Daily Archives: July 20, 2008

For f***’s sake match referee, are you blind?

What, exactly, does a match referee do? I ask because there seems to have been no suggestion that the acts of AB de Villiers – and, perhaps, Michael Vaughan – should be put before him for consideration.

I refer of course to the thorny issue of the cleanliness of catches.

De Villiers hardly needs a hearing – he should simply be banned for at least one Test for the most poorly concealed attempt to mislead an umpire in cricket this century. The case of Vaughan is less clear-cut. I hope I say this without bias, but I think he might genuinely have believed he picked up the chance from Hashim Amla.

If, though, he really tried to claim a catch he knew was dubious after apparently giving De Villiers an earful at lunch for his misbehaviour, our esteemed leader really must be lacking something up top – and I’m not referring to his rapidly receding hairline.

But, for reasons of fairness, if South Africa think his crime warrants the same action as that of De Villiers, I think it is only right and proper that he should have the chance to defend himself.

It seems odd that Paul Collingwood should be banned from four one-day internationals for failing to keep up with the required run-rate, yet acts far more potentially damaging to the game in the long run, do not, seemingly, warrant further investigation.

Surely deeds that could – I emphasise could – constitute cheating should come under the referee’s scrutiny? How much longer are they prepared to turn a blind eye? Over to you, Jeff Crowe.

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Smug England get their due reward

I don’t hold out much hope of England doing a South Africa and lasting more than two days for the loss of only a handful of wickets, but no doubt I’ll be there in front of the box again today hoping against hope that I’m being unduly pessimistic – and then looking for a small, furry mammal to abuse when I realise I’m not. (I won’t really, I love animals. Especially in a ciabatta).

The fact of the matter, however, is that even if England do pull off a miraculous act of escapology, it has to be admitted that in this Test match we have been totally outplayed (that’s OK, it can and does happen) and outthought (that’s not OK, and it shouldn’t happen).

The lack of intelligence displayed by England teams in many sports – not just cricket – continues to amaze me. And infuriate me.

No doubt those of more advanced years among us will put it down to the decaying system of education – for God’s sake we can’t even find people that can mark exams in a given timeframe, let alone answer them – the frowning upon of the competitive spark, a deficiency of discipline. And actually, they’d probably be right.

It’s all of these things and more.

What did England’s first innings tell you about the attitude in the dressing-room? To me, it yelled complacency. We didn’t learn the lesson of the second innings at Lord’s – that South Africa have got backbone, and absorb and digest their experiences and try to do better.

So not only did our batsmen, put in in conditions that suited the bowlers, throw away their wickets with gay abandon, we were so self-satisfied, so smugly dismissive of our opponents, that we thought we could drop a man from the middle order – admittedly one who was struggling for form – and put a wicketkeeper who can barely play a shot in front of the wicket, and is also struggling for form, in at No 6.

What was it Freddie Flintoff said in his masterful exhibition of understatement when he was interviewed by Nasser Hussain after the first day? “Yes, we’d have liked a few more runs, but…” A few more runs? Try another 150 just for starters.

Then we compounded the error – at who knows what cost to team morale, or certainly of the morale of those on the fringes of the side – of bringing in an untried and untested bowler simply because he’d got a few games under his belt for an Australian state side.

This is no particular criticism of Darren Pattinson – I mean, if someone offers you a Test cap out of the blue you’re hardly likely to turn it down, are you? – and his bowling is nowhere near the worst we’ve seen represent the three lions over the years, but it sent out all the wrong messages.

Now, come Tuesday, probably, and the realisation that we are 1-0 down in the series, what will our enlightened selectors do next? Pattinson might even merit a second chance but, should Sidebottom be fit, he won’t get it; he probably won’t even play for England again. 

It is muddled selectorial thinking on a par with that in the 1988 series against the West Indies, when we went through a whole batting order of different captains and Peter May picked his godson Chris Cowdrey out of his conjuror’s hat and found he really was a rabbit after all.

Geoff Miller has only been in the job of chief selector for a matter of months, but already he has managed to fritter away a large margin of supporters’ goodwill. And I thought that would be difficult after the example of David Graveney.

It would be interesting to learn to what extent he was the prime mover in these decisions and how much – if any – opposition he brooked.

Firm leadership may be important, but not if it starts to show signs of a mad dictatorship.

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