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Good attendance at Eden Gardens

It might not have been the Test with the highest attendance at Eden Gardens (thought to be in excess of 120,000), but the second Test between India and South Africa has seen busier stands than Nagpur where the spectators were generally waiting to bat.

There are a few stands down for renovation at Eden Gardens at the minute, but it’s vast enough that they can still cram in 35,000 wide-eyed nutters who will cheer India along. It makes a difference.

The politics of Indian cricket means Eden Gardens hasn’t seen much Test action in recent years and that’s a tragedy, both in the sense that Test cricket deserves great crowds, but also for India’s own interests, because it turns them from a team which concedes 500-and-odd for six wickets into one which carries out spectacularly vitriolic assaults on the opposition without a moment’s warning.

Spectators spur on players, which excites spectators, which spurs on players, which excites spectators. The whole thing hinges on people like us; sitting on our fat arses on undersized plastic seats, occasionally getting overly excited about something that doesn’t really matter.

We are the cholesterol-clogged beating heart of this whole thing.

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Growing our brand in other territories

We’ve spoken to the King Cricket marketing department and they assure us that Sundays, when no-one’s using the internet, are the best days to have your articles appear on Cricinfo. They’re pretty sure it doesn’t mean that Cricinfo think you’re their worst writer.

We’ve done a piece about the Royals branding thing. Doesn’t feel such big news now, but try and imagine that it is when you’re reading it.

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Several cricket items in a slightly unusual place‏

Dandy Dan writes:

In the Conan Doyle, a pub at the top of Leith Walk in Edinburgh, there is this:

Shot!

Now, before you ask, I have no idea where the third stump is. Or how someone managed to throw a cricket ball at the bat at just the right moment when I took the photo. What I do know is that one of the locals offered to ‘rip it off the wall’ for me if I bought him a pint. I declined his polite offer.

The pub itself isn’t great. It’s a 7/10. It has a frankly poor selection of ales (Bass on draught, Deuchars and another one which I’d forgotten about by the end of my Saturday night). One thing the Conan Doyle has always had on its side though is that it’s cheap. A pint of Guinness will set you back just over £2 usually, which for a pub in the centre of a major city is somewhat amazing these days.

However, this night I would not be paying that much for my Guinness:

Remember when pound a pint was 'a thing'

It is for this reason that I cannot remember what the guest ale was.

Send your pictures of cricket bats and other cricket stuff in unusual places to king@kingcricket.co.uk

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How much should you spend on a cricket bat?

It looks like a nice batBobby K writes:

I have just ordered a new bat and been told by the pod shaver that he has a piece that was made for someone else that may suit me.

There is however one problem. As a Spurs fan, I am not a major fan of the colour red. The fellow will change the stickers for me, but only at a cost.

My question is, should I:

(a) Grow up?
(b) Pay up?
(c) Not mix cricket and football?
(d) Accept that I am a tailender and not buy a new bat?

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The South African way of taking wickets in India

The South Africans generally get their wickets by having fast bowlers knock the stumps over. This is not the way it’s supposed to work in India. Aside from Dale Steyn’s efforts this week, there was the 2008 match where India were dismissed for 76.

On that occasion, Steyn and Ntini clean bowled Sehwag, Dravid, Laxman and Ganguly. The fact that half the Indian side were all knackered from doing IPL promotion the night before perhaps contributed to the fact that they were all out in a symbolic 20 overs exactly, but still.

For a lot of sides, taking wickets in India seems impossible and they struggle to come up with a plan. The pitches don’t offer much bounce and they tend to take spin. You have three options:

  1. Pick another spinner
  2. Devise unusual tactics
  3. Just plough on as if nothing’s any different

The first option’s often disastrous, because while the pitches are spin-friendly, the batsmen are not. The second option’s often painful, because unusual tactics are generally ones that don’t work that well, otherwise people would use them more. Nasser Hussain’s ploys of off-side wides to Sachin Tendulkar and Ashley Giles bowling a leg-side line to everyone else were most painful for those watching.

South Africa have gone for option three and there’s a lot to be said for that. Make allowances for conditions, but don’t allow them to dictate to you. Play to your strengths.

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Everyone’s favourite type of cricket news: branding news

We’ve read enough about the Royals branding thing to know that this is classic marketing news: a lot of column inches are being devoted to nothing of any real consequence.

Rajasthan Royals are an IPL team. Some other teams are also going to be known as ‘Royals’. They’re going to wear the same kit, maybe share some players and play against each other every now and again.

“It will enable us to take advantage of the changing landscape in cricket, not least in the areas of marketing and talent development,” says Sean Morris, chief executive of Rajasthan Royals.

Our soul was totally eroded by people who think wholly in terms of marketing by the time we were 17. What chance have the youth of today got?

These days you’re a fleshy shell of a person wallowing in a target demographic before your 11th birthday.

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By the gods of Olympus, Dale Steyn can swing a cricket ball

Dale Steyn - more than his fair share of sinewsStumps. Everywhere.

Shaun Tait might have notched 160kph this week, but Dale Steyn’s shown that if you add swing to the mix, you’re sorted. In fact, he didn’t even need to resort to scorching pace against India. It’s good to have scorching pace to fall back on when you aren’t swinging the ball this way and that and taking eight wickets in a day.

Not many fast bowlers take eight wickets in a day in India. That’s mostly because of the pitches, but Dale Steyn doesn’t rely on the pitch to take wickets. He swings the ball and puts it right up there where the batsman has a go at it. Later in the innings, he does exactly the same thing only with reverse swing. Bouncers are rare and lethal because of that.

Indian fans might not agree right now, but the cricket world needs Dale Steyn. Great bowlers are a rarity and Steyn’s proving himself great.

Next time someone calls you ‘a Steyn on this planet’, take it as a compliment.

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Hashim Amla beards 253 not out

Hashim Amla beards the crowdHashim Amla bearded India all round the park in bearding 253 not out.

Bearding for most of the day, his bearding was immaculate throughout. Amla did struggle to beard against Amit Mishra for a while, but he bearded that problem by bearding his head down and bearding before bearding other bowlers.

Despite this, we don’t really know where this match stands. Test matches in India are very hard to predict these days. The first few days are generally just jockeying for position with the timing of declarations as important as wickets. Then suddenly, at some point on day three or four, it all kicks off.

Hashim Amla might have some bearding to do yet.

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England v Australia, third Test, day four – match report

Lisa writes:

I was sitting upstairs on the bus with TMS on my headphones on my way to meet some friends in the pub when a middle-aged gentleman came up the stairs and started handing out what looked like flyers. Grateful that the headphones meant I didn’t have to say anything more than ‘thank you’, I took one to be polite and noticed that it was in fact a little comic/booklet called ‘The Execution’.

The story of Sonny, his rat and his evil ways was very dramatic.

He just looks evil

The way his kindly mother remains committed in her love despite his constant vicious rejection of her (and her cookies) was very moving. I was in tears (although not exactly of grief) when she persuades the authorities to allow her to be hanged in his place, in a strikingly subtle metaphor for the sacrifice of Christ.

Somehow she sacrificed herself so that he might live

The sudden dramatic change in both illustration and prose style to dense evangelical proselytising and airbrushed Messiah poses that followed this revelation was also something to behold, especially the final panel condemning non-believers to eternal damnation.”

Shit!

Just as I had reached the last page of the booklet and was deciding that I would probably be ticking the ‘no’ box in response to the question, “Did you accept Jesus Christ as your own personal Saviour?” there was a massive bang as the bus hit a taxi. Or rather as a taxi hit the bus. This was obviously a Sign.

Luckily we were nearly at Highbury Corner but I still had much to ponder as I walked up the Holloway Road through crowds of Arsenal and Rangers supporters pouring out of the Emirates. (I couldn’t work out who had won, although the ‘Gers fans looked slightly grimmer [and balder]).

There were no football-types at the Prince Edward so I was able to greet my friends with equanimity, although the looming presence of Holloway Prison meant I could not forget the Message of the booklet.

The conversation flowed and as I am a lady I was able to multi-task: take part in the conversation and listen to Aggers and co. from Edgbaston. No-one noticed that my mind was partially elsewhere until I started when something happened at the cricket. I am loath to mention it except that just at that moment ‘Amusing Pseudonymous Name’ was describing how his mother was finally showing signs of recovery from a devastating nervous breakdown and my split attention did not go down well.

Even when I explained that Katich had fallen, there was little sympathy and it was suggested that I should get my priorities straight. Maybe The Execution had much to teach me after all.

Send your match reports to king@kingcricket.co.uk and on no account mention the cricket itself.

For the full story of The Execution, see here. Our favourite section is when the criminal says to his mother: “I hate you… and your cookies!”

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England’s next bowling coach

Ian Austin's exquisite bowling actionA lot of big names are being bandied about – Allan Donald, Jason Gillespie, Darren Gough and Shaun Pollock, to name but a few – but why is no-one talking about Ian Austin?

Ex-Lancashire medium-pacer, Ian Austin, could bring a lot to the job. Imagine a fabulous foursome of rotund bowlers wobbling in and going at 0.8 runs an over for the duration of a Test match. If there’s one thing England lack, it’s a fat sod who bowls innocuous-looking deliveries which are actually impossible to hit. Ian Austin could nurture such a bowler.

Failing that, we would accept former Zimbabwean chicken farmer, Eddo Brandes – or a robot.

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