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 ...

Monday, 15 June 2009

INDIA DOWN AND OUT

The ponytails handling marketing and budgets for the ICC would not have had a good day on Sunday. Cricket's Superpower has been eliminated from the T20 world cup before the Semi Finals stage and revenues from the tournament will be the loser. Having said that, no-one really cares about the ICC so lets focus on the next most important thing : The Indian Fan.

Any Indian fan worth his Sahara sponsored replica shirt will be distraught at his cricket team's demise. The number of followers drawn to Indian cricket in full internationals and even IPL's hosted away from home has led me to believe that players like Yuvraj, Tendulkar, Dhoni and CO. hardly ever have to wear their "away" hats anymore. With the support that follows them around the world they are almost always playing at home. Lord's yesterday was no exception. That England play in blue and the stands were "a sea of blue" was pure coincidence. The 2 were not linked. India had by far the majority of support at the Home of Cricket and the script was going along nicely until ... mmm ... Where indeed did it all go wrong ? Ah yes, now I remember. When Dhoni won the toss and decided to field. No no my apologies. It went wrong even before that. Probably in a team meeting when Dhoni and the rest of the brains trust decided to drop the India's leading tournament wicket taker for a youngster playing in his first game of the tournament. Yea maybe that was it. Or at least the start of it. Jadeja making 25 of 35 balls when the required rate was escalating would not have helped matters.

In the field India weren't bad at all. They restricted England to a total they would have fancied chasing. It was not to be however and their (in)ability to cope with shorter pitched bowling had not shown any improvement since their last match (read : defeat) against the West Indies. On balance, they deserved to get knocked out, they could clearly not cope with the levels required for play-off places. But their fans would have expected more, of that I have no doubt. My sympathy is with the fans. That INDIA possess the talent is undeniable. Depth Even. But the pressure proved to be too much and if anything it showed that T20 should almost never have favourites. Not amongst the top 8 nations anyway. On their day, anyone of the last remaining teams could win this thing.

But we shall wait and see. I reckon we give the players a break. The quality ones will be back in October for Champions League. YAY ! More T20 !

Saturday, 13 June 2009

INDIA ON THE ROPES

India were well beaten by the Windies last night and will hope to avoid a repeat in their next fixture against England. Tomorrow's game takes on quarter final proportions and there are a few things that India will want to do in order to set the record straight. Apart from getting off to a better start, I can only imagine that they will do their homework on opposition batters this time round. Anyone who watched the IPL (ie. the whole of India) will know that Dwayne Bravo loves playing inside out and when pressured for runs, that's where he will look to get them. That he got away with it for so long last night would have been disappointing to the Indian fans. Apart from Yuvraj, the top order failed and I can't see that happening again, especially not against England's toothless attack. I definitely think Dhoni's place in the batting order is 6 or higher. In his career thus far I cant remember him ever knowing when to milk singles. Last night he had Yuvraj on fire, with the maximum number of men posted to the boundary and still he tried to hit everything out of the park. In true Dhoni style though, on a wicket which wasn't as flat as a pancake, he struggled with his timing in trying to hit the cover of everything. Eventually he got hold of one, timed the pants of it, and hit it straight into the sweeper's chest. If anything I can only imagine that most Indian fans would have been relieved at his dismissal. Dhoni has a very good cricketing brain when he captains the team from behind the stumps, but with bat in hand it almost looks like every game he plays, until he gets to 30 or 40, that he is playing his first game at this level. Until he plays a mature innings where some judgement is required either way, in my mind he will always be a flat track bully. He has hard wrists (very un-indian) and has no idea when to accept that discretion may be the best option. As skipper though he is India's best choice and will keep his untold millions of fans on that basis. As a viewer I find him incredibly frustrating to watch. Enough said. I favour India to win and win well against the hosts.

The only worrying thing about South Africa's campaign so far is that they have not yet had a bad game. They seldom have 2 bad games in one tournament and they are now reaching the stage where they can ill afford a shocker because it will eliminate them from the tournament. On that basis I am hoping that SA lose to India in the final game of the Super 8's. I believe it could fire SA up massively for semi finals and give India an air of complacency. I hope. If Dhoni pushes himself up the order it will make it that much harder for SA to lose though.

HAs anyone else noticed that the camera work thus far in the tournament has been shocking ? Too often that batsmen give it the kitchen sink, from front on you can see he's top edged it into the offside, only for the camera to pan the stands at mid wicket, no doubt looking for the crowd catch, only for the ball to land inside the 30 yard circle. SKY need to up their game.

"JP Duminy. Left hand batsman. Favourite player : Justin Ontong "

Do me a favour. Geoff Boycott once said that he'd work Ontong around the park with a stick of Rhubarb. I for one, believe him. Why would JP patronise a benchman like that ?


Thursday, 11 June 2009

TIME TO SHINE

Super 8's kick off today, and in one of the most poorly thought out competition formats in the history of cricket, it should still be a lot of fun despite the ICC's incompetence. First things first. I would like to place on record that I think Ireland will play three and lose three convincingly. The dream ends here. Nice for the teams in their group, but by far the more entertaining group will be India,SA, ENG and West Indies.

Given current form, most people would say our 4 semi finalists should be Sa, India, NZ and Sri Lanka. But as we saw with the Calypso King against Australia, 1 good performance can blow away any team if it's not their day. On that note it wouldn't be wise to ignore Pakistan, West Indies or England. Pakistan's bowling especially looks capable of upsetting absolutely anyone.

NZ will win easily today against Ireland and on form I fancy SA to do the good against England. Despite a proliferation of stories in the press about there being no animosity between KP and the rest of the South Africans especially the captain - rest assured : Animosity there is. Temperatures will be running high, emotions will follow suite. Look for a cracking game, animosity and boundaries should flow. For England I think their key men are KP and Bopara - if those 2 fail, England will lose by some margin.

Rain rain go away, come back another day


Wednesday, 10 June 2009

HERE COME THE "SUPER" EIGHTS

Cracking game last night between Sa and NZ - In difficult conditions for batting, I thought both sides did well and would have come out of the game with positives to take in the latter stages. Conditions were clearly bowler friendly, movement through the air and off the deck was on offer and this could be a sign of things to come for future matches at HQ if the prevailing weather forecasts don't undergo any major changes.

I must admit, I am starting to wonder if commentators are even necessary anymore. Or maybe SKY have just decided that for this particular tournament they're not gonna hire anyone half good at it. Jeremy Coney should seriously not be allowed to make a living from calling cricket matches. Bumble needs new material. Kepler Wessels was the only one adding to my viewing pleasure, with comments not always directly related to the pictures I could see for myself, but often aimed at actual analysis of the game and god forbid : Expert Opinion.

A lot was said about SA getting the batting order wrong. Too an extent I agree but with the game being a dead rubber, I agree with Mickey Arthur sending Roelof into the cauldron on a tricky surface. The experience of being in a tight situation like that, whether he made runs or not, will be something he should have learned from, and this bodes well for the latter stages of the tournament should he find himself in a similar position. Herschelle played one of those innings where he looked like he didn't know how to hold the bat - he did this in the IPL too and eventually came good so look out for him. AB was unlucky, the openers did well and JP and Albie did their level best on a difficult surface with no time to play themselves in.

In the fielding and bowling departments SA were their usual clinical selves. The spinners were absolutely world class. Roelof and Botha deserve all the credit they get. On the subject of Roelof though, anyone reading this will know that I campaigned for his inclusion in the RCB team at the start of the IPL. When eventually included, it coincided with a turnaround in RCB's fortunes and they finished as finalists. I am not suggesting vd Merwe was solely responsible for this but I do think he played a role and deserves credit for it. But what's with his attitude lately ? Manly screaming and flexing and spitting and cursing whenever he gets a wicket ? If Roelof wants to be the complete product, he should consider taking a page from Vettori's book in this regard. Celebrate by all means, but a little bit of humility goes a long way. vd Merwe has regularly looked a spoilt brat when misfields occur off his bowling, or when he gets a wicket. His steep rise to the highest level may have caught his testosterone management skills off guard but it's something he will do well to improve on going forward.

During NZ's innings, was I the only person in the world to see that on that wicket, McCullum was only ever gonna score meaningful runs when given width on the off side ? Short lateral boundaries, especially towards the top of the slope were begging to be found. And for the first 10 overs, not a single SA bowler concerned themselves with cramping McCullum for room. As soon as they realised this, they bowled a bit straighter and suffocated the guy, eventually leading to him dancing down the track only to be stumped. McCullum is not a batsmen. HE is an out and out slogger. No difference between him and a guy like vd Merwe. He has a limited repertoire and bowlers are cottoning on to him. Don't give him room on the off side in the first 6 overs and he will struggle to go at more than a run a ball. Its simple. He simply doesn't have the technique to seek runs in other areas if cramped.



Iain O'Brien to me is an enigma. I bracket him with Jeremy Coney in that I find it mind boggling that he can make a living from the game. The guy does a much better blog than me admittedly but he works from a better base with a nicely decked out home on Cricinfo, the top cricket website in the world, bar none. Take that away from him and what skills does he have ? None. The guy can't bowl. He can't bat. He can't field. He is the poor man's Mohammad Sami. Against Scotland the other day he got absolutely hammered, bowling as many as he could into the slot, with no variation in pace. In the interview after that innings, he said he felt that the 'bowling plan' had been effectively executed, but Scotland's batsmen had been up to the task and got the better of them. WTF ? He was bowling to Scotland's top order, not the Windies side of the 80's. There was no Greenidge, Haynes, Lloyd orRichards. Ryan Watson took him for four boundaries in the first over that eventually went for 18, and O'Brien was not used again in the match. "We bowled according to plan, but Scotland were too good on the day" - Bollocks. The bowling was shite and you got carted. For a positive spin, the poor bloke doing the interview had to bring in a reference to Ian's blog, or they would have had nothing to chat about.

"Neil Broom. Right Hand Bat. Favourite shot : The Sweep" - Most Kiwi's still have a sense of humour and that may be why they are so well liked by the neutrals. I did find it a bit disappointing that no commentator pointed out Broom's fielding position during most of the powerplay. He was sweeping on the offside boundary.

Today's cracker, weather permitting will be West Indies vs Sri Lanka. Look for loads of boundaries, lots of excitement and some poor commentary.

Til Next time

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

2 WEEK HOLIDAY IN LEICESTER ON THE CARDS

What a joy it was to watch the Aussies crash out of the T20 World Cup. Their form guide in T20 Internationals over their last 5 fixtures reads as follows : LLLLL. So why's the press making this out to be a huge upset ? If anything its more or less what should have been expected (see my previous post). And it couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of guys.

Just yesterday, David Hussey went on record in his usual arrogant Aussie twang and said the following : "It was highly disappointing but we've got to move on and play Sri Lanka tomorrow afternoon and we've got to win and win well to hopefully stay in the tournament," Hussey said. "Our backs are against the wall and that's what Australians love, being in that situation.

"Once Australian backs are against the wall we generally come out on top and hopefully we put on a good show. It's an opportunity to glide through the tournament like a shark. Come tomorrow afternoon we can put on a show and glide into the Super Eight phase."

Hahahahahahah - Dave - slide to Leicester my son - and sit there for 2 weeks watching the pro's do it on TV why don't you ?

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"David Hussey - Right Hand Bat - Favourite player - Mike Hussey" - When that came up I puked in my mouth a little bit haha

Monday, 8 June 2009

ENGLAND SURVIVE BUT WILL AUSTRALIA ?

With the T20 WC now well and truly underway, the drama of a host nation struggling for form has been complimented by the possibility that Australia may exit the competition this evening. Oh, the joys of T20 and smug Australians !

Sri Lanka will be making their first appearance of the competition, Australia could be making their last. Pound for pound I think the sides are pretty evenly matched, and similarly out of form. But they do have talent and class that will show itself at some point. Australia seemed very excited before the tournament at Brett Lee's availability for the tournament. I can't imagine that excitement is still there - Gayle absolutely murdered him. Lee was lucky to only got for 56, he bowled a very tight 4th over or it could have been way more. Popular opinion has it that they will bring Hauritz in for Lee on a track that should start taking spin. Now that's funny. A right arm offspinner against Sri Lanka expected to be the shrewd change needed to revive Australia's campaign ? The Sri Lankans will be licking their lips at the prospect of a 60MPH bowling machine trying to keep them quiet. On the flipside - Murali will have a longer batting line-up to go through if he intends bowling his team to victory. The Aussies do bat til at least 9 and in their last outing they were disappointing - expect an improvement tonight. All in all it should be a tight game, bookies have Australia as favourites but I will comfortable enjoy a small wager on the Lankans at 15/10 and watch Jayasuriya and Co send the Aussies on 2 weeks' compulsory leave ahead of the Ashes.

On the Symmonds issue - it amazes me that so many supposedly 'intelligent' and 'educated' people are so surprised at how things have turned out for him. The man is an alcoholic. After falling out with Australian cricket authorities on more than one occasion, the best they could do for him was make him 'promise not to consume alcohol in public'. They did not care that he would be doing untold damage to himself, as long as it was done behind closed doors. The important thing to them was that Brand Australia continued to fair well, and be seen as an upstanding, marketable entity. Too hell with the individual's health. In hindsight it has become clear that Symmonds should have been offered a little more. And included in a little more support in his personal battle, should be complete abstinence from alcohol. If Symmo as an alcoholic, were able to ween himself off booze, he would have been the first alcoholic ever to do so. Cricket Australia are as much to blame for the broken relationship as what Andrew Symmonds is. Silver lining : As a T20 freelancer, their is no doubt that Symmonds could earn more playing the lucrative T20 leagues of the world, than he would have travelling the world with Ponting's men, and making sure he follows the 'family rules'. I for one hopes he is able to stay clean long enough to secure his future of the course of the next 3 years. The man is a joy to watch.

David Lloyd describe the last 12 or 18 balls of any innings as 12 or 18 'events'. Events that could be crucial for either side in their quest for victory. Fair enough. Could someone please ask him to stop explaining the theory behind it at the end of EVERY SINGLE innings ? Man alive, its frustrating. We like you Bumble, but don't take us for granted.

On television, before any batsman makes his way to the middle, viewers are tortured through pre-recorded mundane introductions by the players themselves, describing their favourite shot, nickname or favourite player. Scott Styris - nicknamed Miley - that's funny. Most of the others are not funny, nor informative. These guys are all professional cricketers, and over the course of a decade they will generally do what they do very well. Public speakers they ain't : Most are inaudible, very few even bother looking into the camera, and for some reason most of them have a favourite shot that they look incapable of playing. James Foster's favourite player in the history of world cricket is Nasser Hussein. Essex kiss-arse !

C'mon Sri Lanka - send Australia on a 2 week holiday to Leicester hahahahahahaha !