Sobers’ sober view of West Indian Cricket

Sir Garfield, also known as Sir Garry, said: “We had no pads and played in the road.

“That is how we learnt our skills – you learn to put the bat to the ball and keep your body well out of the way.”

“But they are no longer playing in the street and on the beaches. They seem to have lost this art and that is where they are failing. If we don’t pick them up in the car then they don’t turn up.

“If they don’t have pads and a helmet and a rolled wicket they will not play. And that has led to the downfall of West Indian cricket.”

A sobering thought from one of cricket’s greats. I can’t help thinking basketball and American TV has had an adverse effect too, though. And it wasn’t too long ago that a trip to the West Indies meant almost certain loss, humiliation and/or being stretchered off the pitch. How times can change – and quickly, too.

More nails in Bangladesh’s coffin

What a waste of both team’s time and energy. It’s doing Bangladesh no good, and could potentially devalue cricket – come on, ICC, wake up. God knows what Australia will do to them…

This was the 2249th One Day International, but was only the 25th time a side had won by 10 wickets. England destroyed their opposition – 192-0 – with 25 overs and one ball to spare. (7.73/over to save you reaching for your calculater).

How did they beat Worcestershire?!

Debacle allows Trescothick into form

What a debacle. Bowled out for 104, in 48 overs, then concede 269 and take only 3 wickets. It’s hard to see how it could have gone any worse for Bangladesh. The promise Mortaza showed early on was eclipsed by Vaughan – his little gem of 40-odd was just the tonic Trescothick needed to kick start his innings. Once he’d reached 100, he went beserk – hardly scoring a single in-between making 100 and, another, 150.

In the last game (“Test”), I wondered what England could take out of this game. And I’m still wondering. The only things I can think of is, perhaps – just perhaps – the top 3 or 4 batsmen’s feet might be moving a bit better by the time Australia arrive. And for Steve Harmison to pick up a few wickets will have done his confidence some good.

All in all, it’s an embarassing situation and Bangladeshi cricket must be wondering why on earth the ICC ever allowed them to play this level of cricket. It’s doing them so much harm, I can’t imagine them ever beating a quality cricket side. The youngsters, in particular, will feel scarred and worthless – what sort of education is this for them?

I hope England declare overnight and spare the ‘deshis no more than one more day of this.

Bangladesh’s tour of England

Bangladesh Cricket Board

Maybe there has, maybe there hasn’t – but in my eyes, a lot seems to have been made today of a Bangladeshi making a hundred. Every time I turned on the news, on the TV or radio, a presenter screamed out “Bangladesh kicked off their tour of England in style today as Javed Omar scored a hundred.”

Without sounding condecending – and I regretfully admit I know bugger all about the Bangladeshi team – a hundred against a Combined University XI isn’t much to write home about, but it made me wonder: how many hundreds will Bangladesh score by the time their tour ends at the end of June?

They’re due to play Sussex, Northamptonshire, Derbyshire and Worcestershire – in that order – as well as 2 Tests against England and a clutch of “triangular ODIs” against England and Australia. I hope for their sake they show some improvement, and class and some potential. I really struggle in writing and talking about “minnow” countries because I can’t reason whether I think they should be playing International cricket or not. On the one hand, they’re gaining invaluable experience playing against better nations. On the other, they’re reducing the overall quality of international cricket…and in doing so, in getting hammered so easily and so often, their confidence gets dented more than double-parked car on a busy London street.

Way back last Christmas, Mark Nicholas wrote about “The Great Divide” in cricket:

The International Cricket Council have done untold damage by allowing
Zimbabwe and Bangladesh Test-match status. Their presence lowers
standards and diminishes an already fragile product. Test-match
performances have been cheapened and do a disservice to those who have
gone before. True, there have been other eras when series have been
uneven but never to this extent.

I want more countries playing cricket. I want cricket to have greater worldwide sporting respect. I want cricket’s international teams to improve, and not for one team to run away with all the successes (guess who). Arguably it could be said there’s now 3 divisions in international cricket: Australia on their own in Division 1, England and the other obvious countries in Division 2, and New Zealand in division 3. Sorry! Couldn’t resist. Zim, Bang, Kenya – all those minnows – occupy the 3rd division.

Anyway, perhaps I should wait until I see Bangladesh perform in the 2 Tests. Dave Whatmore tells us we’re in for a big suprise, after all, but then covers his backside, you know, just in case the suprises don’t quite jump out at us:

“It [success] is measured in other areas. Essentially we want to show progress and push the opposition as hard as we can, and there will be objectives both for individuals and the team as well.”

Well, Whatmore, if that’s what you tell your players then you ought to be sacked. In other words – “ok lads, we’ve lost. (AGAIN). But don’t worry. Omar: you nearly caught that sitter. Mohammad – yes you missed a straight one, but you’ll know now for next time.” I’m exaggerating; however the only way for Bangladesh is up. They need to attack, attack, attack: winning = progress.

Oh, and let’s have a sportsmen’s bet about how many hundreds the Bangas will score (in all their games). I’m going for 5.

Bowling standards – cyclical?

A few people commented (thanks) on my post about bowling standards, brought to my attention by an article by Mike Atherton. In it, he also hinted at a thought that bowling, and bowlers – in terms of quality – could be a cyclical thing. My question is this: if the bowlers of the 70s, 80s and 90s were so excellent – and they werehow hasn’t the trend continued? Even with excellent and improving batting skills and preparation, bowling skills have improved too – as has medical advice and physio treatment which ought to maximise the chances that potentially good bowlers makes it to the highest level.

But it’s no longer happening. A fault of the “previous greats” not passing on their knowledge? (Not the case with Lillee, of course). Batsmen have been allowed to make easier runs, but that’s a poor excuse. Too much cricket? Fred Trueman, himself a great, would scoff at that suggestion. He used to bowl hundreds of overs a season, and was thankful for it.

Let’s open this up a bit and see if we can come to some conclusions. I wish we could invite the opinions of some pro cricketers or journalists – maybe they’re reading our blogs after all. If you are – don’t be afraid to leave a comment!

October’s Super Series – World XI v Australia

I’ve forgotten about October’s “Super Series,” where the best 30 non-Australians take on the Australians, presumabely in a 3 match ODI series (would prefer them to be Test matches mind). And Mike Atherton, who’s on the selectorial panel, writes about it in today’s Telegraph and makes his usual interesting observations; mainly, the lack of quality bowling in the world.

No one can doubt the amount of high-quality batsmen there are nowadays. Off the top of my head, there’s Ponting, Vaughan, Sehwag, Dravid, Inzy, Kallis, Lara, Tendulkar – and about 6 other very fine players. But are they fine players & fine batsmen, or are they just making easy runs on road-like pitches against 2nd XI bowlers?

Compared to (“just”) 20 years ago, the talent in the bowling departments around the world is paltry and scarce. Only Australia, South Africa and the West Indies produced genuinely outstanding fast bowlers in the 90s: McGrath and Gillespie; Pollock and Donald; Ambrose and Walsh (whose careers started pre 1990). There were, and are, others representing other countries, but none lie in the same class or strike fear into opposition teams. So, Atherton – along with his chairman Sunny Gavaskar, Jonty Rhodes, Clive Lloyd, Richard Hadlee and Aravinda de Silva – had great difficulty in choosing their bowlers for a team of 30 Australia-beaters.

This is not simply the jealous whingeing of a retired opening batsman. A week ago, I played golf in a Michael Vaughan benefit day: Shane Warne and Andrew Flintoff played, and both said to me, independently of each other, that the standard of international bowling is poor

He highlights the most recent West Indies / South Africa match as a key example: eight, separate hundreds scored (not including 3 by Gayle alone):

Sure, the Antigua Recreation Ground is the flattest pitch in the world, but the venue completed another series in which four consecutive Tests were played within about a five-week period.

At the moment, because of all sorts of pressures – financial, television and from the players themselves – the system is one that packs in the maximum amount of international cricket in the minimum amount of time. Producing fast bowlers or genuine all-rounders is less likely in such a physically-demanding environment – and these are precisely the categories which proved most troublesome to the World XI selectors.

As a bowler myself, I hate nothing more than watching huge totals being amassed with ease – and having “only” followed cricket for 10 years, I’ve never seen cricket dominated by bowlers, such as it was in the 70s (so my Dad told me) with the quartet/quintet/sextet of West Indians tearing in. I’d love the balance to be re-addressed, for there is no more exhilarating sight in cricket than a fast bowlers roaring in and knocking several shades out of an opening batsman.

The squad to face Australia, in Melbourne and Sydney, is announced on Monday