January 2009
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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 »

Jrod: Warner shows power of Twenty20

January 12th, 2009 by Jrod in Twenty20 and tagged , ,

An IPL contract.

A double-sided bat sponsorship.

An Australian spot.

An 89 off 43 on debut.

No first-class games.

David Warner is his name.

Warner went from club cricketer, to state player, to IPL player, to Australian player in two months.

That is quicker than his innings.

The Australian selectors should be applauded for picking him from nowhere.

Twenty20 cricket creates overnight sensations at a rapid rate, and it feeds the wallets almost as fast.

13 months ago Shaun Marsh was only known because he had a famous father. He then broke out in the Australian domestic Twenty20 competition. That got him a ticket to the IPL, where he was the batsman-of-the-tournament. Now he opens the batting for Australia in one day cricket, and can expect to earn a minimum of $1m this year.

I arrived in England just after Graham Napier’s heroics. For a moment I thought he was a reincarnation of Jesus, it turns out he is a useful bowler who can slog. You can follow his career on grahamnapier.com, where you can find out what country he is playing in at the moment (New Zealand, he was in Hong Kong before that).

Sohail Tanvir was picked for Pakistan after Wasim Akram sung his praises. In Pakistani first class cricket he was a modest batting allrounder. His wrong-foot action made him almost impossible to get away in Twenty20 cricket, and he is now a globetrotting Twenty20 bowling allrounder who finds himself in Adelaide.

MS Dhoni was struggling to keep Dinesh Kartik out of the side 18 months ago. Then he won the Twenty20 World Cup (or whatever it was called) as captain, was runner-up in the IPL, and now he captains his country in all forms of the game.

As part of Stanford’s vanity project, a New York real-estate agent named Lennox Cush was part of the squad. He didn’t play, but he did go home a far richer man. Lucky bugger.

10 years ago when you were listening to OK Computer, time travelling in the legend of Zelda and talking around water-coolers about Friends, did you really think that this was the direction cricket would take?

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

Posted in Twenty20 | 1 Comment »

Benj Moorehead: Balanced Strauss the man to heal England

January 9th, 2009 by Benj Moorehead in England and tagged ,

On leaving the Captain Strauss press conference one had no more than a whiff of what has been going on lately but a far greater sense that the ECB may have found a most convenient man for a most inconvenient situation. There was one nervous glance as he walked in to an excited pack of journalists. But for the rest the new captain was composed, impressive, affirmative, clear, balanced - much like his batting in fact. If there are splits in the England camp, this man may heal them.

Speaking of England’s problems, he said: “The reality is that it’s going to take some effort on everybody’s behalf. That’s the reality.” Reality is what Strauss might provide England with a healthy dose of. No more love-ins, no more individualism. Feet back on the ground - unity and professionalism. “It is important at this stage, more than anything, that there is leadership in the side,” he said.

Strauss is battle-hardened, too – an entrenched member of Team England and a successful stand-in captain who has overcome the disappointment of being overlooked for the long-term captaincy and fought his way back after being dropped from the side.

And another point. The England team may be divided, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Strauss, by his nature, lies somewhere between the factions, holding the middle ground from where a captain can unite his side.

His measured manner invites questions about the degree of invention he will bring to captaincy. England gambled and went on the charge with Pietersen as captain; now they seek healing from the dependable Strauss. But there were signs too that the he wants to impose his “strong views” upon the team, to “run the team as I feel it should be run,” which is what Pietersen brazenly sought to do, only Strauss may have a little more tact. “All the players need to get together in a room, said Strauss, “[in part] for me to lay down what I believe the way forward is.”

Make no mistake – England are in a mess. But after the upheaval they have faced since last summer – Stanford humiliation, one-day annihilation by India, the Mumbai attacks, losing to India, losing their captain and coach - steady Strauss, on this form, is ideally suited to the considerable task at hand.

Benj Moorehead is editorial assistant of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in England | 1 Comment »

Miles Jupp: Spare a thought for JP

January 9th, 2009 by Miles Jupp in England

At this time of year who’d have expected this story? Even the story’s main protagonist was on holiday.

I don’t know if it was pedantic behaviour or control freakery but clearly KP felt it was important that we knew when he resigned. And clearly he felt he had to go. He must have realised that to make an ultimatum when you’ve only been in a job five months isn’t so much treading on thin ice as standing on extremely thin ice that you’ve already pissed on.

Whatever Moores or the ECB have done has angered KP so much that his wife was clearly unable to convince him that it was worth waiting until they got home before he started doing anything about it. “Come on Kevin”, she must have pleaded with him, “everybody knows it’s never a good idea to make work calls when you’re on holiday.” Poor JP – this can’t have been her most relaxing break, especially with Dancing on Ice just around the corner.

If Vaughan’s omission was a source of contention between the two men, then it was no more than a symptom of an altogether larger beef. And KP is probably not a good man to have difficulties with. In the flesh he is an incredibly imposing figure – tall, broad and muscular. If you angered him in a confined space, then I don’t imagine it would take too long before he started thrashing about like Dumbo’s mother.

Anyway, a whole host of worthies we’d almost forgotten about have put in their tuppence worth on the subject of the captain-coach relationship. Among these Mr R Illingworth from Pudsey in Yorkshire who said that “the captain should have the main say; he has to be the main person. If he doesn’t have the main say then he doesn’t have the backing of the players when he gets on to the field”. Is that the same R Illingworth who was both coach and chairman of selectors during Mike Atherton’s reign and frequently refused to let the captain field players of his own choice? He has clearly lost his memory and it was irresponsible of his nurses to let him talk to the media in the first place.

This has been a wretched start of the year for English cricket and other than those who have kept totally silent, few have come out of it well. People have spoken out of turn to the wrong people and that is how an unworkable situation becomes an unpalatable one. And it seems to me that the more money floods into this game, the lower price people involved in it are placing on their dignity.

Miles Jupp is an actor, comedian and cricket fan

Posted in England | No Comments »

Sam Collins: Peter Moores – Taking the positives

January 8th, 2009 by Sam Collins in England, Test cricket

That faint praise in full:

Andrew Strauss (On taking the captaincy): “Peter Moores put a huge amount of effort, enthusiasm and determination into taking England forward. Certainly he’s shown a lot of integrity.”

Nasser Hussain (Daily Mail): “Was he the wrong man? Moores did as well as any other Englishman who has coached the team. Apart from Fletcher, every other coach has been more of a manager figure - there to put out cones and organise nets.”

Hussain (Sky Sports News): “He sets the team up brilliantly every morning; he trains them well. They are finely drilled every morning.”

Mike Atherton (The Times): “Most of the players like Moores and think that he is a decent and honourable man, but they have reservations that he is the right person to take them to the next level. Moores’s removal is harsh in the sense that he is a decent, hard-working and loyal man, who has behaved throughout this past week with great dignity. Nor should it be forgotten that he inherited something of a disaster: but he failed to arrest the decline.”

Chris Adams (The Times): “He’s a fabulous person. From what I can tell at least three quarters of the England side were enjoying everything he was bringing.”

David Hopps (The Guardian): “If there was a unanimous view about Moores among England’s players it was that he was a decent bloke who might be in the wrong job, but that decision was a matter for the ECB, not a cause for a players’ rebellion.”

Duncan Fletcher
(The Guardian): “As for Moores, I feel for him. I know what a tough job coaching England can be, and you don’t like to see any individual treated like this. I know he never did less than his best, but it’s not an easy role. Some coaches are great with inexperienced sides; others have specific technical strengths. Very few can cover all the bases.”

Angus Fraser
(The Independent): “The one person to feel sorry for is Moores, who has done little wrong. It is right to question his suitability for the post – too few players have made progress during the 20 months he has been coach – but throughout this entire escapade he has conducted himself in a dignified manner.”

Stephen Brenkley (The Independent): “Moores became bogged down in a mixture of coach and management speak, swallowing the instruction manual followed by the self-help guide. He leaves with dignity intact and, although he probably had to go in the end because of the circumstances, he can be deemed unfortunate.”

Nick Hoult (The Telegraph): “A popular man with a keen analytical brain.”

And the inevitable spade-caller:

Geoff Boycott (The Telegraph): “As for Peter Moores, his departure doesn’t bother me. For a long time now I have felt this was an accident waiting to happen.
The ECB appointed Moores on the say-so of his friend, Morris, and the chief executive, David Collier, without advertising the job. He was the most qualified on paper, but that means nothing. He has no Test experience and knowledge of overseas conditions, which is when a coach can help a captain.

I’ve never been impressed with his training methods: ice baths after play, leaping into the swimming pool and playing soccer or rugby at the end of the day. It’s all sugar and spice, it looks good, but there’s no substance.”

Sam Collins is web-editor of thewisdencricketer.com

Posted in England, Test cricket | No Comments »

John Stern: "This won't happen again"

January 8th, 2009 by John Stern in England and tagged , , ,

Who said this and about whom?

“There was a disconnect between X and the whole of the management of ECB – that won’t happen again.”

Answer: Giles Clarke, ECB chairman, talking exclusively to TWC in late 2007 about the demise of Duncan Fletcher. (Clarke became ECB chairman after Fletcher had left his post)

“That won’t happen again,” he said.

Well, it has, and then some. The point of the Schofield Report and the appointment of Hugh Morris’s position as MD of England Cricket was to provide credible leadership for all cricket-related matters. The problem with Fletcher was, according to Clarke, that he refused to report to Tim Lamb, the then chief executive. This was a problem presumably inherited by Lamb’s successor, David Collier, despite being, according to Clarke “a proper chief executive”.

So the ECB introduced another layer of management and filled it with a former player and good egg that players and coaches would all respect, right?

I know Morris personally and he’s a top man, no question. And I don’t just mean he’s a nice bloke. He’s tough (don’t forget he has survived throat cancer in the recent past), fair-minded and intelligent with bags of integrity. And he cares as deeply as anyone about the health of English cricket.

But you have to wonder what the heck has been going on when the rift between Moores and Vaughan/Pietersen has been an open secret almost since the day the coach was appointed.

Yet the impression is that these problems have only been addressed once the rift was made public. It looks like a head-in-the-sand job that has caused way more rancour and resentment than if the issue had been met head on (privately) much earlier.

And to conclude this process by canvassing opinion from players and coaching staff about the dressing room seems to put all concerned in an utterly invidious position.

I’m not suggesting Morris needs to fall on his sword here but we’re still none the wiser about who is actually in charge here.

And as for that moment when KP meets up with his team-mates again, some of whom have clearly helped engineer his departure: fly on the wall anyone?

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in England | 2 Comments »

Revealed: Minutes from the ECB Teleconference that sealed Kevin Pietersen’s fate

January 8th, 2009 by Alan Tyers in Alan Tyers, England and tagged , ,

Present Via Webcam: Giles Clarke, Dennis Amiss, Jack Simmons, David Collier, Keith Bradshaw, Nigel Hilliard, Sir William Morris, Stephanie Sexxx.

Apologies: Geoffrey Voletrouser (plotting relaunch of Woolworth’s), The Bishop Of Durham (attending Macworld conference), Giles Giles (fact-finding mission to Aruba), Fishy Tucker (deceased).

Agenda: Uppity Bok and what to do about it; possible introduction of slimline tonic into committee room minibar.

Minutes: After some technical difficulties with the “webcam’ and the “computers” it became clear that Stephanie Sexxx was not a board member after all and that there had been a mix-up with the “web address”, although motion to have Ms Sexxx accepted onto the board for future meetings was carried unanimously bar just one abstention (F Tucker).

It was felt by all members that this Pietersen johnny had got a bit too big for his boots and the whole matter was just beyond the pale.

At least one member felt that we should have sorted his type out at Mafeking when we had the chance and that the Bok were basically no-good rotters.

It was also speculated as to whether the Bishop of Durham could have Desmond Tutu in a fight.

Attempting to draw the meeting back to the matter at hand, the chairman asked members to consider Pietersen’s demands.

It was felt that Pietersen’s request “to have a massive great big temple built in my honour like MS Dhoni is getting in India” was unrealistic.

One tentative proposed solution was to ask Sir Allen Stanford to pay for the temple but then sneer at him behind his back while taking his money.

It was agreed to wait and see what the Indians did and then desperately try to catch up while pretending we thought of it first.

As to the claim that Pietersen “had lost the dressing room” several members felt that there was no shame in a chap getting a bit confused after a good lunch and that it could have happened to anyone.

Peter Moores was generally felt to be an irritating squit.

However, members expressed concern that Pietersen would only grow more insufferable with time, with one asking “imagine how demanding he’ll become if we actually win any cricket matches”.

In the end, Pietersen’s “it’s me or him” ultimatum was put to a vote, with three votes for “me”, three for “him”, one for Eoghan Quigg and one for the UK Independence Party.

It was felt best to get shot of both Pietersen and Moores and the committee turned its attention to the thorny matter of the slimline tonic.

As recorded by Alan Tyers and definitely not leaked by anyone in the England set-up, none of whom would ever stoop to such a thing

Posted in Alan Tyers, England | 5 Comments »

Jrod: Thankyou England, we can count on you

January 8th, 2009 by Jrod in England, The Ashes and tagged , , ,

Thank you England.

It hasn’t been a great time for Australian cricket fans.

Old dudes can’t be culled. Spinners can’t be found.

Captains can’t work out fields or over rates.

Prolific batsmen face private credit crunches and 20 wickets a match is a pipe dream.

And the bloody South Africans beat us at home. We should be suicidal, and we were.

Now England has opened our eyes to the beautiful nature of the world, the lightness and puppy dogs.

KP was England’s white knight. The man was going to take them to a promise land of Ashes glory and unheard of gloating and celebrations.

MBEs were drafted, streamers were ordered, and English fans had actual confidence in the state of their team.

After one dead rubber victory he was going to win the ashes, cure cancer and sing Hallelujah on a talent show.

Now he has quit, after losing 20 million dollars, a one day series and a test series.

He said it’s me or him, and they said it’s both of you.

And this brings me the joy that one can only hope for when their first child is born, or when they see the Natalie Portman strip tease in Closer.

I can handle Australia being useless if England are a mess.

Although I probably can’t handle losing to England, but I didn’t think I could handle losing to South Africa, but the scars on my wrists have been healing up nicely.

So thank you England, for curing Australian fans of their misery in our darkest hour, we can always count on you.

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

Posted in England, The Ashes | 4 Comments »

The TWC Summit: Who is in more disarray, England or Australia?

January 7th, 2009 by Sam Collins in England, Test cricket, The Ashes

It seemed like an easy question last night, but how times change.

In case you’ve been asleep for the whole day, or less likely actually doing some work, then here’s a newsflash. This morning Australia finally won a Test match against credible opposition, while English cricket stuck it’s head in a rather large blender.

So what does this mean at the start of an Ashes year? Does it actually change anything?

Are Australia suddenly now favourites again, or just treading water until another hammering in South Africa? And what next for England? A Reg Dickason – Andrew Strauss dream ticket? On today’s evidence, it’s a distinct possibility.

Who are we kidding? Nobody has a clue, least of all our panel, but they’ve been kind enough to contribute their tuppence worth below for your consideration and inevitable rejection…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | 4 Comments »

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