Too highly rated?

I see Kevin Pietersen has been knocked off the top spot in the ODIs by Ricky Ponting. Very difficult to argue with that – Ponting is surely the stand out batsman in both forms of the game. Looking at the other batting rankings, it is difficult to find fault, although on current form, Shiv Chanderpaul ought to be in the test top three at least. Also, I struggle to understand how Mahela Jayawardene doesn’t break into either top ten, while Hussey retains a top five place in both. He’s very good, granted, but is he top five?

Jason Gillespie

The bowlers are altogether more perplexing. For one, how can Shoaib Akhtar still be at number 10 in tests? He’s played four tests since the start of 2006 and taken only a handful of wickets. Maybe in the current game, not playing is the way to climb the rankings. Likewise, Jason Gillespie (22) is still deemed a better Test bowler than Lasith Malinga (28)!

Agreed, it must be difficult to devise a workable system. Also, stats don’t tell the full story. But things start to look decidedly suspect when you inspect the Best Ever Ratings, which is a list of players at their peak. Ponting at four is just about fair enough, given his recent dominance. However, Peter May above Viv Richards shows a flaw, while Matthew Hayden in the top ten is just crazy. KP (21) is one place higher than Sachin and two places higher than Wally Hammond. Enough said.

For the bowlers, I half expected to see the list packed high with bowlers of yesteryear, given how modern bowlers are meant to have struggled, but it does put Murali, McGrath, Pollock, Waqar and Warne in the top 15. Of course, Warne should be in the top three, if not top of the pile. Wasim Akram limps in at number 57 behind the likes of Ntini, Shoaib and Harmison, which doesn’t seem right.

That said, like most critics, I can’t think of a better way. There must be some bright spark at Cricinfo with a formula….?

Shiv Chanderpaul is…Kurt Cobain?

Arise ye geeks. I’ve just found out that one of the (many) anagrams of Shivnarine Chanderpaul is Nirvana Relaunched Hips.

Not quite as good as my Parmesan Tony (Monty Panesar), but it could catch on.

Bravo that man

Dwayne Bravo sounds more like a name of an American basketball player than a West Indian cricketer. And if this tour amounts to nothing more than a disaster in terms of results, at least the team has Dwayne and his heroics. This guy is seriously good and nothing less than entertaining to watch.

dwayne_bravo_cuts.jpg

He is cocky and boastful. He bounced Kevin Pietersen, knocking his helmet off, then sprinted down the pitch in a mad celebration – completely disregarding Pietersen who might well have been injured. “Who cares?!” Bravo might’ve thought. “I’ve just dismissed one of the world’s very best batsmen”. One who, incidentally, then claimed he had “never been hit on the head before”, a statement which I think might well be a load of balderdash.

Watching him bat today was a fascinating experience. Owing to yet another damned delay due to rain, Sky were showing us highlights of the 1993-94 tour – the tour which first sparked my love of the game, as I’ve said far too many times – containing West Indian batsmanship of true Caribbean flair. Their opponents, England, were a mishmash of talent: immensely gifted batsmen with mental flaws, brought up in an equally flawed county system. England rarely took the attack to West Indies. It was all about grafting and grinding.

Fast forward 13 years and how things have changed. Two West Indian batsman – Bravo and Shivnarine Chanderpaul – battling it out as though their lives depended on it (their livlihoods probably do, but that’s a matter for another day). Battling it out like Atherton once did. And they did it brilliantly. Bravo to both of them, but particularly to Dwayne. He’s young and gifted and wants to succeed, badly. You can’t say that about many of his peers.

Incidentally, on comms today I nearly wrote “Barov” instead of Bravo. I told the readers this:

I nearly called Bravo “Barov” just then. Barov being Dwayne’s Russian cousin of course

A bored feedbacker wrote in to accuse me of being racist. Have the general public completely lost their sense of humour now?

Do it, Shiv


© Getty Images
Modern Test batsmen talk long and hard about ‘playing for the lads’, belittling their own efforts as part of a team collective, which is all very commendable and, of course, a load of old baloney. The best batsmen are selfish and will, more often than not, bat for themselves, which is fair enough. And while they wouldn’t ever wish misfortune on their team-mates, the very best Test innings usually demand that most of the ‘lads’ get out cheaply, while our hero achieves team glory almost single-handedly.

With this in mind, I was trying to think this morning of the best innings in recent memory, where the successful batsman must have stood at the crease during his knock in the second innings thinking, “if I’m out, that’s it”. Laxman and Dravid against the Aussies at Eden Park in 2001 was a great example of one more wicket and it’s over; as was Athers’ 185 at Jo’burg in 1996; or even Mahela Jayawardene’s hundred at Lords’ last year. The problem with being an Aussie batsman is that there is usually at least one other who makes runs too, but Ponting’s rear-guard 156 at Old Trafford in 2005 stands out. I am sure there are many others, not least by Adam Gilchrist, although did they ever avert certain defeat?

My favourite for sheer excitement was Lara’s unbeaten 153 to beat the Aussies at Bridgetown in 1999. If Shiv Chanderpaul goes on to score 160 to win today, will that be even better? Agreed, Harmison and Plunkett are not McGrath, Gillespie and Warne. And there won’t be the same swash-buckling bravado. Besides, he hasn’t done it yet! But could anyone begrudge the West Indies this moment?

Caribbean ‘near breaking point’

For all his lording of the crease and general God-like status, Sir Viv Richards is a king of the sound-bite. But get him onto a subject he really knows and cares about and you listen.

Sadly, such is West Indies’ plight these days, only the media listen to him when really it should be the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) who ought to take notice of what he says.

“I learned a lot [from Close] and there are things the boss or individual in charge has to say. If guys in the workplace are not up to scratch, it is your job to say they are not up to scratch and suggest things they can do to improve.

“But it is coming near breaking point. The West Indies must think seriously – what is most important? Is it the people with their personal political agendas or the majority of the people who are the supporters of West Indies cricket?”

West Indies’ woes during this tour haven’t courted as much criticism as in previous years, perhaps further emphasising their struggle. Such is their plight, commentators are more concerned than they are angry; concerned that this side, one of the weakest West Indian touring parties, is beneath the required standard to compete at Test level.

There is one man who, Richards believes, shows the courage and passion – not to mention skill – required to compete: Dwayne Bravo.

“When you look and see the way Bravo enjoys his cricket, he could have been part of the 1970s and 1980s,” Richards said. “I hope he realises the job he is faced with in the future in helping us enjoy the game. West Indies cricket is all about enjoying and having fun and at the end being very successful doing it.”

The situation really is this bad. Neither the board or the players’ association (WIPA) can agree on any tour which takes place and, even if they do eventually strike a deal, it usually ends in somebody’s resignation. Furthermore, the board fail to recognise or admit their own enormous failures. It is one big buck-passing sham and, very soon, there may not even be a West Indies team. It’s that serious.

Not even Sir Viv can save them now. A win tomorrow, though still unlikely, would be the most tremendous fillip imaginable for them and I can’t help but wish (guiltily so) Shivnarine Chanderpaul is there to guide them home.

West Indies v India, 4th Test, 3rd day

Fascinating Test match at Kingston. West Indies wrapped things up pretty quickly to dismiss India for 171. That left Windies 269 but they’ve already lost four – including Brian Lara and Shiv Chanderpaul.

Sreesanth celebrates a wicket
Copyright Associated Press

All is not lost, as Ramnaresh Sarwan – the guts of the side, as far as I’m concerned; the real bare-knuckled streetfighter – is still there on 43, and they need another 164 to win. One thing’s certain: it won’t be a draw.

Money’s on India, but COME ON Windies! Live scorecard.

Update: bugger. Sarwan gone for 51.

Chanderpaul resigns as West Indies captain

He’s made the move to concentrate on his batting. That is probably a good move- when he was in Australia last summer, he was a shadow of his fomer self. West Indies will have to think long term about his replacement. I’d bet on Ramnaresh Sarwan if forced to guess.

Run! Run you bastard, run!

I haven’t played for years, but I remember screaming this, aged 16 or so, at the bastard non-striker who ran me out, Rich v Hall house match. I took a hat-trick – one of two that season! – but was peeved at getting run out.

Anyway, Shiv Chanderpaul re-enacts this perfectly in this video of the recent West Indies series against New Zealand.

Chanderpaul’s glare strips

Chanderpaul

Been wondering what the hell Chanderpaul wore beneath his eyes – assumed it was advertising-gone-mad – but they’re anti-reflective-strips!

Anti-reflective-strips

Hat tip: AKR