35

Batting aggression does not require actual aggression

Bowled on 21st January, 2015 at 14:15 by
Category: David Warner, Ricky Ponting

david-warner

That’s a straightforward message for Ricky Ponting and all who would make a similar defence of David Warner’s behaviour. Read it, accept that it is a fact and then go away and think through the issues again, Ricky.

Ponting’s latest column for Cricinfo features the following assumption, stated as fact.

“The Australian public love the way he bats, which goes hand in hand with the sort of confrontational approach he sometimes takes in the field.”

Is that so? Aggressive batting and argumentative fielding go hand in hand, do they? Why must the way a person behaves while fielding have a direct link to the way they bat several hours later (or earlier)?

Batsmen don’t come much more aggressive than Virender Sehwag, but we can’t really recall him charging from slip to square up to an opposition batsman.

Or how about Chris Gayle? Does he lose his rag with the opposition every chance he gets in a bid psych himself up for batting? No, of course not. He can’t be bothered. Truth is, even his ‘aggressive’ batting is characterised by a placid, nonchalant demeanour.

But it’s different for Warner. He plays with a passion unimaginable to Sehwag, Gayle, De Villiers, Jayasuriya or whoever. He’s special, and to ensure he remains special, Warner is obliged to act like an arsehole. His confrontational approach goes hand in hand with his batting, after all.

This is why Warner has to be involved in a road rage incident every time he passes a cyclist while driving; this is why he has to threaten supermarket staff when can’t find his favourite brand of coffee; and this is why he has to kick a plastic cup full of loose change halfway down the street when a tramp has the temerity to laugh at him for tripping on a kerb.

35 Appeals
21

The 85mph right-arm seam bowler basket

Bowled on 20th January, 2015 at 14:00 by
Category: England cricket news

We’re not intending to be a naysayer here, trotting around saying ‘nay’ like a horse that can’t spell (so a horse then). We just want to muddy the unmitigated positivity because one win is not much of a sample from which to draw conclusions.

One of our main concerns centres on England having four of their eggs in the 85mph right-arm seam bowler basket. Today, that was a very, very important basket. On other days, not so much.

There’s a case to be made that 85mph seam bowling days suit England’s batsmen as well as their bowlers. It’s what they’re used to, after all – not least in the nets. But probably of greater importance was the fact that they were chasing just 154. If that’s a regular occurrence in the World Cup, they’ll have a fine old time, but it almost certainly won’t be.

We can’t really criticise England’s actual performance, which was excellent. All we’re really saying is that today presented a very complimentary snapshot and it’ll be more instructive to see what happens when there’s minimal swing and very little bounce. In short, when the 85mph right-arm seam bowler basket becomes less of a weapon and more of a burden.

21 Appeals
20

Being an arsehole gives David Warner special powers

Bowled on 19th January, 2015 at 13:47 by
Category: David Warner

david-warner

That is the subtext of any comment from captain or coach after David Warner has behaved like a bit of a prick. “He’s an aggressive player and we don’t want him to lose that edge,” they say.

They say this because they know the truth: picking fights with people as a fielder has a direct impact on Warner’s batting. It’s hard for you to comprehend, because watching on TV you can’t actually see his special superhero belt. But it’s there. It’s real. He wears it underneath his whites; it has a series of lights along it; and they illuminate as he powers up.

Warner gains energy from behaving like a six-year-old, so he needs to ‘get involved’ and showcase his complete inability to see another person’s perspective every chance he gets. Each time he does this, another of his belt lights goes on until he is fully powered-up and ready to bat. At that point, he finally turns his attention to cricket.

20 Appeals
11

AB de Villiers needs Moonraker

Bowled on 18th January, 2015 at 14:42 by
Category: A B de Villiers

International Cricket - Investec Test Series - 3rd Test England vs. South Africa

Back in November 2012, AB de Villiers made 33 off 220 balls so that South Africa could save a Test against Australia. In March last year, against the same opposition, he made 43 off 228 balls, but this time South Africa lost.

Today it took him all of 31 balls to make a hundred. Only six didn’t go to the boundary. After that, he sped up.

If these extremes are impressive, consider what’s in-between. If you can block with the best of them and also slog with the best of them, your main challenge is deciding precisely how to defy the opposition.

We’re probably in mandatory handicapping territory here. AB de Villiers should be made to bat with the broken-off handle of a 1970s tennis racquet after downing three pints of Moonraker with a peeved ocelot strapped to his back. If we can persuade him to play like that for the next decade or so, either his Test or one-day average might just drop down into the forties. Not both though. That would be a bit optimistic.

11 Appeals
25

Whither James Tredwell?

Bowled on 16th January, 2015 at 10:13 by
Category: James Tredwell

james-tredwell

Asked which of his team-mates he least enjoyed facing in the nets recently, Moeen Ali said:

“James Tredwell. Annoying. You just try and smack him and you can’t hit him anywhere.”

It’s one of the mysteries of the age how Tredders doesn’t go for seven an over, but it’s a fact that he doesn’t. His economy rate in one-day internationals is 4.77 an over and he averages 27.81. He’s also England’s second highest ranked bowler (he’s 12th with Jimmy Anderson sixth).

So why isn’t he playing? You can say that England are experimenting, but Peter Moores did say he was looking to settle on a first choice XI by the first match against Australia, and today, Tredwell wasn’t in it.

You could argue that conditions played a part, but they actually seemed quite spin-friendly and why would conditions ever dictate the omission of one of your top two bowlers anyway?

This happens a lot. It seems England omit Tredwell on the basis of how they perceive him rather than what he actually tends to do. Maybe his figures wouldn’t be quite as good if he played every match, but on the basis of what he’s done so far, that theory demands testing.

But no. We’ll have a fourth right-arm fast-medium seamer please – that famously effective genre of one-day bowler. Six foot, slim, cool haircut, arm muscles straining the sleeves of the laser blue shirt – they look so much better in slow-mo reaction shots when the batsman’s just pinged a six back over their head.

James Tredwell. Annoying. Quite often in one-day cricket, that’s more than enough.

25 Appeals
5

Yorkshire v Middlesex – Scarborough match report

Bowled on 15th January, 2015 at 11:22 by
Category: Match report

The authorBananarama Monkey-Face writes:

I’m originally from Pickering, so I always get very excited when I come up to North Yorkshire with Mum, Dad and brother Hippity. All the more exciting this time, because Mum and Dad had arranged, as part of their trip, to go to t’cricket at Scarborough for t’day.

It was first time for Mum and Dad, Scarborough cricket, but Hippity and I had been before some years ago, to report on a match for MTWD. I must warn you, if you click on that MTWD link, you might read stuff actually about cricket.

Mum and Dad were going to be all poncey in t’pavilion and that for most o’t’day, so Hippity and I said we’d stay on t’bed in t’hotel. But once Mum and Dad set off for t’ground, we hot-footed it using a short cut across t’beach, got to t’ground before them and secreted ourselves in t’sizeable crowd.  We could get home before t’oldies same way, so they’d be none t’wiser.

Local folk in Scarborough are incredibly friendly and made us feel very welcome. There were lots of other youngsters there – school holidays had just started – so Hippity and I didn’t look out of place.

Towards t’end of t’day’s play, quite a lot of people from t’crowd left, apparently because t’local guest houses tend to serve tea (that’s dinner to you snobby southerners) on t’dot of six-thirty. A swarm of local seagulls saw their opportunity and swooped in to scavenge t’scraps, over-running large swathes o’t’outfield. For a while, seagulls stopped play, as t’umpires tried to get t’players to clear t’gulls, with only limited success. I think this photo will be allowed on King Cricket, as it was taken during that break in play. Anyroad, I don’t like rules and think that you’ll all like this picture.

One of these white creatures is not a seagull

Once t’umpires realised that t’gulls were staying for t’evening, they decided to resume play despite; soon after that it really was time for stumps.

Mum and Dad were in a cracking good mood in Scarborough before t’cricket and an even more cracking good mood after it – all of us were. We’d all thoroughly recommend a day of county cricket at Scarborough – it’s t’dog’s bollocks.

Send your match reports to king@kingcricket.co.uk. If it’s a professional match, on no account mention the cricket itself. If it’s an amateur match, feel free to go into excruciating detail.

5 Appeals
21

Ian Bell making a half-decent fist of things

Bowled on 14th January, 2015 at 10:46 by
Category: Ian Bell

Ian Bell made 187 off 145 balls against the Prime Minister’s XI in England’s latest warm-up match. Okay, so it’s not exactly the biggest match ever – Chris Rogers bowled two overs – but what’s more reassuring, making 187 off 145 balls or making 26 off 38?

This constitutes further evidence that Ian Bell is not Alastair Cook. The match also provided evidence that Glenn Maxwell remains Glenn Maxwell. You’ve got to love a man who can score 136 off 91 balls one day and be clean bowled charging down the pitch to leave the ball in a Twenty20 match another day.

21 Appeals
6

The best official cricket songs in the world… ever!

Bowled on 13th January, 2015 at 11:43 by
Category: King Cricket

We know that you’re all looking forward to hearing the official World Cup song, even if it’s inevitable that it will fall some way short of this masterpiece.

We’ve looked back on some of the other great official cricket songs from down the years for All Out Cricket.

They include The Ashes Song from 1971. These lyrics must have taken them months.

When we arrived people said
The Aussies would leave us for dead
But we knew we would prove them wrong
And that’s why we’re singing this song
Oh! The feeling is great
For losing is something we hate

You can read more about this and other classics here.

6 Appeals
24

Ian Bell is not Alastair Cook

Bowled on 11th January, 2015 at 11:22 by
Category: Alex Hales, Ian Bell

There are a lot of optimists in the world and the problem with positive people is that they assume that positivity itself is some sort of positive.

It’s all well and good swanning about thinking everything will work out, but really you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment and failure. The truth is things don’t always work out.

Positivity can be good. It can be necessary. But it can also lead you to do stupid things.

Let’s have some examples

At one extreme, imagine you’ve just bought a bag of beef-flavoured Space Raiders. It requires minimal positivity to look on the bright side and assume that the things inside the bag are baked corn snacks and therefore edible. Result. You get to eat some food.

An extreme pessimist, however, might perceive the same items as being made from some sort of radioactive compacted dust laced with strychnine. Boo. No food for you.

Now imagine you’re standing on a high bridge across a canyon. You close your eyes and consider stepping off the side. Most people would assume that they would fall to their death were they to do that. An extreme optimist might think that a giant bird would just happen to fly underneath their foot at the exact moment they stepped out and hover there, providing support. Then another bird for their next step and another and another until they reach safety.

Now these are two extremes, but positivity does slowly morph into delusion the further you move towards each end of the continuum. Somewhere between them there’s a grey area. For example, a recurring scenario in cricket is when a team has to choose between a familiar older player and a less familiar younger player.

Shades of grey

The point about shades is that you’re talking about gradation, which is why we’ve just resisted the obvious temptation to include a number with that subheading. We’ll go with ‘infinite’ if it makes you any happier.

No two cricketing selection decisions are the same, but with really close calls it always boils down to how much of an optimist you are – how you perceive the absent data. You know what’s happened, but what will happen next?

Let’s get specific. Ian Bell will open the batting for England tonight. Alex Hales will not. Is that the right decision or the wrong decision?

Cricket - Yorkshire Bank 40 - Kent Spitfires v Notts Outlaws - The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, Canterbury, England

Bell v Hales

Bell is familiar. Perhaps over-familiar would be a better way of putting it. For better or worse, we don’t feel like there’s anything left to learn about him.

Alex Hales is newer. He had a strong domestic season and has a really good record in Twenty20 internationals, but as a 50-over opener, he’s more of an unknown quantity.

We can compare stats and technique and approach, but a large part of the argument seems to hinge on what Hales might do. If you’re inherently positive, you’ll say Hales might win England matches with aggressive hundreds. If you’re of a more negative mindset, you’ll say he might rack up a great string of single-figure scores.

So Ian Bell is not Alastair Cook then?

Correct. Chances are, on some level you’re aware of this fact, but we thought we’d provide a reminder. People talked so much about how bad it was to have Bell and Cook in the same top three that the two batsmen have almost become interchangeable when we talk about one-day cricket.

Hales, in contrast, was fortunate enough to be kept out of the side by Cook and has therefore become symbolic of the brave new Cook-less world in which everyone hits sixes from ball one.

But Ian Bell is not Alastair Cook and Alex Hales is not the anti-Alastair Cook. (Nor is Cook the purest form of one-day failure imaginable, for that matter – but that’s something it’s not worth getting into right now.)

Ian Bell is Ian Bell

If we’re looking at their technical suitability for one-day cricket, Alastair Cook has three shots and Ian Bell has about 42.

If we’re looking at the stats, Cook clearly ground to a halt, but Bell has been surprisingly effective for a while now. In 2012 – the year that England became the top-ranked one-day international nation – he averaged 54.90 and scored at a strike-rate of 82.68. In 2013, he averaged 43.00 and scored at 76.87. In 2014, he averaged 34.21 and scored at 90.89.

You can look at those figures two ways. You can say he simply doesn’t score quickly enough for the modern day and age, or you can say that it’s unrealistic to expect everyone in your batting line-up to perform like David Warner.

Warner, for the record, averages 31.40 in one-dayers with a strike-rate of 83.50.

But Hales *might* win matches for England

It’s true. He might. It really is hard to argue against that, because it’s absolutely true. We’ve even said that Alex Hales and Moeen Ali would make a great one-day opening partnership ourself.

We’re not trying to make a case here. It’s a grey area and that’s really our point. If we have some sort of message, it’s that the ‘better the devil you know’ argument is rarely a crowd-pleaser, but that doesn’t necessarily make it wrong.

24 Appeals
6

Declarations unforeseen on paper

Bowled on 9th January, 2015 at 10:27 by
Category: Australia cricket news, India cricket news

Australia will get to declare again. Maybe this is presumptuous on our part. Maybe they were batting for a declaration but have now got a taste for scoring at ten an over and will carry on tomorrow. It seems unlikely though. If there’s one thing Australia like more than scoring at ten an over, it’s declaring against India.

In their eight innings in this series, Australia have been bowled out just twice. In Brisbane they made 505 and in Melbourne they made 530.

This definitely feeds the narrative of the weak Indian seam attack, but the fact is that Australia haven’t actually been able to restrict India either. The tourists have made at least 400 in every first innings, so the pitches must be at least partly to blame. We’re not a fan of declaration cricket. We like to see teams bowled out.

One of the worst aspects of this from India’s perspective is the unravelling of several of their seam bowlers. They’ve certainly brought some of it on themselves with their inconsistency, but if you weigh the promise of ‘what might be’ in one hand and the cooling excrement of ‘what has been’ in the other, the balance has certainly shifted in the last few weeks. And that ‘what has been’ hand will never be so clean again.

We can’t be bothered finding the exact quotes, but before the series Kohli listed the qualities of his attack. It was one of those ‘on paper’ exercises. You are never more likely to look at what a player might do rather than what they will do than when assessing a side on paper. The gist of his words was that several of his bowlers were quick and several could swing it while Ishant offered height and bounce.

On paper.

A different piece of paper summarises what’s actually happened. Mohammed Shami has the best average – 35.80 – but has conceded 4.24 runs an over. Ishant Sharma has been more economical, conceding 3.24 runs an over, but averages 48.22. Beneath them, it only gets more horrendous.

Umesh Yadav has averaged near enough 50 and has conceded 4.62 an over. He’s bowled 118 overs, so that economy rate is no fluke. Varun Aaron bowled 64 overs and conceded 5.64 an over, averaging 72.40. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has one wicket at 168.

The truth is, none of Australia’s bowlers has averaged under 30 either. The difference is, they have happier days to fall back on. For India’s seamers, a tour to Australia should have represented a nice break from slow ‘n’ low, but if anything it’s been worse.

You’re meant to benefit from experience. Unfortunately, most of India’s seam bowlers’ experience is of declaration bowling.

6 Appeals

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