Month: July 2014 (page 1 of 4)

Sack Dhoni

Dhoni - too stubborn to stand down

Might as well call for at least one of the captains to be sacked.

His batsmen have crumbled against bowling they should be comfortable against, his senior players aren’t ‘standing up’, he’s insisting on fielding a part-time spinner instead of a specialist and he hasn’t made a hundred in his last 20 Test innings. He has to take responsibility for these things.

It’s the young, inexperienced players who are showing the way. It’s time to move on.

It’s not just us saying this. Someone who once played cricket internationally has also criticised Dhoni’s captaincy for some reason – possibly to do with tactics. They said they’d have done things differently and that what they’d have done would have worked, unlike what Dhoni did. It’s hard, if not impossible, to argue with that.

When will the BCCI finally accept that this team is at a low ebb and acknowledge that it is time for change?


Moeen Ali won’t tie up an end

There are two types of spin bowlers:

The first kind is the attacking kind. They bat at number 11, but with the ball in their hand, they can take wickets. Early in their career, they can be a bit hit and miss, going for a few boundaries, but you try and allow for that because if they become more consistent, they’re invaluable.

The second kind is the batsman-who-bowls-spin. You’ll see them all the time in one-day cricket. They seem to have confused the batsman’s legs with the stumps and spear everything in this direction. The captain’s never scared of bringing them on because nothing bad can ever happen.

What England want

England haven’t been able to find an attacking spinner, so they’ve had to settle for a batsman-who-bowls-spin. Except they haven’t, because Moeen Ali’s actually no such thing.

Moeen Ali is a young spinner, a developing spinner, but he’s not a batsman-who-bowls-spin according to the definition above. People assume that England have selected someone to block up one end so that the seamers can take turns attacking from the other, but from what we’ve seen this isn’t the way Moeen approaches his bowling.

Gauging worth

The poor lad’s being assessed by the wrong criteria. It’s often said of Graeme Swann that he was two bowlers in one – he could keep it tight and he could also attack. Now everyone’s wailing because we can’t even find someone to do the first of those things.

But they’re not sequential. You don’t go from trying to concede no more than two runs an over to taking eight wickets in an innings. If anything, the first approach will hamper your efforts at the second.

Moeen Ali bowls a decent number of four balls. If you’re Paul Harris, that’s criminal, but Moeen also bowls more potentially wicket-taking deliveries than Harris did. If he’s aspiring to be Paul Harris, he needs to erase both these extremes. Let’s take a vote on whether that’s the best course of action…


Change bowlers and mourning spilt honey

The day in summary: James Anderson earned two wickets through being James Anderson, Moeen Ali earned two wickets through not being James Anderson and Chris Jordan earned nothing. Oh, and Stuart Broad got three.

Word of the day – “displacement”

Play was reminiscent of the later days of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh when everything seemed to be defined by what happened when they weren’t bowling. There was one match going on when Broad and Anderson had the ball and then India had to work out what to do when they didn’t.

Against Chris Woakes, they took the runs and survived. Against Chris Jordan, they just sort of watched it happen – for it wasn’t Jordan’s best day. Against Moeen Ali, they hit a few easy boundaries, took a few easy singles and occasionally committed suicide.

The upshot is that Anderson and Broad have bowled more than the others, like usual. Anderson has looked far better for having had a few days off and Broad has too, so let’s now watch that slowly drip away before our eyes, like an upended jar of honey trapped behind some sort of electrified forcefield which would fry us were we to reach out to restore order.

Broad’s already showing signs of being shagged out. This is an issue because he does seem to have a bowling speed threshold below which he doesn’t take wickets.

A second word of the day – “rangly”

Andrew Strauss’s inadvertent portmanteau of ‘rangy’ and ‘gangly’ was gleefully highlighted by Mike Atherton.

Maybe you should just stick to four-letter words, Andrew.


We just want to watch Jos Buttler bat

Whatever his keeping’s like and no matter whether or not he’s ‘ready’ for Test cricket, we’re very pleased that Jos Buttler is now in England’s Test team. We like skittishness in a number seven batsman.

It is always worth watching Buttler at the crease and when he bats with Ian Bell, you stand a decent chance of seeing pretty much everything decent that a batsman can do. The wicketkeeper’s contribution to today’s 106-run partnership was robust, impatient and ever-so-slightly unhinged. Bell’s was sleek, but increasingly ambitious, as if he gradually came to see new possibilities which had been somehow left unheralded by the fat square cut of Gary Ballance.

It was declaration batting and clearly that is currently what Buttler is best suited to. It may only be one box ticked on the ECB quality control checklist, but surely the ‘counterattacking’ box is also awaiting ink. Those would present reasonable foundations on which a 23-year-old Test cricketer might build.


JP Duminy has just scored three off 65 balls

That is… stellar. Particularly when you consider that he made three off 58 balls in the first innings.

He wasn’t alone either. You can see the full deadbattery in scorecard format here. South Africa were playing for a draw to secure the series and succeeded in fine complete-absence-of-style. Rangana Herath opened the bowling and delivered 45 overs.

30 of them were maidens.


Four bowlers, five runs and one Gary Ballance

After winning the previous Test with four-and-a-bit bowlers, India could have gone either way for this one. Unsurprisingly, they went with four bowlers, not five.

Sometimes you can determine a lot from these fifty-fifty calls and MS Dhoni does seem to be a bit of a ‘pick the extra batsman’ kind of bloke. He doesn’t mind picking five bowlers every now and again (just so long as at least two of the bowlers are also credible batsmen) but you can tell he’s a lot more comfortable once the team’s back to normal, even if that means losing.

Dhoni captains his team as if runs win matches. This is all well and good in the shorter formats where runs are indeed the unit of currency, but in Test cricket runs merely prevent you from losing. To win, you need to take wickets. What message does picking six batsmen send to the opposition?

Why those five runs mattered

When you’re dismissed for 95, one crucial thing does not change. People can still say: “He hasn’t made a hundred since…”

Right now, on the day he made 95, we all know that Alastair Cook played an innings that was tantamount to a hundred. However, in about a fortnight, when it’s no longer fresh in the mind, people will say: “He hasn’t made a hundred since…” and it will seem that nothing has changed.

It’s also important to note how ludicrous it is that this innings will to some degree shore up his captaincy credentials when it had precisely ball-all to do with the aspect of captaincy he most struggles with, which is of course ‘captaincy’.

‘At least Ballance is still in’

Come on, admit it. You’re starting to think that too now. That constantly snarling facial expression is embedding itself in your brain and becoming just another part of your everyday life, like drinking tea or sighing each morning at the sheer pointlessness of it all.


Test match start days and the concept of ‘appointment to view’

This year they moved the Twenty20 Cup to Friday nights to create an ‘appointment to view’. The premise is if people know when matches are being played, there’s a better chance they’ll watch.

This year also sees a five-Test series taking place between England and India which boasts four different start days. That’s back-to-back scheduling for you. They have to leave an extra day or two to allow the players ‘rest’.

If you didn’t know, the third Test starts today.


Mop-up of the day – two very different retirements

The first is the unflappable maestro, Mahela Jayawardene, who is giving up the five-day game. Fun fact, stats nerds: his first innings hundred in the ongoing Test against South Africa has tipped his average over 50. He’s actually got another series after this one yet though, so don’t get too excited.

At the other end of the spectrum, the angriest county stalwart there’s ever been, Steve Kirby, has called it a jeffing day. We’ve written about him in our latest Shire Horse thing over at All Out Cricket.


Mop-up of the day – an overreaction checklist

We’ve produced a valuable guide just in case any England fans aren’t overreacting sufficiently. It can be found over at Cricinfo. Tick all the boxes and you too can call yourself a true England supporter.

Andy Caddick’s ears

Sam was greatly disappointed that they didn’t get a mention in another recent Cricinfo piece of ours which focused on the 2000 Test series between England and the West Indies. The article’s about hope really.

The Kingdom conquers

The Kingdom, this website’s mini-league in the All Out Cricket fantasy league, is supplying the first and seventh ranked sides in the whole competition. Balladeer’s Bhangra-Morris Fusion side have danced their way to the top spot, while Patrick’s p = mv are seventh.

We feel this reflects on us well, but as we said in the comments section yesterday, we can do better. Come on, everyone! Accurately predict cricket within the fantasy game’s defined parameters!

Cryptic crossword news

Those of you who read all of the comments will have known about the above. Those of you who receive the email and never actually read the comments, you’re missing out – they’re the best bit.

For example, you also missed a link to Bert’s Tour de France cryptic crossword. It’s nothing to do with cricket, but we know quite a lot of people who read this site enjoy his efforts and so thought we should draw attention to it.

Sri Lanka v South Africa

Dale Steyn’s class, isn’t he? We were worried he was on the wane a bit, but after taking 9-99 in the first Test, he’s doing it again in the second. Or at least he was at the time of writing. Those Sri Lankan pitches, hey? They’re no place for quick bowlers.


Alastair Cook should stick to the day job

Captaincy is an odd thing. It always strikes us that becoming captain is like being a writer promoted to a management position.

We’ve had jobs where a senior colleague with a stupid job title has come up to us and basically said: “Your writing and editing is so good that we don’t want you to do that any more. We want you to look at spreadsheets instead and do maths.”

We don’t really do maths.

It seems a similar story with Alastair Cook. The ‘Cook out!’ bandwagon is rolling along a little too rapidly for our taste and we don’t particularly want to urge the driver to accelerate further (What’s that? There’s no driver?). But at the same time, what captainly qualities has he ever actually displayed? None really, beyond being a bit older than most of the team and having some sort of inclination to do the job.

A week or so ago, Cook was talking about how stubborn he was and how determined he was to see things through.

“I’ve never quit on anything.”

That seems to us to be half the problem. Sometimes you’re supposed to give up.

The problem is that Alastair Cook is a professional sportsman. He’s spent his whole life being told that determination and a will to succeed are desirable qualities – and of course they are – but they can also lead to exploration of the farthest reaches of pig-headed futility.

Imagine it’s the 1980s and you’ve got a telephone directory in your hand and you really, really need to tear it in half for some unspecified reason. As you grunt and gurn, Geoff Capes walks up behind you and asks if he can help you out. “No, it’s fine Geoff – I’ve got this,” you reply.

But you haven’t.

Alastair Cook used to be a cracking batsman and now he’s a shit one. The cracking-to-shit shift roughly coincides with his tenure as England captain.

What we’re saying is that sometimes it makes more sense to hand the telephone directory to Geoff Capes so that he can tear it in half, leaving you free to find a more productive use for your time.

Update: We’ve just remembered that this article was supposed to be about how Alastair Cook shouldn’t have taken the job in the first place; how he probably only did so because he’d been conditioned to believe it was something he should want and should aspire to.

We always suspect that there are quite a lot of people who become doctors or lawyers without ever really considering whether the job might suit them or not. They just follow a path without giving a great deal of thought to where it leads.


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