ECB waves goodbye to Vodafone

On January 23, 2009 by

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is currently bracing itself for a very difficult year after Vodafone decided to pull the plug on its sponsorship of the England cricket team. Test sponsor, Npower, and major international backer, NatWest, have also threatened to turn their back on the nation’s most prestigious sport should the economic climate remain frosty.

It is admittedly an unlikely pairing: the second-largest mobile network operator in the world and the governing body of an age-old sport, but Vodafone and the ECB have enjoyed a long and illustrious partnership over the years.

Vodafone, who also sponsors the McLaren-Mercedes Formula One team, has been an instrumental part of English cricket for almost twelve years now. The company has ploughed £16 million into the sport in the last four years alone.

The consumer director of Vodafone has stated that his company wishes to maintain its relationship with English cricket: “We are working with the ECB to develop a legacy programme at grassroots level which builds on the long-term investment we have made in the success of cricket across England and Wales."

A recent slump in annual profits has been blamed for Vodafone’s speedy departure from the sport. Recession has laid siege to much of the globe and the operator has been forced to look to redundancy as a quick-fire solution to its woes. An extensive restructuring of its marketing strategies is also on the cards.

The American billionaire, Sir Allen Stanford, has also expressed concerns about his future sponsorship of the sport after a number of PR experiments failed to produce positive results. English cricket has cost Mr. Stanford an estimated £40 million to date and the American may attempt to save face by terminating his contract with the ECB.

Pietersen keen to resolve Moores conflict

On January 6, 2009 by

The conflict between England cricket captain, Kevin Pietersen, and coach, Peter Moores, will hopefully be resolved in the near future. The pair have clashed for over a year and the England captain apparently believes that the coach has contributed towards the run of poor results experienced by the England national cricket team.

Pietersen wants the issues resolved as soon as possible, since the “situation is not healthy” and is certainly not helping the stability of the team.

The captain is keen to sort everything out before the team flies out to the West Indies. During recent months, it has certainly seemed as if the England team has been divided and Pietersen has been quick to point out his desire for everybody involved with England to have the “same aims”.

David Gower, the former England captain, has spoken out about the issue which is threatening the long-term success of the national team. Gower believes that Peter Moores could be sacked, since the views of Pietersen will take priority over those of the coach. He believes that the current England captain has a big personality and will not be happy to compromise on the issues currently affecting the team.

However, this option, seen as likely by several former cricket players and sports pundits, will surely prove detrimental to the team in the long-term. It is not a healthy situation for the captain of a sports team to have such a major influence upon the coaching set-up and Pietersen’s influence may put others off applying for the job.

India’s tour to Pakistan cancelled amid security fears

On January 5, 2009 by

The world of cricket has already been disrupted by the horrendous terrorist attacks seen in the city of Mumbai last month, with England contemplating whether or not to complete their Test series.

It has now been revealed that India’s own plans have been interfered with, as their tour of Pakistan, scheduled for early next year, has been cancelled.

This decision was taken by cricketing officials after government advice was given on the matter, with Indian government officials stating that the tour would be unwise given the current instability in the region.

A spokesman for the Indian Cricket Board revealed that “it is not feasible to tour Pakistan” after the events of the last few weeks, particularly after the government had already cancelled a junior hockey team’s tour to Pakistan.

The Indian cricket team had been planning on taking part in three Tests, a Twenty20 international, along with five one-day matches in Pakistan, starting on the fourth of January, but the decision by the government has brought an end to these plans. Instead, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has sent out an invitation to the Sri Lankan cricket team.

The PCB has been left extremely unhappy at the recent decision by Indian officials, since severe financial losses are now a likely result. They will undoubtedly lose money which would have been granted by television bosses, since their recent deal with Ten Sports, apparently worth over 140 million dollars, stipulated that no payment will be made following the cancellation of a series.

England to donate Test fees

On December 10, 2008 by

After deciding to return to India after the recent terror attacks in Mumbai, the players for the national cricket team have decided to donate fifty per cent of their match fees from the first Test against India on Thursday to charity.

The money will go towards helping the victims of the attacks and the sum is expected to be approximately thirty five thousand pounds. The England players released a long statement, which was read out by Alastair Cook, which expressed support and sympathy towards the Indian people and those affected by the terrorist attacks around the world.

Cook revealed that the players made a strong “pact” at their meeting and decided to pledge half of their match fees in a gesture of solidarity and support. Over one hundred and eighty people were killed in the attacks and some England players were understandably nervous about returning to the country earlier this week.

They were surrounded by numerous security guards upon their return and Hugh Morris, the boss of the ECB, revealed that the team has received “excellent support from the commissioner of police here in Chennai and the Board of Control for Cricket in India”.

Now that the players have arrived safely back in India, they have announced their intention to focus solely upon the upcoming matches against the national team.

This may be difficult given the recent events but each and every player is determined to do their bit to help life in India return to normal as soon as possible.

England fly back into India – will play out Test series

On December 8, 2008 by

England’s cricketers are happy and that means that the Test series in India is on. It was always going to be a difficult tour anyway as the Indian side are fresh off a beatdown to the best team in the world in Australia but the terror attacks in Mumbai seemed to put pay to the rest of the tour.

England players returned home after abandoning the final two ODI’s but promised to return for the two Test match series. The players have stuck to their world and after lots of mumbling and grumbling the full team is flying back into India to prepare for the first Test in Chennai which starts in the early hours of Thursday morning UK time.

The second Test which was scheduled for Mumbai has unsurprisingly been moved and will now to staged in Mohali. India will be heavy favourites for the two Test series but the fact that England have decided to go back has been greeted with widespread glee across the country.

As everyone who is reading this will know, Cricket in India is where it is at. Cricketers are revered as gods as it were. Going to cricket is like going to see your heroes and these guys are more famous than Bollywood stars. For England to be happy to go back into the country that has just experienced such an attack is impressive on many levels.

Going back to the cricket then I do fear for England. I am sure that in the back of some players’ mind they’ll just be wanting to get in and get out and not overly care about the result. This is something that captain Kevin Pietersen will have to be wary of but it is a very short series. It starts on Thursday and the players will be back in time to celebrate Christmas with their families.

Flintoff may join IPL

On December 1, 2008 by

England cricket star, Andrew Flintoff, has revealed his desire to join the Indian Premier League next season and has spoken of the motivating factor lying behind this desire. Flintoff believes that the England cricket team would benefit greatly from more Twenty20 experience.

His words came after England were humbled by an exciting Indian side in the one-day series last weekend. The player believes that the Indian players were able to bring the experience gained in the Indian Premier League to the “50-over game” and believes that such experience has been nothing but positive for the team.

Flintoff is keen to “have a go at it on the Indian pitches” alongside the players in the Indian team and other cricketers who compete regularly on an international stage. The performances of the England cricket team recently have shown that something certainly needs to be done and changes need to be made.

Flintoff believes that the talent is already present in the England team but the flair shown by India could be achieved as well if the players were able to play Twenty20 cricket at the top level in the Indian Premier League. The cricketer thinks that the “basics” are already there but that general confidence is sadly lacking.

Flintoff also revealed that he is not the only England player to hold such a desire. England captain, Kevin Pietersen, has also expressed an urge to join the Indian Premier League and Flintoff believes that such a move may soon become an “important development” in the life of any cricket player.

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’

On by

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.