Monthly Archives: May 2008

Be afraid, be very afraid

Ok, I’m back, but just before I settle down for a night in the land of Nod, I should draw your attention to the story on crickinfo headlined IPL eyes global network of leagues, which suggests that not only England, but South Africa, Australia and Pakistan are all working on their own models of the slogfest in India. Worrying words indeed from IS Bindra, who is described as an influential member of the IPL governing council. “This is the grand vision,” he tells cricinfo. “The vision is to move cricket to the next level and get each league in each country to resembe the English Premier League [presumably he means the football one] with an exciting mix of international and national players. And then you have the grand Champions League, like the Uefa model which has taken football to such heights.” God preserve us, it’s a vision all right, but it’s a vision of hell. Wall to wall Twenty20. Be afraid, be very afraid.

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England really are just men at work

Shaun Marsh (see Fanfare for a common man) may be being unfairly overlooked by Australia’s selectors, but there is another Aussie that people should be paying attention to. His name, apparently, is JRod and he is a film-maker from Melbourne when he’s not blogging about cricket. Anyway, if you haven’t already been there, get over to his site, Cricket With Balls, scroll down a bit and read his dissection of the England cricket team as a bunch of Men at Work. It’s funny and, more importantly, it’s very very accurate. I haven’t laughed as much since I read Line and Length’s satire on Prime Minister’s Questions. All right, enough sucking up to the other blogs. I bid you good night.

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Fanfare for a common man

I’ve not generally been one to blow my own trumpet but, sod it, I’m gradually learning that if I don’t, no one else will. So here goes: reading Line and Length yesterday afternoon, before sharing a very convivial beer with its creator in the evening, I learned that the leading run-scorer in the IPL, which I long ago left to go its own way, is none other than Western Australia left-hander Shaun Marsh, son of Geoff, a player with no Tests or one-day internationals to his name (so far). Well, can I just pause and say “I told you so.” OK, well I didn’t exactly but I did give him a glowing report in my book If It Was Raining Palaces, I’d Get Hit by the Dunny Door. If I knew how to do that clever link thing, that title would have appeared in a nice blue colour and you’d be able to go straight to Amazon and order a copy. But unfortunately I don’t (yet) so you’ll have to go to Amazon by some other route. Or, should you already have a copy, you can simply turn to page 20, where it’s in black and white: “Shaun Marsh, straighter and more stylish than Phil Jaques…blah blah blah.” OK so I didn’t quite forecast a world-beating future for him but I do remember thinking, during his innings of 78 from 56 balls in England’s opening game, against the Prime Minister’s XI during the last Ashes, that he was quite a prospect. However, predicting wonderful things for an Australian is an act fraught with danger, especially among their batsmen, because there seems to be no end to the talent coming off that particular conveyor belt and just because Marsh shows some promise, it doesn’t follow that he will be one of the outstanding players of his generation. You only have to look at the Test records, or lack of them, of Stuart Law and Jamie Siddons to realise that, Down Under, prodigious ability is not always enough. However, I wish Marsh well and now that I’ve been alerted to his performances in India, I may yet be tempted to reach for the number on my remote that takes me straight to Setanta. Although with Michael Clarke back in the Australia line-up for the beginning of the second Test in the West Indies, selecting whom to view could be a tricky assignment.

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Community care

Here I am trying to do some proper work, but progress is slow as I become more aware of just what an enormous cricket blogging community is out there. As someone relatively new to the blogosphere (as I believe Patrick has referred to it on Line and Length) I find that, despite my other obligations, I am compelled, every three or four minutes, to switch back to Reverse Sweep in the frankly sadly egotistical hope that someone new will have commented on my latest foray into wisdom. I ask other bloggers out there whether this is this normal or do I need to see a psychiatrist? Will I grow out of this, as my blog takes on the look of a well knocked-in Newbury Uzi? ( I say Newbury Uzi because it’s the most snazzy and alarmingly named piece of wood to jump out at me from the cricket equipment supplements – truth be told, my serious playing days were seen out with a rather sedate Millichamp & Hall) or will it become an obsessive compulsion that propels me up my own backside into the land of megalomania?

Anyway, among those to contribute comments in the last 24 hours are Suave and his Cricket Republique (thanks for the Collapses tips; unfortunately I had those two etched deep in my memory, but any more you come up with will be gratefully accepted), Cricket With Balls, whose treatise on why Monty Panesar is a poor excuse for a cult hero is recommended reading, and Spun Out, whose worries about the ECB’s plans for the future of the English domestic game seem to mirror my own.

I will set up links to all these in the near future, when I have cast off my Luddite tendencies and worked out how to, although I suspect people passing by here are already aware of them, and any more good ones I come across as I trawl this vast network of cricket verbosity.

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Heroes every one of them – update

After several contributions, it has come to my notice that I failed to name a captain for my side. I’d have to go for Geoff Howarth, since his record leading New Zealand was pretty good, but, having been reminded of a hero I left out, I will instead insert Mike Brearley into the mix, as a non-playing skipper in charge of tactics!

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Answer me

Well done to Brian Carpenter, who recalled that the umpire who walked out on the first day of a game was Guy Randall-Johnson; he’d had a spat with Julian Wood over an lbw decision during the Berkshire Minor Counties Championship game with Dorset in 2006. A new quiz question will follow later.

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Still crazy after all these years

Cricket could finally go completely crazy tomorrow morning when the ECB meets to discuss so-called ‘radical’ changes to the domestic game. Among the new ideas mooted, according to reports, are a return to a three-day county championship, which may or may not be divided into three ‘conferences’ based on regional distribution, and, most bizarrely of all, a retention of the Pro-40 competition, but with innings divided into four ‘quarters’ in which each side bats for 20 overs and then fields and then bats again. So, not only are the powers that be trying to force more Twenty20 on us via the backdoor, in a competion whose length bears no similarity to one-day internationals, they want a return to the bad old days of county cricket’s contrived finishes, which, not so long ago, was considered detrimental to those trying to adapt to the five-day game. 

This is all being done in the name of commerce, and is a knee jerk reaction to the lure of the IPL. But how many real cricket supporters found themselves turning to Setanta for the latest bout between the Delhi Supercharged Turbo Fuel Injection XI and the Mumbai Indians (they’re not all Indians, anyway, are they?) when there was gripping Test fare to be had both at Old Trafford and Sabina Park? In fact, even when there is no Test fare to be had, like right now, I am no longer tempted, after my initial curiosity, to turn back to Setanta (the gold helmets did for me).

The Pro-40, it is said, may be retained because it is popular with fans; well, if so, why mess with it? I watched an experiment of a one-day game in quarters at Perth during England’s tour of Australia in 1994-5 and it did nothing to improve it. In fact, it was just quite silly.

I think it is time for real cricket supporters – not the fly-by-night Twenty20 newcomers – to stand up and be counted – even if we do not exist in numbers large enough to keep Kevin Pietersen and whoever follows him to the sub-continent in Ferraris. Do we want a cricket that is no more and no less than football in summer’s clothing, or do we want a cricket that we celebrate for its unique and steadfast qualities in an ever-changing world. Just because you like things as they are, it does not make you an old fogey?

With this in mind, I intend to mount a campaign against any moves to change back from a four-day championship or mess with the Pro-40 (although if they just got rid of it altogether, the ECB would have my backing). When I’ve mastered the technicalities I will be starting a petition to oppose these moves, should they be rubber-stamped. Hopefully the ECB will show some common sense and not implement them, but if they do, you know where to come to voice your disgust.

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