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

On by

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.

Doubts over Sri Lankan tour of England increase

On October 28, 2008 by

Sri Lanka’s proposed tour of England scheduled for next year is coming under increasing threat of cancellation. The national cricket team had planned on visiting England to take part in two tests between the 7th and the 19th of May before competing in a three-match one-day series later that month.

The tour was arranged after the cancellation of Zimbabwe’s visit to the country. However, the tour is set to clash with the Indian Premier League, which currently contains numerous Sri Lankan cricket stars.

Players including Mahela Jayawardene, Muttiah Muralitharan, and Kumar Sangakkara, hold contracts with the Indian Premier League. The news that the tour may be affected by the IPL schedule has come as something of a surprise to the England and Wales Cricket Board.

However, the sports minister for Sri Lanka has previously stated that the players should not have to travel to England because honouring a contract with the IPL is more important. He has spoken of his desire for the national team to release the respective players and select a team with the remaining players, who are apparently “equally talented”.

However, he also conceded that the England and Wales Cricket Board stand to lose money from television rights and general income if the stars do not make an appearance.

Some sports pundits believe that the situation has been made worse by the fact that the Sri Lankan national team has been helped financially by the Board of Control for Cricket in India. This means that the players have been encouraged to honour Indian Premier League fixtures above all else.

Pietersen urges sensitivity over Stanford financial reward

On October 21, 2008 by

Kevin Pietersen, the popular England cricket captain, has urged his players to show sensitivity during the Stanford Super Series in Antigua next week. Each player in the England side is set to earn over £500,000 if they manage to overcome a Stanford Superstars side.

However, despite the excitement of this potential monetary reward, Pietersen has warned his players not to celebrate too much given the current global financial crisis, stating that he will be extremely angry if anyone behaves in an inappropriate manner.

During a press conference, the England captain revealed that he has friends who are “really struggling” at the moment as a result of lost jobs. He continued to confirm that he will give a generous percentage of any winnings to charity and spoke of his regret at the timing of the game.

Despite previous comments from Alastair Cook about the financial importance of the match, Kevin Pietersen believes that patriotism is a major motivating factor for both himself and his players.

He also revealed that the match will be fantastic practice prior to the upcoming series in India. Pietersen spoke at length about this upcoming series and, in particular, about the changes in training that will be implemented.

He believes that England coach, Peter Moores, has learnt a lot since his first winter tour and that the training schedule imposed upon the team would not be as tough as it was previously.

In another comment that completely contradicts Alastair Cook’s beliefs, Pietersen revealed that the match would be as “highly-pressured” as competing against Australia on the opening day of an Ashes Test.

In contrast, Cook refused to compare the match to the Ashes, stating that such a comparison would be nothing short of ridiculous.

Written by Charlotte Cook

Stanford game defended by Moores

On October 20, 2008 by

Peter Moores has defended the Stanford Super Series after it was criticised by England batsman, Alastair Cook. The England coach was forced into issuing a statement after Cook questioned the motive behind the series.

The batsman publicly expressed his concern that money is the sole motivation for the players competing in the Stanford Twenty20 game with each player standing to earn over £500,000 if they manage to beat a Stanford Superstars team during the match scheduled for the 1st of November.

Cook stated that “the actual cricket is quite unimportant, apart from financially”. He continued to argue that although some of the players are excited about the prospect of competing in the match, due to be played in Antigua, the significance of the game is negligible at best.

England decided to become involved in the match during its launch in June. During this launch, businessman Sir Allen Stanford, who is the brains behind the series, defended his idea, rejecting rumours that it was just a pointless gimmick.

However, Cook’s comments seem to further these suggestions and, worryingly for the organisers, appear to reflect the sentiment of all the England players.

The financial component of the series was evident during the launch in June, when Stanford revealed that each triumphant player would benefit from a £500,000 award and another £1 million would be divided between the coaches and the rest of the squad.

When asked by the media about the prize money, Cook expressed his belief that if the financial component was non-existent, the series would not matter. He ended his crushing statement by stating: “when you’re talking about the Stanford millions or the Ashes, there’s only going to be one winner”.

Peter Moores was just one official in the England set-up to be shocked by Cook’s comments. Moores has hit back by stating that “it’s an international game to be played by England. Alastair knows that and we’ll be very proud to go out there and play for England”.

The England coach acknowledged the financial component inherent in the series, saying that there was no detracting from the fact that there was "a lot of money involved”, but he insisted that national pride was the main motive behind the competition, saying, “when the lads walk out there they will be playing for the badge like they always do for England and will try to win that game to create some momentum to take to India”.

Despite his negative comments that will undoubtedly have caused some embarrassment for the England coaches, Moores has refused to publicly condemn Alastair Cook. He has in fact been keen to express his belief in Cook’s exceptional ability, saying that “every time he pulls on that shirt he gives absolutely everything for his country”.

The coach spoke of a team meeting held last week during which every player and member of the coaching staff expressed the same ambitions and targets for the upcoming matches. However, given the controversy surrounding this particular match, it will be interesting to see how Cook, and the England team as a whole, perform in November.

Written by Charlotte Cook

Duncan Fletcher set to join Hampshire

On October 6, 2008 by

He led England to Ashes glory in 2005 but has been out of the game for 18 months. Now it looks as though Duncan Fletcher is set to return to the sport at free-spending Hampshire.

An interesting move for Hampshire and I’m a bit surprised Fletcher hasn’t gone back into the international game instead of plodding around on the domestic scene.

Vaughan left out of India tour

On September 30, 2008 by

Former England captain, Michael Vaughan, has not been included in the Test squad for England’s tour of India. The England and Wales Cricket Board revealed that the disappointing form displayed by the player since he relinquished the captaincy has led to his exclusion from the squad. Geoff Miller, the national selector for the ECB, stated: “Michael’s place cannot be justified based on recent form”.

Vaughan will now take a three-month sabbatical from the international game, during which time he will apparently work on improving his game. The ECB was keen to point out that Vaughan’s exclusion from the squad is not an indicator of a long-term trend and that he would be “very much part” of their future plans.

Since relinquishing the England captaincy, the player’s form has suffered. He scored a disappointing total of 41 runs from his final four Championship innings for Yorkshire.

It was announced earlier today that whilst Vaughan has been excluded from the squad, he may decide to tour India at the same time as the England team, with the England Performance Programme squad. The national one-day squad will arrive in India in early November and will compete in several matches before the Test specialists join up with them prior to the warm-up match on the 5th of December.

The first Test match is due to be played on the 11th of December and the second is set for the 19th. The 15-man England squad includes Matt Prior, Graeme Swann, Tim Ambrose, and Owais Shah, who was chosen to fill the gap left vacant by Vaughan.

Written by Charlotte Cook

‘Hit for Six: Great Cricketing Moments’

On September 21, 2008 by

Mike Atherton, Ed Smith and Marcus Trescothick
‘Hit for Six: Great Cricketing Moments’
Venue: Cheltenham Town Hall
Thu 16 Oct, 8.45-10pm

What are the great cricketing moments which have defined the sport? Who are the players who have become sporting legends? Join The Times Chief Cricket Correspondent and former England captain Michael Atherton, Middlesex captain Ed Smith and former England batsman Marcus Trescothick, author of memoir Coming Back To Me, to discuss some of cricket’s magic moments

The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival 2008
10 – 19 October

With its signature blend of award winning writers, world-renowned thinkers and international star names The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is a hotbed of debate and discussion with a unique regency style. In this years literary line-up Man Booker Prize winners rub shoulders with the finest classically trained actors, whilst top class comedians appear alongside leading political figures. With more than 450 writers and over 350 events this promises to be an exhilarating ten day celebration of the written word.

For more information visit http://cheltenhamfestivals.com
Or call the box office on 0844 576 7979

Ticket Price Shame

On September 17, 2008 by

I need to touch on how cricket fans are starting to be fleeced, in much the same way as their footballing counterparts.

Already, we have learned that admission to the Ashes Test at Edbaston next year, will be £75 for non Warwickshire Members, a quite staggering disregard for the cricketing public. No doubt it will sell out, if only for being Australia as the opposition, but as these prices, even grounds out of London, run the risk of the champagne brigade taking over, such as Lord’s, and the magic atmosphere that is generated at grounds like Headingley and Edgbaston, disappearing for good.

Prices at Warwickshire HQ have increased some 100% over the past 5 years, a staggering amount.

The One Day scene doesn’t escape all the attention either, my father is a member of Notts, and will be asked to part with £60 for a One Day Ticket for the 2009 ODI series.

Remember, the One Dayers with Australia next year, are being played in September, and anyone remember what a sunshine filled month this year has been? Exactly, hardly fills you with confidence that an outlay of £60 (£75 for non members by the way) will get you a full days cricket in.

The sight of many a empty seat at the first three days of the Edgbaston test against South Africa, should this alarm Giles Clarke, head of the ECB, will he take any notice?, or is he too busy with the Twenty20 specs on?

I paid £27 for Headingley this year for the South African test, you can bet your bottom dollar that price is unlikely to be repeated in the coming years.