Monthly Archives: January 2009

It’s all in the stars: why the KP spat was inevitable and we won’t win the Ashes

Reverse Sweep looks at England’s future from a totally different angle and, bottom, provides a cricketing guide to the cosmos

 

 

 

God is a delusion, history is bunk, and astrology, according to the scientific world view, is probably a mixture of both. But is it as straightforward as that? A luminary as respected as Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, whose researches into the “collective unconscious” – as good a description of the England cricket authorities I can think of  – lends its study some credence, along with our own Willy Shakespeare, whose observation in Hamlet that “there are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” is alleged to be just one of 100 phrases relating to the subject that academics have highlighted in his plays.

 

And, closer to home, what about Ted Dexter? A shining star in England’s top order in the Sixties, captain of his county and country, a would-be politician, no mean golfer and occasional author (I can’t be the only one who read Testkill, can I?), he once turned to the subject when, as chairman of selectors, he sought to blame England’s abject display in India on an unusual alignment between Jupiter and Venus.

 

Most of us, though, would not have felt the need to make recourse to horoscopes to realise that the appointment of Kevin Pietersen as captain of England was ill-starred. But what if we had? Maybe it would have told us something that could not be ascertained by ‘logical’ means alone – and provided the selectors with an alternative means of choosing the leader of their team.

 

To this end, Reverse Sweep has made some inquiries – and it does not make happy reading: for Pietersen, for Peter Moores, for Andrew Strauss and, perhaps most tellingly, for England’s chances of regaining the Ashes.

 

We contacted Marjorie Orr, a former television journalist turned stargazer whose columns have appeared in such diverse publications as the Express, the Sunday Times and Cosmopolitan  who was temporarily thrown more prominently into the public eye when Margaret Thatcher, spooked by being bombed out of her Brighton hotel in 1984, was said to have sent press secretary Bernard Ingham on a mission to hire her to check if there were subsequent dangers on the horizon.

 

Armed only with the birth data of Pietersen, Moores, Strauss and the England and Wales Cricket Board (organisations as well as individuals can be subject to astrological inquiry it seems), she went to work, coming back with some rather alarming predictions, which she has reproduced on her website (see www.star4cast.com/forum_article.asp?id=1 and scroll down to January 9).

 

For those who fear their credibility may be stretched by wading through technical detail involving planets, mathematical equations and – frankly – painful sounding terms such as an “afflicted Mars Saturn conjunction on the point of a mutable T-square”, Reverse Sweep has taken the liberty of interpreting the main points for you below.

 

While prefacing her response with the disclaimer that she “is not a sporting fan”, Orr identifies from Pietersen’s birth chart (the positions of the planets when he was born) some elements of his personality that to those of us who know KP – or like to think we know him – sound familiar. A sun sign Cancerian (the signs that are usually interpreted in daily newspaper columns), he “does have quite a chart” she says, mainly due to an emphasised/afflicted Mars that makes him on the one hand “hard working, courageous and strong-willed”, and on the other “confrontational, highly-strung and tending to buck authority”.

 

It is no surprise, then, that she concludes that the spat with Moores, a “fiery Sun sign Sagittarius which squares (an astrologically difficult pattern) Pietersen’s Mars/Saturn conjunction “was an accident waiting to happen”.  What’s more, she says, Pietersen is undergoing a Saturn return (something, as I understand it, that happens to everyone around the age of 29 when the ringed planet takes up the exact position in the sky it occupied at your birth) and it is hitting him in his “most vulnerable area”, which is not, I am reliably informed, astrology-speak for the midriff.

 

In addition, when both charts are studied together, there is an exact Sun-Pluto conjunction – a “power-struggling combination” – which was “under severe pressure in 2008, especially in December”.

 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t get much better for either over the next 12months, Orr reporting that KP faces “a ratchety year ahead” and that Moores “is unlikely to enjoy a fun time” though longer-term, she sees both bouncing back in 2010-11.

 

But if we can’t expect KP to galvanise the England batting come the summer, does the new regime of Andrew Strauss offer us something to feel confident about in an Ashes year? Not according to Orr.

 

Although Strauss, whose Pisces Sun lends him “a softer personality” is “innovative, in a gradual rather than dramatic way”, his outlook for the summer is not encouraging: he will not, says Orr,  be on his best form, suffering setbacks, with August “unlikely to be a fun month”. Tie this in with the chart for the ECB (“born”, according to wikipedia, on January 1, 1997) and you might as well stick your money on the Aussies.

 

For while Pluto’s movements promise a “dispiriting” period in July, Saturn comes really bad in August suggesting a “bad-tempered” feeling, “beset with problems”.

 

Our only hope, then, it seems, is that July finds something even nastier sitting on Ricky Ponting’s mutable T-square.

 

 

 

*** KP should captain England again, said Michael Vaughan a couple of days ago, and the Yorkshire batsman will be happy that his confidence is born out by the stars. Marjorie Orr advises: “He (kp) does have leadership potential in his chart but needs to focus his energies in a more disciplined way and get a grip of his impatience.” Roll on the Ashes 2010?.

 

The Planets: a cricketing guide.

 

Mercury: the astrological ruler of communications, the smallest globe in the sky is also the thinking man’s planet: picture Mike Brearley at mid-off stroking his beard

Venus: the brightest natural object in the night sky represents pleasure, beauty and romance: envisage a Michael Vaughan cover drive on a sunny evening at Lord’s.

Mars: the red planet is quite appropriately associated with self-assertion and aggression in the zodiac, bringing to mind Harbhajan Singh fronting up to Andrew Symonds

Jupiter: the largest planet in the solar system, astrologically its influence is to expand the effect of everything it comes into contact with. Think Warwick Armstrong, Australia’s ‘Big Ship’ who put on 12 stone over the course of his career. Or Allen Stanford

Saturn: a big ball of hydrogenous gas in the outer environs of the solar system, but the big, bad bully of the astrological world – a bit like Colin Croft on steroids

Uranus: the coldest planet in the solar system, astrologically it governs sudden upheavals. Think Packer and the IPL.

Neptune: the only planet found by mathematical prediction rather than astronomical observation, it rules confusion. Calls to mind Duckworth/Lewis.

Pluto; recently downgraded to a dwarf planet, it is the slowest mover in the sky, taking 248 years to circumnavigate the zodiac. Geoffrey Boycott at his most pedestrian.

 

 

Coming soon: Mystic Meg on Ian Bell’s inconsistency.

 

 

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Farewell pantomime villain, we’ll miss you (oh no we won’t)

It was in the middle of the night, while in the kitchen making a cup of tea during the break between innings of  the New Zealand one-dayer against the West Indies, that I caught a mention of the name Hayden coming from the living room.

Leaving the kettle to whistle furiously – well it’s a nice image, in reality it just boiled furiously and clicked softly – I ran in to find Marcus Buckland and Colin Croft had moved onto another subject. But, surely, there could only be one reason that they had been mentioning Matthew Hayden.

I grabbed the remote, switched to Ceefax and there it was, in bold blue and black. It was true. Matty Hayden had called it a day. 

Now, I have no great affection for Matty: he was a bully, arguably a flat-track one at times, and it would have been an insult to batsmen down the ages should his 380 against Zimbabwe have stood as the greatest Test innings of all time (in size, that is, and cricket does like to measure things in sizes,)  but I couldn’t help feel a sense of sadness in the pit of my stomach.

For he was the pantomime villain – all pride, bombast and arrogance dressed up in an extraodinary frame. I don’t know whether he started out with a huge upper body, one totally out of  proportion with the rest of it, or whether his chest expanded with each more dominant innings and Ashes victory, leaving his legs trailing in its wake. But he was a character it was easy to love to hate because his brash personality came bursting forth in his batting style.

And it was in some ways embarrassing to witness his struggles in the series against South Africa; the aggressive march down the wicket was no longer intimidating his opponents and when he tried to retreat and show more respect, it really wasn’t him. Best probably, that he should exit stage left, cheers and boos ringing in his ears probably  in equal measure, although I wouldn’t have put it past him to come good again in the Ashes. But that would have entailed further examination in South Africa, and he couldn’t be sure of coming through that test.

He leaves with a Test aveage of 50 intact. But was he really, as Ricky Ponting claimed, without doubt Australia’s greatest opener. “You can even look back through the history books of the game,” said the Australia captain “and try and see if there’s ever been a better opening batsman in the game, let alone Australia.”

I await the stampede of statisticians to disprove that theory; but in the meantime, let’s hope Matty gets a winter season at the end of Blackpool pier.

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England put their Strauss in order

So, two and a half years after they surely should have given him the job, Andrew Strauss steps up into the hot seat, one upon which we hope he will park his backside  fo the whistelestop tour to the Caribbean and through the Ashes in the summer.

Of course, who will take on the duties in one-day internationals, and the Twenty20 world championship has still, as I write, to be worked out (although in the fast-moving arena of the England captaincy, things can change in the time it takes to put the finishing touches to this article). But in theory – and especially bearing in mind the about-turns that have taken place in recent days – there is no reason why the Middlesex opener should not be restored to the one-day team, thus ensuring the continuation of the one-captain-for-all-seasons strategy that Geoff Miller is understood to have favoured, and which Paul Collingwood’s resignation from the limited-overs helm made possible when Pietersen was appointed. A straight swop in the order for Ian Bell should do the trick.

That decision to hand the captaincy for the 2006-7 Ashes series to Andrew Flintoff, one which many England supporters greeted with only moderate enthusiasm despite Freddie’s iconic status, has proved to have long-term ramifications. That Australia team, fired up by righteous indignation of  defeat to the old enemy in 2005, may have been one of the finest of modern times and may indeed gone on to complete the 5-0 whitewash that England in the event suffered, but who can be sure? Some may challenge the viewpoint, but Flintoff, unburdened by the cares of leadership, may have found better form himself, especially with the bat ,and while Strauss had a wretched Test series himself, would it have really been that much more grisly had he been entrusted with the captaincy?

We know that batsmen, and indeed bowlers, can not pick and choose their patches of rotten form, but it is arguable that that the responsibility would have tempered some of Strauss’ shot selection, allowing him to lay a better foundation for those to come.

Those who did not witness the early stages of that tour may not be aware that Strauss was in fabulous form at the outset, some sumptuous strokeplay in the tour opener at the Manuka Oval in Canberra – a one-dayer, by the way – and in the initial first-class game against New South Wales (a potential hundred in the first innings was only prevented by a stunning return catch by Stuart Clark) promising great things ahead. And those innings – of 67 and 50 – came at more or less a run a ball.

It must also remembered that he lost his partner in opening crime, Marcus Trescothick, soon on a plane back to Blighty, prematurely, which may, as some have suggested, made him more inclined to a belief that he was the man to take the attack to the bowlers, Trescothick-style. Several imprudent strokes – and a consequent loss of favour among the gods of cricket – later, his place in the side was being questioned.

Now, though, he has the chance to finish what he started against Pakistan  at Lord’s in July 2006 after Flintoff had limped out of the season following the Sri Lanka series. Let’s hope he can unite England’s warring cliques and if he does, we might conclude in September that two and half years was wasted.

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England leaders tread on their stumps

It was always likely to end in tears – and there was probably not a blogger or media analyst among us who didn’t feel in his bones that it would; the only surprise is that it has done so in so short a time.

Having awakened from my lie-in after an ultimately failed attempt to see the Australia/South Africa series to its end – I do recall, through the mists of slumber, seeing Graeme Smith march to the wicket in one desperate, last bid to offset defeat with both arms in slings – I do indeed find that KP, as predicted here before settling down on the sofa, has gone. But apparently, he didn’t wait to be pushed.

He’d obviously been tuned into cricinfo from his holiday ranch in South Africa, and seen that the issue had, against all the odds, turned against him, so fell on his sword. And, laughingly, for the board that is meant to uphold all things English cricket, he seems to have forgotten to tell them first.

And if it’s goodnight from him, it’s also goodnight from me as well, thought Peter Moores, who has also trodden on his own stumps (to adapt a metaphor).

Now, Andrew Strauss is favourite to pick up the threads of a rapidly diminishing England team with little fibre. And, probably, about time too.

The question is: who’ll become coach. Anyone got any left-field suggestions? Though I wouldn’t be surprised to come back in about an hour and find that KP’s been reinstated and Peter Moores has announced he’s having his baby.

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KP, PM, and the canine mediation service

Now, stop me if I’ve got this wrong, but when, at the beginning of August last year, the ECB offered Kevin Pietersen the captaincy of the England side, did he not know that he was likely to have the odd difference of opinion with Peter Moores? Indeed, scrolling back on cricinfo, we find a report dated August 6 in which the pair acknowledged they had not always seen eye to eye in the past – although what that means is anyone’s guess – but had ironed out their problems at an hour-long meeting at a Northampton hotel.

Indeed, in what now can only amount to seriously overspun soundbites, Moores stated specifically that “what is really promising is that the senior arm of the team is going to get behind him (KP)” . Yet, since the story broke about Pietersen’s challenge to Moores’ authority, those in the media who claim to have the voices of informed sources breathing in their ears, have let slip that perhaps the most important senior member of  the team, Andrew Flintoff, does not really get on with Pietersen.

Then again, the  return to action of Steve Harmison in the dead rubber against South Africa at the Oval was reportedly specifically at Pietersen’s request, so  I formed the entirely logical conclusion that at least those two hit it off. But, hang on, aren’t Harmy and Freddie supposed to be bessie mates? 

OK, so it’s not impossible for me to like you and you to like me, but for me to thoroughly dislike one of your closest friends and vice versa. It’s these strange contradictions that keep human relationships interesting, isn’t it?

Perhaps. Personal conflicts are almost inevitable in any walk of life where two or more people are brought together in a common cause, but they can be – and usuallyare – managed .

Anyway, the smart money was that Pietersen’s discontent was to be enough to see off Moores. However,  as I sat on the tube on my way home tonight, idly flicking through The London Lite free newspaper, another possible outcome had raised its head.

This was, surprise, surprise – and the suggestion appeared to emanate from comments made by Mark Butcher – that if Moores went down, he was likely to take KP with him.

I dismissed it as a desperate, but flawed, attempt to inject new life into a story the final chapter of which was not likely to be known for a couple of days.

I put it out of my mind and settled down to a plate of slop (a tomato and mozzarella bake if you must know) to watch the half-hour Harry Hill’s TV Burp (The Best Bits) that I had recorded at the weekend, and the increasingly unmissable new series of the canine mediation supremo Cesar Milan,  aka The Dog Whisperer.

A couple of hours later I was beginning to form the opinion that either of these fine gentlemen could best sort out the split in the England camp – Hill simply by calling for the fight between two surreal rivals that usually closes the first part of his programme, Cesar by insisting on the “calm, assertive” approach that brings most dogs to heel – when I fired up my computer to fill in the last few moments before South Africa sought to become another sort of top dog, only to find cricinfo displaying an “exclusive”  that an emergency ECB teleconference had raised the possibility that it was KP who was going to pay the price for his outspoken views.

As spectator sports go, this one looks set to be just as interesting as the next several hours at the SCG. I shall now doze happily on the sofa as Hashim Amla and Neil McKenzie resume the fight in Australia and fully expect to wake up to find that Andrew Strauss is the new England captain, Angus Fraser is the new coach and KP has decided to requalify for the nation of his birth, now No1 in the world.

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Bell end for England (headline suggested by Jack S Pratt)

The return of Reverse Sweep – with a new year’s resolution to blog on a more regular basis – has stirred Jack S Pratt, the blog’s northern correspondent, out of his home brew inspired hibernation and he writes the following, which I’m sure many people agree with (all the spelling mistakes and literals are his): “Surely the time has come to put Ian Bell out of his misery and call a trmporary end to his England career. Watching him bat in recent innings has been torture and I suspect that is exactly how he feels every time he goes out to the crease. Ian Bell is one of the most gifted batters in world cricket but feeling that every innings could be your last is obviously destroying his cofidence and his capacity to enjoy his cricket.
Instead of sending him to the Windies the selectors should have told Bell to take some time off, spend the season playing for Warwickshire and resume his England career in 2010.
Hopefully this would allow Bell to get stacks of runs, rebuild his confidence and give him the chance to enjoy the game again.
I suspect that given this option by the England management Ian Bell would accept with a sense of total relief and in the long run it would be hugely beneficial to himself and to English cricket.”

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