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.

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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.

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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…

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Team By Team World Cup Previews

19 02 2011

So the Cricket World Cup, a tournament that doesn’t finish until the improbable date of April 2nd, gets under way today with a match between the favourites India and the nation applauded by many for giving the tournament back it’s soul, Bangladesh, with what was apparently a passionate and moving opening ceremony. In the best traditions of English cricket supporters and ODI cricket, we have been pretty ambivalent up until this point (regular readers may have guessed due to the lack of comment on this website) about it. Now, however – and as it always does eventually, the world cup bug has grabbed us and we are looking forward to two months of regular, meaningful limited overs cricket.

Therefore here are some short previews and predictions of how the various teams will go:

Australia

Have a better chance than many think. It really comes down to whether their all out pace attack can do the same job as it did in the West Indies four years ago. Tait and Lee are older and more broken than they were back then but still remain excellent bowlers. The batting is a concern and they will need Shane Watson in particular to be the star man in much the same way as Hayden was in the previous tournament. However our pick as a star man is David Hussey who will surely seize his chance and perform in his brother’s absence. Quarter Finalists.

Bangladesh

Over the past year or so there have been definite signs of improvement in this Bangledeshi team although it is hard to argue they have left their frailties behind entirely. Have the ability to spring an upset and could easily end the West Indian’s dreams of success before they even start. As always Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan will be key men with the captain being our pick as the star man. Have every right to believe they can progress and we have them down as quarter finalists.

Canada

This is likely to be a painful tournament for the men from North America. From a cricketing minnow’s point of view they are probably the weakest team but will be hopeful that they can at least beat the Kenyans. Showed in the warm up game against England that they can compete and have a player of good ability in Rizwan Cheema – our star man for the Canadians. Unfortunately we don’t think they will win a game and will go out prior to the knock out stages.

England

Have the potential to be winners although form and injury worries give the feeling that perhaps this might be a tournament too far for them. Morgan’s absence is a massive blow but at least they have the returning (and on form) Stuart Broad to lead the way with the ball. Much will depend on the captain, Andrew Strauss, and a rejuvenated Paul Collingwood, although our pick as star man after a move to the top of the order is Kevin Pietersen. We have argued before that this might not be a bad plan and if he has a good tournament you simply don’t know how far England could go… Semi Finalists*

India

Hardly an unoriginal choice as winners of this tournament, yet this this where the smart money lies. Devastating batting, bowling suited to their home conditions, one feels that if they play to their potential they are likely to be too much for the others. However they are not so far and away the favourites that it is a given and their bowlers in particular need to fire. Tendulkar is our (obvious) pick as star man in what would likely be his last tournament. Winners.

Ireland

Will be desperate to  to show that the decision to exclude associate teams from the next world cup is very short sighted by creating an upset or two. Buoyed by the returning Ed Joyce (the CH’s star man), they will believe they can beat Bangladesh, West Indies and the Netherlands with possibly even England also in their sights. It is unlikely that they would qualify for the latter stages yet like all Irish sporting teams they are combative and should not be discounted. We think they have one upset in them although this will probably not be enough so it is simply the group stages for them.

Kenya

Once seen as the next associate side most likely to be given test status, they have regressed in recent years. They do however possess some talented players with exposure to success at World Cups and will believe at any rate that they could beat both Canada and Zimbabwe. Having transformed himself from the leg spinning hero that took Kenya to the semi finals back in 2003 but who then developed the yips, Colins Obuya has turned himself into a good middle order batsmen and is our star man. Group stages is as far as they will go however.

Netherlands

The eternal ‘almost team’ but still one who opponents take lightly at their cost – just ask England. Have one or two talented players with the stand out being Essex’s excellent Ryan Ten Doeschate who has the potential to be quite brilliant. Like Ireland, will be eyeing up wins against Bangladesh and the West Indies as potential upsets – something that would be quite exceptional – but in all likelihood it is the men from the Emerald Isle who will be their most likely win.  Group stages.

New Zealand

We don’t know what has happened to the Kiwi’s over the past year. They appear to have imploded and, whilst you would be unwise to write them off, it is lucky for them that they are not in Bangladesh’s group. Even Zimbabwe on current form will be a test. Much as always depends on Taylor, Vettori and McCullum (our star man) although it is time for the support acts, Southee, Guptill and Ryder to step up to the plate. Unfortunately we do not see them going past the group stages as we believe Zimbabwe may cause an upset.

Pakistan

Anything could happen quite honestly and it probably will! Led by Afridi and with a bowling attack that can run through anyone on their day (even despite the bans to Amir and Asif) it is the batting that will be crucial to Pakistan. In recent times it has been this aspect of their game that has let them down badly. Star man for us will be the veteran Abdul Razzaq, whose batting is crucial in the late order and can snatch games from the jaws of defeat. Quarter finalists.

South Africa

The team who if only for themselves may well have won two world cups, will believe that with the demise of Australia, this may be their year. Studded with talent in both departments including the interesting choice of Imran Tahir as their attacking spinner, they will be a handful for anyone. Despite the claims of Amla we have plumped for Steyn to shine. Again in this most open of world cups it is far from a given that they will progress past the quarters even as their previous habits of folding under pressure show, yet we believe they will be losing finalists.

Sri Lanka

Possible winners, the Sri Lankans are bound to benefit from home support, familiar pitches and a wealth of talent and it would be a fool who would write them off. We have picked the upcoming Angelo Matthews to be our star man, a player of immense ability, although the old stagers of Sangakarra, Murali, Jayawardene  – not to mention Dilshan et al – will push our choice all the way. We believe they will be Semi Finalists.

West Indies

Of all the teams in the world cup we will be hoping that the West Indies do well. As we all know cricket is struggling in that part of the world and a successful world cup would do wonders for the teams confidence. Anything from semi finals onwards would represent real achievement – something that would mean Chris Gayle has had an excellent world cup. Darren Bravo is our pick as star man although in all honesty Quarter finals is likely to be as much as they can achieve.

Zimbabwe

The men from Southern Africa have been on an upward spiral of late and should not be taken lightly by anyone. We have already called a possible upset against New Zealand and providing they can win the other games they are expected to, this should be enough to put them in the quarter finals. Something that would represent a major achievement. As star man we are going to go for Brendan Taylor although players like Chigurumba or Taibu will push him all the way. 
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Legends, Comebacks and ‘Resting’ Players

22 12 2010

There has been a fair bit of cricket and cricketing news over the past couple of days that we haven’t had time to comment on, so, in very disjointed but hopefully lucid style, we are going to round up our thoughts on these matters.

  • Where else to start but with Sachin? Much has already been written and will undoubtedly continue to be  written about this great little man but his achievement against South Africa was of such a magnitude that we feel the need to add to the cacophony of voices.

    We remember back in 1996 on the Indian tour of England one of the Indian commentators saying that Sachin would one day be the first man to get to 100 international hundreds. At the time this was such a ridiculous number (and quite frankly still is!) that we ascribed this comment to over enthusiasm. With 50 test hundreds and 46 ODI centuries this forgotten commentator has been proved right as it is surely inevitable now.

    With age forcing the decline of other leading players in the game such as Ponting and Dravid, it is not only Sachin’s amount of runs but also his longevity and fitness which should be praised as the little Indian appears to simply get better with age. We believe there is no reason why he can’t go on for another two or three years, in which time it is conceivable that he might end up with close to 120 international hundreds. Certainly we imagine there would be fairly short odds on him reaching 60 test hundreds.

  • From one all time great to another. Jacques Kallis scored 201 not out in South Africa’s one sided game against the Indians over the weekend. Remarkably it was his 38th test match century, yet only his  first double which is an oddity in itself.

    In our eyes he is undoubtedly South Africa’s finest cricketer ever and, perhaps extraordinarily, deserves genuine comparison to the great Sir Garry Sobers. Sobers is consistently called the finest all round cricketer ever to have played the game yet Kallis has achieved figures directly comparable to the great man, undoubtedly without the flair but certainly at a similar level of effectiveness. Well played Sir!

  • New Zealand’s Dan Vettori  has been removed from his all singing and dancing role in New Zealand cricket and been allowed to concentrate on his own game and captaining the side.

    In the turmoil and angst that is New Zealand cricket, Vettori has been a consistently world class operator and effective with ball and bat. If the Black Caps are to remain competitive on the world stage they need him to be firing and so this reduced work load can only be a good thing.

  • A brief Ashes thought now as we are pleased to see that Andy Flower has committed to keeping four bowlers for the Boxing Day test match. There is talk of ‘resting’ Finn and playing either Bresnan or Shahzad in a similar way to which Greg Chappell apparently said Mitchell Johnson was ‘rested for the Adelaide test’. Pure rubbish as anyone can see – if you are removed from the side you are dropped – there is no two ways about it.

    For all his woes at Perth Finn still picked up some crucial wickets and is the leading wicket taker in the series on either side. Leave him in, give him some confidence and he will grow in stature as a test match bowler. We personally don’t mind him leaking a few runs if he is taking wickets.

    If a change is required though, please let it be Shahzad who comes in rather than Bresnan…

  • We feel a little dirty for mentioning this competition – being as it is not one of our favourite developments in world cricket – but the IPL announced their rosters from which sides could pick. The top reserve price is $400,000 and is the level in which such luminaries as KP, Yuvraj Singh, Adam Gilchrist, Dan Vettori and Chris Gayle sit.

    Included in any IPL list for the first time and sitting pretty in this top bracket at the age of 41 and after four years of no cricket was Brian Lara. When his possible signing for Surrey was mooted earlier this year we wrote then that we thought it was a bad idea and we haven’t changed our mind now.

    The problem when legends make come backs is that they rarely enhance their previous reputations. We remember Lara as the mercurial flashing blade that won numerous test matches for the West Indies single handedly. We don’t want to remember him scratching around for 20 off 20 balls in an over hyped domestic competition.

Thoughts on the above?





A Day For Test Cricket Lovers and Chris Gayle

16 11 2010

Yesterday was one of those brilliant days that test cricket lovers enjoy so much. With three separate games going on – one in Sri Lanka, one in India and one in Dubai – it was a joy to switch between the three. Sometimes watching McCullum score what could yet be a match winning century against India; sometimes watching Amla and Kallis setting South Africa up for what will surely be a final day win; and on other occasions watching the coolest cricketer in the world, Chris Gayle, scoring a remarkable 219 not out.

Slightly inevitably, given the fact that Gayle was batting and taking into our account soft spot for the West Indians anyway, we spent most of the time marveling at the power shown by the big Jamaican. In an innings described as ‘mature’ by both the commentators and Cricinfo’s ball by ball coverage several times, he still managed to score at more or less a run a ball and, remarkably, has so far hit eight sixes.

There was a time when a test match innings containing even two or three sixes was worthy of special mention, yet, in this mornings press there wasn’t even much mention of it. It seems that in this modern day and age Gayle was simply doing what is expected – or certainly at any rate, what is expected of him!

What was also notable was the precise yet still infinitely casual manner of his batting. When he hit a six it wasn’t the bludgeoning carve so often seen from him in the shorter forms, but a studied cricket shot that somehow, despite the apparent lack of effort, still went an extraordinary long way.

Having been relieved of the captaincy for this tour we had wondered how he would respond, and, if this is the way he intends to play, the rest of the world better look out. Gayle has long been someone who probably hasn’t done justice to his enormous talent – something that will be an enormous boon to the West Indies should he now push on.

A quick mention for Darren Bravo too. Dwayne’s younger brother, Darren looked calm and collected on his test debut scoring a fine 58 at number 3. Watching him cover drive for four one was strongly reminded of Brian Lara – an unwanted comparison for any young cricketer – yet from a style perspective at least it was uncanny. If Bravo can score even half the number of runs Bravo did – the West Indies will be happy.

In India Brendon McCullum showed further evidence that perhaps finally he is turning into a top class test match player. With the Indian’s achieving a 127 run lead in the first innings it was crucial to New Zealand that someone stood up to ensure that, at the very least, they did not lose the match.

With the final day having got under way at Hyderabad, McCullum is currently 168 not out and the Black Caps lead stands at just over 200 runs. It is unlikely that there will be enough time to go for the win or that they would have enough fire power to get through the superstar Indian line up – yet this match marks another success story for the Kiwis. With their chances written off in all quarters after their heavy defeat to the Bangladeshi’s last month, this tour (providing they don’t lose today) has already been a victory of sorts. With a draw here you never know what might happen in the third and final test…

Finally in Dubai for Pakistan’s ‘home’ test series against the South Africans, the class of the visitors appears to have told. With the pitch in the new Dubai cricket stadium holding up – a triumph for the Dubai authorities – Amla and Kallis both scored hundreds whilst setting Pakistan 451 to win. Pakistan have started reasonably well but with two men out for 109 and the Pakistani psyche hardly set up to play for draws, we suspect that Steyn and co will roll them today.

Please click on the country names for links to the live scoreboards of the Pakistan match, the West Indies match and the Kiwi game – should you be interested.

 





Collingwood In The Runs & Sri Lankan Disrespect

11 11 2010

England 288-8d, South Australia 26-0 Stumps.

A middling day for England once again down under although, unlike at Perth last week, there were a couple of bright points. Collingwood struck 94 and Bell 61 enabling England to scramble to something like respectability. Failures for Strauss and Trott will not worry England unduly and although Cook will remain under the microscope having got to 30 odd before being dismissed.

Running up to this series there has been a great deal of talk given over to England’s bowlers as to whether they will be potent enough to take wickets in Australia. To us however that is not really the crux of the matter. We have said it before and in all likelihood (as is our wont) will keep repeating it to series end but – it will be the batsman that win or lose this series.

Both sides have middling to good attacks and average to good batting line ups. Crucially though, neither sides first choice top six have been in the best of form and it is fair to say that you wouldn’t back either to score 550 and declare at the moment. Therefore the side that does do this, in our opinion, will win the Ashes.

Andy Flower’s avowed policy before this game was to give the test eleven as much practice time in these games as possible by essentially ignoring the substitute fielders. An understandable policy but one which needs to be changed for the next match against Australia A. Eoin Morgan in particular needs some exposure to the bouncy wickets and game situations as, should Cook lose form or one of the other top six become injured, he will immediately be required to slot in -something that in our view should be taken into consideration when picking the side for the next match.

England’s bowlers will now have to bowl well again to maintain their positive start to the tour. The last thing they need is for South Australia to bat for a day and a half and score 400 plus themselves – something that they will be only too keen to do.

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West Indies in Sri Lanka

If anything else was needed to show just how far the West Indies have fallen in the eyes of the cricketing world; it is the fact Sri Lanka have left out their premier fast bowler, Lasith Malinga, from the squad for the upcoming series.

Long gone are the days when the West Indians coming to town evoked a mix of fear, fascination and awed respect – but even so, to not select your best team to play them is bordering on the downright rude. We know and understand the arguments about Malinga’s importance to the world cup challenge in February; that he has in the past suffered from injury so a certain amount of wrapping in cotton wool is expected – but to rest him for a test series seems extraordinary.

The commitment to test cricket’s primacy is belied by this move; as well as displaying a not inconsiderable amount of disrespect to the West Indies themselves. Malinga is a wonderful bowler and we for one are disappointed that we won’t see him bowl at Gayle, Bravo and Chanderpaul in this series.

 





Tremlett Rising, Freelance Cricketers and Australia in India

26 09 2010

Warne Rates Tremlett

Interesting words from Shane Warne in the Daily Telegraph today. According to the great man, Chris Tremlett of Surrey and latterly Hampshire, has the potential to be one of the best fast bowlers in the world ‘bar none’. He even goes as far as to say that in the nets he ‘is the best bowler in the world’ and is quite ‘unplayable’. Warne qualifies this however by going on to say what everyone in England has long suspected – namely that Tremlett is a little on the ‘soft’ side.

We sincerely hope that his move to Surrey has ensured that a tougher sheen has been brought to him as, if not, a tour of Australia is hardly the place to be.  Tremlett, a little like Simon Jones albeit for entirely different reasons, has been one of the talents that had looked like might go to waste. If the entirely likely curse of injury hits the England seam attack his chance may come and hopefully Warne’s prediction of him being able to hit the number one bowling slot in the world will be shown as having distinct possibilities.

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West Indian Problems

The never ending saga of disputes between the players and the WICB (West Indian Cricket Board) took yet another twist over the weekend. If the players aren’t on strike because they haven’t been paid, or they’re not paid enough, or the WICB is electing a new president, or any other of a myriad of possible reasons – it turned out that two of the most recognisable players have this time simply refused to sign.

Dwayne Bravo – probably the most valuable player the West Indies have in their current line up (with a duly deferential nod to Mr. Chandepaul) – and Kieron Pollard, 20/20 hitter of note, have rejected contracts worth $80,000 in favour of being able to pick and choose their own commitments. As with England, a central contract enables the board to veto the players participation in any given tournament and requires the player to play for the West Indies when fit and selected. Unfortunately, with much larger amounts of money available elsewhere – Pollard was signed by the Mumbai Indians for $750,000 – these two have decided to remain able to decide for themselves where they play.

The worrying issue here is that, with the West Indies hardly being the force they once were and with the proliferation of 20/20 cricket around, this might start a trend. These two players are at entirely different stages of their careers – Pollard of course is yet to play test cricket (or even much first class cricket) whereas Bravo has played 37 test matches and is a regular when fit for the West Indies.

Much has been written about the necessary primacy of test cricket but in practice it appears to be a foundation that is slowly being chipped away and this could be the first instance of one more brick being removed. If the West Indies start losing players then their already weak base is eroded, teams such as India would stop entertaining them – probably regardless of any Future Tours Progam – other countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan go down this route, and suddenly test cricket seems a slight irrelevance.

Perhaps we are being overly pessimistic and both Bravo and Pollard are committed to continuing to represent or,  in Pollards case, making a name for themselves internationally, but it does appear to be yet another instance of 20/20 cricket slowly taking over the world game…

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Australia go to India

Australia are in the middle of playing their one and only first class warm up game of their two test match and three one day international series. Typically the Australian batsman are making hay on a flat surface against a side that contains three bowlers who have represented India in test matches – a ruthless trait that says everything about Australian cricketers.

This series, whilst apparently only organised for financial reasons, is hardly the best warm up for the Ashes as Ricky Ponting amongst others have said. Last time they toured several of the leading Australian fast bowlers broke down – Peter Siddle has only just come back from his injury there – and so it is possible that this tour, coming as it does immediately prior to the Ashes, could actually be England’s greatest ally. For our money at the Compulsive Hooker, we would rather England face a full strength Australian side although we wouldn’t be averse to a Glenn McGrath Edgbaston moment before the all important first test.

One further thing about this series is its length. Australia versus India whether down under or in the sub continent is an epic series on a par with the Ashes. To only have two test matches seems a real shame and would be akin to watching a film or series which is broken off half way through. It just doesn’t seem enough – particularly when you have two so well matched sides as these two.

For a prediction we believe that Australia will either win this series or it will be a draw. The Indian bowling attack, though bolstered by Zaheer Khan’s return to fitness, is not one to inspire terror and will struggle to take 20 wickets. The Australian one does at least have the benefits of genuine pace and if Hauritz performs should at least be able to do the job once, which, in a two test series is usually enough.





West Indies All Time XI

26 07 2010

As regular readers of Cricinfo will be aware, panels of experts from each country have been putting together an All Time XI for each test playing country. Over the past couple of weeks it has been the turn of the West Indies and nothing has illustrated their current woes more clearly than the sides selected. It is little surprise that none of the current crop made it into the team as, quite frankly, this is a team which  we would back to beat any other All Time Side from any other country. In full the team selected by the panels was as follows:

1. Gordon Greenidge
2. Conrad Hunte
3. George Headley
4. Viv Richards
5. Brian Lara
6. Garry Sobers
7. Jackie Hendriks
8. Malcolm Marshall
9. Michael Holding
10. Curtly Ambrose
11. Lance Gibbs

When you consider that this team could conceivably and realistically read as below – you see exactly how far the West Indies have fallen. The second eleven would still be too good for most other All Times Sides – even without such luminaries as Shiv Chanderpaul, Richie Richardson, Clive Lloyd, Colin Croft and Deryck Murray to name but a few.

1. Desmond Haynes
2. Roy Fredericks
3. Everton Weekes
4. Clyde Walcott
5. Frank Worrell
6. Learie Constantine
7. Jefferey Dujon
8. Joel Garner
9. Andy Roberts
10. Courtney Walsh
11. Wes Hall/Sonny Ramadhin (depending on conditions!)

For the full article please click here.








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