Month: July 2016 (page 2 of 3)

Mike Selvey leaving the Guardian

The Guardian’s cricket correspondent, Mike Selvey, is to part ways with the newspaper at the end of September. “Guardian no longer want 50 yrs intimate knowledge of cricket, cricketers and how game is played for future coverage,” he said in a tweet – later adding the hash tag #abitshitreally to leave us under no illusions that he would have preferred to continue.

This news may seem of no real interest to many of you, but it does raise questions about the changing nature of written cricket coverage. In the absence of any comment from the Guardian, we can only guess why they might have made the decision. In all honesty, nothing especially obvious comes to mind.

History repeating?

In 2008, Selvey was given the boot by Test Match Special. At the time, there was a reference to wanting to make use of ‘more recent Test cricketers’. Since then, they’ve added people like Graeme Swann and Michael Vaughan. Phil Tufnell is from the previous generation and then there is the continued presence of Geoffrey Boycott, who is for many people synonymous with the ‘in my day’ view – despite also holding a number of progressive opinions.

But a newspaper is different. There’s only so much space, so you’re never going to offer such a broad palette of voices. Instead, you pick someone who can write and who knows what they’re talking about and who will find angles that are perhaps unexplored by writers on other newspapers.

Selvey’s writing

We’ve long enjoyed Selvey’s articles. He can occasionally be prone to overloading sentences with far too many clauses, but time pressures can bring wonkiness out in all of us. The content itself was generally intriguing, especially when talking about the mechanics and mentality of bowling.

You might question just how many stories one can wring out of a three-Test career, but it’s presumably decidedly more than can be wrung out of the zero-Test careers enjoyed by the majority of cricket writers. The point is that Selvey’s international playing experience is just one aspect of a longer career that has also included 278 first-class matches and a lifetime spent following the game.

Impartiality

Selvey sacrificed a lot of goodwill among the Guardian readership during “the KP affair.” It was an oddly confrontational time among followers of the sport, but it wasn’t so much for his opinions that Selvey got people’s backs up as for being unable or unwilling to express why he held them.

It was frustrating for the reader to read bold assertions without knowing how they were arrived at. Questioning sorts of people like to see your workings out. Selvey then compounded this disconnect by being slightly tetchy and thin-skinned in the comments section and on Twitter. There will always be someone slagging off your writing online and everyone has their breaking point, but managing that is a vital skill for a modern journo.

We thought of all of this again recently when Selvey made a few dismissive comments about Chris Woakes at the start of the summer and followed that up with a piece talking up Steven Finn after the last Test.

Finn plays for Middlesex, as did Selvey, so we initially felt a bit uncomfortable about his position – but the points made in that article about confidence and implicit messages sent by a captain’s field settings were pertinent and gave ample food for thought. It was a top piece; exactly the kind of thing we’d want to read.

Cost

It’s proabably just this, isn’t it? Selvey has written for the Guardian for 31 years. They probably pay him more than they’ll pay his replacement.

No-one pays to read about cricket in the internet age. Not enough people read about cricket full stop to financially justify the volume of writing we have at present. Something has to give.


Jake Ball: first look in Test cricket

We don’t believe you can draw meaningful conclusions from debut performances – but we report on them anyway.

Google does currently appear to be conflating Jake Ball with the Welsh rugby player of the same name. The cricket one’s tall, but we’re pretty sure he doesn’t weigh 121kg. Our first impressions indicate that he will eventually be recognised in his own right, however.

We’ve already mentioned that Ball’s tall and assuming he’s not actually 121kg, that’s an advantage too. Other than that, he swung it a little, seamed it a bit, and didn’t really bowl any dross. He bowled at new-young-England-seam-bowler pace (87mph) and didn’t look particuarly arsed about being asked to open the bowling for England.

Ball doesn’t stand out as having any particular quality that would elevate him above all other bowlers, but then if you took one look at Stuart Broad you’d probably conclude much the same about him.

So, in summary: all good.


Pakistan celebrate Lord’s Test win with press-ups

Via Sky Sports

Via Sky Sports

For all the good cricket Pakistan played to beat England at Lord’s, their greatest attribute was that they visibly enjoyed playing Test cricket. Throughout the match, they were like a group of 11 children revelling in some sort of collective birthday, and when they won, it seemed they’d received the greatest present ever.

Unusual victory celebrations can go one of two ways. They can seem mannered and choreographed and a little self satisfied, or they can come across as a symptom of group giddiness. Pakistan’s press-ups seemed like the latter; like just a minor thing; something that arose as a result of broader positive qualities.

Regardless of the result, this was a fun Test match.

That’s right, fun.

You know, like sport’s supposed to be.


Yasir Shah’s feline five-for

Yasir Shah has the air of a contented cat. We’re not quite sure what gives us this impression. Perhaps it’s the eyes.

In the cat world, a slow blink is a way of saying that the person being blinked at is pretty cool. It says that diplomatic relations between you are positive. No-one’s going to make themselves look big; no-one’s going to take a chunk out of anyone else’s ear; and no-one’s going to piss on anything to ensure it smells more of their piss than anyone else’s. In short, everyone’s relaxed.

With his narrow eyes, Yasir Shah seems to be eternally caught in the middle of a slow blink. He also seems pretty relaxed in other ways. He grins a lot, for example – although maybe that’s just because of all the wickets.

Yasir has never played county cricket. He has only ever played Test cricket in the UAE, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. You’d think bowling in England might therefore provide a steep learning curve. If it did, he paused, wagged his tail, went momentarily tense and then launched himself up it, clawing his way to the summit in an instant.

He had a few tips of Mushtaq Ahmed too. Mushy also reminds us of a contented cat; a slightly older, reasonably well-fed cat whose jumping days are behind him, but who can still advise you on the right line to bowl on the second day at Lord’s.

You know, one of those cats.


James Vince’s batting average in the second division, first division and Test cricket

We had a first look at James Vince in Test cricket and weren’t much impressed – but we did add the proviso that we don’t ascribe much value to debut performances anyway. We’ve had a few more looks now and we’re still not particularly impressed.

We generally find people’s decisiveness about relatively new players unsavoury and hasty, so let’s just say that we’re politely awaiting an innings that will persuade us of his worth. We hope it arrives. Don’t keep us waiting too long, Jim.

So with our non-judging position established, this is nevertheless the situation as it stands. After five innings – which is very few – Vince is averaging 14 in Test cricket. More worryingly, this fits a trend where he seems to average less in higher standards of cricket.

In 2013, Vince averaged 64 in first-class cricket. Very impressive. In 2014, he averaged 61. In both of those seasons, he was playing in the second division.

In large part thanks to those 2014 performances, Hampshire were promoted. Last season Vince averaged 33 in first-class cricket.

To be fair to him, this year he’s averaging near enough 40 in the first division (although he’s only actually passed 50 the once).

Moral of the story? How about three?

  • The first and second divisions of the County Championship are different standards of cricket
  • Batting averages only tell you what’s already happened, not what’s to come
  • Yasir Shah is okay at bowling

Misbah-ul-Haq sweeps Moeen Ali for four

Via ECB.co.uk

Via ECB.co.uk

Then reverse sweeps him for four. Then sweeps him for four again. Then he blocks one because he fancies a change of tempo. Then he sweeps him for four again.

It could be a long summer for Moeen Ali.

In amongst all the sweeping and reverse sweeping for four, Misbah-ul-Haq drove and nurdled a few to nudge his score up a bit and get it into three figures. At that point he did some press-ups.

It is incredibly hard not to warm to Misbah-ul-Haq.

Misbah is a man who achieves things he sets his mind to – and generally at the first attempt. We’re pretty sure today was his first innovative hundred celebration for example, and it was hilarious. In 2014 he had his one and only go at batting aggressively and equalled Viv Richards’ record for the fastest Test hundred. He had never played a first-class innings in England before this tour, but now he’s made a Test hundred here at the first time of asking.

Maybe when you’re 42, you have greater awareness of how few opportunities you’re likely to get and so make damn sure you make the most of them. Somehow it feels like he’ll have plenty more opportunities to sweep Moeen Ali for four though.


Airborne Younus Khan

Younus Khan’s record is even more remarkable when you consider that he seemingly makes contact with most deliveries while airborne. We made this observation on Twitter and Karthik pointed us in the direction of the Airborne Younis Khan Tumblr, which is rather delightful (and also reminds us of a time when the internet was a joyous land of minutiae rather than whatever the hell it is now).

We half suspect that Younus has mastered batting to such an extent that he deliberately hops around to try and hoodwink the bowlers into thinking they’re getting somewhere. However, it seems more likely that his compulsion to launch himself skywards is a genuine reaction when he’s troubled.

“This particular delivery hasn’t bounced exactly as I expected to,” he appears to think in the split second between the ball pitching and arriving. “I’d better climb into the air,” he then concludes.

‘In the air’ isn’t a conventionally secure place from which to play a dangerous delivery, but it seems to work for Younus.


Mohammad Amir’s back!

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

As in ‘returned’. He hasn’t got ankylosing spondylitis or anything.

It’s also worth pointing out that that’s a younger version of his back in the photo above. Younger head too. Same age as the back, in fact – 2010 vintage.

What are the odds on Mohammad Amir getting a wicket first ball? This feels like one of those occasions. We’re a great lover of damp squibs and anticlimaxes, but this doesn’t feel like it’s going to be one. Or maybe the world is toying with us and he’ll pull out of the Test with a minor groin strain.

Speaking of groins, whatever happened to Gary Ballance’s groin has unhappened and he will play. A batsman seemingly designed to fall to late swing from left armers, he’ll no doubt be delighted by Amir’s presence.


What the hell is Stuart Broad talking about?

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Ahead of the first Test against Pakistan, Stuart Broad said one thing that made sense.

“The biggest test for the bowling unit will be trying to do what no other team has done this year, which is to win a game and take 20 wickets at Lord’s.”

Lord’s: Home of Rain-Affected Draws as well as Home of Corks. Engineering a result will indeed be a challenge.

But after that, Broad said the following about communicating with the other bowlers: “We always talk, not as an ego thing, but to try to get one over the opening batsman.”

“Not as an ego thing”? What in blazes does that mean? Why would verbal communication – the basic keystone supporting the whole of humankind’s development – ever be considered merely ‘an ego thing’?

Not a year goes by – not one single year – when we do not see two or more human beings engaged in conversation with one another. Not once have we ever thought to ourself: “Look at those raging egotists.”


England v Australia at Edgbaston – day three match report

Ged Ladd’s smartphone, Ivan Meagreheart, writes:

It can be exhilarating, being Ged Ladd’s smartphone; even after the bland ending to our Day Two, we were full of excitement ahead of Day Three. Ged woke me up and I was feeling 100% full of energy, which is as it should be.

Our walk to the ground was mostly uneventful; my colleagues and their apps being the forgotten heroes of earlier treks, now that the humans well and truly knew the best route. However, towards the end of the walk, there was a comedic interlude, when Charley The Gent Malloy, deep in conversation with Harsha Ghoble, fell behind the pack and decided to use his app to find us and the entrance. Naturally, the app took him to the main entrance, as Charley omitted to tell the app that we gather near the Sir Harry’s Pub, using the Pershore Road entrance. So Charley blindly followed the app to the main entrance, where he felt lost again and phoned Nigel for help. Typical human, Charley then blamed his tool rather than his own lack of logic. “How many times have we been to this ground and used this entrance?” mumbled Nigel “Father Barry” White to Ged.

Still, we were soon in the ground well ahead of the start of play.  Ged was hoping/half-expecting that Bert would come and join our little group at some stage during the day, but he never showed up. Bert did, however, have the courtesy to explain why in his own match report.

When the match was over, the 10 Heavy Rollers gathered outside the ground at their traditional farewell point. (Outside the Sir Harry’s Pub, you didn’t need an app to help you guess that). Lemon Peel had kindly stored Ged’s luggage in the back of her motor, so that we could head off on foot to New Street without returning to the Hagley Road hotel. So after the warm goodbyes/farewells, Ged and I wandered off into Birmingham.

We were well early for our train and it was a beautiful afternoon. Sunny with some light cloud, maximum temperature 23 degrees Celsius, breeze less than 5mph. We found an Italian cafe/restaurant with an outdoor terrace, just off the main strip as we approached New Street. Ged killed some time there over a couple of Americano coffees. Then when it got a bit chillier, we went into the station and killed some more time in the Virgin lounge, where Ged drank cranberry juice.

Then onto the 19:30 train.  Months ago, Ged had booked a quiet carriage in first class at low cost, using my arch rival, Ged’s laptop, rather than my app. Spit. Ged continued reading; he even partook of some wine and nosh at this juncture. We were completely unaware of the rest of the train.

When we got off the train at Euston, we suddenly were hit by a wall of sound behind us; thousands of drunken fans singing. The Mitchell Johnson Song. The Joe Root to the tune of Hey Jude song. In the hanger-like acoustic of Euston, the noise was almost deafening. Ged said it reminded him of the We Are the Mods scene from Quadrophenia. Ged’s wrong. There was no Phil Daniels, no Lesley Ash, we were at Euston, not Brighton, there were no mods, no rockers and (be realistic, this was a train full of cricket fans) no ultra-violence. There weren’t even any Australian antagonists; at least none that you could see or hear.

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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