Pietersen dropped – for the final time?

KP gone, never forgotten

That, surely, is it for Kevin Pietersen’s involvement with England. He’s been overlooked (or whatever is the consolatory phrase for someone who has been thrown out with the rubbish, probably prematurely). Binned. Dumped. Jettisoned. For the better? Well, I don’t think anybody will agree that it’s for England’s short-term good that he has been dropped but, perhaps – just perhaps – this signals the first significant moment of leadership for the new management team. And yes, I can’t believe I just wrote “management team” in the context of cricket, but such is the changing world and all that.

I wonder if he and Flower will be sharing a pint. A pint of bitter, no doubt.

With the announcement of England’s World Twenty20 squad expected on Thursday, the ECB took the unprecedented step of holding “policy meetings” solely to discuss the eligibility of one player: Pietersen. He spent the day of his sacking giving a class on spin bowling to his Surrey team-mates at The Oval.

“Clearly this was a tough decision because Kevin has been such an outstanding player for England as the fact that he is the country’s leading run scorer in international cricket demonstrates,” Downton said.

“However everyone was aware that there was a need to begin the long term planning after the Australia tour. Therefore we have decided the time is right to look to the future and start to rebuild not only the team but also team ethic and philosophy.

“England cricket owes a debt of gratitude to Kevin who has proved to be one of the most talented and exciting players to ever represent the country and his 13,797 runs are a testimony to his immense skill. This decision brings some clarity now for the future of the England teams and we all wish Kevin the very best in the rest of his career.” The new of England apparently forcibly retiring one of their most experienced players comes less than a week after Andy Flower stepped down as team director and follows the retirement of Graeme Swann during the disastrous Ashes tour.

A career that spanned 104 Tests and more than 150 limited-overs appearances over nine years, during which time Pietersen became England’s leading run-scorer in international cricket yet constantly divided opinion, may now be at an end, little more than a year after his successful “reintegration” to the team on the tour of India.

Cricket v football (again)

Right. This sort of thing riles me no end, people slagging off cricket even in jest. We must teach the non-believers, especially those who think football is better than the great game. An example of such infidels can be seen here:

5 The Aussies are brilliant at cricket but pretty crap at football (despite overperforming at the World Cup). Let’s keep it that way, or us Brits will never, ever hear the end of it.
6 Ian Holloway.
7 You get giant-killing shocks in football, all the time. That doesn’t happen in cricket – the best team usually wins. Yawn, too predictable.
8 Compare the huge gulf in attendances between Premiership matches and county cricket matches. Thousands of people can’t be wrong… (can they?)
9 Cricket just isn’t funny enough. For every great goal, football offers up a comedy howler like this…

Quite simply this is all-out-war and you are my troops. Load your pens, arm your typing fingers and go forth and write. I’m sure we can come up with at least 20 valid reasons why football is the most dull, pointless game ever created and why cricket is one for the gods.

GO.

The hardest sport in the world?

It is apparently golf. Such debates are pointlessly inane, not to mention susceptible to bias, so there’s nothing else to do but join in and provide our own fatuous opinions.

It’s true that golf is indeed a tricky game to master, but this following sentence smells a lot like bullshit to me:

Golf is probably the hardest sport there is – you never, ever perfect golf. Different parts of the human body can malfunction from day to day

Does a sportsman ever perfect their art? Even Don Bradman, unquestionably the greatest batsman to have lived, slipped up now and again. Tiger Woods will be remembered as a great golfer, but even his star has flickered. And what sport, with the possible exception of bowls, curling and darts, doesn’t require you to be physically in top shape?

Because I hate golf with such ferocious passion, it’s inevitable I would disagree with such a statement. But just look at the facts. Take a minute and just look at them there wee facts. Cricket last five days, or it ought to. You spend a minimum of six hours per day either in the field, running and sprinting, or in the middle as a batsman, stretching calf muscles, straining forearms and generally contorting the body into positions not intended by the matrix, or our makers. When a bowler lands his front foot down on the crease, the hundreds of tiny bones in his toes and ankle are subject to several tonnes of mass. Yes I’ve made that up, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the forces involved are similarly great.

How, then, is golf the hardest sport if they have an electric buggy, which increasingly look like motorised wheelchairs on acid, in which to travel from one part of a course to the next? As if their day couldn’t get any easier, when they are forced to engage both legs and adopt what normal people call “walking”, they employ a rather stunted, limp-along person to carry their bags for them. So easy is the golfer’s lot that their “kit” is actually designer clothing more suited to shiny media people in skyscrapers; watching them arrive on the green for a birdie par, whatever that might be, one might as well be watching some prancers at a milan fashion show.

What gets me is that anyone who follows golf will probably agree with the sentiment that it’s the hardest game in the world, much like I will refuse to be swayed from thinking cricket is. And we’re back to square one. Cricket’s better, tougher and harder than golf and any other sport – apart from Pin The Tail On The Donkey while blindfolded after a caseful of lager and a couple of whiskies.

Disclaimer: as ever, anything I write here is done with my tongue wedged firmly in cheek. I might dislike golf with unnatural passion but I do acknowledge Niclaus, Woods, Els and co. are all fine sportsmen, and they hit that ball with great accuracy and all that jazz.

Cricket: the new sport of choice

Another fascinating article about the rise of Cricket in Britain. I’m copying it below for posterity – all copyright and rights remain with The Observer and the original author.

Last friday afternoon, the group of young boys were gathered as usual in the inner-city playground next to the estate where they live, white, black and Asian youngsters idling away the summer doing what kids do best – playing. They gather there every summer, as regular as migratory birds, shooting hoops into the desultory basket, or more likely playing out their football fantasies against a dusty background of competing replica shirts.

But last week something was different: the boys were, as usual, playing but their sport of choice was new. They were playing cricket. There must have been 20 of them crowding the outfield and in the centre was a brand new set of bright blue plastic stumps being defended by an excited youngster swinging his shiny new blue bat with determined animation.

A friend who has passed this playground for the past 10 years had never before seen these young boys of summer playing anything but football or basketball. Here was proof if any were needed, in the week in which the England football team, multi-millionaires to a man, were beaten so abjectly in Copenhagen, that cricket is the sporting news this summer.

No Test series has been more eagerly awaited than the present one and none, not even Ian Botham’s Ashes of 1981, has proved more continuously inspiring or produced such intense and enthralling cricket. The Australians arrived in England at the beginning of June acclaimed not only as the greatest team ever to have played the game but as revolutionaries, the team that had re-made Test cricket as a more vigorous, athletic, attacking game for our impatient age.

They had in their ranks three players – Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist – who would be automatic selections for an all-time great cricketing XI, and most of their batsmen averaged more than 50. They had spent the best part of the past decade or so beating teams hollow all over the world, and, with their usual swagger and arrogance, expected to do the same to the Poms.

We knew England were an improving team. We knew that under coach Duncan Fletcher and captain Michael Vaughan the team had remade itself and was winning series in difficult places such as South Africa and Pakistan. We knew that in Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison, Simon Jones, Matthew Hoggard, and Marcus Trescothick, as well as the captain himself, we had young cricketers of character, determination and high ability.

What we didn’t know was just how determined they were to take on the Aussies, and how, through doing so with such gusto and aggression, they would introduce a new generation to the intrigues and complexities of Test cricket, perhaps the greatest of all games.

The tied one-day final at Lord’s in July, the clatter of 17 wickets on the first day of the first Test, England’s thrillingly narrow victory at Edgbaston, then the almost unbearably exciting draw at Old Trafford in the third Test… it is impossible to predict what will happen next in this remarkable summer of cricket. What is certain is that both teams will continue to play hard and to win, but, following Flintoff’s example at Edgbaston, when in the immediate aftermath of England’s victory he thought only of consoling Brett Lee, who had come so close to leading Australia to improbable triumph, they will also play with courtesy, sportsmanship and fellow feeling.

If you contrast the attitude of our cricketers with that of the monosyllabic truculence of the pampered and often preening footballers who represented England in Copenhagen you will understand why those boys in the playground were last week playing a different game.

My only regret is that from next year no cricket will be available on terrestrial television for them to watch and be inspired by.

Talent scouting in London

UPDATE: here’s their website (looks like it’s under construction): http://londoncountycricketclub.image66.com/. Also appears as though the domain http://londoncountycricketclub.com will point to that site eventually. But that’s the place to go if you want to register.

Just been told of this very exciting opportunity. It’s basically Pop Idol meets Cricket. Now, before you jump ship – as I nearly did – read a bit:

Professional cricket wannabes will be queuing up to enter a nationwide talent search organized by the London County Cricket Club.

[...]

The contest will take place on 12-15 April [Will: at Lord's] with spin and pace bowlers aged 16-25 bowling two overs each at a professional batsman.

Those who take the eye will be back for the final on 24 April, with the cream of the crop chosen to attend a series of development workshops.

[...]

And the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – besides the prospect of a professional career – is a game against the MCC under the captaincy of West Indian great Sir Vivian Richards.

I’m 23, so am not one of the youngest(!) and am rusty as you like…but maybe if I can get some nets every day for the next 3 weeks, I might give it a whirl (excuse the pun). Anyone else interested, leave a comment and we can laugh at eachother on the day…

Botham goes in to bat for ‘gutsy’ Pietersen

Telegraph | Sport | Botham goes in to bat for ‘gutsy’ Pietersen

Old news, well – yesterday’s news – but noteworthy, if only because I mentioned it a while back.

Jonty supports Pietersen

This is old news but I forgot to post it. Jonty, in India doing promotional work (for what? Not SA Cricket, surely!), remarks on Pietersen and why he supports his decision to leave South Africa for England.