Month: March 2013 (page 1 of 3)

Coverage of the attack on Jesse Ryder

If you haven’t already seen, Jesse Ryder is in an induced coma after being assaulted. He has a fractured skull.

We aren’t going to write too much about this, because the site is the wrong tone for that kind of news and therefore it just doesn’t seem appropriate. For similar reasons, we’d like to ask that news outlets refrain from using Twitter updates instead of actual quotes when reporting on this story. It’s a habit they’ve got into when covering cricket, but sport can accommodate the throwaway nature of a tweet far more comfortably.

We’ve read several reports of the Ryder incident which have republished tweets, such as this one from the official New Zealand Cricket Twitter feed:

It really undermines the message when you see the stupid Twitter handle. Plus, it just doesn’t seem sufficiently earnest to use Twitter at all. When players tweet that their thoughts are with him, it almost feels like an advert for their compassion because they’re broadcasting their feelings, rather than sending them more directly.

We’re sure that’s not the intention; it’s just the nature of the medium – which is precisely why it’s better to keep that jarring tonal shift away from news reports.

Two things wrong with the 2013 IPL

Let’s start slowly. We’ve plenty of time. Two things for now. More may follow.

1. Adam Gilchrist is playing

Adam Gilchrist is about 110 years old. More importantly, he is not a cricketer. He was once, but he isn’t any more. No cricket competition should field people who aren’t cricketers.

2. Six terminology

We’ve come to terms with sixes being referred to as ‘maximums’ even if we get MASSIVELY ANNOYED when someone calls fours ‘boundaries’ in such a way as to imply that the two words are synonyms. They aren’t. A four is a type of boundary. A six is still a boundary as well. It’s not ‘sixes and boundaries’. That makes no sense.

But that’s not our point. Our point is actually something we’re slightly less annoyed about. On the homepage of the IPL website, they list ‘IPL leaders’. These are the players who have scored most runs, taken most wickets and so forth. One of the categories is ‘maximum sixes’.

Firstly, this mashes together two terms for the same thing, but more importantly, they aren’t listing the players who’ve hit maximum sixes, because no-one has hit the maximum.

Chris Gayle hit the most in 2012, but he also played out plenty of dot balls and ran a few singles. He therefore cannot have struck ‘maximum sixes’. He spurned literally hundreds of opportunities.

We’re happy for the ‘maximum sixes’ category to remain, but only if it features no players whatsoever.

… and one thing that’s right about the 2013 IPL

Royston Dias might play and all sports competitions are greatly improved by the inclusion of players with funny names.

What’s today’s barometer reading?

Eventually you have to stop watching the ball in order to do other things

Some read yesterday’s post as being criticism of Ian Bell, which wasn’t really how it was intended. We just feel that of all the England players, his performances are the ones that most closely correlate with how the team fares. On day five of the third Test against New Zealand, Bell played out of his skin.

Not literally, that would be hideous – although it would doubtless disconcert the bowlers sufficiently that they would struggle with their lines and lengths. No, he just played very well. In fact maybe that’s a more appropriately functional phrase for a delightfully, fantastically functional performance. On day five of the third Test against New Zealand, Ian Bell played very well.

Matt Prior is garnering the headlines and we certainly aren’t saying that he doesn’t deserve them, but Bell’s contribution was more sizeable – not in runs maybe, but as treasured fount of wisdom, poet, philosopher and all-round good egg, Bert, once pointed out, runs are not the correct unit of measurement when batting for a draw.

With that in mind, here is an alternative scorecard for England’s second innings:

  1. Alastair Cook – 145
  2. Nick Compton – 3
  3. Jonathan Trott – 66
  4. Ian Bell – 271
  5. Steven Finn – 10
  6. Joe Root – 79
  7. Jonny Bairstow – 19
  8. Matt Prior – 182
  9. Stuart Broad – 77
  10. Jimmy Anderson – 2
  11. Monty Panesar – 5

This isn’t the first time that Bell’s made an enormous contribution towards securing a draw and nor was it the first time he’s sidestepped much of his due acclaim through being dismissed before the end of the match. The characters present in the final act are deemed to be the heroes because that’s the way conventional narratives work, but who did the bulk of the work?

There’s a feeling in cricket that unless a batsman sees it through to the finish he has somehow failed, but that’s a rather childish black and white way of looking at a team game. The guy who cuts the ribbon to open a building hasn’t built it. Look at the man hours for a true reflection of construction efforts.

Ian Bell put in a four-and-a-half hour shift. That may not be a full working day and he may have been leaning on his bat at the non-striker’s end for half of it, but it’s probably more than we’ve ever managed.

The barometer says England never looked like winning

Talk of an England win has been unjustifiably common during this Test. You never know what’s likely to happen in a match, but you can tailor conversation according to likelihood and at no point has an England victory seemed probable. Even talking about how they could possibly engineer a winning situation from the difficult positions they’ve found themselves in has been to remain wilfully blind to reality. A draw was appearing a fairly lofty aim from quite early on.

We’re fond of saying that averages only tell you what has already happened and that certainly applies here. Brendon McCullum only averages 30-odd with the bat, but he’s made England miserable all series without reaching three figures. Peter Fulton’s average has only reached the thirties thanks to a hundred in each innings of this match, but that kind of a contribution is a great deal more meaningful in terms of the series than what Ian Bell did against Pakistan in 2006.

We’re increasingly feeling like Ian Bell is a kind of barometer of form for England. We often talk about a team winning when one particular player performs well, but when Ian Bell plays badly, England are terrible. Or is it the other way round? It’s almost as if he responds to the pervading air of underachievement and thinks: “Right, time for eight off 89 balls.”

Bell’s still in, of course, but his obduracy seems less like resilience and more like the foreshadowing of a collapse – a contributory factor, even, if it brings unwarranted nervousness to the young batsmen who follow him.

Good luck to Bell and good luck to England, because they’ll need it. Whatever their averages, New Zealand’s bowlers have threatened England’s batsmen almost all series.

Two-metre Peter from New Zealand

He has one of our favourite nicknames in international cricket, so we’re secretly slightly pleased that Peter Fulton scored a hundred against England because it means he should get a few more matches. Set against that is the fact that he was averaging 23 before the first day’s play, so you can’t say it was a particularly good day for England after opting to bowl.

There have been worse insertions, but ‘insertion’ is a noun which covers some unsavoury concepts, so that’s not saying much. That said, wiser men than us have highlighted the fact that drop-in pitches such as this often get flatter as the match wears on, which doesn’t bode particularly well for the weekend’s entertainment. Or maybe England were just crap and wickets will tumble when they come to bat.

However things pan out, Peter Fulton didn’t put a foot wrong. And with seven of them at his disposal, that means he’s still got plenty of room for manoeuvre.

So Kevin Pietersen’s injured

The tone of that title is meant to convey that this news is significant but that we don’t really have anything to say about it. We hope it has delivered in that regard.

Kevin Pietersen’s absence seems like the kind of thing people might be talking about, but sometimes conversation doesn’t flow with ease. Sometimes it’s halting and awkward and you walk away feeling like you haven’t given a good account of yourself. It’s worst when you’ve been speaking on a topic on which you feel you should have an informed opinion. The best way to tackle this is to never talk to anyone about anything you remotely comprehend.

Sometimes we find ourself in a situation where, against all odds, we’re talking to semi-strangers about cricket. If this happens, we make a conscious effort to shed knowledge. You don’t want to be the guy who knows about stuff; they pay you more attention then. This is why we don’t tell people that we write about cricket. We want to put them off the scent, so we carefully calibrate our comments accordingly.

This is actually pretty difficult because you have to remember what kind of information is likely to be common knowledge and what’s minutiae. A mistake we often make is to say something head-smackingly obvious about a cricketer who we then realise is far too obscure for everyday conversation.

Players who can safely be discussed:

  • Cook
  • Pietersen
  • Flintoff
  • Warne
  • Botham

Players who cannot safely be discussed:

  • Jonny Bairstow
  • Graham Onions
  • Nick Compton
  • Jos Buttler
  • Mehrab Hossain junior

There’s a real art to successfully engineering an entirely unrewarding conversation which revolves around a topic on which you are actually very well informed. It’s one thing we pride ourself on.

Recalculating list of worst things in the world…

We used to fear this kind of thing, but it’s all been put in perspective by this:

Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit

The holiday ends with you having a barbecue with the man himself. At least he’s a good cook.

“Yes, I could definitely eat a 14th steak if you’d be good enough to go back over to the barbecue yet again. There’s not enough heat left to cook with, you say? I’m sure there is. You’ll just have to cook it for longer. You’ll just have to cook it for much, much longer. That’s right. Stay over there, slightly further away from me for much, much longer.”

We found this via a link on Hayden’s Twitter feed, which read: “Come and play in my back yard.”

Not sure why we clicked it really. There was no possible good outcome.

Australia’s fit bowlers are injured

Mitchell Starc’s been sent for an operation. Apparently, he’s been suffering with bone spurs for months. It’s very hard to keep track of injuries to Australian bowlers, but we think that he joins Pat Cummins and Jackson Bird on the sidelines. We presume Ryan Harris is injured as well, although he’s been in the grey land between injury and retirement for so long, he’s presumably built a house there.

As ever, the team’s injured bowling attack is probably better than the Test attack, although at least James Pattinson’s been allowed to play again. Plus Peter Siddle’s in form. Siddle strikes you as being a man who’s heard of being injured, but who doesn’t really believe in the concept.

The sheer inevitability of Australian fast bowling injuries is highlighted best by the case of Shane Watson. Half batsman, half bowler, half tearful bovine – this man-and-a-half is apparently fit to bat, but not to bowl.

This really does beg the question as to why the state of Australia’s spin bowling is so dire. Surely all the youngsters are turning to tweak in a bid for self-preservation.

Why are we goading Tlaloc?

You see what happens? You see what happens? This is what happens. This is what happens when you goad Tlaloc, the Aztec rain god who loves Test cricket.

Tlaloc has really been looking forward to the series between New Zealand and England, but then he found out about the schedule and flipped out.

“Four days between Tests?” said Tlaloc. “We’ll see about that.”

He’d been planning on holding out just a few more days before ending the drought that has bedevilled North Island but when he found out that the gap between the second and third Tests was again just four days, the same as between the first and second Tests, he moved things forwards.

Tlaloc likes to have time to dissect one Test match and then some more time to anticipate the next.

Shikhar Dhawan and his moustache

Our facial hair says ‘couldn’t be bothered shaving’. Shikhar Dhawan’s says ‘I take enormous pride in my moustache’.

Hair can build up like limescale or mould or it can be something you cultivate and tend to like a flower. Dhawan’s moustache reminds us of a possibly apocryphal story we heard while in Rajasthan once. This guy told us he’d sat behind someone on a bus who he’d suspected of having the grandest, widest moustache, only to discover that the chap in question had actually waxed his extensive ear hair into long, regal points. Whether that’s true or not, that’s taking pride in your hair.

Dhawan’s moustache is fantastic, but somehow he overshadowed it with his batting. We’ve said before that India rarely struggle for batsmen. Let’s not devalue Dhawan’s innings by dwelling on the bowling he faced, the truth is that he tracked down Australia’s open wounds and then excavated them using some sort of threshing machine made entirely out of salt. It was astonishingly cruel, frighteningly brutal and quite, quite brilliant.

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