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The London County Cricket Club did a pop idol event last year to find the next generation of English cricketers. It was a pretty good success too, and they’re doing it again this year.

Marks on Woolmer in Pakistan

Morning everyone!

Not much in the UK papers, though Vic Marks writes a good profile of Bob Woolmer’s adventures in Pakistan. For me the really interesting thing is that he’s getting Shahid Afridi to start to deliver on a consistent basis. The guy is a lot like Andrew Symonds, a remarkable talent, but not properly focussed. Until now, anyway.

The talent that lies within

I can’t remember who said it, but it was during Pakistan’s tour of England in 1996 when I heard the following uttered: “Pakistan are the most talented team in the world, and contain the richest abundance of natural talent anywhere in the world.” Something alone those lines, anyway.

It’s one of those sayings which sticks with you (and follows you, although hopefully not in the next few weeks!), and I’ve yet to find someone who can justify it, or qualify it. Yet something tells me it’s probably true, which leads me to ask: how and why aren’t Pakistan regarded as a serious world-beating threat? Why, if they have such rich seams of talent, are they so inconsistent and volatile? Why can’t Inzamam run between the wickets, and why has their fielding always been so crap?

In that 1996 tour, I saw players like Inzy, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis – and the spin twins of Saqlain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Ahmed (bowling Mushy). Actually, wrong tour Will – Saqlain didn’t play a Test, my mistake. Anyway, it’s understandable that a team can struggle to compete when they lose such greats as Wasim and Waqar (just look at the West Indies. Although their problems run deeper, and I don’t even begin to understand them) but a country that can produce such natural talent ought to succeed more than they have been.

The BBC went some way to explaining the problems a few weeks ago:

Bob Woolmer has at his disposal a wealth of talent: prolific middle-order batsmen Younis Khan, Inzamam and Mohammad Yousuf; a brilliant young leg-spinner in Danish Kaneria; and bowlers of searing pace in Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami.

Shoaib can be devastating – when he’s fit and the mood suits him

But getting all of those fit and mentally tuned in to perform in all three Tests will be Woolmer’s big challenge – quite often one department has fired, only to be let down by the other parts of the team.

Shoaib is a curious one. He has the ability, and bendy arm, to kill most batsmen if he so chooses. But he comes across as lazy, arrogant, unfit and superior to the game. He’ll play if he wants, when he wants.

Even when Wasim and Waqar were squashing batsmen’s toes at will, the question as to “which team will turn up?” hovered over the Pakistan team, and I don’t think it’s lifted to this day. Which side will turn up against England?

London County Cricket Club – Pop Idol final?

Just remembered, today is the final of the London County Cricket Club’s “pop idol” style talent scout. And here are the winners, from LondonCountyCricketClub.com:

Tahir Afridi
Irfan Ahmed
Hasan Bajwa
Christopher Brophy
Ashley Caddy
Andrew Carter
Tom Clarke
Matthew Currin
Alex Day
Daniel De Leon
Chetan Depala
Ahmad Elech
Mike Fair
Kalana Geekiyana
Alex Hales
Brett Houston
Gemaal Hussain
Saahil Jain
Gagandeep Jauhar
Jason Lane
Bradley Matthews
Mohit Mehta
Jonathan Miles
John Nurden
Khawaja Omer
Dominic O’Neil
Ridwan Patel
Janan Rajaratnam
Ravinder Sidhu
Tom Strong
Tim Wellings

It’ll be fascinating to see how these lot develop, if at all, and whether any counties sign them…or even if any play for England! We’re traditionally injury-prone every few years, so…

Warning bell sounds for Pietersen – don’t be a Hick

I wrote recently about Matthew Maynard, and how his and Hick’s and Ramprakash’s failures have confused all their fans. Mike Selvey, the excellent TMS contributor and Guardian journalist writes a strong peice on Pietersen, comparing his talents to those of the aforementioned.

The note of caution comes on two fronts however. The apparently idiosyncratic manner in which he played in the one-day series – in which he planted himself outside off-stump and belted the ball through the leg-side [...] But now we need to see evidence that he can play in a more orthodox manner, with fewer moving parts. Nineteen first-class hundreds already indicate he can but, rest assured, the Australians, not least his captain at Hampshire Shane Warne, will have him well in hand should they encounter one another this summer.

A look back on Matthew Maynard

The Guardian look back on Matthew Maynard, a potential English coach – another failed English talent. He was in his pomp around the time I first got interested in cricket, aged 12, and was quite simply extraordinary. He had the potential to be anything he wanted to be – the article is a good read, by his excellent colleague-cum-journalist Steve James, and this is surely the highlight:

The impression has lingered long that Maynard has never really known how good he is, an idea that evokes ridiculously exaggerated confirmation. “I just see myself as a good club player,” he says in all seriousness.

Around the 90s, the whole of England was wondering just how on God’s earth talents like Ramprakash, Hick and Maynard weren’t scoring hundreds at will at Test level. It confounds me to this day. Maynard is a tough character, with a good cricket head on him and is being buttered up by Fletcher to replace him in [?].

“Dear future cricket superstar!”

I’ve decided not to humiliate myself, my friends and family by going to a cricket talent-scout at Lord’s – I had a long bowl in the nets 2 weeks ago, and the diagnosis was worse than I thought. Put it this way – it was a good job I bowled in a proper net! Anyway, the scheme is such a brilliant idea – you can read more about it here.

All this rambling, as Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles tie the knot in Windsor, comes via an email I’ve received from Neil Burns from the London County Cricket Club:

Dear Future Cricket Superstar

Firstly, many thanks for registering to play your part in
our very own Pop Idol 4 Cricket. All of us at LCCC are sure
the event will be a great success.
With regard to your application, we expect to see you at the
session you applied for, and look forward to assessing your
potential on the day.
The dress code for MCC Indoor School at Lord’s is cricket
whites and trainers (no black soles allowed) for those who
have them. If you aren’t fortunate enough to own cricket
clothing, we will do our very best to assist you on the day
with our assortment of spare clothing.
The timings of the trials will be on a first come first
served basis once you report to our registration desk in the
main arena alongside the nets. All participants are advised
to do some warming up and stretches in the designated area
before bowling your two overs at one of our professional
batsmen. Once you have bowled, you are requested to exit the
main arena as quickly as possible to make way for the next
bowler.
As we have a significant number of trialists to observe, we
would be grateful if all bowlers can be patient whilst
waiting for their opportunity to show us your potential as a
future superstar bowler.
The results will be posted on our website
www.londoncountycricketclub.com by noon on Wednesday 20th
April . Only those selected for The Grand Final on Sunday
24th will be posted on the site. However, there is still
hope for those not selected as we plan to run the event
again in the future.
On the day, please enter Lord’s Cricket Ground via The North
Gate.
Due to the sheer volume of participants, no parking is
available at Lord’s. Please find two attachments listing
information on how to get to Lord’s for your chance to
fulfil your cricketing dreams.
May I take this opportunity, on behalf of everyone
associated with LCCC to wish you every success on the day
and for the forthcoming season.
I look forward to meeting up with you and everyone joining
you in this special event.
Yours sincerely,

Neil D Burns
Chief Executive
London County Cricket Club