Let’s take a day off from the office politics and instead take a look at some cricket. The West Indies beat India today.
One of the most interesting things in the run-in to the World Cup – often more interesting than the tournament itself – is that we can compare the different approaches of the various nations. England’s strategy will change precisely five more times before the tournament starts, but most teams have a fair idea by now how they’re going to try and win the precious few 50-over matches that really matter.
One-day cricket is very formulaic, but the rules change rapidly and no two squads are the same, so we don’t really know for certain the best approach at present. We’d slotted the West Indies into the second tier of teams behind Australia, India and South Africa, but looking at their team, we think we might be doing them a disservice. Also Sri Lanka now that we come to think about it.
What are they doing?
They’re hampered by the absence of Sunil Narine and who knows whether he’ll be back for the World Cup. But despite this, they have a lot going for them. Their most obvious strengths are a plethora of all-rounders and a surfeit of might in their lower order batting. Obviously, the two are linked.
If Denesh Ramdin seems at least a place too high at number five, a six-seven-eight of Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and Darren Sammy gives them three shots at death-over carnage. With Dwayne Bravo currently opening the batting and three specialist bowlers, they also aren’t short of options with the ball. One-day cricket has shown us time and time again that if you don’t have one Wasim Akram, you may still be able to get away with a motley assortment of Chris Harrises and Sanath Jayasuriyas.
What are their chances?
It seems a rather fragile strategy – light on batting, light on out-and-out bowlers – but we can see it working. It’s almost a case of carrying maximum ammunition and then just firing indiscriminately hoping something hits the spot. It’s a funny sort of numbers game, but perhaps it fits the current fielding restrictions and whatnot.
King Cricket rating: Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York
A few sound fundamentals, but mostly just throwing all sorts of stuff out there in the hope that some of it sticks.21 Appeals
We support the England cricket team. We will always support the England cricket team. It’s just that it would be so, so, so much easier to support the England cricket team if it weren’t being run by the England and Wales Cricket Board.
The Pakistan Cricket Board is mental, the West Indies Cricket Board is incompetent, but the England and Wales Cricket Board is some kind of Machiavellian old boys’ club. No-one within it really has much of a clue about international sport. They don’t know what makes it good, they don’t know what it takes to be successful and worst of all they think the sport of cricket and the England team that plays it are theirs to do with as they please.
It appears to be an organisation almost tailor-made to antagonise us. It hates individuals, tries to exercise almost complete control over its workers, loathes anyone who disagrees with its methods and has some weird, very specific notion of the kind of person it wants in key positions. We sometimes feel like English cricket is being annexed by this weird group of buffoons and we don’t know where they came from, who gave them power or how they’re still around.
Watching them trip over each other, set fire to things and fling pies in each other’s faces while trying to deal with this Pietersen book, all we can think is that someone should put them out of their misery. We don’t mean stringing them up by their ECB ties. We just mean drawing a line under the floundering and manipulation. Why don’t we just change the code to get into the office and then hire some grown-ups to replace them?33 Appeals
We didn’t get a review copy of KP: The Autobiography. Apparently it was already getting enough attention without a review appearing here in about six months’ time.
We wonder whether we need to read it. The two-page email from Rahul Dravid about how to play spin that features within it sounds interesting, but as far as we can make out, the book’s mostly all about the run-up to his sacking (KP’s, not Dravid’s – who’d sack Dravid from anything?). We felt like we’d pretty much got all of that information after an hour on Twitter yesterday.
Andy Flower’s a mood hoover. Alastair Cook’s a company man. Matt Prior refers to himself in the third person as ‘the Big Cheese’, saying things like “the Big Cheese has earned some beer tonight” (pretty sure that last one’s either a lie or Prior was saying it with great irony, but it is quite funny all the same).
The interesting stuff that might cause us to read the book falls into two categories.
Stuff about cricket
Like the Dravid email or the observation: “We are on the road for 250 days a year, we wear our England kit on most of these days … It never, ever ended.”
We’d like to know more about this sort of stuff, but is there really any room for it in a book that seems to spend most of its time focused on fall-outs of the recent past.
I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan – there’s a book that’s worth a read. But we also love the accidental Partridges pro sportsmen are prone to. Apparently at one point Pietersen says that most England players don’t have many friends internationally “whereas I have friends in literally every single international team,” which is a brilliantly petty piece of one-upmanship.
Sadly, we’d be surprised if his ghost writer, David Walsh, allowed much of this to get through. Having someone filter his thoughts probably means that even if Pietersen doesn’t have the brain mechanism that stops him saying such things, his words generally won’t make it as far as the printed page.
So, in summary: No, we’re probably not going to read Kevin Pietersen’s book. Now that all the best lines have been published on the nation’s sports pages, we’re just not sure there’d be enough in it that’s new to us22 Appeals
Kevin Pietersen sort of didn’t really get on that well with a few people he had to spend a lot of time with
Kevin Pietersen EXCLUSIVES and REVELATIONS are about to rain down on us in the run-up to the launch of his autobiography (apparently most of it’s about him – the egotist). The latest salvo in English cricket’s biggest shitfight of recent times comes in the form of his interview with The Telegraph.
Feel free to have your say in the comments, but we found it all surprisingly low key. We’re promised THE TRUTH now that the confidentiality clause in his severance agreement has expired but it increasingly seems like a situation where fairly small stuff grew to seem like big stuff for a bunch of coaches and cricketers who had to spend morning, noon and night together.
It’s just one guy’s story and while some of it is certainly self-serving, other aspects ring true. We’d actually forgotten about the England team’s fielder abuse of a few years ago, but it definitely happened and it’s interesting to see that it was a big thing for some players. Shouting at those who misfielded or dropped catches always seemed childish and counterproductive but Pietersen portrays it as being one aspect of something broader and deeper-rooted – although he doesn’t really give other examples. Similarly, you don’t need to have seen more than one Andy Flower interview to know that the allegation that he built ‘a regime, not a team’ is probably quite a fair assessment.
But none of this is really shocking. It doesn’t seem like petty squabbling, so much as mundane squabbling. The mystery is how it all came to seem like such a big deal that the ECB and Pietersen ended up pitted against each other. Maybe if the England cricket team weren’t such a 365-day-a-year thing, everyone involved might have retained a bit more perspective.33 Appeals
Everyone does end-of-season awards, but only ours are called The Horseys. Rest assured that more time was spent writing the column than coming up with the name.
If there was one bit that didn’t get finished, it was the Every Dog Has Its Day Award. We didn’t want to call it that. We wanted to name it after a great song by a terrible band or artist, but we couldn’t really think of one that rang true. If you’ve any suggestions, leave a comment and we’ll vehemently disagree with you and also lose a little respect for you on the basis of your taste in music.54 Appeals
Anyone know how to stop Cricinfo videos from automatically playing?
In our line of work, we read an awful lot of cricket stories. This sometimes involves opening tens of tabs at a time and we then have to play ‘hunt the video’ when we hear that one or more has started playing automatically. More often than not, a Cricinfo page is the guilty party.
We hate this burgeoning love of video. To be clear, we enjoy the same YouTube rubbish as everyone else and we like video being used correctly where something is added. What we hate – and we mean truly, truly loathe – is the video-instead-of-an-article video where it’s just someone talking to camera.
Videos take too long. You can’t scan them and see what lies ahead. You just have to sit there like a bleeding numbnuts patiently enduring something that may or may not prove to be of interest with no knowledge of what might turn up 12 minutes in. Yeah, you can fast forward, but then you still have to sit and watch for a few seconds to work out what’s going on. We don’t have a few seconds to spare when there’s a whole internet of information accessible to us.
On each of Cricinfo’s videos there is an option to switch autoplay off and then if you click the little sprocket to the right, a ‘save’ option appears. For us at least, this appears to do nothing. As soon as we reload the page – or any other featuring a video – it starts to play.
Any suggestions gratefully accepted.
Also at Cricinfo
And just to underline the fact that we’ve just slagged off one of our employers, our latest piece has just gone up on Page 2. It’s about county cricket monopolising the back pages and smothering other sports.
KP Confidentiel – les secrets de Kevin Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen’s book is out next week. If you know anything about cycling, you’ll be struck that the book has been written by David Walsh, the journalist who hounded Lance Armstrong for so many years.
Walsh is a pretty driven individual himself and some of his interviewees have said they felt that he exploited them to pursue his own agenda. That approach shouldn’t really be relevant in this instance, but it’s worth noting that this is the man KP has in his corner.24 Appeals
Jesse Ryder took 44 wickets at 18.09 for Essex. To put that in context, Ryder has taken 99 first-class wickets in his entire career.
This season, he took four five-fors and had one ten-wicket match. These were added to the no five-fors he’d previously taken to give him a career tally of four five-fors and one ten-wicket match.9 Appeals
Do you get the feeling that there are a number of dead men walking at the minute? It’s like one mob family has ordered a series of hits on a rival family and now capos and crew members are being picked off as they go about their daily business.
Sunil Narine is the latest to be visited by Paulie Walnuts, but he’s only been wounded, not killed. He’s been reported for his action when bowling his quicker ball, but unlike Saeed Ajmal, he’s not been suspended.
An uber-cynical prediction would involve him playing the rest of the Champions League for his IPL side before somehow being banned ahead of the World Cup.6 Appeals
They say organising a wedding is one of the most stressful things in life. Whoever they are, they have obviously never tried to stage a cricket match the following day.
Having completed the marital formalities and danced Saturday night into Sunday morning, friends and family gathered at my village club for a cobbled-together 15-over thrash. Fiercely competitive as ever, bride and groom acted as captains.
At 2pm we had about 18 players between us, some willing and some cajoled, of all ages from 7 to 82. There were four ‘proper’ cricketers who we hoped might hold things together if it all threatened to go a bit Wirrall CC.
Following a refreshments emergency – in the flurry of confetti and champagne the clotted cream had been left in the marital fridge – my wife won the toss and chose to bowl. I sent best man Oliver in to open with wicketkeeper Martin, as they were our only two batsmen of note. I could tell because they both had full kitbags. They even had helmets – not strictly necessary given the plastic ball.
Such was the inexperience of most other players, we agreed that the umpires would turn a blind eye to wides and no-balls. A good thing too – if strict league rules had been enforced we might still be out there now. Despite the bowlers exploring what was later generously described as “an unplayable line”, we made a good start before Ollie was stumped, fishing for one which rolled down the corridor of uncertainty on the adjoining strip.
Young Billy went in at three. Billy never said a word to me all day, but did everything I asked of him without complaining. Think Jimmy Anderson in an oversized helmet and without the sulky attitude. The young man’s unerring commitment to the cause was soon to prove his undoing.
Fancying a bit of a hit myself, I took the captain’s prerogative and called Martin in on 39. Personal milestones have no place when victory is as stake, as my hero Michael Atherton will tell you. Graeme Hick might disagree.
I managed to connect with a few agricultural hoiks, wary of my double-jointed brother’s spitting cobras and careful to keep my back foot planted with my dad ready to pounce behind the stumps. Keeping the family tradition alive, Billy drove a ball straight back to his mum Alice. Keen to get the strike, I yelled ‘yes!’, quickly followed by ‘no!’ and a lunge back to safety. But Billy had dutifully set off on the first call and we were now face to face. The perplexed lad was told he had to go, done up like a kipper by his skipper. Memories of Strauss v Hussain at Lord’s flooded back. Maybe it will be the making of the kid.
The missing clotted cream had arrived and been correctly placed between jam and scones.
A more welcome sight was that of club stalwarts Zac and Tom strolling up for an afternoon net. I seized on them to bolster the line-ups for the second innings, a decision which would come back to haunt me.
Our ringers were no doubt perplexed by this motley crew of odd characters. My number five batsman Kate was dressed as a dog (I still don’t know why), and several small children wandered around the square throughout, either putting themselves in funky field placings or trying to find their way back to the pavilion. Billy’s little brother Joseph fielded for a few overs before stomping off with the words ‘I don’t even like cricket!’ We all knew exactly how he felt.
Tom opened the run chase with my wife’s uncle Kev, child-sized pads strapped to his hulking frame. He was soon trudging back, caught and bowled by Ollie. My dad, who played a good standard of club cricket once upon a time but now turns out just once a year, took the game away from us in a second-wicket stand with Tom.
Another family anecdote was forged as I bowled a rank long hop and dad pulled it hard straight to my octogenarian grandad at backward square leg. Luckily grandma had already left, but the thought of what she would say if he returned home with a nice round bruise on his bonce awoke his reflexes. He ducked and watched the missile race away for four.
I eventually got my old man, another short ball scooped to safe hands Zac on the boundary. My brother followed, caught close in, and suddenly we had a chance. I went on the attack, placing Ollie at slip. An edge went straight to him. He dropped it. I was fuming. Luckily the wedding had already happened, or I might have been looking for a new best man.
They say the first rule of marriage is learning how to lose. We had been man and wife for about 24 hours, but the post-match handshake and trophy presentation felt like a sign of things to come. I’m already plotting anniversary revenge.
Send your match reports to email@example.com. 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.
Scan the homepage of this website and you could easily reach some incorrect conclusions. The post about Alastair Cook has attracted 50-odd comments, so presumably that’s a hot topic, right? Not really. The vast majority are about Lancashire v Middlesex, a relegation dogfight (involving different breeds) which seems to be capturing the imagination.
Humans are prone to perceiving events as if they’re stories and from that perspective the 110th over of Lancashire’s first innings would seem to have been crucial to the narrative. With seven runs needed off it to preserve first division status for at least another day, the mighty Glen Chapple slogged a six and then wangled three more off the next ball.
It was the moment when the protagonist is down and almost out and the fact that our hero lived to fight another day surely means the story must now culminate in triumph. Except that’s not really the case. Like one of those foreign language films about a goat herder that you record on the basis that it’s supposed to be really good, but never actually watch because it also seems massively depressing, this final chapter of the 2014 season could just as easily end up describing a very slow demise.46 Appeals