Steve O’Keefe’s finally been picked to play a Test match for Australia. We mentioned him as far back as 2010 as being a spinner who wasn’t completely rubbish, but who was somehow being overlooked in favour of any number of slow bowlers who were.
O’Keefe’s the second spinner, so Australia haven’t reverted to punishing Nathan Lyon for being Nathan Lyon – he’s still playing as well. Mitchell Marsh is making his debut too and one can only hope that he’ll be as majestically inconsistent as his brother, Shaun.
Pakistan have also given two players debuts. Yasir Shah is a legspinner who played a solitary one-day international in 2011 when he also played two T20 internationals. We know nothing about him.
Meanwhile, Imran Khan is, as you might imagine, a pace bowler of some description. He’s down as right-arm medium-fast on Cricinfo, but that’s what they tend to put when they don’t really know a player. Being as Imran has neither a photo nor a written profile on his player page, we suspect that is the case in this instance. In classic Pakistan tradition, he was probably hired to drive the team bus but impressed in the nets where he was bowling with an orange.
At the time of writing, Australia were one wicket away from the inevitable Younus Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq rebuilding partnership.15 Appeals
Is it a sign of a good side that they can get away with working to a fairly predictable strategy? Innovation is often a way of making up for shortcomings.
South Africa’s approach to one-day cricket is what comes up by default in cricket strategy software. You’re meant to tweak it, twisting it to fit your strengths and weaknesses, but the Saffers haven’t bothered. Perhaps this is a sign that they have some rather good one-day players.
Opening partnerships are vital in 50-over cricket – just look at England for proof of that. South Africa have one all-time great in Hashim Amla balanced by Quinton of Kock, who is there to provide a bit of impetus at the outset. They provide a decent platform by any stretch, particularly when that platform is being built for AB de Villiers whose job it is to do whatever’s left.
Along with Virat Kohli, de Villiers is the best one-day bat in the world. He averages 50 and scores at a run a ball, as near as damn it. This year he averages 76. In 2012 he averaged 107. Last year was the first year since 2009 when he didn’t score at more than a run a ball.
Between the openers and de Villiers stands the waxed bulwark of Faf du Plessis. For the first three years of his one-day career, du Plessis failed to score a century and averaged in the twenties. Impressed by this, South Africa moved him to three and since then he’s made three hundreds and averaged 50.
Bowling-wise, South Africa have Dale Steyn. He is the reigning Lord Megachief of Gold, so we don’t feel we need to write about him. Of greater interest is Imran Tahir.
Yes, that’s right – Imran Tahir. The legspinner who concedes about four an over in Tests also concedes about four an over in one-dayers. And he takes a few wickets. We’re not sure anyone’s noticed, but he could be the trump card in what is already a hand full of jacks, queens and kings. You can assign those face cards to the players as you see fit.
King Cricket rating: The Departed
You feel like you’ve seen it before, but it’s done well and there’s a strong cast.19 Appeals
We consider the Spirit of Cricket – the branded, upper-case initial letter creation of the MCC – to be a nebulous pile of bollocks. You can quote us on that. However, that isn’t to say that there is no such thing as the spirit of cricket.
The Spirit of Cricket (branded) is all about fair play and doing the right thing. The spirit of cricket (unbranded) is the way the game really works; the unspoken rules of the sport as they have naturally evolved. As such, the West Indies abandonment of their tour of India is most definitely in contravention of the spirit of cricket.
The board’s argument is that they had no choice but to call the tour off once the players had announced their intention to return to the Caribbean. What utter, utter horseshit.
Since when have cricket matches demanded that both sides have their best players, or indeed sufficient players, available to them? Cricket in its purest grassroots form demands only one individual to represent his or her side. That person phones round available players in a vain attempt to drum up an eleven – any eleven – for the next match. If they fall short, the team either plays short-staffed or the opposition provides a few spam-handed incompetents to supplement their numbers.
On no account is the match called off.
A West Indies XI… or VIII or IV or whatever
Obviously, as this is international cricket, the West Indies cannot make use of Ajit Agarkar or any other Indians as they are the wrong nationality and therefore ineligible for selection. That’s fair enough, but surely they can still get a few blokes out onto the park?
Richie Richardson’s there; he’s a decent bat. Stuart Williams is assistant coach; he can open. Clive Lloyd’s knocking about and Curtly Ambrose has been working as bowling consultant. You’ve already got a half decent side there in our opinion. Rope in a few physios and management figures for fielding duty and they could still beat most sides in the world.
Stop your bleating and get on with it.25 Appeals
The Shire Horse will be holed up inside the stables for the winter months and so we’re doing a series called King Cricket’s Kings of Cricket in its place.
The first cricketer to be so honoured is Brian Lara. There’s also a bit of a preamble relating to the King Cricket name for the few of you who weren’t around when we started the website back in January 2006 (i.e. all of you).36 Appeals
It’s our latest piece for Cricinfo. Here’s what the critics are saying about it:
“Ultimate ROFL… Next in line is Misbah?” – The Sunday Times
Now, if you’ll excuse us, we appear to have one million things to write today and very few hours in which to do it.13 Appeals
“I’ve been a complete idiot,” said Big Al DeLarge when he phoned me on the Monday before the Test match. “I wrote the date down in the diary but not on the wall chart. My assistant has booked a holiday and I simply cannot take that day off now. I’m furious with myself and so sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it, Al,” I said.
But I had promised the Lancastrian nephew-in-law, Escamillo Escapillo that he wasn’t to be the token northerner – Big Al hails from Burnley – and I wasn’t so confident that I could drum up a replacement. I sent an e-mail to King Cricket in the hope that he might fancy a day at HQ and be able to come at short notice, but (as I suspected) he did fancy such a day but was otherwise engaged.
As good fortune would have it, in the gym the next morning I ran into Jim Hawkins, with whom I have discussed cricket for the twenty-or-so years we have both been going to that place. I know he is self-employed, so I thought he might well be up for a day at Lord’s on the off-chance. He was free – problem solved – except for the fact that Jim is not a northerner.
“You’ll be sitting with a strange assortment of folk,” I said. “Me, my old friend, Charley “The Gent” Malloy and the Lancastrian nephew-in-law, Escamillo Escapillo, who was hoping for the company of a northerner, so you might be a bit of a disappointment for him.”
“I love Test cricket at Lord’s,” said Jim. “I’d sit next to Hitler if need be.”
“I don’t think Test cricket would have quite been Hitler’s bag,” I said. “I can’t imagine The Führer getting the idea of playing for the draw towards the end of five days of battle.”
I had planned some culinary delights because Big Al loves his food – indeed by his own admission he can be “a bit cheffy”. So I had made the Lord’s Throdkin for this match and also produced some Hanoi-style Banh Mi sandwiches, as Big Al tends to like my take on oriental food. In any case, Daisy and I were also going to the match the next day and both ideas had the legs for two-days-worth of picnic.
The grub all went down very well with the lads. Escamillo-Escapillo remarked that his only previous encounter with throdkin had been gloopy, which he didn’t think would work as picnic food.
Sitting behind us were some idiotic posh boys, talking rubbish about the cricket and getting incredibly drunk, incredibly early in the day. They had brought several bottles of Champagne, which presumably were gone by the first drinks interval, at which point they switched to buying beer.
Much of the beer they were buying during the second hour, they somehow contrived to spill over our feet and bags, but plenty was surviving and going down their throats. It was a very hot day and we were exposed to the sun in the Upper Compo. I wondered how the posh boys would cope with a whole day of such excess. Answer – they returned after lunch briefly and then disappeared for the rest of the day. In short, they couldn’t cope.
Our group was certainly not quitting early, although Jim Hawkins got the call from his girlfriend around the time that stumps were supposed to be drawn and withdrew gracefully. The rest of us saw out the whole day and finished the last bottle of red as the sun set behind the Warner Stand. Bliss.
Send your match reports to email@example.com. If it’s a professional match, on no account mention the cricket itself. If it’s an amateur match, feel free to go into excruciating detail.10 Appeals
Who would they be?
And before you ask, yes of course Fantasy Tuesday Night in the Pub is a thing. It’s like ‘who would you invite to your dream dinner party?’ – only why do we have to have a dinner party? Why can’t we just go to the pub and have three pints before reluctantly agreeing to have a fourth even though we’ve got work tomorrow, then thinking ‘sod it’ and ordering a ridiculously strong Belgian beer?
Our first attempt at picking three has given us Ian Ward, Paul Collingwood and Carl Hooper. This could change.
And no, Rob Key isn’t there. It would be too much. We wouldn’t be able to relax.
But these three – they’re relaxed, genial and most importantly of all, they laugh relatively easily. That’s always a sign of a good person. We’d quite like to have Neil Manthorp there, but he’s a cricket person, not a cricketer, so we appear to have made him ineligible. This is a shame, because he appears to be a man who shares our primary interests of beer and reduced price sandwiches.44 Appeals
Same as ever really. Just sort of hope that everything magically works itself out.
Shahid Afridi is a tremendously good one-day bowler, but you’d hope to see a stronger attack alongside him. Seven foot Mohammad Irfan is the novelty, while Junaid Khan is perhaps the class.
But it’s the batting that’s the real problem. The fact that Afridi isn’t significantly less reliable than most of those above him says it all really, because Afridi is literally as unreliable as it is possible to be. If it weren’t for the fact that he has 11 international hundreds to his name, you would consider him reliably useless.
So Pakistan’s strategy basically boils down to having Misbah-ul-Haq wearily trying to inch them to 150 before making a frighteningly good attempt at defending that.
King Cricket rating: Brendan Gleeson’s character in The Guard
Very few traditional heroic qualities, but a faint suspicion that they might somehow do the job anyway.5 Appeals
Our latest Twitter round-up’s just appeared on Cricinfo. It was an unusually tough assignment. We’d sign into Twitter, get distracted by the latest developments arising from Kevin Pietersen’s autobiography and then find that we’d lost an hour or more. We’d then force ourself to close down Twitter so that we could get some work done before remembering that Twitter was our work. Repeat.
Twitter isn’t fundamentally bad
Despite what many believe. It’s just people, after all. People are good and bad. If your experience of Twitter is always negative, you’re following the wrong people. Follow good people and it’s an always-accessible sounding board for thoughts and ideas; a friendly online pub full of witty, erudite people who like to discuss things and trade one-liners.
However, of late logging in has been to waltz onto a medieval battlefield sans armour. A 24-hour argument is being maintained and even if you don’t get involved, it can be a bruising experience. If you ever feel emotions for other people, you won’t go long without sympathy or anger welling up in you. Absorbed in the debate, you don’t notice it happening either – at least until you go to bed and realise that it will take literally hours before the tension subsides.
Pick a side
The annoying thing for us is that the Pietersen story raises lots of interesting questions about the way the sport is run in England. We’d like to discuss these things, but we can’t. We always consider this website to be quite a friendly place, but even here it’s impossible to criticise the ECB without people assuming you must therefore be on KP’s side. Conversely, criticise KP and you are ascribed all sorts of other opinions as a consequence.
It’s like English cricket has devised two new stereotypes and is getting busy with its label maker, tagging everyone. On Twitter, this polarisation is even more pronounced.
Fight your corner
The word ‘tweet’ sounds so fey and inconsequential, but reading them at the moment is exhausting. Even when we broadly agree with someone, we’re often put off by the vehemence with which they put their point across. People we otherwise enjoy speaking to – often contemporaries; the pseudo-colleagues of the freelancer – seem incredibly militant all of a sudden.
Perhaps the chaos is addictive. Perhaps people enjoy the feeling of being at the centre of something major that is unfolding, surrounded by well-known names, not knowing where things are going.
A lot of KP/ECB-related Twitter output is a kind of directionless rage broadcast to the ether – almost an invitation to combat. At other times, a target is identified – and if there is no target, it doesn’t take much to create one. Disagree forcefully enough with something someone says and they will respond in kind. A quick to and fro and two people who thought they occupied middle ground suddenly find themselves entrenched at opposite extremes. Suddenly you find you have a stance – and then everyone else piles in.
And oh how they pile in
Maybe it’s the number of people who can get involved in a Twitter debate that causes all of this. Crowd behaviour is greatly influenced by a reduction in each individual’s sense of personal responsibility. That’s how mobs form. But a reduced sense of personal responsibility is something that can surely only be exacerbated by the pseudonyms and physical distance that come with Twitter.
You can say what you like and you can get carried along with the crowd. That’s dangerous enough, but compounding this is the fact that the more people who are discussing something, the more quickly the debate moves. This is exciting, your adrenaline fires. Yet if you’re involved, you may feel you have to become more and more extreme in what you say so as to be heard above the noise.
In short, things escalate.
What’s your point?
No point. Modern world, self-control, polarised debate.
And even for conscientious objectors, it’s hard to ignore a medieval battle. It takes willpower to look straight ahead when you pass an accident on the motorway. When this sort of melée is just a click away, what chance have you got – particularly when you can sit on the sidelines, invisible to all the combatants?35 Appeals
Let’s take a day off from the office politics and instead take a look at some cricket. The West Indies beat India today.
One of the most interesting things in the run-in to the World Cup – often more interesting than the tournament itself – is that we can compare the different approaches of the various nations. England’s strategy will change precisely five more times before the tournament starts, but most teams have a fair idea by now how they’re going to try and win the precious few 50-over matches that really matter.
One-day cricket is very formulaic, but the rules change rapidly and no two squads are the same, so we don’t really know for certain the best approach at present. We’d slotted the West Indies into the second tier of teams behind Australia, India and South Africa, but looking at their team, we think we might be doing them a disservice. Also Sri Lanka now that we come to think about it.
What are they doing?
They’re hampered by the absence of Sunil Narine and who knows whether he’ll be back for the World Cup. But despite this, they have a lot going for them. Their most obvious strengths are a plethora of all-rounders and a surfeit of might in their lower order batting. Obviously, the two are linked.
If Denesh Ramdin seems at least a place too high at number five, a six-seven-eight of Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and Darren Sammy gives them three shots at death-over carnage. With Dwayne Bravo currently opening the batting and three specialist bowlers, they also aren’t short of options with the ball. One-day cricket has shown us time and time again that if you don’t have one Wasim Akram, you may still be able to get away with a motley assortment of Chris Harrises and Sanath Jayasuriyas.
What are their chances?
It seems a rather fragile strategy – light on batting, light on out-and-out bowlers – but we can see it working. It’s almost a case of carrying maximum ammunition and then just firing indiscriminately hoping something hits the spot. It’s a funny sort of numbers game, but perhaps it fits the current fielding restrictions and whatnot.
King Cricket rating: Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York
A few sound fundamentals, but mostly just throwing all sorts of stuff out there in the hope that some of it sticks.21 Appeals