Category: Retirement (page 1 of 9)

The Mitchell Johnson bowling action – a nasty and effective and unreliable thing

Mitchell Johnson contributed some extremely interesting cricket and you can’t ask for much more than that from a player. Overall, his record is very good, but that long-term-very-goodness was created by opposing short-term extremes.

At his best, Johnson was as exciting to watch as pretty much any cricketer ever. If your team was playing against Australia, you may not have enjoyed the spectacle, but you can’t say it didn’t raise the heart-rate. It wasn’t so much the pace, as that sense that the entire match could be decided in short order.

Set against that, his worst was comically dire. This is of course just as entertaining and therefore, in our eyes, every bit as worthwhile. Friend or foe, Johnson will be missed.

Where’s the ball gone?

If there’s a lesson to be gleaned from the impact of Good Johnson, it’s that even in its purest form, fast bowling isn’t all about pace – it’s about reaction times. Ed Cowan helps us understand this with an account of what it was like to face him.

“He rocks back after the familiar rhythmical approach, and then it seems you wait an eternity for the ball to be launched towards you. An ever-so-brief moment of panic can sweep across you as you realise he has let it go but you have not picked it up until the ball is halfway down.

“There is certainly some luck involved in getting through those early exchanges – if one delivery is on the money, your day can be over before it really begins. So much of the advance information gained by batsmen about the length of a delivery vanishes when the bowler possesses such an action.”

You can get half an idea of what he means by watching this video comparing the actions of Mitchells Starc and Johnson.

At this point, Johnson’s bowling arm is already down and the ball is well on its way to being released…


… but yet the two bowlers release the ball at (almost) the same time. As Cowan says, there’s almost a pause when the ball’s behind Johnson in his delivery stride; a coiled-spring moment that gives the batsman a split second to ponder what’s to come and also denies him the rhythm he needs to react properly.

Starc is the archetypal thoroughbred fast bowler. Johnson was the Whangotron 9000. For all that a smooth, languid bowling action might be more aesthetically pleasing, in many ways the Johnson method presents more of a threat.

Shoaib Malik adds to the rich tradition of Pakistani cricketer retirements

No-one does retirement quite like a Pakistan cricketer. Mohammad Yousuf’s was a textbook departure, entirely equivocal such that his absence can perhaps only now be considered permanent, some five years later. Or at least it could have been considered permanent if he hadn’t played a number of international matches after that announcement.

That isn’t actually all that impressive by Pakistan standards though. Abdul Razzaq was turning out for the national side some six years after he retired. The latest to deliver a masterful exit is Shoaib Malik who said “the time was right” to stand down from Test cricket, a good fortnight after concluding the time was right for a return after five years out of the side.

That’s still pretty piss-poor as short-lived returns go, however. Shahid Afridi made a four-day cameo comeback before he jacked in the longest format. He was captain at the time too.

Hopefully Shoaib Malik’s got something a little more innovative up his sleeve. We fully expect him to have reversed his decision by the time we click ‘publish’. That’ll set the scene perfectly for him to be named Misbah’s replacement as captain, at which point he can retire again with even more impact.


The story of Matt Prior

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Perhaps it’s mankind’s predisposition towards seeing the world in terms of stories that has resulted in there being so much emphasis on the latter stages of Matt Prior’s career. Stories build towards an ending, so we tend to think that’s the most important bit.

Such a way of looking at things is almost always unfair on a cricketer and especially so in Prior’s case where a few months not fully fit during which he also suffered a relatively short-lived falling out with a team-mate paint an unflattering picture.

Let’s deal with the Kevin Pietersen thing first

If only to get it out of the way. Weirdly, we’ve always closely associated the two men because they were the standout players from an A tour to India way back when. For the most part, they got on okay. It’s worth noting that many of the older events recounted in KP’s book have been recoloured as a result of their subsequent falling out. It was really only quite recently that things went awry.

One of KP’s biggest gripes seems to be that Prior was somehow big-headed, as proven by the fact that he referred to himself as ‘The Big Cheese’. Prior’s always been known as Cheese, but as we always understood it, this wasn’t because of some sense that he was kind of a big deal, but because of a tendency to look like this.

Maybe the nickname evolved a little over time, but if you missed the subtleties, didn’t quite appreciate the cultural concept and maybe weren’t all that inclined towards self-deprecation yourself, maybe you could have got hold of the wrong end of the stick and subsequently decided to beat him with it.

Declaration batting

Many England fans who really warmed to Prior did so because of how he batted when England were looking to declare. This is no ‘yay, boundaries!’ thing. It was something deeper than that.

When it comes to upping the run-rate ahead of a declaration, many batsmen are only too delighted to have an excuse to go for glory. Attempting to hit sixes is a somewhat self-indulgent form of selflessness – almost a win-win.

Prior’s approach was different. He would look to increase the run-rate by any means he could, including through near-suicidal running between the wickets. Although you’re working towards the same end, there’s no glory in a quick single or a scampered three. Caught at long-on is glorious failure, but when you’re run-out, you always look like a div.

The stats

Prior sneaks out of Test cricket with an average of 40.18 allied to a very good strike-rate of 61.66. Pietersen’s, weirdly, is 61.72. (Is there nothing these fast-scoring South Africa born England middle-order batsmen of similar vintage don’t have in common?)

Hundreds-wise, his match-saving second innings 110 not out against New Zealand in 2013 was probably the most significant, but we’ll always retain a soft spot for the cruelty of his 118 at the SCG in 2011. Batting at number eight and with England already ahead, the runs weren’t really needed – but he got them anyway and in brutal, demoralising fashion. He helped England win that series in style.

However, what we’ll most remember is some kind of fictional distillation of his career. England are good; England are ahead; Prior cuts a short one at a million miles an hour straight towards a boundary fielder but somehow still runs two, diving for his crease to complete the second. Shortly afterwards, England declare and they go on to win easily. The end.

This is the way a cricket career ends, not with a bang

Shiv - Nurdled the shit out of every attack from 1994 to 2015

Hurray! Friday! Let’s celebrate by writing about melancholy exits!

We’ve sadly had two recently. Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s international career ended just as he imagined it would when he first took up the sport as a boy, with a WhatsApp exchange between Test series. Meanwhile, Craig Kieswetter has had to call it a day at the age of 27 because of the hideous eye injury he sustained last year.

Chanderpaul did at least make it to the age of 40 as an international cricketer and with 164 Tests to his name, few can boast a longer career . He also finishes with an average of 51, so few can boast a better career either. Even so, no-one dreams of a poignant final moment in which all they’re doing is fuming at a message on their phone.

Was it the right time for him to go? He didn’t want to, but it’s a lot easier to make the decision to continue when you’re the player. You don’t really have other options, whereas the selectors do. For the West Indies, life goes on. For Chanderpaul, in a certain maudlin sense, it doesn’t.

It’s unclear from Kieswetter’s statement whether the issue is the injury itself or his reaction to it. “I feel mentally I will never again be the player that I was,” perhaps hints that it’s the latter.

And who can blame him? Having your eye socket fractured and your vision knackered is going to leave a perfectly understandable psychological mark, even if you get over the physical effects. This is why we should never be too angry at batsmen who back away from short-pitched bowling. They’re the logical ones. It’s the ones who get in line who have the wonky thinking.

Kieswetter’s career high point was being named man of the match when England won the World T20 in 2010. That bigstagegoodknockability was never really on display again and it’s bleak to think that reports such as this one reduce the whole course of his life up until now to those 49 balls.

Somerset play Hampshire tonight and the West Indies continue their Test against Australia. Hopefully both players will join the rest of us by having a beer and enjoying the spectacle. After all, it really ain’t so bad this side of the boundary ropes.

Jonathan Trott – the king of relentlessness finally relents

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Our proper Jonathan Trott retirement piece is over on All Out Cricket. Other than that, here are two old posts which sum up different aspects of a top, top player.

The first focuses on the sheer relentlessness of the man – surely his defining quality. If we have a happier memory of not watching cricket than going to bed with Jonathan Trott batting in an Ashes Test Down Under and waking up to find him still doing so, we don’t know what it is.

The second is an appreciation of his bowling, which we’ll miss almost as much as his batting. Many a tense moment has been marked by a ‘get Trott on’ tweet from this writer. You can’t beat a bit of dobble at a crucial juncture in an innings.

Older posts

© 2015 King Cricket

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑