2007 Cowdrey Lecture

Have you read this year’s Cowdrey Lecture, delivered by Christopher Martin-Jenkins’? Hmm, thought as much. Well you really ought to, not least because this year marks the first time in its brief seven years that it hasn’t been delivered by a professional cricketer. And it is fascinating.

I confess not to have read it all, yet, but am working my way through it and finding myself nodding all too frequently. Pleasingly for me and my employers, he mentions Cricinfo (and, revealingly, by name and not “the cricket website Cricinfo” as we are so often called. Clearly the brand hasn’t extended that far yet…) while raising a very good point about the access to, and interest in, county cricket.

Cricinfo recorded 29 million page views from 7.5 million visits to county cricket alone in 2006 – and has already had 19 million this season so, despite the rain, they expect the figure to be exceeded. Obviously because a great many people want to find out the latest scores. Sadly, if they are on the move in their cars they can listen for them in vain; and when they are given it often seems to be as a breathless afterthought following the big story that Scunthorpe’s millionaire chairman has denied rumours that their controversial manager Bruno Boscovic is going to be sacked. Or, more to the point, some utterly mundane comment by Jose Murinho such as he thinks that Chelsea have the players to win the Premiership. What a surprise. The media has been conned to a dangerous extent – if you value the variety of life – into becoming a sort of spin machine for the all-pervading, all-powerful Premiership. Also into the belief that it can’t be of interest if it’s not on television.

Regular or past readers will know of my near-hatred of football, and it is primarily for this reason: that it consumes so much media attention, undeservingly so. But hey ho (Flint), that’s the way of the world.

The lack of fast bowlers also come under Christopher’s scrutinous gaze – and he reveals that changes are afoot to decrease the boundaries. My boss and I went to The Oval earlier in the season and I was absolutely shocked at the shortness of the boundaries. Cynics argue that they are brought “in” from their original position in order to maximise the chances of sixes, increase the number of runs scored in a day and generally get the game finished as quick as possible. The evidence is damning too.

But there is a tremendous amount to be thankful for in the contemporary game – in many respects the standards are higher than ever. There are some magnificent batsmen in world cricket and some magical spinners too. The fielding is sensationally good. It is the fast bowlers who are in short supply in the current phase of a game that has always evolved. In the eternal struggle to find that essential balance between bat and ball what we need is a determined effort to lengthen boundaries – happily both the MCC World Cricket Committee and the new ICC Cricket committee are agreed on that but there is no evidence yet of boundaries being stretched to the furthest practical limits on all grounds as they should be.

Do give it a read, and offer your thoughts of the points he raises.

Tribute to Patrick Eagar

Tomorrow marks Patrick Eagar’s 300th[1] Test match. It is a phenomonal achievement to have stayed at the top of his profession, in what has become a frenzied market, for so long. There will be a presentation made to him at some point during the Test, and it is richly deserved. He is an outstanding artist and photographer who has captured the vast majority of iconic imagery in cricket in the past 30 or 40 years. I’ve only met him a couple of times, but he’s a true gent – accomodating, interesting and without a trace of pomposity or ceremony about him which, given the success he has had, you might expect to be the case.

Congratulations Patrick. And so what if he missed the last two West Indies Tests in order to stage his 300th at the home of cricket! Check out his website; you’ll probably spot half a dozen photos which you’ve already seen (not least the catch Andrew Strauss took during the 2005 Ashes).

[1] At least, I think it’s the 300th – could be more…

Too highly rated?

I see Kevin Pietersen has been knocked off the top spot in the ODIs by Ricky Ponting. Very difficult to argue with that – Ponting is surely the stand out batsman in both forms of the game. Looking at the other batting rankings, it is difficult to find fault, although on current form, Shiv Chanderpaul ought to be in the test top three at least. Also, I struggle to understand how Mahela Jayawardene doesn’t break into either top ten, while Hussey retains a top five place in both. He’s very good, granted, but is he top five?

Jason Gillespie

The bowlers are altogether more perplexing. For one, how can Shoaib Akhtar still be at number 10 in tests? He’s played four tests since the start of 2006 and taken only a handful of wickets. Maybe in the current game, not playing is the way to climb the rankings. Likewise, Jason Gillespie (22) is still deemed a better Test bowler than Lasith Malinga (28)!

Agreed, it must be difficult to devise a workable system. Also, stats don’t tell the full story. But things start to look decidedly suspect when you inspect the Best Ever Ratings, which is a list of players at their peak. Ponting at four is just about fair enough, given his recent dominance. However, Peter May above Viv Richards shows a flaw, while Matthew Hayden in the top ten is just crazy. KP (21) is one place higher than Sachin and two places higher than Wally Hammond. Enough said.

For the bowlers, I half expected to see the list packed high with bowlers of yesteryear, given how modern bowlers are meant to have struggled, but it does put Murali, McGrath, Pollock, Waqar and Warne in the top 15. Of course, Warne should be in the top three, if not top of the pile. Wasim Akram limps in at number 57 behind the likes of Ntini, Shoaib and Harmison, which doesn’t seem right.

That said, like most critics, I can’t think of a better way. There must be some bright spark at Cricinfo with a formula….?

Three lions of South Africa

First there was Kevin Pietersen. Then a growing army of South Africans, fed up with their lot (and what a lot…), joined him over here as part of a growing band of Kolpakians. Allan Donald was soon poached – and now Jonty Rhodes is next. What ever is going on in South African cricket?

I think it’s great having Donald and Rhodes over here. I don’t believe a foreign coach is necessarily a bad thing, but you do have to wonder how and why South Africa are unable to employ such high-profile former players.

“As with the rest of the support team we want the right person to do that job,” said England coach Peter Moores. “When we’ve got the right bloke we can look to bring him in and see how he goes. We have seen that in other specialist positions for coaches.

“We are talking about people who could make a genuine difference to international performances – and they don’t always grow on trees. If we get a fielding coach we want him to influence fielding in England not just at England level.”

From Cricinfo.

Cruel game for those on debut


AFP

How bad must Malinda Warnapura be feeling? To get a Test golden duck is bad enough, but a golden duck on deboo, as Richie would say, against Bangladesh on a featherbed when your partner gets a ton must be crushing. He’s unlikely to bat again in this match and may not get another innings if Upul Tharanga returns from injury.

The only other deboo goldie I can remember was Alan Wells in 1995, caught Sherwin Campbell, bowled Curtly Ambrose. Again, most other batsmen did well on that track, including two hundreds (Lara and Hooper) and six others who made it to 80 and didn’t convert (four were out in the nervous 90s). Wells did at least make an unbeaten 3 in the second innings, but that was his lot.

I’m sure there were others?

Ian Healy bowling as Merv Hughes (video)

Another superb video from Youtube. It’s Ian Healy bowling in the style of Merv Hughes (complete with tache and beer belly), Malcolm Marshall and Abdul Qadir.

If you can’t see the video above, click.

Vaughan all mouth and no trousers

What a winner. Michael Vaughan loses his trousers, and could there anyone better than David Lloyd to commentate on it?

Life after Benaud

On Desert Island Discs, you are allowed one luxury. Given mine would be a magical television that showed all available live cricket (as well as choice re-runs), I’d be able to pick my favourite pundits to describe the action. Who are my top commentators? In theory, I would only need two to cover the matches, but that would be unfair on them (I’m not a tyrant), so I’d hire five to mix it up and give the others a rest.

Richie Benaud in the comm box

Therefore, below are my five favourite commentators. Benaud would have been there, of course, as would Brian Johnston, but we must all move on. There are honourable mentions for Lloyd, Gower, Holding, Dujon, Nasser, Knight, Ward, Smith, Lawry and Greig, but these five pick themselves.My Top Five: Michael Atherton, Jimmy Adams, Michael Slater, Geoff Boycott and Simon Hughes.

I can’t imagine anyone will disagree, but then it’s your island. Pick who you like!

What did West Indies have for lunch?

Today was a microcosm of the problems facing West Indies. They dominated the first session, bowling superbly and at last making England scrap for every run. England went to lunch with Paul Collingwood and Matt Prior at the crease…but not a lot else to come.

Then what happened? What on earth were they fed at lunch? After the interval, everything fell apart with the bowlers losing their lines and the captain, Daren Ganga, for some inexplicable reason choosing to bowl Marlon Samuels. It was a session of such diabolical cricket that they fully deserve to lose this Test tomorrow. It was utterly depressing.

Matt Prior flicks one fine

England did very well to rub their noses in it, though – and Matt Prior continues to impress. But, still…it’s pretty painful watching West Indies at the moment and I don’t see how they can recover, either. The selection of Austin Richards to their one-day team is a case in point. Just why he was chosen in place of Wavell Hinds, Ryan Hinds, A.N. Other is anyone’s guess. I tried to write a profile for him at Cricinfo and didn’t get on very well at all. The cynic in me thinks there is something more sinister afoot other than simply being a “random selection”.

Video of Kevin Pietersen…playing golf?

A colleague sent this to me today and it is required viewing. Sky Sports’ advert for the US Open, featuring Kevin Pietersen. If you can’t see the video below, try here.