West Indies transport woes strike at last

The great fear about the 2007 World Cup, brought to you by the ICC and a list of Corporate Partnersâ„¢ as long as your arm, was that the transport infrastructure might not be able to cope. In the wake of constant fumbling by the ICC, these fears have been overshadowed, and there have not been any great cock=ups.

Until now.

It was better to be a piece of luggage than a player – Australia’s luggage was sent on a 40-minute direct flight from Grenada to St Lucia while players were five hours in transit after having to go through Barbados.

South Africa’s luggage beat the team to St Lucia by two hours, after the travel-weary Proteas arrived last night three hours behind schedule.

At one stage in Grenada, the Australian, New Zealand and Sri Lankan players disembarked the flight after waiting for 30 minutes in their seats before being summoned back on board as it left 95 minutes late.

The pilot of the charter flight apologised on the tarmac and the players were starting to wonder whether the pilot may have lost his bearings when he signed off with “goodnight”.

It was noon.

Room was so tight on the flight from Barbados to Grenada that some players, including Matthew Hayden, struggled to find room to put their feet.

The Sri Lankans and New Zealanders were more disadvantaged because they are playing tonight (AEST), whereas Australia does not play South Africa until tomorrow night.

One Sri Lankan player quipped: “The way we are going our first look at the ground will be on match morning – from about 6000 feet.”

Whoops!

The Beer Lover’s Guide to Cricket

Yes, it’s true. It exists! It’s about proper beer and proper cricket and it’s all in one pint-sized hardback piece of goodness.

The Beer Lover's Guide to Cricket

There are many books about cricket and many on beer, but this is the first book to bring the two subjects together. Leading beer writer and cricket enthusiast Roger Protz has visited the major grounds of all the First Class counties to prepare in-depth profiles of them – their history, museums, memorabilia and notable records. Many of the museums, including Lord’s, Trent Bridge, Taunton and Old Trafford help trace the history of the game with fascinating collections of ancient bats, balls, blazers, books, caps and trophies. “The Beer Lover’s Guide to Cricket” also details some of the great cricket victories, including Jim Laker’s 19 wickets in a Test; Botham’s remarkable feat at Headingley in snatching victory from the jaws of defeat against the Australians and the pulsating 2005 Ashes series. The pleasure of each visit is rounded off with a detailed description of the best pubs in the vicinities of the grounds and the real ales they sell. The book also traces the fascinating story of the birth of the modern game at the Broadhalfpenny ground in Hampshire opposite a pub, the Bat & Ball, and shows how the tradition of good beer and cricket is kept alive at many grounds.

Get this immediately.

Singing in the style of Brian Johnston

“Is it the Ashes … yes, it’s the Ashes, England have won the Ashes!” Those words, memorably and rather wheezily uttered by Brian Johnston in 1953, are often impersonated in Cricinfo. And on a rare day in which we had no cricket to cover, I discovered a brand new game with which to irritate my colleagues: singing in the style of Johnners. It is a game of infinite possibilities and variations. Be it punk, metal, folk, garage, rap, you too can sound as daft as me. I had particular fun with Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer while my boss, a fellow Ramones fan, suggested Sheena is a Punk Rocker:

Well the kids are all hopped up and ready to go
They’re ready to go now
They’ve got their surfboards
And they’re going to the discotheque a go go
But she just couldn’t stay
She had to break away
Well New York City really has it all
Oh yeah, oh yeah

Sheena is a punk rocker
Sheena is a punk rocker
Sheena is a punk rocker now
She’s a punk punk, a punk rocker
Punk punk, a punk rocker
Punk punk, a punk rocker

Suggestions welcome

Wasted? – Paul Smith’s autobiography

Update: review of Paul Smith’s Wasted? at Cricinfo.

One of my early memories of cricket is watching Paul Smith tear in to bowl off an inordinately long run-up, arms flaying around, long hair, “flinging” down his medium pacers. He was nothing special but the rebel in me respected his unconformity. He was rock’n’roll, a bit crazy, and just the type of cricketer an 11-year-old tried wished he could be. And it turns out he’s written a book.

Wasted - Paul Smith's autobiography

It could be very, very dull; he fell into drugs, lost his wife and children and so forth, so it might be one of those sickly autobiographies in which he’s found God, or peace within himself, or finds knitting a good way to stave the cravings. If and when I get a copy, I’ll let you know what it reveals – or buy your own from Amazon, and help pay for the exploding costs of running this site…

Goodbye ODI (for now); welcome back Test

If an ODI was a person, I’d punch him right now. Regular readers and gluttons of this blog will know of my dislike for the shorter format of the game and, after a bloated and absurdly organised World Cup, I’d rather eat my feet than sit through another series. I can stomach a semi-final and a final, though.

If a Test was a person, I certainly wouldn’t punch him and might even offer him a drink. The real cricket of the summer gets underway in (amazingly) just 24 days’ time with West Indies taking on England at Lord’s. Ah, Test cricket: three slips and a gully; a respectable three-and-a-half runs per over; maidens and normal field placings. That’s what we want. One-day cricket, the new kid on cricket’s block, has already reached its shelf life. The five-day game still reigns supreme.

But will West Indies ever get here? Their coach resigned early this morning, their captain a few days earlier and there are no dead-set certain replacements for either position. All this on top of another seemingly endless contract crisis. Fingers crossed they do manage to brush the latest mess under the carpet once more, because the two countries have a rich and fascinating history.

Talking of which…we’ve been beavering away today writing brief series histories all the way back from 1928; 1960 to 1980; 1980-1995 and 1995-2004. I’m clearly biased, but nevertheless feel this is one area Cricinfo really shines as we can link to the Almanack report and our own series page – not to mention every scorecard from every match played between the two countries. That’s pretty damn useful for the fan, I reckon. Have a read and leave your thoughts if you have any.

What are you most looking forward to this summer (anyone who mentions one-dayers will be publicly humiliated)?

Domestic parades

There is one thing to be said of one-day tournaments. No one expects an English impression. Of course, my inner patriotic flag-waver occasionally gets over-excited by gritty half centuries and out-swingers that inevitably evade the edge, but it was evident from as early as the tentative pushes played to Dwayne Leverock’s tweakers that this World Cup was going to be little different to the last.

So back to the drawing board, and the full length game. As any revising teenager will tell you, time is short between England’s return and May 17th. Yet somehow, Peter Moores, along with a criticised selection committee and a captain under pressure, must select 11 players to take the field at Lord’s. Although it has been a long winter for many of those returning from the Caribbean, it is surely a question of how many appearances they will make for their counties, and not whether they will appear.

Whilst those in the national one-day squad have been touching up the Bajan suntan, some of the Ashes party have already started their first-class accounts for 2007 with mixed success. Pleasingly, the first round of Championship matches has not undergone a domination of rain or, indeed, of any particular discipline. Both teams failed to successfully remove the other at a high scoring game at Taunton, while Mushtaq Ahmed ran amok in the first innings at Sussex after declaring himself below full match fitness. Alastair Cook made his second century in as many games after captaining the MCC last week, Hoggard made a good second innings four-for, while Will has already flagged Harmison’s impression on return. Geraint Jones, however, compounded his disappointing winter with single figures in both innings, and Ashley Giles spent the first week of the season in Colorado undergoing exploratory hip surgery.

Difficult decisions will have to be made before England play again, not least being how much rest to give the players returning this week. Unfortunately for both Jones and Giles, their names almost certainly will not be amongst those causing concern.

Harmison and Jones on the comeback trail

So Steve Harmison is beginning to show signs of mental rehabilitation from the horror show of last winter, with eight wickets in the match against Worcestershire. In an interesting piece for The Times, Robin Scott-Elliott notes that Harmison has already bowled more Championship overs a week into the 2007 season than he did all last summer (just 32).

Today is an important milestone for Simon Jones who plays in his first competitive game for Glamorgan in almost a year, a Friends Provident Trophy thing against Somerset. Will he last a whole game intact?

Eleven pioneers of one-day cricket

When you get too many cricket nuts sat round a table, it doesn’t take long before you start picking the greatest teams of all time.

And so it was last night. Our goal was slightly different, in that it was not a question of results, figures etc, but rather picking which eleven players had most altered ODI l cricket for the better. Those whose skill, style, attitude and innovation added new expectations to those players that followed them. As a result, batsmen like Ponting, Tendulkar, Lara, Pietersen don’t get a look in, nor do bowlers like McGrath or Murali, as others set the bench mark, which they would later raise further. No doubt, there are players we’ve missed out! Surely there is an Indian or two…

1. Adam Gilchrist 2. Sanath Jayasuriya 3. Viv Richards 4. Mark Waugh 5. Clive Lloyd 6. Michael Bevan 7. Jonty Rhodes 8. Lance Klusener 9. Wasim Akram 10. Shane Warne 11. Waqar Younis

Thoughts?

Ian Valentine is a freelance journalist blogging his diary of the World Cup for The Corridor

Aussie fans: a case study

“That’s a bloody disgrace, getting out like that! He should be ashamed of himself. Disgusting! What an idiot!”

To listen to the Aussie next to me (this was a rough translation – please add expletives to taste), you could be forgiven for thinking that Matthew Hayden had missed a full toss first up. Of course, the big Queenslander had just helped himself to another hundred on a blazing hot day in Grenada. From a television screen behind us in this perfect cricket ground, I could hear the commentator Mark Nicholas pouring forth his usual treacle, hailing the innings as a treat for the crowd and a display of expert strokeplay. Which it was.

Australian fans

Perhaps, therein lies the difference between winners and losers. A hundred wasn’t enough, even if the score was 220 odd for 3. Imagine if Michael Vaughan had scored 100, would we be berating him? Hayden also stalked off like he had just swallowed a wasp, before saluting the massed ranks of jubilant Aussies that had swelled the ground to a record attendance. I sat in the party stand for an hour or so until it got too hot for my pommy skin and I marvelled at how the ‘Hayden strut’ is so much part of the Australian male. They all walk about like him, shoulders back, chest puffed and chin forward. My favourite example was a skinny wretch built like Mr Muscle, who still tried to make the most of what he had, posturing about like Arnie in a street brawl. But at least he was fully clothed, unlike the Speedo brigade who hugged and grappled every time something went their way. Aussies are real men!

Joking apart, it was great to see a proper total posted. Shane Watson was the surprise package, playing shots that defied belief, all of them pure and proper. I was one of the many who couldn’t understand why the selectors kept coming back to him. “He’s like chopped liver,” said one of the Aussies on the boat, which I presume is a bad thing. However, and not for the first time, I was proved wrong. He was brilliant.

Ian Valentine is a freelance journalist blogging his diary of the World Cup for The Corridor

England v West Indies, Super Eights, Barbados

It’s a day of last hurrahs. England’s final match; West Indies last game; Duncan Fletcher’s and Brian Lara’s last in international cricket and, apart from those departing, it’s an utterly meaningless encounter. Due to Fletcher’s retirement, England are apparently now up for the match (which is nice). All we want is a Lara hundred though, don’t we?

Leave your wibblings below and keep an eye on the scorecard.