Recent Comments

January 2009
« Dec   Feb »

The TWC summit: First Test selection

January 28th, 2009 by Sam Collins in England, Test cricket

Andrew Strauss’s cab finally leaves the rank next Wednesday, as England take on the West Indies in the first Test at Kingston. With KP seeming to have settled happily back into the masses, Strauss has other issues to deal with as he selects his first England team with the guidance of assistant-coach Andy Flower.

So should Strauss continue Pietersen’s hard-line stance against an apparently out-of-shape Steve Harmison, or rely on Harmison’s reputation to terrify a fragile West Indies top-order?

Which two will live happily-ever-after in the Ian Bell-Paul Collingwood-Owais Shah love triangle? And Monty or Graeme? Does it even matter?

It’s taut and tense stuff in this week’s TWC summit …

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in England, Test cricket | 4 Comments »

RM-J: A change can do you good

January 28th, 2009 by Robin Martin-Jenkins in County cricket, England and tagged , , ,

England’s cricketers won’t be the only ones adapting to life under a new regime over the next few months. Surrey’s players will return from their winter to face an array of new coaches and no fewer than 5 other counties have undergone what, in management speak, might be termed ‘high-end structural realignment’.

Sussex lost it’s head coach four years ago (his name was Peter Moores - you might remember him) and everyone associated with the club worried the results would suffer as players adapted to the new ideas and style of the replacement. In our case however, Moores was substituted by the then second team coach, Mark Robinson.

Being familiar with the structure that Moores had set up so successfully, Robinson was intelligent enough not to alter too much. Instead, subtle changes were made. We were given more autonomy during training sessions. Team meetings were shorter, sharper but more frequent. Practice sessions were more relevant to the upcoming match (if we were to face Steve Harmison, for example, everyone would have to face the bowling machine cranked up to 90 mph and aimed at our throats).

The fundamentals, however, stayed the same. We were reminded of the code of conduct, pride and passion required to represent our county. The bowlers were to concentrate on the basics of line and length with a bit of aggression thrown into the mix. The batsmen should continue to concentrate on watching the ball and nothing else. And, perhaps most crucially, we were to wrap cotton wool around our match-winner, Mushtaq Ahmed. All these things had helped the team win the championship in 2003 and it would have been a foolish man who altered the status quo just for the sake of it.

The strategy bore fruit immediately. Sussex won the championship in 2006 and 2007, Robinson’s first two seasons, and added the C&G and Pro40 Trophies in 2006 and 2008.

Sussex’s change in coach was forced on them somewhat by Moores’s elevation to the England ranks. Most of the changes to the county set-ups in 2009, however, have occurred as a result of disappointing team performances and the new coaches might have to be somewhat less subtle in their modifications.

How Chris Adams copes with the multi-egoed Surrey team will be interesting to follow. Surrey have a number of very talented cricketers on their books who have underperformed considerably over the past few years (Mark Ramprakash aside) and, being an uncompromising leader, Adams will want to rock the boat a little. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a marked upturn in their performances early next season. When football teams change manager it often spurs the players on as they try to impress the new Gaffer. But the Surrey players need to fully embrace any changes Adams makes and whether they do will be key to their future success.

The role of the head coach and his minions during a long county season should not be underestimated. Some people might be of the opinion that county cricket is a comfortable world full of cosseted, precious egos but, for the most part that is unfair. It is hard graft much of the time and all players need the security that strong, stable leadership can deliver.

Stable is not a word I’d use to describe England’s leadership of recent times and it will be intriguing to see how they cope in the West Indies. Andrew Strauss might think he can organise training sessions, team meetings and on-field tactics without a head coach to share the burden but it will this extra responsibility affect his form? If he can maintain his form, or perhaps more importantly his confidence, his players will respond positively. If there is any sense amongst the ranks that the captain is not in total control of the situation the whispers and dreaded ‘cliques’ that clearly destabilised the team will quickly reappear.

Robin Martin-Jenkins is an allrounder with Sussex

Posted in County cricket, England | 1 Comment »

Lawrence Booth: Professional Pietersen’s honesty is the best policy

January 28th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in England and tagged , , ,

Sooner or later certain England fans are going to have to admit that their suspicion of Kevin Pietersen says more about them than it does about him. For some, his decision to leave South Africa will always be a copybook blot, proof of both his mercenary nature and his uncanny ability to find the ‘I’ in team. But it is time to move on from a decision he made as an ambitious, headstrong young man. And it is certainly time to give the old stereotypes about egocentricity a rest.

Pietersen’s hundred in St Kitts in his first innings for an England XI since resigning the captaincy was a typically well-timed retort for those who thought he would struggle to settle back into the rank and file. Just as tellingly, early reports suggest he has declined to snip the end off team-mates’ socks, turned his nose up at nailing their cricket bags to the dressing-room floor, and drawn the line at blowing raspberries during Andrew Strauss’s team talks.

Whisper it, but he has been extremely professional. Since one of his first acts after losing the job was to talk on the phone to a trusted confidant about how to refocus on his batting under what he knew would be a blinding spotlight, this really shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. The man has never given himself less than the best chance of succeeding.

Sure, there was a momentary lapse when, referring to the new coaching structure after he made his hundred on Sunday, he mentioned that Strauss had got “what I wanted”. And he took the opportunity to defend himself in his first press conference since his News of the World interview, as he was entitled to. But when the Book of Great Cricket Gaffes is finally put together, the “what I wanted” utterance will be well down the list.

So what? you might think. Bloke keeps mouth relatively shut: the rosette is in the post. But by the standards of modern cricket diplomacy – and taking into account Pietersen’s occasional tendency towards gaucheness – this is a restrained effort. To cite an extreme example, Shane Warne spent years mocking John Buchanan in public and getting away with it. He also derided Adam Gilchrist in his 2001 autobiography, saying that leadership suited the Fonz-types better than Gilchrist’s Richie Cunningham. But Warne survived because he was a one-off.

As the closest thing England have to a one-off, Pietersen could easily take the same attitude. Instead, he has got his head down. This doesn’t mean he will stop giving honest answers to straightforward questions, but that has always been his way. In early 2004, before he had played for England, I interviewed him on an A tour of India, and came away impressed by his frankness. He said he felt some of his colleagues were trying too hard to catch the coach Rod Marsh’s eye; he admitted he sometimes didn’t treat bowlers with enough respect; and, moments after telling me he couldn’t talk about his then delicate situation with Nottinghamshire, he explained why it was “most definitely a distraction”.

The hidebound world of professional sport is healthier for shows of honesty. Especially when it is espoused by a player who sets himself such high standards – and more often than not meets them.

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 | 1 Comment »

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