West Indies transport woes strike at last

The great fear about the 2007 World Cup, brought to you by the ICC and a list of Corporate Partnersâ„¢ as long as your arm, was that the transport infrastructure might not be able to cope. In the wake of constant fumbling by the ICC, these fears have been overshadowed, and there have not been any great cock=ups.

Until now.

It was better to be a piece of luggage than a player – Australia’s luggage was sent on a 40-minute direct flight from Grenada to St Lucia while players were five hours in transit after having to go through Barbados.

South Africa’s luggage beat the team to St Lucia by two hours, after the travel-weary Proteas arrived last night three hours behind schedule.

At one stage in Grenada, the Australian, New Zealand and Sri Lankan players disembarked the flight after waiting for 30 minutes in their seats before being summoned back on board as it left 95 minutes late.

The pilot of the charter flight apologised on the tarmac and the players were starting to wonder whether the pilot may have lost his bearings when he signed off with “goodnight”.

It was noon.

Room was so tight on the flight from Barbados to Grenada that some players, including Matthew Hayden, struggled to find room to put their feet.

The Sri Lankans and New Zealanders were more disadvantaged because they are playing tonight (AEST), whereas Australia does not play South Africa until tomorrow night.

One Sri Lankan player quipped: “The way we are going our first look at the ground will be on match morning – from about 6000 feet.”

Whoops!

Domestic parades

There is one thing to be said of one-day tournaments. No one expects an English impression. Of course, my inner patriotic flag-waver occasionally gets over-excited by gritty half centuries and out-swingers that inevitably evade the edge, but it was evident from as early as the tentative pushes played to Dwayne Leverock’s tweakers that this World Cup was going to be little different to the last.

So back to the drawing board, and the full length game. As any revising teenager will tell you, time is short between England’s return and May 17th. Yet somehow, Peter Moores, along with a criticised selection committee and a captain under pressure, must select 11 players to take the field at Lord’s. Although it has been a long winter for many of those returning from the Caribbean, it is surely a question of how many appearances they will make for their counties, and not whether they will appear.

Whilst those in the national one-day squad have been touching up the Bajan suntan, some of the Ashes party have already started their first-class accounts for 2007 with mixed success. Pleasingly, the first round of Championship matches has not undergone a domination of rain or, indeed, of any particular discipline. Both teams failed to successfully remove the other at a high scoring game at Taunton, while Mushtaq Ahmed ran amok in the first innings at Sussex after declaring himself below full match fitness. Alastair Cook made his second century in as many games after captaining the MCC last week, Hoggard made a good second innings four-for, while Will has already flagged Harmison’s impression on return. Geraint Jones, however, compounded his disappointing winter with single figures in both innings, and Ashley Giles spent the first week of the season in Colorado undergoing exploratory hip surgery.

Difficult decisions will have to be made before England play again, not least being how much rest to give the players returning this week. Unfortunately for both Jones and Giles, their names almost certainly will not be amongst those causing concern.

Eleven pioneers of one-day cricket

When you get too many cricket nuts sat round a table, it doesn’t take long before you start picking the greatest teams of all time.

And so it was last night. Our goal was slightly different, in that it was not a question of results, figures etc, but rather picking which eleven players had most altered ODI l cricket for the better. Those whose skill, style, attitude and innovation added new expectations to those players that followed them. As a result, batsmen like Ponting, Tendulkar, Lara, Pietersen don’t get a look in, nor do bowlers like McGrath or Murali, as others set the bench mark, which they would later raise further. No doubt, there are players we’ve missed out! Surely there is an Indian or two…

1. Adam Gilchrist 2. Sanath Jayasuriya 3. Viv Richards 4. Mark Waugh 5. Clive Lloyd 6. Michael Bevan 7. Jonty Rhodes 8. Lance Klusener 9. Wasim Akram 10. Shane Warne 11. Waqar Younis

Thoughts?

Ian Valentine is a freelance journalist blogging his diary of the World Cup for The Corridor

Aussie fans: a case study

“That’s a bloody disgrace, getting out like that! He should be ashamed of himself. Disgusting! What an idiot!”

To listen to the Aussie next to me (this was a rough translation – please add expletives to taste), you could be forgiven for thinking that Matthew Hayden had missed a full toss first up. Of course, the big Queenslander had just helped himself to another hundred on a blazing hot day in Grenada. From a television screen behind us in this perfect cricket ground, I could hear the commentator Mark Nicholas pouring forth his usual treacle, hailing the innings as a treat for the crowd and a display of expert strokeplay. Which it was.

Australian fans

Perhaps, therein lies the difference between winners and losers. A hundred wasn’t enough, even if the score was 220 odd for 3. Imagine if Michael Vaughan had scored 100, would we be berating him? Hayden also stalked off like he had just swallowed a wasp, before saluting the massed ranks of jubilant Aussies that had swelled the ground to a record attendance. I sat in the party stand for an hour or so until it got too hot for my pommy skin and I marvelled at how the ‘Hayden strut’ is so much part of the Australian male. They all walk about like him, shoulders back, chest puffed and chin forward. My favourite example was a skinny wretch built like Mr Muscle, who still tried to make the most of what he had, posturing about like Arnie in a street brawl. But at least he was fully clothed, unlike the Speedo brigade who hugged and grappled every time something went their way. Aussies are real men!

Joking apart, it was great to see a proper total posted. Shane Watson was the surprise package, playing shots that defied belief, all of them pure and proper. I was one of the many who couldn’t understand why the selectors kept coming back to him. “He’s like chopped liver,” said one of the Aussies on the boat, which I presume is a bad thing. However, and not for the first time, I was proved wrong. He was brilliant.

Ian Valentine is a freelance journalist blogging his diary of the World Cup for The Corridor

England v West Indies, Super Eights, Barbados

It’s a day of last hurrahs. England’s final match; West Indies last game; Duncan Fletcher’s and Brian Lara’s last in international cricket and, apart from those departing, it’s an utterly meaningless encounter. Due to Fletcher’s retirement, England are apparently now up for the match (which is nice). All we want is a Lara hundred though, don’t we?

Leave your wibblings below and keep an eye on the scorecard.

The Matthew Hayden show

Prior to the penultimate game of the Super Eight’s, Matthew Hayden was just three runs behind the tournament’s highest run scorer in Jacques Kallis. He was favoured to move into pole position but has surged to it with yet another century of muscle and class. Is he playing better than his golden year of 2001? While most teams are struggling in the first ten overs (the average being 36 runs for 1.4 wickets) Hayden hasn’t set a foot wrong. Gilchrist seems to be rather quiet but is himself averaging 37 with the bat in the World Cup.

The pre-match news is Shane Bond is out crook and Jacob Oram having earlier been ruled out. Mark Gillespie and Michael Mason play in their place. Shane Watson makes a welcome return for Australia forcing Brad Hodge out. Shane Bond was the real danger man for Australia, a bowler who seems to have the wood over the Aussies. New Zealand will surely miss him.

Australia have moved into a more than healthy 215-2 after 32 overs and look to post a really big one. In light of recent adventures New Zealand might fancy their chances in getting them.

Check out the scorecard here and leave your comments below.

Duncan’s departure

We knew it was coming, so it came as no surprise that Duncan Fletcher today resigned as England coach. As Andrew Miller notes in his piece, all coaching careers (like politicians’) have to end in failure. Fletcher, for all his faults in the past 18 months, has been the single most important figure in the English game over the last eight years. England needs someone new, less jaded and cynical – a bright-eyed replacement with fresh ideas. But let’s not forget what he has given to his adopted country.

Your thoughts? Are you sad, surprised or sullen about his resignation? Who should replace him?

Wherefore art thou, Pakistan?

In the last couple of days we’ve travelled west to Grenada, where we watched a second one-sided match in as many days. Indeed, we made it to the lovely ground here with Ireland languishing on 60 odd for 9. About an hour and ten overs later it was all over, with Mahela Jayawardene playing some memorable shots.

While the Irish have done themselves proud in this tournament, it was a shame for the organizers here that the match was never likely to be a contest. What a difference it would have made if the Pakistanis had got their act together so many weeks ago. At lunchtime, when the match had long finished, there was a heart rending scene as local boys and girls performed a well choreographed dance to highlight AIDS awareness to empty stands. It should have been appreciated by thousands of fans waiting for a tense run chase between fierce rivals. The Grenadians had done all they could to stage a party, but the guests of honour hadn’t shown.

Talking of no-shows, I couldn’t have been more wrong about England. Strauss didn’t get his ton, the Boks didn’t choke and we hardly raised a whimper in the whole tournament. Again, what should have been a marvellous sporting occasion was a total anti-climax. The Baijans, likewise, could not have done more. A friend on the boat Richard Butler was beside himself with frustration. “What is most galling,” he said, “is that England have not played any attacking cricket. They have died wondering.” To see AB de Villiers, Graeme Smith, Jayawardene and Sanath Jayasuriya giving it a lash has shown what can be done.

With luck, tomorrow’s game will be 100 overs long! No predictions this time. Just a full game will do me fine.

Ian Valentine is a freelance journalist blogging his diary of the World Cup for The Corridor

Live chat: West Indies v Bangladesh, Super Eights, Barbados

It seems like Bangladesh have had a good World Cup after bashing a couple giants, but find themselves languishing at the footer of the Super Eights table. The West Indies have been highly disappointing in the second stanza having breezed through their pool grouping but they’re also stuck low on two points. As Dileep Premachandran over at CricInfo writes:

It will have escaped no one’s attention that West Indies are currently level on points with Bangladesh and Ireland, an unacceptable state of affairs in a region that dominated the game for nearly two decades.

It’s statement time. Brian Lara is in the final breath of his cricketing career and one might hope that the embattled West Indies could dig a couple specials out to end in a way he might deserve. Bangladesh can foil that and go a long way to secure themselves a final six finish. That would be a grand achievement for the nation.

Check the scorecard and leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Mick Jagger and Trevor McDonald

Not a headline I think I’ll ever have to type again but, who knows, maybe they’re best buddies. Here are two Knights of the realm; Mick Jagger:

Mick Jagger at the World Cup

And here’s Sir Trev “bong” McDonald:

Trevor McDonald at the World Cup

Photos courtesy of Ryan’s brilliant photostream.