Sambit Bal on Test Match Special

Pretty cool moment for us today when Sambit Bal, our editor, was invited onto Test Match Special during the tea interval of the 2nd Test at Trent Bridge. Jonathan Agnew knows and likes Cricinfo, but it was nevertheless oddly exciting to hear him be so amazed at how Sambit (and us) manage to produce a site of such breadth and depth. Anyway, it might be online if you fancy a listen – check TMS’s site.

Lucky? Don’t be such a bastard

I am apparently, among other things, a bastard. I dared to suggest on Cricinfo’s commentary today that India had enjoyed a slice or nine of good fortune. Edges flying past fielders, or falling short; edges sneaking past stumps; balls passing the bat countless times. Yet the feedback we received from our loyal India fan-base suggested I was watching a different game entirely. “You bastard,” fumed one of them. “How dare you suggest luck has anything to do with it. India deserve their position.”

I don’t deny any team deserves their position – England are on the back foot, and rightly so – but the criticism was a little unfair to say the least, especially when the evidence was so damning. If a team enjoys their share of luck and then capitalises upon it, they fully deserve to have their noses in front, as India currently do.

But why is luck treated as such a dirty word? Judging by some of the emails, my use of “luck” implied India had had an easy ride; that they were relying on luck alone to drive them forward. This is simply not true and not what I meant in the slightest, but the India fan is a passionate beast and not to be argued with. Not often, anyway. India got lucky today, but England might enjoy all the luck tomorrow (and they probably will if it continues to tear down with rain, as it currently is).

But it did get me thinking about how much luck plays its part in sport, and of course it features heavily in cricket. The toss, the weather, the players themselves – how will they perform? Will they be fit and last five days? If a bowler gets a fingertip on a fiercely struck drive, and richochets it onto the non-strikers’ stumps, is that luck? Anyway, enough rhetoric from the bastard.

Sambit Bal, our esteemed editor, has written of similar musings so go and read it immediately.

Mullally, the Jack of all rabbits

Simon Lister wrote a thumpingly enjoyable piece on tailenders in the current (August 2007) issue of The Wisden Cricketer. Tail-end charlies are a particular fascination of mine, due in part to their absence nowadays but more poignantly because England produced them like battery-farmed chickens in the 1990s. Or rather, rabbits. Peter Such, Devon Malcolm, Ed Giddins, Phil Tufnell – and the champion of all; the Jack of all rabbits, Alan Mullally.

Cracking piece. Give it a read.

That was about as bad as it got, because when Duncan Fletcher arrived, the No. 11 became less of an object of derision. They learned the forward press and knew it had nothing to do with ironing their whites. The diehard No. 11 died out elsewhere too. The once hopeless Australian tailender Jason Gillespie did something that Mike Atherton never did; he scored a Test double-hundred.

Yet when Monty Panesar was first picked for the tour of India in 2005-06 it seemed a fine English tradition had been revived. He was, said one cricket reporter, “a tail-end rabbit in the Watership Down class”. Fletcher admitted: “I have slight reservations about his batting.” But that has changed. Panesar is a shoo-in for England, even for the one-day side. Rumours of his uselessness with the bat were exaggerated. So, if he still nearly failed to make the side because of his batting, what chance a Phil Tufnell playing for England today?

The era of the really awful No. 11 seems over and TWC decided it was a good time to look back at the 1980s and ’90s – a golden age of English tail-end incompetence. Among those who could boast that the size of their boots was twice their batting average, who was worst of all?


Video: Monty Panesar dismissing Sachin Tendulkar

A video of Monty dismissing Sachin Tendulkar. Not quite yet his bunny, but…check out those celebrations.

Click here if nothing appears above.

A video tribute to Monty Panesar

Don’t worry, he’s not dead. This is just a video I found of the great Montster, featuring Bonnie Tyler’s brilliantly inappropriate song (in terms of the feel of the music, not the title…) Holding Out For a Hero.

Click here if you can’t see the video above. Incidentally, I think that track was featured on Short Circuit, one of those epic films from my youth. Not as good as Big, mind. Big was massive.

One man fighting the box of frogs

What’s the difference between the West Indies Cricket Board and a box of frogs? The box of frogs make more sense.

Ho ho ho. But on a serious note, for this is a seriously crazy cricket board, there is one man desperately fighting WICB’s inadequacies on behalf of the players: Dinanath Ramnarine, president of the West Indies Players Association (WIPA). And it is a fierce, ugly battle indeed.

Making sense of all this is somewhat of a challenge – I’ve been trying for about a year, and am only halfway there – but fortunately Vaneisa Baksh has done her best in an excellent piece Cricinfo commissioned. Do give it a read.

Ramnarine does not trust the WICB, and if one were to check the record of their dealings for the past five years or so of his tenure, it is clear why. He has had little reason to, and given his prior relationship with the board and its functionaries (remember, he retired at 28, having played in 12 Tests and taken 45 wickets with some pretty good legspin) there is nothing really to suggest there will be any improvement without fundamental changes.

But despite talk by the WICB’s outgoing president, Ken Gordon, that the recently appointed Governance Committee was the most important ever established, the board is not in a hurry to institute the changes the committee has recommended – not when one of those was that the board should give way to a more representative body.

The latest slew of exchanges between the board and WIPA revealed the nature of the tension between them. Ramnarine has charged the board with reneging on terms of their MOU, particularly with regard to including WIPA in negotiations affecting players. Gordon has accused Ramnarine of basically cussing off everyone and calling them liars.

Interesting, fragile times.

Is 50 the new 40?

My colleague and I were watching Kevin Pietersen crash his way to yet another hundred today when a thought popped into my head. Is the new benchmark for batsman to average 50, rather than 40 as it was a decade ago? He disagreed so we settled on the conclusion that, to be considered a “pretty damn good” batsman you’ll be averaging 45 as a minimum.

And it got us thinking back to the dark old days in the 1990s when none (Alec Stewart apart, briefly, I think) of England’s top-order averaged 40, while some lurked in the dismal gloom of the low-thirties. But these days, they’re all over 40 and two – Matt Prior and Kevin Pietersen – are averaging over 50.

On a similar line, if batsmen’s averages are increasing – and I have no evidence with which to support this claim as I’m rambling like a loon – are bowlers’ also inflating? A decade ago, a really decent bowler was said to be averaging under 25. But with batsmen enjoying such shorter boundaries, and the game’s frenetic pace spiralling upwards with each year, is 30 the new 25?

Thoughts welcome.

Ottis Gibson’s ten

Well done that man. I remember Richard Johnson taking 10 for 45 in 1994 as though it were yesterday. Middlesex members and fans all thought we had yet another brilliant fast bowler in the making – and I seem to remember Ray Illingworth also agreeing when he said he had a “heavy ball”, an expression which I’d not heard before back then. Johnson was, from memory, picked for the South Africa tour before one of his many back problems surfaced.

Anyway. Gibson is not going to be going to South Africa, or anywhere else for that matter, for he’s the wrong side of 38. But that only make his achievement all the more special and memorable. Go on, West Indies…do the unthinkable and give him a call-up, just for fun.

Full list of the 79 bowlers to have taken all ten wickets in an innings available at Cricinfo.

Charity match in August. Empty your pockets

Patrick’s pleading for money – and what a worthwhile cause it is too. He says:

The Kirby Strollers, a team of overweight, unfit and untalented part-timers captained by myself, will be playing the PG Wodehouse Society at Audley End, a stately home in northwest Essex, to raise money for The Kids Company, a charity that supports abandoned and underprivileged children in South London and tries to give them better things to do with their lives than stabbing each other. A proportion of the money we raise will also go to Ataxia UK, a charity that does research into a neurological disorder.

The Wodehouseans, playing under the name of The Gold Bats (named after one of Wodehouse’s novels), are a fun bunch who have various fixtures against teams like the Sherlock Holmes Society and the Siefried Sassoon Society, playing where possible (and when remembered) under 19th-century rules, with lob bowlers, different LBW laws, five-ball overs and beards an integral part. Above all, the quality of the tea is more important than the quality of the cricket. We’ll be hoping to carry on the tradition on August 12.

Anyone who wants to pop by and watch the game (it starts at 1pm) and throw a few pounds in a bucket is very welcome. The stately home is here:

Or, if you can’t attend, I’d be grateful if you could visit our Just Giving website and donate a few shillings. The good thing about donating that way is that we can reclaim Gift Aid at 28p in the pound from the taxman, so a £10 donation would be worth £12.80. The website for that is:

Best wishes and many thanks

Patrick Kidd

The Times,

Be generous, and try to pop along. Sounds like a cracking day out, and is undoubtedly a very fine cause.