Tymal Mills has been signed by Royal Challengers Bangalore for £1.4m. In response, many have felt inclined to ask what Ian Botham, Viv Richards or Ian Austin might have gone for. This seems to us to be somewhat missing the point.
In the UK, the phrase ‘Twenty20 specialist’ still has a faintly pejorative hue. Some do indeed come to focus on the shortest format as a result of shortcomings in the longer ones while Mills himself had the decision made for him by his own spine. But no matter how you arrive there, as far as the IPL sides are concerned, a player who is 100 per cent focused on the finer points of T20 can only be a good thing. A desirable thing. A thing they’d pay money for.
It’s not just that Mills is likely to be available for the entire tournament, it’s more that T20 is his whole professional life. Last season he described how he and his Sussex team-mates would practise yorkers with a white ball for a period. Then, when everyone else moved on to bowling four-day lines and lengths with a red ball, Mills would just carry on bowling yorkers.
To ask why Mills should sell for over a million when he hasn’t even played Test cricket is to overlook why that’s a good thing. Ben Stokes sold for £1.7m and while he is unarguably a better cricketer (if nothing else, he can bat) then Mills will surely prove the better investment. If Stokes’ adaptability is a key strength, then he is nevertheless pulled in many different directions. Mills doesn’t need to be especially adaptable. He can just focus.
Like Stokes, Mills has also profited by being two players in one. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but he does possess two qualities that are always in demand in the IPL auction. Firstly, he is a left-armer and secondly, he can bowl at 90-odd mph. Combine those two qualities with his unwavering focus on Twenty20 cricket matches and then subtract Mitchell Starc from the auction and see the bids roll in.
For the record, had he been around today then Ian Austin would have sold for six weeks’ supply of meat-and-tatty pies and a year’s subscription to the Racing Post – but it would have been a hell of a bargain for whoever saw fit to splash out on him.
Photo by Sarah Ansell
If there’s one thing the England captain generally lacks, it’s advice from random members of the public. Fortunately for Joe Root, we are prepared to step in and fill that void.
It’s a little-known fact that our critically-acclaimed Club Captain’s Handbook for All Out Cricket was originally penned as a guide to being England captain. Tweak the headline and standfirst and replace the phrase ‘everyone at the club’ halfway down the page with ‘England fans’ and that’s it – job done. You can now see the piece as it was originally envisaged.
If you’re Joe Root, pay close attention to our words. Feel the anxiety well up in you as the scope of what you must now master dawns on you.
Everyone else, settle down with your halloumi and tomato Staffordshire oatcakes (which were inspired by last week’s café barmcake) and enjoy our wisdom free from the pressures of having to captain England yourself.
Alastair Cook has said that the ECB “kind of let me out to dry a little bit” over Kevin Pietersen’s sacking and the ensuing brouhaha.
Being ‘let out to dry’ makes him sound like a cat who’s mistaken bubble bath foam for solid land and now needs the back door to be opened so that it can dry its soggy legs in the sun. But let’s fight back our natural inclination and not dwell on that minor slip of the tongue and instead focus on the more significant inaccuracy in that statement.
A little bit?
The ECB’s quasi-nepotistic public pronouncments seemed almost purpose-made to undermine Cook’s captaincy. As we wrote at the time, statements seemingly intended as props to support him became sticks with which the public and press beat him. This went on pretty much throughout his captaincy. Whatever his aptitude for captaincy, he is a very resilient man.
Giles Clarke’s comment that “he and his family are very much the sort of people we want the England captain and his family to be” may have become infamous as some sort of crystallisation of the outdated prejudiced views at the ECB, but it also made Cook – through no fault of his own – the embodiment of that attitude.
If it was a garland, it was a rubber one that was instantly set on fire. Actual support, in any tangible, pressure-alleviating sense, was conspicuous by its absence. Intead, Cook was just foisted up there as a figurehead with a big ol’ target across his chops.
We could go on, but you’re busy people and it feels like a ‘less is more’ kind of a day. Should you be in need of further reading, here’s three more links that we may or may not have included had we gone on.
Photo by Sarah Ansell
“Even more than making it in Twenty20 or 50‑over cricket my real ambition has been to become a Test player,” said Eoin Morgan when England first gave him a shot at the five-day stuff.
After 16 Tests and two hundreds, it seems highly unlikely they’ll give him another go, but the ICC’s latest proposals would see Ireland become a Test nation. The country of his birth would surely give him a game, no?
A certain part of us would love to see Morgan up sticks and head home purely to see how forceful and obnoxious the “SEE! SEE! WE TOLD YOU HE WAS A TRAITOR!” response would be in those parts of the media that like to characterise him as a kind of national-anthem-scorning pseudo-Pietersen.
The truth is Ireland’s Test status wouldn’t be for another couple of years, even if it happens, and Morgan currently seems rather heavy-in with leading England’s short format sides anyway. A career-minded cricketer, you can’t really imagine him walking away from his current job.
This might be a possibility further down the line though. If nothing else, a Test match between England and an Ireland side led by a cold-eyed Morgan furious about media criticism would surely be well-attended. Even if they played it in April. Which they would.
After four-and-a-half years and 59 Test matches, Alastair Cook has finally thought to himself: “Wait a minute, this is a rubbish a job and I don’t actually have to do it.”
It sometimes seems like every England captain’s career is simply a long, slow deduction that the honour and prestige don’t remotely outweigh all the millions of negatives. By the end of the India tour, Cook had the downbeat, dejected air of someone who had finally attained clarity.
After all this time, we’re still not entirely sure what particular qualities Alastair Cook brought to the job. He wasn’t an innovator or a rabble-rousing public speaker. He progressed from ineptitude with the press to speaking honestly and fairly informatively by the end, but it was never what you’d call a strength.
As we wrote a couple of months ago, with one obvious exception all of the players seemed to support him, which was a pretty decent achievement. A decreasingly competitive England side remained on an even keel, despite that creeping mediocrity. His team didn’t implode. Would Cook have won a lot more with a few better players or did he prevent the team from fulfilling its potential? Hard to say for definite, but personally we’re inclined towards generosity on this one. We might get a clearer idea when Joe Root takes over.
Concern that captaincy will somehow undermine Root’s batting seems peculiarly British being as we only have to look back as far as the present day to find examples of players who’ve improved on already high standards after taking over as leaders of Test teams (Virat Kohli and Steve Smith).
Admittedly, Cook himself was the opposite. But then the corollary of this is that he might now revert to being one of the most effective openers in Test history, which is the kind of thing that might well come in handy.
To Alastair Cook! [Somewhat bizarrely toasts him with a halloumi and tomato barmcake due to time of day and an uncharacteristic selection at the café just now.]
MS Dhoni (CC licensed by Marc via Flickr)
Ah, bless. He’d made a few in club cricket, but this was MS Dhoni’s first fifty in T20 internationals. Hopefully this is a first step towards a successful career on the big stage.
Speaking after the game, Dhoni may or may not have said: “This was my first fifty in T20 internationals. Hopefully this is a first step towards a successful career on the big stage.”
Not to be outdone, England claimed some sort of record or other by losing eight wickets for eight runs.
Six of them were taken by Yuzvendra Chahal as he returned the third-best figures in T20 internationals.
Chahal almost certainly didn’t observe: “Hopefully I can be the next Ajantha Mendis.”
The early stages of England’s one-day cricket revolution saw the team transform from one that scored about 250 on average to one that score about 250 on average.
The difference was in the range. They went from making 240-260 and losing every game to making 100-400 and winning half the time.
In India, they made over 320 in all three matches, winning one and losing two. From purely a batting point of view, this seems to be further progress.
‘Consistency’ is a recurring press conference platitude. Another is that a team can bat well, bowl well and field well but needs to start delivering in all three areas at the same time.
Being as England’s win came in the match in which they made their lowest total, we can perhaps presume that their bowling on this occasion attended the shindig. Was there any reason why this match was different to the other two? Well, there was a bit of nip, wasn’t there?
After one match of this series, England dropped their best spinner and instead fielded four seamers. This slightly bizarre step left them a caricature of themselves with four of their five bowlers greatly more effective if the ball swung or seamed.
England don’t do extraordinary pace; they don’t bowl slower balls with a quicker one for a surprise; they don’t do weird knuckle balls and the like; and they chose not to do wrist spin.
The good news is that the next major competition, The Champions Trophy, is being played in the United Kingdom. British pitches – even the relatively tame ones produced for one-day cricket – tend to provide a bit of nip, while the climate tends to provide that unspectacular level of swing that is generally referred to as ‘tail’.
We’re going to stick our neck out here. If their batting really has achieved some level of reliability, nip and tail should allow the host nation to win more than half its matches at that tournament.
The idea that England might try and bounce out Virat Kohli proved as wide of the mark as a Devon Malcolm loosener. They decided to pepper him with half-volleys instead. And it worked.
They adopted a similar method against Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni, occasionally mixing things up with a surprise full toss. That didn’t work.
Eoin Morgan also gave Chris Woakes the final over and we’ve no idea why. After nine overs, Woakes had 4-46 and had looked England’s only halfway effective bowler. Bowling the final over, what influence could he have?
Even if Woakes taken four wickets in four balls in that over, he’d only have restricted India to 367. Had he bowled his final over a little earlier in the innings, even a single wicket might have resulted in a score less than that.
Teams routinely put their most effective bowlers on for the 50th over of an innings. Why? Unless it is the second innings and the chase is tight, the final over is the one in which you can least affect the outcome of the game.
A run doesn’t have a set value. That is a recurring theme of this website. The value of a run derives from the game in which it is scored and in all honesty can only accurately be gauged with hindsight. Up until the moment a match is finally decided, all we are doing is gathering evidence and sharpening the picture.
Yesterday, in the first one-day international against India, England whopped a load of sixes at the end. They hit one in the 22nd over and then three more before the 43rd over, before flapping, blamming and punting seven more from then on.
This seems pretty normal. For all that one-day cricket has changed, it’s still not the worst strategy to build some sort of a base before taking more and more risks as the innings wears on. However, the more sixes they hit in this late period, the more we became utterly convinced that India would win the game.
It was almost as if every six was worth minus six. As mishits and flat skimmers cleared the ropes, the value of a ‘maximum’ – and therefore the value of a run – became clearer. Each six seemed to bring with it the shadow of two others that hadn’t been hit earlier on.
In contrast, India had hit 10 sixes by the end of the 38th over. They knew they were there to be had.
Even at its farthest extreme, cricket is never exactly ‘most sixes wins’ – but it is still an indicator; a signal as to how easy it might be to score runs on any given day.
The brilliance of Virat Kohli and Kedar Jadhav was obvious and flaws in the touring side’s defence can also be found. But given their chance again, maybe the England batsmen would – in more ways than one – have aimed higher.
Only we’ll have to get something up about it pretty darn sharpish if he does. Our readers will doubtless have much to say about such a development.
Maybe we could publish some sort of ‘holding post’ instead, floating the possibility that Cook might stand down without actually stating that this has happened.
- Alastair Cook is ‘preparing’ to stand down – The Telegraph
- Alastair Cook is ‘edging’ towards the exit – also The Telegraph
- Alastair Cook ‘ready’ to stand down – The Cricket Paper
He’s Schrodinger’s England captain.