Recent Comments

October 2008
« Sep   Nov »

Player diary: Steve Harmison is in Antigua

October 31st, 2008 by Alan Tyers in Alan Tyers, England, International, Miscellaneous, Stanford Twenty20

Hello diary, it’s me, Steve.

It’s like our mam used to say when we were kids: be careful what you wish for. It was true when I said I wished I could fly and Mad Uncle Togga threw us off the church hall roof, and it’s true now.

I had my reservations about two weeks in the Caribbean – what would the tea and coffee-making facilities be like, would they have Lovejoy on the telly, would Fred try and make us drink Linseed martinis with a sparkler in – and it gives me no pleasure to say I have been proved right about the place.

Sure, all of us want to be a millionaire but not at all costs. We make sacrifices, I accept that: for instance, I’m willing to play cricket. And if absolutely necessary, abroad. But seeing your lass used as a plaything for a billionaire?

Maybe that’s how they go on in Texas. Apparently they shoot turkeys there, for fun. Can you imagine, being a little turkey, all peaceful like and eating your corn or rice or whatever it is they eat and then suddenly Sir Allen Stanford creeps up, shoots you in the face, bounces you up and down on his lap and then shoots you in the face again? No thanks. Not for me. Not even for two million.

Sir Stanford was well out of order with them girls. Matt Prior’s lass was very upset: she told us that there’s only one bloke she wants to bounce her on his lap and that’s her Matt, and if he drops her, well so be it, the lad’s a 110 per center and everyone drops things occasionally and it’s how you react that matters.

Then when all the lads got sick off the foreign food that was the final straw for me. I’m not one to say I told you so, but that’s the abroad hat-trick, isn’t it? Having to play cricket, them natives trying to have their way with your womenfolk and you’re stuck in the toilet praying for death.

That’s not to say the money wouldn’t be welcome. But in future, maybe we could hold the event round my way in Ashington. We’ll get a local sponsor no problem: what’s Sir Stanford got that Northern Rock haven’t? And we’ll have the game on the local rec.

Alright, maybe we won’t get a million each, but at least nobody will get ill on mam’s cooking and I personally guarantee nobody will get bounced on a lap nor shot in the face neither, providing Uncle Togga’s kept well tethered up in the yard.

Alan Tyers found Harmy’s diary by Allen Stanford’s swimming pool

Posted in Alan Tyers, England, International, Miscellaneous, Stanford Twenty20 | 3 Comments »

Miles Jupp: Stanford or Somerset? I know my choice …

October 30th, 2008 by Miles Jupp in County cricket, Miscellaneous, Stanford Twenty20 and tagged , , , ,

Allen Stanford could only have generated more column inches in the British press this week if he’d started branching out into prank calls. We now know Gordon Brown’s important thoughts about Brand and Ross but can only speculate on his feelings regarding the inaugural 20/20 for 20. But he’d just jump on the general consensus bandwagon again and voice reservations about Saturday’s high-stakes contest.

Stanford has been attracting the snobbery that the English reserve for those with newly acquired wealth and his taste has been questioned over his slapstick canoodling with England’s WAGs, which has resulted in more fuss than is strictly necessary. Someone even had a go at Emily Prior for sitting on a man’s lap in her pregnant state – as if it was that sort of careless behaviour that got her that way in the first place.

While the Stanford tournament has been gathering pace, I have been working in the company of distinctly non-cricketing people, savages who accuse us of speaking in code. I find these laboured anti-cricket diatribes irritating and their orators, usually unaware of their lack of originality, hard to silence. One cricket-mad friend interrupts these ranters saying “cricket is a very important part of my life actually” and then looking hurt, which embarrasses people into feeling as if they’ve criticised someone’s belief system.

Last week I was in Taunton with a spare afternoon and even though it was raining I felt a visit to the county ground a better way of passing time than a self-destructive visit to a Wetherspoons.

Although the museum was closed, the shop was open and selling at recession-proof prices. And October is clearly the best time of year to buy a new bat, although I’m not in the market for one – mine is three years old and has only suffered 40 runs worth of damage, most of them during a blistering innings of 28 by a team-mate.

I asked about a copy of Trescothick’s autobiography but was told there were none left. They could order one in for me, they said, which sounded a little old fashioned. Perhaps I’m better off without it if it’s as gloomy as Graham Thorpe’s – generally considered by academics to be the most depressing piece of non-Russian literature ever written.

Out in the middle of the square there stood a scare crow. Apparently sea gulls have caused ten grand’s worth of damage. I wonder what Stanford would do if birds threatened his beloved fixture – I reckon he’d sit on the steps of the pavilion and shoot them himself.

I assumed that you had to be important to visit the Centre Of Excellence, but decided to risk it anyway. As soon as I stepped through the door an efficient looking man appeared in my path. “Can I help?” he asked. “Erm, I just sort of wanted to have a bit of a look around really,” I replied, expecting to be bundled from the premises. “Sure,” he said, “no problem. There’s a viewing gallery upstairs, you know.” “You mean that? It’s actually OK just to wander about the place”. And it really was. I didn’t even need a CRB check. I strolled about looking at photos and reading motivational messages posted up everywhere. And upstairs, in the viewing gallery, not only were there armchairs but also a coffee machine and a huge pile of old Wisden Cricketers that saw me through the rest of the afternoon. You don’t get that in Wetherspoons.

All of this seemed a world away from the shenanigans in the West Indies. Nothing I’ve seen or read about the games makes me want to be there but my visit on this damp day to Taunton made me desperate to return to watch a game in summer. Taunton in the rain was still a joyful experience. I suspect that in similar conditions the Antigua SCG could only be a disappointment.

Miles Jupp is an actor, comedian and cricket fan

Posted in County cricket, Miscellaneous, Stanford Twenty20 | No Comments »

The TWC Summit - Do you care who wins the Stanford Twenty20?

October 29th, 2008 by Sam Collins in Stanford Twenty20, Twenty20 and tagged , , , , ,

The Stanford Super Series has become the farce that Lawrence Booth feared in this very ether two weeks ago. Slow pitches, low scores and lower crowds have remarkably been overshadowed by the vulgarity of Stanford himself, and we haven’t even had the main event. So as the $20 million match approaches we pose the crucial question: Do you care who wins the Stanford Twenty20?

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Stanford Twenty20, Twenty20 | 6 Comments »

Lawrence Booth: Boring cricket puts focus on Stanford’s indecent proposal

October 29th, 2008 by Lawrence Booth in England, Stanford Twenty20, Twenty20, Uncategorized and tagged , , , ,

You can tell the cricket’s boring in Antigua: tongues are wagging about the Wags. Given Sir Allen Stanford’s penchant for self-publicity, could it be that he decided to distract attention from the worrying absence of hit-and-giggle on the field with a spot of slap-and-tickle off it? Maybe not, but the very essence of the Super Series encourages cynicism and it’s hard to escape its pull.

Emily Prior may know the feeling. The instant reaction at Wisden Towers when pictures of the England wicketkeeper’s wife bouncing on Sir Allen’s knee flashed across the screen was “Indecent Proposal”, the film where the old rich bloke played by Robert Redford offers the husband of the nubile young woman played by Demi Moore $1m to sleep with her. OK, so the analogy lacks some crucial details but the essentially mercenary nature of everything that is happening in Antigua did not make the comparison as far-fetched as it seems.

No one emerges from – oh, go on then – Wag-gate with much credit. The England players seem to have over-reacted to what may have been nothing more than a gauche piece of bonhomie from a man who doesn’t do subtle. The wives and girlfriends in question could have exerted their status as equal members of the human race and refused to be patronised. And Stanford really should have shown better judgement, regardless of whether ownership of a cricket ground and vast chunks of a Caribbean idyll might do funny things to a bloke’s sense of self-entitlement.

But, oh, the money! This is why Wag-gate palls. Kevin Pietersen claims his team are only in Antigua because they are employed by the ECB, who want them there. (Look out for more orders being followed without demur when Peter Moores cautions against too much time at next year’s Indian Premier League.) But their pact with Stanford automatically surrenders the moral high ground. It’s no good bleating about flashy behaviour now.

In that respect, the Wags may be less innocent than they seem. Flirting with the spouse’s boss is a tactic rather older than reverse-swing and twice as effective. But the episode arguably enters the realms of the seedy if the ladies felt they had no choice but to flirt with a figure who could boost their husbands’ bank balances beyond recognition. And this is where Wag-gate transcends tabloid tittle-tattle and becomes a metaphor for the entire week.

If Stanford was overplaying his hand because of who he is, and if Emily and Co felt obliged to smile along for the cameras just in case, then Wag-gate counts as a contrivance that fits all too snugly into Stanford’s tasteless world of helicopter landings, Perspex crates, cricket grounds whose superficial beauty is not matched by the conditions and proud former West Indian players paid off as brand ambassadors yet looking as if they would be rather be anywhere else.

Like everything else in the Super Series, what some may dismiss as a bit of fun may turn out to be far more than that.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for the Guardian. His third book, Cricket, Lovely Cricket? An Addict’s Guide to the World’s Most Exasperating Game is out now published by Yellow Jersey

Posted in England, Stanford Twenty20, Twenty20, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Edward Craig: Allen Stanford has messed up his pitch

October 28th, 2008 by Edward Craig in Stanford Twenty20 and tagged , , ,

Of all the things that could have made this Stanford Series look silly, it shouldn’t have been one of the most controllable: he’s really messed up the wicket. Actually, Stanford’s personal circus shows the real problem facing cricket; not a proliferation of Twenty20 or gluttonous volumes of cash during a global recession – but slow pitches.

This unglamorous, mundane, tricky to resolve factor is what will endanger cricket more than any perfectly moustachioed banking baron with an English WAG bouncing around on his knee.

Believe it or not, people like to see things happen. Lots of sixes, lots of wickets, lots of action. Some scores in the Stanford Series so far: 121 for 4; 109 for 4; 122 for 5. What!? This is the all-out, aggressive, exciting, bring-new-people-into-the-game format that should be wowing the entire US. Instead, nothing’s happened. Nothing to see here, keep calm – America – and carry on.

And it is all because of the pitch. Bowlers can’t get any pace and bounce out of it, so you can’t get any wickets but then it is tricky to score runs, especially with that outfield.

There is only one thing needed to make any match entertaining – pace in the wicket. This gives quick bowlers something to work with, batsman a chance to play shots without fear, spinners bounce and, if it turns, quick turn. Things happen. This is true for any format.

Slow pitches in Tests may make for an exciting final session on the fifth day but it’s agony getting there. Look at Australia and India’s recent battles – great Tests at Sydney, Perth and Mohali (pace in the pitch) – rubbish matches at Adelaide and Bangalore (slow turds).

In golf, there is a measure for how quick greens are running – it is called a Stimp metre. The Stimp metre should be introduced to cricket and any groundsman who produces a pitch that falls below 10 on the Stimp (quick) should be fined and shot.

Pitches rely on the weather, I know, but if Old Trafford can consistently be the quickest and best wicket in England, while consistently being the wettest and coldest place in England, then Antigua, Bangalore, Adelaide, Lord’s, Hamilton could and should produce more pace.

Then Allen Stanford’s great investment may actually pay off.

Edward Craig is deputy editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in Stanford Twenty20 | 13 Comments »

Jrod: Stanford series – Curtly cool amid Stanford vanity project

October 27th, 2008 by JRod in England, Stanford Twenty20, Twenty20 and tagged , , , , ,

We are two games into the Stanford vanity project. What have we learnt?

Sky commentators are good at sucking up no matter who is paying the bills.

Rolling a wicket for 40 hours straight doesn’t help as much as you’d think.

First-class teams fire up when they have to play their internationals.

Neil Carter is not good enough to hit real bowlers.

Stanford sees himself as a politician of some kind.

If you dress umpires like Ron Jeremy people will laugh at them.

White balls drop quicker from the sky according to the fielding coach for the Superstars.

Mike Haysman is a great interviewer – in depth, subtle, and gets the best out of people.

Dress Twenty20 cricket up however you like it, without sixes or last-over finishes and you might as well be watching ‘Battlefield Earth’.

Curtly Ambrose has the coolest hairstyle ever, a dreadlocked mo hawk.

Black bats aren’t cool, look stupid with white marks on them and don’t seem to have any place in the universe.

No one can see a damn thing in the outfield, so catches are a 50/50 proposition.

Stanford has shaken the hand of every person in the crowd, kissed a few babies and a WAG or two.

Two English sides playing Twenty20 against each other can put a West Indian crowd to sleep.

Money can buy you love but it can’t buy you a pitch that people can make runs on.

Everyone seems to see these wickets as spin friendly – except KP.

That we will watch anything resembling cricket.

Not even Bumble can make this exciting but he is trying.

What haven’t we learnt? To turn off the telly when the games get boring.

Jrod is an Australian cricket blogger, his site won July’s Best of Blogs in TWC

Posted in England, Stanford Twenty20, Twenty20 | 4 Comments »

Player diary: Belly In Crisis

October 24th, 2008 by Alan Tyers in Alan Tyers, England, Stanford Twenty20 and tagged , , ,

In the first of a new series of exclusive extracts from England players’ diaries, Alan Tyers takes a peak into the crazy world of Ian Bell.

I was well pleased when they asked me to do this diary which is like an old fashioned word for what you put on your Facebook Wall but you can text it in and don’t even have to speak to the riter on the phone.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I will have many cool bits of insider information or titbits about the England team as none of them are speaking to me. I am in disgrace even worse than Fred was after Mr Fletcher caught him drinking Malibu with Snapey in the Team Psychiatrist And Motivationator Specialist’s Office when he should of been out on the park sticking it up Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s nose with the second new ball.

It was the root of evil that done it. Not Shane Warne, I mean. Money though. All the boys have been well excited about the Stanford match although obviously we are looking upon it as just a chance to gain experience in this new format of the game and represent our country to the best of our ability. (Note to editur – Hi editur. Is this the sort of thing you wanted right because you said put some jokes in if possible?????)

So what happened is I already spent some of the money – on a really good new haircut with extra gel and also on two new games for the Nintendo Wii – even though we haven’t won the money yet. KP got really mad with me, I never seen him so furious. Even more angry than when Jonny Wilkinson was voted ‘Most Marketable Non-Football Sportsman’ in that magazine article.

KP said I should never of spent the money if I didn’t have it and it was exactly this sort of irresponsibility and overconfidence that got us into the Credit Crisis in the first place. He storms out and I’m thinking: alright so I dropped my wallet on Broad Street in Birmingham a few weeks ago and I had to cancel my cards and everything and it was a right pain and that but I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a crisis as such. And how does he even know about Broad Street?

I was just sat there trying to work that out when he comes back in and he says that he’s been talking to Straussy because Straussy knows these posh lads that work in a bank, or at least they used to apparently. My Aunt Vicky used to work in a bank, sometimes we would go and see her on the way home from school. Or university. I wouldn’t mind working in a bank: smart uniform, plus sitting behind that glass screen, you could pretend you were on telly. Or a fish. I like fish.

Anyway Straussy says he has worked out this plan that he’s going to hold all the younger players’ money in a trust fund until we are old enough to spend it ourselves sensibly.

I says I don’t care what they do with it as long as they don’t repossesses my Nintendo Wii or try and take my hair. We better win this game now.

The pathological England Team diary stealer is Alan Tyers

Posted in Alan Tyers, England, Stanford Twenty20 | 1 Comment »

Jrod: Sachin Tendulkar – why the fuss?

October 24th, 2008 by JRod in Australia in India, Test cricket and tagged , , ,

Is Tendulkar the most overrated batsmen since Bradman?

I know what you are thinking, fair point Jrod, glad someone finally said it.

Scoring the most runs in Test history is impressive but it means you stuck around for a long time and could bat, I mean Boycott did it, so it can’t be that special.

It’s not that I don’t like Tendulkar – it’s just that, since the new millennium he has just been pretty good. Not great.

Definitely not God-like.

He was great in the 90s, oh how great he was, but in this millennium he was weighed down with the expectations of a nation, middle age, celebrity and chunky bats.

Statistically there is very little difference, from 89 to 99 he averaged 56, and from 2000 to now he averages 52.

But this isn’t about averages.

Watching Sachin in the 90s was like heaven – sticky sticky heaven.

In 1998 when he took Australia apart, he was like Genghis Khan, pure brutal elegance.

In 2004 he made a double hundred against Australia in which he put his cover drive away because it wasn’t working. It was like watching a dentist pull teeth, except without the cool teeth hitting-the-floor moments or lots of blood.

Every now and then old Sachin comes out, and it is glorious, but then the new one takes over and asks if you have any deductibles.

So does someone who is great in one millennium and pretty good in another deserve all the acclaim? Probably not, but if he doesn’t get it, people will have to acclaim Jacques Kallis.

As for Bradman, the Michael Hussey of his day, we all know that had he played in the 1940s more, his average would have dropped to 45.

Can you imagine watching Bradman, hitting the ball on the ground, playing it safe, and always making runs?


Jrod is an Australian cricket blogger, his site won July’s Best of Blogs in TWC

Posted in Australia in India, Test cricket | 19 Comments »

Miles Jupp: Unassuming Shaggy takes the leading role

October 23rd, 2008 by Miles Jupp in Stanford Twenty20 and tagged , , , , ,

Back in September 2005, as the whole country basked in Ashes glory, Shaun Udal was a 36-year-old offspinner reflecting on a decent county career and a handful of one-day internationals a decade earlier. Two months later he was making his Test debut in Multan and spinning England to victory in Mumbai. Since then he has been discarded by his country, retired from his county and then signed a two-year deal with Middlesex. Next week he captains them in the Stanford Super Series.

Udal is not a typical sporting hero – he’s more like a quiet, unassuming anti-hero in a Coen brothers’ film – but recently I have found myself desperately willing him to succeed. Back in the 1990s his lank, messy hair earned him the nickname “Shaggy”. He could not have known then that the nickname would outlast the hair, nor could he have guessed the odd path his career would follow – jamming in loads right at the end like a student mugging up before exams, or a late religious conversion before the final reckoning.

There’s something about offspinners that inspires affection. Perhaps the apparent straightforwardness of their craft that makes us think that they’re uncomplicated fellows. Offspinners seem somehow gentler than their wrist-bowling colleagues and it would be nice to think that they all possess the same playful chuckle as Vic Marks.

Two years ago I went to India to watch England’s series there and after the Nagpur Test we shared a plane to Delhi with the teams. Shaun Udal was sitting across the aisle from me, a couple of rows in front looking somewhat detached from proceedings. Monty had just made his successful debut and Ian Blackwell had been picked as the second spinner. And while the younger, hair-gel-using players ate sweets and read Loaded, he sat quietly with his glasses on, reading a broadsheet like a man biding his time.

In Mumbai he was a joy. I watched that match in a crowd surrounded by Indian fans in the spicy atmosphere of the Wankhede stadium. When he came on to bowl on the fifth day an Indian group in front of me started chuckling as they ran through the names of English offspinners over the years who they felt merited derision. “And now this man”, said one of them, “who is 37 and at the start of this game had a bowling average of 92.”

9.2 overs of offspin later England had won, Udal had taken four wickets and his Test bowling average now stood at 43. I remember the moment of England’s victory clearly: Munaf Patel swung a Udal delivery down to fine leg where Hoggard took a good catch above his head. As soon as he saw that it had been pouched, Udal took off in a celebratory sprint, wildly pumping a clenched fist above his head. For some reason, though, he set off in the direction of extra cover and it was only after some distance that he looked back and realised the rest of the team weren’t following him but had all converged on (captain) Flintoff at midwicket. He smiled to himself and ran to join them – he may have had a star turn but he was still just a guest at Flintoff’s party.

Perhaps in Antigua he will get a chance to lead the celebrations.

Miles Jupp is a comedian, actor and cricket fan

Posted in Stanford Twenty20 | No Comments »

Lawrence Booth: Ponting under pressure again as doubts mount

October 22nd, 2008 by Lawrence Booth in Australia in India, Test cricket and tagged , , , , ,

The thinking sports fan will always be stimulated by the thought of the end of an era. That moment – delicious for the usurper, devastating for the usurpee – is what, after all, defines top-level sport. And it is why there has been such a frisson surrounding the apparent decline and fall of Australia’s cricketers. I’ll keep my powder dry on this one for the time being (Australia have been written off before, most notably three years ago, and who in any case is the team to replace them?). But there is good reason to shoot from the hip on another matter. Stick ‘em up, Ricky Ponting.

Before Australia lost to India at Mohali by 320 runs, Ponting had suffered only four defeats in 46 games as captain: two against England in 2005, and two against India, neither of them when the series could be lost. It was a record for the ages and Ponting must be very grateful to have had three players – Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist – who would grace an all-time World XI. Well, they’re gone now, and Ponting’s leadership skills are being dissected with a microscope and a small scalpel as a result. Events at Mohali suggested he has some serious work to do.

First, a brief trip down memory lane. The last time Ponting was under sustained pressure as a captain was during the 2005 Ashes. One senior player on that trip recently confided that the mood on tour was a weird one: from the moment Geraint Jones caught Mike Kasprowicz at Edgbaston, said the player, the Australians seemed resigned to defeat. If this is true, it is hardly a ringing endorsement of Ponting’s ability to inspire, just as his tirade at Duncan Fletcher at Trent Bridge spoke volumes for his default position under stress.

If this sounds like the retrospective gloating of an English hack, then you only had to read the Australian media’s treatment of Ponting’s run-in with Brett Lee at Mohali to realise that there are genuine concerns over his man-management skills. For Jason Gillespie at Old Trafford (19 overs out of 113.2 overs in England’s first innings, four out of 61.5 in the second), read Lee at Mohali on the fourth morning, when he was ignored completely.

It would be utterly fanciful to suggest that Lee’s career will speed downhill as quickly as Gillespie’s did, but Ponting’s handling of a player who will be crucial to their chances of retaining the Ashes in 2009 was unsubtle at best and downright insulting at worst.

His lack of faith in Cameron White’s legspin was instructive too. White bowled 27 overs in the match out of 194 and in India’s second innings bowled as many (eight) as Mike Hussey, who was duly warned twice for running on the pitch. If Warne’s mentor Terry Jenner has been crying out until he’s blue in the face for more sympathetic treatment of the back-of-the-hand brethren, then Ponting may not have heard him.

A captain is only as good as the bowlers at his disposal, which is a truth Ponting may only just be discovering. But a good captain will also make the most of his resources and by gifting India’s openers singles all round the ground on the third evening – a policy that allowed Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir to put on 100 in 23 overs before stumps – Ponting got it badly wrong. With two days to go and facing a deficit of 201 before that innings even started, he was never going to be able to defend his way out of trouble.

There are two Tests in this series to go, which means Ponting could yet be celebrating a famous victory come November 10. But his struggles should at least cast those of England in Australia two years ago in a less critical light. Back then Fletcher was derided for pointing out that England were missing several key players. How would Australia cope without Warne and McGrath, he wondered. Unlikely though it seems after that Trent Bridge spat, but Ponting may now appreciate where he was coming from.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for the Guardian. His third book, Cricket, Lovely Cricket? An Addict’s Guide to the World’s Most Exasperating Game is out now published by Yellow Jersey

Posted in Australia in India, Test cricket | 7 Comments »

« Previous Entries

Site by Anson Robson Marketing © 2010 The Wisden Cricketer All Rights Reserved