All 14 entries tagged World Cup

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September 01, 2009

Will Flintoff play cricket again?

After announcing that he was set to retire from test cricket at the end of the recent Ashes series, Andrew Flintoff spoke of his aim to become the best One Day Internationalplayer in the world.

However, after playing a relatively small part in England’s series clinching victory at The Oval last week, Flintoff has immediately gone under the knife again to have surgery on his troublesome knee injury.

Such is the seriousness of the operation that Flintoff has openly admitted that he may never play cricket at the highest level again. Speaking in his News of The World column, he said that there was a ‘possibility’ that his days as an international cricketer are numbered.

Until he finds out how successful his operation was, Freddie admits that there is a ‘question mark’ in his mind about what the future holds. The 31-year-old will just have to wait and see how the knee is after the operation and then how it feels during the rehabilitation.

On a more positive note though, Flintoff pointed out the fact that the success rate for an operation like the one he has had is ‘pretty good’. It’s not as if the big man isn’t used to recovering from injuries either is it?

Presuming the operation and recovery process does go well, Flintoff says that he is targeting a return for the One Day Internationals against Bangladesh in March. Time will tell how realistic this is though.

Overall, it does seem as though Freddie is as determined as ever to make a comeback. He says that he doesn’t want to end his career in a physio room, instead, he wants to do it by winning the World Cup with England in 2011.

So, in the next two years, Freddie wants to recover from a serious operation, become the best ODI player in the World and somehow turn England’s 50-over sideinto a team that can win the World Cup.

Would be a good way to bow out Fred!!

June 22, 2009

World Twenty20 best XI

I really enjoyed the World Twenty20 and I think it is fair to say that it was a huge success. There were upsets, fantastic bowling performances, huge hitting and relatively decent weather. All in all, it went according to plan for the organisers.

Today though, I want to focus on which players made the biggest impact. What would be the ultimate Twenty20 eleven based on this most recent tournament? Which team would have the most representatives?

Let’s take a look.

Tillakaratne Dilshan – Sri Lanka

Chris Gayle – West Indies

Kevin Pietersen – England

Kumar Sangakkara – Sri Lanka

AB De Villiers – South Africa

Jacques Kallis – South Africa

Shahid Afridi – Pakistan

Umar Gul - Pakistan

Ajantha Mendis – Sri Lanka

Muttiah Muralitharan – Sri Lanka

Lasith Malinga – Sri Lanka

Not a bad team for any form of the game I’m sure you will agree! It has absolutely everything for Twenty20 cricket though and represents the best players from this year’s competition in England. The batting line-up is destructive and contains plenty of experience. Imagine preparing to bowl against this lot!

As for key roles in the team, Kumar Sangakkara would be the wicket-keeper and the captain. Sri Lanka may have lost in the final against Pakistan, but the Sri Lanka skipper impressed me a great deal. He has a fabulous cricket brain and speaks a great deal of sense in post-match interviews as well. Plus, he is a world-class batsman which


Opening the bowling would be Gul and Malinga. They both have a fantastic record in the shortest form of the game and took 25 wickets between them in the World Twenty20.

These two would be backed up by Kallis in the seam department before the spin kings Murali and Mendis took over. Even if these two didn’t come off for some reason, there is Afridi and Gayle to get through a couple of overs.

Sri Lanka have the most representatives which is testament to their consistent form throughout the tournament. World Twenty20 champions Pakistan have only two players in this eleven, but what an impact Afridi and Gul had!

Overall, this is a fantastic group of players who each helped the 2009 World Twenty20 become a huge success. For now, we can look forward to Ashes 2009 bettingand, if you're looking to get in the betting mood, check out Betfair's fanvfansite.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about international cricket

June 19, 2009

Collingwood reflects on World Twenty20 exit

England Twenty20 captain Paul Collingwood was in reflective mood after his side missed out on a place in the World Twenty20 semi-finals by losing to the West Indies at the Oval.

The hosts posted 161-6 in their innings before the rain intervened to reduce the West Indies target to 80 from nine overs. With ten wickets in hand, this task proved very achievable for Chris Gayle’s men who went on to win by five wickets in the ninth over.

Collingwood admitted afterwards that the rain played its part in England’s defeat by saying that ‘in 20 overs we’d have had a better chance’. Many argue that the West Indies were handed a huge advantage by the Duckworth-Lewis system and Collingwood was clearly frustrated at the way things worked out.

The Duckworth-Lewis system may well be the fairest way to get a result in these circumstances and it suits the 50 over game perfectly. However, in Twenty20 cricket it doesn’t quite seem to add up. To score at nine per over for nine overs with ten wickets in hand should be extremely easy - much easier than chasing 162 to win in 20 overs anyway.

Nevertheless, England are out and we have to deal with it. Collingwood is positive that the tournament has been a success regardless of the earlier than hoped exit. He says that ‘England are starting to get some players in there who are getting to grips’ with Twenty20 cricket. All the team needs is ‘a bit more experience’ to take things to the next level.

On the more negative side of things, Collingwood said that there were areas that the team ‘let ourselves down in’. The middle order has failed to shine for example, with England often stumbling over the line towards the end of the innings.

Focus must now be placed on the Ashes cricketaction for England. The performances have been a bit up and down in the World Twenty20, but hopefully more consistency can be found in the second part of the summer.

An Ashes win will always be more important than winning the World Twenty20 after all and that’s why England can’t get too down about going out of this competition. Let’s look forward and let’s prepare for the Australians and some exciting Ashes 2009 betting.

June 12, 2009

Pietersen inspires England to victory

There is no doubt that Kevin Pietersen's 58 runs helped England  improve on their batting performance from the embarrassing defeat to  Holland. However, it wasn't just Pietersen's runs that gave England much needed lift during their vital victory over Pakistan yesterday.

From the moment that England's best batsman declared himself fit, the hosts had the edge on Pakistan. The fans were more optimistic, the  batting line-up was stronger and the rest of the team would  have been reassured by Pietersen's presence.

The Hampshire man is a very influential character and is one of  England's few world-class professionals, so his availability was crucial to the victory. KP can make something happen himself or he can inspire others to lift their game. Either way, it was fantastic to see him back and batting well.

As for the game as a whole, well it was much better from Paul  Collingwood's men. In the shortened forms of the game, whether that be  Twenty20 or One Day International, England seem to have performed at their best when they are faced with a MUST win. They don't enjoy being overwhelming favourites that much.

The batting was a lot better than against Holland. Luke Wright was destructive at the top once again, Kevin Pietersen and Owais Shah built an important partnership and Dimi Mascarenas and James Foster finished the innings off well. In the end, 185-5 was always going to  be a match winning score.

In response, Pakistan struggled to get going. They lost Shehzad early  on and when Stuart Broad took two wickets in two balls to reduce them  to 41-3, the game was as good as over. They were constantly behind the  rate and only captian Younis Khan made an impact with an unbeaten 46  as Pakistan finished on 136-7.

As far as England's bowlers were concerned, Stuart Broad bounced back from his nightmare last over against Holland with figures of 3-17. Everyone performed a valuable role though - including man of the match  Luke Wright - and only Adil Rashid finished wicketless. It was a  superb team effort.

Overall, the two performances from England so far couldn't have been more contrasting. This means that it is very hard to predict how far  they will go in this competition. They are capable of winning it, but they are also capable of not winning another game.

Which team will turn up in the super eights? Hopefully the one that was on show against Pakistan yesterday.

June 03, 2009

Collingwood confident of Twenty20 success

Ahead of England’s World Twenty20 campaign, captain Paul Collingwood has claimed that home advantage could be enough for his side to have a genuine chance of winning the tournament which gets underway on Friday.

The hosts take on Holland at Lords in the opening game and Collingwood is confident that this can be the start of a successful couple of weeks. He says that he and his team ‘know the wickets and venues well’, something which could give them an advantage over the other teams.

England’s confidence is certainly high after the comfortable Test and ODI series victories over the West Indies, so perhaps Collingwood is right to feel optimistic. The combination of self-belief, being familiar with the conditions and having the fans behind them could be enough to make England contenders.

They must surely do better than they did in the inaugural World Twenty20 tournament back in 2007. During their time in South Africa, Collingwood’s men only won once in five matches and had a thoroughly miserable time.

England are in much better shape this time though with players such as Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Graeme Swann starting to establish themselves as world-class cricketers. Then, there is the returning Kevin Pietersen to throw into the mix. Overall, the squad looks strong.

Speaking about Pietersen, Collingwood said that the former captain is ‘raring to go’ in this tournament after failing to make an appearance in the recent ODI series against the West Indies. KP hasn’t got the best record in Twenty20 games, so perhaps it is time he put this right.

As for England’s chances of winning the tournament, Collingwood reminded everyone how no England team have won an ICC event before. However, ahead of the warm-up games, the temporary skipper believes that he and his side have a ‘huge opportunity’ to continue the momentum picked up in the early part of the summer.

If you're looking to make a Twenty20 bet, personally, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if England made the semi-finals, at least. They are a happy dressing room right now and should have enough to progress in the competition. As for winning the whole thing, well I can’t look too far beyond current holders India. Their line-up looks formidable.

And, by the time all this is over, we might be able to make slightly more informed Ashes bets!

By the way, if you fancy seeing what I am up to, you can follow me on Twitter @Thomas_Rooney

July 04, 2008

The State of the Union – and what a state it is in.

The issue of cricket in Zimbabwe has long been a political hot potato. At the 2003 World Cup, hosted in South Africa and Zimbabwe, for example, England and New Zealand both refused to play matches in Zimbabwe. Their official reason was the safety of their players and staff but undoubtedly there was a cocktail of concerns surrounding the decision, not least the ever worsening political situation surrounding Robert Mugabe, his regime and its human rights abuses. Two Zimbabwe players, Andy Flower and Henry Olonga both famously and very bravely sported black armbands for their opening match to demonstrate the ‘death of democracy’ in their country.

For this reason there has been regular pressure to be placed on the ICC to restrict Zimbabwe’s participation in international cricket. The precedent, some have said, had been set with South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s when they were suspended from international cricket (and other sport) due to the apartheid policies in place in the country. Of course it does seem unfortunate that a country’s sportsmen should have to suffer because of a political situation out of their hands and this was a voice put forward by the players who participated in rebel tours to South Africa in the ‘80s; that sport and politics should not mix.

A claim not entirely without merit, of course, for reasons which are obvious but it is also necessary to look at the wider picture and weigh up whether the means justify the end. The vast majority of protests affect more than those directly responsible for the problem; a picket will disrupt to some degree the every day lives of passers by or a boycott of a company may affect lower levels of employee. It is in my view that the grave human rights abuses taking place under the Mugabe regime (and they are indeed very grave although I will attempt to keep this article closer to cricket than it is to politics) are so abhorrent that such a move to ostracize the Zimbabwe cricketers from the international arena would not be superfluous. It is peaceful but firm and will make a bold statement to the people of the world and the authorities in Zimbabwe that their actions will not be tolerated.

Furthermore, it is often claimed that sport and politics should not mix and this is an argument given for not taking action against Zimbabwe in the sporting arena. In this case, however, sport and politics are inextricably linked. It is not through the voluntary involvement of the sports governing body through which they have been linked, much on the other side of the fence. Robert Mugabe and his people have involved themselves with Zimbabwe Cricket. Zimbabwe Cricket have involved themselves with the Mugabe regime. It could be argued that this is necessary because of the situation in Zimbabwe: that you cannot guarantee funding or even survival as an organisation in Zimbabwe today and as such it has been necessary for ZC to get into bed with Mugabe in order to stay afloat.

This argument does not wash with me. The sheer existence of Zimbabwe Cricket gives Mugabe a legitimate place on the international stage. A platform through which to spread propaganda. An organisation through which to hide many of his misdeeds. The ICC’s nonchalant acceptance of the Zimbabwe Cricket Board as part of its own organisations higher echelons and its lack of accountability is all but an approval of Mugabe’s actions. I, and I’m sure many human rights campaigners and political activists, would much rather the Zimbabwean board took a stand and prevented themselves from being as cosy with the regime as they are. I would rather the organisation folded and did not give Mugabe a platform than existed as a puppet of a murderous, torturous dictatorship.

Cricket would not suffer from Zimbabwe’s absence. The standard of cricket in Zimbabwe has been steadily falling for years, culminating in embarrassing results such as losing to Ireland in an ODI in 2007 and their suspension from Test cricket since 2005 due to poor performance. It would be a moral decision that the organisation could be proud of that would have no adverse affects on the world cricket arena.

As it panned out at the ICC’s annual conference in Dubai (moved from London because the British government took a stand and put obstacles in the way of Zimbabwe Cricket’s attendance) Zimbabwe were not stripped of their Full Member status of the organisation. Zimbabwe were allowed to get away with ‘withdrawing’ from the Twenty20 tournament next year to be held in England ‘in the interests of the game’ citing that they ‘did not want to gatecrash’. This is a disgrace. It is the right end result for the short term: there is no way that the tournament could have been credible given all the pressure on the ICC to exclude Zimbabwe, had they have taken part. Nonetheless, the result achieved once again gives Peter Chingoka of Zimbabwe Cricket and therefore indirectly Mr. Mugabe, the opportunity to appear to be the ‘good guys’. They can claim to have made their decision in the best interests of the game and makes them appear to have a social conscience.

With even the South African cricket board now breaking ties with Zimbabwe all that would have prevented the removal of Zimbabwe from the full member panel would have been the Asian block, headed by India. Unfortunately the Indian board appears to be led more by furthering their own aims and maintaining their strong, almost controlling, position at the ICC. They could not afford to lose the vote of Zimbabwe who often concedes to India’s wishes in return for the Indian board completely absolving itself of any morality and conscience and permitting the existence of the Zimbabwe board on the world stage.

It is preferable that Zimbabwe do not participate in next year’s Twenty20 tournament. It is regrettable that Zimbabwe has been ‘allowed’ to withdraw rather than being forced out through an ejection from the highest status of member country. As Martin Williamson stated, “anyone who believes that Zimbabwe Cricket withdrew from the World Twenty20 ‘in the interest of the game’ probably believes in Santa Claus.” It is a sad state of affairs when a moral stance cannot be made on such a grave political matter because a group of countries would rather do what is better for their bank balances than what is, simply, better.

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October 24, 2007

The times they are a changing

Back in the spring, Sri Lanka were taking part in a somewhat shambolic World Cup final while only a week previously England had played their last match of the Super Eights, playing only for pride, after having been knocked out of the tournament previously.

Both were deserving outcomes for the two sides. Sri Lanka were by far the second best team in the tournament and the only team deserving of partnering the Australians in the final.

England on the other hand, had been predictably disappointing and deserved to have been knocked out. The limited overs form of the game is one that England have never truly looked comfortable playing since the World Cup of 1992 where they were overwhelmed by a strong Pakistan side in the final.

Today, just six months later, things could not appear more different. England, for the first time in their history, have won a One Day series in Sri Lanka and their first One-Day series in subcontinental Asia since Stuart Broad’s Dad played in Pakistan under Mike Gatting’s captaincy in 1986/7.

It is a series that has been won with some authority too, despite losing the first match quite convincingly. England’s bowlers have been superb, bowling accurately and to carefully formulated plans and as such have restricted the Sri Lanka top order that was so instrumental in their World Cup successes.

The Sri Lankan opening pair has been one of the most important aspects of their game plan (not to mention the fact that numbers three and four are Kumar Sangakkara and Jayawardene, two of the world’s best batsmen at the moment).

The Jayasuriya/Tharanga pairing has given the innings a fast moving impetus which takes the pressure off the middle order and allows the whole side to play with freedom.

In this series, Jayasuriya and Tharanga have averaged 18 and 16 respectively, meaning that more often than not Kumar Sangakkara is in the action immediately with the pressure of the innings on his shoulders.

The encouraging thing about this series, from an England point of view is that they have succeeded without, for the most part, their main One Day batsmen truly firing.

Alastair Cook has shown he has what it takes in the fourth match with a steady match-winning 80 and Owais Shah deserved his man of the match award for his 82 in the second match.

On the whole though, England’s victories have come more as a result of a strong team effort with each member chipping in when their team has needed it, such as when Broad and Swann chipped in during the 3rd Match to turn the match around and guide England home to victory.

If anything can be said about the impact that Peter Moores’ coaching has had on the England team it is that he has restored a sense of stability that is crucial for the success of any team effort and promotes a strong team ethic.

This is very much as was the case when England won the 2005 Ashes; the England management used the same 11 players for the first four Tests (and only 12 in the entire series). Stability breeds familiarity and confidence in the players as each member of the team is aware of what their duties are and when they need to step up to the plate.

By taking the series 4-1, England had the opportunity to move to 4th place in the international rankings and push Sri Lanka to 7th, a situation that would have seemed very improbable at the culmination of the World Cup but seems to reflect the efforts in the current series.

In another part of the world, Pakistan are playing host to South Africa in a somewhat punctuated tour consisting of 2 Test matches and 5 ODIs. Arguably, it is a tour that has very little significance in the grand scheme of the international arena.

It is however the setting for a somewhat unceremonious departure from the international arena of one of the game’s all time greats: Inzamam-ul-Haq.

Having been out of the side for the first Test of the series, he was recalled for the deciding match to allow him to bow out on his own terms. In the event his last hurrah took place very much in the manner he played his cricket: with a minimum of fuss.

In his two innings, he mustered 14 and 3 as Pakistan clung on for a draw that sealed the series at 1-0 for South Africa. In many ways though, it was a sad exit for one of the greatest batsmen to come out of Pakistan.

Great is an oft overused word in sport but with Inzamam, his contemporaries argue the case for him. In a tribute to his career, some of the most established names in Anil Kumble, Allan Donald, Damien Fleming, Chaminda Vaas and Matthew Hoggard have almost invariably rated him among their Top 5 batsmen that they bowled to.

Another striking endorsement of his talents and versatility is that the variety of shots named by those bowlers as their “Favourite Inzy Shot” from the back foot punch to the straight drive or even the hook and pull shots. All of which, he played with consummate ease always appearing to have all the time in the world.

Pakistan cricket is entering a new era, with a fresh young face as captain in Shoaib Malik and with some exciting new players such as Misbah-ul-Haq making his way after showing he has potential in the Twenty20 World Cup.

That aside, it is never going to be easy to replace a player of such class as Inzamam. Not only was his record as a batsman outstanding but his experience in the dressing room is invaluable and his calm and unflappable captaincy has been a very much under-rated commodity in the past few years.

April 12, 2007

The Apellate Process

Isn’t the World Cup depressing? If you include the warm up matches, the tournament has been going on for over a month now, the first match being England v Bermuda on March the 5th. In that time, England have failed to register a win against any of the major nations and will need to beat the World Champions South Africa in their next match to have a chance of staying in the tournament. From an England point of view, the batting has no confidence, the bowling is lacking bite and the fielding is mediocre. From a wider outlook: the tournament is too commercial, the new grounds too lifeless and there isn’t enough in it for the spectators.

So I have started to look elsewhere and have discovered that while this lifeless tournament that lasts almost two months has been plodding along by itself there has been some news at the County Cricket stage! Who would have believed it? So what HAS been happening while we’ve been so engrossed with the goings on in the Caribbean?

Perhaps the biggest bit of news to have come out this week is that the ECB have announced that in the 50-over tournament, they will allow referrals to the third umpire for any type of appeal if a member of either side disagrees with the decision made by the on field umpire. There are limits of course, there will only be two unsuccessful appeals allowed per team per innings and the referrals may only be requested by either the fielding captain or the batsman to whom the decision involves.

I firmly believe this will be good for the game. It will have its drawbacks for sure, but so does any element of a game of cricket. Having human on field umpires has its drawbacks. Having an open playing field has its drawbacks: if a batsman hits a big six there’s a change the ball can go out of the ground causing a hold up as it is retrieved. Having a crowd at the game has its drawbacks: they can be abusive, distracting and can make a mockery of the spirit of the game. Using leather balls has its drawbacks: they are hard and can cause injury to the players, umpired or spectators.

But if it wasn’t for an open playing field, viewing would be impaired and changes in the weather such as the wind would not affect the game in the way it does. If there was no crowd there would be no atmosphere, no 12th player to encourage the teams. There would be no reason to play. Leather balls have developed the game into what it is today, they wear over a long period of time which means that different periods of play are interesting for different reasons and the danger involved with a hard ball means that tactics such as bowling bouncers are so useful as they can be intimidating to the opposition.

You will go a long way before you find something in life which does not have its drawbacks. It is the positives for why we do things and bringing technology into the modern game has plenty of those.

Umpires make mistakes. It’s a fact of life. They’re human, its what humans do. I can be quite confident in saying that everyone who plays cricket would prefer it if umpires did not make mistakes. It certainly gives the game a bit of character but it is not fair in the slightest. I do strongly agree that over the course of a individual career, umpiring decisions balance each other out, in that batsmen will receive a similar number of decisions against them as they do in favour of them but over the course of a match? Or even a series? It is quite unlikely. It is entirely possible that if the Australian batsmen in the 2005 Ashes had not had the raw deal of LBW and caught behind decisions then Paul David Collingwood would not have an MBE.

So it is that if we can reduce the number of umpire errors we have a greater chance of producing fairer results on the day. After all, the game if cricket is more than just about individual career records, it is about teams building innings or destroying them. It is about turning those innings into strong match positions. It is about winning matches from strong positions and consequently it is about being consistent enough to go from winning matches to winning series.

But why only two referrals per side per innings? Here’s the scene:

Kent v Surrey at The Oval

Kent win the toss and elect to bat first.

Hello and welcome to this, the first televised match of the Friends Provident Trophy between Kent and Surrey. There’s a decent crowd in tonight and hopefully there will be more filtering in as the night goes on. This being a televised match, it will be the first opportunity for the players to use the new ECB rules for this tournament allowing Third Umpire referrals on any decisions.

Rob Key called tails correctly and has chosen to have a bat. Here come the batsmen now, opening the innings we have Darren Stevens and Neil Dexter.

Azhar Mahmood to bowl the first over.

0.1 Mahmood to Stevens, no run, good ball first up from Mahmood. Full and swinging outside off stump, Stevens shoulders arms.

0.2 Mahmood to Stevens, FOUR, not a bad ball but with the field up Stevens can belt that over cover for a boundary to open his account.

0.3 Mahmood to Stevens, OUT, slower ball from Mahmood this time. Stevens tries the same shot but only ends up chipping a catch to Butcher at extra cover who takes the catch diving forwards.

Here we go with the first of the referrals, Stevens doesn’t feel that Butcher took that ball cleanly. He was close to the ground as he took it diving forwards. Its going upstairs to the Third Umpire to have a look. Replays show that it was taken cleanly. Brilliant catch from Butcher and Stevens is on his way.

DI Stevens c Butcher b Mahmood 4 (3m 3b 1x4 0x6) SR:133.33

The reliable Matty Walker to the crease now, at the non strikers end as the batsmen crossed.

0.4 Mahmood to Dexter, 1 run, leg stump half volley and flicked in the air to square leg. Fielded by Clarke on the boundary running round from wide fine leg and they trot a single.

0.5 Mahmood to Walker, 1 run, clever stuff from the Kent batsmen. Yorker on off stump and dug out well. Dexter, alert to the field, calls him through for the single and they make it easily.

0.6 Mahmood to Dexter, OUT, length ball on off stump. Dexter takes a big step forward and tries to flick to the leg side but is rapped on the pads. Huge appeal and the umpire raises his finger. Dexter came a long way forward, that one might have been going over.

Dexter certainly thinks so! He’s called for the Third Umpire. Brave move from Dexter, if he’s given out that will be both referalls used up. Replays show it was a slower ball again from Mahmood, hit him below the knee roll and most likely going on to clip the top of middle stump. Third umpire must be convinced “beyond reasonable doubt” that the on field umpire was mistaken which he isn’t and so Dexter too is on his way.

NJ Dexter lbw b Mahmood 1 (5m 2b 0x4 0x6) SR:50.00

End of over 1 (6 runs) – Kent 6/2 (RR:6.00)

MJ Walker 1* (1b)    A Mahmood 1-0-6-2

RWT Key 0* (0b)

Interesting start there, we’ve already got both of Kent’s referrals out of the way, Mahmood picked up two wickets and went for 6 runs!

Rikki Clarke to start from the other end – what can he produce?

1.1 Clarke to Walker, 1 run, driven to mid off and a quick single taken.

1.2 Clarke to Key, OUT, Clarke strikes with his second ball! Half volley outside off stump and swinging away. Key picks the length early, his eyes light up and goes for an expansive drive. All he manages is a nick to the Batty behind the stumps. He doesn’t look happy.

RWT Key c +Batty b Clarke 0 (2m 1b 0x4 0x6) SR:0.00

Replays show Key may not have edged that. There’s a definite sound but looks as if it may have been bat on pad. Shame both referrals have been used up! Rob Key could have been the first to have an umpires decision overturned under the new rules.

Terrible start for Kent here...

Well it doesn’t seem all too fair does it? But to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, this is exactly what would have happened under the old system so nobody is any worse off. This series of events is of course entirely fabricated and very unlikely. In other matches people will benefit, meaning that the number of poor umpiring decisions should decrease meaning we have fairer matches. It would be unrealistic to have unlimited appeals though, over rates these days are already too low and too many referrals would disrupt the momentum of the match.

There are other concerns, it may undermine the role of the umpires for instance. Well the umpires still have to make the decisions in the first place and with referrals limited to 2 per innings per player, the role of the referral will be restricted and umpires will very much still be in the game.

Only time will tell whether the proposals turn out to be popular or not and how realistic they are in the real world but it is certainly refreshing to see the ECB taking positive steps towards making the game of cricket fairer. I for one hope it works out, with increased technology there is too much pressure placed on umpires to make the right decision all the time which is simply an unrealistic goal. This way we are acknowledging that umpires make mistakes and trying to create a fair game in the event that they do.

Oh and Simon Jones has just made his playing comeback for Glamorgan in a pre season friendly and returned tidy figures of 8-2-29-0 and Marcus Trescothick just struck 256* from 117 balls for Somerset against Devon in a 50 over match. Things might just be looking up for England for the forthcoming season.

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.

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