West Indian Madness, IPL Blues and ICC In Seeing Sense Shocker

20 04 2011

An Empire No More

We came across a wonderful documentary the other day called ‘Empire of Cricket: West Indies’. As a history of the West Indian game and a commentary on how the game developed, grew, came to an intimidatingly excellent level in the 1980’s before sliding into it’s present mire, we haven’t seen anything else that does it better.

Interlaced with fantastic old footage of the greats including Learie Constantine, George Headley, Sobers and of course the more modern pantheon of Sir Viv, Lloyd and their fast bowling machines it is well worth a watch. As with many pills and medicines, this reminder of glory days past had a distinctly disappointing side effect though as, inevitably, the final 10 minutes of the documentary focused on the regions current cricketing woes. A state of affairs that as cricket fans depresses us deeply.

The West Indies have been in the news this last week or so once more for two reasons. Firstly the blogging world’s version of Wikileaks, WICBExpose, has come to prominence (thanks to Jrod of Cricketwithballs for highlighting it to the wider community) and then, secondly, the WICB announced their squad for the upcoming ODI and one off 20/20 international series against Pakistan leaving out Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shiv Chanderpaul.

Apparently the board are keen to promote youth and build a team for the next world cup in 2015. A glance at the team they have selected though would probably have caused Learie Constantine to blanch had the great man been around to see it though. With the honourable exception of the Bravo brothers, the rest of them are probably journeyman at best and it is difficult to see them presenting much of a challenge to even the most fractured Pakistani team.

By removing these three experienced players the West Indies board have deprived the team of what little experience and possibly class they have (a look a the batting statistics across all three forms over the last two years backs this up). A team that is looking to recover from the doldrums of the last 10 years can ill afford to rid itself of this sort of ability (even if as the rumblings say the players in question are not perhaps as motivated as they should be) and, to us at least, this is more evidence of mismanagement of cricket in the Caribbean.


IPL Blues

It can hardly be a good thing when only two weeks into a seven week tournament we are already suffering fatigue at the incessant nature of the event. Readers who have been with us for a while will know that the IPL is not our favourite cricketing event around to start with, yet this year the never ending branding, commercials and sheer razzmatazz is effecting us earlier than usual.

Part of the blame for this it has to be said can be put down to Danny Morrison particularly, although some of his co commentators are blameless either. It is a strongly held view of ours that Morrison should never be allowed near a microphone ever again. Not only is his over hyped and over excited brand of commentary irritating, it is actually managing to detract from the cricket. We understand that the IPL organisers want people to engage with the cricket – and the commentary is a crucial part of that – yet the opposite is actually happening in our case.


Good News For Associates?

A Cricinfo piece today tells us that the ICC may well be rethinking their decision exclude the associate nation teams from the next cricket world cup in 2015. The ICC are apparently going to reassess in response to strong and widespread criticism of the decision to make it a ten team event. To tell the truth even we at the Compulsive Hooker were surprised by the level of dismay at the ICC’s decision and are pleased that it may yet be rectified.

Ireland will of course be happy but, if as Sharad Pawar suggests, it might be a 12 team tournament instead, our outside bet for the final slot would be Afghanistan…


ICC In Hopeless Decision Shock!

5 04 2011

After what, in our opinion, has comfortably been the best cricket world cup for some time – anyone doubting that think back to the dreary nature of the last two or three – the ICC has unbelievably ratified the decision to make the 2015 World Cup a glorified Champions Trophy and only allow 10 teams entry to the competition. Not only have they limited it to ten teams but the ICC have also refused to allow any of the Associate nations even a chance to qualify giving the test playing nations automatic entry.

A more self serving and hopeless decision by the ICC’s full members with the future of cricket in mind there can rarely have been.

For more go to Cricinfo or here to see an Irish reaction to the news. Ireland of course can feel particularly hard done by with their performance over the last two tournaments being outstanding and competitive. It is debateable that Zimbabwe for example and possibly even Bangladesh, who by virtue of this decision both get in as a full members, would beat Ireland in a series of cricket in any format.

Obviously it is also not just the Irish who are going to suffer here but also previous semi finalists in Kenya not to mention the other sides like the Dutch who have also fought well recently. This of course isn’t even mentioning the Afghanistan’s of this world whose progress no one knows where it might stop.

Judging by the reaction in the media as well as in forums and comment sections the ICC have got this wrong. Jrod from Cricket With Balls has started a campaign to let the ICC know how everyone feels about this so please go to his article and follow the links he gives on how to do this. As he rightly mentions, it is unlikely that anything will come of it, the ICC being as inflexible and hopeless and organisation as ever there was, but if you love cricket and want to see it spread, develop and grow – it seems right to let them know.

ICC Awards 2010: Swann Loses Out To Sachin

7 10 2010

Sachin Triumphs

The winners of the ICC awards were announced last night and whilst they were on the whole more or less as expected, we did feel that Graeme Swann was pretty hard done by not to pick up a single gong. Cricket is, as ever, a batsman’s game – something that hasn’t changed since the early days of cricket 200 years ago when the batsmans totals were counted whilst ignoring the bowling figures – and this was represented in last nights awards ceremony yet again.

Tendulkar won the ICC Cricketer of the Year award for the first time in his illustrious career and arguably deservedly so. Scoring over 1000 runs with six centuries in only ten test matches he has had as good a year as he has had before – combine this with the first double century in a one day international and you have a potent mix. Equally, Sehwag, scorer of over 1200 runs at an average of 85 with his own collection of six tons is also arguably a deserved winner of the test player of the year award.

Sadly for Graeme Swann this left him without a category in which he could could triumph. Originally left out of the shortlist for the Cricketer of the Year award by the ICC’s selection panel, he was only added later when the ECB rightly created a furore and demanded his inclusion. That he couldn’t even make this original sixteen was a mistake so elementary and so entirely characteristic of the ICC that you really worry for the future of the game in their hands. Once on the list he rightly made it to the final four although we always felt that this was as far as he would go – had he been selected for the prize it would have highlighted the original failure to include him – quite apart from the other players own merits.

The second selection mistake – although one not acknowledged – was his lack of inclusion in Sehwag’s category of Test Player of the Year. Comfortably the worlds leading wicket taker in this time with an astonishing seven five wicket hauls and one ‘ten for’ (list here), Swann also managed almost 500 runs and three fifties. A brilliant all round record and one that in our opinion could and perhaps should have knocked Sehwag off the top of the list – to not even get a nomination is appalling quite frankly. Factor in his performances in ODI and 20/20 cricket and you have a mix that could have easily been justified in winning the top award.

Possibly in the end the quality of the opposition Swann faced in this period (i.e. 4 tests each against Bangladesh and Pakistan and only 6 against top ranked sides – Australia and South Africa) told in the final decision going against him. Summing up therefore – whilst it is difficult to have any real issues with the two players selected – Swann has arguably been hard done by throughout process as a whole and will have to be content with the knowledge that most sober judges reckon him to be the best spinner in the world right now. As fervent England fans we would like to thank the great man for a sterling years work and say please keep this vein of form up long enough for the Ashes to stay firmly in England’s grasp – you’re going to be key Swanny!

For the record – here are his figures over the year:

Other Awards:

ODI Player of the Year: Shane Watson can feel justifiably gutted not to have won this award – more wickets than anyone else and the second highest run scorer over the same period – not even AB De Villiers, the eventual winner, with his 855 runs in 16 games could quibble too much with this. An exceptional year for both players but Watson should have sneaked it with his all round performance.

20/20 Performance of the Year: A strange category this knowing that there is no test or ODI equivalent – added to the fact that realistically it is something that only a batsman could win – was won by Brendon McCullum for his 116 not out against the Aussies. Fine innings though it is, cricket is all about context and therefore in our humble opinion it would be very difficult to argue against Hussey’s 70 odd against Pakistan in the World Cup semi final at St.Lucia. Under immense pressure and with near impossible odds Hussey took Australia through to the final which given the World Cup situation should have been more than enough to win the award.

Other than that it was all pretty straight forward. What are your thoughts – do you agree?

England Win and Ridiculous Conspiracies

23 09 2010

It is with some relief that we write these words: the England Pakistani series is over. What was an intriguing series to begin with has gone through the gamut of emotions  and remarkably ended in a tense, exciting and winner takes all scenario. What has not been so pleasant, quite apart from the claims of spot fixing, has been the increasingly aggressive stance from Pakistani supporters as they begin to subscribe to the ‘worlds against us’ conspiracy theory.

Yesterdays game was, for the most part, a very close affair until Swann turned the screw in the 28th over of the Pakistani innings. The Pakistani bowling attack again served notice of how dangerous it could be, the old man of the side, Shoaib Akhtar, showing immense bravery to continue bowling with a side injury and pick up 3-40. For a large part of the innings England were only one or two wickets away from collapsing almost entirely.

The English saviour, once again, was Eoin Morgan – a man who has done more for the England ODI team in turning them into a consistent and dangerous unit than arguably any other. Without the sheer class and calmness of Morgan; without his ability to work the strike and hit the gaps; without his talent to shift in gears and hit boundaries almost at will late in the innings – England would have in all likelihood, here and on increasingly numerous other occasions since his debut, folded – whether chasing or setting a target. Up until now Morgan has mostly produced these outstanding innings batting second – an easier task simply because you know exactly what you have to do – but yesterday, batting first, it was up to him to set the pace and judge what a reasonable score was. Once again he performed brilliantly and it was almost solely down to him that what turned out to be a very testing target was set.

In the Pakistani reply Akmal and Hafeez once again set off like a rocket, something that has been a feature of this series, before getting bogged down in the middle overs. Two wickets in an over, one a brilliant catch by Paul Collingwood, from Broad slowed the Pakistanis although it was the introduction of Swann that really set the cat among the pigeons. The ball in his first over to defeat Fawad Alam was breathtaking and we suspect would have got far finer players than the Pakistani number five out. The death knell of the Pakistani innings however was in the 28th over when Swann removed Yousuf and Afridi in consecutive balls – Yousuf’s in particular being another exceptionally fine bit of bowling. Rameez Raja on the Test Match Special commentary summed Swann up perfectly; “I never thought that watching off spin could be so interesting”. There are few finer sights in cricket than watching a fast bowler steaming in and causing havoc – i.e. Allan Donald at Edgaston 1998, Curtly Ambrose at Trinidad in 1994 to name but a couple – but one of them is definitely a top class spinner weaving his web. Edge of your seat stuff as you wonder whether this one will be caught at slip, beat the bat or simply castle the hapless batsman.

One regrettable aspect of this series was the lack of UDRS technology as there were on a three or four occasions fairly glaring errors made by the on field umpires. Whilst this is part and parcel of cricket, sadly these all went one way and have only served to fan the conspiracy theories surrounding Pakistani cricket as put forward by an increasing number of their supporters and the administration. The Compulsive Hooker has always been a little suspicious of technology as in our view we believe it is important not to devalue the umpires on the pitch – something that is already happening unfortunately with players increasingly showing small amounts of dissent and questioning decisions. However with the glaring and obviously wrong decision against Kamran Akmal last night we feel that perhaps it should be made a global standard by the ICC for all games.

Fortunately the particular decision against Akmal,whilst obvious in its incorrect nature, would have been unlikely to have altered the end result of the game. When he was dismissed Akmal had already become very bogged down and was struggling to push the scoring along after what had been a flying start and, considering the deficit at the end was 121 runs, it is unlikely that he would have made that much of a difference. In the end the class of Swann and Morgan told and England, rightly, were victors in the series.

For anyone who hasn’t seen the scoreboard of yesterdays game; please click here.

What is imperative now upon conclusion of the series is that the PCB and the ICC conduct a full, thorough and above all totally honest search into these allegations as well as fixing in general. Sadly up until now the PCB, and Ijaz Butt in particular, have appeared to be, if not dishonest, certainly disingenuous and more likely to try and save face by going on the attack than apparently willing to try and clean up the game. It seems obvious to most (and by most we mean pundits and experts within the game rather than the armchair supporters such as ourselves) that something is going on. For any Pakistani’s reading this we also realise that these issues are unlikely to be concentrated solely with your national team and so the ICC needs to take charge and bring any wrong doers to justice, whatever their nationality.

We have fallen out of love with cricket a little bit in these last few weeks and we know that we are not the only ones. It will be with some relief that the Ashes will arrive as with that series at least we can be reasonably sure that nothing untoward will be going on. The tour squad is announced today at 1:30pm and we are already feeling the first tingles of excitement at what is likely to be a closely fought and brilliant series.

Crickets Championship Future

15 09 2010

At last and entirely unexpectedly (at least for the average punter who is not party to the inner whirring of world cricket) the ICC has jumped into action with regard to their plans for the game of cricket over the coming years. Whilst it has not been rubber stamped yet and so could still be potentially hijacked by one of the major powers; the plan appears to be a shake up of the game by implicating various international leagues and championships.

Over the past decade there has been much talk about the decline of this form or that form of cricket, the need to regulate that or this national board etc and simply the problems created by the sheer amount of cricket that is played today. The ICC’s plans are clearly supposed to address some of these issues and for that we find ourselves in the unusual position of applauding them. Whether they succeed or not is another matter – let us look at the recomendations:

  • A test league and play off system over 4 years. This one we agree with. When the world was a bigger place and it was rare or impossible to watch cricket on TV, the visit of any touring side was anticipated and appreciated all the more. Tours were longer, series had more importance both as a player and as a spectator as who knew when they might tour again – in short an international series was an event. With the advent of almost constant international cricket and TV coverage from all over the world available seemingly on demand; cricket as a whole has suffered – most of all, of course, test cricket. In short a series on its own is not enough for many people unless you are a cricket traditionalist and so by giving test cricket a wider context it should in theory create more interest. Other plus points include the fact that sides like New Zealand and Bangladesh who, not being the largest draw cards for the paying public, fail to get so many test matches arranged and so will benefit from a guaranteed number of series per year. Equally with all countries having to play a certain number of tests in this time it should cut down on the number of pointless and boring one day series arranged.

    There are potential issues – for example; will the four year competition length mean that things will carry on much as they are now – interest only peaking if you’re side happens to be in the top four and make the play offs? With the final play off games being one off test matches is that a true reflection on a sides ability as the weather etc could be make a huge difference?

    On the whole however this move is a positive one and we look forward to seeing how it pans out.

  • A ODI League over 3 years. Again there is nothing wrong with this proposal on the face of things although there are no further details at this stage with regards to how exactly it would work. For example what would happen if India and Sri Lanka arranged yet another series between them (as they are wont to do) despite having already played their deciding matches with regard to the league. We suppose it is up to the boards but in theory there should be less interest in these matches and so hopefully these pointless series could die out.
  • A 10 team format for the ODI World Cup. This one we do not agree with. Yes it is true that the last couple of world cups have dragged on to the extent where even the most ardent one day fans were losing interest, and, in theory, by cutting the number of sides this problem would be solved. Yet this would be hard on the associate nations such as Kenya, Holland, Afghanistan and Ireland to name but a few. With no access to first class matches against the top sides (or even A teams of the top sides) the fifty over game is the one aspect of their international lives when they are able to compete against the big boys in a ‘proper’ cricket environment. If the ICC wants to promote the development of cricket and in the long term gain more test playing nations they have to realise that no one will get there having only been exposed to top level 20/20 thrashes.

    This decision also makes a mockery of the performances of Kenya and Ireland in recent world cups – particularly as they have taken a number of memorable scalps in this time. We would rather see the ODI world cup remain as a 16 team format unless the ICC follows up with a credible and imaginative plan for the development of the associate members.

    Finally we presume that the Champions Trophy will be done away with – if not there would be a second ‘ten team’ tournament which would be a world cup in all but name.

  • A 16 team 20/20 world cup. No problems here – more exposure for the junior world teams can only help them. See previous point for more…
  • The introduction of a 20/20 world rankings table and a league to follow. Hardly a ground breaking initiative on the rankings table and a league seems sensible considering that the other formats of the game will have one. Again potentially if used correctly by the ICC this would be a way of controlling the amount of cricket played.

So there we have it. It is quite possible that using this as a framework the ICC could begin to exert more control over all the individual countries and control the game more effectively whilst dealing with such factors as player burn out etc. What we expect to happen however is that after this is put in place it will simply lead to even further cricket, creating hard choices for the players when inevitably they have to make the choice of playing a test match against Bangladesh or appearing in the IPL for example.

Its a step in the right direction but at this stage no more than that.

One Dayers and the Future of the Game

13 08 2010

Crowe’s Comments

There have been some interesting comments coming from Martin Crowe over the past couple of days in the cricket media with regard to the future of test cricket. Crowe has been saying that the world of international cricket should do away with one day international matches and focus its efforts on the preservation of test cricket and the continued propagation of 20/20 cricket. Crowe is a noted innovator and has in the past developed his own variants of the game, his 8 a-side Cricket Max is an example of this, and so perhaps we should not be surprised at anything he says and in actual fact has backing from some fairly unexpected sides. Shane Warne is another who has gone on record saying much the same thing.

This idea raises some interesting questions however and we are not totally sure that we fully support it. Yes the international cricket calendar is over crowded as it stands, yes there is a certain ennui being developed by the repetitive nature of the cricket and yes, even the players seem to agree, frequently complaining of burn out. However to do away with what has traditionally been such a successful variant of the game seems a little extreme.

Couple this with the fact that test cricket is now drawing such pitiful crowds (even recently in the bastions of England and Australia) and, therefore, if the ICC were to rid themselves of the ODI game altogether inevitably revenues would fall.  Factor in that the ICC themselves are such a weak organisation and that even if they tried to enforce something along these lines they would simply be ignored by the respective member countries it is increasingly obvious that Crowes idea would not work.

There are also many other levels at which this is not a practical idea. Currently the only top level exposure for the ICC Affiliate countries like Ireland, Afghanistan and Kenya comes through playing ODI cricket against the full member sides. Remove ODI cricket and suddenly these countries are reduced to developing through the medium of 20/20 cricket and, as we all can appreciate, this would be about as useful a preparation for test cricket as only doing 100 metre sprint training and then running the London Marathon.

We cannot help but feel that if the full member countries and the ICC want to preserve test cricket as the primary game and at the same time maintain an interest in ODI cricket too; they will do much better by simply controlling the amount of meaningless cricket played. Our suggestion would be to limit ODI series to three games only, a similar length 20/20 series – all of which should be played after the test series itself has taken place. Remove such meaningless competitions as the ICC Champions Trophy, endless and frankly dull series between the same countries again and again and suddenly everything will start to feel like an event again. If something matters (and by making these matches more scarce they will inevitably matter more as there is not that feeling of ‘it’s all right lads, there’s another game tomorrow’) then it becomes more interesting to the fans and attendance figures will go up.

We do our best (and usually fail miserably) to avoid clichés and twee statements here at the Compulsive Hooker, yet we are feeling unavoidably drawn into one here (and for that we apologise!). Less is more people – less is more!


The County Game

Interestingly Vikram Solanki, Chairman of the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA) has been saying much the same thing recently. The Friends Provident 2010 20/20 competition has been criticised heavily in many corners over the last couple of months – seemingly never ending (anyone know if it has even finished yet?) and under attended compared to previous years – and even the players are baulking at the demands placed upon them.

Clearly the problems that are present on the international scene are equally as prevalent domestically – all of which leads us to the conclusion that the ECB are just as guilty as any other board around the world – including the BCCI.

Everyone is chasing the short term dollar, rupee or pound whilst not realising or perhaps conveniently forgetting that in the long term they are doing more damage than good to what is the best and most wonderful game in the world.

John Howard’s Rejection

1 07 2010

We can’t help but be disappointed on all sides following the furore surrounding ex-Australian PM John Howard’s aborted bid for the office of Vice-President of the I.C.C.. The sad fact of the matter is that the governance of this wonderful game has become a political point scoring exercise in the ICC’s grasp, rather than what it should be – a guiding hand to safe guard it’s future.

John Howard, a self confessed cricket tragic with unfortunately for him a history of controversy in cricketing circles, was never going to be an easy candidate for Cricket Australia to push. Cricket Australia should have realised this and perhaps gone with New Zealand’s desired choice who apparently would have been more popular, but equally, there seems little reason for the rest of the world (bar England) to react so vehemently. Its not over yet with Cricket Australia apparently considering trying to push him through anyway, yet we can’t see it working the second time if it failed so badly the first.

The ICC is such a toothless body anyway, with most national boards doing their own thing that, in all likelihood, a ‘cricket tragic’ is both the only person willing to do the job and the only person willing to try and work for the game of cricket rather than the board whom they represent. We are not without our reservations regarding John Howard as we don’t agree with him calling Muttiah Muralitharan a ‘chucker’ in 2004 amongst other things, yet to tell the truth and in the absence of other choices, we think cricket could do a lot worse.

The Compulsive Hooker’s main worry is that we get a VP, and subsequently a President, who does not have test cricket’s future as his priority. We worry that with someone in charge who prefers the shorter forms of the game (or the money it generates anyway), the game of test cricket, already under threat, may lose ground irreparably. At least with Howard you know that this form of the game will be his priority.

Either way and whatever the final resolution, this is simply yet another sorry chapter in the history of the ICC and would be laughable if it didn’t reflect on the game we all love.

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