Those three words that makes every mum audibly sigh. Just three, one syllable words. But ones that come around every year as wanted as your letter inviting you for your annual cervical smear.
Yup. WORLD BOOK DAY.
Uh oh. And there it is in the school newsletter “Thursday 5th March is world book day. Your child should come dressed as their favourite character from a book they’ve read”.
Tentatively I ask my little boy James “who would you like to dress up as for World Book Day” knowing full well that some of his friends’ mums will spend weeks making, sewing and creating something incredible.
“Well my favourite character is Harry Potter” comes the reply. Predictable.
“But everyone will go as him. So how about Fantastic Mr Fox?”. Outwardly I smile, inside I’m dying with visions of fur and waistcoats and stuffing tails.
“OK darling, any other ideas just in case I can’t quite find the right fur?” (knowing full well I won’t be looking anywhere for any fur)
“Well I saw a Tintin outfit on Amazon mum. I think that would be best because you are so busy and you work really hard and you don’t have anyone to help you”. (I’m a single mum)
Well bloody nora. An eight year old boy with empathy. And with a flood of relief mixed with guilt at being one of those hopeless mums, we head to Amazon. £9.45 and a click later and Tintin was ordered, it arrived last week. And World Book day is sorted.
Till next year.
Nothing in life is a certain as change.
This blog was my starting point. The place I first started penning my rambling rubbish on cricket. Since then things have moved on. I’ve started earning something of a living from cricket through writing, reporting, broadcasting and all that. And now I have some pennies to run a new website. So from now on all my cricket related writing that isn’t in one of the newspapers or on Holding Willey or Cricket365 will be on www.boundarynews.org – where I (and my contributors) do bitesized news and opinion pieces.
So from now on, this blog will be a much more personal site. Where I blog about my life, my family, my worries, my fears, my dreams and my hopes. (I know – pass the bucket).
That sort of stuff is quite self-indulgent and certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. So if it’s cricket you want, head to boundarynews. If it’s me and my dysfunctional life you want to read then I’ll be blogging here.
Thanks to everyone who’s read and commented on this blog over the last four years. I’ve really appreciated it.
Sheffield born Richard Kettleborough has been voted ICC umpire of the year for the last two years. And having watched him make a series of outstanding decisions in the recent Australia v India Test series, it’s not hard to see why.
But it’s not just the standard of his decision making that makes him an excellent elite umpire, it is his match management, his calm and understated presence and the way he gets respect from the players through being understated. Very different to some other elite umpires, Kettleborough mostly goes unnoticed, he doesn’t do anything in an ostentatious way and doesn’t make anything about him. He’s respected by players across the world and gets a handle on potential situations with quiet authority.
Elite umpires don’t speak very often to the media about themselves and it’s certainly not something Kettleborough feels comfortable with. He’s clear that his job is to facilitate and officiate international cricket matches; to ensure that the match can be played within the laws in the right way but without making any moutains out of molehills. He doesn’t like the limelight, he simply wants to be the best umpire he can be.
I spoke to him a few years ago just after he was first appointed to the ICC’s elite panel but the interview has been lost to the internet ether so I thought I would re-print it here. He had some interesting things to say.
Congratulations on being appointed to the elite panel. Did you always want to be an umpire after you gave up playing?
I started thinking about it whilst I was at Middlesex and what I was going to do after I finished playing. I really didn’t enjoy living in London. I went for a chat with John Hampshire who at the time was on the first class panel. He was the one who pointed me in the direction of umpiring. He said I was the right age and that if I did well then maybe the ICC would be looking for someone my age to go on and go forward. It made a lot of sense to think about something that could provide me with a career path and some longevity.
And what’s the process you have to go through?
It has changed a bit now but when I started I had to do my ACU+S (association of cricket umpires and scorers -now the Association of Cricket Officials) exams – 2 written papers and an oral exam. Yorkshire were really good to me, they let me officiate in a number of second eleven games as a non first-class umpire standing with a first-class umpire. This allowed me to get practical experience and get assessed and marked. Those marks go back to the ECB and then at the end of 2001 I applied to get on the ECB reserve list. I got on the ECB reserve umpire list for the 2002 season. I did four seasons on the reserve list before getting on to the first-class list for the 2006 season.
Presumably the reserve list doesn’t give enough income to make a living? What did you do for those 4 seasons?
I played as a professional in League cricket for Sheffield Collegiate CC (a presitgious club in the Yorkshire league where Michael Vaughan and Joe Root played their cricket as youngsters). That along with income from coaching supplemented my income from the reserve list.
And how do you move from the first-class umpire list to doing International games?
It goes on the marks you are given by captains. We all have mentors as well who, apart from David Byas, are all ex-first class or international umpires. They also report back to the ECB on how they think you are getting on and make an assessment of whether you are ready to go to the next level. So from there, the ECB pick people to go on the International panel. Firstly as a TV (3rd) umpire where again your performance is regularly assessed. And if you are good enough you become an on-field International umpire and then obviously those assessed to be the best are selected for the elite panel. My contract on the elite panel started on July 1st this year.
You were called out to the West Indies at very short notice recently to cover for the Test match against India when Daryl Harper announced his retirement – does that happen often?
That was a one-off scenario but it was quite mad. I did the ODI at Headingley on the Friday and that night drove from Headingley to Gatwick, got on a plane to Barbados, transferred to Dominica and a day later I was standing in a Test match. It’s not normally like that and it was quite tough because just like players it’s important to have a little bit of preparation time.
The DRS is obviously a highly contentious subject, particularly at the moment given India’s opposition to the ball tracking element of it. What’s your view of the technology? Do you find the DRS helpful or do you find it undermines you?
Before I umpired a match using the technology, I thought it really did have the potential to undermine us but having stood in Test matches and then the World Cup this year with the full UDRS in place, I am more than happy to have it. People clearly have differing opinions on Hawkeye but we are marked against it and I am personally very content with it – I don’t have any issues with the technology at all. It’s been tested, the ICC are happy with it and I’m happy to go with it.
The BCCI, as we know, have an issue with the predictive path element of hawkeye but we are marked on what hawkeye says and I personally think we should fully go with it.
We seen a few high profile cases of dissent leading to fines or bans lately – do you think it’s on the increase in both County and International cricket?
I’ve not seen very much dissent at all in International cricket in the time I’ve been officiating, I may have just been lucky but I do think the match referees and umpires do a very good job in containing it. Yes, there have been some issues in county cricket over the last few years but we have an effective discipline committee in place which does its job effectively. We given very clear guidance on it and most of us have played the game, we know what goes on, we understand where the lines are and what is just heat of the moment passion. No one wants to remove the passion from the players. I don’t think it’s a major issue at all but incidents of dissent do get quite a lot of publicity so I can see how it might seem that way.
One of the biggest elements of being a good umpire is man management. We know how and when to have a quiet word with a player and we are given the trust of the ECB to use our discretion within the guidelines.
There is a theory that because of the DRS players feel they can question the umpire much more than they might have done – is that something you have thought?
No, I don’t think so at all. There’s always been an element of questioning the umpire in the game and there’s always been players who are a bit more “hot-headed” than others. I don’t think it’s vastly different now to how it’s always been.
There are emotional players, cricket is an emotional game. Players are never happy when they’re given out – you wouldn’t expect them to be.
Do players come and apologise to you if they’ve overstepped the mark?
It’s been known but I wouldn’t say it happens often!
You’re the youngest on the elite panel, and some of the guys who you grew up playing with are still playing on the county circuit- does that feel strange?
I’m the youngest at 38 and Kumar Dharmasena is the next youngest at 41. To be honest, there’s not many of my peers left playing now. When I first started umpiring there were a lot of players who I’d played both with and against. I think actually that was an advantage, it helped me build relationships with the players but obviously from a purely decision making point of view it makes no difference whether I’ve played with them, against them or never seen them before in my life.
Do you ever get a bit star struck? You officiate in games with really famous players like Tendulkar.
Well obviously it’s fantastic I get to see the best players in the world executing their craft but in terms of decisions, it has no impact whatsoever. I heard a comment from Bumble recently when asked about whether players like Sachin subconsciously affect your decisions and his response was bang on “when you’re umpiring you don’t give a flying fairy who it is at the other end”. You judge each ball on its merit, if it hits the batsman on the pads, you give an honest decision based on what you think. It doesn’t make one bit of difference who is batting.
And for you, getting on the elite panel is clearly a big step and gives you a solid career for the future?
It’s an enormous honour and obviously it means you are the top of your profession. But it’s all very well getting there, the trick for me now is to stay there for as long as possible. But there’s a fine balance between umpiring here, there and everywhere all over the world and family life. I have 2 very small children and I’ve barely seen them over the last 10 months. But being an umpire is just like being a player, you want to get to the top.
We are continually assessed on our decision making, our man management, how we handle rain breaks and disruptions and if you aren’t up to scratch you will be removed from the panel.
The ICC have regional umpire managers who gives us mentoring and guidance and if you’ve had a good game the bosses in Dubai will always get on the telephone and give you praise and feedback. That’s a really big boost to your confidence.
Have you ever given a real howler that you want to confess to us?
The worst decision I’ve ever given was in my first ever 50 over domestic semi-final – Durham v Kent. I gave Michael De Venuto out LBW when he got an absolutely MASSIVE inside edge.Obviously at the time I didn’t pick that edge up but looking back at it, it was a bit of a howler yes. That’s the one that sticks in my mind because it was one of the first times I’d been umpiring a televised game.
How was the World Cup for you?
To be selected to umpire in a World Cup at my age was a great honour and an achievement and something I’m very proud of and then to be selected to umpire one of the quarter finals was a massive thing. Cricket in the sub-continent is special because of the atmosphere and passion. It was a great experience.
Court-siding, Sniping and Anti-corruption
A 30 year old man has been arrested in Sydney during the Big Bash match between the two Sydney teams having been ejected from two other matches in the city in the previous week. The man is suspected by police and anti-corruption officers of taking part in what is known as “pitch-sidiing” or “court-siding”.
Re-posting this article I wrote in the summer after a man was ejected from the SWALEC stadium in Cardiff during England’s ODI against India.
At the time, the reports suggested that the man in question was somehow linked to illegal bookmakers in India and was ejected for feeding information back to them in real time ahead of the 5-8 second delay in the Television pictures.
However, these reports were not wholly accurate. A member of the public was ejected from the SWALEC ground. He was seen at the back of the stand at the Cathedral Road End of the ground just below the Media Centre working on two laptops – one with cricinfo on the screen and the other with the trading exchange website Betfair on it.
The stewards at the SWALEC stadium were alerted to his presence and his activity and the decision to eject him was taken by Glamorgan county cricket club for being in breach of their ticket terms and conditions. He was not ejected by the ECB or the Anti-corruption unit.
It has been reported that the man at the SWALEC was ejected for undertaking what is known as “court-siding” or “pitch-siding” – this is the term used for the practice of relaying real-time information from the ground back to bookmakers (in most cases illegal bookmakers on the sub-continent).
However, in the case of the man at the SWALEC, he was, in fact, ejected by Glamorgan for being in breach of the terms and conditions on their tickets. The man, who is regular at international and domestic cricket, across the Uk was not relaying information via an ear piece; he was trading on betfair – a legal betting exchange.
It is important not to get the two things confused. ‘Sniping” (trading from the ground; which is what this man was doing) is not illegal and not necessarily against the ground regulations. It is also most not a threat to the integrity of the cricket. It is simply betting via an exchange with other ‘punters”. The only people who lose out in the case of sniping are the bookmakers – and noone’s heart is breaking too hard over that.
“Court-siding” is far more of a problem and one the both the ICC’s and ECB’s anti-corruption unit take strong and immediate action on. This is the relaying of information via phones and ear-pieces and is almost always in someway linked to illegal betting markets.
In the 2014 season alone, upwards of 20 individuals were evicted from English cricket grounds for partaking in “court-siding” and during July 2014 one man who was evicted from Northamptonshire county cricket was subsequently found to have links with the well-publicised case of fixing undertaken by Lou Vincent and Naved Arif in the 2011 quarter final of England’s domestic one day competition between Kent and Sussex.
During the Natwest T20 Blast finals day, a member of the crowd was spotted with an ear-piece, someone known to the authorities who was clearly feeding information back to bookmakers in the sub-continent. He didn’t have a laptop – just an earpiece and phone – he wasn’t trading or betting. He was spotted in the midst of a 22, 500 strong crowd and was removed from the ground. Information being fed back to illegal bookmakers ahead of the TV pictures is clearly a risk to the integrity of the game and feeds into the murky world of illegal gambling, fixing and corruption.
The Anti-corruption and security unit are active on the ground for every televised game. Often you can see the anti-corruption officers from either the ICC or ECB with their binoculars panning round the crowd trying to spot either anyone known to them or anyone who seems to have an ear piece or spending most of the match on the phone. Other tell-tale signs are when someone is sitting alone and doesn’t appear to be at all involved in the match – not applauding boundaries or wickets.
The ECB and ICC’s anti-corruption units work together very closely at International matches in England to share information about court-siders who may be known to them.
It is also worth remembering that when these individuals are identified, it may not always be the best course of action to simply eject them from the ground and send them on their way. They may be very useful sources of information to anti-corruption officers and may, indeed, lead them to the “bigger fish”.
1) Yorkshire crowned county champions. Whilst their finances might not be the healthiest, on the pitch Yorkshire are returning to peak times. Their academy is one of the strongest in the country, their leadership team of Moxon and Gillespie is strong and visionary and they have talent and depth. Things look bright at Headingley.
2) The emergence of the new gang: Moeen Ali, Gary Ballance, Jos Buttler, James Taylor – there’s a new band of boys in town and 2014 has brought into the fore the talents of some young players who’ve stood out on the county circuit. Moeen has emerged not just as a classy and silky batsman – something anyone who’s watched him already knew – but as much more than the “part-time” off-spinner he was branded at the beginning of the year. Gary Ballance slotted seamlessly into the large gap left by Jonathan Trott. Jos Buttler continues to excite with the bat and develop with the gloves and James Taylor has finally got an opportunity to showcase his enormous talent – the only irritating thing is that he was left on the sidelines for so long.
3) The return of Jonathan Trott: after an early aborted return to cricket,Trott’s return to cricket culminating in being named captain of the Lions this week is a story to warm even the coldest of hearts. It’s testament to Jonathan, his family and the management team at Warwickshire that he’s fought his way back from the lowest of low points at the beginning of the year. We may yet see him play again for England but if we don’t it doesn’t matter, he’s come from a horrible place into a much nicer place.
4) Full time contracts for the Women: In May 18 women cricketers were awarded full-time central contracts by the ECB. It represented a huge step forward for the women’s game. There is still a long way to go and the domestic women’s game continues to lack coverage and in some cases quality but now girls can see cricket as a genuine career option – it remains to be seen whether that has an impact in the recreational game but the ECB are to be applauded for leading the way and creating the first group of fully professional women cricketers.
[I’ve deliberately not included the death of Phillip Hughes in here. You can’t equate the tragic death of a young man with administrative f**kwittery so I am not going to]
1) The Kevin Pietersen saga: The decision to sack him was wrong, the handling calamitous, the fall-out damaging and devisive, the book nasty and all of it was so unnecessary. Friends, colleagues and cricket lovers have fallen out, English cricket become a laughing stock and it still rumbles on. It didn’t need to be like this.
2) “Outside Cricket”: whoever wrote this press notice (and remember it was joint ECB/PCA one) needs to reflect long and hard on the damage those two words have done. Whilst the press release itself was clearly aimed squarely and firmly at Piers Morgan, to fans and suppporters it opened a window into the way that the ECB hierachy see those not in the inner sanctum. There’s no such thing as inside and outside cricket. Yes even Piers should be welcome in the broad church of cricket. That press release will haunt English cricket for some time.
3) The boo-ing of Moeen Ali. One of the most upsetting and disappointing events of the year. Moeen, in his home town, in front of a home crowd, being boo’d and in some part of the crowd full on abused and for no other reason than because of his background and ethnicity. That in itself is disappointing enough but the ECB’s total lack of leadership in failing to take a stance was another indication of the sort of organisation they are. And remember the PCA’s statement saying that Moeen should consider being booed as a positive thing? Where do they find these people?
4) The carve up of World Cricket: “The Big 3″ takeover of world cricket will have repercussions for years to come. The difference between the haves and have nots will become more pronounced. The BCCI will wield more power than ever before. The affiliate and smaller Test nations will be held at ransom to get scraps from the Big 3’s table. Whatever Giles Clarke insists, there was an opportunity here for him and the ECB to do the right thing, to call India’s bluff on their threats to leave the ICC. They failed to do this. It was weak and it’s damaged cricket.
5) Anderson/Jadeja spat: The only people who won from this unedifying episode were the lawyers. It dragged on and on. There were accusations, proceedings and nastiness. India insisting that Anderson had gone too far and that something needed to be done. England insisting that there was no case to answer. At times we were all left wondering if these were actually fully grown adults we were reading about.
6) Andrew Gale being unable to lift the County Championship trophy: yet another example of mishandling by the ECB and another example of the lawyers profiting from spats in cricket. Another ugly incident.
I post this after a chat with a very knowledgeable and lovely friend earlier, this encompasses some of their thoughts.
Where else would you rather be Bruz? Anywhere but here…..
The death of Phillip Hughes is one of the worst things to have happened in international cricket, in any cricket or any sport.
A deeply personal tragedy for the Hughes family, team mates, Australia and the cricketing community at large. The huge outpouring of grief and the wonderfully warm tributes provided some comfort to the family and we must hope that they continue to receive that for year to come.
Lots of wonderful memories and stories were shared about Phillip, from the young boy in the backyard in Macksville to the young pretender taking to the international stage for the first time and scoring hundreds as he went. One of the things that really stood out was his deep joy at taking to the field for his country and indeed any of his teams.
When things were going wrong, his teammates and comrades recalled he simply asked them the question ‘Where else would you rather be Bruz?’.
And indeed, Where else would you rather be, playing cricket for your country, in the sun, a young boys dream. That smile, that infectious grin as he fooled around with David Warner, or shared a useless fact about cows with Michael Clarke.
Compare and contrast that infectious smile with the England Cricket team in the last few weeks. Many of them look like they would rather be anywhere but there. In Sri Lanka. In the rainy season. Losing. Going backwards. Trying to prepare for a world cup in conditions hardly replicate of those they are likely to face in Australia, with key players missing and with an unsettled side and with the pressure mounting and mounting on the man who is supposed to be leading them.
They don’t look like a team setting themselves up to win a game of cricket. They don’t seem that they are in any way enjoying playing cricket for their country. They don’t like they are having fun.
Last winter Steven Finn was taken on tour, somehow lost all of his natural bowling ability and rather than being sent home and supported at the early signs of trouble, he was publically decried by the coach as unselectable before finally being released from his turmoil. That can’t be right.
Something in this set up is not right. It’s not been right for a while.
Fast forward a year and we have a group of men sent out by a senior leadership team who seem more hellbent on proving ‘KP is a shit bloke’ and that they were right all along about Alastair Cook than actually constructively winning a game of 50 over cricket.
It’s not fair. It’s just not fair on what is a group of exciting, talented and committed young men. They aren’t being given a fair crack at it. The environment is wrong, the leadership is wrong.
Take for example, Alex Hales. Yes – he hasn’t taken his chances this tour, but can you blame him, he’s only been given three, and the managing director of English Cricket is sitting in on selection meetings and actively telling the media Cook will be captain for the world cup not matter what. Hales can’t bowl, so he is not likely to depose Moeen and Cook is assured of his place not matter what because Downton says so. So whatever Hales does, he’s probably only going to be rewarded with playing out of his natural position, and having been taken out there and not played initially it’s not unrealistic to assume his confidence might have been shot to bits at the start.
Ben Stokes whose year began with a Test century that held so much promise for his future but he now appears devoid of all confidence, no clear role in the side. He stated publicly he had not been given the reasons that he was dropped from the test team in the summer, but every time he was he went back to his club and did the business. His innings in the Royal London semi-final was one of the most brutal one-day innings I have ever seen. Stokes is a player who needs to play and play, he needs to rhythm for both his batting and bowling. He needs to be given a bit of direction about what is wanted from him but also given the feeling that they believe in him.
In the 2010 Football world cup in South Africa ‘the golden generation’ were derided for not achieving their best, and maybe rightly so, in English Cricket the potential golden generation are not even getting on the pitch.
If Hales, Ali, Root, Buttler, Stokes, Finn, Jordan and a few others all fired at the same time, and you add the experienced flair of Morgan, Broad and Anderson and maybe the consistency of Tredwell this is a exciting squad. One that that could really achieve great things on the pitch……but they will only do so if they have fun with the right environment and the right leadership.
It was interesting to hear the inspirational Jo Pavey talking at the Sports Personality of the Year awards. Her success at the age of 40 and just after the birth of her second child she put down to being happy. “being happy helps me to achieve”.
There was a heartbreaking look of disillusionment and sadness on the faces of young, exciting cricketers when they should be full of energy, hope and desire.
Put aside your pride, pick the best team on the day for the conditions, equip your team to win with a good balance of fun and hard work and you will produce confident and happy players who go on to achieve their best.
If you base your plan on trying to prove you are right and that KP and Piers Morgan are wrong, you will not just lose, you will likely destroy the best of English Cricket whilst you’re at it. And perhaps lose a generation of England supporters whilst you’re at it too. Whatever the opposite of inspire a generation is, English cricket is currently doing it. .
If you’ll forgive this bit of self-indulgence, I wanted to share a very small personal memory of Phillip Hughes.
Back in 2009, I went to Southgate to watch Middlesex play Leicestershire in division 2 of the County Championship. The match began with Andrew Strauss scoring a pretty brutal 167 ball 150. Batsmen used to like playing at Southgate – it was something of a road.
Day 2 or it might have been 3, I sat myself down outside just to left of the scoreboard with a can of diet coke and sparked up a silk cut. Round the boundary walked a young Phillip Hughes having just scored 139 before being caught behind by Paul Nixon.
“You shouldn’t smoke, it’s bad for you” he said to me as he walked past
“I know, I know” I reply expecting that to be the end of the conversation. It wasn’t. He lingered a while and asked me if I was enjoying the match. I mumbled some nonsense trying to say something insightful and to impress him with my cricket knowledge. I’m sure what I actually said was some contrived bullshit about the wicket being flat. To try and salvage what had become slightly awkward conversation I asked him “do you like playing county cricket?”
“Love it” was his reply with a huge smile “it means I get to play cricket all year round.”
And then he continued his amble round the boundary…
Rest in Peace Phillip Joel Hughes 1988-2014
If you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
The case for diversity in business is proven, business with more diverse boards (in terms of race, gender, sexuality, social background, basically all diversity) perform better. They make more money, they provide better customer service and crucially the retain and develop their staff better.
Different backgrounds mean diversity of ideas. A causal factor in the banking crises was the fact that the majority of senior decision makers were all from the same background, white, privately educated males.
We will never know for sure, but if bank boards had been more diverse, there may very well have been different voices, providing different challenges and the hole dug by the banks for themselves may not have been anywhere near as deep.
Which brings me to the ECB, and organisation which is essentially at the top ‘stale, pale, and male’.
I am not making a judgement on the truth relating to ‘KPGate’, I am not sure we will ever really now as there are so many people with so many agendas.
However what is really clear is that KP, and it seems probably other players, did not thrive and achieve their best under the standard management methods employed by the ECB.
And what is also clear is that the ECB did not handle this well. Their response seems to be that of we’ve always done it this way, we know best and its our way or the highway. Because everyone involved in the decision making process is from the same background there are no fresh ideas.
KP asking for his wife to come out at a different times, or to fly to the ipl in between tests is not really that different to a parent asking for a flexible working arrangement at a large corporate organisation. Twenty years ago the answer would have been no, and many talented women and some men were lost from the workplace.
But actually by not saying no now, companies that are open to flexible working are not losing their best talent, furthermore they are getting even better performance out of those employees, the bar is being raised.
If the ECB was more diverse in its make up, it might have been that someone could have suggested being more accommodating, being more family friendly, and feeling more supported and more valued might have performed better and would still playing cricket for England, and giving a better account of himself with the bar than he did in the last ashes, which is what most genuine fans would really have wanted to see.
And by being more diverse, more dynamic and more flexible the ECB would be looking far less autocratic and foolish than it does now. And crucially more players might have been able to deliver their best performances for England.
Joanne is a business woman who champions diversity and equality in the workplace.
The upcoming World Cup is beginning to become the focal point of the cricket world. If you read our most recent post on the event, you’re likely familiar with some of the negative attention swirling around the English team. Indeed, Graeme Swann’s voice has been loud and definitive in stating that England has virtually no chance at bringing home a title, as he largely cites roster decisions as mistakes that will hold the team back. However, while most seem prepared to agree at least in part with Swann’s general outlook, it’s worth mentioning that there are a few more optimistic opinions out there.
Most notably, English captain Alastair Cook seems to have a very positive outlook, though he was less than thrilled to hear Swann’s comments, as reported by the Telegraph. Cook referred to Swann as a “so-called friend” when asked about the comments, and he went on to say that his English team has a good chance in the coming World Cup (though he also acknowledged the need for improved form). Naturally, Cook has plenty of reason to display confidence, even if many would view it as somewhat irrational. However, taking an optimistic outlook on England’s World Cup chances does turn up a few interesting factors working in the team’s favour.
Working off of Cook’s optimism, the Betfair cricket correspondent, Ed Hawkins, dug up a few more reasons for English fans to take up a positive outlook, glossing (somewhat conveniently) over roster decisions and instead focusing on the scheduling and regulation of the tournament. To begin with, Hawkins notes that the England team is actually not viewed as a significant underdog by the betting oddsmakers, with the 10.5 line attached to the English not far from the likes of New Zealand (9.6), Pakistan (8.6), or Sri Lanka (7.8). Although, admittedly Australia, South Africa, and India are still out front in terms of expectations. Still, this placement suggests England is part of the pack, rather than far in the rear, as Graeme Swann seems to believe.
Next, Hawkins turns to scheduling as a subtle but potentially impactful advantage that England might enjoy. There’s an argument to be made that England has hurt itself in the past with difficult scheduling allowing for little rest and transition from ordinary play into the World Cup. Yet this time around, England’s ordinary trip through Australia for exhibition play has been shifted to allow both the English and Australian team to enjoy more time off before the World Cup actually begins. This is not the sort of development whose impact we’ll be able to measure, of course. Given failure in recent World Cups, though, it’s only logical to be of the opinion that a shift in scheduling certainly can’t make things worse!
Also of note is the change in venue this time around, and indeed looking at the 2011 World Cup, there was a clear advantage for the hosts. With India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh jointly hosting the event on the sub-continent, India and Sri Lanka played in the final, with nearby Pakistan also reaching the semi-final (along with New Zealand). Now, these are all strong international sides, but it’s also fair to say that the home climate and familiar wickets could certainly have helped most of these nations. The 2015 World Cup will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand. While this is of course still far from home for the English team, it’s unquestionably more familiar ground. It’s not quite the 2019 World Cup (which England and Wales will host), but it should feel closer to home ground in terms of familiarity.
Ultimately, factors such as the host nation and scheduling tactics probably still don’t make for a good sign. One would prefer to simply look at the England roster and determine that the talent listed should be enough to compete for a title. But given that this team will clearly be facing an uphill battle, these factors can provide at least a glimmer of optimism,. Also, while Graeme Swann may be right in the end,
Graeme Swann doesn’t believe England “have a cat in hell’s chance” of winning next year’s World Cup and thinks England have made a mess of their selection. Again.
“It’s absolutely crazy not to have Ravi in the team” Swann said on TMS during the washed-out Bristol ODI “Hales should have been in this side for three years. He scored 99 vs the West Indies in a T20 at Trent Bridge in 2012 – how the powers that be didn’t see him as the future in ODI?”
He went on to articulate what many fans have been saying for years – namely that England’s approach to ODIs is old-fashioned, outdated and they’ve been left behind.
“I used to sit in the changing room and I always felt we were so far behind other teams because we play such an old-fashioned brand. Some of my best mates Cook, Bell, Ballance are not one-day players who are going to win you a World Cup. Hales is going to win you a World Cup. Vince, Roy, Buttler, Morgan. They’re players I wouldn’t want to bowl at, who can build a total of 360-370″.
He’s absolutely right. England still believe that 280/290 is going to win you a one-day match. Those days disappeared years ago. Every other team in the World understands that. They load their batting with big hitters with big strike rates. It may feel like we’ve become strike rate obsessed in recent times, particularly when we were going through the endless discussions about Jonathan Trott’s.
But strike rate is important. Not every one of your top six has to have an SR of 90+ but most of them do. You can only afford to carry one Cook/Bell/Trott.
To illustrate the point, I’ve listed the SRs of the main batsmen from some of the top ODI teams. (taken from their most recent team selection). I’ve highlighted the players with SRs over 85. The difference between the teams is subtle but important. On the face of it – England don’t look that far off the pace although the difference between 5 of your top 6 having strike rates in the 70s as oppose to Australia who only have one of their top six with a strike rate of lower than 80 can make all the difference both in setting a score of 350 or chasing a score of 350. And on fast Australian pitches, you get the feeling that sides are going to do that more often than not.
Do England really have the sort of batsmen who will be 170 off 30 overs? Or are they more likely to be 120-2 having spent the last 15 overs nurdling it about?
[I know I haven’t yet looked at SA, WI or NZ -I will add in later]
|Player||No of ODIs||Strike Rate|
|Hales||0||100.28 (list A)|