Friday 30 April 2010

Great areas, Shane...

Shane Warne's deconstruction of the IPL is here, and it's worth reading. The Old Batsman's in en route. When I get minute...

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Tremwatch III

Number of matches Surrey have played this season: 4

Number of matches Chris Tremlett has missed as the club 'manage his workload': 4

Chris Tremlett's actual workload so far: 0 overs

NB: Andre Nel has been suspended until May 4, meaning he'll miss two Clydesdale Bank Pro 40 games. Number of overs available that Tremmers might potentially bowl: 16. First one to sight the great man actually playing cricket and supply photographic evidence to this blog wins a prize [to be determined]...

Monday 26 April 2010

Lalit Modi: a prediction

Before he posted what might become the most expensive tweet in history, a friend and I were discussing Lalit Modi. It had been bugging me who he reminded me of, and then I realised: it was Don King.

Not physically or in matters of style, but they're the same under the skin. So here's a prediction: there's about as much chance of Lalit walking away from the IPL without a fight as there was of Don King letting someone else promote the heavyweight champion of the world.

Here's a good Don story to be going on with. Can't remember exactly who the boxer was, but it was from the 'lost' pre-Tyson era of Tim Witherspoon, Greg Page, Pinklon Thomas etc. The fighter was defending the heavyweight championship. Don joined him in his limo to the fight, telling him tales of all the money they were going to make together in the next few years. He felt great. Then he entered the ring, and after a hard fight, got knocked out. The first thing he remembered seeing when he opened his eyes, still flat on his back in the corner, was Don King stepping over him to get to the winner. 'I came with the champ and I left with the champ,' Don said.

Sunday 25 April 2010

The Alternative IPL Awards 2010

The Golden Cap 'Most Money For Least Effort' Award: Yuvraj Singh

The 'Am I The Only One Who Realises Doug Bollinger Is Not Wasim Akram?' Award: Kieron Pollard

The Fake IPL Player Best Twitter Account: Lalit Modi

The Jacques Kallis 'Most Not Outs' Red Cap Award: Jacques Kallis

The DLF Maxx Mobile Citi Moment Of Success Karbon Kamal Commentator Who Remembered The Most Sponsors Award: Robin Jackman [runner-up Danny Morrison]

Best Resolution Of Long-Held Grudge Award: Harbhajan Singh 49* from 18 balls versus Andrew Symonds' Deccan Chargers

Best Hair: Saurabh Tiwary

Most Deserving Of A Sponsor's Bonus: Matthew Hayden's 'calling for' the Mongoose

Man of the Tournament: Lalit Modi [of course]. The 'Free The IPL One' Campaign starts here...

Thursday 22 April 2010


Had a couple of days of solid business - not much happened while I was out, did it? Just the two semi-finals, a couple of offices raided, questions asked in Parliament, the odd billion dollars going into franchises and 'coming out white', Lalit having to play a few shots off the back foot for a change... Thought so - business as usual. It's why the IPL kicks ass. Come back soon, boys.

The meeting this afternoon was enlivened by a discussion about CB Fry's ability to jump backwards onto a mantelpiece. That, and the sheer scale of the man's life, retains its ability to astound...

Tuesday 20 April 2010

True stories

Terrific Line and Length column over at the Times today from Patrick Kidd. A superlative Boycs anecdote and the answer to the KP question Michael Vaughan is asked the most [yes he did].

Monday 19 April 2010

Very superstitious...

I have a new bat. It's a freebie, thanks to a friend of mine who has access to such things. I am in his debt, because this bad boy has every flavour you might crave: a true, straight grain on flawless white, slim shoulders, a long, sleek fin on the spine that reminds me of the old Slazenger V12 and a deep, low bow made for English pitches.

Best of all, it tips the scale at 2lbs 8 and a quarter of Her Majesty's ounces, a rarity in these days of railway sleeper cudgels. I've been given several bats over the years, and this one is the first I'd say I might have picked out myself. It sort of flows; it's a magnificent thing.

I've taken it to the nets and it's all that it should be, given the limitations of its owner. There's just one thing, a little thing, a daft thing that's never happened to me with any new bat before, ever. The first ball I faced with it, I nicked behind. It was only from the bowling machine, and the nets were packed and noisy, so I'm the only person on earth who knows it happened. But you know, I know.

I'm not superstitious in day-to-day life. I don't care about walking under ladders. I'd screw up any chain letter without thinking. I sometimes count magpies, but that's about it. I've never been superstitious about playing, probably because it's only ever been a bit of fun, an escape.

I always think of Vinod Kambli, though - Vinod, that glorious and doomed enigma, damned by hubris, caste [allegedly] and mental demons, the man who ended up with nine rubber grips on his handle. I remember too Graham Thorpe's endless tinkering with his bats, Steve Waugh's red rag, Sachin's right pad and so on, ad infinitum.

Batting, like anything that demands repetition, has elements of obsession to it. It requires something from your inner life. When you bat, ultimately, you are alone in a team game. Even someone as iron-hard as Steve Waugh took comfort in superstition, or at least in repetition.

So the fact I nicked that first ball kind of bugs me. Should I not nick the first ball I face in a match, maybe it will go. If I do, maybe it'll go too. I'm just telling myself I'm not superstitious, either way. You?

Sunday 18 April 2010

Education, education, education

'I'm not even going to try and pronounce that!'

Commentator Simon Doull, when the word 'Imperious' appeared on the big screen during RCB vs Mumbai.

Thursday 15 April 2010

Tremwatch II

Number of games Surrey have played this season: 2

Number of matches Chris Tremlett has missed as the club aim to 'manage his workload': 2

This one could run and run... [unlike Tremmers]

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Old Boy

For a 147 year-old, the Wisden Almanack is a forward-thinker, the anachronistic [who else is putting out 1700 page books in 2010?] but glorious oldest swinger in town. It's an adopter of that trending religion Sehwagology, having [rightly] voted the great yet humble one World Player of the Year for the second time running. It even contains its first recorded swearword - courtesy of an Australian, natch. Under Scyld Berry, it's a thunderer, too, taking righteous aim at the guilty.

Which makes its selection of Five Cricketers Of The Year not so much disappointing as uninspiring. Stuart Broad, Graham Onions, Graeme Swann, Matt Prior and Michael Clarke - well, to use another modernism - it's all a bit meh isn't it. It's also centered deeply around the Ashes and dismissive of T20 cricket.

The award needs a little decoding. Since the Almanack began, the selection of the five has been based on play in the English summer. That lasted until 1997 when, progressively, the editors wanted to recognise the way that Sanath Jayasuriya and Sri Lanka had reinvented the game at the 50-over World Cup. That in turn remained until 2004 and the introduction of the World Player of the Year and the Test Team of the Year, when the selection reverted to the English season.

That again feels outmoded. The world has changed since 2004. The last English summer included the T20 World Cup, which featured giant contributions from Tillakaratne Dilshan, Umar Gul, Abdul Razzak, Chris Gayle and Shahid Afridi. Dilshan's impact on batting was arguably as electric as Jayasuriya's back in '96 - he even coined a new shot. The tournament was a triumph, for the hosts, for Pakistan and for cricket. It, and they, deserved recognition.

It would be churlish to decry the players who did get the award. All of them, especially Clarke and Swann, illuminated a fine series that suffered only in comparison to its 2005 predecessor. But Wisden looked forward in every aspect except this one, and they missed a trick when they did. 

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Don't wake David Stewart up, it's nice where he is...

'Our players are now on 12-month contracts and to get real value out of that, we want Surrey players playing in the off-season in big tournaments. If we could combine with some of the bigger clubs around the world to create tournaments that Surrey teams could play in, in South Africa or India, that would interest us a lot. That is the sort of thing we are exploring.' - David Stewart, Chairman, Surrey CCC, 9 April 2010.

Great idea Dave - you mean a bit like this one?

It must be enjoyable to visit the parallel universe that the people who run county cricket live in. It's a peaceful place, with lots of deck chairs, and meetings with some other jolly good chaps where you have tea and decide that everything should probably just carry on, because it's a rather nice day outside and the cheque from the ECB is due about now anyway...

Maybe they should start selling holidays there. I'd like to book in for a couple of weeks sometimes. Restful. In the meantime, they're back to considering an idea they had three years ago, for city franchises. You know, a bit like these ones.

NB: Those Surrey players David has under contract: Rory Hamilton-Brown, 22-year-old captain, 10 first class games, 25 T20 games; Chris Tremlett - currently being 'rested to manage his workload' [number of games Surrey have played this season: 1]; Mark Ramprakash - oh let's face it, no-one else ever picks Ramps, however glorious he remains. And he spent his pre-season doing this. Surrey's first result of the season in Div II: lost by 208 runs.

NNB: An interesting post from David Hepworth about a man who sounds a bit like this one. Who can think of a job for a fellow like that?

Sunday 11 April 2010

Runs, wickets, matchfixing, coppers... what's not to like?

Conventional wisdom says the county championship is boring. Conventional wisdom is wrong. It's only been back for two days, and there's already been a double hundred, a nine wicket bag, and, in tune with ineffable beauty of green England in spring, Mark Ramprakash not out overnight at the Oval. 

Oh, and there's been a matchfixing scandal too. Or there might have been, involving Essex. During the years of three-day Championship games, match-fixing went on every day, and no-one took any notice. Captains would get together, rubbish would be bowled, declarations would be agreed by both sides. No-one minded, because in three day games, it was the only way you could usually get a result. Those seem like distant and innocent times now. 

Essex, or a couple of Essex players, have allegedly bowled badly in a Pro-40 game. Inspector knacker, in the guise of the Essex constabulary, is on the case. Given the way Essex have played in recent years, they'll have a lot of evidence to sift through, distinguishing deliberate rubbish from the normal dreck.

Although the fuzz weren't naming names, most of the press were quick to report that one of the players was Danish Kaneria. The Times, though, was remarkably coy in this report. They just tacked on a seemingly unrelated paragraph at the end of the story... only as a hint, mind. Worried about getting sued, boys?

Even this wasn't the most amazing news of the season though. That came down at the Oval, where Surrey are under the leadership of 22-year-old Rory Hamilton-Brown. He's one of several big signings at the once-great, still-rich Brown Caps. Another is Chris Tremlett, from Hampshire. Remember him? Yup, so do Hampshire, that's why they let him go. Tremmers is absent from the first game against Derbyshire, being 'rested' in an 'effort to manage his workload'. Hamilton-Brown must have enjoyed reflecting on that as Chris Rogers reached his 200. Only six months to go, Rory...

Update: We can now officially cut the ribbon on the season. Ramps has gone past 100. Just the 18 boundaries in that. Some things are eternal.

Friday 9 April 2010

Australia not taking T20 seriously

Andrew MacDonald - contract. David Warner - no contract.

They'll be the only country who'd really rather win the 50 over World Cup soon.

NB: There's a case to be made for running international T20 squads a bit like an IPL franchise, as a separate entity, separately developed. Imagine what Australia might be like with SK Warne as captain/coach.

Thursday 8 April 2010

Wright on

Frank Keating, now apparently consigned by the Guardian to affably brilliant down- memory-lane pieces, produced a classic of the type this week, a lovely meandering thing about playwrights in love with the game

He mentions Beckett, of course, who managed to cram in a few first class games before knocking off Waiting For Godot and a Nobel prize, Pinter, naturally, and Peter Gibbs, a former opening bat for Derbyshire who put down his bat and picked up his pen after playing a perfect force through midwicket off the back foot from Lance Gibbs, admitting that 'the moment taunted, tormented me. I knew I'd probably never capture such a supreme sensation again, never again play a shot such as that - while someone like Barry Richards was strolling out and doing it without a thought every day of the week'.

Ah, the great and legendary Bad Baz. Of course he was. The clue is probably in the 'without thinking about it', but then Barry couldn't write about it like Peter did. Keating concludes with Dennis Potter's claim that his great grandfather twice bowled WG for a duck at the Coleford fete. This is another boast common amongst writers - Conan-Doyle always said he'd dismissed the Leviathan, too.

There are a couple of books I've been meaning to blog on as well, because they've been a pleasure. The first is Jarrod 'J-Rod' Kimber's When Freddie Became Jesus. It hardly needs saying that blogging and writing at length are different things, but CWB fans can go happily with him [actually they already have, probably - this review, such as it is, is on the late side]. The best thing is the sharpness of his observation, for example: 'opening batsmen don't get a nightwatchman, so why should anyone else in the order. [Stuart] Broad is way worse. He isn't even a batsman; at best he's a fast-bowling all-rounder. They are supposed to be tough, not afraid of taking their team to stumps. It's more proof that Broad thinks like a batsman'. That is better than anything that came from some of the comfy old lags in the commentary box.

The other is Clem Seecharan's From Ranji To Rohan. Clem is a professor of Caribbean History from Guyana, and this is the game as social history; it's about the meaning of cricket for national identity. You just won't get a view like this anywhere else. I kind of felt brainier just reading it [that soon faded]. 

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Alec and Fred

Talking to my dad yesterday whilst savouring the enduring mastery and mystery of Warne - all the more bittersweet for not knowing how many more times we'll see it - he mentioned Alec Bedser.

My dad said he met him once, when he had a day at Lord's in a freebie box. He was walking down the corridor, some distance from the exit, and noticed Bedser ahead of him. At the door, Bedser stopped, held it open, raised his hat and spent a few minutes talking about the cricket before parting with a cheery 'good morning'.

That same day, he saw that other great quick man, Frederick Sewards Trueman, in the next box along. He asked him for an autograph to give to me. Trueman looked him up and down. 'Not bloody now...' he said.

Somehow, we agreed, the story makes you like both of them more...

NB: Warne finished freaking out Deccan just as the Tiger Woods presser started on Sky Sports News. It struck me that Woods possesses that same quality Warne does: when push comes to shove, they know they're going to win, you know that they know they're going to win, and they know that you know that they know they're going to win. As Warnie's proven many times, the odd sex-text scandal isn't enough to dispell it...

Monday 5 April 2010

Backyard T20 with Steve Waugh

A terrific interview with Steve Waugh at Cricinfo today, in which the great man reveals he's created a version of T20 to play in the back yard with his son Austin, 10.

'The way we play is, I bowl 20 balls to him. He gets as many runs as he can. He tallies his score up and then I get my 20 balls... It's full on, there's no charity for him...'

Nope, there isn't... In a recent match exclusively seen by the Batsman, young Austin went first to the immaculate backyard pitch in the Sydney suburbs. As he walked out to face his opening delivery, the familiar voice of Australia's most implacable and flinty captain was heard: 'Here he comes boys', it went. 'He's got the big name but has he got the game...?'

Austin did well to post a score of 25, and waited patiently between innings as his father delayed his entrance as he was preparing to 'bat for the Baggy Green' and also because he 'wanted the light to be like that evening at the SCG'.

Eventually he came out, waving a red rag to check the wind, and made steady progress until he twanged a calf taking a quick single while Austin tried to find the ball in a flower bed. Austin offered to 'call the game a draw if you like, dad', whereupon Waugh fixed him with a stare and asked his son 'if he wanted to go inside so that they could get someone tough out here...'

Ultimately Waugh's wife, and Austin's mother, Lynette was summoned from the kitchen to act as a runner, her protestations that the dinner was almost ready dismissed with a curt 'just get your head down and leave it to Tugga'. 

Shortly afterwards Austin spilled a caught and bowled chance, and appeared tearful as his father grunted, 'you just dropped the World Cup, son' out of the side of his mouth.

Australia's former captain approached Austin's total rapidly, but waited until the penultimate ball to cover drive the winning runs, holding the pose for a second before walking off with bat raised.

Lynette then attempted to serve dinner, but was told firmly that the meal wouldn't be happening 'until Pigeon arrived to sing the team song'.

Austin, 10, got to bed around 12pm, but was kept awake by several raucous renditions of 'Beneath The Southern Cross' emanating from the kitchen. Before falling asleep he said that he 'prefers it when Uncle Mark comes round because he just scores a quick 70-odd, knocks me up an easy catch and then goes and sits inside to watch the racing'. 

Sunday 4 April 2010

King of sprain

After the summer of Flintoff's knee, England has entered the spring of Rooney's ankle. For those living in saner countries, Wayne Rooney is our Fred equivalent in the prole game of footer. The other day he fell over with no-one near him, and caused a national palpitation when it appeared the injury might be serious enough to keep him out of the World Cup.

Luckily for those looking forward to England's unconvincing progress to the quarter-finals before elimination on penalties to either Portugal or Germany, he'd only sprained it. He'll be out for three weeks.

The sprained ankle is one of those injuries that has remained impervious to the progress of medical science. In 1867, the Sporting Life reported: 'From May 10 until June, Mr WG Grace was laid up through a sprained ankle'.

See, it doesn't matter whether you're WG or Wayne Rooney, whether it's 1867 or 2010. Sprained ankle = three weeks out. 

NB: Hopefully Wazza will have more luck than the good Doctor had in '67. He'd been back for 10 days when he caught scarlet fever, which laid him low for a month, and then he split his finger fielding, which kept him out for the rest of the season. 

Thursday 1 April 2010

Pressure and time

Just as the sea will eventually erode the cliffs and a pebble on the ocean floor will one day make the beach, 'like', as that TV show has it, 'sands through the hour-glass', there is to be a change in the Australian batting order.

Notwithstanding the date of the announcement, Ricky Ponting has apparently conceded that Michael Clarke has been in the team long enough now to bat number four. Clarke turns 29 tomorrow, but he still the Pup to Ricky, 35, Simon Katich, 34, Mike Hussey, 34, and Marcus North, 30.

Ponting appears to be suggesting a straight swap with Hussey, although it's probably time for Punter to move too.

Australia now have a couple of Tests in England against Pakistan before the Ashes, so their batting line-up, if not order, is probably set. What's striking is its age. Of the top seven, only Clarke and Watson will be under 30, and Clarke not by much. With Haddin, 33, as keeper batsman, come november, they'll have an average age of 32 and a half.

England, should they go with the current side, will have Strauss, Collingwood and Pietersen over 30, and an average age of 29 years and eight months.

Age doesn't have to mean that much, but there's a stasis here. You have to wonder what a Hughes or a Smith would do for Australia, or equally Morgan for England.