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March 2009
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Jrod: The cult of Jesse

March 30th, 2009 by Jrod in New Zealand, Test cricket

If you don’t have time in your life for a new cricketing cult figure, I suggest you don’t watch Jesse Ryder play.

We already know a lot about Jesse. He is a big man, there is no getting around it (pun not intended); he is just large. He makes Samit Patel look like an anorexic French model.

He likes a drink, or 17, and occasionally he takes it too far and gets himself in trouble with bathrooms late at night.

He can bat – seriously bat, and has a technique so uncluttered it looks like a team of reality TV cleaners have just come through.

He is also a man who can laugh when he is on 99*, on the verge of his maiden ton and Chris Martin, the worst batsman in modern cricket, is playing and missing.
This Test has shown us a whole other side to Jesse, one that a lot of New Zealand experts didn’t believe he had.

His raw anger at getting out for 201 was brilliant to watch. He really cares. It may not always shine through the late-night drinking sessions, but instead of being happy with a double-ton, he showed a furious rage that most people only show when they get out for 99.

Forget the boring beefcakes, with their nutritional requirements and early-to-bed routines. Jesse blows them out of the water on the field, and is 10-times more watchable when he does it.

Skill, passion and aura can still trump academy training and cookie-cutter cricketers.
When Jesse is on top, the Kiwis are on top. He has cricket charisma. His team-mates love playing with him as much as we love watching him.

Adam Parore, Jesse’s biggest cynic, wrote that he wasn’t a batting stylist. Never have I heard such blasphemy. While every other new batsman seems to hop around like a coked-up kiddie-show presenter, Ryder is calm and smooth. It’s like Leonard Cohen standing on a stage with Britney, Hayley and Duffy.

On top of it all, the man is bringing the game to the people of New Zealand. Not the normal cricket fans, but the rugby fans that have always thought cricket was a fun-sponge of a game. Jesse is one of them, and he has the ability (along with Prince Brendon McCullum) to bring these new people to the game.

So this big, beautiful man may not just be a cult figure, he could become a cult leader, with a bunch of young New Zealanders in tow. Can’t you just see him in a robe.

Jrod is an Australian cricket blogger. His site won last July’s Best of Blogs in TWC

Posted in New Zealand, Test cricket | 12 Comments »

Daniel Brigham: Resurgent Kiwis learning Test lesson

March 27th, 2009 by Daniel Brigham in New Zealand, Test cricket

What is it with cricket teams at the moment? So many of them appear to be resurgent. First Australia return to their status as world-beaters (after a dip shorter than Bryce McGain’s Test career), then West Indies win their first Test series for five years. Now New Zealand are joining in, the flaying of India’s vaunted attack led by two very gifted enigmas, Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder.

For too long their undoubted ability as a one-day side has held back their advancement as a Test side. They can be destructive over 50 overs because their batsmen don’t hang around; they are self-destructive over five days for precisely the same reason. Prior to the current Test at Napier, the last time New Zealand batted for over 150 overs in an innings was also the last time one of their batsmen scored a double-hundred: April 2006.

Taylor, in his 16th Test and Ryder, in his 8th, could well change that thinking. The ease and assurance with which they played in the first innings at Napier suggested they’d been around for years. Both hundreds were innings of high-class batsmen, two that have the potential to get into any batting line-up in the world, on any pitch. Sure, the track was dead but the Indian attack is skilled. Yet neither batsman looked in any danger, their timing as good as Ponting’s or Tendulkar’s.

Ryder has had very public problems, but he is young and New Zealand have stuck with him, and look at how he’s rewarded their faith. He’s still obviously far too keen on eating the wrong things (although Samit Patel may have watched his innings with interest), but the way he reacted when getting out first ball after completing his double-hundred was as telling as it was surprising, slamming his bat to the ground in anger. His appetite for runs was obvious throughout the innings, but his disgust at getting out to a loose shot made it palpable. This is a man who isn’t happy unless he’s scoring big.

For too long New Zealand batsmen have made average bowlers looks good (Ryan Sidebottom anyone?), but with these two in the middle-order they have the ability to make good bowlers look average. World cricket needs a good Kiwi side as much as it needs a successful West Indies, and, with Taylor and Ryder fulfilling their promise, I know which one I’d bet on happening sometime soon.

Daniel Brigham is assistant editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in New Zealand, Test cricket | 1 Comment »

Miles Jupp: More fool the ECB

March 26th, 2009 by Miles Jupp in England

Cricket’s greatest rivalry is no longer the between India and Pakistan or England and Australia but is instead between the various administrators of the game in India and our own wretched ECB.

England’s women cricketers should have made this a week to savour but their total dominance in the World Cup was knocked almost totally out of the papers by another classic piece of ECB stupidity.

While the Indian administrators resemble sharp, powerful city slickers we are stuck with David Collier – the sort of man one might see waddling around a regional sales conference in an ill-fitting suit with a mouth full of cheap lemon cheesecake asking if the drinks are complimentary.

Like so many ECB decisions, their ludicrous offer that England and Wales would be capable of hosting the IPL at this time of year and at such short notice sounds like the sort of thinking that could only result of a long and heavy lunch.

So much was wrong. Not only is the summer’s schedule already packed sardine-tight, but if the 2012 Olympics have shown us anything it is that the British people are at best ambivalent about hosting sporting events. We have very poor form in this area: the ’99 World Cup was a grey affair with as much celebratory atmosphere as a teetotal barn dance.

How could it have escaped the ECB’s notice that the climate would be a factor, and that over two-thirds of games in the proposed schedule would be adversely affected? Do Collier and Giles Clarke not appreciate what the weather is like in England and Wales in April?

Presumably people are unaware of this if they watch most games from the comfort of a corporate hospitality box. Perhaps they’re so busy networking that they fail to hear the rain lashing against the windows, and don’t notice that the cricket they see being played on the television that they occasionally throw a glance is actually highlights from a game against New Zealand in 1986 that Sky have put on until the weather clears.

The declaration that we would be in a fit state to host the IPL is not so much evidence of ambition as an example of the sort of blind, rationale-free optimism that wouldn’t look out of a place on an episode of Deal Or No Deal - in which the contestants try and convince us that there has been some real thought behind what is actually a series of totally random choices.

I’m glad that we won’t be hosting the IPL, because I think our administrators could do without the distractions. But what I’d really like to see isn’t the coffers swelling but our men emulating our women and winning some cricket.

Posted in England | 5 Comments »

Andre Nel: I Am Retiring From International Pantomime

March 26th, 2009 by Alan Tyers in Alan Tyers, South Africa, Test cricket


Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.

It’s with a heavy heart that I must call time on my career as a pantomime villain. Over the last few years, I’ve been privileged to play with some of the greats – an Ugly Sister alongside Phil from EastEnders in Scarborough, Captain Hook opposite Home And Away’s Marilyn in Pan at the Beck Theatre, Hayes – but it’s time for me to call it a day on my own terms.

What’s that, boys and girls? I’ve had to retire because the offers of work have dried up? Why I oughta… It’s true that there are other young South African villains coming through, okes who can stomp around and glare at people. And maybe they are more frightening. But have they got the timing for the killer line, the wit to take a bit of a light-hearted heckle and come back with off-the-cuff stuff like “I’m going to kill you, you bastard, and then I’m going to burn down your house and kill all your relations”? No, they don’t.

As for suggestions that I have retired because I have found my potential roles limited by the most welcome emergence of villains from different ethnic communities, all I can say is “Oh no I didn’t.”

In this business we call show, it’s all about audience rapport. For instance, when I was doing my Dirty Rat in Dick Whittington over in Australia, I had tremendous fun with everyone in the audience, not just the boys and girls but the ladies and jellyspoons as well. “Get off Nel, you’re absolutely rubbish,” the boys and girls would scream, and sometimes they would really enter into the spirit of panto by throwing bottles at my head. It’s all part of a rich tradition.

Although I won’t be in big-time panto anymore, going toe-to-toe with your Davros and your Pasquales, I’m very excited about my new role in rep in South London. If I can help turn some of these young lads into the Widow Twankies of tomorrow, then it’ll all be worthwhile.

Alan Tyers won’t be appearing in the Nutcracker alongside the Chuckle Brothers and Baddoo from Shipwrecked in Romford again this Xmas

Posted in Alan Tyers, South Africa, Test cricket | 4 Comments »

John Stern: England need KP to step up to three

March 25th, 2009 by John Stern in England, Test cricket

In the England football team there is the problem left-sided position. In the England Test side, well, there is more than one problem but particularly frustrating of recent months is the troublesome No.3 position.

The fact that we can still harbour the romantic notion of Michael Vaughan re-emerging from a 2002-03 timewarp and flaying the Aussies just shows how troubled we are. So who should it be? Bell? Shah? Bopara? Key? Vaughan? Cook or Strauss?

The answer has been staring us in the face for ages. That’s right, Kev, it’s time. If you are as good as we think you are – and more to the point as you think you are – then what’s stopping you batting at three? Don’t fancy the new ball? Shaky starter? Who isn’t. Just look at Ricky Ponting. And while we’re on the subject of Punter, he bats at three. So did Viv Richards, in the prime of his career. So did Jacques Kallis. And, er, Don Bradman. Sachin Tendulkar isn’t at three but then he’s had Rahul Dravid to do that job for most of his career.

From what one can glean, KP’s place in the batting order has always been something of an issue. He didn’t want to move from five to four for ages, so we’re told. I can’t imagine he’d fancy batting three. But needs must. And Pietersen is England’s one world-class batsman. He told us after the captain-coach fall-out how he only had the best interests of the team at heart. So, show us how much you care, Kev, and step up.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in England, Test cricket | 5 Comments »

Lawrence Booth: Still time for Hog to have his day

March 25th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in England, Test cricket, The Ashes

Think of a Yorkshire cricketer who wouldn’t mind one last tilt at the Aussies and the chances are you’ll think of Michael Vaughan. But there is another. He’s less adept at promoting himself, more prone to homespun wit than po-faced bragging, but there may never be a better chance for Matthew Hoggard to make a case for re-selection than in the first few weeks of the new county season.

Since Hoggard was dropped after the defeat at Hamilton last year, England have taken 20 wickets only five times in 15 Tests, and just once – in a dead game against South Africa – against a side other than New Zealand. That’s not to say Hoggy would have bowled out South Africa, India and West Indies by himself; simply to point out that, while he was busy taking 42 division-one wickets at 24 each, the various men chosen to replace him failed more often than not to do their job. As with most England cricketers on the sidelines, he has improved by the match.

Hoggard, currently in Abu Dhabi with his county, told Sky this week that it would be “a bit harsh” to drop England’s bowlers for their performances on “some absolute roads”, which is both a subtle dig at his own treatment and a generous assessment of his rivals. He then added: “It will be interesting to see when they get back to England on friendlier tracks if they can produce the goods or not.” Interesting? Rarely can the word have been so loaded.

The problem is, however, that Hoggard’s swift demise after taking one for 151 in Hamilton was linked to a reputed loss of nip, the indefinable quality any international seamer needs if he is to trouble top-class batsmen in unhelpful conditions. Comparisons were made with the fate of Jason Gillespie, ruthlessly ditched forever after his freakish double-century against Bangladesh, and thus the narrative took shape. An international recall now would spoil the storyline – and leave the selectors looking rather foolish.

And yet the case for the prosecution may be more than pure nostalgia for the kind of match-winning performance Hoggard put in at Trent Bridge in 2005. Among England’s regular seam bowlers, only the now faded Ryan Sidebottom has a better record than Hoggard’s 75 Test wickets at 32 since that heady summer. That’s right, the bloke who has lost his nip has, in that time, outbowled Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison, Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Sajid Mahmood and Liam Plunkett, to say nothing of Darren Pattinson and Amjad Khan.

At 32, Hoggard is still just about in the prime of his swing-bowling life. He is desperate to rejoin the international fray, and it’s tempting to imagine that his experience and nous might have made a difference in either Antigua or Trinidad, when West Indies finished nine and eight wickets down. If the nip really has gone, so be it. But if England’s seamers fail to impress against West Indies in the two-Test series starting at Lord’s on May 6 and Hoggard is still taking wickets in June, one of the more heart-warming u-turns of recent times may take shape in the selectors’ panicked minds.

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, The Ashes | 2 Comments »

The TWC interview: Charlotte Edwards

March 24th, 2009 by Sam Collins in Miscellaneous

Charlotte Edwards has just returned from Sydney where she captained England’s women to their first World Cup victory since 1993. She has captained England full-time since 2006, and was ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year in 2008. She was speaking to Sam Collins

Has the standard of women’s cricket changed since England last won the World Cup in 1993?

Yes, it’s higher now. In any sport times move on and the game has changed a lot in that time, for example we are now wearing trousers. The game has progressed, especially the fielding and the athleticism.

How can English women’s cricket sustain this momentum?

Hopefully by keeping the same girls in the team. I think it has been a big strength of this team that we have kept the nucleus of the side the same. We have just got to get the other girls closer to us and keep them challenging for places; it’s good that we have a lot of people challenging for places.

What is the future for women’s cricket, more Tests, or a focus on ODIs and Twenty20?

I think ODIs and T20s definitely. Just because of the time factor – getting time off work and so on. Domestically we don’t play any cricket the length of Tests so it’s quite hard to then go and play it internationally.

Is there more glamour attached to the women’s game now than five years ago?

I think there is. I’ve had a few questions this morning about the girls being good looking and so on. We’re doing everything we can to promote women’s cricket and if we have to go and do some shoots with Paul Costelloe in our suits then that’s what we have to do. That’s part of our job, to hopefully get the game out to a wider audience. As long as we’re doing our talking on the pitch that’s what matters to me.

Does your success prove the effectiveness of the split-squad programme that saw some players go out to play in Australia and New Zealand before the World Cup?

It’s definitely helped us. Six of the girls were out there playing and obviously they were in season so it meant only six or seven of us had to get ourselves back into form. It was a real benefit to the squad – they were used to the conditions and had played at a lot of the grounds we had played at.

Would you like to see some of the other countries become more competitive?

It’s all about women’s cricket becoming stronger. I think the standard is getting better among the weaker countries, but we are also getting better, so it is difficult to measure their progression. Anything we can do to help those teams get closer to us then great, because ultimately we want as many good teams playing women’s cricket as possible.

After the final one of the ex-Australian players said to me that England winning will be the best thing that has happened to the game because it will kick the other countries into action with a sense that what the ECB has done for us will be replicated in other countries.

How difficult was it to give up your job working at Hunts bat manufacturer to take up the Chance to shine contract?

It was really difficult. I had been working with them for eight years and to finally have to give up my role there was hard, as a lot of people there had really supported me throughout my cricket career. The Chance to shine contract did give me the opportunity to put something back into the game through coaching. It has been the best thing I have ever done. The chance to be a role model for the kids has been fantastic, and I can’t wait to get back down to the day job.

Do you sense a groundswell of interest within schools?

Having been in the schools and seeing all the schools that have emailed me while I have been away and been watching me on the TV, it’s great that they can get so close to an England player and that I can be their role model. I’m looking forward to showing this trophy to them and hopefully generating a lot more interest to get these girls into clubs so that hopefully one day they can have the success I’ve experienced over the last few days.

With crowds becoming more familiar with the names of the England team will it help women’s cricket be seen as a legitimate spectator sport going into the Twenty20 World Cup?

Hopefully we’ve created a lot of interest through the winter, through the tournament, that will get people down to watch us in this T20. I think this summer will be a bit like 2005, it could really help raise the profile again. To be part of that all again would be great. It’s going to be a fantastic tournament, the first we’ve run alongside the guy’s one. Hopefully we’ll be here at Lord’s for the final on June 21 and England’s men will be too.

Sam Collins is website editor of

Posted in Miscellaneous | No Comments »

Jrod: Australian batsmen – learn to spin

March 23rd, 2009 by Jrod in Test cricket

Say what you want about Bryce McGain’s Test debut, but few people will forget it. That is what happens when you are a 36-year-old making your debut, forget how to bowl and go at over eight runs an over. People find those sorts of things hard to forget.

Not only has Bryce put his career in a terminal position (by that I mean six feet under), he may have sounded the death-knell for the next generation of spinners.

Australia has been rotating through spinners like Mark Nicholas does superlatives. Bryce is the best performed at state level, by some margin, so his colossal thrashing doesn’t say much for the boys behind him.

People like Terry Jenner, Brydon Coverdale and, well, me, will tell people that in state cricket Bryce never loses control like that, that his length has military precision and that he is the best slow bowler in Australia.

That is all dandy, but this was a man having a monumental case of the yips. When I interviewed Bryce for this very publication he said, “It doesn’t matter how hard they come at me, I wont forget how to bowl”.

He did forget how to bowl, he lost all faith in himself, he lost the ability to trust his basic motor skills and he may have lost a career.

When he made that quote he was talking about Sehwag, Tendulkar and VVS – three men that can take down any spinner. He was not talking about Ashwell Prince, Jacques Kallis and AB DeVilliers.

Ricky Ponting had pretty much no faith in spinners before this event, so Bryce may have poured some kerosene onto that.

He was the last card – there is no one left – and Australia are already looking at basing their attack around the boring cornerstone of four pacemen and part-time spinners.

There was a time when Australians would throw the ball to a spinner as an attacking option. That time has passed.

Now my advice to any young Australian batsman would be simple: learn to spin.

Jrod is an Australian cricket blogger. His site won last July’s Best of Blogs in TWC

Posted in Test cricket | 5 Comments »

The weekend read – In It to Win It

March 20th, 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?
In It to Win It: he Australian Cricket Supremacy by Peter Roebuck (Allen & Unwin, pb, 246pp, £8.99 - not available in UK book stores)

What’s it all about?
A perceptive commentary on what makes Australia a winning force

What did we give it?

What did we say?
Peter Roebuck, who is one of a handful of the best contemporary cricket writers, is an elusive character. He is proud and prickly; judgemental and a disciplinarian by nature, who is also easy-going and caring. He writes with the authority of a former player (Somerset and Devon) and the occasional whimsy of someone who can see, most of the time, that cricket is a game.

Roebuck describes this book – written after Australia’s 2005 Ashes defeat and now reissued in paperback – as “a search for Australia through cricket”. The argument, stated briefly, is that until Ian Chappell and Kerry Packer erupted on to the scene in the 1970s Australian perceptions were still informed by Bodyline – “a sense of injustice – never quite subdued – of being thwarted on the very cusp of achievement”.

Aggression replaced the sense of injustice in the ’70s: “Australia needed its spirit, its assertiveness to establish a sense of belonging – it is no coincidence that the disrespect shown by Chappell and Packer to the idea of England was followed by the longest period of domination the game has known.” Rejoicing in success, he writes, arises from a desire to confirm that Australia is a nation state. The logic is fascinating. If Ricky Ponting goes on winning, does it mean Australia will embrace republicanism?

Roebuck is just the man to identify this trend. He shares with Packer and Chappell a disrespect for the idea of England. It grips him hardest here in his account of the final day of the final Test in 2005. The behaviour of the crowd was “jingoistic, self-justification – the mood of the crowd bordered on the demented,” he writes. “The spectators were, manifestly, more interested in England winning than in watching cricket.” Exactly. These spectators had endured years of Australian cricket supremacy, and here they were, behaving aggressively and assertively, just like a crowd of Australians.

He ended the book in 2006 by stating that Australia would soon recover the Ashes: “The Australians have no intention of accepting defeat as part and parcel of the game of cricket.” And before he gets to the end he describes with skill and perception the games that exhibited their cricketing greatness. These teams require and deserve a fine interpreter. As long as Roebuck is writing for the Sydney Morning Herald they have got one.
Stephen Fay, November 2007

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: Robin Smith

March 20th, 2009 by TWC in England, My favourite cricketer and tagged , reader Rich Cridge is the latest winner of our My Favourite Cricketer competition for his entry on the Hampshire and England batsman Robin Smith.

Cricket has always been there for me: Tony Lewis’s Welsh tones in the background as my father would watch the Test on a summer’s evening. My uncle playing for a local team and occasionally dragging me off to play when they were short; and of course it was always best to visit granny when she was doing the teas.

It was 1988 (I was 10). England were on their third skipper of the season and in the middle of yet another beating at the hands of the rampant West Indians.

The exact date was July 21 and a new player, Robin Smith, strode to the wicket to join Allan Lamb with England in trouble again. For a short time something strange happened: these two batsmen stood up to the West Indian bowlers. We could still win, I thought (well I was only 10!). Then Lamb pulled a muscle in his leg and had to go off; the innings crumbled. But that short moment was my awakening. Cricket had got me and it has never let go since.

Over the next five years, the young Smith would go on, along with Graham Gooch, to become one of England’s best players, the wicket most coveted by opponents. He stood almost alone against the Aussies in ’89. He took a full part in the run glut that was 1990 and then scored two hundreds against West Indies in 1991.

So what was it about Robin Smith? If asked back in ’88 I’d have been unable to answer, but by ’91 I knew. His bravery – he was a real (bats)man. There have been lots of brave batsmen, but they’d have had to go some to beat Smith. On the 1990 tour of the West Indies, while batting without the added safety of a helmet grill, a Courtney Walsh bouncer slammed into this cheek. The camera zoomed in and you could see the swelling grow before your very eyes. Smith didn’t flinch, brushing away the worried West Indian fielders and England’s physio.

He owned the best square-cut in the world. He also lived just down the road from me in my home town of Salisbury, and from time to time he’d be spotted about. As a teenager I was taken to see a county match at Hampshire; Smith’s autograph was the one I had to get. I can remember marvelling at the size of his bear-like hands as he took my pen to sign his name across the card.

His international career was cruelly cut short in 1996, at the age of 32. It was thought that he couldn’t play spin. Maybe he wasn’t the best, but then how many people were mastering Warne, Muralitharan, Kumble and co. at the time? Let’s not forget he hit 128 in Sri Lanka at the end of the ill-fated 1992-93 tour of the subcontinent.

He should have played well into this century and would have become one of England’s all-time greats. Maybe that’s part of his appeal – the best always leave you wanting more.

Rich 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 England, My favourite cricketer | 4 Comments »

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