Recent Comments

January 2009
« Dec   Feb »

My Favourite Cricketer: Neil Fairbrother

January 23rd, 2009 by TWC in Miscellaneous, My favourite cricketer

Mark Shuttleworth is the first winner of our My Favourite Cricketer competition for his entry on Neil Fairbother

Cricket bit me when a friend of a friend gave me the Observer’s Book of Cricket. I was about 10 years old and devoured every page. The table of Top Test runscorers included Neil Harvey, a name that stuck in my mind.

Fast forward a few years and the Playboy, sorry, Playfair annual had grabbed my attention. Scanning the Lancashire listings I stumbled across a young player. Neil Harvey Fairbrother. I could feel the pull. LHB; LM; One game; did not bat. But I felt I knew him already.

LHB. Those three letters placed him perfectly in a side already containing lefties Fowler, Lloyd (D) and Lloyd (CH), Abrahams and Jeffries. I followed his progress and felt for him when stranded on 94 by a declaration in his maiden innings. And with three balls of the over remaining.

Soon the centuries began to flow and Test selection was talked about. How fitting that he should receive his call up for a Test on his home ground; how cruel that he should score a duck, called upon to bat when a nightwatchman was needed. I still haven’t forgiven Mike Gatting. And nor have many others.

1990 was his annus mirabilis. A batting average of 80 and that 366 at the Oval – one day containing a century in each session. The abiding memory came on May 30, as Lancashire played Surrey in the B&H Quarter Final. Surrey had a new speedster in their ranks, an unknown of the name Waqar Younis. Harvey cut, drove and strode down the wicket to him, scoring 61 not out from 29 balls. He did all this without a helmet, his quiff never moving out of shape. Breathtaking, it was.

I never did see Harv score a century. Does it matter? Probably not. I know that he gave his all to the cause, creating runs for the player at the other end. Ten Lord’s finals and a World Cup one as well. Not bad for little ‘un.

My last memory of him on the field was to see him carried off, having torn muscles at Lytham. It was sad to see him leave the field, but warming to hear the tales recounted over the rest of the day.

Few are born and given a name at birth that sets out their future path. So thank you Neil Harvey of Australia, for without you we would not have had our Neil Harvey Fairbrother.

Mark Shuttleworth wins a year’s free subscription to The Wisden Cricketer

To enter submit no more than 600 words on your favourite cricketer to [email protected], subject line ‘favourite’

Posted in Miscellaneous, My favourite cricketer | 4 Comments »

Miles Jupp: Get some swagger Belly

January 22nd, 2009 by Miles Jupp in England and tagged , ,

Ian Bell has much to do in the Windies if he is to convince people that Owais Shah’s exclusion from the England side is justified.

On the face of it, there isn’t much missing from his game. He is technically brilliant, leaves the ball well, hits beautiful on-drives, works hard and is capable of electrifying fielding. In 45 Tests he has eight centuries, 19 fifties and a decent average of 41.27.

But there is still something he lacks. Some think he should develop Collingwood’s habit of ugly run-making. I don’t think that that’s the problem. What frustrates people about Bell is that he’s just not as good as he could be. What Bell needs is a swagger.

He’s played enough Tests to be considered a senior player but he still manages to look timid at the crease. You expect him to look to the player’s balcony and check with the captain if it would be OK to play a few shots. Even if he’s absolutely bursting for a slash I bet he waits till the end of a session just to avoid causing a fuss.

He has to let himself go in both senses. He bats a long way within himself but is capable of far more effrontery, such as the straight sixes he hit off Glenn McGrath during his torrid 2005 series.

Off the field he is a reserved man. He’s more of a blonde-highlights sort of a guy, than a peroxide streak. I’m not saying he needs to change the way he behaves all the time. It’s OK to have a nickname that is simply your own surname with a “y” at the end. He doesn’t need to start wearing diamond ear-studs or earning himself a moniker like “The Spankmeister” or “Lieutenant Fun-Time”. But I would love to see him be more full-blooded at the crease.

At this moment of presidential inaugurations, Bell should take inspiration from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speech: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” I think that most historians would be able to tell that what FDR meant: “You’ll do a lot better trying to drive the ball straight back over the bowler’s head than you will getting half-forward and prodding defensively”.

Going in at No.3 against this West Indies side is a great chance for Bell to start showing swagger. I’ve always wanted to see him just go out there and do what he can do. I’d love Bell to succeed but I worry that if he doesn’t start showing swagger now, he’ll soon be out of favour. And it’s hard to show swagger if he’s carrying drinks.

Miles Jupp is an actor, comedian and cricket fan

Posted in England | 4 Comments »

Andrew Strauss: Why I want players to take personal responsibility…

January 22nd, 2009 by Alan Tyers in Alan Tyers, England

As I was saying to Colly, “You know old chap, it’s rather like when one was a Prefect back at Radley, one would supervise the remove while they did their prep and then there’d still be plenty of time to blow off steam before lights-out.”

And Colly – and this is SO Colly, marvellous sense of fun – Colly says: “I have no idea what you are talking about.”

Luckily, Freddie came in and explained: “He’s saying: cricket first, then piss-up.”

And in his wonderfully earthy way, Freddie was exactly right. I’ve told the chaps that it we train jolly bloody hard then there’ll be lots of time for larks too.

For instance, as a bit of a bonding exercise, I’ve already taken the fellows for a trip to the theatre. The plot was a bit challenging for a couple of the more uncomplicated guys – and I must confess I hadn’t thought of Joseph And His Technicolor Dreamcoat as a “well confusing” musical before – but we had ice creams at the interval and once I’d explained the story to Belly he seemed to settle down and enjoy the second half.

I’m very keen that players take charge of their own preparation for each match. For instance, if they can get over from India in time for a Test then so much the better. If not, well, we’ll have to mend and make do. There’s plenty of fellows who aren’t in the IPL, ICL or totally hopeless category who’d love to put themselves in the shop window with a couple of games for England.

Each and every one of these chaps in the team knows what he needs to do to be ready for a Test. Matt Prior doesn’t need me to tell him how to shout seemingly random words of encouragement. No coach could possibly train Monty to appeal for every ball that hits the cut strip. And what could I possibly teach Owais about making an orange squash? Nor does Kevin need me to tell him how good he is: he does that himself. Rather a lot, actually. Constantly in fact.

Talking of which, I would like to stress just how supportive KP has been so far. At our first meeting, up he stood and said: “Skipper, I’m right behind you.” Colly piped up: “I should keep him where you can see him, soft lad.”

Tremendous native wit these chaps have.

Alan Tyers would willingly have warmed Andrew Strauss’s loo-seat at Radley

Posted in Alan Tyers, England | 1 Comment »

Lawrence Booth: Strauss’s England look back to go forward

January 21st, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in England

Not a ball has been bowled under the new/old England captain, but already two of Andrew Strauss’s deeds have a familiar air. His reinstatement of the team’s management committee for the tour of the West Indies and his plea for players to “think on their feet” are both straight out of the Duncan Fletcher manual of leadership. It is as if England have decided to look back before they can go forward.

This seems eminently sensible, which of course is how Strauss’s captaincy is likely to be characterised in the weeks ahead (I’d say “months”, but English cricket operates in less reliable timeframes these days). The presence on the management committee of Andrew Flintoff, Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad is a neat piece of diplomacy: for all the choreographed claims of friendship, Flintoff has never seen eye-to-eye with Strauss, so it’s better if the captain keeps him close; Collingwood is from the other side of the dressing room, while the two youngsters will speak for a different generation.

The exhortation to think on feet is a reaction to the Peter Moores era, where some players felt their personal space had been invaded. Fletcher has always preached an arm’s-length approach: techniques are delicate things in need of delicate remedies. By handing the responsibility back to the players, Strauss is liberating them too. And anyway, didn’t India beat England in 2007 without a coach?

But concerns remain. Kevin Pietersen – rightly omitted from the committee so he can concentrate on feeling at home again – was sacked partly because his request to have Moores removed set a precedent. Which makes you wonder: what about the precedent the England and Wales Cricket Board have now set by removing their captain because he was unhappy with his coach? What, assuming England appoint a full-time replacement for Moores by April, is Strauss supposed to do if he feels the new bloke is a dud?

The risk is that England’s suits and blazers, in their desire for a clean sheet of paper – an impossible ideal, surely, in the hormonal cauldron of international sport – have swung from one extreme to the other while at the same time getting themselves into a complete tangle: if it was a fairground ride, someone would get sued. Does it strike no one as odd that, amid their obvious fear of player power, the ECB contrived to remove Pietersen by, er, asking the players?

Speaking to the former Pakistan coach Richard Pybus recently, I was struck by his contention that “there is an optimal degree of tension that is important in all relationships”. Zen-like harmony is not just impractical: it’s undesirable. Strauss seems to have grasped this by appointing Flintoff on his committee. But the point appears to have eluded his bosses. When Strauss called for his players to think for themselves, he may have located a more profound truth than even he realised.

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 | No Comments »

Sam Collins: These boots are made for bowling

January 20th, 2009 by Sam Collins in Miscellaneous

Allan Donald, Courtney Walsh, Shoaib Akhtar*. A who’s who of fast bowling, a load of Test wickets and all current or former customers of independent bowling boot maker Ian Mason.

As part of TWC’s equipment supplement, (out in the March edition on February 13), I travelled to Birmingham to talk to Mason about what is a dying art amid excessive brand exposure and big-money sponsorship deals.

Having started out making kickers for hockey goalkeepers, Mason – a retired engineer – has spent the best part of 30 years perfecting what he is keen to stress remains a hobby more than a business.

Seeing as each pair of boots requires around 20 hours of his time, his obvious love for the craft is as necessary as it is refreshing.

The current boot has adapted over time to incorporate the feedback of his customers, who range from club cricketers to the highest level. Accordingly they appear lightweight and durable, with top-quality shock absorption to give the bowler every chance of staying off the treatment table, while the design remains flexible to the individual quirks that set fast bowlers aside as cricket’s goalkeepers – a bit madder than the rest.

The fitting process is not overly complicated, with ‘lasts’ created from simple measurement of the feet on which the boots are made. Kangaroo leather is used on the ‘upper’ part of the boot, while the soles are made of tanflex leather – almost entirely waterproof and very hard-wearing.

Mason genuinely believes his boots to be the best available, “an ever onward spiral of improvement”, but cannot see anyone taking over his business from him, and bemoans a dwindling customer base in the face of serious commercial competition from the bigger brands. Cost is an issue too, with a pair of Ian Mason bowling boots likely to set you back around £450 all-in.

Still, as my mother said – you should never scrimp when it comes to your feet.

Sam Collins (angry, quickish bowler with dodgy size 12s) is reviewing a pair of Ian Mason’s boots throughout the 2009 season. Keep an eye on the equipment section of the website to see if the boots live up to Mason’s promise.

Picture: A pair of Ian Mason’s boots take the strain as Shoaib Akhtar bowls for Surrey at the end of the 2008 season.

*Other customers of Ian Mason include: Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Ian Bishop, Eldine Baptiste, Shaun Pollock, Waqar Younis, Andrew Caddick, Steve Harmison, Simon Jones, Shoaib Akhtar, Devon Malcolm, Makhaya Ntini among many others.

Posted in Miscellaneous | No Comments »

TWC: Help us out!

January 20th, 2009 by Daniel Brigham in Miscellaneous

Fancy being interviewed by TWC? For the few of you who have answered ‘yes’ to that question, we are after people to interview about the 2005 Ashes for a feature in the mag. We are after the following:

Those who got into cricket (or back into cricket) through the 2005 Ashes.

Those who got into the Ashes 2005 but have paid no interest to cricket since (everyone has a friend like this).

Those who skived off work to watch the series or spent far too much time following it online at work.

Those who were at the parade.

Interviews will be done over the phone throughout Feb (so you don’t have to see our rather off-putting faces) and we want to hear good stories. If you know of any friends who fit the bill, please let us know.

Always the skinflints, TWC do not pay for interviews but they are very nice to you.

Contact [email protected].

Posted in Miscellaneous | No Comments »

Jrod: Who is the New Hayden?

January 19th, 2009 by JRod in Test cricket, The Ashes

Matthew Hayden may have been labouring this year but replacing him is still not the easiest job. The Australian selectors have lucked out though, there are a multitude of top-order batsmen killing it this Australian season. Three of the top five run scorers in the Sheffield shield competition are openers and that is not even mentioning the one-day opener or last year’s Test opener.

Shaun Marsh, 25, one-day average 54. First-class average 34 with four tons.
The pedigree is there, his father Geoff opened for Australia the last time Australia was rebuilding. Has an ordinary first-class record, but anyone who saw him in the IPL or opening in the ODIs (four 50s in last five games) will know he is the real deal. The only question is can his white ball form transfer over to Test cricket. He’s overcome the lazy tag, and some trouble with booze, but his stock has fallen after a fairly barren first-class season. Sentimental outsider.

Phil Jacques, 29, Test average 47 with three tons, first-class average 54 with 11,605 runs.
Averages 47 in Test cricket, made a hundred in his last Test but was left out for Katich in India and has been injured since. Jacques polarises fans with his machete like forceful shots and lack of footwork. Should be the automatic choice based on his form last year but with so many others making runs while he has been out and his injury (mystery illness or back injury) looks like he might miss out again. Favourite if fit but that looks doubtful.

Chris Rogers, 31, first-class average 49 with 10,870 runs.
Was Hayden’s replacement in Perth 2008 even though his form had been ordinary leading up to it. His form continued to drop so much he missed out on a Australian contract a couple of months later. Decided to leave the grey clouds of Western Australia for the sunny beaches of Victoria, and this year has been as good as any in his career. 661 runs at 82 in six matches. He also slaughtered in county cricket this year. His record is almost the same as Jacques, except with the Test runs. The smart money if Jacques is unwell.

Michael Klinger, 28, 2,475 first-class runs at 36 with six tons.
Was first mentioned as a future Australian player when he was 15 but in over 30 first-class matches with Victoria during a nine-year career he was a disaster. This year he went to South Australia and to say he has prospered is an understatement. In six matches he has 906 runs at 90. Younis Khan thinks he is Test standard and even though he bats at No.3, he has the perfect technique and temperament to open. Coming from a long way back, but coming fast.

Phillip Hughes, 20, 1,337 first class runs at 53 with four tons.
He may be 20 but he looks a Test batsmen now. Made runs against Victoria, best attack in Shield cricket, every time he played them last season, and super cool doing so. Already played ‘A’ cricket for Australia, and had selectors have mentioned him more than once. Durham has already looked into signing him – to be that young and have the County Champion want you is something special. Could be in the race at the right time.

The selectors really need to decide what direction they want to go. One of two near 30 year olds with 10,000 runs behind them. Son of a gun 25-year-old dominating ODIs. The 28-year-old late blooming teen superstar in scary form. Or the 20-year-old that has impressed everyone who has been lucky enough to see him.

Twenty years ago Hughes would have been won easily but these days Australia does like an experienced 30 year old. Surely the time for picking 30 year olds finished right after the Boxing Day Test?

Posted in Test cricket, The Ashes | 7 Comments »

Miles Jupp: ECB’s show of strength just a petulant outburst

January 15th, 2009 by Miles Jupp in England and tagged , , ,

Normally I love it when there is some cricket news to fill the quiet spells between tours but the KP-Moores saga has quickly become unsavoury. Attempting to get a grip on the events in this particular power struggle has been exasperating, and for two reasons. First, some papers have carried for over a week a series of opposed accounts of England’s dressing-room politics. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that people are letting on more than they know. The word-count-to-fact ratio has been staggeringly uneven – a lot of back-page space has been filled with hopeful improvisation.

Secondly, and far more importantly, the ECB has displayed all the dignity, poise and sensitivity of a drunk, rampaging rhino. It is appalling to see the number of quotes in articles attributed to ‘an ECB official’. If a person was responsible for that many leaks in this space of time then they are incontinent.

This obsession of anonymously feeding self-serving information to the press is symptomatic of broader problems within the ECB. Hugh Morris’ short stint opening the batting for England coincided with the exact moment that I started to obsess about cricket. It’s sad to see this decent and workmanlike fellow struggling to be diplomatic AND having to be the mouthpiece for an organisation obsessed with self-preservation.

The ECB, perhaps in exasperation about its dwindling power in the world game, has developed a CV that is a catalogue of self-harm: the departure of Troy Cooley; players hurried back after injury; the Stanford affair; the IPL dithering …

Clearly many at the ECB shared KP’s view about Moores but for KP to be seen dictating terms was more than their regal puffery would allow. This is why both Moores and KP are gone. What the ECB imagines to appear as a show of strength looks like a petulant outburst.

It’s as if Solomon, at the dividing of the child, told both mothers to bugger off and kept the baby for himself.

Miles Jupp is an actor, comedian and cricket fan

Posted in England | 1 Comment »

Opening A New Chapter: What Matty Hayden Did Next

January 15th, 2009 by Alan Tyers in Alan Tyers and tagged , ,

I walk down the frozen produce aisle, swinging my shopping basket, glaring at a few people. Going to the supermarket is a challenge, but I’ve never ducked a challenge. A shelf-stacker is making a pyramid of canned soup. I smash it down. Nobody can live with my POWER.

People say it’s much easier to knock over tins of soup these days than it used to be, but I’ve done it all over the world – Tesco, Pick And Pay, Indian roadside stalls. And you can only knock over what’s put in front of you. I’ve always managed to do that. It’s not my fault if the standard of tin-stacking has gone down.

Fishing counter. I whip out my trusty fishing pole Big Sue and settle down. No bites yet, but I can afford to be patient what with little Alfie there to… oh. Alone now. Settle back and think of the good times. Cry a bit, but in a manly way.

After a while, a shop assistant comes over.

“You’re an obnoxious little weed,” I say wittily.

“Er, okay sir,” say the weed. “But would you mind not dangling your… fishing rod?… in the frozen fish counter. It’s not hygienic and it’s upsetting for the other customers.”

I tell him that top-level grocery shopping isn’t a popularity contest. It’s about results. And fish.

“Look,” he says. “What would Jesus do?”

Good question. I pop in a bit of chewing gum and mull it over.

“Show commitment?” I suggest.

“No,” he says.

“Be positive?” I say.


“Catch a fish?” I say.

“No,” says the man. “Look. Whatever. But He probably wouldn’t sit in a supermarket polluting the fish and being mean to people. And your surfboard is blocking the aisle.”

That’s an interesting thought. I plan to put it in my next book: How To Cook Kangaroo Roadkill On A Surfboard. It’s kind of a love story, but with recipes and inspiring anecdotes about commitment and mateship.

Roy even says he’s going to learn to read so he can really enjoy it. Thinking about that inspired me so much that I destroyed a display of pasta sauces. There’s so much still to live for.

Alan Tyers will not miss Matty Hayden

Posted in Alan Tyers | 4 Comments »

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 »

« Previous Entries Next Entries »

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