The hyper-extensible elbows, double joints, injuries and banned substance-taking couldn’t stop Shoaib Akhtar. Unfortunately, the one thing he’s never been able to protect himself against is his own idiocy.
Shoaib misses matches for a million reasons, the million-and-first reason, his mouth, is the biggest problem. If only someone could have grabbed him by the shoulders, shaken him and told him to shut the hell up. Maybe then everyone would rate him alongside Imran Khan and Wasim and Waqar. As it is, only Shoaib himself thinks he belongs in that pantheon.
After barely playing for years, getting banned for drug-taking and hitting Mohammad Asif with a bat, it was hardly surprising that Shoaib Akhtar didn’t get a Pakistan contract at the start of the year. Shoaib thought otherwise and called the Pakistan Cricket Board incompetent, which is true on the whole, but probably unfair in this instance.
The PCB promptly banned him for five years because he was supposedly in breach of the players’ code of conduct. Shoaib isn’t a Pakistan player, however, so this doesn’t really make any sense.
So Shoaib will appeal and doubtless the ban will be overturned, but he’ll still not turn out for Pakistan for some other reason. Osman Samiuddin sums it up best over at Cricinfo:
“It is not a drama anymore, just a series of pathetic jousts between an unruly fool and a succession of inept administrations.”
It’s increasingly difficult to gauge whether it’s even worth worrying about Shoaib Akhtar any more. He doesn’t appear often enough for us to know if he’s still any good or not. Pakistan’s coach, Geoff Lawson, says he was bowling at 93mph in the nets last week though, so maybe we are missing something.5 Appeals
We think Liam Plunkett’s still worth watching. He’s 23 this week. It’s a little bit early to be discarding him.
Ordinarily a promising young English seam bowler could expect to spend the winter with what was the England A team and is now the England Lions. Plunkett did so, but before Christmas he did a little bit extra. He signed up to play for The Dolphins in South Africa. Assuming no bestial confusion arises in poor Plunkett’s mind, we think this was a great move.
Playing in South Africa was the making of Matthew Hoggard, who spent a couple of years with Free State in his youth. Hopefully it’ll have a similar effect on Plunkers. It’s not just the unfamiliar conditions, it’s the independence and the expectation that you have to prove your worth as an overseas signing. Plunkett took 12 wickets at 30.75, which is nowt special, but the experience might mean more than that.
Liam Plunkett’s had a bit of a go at international cricket and he appears to have liked it. He’s going out of his way to improve himself as a cricketer and that can never be bad, particularly when it’s allied to talent – which Plunkett does have. You don’t get picked for England at 20 without being half decent.11 Appeals
Not us, obviously. Our luddism is far too deeply-ingrained. Other people.
Uncle J Rod has embraced the podcast. Actually, being as it’s J Rod, he’s more molested the podcast and stuck his tongue down its ear. They appear weekly and most surprisingly, he sounds like an Australian in them. We were certain he was French.
Also overdue a mention are The Atheist’s ‘viddy-blogs’. Early efforts are endearingly haphazard. The most recent, The Vaughan Identity, is remarkably polished and sleek, like a buffed whippet. However, our favourite remains Video 7, partly for the cameo appearance of a fez, but largely because of Tim Ambrose’s dismissal. Genius.
Please don’t draw any direct comparisons between the effort that goes into either of these sites and the effort that goes into ours.5 Appeals
Joe Denly or James Hildreth? Joe Denly or James Hildreth? Joe Denly’s nickname is ‘No Pants’. Decision made.
Plus Joe Denly gets to open the batting with Rob Key. Spend any amount of time in Rob’s vicinity and a little bit of genius is bound to rub off. We managed to do an entire wordsearch once while we were waiting in a car outside his house. Ordinarily we’d never have managed that, but Rob must have left just a faint whiff of genius in his bin and it must have attached itself to us during the rummaging.
Joe Denly’s so lucky. He gets to do ‘talking’ with Rob in between overs. We’ve got a whole shoebox full of questions for Rob for when we get to have a go at ‘talking’.
One time we were watching Rob on telly and we told him to leave the next delivery if he wanted us to buy him some ice cream. He played the next delivery and we could tell that he was telling us he didn’t want ice cream. If we can communicate that well with him USING ONLY OUR MIND, think how well we could communicate with him using ‘talking’.
Joe Denly’s 22 and a handy batsman. We’ll be watching him out of the corner of our eye while the main part of our eye is FIRMLY TRAINED on Rob Key.8 Appeals
Don’t laugh. We’ll admit it is a bit counter-intuitive, but we’re intrigued.
Rikki Clarke was picked for England at a young age and while he didn’t disgrace himself, his bowling clearly wasn’t international standard, so he’s something of a figure of fun. Last year, both his batting and bowling aspired to ‘not quite international standard’ as he wallowed in underachievement at Surrey.
So, the obvious solution was for Rikki Clarke to go and take the Derbyshire captaincy. Is it change just for the sake of it? Who knows? Let’s watch and find out.
And if nothing does happen, let’s quietly edit the website that there’s no mention of Rikki Clarke being One To Watch and pretend that none of this happened.4 Appeals
It’s pretty much April and there aren’t many fixtures this week, so let’s get on with this season’s Ones To Watch.
As usual, names will appear below as more are added throughout the week. We’ll give a little away by telling you who’s not appearing though.
Mark Davies isn’t appearing, which pains us, as he’s been an ever-present One To Watch and has never really let us down. But with Steve Harmison seemingly out of the England reckoning, first-team opportunities might be limited for everyone’s favourite Viking, so we’ve been brutal.
Tom Smith‘s out, because we’ve done away with all young Lancastrians on the grounds that they never get to play, no matter how good they are and even if they do, they do nothing, which lets us down doubly, being as we’re a Lancashire supporter.
Bilal Shafayat‘s out, because the pressure of being One To Watch clearly gets to him and he forgets how to bat.
James Benning‘s out because he was crap last year. Usually you get a second season to prove yourself, but we’ve picked out too many players, so James misses the cut. We’re sure he’ll be gutted.
Ones To Watch
Rahul Dravid hit his 10,000th Test run today en route to his 25th Test hundred. It’s a little bit overshadowed by Sehwag’s triple hundred, but that’s pretty much the way it goes for Dravid.
Dravid was very much the support act for Sehwag yesterday, hitting 68 in a partnership worth 268. Stunning innings like Sehwag’s can’t happen without a batting partner though and it’s no coincidence that The Wall was protecting the other set of stumps during VVS Laxman’s sublime 281 against Australia as well. In between all the forward defensives he found time to tot up 180, which is some second fiddle – a second fiddle encrusted with rubies, played by a perfectionist, perhaps.
Today’s 111 saw Dravid’s average edge above that of the man who’s overshadowed him most throughout his career. Rahul Dravid averages 55.41 in Test cricket. Sachin Tendulkar now averages 55.31 after registering a duck. With Sehwag only adding 10 to his overnight total, perhaps he and Tendulkar were merely being gracious enough to give Dravid a day of his own.
We move that Dravid’s day becomes a national – no – international holiday, so that he’ll get the respect he deserves for all eternity. There’s nothing like a day off to heighten your appreciation of someone.10 Appeals
Virender Sehwag has now hit the fastest Test triple hundred. He was always likely to achieve it, which is perhaps the biggest compliment of all. A freak innings like Nathan Astle’s is one thing, but Sehwag does this kind of thing consistently. At the close of play Virender Sehwag was 309 not out and he’d scored those runs off just 292 balls, hitting 41 fours and five sixes.
Sehwag’s hit 309 before, against Pakistan. It took him 375 balls. That shouldn’t be bettered, but it just was. Sehwag can also boast the second and seventh fastest Test double hundreds of all time (assuming this one still counts as the third fastest now that he’s gone past 300).
As we said earlier, no batsman other than Virender Sehwag can sustain this speed of scoring for such long periods. He has a unique ability to strike good balls for boundaries without offering chances. Can anyone else play such outrageous shots without seeming in any danger?
He’s only the third batsman to score two triple hundreds after Don Bradman and Brian Lara. Has he got any adrenaline left for tomorrow? Lara’s 400 will surely come under threat if he has. Ordinarily 91 runs is a long way, but Sehwag has so comprehensively shredded this South African team they’re liable to go foetal when they see him return to the crease. He’s made Rahul Dravid look like a tail-ender.
Virender Sehwag must surely be regarded as one of the greats now. Yes?11 Appeals
That’s not a particularly arresting statistic on first glance, but think about it. When Virender Sehwag passes 100 he almost always hits in excess of 150. That’s something.
A running theme of this site of late has been the importance of imposing yourself on the opposition. We alluded to it in our retirement posts about Marcus Trescothick and Adam Gilchrist. Virender Sehwag is a batsman who really can affect the way his opponents think and act. He can change a game beyond his own contribution.
Scoring a common-or-garden hundred is worthy. It’s not something to be sniffed at, but a hundred rarely decides a match in its own right. Bowlers decide matches really. However, if you can score 150 plus, 200 plus or 300 plus, you can win with a significantly poorer set of bowlers.
The great thing about Virender Sehwag is that he scores huge numbers of runs at a ridiculous speed. Concede 540 as India did in this match and you should really be hoping for a draw at best. Not with Sehwag at the crease. He’s probably the only batsman in the world who can score at a run a ball for such an extended period of time that you can overhaul a score like that and set a target with time left in the game.
Dropping Virender Sehwag was mental. You don’t average 50 after 50-odd Tests without being a decidedly gifted batsman.4 Appeals
Well that’s made the County Championship a damn sight easier to predict.
Mushtaq Ahmed has played more of a part in deciding the competition than any other single player in recent years. He’s being allowed to play for Sussex despite competing in the naughty Twenty20 league, the ICL. He’ll be available for the whole season and will doubtless take heaps of wickets like usual.
Shane Warne‘s competing in the perfectly acceptable Twenty20 league which despite its official status clashes with a good chunk of the English domestic season. He wouldn’t be turning out for Hampshire much because of that and his ‘poker commitments’ so he’s decided to retire instead.
So Hampshire are further weakened. Their new captain will be Dimitri Mascarenhas who is himself missing a load of matches because he’s appearing in the IPL. We’re glad that we’re not Paul Terry, Hampshire’s team manager. He might have to get his pads down from the loft at this rate.Appeal