Newsflash: most cricketers enjoy all forms of the game and don’t actually want to choose between formats

It’s often said that young players are choosing T20 over Tests because of the huge financial rewards on offer. We happen to think that’s bullshit.

Yes, there are undoubtedly a few players who set out to specialise, but a far greater number find themselves doing so unwillingly. It is something that happens by stealth as a by-product of a whole series of mundane no-brainers.

There is one very, very straightforward reason why this happens so regularly to promising young England players.

Clickbait klaxon! Find out what that reason is in our latest article for Wisden.

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England’s one-day bowling strategy shows up everything that’s wrong with their Test approach

Mark Wood (BT Sport)

Speaking about England’s Test bowling attack this week, Steve Harmison managed the rare feat of deploying the word ‘unit’ in a halfway meaningful way.

He told Sky Sports that England have to, “make sure that at any one given time they’ve got skill factor with the new ball, an X-factor bowler that can get a wicket out of nothing and control. It’s not about names, it’s about components and it is something England need to identify.”

He’s right that it’s about identifying the components of a cohesive attack more than it’s about lining up the best bowlers. A Test day is long and you need different qualities at different times.

If you have four guys doing the same thing, it makes for a boom or bust situation. As Harmison himself says: “If you go to Australia with four right-arm seamers bowling 80mph then you are going to get beat every time.”

England’s one-day team has long taken a different tack. They have new ball swing bowlers, a quick full bowler, a quick short bowler, a leg-spinner and a couple of off-spinners.

Each has a different approach to taking wickets and Eoin Morgan tries to wheel them out at the best time to exploit that approach, whatever it happens to be. Crucially, these bowlers aren’t all competing for the ball at the exact same moment, the way England’s Test attack are.

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Charity cricket in Regent’s Park – match report

Two reports on the same August 2000 charity match.

Nigel  writes:

My friend, Lefty-Righty, sent an e-mail to me and Chas recently, which read: “I uncovered a note about a charity match in Regent’s Park, 24 August 2000, against [massive global communications corporate] about which I had more or less forgotten.  Do either of you have any memories of that afternoon/evening?”

The strange think is, I remembered it vividly. It was my first game for many years. I used to play Lancashire League cricket to a reasonable standard. That charity fiasco was my comeback match.

Chas had enlisted my services way in advance of the game, scheduled for ‘after work’ in Regent’s Park. One problem I had to overcome was the distance between my ‘work’, South Devon, and everybody else’s, inner London.

I had availed myself of a cheap advance booking day-return train ticket. I am usually pathologically early. This event was no exception.

I left Devon armed with ‘Hanse Cronje’s bat’ – so called as it had been given to the late disgraced Test cricketer in Rawalpindi. Rumour had it he didn’t much like it. He had off-loaded it on to his brother Frans who was the Pro at Todmorden CC in the Lancashire League, where my brother played. So this filial-fraternal-Hans-Frans ‘to me to you’ series of transactions resulted in ‘Hanse Cronje’s bat’ now being my bat.

I made my way to a teeming Regent’s Park amidst glorious sunshine. I recall it being carnival-like in the Park, a place I had never been in such weather.  I do recall waiting for what seems like ages, possibly because of my time of arrival, but also due to the apparent flexibility of arrangements, as nobody seemed to know what time we were due to start.

Lefty-Righty was the next to arrive, so we warmed up, taking turns to bowl/bat at each other while others gradually appeared. One other invitee was The Quiet American, our new CEO designate, who had been agitating for inclusion, I gather, and today was to be his cricketing debut.

Although the opposition was a gigantic global communications corporation, the quality of their so-called team threatened to spoil the event. Batting against them was wishful thinking. Not “will this delivery have my name on it?” but more like “will it land on the square?”

Consequently we mixed up the sides, so I also had the callous pleasure of bowling at our CEO elect along with other fellow employees, including the chap from Finance who often made a meal of paying out our expenses.

Thus I got to open the batting with my pal Chas, scored my ‘20 and retire out’, changed sides, took a few wickets and pouched a catch in the deep from a middled full blooded hook.

I was back. It felt great. But my joy was curtailed, as I had to leave early to catch the last train back to Devon from Paddington.


Chas writes:

We played charity matches with Lefty-Righty’s small company a few times, but, perhaps due to the hammering they received in 1999, Lefty-Righty faced a squad rebellion and could only offer a rounders team.

I thought I’d struck charity cricket gold when [Giant Communications Corporate] supplier offered to pick up the cricket challenge… and also the bill.

I thought I’d need some decent players against such a big company, so I asked Nigel, who had a proper cricket pedigree, to come up from our Devon office to play. I also found an intern in the bowels of our building, let’s call him Quick-But-Slow, who was on Kent CCC’s books as a pace bowler. There was also a new keen scout in fundraising, let’s call him Loud-And-Bossy, who claimed he could play.

Other than that, it was the usual suspects, plus the new CEO, The Quiet American, who was seriously sporty but hadn’t played cricket before. I asked Lefty-Righty to come along to umpire.

As it turned out, [Giant Communications Corporate] had no-one at all who could bowl or who knew one end of a bat from the other. They were all utterly hopeless; just keen to raise a bit of money for charity.

Lefty-Righty is short on cricketing skills. He is known as Lefty-Righty because he tries and fails to play off either arm, not because he can play off both. But he can organise things, so he rejigged the sides to make the game fairer… and to include himself in one of the teams of course.

Loud-And-Bossy barked orders at our regulars, with little effect. Then he’d berate them for missing catches way beyond their grasp, abilities or both. He’s probably progressed to senior management somewhere by now.

The Quiet American made a bit of a name for himself, being very speedy in the deep field and holding a tough catch. I also took a good catch; how come no-one else remembers that?

But Nigel was the star of the show – as he has already explained in his own report – taking relish in the opportunity to teach the new CEO (and others) a thing or two about cricket.

After the game, most of us regrouped for refreshments at the cafe on the corner near our offices, where [Giant Communications Corporate] had sported masses of grub. Leftovers were duly shared out at the end. Loud-And-Bossy took the lion’s share.

I also recall that Quick-But-Slow, the Kent CCC youth, bowled far too quickly and properly for our game. People could only play and miss outside off stump against him. I remember asking him to change his line, but he said he couldn’t. After the match and refreshments, I offered to drop him at the appropriate station for his Kent town, but he said he’d be fine if I dropped him on my way home in Essex, as Essex is near Kent. Goodness knows how he changed line to get home.

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.

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Ben Stokes has been charged with a crime which apparently means he should become available for England again

Ben Stokes was suspended from international cricket while the Crown Prosecution Service decided whether or not to press charges relating to the Bristol scuffle. Now that they have decided to charge him, he’s once again become eligible for selection.

We have no real opinion on whether or not Stokes should still be suspended, but we do find the way things have panned out slightly bizarre.

It’s almost as if the England management somewhat arbitrarily postponed making a decision until the next phase of the legal process and then took the one they wanted to take all along because they felt like it had been a while and things had maybe died down a bit.

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Remember when Virat Kohli was a limited overs cricketer?

Virat Kohli (CC licensed by James Cullen via Flickr)

Nick Hoult wrote the case study we couldn’t be bothered writing in The Telegraph yesterday.

The short version is that between now and England picking their first Test squad to face India in August, Jason Roy will have at most one first-class match in which to make his case for inclusion.

That is one more than most of us have, but significantly fewer than Roy realistically needs. So it isn’t going to happen. And maybe England don’t want it to happen anyway because they’d rather keep him confident and focused on limited overs cricket.

That set of circumstances pretty much sums up our point.

Another time, another place

By the end of 2011, Virat Kohli had eight one-day international hundreds to his name and zero Test hundreds. However, the Test path wasn’t coned off. He wasn’t asked to follow diversion signs taking him back down a more familiar road.

Kohli made his first fifty in his fourth Test and his first hundred in his eighth Test. He then made his first double hundred in his 42nd Test. That was July 2016 and he’s made five more since then.

In the ongoing second Test against South Africa, Kohli made 153 out of 307 in India’s first innings in a match where runs have had an appropriate value.

However things pan out, we don’t feel like you’ll think we’re from a parallel dimension if we suggest that he is now a decidedly handy Test batsman.

Are you seriously comparing Virat Kohli with Jason Roy?

No, we’re just comparing circumstances: the situation faced by Roy and other England white ball cricketers now against a snapshot in time where Virat Kohli was only two-dimensional.

We would quite like for every player to have the time and opportunity to make their case to play all formats of international cricket. You never know what you might be missing out on.

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We’re not going to write about Jason Roy

Just read last week’s Wisden piece again with this innings in mind.

Jason Roy played five first-class matches last season.

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Ajinkya Rahane must be shit-hot at making drinks

Ajinkya Rahane (detail of photo CC licensed by Mike Prince via Flickr)

We’ve always liked Ajinkya Rahane. He’s always struck us as a batsman who can adapt to different situations and different conditions. India like him too. They like him to be 12th man.

Rahane’s case for inclusion in the second Test against South Africa wasn’t undeniable, we’ll admit. He had a poor run of scores against Sri Lanka at the end of last year and got dropped. But surely he should be among the first names on the team sheet whenever India are away from home?

Last time he played a Test in South Africa, he made 51 not out and 96. Last time he played a Test against South Africa in India, he made 127 and 100 not out (in four innings in that match, only two other batsmen passed 50).

He averages 60 in Australia and 70 in South Africa. You could argue these are small samples, but we’d argue they are inexplicably small samples. He’s been left out of these two Tests when he could have played instead of – ohhh, let’s pick a name at random – Rohit Sharma, say.

Rohit Sharma averages 28 in Australia and nine in South Africa.

Nine.

In six Tests and ten innings, Sharma has a top score of 25. The fact that he averages 85 in India seems dangerously irrelevant.

All we can conclude is that when Ajinkya Rahane brings out the drinks, they’re crisp and fresh and invigorating, and when Rohit Sharma brings out the drinks, it’s half a mug of lukewarm vegetable stock with a turd in it.

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England’s worst-ever run of Test debutants?

Liam Dawson (via Channel 5)

“Not so much a lack of good players, as a lack of opportunity for many good players to gain the experience needed to become very good.”

Slippery and awkward as it is, we can see this becoming a new catchphrase of ours. It’s about recent efforts to select viable England Test cricketers and is an attempt to sum up a situation where half the most promising players no longer get any real opportunity to build on that promise and effectively fall out of consideration.

Why does this happen? Because the players in question are already far too busy playing or preparing for international cricket.

This is the area in which we found ourself when we tried to write about England’s jaw-droppingly bad run of Test debutants for Wisden.

There’s a fun game hidden in the middle of the article where we challenge people to find an even less productive spell of debuts in the Nineties before concluding that this isn’t actually possible.

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A guy who may or may not truly be called Bert fills us in on the latest instalment of his long-running Ashes bet with some Aussie

Bert writes:

OK, hold onto your hats. I can now reveal the result of the latest Ashes Bet between me and my Aussie mate. The result is…

He Won!

Yeh alright, since the bet is on the outcome of the series this has been known since December, but why should that stop me making such an exciting announcement? Besides, it gives me an opportunity to fill you in on some more amazing Ashes Bet Facts.

The place was Whakatane, a small town on NZ’s Bay of Plenty Coast. The date was late 2002, the time, about midnight. The situation was a bar, too many drinks, and a loud-mouthed Aussie (or “an Aussie” as they’re also known) going on about the upcoming Ashes series Down Under.

In that drunken haze of annoyance and a thorough lack of understanding of the situation in world cricket, the Ashes Bet was born. Three months later I’d lost a dozen bottles of red wine and was faced with a similar bill every two years or so for the foreseeable future.

But then came 2005. Enough words have been written about that series to convey the drama, the emotion, the sheer unalloyed delight of it all, but perhaps I might be permitted to add a few of my own. “In your face, Aussie, now where’s my fucking wine.”

That was the turning point. The next turning point came in the following series, when we lost 5-0. But then there was a turning point, and we won again.

Really, when you look at it, it’s just been one turning point after another, a curve based around the following formula – whoever is at home, wins. Since 2002 there has been only one exception to that rule, the glorious 2010/11 series.

I have to say that this was cricket at its most enjoyable and, I might add, this website’s palmiest day. We had Trott, and Swann, and relentless Cook, and the Through The Night Thread, and the Mitchell Johnson Song, and the Sprinkler Dance, and Boxing Day, and graphs, and Venn Diagrams and so much more. And we (specifically me) had a dozen bottles of finest Australian red wine out of sequence.

So, where do we stand. Well, the score in Tests since than night in NZ is Australia 23, England 14. The score in wine bottles is Australia 48, England 60. Who on Planet Earth would have thought that 15 years ago? Not my Aussie mate, that’s for sure. Not me either, it had to be said. So I’m happy to pay up, to provide the Barolo, Nuit St George and Fleurie so richly deserved. Because I know that I’ll be getting it all back in 2019. Let’s face it, they can’t drop Shaun Marsh now.

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Shoulda, coulda, woulda – five things England got wrong ahead of the 2017-18 Ashes

Australia win the final Test (BT Sport)

We were originally going to present this article as being the views of Captain Hindsight, but when we started to write it we realised that half of England’s problems were actually fairly easy to see in advance.

So while some of what follows comes with the benefit of knowing how things panned out, that’s not true of all of it. Whether or not the sum of all these things would have made any difference to the end result is of course another matter.

Shoulda dropped Moeen Ali

Moeen Ali is a player of top innings rather than being a top batsman. Even before this series, his Test average was only 34.66. That’s pretty good for someone who bowls, but not really enough to warrant a place in the top six, which is where he found himself come the first Test.

Based on what followed, Moeen would have been batting a place too high had he come in at number nine. Craig Overton and Tom Curran averaged more than him, Stuart Broad managed a higher score, and you can’t imagine Gary Ballance would have bowled any less effectively.

We love Moeen, but things wouldn’t have turned out much differently for England had they instead picked a specialist fielder.

Coulda done more to discourage Ben Stokes’ boozy late nights out

Michael Vaughan said Ben Stokes had been given ‘strong warnings’ about his lifestyle even before that night in the cells. It wasn’t like England should have locked him in his room each night, but could they not at least have persuaded him to refrain from going out on the lash in the middle of a series?

Who knows whether some other incident might have happened subsequently, but even a slight change in behaviour might have been enough to avoid the Bristol incident.

Shoulda tried out some quicker bowlers in the preceding years

Craig Overton dismisses Steve Smith (via BT Sport)

Our article about Toby Roland-Jones’ Test debut was essentially a veiled question: ‘Why have you picked a right-arm 80mph bowler when we’re touring Australia this winter?’

Plenty of similarly pedestrian right-armers followed. We’d sort of assumed that there was a minimum pace requirement for young seam bowlers, as this seems to have been an unstated part of the job description for as long as we can remember. When did this cease to apply?

People watch Jimmy Anderson bowling at 80-85mph and hope that younger bowlers operating at a similar clip might gradually develop his skills. But that isn’t the way it worked for Jimmy. He could bowl at 90mph in his first few seasons. The increased skill has compensated for the decrease in speed. He never entered a Test match with neither.

Craig Overton, Tom Curran and Jake Ball are about a tenth as skilful as Jimmy Anderson and don’t really have much to make up the shortfall. Overton and Ball have height, Curran has a slower ball, but England’s attack is so monochrome, this really isn’t enough.

Faster English bowlers do still exist. Either they’re not sufficiently valued or not especially well-managed.

Coulda picked Adil Rashid

England were never going to play Mason Crane until the series was already lost. When they did, he performed about as effectively as you’d imagine a 20-year-old debutant leg-spinner would.

It’s great that England seem to have identified him as one for the future and that they’re keen to invest in him, but they also identified Adil Rashid as one for the future a long time ago and despite his being top wicket-taker last winter, they ceased investing in him immediately before this Ashes series.

You have to try and recoup investments. Test experience is a finite resource. This whole thing just seemed so wasteful.

Shoulda picked someone other than James Vince

James Vince drives (BT Sport)

A flirtation with run-scoring in the first Test might have encouraged some to think otherwise, but this really isn’t hindsight, is it?

It was so obvious we actually titled September’s Ashes squad post England to win the Ashes via airy off-side drives.

James Vince’s first stint in the Test team ended because he didn’t score any runs and kept edging behind. Having underscored the fact that his record in the first division of the County Championsship is really rather mediocre through his efforts during the 2017 season, the selectors brought him back at number three for the Ashes.

He didn’t score any runs and kept edging behind.

Conclusion

If you’re England in Australia, chances are you’re going to lose anyway. You are not going to improve your odds by spending the years leading up to the series doing a load of things that everyone in the world can see are manifestly wrong.

Also, you should have added Paul Collingwood to the squad.

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