Page 10 of 341

Vehement letter-C denier AB de Villiers also renounces (c)

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

AB de Villiers has stood down as South Africa Test captain. Faf du Plessis has filled the void, much as he has been doing for quite a while now.

This decision makes sense to us for two reasons. Firstly, de Villiers hardly ever plays cricket for South Africa at the minute, while du Plessis does. Secondly, de Villiers is a bad captain, whereas du Plessis seems quite a good one.

They’ve emphasised the first reason in the announcement.

De Villiers always seemed to look upon captaincy much as a schoolboy does, for some reason equating hand-eye co-ordination with aptitude for strategic thinking and man management.

Whether he has actually been disabused of the notion that he should captain his country because he is the best batsman is unclear. Like many skilful cricketers, we suspect he’ll always believe that his physical ability will directly translate into more cerebral activities connected with the sport. A career as a commentator surely awaits.

Share this article...Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Cook and Kohli – captains with and without influence

Alastair Cook

Oh for a captain who knows what it’s like to win a Test series in India. England have had just one such leader since David Gower triumphed way back in 1984-85. It was, er, Alastair Cook.

This probably goes to show that ‘knowing how to win in India’ is just the smallest slice of the equation.

England’s tour

Set aside the fact that this India side is superior to the defeated 2012 vintage for a moment, it’s interesting to contrast the two England teams. The overwhelming difference lies in the bowling.

Back in 2012, we were keen to highlight that England had managed to field three or four wicket-taking bowlers, adding:

“That’s not really been possible in places like India and Sri Lanka before. England normally have one or two bowlers who seem like they might possibly threaten for a bit of the time and then a couple of support acts – either good bowlers who aren’t well-suited to the conditions, or county cricket makeweights who are.”

We’re quoting ourself for an obvious reason. Clearly, we have returned to normality.

In this series, Adil Rashid’s the one bowler who seems like he might possibly threaten for a bit of the time. The other spinners, including Moeen Ali, have effectively been county cricket makeweights. All the seamers bar Stuart Broad have been good bowlers not well-suited to conditions and on this tour unable to transcend them.

Take a look at the averages. It’s nasty stuff, whereas the batsmen have actually performed fairly competently.

It’s interesting to ponder what Rashid’s average might have been if anyone else had been chipping in and he hadn’t spent 90 per cent of his time bowling to set batsmen.

India’s future

On the Indian side of things, Virat Kohli appears to have achieved something beyond even his quarryload of runs. He has put his shoulder to the weighty Indian system and somehow shunted it in a different direction.

The team has historically been reluctant to field five bowlers, preferring instead the insurance of a sixth batsman, even in conditions where runs have been readily available. Kohli has however insisted upon it, even when spinners have been likely to do most of the work.

The effect has arguably been threefold. The remaining specialist batsmen, with another rival vying for their place and greater responsibility thrust upon them, appear to have responded well. The all-rounders and lower-order have also upped their game batting-wise.

In the field, the fresher seamers have been sharper and more incisive, while the fifth bowler has provided an additional option.

It’s easy to say that Kohli’s lucky enough to have the players to do this, but we’d make a strong argument for his having contributed to those players becoming what they currently are.


In the 2012 series, Virat Kohli averaged 31. In this series, he averages 128 and has access to a bowling attack that permits him to attack from all angles.

In 2012, Alastair Cook made three hundreds and had access to a brilliant left-arm spinner, a brilliant right-arm spinner, plus a highly effective version of Jimmy Anderson.

Captaincy’s a piece of piss if you can ensure you inhabit the right year. Sometimes you eat the bear…

Share this article...Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Virat Kohli was a massive disappointment today

There was an awful lot of fuss after the first half of Virat Kohli’s innings. People said he was unreal, a genius – an unreal genius. Sunil Gavaskar said he was from another planet and lest anyone ask which one, he specified that it was an undiscovered planet.

They said all sorts of things, but the general theme was that Kohli was operating on another plane of existence, playing cricket with almost unimaginable brilliance.

As a result of this, we resolved to pay careful attention today. We wanted to appreciate his extaordinary otherness and drink in his magnificence. If more splendour was in the offing, we were going to quaff it. Every last bit of it.

But you know what? We were left hugely disappointed. Virat Kohli really let us down.

It just seemed so normal. If Kohli was doing anything special, then it was playing like all the other batsmen but for slightly longer. At one point the crowd did an enormous amount of shouting and clapping, but by that point he’d been in ages and we rather felt like we’d seen it all already.

He ran singles and clipped a few fours – as batsmen do – and that was pretty much it. He didn’t even have the decency to levitate.

Journalists, pundits and fans had left us expecting a Ready-Brek glow at the very least, but there was none of that. There were no banana shots, arcing the ball around fielders. He just hit it past them – or quite often to them. He didn’t play too many stupid shots and he didn’t mishit all that many, but it’s hard to get too worked up about what you’re not seeing.

So, in summary: normal cricket, only drawn out for quite an extended period.

England should still endeavour to set India an awkward chase. That step alone is already in the realm of unIikeliness, but if the pitch goes utterly to shit and they then fluke their opponents out for less than a hundred, it would be utterly hilarious. They don’t remotely deserve a win, but there is no role for justice in the formulation of a good joke.

Share this article...Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

England hope to set up a euphemistically ‘awkward’ chase

Get a room, Virat Kohli and everyone who’s watching the Test match. None of us are comfortable with this level of public affection.

As we’ve said before, it’s the hero worship of Kohli that’s so objectionable, not the man himself. Still, the one leads to the other, so it’s only natural to wish him ill so that you’re spared the gushing. We don’t like gushing. We’re not Daniel Plainview.

From an England perspective, a couple of rabbit-in-a-hat tricks offset otherwise playground tactics to leave the team pretty much exactly where you’d expect them to be.

Given a brief opportunity to captain, Joe Root brought himself on to bowl and took two quick wickets. Adil Rashid, meanwhile, got the ‘opportunity’ to bowl 30 overs on the bounce – and occasionally, as he tired, the double-bounce.

Neither made much difference. Root’s success was freakish and Rashid’s workload came about because he appeared as likely as anyone to take wickets. He took 2-152. A third spinner could certainly have accounted for some of those runs without necessarily having any impact on the wicket column.

Alastair Cook has, in our view, made little of a mediocre hand. We wouldn’t damn him for that. We know by now that he is not a captain who transcends his team’s apparent limitations. It would be like going to a chain pub for a two-burgers-for-a-fiver offer only to complain about the quality of the beef. Given better ingredients, the Cook is competent. England’s shortcomings aren’t overwhelmingly down to him.

Still, it was good of India to agree to a handicap match in which England batted first on a pitch liable to go all scuffy and exciting. If they can somehow minimise their first innings deficit, they can hopefully set up some sort of awkward chase for their opponents.

‘Awkward’ means ‘small and easy’ but at least we’ll all be able to pretend for a bit.

Share this article...Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

England were supposed to be happy – but Vijay and Pujara may be happier

Jos Buttler

Media coverage has led us to believe that England will be happy with 400 in their first innings. Judging by how they’ve set about their own run-scoring, India will also be happy with England’s total.

Everybody’s happy. Everybody wins. At least until after the second innings when only one of them will win. Probably India.

India’s batsmen went a bit Misbah at Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid early on. Dispassionately, you might view this as a conscious tactic that betrays an Indian perception that England’s spinners will pose a greater threat than their seamers. Viewed as an England fan, it felt like they were able to wade in with impunity. Only one wicket fell.

Murali Vijay remains. He’s supposed to be weak against the short ball – although as Sunil Gavaskar points out, people are quicker to pin a short ball weakness to a player than any other kind of shortcoming. Batsmen generally get out to something or other and openers get more than their fair share of short stuff.

If Cheteshwar Pujara has a weakness, it’s seeming a bit limp for being the subject of diktats from his captain. We find it odd that a batsman should accept being lectured by someone with an inferior batting average, but this deference doesn’t extend to his batting. Submission is something Pujara’s heard about, but at some point he concluded that it isn’t really for him.

Day three could go either way. Or maybe it’s obvious which way it’ll go and we haven’t really thought about it properly.

Share this article...Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Keaton Jennings: first look in Test cricket

We don’t believe you can draw meaningful conclusions from debut performances – but we report on them anyway.

If there’s one thing that county cricket generally doesn’t involve, it’s playing in India. You can probably think of other things it doesn’t involve, but this particular aspect seems relevant to Keaton Jennings’ Test debut because he was asked to play in India.

If there’s one thing that playing cricket in India isn’t, it’s playing cricket in England. Sure, there are similarities – lunch breaks, tea breaks, ferocious inescapable heat – but you’re hardly likely to encounter a full trio of spin bowlers up at the Riverside.

It was therefore interesting to see how Jennings went about his business. The opener’s approach against seamers is all straight and conventional, but against the spinners he seemed hell-bent on scoring via the reverse sweep.

This is hardly surprising in this day and age. The shot is now so commonplace, we move that it be renamed ‘the sweep’ and the conventional sweep rebranded ‘the reverse sweep’ to better reflect the likelihood of seeing each played.

At one point during his innings, Keaton Jennings reached three figures. This, to us, seemed impressive. However, he didn’t look especially angry about his achievement, which leads us to conclude that he may lack whatever it is that allows many high profile cricketers to feel ‘super-psyched’ about reaching such landmarks.

Whether that’s a strength or a weakness is something that could have been discussed in this final paragraph, but wasn’t. Instead, we wrote one sentence that failed to address the matter and then a second purely so that there was no confusion about whether the paragraph in question could more accurately have been described as a sentence.

Share this article...Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Why Keaton Jennings’ Test debut is also great news for Jason Roy

Keaton Jennings will make his Test debut against India and if there’s one aspect of this news that everyone’s talking about, it’s the fact that the Durham opener has two surnames and no first name.

England are not unaware of this and they will no doubt harbour concerns about the balance of the side. The team, as it stands, now contains a surname surplus and a first name shortfall with no immediate solution available.

Long-term, England will no doubt be looking to Jason Roy to fill the void. An enforced name-swap so as to field a Jason Keaton and a Roy Jennings seems unlikely. More likely management will simply be content to weigh all the team’s first names against all of the surnames, dealing with them en masse.

Earlier this year, we suggested that Keaton Jennings would have been One To Watch if we still did that kind of thing. Those who took our implicit advice and opted to track his progress anyway will doubtless feel well-informed about his rise to the England team. Others will just have to trawl through the county cricket category on this website, noting that each time he scored a hundred, we said that he’d scored a hundred.

We don’t believe Jason Roy earned any mentions from us for his County Championship returns this season. This opens up the distinct possibility that England could be profoundly unbalanced for an extended period.

Share this article...Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Trevor Bayliss on batting positivity and batting clarity

Ben Stokes batting

You should have hit it harder. Or less hard. Or not at all. Whatever you did with the delivery that resulted in your dismissal, you should have done something else.

The latest comments from Trevor Bayliss give a bit of an insight into how the England’s coach sees the game. He’s been characterised as an advocate of ‘taking the positive option’ and by extension, someone who will always preach aggressive batting. However, that would appear to be a 2D caricature as we can easily perceive three-dimensionality from his words.

When a number of England batsmen were dismissed playing attacking shots in the third Test, plenty of people concluded that they should have been more cautious. This is the difference between a coach and someone who takes potshots after watching the highlights. The former is obliged to consider the context.

Bayliss said:

“If you look at the batters who scored runs in the first three innings of the Test series, they were proactive, trying to be positive, which means they will defend well. When the opportunity comes we leave and defend well but when opportunity comes along to attack we take them.

“In the last three innings we have changed that mindset so it is more along the lines of survival. And when some of our naturally more positive players try to play that way they were in two minds.

“I thought in the last innings of the last Test we gifted them some wickets when I thought we looked to be in two minds. We looked like we were trying to go over the top once or twice but did not really go through with it which meant we were in two minds over whether it was right approach or not.”

Captain Hindsight would be happy to conclude that a batsman who plops one to an outfielder should have played a different shot. That’s an obvious remedy, but Bayliss is effectively arguing that the batsman may just have played that shot badly due to lack of clarity and conviction.

Which is the bigger threat to a batsman? Erring on the side of positivity when weighing run-scoring against defence – or indecisiveness? Bayliss appears to think the latter.

In the last Test, Moeen Ali played over the top half-heartedly (which is no way to go about it), while Ben Stokes ran down the pitch after scoring three runs off 31 deliveries from Ravindra Jadeja. There was an element of neither-one-thing-nor-the-other about both dismissals.

It’s misrepresentation to say that Bayliss believes that batting aggressively is a cure-all. Instead, he seems to recognise that players approach the game in different ways and the thinking that works for Alastair Cook, for example, might actually compromise the returns of others further down the order.

He knows that encouraging players to play freely won’t result in perfection. What he’s hoping for is a net gain (if you’ll excuse the pun). He believes that some of his batsmen are caught between two approaches and he thinks we will see fewer errors if he can shunt them away from a mental no-man’s land.

Share this article...Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Got some random job that needs doing? Maybe see if Moeen Ali fancies stepping in

Photo by Sarah Ansell

If you have a problem, if no-one else can help, and if you can find him, maybe you can ask Moeen Ali to do the job.

He’ll probably say yes.

“Hey Moeen, fancy being an international spin bowler?”

“Yeah, all right.”

“Hey Moeen, great bowling. And great batting in the middle order as well – really dynamic. Do you maybe fancy opening in one-dayers?”

“Yeah, all right.”

“Cracking stuff. Really cracking stuff. Thing is – and I feel a bit awkward saying this because you’ve done really well; don’t for one minute think this reflects on you – but do you maybe fancy batting at eight? Don’t take it as a demotion. It’s more that the other guys can’t seem to bat at eight. Yeah, I know how that sounds, but it does seem to be the case. And you’ve been so adaptable – really just coped with whatever we’ve asked you to do, so…?”

“Yeah, all right.”

“Great stuff with the batting at eight, Mo. Great stuff. Now this is a bit of an odd one – we know you’ve never opened in a first-class match before – but do you maybe fancy opening in Tests?”

“Yeah, all right.”

“Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And, er, how about going back to seven and eight for a bit afterwards and then maybe we can ink you in at five for the winter.”

“Yeah, all right.”

“Okay, so obviously we did want to keep you at five for a while, but the thing is there’s been a few injuries and things, so in this match could you maybe bat at four in the first innings and three in the second?”

“Yeah, all right.”

“Great. I mean really great. We don’t want to mess you about or anything. You’ve really coped admirably with everything we’ve asked you to do and we know it’s not fair to keep messing you about. Ultimately, we want to allow you to get settled in one position. Role definition is very important in this England team. One thing though, er – how are you with spreadsheets? I think I’ve mucked up one of the formulas in this one and I can’t work out what I’ve done. You couldn’t take a quick look, could you? There’s also a problem with the central heating at Loughborough if you could check that out at some point? Also we need someone to make a few hotel bookings.”

“Yeah, all right.”

“Great stuff, Mo. We really value your ability to uncomplainingly turn your hand to literally bloody anything.”

Share this article...Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Why have the England players gone to Dubai?

Dubai by night (CC licensed by Crazy Diamond via Flickr)

Dubai by night (CC licensed by Crazy Diamond via Flickr)

England are taking a break. A mid-tour holiday. There’s been a bit of discussion about the fact that they feel they need one and what that might say about international schedules, but there’s been precious little comment about why the holy hell they saw fit to go to Dubai.

We’d be interested to know how our Indian readers take this decision. To us, it sort of gives the impression that England see India as a place to be escaped. Couple of days off? Travel 2,000km to relax because relaxation would be impossible anywhere closer. Maybe they don’t feel that they get enough opportunities for air travel.

And honestly – Dubai? A friend who lives there assures us that there’s plenty to do, yet it’s hard to find a list of attractions which doesn’t list ‘shopping’ fairly high up. Why such a short hop and a skip from Chandigarh if that’s what you’re after? Why not plough on to Manchester for a full weekend at The Traff. Or, you know, India has shops too.

Perhaps this is hypocritical. In our youth we spent 10 days in Sri Lanka midway through a trip to India and it did sort of feel like a holiday. But then we also felt pretty relaxed in any number of Indian coastal towns or up in the mountains or out in the desert.

Someone should tell the England players that the major industrial cities in which they generally find themselves playing cricket aren’t necessarily representative of one of the world’s largest and most culturally varied nations.

For the record, Haseeb Hameed – who went home for surgery, not a holiday, lest we forget – will fly back to India next week to watch the remaining Tests with his family. We’re not sure precisely how many Hero Points he gets for that, but we’re prepared to allocate him plenty.

Share this article...Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2017 King Cricket

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑