Monthly Archives: June 2009

Michael Vaughan – a voice for hire

Well, Vaughany has gone. Much in the same way as the man he replaced, Nasser Hussain. That is, immediately.

So this leads me to raise one question. When will we hear the announcement from Sky that he is joining their commentary team for the Ashes, alongside the equally fresh-as-a-prawn-off-the-barbie Shane Warne? Because, surely, he has something lined up.

The procession of former – and in some cases present – professional cricketers into media positions – particularly TV  – will no doubt continue unchecked. The depressing thing of course is that for every Mike Atherton – and even he’s looking a bit dark around the eye sockets from his duel role with The Times – there are the Dominic Corks and Robert Crofts who already sound as if the whole business is too wearisome to be really bothered.

It really is time some quality control was carried out: what we want from a commentator is a voice with a tenor that doesn’t offend the eardrums, succinct insight and a decent appreciation of when to shut up.

What I can’t stand about these guys such as Ian Botham, Nasser even and Jeremy Coney (don’t get me started on Jeremy Coney) is that having been overburdened with a swift 20-minute stint in the box, they will disappear, possibly for a beer, a chat with one of their cricket chums and pay little attention to what their successors in front of the mic are saying. So that, suddenly, when they come back they proceed to repeat what has been said only 10 minutes earlier, rather than expand on it.

And why, as we seemingly get these days, do we need three men in the box at a time? They all talk over each other, occasionally argue over each other and natter on unnecessarily. What happened to the notion of a professional commentator who would merely defer to an expert summariser, who had to wait to be given the nod to espouse his wisdom?

Incidentally, those who buy the world’s best selling cricket magazine this month, should turn to its Ashes supplement, where they will find – providing it hasn’t been edited out of existence – that Michael Vaughan’s exit had been predicted by the author of this blog and his secret astrological source, Mystic Mags.

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Sponsor Reverse Sweep to… er … reverse sweep in the Blogging Ashes

Reverse Sweep has a confession to make.

Despite his admiration for all things Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan and those other players whose innovative abilities have enabled the term to enter the common cricket lexicon (not to mention make his blog more easily located through search engines rather than just referrals from Cricket With Balls, The Village Cricketer and Line and Length), he has never actually played a reverse sweep, a switch hit or a Dilshan scoop shot (the mohican is RS’s preferred title for the shot) in anger in competition.

For when Reverse Sweep was at his regrettably brief playing peak, when Twenty20 was barely a twinkle in a marketing professional’s cerebral cortex, it was a stroke only purveyed with any regularity by wayward stocky types like Mike Gatting and Ian Botham. Reverse Sweep (at that point cutting a slim figure),  based his game, for better of for worse, more on stable, stoic types such as Chris Tavare and Geoffrey Boycott, who was more likely to send his pinnied granny out in his place to bat for England on a sticky dog at Old Trafford than succumb to such frivolities.

But Reverse Sweep is nothing if not in favour of progress (so long as it doesn’t threaten to strangle old and worthy traditions like the forward defensive and genuine leg glance) and with this in mind he is prepared to make his merry band of readers an offer they can barely refuse.

For on Monday, at Barnes Cricket Club, Reverse Sweep will put his ageing body on the line in the Blogging Ashes, a game that is not for the fainthearted. He is honoured to be lining up alongside other such worthies as the Village Cricketer, Line and Length and one or two cricinfo and Wisden chaps as they battle with offbeat Aussie upstart Cricket With Balls and a bunch of non-blogging ringers from Down Under that the dastardly convicts have slung together after a long pub crawl through the hostelries of Earl’s Court and surrounding areas.

And since the match is not simply about national honour – it is also about securing funds for the Everyman cancer charity – Reverse Sweep is planning to do a sponsored Reverse Sweep during the game. All you have to do is come on here and pledge a small or significant amount of cash for every Reverse Sweep that Reverse Sweep is able to execute during his innings.  A tenner a stroke would be an acceptable offer, with double that should he be able to pull off a Dilshan and triple that for a genuine switch hit (don’t worry he will not be able to do this and if he does he will be hospitalised with a hernia)

So step up, brave fellows and fellowesses or just sneak down to Barnes from 3.30pm onwards with your chequebooks and pens at the ready.

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Not so much Insha’Allah as fans willing: how Pakistan made Twenty20 final

Well, I knew that one team that started the tournament a few paces short of the required run-up would come good, I just wasn’t figuring on it being Pakistan.

Well, actually, I was, however much I tried to convince myself that the humiliation of England’s defeat by Holland would have galvanised Paul Collingwood and his merry men and leave those who found the opening game debacle at Lord’s amusing laughing on the other side of their faces come our triumphant return to the home of cricket for the final.

No, it was not to be – not even after England had recovered from the Dutch disaster to outplay Pakistan in their other group match – and so it will not be Kevin Pietersen and Ravi Bopara gracing the hallowed turf on Sunday, but Shahid Afridi and Umar Gul…something you couldn’t really have foreseen after witnessing their rather inspid performance at the Oval, where they seemed to show complete indifference to chasing an England total that certainly shouldn’t have been beyond them on one of the best batting surfaces on which most players will ever have the fortune to step out

So it would be churlish not to congratulate them in turning things around, even if they did find themselves in the less testing of the two Super Eight groups. For the fates have not been kind to Pakistan cricket in recent years, the security and political issues that have afflicted their country depriving them not just of success but of the game itself.

No wonder the outpouring of fanaticism – and I mean that word in its most positive sense – that has pervaded the matches they’ve been involved with, from Trent Bridge to the Oval to Lord’s.

It was shortly after the dismissal of AB de Villiers in the semi-final that I realised South Africa were doomed. As Afridi played to his many admirers – a couple of girls in the crowd seemed to be advertising their mobile phone numbers to him on one of the many placards that was raised in celebration – the decibel level coursed through strident and deafening with barely a backward glance and ended up somewhere between cacophonous and ear-splitting.

Even as calm a head as JP Duminy has proved himself to possess in a relatively short international career seemed to be wobbling on its neck muscles.

And that is why the criticism of Duminy and the South African run chase in general – maybe Morkel should have come in earlier but bear in mind that Afridi had dismissed two of their quickest run scorers in a matter of balls – seems to me to be a bit wide of the mark.

The momentum had well and truly turned; whatever Jacques Kallis, Duminy or Morkel could have done, it would not have been enough. It was not so much Insha’Allah – God willing – but something more powerful than that:  the Pakistan populace of Nottingham and its surrounding areas willing. 

And that transmitted itself to the middle where a team renowned for its flightiness remained remarkably down to earth. To the point in fact where even the hardest and most free-hitting clubbers of a cricket ball would have struggled to get sufficient wood under the reverse-swinging yorkers that Gul bowled with an accuracy and consistency that bowlers such as Stuart Broad and Ryan Sidebottom can still only dream of.

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The World Twenty20 – a love/hate relationship

Eleven things Reverse Sweep likes about the Twenty20 World Cup

 

 1 Australia going out in the first group stage – good and rapid catharsis for England’s defeat by Holland

2 Chris Gayle – what else is there to say? A monster with a cricket bat in his hand

The insouciance of Yuvraj Singh – you can’t just wander in and hit a six first ball can you? Oh, you can

4 Kyle McCallan’s action – it’s nicely rounded with a bit of drift, and as smooth as a pint of Guinness (if you like that sort of thing; prefer a nice cool Staropramen meself)

5 An England wicketkeeper getting a genuine stumping – stand up, or, well, crouch down James Foster

6 Ryan Sidebottom’s attitude against India, neatly and accurately summarised by a correspondent on the Guardian’s over-by-over site as being that of a man who “has decreed ‘I have come here to eat bread n spread and despise humanity’ and I am all out of bread and spread’”

7 Gordon Drummond’s fielding – brilliantly turning a catch off Jacob Oram at short backward square into a drop and then kicking the falling ball off his thigh to the Vauxhall End boundary 40 yards away

8 Stuart Broad for the semaphore flag gestures in his run-up that suggest he is guiding  low flying planes over the Oval and Lord’s towards Terminal 5 rather than about to deliver a cricket ball. And upsetting the ICC in the process

9 Alan Wilkins; never heard of the chap before but apparently a former Glamorgan and Gloucestershire player who puts some of ESPN Star Sport’s generally abysmal commentating ‘talent’ to shame.

10 Anil Kumble – the only other ESPN Star Sports commentator with a smidgen of insight.

11 South Africa’s fielding – like a pack of hyenas chancing on a recently deceased warthog.

Twelfth man: People – lots and lots of them, packed into grounds, enjoying cricket and waving babies in the air in celebration

 

And….. 

Eleven things he doesn’t

1 Australia going out in the first group stage – after the laughing’s over, who’s left to hate?

2 Roelof van der Merwe – scary as buggery unpronounceable South African orthodox left-arm spinner who fires in darts at unsuspecting batsman: looks as though he wishes they were real darts.

3 The ESPN Star Sports commentary team; especially Jeremy Coney and Harsha Bogle, who took up half an Ireland match discussing headline puns that could be attributed to the electrician batting at No 3. Don’t call us….

4 Sky TV – who decree that we must see a short advert for Southall Travel before a replay of any wicket

5 Stumps – inserted so loosely that even the slightest brush of a bail from a Muralitharan off break uproots more wood than the 1987 hurricane.

6 Paul Collingwood’s field placing – especially against Holland, when no one inside the circle saving a single was actually close enough to save a single.

7 Holland’s supporters – you can’t knock ‘em; all that orange does look good under lights

8 Lasith Malinga – and his single-handed crusade to bring back fast underarm bowling

9 Pasties – tasty, but £4 a time at the Oval? You’ve got to be choking.

10 Headlines – about how well England’s women are doing while the men can’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo

11 South Africa – winning all the time

Twelfth man: National anthems – sound like they’ve been recorded on a Bontempi organ

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