Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Mighty Irish!

In the biggest upset since Kenya beat the West Indies in the 1995 World Cup, Ireland defied poor umpiring decisions and having to bat in near twilight to beat Pakistan by 3 wickets.

My grandfather, who was born in Cardigan to an Irish father and Welsh mother but lived his adult life in England, once complained that the "England" Cricket team should be called the "Britain" cricket team, as players born in Wales (Robert Croft), Scotland (Gavin Hamilton) and Northern Ireland (Martin McCague) were all eligible to play for the side.

My grandfather passed away before Ireland played in their first World Cup, but he would no doubt have highlighted the glaring anomaly. How can a player, such as Ed Joyce, be eligble to play for "England" after representing Ireland? Why should the "England" team be allowed to cherry pick the most promising Scottish and Irish players?

If cricket in Ireland is to progress, following their memorable St Patrick's Day victory, then this matter needs to be resolved. The "England" team should be renamed "England and Wales" to the exclusion of Irish and Scottish players.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Asif is Lucky He's Not An Aussie

In 2003 Shane Warne was banned from all cricket for one year by the Australian Cricket Board after failing a drugs test for taking a diuretic. At the time I agreed with the view of the Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates who warned: "This is a stark reminder to everyone that you have to know what's inside your body and you're responsible for what you take."

It was a little harsh on Warne, as I doubt anyone believed that he had taken a performance enhancing drug, he was just trying to lose some weight. However, it was a relief that cricket was not going the same way as athletics, cycling and tennis, where sportsmen who failed a test would portray themselves as a victim and would employ an army of lawyers to escape punishment. Warne had broken the rules and he was banned for a year.

Mohammad Asif was cleared last month by a Pakistan Cricket Board committee of knowingly taking the banned steroid nandrolone, over-turning the previous decision to ban him from cricket for a year. He had broken the rules, he has gone unpunished.

If the Pakistan Cricket Board believe that the rules are wrong then they should lobby hard to get the rules changed. Otherwise they should uphold the rules.

The long term impact on cricket can only be guessed at, but it is upsetting that the Pakistan Cricket Board did not follow the precedent set by the ACB. It is unfortunate that the next cricket Board to face this issue will have a different precedent to follow.

Monday, December 18, 2006

So What Went Wrong?

The silver lining for Chris Read, Monty Panesar and Andrew Strauss's captaincy ambitions is that when the history of how England surrendered the Ashes in 2006 is written, it will conclude that they were "not guilty".

The same cannot be said of Flintoff and Fletcher. Selectors are usually very reluctant to change a winning side. Panesar, Read and Strauss were the men in possession and to replace them was what Sir Humphrey Appleby would have described as "a courageous decision".

Strauss had just led England to a revenge victory against a dangerous Pakistan. He inherited a side that had failed to beat a vulnerable Sri Lankan team and was bereft of its talismatic all-rounder. Read has scored runs at crucial times since his recall, while Panesar is England's most dangerous spinner since Phil Tufnell and at 24 can only get better. What did these players do wrong?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Monty Show

My fears that England's tour would turn into a one-sided humiliation were dissipated by the seventh ashes delivery from the Sikh of tweak. Monty went on to take 5 wickets on the first day of this match, unheard of for an England spinner. Monty's enthusiasm as much as his wickets makes the man a joy to watch. Take note Mr Fletcher, drop this man again at your peril.

That Harmison deserved his four wickets is as important as the wickets themselves. England's bowling attack suddenly looks more balanced, although the question mark over the fourth seamer remains as inevitable as Australia's fightback. England were reduced to a fortuatous 51-2. Game-on.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

So When Is The Ball Dead?

A few years ago a team mate was run out whilst he did a bit of gardening outside off-stump. We were disgusted, both by the behaviour of the wicket-keeper and the failure of their captain to withdraw the appeal. Our captain got hold of the rules, only to find it particularly ambiguous. Law 23 (Dead ball) states at paragraph 1(a)i that the ball is dead when "it is finally settled in the hands of the wicket-keeper or the bowler." Paragraph 2 adds that "whether the ball is finally settled or not is a matter for the umpire alone to decide." Not good news for our player umpiring at square leg.

In a superfluous attempt at clarification the laws conclude "the ball shall be considered to be dead when it is clear to the umpire at the bowler's end that the fielding side and both batsmen at the wicket have ceased to regard it as in play." There will never be a problem if both teams consider the ball to be dead.

Today at the first test between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, Muralitharan was run out as he went down the pitch to congratulate Sangakkara on his gritty century. This event has polarised opinion; as the Sri Lankan team were visibly outraged on the team balcony, Kiwi commentator Martin Crowe stated that Muralitharan had "suffered a brain explosion."

Certainly to walk out of your ground as the ball comes in from the outfield is not to be recommended and although Brendan McCullum was unsporting when he broke the stumps and appealed, Muralitharan should not have given him the opportunity.

New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming asserted: "You can't just wander off when the ball's in mid-air and if we'd had an overthrow I'm sure they would have taken that." I guess only the Sri Lankan batsmen can answer that.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Refections on the Adelaide Test

I have been an England fan for as long as I can remember. I have been hooked on watching my team play ever since I thought an over meant the number of times the ball went over the wicket. If GK Chesterton's "Great Scorer" exists then I will be an England fan for eternity. So it will take more than one humiliating defeat to make me indifferent.

I have supported this England team through the truly dark days; I was there at the Oval when defeat against New Zealand made us officially the worst team in the world. So why are the journalists describing this as one of the worst England defeats? It is because after two days it all looked so promising. As John Cleese's character said in the film Clockwise "I can handle the despair, it's the hope I can't stand."

The England Selectors should avoid scapegoats or otherwise the tour will turn into a rout. A full review can come later, in the meantime Panesar must be selected, probably in the place of Anderson, but the backbone of the team must remain the same.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Reflections on Disappointing First Day

As a carefree student I remember staying-up late and listening to Michael Slater smashing the first delivery of the 1994-5 series for 4. That set the tone for the entire series as Australia ran out 3-1 winners. England were fortunate to get the 1. Over 10 years later, as a responsible Local Government Officer, I stayed up to see Harmison's first delivery going straight to slip. Plus ca change, plus ca la meme chose.

When I saw James Andersen miss a possible run out by a country mile and going for an other-throw, I went to bed. My hope of England retaining the Ashes have been replaced by the aspiration that the series will at least be competitive.

I can deal with despair it is hope I can't stand.