, players like Colin Cowdrey, sought him out because he had been among their boyhood heroes.

Peter FitzSimons hit the nail on the head some years ago when he wrote that Larwood is an Australian sporting legend. He's an English sporting legend but we claim him, too. He created indelible memories here, he made his home here and, by the time he died in 1995 at the age of 90, he was honored in this country as well as England

A fantastic book if you haven't read it and well worth getting your hands on, for the stroy of a man that was a hero to some and a villan to others.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Favourite Cricketer

Recently I have been inspired by discussions of people’s favourite cricketers, and the reasons they are drawn to this player. For some it is a boy’s own dream of being that daring shot maker, or the steel of the courageous captain. As we grow up we hang onto to these hero’s and remember the reason and the place that we fell in love, not with the game, but those who play it.

In keeping with this theme I’m going to discuss my favourite cricketer and look forward to peoples responses as what drew them to the ‘summer game’.

My Favourite Cricketer: Keith Ross Miller, The All-australian All-Rounder    

I was not drawn to cricket at young age living up in the Melbournian suburbs and found myself playing football [Australian Kind] & basketball, indulging in cricket of the pavement kind out the front of my house with the other kids in the street. Back then we only knew of the current players Merv Hughes and Allan Border, the Waugh’s and Tubby Taylor.

As I entered my late teens I became interested in the history of sport and those that capsulate the public with their deeds beyond the picket fences and seem to transcend and bind a nation in their own image. After listening to a radio show competition to name Melbourne’s best ever sportsman did this name come into view. What made my ears prick up at this moment was not just his cricket, but his life. Keith Miller had played cricket for 2 States [Victoria & NSW] was a great winter sportsman as well as summer having played Australian Rules Football for both St Kilda [the team I followed] and the state of Victoria, all this while being the spearhead of a frightening attack on the ‘Invincible’ tour of England.

It was with this that drew me to find out more about this man. "Nugget" Miller was more than a cricketer: along with his English soulmate Denis Compton he embodied the idea that there was more to life than cricket. Miller, who was named after two pioneer Australian pilots - Keith and Ross Smith - was a fighter pilot himself in the Second World War, and after some extremely close shaves was well aware of the importance of life. It meant that he could occasionally look disinterested on the field: at Southend in 1948, when the "Invincible" Australians were running up the record score of 721 in a day against Essex, Miller stepped away to his first ball and was bowled, since such an unequal contest held little excitement.

He held a devil may care attitude with utter brilliance in the Victory Test post-war. His slicked back hair, which was on the long side for the short-back-and sides-era, and gamblers batting style lead him to amass test average of just under 40 and a bowling economy of 2.24. His life was littered with cheeky grins and rumours of affairs with royalty. A man that was just as comfortable placing a bet, as he was pulling some of the fiercest bowlers of his generation.

Miller started as a batsman, hitting 181 on his first-class debut, for Victoria against Tasmania in Melbourne in 1937-38. And he first made a mark on the international game in 1945, with a sparkling 105 in the first "Victory Test" at Lord's. Miller made his official Test debut after the war, and went on to play 55 times for Australia, scoring 2958 runs at 36.97, with seven centuries, three of them against England and four against West Indies, whose captain, John Goddard, once sighed, "Give us Keith Miller and we'd beat the world."

Bradman's strong side needed Miller more as a bowler than a batsman, and he ended up with 170 Test wickets, at the excellent average of 22.97. He was the perfect foil to the smooth, skiddy Lindwall: Miller would trundle in off a shortish run, but could send down a thunderbolt himself if he felt like it. Or a legspinner. Or a yorker. Or a bouncer, an overdose of which led to his being booed during the 1948 Trent Bridge Test: Miller simply sat down until the barracking had subsided. What few people realised was that he had trouble with his back throughout that tour - he often pressed an errant disc back into place at the base of his spine before somehow sending down another screamer.

To me Keith R Miller was an Australian in every sense of his being, a joker and worker, a man that knew that there was more to life that what was being played on that small patch of turf. Neville Cardus dubbed Keith Miller "the Australian in excelsis", a notion to which the noted Daily Mail sportswriter Ian Wooldridge heartily subscribed: "By God he was right."

Due to my young age I never had the opportunity to watch the man play cricket, so all I have had was the books I read of the stories and quotes of a man as much in love with life and it's excesses, as he was with its success. Having lived near the MCG for a short time I would find myself walking around the outside of stadium after his passing,on a warm summers evening and always standing, looking towards the great bronze statue that stood just a few feet from the Bradman entrance. It positioning in a bowling action and imagining the character of this man coming towards me, and then I’d smile, think of sunny days and remember that it’s only a game.

Full name Keith Ross Miller

Born November 28, 1919, Sunshine, Melbourne, Victoria

Died October 11, 2004, Mornington Peninsula, Melbourne, Victoria

Major teams Victoria, New South Wales, Australia, Nottinghamshire

To this day I have held that picture of his full and mighty hooking shot with me most places I go, and it sits on my desk as a ‘perfect’ image of balance and courage, with no helmet and a distant look in his eyes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ashes Preview

With all the previews on Sky Sports and every major newspaper in the country getting onboard I felt that the Cricket Observer [CO] had to be on the front foot as they say, and get in a early with a strong prediction for those that will and won’t make the grade during this years Ashes series.

A lot has been spoken and will continue on about the Gatting side of 1986, that being the last English side to win a series in Australia . And there is no doubt that England have all the hype behind them going into the 1st Test at the Gabba. Rather than go though every player and ground for the series I’m going to give a quick look at the top bowler, batsman and ‘match changer’ for each side for the series, as well as put out who and how I think the series will finish. Enjoy.

The Hosts – Australia.They haven’t exactly given their faithful public much to croon about in the lead up, losing a series against India away and Sri Lanka at home. Taking in mind the only 5 day cricket was in India and there were good if not great performances. With many players heading back to their State sides in the lead up, I think a good does of home cooked food and familiar faces will invigorate the side prior to Thursdays start.
Bowler: Mitchell Johnson
The wayward bowler from the last series will be looking to provide the spark for the Australian side. Having lost his way on and off the field of play, he has shown the greatest strides to having a good series having gone back to WA and score a century and taken wickets in the lead up.

Batsman: Simon Katich
It was hard to pick who should be standing up for Australia , as it seems that most of the top order have been struggling of late. Ricky Ponting seemed an obvious choice. As the English are sure to target him I felt he is always in the firing line, but the wild old vet in Katich has and continues to cause problems for visiting sides on home turf. Having recovered from a shoulder injury and the unspoken possibility that this could be his last Ashes, he will surely want to set the record straight.

Match Changer: The Spinner ??
Who will be the spinning option for the Aussies? It seems that the new selection panel may be looking to make its mark in this series and a change at the last minute with Doherty putting his hand up as a solid spin option. Steve Smith was taken to England for the Pakistan series, but I felt he was more of a part-timer in this area and seems to be an all-rounder rather than a 4th bowler. Hauritz is under siege and this could either be good for him or work the other way, either way this is a space that will be watched carefully by more than just Shane Warne.

The Visitors – England
They arrived in the sun burnt country with their sails full of wind, having dominated the hosts in a one-day series and also taking apart Pakistan and Bangladesh . Some see this as not the best build up for an Ashes series, but with the cricket this time around making sure the team plays plenty of tour matches prior to the first test, should see the players in a could frame of mind.
Bowler: Graeme Swann
The jolly gentleman who snags wickets and saves cats from under floor boards will be in his element I think among the sometimes jovial Australia supporters, but it is his spin that needs to do the talking. Many saw him as a saviour in the Lords test and was great with the bat in Cardiff to leave the Australians guessing what was next. Having improved again I see him being the leader among all the bowlers.

Batsman: Kevin Pietersen
Never one to stand in the shade, KP will be looking to fight the late season demons of the Hampshire/Surrey move ,as well as his ill timed twitter rant to show that he is the superstar batsman in the England side. With no Freddie about all the attention will be on him, and it’s a situation he should enjoy. KP showed a dedication to his overall improvement by getting himself a few hours at the crease by returning to South Africa, and despite a slip up against Australia A, I feel he is in his prime to be a thorn in the batting order.

Match Changer: Steve FinnWill he or won’t he? That is the question bursting into the early summer tests in England with 5 wicket haul at Lords and then hidden from all in a cave one could only guess in the Lake District . England have been saving this young man for this moment, but will the moment be too much for him. With a solid action that would suit Australian conditions and being unseen by most of the batsman that didn’t spend a summer on the county circuit, Finn could change the out come in no small way.

The Series:
Now what you’ve been waiting for my prediction. I see Australia winning this series and maybe it’s the green and gold in my veins, but I don’t see England handing it to us like last time. It will be a hard toil of a series and a result of 2-1 is how I see the matches. Parts of Australia have had the wettest winter on record, so rain could be a factor for at least 1 match, and with both teams not will to give an inch a draw is definitely on the cards. As always hero’s will become of those who win, and the losers I’m sure will have a ‘full ‘investigation as to why they lost.
For the rest of series here at the Cricket Observer I shall be in between the countries of the 2 sides, spending the 1st and 2nd Test here in England and travelling to Melbourne for the 3rd and 4th. Always getting you the best in news and opinion from both sides of the pond, I look forward to everyone’s responses on my thoughts of the upcoming series.

The Entertainer.

Chris Gayle as I type this is still 301 not out against Sri Lanka , in the first test of this tour. Chris Gayle has shook off the pressure or sometimes watchful eye of the being captain to unleash a power innings of shots and focus not seen from this pure entertainer, winding back the clock to have people remember the original master blaster Sir Viv Richards.

Long has he been known as the entertainer in the shorter versions of cricket, even coming out to say how much he didn’t like playing in the Test arena. All this fuelled the fire from the critics that he didn’t have the temperament or patience for the true test that is 5 day cricket. We have always seen a glimpse of possible big scores, with Gayle being his own worst enemy in many situations throwing his wicket away, just as it seemed he was closing in on the big scores.

I vividly remember the warm WACA afternoon as the “Doctor” the name for the breeze that comes off the seaboard drifts over Perth playing surface, was moving in as Chris Gayle attacked the Australians blasting shots not seen in Test Cricket one going straight over the bowlers head that seemed to clear the members stand, the crowd was in awe of a man so devil may care with a bat in his hand. Cutting and weaving runs for a team that lacked any fight or spirit during the previous encounters. Too often Gayle has been more about the show than the runs, with energy spent on talking to bowlers and the media about what ‘might happen’ rather than what will. He has had bravado and shown plenty of front when needed at the crease best shown with a running chat with the English bowlers at Lords during the Windies last tour.

Talking has only gained him a reputation of a showman rather than a batsman, and people have long got tired of this repeat performance. Yet as the sun now moves lower over the Galle Ground on Day 2, with Sri Lanka struggling to come to terms with life without Murali and his constant pressure from one end. Gayle is still punching into the evening sky having added 23 more runs to his total as I reach my conclusion.

Where this innings leads even I am not sure of at 324 on the board and 33 fours and 9 sixes in this master full innings that will go down in the history of long West Indies greats.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A trans-Tasman T20 domestic tournament

The recent four-nil drubbing of the Black Caps by an improving Bangladesh, while good for cricket generally, must shine a spotlight on where New Zealand are heading with their domestic game.

The simple fact is that New Zealand is not a large country and cricket is not its national sport. In the hearts of most New Zealanders, cricket will always come a distant second to the All Blacks rugby team. With just over four million people, New Zealand has a smaller population than three of the six Australian states. Therefore, the task in running a quality domestic competition is so much harder for New Zealanders than it is for their Trans-Tasman neighbours.

In other sports, like netball, rugby, soccer and basketball, New Zealand has solved this problem by joining an Australasian competition. This could well be the future of Antipodean domestic limited-overs cricket too.

The main argument for such a move is an improved competitiveness for player development. During the 2010 Champions League Twenty20 tournament, the Central Districts hardly set the world on fire. They were easily a class below South Australia and Victoria . In a joint competition, two New Zealand teams (rather than six), possibly representing either of the two islands, would face the six current Australian states.

The other sports have shown that crowds will come to watch a local team play an Australian one, especially if they can reasonably be expected to see their side win. Home matches scheduled in a number of venues on both islands would help strengthen the local spectator base.

That is not to say that one would want to see the end of the Plunket Shield. There is no great merit in joint first-class arrangements, but one would hope that an increased exposure to tougher competition in the shorter versions would feed back into the Plunket Shield and, therefore, into the Test team. Playing under diverse Australian conditions will do up-and-coming New Zealand cricketers no harm at all. Neither will it harm Australian cricket, for the benefits flow both ways. Scheduling would become tighter, yet there is so much to gain that it must, at some point, be considered.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sacred Cash Cow

HERE's a sobering fact - of every dollar raised in world cricket, 81 cents is generated by India .

Here's another one - whatever money Australia makes out of this summer's Ashes series it will budget to make four times as much when India tours here again.

India is the home not just of the sacred cow but the cash cow as well. The secret for other nations is to learn how to milk the cow not to run scared into the next paddock when they hear a stray "moo''. You cannot fight India 's influence in cricket. That battle has been long lost.

Australia should not be scared of Indian money propping up its own domestic scene. If anyone can profit out of owning an Australian interstate cricket team they should be immediately recruited for more important challenges such as finding a cure for breast cancer or tracking down Osama bin Laden.
Even the Indian Premier League teams - with all their giant television rights and fabulous crowds - averaged $7 million losses in their opening year. If Cricket Australia officials want to have a whinge about India let them do so about how a bus full of Australian players have spent the last three years in the Indian Premier League and Australian cricket has barely got a round of drinks out of it.

Here's a chance for payback.

Domestic cricket is Australia is in a parlous state. The new 45 over competition has been totally underwhelming, regularly attracting crowds of fewer than 1000 people. The Sheffield Shield attracts even less and it is not even on television. A survey done by Cricket Australia showed that cricket has dropped off the radar of Australians under 30 where dancing, walking and tennis were rated above it in favorite past-times.

The game needs a pep pill and it needs it fast.
The new city based Twenty20 competition is a gamble Australia must take but it needs private investment badly because it is almost certain teams will make substantial losses. With two domestic competitions already making multi-million dollar losses the thought of a third ball and chain competition would be too much to bear unless there is someone to share the financial load.
The new concept is not flawless. There is a chance the Australian public will find it all a bit superficial Australian officials should have nothing to fear from Indian ownership of Australian teams.
As a wise man once said, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

India looking to Australia

The fiercest of rivals on the pitch in all formats of game, has seen India and Australia play some classic matches. Yet it seems an Indian consortium is looking to move in on the possible franchise structure of a new 20Twenty competition. A creation of the Australian version of the franchise IPL would be bigger than Kerry Packers World Series Cricket, CA board members will meet in Melbourne in the next two days to decide whether to accept private equity from India , and other overseas investors, as part of the ownership structure for franchises, potentially valued at $80 million each.

On further research by the Cricket Observer it seems that NSW Cricket has set up a separate business name of to run its 20Twenty franchise, there is talk that the 20twenty Franchises have the ability to have a net worth of $80 million, more than any of the top football codes. An Australian tournament would involve eight teams - two from Sydney and Melbourne, and one from each of the other states. It will feature all Australia 's stars and retired champions, including Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. Overseas stars from India , England , the West Indies and South Africa will be offered mega contracts to play in a tournament that will replace traditional one-day cricket in January and February.

This space is worth watching with the Big Bash is on the agenda for this board meeting and it seems that Australia is again at the forefront of big change in cricket. With Test matches only mattering it seems to purists and those series involving Eng/Aus or Aus/India we could see the disappearance of one-day cricket all together as T20 starts to grip the world, but as it previous posts here on the Cricket Observer we must trend carefully and think this type of out and develop leagues and not a foreign legion of hired guns travelling the world for the biggest cash bonus.

Murali you can't be serious.

Murali on the week of his farewell tour of Australia has produced a Top 10 list of best batsman he has ever had the pleasure of bowling out. But not an Australian amongst them.

This has caused much a do about nothing really, maybe this is Murali’s little underhanded dig at the Aussies on his way out or this is a master piece of spin from the master himself to garner a few extra bum’s on seats heading into the series. Murali has always had a love hate relationship with Australians, mainly due to ‘that’ arm action and Daryl Hairs reaction to it in the summer of 1992. With Australia and Sri Lanka both playing for the Warne/ Murali trophy it seems this is a bitter pill to swallow not just for Australians but also for Sri Lankans.

For Murali to dismiss all Australian batsman from his Top 10 makes him look silly in my eyes and shows a lack of disrespect for a period of complete dominance by Steve Waugh’s men as they amassed a unbeatable mentality towards all sides home and away. I’m sure Murali would like to forget the belting of the double century he got from Michael Clarke in the summer of 1995 in Perth or that fact that despite always taking on average 4 wickets a game, he was costly at 36 runs a piece.

More recently in 2006 Ricky Ponting [124] and Andrew Symonds [151] between them batted Australia to victory while Murali could only watch bowling 10 over’s for 99runs in the ODI in Sydney . Lastly the memorable ‘lights out’ match in the World Cup at Bridgetown when Adam Gilchrist a player who on 6 occasions scored a 100 or more against Sri Lanka in the new millennium, went on to smash Sri Lanka to all parts of the ground to score 149 to help Australia deliver the One Day World Cup trophy in farcical circumstances, with his country in need of his doosra Murali was only able to throw down 7 over’s for 44 runs and 0 wickets.

As much as I want to believe that Murali sat down and went though his vast memory of thousand deliveries and countless days of cricket to come up with his masterful top ten batsman to face the record wicket holder, some how I can’t believe it was all done on his own and maybe a certain advisor gave him a friendly nudge to give one last slap in the face to Aussies before its too late. Despite the action I have stated on here before that Murali is and will be known as a fine cricketer and one who changed the game in more ways than one.


1. Brian Lara (WI)

2. Mohammad Azharuddin ( India )

3. Sachin Tendulkar ( India )

4. Navjot Sidhu ( India )

5. Salim Malik ( Pakistan )

6. Inzamam-ul-Haq ( Pakistan )

7. Andy Flower ( Zimbabwe )

8. Graham Thorpe ( England )

9. Jon Crawley ( England )

10. Hansie Cronje ( South Africa )

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Story We Already Knew

The manner in which Andrew Flintoff chose to acknowledge a fitness battle lost even as the tightest County Championship for years was coming to its conclusion did him little credit. What abject, thoughtless timing, a slap in the face for the game that nurtured him and set him on the road to fame and considerable fortune.

He and his advisers are sufficiently familiar with the machinations of many media desks which know little of county cricket and care even less, seeing only celebrity and names, to understand what would be placed top of the agenda. It is an uncharacteristic faux pas at odds with someone known for the generosity of his spirit. The stories of coming engagements with teams around the world were pipe-dreams: his management have been concentrating for some while on how best to handle his exit from the game and non‑cricketing future.

He was never one of the great all‑rounder’s, but a considerably better one than his statistics show superficially. He had the capacity to impact. He could take a game and tear it from the grasp of the opposition like no other contemporary in the England side. He was utterly indefatigable, never more so than in his heroic bowling at Lord's last year which won England the match and which perhaps precipitated his departure to the orthopedic operating theatre. When, in what was his last significant act for England , he ran out Ricky Ponting at The Oval last year, with a direct hit from mid‑off, it was a moment of inspiration. Only gifted players can produce such game-breakers on cue.

Since announcing his retirement from the game there have been suggestion and comparison with the greats of the ‘All rounder’ community most notably Botham, a man with the same attacking streak and an instinct to rise for the big games. Yet this comparrisomes leaves Botham looking a lot more average than he truly was. Flintoff was a Hero, one who turned up when the crowd wanted, but was found lost and wanting when captaining in series other than against Australia. Unquestionably, except in his own mind, he was a better bowler than batsman, a rampaging world-class fast bowler whose paltry three five-wicket hauls do not remotely do him justice. At times, perhaps, while physically menacing, and bowling the heaviest of balls, his direction of attack, which slanted in to right‑handers as his delivery arm went beyond the vertical, was not so disconcerting to the best players: the Australian batsman Michael Slater once confided how he found him comfortable to get away through midwicket on the angle.

As a batsman Flintoff never really had a true role in the line-up as his lack of technical footwork left him open to good bowling, what he did offer as a batsman was more in the way of heart and strength, but lacked the ability to trickle sneaky runs in tight matches preferring to smash the ball to all parts of the ground.

Sport needs its heroes and Flintoff became that. Here was someone whose achievements were beyond reach of the aspirations of the public, yet who remained one of them. He batted as they would like to bat and bowled as they would want. He was personable, liked his ale, got into scrapes. His football style celebrations after taking a 5 wickets became his cricketing logo, and the marketing machine went into over drive after the 2005 Ashes series. The following series away from the comfort of England proved that he was just a myth rather than a magician as his side was toppled 5-0 in a series dominated by cricketers of a different world-class.

I’m sure as Flintoff reclines back into the armchair of retirement and takes phone calls from a raft of talk shows, corporate events, dancing with stars and possible exhibition matches that he would have thought to himself that for the 4 years that his lime light lasted that he used it well and to his advantage. As a cricketer Flintoff was merely a man who played a couple of good innings in a cricketing era when the camera has every angle, and for a player who struggled to play certain angles on the pitch he was deft at playing them off it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tasmania go Dutch

In Australian T20 Big Bash news a small yet ground breaking little story has emerged, as Tasmania have announced the signing of Netherlands all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate for the Big Bash 2010-11.
"His credentials suit what we need perfectly," Tasmania coach Tim Coyle said in Hobart . "He's an attacking, hard-hitting player who clears the boundary regularly, a very handy bowler and an excellent fieldsman"

Ryan ten Doeschate is the big name of the Dutch national side thanks to both his success with Essex , and a stunning season in the ICC Intercontinental Cup in 2006. He broke David Hemp's record for the competition's highest score by hitting an unbeaten 259 and finished with the extraordinary average of 228.66 including four successive centuries. He also finished as the Netherlands ' leading wicket taker in the tournament. Since joining Essex his cricket has gone from strength to strength and led the batting averages for Essex in England 's Friends Provident t20 this year, making 296 runs in six matches at an average of 59.20. He also had best economy-rate for his side, conceding 6.81 runs an over. Essex won 10 of their 16 group games in the Friends Provident t20 and finished second in the South Group. They lost the semi-final to eventual champions Hampshire.

The ground breaking selection of Dutch player to play in an Australian competition for the first time, is a glowing example for the ICC’s push to further enhance cricket in traditionally non-playing nations. With teams traditionally selecting West Indies or Indian players to fill the roles as overseas players this has come up with contract issues with many players having signed with 2 clubs, in both the IPL and Big Bash. In one case leaving Victoria without their skipper Cameron White for this season’s Champions League. Selecting a player such as ten Doeschate allows full use of him for the whole of the competition.

I for one like the impact that international players have on competitions, and feel allowing two per side doesn’t stop any youngster who deserves a game getting one and only adds more to the Big Bash than it takes away. I’m looking forward to watching the Dutchman’s progress though the tournament where he will join Pakistan fast bowler, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, as Tasmania's two international players this season, the Big Bash starts Dec 30 to Feb 5.

Twittering Twits

Now here at the Cricket Observer I have only just been getting into this tweeting ‘thing’ after being shown the ability to stay up to date with score lines and emerging news at a moments notice. As well as a new way to keep in touch with readers of the blog who wish to be followers. And if Bumble can do it then I feel like I’m missing out on the opportunity.

Cricket is game especially when batting where one must find a way to stay amused, some cricketers in the old days used tricks, pranks, gags or just some lively banter about weight issues, girl friends or little jibes at technique. All done while sitting on the balcony waiting for your turn to stroll out onto the field. It seems that these idle moments have been given the perfect solution, Twittering. All cricketers are doing it now, and some to great effect with Graeme Swann taking up cult status with his constant streams of useless, and witty banter about teammates. Yet as this new domain opens up of course there is always going to be issues, the most recent being Dimitri Mascarenhas, the Hampshire all-rounder who has played sporadically for England’s T20 and One-day sides over the last year, can expect a knock on the door from the ECB in the coming days after his recent twitter about national selector Geoff Miller. Describing him as a “kn*b” and “a pr*ck”

One post sent from the Twitter account @DimiMascarenhas read: "Geoff miller is a complete kn*b. He had no clue what he is doing. Fing pr*ck."

This after only just recently seeing the headlines when Pieterson recently described himself being dropped from the one-day squad as a “f*ck up” The governing body would most likely look more harshly on an outburst directed so personally at a selector than the post from Pietersen. This coupled with last months outburst from Under-19 international Azeem Rafiq who was banned from all cricket for a month and fined £500 for a tweet where he described John Abrahams, its elite player development manager; as a “useless w*nker” and England are not the only team with these issues the earliest problems with social networks was Phillip Hughes discussing his non-selection from the test side for the Test match at Lords during last years Ashes Series. What is that makes not just athletes but people behave differently on social networks?

You would never, well I’d hope not, yell this sort of language out at your coach in a public place during a nets session, say while children are watching. So what then gives you the ok to do such a thing via a multimedia stream. All this shows is a bratish and cocooned lifestyle that some of today’s cricketers are living in where they feel that they know all, and nobody else knows any better. Pietersen has only just recently in a county match made his first century in 18 months, and had shown in the Lords Test match against Pakistan that his head is just not in his game at the moment, to come out brand his non-selection as a “f*ck up” only makes him look foolish when England go on to beat Pakistan in the first of the T20’s without him in a comfortable manner. And Dimi has no leg to stand on, literally for his outburst. As a player that started the county season with a serious ankle injury due to chasing IPL riches and really has not made much of an impact in the young up and coming squad of Hampshire; even struggling to find himself a place in the T20 Finals Day, so where he thinks that by abusing a selector is going to help his already slim chances I will never know.

Twittering is sure to help bring some players ‘to life’ and give the followers a chance to see what some of the worlds best players are up to on a daily basis and for this reason it’s a great idea to further push cricket into the future. But discussing what players views are on coaches and selections, items that are strictly for the selection table or locker-room and should not be open to a wider audience. Cricket does not need to be a the soap opera that footballers lives have turned into, being used to slap up a few minor celebrities on a glossy page. Let’s keep the tweets either mindless locker-room banter or discussions on what training is like and I’m sure all will be fine for both selectors and those wishing to be selected.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Fix Is In

Pakistan in a match fixing scandal, oh how we were all warned.

And now we are all up in arms as this will ruin cricket forever, tarnish the game and send it back into the dark ages. Cricket will not die, but Pakistan cricket may. For most of this summer there has been a warm sense of hope for Pakistan cricket with England/Lords taking on the role as big brother and giving them a leg up by allowing a vast amount of ODI, Tests and T20’s to be staged across the country, some to the detriment of the grounds. And having had what is only described as an up and down tour, where the brilliance and has been shadowed by some foolish cricket, it has now stepped into the dark alley of despair.

Salman Butt along with 2 other highly rated blowing prospects has been marked with the brush that always stains. All 3 are deemed innocent until proven, but the evidence doesn’t look good. And the cat calls and yelling from all those in the press and outside the ropes is for the tour to be cancelled and Pakistan banned. This is silly and will destroy cricket, for these 3 have done something wrong, not the team. Pull them from the squad and let the tour continue. The bigger issue of the overall rife of bookmakers in cricket and the scourge of ‘spot betting’ is part to blame for this issue, its ridiculous to be able to bet on a no-ball [or the amount of them] in an over and opens the game to its earliest history of match fixing in the 1800’s between land owners and crafty ‘professionals’ We cannot allow this sort of gambling in any sport, but most of all in cricket.

Are the bookies or the players to blame? It is a hard choice and one that from behind a keyboard or TV screen we all say ‘No’, ‘never would I ruin the spirit of cricket’. Yet you must remember these are cricket players that have been denied a right to earn further money from the game due to terrorist attacks back home and the banning of Pakistan players from the lucrative IPL, has left them short in the pocket compared to others and I dare say feeling a little grieved at the situation, so a man pops up and offers a few 100k to throw down a few wide balls and now your mind thinks differently. The subsequent week has been extraordinary, including one of the most surreal sessions of Test cricket ever played; but while there is an understandable desire for swift resolution, the complexity of the case and the need to get any punishments absolutely spot on means that the ICC must take its time here.

We knew the summer was going to belong to Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, but we thought it was for what they did with the ball, not their front foot. If they did bowl deliberate no-balls - and the evidence looks horrible, particularly the picture of Salman Butt starting at the bowler rather than the batsman - it is obvious that they must be dealt with severely, yet the widespread calls for life bans are surely, at this stage, over the top. Given the natural disaster currently affecting Pakistan , it should not be too difficult for us to get some perspective. The News of the World described it as "a kiss of betrayal", but it wasn't: it was the kiss of a kid who adores the game. He may have done something gravely wrong; if so, we must hope the ICC does not compound it with a hasty and excessive punishment.