Corporate monsters couldn’t give a Fourex

Couldn't give a fourex
Australia’s chief selector, scourge of Poms and all-round good guy Allan Border has been forced to resign his post as chairman of selectors because of a ‘conflict of interest’ involving beer sponsorship. I am not making this up.

The former Test captain recently fronted advertisements for XXXX Gold, owned by Lion Nathan, which is sponsoring beach cricket this summer in Sydney, the Gold Coast and Perth. Border will represent Australia in the tournament, alongside greats such as Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and Dean Jones.

That, however, does not impress Foster’s, a major sponsor of cricket. It recently announced a new deal with Cricket Australia, in which it would no longer be the naming rights sponsor of the triangular one-day series, but increase its commercial involvement at grassroots level.

Geoff Donohue, corporate affairs spokesman for Foster’s, said the XXXX campaign involving Border was little more than ambush marketing.

“We think ambush marketing is fairly un-Australian,” he said. “I will leave you to decide whether what they are doing with their current advertising campaigns is ambush marketing.

“I guess Allan has [resigned as a national selector] in pursuit of his own commercial interests. But we are thrilled with our association with Cricket Australia and the Australian cricket team, and we’re more than happy with the access we have to the current players.”

If you are that thrilled to be associated with Cricket Australia, then I’m sure you won’t be that miffed with Allan Border continuing his association with the XXXX brand that has been ongoing for the past twenty years.

Fosters: couldn’t give a fourex about, well, anyone.

Eng v Pak, Twenty20 – who to pick?

In the last week, with the ongoing ‘Ovalgate’ saga, the big media questions on the one-day series have not been the usual deliberations over selection. Now that it seems that there will definitely be a series, with both sides confident that Pakistan will be competing, the next couple of days may bring a resumption of normal service.

There are certainly some potential headaches for David Graveney and company when it comes down to converting their 16-man squad to an 11-man side. It seems unlikely that Ed Joyce will interrupt the ongoing battle for an Ashes place. But with both Collingwood and Pietersen set to come into the team that lost to Sri Lanka at Headingley, it seems likely that one of the batsmen will have to make way rather than reduce the bowling attack. Jamie Dalrymple will retain his place as Fletcher’s favoured spinning all-rounder, and Chris Read must be looking forward to proving he is the best English ‘keeper in the shortest form of the game.

It is well documented that England’s recent one-day problems lie on a foundation of wayward pace bowling. The inclusion of six pace options, with only Harmison and Mahmood retained, suggests that the selectors are trying to meet this head on. But who to pick? Broad and Gough are certainly popular choices in the media, with impressive Twenty20 pedigree. Who do you think should be on Monday’s team sheet?

England announce unchanged squad

UPDATE: August 1, Paul Collingwood has been called up.

Thank God. As Atherton says this morning, England must keep the faith, and by naming an unchanged squad they’re demonstrating that they’re not panicking (Mr Mannering). There really wasn’t much point in naming Collingwood (he would have been the only possible inclusion) over Giles, yet.

I refuse to be downbeat. A company phoned me (6 times) last week, and I eventually rang them back to tell them where to go, after they refused to leave a voicemail. The girl who answered was very chatty, and after establishing what the company wanted from me, our thoughts turned to cricket (as they do). She too was a fan, and her words are still echoing in my ears: “It’s one nil, not 3 nil. We can still win the Ashes”

As Atherton, again, says today:

Like Bull, I’m instinctively inclined to have more faith in this England team. Their achievements and recent record demand that – at least for a little while longer.

Cricinfo has some quotes and words.

Graham Thorpe misses out to Kevin Pietersen

“Selection of Kevin Pietersen gives us a better chance [of beating Australia,” says David Graveney. That’ll be the end of a marvellous career of one of my favourite batsmen, Graham Thorpe.

England’s squad for 1st npower Ashes Test

1. Michael Vaughan (Yorkshire) (captain)
2. Ian Bell (Warwickshire)
3. Andrew Flintoff (Lancashire)
4. Ashley Giles (Warwickshire)
5. Stephen Harmison (Durham)
6. Matthew Hoggard (Yorkshire)
7. Geraint Jones (Kent)
8. Simon Jones (Glamorgan)
9. Kevin Pietersen (Hampshire)
10. Andrew Strauss (Middlesex)
11. Chris Tremlett (Hampshire)
12. Marcus Trescothick (Somerset)

D-day (or “A-Day!”) tomorrow for Pietersen

Tomorrow, the ECB will announce a selection of England’s finest players to take on the Australians in one of the oldest sporting contests in the world, The Ashes. It is D-Day – or should that be “A-Day!” (Ashes-Day for those unfamiliar with my sense of humour…)

Ah, The Ashes. Those two short words conjure so much for so many. But tomorrow, either one of Graham Thorpe or Kevin Pietersen will not wish to hear them uttered again. The squad can only include one of them – will it be the young talent, or the old war horse? Just before posting this, I was dead-set on backing Kevin Pietersen…but I’m still not sure. England’s batting capitulation in the NatWest Challenge matches could tempt Graveney into going back to Thorpe – with the emphasis on “back,” for it would certainly be a backward decision. And this is my, and the rest of England’s dilemma; Thorpe could provide reliable, stodgy runs and a hundred or two. But we all know he’s retiring come September. Pietersen, on the other hand, has the ability to hit a hundred in a session and, whilst he’s still young, he has the aggression and talent to succeed.

The announcement is due tomorrow morning at 11.30 – I’ll post more then, or soon after.

Johnnie Walker Super Series Squads

The Johnnie Walker Super Series squads have been announced, and is as follows:

Test Squad:

Shoaib Akhtar, Mark Boucher, Shivnarine Chanderpaul
Rahul Dravid, Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison
Inzamam-ul-Haq, Jacques Kallis, Younis Khan
Anil Kumble, Brian Lara, Brendan McCullum
Muttiah Muralitharan, Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock
Virender Sehwag, Graeme Smith, Sachin Tendulkar
Michael Vaughan and Daniel Vettori

One Day Squad:

Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Akhtar, Rahul Dravid
Andrew Flintoff, Chris Gayle, Herschelle Gibbs
Steve Harmison, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Jacques Kallis
Brian Lara, Brendan McCullum, Muttiah Muralitharan
Makhaya Ntini, Kevin Pietersen, Shaun Pollock
Abdul Razzaq, Kumar Sanagakkara, Virender Sehwag
Sachin Tendulkar and Daniel Vettori

Some useful names there!

Thoughts on England v Australia

Today sees the first day-nighter between Australia and England this summer – as ever, it’s going to be thrilling and fascinating. I’m not going to see any of it until I watch the highlights tomorrow, but’ll try and find a pub with a TV tonight. There are some fascinating little selectorial decisions to be made today by both teams.

Firstly Michael Vaughan. I question just how problematic it’d be for England if he were to miss the game. He’s carrying a groin injury at the moment, facing a late fitness test. And despite his 50 the other day, he continues to baffle the world at his inability to play ODI cricket. Immense class, but England need quick runs, not stodgy ones. It’s an almost identical situation to when Michael Atherton was in the side: he just wasn’t made for ODI cricket and, unless Vaughan starts scoring soon, Marcus Trescothick (or Andrew Flintoff?) might well take up the ODI captaincy.

Australia’s selection will be interesting too. Symonds – he of “off his rocker” fame – should return to provide them with much-needed rocket-fire in the middling overs, and his little dobblers. Big question though will be who Lee replaces, if anyone. He’s certainly said to have recovered from his shoulder injury – whether Australia will concede that Kasprowicz was poor in the last game by ousting him remains to be seen. Lee might be the quickest on either side, but he’s not the most economical – then again, nor was Kasper. I’d say he’ll play and bowl first change.

England’s bowling attack is starting to fire. Gough was rested for the Bangladesh game, and I think he’ll replace Jon Lewis, with Tremlett keeping his place. I hope so, anyway, especially after Tremlett’s bold statement yesterday.

Finally I really can’t decide what they’ll do at the toss. I don’t think either team, especially Australia at the moment, are that confident of defending a total. Personally, I want England to bowl first; with Pietersen in such good nick, and batting so deep, they can chase most totals. Problem is, will they want to be batting under lights – bearing in mind it’s up in Durham where, come 7/8 o’clock, it’ll cool down quite quickly and could swing around. The flip-side of that is the ball could get moisture on it, and become slippery for the fielders. See? The decisions a cricket captain has to make…no wonder we love this game so much.

Sticking my neck out: Australia will win if they bowl first.

The Strauss / Jones debate

It’s difficult to judge a team, or player’s, form against a side like Bangladesh – but yesterday, Andrew Strauss probably showed enough quality for fans and critics to question why Geraint Jones was chosen as Marcus Trescothick’s opener in recent ODIs.

It’s well known that Duncan Fletcher wants a Thorpe-esque player in the middle order, and Strauss is a like-for-like replacement – apart, of course, from the fact he is an opener by trade. In interviews, he’s been fencing the issue – as most England players seem to do these days – but surely he enjoys it more at the top of the order. He and Trescothick in the past 12 months (in fact, I don’t think it’s yet 12 months that they’ve been batting together) have formed a strong, powerful alliance: both left-handers, they quickly struck up a solid understanding, and are England’s best runners between the wickets, as well as both being very quick scorers. Why disrupt this partnership for the ODIs?

Geraint Jones is a highly regarded batsman – better, so say some, than the bloke he ousted, Chris Read. And the runs he has made for England have looked very good. He has class, and style but he’s not a pinch-hitter which is the role Fletcher has eyes for him. His role should be in the closing overs of a game, either coming in just before Paul Collingwood or just after him – a quickfire 40 from 30 balls in the last 10 overs would be more benefitial at that stage than in the opening 10. Strauss is an opener and is used to scoring hundreds against the new ball – why risk not having him open? Not only does Strauss have a solid defence, but is more than capable of smashing it ala Trescothick – and he made an anonymous 50 from 40-odd balls against Australia last year…

Vaughan won’t discount Jones, though:

“On more placid pitches, though, like the ones in India, Pakistan, or even the next World Cup in the West Indies, it’s important to get a good start in the first 15 overs. So having someone up there with a bit of licence might be an option.”

Jones isn’t Gilchrist, Michael – no one is!

Collingwood as a Test batsman?

I recorded Extra Cover (Sky+ is essential for any cricket fan – it’s pretty much all I use it for, perhaps I’ll call it Cricket+) which I’m watching now, and Charles Colville is interviewing Paul Collingwood. I’m a fan of Colly’s, although not sure he quite has it at Test level. They’re mainly talking about his being pigeon-holed as an ODI specialist (like Fairbrother, Moody, Knight, Bevan etc). I’m too knackered to offer my opinion, so it’s up to you: is he in the running for a post-Thorpe batting slot?

Vaughan and England’s ODI quandary

No surprises in today’s ODI and Test squad announcement, but plenty of questions. Vaughan’s “ODI cloud,” which hovers ominiously over his head each series, is getting darker the more he plays: he is just not scoring enough runs to warrant selection.

The selectors clearly didn’t want to take such a radical and potentially hazardous decision of dropping him from the ODI squad, in light of an Ashes series in July. Just imagine the Australians’ reactions. But the fact still remains that he is a poor one-day player for England – and no one, me included, knows why. He has one of the most textbook, pure batting techniques in world cricket. In Test Cricket, he is glorious to watch and can play all around the wicket: the Australians fear him, and rightly so given what he did to them a few years ago.

Yet he still averages only 28, and still hasn’t made a one-day hundred. In his favour is his excellence as a captain, and the respect he has as a leader. But the time will come, unless he scores heavily this year, for England to have 2 international captains for each form of the game.

Meanwhile, the nails in Graham Thorpe’s coffin are gradually being hammered in. His announcement that he was to play for NSW in 2006 upset and confused a few of the big-cheeses, including Graveney. And with Kevin Pietersen’s inclusion in the ODI squad, Thorpe is – I reckon – just a couple of poor performances away from international retirement. I hope he plays all summer, but I also feel Pietersen and Flintoff need to bat with each other against Australia if England are to counteract The Gilchrist Factor.

Who’d be a selector?