Monday, 21 December 2009

0-0 so far ? Only on Paper.

The recently concluded first test between South Africa and England at Supersport Park has received raving reviews from sources far and wide, and rightfully so.

That the final result after 5 gruelling days in the sun was still in the balance with 1 ball of the Test match remaining speaks volumes for the format and indeed the nuances of Test cricket that are often forgotten during extended periods of Pyjama Cricket. It was a fantastic spectacle and with 3 Tests remaining in the series, one can only hope for more.

Some humble observations from my side include the following :

NTINI IS AT, OR FAST APPROACHING HIS SELL BY DATE
This loyal servant, workhorse, super-star - call him what you must, has given his all for his country over the last 13 years. That only 6 other seam bowlers have played as many Tests as he has is proof enough that the guy is special. My view is that he should quit while he's ahead. Allan Donald played a season too many and is often remembered more for that, than for the special talent he displayed for the better part of 15 years. Ntini should avoid doing the same. I don't question his fitness, his pedigree or his attitude. I just believe him to be less effective than he was at or near his peak, and less potentially effective than the guys in the wings. The modern game requires variation from spinners and seamers alike. The fact that Makhaya has never had a slower ball makes his 100th cap even more of an achievement. No off cutter, no leg break. Seam up, varied length - between 130-140 kph. How many modern day top order batsmen are gonna lose sleep over that ? Not a helluva lot of them I can tell you. Makhaya you are and will always be fondly remembered for your services to SA and World cricket. Quit while you're ahead big guy.
SIDEBAR : CSA may ask him to play on to balance the 'colour' scales until a replacement is found. That's a whole new discussion though.

AFTER STRAUSS AND KP, ENGLAND HAS NO TOP ORDER
Yea sure. Trott has done well thus far, but Kingsmead will be only his 3rd Test. The Saffas will get under his skin, just you watch. Ian Bell ? Geoff Boycotts grandma is better than him. Alastair Cook has looked completely out of sorts since getting off the plane. I don't expect much to change there. I would suggest Swann has shown more application to batting in Tests in the last 18 months than some of his specialist colleagues. And that doesn't only include the recent game at Centurion.

If Dale Steyn returns to full fitness in time for the boxing day Test, expect Friedel de Wet to sit out, and wrongly so. He has more hunger, a younger frame and more pace and variation than Ntini, but my gut feel is that CSA will not let Ntini go just yet. Not for a white bloke anyway.

If de Wet had not overstepped when trapping KP plumb LBW early on in his innings, the game would have been done and dusted with 20 overs to spare. Having said that, if the umpire had called the no-ball that dismissed KP in his first innings, England may have won. A lot of Ifs Ands Ors and Buts.

England will probably replace Bell, and possibly give Sidebottom a bowl. Steyn will most likely replace de Wet for SA. Weather permitting I think Sa still have the advantage, especially now that Kallis is expected to resume duties with the ball. Time will tell.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

ODI's NEED A LEASE OF LIFE - "THE VDW METHOD EXPLAINED"

The ongoing ICC Champions Trophy was promoted as the possible saviour of the One Day International format. A good, exciting tournament, said the pundits, would ensure that the format survived another day. Test cricket is as healthy as it could be, and T20's popularity hits new highs every 3 months (Cue the Champions League next month).


Most often, the ODI's most criticised quality is the fact that the so called 'middle overs' are boring. Not enough happens when the field is spread, TV viewers run their errands and make coffee or bath their children, to return near the end of the innings when the bigger shots come into prominence. So say many different critics.


Various solutions have been put forward. Sachin Tendulkar says the format should be split into 4 quarters of 25 overs each, ensuring that the conditions and pitch are shared and experienced in equal doses by opposing teams. Some prominent ex-players and administrators have called for the format to be scrapped completely, so that more T20 cricket can be pasted into the calendar.


As a Protea supporter who has had nothing to do since Graeme Smith was dismissed late on Sunday night against England, I have a few suggestions of my own, and will shortly be contacting the ICC to suggest them.


Powerplays : The first 10 overs, pretty standard. We currently have an additional bowling powerplay and a batting powerplay. 9 times out of 10, the bowling powerplay is taken by the fielding captain for overs 11-15. More often that not, the batting powerplay is taken some time between overs 42 and 50. Its all fairly predictable most of the time. It leaves us with the 'dead' period in between where batsmen pick off singles waiting for the next powerplay (or so say the critics). We could simply make all 50 overs a powerplay I guess. It may not conform to too many people's definition of a good contest but I can assure you it will be entertaining.


My recommendation on Powerplays is that they become cast in stone, and that Powerplays are enforced rather than taken.

Powerplay 1  - Overs 1-12 (12 overs)

Powerplay 2 - Overs 36 -45 (10 overs)

So I am effectively advocating for an extra 2 overs of powerplay cricket, which is hardly profound. But here's the catch : With wickets in hand, and assuming the batting team has some momentum - overs 46-50 will be equally explosive. If momentum is gained during the final powerplay, batters will hardly go back into their shells and start picking off singles again. Sub-Conscious powerplays we will call them.

"Oi, how many runs did England manage to add in the SCP ? I had to pop down the store for some milk?"


This leaves us with a 'dead' period in overs 13-35. It is during this 23 over period where the game can potentially put punters to sleep. However, with this writer's next suggestion that too can be avoided. All cricket fans have long watched as gangly number 11's strode to the crease to face the oppositions premier wicket taker, and we have all felt sorry for the batsman at one stage or another. Glen McGrath or Courtney Walsh padded up and striding to the crease were always a fantastic sight for whoever had the ball in their hand at the top of their run up because it was almost certain that they would routinely add another wicket to their figures for the day. Good bowlers have always had to potentially be ready to bat when their teams have needed them. But never have good top order batsmen been forced to bowl while specialist batsmen from the opposing team were making merry. Until now that is.


In ODI dreamland where my format is used, between powerplays 1 and 2 as outlined above, the opposing captain shall be forced to use a minimum of 10 different bowlers during overs 13-35. This effectively means that everyone bar the keeper needs to get through at least 1 over of 6 legitimate balls. Who can possibly suggest that Matthew Hayden bowling his gentle medium pace to Tendulkar in his prime would not have been entertaining? And that with a powerplay due shortly ? It can only add to the entertainment value.


By suggesting new powerplays and enforced use of non-specialist bowlers, everything here has been slanted the way of the batting side. Until now. Because the fielding captain will have potentially been forced to use approximately 5 below par bowlers, we need now to add an arrow to his depleted quiver. How about letting him choose 3 bowlers in his team to bowl a maximum of 12 overs, and not the standard 10 ?


Now you as the fielding captain have some sort of ace up your sleeve. 2 more overs from each of your top 3 bowlers could translate into 2 or 3 wickets for the fielding captain. Does the fielding captain use these overs in a powerplay ? Does he use them during the 'dead' overs ? Or does he use them during the SCP ? This is about as close as my bright idea will come to maintaining an even balance between bat and ball.

"An arguement against my proposed format would be around selection. Will selection policies change to suit only batsmen that can bowl well ? The answer to that is a simple 'No!'. Specialist bowlers are currently being picked knowing full well they may have to bat at some stage. They are picked for their ability to bowl. Specialist bowlers do sometimes go for 15-20 runs in a single over of ODI cricket. In a similar vein, specialist batsmen will still be picked for their ability to make runs with the bat, the fact that they may concede runs in their solitary over applies to both teams and as a result the playing fields are level for both teams. I could argue that with my format, not a single selection change to any of the teams that have completed ICC Champion's Trophy matches should or would have been changed at all. What I can guarantee is that the matches would have been more exciting"


The ODI is dead, long live the ODI !!!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

THIS IS THE BUSINESS END

With the T20 World Cup nearing it's close, the main stories in world cricket still seem to centre around the abject failure of India to qualify for the knock out stages. India were poor, they lost all 3 games in the Super 8s phase and its becoming more and more likely that if not heads (plural), then at least 1 head will roll. The 2 obvious candidates would be Dhoni and/or Kirsten. I cant imagine Dhoni's head would roll. There's no-one else to lead India, his slump in form will correct itself and I think he is well liked liked by those in powerful places. Kirsten however .... As well as he has done with this team in the last 18 months, the T20 WC was not a speed bump - it was a fiasco. It's not like India lost out in a close semi final. They got their asses handed to them 3 times before the semi final stage. This is a catastrophic failure and I think Gazza will be well advised to put his CV out there. The ECB for one is regularly hiring and firing consultants, coaches and other backroom staff. Maybe earning a few quid over the summer is not a bad idea for Gary if things don't work out for him after the next gathering of the BCCI's hot shots.

SOUTH AFRICA vs PAKISTAN
Cricinfo has billed this as Science vs Art. Nice romantic headline if it wasn't a complete crock of shit. They are effectively saying that PAK's approach is more artful than that of South Africa. If Gibbs and de Villiers in full flow are not art, then I don't know what is. If Botha's effort in taking 3 wickets and strangling the run rate against India is not art in the cricketing sense then nothing is. The SA juggernaut clearly does it's homework, and works hard in preparation for matches in which it plays. This in no way, shape or form means that they have not relied heavily on flair and flamboyance from the individuals. It does seem rather better controlled that may be the case with other teams but check the result in tomorrow morning's paper and then decide for yourself. Pakistan have 3 useful bowlers and 1 useful batter on current form. That the rest of the team are all hit or miss does not mean they are artists. Roelof vd Merwe is to orthodox cricketers what Geoff Boycott is to explosive run rates. Scientific ? I think not. I think Ajmal and Afridi hold the key for PAK in today's game. IF they go for runs and don't get at least 4 wickets between them - PAK will lose and lose comfortably.

SRI LANKA vs WEST INDIES
This is a closer game to call than the other semi final methinks. Jayasuriya vs Gayle could go either way, they are both capable of winning games on their own. But the clincher is the Three M's vs WEST INDIES batting. Unless Gayle or someone up front goes ballistic before the spinners settle, I can't see the WI dream continuing.

A Sri Lanka - South Africa final at Lord's is on the cards here ...