A new mechanical Shane

Just seen this story about a new, mechanical Shane Warne. I thought England were already using a spin machine (and I’m not talking about the ECB marketing people) – Merlyn, or Mervyn or Madge or whatever it’s called – so they now have two. Perhaps they’ll get them together to see if they can mate; it’s the end of cricket as we know it!

Pictures from BBC

Legspin clinics in England

John emailed with an interesting problem. His two sons play in league cricket in England. Both are 15-years-old, legspinners and have had success against former county (and international, so says their dad) batsmen. But he’s clueless as to what their next step should be. He’s heard of David Parsons, England’s head of spin (and not in the style of Alistair Campbell), but it begs the question: what is the next step? What do kids of that age group who desperately want to learn, and are convinced are good enough to attract counties, do?

I made some suggestions to him but it’d be interesting to hear from readers. Have you or your sons (yes yes, and daughters) ever attended a “spin clinic”? How did you hear about it? etcetera etcetera

Thoughts: Eng v Pak, 2nd Test, Old Trafford, 1st day

Too knackered to offer anything of substance. However, don’t underestimate the importance of yesterday’s performance by England. The draw at Lord’s was deserved for both teams. Yesterday, England raised their game by several notches – largely thanks to Steve Harmison who bowled a quite magnificent spell. I can’t help but feel irritated, though, that our leading fast bowler can’t produce such spells on a more regular basis. He is the most natural, ridiculously gifted fast bowler England has had since…I don’t know when. He was unplayable yesterday, and even made Lord’s double centurion Mohammad Yousuf look a bit silly…jumping around like a cat on hot coals.

Well played England. Well captained Andrew Strauss. It might be a 24-hour bright-spot quickly forgotten by this time tomorrow but, at the very least, there was an intent shown by the bowlers, and latterly England’s batsmen, which vindicated Strauss’s rallying cry yesterday in which he longed for his side to rekindle the passion shown last summer.

I feel it’s important not to forget Monty Panesar’s role yesterday either. He bowled brilliantly. As a notable cricket journalist commented to me this evening, he is still “only” a left-arm spinner and thus not a matchwinner. I see more in Panesar than I saw in Phil Tufnell (incidentally Strauss, off the record, believes Tuffers was the greatest spinner he ever faced…in terms of raw natural ability). He is more attacking than Daniel Vettori, who perhaps receives more credit than he is due but who nevertheless holds the mantle of the world’s best left-arm-spinner!

Panesar has something special. Few young bowlers have an action so well oiled and natural, so lacking in awkwardness. It’s fluid and fluent, so natural and so untouched by the evil bowling coaches. This fact alone has already helped him in his brief career; instead, unlike Liam Plunkett, of worrying about how the ball is “coming out”, he simply concentrates on his line. Natch, this is how all the best bowlers perform, but it’s not necessarily an art you are born with. It is, though, for Panesar (seemingly).

When he bowls in the second innings he might get carted for 100 from 18 overs and you’ll all call me a twat. But more likely is that he’ll contain Pakistan and out-think some of the best players of spin. Not bad for a left-armer from Luton.

The importance of being earnest

Tim de Lisle opened up in Cricinfo with an interesting post relating to independence in the media.

Trescothick is much liked, and even after his story changed, most commentators were gentle with him. But one pundit was conspicuously tough: Mike Atherton, cricket columnist for the Sunday Telegraph, who said Trescothick’s virus line was “so utterly implausible” that “ridicule is the only proper response”.

Atherton used to open the batting for England with Trescothick. He was a team-mate for years at Lancashire of Trescothick’s agent, Neil Fairbrother, who also came in for criticism in Atherton’s piece, albeit unnamed. The condemnation possibly went a touch too far, but it came from the right place: a belief in honesty. Atherton can’t stand spin – of the PR variety – and he is right to highlight the way it is spreading through the sports world.

Atherton is one of the best ex-player pundits for three reasons. He wants to get better; after a tentative start, his writing has steadily acquired more scope and flair. He is curious: he asks questions, while some ex-players still wait for the questions to come to them. And he has a clear grasp of the importance of being independent. He knows he is now batting not for England, but for his readers.

In a free press, that distinction is straightforward. In televised sport, it is becoming a grey area. The ultimate producer of cricket in India is now the Indian board. Atherton, who commentated for Sky on the India-England series, says local commentators were “asked not to mention sensitive subjects”. This provoked denials, but it will continue to be an issue. And some ex-players just don’t seem to see that it matters.

I posit that it is not quite so simple as this though. As a general rule of thumb, in whatever field you work in, you do not crap in your own nest. Cricket authorities are different in various places but all of them expect their broadcast partners to be supportive. And the management of the broadcasters themselves would be most displeased if the commentators were to disparage the game, lest they invite viewers to change the channel.

After all Michael Atherton would hardly expect the Sunday Telegraph to be very friendly to him if he bagged the paper in his column.

That is why there will always be a role for newspapers and blogs in cricket and indeed, in many other areas. We can ask the questions that broadcast media can not ask.

Go around the fucking wicket Monty

He’s been bowling over the wicket for an hour now. How did he get Sachin out? AROUND the wicket. This fucking defensive line won’t get him any wickets. Pardon the language, but we can’t allow the negative rot to set in so early in a spinner’s career. Very impressed with him though. Accurate and intelligent bowler.

UPDATE: he’s gone around the wicket, tandem. I’ll calm down now.

1000 Murali wickets

I think it was Courtney Walsh who first broke through the 500-Test barrier and, at the time, I remember feeling utterly amazed that anyone could have got so far. I was equally doubtful that anyone would ever better it. Since then, Shane Warne and Muttiah Muraliatharan have waltzed past it as though it were nothing; Warne broke past 600 at Old Trafford in the summer. Today, though, Murali has gone past 1000 international wickets! It makes Walsh’s effort look pitiful and feeble*

Rather appropriately, his 100th wicket was controversial: “Khaled Mashud was given out caught when the ball only hit his pad” (S.Rajesh / Cricinfo)

* I am, of course, joking. It’s all very well for these glitzy spinners to take hundreds of wickets, but it’s all the more incredible for a fast bowler to manage it.

Panesar gives glimpse of full Monty

Now how about that for a headline? Monty Panesar is a tabloid sub-editor’s dream! Anyway, I’d like to agree wholeheartedly with Jag who was delighted to see an English left-armer bowl around the wicket. I know Ashley Giles gets a lot of stick, some of it undeserved, but even he cannot deny that his over-the-wicket tactics have been painfully dull to watch.

I didn’t see a lot of Panesar today. However, what immediately struck me was the similarity between Daniel Vettori. In the piece I wrote for Cricinfo on Monty, Mark Ramprakash said we [England] should be looking to find someone of Vettori’s ability. While it’s too early to suggest Panesar has the same ability – incidentally, he certainly doesn’t have the same talent with the bat which Vettori possesses – he did well today, and looks a decent prospect. It’ll be really fascinating to watch his progression.

Maybe one day he’ll be / reveal the full Monty! (sorry, again)