We’ve got a Sachin Tendulkar post saved as a draft, but let’s look elsewhere today. Let’s look at the West Indies captain, Darren Sammy, who’s currently having a ‘mare.
We rather like Sammy. Not just because his initials make him DJ Sammy, not just because he purveys genuine medium-pace and not just because he’s forever so ready to smile you wonder whether he’s overmedicated. We also happen to think that he’s a reasonably decent cricketer.
He’s not a match-winning bowler and he’s not a batsman you’d expect more than 50 from, but he’s more than capable of bowling tight overs and hitting handy runs down the order. The problem is that this is pretty much all you can expect from him, so when he’s out of form, there aren’t many great memories to refer to when making a case for his retention.
In the Windies, many people have been baying for him to be dropped ever since he was made captain. We see their point, but at the same time the team’s often been unstable enough that a decent captain would be worth his place even if all he could do were field. It’s not like Sammy’s keeping a Michael Holding out of the side, after all.
But whoever he’s keeping out of the side may just get a game when the Windies play their next Test. Having been given the boot from the one-day captaincy, Sammy’s been under increasing pressure in the longest format. He says he thrives on criticism, which should mean he’s at his best right now.
He is not at his best.
In the first Test, he admitted leading by example by playing a stupid, impatient, entirely inappropriate shot. He said he had to learn. In the first innings of this Test, he gloved the first delivery he faced, concluded that he now had his eye in and absolutely skied the second. Then, when India came to bat, in a classic case of trying to claw yourself back into credit through an ill-judged attempt to ‘take responsibility’ he opened the bowling and was promptly spanked.
Darren Sammy’s job is to play second fiddle. In attempting to play the lead violin part, he’s making himself redundant in more ways than one.19 Appeals
South Africa are supposed to be playing the Windies today, then India play Pakistan before England play New Zealand. However, we’re away for the weekend with no plans to use the internet, so you’re going to have to fill in the gaps yourselves in the comments section.
We’re not really in the habit of predicting things because we always anticipate being wrong and if you don’t trust your own predictions, why should anyone else? However, if pushed to commit to some sort of opinion, we’d say South Africa’s bowling line-up appears to have been put together for Chris Gayle’s benefit, so maybe something will happen there should the rain relent.
As for the second match, we’ve been backing India in this tournament and so should probably stick with that. It’s a bizarre match though with a great batting line-up and mediocre bowling line-up pitted against a shoddy batting line-up and fantastic bowling line-up. Only one thing’s for certain: one team will reveal themselves as being better than the other one (unless the match is rained off).
England v New Zealand? We’re pretty confident that one will be a washout. It’s just the way these things work.39 Appeals
And largely thanks to the bowling of Ravindra Jadeja, of all people. We’re still not quite sure how he gets wickets.
This week’s instalment of The Spin was about Jadeja and how fans didn’t value him for a long time. We’re glad he’s no longer getting a hard time, but we’re not too sure how we feel about him taking five wicket hauls. Surely that should be the preserve of bowlers who don’t purvey such a nondescript stock delivery?
So while it’s good that Jadeja is at last getting positive recognition, we’d much prefer him to get it for taking 2-48 and chipping in with a few handy lower order runs. Surely that’s the point – appreciating someone for doing the less spectacular work. Anyone can get positive recognition for dismissing half a team.
The other major contributors to India’s win were Shikhar Dhawan and his moustache who scored a second hundred on the bounce. India are still our tip for the Champions Trophy.1 Appeal
This post title policy will come to a crashing halt should England lose to Australia today.
An odd and absorbing match at the Oval, where only Misban-ul-Haq and the Jam Shed managed to score more than six runs in Pakistan’s innings. Misbah’s 96 not out was exactly the kind of innings he specialises in. Almost exclusively a foulweather batsman, when the going’s good, he barely gets started, but when wickets are tumbling, he appears unbeatable.
West Indies innings was a halting affair and they perhaps benefited from having something to aim for. If they’d been setting a target, they could well have been bowled out for far less. Then again, having few runs to defend often seems to focus the minds of Pakistan’s bowlers and with a giant, a mystery spinner and a fast bowler in their ranks, they have an intriguing attack.
Saeed Ajmal was Saeed Ajmal; Wahab Riaz may not actually have been bowling at 150km/h as the speedgun indicated, but he was quick; while Mohammad Irfan brings the frisson of excitement that he might at any moment grow weary with the human race and decide to destroy us all.
We don’t appear to have mentioned the West Indies much in this update. The team playing against Pakistan always appears somewhat incidental, even when they win the match.6 Appeals
The worth of a Twenty20 player cannot be measured via a single innings. That’s a mistake many people make – they confuse aberrations with excellence. It’s therefore worth underlining the sheer inevitability that it would be Chris Gayle who would break the record for the highest individual score in the shortest format.
It doesn’t actually matter all that much that he was facing Ishwar Pandey, Ali Murtaza and even an over from Aaron Finch (although Luke Wright’s four overs for 26 look pretty fine in this context). Whoever was bowling, it takes phenomenal ability to hit 30 of the 66 balls you face for boundaries. As a child, we never once managed it when bowling a tennis ball to ourself via the wall of the garage and we were bowling underarm and umpiring as well.
Gayle finished with 175 not out, having hit 13 fours and 17 sixes in another good advert for his core strength. His team, Royal Challengers Bangalore, won. You may well have guessed that last bit.16 Appeals
It’s generally best to avoid writing about Chris Gayle, because he seems to draw admiration – and therefore blog comments – from the biggest dickheads on the planet.
It’s not that there’s nothing to admire about Gayle’s batting. It’s just that a reach seam of knobheadery sits alongside rational, justifiable appreciation. Don’t follow his Twitter feed, because he frequently answers questions from what can accurately be described as his fans. These people exhibit an unironic level of hero worship that we find really depressing. Maybe we’re just embittered because they appear to find his non-jokes funny. There’s little more dispiriting than idiocy that also devalues what you do.
But back to sport, John Hotten has written a nice summary of how and why Gayle is such a singular cricketer in the shortest format. In essence, he’s reliable, but he also has an unusual ability to hit sixes once he’s played himself in. We’ve always been struck by how hard Gayle hits the ball with such little effort and we reckon it’s all in the core.
It’s not in The Core – you’d be hard-pressed to get anything useful out of that. It’s in the totally uncool sets of muscles that span your midriff. Gayle is known for being built like a masonry khazi with big cannonball shoulders and biceps which for some reason are always described as ‘rippling’ as if they’re flobbling about rather than solid. But there are plenty of batsmen who are – in the parlance of our times – ‘ripped’ and who don’t seem to hit the ball in the same way.
When you hit a cricket ball, you do so using a whole host of muscles. Your legs and torso are the foundations for all that follows. They are what braces against the impact of ball on bat and if they do not give, you get a better return from your cover drive/aimless heave.
Watch Chris Gayle play a pull shot and the power comes from the body, not from the arms. The strength’s not just about producing power, it’s also about producing controlled power. He can swing within himself and still clear the nearest sea.
The moral of the story is this: for all the apparent vanity of the man, he must also spend a lot of time developing practical strength and pragmatism is a quality even non-dickheads can admire.21 Appeals
Normally, when someone talks about ‘the next so-and-so’ it’s a load of old cobblers, but there really is another Chanderpaul – it’s Shiv’s son.
Even better, he’s almost, but not quite, named after a fruit. Tagenarine Chanderpaul is set to make his first-class debut in February, even though he’s only 16.
We didn’t think it was possible to improve on Shivnarine Chanderpaul in any way whatsoever, but if we could have the exact same person and he was also called Tagenarine, that would unarguably be better. Fingers crossed Tagenarine can tick the ‘genius of a batsman despite having a surfeit of elbows’ box. If he can, life just improved. For once.
No word yet on his younger brothers, Netecterine, Calementine and Mandarine.21 Appeals
We’ll be honest. Sri Lanka were steady-for-one when we got in the shower. We thought we’d timed it well. We hadn’t.
The World Twenty20 final was an odd one. Sri Lankan run-scoring was stymied and they appeared to be waiting for a particular bowler to hit. He never turned up, so Kumar Sangakkara opted to have a go at Sam One, Samuel Badree. When that failed, Sri Lanka suddenly found that they had to have a go at everyone. That failed too.
Compare that to the West Indies’ innings. They reached the frankly outrageous score of 32-2 after 10 overs, at which point Dwayne Bravo hit a six. “Oh yeah, sixes,” said Sam Two, Marlon Samuels, before wading into Lasith Malinga as if he were a particularly inviting jacuzzi.
This was where the match was won. Sri Lanka ran out of bowlers to target and imploded. West Indies also ran out of bowlers to target but somehow eviscerated the man widely considered to be the finest Twenty20 fast bowler around.
Malinga’s second over featured three sixes and went for 21 runs. In all, he conceded 54 off four overs, including 39 off the 11 balls he delivered to Marlon Samuels. Maybe the Jamaican has his bowling machine set at the wrong height or something.
It’s almost impossible to impress people as a batsman these days. The term ‘Twenty20 specialist’ is undoubtedly pejorative, but there’s also a gap on your CV if you’ve only had Test success. It appears that the second coming of Marlon Samuels transcends formats. We already liked him, but cross-format success really is to be admired.
We’ve plenty of admiration for Sam Three, as well – Darren Sammy. He’s the happiest man alive when he loses, so now that he’s captain of a World Twenty20 winning side we should probably find some way of tapping him to extract the joy. He can spare some. He can spare plenty.6 Appeals
Tino Best has made a video of himself training in the gym. You can watch it all if you want, but for those who can’t be bothered, this is the best bit.
“This is cake!”
Shortly after that, Tino goes into ‘animal mode’ and then ‘super animal mode.’ We are taking this as confirmation of our belief that Tino is a character from a video game.
Not sure what ‘animal mode’ or ‘super animal mode’ entail. They seem to revolve around continuing to do what you were already doing in much the same way.
Engage super animal mode!16 Appeals
Much has been made of the fact that Chris Gayle has become consistent at Twenty20, because many mistakenly believe the format is all about luck. Clearly it isn’t, as Gayle has shown. His has been a calculating method: See off the good bowler; cane Joe McMilitary-Medium.
However, this execution of Twenty20 arse-spankery has left a little obscured. In club and franchise cricket, there’s always at least three bowlers who are middling-to-crap, but what of international cricket?
A man who’s hit triple hundreds against South Africa and Sri Lanka clearly once had it and on yesterday’s evidence, Gayle still does. Every England pace bowler he faced got a damn good shoeing.
He did it the old-fashioned way. He took a look. Having made one run off Steven Finn’s first seven deliveries to him, Gayle then engaged the long handle, thumping and fluking three successive fours. He took a look at James Anderson as well before going on the offensive, although by the time Tim Bresnan came into the attack, the long handle couldn’t be disengaged.
If he did make a mistake, it was in continuing to bat left-handed against Graeme Swann. Studies show that is not an effective strategy.17 Appeals