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“Where else would you rather be braz?” Anywhere but here….

2014 December 16
by Legsidelizzy

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. .

 

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Phillip Hughes: a personal memory

2014 November 29
by Legsidelizzy

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  

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Guest Post: Joanne Vickers on diversity in the ECB

2014 October 11
by Legsidelizzy

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. 

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Alastair Cook counters Graeme Swann’s pessimism

2014 September 2
by Legsidelizzy
Cook_1

Cook_1

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,

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Not a chance of winning the World Cup with these strike rates?

2014 August 25
by Legsidelizzy

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
England
Cook 82 78.16
Hales 0 100.28 (list A)
Bell 146 76.04
Balance 11 71.95
Root 32 79.27
Morgan 119 86.92
Stokes 18 72.14
Australia
Finch 24 91.69
Haddin 106 82.22
Warner 42 82.39
Watson 173 90.20
Clarke 236 78.76
Maxwell 25 130.76
Bailey 40 91.11
Pakistan  
Hafeez 147 72.61
Shehzad 46 71.79
U Akmal 95 87.23
Misbah 147 73.91
Alam 30 78.83
Sohaib Maqsood 15 83.12
Afridi 379 115.65
India  
Rohit Sharma 123 78.61
Dhawan 39 89.52
Kohli 134 89.87
Rahane 30 72.43
Rayudu 13 66.41
Jadeja 101 82.98
Dhoni 243 89.24
Ashwin 79 89.96
Sri Lanka  
Dilshan 286 85.62
Perera 33 86.28
Sangakkara 378 77.57
Jayawardene 421 78.13
Matthews 131 84.19
Thirimanne 71 67.93
Priyanjan 16 84.21

 

 

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England’s one day squad – likely selection

2014 August 17
by Legsidelizzy

That’s Test cricket over and done with for England until April. So now we look forward to 14.5million One Day Internationals in preparation for the World Cup.

The preparation kicks off next week with 5 ODIs against India.

Those who are expecting sweeping changes to the side will be disappointed but will be heartened by the likely inclusion of Finn and Hales in the side.  The rest of the squad will look very much as it has.

Broad is obviously rested because of his on-going knee injury and it seems likely that Anderson will sit out at least the first three matches – he may return for the final two  (unless the series is already wrapped up in which case there would seem little point).

Jason Roy has performed well for the Lions but is likely only to make the T20 squad.

The squad for the first three ODIs likely to be (in no specific order)

1) Cook

2) Hales

3) Bell

4) Bopara

5) Root

6) Morgan

7) Stokes

8) Woakes

9) Buttler

10) Moeen Ali

11) Jordan

12) Tredwell

13) Finn

14) Gurney

 

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FIFTY OVERS – is it going to work?

2014 July 25
by Legsidelizzy

Tomorrow sees the start of the new Royal London 50 over one day cup.

After 5 years of a domestic one-day competition of 40 overs a side, the revamp of the English domestic schedule sees a return to 50 over competition.

The rationale by the ECB is clear – to mirror domestically what is played Internationally.

It’s fair to say, however, that the move back to 50 overs hasn’t met with universal approval from the counties, the supporters or indeed the players.

There are 8 group matches which will be played in a block over the next 3 weeks with matches starting at 10.30 am or 2/2.30 for day/night matches.

Publicly, the counties and their chief executives will tell you they are fully backing this new competition. Privately, they are a little more worried. They are worried that people won’t come to watch because they are far too long. Kids won’t sit through 100 overs and the day/night matches finish far too late at night for all but teenage kids.

Aside from that, it seems very odd that we would remove the block of T20 cricket previously held in July only to replace it with a block of a different sort of cricket – and one that is far less popular.

It disrupts the County Championship meaning there is no red ball cricket right at the time when the Test side really might need to be on the look out for guys in form to come into the England side.

And into that that this is the time of year when spinners come into their own – far more than in April and May. It’s no wonder we have a spin problem if we remove red ball cricket from the fixture list at exactly the time of year when they are most likely to get a lot of overs.

The County championship is just starting to get interesting at this time of year as positions in the table are firming up and each match carries so much significance – especially this year with the counties being so close.  It disrupts the flow, disrupts the players and means some counties won’t play another Championship match until the first week in September.  Essentially – there is next to no county championship cricket for the entirety of the school holidays.  How we’ll ever get kids into the longer form of the game if we don’t even offer it for them to watch I’ll never know.

Moreover, the competition will be without any England stars and the first half of it a further 13 of its best players will be missing due to England Lions duty.

This is not a good start.

It’s a shame – because actually there may well be some very good cricket, one-day cricket for all it is maligned can be very entertaining.  And within the context of a tournament, it has even more excitement (as oppose to endless One Day Internationals which are played without any meaning or context).

The rationale behind mirroring what is played Internationally is a sound one but only the most naive would think that adding in an extra 10 overs to the domestic competition will sort out England’s ODI woes.  The Royal London 50 over competition isn’t going to mean that England suddenly will win next year’s World Cup.  England’s whole approach to one day cricket needs to be looked at.  The tactics employed by England are ones that other countries were employing a decade ago.

But this tournament must be a shop window. The England selectors must take notice of the players that do well in it and genuinely think about what they might bring to the England ODI team.  There’s very little point at all to the whole thing if it’s going to be played in front of small crowds, if it’s unpopular with spectators and players and if it isn’t going to be used by England as a selection ground for possible future ODI success.

I’ll reserve judgement – it could be a fantastic tournament. If the sun shines and the pitches are good, there will be some very good cricket.  The final few group matches of the T20 blast have seen some fantastic matches with incredible hitting and impressive bowling.  If that carries on into the other white ball form of the game, we may be in for a fun three weeks but the whole tournament comes with a pinch of scepticism from the county faithful.

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Most exciting selection announcement in years

2014 June 4
by Legsidelizzy

The squad for the first Test match of the summer and the first under the new Moores/Cook regime will be announced tomorrow.

It’s set to be one of the more exciting and hard to predict announcements we have had in years.

Upwards of twenty names have been discussed in dispatches for the various spots and they all have a good case for inclusion.

Leave aside Cook, Bell, Root, Broad and Anderson – they’re nailed on.  The rest is up for grabs.

To open alongside Cook – the candidates are  Carberry, Compton, Robson and Lyth.

To be the middle order batsmen (to bat five and six) are   Stokes, Ballance, Vince, Morgan. Moeen Ali, Scott Borthwick, Samit Patel

To spin:  Moeen Ali, Simon Kerrigan, Scott Borthwick, Samit Patel

To be the third seamer:  Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett,Finn

And the wicket-keeper – Prior, Buttler, Bairstow, Foster, Kieswetter and an outsider of Read.

What a conundrum>    I imagine today’s selection discussion at Edgbaston took longer than 20 minutes.

My best guess on the way they’ll go is a squad of 12 (although they might pick 13 just to cover a batting position and a seamer)

Cook, Robson, Root, Bell, Ballance, Stokes, Prior, Ali, Jordan, Broad, Anderson  with Plunkett and possibly Buttler in the squad.

 

 

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Make the laws explicitly clear or stop bleating

2014 June 4
by Legsidelizzy

The Buttler Mankading incident has caused something a furore.  An inexplicable furore in my view. He was out of his crease, he was run out fair and square.  He didn’t even need to be warned although out of politeness they did – twice.

The crux of the problem is that the laws say one thing, the ICC playing conditions 2014 say another and the unwritten code of etiquette (the dreaded spirit of cricket) say another.

Yes – an unwritten code of etiquette.  The set of rules that aren’t written down that are “just not the done thing”.

I’m not entirely sure how one is supposed to know about these unwritten rules but woebetide if you go against them. The cricketing fraternity will call you unsportsmanlike, ungentlemanly or worse – a cheat.

It’s precisely this sort of nonsense that make sports like cricket and golf seem elitist, snobby and inaccessible.

It’s exactly the same sort of furore we have when players nick off and don’t walk.

It is time to put an end to these grey areas and cut out the arguments about ungentlemanly behaviour

1) If we don’t want people to mankad, it needs to be explicit in the laws. Or make the laws explicit that the non-striker shouldn’t leave their crease until the bowler has released the ball (that would soon stop them going walkabouts and gaining an unfair advantage which is essentially what backing up is)

2) Make sure that the laws are the laws and the playing regulations are merely to set out differences in formats such as playing times, points, the colour of the ball and powerplays etc.

3) Either make the spirit of cricket clearer or get rid of it all together. The nonsensical “pre-amble” to the laws is neither one thing nor t’other.  We don’t need to write down that people shouldn’t abuse each other or the umpire. They don’t have a “spirit of darts” or a “spirit of table tennis”. Why? Because there’s no need. We all know that you need to not abuse officials, players or spectators and that dissent towards an umpire is not on (and indeed this last one should be put in the actual laws).

Make the laws explicit on mankading, walking or not-walking, claiming a catch and all the other things that cause furore’s and then let the umpires make their decisions based on these.

In the case of mankading – nowhere does it say you have to warn the batsmen; that is merely another of these “unwritten matters of etiquette” that do nothing but cause hassle.

If we continue with all these grey areas, differences in laws and playing regs and bizarre romantic notions of gentlemanly behaviour I really don’t know how those who are coming new to the game have any idea what’s going on? Even those of us entrenched in the game find it beyond ridiculous at times.

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Our cricketers aren’t famous enough

2014 May 31
by Legsidelizzy

The return of Freddie is great.  It matters not whether he gets any runs or wickets. It doesn’t even matter whether stands on one leg at mid-off without moving for 20 overs.  What he does on the pitch isn’t the point.

Freddie Flintoff is a name that even the most of casual of cricket watcher can roll off the tongue.  Ask them to name who’s in the current England ODI XI and they’d probably struggle.

That a man who retired 5 years ago can still cause such hype and publicity even though his comeback may just be for a few matches in the domestic game demonstrates how truly box office characters English cricket has.

Perhaps Freddie and KP are the only two truly box office English names of the past decade.  Certainly the past few years, whilst they have brought success on the pitch, they haven’t brought us, KP aside, any truly household names.

Of course, most people can name Cook, Bell, Broad, Anderson but they aren’t celebrity in the way that KP is, or in the way that Freddie was or Botham before him.

Our cricketers simply aren’t famous enough anymore.   They aren’t household names, they aren’t appearing on chat shows, panel shows, in the front pages as well as the back pages.

And it isn’t as simple as putting this down to cricket not being on free-to-air TV, although that’s certainly a factor.

In the last few years England cricket (again KP aside) has been dominated by nice but ultimately not very interesting blokes who the producers of the Graham Norton show aren’t going to be chasing to appear on his sofa.

So without Pietersen, the public are latching on to the return of a man who when he retired 5 years ago could barely walk.

Cricket needs Beefys and Freddies and KPs.   And at the moment, we’ve got a bunch of Gail Platts.

 

 

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