Recent Comments

January 2009
« Dec   Feb »

Battle of the Bloggers: Hayden was overrated – Discuss

January 14th, 2009 by Sam Collins in Test cricket


King Cricket
Roastbif blogger, and head of the anti-Hayden court

Matthew Hayden was not a bad batsman. What we take issue with is the assertion that he’s one of the greats of the game.

Many people have paid tribute to Hayden in recent days and those who’ve branded him an all-time great have pointed to his average, but that statistic obscures as much as it reveals. The fact that his average is over 50 blinds people to the context.

Matthew Hayden played his career in an era where pitches were flat, Australia were dominant and fast bowlers non-existent. What Hayden did was devise a batting method whereby he could exploit these factors – and for that he deserves great credit.

But Hayden was a child of his times. As Wasim and Waqar, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Allan Donald departed the scene, so Hayden rose. On predictable pitches made to last five days and against fast-medium opening bowlers, Hayden stood a yard out of his crease and drove.

It was a brilliantly simple tactic in a world where pitches and the fixture list discouraged fast bowling. The lbw was virtually removed from the equation and back-foot play was at best an afterthought. In another era he’d have lost his teeth.

You can add to this the fact that Hayden’s wicket was never crucial. Ponting was next in and Gilchrist batted as low as seven. Even if Australia only got 200, they could still fancy their chances with McGrath and Warne in their attack.

Ruthless exploitation of weaknesses in opponents is unquestionably a strength. Hayden made sure that he profited from these weaknesses more than anyone. However, that also means that his record is, to a great degree, built on others’ failings.


Feisty convict, blogger and Haydos admirer

What would Christ do?

That is what Matthew Hayden, the very epitome of thuggery with a bat, often asked himself.

The answer was make 30 Test hundreds, average over 50, and annoy as many people in the cricket world as possible.

I have never met this Christ fellow, but maybe that’s what he told Hayden to do.

“I need you to sacrifice your good name for the good of mankind. Smite the South Africans, they brought us Apartheid. Reign down destruction on Zimbabwe, they kill farmers. Punish the English as they gave us Peter Andre, again, and heaps of other dodgy stuff. Give the West Indians some serious wrath for that ‘hot, hot, hot’ song. Admonish the Indians for Lalit Modi. Thou shalt follow my words to the letter, strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger.”

You don’t know that didn’t happen.

Look at the teams he went easy on – Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and Bangladesh – nice places, with people who have done little to annoy the rest of us.

Perhaps the reason pitches were flatter, and the bowlers were more benign when Hayden played was because Jesus made it so. He sent forth his Christian warrior on a mission, and that warrior obeyed with maximum brimstone and fire.

We will never know if Hayden would have prospered in any other generation, all we know is he did in this one, and Jesus seemed to have something to do with it.

Posted in Test cricket | 41 Comments »

Sledger: Surrey future in good hands

January 14th, 2009 by Sledger in County cricket, England, Miscellaneous and tagged , ,

As TWC struggled through our 2009 equipment review (free with the March issue) on a cold January morning, 233 caps-worth of recent-Test experience were practising in The Oval nets to inspire us.

Alex Tudor bowled with promising fire to Mark Ramprakash – noticeably generous with advice after the session – while captain Mark Butcher and Graham Thorpe patiently loaded bowling machines and dispensed advice to James Benning and other younger members of the Surrey staff. Throw in the watching Geoff Arnold (34 Test caps between 1967 and 1975, 115 wickets at 28), and it is difficult to imagine a staff with better credentials.

Surrey may have sunk last season, but if they can continue to channel coaching resources like this then the future should prove a great deal brighter.

Sledger is TWC’s voice on the inside

Posted in County cricket, England, Miscellaneous | 1 Comment »

Lawrence Booth: How very English of the ECB

January 14th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in England

There is rarely anything straightforward or direct or transparent about English social interaction. We seem to be congenitally incapable of being frank, clear or assertive. We are always oblique, always playing some complex, convoluted game.

I’d love to claim that opening paragraph as my own, but I can’t. The words were written by the anthropologist Kate Fox in her fascinating work Watching the English, published in 2004 but strangely appropriate as we try to make sense of the departure of Kevin Pietersen. My guess is Pietersen has never so much as browsed the book. But if he ever fancies another crack at leading England he could do worse than make it second on his reading list behind Mike Brearley’s The Art of Captaincy.

In the eyes of the England and Wales Cricket Board, Pietersen committed a couple of tangible crimes: he did not have the full support of the dressing-room (the attempts by certain players in recent days to claim otherwise have exposed another of Fox’s defining English characteristics – hypocrisy); and he was seen to make excessive demands regarding the identity of the coach (according to Dennis Amiss, the vice-chairman of the ECB, this made his position untenable, but for some reason only once it became public: Fox points out that the English like to avoid embarrassment at all costs).

But there was another, tacit crime: Pietersen did not understand the Hidden Rules of English Behaviour – the sub-title of Fox’s work. He was not, in short, English. When people point out that Pietersen’s appointment in August was an accident waiting to happen, they may have been right – but almost certainly for the wrong reasons. After all, other captains have presided over divided dressing rooms: big egos are a fact of life in international sport. No, Pietersen’s unspoken crime was the un-English one of throwing his weight around without due deference to qualities to such as self-deprecation, humour and not taking the whole thing so damn seriously. His directness proved unsettling.

Look at the way the ECB handled his departure. The fact that Pietersen was in holiday in South Africa at the time of his sacking/resignation has provoked criticism, but the truth is his absence suited the ECB perfectly: the English, says Fox, dislike confrontation. And so Pietersen, according to the man himself, was dumped by a quick phonecall from Hugh Morris, itself confirmed by an even quicker email. Pietersen’s reaction (“Excuse me?!”) recalls Fox’s “American visitor” who wonders why the English can’t be “a bit more direct, you know, a bit more upfront”.

Hilariously, the ECB accepted a resignation Pietersen did not believe he had made because it suited them better than having to explain – beastly business! – the rather awkward ins and outs of the situation. In his News of the World interview on Sunday, Pietersen claimed he had yet to be told exactly why he had been sacked. Sounds about right.

There is one more piece of what Fox calls the “grammar” of English behaviour that could be relevant here. The flip-side of our failure to be “direct and upfront” is a tendency to go over the top when we feel a point has to be made (road rage, for Fox, is the classic excessive response of the previously buttoned-up Englishman). The ECB failed to address the simmering discontent between Pietersen and Peter Moores quickly enough, then over-reacted completely when Pietersen’s disquiet became public.

Andrew Strauss will be more canny about keeping his thoughts to himself, because he instinctively understands the truth behind Fox’s lament: “Every social situation is fraught with ambiguity, knee-deep in complication, hidden meanings, veiled power-struggles, passive-aggression and paranoid confusion. We seem perversely determined to make everything as difficult as possible for ourselves.” In particular, she might have added, for our cricket captains.
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 | 6 Comments »

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