Month: September 2010 (page 2 of 4)

Yuvraj Singh is a role model

There’s a good interview with Yuvraj Singh at Cricinfo. He’s always struck us as a man who thinks life is largely about wearing sunglasses, but that’s not the way he comes across here.

He talks quite thoughtfully about the challenges for young players and how he can offer them advice, but we liked the bathos of this bit:

“When I began playing, you could say the game was changing, the distractions were beginning. Now the distractions are too much and my advice to the younger guys is mostly not to be distracted by what is happening outside and to concentrate on the game.”

Do they listen?

“They don’t listen, especially Rohit and Virat.”

That’s Sharma and Kohli he’s on about. Name ’em and shame ’em, Yuvraj.

Umar Gul and reverse swing

We like Umar Gul. He moves like a puppet. That’s always a likeable quality in a person (unless they remind you of Zelda from Terrahawks).

Umar Gul is also a brilliant reverse swing bowler. Give him a red ball, he’s mediocre. Give him a new white ball, he’s okay. Give him an old white ball and FLAXEN LOCKS OF GOWER!

If there’s even a hint of reverse swing, suddenly he becomes a different bowler. It’s not just that he’s suddenly swinging the ball about how he pleases. He also bowls around 10mph quicker.

Why Andrew Flintoff was a great cricketer

Andrew Flintoff’s only going to retire the once, so we’ve written about him again.

A lot of people have picked apart his career with the recent past at the forefront of their minds, but we’re choosing to look at why he became such a significant figure in the first place.

People talk about charisma and how Flintoff could turn a match and they say he was popular with the crowds because he played like an enthusiastic village cricketer. These people aren’t missing the point exactly, but these are tired observations and they don’t fully explain his significance to a certain generation of England fans.

Was Flintoff a great player? If you could weight performances according to when you really, really gave a shit what happened, Flintoff’s averages would be a damn sight better than they actually are. We don’t watch cricket for averages.

The font size is quite small in that article, but if you do the old ctrl-and-scroll, you can make it bigger and more web friendly.

Ijaz Butt and the bookies circle

Pakistan Cricket Board chairman, Ijaz Butt, says:

“There is loud and clear talk in the bookies circle that some English players were paid enormous amounts of money to lose the match.”

What the hell is ‘the bookies circle’? Is it like the women’s institute? Do all the illegal bookmakers of the world meet up every second Sunday of the month to discuss match fixing over tea and battenburg? Is Ijaz Butt invited? How has he gathered this information?

If it were anyone else, this might be quite an interesting statement, but we’ve yet to hear of anyone who doesn’t think Ijaz Butt is a complete idiot. People involved with Pakistani cricket are PARTICULARLY strong on this point.

Andrew Flintoff – batsman, bowler, slip fielder, England representative

Throughout his career, people talked about Andrew Flintoff being the new Botham. He wasn’t. He was the new Darren Gough. He was England supporters’ representative on the field of play. For the rest of this article, we will be referring to him as Andy Flintoff because that was what he was called when he became that figure.

ALWAYS look like you’re trying

Some players are great at cricket but the crowds don’t particularly take to them. Genuine crowd favourites are a rarity. Botham was one, Gough was one and Flintoff was one. It takes certain qualities to get the crowd onside and it’s not simply about runs and wickets. Mostly it’s about your attitude and your approach to the game. Andy Flintoff did not become a crowd favourite during the 2005 Ashes – that is a common misconception. He was already a favourite and he used that to his advantage.

How to bat – try and hit sixes

Violent batting is the way to people’s hearts – earthy, straightforward hitting that softens the ball through robust contact with both bat and boundary boards. Sixes help, but just putting your back into it is the main thing.

Darren Gough’s shot was the wild edge to third man for four. The runs weren’t the point; the helicopter rotor blades style follow-through that often knocked him over was the point. Flintoff was better than that. His shot was the lofted straight drive that he tried to land in his dad’s hands somewhere up in the stands.

For a long time, if there was a big match on and someone said ‘Flintoff’ to you with an urgent and excited look on their face, you would instantly know that this meant England’s fourth wicket had fallen and that this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Bowling – put in the effort

You’re in a better position to win the crowd’s affections if you’re a fast bowler. It means you can show effort and flog yourself into the ground.

Andrew Flintoff became a top bowler, but we loved him because he bowled like a man who thought he could propel the ball through the batsman and into the stumps if only he tried a bit harder.

Flintoff’s flaws

We don’t want to write too much about the negatives, but they need to be acknowledged. They weren’t all his fault anyway.

The injuries were bad. We once said that he wasn’t built for fast bowling any more than an otter is built for refrigerating foodstuffs. It was frustrating for fans, so it must have been woeful for him. We still can’t believe they didn’t make him a bionic knee. If Flintoff doesn’t get one, who does?

We didn’t really care about the drinking, but we cared that he was known for drinking. It turned him into a cartoon figure; a caricature – and we thought he was better than that.

Late in his career, there were the celebrations. He won us over with genuine, heartfelt elation and when he became more calculated it felt a little like treachery to those of us who’d monitored Lancashire scorecards in those early days.

Cricket matches with corners

Far better to remember him for his finest quality. He gave England supporters the sense that something could happen at any moment. He made us think that the match could suddenly change direction.

Remember the over Flintoff bowled to Kallis?

That’s the kind of thing we’re on about. Supreme entertainment that just suddenly came from nowhere. Matches didn’t progress when Andy Flintoff was involved, they changed.

Lazy-minded people ascribed this ability to some nebulous concept that they called ‘the X-factor’ as if it were magic, but it was nothing of the sort. It was a combination of psychology, kidology, physical presence and reputation as well as one other quality that you can’t coach or buy.

Flintoff’s effect on the crowd

Because of the way he batted and bowled in those early days, Flintoff built a lasting rapport with England fans. If he showed any sign that he was going to do something remotely special on a cricket field, the crowd got behind him. When the crowd got behind him, the adrenaline kicked in. When Flintoff’s adrenaline kicked in, the crowd went mental. From there, very, very special things could happen.

Day three of the 2005 Edgbaston Test was Flintoff’s high water mark and if you want to study a player’s effect on a crowd as well as a crowd’s effect on a player, this is where you should start. Frankly, it’s also where you should finish.

The man came into bat with England 31-4. When the ninth wicket fell, he ignited a whole stadium full of people and used the blaze for power. Australia positioned most of their fielders on the boundary and still he went for sixes.

That evening he went one better.

It was 47-0 when Flintoff came on to bowl and all was flat. To put this over in perspective, he was on a hat trick with his opening delivery and that was possibly the least exciting ball. How many players can bowl overs where hat trick balls are repeatedly overshadowed?

Andy Flintoff took two wickets for one run (a no-ball) in that over, but what we remember – and what we’ll always remember – is the effect that he had on the crowd.

Nottinghamshire take the 2010 County Championship title

Nottinghamshire overcelebrate recording one bowling bonus point

By the broad blade of Tavaré that was exciting. The County Championship title was decided just as it should be – by abject Lancastrian batting.

Lancashire’s increasingly fragile top order allowed Nottinghamshire to record a bowling bonus point just in the nick of time. Nottinghamshire’s rivals for the title, Somerset, made the mistake of finishing early so that they could get to the airport. That must be annoying.

We weren’t supporting either side, but we’re happy for Chris Read on account of his raw deal. Also, having been runners-up two years running, the Nottinghamshire players might never have made it through the winter if they’d had to sit in the changing rooms with the rain lashing down while it happened again.

Yorkshire out of County Championship race

Beard of Amla! It is ABSOLUTELY going off out there in the County Championship.

Yorkshire have lost.

Repeat, Yorkshire have lost.

This means that Yorkshire are out of the running and it’s now going to be either Somerset or Nottinghamshire who take the title.

It’s like Ali v Foreman, only instead of Mohammad Ali, there are 11 men in white clothing and instead of George Foreman, there are 11 men in white clothing.

Also, instead of facing each other, they’re facing two different groups of 11 men in white clothing and rather than punching each other in the face, they’re anxiously looking at the skies and wondering whether that cloud’s a bit darker than that other cloud.

It… is… ON!

Matthew Hayden still has the skills

Another verse has been added to the Gospel According to Haydos.

“As the stars have aligned, they have really put me in the box seat as to the controlling interest for growing our sport in our regional and indigenous communities.”

Everyone quickly point and laugh.

Now back to county cricket.

Last day of the County Championship 2010

Absolutely fuckloads of blue sky - they'll be out in a minute

Ears of Agarkar! It is STILL going off out there in the County Championship.

Despite a profound lack of interest among King Cricket readers and an equally profound resistance to the phrase ‘it’s all going off out there’ we are going to continue with our coverage of the climax of the County Championship.

Somerset have now moved into the lead through their ingenious tactic of playing cricket. Nottinghamshire really should take note of this.

The title might actually be decided by two captains cobbling together some sort of agreement for a run-chase – that or bonus points. Either way it’s a fantastically awkward way to finish and therefore perfect.

Hopefully, at the end of the day, we can all agree that the real winner was the weather and not cricket.

How to draw up a first-class cricket fixture list

Somerset are in the Pro40 final on Saturday. Their Championship match at Durham finishes on Thursday night.

Not wanting to spend five or six hours travelling the day before a one-day final, Somerset have opted to fly from the North-East on Thursday night. Their flight is at 7pm.

How does that work then? Well, they’re finishing their vital County Championship match – one that could decide the title – 45 minutes early on the final day. They were suppose to make the time up each morning, but that hasn’t happened.

Does anyone else feel like Real Madrid wouldn’t traipse off after 85 minutes of a deciding Spanish league match so that they could catch a flight to Milan for the Champions League final?

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