England are generally impatient with promising young players. They bring them in, everyone who can voice an opinion takes it in turns to daub them in excrement and then it takes six years for the smell to wear off.
Let’s make a comparison. Sajid Mahmood and Mitchell Johnson were born within a couple of months of each other. Both were branded ‘once in a generation’ bowlers early in their career.
Sajid Mahmood was hastily picked for England, played a few matches and got his various slower balls carted to all parts. He played eight Tests, three on an Ashes tour and played his last Test in January 2007.
In contrast, Mitchell Johnson made his debut in November 2007 and has lasted the course.
Now we know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say that Mahmood’s whiff of excrement is from his bowling, while Mitchell Johnson is moulded out of solid magic by the hands of God.
That might be a little extreme and it might also have a little truth in it, but that’s not the point we’re making.
Our point is that Mahmood is currently among the most promising English fast bowlers around. He’s got all the attributes he always had (pace, bounce, swing, reverse swing) and might now have learnt when to use those skills – but he’s tainted. He’s tarnished by his previous, premature stab at international cricket.
The very name ‘Sajid Mahmood’ is a kind of cricketing shorthand meaning ‘the wheels have come off during a one-day international’. It’s unfair.
What would have happened to Mitchell Johnson had he been English? Australian readers might want to be particularly hilarious at this point.5 Appeals
Although we made Steven Davies one to watch at the start of last summer, we had it in mind that we’d be watching him for a bit longer before he appeared in international matches.
Andy Flower said this week that if Davies plays in the one-day matches, he’ll open the batting, while Matt Prior will bat in the lower middle order if he plays. You feel like England will go for Davies, because wicketkeepers who open the batting in one-day internationals send England into unseemly paroxysms of orgasmic delight which are as embarrassing as hearing Henry Blofeld calling someone a ‘dude’.
Wicketkeepers open the batting in one-dayers. That’s the way it is as far as England are concerned. All of which makes it rather bizarre that Phil Mustard was so summarily abandoned.
Here was a wicketkeeper-batsman who kept wicket well and had the right approach to opening the batting in Twenty20 matches and one-dayers.
He mightn’t have made any big scores, but he’s fundamentally right for the job. He has a lash at the ball without giving the matter a great deal of thought. That is generally what you want from a one-day opener these days.
You don’t want a batsman thinking: ‘My job is to have a lash at every ball.’ You want a batsman who just does it. That’s Phil Mustard and just about nobody else who’s English.3 Appeals
The attached photograph is a monk at the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim brandishing a cricket bat. It is my own photo and the monk enthusiastically volunteered to be photographed.
Rumtek monastery is a very holy and unusual place. The monks are black hats, which is an unusual strand of Buddhism. One can only wonder at how this lad ended up in the monastery when his enthusiasms so obviously seem to lie elsewhere.
Here is a page from their website, outlinining their ‘one-day practices‘. I wonder what the monks do for first class or Test practices?
Got a picture of a cricket bat or some other cricket item in an unusual place? Send it to email@example.com Appeals
“Let’s make the shirt maroon and then match that with scarlet trousers and hats, because maroon and scarlet are complementary colours.
“Let’s put some yellow bits here, there and everywhere and then let’s make the collar, ooh, let’s say bright green.
“Finally, as the piece de resistance, let’s put a huge sweat stain right down the front.”
At least it’s got ‘Vampire’ written on it. That’s about a million times better than ‘Adidas’.16 Appeals
If there’s one thing England need more than anything else, it’s a fast bowler. If there’s one thing Steve Harmison isn’t at the moment, it’s a fast bowler.
The good news for Harmison is that nobody else is either, so all he really needs to address is that ‘at the moment’ part.
Some might say that the pitches for the recent Test series were unusually flat and that ordinarily you don’t need a fast bowler in Test cricket. We’d say the fact that the pitches were unusually flat only magnified the need for a fast bowler. Test pitches are always pretty flat.
But Harmison’s shown few signs of recovering pace and hostility over the winter, content to bowl fairly accurately at 82mph, which is hardly the point of Steve Harmison. Having run out of wrists to slap, Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss have dropped him down below an injured Ryan Sidebottom and a previously untested Amjad Khan in the pecking order.
With only two Tests before the Ashes and no chance of a recall – as that would render the kick up the arse of his dropping into yet another meaningless temporary exile – it’s impossible to see a way back for the lolloping ganglatron of mental fragility.
Yet in true English fashion, we’ve overlooked the one-dayers. England are highly likely to pick the hunchbacked spindlester for these, so he’s got a chance. While he’s widely thought to be no better than competent at one-day cricket, this overlooks the fact that by far the most influential bowling of his career took place in pyjamas.
No, not in his dreams – delete that comment and write something else. We’re referring to just prior to the 2005 Ashes in Bristol. Harmison dismissed Australia’s top four (Gilchrist, Hayden, Ponting and Martyn) to reduce Australia to 63-4 and then returned to clean bowl Mike Hussey, finishing with 5-33.
That, as much as the Lord’s bloodshedding that followed, scared the Aussie batsmen, who never fully recovered. Harmison should ask himself whether the Aussies are scared of him now. And he should answer honestly.5 Appeals
Warning: The following does feature a photograph of an actual woman.
The attached picture is of Preity Zinta, a Bollywood starlet, with a cricket bat, on the cover of Vogue! I thought that was quite an unusual place for a cricket bat to be.
Send your pictures of cricket bats and cricket items in unusual places to firstname.lastname@example.org Appeals
In cricket, ‘genuine pace’ is usually 90mph (144kph) plus. If a bowler has ‘genuine pace’, it means he bowls quickly, even though the words themselves don’t really mean that.
We’ve all got to stop talking about ‘genuine pace’. 36mph is a genuine pace, after all. What pace isn’t genuine?
One thing we do know is that England’s current bowling attack doesn’t feature such a quality. It could do with it.20 Appeals
Really it all started the night before in Harbour Lights in Bridgetown where we took full advantage of the ‘drink all the sickly rum punch you can for 50 bajan dollars’ offer and invented a game called musical table dancing. My mate, Pikey, tried to rip out his own eyeball at the end of the night; forgetting in his drunken stupor that he wasn’t wearing his contact lenses. He was left with a red and bruised eyeball for the rest of the holiday.
A painfully full bus journey into town brought on the start of the beer sweats. My mood brightened when I was able to purchase an energy-replacing red drink, but waned when I spilt it all down my white T-shirt. It was bloody hot so I spent the morning session contemplating buying a straw hat, but the bloke wanted USD 25 for something that would make Geoff Boycott commit homocide, so I opted for sunstroke. Later in the day, I saw Mike Gatting. He hasn’t lost weight. And has no dress sense.
Today I wore my Victoria Beer wife-beater top. The sun left me with two ridiculous white stripes over my shoulders.
By now I know nothing but drinking Banks Beer and getting sunburnt. I’ve never seen Banks Beer in England but have decided it is a fine beer, so I have a discussion about the possibilities of importing it with my mate Smartie. We have a viable business plan, but can not remember it by the end of the drinking session.
We went to the Boatyard in the evening. This place is only 45 bajan dollars to drink all you can and it has a pool table. Why did we waste all those nights in Harbour Lights? I enjoyed some bumping and grinding with the local girls, but didn’t feel confident to adopt the dance moves the local chaps employ on them, which appears to border on rape. Pikey had to be taken home early. Pikey pissed himself in the night and then got into the wrong bed. Coombsy was not amused to awake the next morning with wet Pikey lying next to him.
By the afternoon session, I decided I had seen enough of this Sarwan chap, so I decided to spot boobies. Apart from one particularly fine pair in a red bikini top (saved in the memory bank), all others were attached to men with large beer bellies. Never before in my life have I seen such a plethora of fat people. I think that’s the primary reason Mike Gatting was there – for a self esteem boost. Saw Sir Viv whilst in the burger queue, but my burger was cold, overpriced and not satiating. I’m sure the food is usually quite good in Barbados, they just wanted to make us feel at home.
Contemplating the possibilities of either another wicketless day and the nailed on draw or a Jamaica-like collapse, neither of which were particularly appealing, we elected to spend the last day on the beach. I saw some turtles when I was snorkelling in the reef. There was a much better array of boobies to take in than there had been at the Kensington Oval.
I had a really annoying bint sat next to me on the plane home and got no sleep. Straight to work from the airport for a 14 hour day. Tuesday was the first unhappy day for a while.9 Appeals
If you’ve only seen the scorecard, you might not believe us on this one, but James Anderson bowled brilliantly in this match – particularly when you consider that he was suffering from the wild shits for the whole of one day’s play.
He’s bowled well all series, in fact, in conditions which haven’t helped anyone. He’s swung the new ball, like he always does, but now he reverse swings the ball with the best of them as well. Not many bowlers swing the new ball both in and out, not many bowlers bowl reverse swing and even fewer reverse swing it both ways. James Anderson can do the lot.
More than this, he’s one of the few bowlers who looks like he can formulate plans and then execute them. He puts the ball where he wants and swings it how he wants. England dropped him for the first Test, which was moronic, but by the end of the series, he was the bowler they were throwing the ball to when they needed wickets.
The only delivery we’d like to see more is his yorker. When the ball reverse swings, he beats the bat a hell of a lot and might want to think about aiming at the stumps a bit more. Waqar Younis took most of his wickets like this because Waqar’s inswinging yorker was the best delivery there’s ever been.23 Appeals
What is the third umpire referral system?
Third umpire referrals are a system whereby players from either side can demand a review of the on-field umpire’s decision by the TV umpire.
If a batsman’s given out lbw, he can refer it to the third umpire, who then watches the footage and advises the on-field umpire who can subsequently change their decsion. Similarly, if a batsman’s given not out and the fielding side think he is out, they can demand a referral.
At present each side gets two referrals. If they refer a decision and it’s overturned, they still have both. If they refer a decision and it’s not overturned, they lose a go. When you’ve run out of referrals, that’s that – you have to accept the on-field umpire’s decision from then on.
So what’s the problem?
It’s designed to improve decision making, but there’s a lot of controversy about some of the decisions being made. A lot’s to do with how the instructions are interpreted. It seems the third umpire only ‘advises’ the on-field umpires and should only recommend that they overturn their original decision if there is clear evidence that they were wrong (whatever ‘clear evidence’ might constitute in real terms – where do you draw the line?).
Anyway, let’s not get into that, because we’ve a far more important point to make.
The real problem with referring decisions to the third umpire
We don’t particularly like the implicit message that it’s okay for the players to question the umpires, but in general we’re in favour of using technology to make decisions. We’ve no fear of it. It seems pretty damn accurate to us.
However, we had a rethink about third umpire referrals while watching England’s forlorn bid to bowl out the West Indies yesterday. We’ve changed our stance because the umpire referral system fundamentally alters a part of the game which is crucial to our enjoyment.
This problem became obvious once each side had used up their referrals. Suddenly, lbw appeals were back. The fielding side appeals, all eyes are on the umpire and… OUT!
When there are no referrals, the batsman’s gone. That pointed finger means ‘out’.
When referrals are on offer, the umpire raises his finger and the batsman’s half out. Hurray?
As a cricket supporter, it is very important to us that we have moments where we can jump off our chair and shout. The umpire referral system takes these moments away from us and that can’t be good.13 Appeals