Trescothick wins book award

On November 25, 2008 by

England’s disappointment in India didn’t come as a big surprise to most but sitting back at home was a man that England have desperately missed since the start of his depression based illness.

Somerset opener Marcus Trescothick should be at the same top of his game. The left hander is a glorious stroke player and is one of the most bludgeoning opening batsman the sport has ever produced. His form throughout the 2005 Ashes series was one of England’s brightest spots in a team full of them. He could score at a rapid pace and in a session he could easily put on the best part of 100 runs.

Sadly his condition has hampered his international career to the point he couldn’t play at the top level any more. His 43.79 career batting average at test level is impressive and when you consider that he had a rocky start to his international career then you can see that he was really becoming an elite batsman.

Instead of being in India, Trescothick was collecting his award for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. His book entitled Coming Back to Me is said to be a very interesting read and look back on a career that never hit the heights that it really should have.

Trescothick has now retired from international cricket despite overtures from new captain Kevin Pietersen to return to the test scene. The book offers a fascinating insight to the mind and world of a top class sportsman.

As they say – it isn’t easy at the top.

England lose again in India – what next?

On November 24, 2008 by

So another defeat in India and England have fallen to a 4-0 deficit in the best-of-seven series. It was always going to be a tough place to go and play ODI’s but the games haven’t even been that competitive.

England fell to a 19 run loss yesterday after a rain affected match and that was the closest they had got all series. Our friends Duckworth and Lewis got together to agree a target and England had to get 198 off 22 overs which seemed a realistic target. However the early demise of Bopara and Bell hurt and when Pietersen went cheaply it all seemed a bit too much.

Owais Shah and Andrew Flintoff gave England hope but when they went it was essentially all over and India got to that unassailable lead in the series. England haven’t bowled well and haven’t batted well at all and they’ll need to re-group before the test series which starts on the 11th December in Ahmedabad.

This is Kevin Pietersen’s first real test as captain after a glorious run following the resignation of Michael Vaughan. This winter will show a lot about the man who many hope will be the mainstay of the side for the next decade or so. England play a two game test series in India before flying home for Christmas and then on to the West Indies to start 2009.

India have just beaten Australia so are in fine form so any kind of result in the test series would be impressive. Monty will return for them and give England that vital missing ingredient of the current series – a world-class wicket taking spinner. That is what Australia missed as they had no Shane Warne and when you are on the sub-continent then that is what you need.

The West Indies are in turmoil so anything short of victory over there would be one almighty disappointment. With our seamers all in decent knick with Flintoff, Harmison and Broad then you’d expect us to be able to bowl sides out.

But when has cricket ever been played on paper?

Gough blasts England ‘favouritism’

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Recent months have not been kind to English cricket fans. The national team has been humiliated and truly humbled on several occasions and, to make matters worse, many stars of the international cricket scene who usually prove to be dependable and hungry for victory have appeared jaded and mere shadows of their former selves.

Many factors have been blamed for this disappointing slump, including Kevin Pietersen’s belief that unnecessary distractions away from the field of play have ruined the focus of the team.

However, one legend in the world of cricket believes he has found the real reason lying behind England’s poor run of form. Darren Gough has spoken publicly about England’s fortunes and believes that selection favouritism is destroying the cricket team. If anyone is to be trusted on such matters, it is surely Gough. He is the top wicket-taker for the national team in one-day internationals and was a firm favourite with the England fans.

During 158 one-day internationals, he managed to take 234 wickets. Furthermore, the player was a true professional and he was also a legend at county level with Yorkshire. Fans of cricket across the country expressed their disappointment when the player decided to retire at the close of last season.

Darren Gough believes that players who are consistently proving themselves at county level are being overlooked by the officials picking the players for the England team. Gough named Graham Napier, Dimitri Mascarenhas and Tim Bresnan as examples of players who deserve a chance after impressing at county level.

These players were successful in the Hong Kong Sixes and, according to Gough, “deserve a chance” at success on an international stage. Although the national cricket team has “potential”, it is currently remaining unrealised since the selectors are ignoring players who should definitely be starting international matches.

The former England legend wants selectors to pick players based on their current form rather than the reputations they have managed to build over successive years in international cricket. For example, Gough believes that "if Paul Collingwood has to drop down then so be it”. Players should be picked on merit and not with the hope that they will be able to rediscover the form of previous years and previous tournaments.

However, worryingly for English cricket fans, selection favouritism does not seem to be the only problem blighting the team’s chances of success. Gough revealed that prior to the Stanford Super Series in Antigua, he “got the impression […] that England weren’t going to perform”. Gough was unable to give specific reasons as to why he was provided with such an impression but he believes that something is "not quite right in the England camp”.

The inability of Gough to name the reasons why England are faltering is extremely worrying. Although he has been able to name selection favouritism as one negative factor in the game at the moment, there seem to be other factors which are far less easy to define and, presumably, far less easy to solve in the near future.

Yellow cards to be used in cricket?

On November 17, 2008 by

We are all familiar with the concept of red and yellow cards in the world of football. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a football match without them, particularly when certain Premier League referees, who shall remain nameless (after all, we should all be doing our bit to help the FA’s Respect campaign!) are in charge. However, we are not at all familiar with the concept in relation to the sport of cricket.

This week, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced that it is going to consider the idea of introducing yellow cards in an effort to bring an end to bad behaviour during matches. It will meet with the MCC, which controls the rules and regulations of cricket and minor county and club level games could see yellow cards as part of a trial of the idea.

If successful at this level, the “first-class game” could see the cards used in the near future. These words were spoken by Giles Clarke, the chief of the ECB, who also revealed that “abuse has to be stopped”. Yellow cards could be given to players who abuse an umpire during a game or display excessive sledging.

Some sections of the sporting media have been sceptical about the potential introduction of yellow cards in the game. However, Giles Clarke believes that poor behaviour on the field of play can be sorted out by the scheme.

He used rugby as an example to highlight his views. In rugby, a player is removed from the pitch for a total of ten minutes (which is an eighth of the game). In a game of cricket, Clarke believes a player “could go off for twelve overs”.

The views of Clarke have been echoed by both Jack Simmons, the chairman of the ECB, and Mike Griffith, the chairman of the MCC. Dennis Amiss, an influential member of the ECB, believes that yellow cards may actually add something to the game of cricket.

When Amiss was a player, he became frustrated by the inclination of the Australian players “to sledge”. He believes that the game must be moved forward continually and, although he does not wish to see red cards in the world of cricket, he believes that yellow cards may “add to the drama of a match”.

Although there does seem to be some kind of support from the MCC for the yellow card scheme, Neil Priscott, a spokesman, has revealed that the story is not that straightforward. Rather, the MCC has been “asked to look at the scheme and offer support” but discussions have not yet officially been held, so it is still too “early to say that we do or don’t support it”.

Despite this confusion over the stance of the MCC, Charles Fry, who is an important part of the cricket committee, has stated publicly that the behaviour seen in “league cricket is absolutely awful” and regrets the fact that there are currently “no penalties” to dissuade players from behaving badly. Fry believes that anything that may potentially improve the disciplinary situation must be tried.

Yousuf makes controversial ICL move

On November 5, 2008 by

Mohammad Yousuf has made a controversial move which may threaten his future in international cricket. The Pakistan batsman has made the choice of joining the Indian Cricket League, a Twenty20 league set up last year and financed by Zee television (India’s largest media corporation).

The problem is that the Indian Cricket League has not been officially recognised by the International Cricket Council. As a result, the Pakistan Cricket Board has a policy of excluding all players who decide to take part in the league from international competition.

Despite this rule, many players from Pakistan have chosen to join the league and have suffered the consequences at international level.

Yousuf’s decision has shocked some in the world of cricket. However, the move has been on the cards for a while now. The batsman had previously made public his desire to join the league after Pakistan left him out of the squad for the World Twenty20 tournament last year.

However, the former chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Nasim Ashraf, held talks with the player and it was decided that the move should not go ahead. Yousuf was keen to remain eligible for international competition and expressed a desire to represent his country.

This latest news has therefore come as a slight surprise. The director of operations at the Pakistan Cricket Board has revealed that no action will be taken against the player until all the “facts and figures” of the move have been made clear.

However, it now seems likely that Pakistan will have to do without the batsman for the three one-dayers against the West Indies.

Kumble quits cricket after third Test

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Anil Kumble, the captain of the Indian national cricket team, has retired from international cricket at the age of 38. He made the decision after his team drew the Third Test against Australia.

The player admitted that a serious finger injury suffered during day three in Delhi had encouraged him to make the choice to retire: “the body gave me the decision and the injury helped”.

The injury was sustained whilst the player was trying to catch a tough Matthew Hayden chance and numerous stitches were required to stem the flow of blood. In a typical attempt at humour, Kumble revealed that “you could see the flesh”.

However, retirement has certainly been on the cards for Kumble for a while now. During recent months, the player, who has been plagued with several injuries throughout his career (including a severe shoulder injury), has had to put up with endless speculation in the Indian media about when exactly he would choose to quit the sport. In many ways, the injury provided him with a convenient excuse and forced him to make a quick decision about his future.

Kumble retires with 619 Test wickets to his name and he has become a true legend in the world of cricket. He is also third in the all-time list of leading wicket-takers. Only Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan have better tallies than the Indian legend.

Although the decision to retire was made quickly after his finger injury, he has admitted that it was not easy to walk away from the sport, “especially after 18 years when you have been so competitive”.

Influential figures in the world of cricket have been quick to praise Kumble. Ricky Ponting, the captain of Australia, was one of the first to comment. He believes that Kumble was “a great competitor” and will remain “one of the modern-day greats of the game”. Before ending his statement, Ponting made it clear that his thoughts were echoed by all members of the Australian team.

Mohammad Azharuddin has described the player as “remarkable” and extremely “hard-working”. The player’s current team mates showed their appreciation towards Kumble by carrying him off the field in Delhi, during which time he was able to bid an emotional farewell to his numerous fans. Kumble was keen to express his gratitude and stated that he has built some “great friendships and met some fantastic people along the way”.

It is not yet certain who will replace Kumble as captain of the national team. The impressive wicket-keeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is hot favourite since he has led the team in Test matches before in the absence of Kumble. Furthermore, he is the captain of the one-day national side.

Whoever is picked to fill the void left by Kumble, they will face a tough test in motivating the players accustomed to the influence of such a legend in the world of cricket. VVS Laxman has spoken publicly about this unique influence: “he has been a great inspiration to me and will be for generations to come”.

England thrashed in Stanford finale

On November 4, 2008 by

The England cricket team has been left feeling shocked and humiliated after losing in the finale of the Stanford Super Series. The Superstars team unexpectedly defeated England, winning by ten wickets and walking away with a prize fund of over £12 million.

Chris Gayle, the captain of the Superstars side, and Andre Fletcher were magnificent throughout the match. On the other hand, several of England’s stars played in a manner suggestive of nonchalance and over-confidence.

Kevin Pietersen was a mere shade of his usual self and, embarrassingly, he was removed from the match by Darren Sammy. Paul Collingwood, Luke Wright and Steve Harmison all suffered similar fates.

Sadly for fans of English cricket, the game was over long before the official finish and the home supporters were revelling in the unexpected success of the Superstars side for several minutes before the England players could make their escape off the pitch. At times, the Superstars seemed to be cruelly taunting the lacklustre England players.

After the match, Kevin Pietersen blamed his side’s poor performance on unwanted distractions during the build-up to the finale. He told the media that the team should not have become involved with talking about “other things besides cricket”.

He regretted the lack of focus and concentration displayed by his players and admitted his disappointment at becoming “unstuck” during the match. The build-up to the match was dominated by talk of financial matters, with players such as Alastair Cook questioning the importance of the game. However, during all this debate the thought of England actually losing to the Superstars never seemed to cross anybody’s mind.

The immediate build-up to the finale was further marred by the behaviour of Sir Allen Stanford, who was caught on camera apparently flirting with the wives and girlfriends of the England players. Matt Prior, the England wicket-keeper, had to put up with televised pictures of his wife, Emily, sitting on Stanford’s knee being broadcast around the world.

Pietersen believes that events such as this one culminated in a lack of concentration and he expressed his regret at the “nonsense” that has surrounded the England camp over recent weeks.

Andrew Strauss, the England Test batsman, echoed the captain’s comments, stating that the players were unhappy to have put on such an inadequate display. However, Strauss was keen to point out that “more important challenges” are waiting just “around the corner”.

The batsman named the tour of India and the Ashes next summer as events to focus upon and Strauss remains hopeful that the team will be able to put their “poor performance” behind them. He provided reassurance for England fans that “no-one will be more disappointed” at the moment than the players in the national squad.

The players in the Superstars side were far happier than the humiliated England players. Darren Sammy, who bowled out Pietersen as well as Owais Shah, stated that “the Stanford Twenty20 tournament is a really good thing”.

He believes that it has changed the lives of “seventeen guys here” and was overcome with emotion at how cricket has the potential to change the world.