KP too good for dreary, old-fashioned England

So the fallout of England’s winter continues unabated. Prepare yourselves for the mother of all introspection.

I just read the following on Twitter:


There’s only so much room and dispensation for mavericks. Well, I don’t know who Steve Booth is, but it’s fair to assume he’s probably British and supports the England cricket team, and I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that his view is shared by many England sport fans. And if we learn nothing from the bleach-clean of this England team in the last few weeks, you would hope that the treatment of Kevin Pietersen is one lesson we may in future look back on with regret and a turning point in the attitudes towards our sportsmen.

What’s wrong with having a maverick?

Steve Booth is wrong – all the best teams in the world have had mavericks, and often relied upon them. West Indies: Lara, Richards, Gayle and others. Australia: Warne, of course. India: Ganguly perhaps. Pakistan: where do we start? And what about Sri Lanka? Muttiah Muralitharan, maverick arm himself. What about football? Was Pele a maverick? How about Campese for Australian rugby, or Jonah Lomu?

And yes, of course they are more likely to unsettle an established team. They might be born with fractionally better eyes, faster reactions, bigger muscles or a desire to succeed and win which outstrips their peers, but in nearly all cases they train and prepare incredibly hard, not a trait you associate with these so-called geniuses. And to reach that level of commitment requires the hardest of noses, the most stubborn of chins and a bloodymindedness likely to rile even the most zen of managers and captains. So, how exactly are these managers and captains managing and captaining?

What Steve’s comments show is that it is England who can’t cope with mavericks. As a country we still can’t hug and celebrate our winners in the same way other nations can and do. To most people’s astonishment, particularly our own, Great Britain took home a stash of gold at the London Olympics and the nation unshackled its chastity belt to experience an orgasm of celebration. That was unprecedented. England won the 2003 Rugby World Cup then quickly sank back down to its knees, only occasionally stumbling on to its haunches. England winning the Ashes in 2005 was another rare event, the rarest of its type given how closely fought that series was, but the following series confirmed England wasn’t ready to take on the world. Several players fell by the wayside through injury, so we can’t blame the nation’s psyche entirely of course. But it’s further evidence of a country far more comfortable appreciating the rich light of a winter’s afternoon than bask in summer’s victorious glare.

Pietersen needs attention and the warmth of adulation in a way few English cricketers, or fans, can get their heads around. This isn’t to diminish other players’ guts, determination or desire to succeed; for them, contributing to the team may mean just as much (or in some cases more) than dominating an entire series with two swashbuckling, daring innings. But England have been too inflexible, conformist, conservative and rigidly uninventive to accommodate a man willing to forsake the country of his birth in order to show the world his true talents. You only need look at the funereal approach to entertaining its fans in the last two or three seasons to know that those in charge were terrified of anything, anyone, threatening risk.

And what’s worse is that this move smacks of the ECB attempting, rather pathetically, to make a bold statement. “It’s time for a change. Time to clear the decks and start afresh.” Does that include dumping your best player, your prized asset – in fact, the only asset that competing teams are scared of? Oh, right. You really do have no idea how to manage different characters.

Pietersen came into the side a showman, a grinning entertainer bereft of insecurities, bereft too of political nous and gravitas, but too gloriously naive to realise his adopted country required it of him. He departed without so much an ovation, though the applause by his fans will ring loud in the ears of the ECB for years until England finds a cricketer with Pietersen’s skill and Andrew Strauss’s sober diplomacy. I suggest such a beast doesn’t exist, and for that we should be thankful.

Video of Damien Fleming’s near hat-trick against India

I’d forgotten about this:

End of over 30 (5 runs) India 91/5 (305 more runs req)
GD McGrath 8-1-26-2 (4nb) – Cathedral End
SC Ganguly 41* (69b 4×4) MSK Prasad 11* (37b)

30.1 Fleming to Ganguly, no run, back foot defence to cover
30.2 Fleming to Ganguly, two runs, forced off the back foot through
forward of square leg
30.3 Fleming to Ganguly, OUT: top edged hook shot, brilliant diving
right handed catch-not bad for a left handed keeper

India 93/6, Partnership of 45
SC Ganguly c Gilchrist b Fleming 43 (72b 4×4 0×6)
MSK Prasad 11* (37b) DW Fleming 5.3-1-23-2

30.4 Fleming to Agarkar, OUT: firm footed drive off the full face of the
bat to the 2nd gully

India 93/7, Partnership of 0
AB Agarkar c SR Waugh b Fleming 0 (1b 0×4 0×6)
MSK Prasad 11* (37b) DW Fleming 5.4-1-23-3

30.5 Fleming to Srinath, one run, edged a widish delivery off the back
foot to first slip where Warne put down the catch at shoulder
30.6 Fleming to MSK Prasad, no run

Scorecard. He removed Sourav Ganguly then Ajit Agarkar…but Warne put down the third, an absolute dolly! As Tufnell might say, ‘appy days…

What do Prince Charles and Ganguly have in common?

Plenty, according to Andrew Flintoff. He and Sourav shared a dressing room in Lancashire a few years which was one of the more acrimonious friendships going around. It’s safe to say they’re not bosom pals.

Anyway, Mr Ganguly is back in county cricket – this time for Northamptonshire. Paul Coupar, the assistant editor of The Wisden Cricketer a few desks behind us, went along to the press conference today where he said Ganguly was very humble and difident. He assured us it was, in fact, Ganguly there and not his double.

So go and read Paul’s piece.

Cricket’s status and popularity in India

After the Ashes, cricket’s stock rose significantly in England. But even in September 2005, with most of the country drunk on Ashes fever – literally, in some cases – it probably only matched India’s insatiable appetite for the game.

This remarkable fact has been highlighted by Paul Coupar, who’s out there for The Wisden Cricketer and is kindly blogging for Cricinfo too. It makes quite startling reading:

And that appetite for cricket has not changed if Nagpur’s local Sunday paper, The Hitavada, is anything to go by. In a 16-page paper, there are 15 cricket pieces. Remarkably, one of them is headlined ‘Chappell has acknowledged receipt of email’. Over on the front page, the three lead stories are: ‘England Cook up a defiant story’, ‘Keep restraint, Pawar tells Chappell in surprise meet’ and, finally, the tiddling matter of President Bush snubbing a proposed nuclear deal with Pakistan.

I agree with Paul that the appetite for cricket has, in recent times, been somewhat gluttonous; Chappell-Ganguly-gate was unnecessarily long-winded, but it nevertheless demonstrates the unparalleled lust for cricket. Is there any other sport which binds a country’s people together as much as cricket does for India?

India, this is Nike

India have secured the sponsorship of Nike for the next five years. That’s a significant development. It’s no surprise that India have managed to attract such a global marketing icon such as Nike, but it bodes well for the game. The BBC have more on this. To my knowledge, it’s the first time Nike have sponsored an entire team; Shane Warne was one of their minions a few years ago (maybe he still is). Maybe Ganguly will welcome Nike’s obsession in putting air in their trainers…

Peter Roebuck sledges India

How to win friends and influence people:

IT’S ABOUT time the Indian cricket community grew up. Inflammatory remarks, burning effigies, blocking roads and messages of hatred are not the sort of conduct expected from mature adults committed to their country and versed in the ways of life.

Seasoned observers understand that the world is a complicated place.

Obviously, the dropping of a beloved son from the Test team has been the hot topic of conversation. At least the fury confirms that cricket still matters in this country. Unfortunately, it also confirms that it’s at the mercy of the mob. Worse, recently elected officials have fanned the flames.

Roebuck is of course talking about the fuss being made about the dropping of Ganguly. While he is actually right in what he is saying, I do not agree with the condescending way in which he has said it. People in India are sensitive to being talked down by Oxford-educated white people. No doubt, Roebuck would consider himself to be a ‘seasoned observer’, and should know better.

Someone had blundered!

Jagadish mused on Trescothick’s folly in inviting Pakistan to bat first and then watching them run up over 350, and went down memory lane for other invitations that did not work out too well. He invites readers to give their vote for the biggest blunder (I voted for Ganguly’s inviting Australia to bat in the 2003 World Cup final, which led to Australia scoring 359).

Great idea, that.. Jagadish limits his post to ODI’s so I’ll make the two obvious Test blunders. Both of them were Ashes disasters.

In 2002, Nasser Hussain decided to invite Australia to bat in the First Test at the Gabba. Hayden and Ponting racked up centuries and plundered the English to be 2 for 364 at stumps. What was the blunder? Hussain no doubt thought his bowlers would get more assistance from the pitch then he thought, and he wasn’t helped that Simon Jones broke down after seven overs.

In 2005, Ricky Ponting lost the services of Glenn McGrath, but still felt confident enough to invite England to bat at Edgbaston. Freed from the stern discipline of McGrath, the English were bowled out by stumps, but they had racked up 407 at more then five an over. England seized the initative in the Ashes series and never gave it back.

Any other blunders come to mind in Tests?

Ganguly v Chappell poll results

58 people voted, and 78% thought Ganguly was in the wrong. Bloody useless poll, but there we go. I’m putting up a new one now, which is at the top of the main page.

Ganguly asked to step down

Thoughts on this? Seems to be causing an understandable (?) storm