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March 21, 2007

A Crucial Conundrum

Much has been talked of the antics of Flintoff and Co. after the New Zealand game and the disciplinary measures put in place by the management. Perhaps the most notable of these is the fact that Flintoff has been stripped of the vice-captaincy. This presents a number of issues: the effect it will have on Flintoff as a player, the effect it will have on the team and who to appoint as vice captain for the rest of the tournament.

Flintoff is a leader, even if not captain he is an inspirational figure within the team and it usually goes that when Fred is doing well, so are England. He loves playing for England and loved being captain. In the lead up to the announcement of the Ashes squad he made it very clear that he really desired the captaincy. It is entirely possible that being stripped of the vice captaincy in this way will have an effect on his game.

If England are to hope to progress in this tournament they will need their talisman firing on all cylinders so England hopes that Flintoff can put the politics to the back of his mind and focus on being one of the best all rounders in world cricket at the moment.

Flintoff is such a liked figure in the England camp that it is also entirely possible that a decision like this could cause fractions within the squad. Even if Flintoff is still 100% behind Vaughan (as I am sure he is), politics can be complicated and it could come about that players find themselves drawn more towards Flintoff than they do to Vaughan or the management.

So to the new vice captain: It is highly unlikely that we will never know who the new second in command is unless Vaughan himself actually does get injured. England have a habit of not appointing official vice captains and the Ashes squad announcement was the first occasion in quite a long time that a captain and vice captain were announced.

It is that vice captaincy choice which presents one of the significant problems here. While in Australia, Flintoff was appointed captain and Andrew Strauss his deputy and although Vaughan returned for the CB series, the matches he did miss due to a ham string injury were captained by Strauss while Flintoff was off the field which indicates that Strauss was an unofficial deputy to Flintoff in the one dayers too.

Vaughan tripped in a pothole yesterday while training and hurt his right knee, the knee which had given him trouble over the past year and kept him out of the Ashes this winter. Although the England management have assured us that he will be fit to play against Kenya, they have told us such things before and have been proved wrong on the day.

Strauss has been left out of the starting team for the four matches England have played so far in the Caribbean (the two warm up matches and the first two matches of the main tournament). It would therefore be very difficult for the England management to make Strauss captain should Vaughan fail to pass fit for the match against Kenya because they would be putting someone in a position of seniority who was not even in the main team the match before.

With Vaughan, Flintoff and Strauss the only names to have been bandied about in captaincy conversations recently it would mean that the job would have to go to someone who is not a natural choice.

A sensible choice would be to give the position to Paul Collingwood. The Durham all rounder is a senior member of the side, he was on panel of selectors as an advisor during the Ashes with a small group of senior squad members, he is one of England’s most reliable ODI batsmen, an excellent and agile fielder and a more than handy bowler.

It is through watching his batting and bowling that it becomes obvious that he is in touch with the situation of the game: as a batsman he is aware of when the need to up the tempo arises or when it will suffice to just knock about the singles and twos; as a bowler he is able to assess the batsmen he is bowling to and is constantly thinking about where to bowl and when to vary his bowling.

It is also important for the captain of the side to set the example in the field, something which no one would deny that Collingwood would be able to do. He has long been accepted as one of the best fielders in England, having substituted for many years in Test matches long before he was an established member of the Test side.

An option for looking to the future could be Ian Bell. In my mind, Bell is the England captain for the next generation. He is a classy batsman who is now coming into his own and growing in confidence and has hopefully established his place in the side after some good knocks.

Again, Bell is a good fielder and one of the best catchers in the England side and his bowling is not to be sniffed at although he seldom gets a chance to show it with Collingwood, Dalrymple and Pietersen usually being the fifth, sixth and seventh choice bowlers.

Giving Bell the captaincy would show a vote of confidence from the England hierarchy which could in turn help his form as a batsman. He has admitted himself that he did not feel like he fully deserved his place during the 2005 Ashes and he had a poor series as a result but he has shown extra self belief of late and has improved with the bat as a result.

A decision to give the captaincy to Bell could of course have the adverse affect, it is quite possible that his inclusion for the 2005 Test series was a season too soon and it could be that if introduced to the captaincy at too early an opportunity he could react to it as a captain as he did in 2005 with the bat.

Perhaps the only other senior established figure in the team is Kevin Pietersen. Although almost laughable at first thought, there are few reasons not to give Pietersen the captaincy. He is by far the best batsman in the side and would hopefully be able to lead from the front with the bat. As a fielder he is again one of the best in the side, despite his poor form in the field in his debut test series in 2005 where he didn’t hang on to a single chance and even his bowling is tidy. In fact, while playing in South Africa in the early part of his career he wasn’t even considered as a batsman and played for Natal as a bowler and batted low down the order.

I am sure that Pietersen would want the job, he craves attention and the captaincy would certainly be a perfect opportunity to gain some of the press coverage and some of the best captains to have ever graced the game have been those who had a real desire to lead their nation.

Does Pietersen hold the responsibility for such an important job? Perhaps one of his flaws as a cricketer is that he can at times appear too arrogant, which could be a downfall of his as a captain. After his successes in the Ashes of 2005 and before the tour of Pakistan in November and December 2005, he expressed that he was keen to give more to the team as a bowler, a feeling which was quickly dampened by the management.

It is entirely possible that given the captaincy he could over bowl himself or be too much of an attacking captain. There are always these risks of course; no one can ever know what type of captain a player will be until they are actually given the opportunity to do the job.

It would be a difficult decision for the management, should they be in a position where they have to make it, so much so that I can’t put my finger on a preference. I would be happy to see Bell, Collingwood or Pietersen leading England out on Saturday (or whenever it may be necessary) as each have their merits. Bell is the choice for the future, Collingwood would be the safe option and giving the job to Pietersen would show that England mean business and would take the game to the opposition.

But of course I suppose it’s all irrelevant isn’t it? Because after all, as the England management have reassured us: Vaughan will be fit to play on Saturday. And the England management have never led us astray over a key player’s fitness before have they?



All fun and Games?

Sports teams today at the highest level play such an intense level of sport and the players are expected to be fitter today than they ever have been. Gone are the days when professional footballers would sit down and have a fried breakfast before a match and even the days when you’d see snooker players sitting beside the table with a cigarette in hand and a mug of tea on the side. Today’s diet includes fish, white meat, carbohydrates and water while red meat, sugar, and dairy products are strictly off the menu.

But is cricket a different game? Shane Warne was famous for his smoking at the breaks during play and it didn’t stop him from being the best spin bowler the world has ever seen. Cricket being the sport that it is though breeds different types of players. The batsmen don’t necessarily need to be fast on their feet (Inzamam-ul-Haq being a perfect example) but it does help with running in between the wickets.

Indeed it is definitely possible for a batsman to play while not being fully fit, although not advisable. Out of determination to be the captain to lift the urn, Steve Waugh did after all scored a brilliant 157* on one leg at The Oval in 2001, after being denied a runner because he entered the match with his injury.

There is more pressure on fielders today than there were on fielders a decades ago, with everyone in the international arena being expected to be an all round fielder. But there are certain fielders on the pitch who won’t be required to make much of an exertion if they can be relied on to catch well. For example the slip fielders or the close-in catchers such as those at silly point will not need to run much or make many diving stops. So it is entirely possible for the less agile to be able to make it at the top level.

What about bowlers, then? Again the variety of the game means that it is entirely possible for there to be a variety in fitness levels. A spin bowler trots in off only a few paces and doesn’t have as far to walk back in between deliveries.

This is not to say that it is not hard work being a spin bowler, spinners are often asked to bowl long and tiring spells but it is more an issue of stamina than physical fitness.

Fast bowlers, however, have to be of the utmost fitness. They often run in off a lengthy run up, regularly bowl over 80mph then walk back and sprint in and do the same again.

So do only fast bowlers need to be at top fitness? Not at all, if a batsman or slow bowler is completely fit he will be able to spend longer at the crease or bowl longer spells, will be less susceptible to injury, will be able to put in that extra burst of running when necessary and will in general give themselves the edge over their opponents.

It is for this reason that it the late night shenanigans of six members of the England squad are not to be taken lightly. By all accounts a group of men are allowed to go out and have fun but they must not forget their responsibilities.

The average footballer will lose seven pints of fluid in a 90 minute football match; I can only assume that a cricketer will lose more than this during a 6 hour ODI in the hot Caribbean sun. The post match pint is a part of cricketing tradition but is it really the best thing for an international cricketer playing in the middle of a World Cup who needs to be at the top of his fitness?

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that the body will release more liquid in urine than it takes in. This means that drinking alcohol will make the body more dehydrated than it was before drinking which among other things can lead to fatigue and a loss of endurance and stamina.

Alcoholic drinks also take longer to be absorbed into the body than water so will not provide as quick a relief to dehydration as non alcoholic drinks will do in the short term either.

The timing of the late night bender could have been much better too. The night in question was after the England v New Zealand match and after having lost that match it was imperative that the team won their next too matches which were against Canada and Kenya.

With the Canadian match less than 48 hours after the conclusion of the New Zealand match the squad needed to maximise the time they had available to them for training and tactics. The incident involving Flintoff and the Pedalo reportedly took place at 4am which even if not drunk would mean that the players involved would be excessively tired when turning up the next day for training and would not be able to apply themselves fully. Factor in a hangover and the actions prove even more irresponsible.

The issue is made even worse by the fact that two of the team management were involved too, Jeremy Snape and Kevin Shine were both sighted in the nightclub with the 6 squad members and have been asked to submit themselves to voluntary fines by the team management.

Cricket today is an intense game when played at an international level. Fielding sides need to be on their toes to prevent quick singles, to save the two, to take that difficult diving catch. Batting sides need to be fit and agile to make those ones into twos or to play those innovative shots we see today. Such an intense level of play requires and demands a high level of professionalism to maintain fitness and to be able to compete at the highest level.

It can be understandable, even if not forgivable, for the younger members of the squad to be caught doing these things but I would expect better from senior members such as the vice-captain Andrew Flintoff or the coaching staff. If England are going to make a turn around and come good in this World Cup and in ODIs in general they need to get the right attitude towards the game.

Steve Waugh talks in his autobiography of when Bob Simpson and the Australian team management imposed an alcohol ban on the team at a time when Australia were struggling in Test and ODI cricket. This was a move which I am sure, although it would have been unpopular at first, would have contributed to the start of what was the rise of Australia to the number one spot and to becoming the best team to have taken the field in the game of cricket.


March 19, 2007

Supporting the underdog

The World Cup is now well and truly underway and it has already produced a few surprises. Non-Test playing nations have been World Cup cricket since the tournament started with Sri Lanka (not a Test playing nation until 1981) and East Africa invited to play in the inaugural World Cup in England in 1975.

The inclusion of the lesser nations has lead to criticism from a number of senior figures in world cricket, saying that they devalue the tournament and provide meaningless games but they have provided enough upsets along the way to go some way to silencing their critics.

It took the minnows a while to get themselves into winning ways in World Cup cricket. There were no wins for the non test playing teams in the first two World Cups but despite this Sri Lanka did put up a decent fight against Australia in a group match in 1975. Australia lost the toss and were sent in to bat and in doing so attained what would then have been a colossal target of 328/5 from their 60 overs.

Ranjit Fernando got Sri Lanka off to a brisk start as he fulfilled what was possibly one of the earliest examples of a pinch hitting role. He fell for 22 off 18 balls at the score of 30/1 but his partner Sunil Wettimuny battled on and provided an anchor role for the other players to bat around. He eventually finished unbeaten on 53 after having to retire hurt. Sri Lanka eventually reached 276/4 from their allotted 60 overs and lost by 52 runs. It is perhaps not the result that is significant but the margin of it.

The fact that they only lost four wickets in their chase and still reached what would have been a challenging total in 1975 had they been batting first shows that the team had talent and determination.

The 1983 World Cup included tournament debutants Zimbabwe (who didn’t play their first test match until 1992.) There was a sixteen team qualifying tournament (which would later be known as the ICC Trophy) for the main event which took place in England in 1982 and only the eventual winner would be invited to play alongside the full member nations the following year.

It was a very professional and determined Zimbabwe team which came to England in 1982 and finished the tournament undefeated by beating Bermuda (who incidentally are playing their maiden World Cup this year) in the final.

Captain Duncan Fletcher (yes, the very same who is now England coach) hired South African rugby international as a coach and he brought with him a vigorous training program and a winning attitude. In the ICC trophy of 82, Zimbabwe played with a determination to win that meant finishing games early which caused lost revenue and upset crowds.

It was undoubtedly the professionalism that was brought to the Zimbabwe team that allowed them to win their maiden World Cup performance against Australia by 13 runs at Trent Bridge. They lost their remaining matches and didn’t make it through to the semi final stage of the tournament but they showed the potential that led them to be awarded Test status in 1992.

There have been a range of upsets in subsequent World Cups, possibly the most notable being Kenya’s performance in the 2003 World Cup where they reached the semi finals, the furthest that any of the minnows has ever gone in a World Cup.

Kenya’s performance in 2003 has perhaps been undermined by the fact that they received bonus points from a number of teams refusing to travel to Kenya to play for security reasons but they did manage to beat Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, Test Nations each of them, during the course of the tournament.

The current World Cup contains 6 associate members, the most there has been in a World Cup tournament and they are of mixed quality. Bermuda, Holland and Canada are not likely to provide any upsets in the tournament (although you can never discount anything in one day cricket) and Scotland also seem to be lacking the sparkle that teams that have caused unexpected results have had.

Kenya and Ireland however, are ones to look out for. Ireland especially are on top form, having tied with Zimbabwe and beaten Pakistan so far and look almost certain to qualify for the Super Eight stage.

The ICC is trying to spread cricket around the world and Ireland have certainly benefited from the ICC’s Associate tournaments such as the Intercontinental Cup which is a first class tournament for the minnows and the International Cricket League which is a One Day Tournament which was set up for the World Cup qualifiers to gain some match practice.

With a decent domestic structure in place in Ireland, as opposed to them relying on fielding a single team in the English one day tournament with the same status as a county, would help the nation develop. Ireland need to have a professional system in place so that their players can devote all their time to cricket and not have to use their holiday time at outside jobs to play for their country as they currently do.

The ICC’s Malcolm Speeds hinted in an interview on BBC’s Test Match Special radio coverage of the World Cup that the ICC would be looking to introduce one or two more nations to test status within the next ten years and if Ireland do implement a strong professional domestic structure they could well be a serious contender for a place at the top level of cricket.

Although not technically a minnow, Bangladesh are on of the lesser teams in world cricket today and have also got a good chance of an unexpected place in the Super Eights after a comprehensive win against India on Saturday. They have shown some promise of late in both Tests and ODIs; only a year ago they ran Australia very close to the wire in the first test of a two match series in Bangladesh.

With the double upsets of Saturday, both Ireland and Bangladesh will have the momentum. For the sake of the tournament and to add a bit of spice to some of the matches in the Super Eights, let’s hope they can carry it on and perhaps make it a World Cup for the underdogs.

Many people, players and commentators, complained about the number of lesser teams in the World Cup this year. It certainly seemed inevitable the structure meant that the progress of teams could be easily predicted. With each group containing two major nations and two lesser nations it appeared that the two major nations would progress and the two lesser teams would fall out but some spirited displays by the minnows have brought another level of excitement to the tournament and will hopefully raise the profile of the game in areas where it is not quite so well known.


February 16, 2007

World Cup Squads Round Up

The deadline for the world cup squads has come and gone and all the teams have now announced the 15 players they are going to be taking to the Caribbean next month. There are few major surprises all round. The minnows on the whole picked the same squads they took to the ICC World Cricket league, a one day tournament set up by the ICC this year to give the non test playing nations some match practice before the World Cup, while Bangladesh selected a team most would have expected.

One of the first to release their squad details was New Zealand who picked a fairly uncontroversial side. The squad is almost the same as that which played the CB series but with one addition, Daryl Tuffey has been selected for the first time in two years. The 28 year old seam bowler tore a shoulder tendon two years ago and has not managed to break into the national side since. He has a chance in the forthcoming Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, having been selected for the 13 man squad there.

Friday Kasteni has been included in the Zimbabwean squad after making his debut last weekend. The left hand batsman is only 18 years old but he has played well for Zimbabwe A and the selectors have put their trust in him despite only making 9 on debut.

The Indian selectors have taken a conservative approach and picked no surprise candidates either. One contentious issue is that of the place of Virender Sehwag, who was dropped a month ago and is currently struggling for form. The selectors have, however, shown faith in his abilities to score big runs quickly when in form and are taking him to the World Cup. This must surely be the best decision; a Sehwag on full form can take any line up apart. As a potential match winner, he is a must for such an important tournament.

Few surprises too in the Pakistani squad, but there are question marks a plenty. There are rumours going around that Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif have recently failed a seconds drugs test done privately by the PCB. If this is true then their selection for the World cup is certainly dangerous. If they fail an ICC drugs test before the World Cup, they will almost certainly face bans; Shane Warne copped a 12 month suspension for taking a banned diuretic before the start of the 2003 World Cup and didn’t play a game in the tournament.

The two are also carrying injuries, along with Umar Gul who is also in the squad, which have not yet been cleared for the tournament. Gul missed the entire ODI series in South Africa recently due to an Ankle injury and Shoaib is currently in London to see specialists about his knee injury.

Perhaps one surprise addition to the Pakistani squad is the Leg spinner Danish Kaneria. Kaneria has been a key player in the Pakistani Test side for six years now but has rarely been considered an ODI bowler. He has only played 16 ODIs to date and only seven in the past 3 years.

Sri Lanka announced a strong squad, with Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan returning from being rested for the series against India recently. Vaas, the reliable left arm seamer, memorably took a hat trick with the first three balls of the innings in a match in the last World Cup. Coupled with such a devastating spinner as Murali and the difficult slingy seam of Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka have a formidable bowling line up. The batting too is strong, with Jayasuriya the veteran opener who starred in Sri Lanka’s unexpected 1996 world cup win and top players such as Sangakkara and Jayawardene also playing.

Sri Lanka are not a team to be underestimated, as England showed in the CB series, it only takes a few players to perform well to win ODIs and with just some of Murali, Vaas, Malinga, Sangakkara, Jayasuriya and Jayawardene on top form, Sri Lanka could be devastating.

The Australian selection was always going to cause a few upsets. The current Australian domestic set up has so many high quality cricketers the ACB have the kind of selection problem that most countries dream of. Most of the Australian side pick themselves; it would be foolish to leave out names such as Gilchrist, Ponting, Hussey, Symonds, Clarke, McGrath and Lee while other names such as Brad Hogg, Nathan Bracken and Shane Watson had booked their places months back.

Matthew Hayden staked a claim for his place back in the DLF Cup tri series in Malaysia and secured it in the recent CB series, as did Brad Hodge with a stunning 99 not out against New Zealand to secure a victory that at times looked unlikely.

The birth of Adam Gilchrist’s third child has meant that he is expected to miss the first three weeks of the tournament which made Brad Haddin, Gilly’s long term understudy, an automatic selection. So with 13 out of the 15 places virtual shoe-ins, only two spots were left up for grabs and with the possible injury of all rounder Andrew Symonds, it seemed the obvious choice to fill the gaps with fast bowlers. Mitch Johnson, the nearly man of the Ashes series who carried the drinks for all five matches has made the squad as has Shaun Tait, who made his ODI debut in the CB series. Stuart Clark, the fast bowling star of the Ashes was unlucky to miss out, having not put a foot wrong since breaking through to the international side after his debut against the ICC World XI.

I’m sure many of cricket’s great minds would struggle to understand the England One Day selection of late, let alone the general public that are supposed to support the team. It seems however, that with a sudden turn around in form, and a series victory in Australia, some sense has been brought to those charged with finding 15 men suitable to attempt to become World Champions. That does not mean that the selection has been devoid of contentious decisions.

Michael Vaughan, the under practiced top order batsman has been given a place and, as expected, the captaincy to go with it. Vaughan has a poor record as a limited overs batsman, in his international career he is yet to make a one day century and only has an average of 27. This aside, he is the captain who won the 2005 Ashes and an inspirational figure in the team. His captaincy has a calming influence on the side and he seems to have a way of getting his players to perform. He is of course, currently out of action with a hamstring injury but that should be out of the way by the World Cup and he didn’t seem to suffer from his knee which he had surgery on earlier in the year. Or so England hopes.

Mal Loye was arguably unlucky to miss out, having made his debut in Australia and been a part of the team throughout much of the CB series. However in 7 matches he failed to register a half century and many fear he is too keen to unleash his trademark slog sweep off the fast bowlers and hasn’t shown enough all round abilities with either the bat or in the field.

Ed Joyce made the cut after having impressed the selectors with his 107 against Australia to turn their CB series fortunes around. He does have a tendency to throw his wicket away at vital opportunities (in 12 innings he has made only 1 fifty and 1 century) but he has the capacity within him to make hundreds against good opponents and that makes him a potential match winner.

Stuart Broad, who made his debut last summer against the Pakistanis, was unfortunate to not find a place but he is only young and will have plenty of time to prove his worth. Altogether, the squad contains no one in it who was not in England’s CB series winning squad; a sign that the selectors feel that stability is the key to success.

Having just come off the back of a 3-1 series win against Pakistan, South Africa have wisely chosen the same squad of 15 that has proved successful there. Makhaya Ntini though, will not be with the squad as they arrive on the 28th February as he will be staying to attend the birth of his child. There’s a lot of it about at the moment, there must be something going on in May that the rest of us are missing. Ntini will join the squad on March 9th for the second warm up match.

All eyes have been on one man’s name in the lead up to the West Indies’ squad announcement. Marlon Samuels is currently under investigation by the ICC and the Indian Police for supplying squad information to Indian bookmakers. Many felt that because of this, he should be left out of the squad so as not to draw any more attention to the issue. The selectors however have shown their faith in his innocence.

On the whole the squad selection seems to have followed a theme of no surprises all round. This is a sign that most teams feel comfortable within their own ranks at the moment and hopefully there will be a great deal of confidence going into the tournament.

Let’s hope, for the sake of a tournament that lasts about a month and a half long, that this is not a theme for the tournament as a whole. A few more upsets like Kenya provided in the 2003 World Cup would do world cricket the world of good and show that the boys can really stand up to the men.

Squads:

Australia:

Ricky Ponting (capt), Adam Gilchrist (wk), Nathan Bracken, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin (wk), Matthew Hayden, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Andrew Symonds, Shaun Tait, Shane Watson.

Bangladesh:

Habibul Bashar (capt), Shariar Nafees, Tamim Iqbal, Aftab Ahmed, Saqibul Hasan, Mohammad Ashraful, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Mohammad Rafique, Abdur Razzak, Mashrafe Mortaza, Shahadat Hossain, Tapash Baisya, Syed Rasel, Rajin Saleh, Javed Omar.

Bermuda:

Irving Romaine (capt), Dean Minors (wk), Delyone Borden, Lionel Cann, David Hemp, Kevin Hurdle, Malachi Jones, Stefan Kelly, Dwayne Leverock, Saleem Mukuddem, Steven Outerbridge, Oliver Pitcher, Clay Smith, Janeiro Tucker, Kwame Tucker.

Canada:

John Davison (capt), Qaiser Ali, Ashish Bagai, Geoff Barnett, Umar Bhatti, Ian Billcliff, Desmond Chumney, George Codrington, Austin Codrington, Anderson Cummins, Sunil Dhaniram, Ashif Mulla, Henry Osinde, Abdool Samad, Kevin Sandher.

England:

Michael Vaughan (capt), Ed Joyce, Ian Bell, Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Paul Nixon (wk), Ravinder Bopara, Jamie Dalrymple, Monty Panesar, Jon Lewis, James Anderson, Liam Plunkett, Sajid Mahmood

Ireland:

Trent Johnston (capt), Kyle McCallan, Andre Botha, Jeremy Bray, Ken Carroll, Peter Gillespie, David Langford-Smith, John Mooney, Paul Mooney, Eoin Morgan, Kevin O'Brien, Niall O'Brien, William Porterfield, Boyd Rankin, Andrew White

Kenya:

Steve Tikolo (capt), Thomas Odoyo (vice-captain), Ravindu Shah, Tanmay Mishra, Collins Obuya, Peter Ongondo, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Maurice Ouma, Malhar Patel, Hiren Varaiya, David Obuya (wk), Rajesh Bhudia, Jimmy Kamande, Tony Suji, Lameck Onyango.

Netherlands:

Luuk van Troost (capt), Peter Borren, Daan van Bunge, Ryan ten Doeschate, Mark Jonkman, Muhammad Kashif, Alexei Kervezee, Tim de Leede, Adeel Raja, Darron Reekers, Edgar Schiferli, Jeroen Smits, Billy Stelling, Eric Szwarczynski, Bas Zuiderent.

New Zealand:

Stephen Fleming (capt), Shane Bond, James Franklin, Peter Fulton, Mark Gillespie, Michael Mason, Brendon McCullum (wk), Craig McMillan, Jacob Oram, Jeetan Patel, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Daryl Tuffey, Daniel Vettori, Lou Vincent.

India:

Rahul Dravid (capt), Sourav Ganguly, Robin Uthappa, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel.

Pakistan:

Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), Younis Khan (vice-captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Nazir, Mohammad Yousuf, Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Rao Iftikhar Anjum

South Africa:

Graeme Smith (capt), Loots Bosman, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, Justin Kemp, Charl Langeveldt, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterson, Shaun Pollock, Ashwell Prince, Roger Telemachus

Scotland:

Graeme Smith (capt), Loots Bosman, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, Justin Kemp, Charl Langeveldt, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterson, Shaun Pollock, Ashwell Prince, Roger Telemachus

Sri Lanka:

Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga, Marvan Atapattu, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Russel Arnold, Chamara Silva, Chaminda Vaas, Farveez Maharoof, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Nuwan Kulasekara, Muttiah Muralitharan, Malinga Bandara.

West Indies:

Brian Lara (capt), Ramnaresh Sarwan, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Ian Bradshaw, Corey Collymore, Jerome Taylor, Denesh Ramdin, Devon Smith, Lendl Simmons, Daren Powell, Kieron Pollard

Zimbabwe:

Prosper Utseya (capt), Gary Brent, Chamu Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, Keith Dabengwa, Terry Duffin, Anthony Ireland, Friday Kasteni, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Christopher Mpofu, Tawanda Mupariwa, Ed Rainsford, Vusi Sibanda, Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams.


February 13, 2007

CB Series, Aussie captaincy and World Cup

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England beat Australia on 11th February 2007 by 34 runs under the Duckworth Lewis method to win the Commonwealth Bank series finals 2-0. After a torrid start to their campaign, England managed to claw their way back into contention with victories over Australia and New Zealand in their last two group match games thanks to gritty centuries from Ed Joyce and Paul Collingwood. PDC has been outstanding over the past 3 matches, notching up two consecutive hundreds and a fighting 70 in the last final to seal the series.

Australia now go on to New Zealand to play the three match Chappel-Hadlee Trophy. Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist are being rested for the series, Ponting because of a sore hip and Gilchrist due to his heavy workload as opening batsmen and wicket keeper.

The resting of captain and vice-captain has left a few openings in the team. It has become the obvious choice for Mike "Mr Cricket" Hussey to fill in the captaincy role, as he did in the DLF Cup tri series last year but the VC role has created some interest. Michael Clarke has been given the job, which is an indication of where the Australian management are looking for a captain after Ponting.

The 25 year old middle order batsman averages around 42 in both tests and ODIs and has currently found himself back in form after a period of drought. But despite this drought, which began after his first year in Test cricket, he has been widely tipped as a future captain of Australia. One advocate of his future captaincy is Shane Warne, who many argue had the cricketing nous to become a high class international captain himself.

The CB series loss to England will obviously cause upsets and concerns within Australian cricket with the World Cup looming less than a month away but Australia should not be underestimated. After returning home from the 2005 Ashes humiliated they have come back stronger and more determined, drawing one test and winning 15 since the Ashes with no losses just outlines their class and determination. Australia will take this defeat onboard and learn from it, no doubt to emerge a stronger team at the World Cup.

England on the other hand, have to be careful not to become complacent as they did after the 2005 Ashes win. They still have a very fragile squad, the top order certainly won't be scaring many opening bowlers just yet and the bowling can still be haphazard at times. This is of course, not to detract from a strong win against the World number one, but just to emphasise the importance of remembering that England is still the number eight ranked team and had it not been for Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff and Liam Plunkett, it is very questionable as to whether it would have even been an England v Australia final.

Last year Duncan Fletcher said he knows who 10 of his World Cup XI will be, just last week the ECB asked the ICC for permission to choose their World Cup squad of 15 from players outside their pre approved list of 30. This is obviously not helped by injuries and other problems but it does beg the question of what exactly has happened since Fletcher made that comment. On paper England have a strong team and have the ability to do well in the World Cup, but they will need their top players to 'come to the party' as they say down under.

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