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April 2009
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Alan Tyers: New Headmaster Flower’s First Official Assembly At The England School For Boys

April 30th, 2009 by Alan Tyers in Alan Tyers, England

“Now, I know there has been some twittering among the younger boys about whackings, but let me make it quite clear that nobody has anything to fear from Matron Strauss and myself so long as he practices hard, does his bit with the bat even if the team is not doing well – you know to whom I am referring – and does not think that just because he was head boy at his prep school that it counts for anything in the here and now.

We at The England School For Boys strongly believe in the education of the whole boy, apart from the mentally feeble ones from the ill-fated exchange programme with the state school in the North East. Speaking of the whole boy, I might also take this opportunity to remind you that boys who stuff their faces with tuck will be looked upon very dimly indeed.

We will be running a tight ship this term in terms of physical fitness, so if some of you bowlers could please try to keep out of the sick bay for at least a few weeks a time, Matron would be extremely grateful. You may have noticed that we have two new faces in the bowling div, if you could make them feel welcome that would be appreciated. Furthermore, do not give them cider; we don’t want a repeat of the unfortunate incidents with certain of the bowlers on the geography field trip to the Carib-

CHEWING, Bopara Minor? Spit it out, boy! In the bin for heaven’s sake. Would you behave like this in Mr Gooch’s class, Bopara Minor? “Sir, no sir,” is quite right Bopara Minor: Mr Gooch would not tolerate it, and nor will I. See me afterwards.

Yes, isn’t life unfair, boy? And don’t think that another century means you can be sure of sitting at top table for supper.

Now, certain members of the sixth form have been on an exchange programme this Lent term with some schools in India and I understand that some of them have been given rather a great deal of pocket money by their hosts. I must say I think this is most unwise, and would commend to you the words of St Paul’s Letter to the Counties, chapter 6 verse 14 in which he says “Money be-eth not the be-all and end-all; for what profiteth it a man if he hath all the wealth in the world but must sit on a bench like a poor ass while others playeth the first class cricket and putteth their name in the hat?” Some wise words there, I think , that we can also use in our daily inning, ha ha ha, especially those of us from Middlesex.

Now we will all sing the school song, Marching Back To The Pavilion Together after which Matron will examine the new boys for nits.”

The lesson was read by Alan Tyers

Posted in Alan Tyers, England | 3 Comments »

Lawrence Booth: Retirement is good for you

April 29th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in IPL

Anyone propping up a certain part of the bar of the Southern Sun Elangeni hotel in Durban last night might have heard a current international cricketer tell his lady friend: “Oh yeah, this is where the money is. Soon we might not be playing Tests at all.” This is the doomsday scenario, although – as the player himself almost certainly knew – it won’t happen any time soon. But the success so far in the Indian Premier League of three retired Test cricketers suggests his bravado may just have stumbled on to something.

Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden (both 37) and Shane Warne (39) are still pretty handy players in their own right, of course, but Twenty20 is supposed to be a young man’s game, not the place old cricketers go to see out their retirement. These guys were supposed to be here to add glamour, provide a meaningful Australian presence, and pass on their accumulated wisdom, not upstage cricketers in the prime of their lives. Yet look at what’s happened.

Gilchrist has scored 163 runs in four innings at a strike-rate of 171, higher than anyone who has totalled at least 50. Hayden is the tournament’s leading run-scorer with 215 (strike-rate: 162), and as such is the proud owner of the IPL’s very own yellow jersey, the, er, orange cap. And Warne is still turning his leggies with gusto, conceding only seven runs an over, while captaining Rajasthan Royals with his usual sense of adventure. The conclusion? Retirement is good for you.

If you think that’s baloney, listen to Gilchrist after his innings of 44 off 19 balls on Monday in Durban set up the rampaging Deccan Chargers for victory over Chennai Super Kings, their fourth win out of four. “Often you can get a little bit inhibited in the day-to-day grind of international cricket,” said the man with the ODI strike-rate of almost 97. “There are players I’ve looked at and we’ve played against who I do think look a bit jaded. Obviously there’s a T20 tournament coming up so they’ve got to be mindful of that. Maybe it’s just that retired players are allowing ourselves a bit of freedom, knowing that we don’t have that grind after this.”

Perhaps concerned about headlines along the lines of “Gilly: why we should all quit”, he quickly added: “I wouldn’t for a moment encourage younger players to retire.” But his thoughts are an insightful take on an age-old problem: how to get the best out of yourself in a game where a tense mind can mean a damagingly tense body.

Even Sourav Ganguly, another Test retiree, has made the point in his own inimitable way. Ganguly has not cut the most joyful figure so far in South Africa, possibly because Kolkata Knight Riders are being captained by a New Zealander rather than Ganguly himself. And yet he has still found it within him to top-score in two innings out of three.

Players often say of events which take place in their lives outside the game that they “put cricket into perspective”. Usually this lasts as long as it takes them to make another duck or take none for 100. But the experience so far of Gilchrist, Hayden and Warne suggests the best way to attain the sportsman’s nirvana of perspective might be to stop playing – almost, but not quite – altogether. In which case the cricketer at the bar might have been speaking more truthfully than even he knew.

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 IPL | 1 Comment »

Telford Vice: One winner as Dirk and Jacques square-off

April 28th, 2009 by telford vice in IPL, South Africa

Dirk Nannes

Best Jacques Kallis never reads this. You see, the bloke who made him look stupid on Sunday doesn’t quite fit the bill.

Towards the bowling crease bustled one Dirk Peter Nannes to deliver the first ball of the match for the Delhi Daredevils against the Bangalore Royal Challengers in Port Elizabeth. There, tapping the pitch like a blind beggar shaking a tin mug on a deserted street corner at 4am, pretty much as he has done for 131 Tests, 291 one-day internationals, four T20 internationals, 221 first-class matches, 383 list A limited overs games, and 23 T20 encounters, stood the immovable Jacques Henry Kallis.

Tap … this would be Kallis’ 1251st innings … tap … at any level … tap … besides junior and club cricket … tap …


Kallis’ off-stump was a needle in a haystack to him, but not to Nannes – who nailed it with a stealthy stiletto of an inswinger.

JH Kallis b Nannes 0 (1m 1b)! Can you ever!

All well and good, these things happen. Even to Jacques Kallis. But who the hell is Dirk Nannes?

His parents are Dutch, and that’s the least interesting thing about him. For the rest, he is a World Cup skier, he went off to university to study the saxophone, he made his first-class debut (for Victoria) at age 29 after taking his cricket a mite more seriously, and he is one of the quickest left-arm bowlers to be found anywhere in the game. Oh, and he goes by the nickname of “Diggler”. And if you know what that refers to you are better versed in dodgy movies than you should admit.

But here’s the real thing: Dirk “Diggler” Nannes is keeping Glenn McGrath out of the Daredevils side. Now there’s something to put on your CV. Now, we’ve all heard of this McGrath fella. He could bowl a bit; no doubt still can. But Nannes? Who knew?

The Incredible Pyrotechnic Loudness (IPL) has changed all that. Doubtless there’s a fascinated youngster in Delhi who is planning a career playing the saxophone on the ski slopes as we speak.

A lot of sanctimonious twaddle has been said and written about the IPL, but the magic of moments like “Diggler’s” damn fine dagger of a delivery stabs through all that.

Jacques Henry Kallis, for one, will never forget it.

Telford Vice is a freelance cricket writer in South Africa who writes regularly for The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in IPL, South Africa | No Comments »

King Cricket: Art owes cricket a favour

April 27th, 2009 by Alex Bowden in England, Miscellaneous

Michael Vaughan

Many of you will be aware that Michael Vaughan has taken up ‘artballing’. Vaughan rented a warehouse over the winter and produced a host of artballing works, which basically entails hitting cricket balls covered in paint against a canvas to create art.

This raises two key questions. Firstly, how did he see the red ball under artificial lights. Secondly, cricket has contributed to art, but what has art done in return?

It’s a give and take situation and cricket has got a raw deal. Art hasn’t given anything back. For example, take a look at the various IPL kits. Complementary colours? What are they? Even a basic sense of aesthetics would improve the garish, clashing outfits on display in South Africa right now.

Of the various artistic movements, cricket can only realistically claim to acknowledge surrealism - as embodied by Steve Harmison’s unpredictable approach to batting. Don’t try and claim that impressionism has graced the game. Rory Bremner’s cricketing parody of Paul Hardcastle’s 19 is a different kind of impressionism; one that unfortunately doesn’t qualify as art.

You’d think music might be a branch of the arts that had permeated cricket, but just listen to Channel 5’s highlights theme tune, Shine by Shannon Noll. Any song that makes you yearn for the halcyon days of Lou Bega’s Mambo No.5 from the Channel 4 highlights is manifestly not art on any level.

That said, if Vaughan wants to recover his place as England’s number three, he’d do well to avoid bringing any of the chaos of Jackson Pollock’s No.5 with him.

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, Miscellaneous | 1 Comment »

Alan Tyers: Michael Vaughan addresses the other Other ranks

April 23rd, 2009 by Alan Tyers in Alan Tyers, England, Test cricket

Look over there Belly, them Aussies look big this year

I thought it would be good to have a word with the other lads up for the England No.3 spot and say “may the best man win” and such like.

“Michael Vaughan,” I say to them, “Has always said that Michael Vaughan has to go back to Yorkshire and score runs— ”

Belly looks confused. More than usual, I mean.

“Who’s he talking about?” he says, picking at the sleeve of his Official Power Rangers performance fabric training jerkin.

“Michael refers to himself in the third person sometimes,” explains Big Bob Key.

“So it’s already decided?” says Belly, his face falling. “Coach Flower has already decided who is the third person and nothing we do – not even a big ton showing considerable powers of mental stamina at Taunton – is going to change nothing and put us in the frame for the curtain-raiser against West Indies?”

“No, no,” says Owais, gripping his bat handle tightly and shivering intensely. “Michael talks about himself as if he were another person. He feels it adds gravitas.”

Belly considers this for a long time.

“Oh for Christ’s sake Belly,” snaps Owais. “Gravitas. It means like weight.”

“Like Bob?” asks Belly.

Owais breaks his bat in half.

“NO. For crying out loud,” says Owais. He tries to calm himself down by trying some circular breathing exercises and positive visualisation techniques that he heard Ramps did during rehearsals for Strictly Come Dancing.

“Bloody cheek, anyway,” says Bob. “It’s me glands. And the Scotch eggs.”

“Look,” I say. “What Michael Vaughan is trying to say is that it should be about who is scoring runs at the moment and not previous performances.”

“That’s lucky for this Michael Vaughan bloke,” says Belly. “Cos he was absolutely toilet the last few times he played.”

“CALM CALM CALM!” shouts Owais.

“Tell you what though,” Belly continues. “You and this Michael Vaughan bloke – you’re the absolute spit of him.”

I shut my eyes and think about Australia 2002. Bob eats his Scotch egg thoughtfully. Owais vibrates.

By Alan Tyers

Posted in Alan Tyers, England, Test cricket | 1 Comment »

Sam Collins: Rain, rain come and stay

April 22nd, 2009 by Sam Collins in England, Miscellaneous

As we sit smugly in sunshine (or offices) and the IPL wades through South African rain, there is a temptation to raise two fingers in the direction of Lalit Modi. Yet the joke could, eventually, be on us – for it is a rarity that an excellent start to the summer continues through the main event. Back in 2007, when the warmest April on record gave way to virtual monsoon conditions in June, TWC was moved to publish the following article by Phillip Eden, vice-president of the Royal Meteorological Society.

The first signs that this summer might be out of the ordinary appeared in early spring where, for eight long weeks, there was little or no rain over large parts of the UK. April was the warmest recorded– and one of the driest. It all seems such a long time ago now.

But poor summers often follow spring droughts – and there is a reason for this. When a particular weather pattern becomes stuck over western Europe for several weeks in spring, there is a well-known tendency for it to shift westwards by early summer.

Thus the high-pressure system which dominated March and April slipped away into mid-Atlantic in May. This forced rain-laden Atlantic depressions to travel round the top of the high before plunging south-eastwards towards the British Isles. Apart from one short break in early June, this sequence continued into mid-July.

During the 20th century there were 10 outstandingly dry Aprils, and wet summers followed nine of them. So it may feel nice to start the season on hard wickets under blue skies but such conditions rarely augur well for the bulk of the summer.

It may not happen – there has been a fair quantity of rain amid the sun this April – but should the rain predicted in some quarters for this weekend materialise perhaps we should greet it with a little more gratitude. Apologies for ruining a lovely afternoon.

Sam Collins is website editor of

Posted in England, Miscellaneous | 2 Comments »

Lawrence Booth: Battle of Bollywood eclipsing IPL

April 22nd, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in IPL, South Africa

The struggle out here in South Africa was relentless even before the Indian Premier League got under way in Cape Town on Saturday. No quarter has been given, none asked for. No trick is too dirty, no ruse too cunning. The perma-smiles disguise a world of tension. Reputations are at stake. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Battle of Bollywood.

Last year the IPL made no attempt to pretend it wasn’t trading heavily for its publicity on the photogenic qualities of Shah Rukh Khan (owner of Kolkata Knight Riders) and Preity Zinta (co-owner of Kings XI Punjab). This year Shilpa Shetty has come on board (she seems to be cheering for Rajasthan Royals, but these associations are fairly fluid) and the battle has hotted up, even if the South African dailies have shown less inclination than their Indian counterparts in 2008 to plaster their front pages with smiley, happy (and rather rich) people. These are truly epoch-making times.

The stars moved into position early. Preity was interviewed during the mid-innings interval of the fourth ODI between South Africa and Australia as far in advance as nine days ago, when she showed alarming knowledge of her own team by extolling the virtues of Burt Cockley. Opposition franchises quaked. But Shah Rukh, the old dog, smoothness itself and – it must be said – possessing a very passable line in banter, wasn’t going to take that one lying down. Two days before the tournament began, he unveiled his new video, a song-and-dance combo he had dreamed up to convey the ferocity and competitiveness (and various other abstract nouns) of his Knight Riders.

Shetty was now playing catch-up, but when she gatecrashed the eve-of-IPL press conference in Cape Town, Preity and Shah Rukh had come along for the ride too! Lenses didn’t know which way to point. It was hard to blame them.

Cameramen are contractually obliged to zoom in on the Bollywood owners a pre-agreed number of times per match (this really is true), so once the cricket was under way it was simply a question of who could squeeze in more extra-curricular exposure. This has taken some ingenuity. Before the start of play yesterday at Durban, where the local Indian population had turned out in fairly healthy numbers despite the heaving skies, Preity seized the initiative by wandering around the boundary and hurling Kings XI-branded T-shirts into the adoring crowd.

But Shah Rukh and Shilpa hit back. The tannoy relieved itself of a blast of Shah Rukh’s catchy number while Shilpa, one-time star of Celebrity Big Brother, was charm personified during an interview with an English broadsheet journalist. Undeterred, Shah Rukh threw a lavish party for all concerned at a hotel on the Durban sea-front, where I can assure you the chicken tikka was out of this world. The man is not to be outdone.

The second IPL is still in its infancy. Mistakes will almost certainly be made. But if the opening skirmishes are anything to go by, the Zinta-Khan-Shetty showdown will run and run.

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 IPL, South Africa | 3 Comments »

Telford Vice: Runs lacking as dog has its IPL day

April 21st, 2009 by telford vice in IPL, South Africa

Brace yourself, Sheila and other, gentler readers, for a conspiracy theory.

A cat darts madly along the fence at Citi Field in New York during the brand new baseball stadium’s opening match. Incredulity ensues before the moggy makes a dash into the darkness.

A squirrel scurries up the touchline at Wembley, London during the FA Cup semi-final. Arsene Wenger sits untwitching like a geriatric shrew.

A dog takes to the outfield at Newlands, Cape Town and holds up the first match in the Incredible Pyrotechnic Loudness (IPL) for more than 10 minutes. Jacob Oram, a shaggy dog story himself, makes a half-hearted attempt to catch the critter, who bounds effortlessly away.

I smell a rat. Actually, I expect to see a rat pop out of a scrum in a Super 14 rugby match any weekend now. And I don’t mean the referee.

By far the most engaging of the animal crackers was Bruno, the big black dog we didn’t know from a big black dog who made Newlands his backyard even as the players looked on listlessly like people awaiting a bus.

Security men shaped rather more like Dwayne Leverock than Jonty Rhodes made the earth move as they dived at the slippery fellow in vain. Bruno eventually left on his own terms, skulking behind the advertising hoardings never to be seen again. There is no truth in the rumour that Lalit Modi immediately promised a fat bonus to the brilliant marketing mind that hatched this fine idea.

The point is that the antics of a crafty canine are what will be uppermost for many in the wake of the IPL’s opening blast.

After five matches, the highest total was Chennai’s mere 179 for 5 – there were 26 higher totals last year – and Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Matthew Hayden were the only half-centurions. At least Anil Kumble delivered something stupendous with his 5 for 5. It was also good to see that Shane Warne’s mojo still smoulders, and that RP Singh has returned to form.

But we’ll need plenty more where that came from. The prisoners in Kolkata who refused food because the tournament wasn’t on their televisions told us loud and clear that the IPL wasn’t about marketing or cheerleaders or hounds on the loose, however lovable, or even about money.

What is it about? Cricket. That’s why we’re watching.

Telford Vice is a freelance cricket writer in South Africa who writes regularly for The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in IPL, South Africa | No Comments »

My favourite cricketer: Brian Statham

April 17th, 2009 by TWC in England, My favourite cricketer reader David Grundy is the latest winner of our My Favourite Cricketer competition for his entry on the Lancashire and England bowler Brian Statham.

My first was Brian Statham’s last. His retirement game was the Roses match at Old Trafford – I saw him on the Saturday of the August Bank holiday in 1968 (back when it was the first weekend of the month). A school trip had taken me to see cricket at Old Trafford for the first time.

Yorkshire were in their pomp. Close, Trueman, Illingworth were all playing, Boycott absent injured. Illingworth was about to fall out with the Yorkshire committee - the year before he became England captain – and Trueman was in his last season. The Championship they won that season would be their last until 2001.

Lancashire were batting first, and scored not very many. Statham didn’t detain us long, bowled by Richard Hutton for three. I remember Trueman bowling a very gentle first delivery to get him off the mark. Trueman always said Statham was his favourite England partner. His gesture showed his respect for his old mate. But I wasn’t there to admire Statham’s batting.

Statham came on to bowl in the evening sunlight. By close of play Yorkshire were 34 for eight. The following day they were all out for 61, Statham taking six for 34. This was thrilling. We were in raptures. Here was Yorkshire - mighty Yorkshire - being given a bloody nose.

Yet Statham’s modesty shone through in all he did. After the fall of each wicket there were no exuberant celebrations. Bowling batsmen out was what he did. So why waste energy celebrating? That evening he bowled just to show everyone he could still do it.

By today’s standards he didn’t look like a hero. His kit was unadorned by any sponsors’ logos and he certainly didn’t have any tattoos. His job done, he simply slung his sweater over his shoulder and led the team in. The ground stood as one.

In games of backstreet cricket (one shared bat, one hand off the wall and all that) I was Brian Statham. I copied his walk back to his mark and his arrow straight run-up. I was immaculately side-on of course. My running commentary always took me back to that sunlit evening. I found out about his career by devouring books about him. Thus started a lifelong obsession with cricket books for which there is no known cure.

My strictly limited talent for playing meant I would be forever a spectator at Old Trafford. Bank Holiday Saturday in August 1968 wasn’t a bad place to start. I learned to love the game through Brian Statham. My brief encounter with him on that Saturday sparked a lifetime of devotion to the Red Rose. In 1968 Lancashire hadn’t won the Championship for 34 years. 41 years later we are still waiting. We had to cherish moments of success when they came. For me, it was first-time lucky.

David 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 | 1 Comment »

Telford Vice: Wrinklies rebel as IPL comes to town

April 17th, 2009 by telford vice in IPL, South Africa and tagged , , ,

Telford Vice with the first of his weekly IPL blogs as the tournament hits South Africa.

Do not assume that all South Africans are chuffed that the Incredible Pyrotechnic Loudness (IPL) has catapulted itself into their midst.

The front page lead in this week’s edition of the august and venerable Rosebank Killarney Gazette (OK, it’s a sour little Jo’burg knock-and-drop) told us the truth: “Stadium chaos looms.” Damn straight.

An inspired piece of fish-wrap, the “story” exclusively revealed that the residents of several apartment blocks near the Wanderers – a teeming colony of the wealthily retired - have had their jowls set aquiver with wrinkly rage.

They’ve long accepted that the serenity of their summer nights will be ruined by floodlit raucousness, and they’re well used to every square inch of their pavements being annexed for parking during big matches.

But they thought the season would be over after Friday’s ODI between South Africa and Australia. Suddenly the poor affluent things face another eight day-nights of their dentures dancing to the thumping music in a glass on the bedside table. Something must be done.

In the IPL offices at the Wanderers, nothing discernible was being done as the days to blast-off melted away. “Umm …,” was the first response to an enquiry about accreditation. “Is that media accreditation or company accreditation?”

Couldn’t resist: “Media company accreditation.”

A pause.

“Umm …,” she said.

After owning up to impersonating a reporter, I was stared at vacuously. Then she blinked. Ummbelievable.

Verily, South Africans are either indifferent or enchanted at the prospect of Bollywood and its cricketing sidekicks coming to town.

Durban’s large living Asian community can hardly wait to pack Kingsmead to the pylons. Some are consulting the family griot to pinpoint their mother country roots before they pledge their allegiance to a particular team.

That means we can look forward to the traditional boiling over of tensions on the embankment beyond the north-east boundary. Samosas at five paces, like kung-fu stars, and all.

Tickets are also going fast in Cape Town, where Shilpa Shetty, the Rajasthan Royals’ designated diva, has starred in television sports bulletins to deliver a masterclass in multi-tasking. Breathlessly poised in front of a fleet of yachts bobbing suggestively at their moorings, she preened furiously while waxing fantastic about the magical marriage between movies and cricket that makes the IPL a gift from the gods.

Stand by for what Capetonians themselves think … Capetonians? Think?

Telford Vice is a freelance cricket writer in South Africa who writes regularly for The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in IPL, South Africa | 4 Comments »

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