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February 2009
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Giles Clarke: My Day Off

February 19th, 2009 by Alan Tyers in England, Test cricket, Twenty20, west indies and tagged , , , , , ,

When things get a bit stressful, I like to go back to back to basics, so I’ll sometimes go and spend a day working at Majestic Wines in Taunton, the place where it all began for me. Other than that bank, I suppose, where I pioneered the idea of giving 100,000 per cent mortgages to unemployed American Betamax factory workers to buy castles.

Nobody could possibly have foreseen the outcome: I did every bit of due diligence one could imagine. I even met one chap personally – ghastly of course. He said he was richer than God himself and could he get a mortgage on this rather nice pad in Park Avenue so what can you do?

It has not been a terrific day so far at good old Majestic. My new pal Mr P Montgomery Roosterbender, who runs the Ribs ‘n’ Securities Roadhouse in the High Street, came in to see about his orders for the week. I suggested quite a nice mixed case of Merlots and Pino Grigio.

“Goddammit Clarkleton,” he shouted in that charming way Americans have. “Don’t you know I can’t stand wine? It bores the goddamm hell out of me.”

“Absolutely right, your magnificence,” I shot back, to show him that I wasn’t prepared to take that sort of thing lying down. “It’s a ridiculous drink and totally old fashioned, nobody drinks wine any more apart from complete losers and stick-in-the-muds.”

Instead, I sold him a few cases of Blu Cardiobang, a very exciting new alcopop that gets you paralytic in under nine seconds and thus saves you all that boring business of having to go to a pub for a drink and talk to your friends and other outdated rubbish. I utterly refute the rumours that it is made from bits of depleted uranium and pureed swan, and those know-nothing idiots – I’m looking at you, British Medical Association, the Lancet, etc – who say it causes heart attacks are simply living in the past.

A slightly odd thing happened, though, when Mr Roosterbender came to pay for it. He opened his wallet, and there was a very great deal of money in there. I saw it with my own eyes. He said it would be much easier for everybody if he could just give me a cheque though, and naturally – being an expert businessman who know exactly how business deals are conducted – I agreed.

I did tactfully mention that it wasn’t a type of cheque that I had seen before, written as it was on the back of a napkin and signed “Go to hell, Clarkesville, you’ll not see a penny from old Roosterbender” but that’s very much the way business is done in the modern world and nobody could possibly have guessed that there might be something fishy about the chap.

Alan Tyers will be shopping in Oddbins from now on

Posted in England, Test cricket, Twenty20, west indies | 1 Comment »

The TWC Summit: Monty or Swanny?

February 18th, 2009 by TWC in England, Test cricket

Monty or Swanny? Left or right? Darts or flight? Graeme Swann has repaid the selectors faith in Antigua but does he have a long-term future? Our panel do their worst … Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in England, Test cricket | No Comments »

John Stern: West Indies the real loser in Stanford saga

February 18th, 2009 by John Stern in England, west indies

Forget the ECB. They got what they deserved: shame and embarrassment. Let’s hope Giles Clarke gets what he deserves.

But the real losers out of this whole Stanford mess is the island of Antigua and West Indies cricket as a whole. Stanford preyed on the needs and desires of a tiny, poor Caribbean island. He used cricket as a way of buying influence and power. He worked out pretty quickly that was the way to go. But whatever his motives or his methods, he became a major employer and he had an influence on cricket on the island and the region.

And, as time has passed, that influence has been shown to be not entirely malign. The boot camp that the Stanford Superstars underwent before the Super Series last November not only yielded material success for that group of players, it appeared to inject a self-belief into cricket in the Caribbean that had been absent for years. West Indies’ staggering victory in Jamaica was evidence of that.

But in the space of week, all that has gone. Antiguan and Caribbean cricket has been shamed by the pitch farce at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium and now cut adrift by the alleged nefarious actions of a man who was recently described by World Finance magazine as “the original philanthrocapitalist”.

It would be nice to think otherwise but West Indies cricket may be back at square one, embarrassed and demotivated. The administration has always been shambolic and their alliance with Stanford has exposed this.

But West Indies were desperate – for success and money. What was the ECB’s excuse? The misguided, craven view that raising pots of cash – wherever it comes from – is their sole raison d’etre. Money might not be the root of ALL evil but it’s certainly got plenty to answer for. But not as much as Messrs Stanford and Clarke.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in England, west indies | 3 Comments »

Lawrence Booth: Collingwood the perpetual career-saver

February 18th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in England, Test cricket

So, Paul Collingwood has just saved his career again, has he? Given that his first-innings 113 in Antigua was his third hundred in six Tests, here’s hoping he does a lot more career-saving in the months and years ahead.

Collingwood may be destined to play second fiddle not just to the bloke at the other end – even if he did outscore Kevin Pietersen on Sunday – but also to his own technique. Some observers in the blogosphere, it seems, are unable to divorce style from substance, as if Steve Waugh and Shivnarine Chanderpaul have always been a joy to watch. Yet when Ian Bell spoke after the Jamaica Test of his need to score more “ugly” runs, there could not have been much doubt which of his colleagues he had in mind.

Let’s get one thing straight: Collingwood hardly ever looks good, with the possible exception of his chips over wide mid-on off the spinners. So when he’s not scoring runs, the vultures – sensing the easiest of targets – hover with extra relish.

At times it’s difficult to disagree with them. When Collingwood was scratching around against New Zealand last summer, he looked like England’s least aesthetically appealing operator since Jack Russell. Yet while other members of top six – notably Alastair Cook, Bell, and Andrew Flintoff – have barely been worthy of the name recently, Collingwood has chiselled and chivvied. When the calls for his head remain, you realize just how unobtrusively he does it. And don’t forget: only one current player has made a Test double-hundred against Australia.

Aw look, it’s probably why Shane Warne sledged him with such glee in 2006-07. The Aussies know a scrapper when they see one and no one scraps for England quite like Collingwood. But there is a lesson here that goes beyond the usual observations. Between making 128 against West Indies in his own Riverside backyard in July 2007 and that, yes, career-saving 135 against South Africa at Edgbaston a year later, Collingwood fell eight times between 40 and 66.Ring any bells? Alastair Cook, there is a man sitting not very far away from you in the dressing room who knows exactly what you’re going through. Have a quiet word, if you haven’t already, and try to bottle some of that bottle. And let there be no more knee-jerk talk about dropping England’s toughest cookie.

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 | 3 Comments »

TWC’s Tuesday Chat: Bob Willis

February 17th, 2009 by Daniel Brigham in England

In the fourth of’s new weekly interview feature, Daniel Brigham interviews Bob Willis.

Willis, who is now an integral part of Sky’s cricket coverage, is a former England captain who took 325 wickets in 90 Tests.

Steve Harmison, a tall fast bowler like yourself, is still in the England team despite numerous failures. Should England be sticking with him?

Well he’s an enigma really. I think he’s been very lucky because he’s been given so many chances.

Too many chances?

Yes. It’s one of the weaknesses of the central contract. I find it incredible that the people who are paid large sums of money to manage him don’t actually manage him. How he turned up unfit for the tour of India is quite beyond me.

Should he be made to run five miles every morning like you famously did?

It wouldn’t do him any harm. I’d prefer to see the players doing that than all of this weight training in the gym. Somebody should be on his case.

Ian Bell was dropped for the current Test. Why don’t you think he’s been able to convert his talent into runs?

I think it’s highly optimistic putting him in at number three. In my early days we had three opening batsmen who took the first three positions and England have done that recently with Trescothick, Cook, Strauss and Vaughan. If you’re not doing that I think the best player in the side should bat at three. So I think Pietersen should bat at three. He has a good technique to keep out the new ball and also has the game to increase the pace if he goes in at 150 for 1.

What did you make of the referral system in the first Test. Are you a fan?

I am a fan. It clearly needs refining because the standard of umpiring is hopeless now. Two of the umpires in this series, Daryl Harper and Tony Hill, are dreadful umpires. I think the three umpires should rotate as a team, giving the guys a rest.

Is two referrals the right amount?

It’s better than three. The referrals may be better if they came from the umpires rather than the players. If the umpires were doing it then they could refer at will. What we want is more correct decisions and if referrals help that then we should see more of it.

Do England need a coach?

The current mentality seems to be that the coach has to be upfront like a football manager. Other countries generally have their coach in the background and they’re more effective for that. I don’t think one of the highest paid people in English cricket should be the coach. He should be there if the players have got a technical problem. I don’t understand why there’s a batting coach, bowling coach, head coach and fielding coach when the guys are on tour. They can have that up to the first Test but I’m not sure how much coaching can be done between Tests, especially when they’re back-to-back.

Despite England’s collapse in Jamaica a lot of England fans seemed pleased that West Indies were doing well again. Why do you think that is?

People have seemed shock by their demise. They were confident to the point of arrogance in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but I think everybody seems sorry for the demise of cricket in the region. I’m sure that the retirement of Lara and John Dyson arriving as coach will have given the side new resolve. Obviously the ones that enjoyed the Stanford millions are set up for life and don’t have to worry about playing for their places all the time. We would all like our countries to be the best but you don’t like former great cricketing countries to be in the doldrums.
We ask readers of our newsletter to send in stories about cricketers they spot and we’ve been inundated by tales of you being spotted on trains. You must be a big fan of train journeys?

Yes I’m a big fan of public transport in general. I travel by public transport wherever possible. I love rail travel.

You took Ian Botham to watch your hero Bob Dylan in Auckland in 1978. Have you ever been tempted to take him along to watch another of your loves, Wagner?

No I haven’t. It might be a bridge too far for Ian. Six and a half hours of Wagner musical drama might test his patience.

Bob Willis is a Sky Sports studio analyst for its exclusively live and high definition coverage of West Indies v England

For details of next week’s Tuesday chat, and how to send in your own questions, keep an eye on the blog.

Posted in England | 3 Comments »

Edward Craig: Problems looming for England

February 17th, 2009 by Edward Craig in England

Flintoff and Strauss. That’s where the next England trouble lies. In an interview in The Observer post-Pietersen-Moores, Flintoff said of Strauss: “We’re chalk and cheese but we get on fine. He’s the brunt of the jokes sometimes, so we’re going to have to tone that down.”

This pranged at the time – a relationship between talisman and captain that explicitly lacks respect.

At the end of yesterday’s play, as Flintoff roared in during those final few overs to an 8-1 off-side field, Chris Gayle played and missed. Strauss went over to his bowler, asked him to go round the wicket with a short leg in place. Flintoff didn’t like this and reluctantly had a go. Short, wide – four.

A stroppy Flintoff immediately reverted to over the wicket and moved the short leg to fourth slip. It took a few minutes to do this and much waving of arms. Strauss remained where he was at first slip, impassive.

The field reverted to 8-1 off side, Flintoff bowled too straight, Gayle jabbed the ball towards a vacant square leg and stole a single. Pressure off. Flintoff: pissed off.

This is a seed of discontent created by Flintoff’s attitude to Strauss’ cricketing ability. Without careful management, it will grow into something destructive – and England are without a coach.

Edward Craig is deputy editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in England | 7 Comments »

King Cricket: The unfair shaming of Sir Viv

February 16th, 2009 by Alex Bowden in west indies and tagged , , , ,

You can see why Sir Viv Richards might have been a little bothered. With the ground bearing his name being deemed unfit for cricket, it’s a small wonder that the white-hot ferocity of his fury didn’t melt the sandy outfield into a sheet of glass.

The King Cricket name may be a byword for inane, delusional shod, but that’s a reputation that we’ve carefully cultivated and nurtured ourself. It’s taken a strict regime of bare minimum effort and of doing, at most, half a job, whatever the task. The Vivian Richards name, however, has had ineptitude foisted upon it. His name doesn’t deserve to be associated with such incompetence.

Viv Richards was an exceptional cricketer. He put a good deal of effort into making his name into something. He prepared, he practised and he went out of his way to present a certain image of himself. He conveyed this image so successfully that it’s a little-known fact that no one has ever managed to write more than 50 words about Viv Richards without using the word ‘swagger’ at least once.

To create this image; to give his name such status, Viv barely put a foot wrong. Any display of vulnerability would have unravelled all the work, so he never backed down and he made sure that he retained his aura. Naming a ground after him was meant to be an honour, but the upshot is that his name has been appropriated by others and associated with failure. He must wish that he’d kept it to himself.

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 west indies | 3 Comments »

My Favourite Cricketer: Frank Hayes

February 13th, 2009 by TWC in My favourite cricketer reader Paul Eade is the fourth winner of our My Favourite Cricketer competition for his entry on Lancashire batsman Frank Hayes

Frank Hayes was destined to be my favourite cricketer. In 1973, I discovered cricket. Hayes was the man who stood out from the crowd.

Nowadays, a player of his appearance would not get a second glance: Hayes had long blond hair. His favourite band was Pentangle. Hardly revolutionary stuff but this was several years before any English cricketer even dared sport an earring, yet alone a green Mohican.

Sure, some of the England team of 1973 looked worthy of worship - but only in a square-jawed-World-War-Two-RAF-pilot way. I needed a favourite with a touch of rebellion about him. Then I discovered that Hayes played for Lancashire, who, with me being born and living in Scarborough, were supposed to be “the enemy”. It had to be Hayes.

Hayes made 106 not out on his Test debut against the West Indies at The Oval that summer. My abiding memory is of him standing - capless of course - at solitary slip on the sun-bleached Lord’s turf while Rohan Kanhai, Garry Sobers and Bernard Julien batted for what seemed like a week (it was actually less than two days but they did make 652).

What followed taught me plenty: I had to come to terms with frequent disappointment and frustration.

He was an automatic choice for the 1973-74 tour to the West Indies. It wasn’t a happy experience. Nevertheless, England, against all the odds, squared the series by 26 runs in the fifth Test at Port-of-Spain, mainly thanks to Tony Greig’s 13 wickets in the match. Hayes made 24 and 0 but the figures do not tell the whole story. His first innings score was made over two hours while almost passing out from a chronic stomach complaint.

Surely, Hayes had done enough to warrant selection against India the following summer. And when he stroked a career-best 187 against the tourists at Old Trafford he was a shoo-in for the first Test, on his home ground. No. To rub salt into the wound, England’s batsman scored at will against a terribly weak Indian attack.

But there was one bright spot. By 1974 my parents trusted me enough to go to the cricket at Scarborough on my own. Lancashire were one of the visitors to the Festival. I didn’t own an autograph book – just a blank page headed “Autographs” in a cricket magazine. Behind the pavilion at Scarborough a staircase led to the club offices - a prime place to catch the players on their own. I was there at 10am - just me and one other kid. Footsteps on the stairs. It was Hayes. I was speechless and just able to summon enough movement in my arms to hold out my page like a silent offering. Hayes signed for me and the kid. He didn’t sign another all day. I still have the signature, cut out and pasted into my autograph book.

Overlooked for the Ashes in 1975, Hayes got one last England chance against the ferocious West Indies pace attack of 1976. He made nought and 18 in a mauling at Old Trafford before moving on to the fourth Test at Headingley - for which I had tickets for the fourth day. The scheduling went to plan. Hayes, made seven in the first innings, came out to bat in the second innings with the score at 5 for 1 as England chased 260 to get back into the series. He struggled helplessly for 10 balls before Viv Richards caught him off Andy Roberts for a duck. “That’s the end of his Test career,” was all I could whisper to my friend. England lost by 55 runs and the rest of the summer was a write-off.

His county career burned on for another nine years, with three seasons as Lancashire captain. The highlight came when he hit Malcolm Nash for 34 off an over (6, 4, 6, 6, 6, 6) against Glamorgan at Swansea in 1977. In a way, that summed up Hayes. It was explosive batting – but with one more six he would be remembered as the man who matched Sobers.

Paul Eade, captain of Guttsta Wicked Cricket Club in Sweden, 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 | 4 Comments »

The Weekend Read: Duncan Fletcher – Behind The Shades

February 13th, 2009 by TWC in Miscellaneous and tagged , ,

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?
Behind The Shades by Duncan Fletcher (Simon & Schuster, 364pp, £7.99)

What’s it all about then?
The former England Coach’s controversial autobiography.

What did we give it?

What did we say?
Critics? Don’t even ignore ’em. Thus spoke Sam Goldwyn and long before the end of Duncan Fletcher’s aggrieved autobiography there was a feeling that the former England coach, for his own sake, would have done well to heed the legendary Hollywood producer’s advice.

In at least one post-publication interview Fletcher has hinted that he regrets the extent to which the book settles scores but anyone reading it will be delighted that he has refused to hold back. Easy-going man takes criticism in his stride does not good copy make. Pumped-up man confronts Henry Blofeld in a restaurant and is told to eff-off in return is the kind of juicy material that a typically bland sporting memoir will simply not accommodate.

What really caused a stir is Fletcher’s so-called “betrayal” of Andrew Flintoff in recounting an incident during the one-day series that followed England’s Ashes debacle last winter in which the England captain turned up for practice too drunk to take part.

Should Fletcher have exposed Flintoff to the world, even now that his ties with England are cut? Limited though my sympathy for Flintoff is, my feeling is probably no. It is the job of us hacks to dish the dirt, not insiders or such new ex-insiders. Nor is its inclusion justified by the pedalo incident in the World Cup that followed.

Reading about Flintoff’s drunkenness in the context of the rest of the book, it seems pretty obvious why Fletcher could not resist having his say – and that is Freddie’s choice of drinking companion. The man with whom Fletcher says Flintoff had been up all night boozing was, surprise, surprise, Ian Botham, whose tendency to pour scorn on Fletcher never failed to rile him. Indeed, it is hard to think of two personalities less likely to be in harmony than the cerebral, rather uptight coach and the boorish roisterer.

It is not just Botham who gets up Fletcher’s nose. Neither Geoff Boycott nor Sunil Gavaskar exactly endeared themselves to him. The ICC gets it in the neck and pretty much the entire media corps is dismissed for its repeated failure to look at what Fletcher calls “the facts”. Fletcher loves detail – in a previous life he helped develop the Rhodesian/Zimbabwean number-plate system – but reveals that he is even prouder of a financial document he redesigned for a medical aid society. But his recourse to a statistic to prove a point can be a failure to see the bigger picture.

The trouble is that Fletcher cannot bear to lose an argument and he clearly found it impossible not to read what the pundits were saying. To turn one’s back on them takes a lot of strength and as an outsider in the English game – perhaps looking for reassurance and acceptance, certainly sensitive to any sign of being undervalued – Fletcher may not have had quite enough of it. But let us not forget that this is the man who masterminded England’s 2005 Ashes victory and for that alone he deserves his place in the pantheon.
Simon O’Hagan, January 2008

What did they say?
‘In this always fascinating book Fletcher emerges fully into the open for the first time. It is soon obvious that he was far more thin-skinned than anybody realised. Throughout his seven years as coach Fletcher was forced to take constant incoming fire from critics in the media and elsewhere. The England coach seems to have remembered and stored up every single insult. Much of the pleasure of reading this book is the spectacle of Fletcher’s long-delayed revenge.’ Peter Oborne, The Spectator

Someone must have hated it?
‘But something jars. The book lives up to its title - we are certainly given an insight into a previously mysterious man - but it has an underlying seam of bitterness and resentment which, for someone who has achieved so much, is a disappointment and a little sad. Chapters are sprinkled with insistences that the reader “must understand”; that the media twisted his words and cheated the truth; that he is right and everyone else is wrong. If he never cared about the media during his tenure, why bother now?’
Will Luke (who still gave it 4/5),

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 »

Vote for England’s greatest post-war uncapped team

February 13th, 2009 by Daniel Brigham in Miscellaneous

My brother used to bowl to Essex’s and England’s Paul Prichard. My brother was just 14, Prichard was 10, it was in my parents’ back garden and Prichard, in reality, was me. As an Essex fan I could have pretended to be Gooch, Hussain or Mark Waugh. But every time I took guard to face my brother I was Prichard.

He never did play for England, and, in my mind at least, England were weaker for it. You’ll probably disagree with me. But all cricket fans have similar stories of bristling at the England selectors for overlooking their favourite players, so we’ve given you the chance to right the wrongs and vote for England greatest post-war uncapped XI.

A panel of experts has picked their team from a shortlist of 65, and you can select yours from the same shortlist by clicking here. There’s even a chance to win a hospitality day at the Friend’s Provident final at Lord’s on July 25. It includes a complimentary bar, so get picking – the closing date is March 23. The results will be announced in April.

After you’ve picked your team, get arguing about it on this blog. Was Glamorgan’s Don Shepherd really the unluckiest cricketer in Britain? Is Alec Bedser the only one to think his brother Eric should have won a Test cap? Are some counties favoured by England selectors over others? Am I slightly unhinged for obsessing over Paul Prichard when he doesn’t even make the shortlist?

Feel free to list your team on this blog, but don’t forget to submit your team to [email protected] or it won’t be counted.

To get things started, here’s my team: (Sorry Paul, you’re not on the shortlist)

Alan Jones (Glamorgan)

Andy Moles (Warwickshire)

Peter Roebuck CAPT (Somerset)

David Sales (Northants)

Ali Brown (Surrey, Nottinghamshire)

Geoff Humpage WK (Warwickshire)

Trevor Jesty (Hampshire, Lancashire, Surrey)

Glen Chapple (Lancashire)

David Millns (Leicestershire)

Tony Nicholson (Yorkshire)

Don Shepherd (Glamorgan)

Would that beat the current England team? Yes.

Daniel Brigham is assistant editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in Miscellaneous | 1 Comment »

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