Stern blogs

Much to his amusement, John Stern, the Editor of The Wisden Cricketer, can now be called a blogger. He’s kindly offering his thoughts over at our Tour Diaries blog while in India for the third Test. Check it.

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?

If you only buy one thing this month…

…make it The Wisden Cricketer! It’s a fabulous magazine, written by stupendously insightful and knowledgeable people, aided (ok – contributed!) by my goodself this month. I’m hidden away in the back pages, lurking uncerimoniously among the reviews and adverts and other stuff. A very satisfying thing, though, to have my name in print for the first time, and a great honour. I reviewed Oval Reflections – a pictorial celebration of The Oval, which was a brilliant book. Loads of amazing photos – really good stuff. I’m still pinching myself that I am in this environment, and to be doing the things I’m doing. I interviewed Mark Ramprakash a couple of days ago. Mark flippin’ Ramprakash? What’s going on?! Nice chap, and good of him to put up with what was a first interview for me. I’ve been the interviewee plenty of times ta very much, for jobs and all.

Anyway I did alright, if I do say so myself, although experience will definately help matters considerably in the months and years to come. It’s not an easy thing to do (this was over the phone, too, which has its own problems…not least mobile bloody phones, and reception. Or the lack thereof.)

Anyway, bit of a Waffling Will post so I’ll shut up.

Oh, here’s the book at Amazon which’ll have more details if you’re too lazy to buy the magazine: Oval Reflections: Memories from the World Famous Sporting Ground

The far from super ICC Super Series

It’s really not been all that super, has it? John Stern, editor of The Wisden Cricketer in his column, Stern Words, wrote before this series:

Australia will be so up for it as to make the contest potentially one-sided despite the obvious talent they will be facing. Had Australia beaten England, the chances are that the World XI players might have fancied it more than the Australians. The opposite now seems to be true.

While the matches haven’t been wholly one-sided, Australia have certainly outplayed World XI who, as a team, lack the intensity that a group of players (a “team”) who represent a country usually have. It’s a shame, though; Lara, Flintoff, Sangakarra, Shoaib, Gayle…some fine, fine players. And my boss made a good point about the trouble the series faces; we see so much cricket these days that we’ve become spoilt for choice. The tasty prospect of picking Murali’s doosra isn’t a rare enough occasion to get excited about. Lara? Christ, I’ve seen him bat more than some of England’s players.

So what can the future of a “world series” hold? After England’s memorable summer, Australia – the caged animal, as John said – has fought back, determined to show the world that they are indeed the best. Better than all the rest, as (and I shudder that I know this) Tina Turner once said. But these two victories are a feeble attempt at confirming their waning authority as cricket’s leaders, not that that is Australia’s (or Cricket Australia’s) fault.

It’s the fault of the Ashes. Damn this summer, and damn all that participated; any other cricketing contest now seems weak and watery in comparison.