India to unleash the Powar

It seems Ramesh Powar might be given a chance in today’s second one-day between England and India at Bristol, and three cheers for that. Powar is not your average svelte cricketer. In fact, he makes Inzamam look decidedly anorexic. There really are far too few rotund players in the world. The fatter the better, I say.

By all accounts, Powar’s really rather good too – probably better than the merely ‘useful’ tag he has earned. And Michael Vaughan is a little worried about the impact Powar could have, saying he “is a clever, clever bowler who will be a big threat to us in the middle period”.

Tonight’s match is a day-nighter, which is an utter pain in the derriere as it won’t start before 5pm in India, and I also happen to be staying in a place which doesn’t serve alcohol. I’ve tried doubling the dose of lime in my Fresh Lime Soda, but the results are not good for my stomach or my fellow patrons.

Tiger Tim no more

I hear Tim Henman is to retire from Tennis. Apparently, it “wasn’t a difficult decision to make”. Well, we could have told you that Tim. He was a brilliant player to watch – his duels against Pete ‘The Ape’ Sampras were particularly memorable – but ultimately he wasn’t much of a winner. And he never quite nailed that fist-clenching “come on” but we’ll forgive all his losses for having such an attractive wife.

The Indians who can do it all

Being a cricket journalist while on holiday in India has its advantages, no doubt. Most people I encounter are keen to know my job (and even more importantly which company employs me), and quite a few know of Cricinfo and are desperate, it seems, to prove their cricketing worth. One young chap today (whose friendly nature threatened to descend into irritating begging) is surely the future of Indian cricket, if not the world.

He bowls leg-spin better than Shane Warne and models his off-spinner’s doosra on Murali; he opens the bowling at the speed of light, not unlike Darren Gough apparently; he keeps wicket with the feline-feet of Alan Knott (!) and bats like Marcus Trescothick, Michael Warne (it’s the accent, but I couldn’t help chuckling) and Adam Gilchrist. A killer player, then, if fantastical.

Watch out for him. He, and the identical dozen other youngsters who I’ve come across, will be dominating the world shortly…

The Nilgiri Mountains

Excusing India’s defeat

I’m in India, hence the total lack of any posts here (bar Ian’s – thanks), but while I was wolfing my breakfast this morning I read a curious sub-header in today’s Hindu. I don’t have it in front of me now, so forgive me if it’s not entirely accurate, but it said of Dravid’s decision to field first: “Probably due to extensive cloud cover”. The partisanship here is like no other country. Face it; England outplayed you.

The channel I watched it on contained commentators who shared a mixture of English and Hindu. But when Sachin was scratching around, as is his modern wont, any drive which pinged off his bat was met with “What a shot! What a shot there from Sachin Tendulkar…and it’s fielded in the covers preventing the single”.

Anyway, it’s a topic for another day. Here’s the brilliant contraption in which I was pushed up 46kms of India’s “Blue Mountains,” the Nilgiris. It really is spectacular here.

A steam train, the Nilgiri Express, pushed us up the mountain

Sluggo hits out

Big up to Dwayne Leverock who today guided his team to 115 with a gritty 18 not out from 74 balls. Few boundaries, so ‘Sluggo’ (is that his real nickname or did Cricinfo make that up?!) had to scurry at least 45 of the runs scored while he was at the crease.

Just a bit of hit and giggle, or is it more?

Andrew Symonds likes Twenty20 for the fun, but he is worried it might be taken too seriously.

One of the game’s most exciting batsmen, Symonds takes a laid-back approach to Twenty20, much like his autograph signing session at Brisbane’s Ekka yesterday – he turned up with bare feet.

“It’s a game of fun for me,” Symonds, 32, said. “But it looks like it’s heading down the serious route, unfortunately.”

The Australian selectors have named a full-strength line-up for the inaugural tournament, which begins in South Africa on September 11. However, Symonds says the players are yet to discuss their approach for the championship.

“Playing the (Twenty20) games in the past, the captain doesn’t mind if you interact with the kids in the crowd and muck around a bit, but now I don’t know if that’s going to be the case. I think it may end up heading down that serious road,” he said. “I think in the end pride will take over and it will end up being a full-blown battle.”

30 years ago, Australia’s cricketers had a similar attitude to the 50 over game. It will be interesting to see how attitudes evolve over time.

Understudy tourists

England will soon have to pick its squad for the winter tours and the three understudy roles up for grabs are those of top-three batsman, wicketkeeper and spinner. My calls for Bob Key were largely dismissed, so I’ll move on to the ‘keeper, who will start as Matt Prior’s back-up, but may get a crack if the Sussex man drops Sangakkara on 0 and becomes Murali’s latest bunny.

It seems England now have an embarrassment of riches at keeper with several stumpers scoring regular runs this season. Foster, Ambrose, Mustard, Read, Jones, Batty have all scored well. Read and Jones have likely had their turn, but Foster may be due another one? Ambrose has been excellent too. Tricky. Mustard must be in line for ODIs, because he’s brilliant at the top of the order for Durham. It’s a shame for Steven Davies that Worcestershire have hardly played this season.

Spinners are more of a quandary. I don’t agree that Pietersen and Vaughan can fill in the gaps. We need a genuine spinner to support Monty, especially in Sri Lanka. The problem is that, as ever, there are no English spinners topping the charts, although I can’t see what Graeme Swann has done to upset the selectors. He would do alright. Adil Rashid has great potential and can bat too. As can Alex Loudon. But would any of them bowl out Sri Lanka? I’m at a loss.

Bring back Shaggy?!

Strauss off Key?

Sorry about the contrived headline, but it is fairly self-explanatory. Has Andrew Strauss failed to deliver for too long? It’s been forever since he last scored a Test hundred, while his one good knock this summer was gifted by Dinesh Karthik’s appalling drop. All the other batsmen have scored tons, while he has struggled to convert, despite getting a few starts.

There’s no doubting his class, but is it time to try someone else? Robert Key would jump at the chance, as would Ravi Bopara. Or does Andrew Flintoff bat six when he returns, with Ian Bell going to three? Perhaps Strauss should get yet another chance, given he has managed to get to 30 regularly and is possibly one big score from finding top form.

For what it’s worth, I’d go with Rob Key.

Use the force, Luke

I was a little sceptical about Luke Wright’s succession to the England 20-20 squad on the basis that he scored the most runs in this year’s campaign, not least because Chris Schofield was picked for taking the most wickets. Graeme Swann must be uber-gutted! But while I am delighted the selectors have decided to go with a specialist squad, I had developed the opinion that Wright was just a slogger-got-lucky.

Not for the first time, I was dead wrong. His 60-ball hundred last night for Sussex against Gloucestershire was stunning. While there was the odd smear and hoik, almost every shot was orthodox, including a dreamy cover drive and on drive, all hit with terrible power and timing. Gloucestershire are not the very worst of attacks – I’m sure Wright will meet some worse bowlers at the 20-20 World Cup – but he made them look inept. Even Michael Atherton was purring by the end, shifting his stance from, “if you’re good enough for international 50 over cricket, you’re good enough for 20-20” to “if this lad’s good enough for 20-20, he should be good enough for 50 overs too.”

There were various comparisons, such as he grips and rips like Tendulkar or has the speed of hands through the ball as Ali Brown. Indeed, not since Brown have I seen an Englishman so dismantle an attack in the way Jayasuriya or Gilchrist do for fun. As a right-hander, he had something of Michael Slater about him, although I’ll go for a more modern Aussie as a comparison, who likewise has plenty more to prove. Shane Watson batted in a very similar fashion in the World Cup, matching power and timing with elegance. He bowls a bit too and has the same bottle blond hair. Time will tell whether Luke Wright can mix it on the same stage.

Richard and Judy, the librarians of Britain

That’s it. I’ve had enough of bookshops. I used to enjoy browsing through them a few years ago, looking up new authors as well as “staple diet” writers who I’ve enjoyed. But the shopping experience in today’s bookshops is overwhelmingly tacky and, well, just overwhelming. Most stores seem to have these tables, with titles piled high, underneath a sign: “our favourites this month” and inevitably there are at least two copies of Paolo Coelho’s wistful musings, and other authors (all of whom seem to share the title of “genius”…) writing about abused Russian alcoholics and Ukranian tractors.

I couldn’t see anything new or particularly exciting, so meandered over to fiction – not my favourite place. And there, emblazoned in yellow and pink and other sickly garish colours, was a stand suggesting five or six books as recommended by Richard and Judy. Good God alive.

Has society plummeted to such literary-ignorant depths that we have to rely on an overpaid, smug TV couple as our national librarians? I only looked at one title – it had a blue cover and, yes, I liked the picture – and, rather inevitably, it was all about a widower and how he’s coping. No surprise there then. I’m not here to judge the quality or writing of the books’ authors – I’m sure they’re very good books – but why the hell are we relying on two celebrities to help us choose what to read? One man’s favourite is another man’s draught excluder.

I very nearly ventured over to the sports section to read a cricket book (spit). Fortunately I found something, after an hour trying to avoid all the arrows and signs and posters demanding I buy THIS book and THAT one: London Pub Reviews by Paul Ewen, a New Zealander who’s written of his experiences and the people he’s come across in some of the capital’s pubs. Perhaps an odd choice for a trip to India, where I’m off to tomorrow, but at least it’s not on Dickhead and Booby’s list…