Monthly Archives: August 2008

Quiz question of the day (Walt comes good)

Well, it’s only taken a week but finally someone has come up with the correct answer. The thing linking the Test match ground in Dunedin with our favourite weather-challenged ground in the north, Old Trafford, is, indeed, the weather. They are the only two grounds to have attempted to stage two Tests that have been abandoned without a ball being bowled. Walter wins.

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Another trivial thought about KP

Shouldn’t Jason Gallian get a recall?

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Some trivial thoughts about KP

Does anyone think that this appointment is a very smart move from a PR point of view. I have my £83 Oval ticket sitting in my kitchen drawer and, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ll be attending with a friend who rarely gets to see live cricket, I might have been tempted to place it on ebay

No, OK, I wouldn’t go that far, not least because, with the series lost, I probably wouldn’t even get the asking price. But now, of course, the final Test has been revitalised, ensuring that cricket remains on the back pages (and perhaps even front) once the Olympics and the football season get going  – a good move in an era when terrestrial television struggles to get a look-in with the sport.

Also, who isn’t going to be there, binoculars trained on the middle, when KP and his great buddy Graeme Smith get out there for their first toss?

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Ch-ch-ch-changes (but not many of them)

Well, so much for the new broom then. Not a surprise selection among em, unless you count Samit Patel’s inclusion in the one-day squad (again trailed by Reverse Sweep only hours ago) and Matt Prior’s recall to the same.

Owais Shah must wonder what he has to do to get a chance now that Ravi Bopara has leapt ahead of him in the pecking order. Tell you what Owais: take the IPL/Champions League money and sod the selectors.   

But there’s no Carberry, no Key, no Malan – and did we really think there would be?

Conservative imagination – if that’s not a contradiction in terms -is something that is anathema to England’s selectors. Mad left-field selections, such as that of Darren Pattinson, evidently are not.   

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New broom needed to (reverse) sweep clean

You might think, after my tirade against England’s under-performing batsmen on the third afternoon of the last Test, that I would be basking in the resignation of captain Michael Vaughan, and lauding our powers-that-be for having the foresight to signal a serious change in outlook.

Of course, I won’t be. Not only has Vaughan been one of my favourite batsmen of the last ten years – if only he could play more of those back-foot drives of the type he essayed in his brief cameo in the second innings without finding an edge or missing a straight one inbetween, we would not be in this position – he has been incredibly unlucky with injury, which must surely have had some bearing on his inability to run up big scores on a regular basis.

Vaughan’s form was a concern but I do not think that he was the big problem: something was wrong in the set-up as a whole, perhaps mainly a stubborn belief that talent – that of Ian Bell, that of Andrew Strauss, that of Paul Collingwood – will out in the end. This, though, is not always so, as the international experiences of Graeme Hick and Mark Ramprakash testify.

No one would pretend that Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, is a joy to watch, but he is gritty, astonishingly determined and seems to have a bat as wide as a railway sleeper; you just do not see him feathering the kind of airy edges that Strauss, Bell and even KP do from time to time. Maybe it is time to put some of our aesthetic desires aside.  

I read today in one national journalist’s blog that Vaughan had lost the dressing-room, that, among other things, some of his field changes were causing players to wander about shrugging their shoulders. Well, I’m not sure I buy that. How could he have lost the dressing-room when the parallel complaint was that the nucleus of players had formed a clique of comfort into which it was becoming more and more difficult to break?

In his own words, it seems, he had simply run out of steam. And good on him for admitting it. Maybe he learnt his lesson from his tenure as one-day captain, a seat from which he had almost to be crow-barred.

You might also think that I would be shouting from the rooftops after naming KP as my preferred captain for the Oval Test. (Those in the know are saying that he will be the new ‘unity’ skipper across the five-day and one-day arena)  Well, not so, either. I took the easy option after looking at the alternatives – the only realistic one was Strauss and he wouldn’t make my team anyway for the time being.

I still have great reservations about Pietersen, a feeling that is shared, perhaps surprisingly, by a goodly number of England supporters if the contributions to a myriad of blogs today is to be believed. No one is really taken in by Pietersen’s protestations to be a team man; if anyone was in any doubt, his shot on Friday afternoon would have disabused them of that.

But now is his chance to show us that he can sublimate his selfish inclinations into the demands of the team. Naming him captain for one Test and the one-day contests that follow should give us some idea whether he is the one for the future.

To name Strauss in that team would be a cruelty since he has gone on record to say how much he valued the leadership of the country and to be overlooked as he was when Flintoff got the job for the 2006-7 Ashes might do him terminal harm.

Best if he is allowed to go back to county cricket and notch up some runs, with the proviso that if he shows sufficiently good form and Pietersen proves unable to galvanise his charges, he’ll be the next in line.

My fit of pique on Friday was, of course, written before Collingwood proved his mettle with a superb hundred, sadly, like his double-century effort in Adelaide, in a losing cause.

It would be easy to say that he has saved his Test career, deserves another chance and should be kept in the frame for the Oval. But, looked at another way, saving your career when you’re in the last chance saloon, could be seen as an act of desperation, not quality.

Strauss did the same in the third Test in New Zealand in the winter, and, while he scored another decisive hundred to guide England to victory against New Zealand at Old Trafford, he has not scored even so much as a fifty in five attempts against the greater challenge of South Africa.

Nothing that he or Collingwood could do against the same opponents in south London in a dead series will tell us anything new.

It is time to look at the alternatives, which takes me back to the team I named on Friday. I think it stands, although since no one has agreed with me that Stuart Broad can make a Test No 6 (you mark my words, his Test career will eventually be judged on his batting, as was that of Bob Woolmer, who started out mainly as a bowler) I suggest that Rob Key is given another chance or we stick, rather reluctantly, with Alastair Cook.

1 Carberry

2 Malan (or Key or Cook)

3 Shah

4 Pietersen

5 Bopara

6 Key (or Malan)

7 Flintoff

8 Foster

9 Sidebottom

10 Anderson

11 Panesar

Next in line: Steve Kirby

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Time for a new captain, openers, middle order…

It just gets worse doesn’t it: England have now lost four wickets, of which only one has actually been got out – Strauss.

It really is time to dump these wasters. As I said in my last piece, the thinking is completely muddled. To think purely in positive terms ia a sign of mental weakness, not strength. True mental strength is the ability to adapt to the situation: to know when to attack and when to defend. Two top-edged hooks by players when two men are already back on the shot is simply not good enough.

So, for the Oval, I suggest wholesale changes, because this group of players has clearly shown that however good they can be to watch (usually for about four overs), they do not have the mental discipline to represent England.

Strauss, Vaughan, and Collingwood have not had a meaningful innings between them in this series while Cook has a horrible technical deficiency on the front foot and an inability to turn his reasonable scores into big ones. Bell is the most frustrating of the lot, desperately pleasing to watch, but having put in one big score for the series, continues to fall apart when reasonably set.

So, in a just world, the only member of the top six to survive to take up arms at the Oval, in a game that will no longer matter in the series, is Kevin Pietersen.

But who do we bring in?

Someone with a bit of hunger. Michael Carberry was knocking on the door early in the season, but hasn’t had a great campaign. Maybe promotion will focus his mind. This after all is a man who has shown his determination to make it as a professional cricketer, much in the same way as Ian Ward, turning rejection into a positive thing.

Ravi Bopara deserves to be given a run, along with Owais Shah; maybe we should get Dawid Malan in to open. Bring Stuart Broad in as a specialist batsman and make KP captain.

The team then I would pick:

1 Carberry

2 Malan

3 Shah

4 Pietersen (capt)

5 Bopara

6 Broad

7 Flintoff

8 Foster/Read (wkt)

9 Sidebottom

10 Panesar

11 Anderson

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England’s default modes a result of muddled thinking

I think it is time that Sky’s commentators and assorted cricket experts stopped treating us all like idiots. England have two default modes: totally negative or madly positive – and the second of these is seen as a good thing: at least Vaughan, or whoever, has come out there “with a positive attitude.” Never mind that 15 balls later, with four fours on the board to his name, he is out caught at extra cover.

Do these prats – I include particularly Nasser Hussain and (Slur) Ian Botham – really not know that the best way to bat is to mix attack with defence, to play each ball on its merits? Do England’s management, rapidly deteriorating in my estimation, not inculcate this into their players? So stop lauding our batsmen when they come out with “positivity” their only approach.

 

When England have played a Test when wickets have been thrown away needlessly, suddenly they go completely into their shells and stop playing shots at all: this has been evident twice in Tests against New Zealand this year – at home and abroad.

When the criticism is that they have failed by being too negative, they go to the other extreme, opting for a totally up and at em outlook which is equally flawed.

Is there no sense of the happy medium in this England set-up?

This swing of the pendulum from one match – even one innnings – to another is a pattern that is becoming increasingly irksome.

Message to England: get some mental fortitude, play a situation as it should be played and then we might have a more successful side.

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