Category: Extras (page 1 of 41)

Books to read at the cricket? Herding Cats: The Art of Amateur Cricket Captaincy by Charlie Campbell

Wormsley Cricket Ground, ‘Words and Wickets’, Actors v. Authors, 2014
The steward in hi-viz races towards me in disbelief as I stroll towards the pavilion in vest, shorts and flip-flops. His disapproving roar has blown over the deckchairs reserved for bums clad in mustard cords.

Edwardian writes

Charlie Campbell is the captain of the Author’s XI. I’ve seen these roosters a couple of times at the Wormsley ‘Words and Wickets’ festival.  In 2014 there was a tent displaying the latest Jaguar cars and the food was provided by Jamie Oliver. I marvelled at the burgers which were about half the size of a cricket ball. We brought our lunch with us.

Campbell’s book is an entertaining foray into the joys and headaches of captaining an amateur side.  I thought about an in-depth review then thought better of it.  While leaning on Brearley’s book, there are many funny anecdotes involving the Authors.  Campbell side-steps names until the end of the book but his XI have featured Sebastian Faulkes (you know the chap, he writes in French for the hell of it then transcribes it all back into English and apparently has time for cricket), Ed Smith, Tom Holland and other scribblers.

Maximilian Hilderbrand favourably reviewed Herding Cats in Literary Review but mentioned from his own experience a batsman who scored a ‘sumptuous half-century’ while high on magic mushrooms. I’d like to hear more from Max. The review in The Cricketer was a bit more guarded.

I enjoyed the book a lot.  It’s a great insight into managing the Authors.  However, I have to say that a part of me wondered whether the book would have been published at all if Campbell wasn’t a literary agent and connected to all the right people. Despite Campbell’s occasional protestations at how difficult it all is, the acknowledgements could be summed up by John Le Mesurier, “It’s all been rather lovely.”

Herding Cats on Amazon.

Have you tried to read summat while at a cricket match? Let us know how it went at king@kingcricket.co.uk


Cricket’s doping crisis hasn’t arrived yet

At the tip of the needle (CC licensed by tschoppi via Flickr)

This week’s edition of The Spin reports that the ICC “stepped up” its dope testing at this year’s Champions Trophy when it started conducting blood tests.

As someone who spends a significant proportion of his working life reading about the shortcomings of even blood testing, the idea that a sport would rely solely on what it could find in athletes’ urine as a testing method seems not too far removed from dunking them in water to see whether they float or asking them to read scripture out loud to see whether they stumble.

Chances are a few people have managed to beat the testers.

There’s a suggestion now that cricket might introduce the Athlete Biological Passport – an electronic record of various biological markers within an individual, tracked over time. This can reveal the effects of doping without detection of the substance (or method) used.

If they do, expect a whole bunch of people to get caught. Huge financial rewards plus lack of any real scrutiny tends to equal a bit of open-minded medical experimentation from a small percentage of athletes.

The Spin goes on to point out that T20 has led to greater emphasis on strength and power. This was a point we made in March last year when it was announced that Andre Russell might face a ban for missing dope tests and the same conclusion is drawn – that baseball provides an obvious rebuttal to the argument that cricket, as a game of skill, isn’t vulnerable to doping.

Cricket is vulnerable, has been for a while, and the authorities are playing catch-up. They aren’t even catching up that quickly. Let’s look at the two most high profile nations.

The Quint reports that in India 138 in-competition tests were carried out in 2016 and just 15 out-of-competition tests. Out of competition is when doping is more likely to take place, as this is when players are in the gym looking to make physical improvements or are recovering from injury.

In the UK, Elizabeth Ammon reports in The Times that 102 in-competition tests were carried out on male cricketers in the 12 months to March this year, plus 28 out-of-competition tests. No tests were carried out on female cricketers.

World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) figures for 2016 state that 1,164 tests were carried out worldwide. Only 31 of these were out-of-competition tests (this may exclude the India figures above, as the doping agency operating in cricket there has an unusual relationship with Wada).

To put that in context, fencing conducted 1,618 tests, canoeing conducted 4,196 tests and football conducted 33,227 tests. 130 tests were carried out in boules. Road cycling – a discipline with just a few hundred professionals – conducted over 13,000 tests. (It even tests 60-year-olds who finish 95th in amateur races.)

Several other sports undertake similarly half-arsed regimes to cricket, but that doesn’t change the fact that the sport has a sizeable blind spot.

The Spin’s headline “Is cricket a doping-free zone or has anyone been looking hard enough?” is presumably rhetorical. No-one has been looking particularly hard because no-one wants to deal with what they would find.


A dog who may or may not look like Ben Stokes

Edwardian writes: “I think my dog looks like Ben Stokes, especially in the eyebrows department. The difference between Stokes and my dog is that Digger is tucked up in his bed by 10pm every night.”

Edwardian later added: “Digger is a rescue dog (I’ve had him for three months) and is incredibly laid back despite his previous circumstances. However, since originally sending the photo, he had a nip at a passing jogger so perhaps he is developing Stokesian traits.”

We’re sure Digger had very good reasons for taking action. The only question that remains is whether he carried on the nipping for a bit too long.

Actually, no, there is another question – why is he named after former Lancashire opening bowler Peter Martin?


A handmade county cricket sticker album

Honestly, what could be better than this?

It’s a homemade county cricket sticker album.

Here’s Darren Stevens.

Here’s Vernon Philander.

Here’s the England team.

The album was created by John, who got in touch with us having seen Sam’s ‘artwork’ last week.

You can see loads more of the stickers on his Tumblr.

John said he was inspired to create the album during the city-based T20 debate when there was all that stuff about how more kids recognised pro wrestler John Cena than Alastair Cook.

“As I know a bit about wrestling too, I went on a bit of a rant about how the ECB needs kid-friendly merchandise that’ll still appeal to adults. So I went away to prove it could be done.”

John said he got about 30 printed to sell. “I had a meeting with All Out Cricket about mass producing, but sadly it  didn’t go any further than the initial discussion.”

The albums are available directly from John for £25. That price includes the album and every sticker needed to complete it. If you’re interested, you can get hold of him at Johnmichaelkirby@gmail.com

But that’s not all. At the very start of this article we asked ‘what could be better than this?’

If you answered, “a handmade 1999 World Cup sticker album” then you’re in luck. John’s working on that now.


Life Beyond the Airing Cupboard by former Sussex captain John Barclay – a holiday reading review by Ged Ladd

I read Life Beyond The Airing Cupboard in September 2009, while Daisy and I were on a short holiday in Burgundy. We had joined Daisy’s sister, Lavender and her husband, Antonio Ordóñez for a few days, then we stayed on for an extra day or two before returning home.

Lavender and Antonio looked at us quizzically before they headed off when the answer to their question, “what are you going to do after we leave today?” was, “we’re going to the Bresse service station for lunch”. This is not such a crazy thing to do; I should imagine it is the only service station in the world that serves the indescribably wonderful Poulet de Bresse; at affordable prices too.

We also wanted to see Bourg-en-Bresse; I found a wonderful music shop there and bought a good few CDs, including Bach Cello Suites and some cool Parisian jazz.

Then back to the Moulin d’Hauterive for a game of crazy tennis on the hotel’s unbelievably dilapidated tennis court; then some reading around the pool.

As you can see, the hotel was not very busy in September.

Strangely, several years later, Life Beyond The Airing Cupboard came up in conversation, reported on Ogblog – here, with Bill “Wild Bill” Taylor, at Trent Bridge.

Life Beyond The Airing Cupboard by John Barclay – click here for Amazon link.

**** 4 Stars = Highly Recommended.

(The Ged Ladd Cricket Book Review scale: From 1 Star = Don’t Bother to 5 Stars = Essential Reading).

Have you read a cricket book on holiday? Tell us what it was, where you were and give us a star rating. king@kingcricket.co.uk


Subscribing to BT Sport for the Ashes

We’ve been bemoaning the out-of-date way in which broadcasters sell sport to consumers for quite a while now. We were mildly encouraged by changes to Sky Sports announced earlier this year, but they only went so far and also had zero bearing on the upcoming Ashes as BT Sport has the broadcast rights for that series.

So how is BT going about signing up cricket fans?

A recent Ashes-related BT Sport press release asked the following leading question somewhere near the bottom: “Not a BT customer and don’t want to switch your broadband to us?”

You don’t ask a question like that without having an answer lined up. The answer was this: “If it’s just our wide-range of premium sport that interests you then you can also simply sign-up to watch BT Sport right now.”

Yes, yes, yes. This is exactly what we want. No phone line, broadband, or other TV package serving as some sort of eye-wateringly expensive and unnecessary entry fee – just the one thing we want.

We only want access to BT Sport so we only want to pay for that.

Huzzah?

Following the link somewhat confusingly takes you to the View and Manage your Broadband Extras page. Among the very many frequently asked questions on that page (maybe you should rewrite the page if so much is left unclear) is: “Can I pay for the BT Sport app if I don’t have BT broadband?”

The answer, apparently, is: “No, you need to get a BT Broadband or BT TV package, or get BT Sport on Sky Digital Satellite Platform.”

BT doesn’t seem to be on the same page as itself on this one.

Sadly, we’ve checked all around their site and that does seem to be correct. Maybe BT have got something in the pipeline, but as things stand you do need to subscribe to their broadband or TV service to get access to the BT Sport App.

Update

No, you don’t. See below for how to get BT Sport via various different broadband/TV providers.

Signing up for BT Sport via Plusnet

This page appears to imply that it’s only a fiver a month, which is a bit of a result (if true).

Signing up for BT Sport via TalkTalk

You can sign up here.

The bad news is it’s £22.99 a month and there’s also a sign-up fee of £20 if you commit for a year and £35 if you only commit for a month.

The Ashes runs for over a month, so the minimum cost of subscribing to BT Sport if you’re a TalkTalk customer is £80.98.

Signing up for BT Sport via EE

EE seems to be offering its customers three months of the BT Sport app for free. More details on this page.

If you’re on an EE mobile contract, we suppose you could take them up on this and then work out how to cast the footage to your TV.

Christ this is complicated. Don’t blame us. We’re just the messenger.

Disclaimer

We’re doing our best here, but thanks to the opaque policies and labyrinthine websites of the various media companies involved, there’s a decent chance that some of this is wrong – and even if it isn’t, it is of course subject to change.


Four-day Tests – slightly less of the duration and epic scope that define the game’s longest format

Hurray! Four-day Tests! They’ll be much like five-day Tests, only with the unique selling point somewhat compromised. Who can fail to support an idea as clear and appealing as that one?

The thinking seems to be, ‘well, maybe if each match isn’t quite such a big commitment, some countries might play a few more’. Here’s a full account of why four-day Test cricket makes no sense.

It’s also been announced that there’s going to be a Test championship – the ICC delaying the move for many years until precisely the point at which everyone’s already tired of it.

Confusingly, every Test in the championship will be a five-day affair. They haven’t worked out the points system yet because you don’t want to rush these things.

“I would like to congratulate our members on reaching this agreement,” said ICC chairman Shashank Manohar, whose congratulatory bar seems set sufficiently low that he’d doubtless give you a hearty handshake for successfully scaling a flight of stairs.

We still believe that administrators would be far better off making some effort to bind the formats together rather than forever pitting them against one another.

We know the format-spanning points system is widely-ridiculed because no-one cares about it, but there is a nugget of something in there in our opinion.

As we’ve written before, whatever the current state of the longest format, cricket, in a broader sense, is in relatively rude health. The problem really is that the formats are cannibalising each other when they should be working together.

A Test world championship is symptomatic of that thinking. It reflects an insular view of the game where T20s, ODIs and Tests are all different. In reality, they’re all cricket – so why not treat them as one?

A format-spanning cricket world championship would provide context for everything and an incentive to play and perform well in the longest format as a by-product of that.

Alternatively, you could just implicitly diminish the status of a bunch of Test matches and hope that this somehow provides the format’s salvation.


Cricket computer game graphics through the ages

Last week we suggested that maybe the golden age of cricket videogame graphics had passed; that maybe player likenesses would from now on always be too convincing and insufficiently amusing.

Let’s take a look back on how things have changed, starting with the most recent funny graphics and working our way backwards from there.

Saeed Ajmal in Don Bradman Cricket 14 on the PC

What we especially like about this is that it very much looks like a real person, but very much not like Saeed Ajmal.

Saeed Ajmal is a joyous little ball of sunshine, whereas this bowler has clearly just heard that his pet fish has leukemia.

Gavin Smythe is hit in the balls by a Chaminda Vees delivery in Ashes Cricket 2009

What we like about this is that Gavin Smythe has been hit in the balls. We also like that all the players’ names are slightly wrong.

Slightly wrong faces plus slightly wrong names equals great amusement. Ashes Cricket 2009 was also a perfectly adequate game.

Cricket Revolution, which was out at roughly the same time, also scored well when it came to made-up player names.

Sri Lanka batsman in EA Cricket 2007 on the PC

We would still consider this game to fall within the golden age of cricket videogame graphics. When you get a player close-up, you do actually have somewhere up to half a chance of recognising the player.

This, to us, seems the optimal level of clarity.

Sri Lanka batsman in EA Cricket 2000 on the PC

At this point, players were all-but-unrecognisable. However, they did move like puppets playing proper cricket strokes, so that was still pretty funny.

Sri Lanka batsman and inexplicably fleeing Australia bowler in Brian Lara 99 on the PlayStation

We like this one because WHY WOULD THE BOWLER BE DOING THAT?

Sri Lanka batsman in Brian Lara Cricket 96

Could be anyone. Anyone right-handed, at any rate. Anyone right-handed who had played for Sri Lanka before the game came out in 1996.

Robin Smith in Graham Gooch World Class Cricket on the Amiga

Clearly Robin Smith. Or at least it was in the full version of this screenshot which featured his name in writing.

Big head, Robin Smith.

Honestly No Idea in Ian Botham Cricket on the PC

We think this one fits in here, chronologically, but we’d argue that these are the shittest graphics of all – worse than those that follow.

But that’s funny too, so a perfectly acceptable route to take by the developers.

Geoff Marsh in Allan Border Cricket on the Commodore 64

Is that his mouth?

Bill Athey in Graham Gooch Test Cricket on the BBC Micro

You may believe that the ball has been edged behind, but actually the keeper has large, square, jet black nads (possibly gloves).

The end

Because it’s 10pm and we can’t be arsed trawling through any more YouTube videos for what is, after all, an almost entirely pointless nostalgia trip of benefit to no-one but ourself. And not really of benefit to ourself now that we come to think about it.

Still, it’s more interesting than reading about Ben Stokes losing sponsorship deals, right?


Ashes Cricket to be released on PC, PS4 and Xbox One

What do you love most about cricket videogames?

If you answered “the deep customisation options” then good news – the developers of the upcoming Ashes Cricket have been listening to you.

“Time and time again players tell us the feature they love most about our cricket games is the deep customisation options,” said Big Ant CEO, Ross Symons.

The good news is that Ashes Cricket is basically an updated version of the actually-very-good Don Bradman Cricket, which we reviewed in 2014 (and here’s a bit more information about changes made for Don Bradman Cricket 17).

The bad news is that they’ve employed “photogrammetry technology” to capture the players’ likenesses.

We have no idea what this technique entails, but the screenshots seem to imply that this is the moment when videogame cricketers cease to be visually amusing.

Look at Jonny Bairstow, for example.

Very disappointing.

When we look at that, we think, “there’s Jonny Bairstow,” rather than, “ha ha ha, look at Jonny Bairstow” – which would have been our reaction to seeing him in any game before this one.

And look at Nathan Lyon. This Nathan Lyon arguably looks more like Nathan Lyon than Nathan Lyon does.

The other bad news is that the game’s fully licensed, which means that Michael Stirk won’t be opening the bowling for Australia and Jimmy Understone won’t be fulfilling the same role for England. Presumably that’s where the deep customisation options come in.

Ashes Cricket is out in November. You can already order the PS4 and Xbox One versions from Amazon, while the PC version will appear on Steam nearer the time.


I Don’t Like Cricket, I Hate It – the upcoming Ashes tour edition

Photo by Sarah Ansell

A semi-regular feature in which we ask a fella going by the name of Prince Prefab about cricket – even though he hates cricket. We are in bold. Prince Prefab is not.

It strikes us that a looming Ashes tour is one of the few times when the sport might force itself into the wider public’s awareness, so we’re interested to hear the current view from ‘outside cricket’. Before that though, there’s some related cricket news that we’ll have to touch upon…

I was in a town in Yorkshire once – Cleckeaton, Pudsey, Batley, Shipley, I don’t know – and I was driving along with a mate and we saw a dog being pushed along in a pram, all tucked up nicely. And he nodded and went ‘Dog in a pram’ and we carried on. And it was quite a thing to see, but it was still just a dog in a pram. So I’m sure there are many column inches being written about what you alluded to but there’s no more to say than ‘dog in a pram’ about it really is there?

Yeah, we don’t want to go down the route of dissecting the incident. We were just wondering what perception you’d had of Ben Stokes before this week (if any)?

None at all. Honestly couldn’t have picked him out of a police line up including him, Prince and Alan Partridge. Although I would know he wasn’t Prince or Partridge, obviously.

So basically, you knew nothing of England’s most high profile Test cricketer before this week and now you think… well, we should probably let you put it in your own words.

I’ve seen a video of him fighting for a minute. I’ve never seen him play, heard him speak, read an interview. I don’t even know what he’s said after this incident. From what I know he could be anything from a decent fella who acted daft on a night out to a raging psychopath.

By the way, watch that video. Are they all wearing white trainers cos they’re cricketers and they think that they have to wear white trainers all the time? Or is that the fashion? For lads who go to shit clubs and don’t know that they should be wearing proper footwear by their mid twenties?

We bought some Hi-Tec Silver Shadow the other day – but they’re silver (they’re grey).

Mate, you’re too old to be wearing trainers for anything other than sport. Come on. You know that. You’ll look like a leisure dad.

Should Stokes play for England again?

Oh yeah. But a big fine and a good telling off. A proper telling off, like when Mr Carter made us cry for having a water fight with the fire extinguishers in the huts.

Next question: did you know it was the Ashes this winter?

Yes, I did. But maybe because of the Stokes stuff. The will-he-won’t-he be selected fuss I’ve heard on the radio. I’m not certain I would have known otherwise.

Any knowledge of the squad? Any opinion at all about how England might do?

I presume that guy who was shouting ‘Stokes! Leave it!’ might be in there. Can’t remember his name. Someone called Ali? I just googled two I thought might be playing. One is 40 and retired. The other is 45 and Australian. I have the idea that it is not thought we will do very well in these Ashes but I do not know why.

“Stokes! Leave it!” isn’t in there, we’re afraid – although many people thought he might have been. Moeen Ali will be going. You can have half a point for that.

Who were the two you googled? You can tell us. We won’t publish your ignorance on the internet or anything.

Jesus this is embarrassing. Strauss and Hayden. I mean, Hayden even sounds so obviously Australian but I didn’t know…

Odd that. A couple of years ago we asked another friend to name current England players. He said “there are loads” and then struggled to come up with a single name. He eventually went with Botham and Gilchrist.

Strauss is actually going, incidentally. Not as a player. He’s director of cricket or some such title.

Just looked at the team and I recognise a good six or seven of the names.

To be fair, there’s cricket fans who might be struggling with a couple of them.


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