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 Dutch Star, Zimbabwean Merits and a Non-Dilemma

3 06 2010

Ryan ten Doeschate Impresses

Clearly a month and a half of first class cricket plus one test match is all that the England cricketing public can handle. Yesterday, the domestic English 20/20 cricket tournament got under way with games between Essex and Kent and Leicestershire and Derbyshire. Here at the Compulsive Hooker, we weren’t planning on writing about any of this tournament, but this changed having watched Essex bat in their game.

We haven’t previously paid much attention to Ryan Ten Doeschate, having been aware of him in the way that most county cricket followers would be, but after his performance yesterday (in a losing cause it must be said) we feel he deserves some column inches! Ryan TD scored a magnificent 98 from 47 balls in as controlled an exhibition of hitting as we have seen for some time. This was also against a more than reasonable attack with 4 capped test bowlers in it (albeit a couple of what are likely to be one test wonders) and so cannot be taken lightly.

Looking up Ryan TD’s record we discovered that he has a more than impressive record, averaging a shade under 50 in first class cricket, and an incredible 67 in One Day Internationals for Holland. Admittedly a great deal of these games have been against associate level international teams but even so it is worth noting. Add in his more than useful bowling and you have quite a cricketer.

With foreign born players being so prevalent these days, we find it surprising that no one from the ECB or the South African cricket board (he was born in SA) has quietly inquired as to his availability!

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Zimbabwe Look Good

If you take out Zimbabwe’s performance against Sri Lanka two days ago, and factor in their very strong performance (and likely win) today against what is effectively a mixed full Indian and Indian A team, you would have to say that Zimbabwe look at least as strong as the current Bangladesh team.

We would like to see these two sides play each other in the near future and would have a small wager on the fact that Zimbabwe would come off on top. Certainly, at least, in ODI cricket. With the improvement of sides such as Zimbabwe and Ireland, and the continuing slide of the West Indies, perhaps after all there is an argument for two tier test cricket?

You suspect that the West Indies would be horrified by the prospect, and equally would be likely to win any competition of this sort comfortably, yet, if they don’t pick up their game soon, the two tier format could gain more support. In all honesty we wouldn’t like to see this happen as it may ring the death knell for cricket in the Caribbean and it would be a terrible fate for players as talented as Dwayne Bravo, Chris Gayle and Shiv Chanderpaul, yet somehow the ICC needs to promote the second tier teams and this is one feasible way.

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Sidebottom?

With the second and final test match of the series starting tomorrow, there is some debate as to whether Ryan Sidebottom or Ajmal Shahzad will be picked in Tim Bresnan’s spot. It is annoying to us that this is even a debate quite honestly and as we see it should be resolved as below:

  • Shahzad: Already in the 12 having missed out to Finn in the last game, is right handed like Bresnan (and possibly more dynamic having seen both play in the flesh), and offers run making ability late in the order as well.
  • Sidebottom: Leftie so added variety.

This is all that we could come up with in favour of Sidebottom, never mind the fact that surely if he was next in line, he would have been in the squad for the last game! There is an avowed rotation policy at work in this series so why not use this opportunity to see what an untried and fresh bowler offers rather than go back to the old and known.

With Sidebottom we have a similar fear to that of Bresnan, namely Ponting’s eyes lighting up when he sees who is lining up at the top of the bowlers run up. Harsh perhaps; but we can’t get away from it!





World 20/20: Team of the Tournament

18 05 2010

With the World Cup 20/20 now having finished and the excitement of England’s win wearing off, it is time of the Compulsive Hooker to choose our team of the tournament.

1. Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka – 302 runs @ SR of 159.78*)
Alongside his team mate, Kumar Sangakarra, probably the most graceful batsmen on the planet possessing exquisite timing and surprising power for a small man. Top run scorer in the tournament and and possessor of the second highest strike rate of batsmen who have scored over 100 runs, his selection is a no-brainer.

2. Kamran Akmal (Pakistan – 180 runs @ SR of 120.80)
Perhaps a surprise selection given the amount of media coverage given to Australia and England’s opening pairs. Yet Akmal scored more runs than any of them bar Kieswetter and was one of the more consistent Pakistani players (if there is such a thing!). His runs in the semi-final against Australia were crucial and almost contributed to a surprise victory.

3. Kevin Pietersen (England – 248 runs @ SR of 137.77)
Who else quite frankly? This tournament was an emphatic way to answer KP’s critics and his batting on occasions defied belief (his destruction of Dale Steyn will live long in the memory). Shane Warne yesterday called him ‘the most destructive batsmen in world cricket’ and that’s good enough for us.

4.   Cameron White (Australia – 180 runs @ SR of 146.34)
There is a strong argument doing the rounds that White should bat at 3 or 4 and skipper the Australian side instead of Clarke. For us there seems to be little wrong with this idea as time and again White proved how good he is in this format. He didn’t necessarily score the bulk of runs as one or two others due to his late entrances, yet his strike rate and his excellent innings against Bangladesh mean he is, in our opinion, the best pick for this position.

5. Eoin Morgan (England – 183 runs @ SR of 128.87)
Morgan continues to impress in an England shirt, and with him and Hussey in this team, we would back them to chase any total down. More impressive finishers in world cricket there are not. The invention of his stroke play catches the eye, yet it is the cleverness with which he does it that is truly impressive. Invariably he chooses the right ball and unlike some other batsman known for their audaciousness, he is rarely dismissed doing it. Must play test cricket soon.

6. Michael Hussey (Australia – 188 runs @ SR of 175.70)
Who would have thought that prior to the tournament Mike Hussey would have had the highest strike rate in Australia’s team, let alone overall! This is a promotion up the order from his Australian spot at 7, yet we think he has deserved it. His performance in the semi final against Pakistan was remarkable, not just for his hitting, but for the coolness with which he did it.

7. Daniel Vettori (New Zealand – 69 runs @ SR of 109.52 & 3 wickets @ ER** of 5.68)
Whilst he only had a reasonable tournament with the bat, Vettori was brilliant once again with the ball conceding less than 6 runs an over. Rapidly proving himself to be an intelligent skipper as well, he gets our vote to lead this side.

8. Darren Sammy (West Indies – 6 wickets @ ER of 5.26)
Sammy surprised the Compulsive Hooker enormously in this tournament with his control and consistency. The best West Indian bowler by some distance he is an easy pick for this XI. Would also provide some big hitting at number 8 as he showed in a brutal innings of 30 early in the competition.

9. Graeme Swann (England – 10 wickets @ ER of 6.54)
Recognised as the premier spinner in world cricket now by no less a judge as Shane Warne, Swann bowled with tight control whilst retaining his wicket taking flight and spin. His handy batting, whilst not needed by England in the tournament would come in handy at 9 in this eleven.

10. Mitchell Johnson (Australia – 10 wickets @ ER of 6.49)
Part of what was reckoned to be the strongest seam bowling attack in the tournament, Johnson gets the nod for his excellent performances throughout, plus his ability to hit the ball along way late in the batting order. Wasn’t shown up by England in the same way Tait was in the final, hence his inclusion despite Tait’s more economical figures tournament long.

11. Hamid Hassan (Afghanistan – 4 wickets @ ER of 4.14)
And now for the bolter in the team! Hassan gets picked for being the most economical bowler in the tournament, which before you naysayers disagree saying he only played 2 matches – remember those two games were against the two powerhouses of India and South Africa. Would also provide the team with a character and someone wearing a sweatband around their head 80’s style!

12th Man: Jacques Kallis (South Africa 171 runs @ SR of 116.32 & 2 wickets @ ER of 6.40)
Able to slot in anywhere with bat and ball, he would be the ideal man for the job.

So there you have it 3 English, 3 Australia, 1 West Indian, 1 Kiwi, 1 Pakistani, 1 Afghani and 1 Sri Lankan. We would back this team to win most games although we confess to being worried about a few catches going down behind the stumps. Akmal, however, was the only gloveman other than Kieswetter to push himself into contention and he gets our vote for his greater contribution with the bat. With the bat Suresh Raina can count himself unlucky having scored the only other 100 in the tournament, however he failed when India needed him most and so we have counted that against him. In the bowlers Shaun Tait, Dirk Nannes, Stuart Broad, Harbhajan Singh and Jacques Kallis can all count themselves unlucky however we think the 5 selected would do the job.

What are your thoughts? Who would you have picked?

* SR (Strike rate) is given as number of runs scored per 100 balls.
** ER (Economy rate) is given as runs per over.





Kiwi Guts and West Indian Failings

9 03 2010

New Zealand have, this morning, slipped behind in their one day series against Australia, going down by 6 wickets. After a blip in the first game, the Aussies are back on track and in this game rode a steam roller over the Kiwi bowling attack.

This notwithstanding, the Kiwi cricket team are a marvel of world cricket and long have been. From a relatively small playing populations, they consistently find players who can mix it with the best teams and frequently trouble their neighbours across the Tasman sea. They are the kings of bits and pieces cricketers, with the honourable exceptions of Dan Vettori, Brendan McCullum, Ross Taylor and potentially Martin Guptill who are very good players. Yet all of these bits and pieces players chip in at some point when they have to.

Indeed it is our view , that, as the West Indies prepare to meet Zimbabwe in the deciding game of their current series tomorrow, the Windies would do well to take a leaf out of the Kiwi book. In terms of raw talent the men from the Caribbean probably outshine the Kiwi’s, yet they seem locked in a cycle of defeat and often simply don’t appear to have the stomach for the fight. 

In their current series they have already managed to lose a 20/20 and ODI to the Zimbabweans, which when you have players like Gayle and Chanderpaul is criminal. Chanderpaul, it must be noted, we except from these criticisms as he has proven time and again to be one of the best players of his generation. Gayle et al on the other hand underperform so frequently that you have to wonder what is wrong. The eternal politics and machinations of the WICB don’t help matters and the lure of the 20/20 dollar is probably affecting their performance, yet it seems there is something else missing.

Perhaps it is pride. Pride in the badge and honour of playing for a united West Indian team, which once so evident in players like Viv Richards, Richie Richardson, Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall doesn’t appear to be there anymore. Cricket is of course their job and their livelihood and as such would be a drag on certain occasions, yet playing for your country should be more than that. Perhaps it is a possible burn out factor caused by the proliferation of test, one day and 20/20 cricket in the last 20 years but whatever it is, it needs to be addressed and quickly.

Chris Gayle has come in for much criticism over the past couple of years with his actions surrounding the IPL, seemingly lackadaisical attitude  and his stated preference for the shorter form of the game. Ottis Gibson, the Windies new head coach, must work with him to ensure that he is fully on board and motivated. Without a strong figurehead any team will suffer, and to have the most important job in West Indian cricket in the hands of someone who doesn’t appear to be totally committed is a mistake. As a captain he is tactically sound and we know he is capable (consider his recent crucial hundred against Australia before Christmas) of performing when the chips are down. He must simply do it more often. 

We read somewhere (please correct us if our memory fails to serve) that in their last 64 games, the West Indies have only won 7 games. Bangladesh have won something like 5 in the same period, as have Zimbabwe. This is as damning a statistic as there is available and if the situation does not improve, cricket will suffer dreadfully over the next 20 years in the region. Nobody likes losing again and again, and so to inspire new youngsters and even to keep such potentially brilliant individuals as Dwayne Bravo from becoming a Flintoff style free lancer, they need to rectify this record.

The cricket world needs a strong West Indian team, as with Pakistani cricket also appearing to be collapsing inwardly and struggling with factors outside of their control, there appear to be only 6 strong nations playing the game today. The Windies and their fans provide a vitality and spark, without which cricket would be much worse off.





Sporting Bravery and Injury

8 03 2010

Continuing our fascination with the hockey world cup that is being played in Delhi at the moment, a story this morning caught our eye regarding England’s left wing Iain Mackay. During Saturday’s 3-2 win over India, Mackay suffered a broken nose and has vowed to continue playing. As the Daily Telegraph wryly puts it this is fortunate as ‘the only other possibility if another England player is injured, is for second goalkeeper Nic Brothers to play left wing’.

The Compulsive Hooker team are lucky in that none of us have ever suffered a broken nose. We are pretty confident it is a painful injury and admire Mr. Mackay for putting England and potential glory first. This has inspired us to put together a short list of other cases where an individual has put themselves on the line for the cause of winning or avoiding defeat.

Some sports lend themselves to these particular acts of bravery more than others. Cricket for example is littered with them, as is horse racing, whereas other sports, such as football and rugby due to the contact nature and risk of more serious potential problems from playing on, often prohibit this sort of bravery. All of the specific examples we can think of are cricket related but we are positive there are many many more:

  • Colin Cowdrey (England vs West Indies, 1963): Cowdrey is famous for coming out to bat at number 11 during this match with a broken wrist and an over to go, with England trying to save the game. As it turned out he didn’t need to face a ball but the gesture said it all.
  • Malcolm Marshall (West Indies vs England, 1984): Having broken his thumb whilst fielding and heavily bandaged, Marshall managed to take 7-53 to win the game. Prior to this at the end of the West Indies first innings he had even managed to smash a four through the covers one handed.
  • Allan Border (Australia vs England, 1981): In an extraordinary display of grit, Border batted 377 minutes with a broken finger during the 5th and 6th tests of this amazing series. Anyone who remembers the troubles Nasser Hussain was frequently in with his ‘glass’ fingers throughout his career will be impressed by this.

In horse racing the equestrian world is so competitive, it is almost commonplace for a jockey to ride with a broken rib or worse, although we cannot find any specific examples. This is probably due to the fact that if one jockey were to make a song or dance of it he would be laughed out the weighing room.

We know there are many more examples in far more varied sports – please let us know what we have forgotten in the comments!





General Cricket Musings

22 02 2010

Shock Horror – Exciting ODI Cricket….

Due to the huge disappointment that there are no more test matches to come between India and South Africa, the Compulsive Hooker team have taken a stand against the ODI series that got under way yesterday. Our resolve to take no notice of it was severely tested though due to the excitement coursing through our Indian colleagues as the game developed. Finally giving in, we turned it on for the last ball (wishing we’d actually watched the whole thing) to find South Africa only 3 runs away from an unlikely win. Parnell was then run out to give India victory by 1 run. Bearing in mind the Proteas had been 225-8 with Steyn and Parnell at the crease it was highly unlikely they would even get close so well played to these two.

ODI cricket appears to be the least loved form of the game currently in world cricket, with many players, including Shane Warne for example, stating that it is the form that is most likely to be affected by the 20/20 revolution. Unquestionably it can be incredibly dull in probably 3 matches out of 5 (the current Australia Windies and Australia Pakistan series demonstrated this perfectly) but when it gets it right it is brilliant.

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Tinkering with County Cricket

Proposals have been put forward again to split the existing County Cricket set up in England into regional divisions, meaning a reduction in games and with semi finals and finals at the end. This is due to the fact that the schedule is deemed to be over crowded and with added pressures emerging from competitions such as the 20/20 Champions League, something has to give.

That something is proposed to be the four day Championship competition, which the advocates for this scheme are suggesting be cut down to 12 games. Understandably the counties are reluctant to cut the Pro 40 and 20/20 competitions due to the fact that these are the main money spinners, and with Counties eternally struggling to make ends meet, there is no chance of these being conceded.

Unfortunately what this represents is money again dictating what sort of cricket is played. First Class cricket is the essence of the game and with its primacy being chipped away it has long term dire implications for test cricket. Being cricket traditionalists by way of thinking here at the CH, we cannot really support these proposed changes.

It would be interesting to see what people think of the County Championship in the comments section below. Do you follow it online/live/in the media? Do you think these changes might be a good thing/bad thing? Let us know!

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A Warning for England

A result that slipped under the radar in the excitement of going to see a live cricket match and the culmination of the India South Africa series, was New Zealand’s defeat of Bangladesh in their one off test match a couple of days ago. As expected New Zealand won relatively comfortably in the end with the visiting side collapsing as per usual in their second innings when seemingly in a position where they could draw the game.

England, who are due in Bangladesh imminently for their test, ODI and 20/20 games, should not take them lightly as other wise they could easily end up in providing Bangladesh with their first notable scalp in world cricket. It’s not as if it has happened before is it – England collapse against no-hopers? Never.

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Following on from the success in New Zealand of one or two of Bangladesh’s youngsters we have put a list of players we tip for possibly great things over the next 10 years.

1. Shakib Al-Hasan (Bangladesh)

2. Martin Guptill (New Zealand)

3. Kieron Pollard (West Indies)

4. Adrian Barath (West Indies)

5. Mohammed Aamer (Pakistan)

You may be surprised to read that we have included Pollard in this category, but having watched some of his recent performances where he has held what little Windies batting there is together, we have been impressed. Providing his head is right we believe he can make it in test cricket as well. The others are not radical picks but have all shown glimmers over the past 6 months.





Kieron Who?

24 01 2010

Kieron Pollard is a name not known by many outside cricketing circles. Even within these aforesaid circles, many people would pause for a minute saying ‘I know that name… hang on. Is he West Indian? I can’t remember exactly who he is though.’

Pollard is one of the new breed of cricketers renowned for their striking of a cricket ball in much the same way that Babe Ruth was renowned for his ability to hit a baseball. He recently sold for the maximum of $750,000 at the IPL auction last week for the 2010 series. Bought by Mumbai Indians, the astonishing thing is that a year ago he would have been lucky to have been bought for $50,000 or even at all. It is not only the IPL that has been drooling over his striking ability though; he played for the South Australian Redbacks in the Big Bash Twenty20 competition recently and today it has been announced he is signing for Somerset Sabres for the English 20/20 competition. This exceptional level of interest all stems from one innings Pollard played in the 20/20 Champions League back in late 2009. (The Champions League, for those who were confused by yet another banal 20/20 competition, is the winners and runners up of all domestic 20/20’s come together to find out who is the best in the world). He scored 54 in 18 balls to rescue his side from a lost cause and win the game.

Pollard appears to be one of the new breed of almost exclusively 20/20 itinerant players. Here at the Compulsive Hooker, we don’t blame him for wanting to cash in on his fame but we worry for the future of cricket. (We know this is a constant refrain on this site so we won’t go into too much detail here….) With 20/20 being an inherently risky form of the game from a batsmen’s perspective, it is not unreasonable to expect that Pollard will have a couple of lean tournaments in a row, meaning that his earning power is then heavily reduced. In fact in 20/20’s he actually only averages around 17 which is hardly an awe inspiring figure so $750,000 seems far too much really.

It will be interesting to see whether Pollard ever makes the leap from 20/20 star to fully fledged test cricketer. He undoubtedly has talent and even a reasonable record at first class level, but with the emphasis being on trying to hit everything out the park, it is doubtful whether he will learn the mental skills needed for test cricket.








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