Should stump mics be turned off?

Peter Moores, the England coach, has responded to criticism of England’s behaviour in the 2nd Test against India by suggesting stump microphones are switched off.

“There must be some things that are left on the field to be fair to the players,” Moores said in response to criticism of England’s incessent chatter during the Trent Bridge Test. “They should be allowed to go out there and play the game without being worried that everything they actually say is going to be broadcast. It’s something we’ve discussed as a management team and we’ve spoken to the match referee about it.”

The International Cricket Council rules that stump microphones be turned on whenever a ball is live – that is, when a batsman takes guard, between a bowler’s run-up to the time the ball reaches or passes a batsman, and from the time a fielder throws the ball back to a team-mate or onto the stumps.

It’s a confident reaction from a coach so new to international cricket and I agree, in part. Players should be allowed, within the law, to go hell for leather out there and say whatever they wish. This isn’t Question Time or an audience with the Queen. This is professional sport played by well-paid, talent individuals (supposedly) at the top of their game – and sledging is part of their armoury.

But, as a viewer, only once or twice have I ever heard a “live” sledge (Dean Jones was caught out, remember). Sky always tend to turn it down for viewers – though Matt Prior is, admittedly, probably the loudest England wicketkeeper I’ve ever heard, so it’s entirely plausible his yelps break through. And so what if they do? So what if we hear Prior, for example, call a batsman a gimp – or Zaheer thinks Pietersen’s a hermaphrodite. This has been going on since WG Grace first threw away his razor. Is society so pathetically sensitive, or naive, that it can’t handle the odd bit of banter between players fighting tooth and nail?

And if so…just turn it off and let everyone get on with it. If anything goes too far, the match referee can slap them with a fine or whatever.

You? Should they be turned on or off? Vote below, then leave your comments. If you can’t see the poll below, click here.


Rebellion in the provinces

Over the next nine days, while international cricket may be getting a break, England’s international cricketers will not be putting their feet up. Tomorrow brings the Friend’s Provident semi finals, a much- welcomed addition to the calendar, with Durham playing at home versus Essex and Hampshire taking on Warwickshire at the Rose Bowl. All five of these counties’ players that were present at Chester-le-Street have been released back to their counties for the two fixtures.

In a curious development, however, Ian Bell has not been selected. As a member of England’s World Cup top order, he would have assumed he would walk into his county side. After all, during the 2005 Ashes series, he and Pietersen met in the then C&G Trophy final under similar circumstances. Back then, Bell was merely a fledgling in the England set-up and struggling for form. Warwickshire, however, have in this instance called into question his ability to travel so quickly from a Test match and immediately switch back into one-day mode. The county may be justified in their approach – the only match they have lost this season, while not directly caused by the fact, was against Worcestershire when Bell was selected over Jonathan Trott, and subsequently contributed with six runs and a dropped catch. What is noteworthy, however, is the signal that this sends to Peter Moores’ county releases: if we don’t want to play them, you can’t make us.

The domestic sides face an interesting dilemma. England players should be by definition among the best on the county’s books, but this leads to the need to drop someone – in a side where everyone is in form, this can seem nigh on impossible, and is unsettling to team unity. The big names also bring in the crowds, and such basic financial matters are close the heart of any chief executive, be they of Warwickshire, Worcestershire or Woolworths. However, none would wish to invite the risk, in a knockout round, of being simply a vehicle for match practice when victory is quite so important. Not that their decision can be fully independent – after all, the players, being centrally contracted, are effectively on limited loan.

Does Warwickshire have a duty to the national board to pick those players made available to them, whatever their form or preparation? Such questions never really arose under Duncan Fletcher – apparently, under Moores, counties feel more emboldened by the exponential increase in player availability over the season so far compared to those previous. Should England’s players be released for the county Twenty20s at the end of the week, or if Bell is left out of two sides in the space of a week, Warwickshire are likely to then receive him with open arms – but on their terms and conditions.

Slow but steady wins the race

Neither of the last two Tests has provided the kind of intrigue or tension to really kick-start this summer’s cricket. At least, such as it may be called summer when hail stops play. While the crowds may rue the decline of a once great Test nation, however, the England selectors have some cause to smile.

Kevin Pietersen may have sneaked the Man-of-the-Match award with his maiden international double hundred, but Headingley was Ryan Sidebottom’s Test. After the Durham pair of Plunkett and Harmison had comprehensively failed to look threatening at Lord’s, or even manage to find both line and length with any frequency, the prospect of a return for the equally unpredictable Anderson or Mahmood was not one of eager anticipation. Sidebottom’s selection, whilst somewhat left-field and seen by some as a backwards step, certainly served purpose. His experience and discipline was priceless to an attack whose two frontline ‘strike men’ seemed as unsure as the opposition batsmen as to where each of their deliveries was going to pitch. Michael Vaughan possibly summed it up the Aesopian predicament most accurately:

“If you’ve got someone bowling 90mph in the right area, it’s fantastic, but pace bowled on either side of the wicket is something that’s quite nice to face.”

Sidebottom, like Prior, had not had the most successful start to the cricketing calendar. Handed his second Test cap, he took his best haul in all competitions this season in the first innings, with his second innings figures costing a mere two runs extra. Prior’s two first-innings outings have both been far in excess of any of his scores for Sussex this year. Is Moores simply blessed with good fortune in his early selections, or does he have Fletcher’s Midas touch for the international performer? It is surely too soon to tell; but for the moment it seems likely that Nottinghamshire will have to wait a little longer to regain their curly-haired left-arm seamer.

Not all of the selection decisions have paid off. While Graveney et al cannot take blame for Harmison’s curious lack of consistency, Plunkett’s rather robotic action accounts for much of the troubles that went unhidden by his flattering figures at Headingley. Sidebottom has just highlighted the quality that can be found and developed in the county system that Duncan Fletcher had come to distrust. Unless Donald is able to make a swift and significant impact, a return to Durham for the young man may be the best way to improve his game.

Moores welcomes in The Clinic

The modern sportsman is not the sharp-tongued wordsmith he once was. The vast majority of players in most sports are given nicknames ending in “y”, more often than not preceded only by their surname. On Thursday, Straussy will captain; he will open with Cooky. Harmy will hopefully have woken up from his nightmare and, together with Hoggy, Freddie and Plunky, will form the basis of England’s attack for the summer. An attack whose every move will be monitored by, and every delivery collected by, Priory. Ah. That doesn’t quite work.

Matt Prior. The England management have plenty to ponder in the next 48 hours, not least a suitable nickname for their new wicketkeeper. Give it another 48 hours, and we too will probably have one for him, because right now there’s no way he will sustain an England career by sharing a nickname with celebrities’ rehab clinic of choice. In fact, that will be his nickname: The Clinic.

So is he the man for the job? Does his selection smack of Sussex favourism by Peter Moores, the new England coach who turned around the county’s fortunes? I was a little surprised, though not totally shocked; Prior had a decent A tour and is a firm favourite of many (if not Shane Warne who “humiliated” him a couple of years ago). Rumours are that Prior is bit of an aggressive so-and-so, not one to back down.

All this is meaningless of course. He will be judged on each Test by the runs he scores and catches he spills. If he has a poor two or three, it will force an early and fascinating test of Moores’s leadership and loyalty.

Prior and Shah included as Nixon misses out

Since Peter Moores took over the task of rebuilding England’s Test and ODI teams after what was undeniably a disappointing winter, speculation has been rife over which players the former Sussex coach wanted to take the field at Lord’s this Thursday. Though the role of coach as selector is set to diminish when the Schofield inquiry airs its views, there is no doubt that Moores has had his hand in choosing his first full international squad. Thus, it is not overly surprising that two of his Winter Academy squad have already taken two of the twelve places.

Prior (w/k)

So Nixon misses out to Moores’ former county teammate, though after a good winter at the Academy, Prior has so far failed to impress in the Championship. The other talking point, of course, is Owais Shah. Whilst Shah has been much tipped in the media, he has backed this up with decent batting performances this season, and deserves to build on his Indian experience. Plunkett’s selection is to be expected – with Flintoff’s batting having been proven to be in poor international form, then a bowler with pretensions to all-round capabilities must be included over the more one-dimensional Anderson.

So what are your thoughts? Has Nixon been robbed? Is Strauss the man for the job? Would you have preferred one of any number of alternatives? Let us know your views below.

Moores stamps his authority

I suppose it isn’t too surprising that a new coach wants to have his closest allies by his side, but the axing of Matthew Maynard and prompt replacement of Andy Flower did show one thing. Peter Moores, the new England coach, will do things his way. Flower’s been working with Moores at the Academy, I think on a part-time basis due to his commitments with Essex. And as ever, a new appointment brings a flurry of quotes from people saying how amazing and wonderful Flower is, a blooming marvellous batting coach, etc.

Who will be next on Moores’ culling list?

Mark Shields and Peter Moores: separated at birth?

It’s a conspiracy and the truth will out.

Peter Moores and Mark Shields