July 2009
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Paul Coupar: Why the Aussie press love Flintoff

July 22nd, 2009 by TWC in England, Test cricket, The Ashes

The Australian press has a new cricketing hero, a blue-collar boy made good, a smiling allrounder with the dash of a Keith Miller and a ticker the size of Ayers rock.

Unfortunately for Ricky Ponting, the man in question is Andrew Flintoff.

In the eyes of much of the local press Flintoff’s sinew-straining spell to turn the last day at Lord’s confirmed him – like Darren Gough a decade before – as an honorary Aussie, who by freak chance had been born in Preston, Lancashire not Preston, East Queensland.

Consider the last-day report in the Sydney tabloid, the Daily Telegraph:

“Patched-up conquering hero Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff said an emotional farewell to Lord’s as he brutally destroyed Australia …”

“Storming in on just one good leg, Flintoff (5-92) carried the weight of a nation on his shoulders and sent down a fearsomely fast barrage to send Australia into a deep Ashes abyss.

“Flintoff, fighting back tears, led the team off the ground as England’s 115-run victory was sealed …

“Flintoff’s wife Rachael was one of just many friends and family who paid tribute to Flintoff as the retiring superstar walked off Lord’s for the last time in Test cricket.”

This hints at several qualities that touch warm spots in Australia.

First, the injured bloke doing his duty resonates in a country which keeps fresh its memories of sacrifice in two world wars.

Second, Flintoff showed heart or ‘ticker’, performing when it mattered (against Australia) not when it didn’t (against anyone else).

Third, winning for his country clearly mattered to him, hence the tears.

Fourth, he is widely seen as a ‘good family bloke’ (unlike the ridiculed Shane Warne) and a good mate, who hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

With Flintoff on the charge, put-downs polished like a new ball in two decades of Australian dominance were hurled at unaccustomed targets.

In the Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Roebuck memorably described their attempts at resistance as like “throwing pies at an advancing tank”.

The assessment of Australia’s problems was frank. “Neither umpires, toss, luck, nor the conditions, though, were to blame for Australia’s poor position,” wrote Roebuck. “Throughout, their fate has lain in their own hands. For three and a half days the Australians were outgunned. At no stage did they look like the best side in the world.“

One image in the Telegraph summed up the reaction: a large picture of Mitchell Johnson with arrows and labels to various parts of his body and a dissection of what he needs to get right – which the Telegraph concluded were his wrist position, arm action, front-arm position and mental state. So, plenty to work on in the nets.

The focus was at least as much on Australian failings as on disputed English catches or confused umpiring. Which is not to say that Andrew Strauss will find Sydney-siders lining up to buy him a Shiraz next time he visits with his Australian wife.

Pat Sheil in the SMH claims Strauss and British sportsmanship, “sunk into abject ignominy over that ‘catch’. The current England captain, and his rather loose interpretation of what is or is not cricket will live long in the antipodean mind.”

If Flintoff presses the right buttons for many Australians, half-fitting a half-conscious image of the Anzacs who went over the top, Strauss (somewhat unfairly) fits an image of the sort of generals who sent them there.

But once the froth has washed away, it will be fascinating to see what view posterity takes of Flintoff. Will aficionados in decades to come look at sporadic brilliance and Test averages of 31 (batting) and 32 (bowling) and wonder what the fuss is about?

One suspects much will hinge on the next three Tests. If England win, it will be much easier to see Flintoff as the hero who won two Ashes series single-handed and went out early but at the top.

Victory might invest his career with the kind of glow associated with the magical Welsh fly-half Barry John, who returned from beating New Zealand on the 1971 Lions tour and at 27 decided there were no more worlds to conquer and retired.

But if England lose, questions about what Flintoff really achieved – and nagging doubts about putting the IPL before Test cricket – may move towards the foreground.

Ponting is another whose legacy hangs to a perhaps unfair degree on the next three Tests. His reputation is unlikely to survive becoming only the second Australian captain to lose twice in England.

The remaining Tests are not just a fight for the Ashes but a fight for the legacy of two fine cricketers. One of them will have to lose.

Paul Coupar is a former features editor of The Wisden Cricketer. He is now a freelance journalist based in Sydney.

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | 2 Comments »

Lawrence Booth: Ponting the pantomime villain

July 22nd, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in England, Test cricket, The Ashes


To judge by the responses to a blog over on the Guardian website, opinion is divided as to the heinousness of the boos aimed at Ricky Ponting during the Lord’s Test. I’m guessing here, but I’d say the divide went something like this: the English weren’t too fussed about it, the Australians were. Twas ever thus, of course, but the question remains: why Ricky?

You may think this is no time for an English scribe to be sympathising with the captain of Australia. England have just won at Lord’s for the first time in 75 years; Australia’s strike bowler has lived up to his tag by apparently going on strike; Andrew Flintoff is a national hero once more. Sharpen the pencil, man! But the truth is Ponting deserves a fairer press than he gets – especially after his Test-match horribilis at Lord’s.

The measure of the man was evident after that defeat, when he spoke with candour, humour and – when it came to the reaction of the crowd – a degree of self-deprecation which national stereotypes assure us is not part of the average Australian’s DNA. And Ponting does talk well: he mulls questions over, he answers them directly, he looks people in the eye and he occasionally smiles.

His one blind spot concerns the aggression he displays towards umpires. He was at it in Cardiff when Aleem Dar correctly turned down a bat-pad catch off Paul Collingwood. He was briefly at it at Lord’s when he became involved in the Phillip Hughes-Andrew Strauss controversy. Even the Australian media have pointed this out to him, not to mention countless former players. It’s to Ponting’s discredit that he rambles blithely on about playing hard but fair while ignoring the impression he makes.

But few international captains are squeaky clean, and Ponting’s behaviour did not justify the reception he received at Lord’s. So, again, why Ricky? His crime, perhaps, is to be the last senior player left over from the 2005 tour. Brett Lee was there, it’s true, but he hasn’t played in this series yet; Michael Clarke, too, but he belongs to a different generation.

Cast your mind back four years… Shane Warne received an earful at every ground he played… Glenn McGrath was bated on the Trent Bridge balcony for predicting a 5-0 whitewash… Jason Gillespie had to endure constant comments about his appearance… Justin Langer bantered at length with the Edgbaston crowd… Matthew Hayden rarely got a moment’s rest. And Ponting? He was run out by Gary Pratt.

Ponting is the sole survivor of the legends who attained pantomime-villain status in the eyes of the English crowds, and he’s the obvious target now. If he’s strong enough, which he almost certainly is, he can benefit his team by soaking up the opprobrium. But if he lets it get to him, and Australia start badly at Edgbaston, we could be into the siege-mentality territory that brought the tourists down four years ago. We may find out a lot more about Ponting in the weeks ahead.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for the Guardian

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | 3 Comments »

John Stern: Flintoff divides opinion as he conquers

July 21st, 2009 by John Stern in England, Test cricket, The Ashes


“Special, boss,” Kevin Pietersen was heard to say as he and Andrew Flintoff embraced at Lord’s yesterday lunchtime. No more embellishment required.

It was special. How special we won’t know for a few weeks but for now we can reflect on one of the great Ashes performances. Or, if you’re in Duncan Fletcher’s Flintoff-sceptic camp, you can reflect on how he “chipped in with that long-overdue five-wicket haul”.

Fletcher’s point is that four years is a bloody long time to wait for one of your strike bowlers to take five wickets in an innings. That Flintoff’s last five-for before Lord’s should have come at The Oval in 2005 implies a sense of theatre that might not be always in the best collective interest.

But it might have more to do with circumstance and tactics. A combination of taking the new ball and his impending retirement seems to have freed Flintoff from the shackles of containment and allowed him to attack in the way that Mickey Arthur, the South Africa coach, suggests in the current issue of TWC.

England don’t do mystery spin but, every decade or so, they do serious pace and that is how they generally win the Ashes. As a one-off, Flintoff’s performance at Lord’s must rank alongside any of the great displays of Ashes fast bowling from history.

So where does the series go from here?

England had the better of the conditions and the decisions at Lord’s. Australia ought not to bowl as badly again whereas England’s batting still has a certain fragility about it, physically (in the case of KP) and mentally.

Surely Flintoff cannot manage three Tests in three and a half weeks and that makes England’s attack, in anything other than swing-friendly conditions, look exposed just as they are starting to work over Australia’s long batting order.

Where England now have a massive edge is in the mind. Whereas Cardiff and Lord’s were quiet venues, England are now entering the home ground stage of the series.

Australian players will get plenty of stick at Edgbaston and Headingley. Only Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke have the reputations to brush it off easily.

The momentum is decidedly with England now. The series is theirs to lose.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | 2 Comments »

The TWC interview: Adil Rashid

July 21st, 2009 by Sam Collins in County cricket, England, Interview


Adil Rashid plays for Yorkshire, and was part of England’s squad for the recent World Twenty20. He was speaking at the ASDA Kwik Cricket National Final at Headingley. The ASDA Kwik Cricket competition is driving 130,000 boys and girls from 12,000 Primary Schools across the UK to get healthy and active through cricket.

How have you enjoyed being part of the England set-up over the last year or so?

Going to India and West Indies with England has been a great experience for me, and being involved in the World Twenty20 as well.  Playing with the likes of Andrew Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen and the others has been great fun.

How difficult was it being on tour and not playing much?

It was quite difficult but you have to work through it. A lot of players have been through the same thing. Even though I wasn’t playing being part of the team for nets and the fitness was an amazing experience. If I needed any advice or tips I would ask the more senior players and they were very helpful. I worked with quite a few players but mainly Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara on my batting and other little technical things. You learn something every time you play with England.

What have you learned working with Mushtaq Ahmed?

It’s been a big help. I’ve been working with Mushy quite a bit, and I spent a lot of time working with him in the West Indies. He’s been teaching me how to work on batsman and about my body language.

How do you see yourself at the moment, as an all rounder or a legspinner who bowls?

I think my main aim at the moment is bowling ahead of the batting.

Does Andrew Flintoff’s retirement create a hole in this England team for you?

It’s disappointing for Fred to have had to announce his retirement, but no, I wouldn’t say that it creates a hole for me.

Does the anticipation and hype around you faze you at all?

No not really. I just want to concentrate on my cricket whether it’s playing for Yorkshire or England. It doesn’t make a difference to me what’s in the newspapers. I try to take that out of my mind and focus on my cricket one day at a time.

What can Twenty20 cricket teach you as a legspinner?

With the batsmen coming at you in search of boundaries, as a bowler you have got to know what to bowl, when to bowl and what fields to set.  It teaches you how to come back the next ball after being hit.

How did you feel when Paul Collingwood gave you the ball against West Indies in the T20 World Cup even though they were chasing a reduced target?

It gave me a lot of confidence when he threw me the ball and told me to just bowl, and it came out well. It was a real boost that he had confidence in me to get a wicket and that’s what I did.

How important is it for a young legspinner to have a captain who understands your game?

It’s really important for the captain to know what sort of bowler I am and what kind of fields I need and what I am thinking. That is crucial.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

I’ve been working with my dad since I was a youngster. I‘ve also worked with people like Terry Jenner, Dave Parsons and Steve Oldham but my dad has had the most influence on me. My father taught me how to bowl legspin, but as I get older I have developed my own style and visited different coaches. That’s what happened?

Why is it that so many young legspinners fall by the wayside?

Some people just give up and don’t fight on through the difficult times. Being a legspinner is hard – I think you have more bad days than good days in general. It just depends on the individual.

So is being mentally strong a key part of succeeding as a spinner?

Definitely. I think you have to be mentally strong – even if you get hit for four sixes you can’t be weak, you can’t be thinking negatively.

Are you an attacking legspinner?

Definitely. A legspinner is an attacking option who is going to go for a few runs but has a lot more chance of getting a wicket than a finger-spinner. As a legspinner you are always going to get hit, but you are more likely to take a wicket than an offspinner because of your variations – your googly, your slider and so on.

Terry Jenner said that he doesn’t believe legspinners mature until they are around 23. Is he right?

Terry’s worked with Shane Warne, the best legspinner the world has ever, throughout his career so I think you can believe what he says.

Have you had any advice from Shane Warne when you’ve played against him?

I’ve played against him a couple of times for Yorkshire against Hampshire and I made sure I spoke to him and got a few tips off him.  He was a great help and it would be nice to work with him again in the future. I would love to have a proper session with him and pick his brain about what he thinks when he bowls and how he responds to different situations.

Sam Collins is website editor of thewisdencricketer.com

Posted in County cricket, England, Interview | No Comments »

Jrod: David Frith and me

July 20th, 2009 by Jrod in England, Miscellaneous

This weekend the TWC commandos managed to break me into the press box at Lord’s.  It was my first ever time in an international cricket press box, and after I had stolen a Lord’s press box mug, I went star spotting. Next to me was the simple elegance of TWC’s own Gideon Haigh. On the other side was the brutish charm of Andrew Miller. And behind me was some guy called Richie.

It can be easy to start star watching, forget about the cricket and go up to your heroes and ask them stuff, so I did. I talked to David Frith, a man who knows The Wisden Cricketer’s origins better than most. I wanted to know how he got into cricket writing.

Interviewing him was great, but I couldn’t help but compare his rise to my own more unconventional route into the press box.

Mr Frith: “It was my dear friend John Arlott who set up my entry into cricket journalism. I had freelanced for years but I was getting nowhere. One evening John rang and asked if I would like to become the editor of The Cricketer? I said “Of course, but it’s not going to happen”. Then Jim Swanton interviewed me at The Oval, during the Test when Australia leveled the series in ‘72, and he was satisfied that I had a deep love for the game and a reasonable knowledge of it, so I was taken on as deputy editor. A few months later I became editor.”

Jrod: “After trying to become a film maker and making films about terrible punk bands, post-apocalyptic no-budget action epics, and some infomercials for the Catholic church I set up my own cricket blog. Amazingly people liked it. And more amazingly people told me I could become a cricket writer.  So I packed all three of my possessions in a bag and headed for England, where I convinced people to give me small sums of money and agreed not to swear or make filthy jokes.”

Starting our own Media

Mr Frith: “In 1979 I managed at last to pull of the establishment of a new cricket magazine ­– Wisden Cricket Monthly, with a wonderful editorial board of John Arlott, Ted Dexter, Jim Laker, a young David Gower, and Bob Willis, who was soon to become England captain. I had a full hand there. I modeled the magazine in my own image; I produced the magazine I would want to read. It had a good balance of current cricket, colour pictures too, which revolutionised the magazine industry. I included a lot of the game’s history, took obituaries seriously, and book reviews and all the rest of it.”

Jrod: “My website was made in my own image: grubby, piss taking, anti-authoritarian and honest. I had friends involved, but after about a week I realised I was all alone. There was no real plan – it was not meant to make me a cricket writer, or rich, it was just a way for me to talk about cricket in a way that I felt others had not.  Now I get paid for it, and my website collapses because of too many hits.”


Mr Frith: “I edited the cricketer for six years nearly, in that time I wrote a few books. I had a lot of pent up energy, as at last I was in the game full time. I wrote Fast Men and the Stoddart Biography. I had to because my pay was pretty meagre.” David Frith has written many cricket books.

Jrod: “I started a fifth book (all previous unpublished) – a collection of my writings from my website. I assumed it would be easy, a simple cut and paste job. It wasn’t. English publishers said it was too Australian and the Australians said it was too international. I gave up and self published.”

For all the changes in the cricket press in the last 50 or so years, one thing remains the same. See the cricket, write your copy, love your job.

Jrod is an Australian blogger, and now author. His book The Year Of The Balls 2008: A Disrespective is available now

Posted in England, Miscellaneous | 4 Comments »

Jrod: Hauritz - consider yourself lulled

July 19th, 2009 by Jrod in Test cricket, The Ashes

I think I speak for everyone in Australia when I say that we knew Nathan Hauritz would star in the Ashes.  Why do you think we have been hiding him away in Sydney club cricket? We didn’t want you guys to work him out.

At an early age Nathan was picked as the chosen one.  He was a combination of schoolboy moxy, old world fingers, and a seductive charm that could lull any batsman into an early departure.

Knowing that we had this baby-faced assassin, we did everything we could to keep him away from your prying eyes. You will notice that he didn’t play in Australia’s last series against South Africa, but he did play in the series no one watched against New Zealand.

He is now the leading wicket taker in the Ashes.  Consider yourself lulled.

The media have been involved; you can’t pull this sort of slight of hand without their help. But the real heroes are the PR flunkies. They have been on this for months. Encouraging people in bars to talk about how rubbish he is, running viral campaigns with his previous spells in them, telling newspapers to ignore him, and making sure that the press had someone to talk up.

Mitchell Johnson.

He was talked up as the great white hope. A left-armed assassin who bowled faster than you could see, hit further than you could walk, and won the Ashes before even turned up.

In truth Mitchell is a paid actor. A tongue-pierced young Sydney thespian that was offered the world stage to perform on, and thought it would be cooler than hanging around Bondi.

While all the English plans were for Mitchell, Nathan just slipped in the side door and took the wickets.

It was a masterstroke by the Australians, and one that required a massive amount of bureaucratic hard labour and “outside the square” thinking.

It was worth it though. Nathan Hauritz is spinning Australia to victory, just like we always planned.

We always knew you could do it, Nathan.

Jrod is an Australian blogger, and now author. His book The Year Of The Balls 2008: A Disrespective is available now

Posted in Test cricket, The Ashes | No Comments »

King Cricket: What shoes does Mitchell Johnson play in?

July 17th, 2009 by Alex Bowden in England, The Ashes, The media and tagged , , , ,


Yesterday, someone arrived at kingcricket.co.uk after searching ‘what shoes does Mitchell Johnson play in’. We have no idea, but we’d guess that he wears oversized clown shoes, such was his co-ordination yesterday.

Balls were going all over the place. It was as if Johnson were Devon Malcolm and Steve Harmison’s bastard offspring. We enjoyed it immensely. Maybe he wanted to give his team mates an opportunity to explore every corner of Lord’s and so offered them a never ending quest to recover the ball from beyond the boundary rope.

People had various ideas as to what was going wrong. It was the Lord’s slope; it was his low arm; it was his wrist position; it was nerves. We think we know the real reason. Has anyone, at any point, gone up to Mitchell Johnson and asked him whether he’s absolutely certain that he’s left handed? We’re pretty sure he’s not. He bowled much as we would if were forced into kack-handedness by some wrong-headed sadist.

Bowling from the other end was Peter Siddle, who we’ve also warmed to, but for entirely contrasting reasons. This is a man who’s clearly read the fast bowlers’ handbook from cover to cover and is now living the role to the full. Add warpaint, get angry, look like you’ve just killed a man when you take a wicket. Australian fast bowlers should act like that. It makes it easier to dislike them, which, after all, is the whole point of Australian fast bowlers. Peter Siddle is doing this job so brilliantly that paradoxically we now find ourself liking him immensely.

We’re led to believe that Ben Hilfenhaus and Nathan Hauritz are also bowling in this match, but we’re yet to see any evidence of that. We’ve a vague memory of Hauritz suffering some kind of hideous finger injury, but you don’t need to play Test cricket to have that happen to you. Mind you, if it helps him bowl some exquisite wide long-hops, a la Mitchell Johnson, we might start paying more attention to him.

King Cricket blogs at www.kingcricket.co.uk. He 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, The Ashes, The media | 12 Comments »

Alan Tyers: Poetry corner with Michael Hussey

July 16th, 2009 by Alan Tyers in Alan Tyers, Test cricket, The Ashes


Right then you blokes. Seeing as the poem I wrote and performed before the Cardiff Test went down so well, Ricky has asked me to once again lead the group in our pre-match ‘Aw Look, What Does The Baggy Green Mean To You, Mate?’ discussion. I’ve done another poetry that I’d like to share with you and it’s about the magnificent bird of my home state.

No, Sidds, I’m not talking about that Melissa George bird that was on Home And Away. I’m talking about The Black Swan, the emblem of Western Australia.

Katich, the house lights. if you please.

Look. Look. A magnificent black swan, floating magnificently.

But underneath the water

They do not see

The incredible commitment and awesome

Will to win

For years, an ugly duckling it was thought to be

But then the whole country could see

Once it was allowed to spread its wings

That it was massively focused and had

An enormous appetite

And the world did cower before it

So mighty that they dared not speak

Its true name

And instead knew it only

As Mr Cygnet

But then the dark forces

Of constant migration, injury and sheer bad luck

Lead to some pretty ordinary paddling for a bit

And the other birds began to question

The Black Swan’s right to occupy the middle of the river

But the Swan flapped its magnificent wings again

And I have heard it said

That they can break your arm

With one flap

And also that the Queen can eat them if she wants

But the swan would not be distracted

By the colonial masters of old

It vowed not to be eaten by Her Majesty The Queen

And flew into the sunset

Green and gold

And so then the swan soared above us

Uttering its magnificent swan-ish cries

The other birds knew what they meant

That form is temporary

But class is permanent

by Alan Tyers

Posted in Alan Tyers, Test cricket, The Ashes | 3 Comments »

An American girl at the cricket

July 16th, 2009 by TWC in Miscellaneous, Test cricket


I’m a new fan of cricket. I’m a new, American fan of cricket. I’m a new, American, female fan of cricket, and I adore Test matches.

I realise that might be confusing, so let’s start from the beginning. I discovered cricket in January 2008, in South Africa, during their series against West Indies. My fall was swift and complete. I have long been an avid follower of American sport, but in cricket I found the love of my life. I was in awe of its tradition, its complexity, the sheer beauty of the pitch. I was struck by the athleticism, grace and toughness in the players, neatly wrapped in stylish whites. The way in which the umpires fold and hold the bowler’s sweater, and the breaks taken for lunch and tea. When I learned I could buy splits of champagne at concession, I began to see stars.

Test cricket was another beautiful part of this perfect game. Last week’s Ashes drama at Cardiff epitomised why it captured my imagination. The twists, the turns – you can have such high tension over several days, and yet play to a well-mannered (most of the time!) draw. It is easy to understand why Test cricket is so loved, yet that love, for this very uneducated fan, is as much about what it represents as it is about the actual event. For what I appreciate about the Test match is the way it slows time until it is almost still amid a world intent on hurtling forward at increasing speed.

I know I’m not the only one that feels this way either – there’s now an entire movement dedicated to slowing the world down. The slow movement, and the book In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore, are in stark contrast to the last few decades of people encouraging me to be a better manager of my time. I’ve been goaded to wake early, work out often, press on, and schedule every minute of every day for higher productivity. Worst of all, many of our children now have the social calendars of a young CEO.

The information available to us now doubles at the fastest rate in history. Technology has made it possible to all but dispense with actual human contact. The science is also becoming increasingly clear – the stresses of our fast-paced lives can cause a multitude of health issues, multitasking may be a cause of adult ADHD, and many relationships suffer from the effects of not spending enough time together. Suddenly daydreaming, and down-time, are now being applauded by doctors and scientists for their value. Perhaps we’ve reached the point where moving forward actually means taking a step backwards, but is it possible? How can we unlearn our habits of efficiently scheduling every moment, and stop feeling guilty for not being busy?

It all became clear to me last week, as I sat in a Cornwall pub watching the first day at Cardiff.  Since becoming a fan I’ve enjoyed live Tests at Lord’s, at the Kensington Oval in Barbados, as well as those I’ve seen on television. There is one constant. In Cornwall this week the first group to appear was a band of young surfers, then three generations of men from one family, next a group of husbands and wives, a father and son, a pair of long time best friends, and on and on. They made themselves comfortable, ordered coolers of beer, and began talking about this series, and all the Ashes that had come before.

For me, this was the kind of interaction that was usually reserved for holidays. Now I had friends that had been planning to attend this Test since the schedule had been announced, while everywhere I went I overheard people talking about their plans to watch from beginning to end. It seemed something of a luxury these days, and I was enraptured. Having grown up in a culture, and been employed in an industry, of faster, faster, faster and more, more, more; I had never seen anything like it. How lovely to take a deep breath, and say “enough”, for a few days, to be able to forget the time, and what one should be doing. As an outsider, I began to realise that I could sit down, and simply savour the moment. Perhaps that’s the art I’d forgotten. The art of savouring; the day, the experience, my friends, my sport, and my life.

I am a new, American, female fan of cricket, and I know I still have a great deal to learn about my favourite sport. I will be continuing my studies at Lord’s and Edgbaston, and have plans to travel back to South Africa this winter, but I believe cricket has already taught me the most important lesson of all. In my harried world, the best things in life can’t be rushed, and they can’t be made better by more speed, more excitement or more runs. The best things in life, like Test cricket, deserve the time they need to unfold on their own terms.

DeeAnne White is the American girl at the cricket

Posted in Miscellaneous, Test cricket | 17 Comments »

John Stern: Why we love Andrew Flintoff for his flaws

July 15th, 2009 by John Stern in England, Test cricket, The Ashes

Sky News gave the impression that they were reporting the death of a member of the royal family rather than the ill-timed retirement of an England cricketer who in nine Tests over the past year averages 25 with the bat and 37 with the ball.

But Andrew Flintoff’s status has never had much to do with his stats and all to do with his personality. Along with most of his England team-mates, he attended a benefit dinner for Andrew Strauss last night. He walked into the Lord’s Tavern with his ghost writer Myles Hodgson, stood at the bar for a while and then joined Michael Vaughan at a table.

The normality, the lack of pretension, the accessibility is why people love him and why people are prepared to forgive the foibles. Our heads might say that we want single-minded hyper-professionals like, say, Justin Langer but our hearts say that we want guys like Flintoff in whom we can invest our dreams.

Later in the evening, Flintoff was part of a Q&A session with Vaughan, Strauss and Langer. He played the “I’m just a lad from Preston” schtick magnificently, bringing the house down with self-deprecating comic timing. He was a blond Peter Kay.

There is an element of cultivation here and the small but perfectly informed anti-Flintoff brigade will tell you that the loveable larrikin image is just that – image. There are people close to the England team of recent years who will tell you that Flintoff is not the chummy everyman we like to think he is.

I don’t know the truth but I know what I want it to be. There is a magnetism about Flintoff that no other England player possesses and no cricket lover with a heart and a soul can fail to be moved by.

But England’s Test side may well be better off without him just as the limited-overs teams will be much better with him (which I first mooted in TWC back in 2007). He will have one eye on the IPL of course but if it means that we have a sniff at next year’s World Twenty20 or the 2011 World Cup then bring it on.

The valedictory tour that this self-serving announcement offers up may well grate and it has the potential to undermine rather than assist England’s chances of regaining the Ashes.

But the roar at Lord’s when he comes on to bowl or out to bat will be electric and should be cherished.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer

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

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