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February 2009
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The weekend read – Sweet Summers: The Classic Cricket Writing of JM Kilburn

February 27th, 2009 by TWC in Miscellaneous

Every Friday we’ll be picking a classic cricket book that has been reviewed in TWC to help you pass the weekend. Make your recommendations in the comments below.

What is it?
Sweet Summers: The Classic Cricket Writing of JM Kilburn
Edited by Duncan Hamilton, (Great Northern Books, hb, 448pp, £15.29)

What’s it all about then?
Yorkshire cricket writer who adored the aesthetics of the game and deplored its commercialisation

What did we give it?

What did we say?
JM Kilburn treated cricket like an art form and wrote about it like a critic. He was cricket correspondent of the Yorkshire Post from the 1930s until the mid-1970s and this collection of his writing could well have been subtitled with Harold Pinter’s epic poem: “I saw Len Hutton in his prime/ Another time, another time.” Kilburn was a respected but rather severe figure; a pipe-smoker addicted to a post-prandial nap and contemptuous of reporting “dressing-room tittle-tattle” in newspapers. Duncan Hamilton, who edited the collection, writes: “The aesthetics of cricket were paramount to him.”

Kilburn observed fundamental change in first-class cricket and he did not like it. He deplored player-agents, one-day cricket, the end of the distinction between amateurs and professionals and, worst of all, television. He condemned sponsors and TV as “money-lenders”; “televised cricket is, basically, not cricket but a television show”. He regarded virtually every change in first-class cricket as a soft option.

Maybe he was a curmudgeonly Yorkshireman but he had heroes and wrote well about players such as Keith Miller, Brian Close and Hedley Verity – “to dismiss a modest batting side was to him [Verity] no more than the routine of a bank clerk completing a simple balance”. He admired Bill Bowes, who bowled fast for Yorkshire and England and eventually became Kilburn’s friend and colleague. He uses Bowes’ example to malign other international cricketers who have sought to make the transition from playing field to press box: “The majority glowing briefly in the flattering light of the reception desk are soon elbowed aside to disappear with the consolation of an inflated fee.”

The curious thing about this book, which honours a man who was a member of the same league as Neville Cardus, RC Robertson-Glasgow and Jack Fingleton, is that it has become an instrument with which to beat modern cricket writers. It starts with a predictable gob of bile from Geoffrey Boycott, whose preface complains that journalists prefer to string together other people’s opinions rather than form any of their own.

Hamilton, who is deputy editor of the Yorkshire Post, agrees. “Newspapers,” he says, now rely on quotes, however anodyne or trivial, rather than judgement.” While it is true that a platoon of second-string cricket writers faithfully record what players say at the end of the day, Hamilton’s contention is nonsense. Do we turn to Mike Atherton, Mike Selvey, Angus Fraser, Derek Pringle or Vic Marks to read anodyne and trivial quotes? No, we expect lively narratives spiced with well-informed judgements. And we get them. These former players are now more concerned with the psychology than the aesthetics of cricket, but they are none the worse for that.

Cricket writers with experience in journalism rather than the England team sometimes regret the speed with which retired players smooth their way into the best jobs. The charge would stand if these gilded converts let down their readers by failing to provide thoughtful and accurate commentary. But they don’t. Indeed I suspect Kilburn would have enjoyed reading them.
Stephen Fay, October 2008

What did they say?
Yorkshire cricketers were not renowned for their lightness of touch or flights of fancy. Neither was their finest writer. Kilburn’s writing evoked Sutcliffe, Hutton and Boycott - sound, hard, correct, rather than flamboyant. Yet, like them he was capable of evoking the occasional gasp of surprise. His description of Maurice Leyland’s bowling is sheer joy: “Leyland’s bowling is mostly a joke, but it is an extremely practical joke.”
Suresh Menon,

He was undoubtedly among the finest of cricket writers, with echoes of Neville Cardus yet leaner, tougher. But it is impossible to imagine him being a cricket correspondent today, or even wanting to be one.
Harry Mead, The Northern Echo

Why not tell us what your favourite cricket book is, or which book you’d like to see in ‘The weekend read’ in the comments below …

Posted in Miscellaneous | No Comments »

My Favourite Cricketer: Jim Parks

February 27th, 2009 by TWC in My favourite cricketer reader Derek Watts is the latest winner of our My Favourite Cricketer competition for his entry on Sussex wicketkeeper Jim Parks.

I watched my earliest first-class cricket at the Central Ground in Hastings around 1952. It would have been County Week or the Festival and I was at once captivated by the ebb and the flow, the grace and the power, the names and the history. Here indeed was a game with a glorious past, a thrilling present and an infinite future. Summer, it seemed to an eight-year old, would go on for ever.

I followed Sussex, of course, and Jim Parks was the one who excited me and my friends the most: the player who, like Botham or Flintoff, would empty the bars, who hit with joyous abandon, who pounced on a cover-drive like a cat on a rat and who, when he was out, still smiled at the cricketing fates.

Jim’s is a Sussex life born of the warp and weft of the Weald, his family part of that dynastic tradition enriching the cricketing past of the county which is the cradle of the game. “….the Weald, where cricket grew up, ” wrote Arlott, “has always produced cricketers in the original mould. Thence cometh the men to whom a cricket bat or ball in the hand is as natural as any implement of any other Wealden worker.”

Born of a family of Wealden workers Jim was “a young man of undoubted talents, even brilliance, who (needed only] to set his mind on wiping out one or two defects in his technique to have a good chance of bridging the gap to Test cricket” - so wrote Len Hutton in 1956. Keith Andrew told me, “here was a young man with the potential to be another Compton: he played all the strokes.” John Murray, perhaps his keenest rival, concurs: “When Jim did make runs he was so quick on his feet he made ‘em bloody quickly for you - that was equally as important as it bought you some time to bowl.”

John Woodcock joins me. “John was the better wicket-keeper - very stylish - but Jim never let England down.” More than that, “If you are the best keeper in the world”, says MJK Smith, “and you don’t know which end of the bat to pick up you won’t be the most valuable man in the Test team……You would have worried about Knott batting higher than seven, but you would have been happy to see Jim going in a bit higher.”

“You need your keeper to make runs,” says Boycott, a shrewd and demanding critic, “and he didn’t drop many.” For CMJ, Jim was “a much under-rated ‘keeper and quick, perky, smart, aggressive, fluent, entertaining and a beautiful driver.” Jim learnt much from Godfrey Evans, who believes “that if he had had the opportunity to keep regularly to top-class spin bowling he could have been a truly outstanding ‘keeper. His greatest qualities were his footwork against spin bowling - he was always able to get to the pitch of the ball and smother spin - and his delicate cuts and glides which were responsible for over 50 per cent of his runs off fast bowling.”

“Nobody in the English game”, says Peter Graves, “had seen a player put their left foot outside leg stump and hit it for six over extra cover” – but as David Allen reminds me, “He had this lovely grip at the top of the bat and he was so well-balanced - the sign of the great players. He was also, apart from Colin Bland, not far off from being the best cover-point in the world - he was certainly the best cover-point in the Championship. England class - no doubt about that whatsoever.”

Derek Watts 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 My favourite cricketer | No Comments »

Straussy: Everything's coming together

February 26th, 2009 by Alan Tyers in Alan Tyers, Test cricket and tagged , ,

I must say that there’s never a dull moment as captain. I’ll start the day off having a word with the bowlers, giving poor Ryan his bath, helping him into a chair, that sort of thing. Building up Harmison’s confidence is also key: I’ll usually pop into his room and hide his electric razor first thing. I think a bit of threatening stubble could help him feel a bit more dangerous.

It’s hard to tell what sort of mood he’s going to be in on any given day. He was very down this morning because Flintoff had to go off for a scan or a meeting with his accountant or something and Harmison wouldn’t see him until the afternoon. He just sat listening to Catherine Cookson audiobooks on his iPod during breakfast, pushing his jam sandwich around the plate, in a world of his own. Still, we all know what he can do with the ball when it all clicks into place. At least as far as I can remember. But he brings a lot to the team: he’s a popular figure, he’s got all three of the Bourne films on DVD, he knows some footballers. These sort of things are important to the fellows.

Everyone has been terribly supportive since I took over, particularly Andy Flower. I sounded him out about the top coaching job and he said: “Please don’t make me do it I beg you.” Marvellous sense of humour, and if we can get him a passport, he could very much be the answer to our middle-order difficulties. As could Reg the security chap.

One chap I can definitely rely on is young Alastair Cook, although I do worry that he might be taking his unofficial vice captaincy role too seriously. He’d drawn up a rota for washing-up and stuck it at the back of the dressing room near the kettle, and he’s taken to labelling things “ALASTAIR’S MILK DO NOT TOUCH” and leaving post-it notes around the place telling the other fellows to tidy up their kit.

Still, he’s been very helpful getting the team ready for this Test. If we can all get through it without someone breaking their leg or having a baby or forgetting how to play cricket there’s every reason to think that we can get a result.

Andrew Strauss wasn’t talking to that loveable rogue Alan Tyers

Posted in Alan Tyers, Test cricket | No Comments »

Miles Jupp: England an after-dinner disaster

February 26th, 2009 by Miles Jupp in Test cricket and tagged ,

I knew that the third Test at the Antigua Recreation Ground was going to go down to the wire. But I was looking forward to it. Like our match at Barbados in 1994, I thought a resounding victory would enable us to wash away the filthy memories of our previous humiliating encounter, and that, like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, we’d be able to thank God for the rain to wash the trash off the sidewalk.

Any time that England are searching for victory at the 11th hour is going to be nerve-wracking but for me that final day was doubly tortuous. It clashed with a booking I had to do an after-dinner speech in a hotel in Southampton and which I had long been dreading.

I phoned ahead to make sure that the hotel rooms had Sky and then booked in early enough to watch most of the afternoon session. England, and Broad especially, bowled beautifully, but we didn’t seem to be making enough headway. And at tea, with the score on 279 for 5 I had to go down for the dinner.

The most hellish aspect of after-dinner speaking is having to sit and have dinner with the people to whom you are about to speak. It’s not because there’s anything wrong with them, it’s simply that you have to spend the entire meal giving an impression of confidence and experience while looking in abject terror around a room of increasing and unilateral drunkenness wondering just how badly it will go. The people you are sitting at the top table with aren’t just your dining companions, they are also your employers for the night, and this means that on the outside you must appear to be polite, attentive and charming while on the inside nerves are tearing your organs apart, and you long to curl up in a ball under the table pounding the floor with your fists and praying that someone will phone in a bomb scare.

That night I had to conceal all of these feelings while also hurriedly checking the England score on my mobile every five minutes. The meal dragged on in much the same way as the final session. At times the scorecard didn’t seem to change for hours. When the puddings finally arrived, West Indies were nine down. Surely, I thought, they can wrap this up before I have to speak. Maybe I could open my speech by telling the room that England had won? Moments before I was due to stand up I was able to steal a final look at my phone and saw the horrifying words “match drawn”. The evening was over.

The speech, inevitably, was a disaster – those at the back couldn’t hear it and those at the front wished they were at the back. Early next morning I walked through the rain to the train station cursing England’s lack of penetration and feeling about Southampton much as Travis Bickle had about Manhattan.

Miles Jupp is an actor, comedian and cricket fan

Posted in Test cricket | No Comments »

The TWC interview: Jonathan Agnew

February 25th, 2009 by Sam Collins in Interview, Miscellaneous, Test cricket and tagged , , , , ,

In the latest of’s weekly interview feature, Sam Collins speaks to Jonathan Agnew.

‘Aggers’ was a fast-bowler who enjoyed a successful first-class career with Leicestershire and played three Tests for England. He joined the Test Match Special team in 1990, and was appointed the BBC’s cricket correspondent the following year.

Was it sad turning up to the Caribbean without Bill Frindall in the TMS box?
Bill wasn’t coming to the Caribbean, but he was in India. He will be missed in so many ways. He wasn’t just a great scorer, he was one of our team, one member of our little soap opera. I loved working with him. I don’t think it will hit me until the first day of the Lord’s Test in the summer, when we turn up for a home Test match and he’s not there. Whoever does take over, it’s a very difficult job. You can’t copy him, or take his place – you have to take things off in a very different direction.

The current trend for back-to-back Tests is gruelling for players, but how does it affect your job?

I find Test matches a pretty exhausting business these days. I work for the local radio networks here as well, so I am commentating for virtually all but 10 minutes every hour, and of course there is lunch and tea, and the work at the end of the day so I am a bit talked out by the end of a day. They are hard work, especially back-to-back. I try and go and hideaway and clear the head, and think of new things to talk about, read lots of papers. You cannot simply turn up and churn things out, you have to think of interesting topics to talk about that you can toss into the cricket. Straight cricket commentary can be pretty dull sometimes.

Is it important to vary the summarisers between Tests to help the commentators?

In a way, although I could carry Vic Marks around to every Test match. But the listeners need a change as well. There is a debate as to whether TMS is stronger as a small team, like it used to be, or whether it is better with lots. I think the answer is somewhere down the middle. You don’t want too many voices, but it is good to have different attitudes, thoughts and approaches to the game.

Is there room at TMS for some more voices that aren’t ex-players?
I think it’s different on TV, where you have to have played cricket to a pretty decent standard, because you cannot hide a lack of knowledge on TV. You can bring other things to radio commentary – colour, description – really powerful vivid description, and you don’t have to have that essential playing background. Obviously your expert summarisers need to have played at Test level, but John Arlott and Brian Johnston never played for England – in fact I am the only one who has, and I don’t consider myself now to have been a player anyway.

Arlo White and Mark Pougatch attracted some criticism for their commentary efforts on TMS last summer. Is it difficult for new blood to come into the box?
The problem is now that there is nowhere for people to learn how to commentate. I think I commentated on two games before my first Test match. Now there is nowhere, even a lot of the local radio stations are not commentating on cricket. Quite how people are going to learn I don’t know. I think cricket commentary is a natural skill, you can either do it or you can’t. I don’t think you can teach people how to do it. I can weigh up somebody’s abilities as a cricket commentator pretty quickly having worked with a lot of people. It’s sad and unfair that people’s first run-out as a cricket commentator is on TMS.

We have got to find some way of getting more radio commentary done, whether it is broadcast or not. The BBC has to be on the ball if it is going to have succession planning, and keep looking after cricket commentary in the future. Otherwise it’s going to be a real problem, when the next wave of CMJ, and me and Blowers go shuffling off, our replacements are going to have had no training at all.

What difficulties does Adam Mountford face as TMS producer?
Adam must find a way of developing new commentators, and the answer is not always to stick them straight on TMS. For two reasons: firstly, because there you are very exposed if you haven’t done it much and secondly because it is supposed to be the pinnacle of commentary – you should only get there because you are good enough. Adam knows that his biggest responsibility is discovering a way of finding and developing new commentators.

You retired at 30, do you think you would have lasted longer in the current game?
I think so. I try desperately hard not to compare eras and generations, but I believe I am genuinely lucky to have played when I did – I don’t think county cricket has ever been stronger before or since the 1980s. The wonderful, world-class overseas players, often two per county, England’s players playing county cricket, it was a really tough tournament, all those fast bowlers. The game has since developed sciences, techniques, coaching.

I needed a plan when I was 18 really – fitness, coaching, rest – which would have helped me become a good fast bowler. And there wasn’t a plan. You were released in September and not seen again until April. I drove a lorry one winter and made windows another. There was no structure, so that is where this generation of cricketers have a huge advantage, and should be developing their skills a lot more quickly, and far beyond those we had.

I don’t think people are bowling quicker these days, I spoke to Kevin Pietersen on the plane and said “Sorry mate, go and get a DVD of the 1980’s and see for yourself, they’re not bowling faster”. But in terms of fitness and development they have certainly moved on now.

The Guardian yesterday described you as a ‘True Custodian of Cricket’, would you ever be tempted to run for chairman of the ECB?
I couldn’t afford it – It is an unpaid job! I am very flattered by what Michael Henderson has said. It is very easy to moralise when you are not the one who has to make the decisions. I do hope though that I am a custodian of cricket, I think it is very important that the BBC’s correspondent is. I have always believed that you must look at things carefully, make a judgement, and once you are happy with that judgement you must stick to it. I hate journalists who just wave in the wind. If you can’t reach your judgement correctly to start with you shouldn’t be making the judgement at all.

I take my job very seriously, and I do very firmly try and put cricket first and foremost. It’s worth protecting and fighting for.

Has Giles Clarke ever asked for your advice?
Yes. I have a very good dialogue with the ECB on a number of issues, which is good. He does ask my advice and I freely give it. He must make sure he has people with good cricket knowledge around him who are brave enough to stand up and say that something is wrong, it is not good for the game. That’s what someone needed to say last year about the Stanford situation.

TWC assistant editor Daniel Brigham is a fervent Essex fan, and still smarts at the role you played when you came out of retirement for Leicestershire’s victory over Essex in the 1992 Nat West semi-final. What do you remember about the day?
I was press ganged into playing by (Leicestershire captain) Nigel Briers. He said, “Look if you get nought for 100 and drop two catches I still want you to have played”. I couldn’t really say no. I was only 32, but at the time you don’t feel that, and I hadn’t bowled for two years. Graham Gooch happily was out before I came on which was a bonus, and Nasser Hussain was absolutely terrified of getting out to me so he blocked it. I bowled 12 overs straight through and took one for 31.

I am glad I played, there were other times in my career when I could have done with a bit of luck and it didn’t go for me, but that day someone was looking out for me. They had an injury crisis on the day of the final and asked me to play, but I knew I wouldn’t get away with it again and said no.

What is your favourite moment from your time in commentary?
In terms of professionalism, Steve Waugh’s hundred at Sydney off the last ball of the day two tours ago was probably my best bit of commentary. I really finished that with the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. It was one of the most wonderful sporting experiences I have witnessed.

Who was your biggest influence?
I am lucky to have worked with the people I have worked with. Without Brian Johnston’s influence on me I don’t think I would be lying on this bed looking at the rain in Barbados at the moment. In those four years he taught me a huge amount about broadcasting without trying, because looking at the way he went about his work, that was what made a really lasting impact on me at what was a very impressionable age (30) to come into the job. He’s the person I owe it to, and will say thank you to one of these days.

Sam Collins is website editor of

Posted in Interview, Miscellaneous, Test cricket | No Comments »

Lawrence Booth: England must unleash wild-dog Bopara

February 25th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in England, Test cricket and tagged , , ,

Ian Bell or Ravi Bopara? It is not the question we were supposed to be asking ahead of tomorrow’s fourth Test in Barbados. No, the question penned in advance was: Bell or Owais Shah? But life is rarely as neat as that. Bell was dropped after one Test, Shah began with a half-century in Antigua (never mind that it was made mainly against Ryan Hinds and Brendan Nash), and Andrew Flintoff is injured once more. England find themselves with an unexpected dilemma in a tour unexpectedly full of them.

When Bell last replaced the crocked Flintoff, for the Lord’s Test against Pakistan in 2006, he duly compiled the first of three hundreds in four innings – and all from No. 6, which is the slot available now. One tempting argument has it that the events of recent weeks are conspiring to return Bell to his rightful position, where he averages 49 (as opposed to 31 at No. 3). And the way England allowed him to open in the second innings of the two-day game that finished on Monday, you wonder whether Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss are thinking along similar lines.

Gents, the temptation must be resisted. The whole point of dropping Bell after Jamaica, apparently, was to give him a breather from the suffocating circle of failure-criticism-introspection-failure. Few doubt he has the class, but that became increasingly irrelevant as he unfurled one elegant innings of 20-something after another. There’s no shame in being dropped. In fact, it can work in a player’s favour. But not if the pressure is back on before he’s had the chance to enjoy life again.

If Bell deserves a longer break, then Bopara deserves a break of a different sort. He has all Bell’s shots and plenty more confidence. Last summer, recalled to the squad for the Oval Test against South Africa, he likened himself to a wild dog roaming the streets. It’s the kind of simile that suggests an acute sense of self-image (although possibly, delivered without a trace of irony, a lack of self-awareness). And that is what may have held him back so far.

Bopara, it has been said by one former coach, needs to treat cricket with a greater degree of care. Cockiness can prove fatal, and there has been a mental flabbiness about much of his running between the wickets during his one-day international career. Equally, he is still only 23: the wild-dog image suggested he had been straining at the leash for rather longer. Give it time, Ravi!

So, Bopara is desperate for a crack, he can bowl a bit and he plays without fear. That may be just what this England team needs as it tries to avoid what would be a pretty awful series loss. Bell, for the time being, is over-burdened with baggage. It should be a no-brainer. But you do wonder, you really do…

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, Test cricket | 1 Comment »

Jrod: The Bryce McGain story – in full

February 24th, 2009 by Jrod in Test cricket

You may not have heard of Bryce McGain but within the next month he is going to be the oldest debutante for Australia in decades. If he performs, he could be Australia’s main weapon over the next two years. If not, he could become a punch line. Whatever happens he has struggled longer and harder than most to get the opportunity.

If Australia choose four pacemen for the Test at the Wanderers, he may have to wait until Australia make it to Cape Town. For some players, being this close to making their debut for their country would be excruciating but Bryce knows how to wait.

Bryce is 36. That’s a lot of waiting. Two years ago he was a club cricketer (for Prahran) with a handful of first-class games to his name, a son he shares custody of and a day job as an IT banker. But he had a dream, one that no one else believed in. He thought he was good enough to play cricket for Australia. At 34 in club cricket others would have sniggered.

Bryce just kept on plugging away and when Victoria realised they needed a full-time spinner, as Cameron White pretty much refused to bowl himself, Bryce was brought in. It is said that White and Warne were the reasons Bryce was never picked for Victoria earlier. In truth Warne never played for Victoria, and White played as a batsman since 2004. The selectors just never thought he was good.

They saw a 30-something guy, who by his own admission didn’t really learn the trade till he was 28, as a good club cricketer who could on occasion cash-in on spin-happy pitches. Bryce didn’t share their thoughts. He saw himself as a terrifically fit, mature cricketer who knew his game inside and out and knew that as a legspinner he was just hitting his peak.

Turns out he was right. Once the Vics brought him in as a full time option, at 34, he starred. He took more wickets than any other spinner in Shield cricket (38 at 34), was the leading wicket-taker in the one-day competition and was a big part of Victoria’s second Twenty20 championship. Eventually the Australian selectors were impressed and he got himself a ticket to India as the No.1 spinner.

His selection was deserved but only came through a freakish 14 months for Australia where Warne retired, Stuart MacGill’s TV show got popular and Brad Hogg finished playing when his wife got sick.

But it would have been too simple from there for Bryce just to make the side and play. Instead he couldn’t shake off a shoulder injury and as Cameron White struggled, Bryce flew home. The simple shoulder injury turned into a major operation and while Australia tried Nathan Hauritz and Jason Krejza, Bryce had to watch. Finally recovered, he had one first-class match to earn his spot for the South African tour. He took a five-wicket haul and was selected.

This time he travelled fully fit and yet again as Australia’s No.1 spin option. It should have gone smoothly, but he missed the team plane, got smashed in the only practice game, and then couldn’t bowl in the second innings due to a stomach bug. Other cricketers may worry, but life has thrown tougher obstacles at Bryce. He is on the cusp of doing something that no one thought he could do anyway.

Bryce represents every person who has ever held onto a dream and never given up hope. He is us, sitting in our cubicle, hating our job, dreaming of playing for our country. With a bit of luck, one of us just might do it.

Posted in Test cricket | 5 Comments »

King Cricket: Dutiful love for chosen Broad

February 23rd, 2009 by Alex Bowden in England and tagged , ,

We have a simple rule regarding players who represent England: we love them unthinkingly. We loved Alan Igglesden. We loved Neil Mallender. We loved Aftab Habib.

So, blindly, unquestioningly, we love Stuart Broad too. But it’s a forced, mechanical love borne out of duty because, for some reason, we find it hard to warm to him.

What’s not to love? His bowling is canny and thoughtful. He bowls cross-seam deliveries when conditions dictate. He bowls from wide of the crease. He can bowl the ball at 90mph plus with a following wind.

How about his batting? It’s responsible and disciplined. He has a good technique and plays back foot drives as well as anyone. We were in the crowd at Old Trafford when Stuart Broad and Ravi Bopara rescued the shoddiest of one-day run chases against India. It was a joyously steely performance where he displayed the kind of will to fight back from any position that instantly makes a player a crowd favourite.

His attitude is perhaps his biggest selling point. He’s visibly competitive and seems utterly committed to bettering himself. He’s earned lifetime brownie points from England supporters through spurning the IPL in favour of preparing more fully for the Ashes. So what in the world is there not to love?

Having thought about this at great length (well what do you do with your weekends?), we’ve finally concluded that the main reason we feel faintly frosty towards Broad is because we’ve been told how wonderful he is by a million and one articles over the last few years. Nobody likes being told what to think.

Confusingly, a good few of those million and one articles were written by us. That’s how confused we are on this matter.

Even this article about how he hasn’t won our heart reads like a love letter.

See King Cricket‘s regular blog at King Cricket is a cult figure in the world of cricket blogs and was TWC’s first Best-of-blogs winner in April 2008.

Posted in England | 5 Comments »

My Favourite Cricketer: Andy Lloyd

February 20th, 2009 by TWC in My favourite cricketer reader Steve Jones is the fifth winner of our My Favourite Cricketer competition for his entry on Warwickshire batsman Andy Lloyd

Andy Lloyd never had much luck. In fact, my A level Physics exam encompassed the whole of his Test career. Just after noon, I raced home to see how my hero’s first Test was going. On seeing that Andy was 10* retired hurt, I felt a sense of relief. At least he’s not out, I thought.

Down, but not out. It soon transpired that Andy wouldn’t be returning that afternoon, or even that summer. He had stooped into a short ball from Malcolm Marshall, and was struck on the temple, permanently affecting his vision. At least he has an average of infinity, I tried to comfort myself.

Andy’s next game was nearly a year later, and he returned in style – bravely scoring 150 for Warwickshire on the same Edgbaston pitch where he had been poleaxed the previous June. However, the England opportunity had gone forever (Lloyd remains the only Test match opening batsman never to have been dismissed).

He had first come to my notice in a televised Sunday League game in the late 70s - an appearance unfortunately notable solely for a dropped dolly.

By 1980, he was an established member of the team that claimed the John Player League title. The next few years were painful for Warwickshire supporters as our weak and ageing attack, and a lack of athleticism in the field saw mammoth totals from Lloyd, Kallicharran, Amiss, Humpage and the Smith brothers frequently exceeded by the opposition.

Two years went by without a Championship win. Embarrassing performances in two one-day finals did little to alleviate the pain, and when 44-year-old Norman Gifford was appointed captain following the retirement of Bob Willis, there seemed little hope of an exciting future. At least Andy was appointed vice-captain, and the seeds of the following decade’s triumphs were being sown.

He succeeded Gifford as captain in 1988, and a young, exciting team began to emerge. Warwickshire reached Lord’s in 1989 after slaughtering Worcestershire in a semi-final at a packed Edgbaston. Champions Worcestershire’s superstars were skittled by an attack featuring Donald, Small, Reeve, Munton and the Smiths. Suddenly, this was a very different Warwickshire.

Far from the capitulation of the two previous finals, a fearless young side overcame Mike Gatting’s Middlesex, with Neil Smith’s last-over six becoming part of Warwickshire folklore. Fairground Attraction’s ‘Perfect’ boomed out of the Warwickshire dressing room, aptly encapsulating Andy’s finest hour.

Two years later, Warwickshire were runaway leaders in the County Championship as the season entered September, yet poor weather and some ‘freak’ Essex victories would conspire to deny Andy and Warwickshire at the final hurdle.

At the end of 1992, injuries forced Andy into retirement, where he combined radio punditry and corporate hospitality with serving Warwickshire. His pride in Warwickshire’s dominance over the next three years, with six trophies and two runners-up places, must have been tempered by a longing for greater involvement, but compensated by the knowledge that he had left a wonderful legacy.

Andy became chairman of Warwickshire’s Cricket Committee in 2000, again presiding over an era of sustained progress. The last ever Benson and Hedges Cup was claimed in 2002, followed by the undefeated Bears Championship success in 2004.

However Andy’s bad luck was to strike again, as bankruptcy forced him to resign as chairman of the cricket committee in 2004.

It seemed a fitting end to a career dogged by misfortune.

Steve Jones 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’

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The Weekend read: Pommies – English cricket through an Australian Lens

February 20th, 2009 by TWC in Miscellaneous

Every Friday we’ll be picking a cricket book that has been reviewed in TWC to help you pass the weekend. Make your recommendations in the comments below.

What is it?
Pommies: English cricket through an Australian Lens by William Buckland (Troubador Publishing, £15)

What’s it all about then?
A scathing attack on the structure of English cricket.

What did we give it?

What did we say?
Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack has been the guardian of the English game for 145 years but, it seems, even that venerable tome can get too close to its subject to see the wood for the trees. “Startling” was how Scyld Berry, this 2008 editor, described the points raised by William Buckland, a 41-year-old management consultant and England fan, in his remarkable new book Pommies – so startling, in fact, that he invited the author to join him in the pulpit by quoting him at length in this year’s Notes by the Editor.

The basic premise is this: English cricket is run by and for the exclusive gratification of the 18 first-class counties. They cream off most of the game’s profit in subsidies and force the elite to risk injury and burn-out by playing almost non-stop to fund them. In return the counties provide neither international-standard cricketers to replace the exhausted stars, nor sufficient affordable access for the next generation of spectators – leading to situations such as occurred in the 2005 Ashes, when 10,000 fans were locked out of Old Trafford on the final day of the Test, because there are no grounds in the country large enough to satisfy a support-base that exists in spite of the status quo.

The book requires no over-egging on the part of the author to reveal a game in hazardous and desperate decline. For large tracts Buckland does nothing more than join the dots, from one tale of bankrupt decision-making to the next, but he does so with such clarity of thought that, at times, you’ll grind your teeth at the ineptitude of England’s rulers.

Each point has been raised on more than one occasion in the past – usually just after England’s latest drubbing by Australia. But rarely have all the gripes been stitched together so analytically to form such a bleak tapestry. Viewing the situation from the perspective of England’s most regular conquerors, and taking as his starting point the schism of World Series Cricket in 1977, Buckland argues that England is long overdue a Packer-style revolution of its own. Not least because it would end once and for all the amateurish fallacy that success in sport is cyclical.

If the book consisted only of the first two chapters it would still be worth its £15 cover price.

Andrew Miller, June 2008

What did they say?
“Should be compulsory reading for everyone in cricket.” Simon Barnes, The Times.

“Opinions on English cricket are varied and often prejudiced. This well-researched book fills an important gap.” Mike Atherton.

Why not tell us what your favourite cricket book is, or which book you’d like to see in ‘The weekend read’ in the comments below …

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