Category: Extras (page 1 of 42)

Afghanistan haven’t scored too many runs, but that’s not really the point at this stage, is it?

The Afghanistan cricket team in Jersey (via YouTube)

Remember Out of the Ashes? It’s a documentary about Afghanistan’s journey “from war to the World Cup”. We reviewed it here and thought it was rather wonderful.

It strikes us that it could do with an update because Afghanistan are a Test team now. This is a highly astonishing state of affairs.

If you’d asked us 15 years ago how likely it was that Afghanistan would become a Test team by 2018, here is a list of things that we would have rated as being more likely.

  • Pretty much everything

They’re not an especially good Test team going by the scorecard for their inaugural Test, but then Afghanistan’s rate of improvement is so steep that you wouldn’t bet against them were this a five match series.

It isn’t of course, but they’ll play more Tests and at some point they’ll win. We know this because Afghanistan’s superpower is that losing games gives them strength.

For now, it’s enough that they’re playing at all. As Afghanistan’s then minister of finance, Dr Omar Zakhilwal, said back in 2016 ahead of their first one-day international: “There is nothing that can touch cricket in popularity or as a force for good in Afghanistan. There is absolutely nothing else that mobilises our society in the same way.”


We’re writing Wisden Cricket Weekly and it’s going to be very good indeed (even from an unbiased point of view)

You may or may not know that once upon a time we wrote a satirical weekly newsletter for a cricket magazine. It was fully excellent and almost everyone said so. Then the magazine’s new owners gave us the boot.

At this point, we started doing almost exactly the same thing independently in the form of Cricket Badger. This was not an enormously great idea because we did it for free, but the newsletter was still fully excellent and a somewhat smaller number of people said so.

Now Cricket Badger is no more. Last week’s issue was the final one (for the time being, at least).

Don’t be sad. There’s a very good reason for this seemingly sad development and the very good reason is that starting on Friday, Wisden Cricket Weekly is a thing!

Wisden Cricket Weekly is… well, it’s basically the same thing again, but with a different header and more links to Wisden stuff. There’s also a decent chance that we might get some snazzy dividers to separate the various sections (which is a prospect we are very much excited by).

If you want to sign up for Wisden Cricket Weekly (and let us tell you right now, in no uncertain terms – you absolutely DO want to sign up for Wisden Cricket Weekly), you can do so by adding your name and email address to the mailing list. That’s all you need to do (and it’s also worth mentioning that those details will of course never be shared with third parties).

So…

Sign up for Wisden Cricket Weekly here!

Ladies and gentlemen, let us promise you one thing: this newsletter is going to be weekly (we don’t want to make rash promises, so let’s keep things manageable at this early stage).


Define ‘dibbly-dobbly medium pace’

Paul Collingwood bowling (via YouTube)

We all feel that we know it when we see it, but what exactly is dibbly-dobbly medium pace?

Is it just non-spin bowling of a certain velocity (less than 75mph, say)? Or is it something more specific than that.

When we asked people to identify the greatest dibbly-dobbly medium-pace bowler of all time on Twitter, the vast majority of suggestions were batsmen who bowled a bit.

These players were, almost by definition, not particularly effective, so it struck us that there were perhaps two distinct aspects to greatness in this particular field: (a) being the purest example of such a bowler, and (b) being the most effective practitioner.

You might think that being a part-timer is a key aspect of dibble-dobblery, but that doesn’t mean the player can’t still be effective. And at the same time, isn’t there something fundamentally awe-inspiring about a player able to carve out a successful career solely off the back of medium pace bowling?

Bowlers who fall into the latter category also raise another important question: does a surfeit of skill render you ineligible for inclusion in this category? Can a talented swing bowler like Praveen Kumar truly be considered dibbly-dobbly purely on the basis that he doesn’t unduly trouble the speed gun?

As you can see, this is an open-ended sort of question. Feel free to have your say.


Are ODIs irrelevant or a unifying force?

All this talk of a possible divorce between Test and T20 cricket greatly underestimates cricket’s ability to plough on with much the same structure even though no-one’s really happy.

Radical change is not really cricket’s thing. The sport is more of a gelatinous goop that gives to accommodate whatever happens to push against it.

Over at Wisden, we’re making the unfashionable case that 50-over cricket has reverted to being what it was originally supposed to be: the showcase for all of cricket’s top players. You can read the full story here.


Which nation is best at cricket? Combined rankings

Mohammad Amir to Virat Kohli (via ICC)

The ICC rankings are a much-maligned attempt to derive some sort of meaning from the international cricket schedule. However, it strikes us that they no longer answer the question for which they were devised.

Who’s the best in the world? We now have three different answers: the best Test side, the best one-day international (ODI) side and the best Twenty20 international (T20I) side.

This is all well and good – cricket is a sport more or less defined by the varied challenges confronted by its players. However, the time pressures resulting from this weighty fixture list has left each of the formats – and therefore each set of rankings – subtly diminished.

Take England for example

In recent years there has been a change of priorities, such that England players with Test potential are now less likely to be groomed for that format if they are already key members of the limited overs squads. Given a choice between gaining first-class experience or playing the IPL or international short format cricket, the former generally loses out.

The upshot has been a stronger 50-over side and a stronger 20-over side, but a Test team shorn of at least a couple of players who could have made the grade given more long format experience.

The Test team was recently defeated by Australia, whose coach subsequently pointed to tiredness as a reason why many of his players underperformed in the one-day series that followed.

Australia prioritised the Tests and won them; England prioritised the one-dayers and won them. Similar stories play out on every single modern tour. Every nation is to some degree compromised by the schedule and results are always to some degree shaped by the participants’ respective priorities.

An overview

To get a clear picture of which nations are good at cricket and which are shit at cricket, it’s necessary to look at the broader picture.

This is how the idea of the format-spanning points system came about. It didn’t catch on, but it was basically an attempt to draw things together and make everyone care about all three formats.

We thought it would be instructive to take a similar approach and combine the ICC rankings.

Same as with the points system, Tests are worth double because it’s a two-innings game.

How did that pan out then?

Well it ended up with everyone in almost exactly the same order as in the Test rankings.

The conclusion we draw from this is that combined rankings actually work quite well.


Do England attack too much? (and other questions) – mop-up of the day

Steve Smith (via BT Sport)

Steve Smith says England’s one-day international (ODI) tactic of ‘going really hard the whole time’ is risky because sometimes they might get bowled out.

He doesn’t seem to acknowledge that England play this way because they pick 10 batsmen. Nor does he seem to realise that his hypothetical scenario in which England have a bad day in the semi-finals of a World Cup isn’t exactly a cold sweat nightmare for an England ODI side.

As for his own team, Smith said of Australia’s poor performance: “A lot of it comes down to poor decision making, and execution out in the middle.”

So basically the main issues are deciding what to do and also doing it.

India in England this summer

Shortly after England have played yet another five-match ODI series against Australia in July, they’ll square up against India in Big Man Cricket.

Last week we floated the idea that India might outpace South Africa in the third Test and this proved to be the case. We now predict that they will bother England greatly later in the year.

It’s not so much that they have a whole bunch of fast bowlers. Nor is it that they are consciously refusing to complain about pitches (and really, they’ve been deafeningly non-critical even when there’ve had good reason to moan). It’s more that Virat Kohli’s side’s seemingly accepted its limitations but then cracked on without ever once subsiding to defeatism.

Difficult overseas tours rarely climax with hard-fought wins for the touring side. It’s not a feat to be overlooked.

This is where you’ll find us

We imagine you’ll have one of two responses to that headline.

Half of you will immediately think “passed out on waste ground” or “rummaging in the bins round the back of Aldi”.

The other half will think “we find you here at King Cricket – what on earth are you talking about?”

What we’re talking about is other places where you can find us. We thought it was time for a recap.

But in addition to all of that…

We recently started a Twitter account for our film and TV writing.

This is new. We’re wholly reliant on editors agreeing that our ideas are good before articles can actually come into existence, so don’t expect great swathes of stuff to appear any time soon. Hopefully there will be a steady drip feed though, so please follow, retweet etc.

Secondly, our pro cycling website still exists – and it too has a Twitter account.

Finally, there’s Cricket Badger, an irreverent weekly cricket newsletter that you’ve probably already signed up for. If you’re not a subscriber, this is where a fair chunk of our cricket writing ends up, so maybe take a look.

P.S.

Thanks for reading and paying some degree of attention to our work. It’s very much appreciated.


We got someone who’s been off work sick to report on the Under-19 World Cup for us

Shivam Mavi is about to hit the stumps (ICC)

Budgets and time constraints being what they are, this seemed a smart way to go about things. The Under-19 World Cup is definitely a tournament where you want to hear the views of someone who’s had a very heavy cold – particularly if that person also happens to harbour an unusually deep-seated hatred of commentator Alan Wilkins.

Apropos of nothing much at all really, D Charlton told us that India have “a proper quick bowler” while England have “one great looking batsman”.

The England lad is Harry Brook, who sounds to us like a 1920s outside-left, signed for £3,000. According to D Charlton, “there was something about Brook that had stardust on it.”

We asked D Charlton who the Indian lad was. He said he wasn’t sure.

He later got back to us and said it was Shivam Mavi. No further details.

D Charlton also said that the tournament had provided awkward ground for the commentators, as they’re often left talking about people they really don’t know that much about.

“Alan Wilkins has repeated the same story about England’s wicketkeeper (that his grandfather kept for Glamorgan (Wilkins used to play for Glamorgan)) at least three times.

“He also has a habit of being surprised at the players’ ages. ‘Here’s the young Bangladeshi number four, and he’s ONLY 18 years of age…’

“He does this repeatedly. As does Mark Butcher who, otherwise, has been excellent.

“But the commentary exchange of the tournament so far went like this. Rob Key had a genuinely interesting fact about England’s opening bowler Ethan Bamber: his dad played Hitler in Tom Cruise’s film Valkyrie. Key reveals this, then…

Russel Arnold: What a character to play!
Rob Key: Not one for the method actor.
<cue furious producer shouting at them to stop talking about Hitler>
Arnold: So… what’s happening at Kent?
Key: I don’t know, I’m here, not in Kent.

“Who knew how easy it was to break the Golden Rule of Commentary: do not mention Hitler.”

In a later missive, D Charlton said: “Alan Wilkins made the usual comment when the camera showed a group of schoolkids at the cricket: ‘School children allowed in for free today – it’s great to see them doing that.’

“Mark Butcher said: ‘Anyone can get in for free. It’s not just you who has a special pass, Alan.'”

To ensure full clarity on his position on the matter, D Charlton added: “I hate Alan Wilkins.”


Newsflash: most cricketers enjoy all forms of the game and don’t actually want to choose between formats

It’s often said that young players are choosing T20 over Tests because of the huge financial rewards on offer. We happen to think that’s bullshit.

Yes, there are undoubtedly a few players who set out to specialise, but a far greater number find themselves doing so unwillingly. It is something that happens by stealth as a by-product of a whole series of mundane no-brainers.

There is one very, very straightforward reason why this happens so regularly to promising young England players.

Clickbait klaxon! Find out what that reason is in our latest article for Wisden.


Scandal, the Ashes and moaning about England – looking back on 2017 on King Cricket

We thought it might be fun/easy to look back on some of the more popular posts on this site from last year. Sometimes it’s surprising what draws people’s attention. (Sometimes it isn’t.)

The first thing to say is that far and away the most popular page on this site, other than the homepage, is the one about using Kodi to stream live cricket. Make of that what you will.

After that, there’s a whole load of stuff about various cricket computer games. We’ll exclude most of those from this list too, even though they’re pretty much the only ones that contribute to hosting costs and so forth.

So what else found an audience? What shaped the year on King Cricket?

It’s worth pointing out that somewhere around half our readers don’t actually visit the site – they get the email – so what follows isn’t strictly speaking the complete picture.

Scandal

Bit disappointing, but two of our more popular articles weren’t really about cricket.

Ben Stokes making a night in the cells happen drew quite a few people, but it was actually our take on Ben Duckett’s drinking problem (failure to apply glass to own mouth) that was the top non-Kodi, non-videogame page in the stats.

The Ashes

Obvious enough.

We’re pretty sure we were first to break the news that it’s the Magellan Ashes this time around – don’t think anyone else had quite accepted it was true. The campaign to get Paul Collingwood into England’s Ashes squad also did well and probably for similar reasons (we linked back to these two pages relentlessly).

People liked a bit of optimism-cum-foolhardiness too, in the form of three reasons why Australia would more than likely collapse at the Waca.

Moaning about England

Always a staple. You may or may not remember when we pointed out that the more batsmen England picked, the fewer they seemed to have. No real idea why that was popular.

Asking whether Joe Root was responsible for Adil Rashid being dumped from England’s Test squad also seemed to strike a chord (F major, perhaps).

This, that and the other

The amateur look of Cricinfo’s new home page made the 2017 top ten, as did cricket computer game graphics through the ages (a relief, because it took bloody ages).

Unusually and disappointingly, asking ‘Who is Ben Coad?‘ was pretty much the only time a county cricket page troubled the scorers. However, this is probably more a symptom of how much time we had to invest in domestic cricket following the birth of our daughter in May.

A final three which held their own were Matt Renshaw retiring with the wild shits, the four stages of Steve Smith’s recurring metamorphosis into a batsman and Virat Kohli dealing in daddies and doubles.

What will 2018 bring?

No idea. We can probably learn from the above, but we also have an uncommonly low boredom threshold and can’t really write on demand. We will therefore continue to cover whatever trivial details happen to be sauntering through our mind at the exact moments we find ourself in front of a keyboard.


James Anderson: Lord Megachief of Gold 2017

Our annual Lord Megachief of Gold award is the highest honour in cricket. The title is recognition of performance over the previous calendar year. Here are all the winners.

From a personal perspective, one of the great tragedies of modern Test cricket is that we don’t draw the curtains, switch off our phone and scrutinise each and every delivery bowled by James Anderson. He has been so brilliant for so long that what he does has become no more remarkable to us than the fact that human life exists.

Even the most extraordinary things can eventually become wallpaper.

Rivals

You’re probably thinking ‘what about Steve Smith?’ because it’s all anyone’s been banging on about for the last few weeks. Honestly, why don’t you all just agree to live in a gargantuan harem and marry him?

Let’s put Steve Smith in context.

With 1,305 Test runs at 76.76 and six hundreds, he’d probably make the podium. However, the batsmen named Lord Megachief of Gold typically do better than that.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul averaged over 100 in Tests in both 2007 and 2008; MS Dhoni averaged 92.25 in 2009, plus he kept wicket and won a billion one-day games; Ian Bell averaged 118.75 in 2011; Michael Clark averaged 106.33 in 2012; Brendon McCullum and Angelo Mathews averaged in the 70s in 2014, but did so in such freakish and contrasting ways that each had a unique case; and Kane Williamson averaged 90 in 2015.

Even this year, Virat Kohli’s averaged 75.64 and he’s done so scoring 50 per cent quicker than Smith.

Smith’s is a lofty sustained brilliance defined by the fact that this year isn’t even ‘all that’ by his unique standards.

Also, it’s our website and we’ll pick who we want.

There are perhaps two other bowlers who also warrant a quick mention. Kagiso Rabada took 57 Test wickets at 20.28, but we’d argue it’s Nathan Lyon who’d push Smith down to the third step on the podium. 63 wickets at 23.55, largely playing against India or on flat pitches is a half decent effort by anyone’s standards.

Jimmy Anderson (via BT Sport)

But enough about everyone else

Jimmy’s taken 55 Test wickets at 17.58 – and this despite playing his winter matches in a team that’s been getting royally battered.

There will again be the argument that many of these wickets were taken on green, seaming English pitches. Guess we’ll have to counter this again.

Imagine a hypothetical scenario where a player won half the Tests he played for his team but contributed nothing in the other half. A player who single-handedly gave his team victories in 50 per cent of its matches would be a name for the ages.

But it’s hardly like Anderson hasn’t been contributing Down Under. He’s basically been waging a one-man war. Well set batsmen annihilate bowling averages and the 16 wickets he’s taken at 26.06 would surely have come cheaper had the strongest support not come from Craig Overton (six wickets at 37.66).

Even more context

Context, context, context, averages, averages, averages. We’ll be through all this in a second, we promise. We just want to frame the ‘English bowler takes wickets on green, seaming English pitches’ argument a bit better.

These were the returns of England’s other seamers in 2017:

  • Stuart Broad – 30 wickets at 36.06
  • Toby Roland-Jones – 14 wickets at 19.64
  • Ben Stokes – 16 wickets at 31.31
  • Chris Woakes – 12 wickets at 51.41

Those are his team-mates, bowling in the same matches. Anderson’s basically been twice as effective as Stuart Broad, while Toby Roland-Jones might want to try and sustain that level of performance for more than four matches before getting too pleased with himself.

The best English bowler we’ve seen

At the age of 35, we consider James Anderson to be the benchmark for swing bowling in a very real sense. If he doesn’t take wickets, we very rarely even consider the possibility that he could have bowled better. We tend to conclude that he achieved all that could be achieved by a swing bowler in those conditions and so instead look to his team-mates in our bid to pinpoint the team’s shortcomings.

Like R Ashwin last year, Anderson’s greatest achievement is in meeting and occasionally even exceeding expectations that are really quite unreasonable. There will be young England fans who have never really heard a commentator say about their team that it ‘failed to make the most of good conditions for swing bowling’.

Plonk Anderson in a low-scoring game on a September pitch and he’ll take 7-42. Gift him a once-in-a-lifetime chance to bowl with a new pink ball under lights in Australia and he’ll actually make use of it.

The whippersnappers among you will have to trust us on this: failing to make the most of good conditions for swing bowling really is a thing. It will happen again – almost as soon as James Anderson retires.


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