Permeating My Indifference

I've had a week off work this week and have been out and about doing things - some mundane but necessary, others highly enjoyable - while the County Championship has slowly cranked itself into gear in its time-honoured way in England and the IPL has hit the ground running (and at a furious pace) in India.

I haven't got access to the channel which is broadcasting the IPL in this country so I haven't seen any of it and inevitably feel a bit detached as a result. I enjoy Twenty20 but only if I can watch it. While I'll always keep an eye on events in Tests which I can't see, I can't be bothered to do the same for the IPL.

A few events and statements have permeated my indifference, though.

This morning all the news seems to be about Harbhajan Singh supposedly slapping Sreesanth. Apparently Bhajji denies it, saying he merely pushed him (I've heard that one before somewhere), but various other people have supported Sree's account. Who knows? I certainly don't, but I can't say I'm surprised. It was only a matter of time before someone took a pop at Sreesanth, and it's just a surprise that it wasn't Andre Nel. As for Harbhajan, well, if this is true he needs to take a long hard look at himself.

I also, of course, heard about the fact that Sir Allen Stanford had suggested that Twenty20 cricket could surpass (Association) Football as the world's most popular professional sport.

I find Stanford interesting - Americans who seem to have got into cricket properly generally are - and he's right that T20 might just make a bit of a dent in the 'American market' - but bigger than football?

Er, no. You and I will be watching Chris Martin make a Test century before that happens.


Still Doing It

Something else made a bigger impression on me than the IPL, though.

I started this blog because I felt I had something to write after I saw Graeme Hick make his 129th first-class hundred for Worcestershire against Somerset at Taunton two years ago.

Two years on he's still doing it. Yesterday's 101 at Edgbaston was hundred number 135, and you wouldn't bet against there being more to come as the season goes on, 42nd birthday or no 42nd birthday.

Just Enjoy

So, the IPL has finally started. And with a bang, Brendon McCullum making the highest score ever in a major Twenty20 game.

It wasn't a huge surprise; as McCullum showed recently in New Zealand, he can do things like that. No, what was more significant was the fact that McCullum's knock, and the massive total it led to, emphasized one of the central weaknesses of T20 cricket - when the side batting first makes a really big score, the side batting second rarely gets anywhere near it and usually collapses in a heap as their batsmen try to score at a rate they simply can't cope with. And if you wanted to be mischievous you could suggest that if your opening pair is Rahul Dravid and Wasim Jaffer (one great player and one rare timer but two players with somewhat uneven records in limited-over cricket) you're probably going to find it even harder.

Still, I'm sure everybody enjoyed it. And a quick glance at the sides illustrates one of the less obvious but more valuable aspects of the league: the fact that the composition of the teams gives young players like Kohli and Saha the opportunity to mix and learn from the likes of Dravid, Kallis, Ganguly and Ponting.

Readers of some of my past posts will know that I have no problem at all with T20 as long as it its hand isn't overplayed. In fact, in an Engliah county context and watched on TV, I love it. I didn't see any of last night's game as I don't have access to the channel which is showing it it here in the UK, but my initial feeling about the IPL is that it won't mean armageddon for the game, it has value and it's here to stay (for a while at least).

Nobody can be entirely sure where it'll lead, so, for the time being, let's just enjoy it for what it is.


Normal Service

Another day, another English cricket season, another quietly dismantled county bowling attack, another Mark Ramprakash century.

Although I fall into the camp of people who don't happen to think it would be a good idea to recall him to the England team - although I could be open to persuasion - I'm increasingly starting to wonder when, since the retirement of the Don in the late 1940s, has anyone made so many runs so consistently, over such a long period and with such inevitability?

I've got some time off work next week so I might do some digging around in the mass of cricket books that stuff my home and see whether I can come up with an answer.

However, by then, he'll probably have made some more runs and the IPL will have started, so we'll see...


Thanks But No Thanks

A bloody brilliant story.

As Ally said, 'life's not all down to money'.


The Real Deal

I only caught the last few hours' play but it seemed to me that India fully deserved their series-levelling win against South Africa at Green Park in Kanpur. On a wearing pitch, Dhoni took the innovative step of opening with Harbhajan and he, along with Sehwag, did the majority of the damage as the Proteas subsided to defeat.

But the bowler who impressed me most, again, was Ishant Sharma. There have been enough false dawns in the Indian seam bowling world to fill a book (Munaf Patel, anyone?), but Sharma, just nineteen, certainly looks like the real deal, with a good, orthodox action, seductive rhythm, and pace which will inevitably increase as he fills out.

At the moment he looks fragile, and it's important that Bhaji, Kumble, Sreesanth and the rest take their fair share of India's overs while he gets stronger. His potential is too great to be sacrificed on the altar of over-work before his international career has really hit its stride.


Very Interesting

After a hard evening in the indoor nets last night (I must have bowled the equivalent of about 15 overs, and my body was aching when I started) I was vegetating on the couch with the latest instalment of West Indies v Sri Lanka when something very interesting happened. Shiv Chanderpaul hit ten (4, 6) off the last two balls of the game to give his side victory.

I couldn't recall when I last got so excited during an ODI, especially at 10.30 in the evening, but it just showcased again the versatility of this wonderful player.

Rob has a great photo of the aftermath here.


Anticipating Wisden

I haven't seen the 2008 Wisden yet, but there seems to be a lot of talk around about some of the comments Scyld Berry's made, together with the choice of Ian Bell as one of the Five Cricketers of the year, alongside the more deserving Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ottis Gibson, Ryan Sidebottom and Zaheer Khan, at least two of whom were absolutely obvious selections.

Having not read any of Berry's comments in full I can't say very much, but I'm pleased he appears to have said something about the possibility of on-field violence and the duty of the ICC to try to prevent it happening. It's something I've been concerned about for a long time, and the events of the Australian winter only reinforced my views. I don't, though, have very much confidence in the ICC's ability to get to grips with the issue before (or even after) something serious happens. That said, they're probably in a flat spin at the moment about the effect which the forces of Indian commerce are threatening to have on world cricket. And if they're not, they should be.

I yield to absolutely no-one in my admiration for Ian Bell. As I've often stated, if he ever realizes just how good he could be he could become very good indeed (although I'm starting to doubt if he'll ever have the iron confidence which all really great players have, as that's something that's very hard - and probably impossible - to develop), but his achievements last summer don't in my opinion match up with the general standard set for Wisden selections. While acknowledging the quality he showed in the ODI arena (which he hasn't built upon since), he made 417 runs in 12 Test innings with one hundred and three fifties. Good, yes, but hardly briliant for someone with his potential.

Why not wait until he really starts to blossom?

Where We're At

A typically sober and well-balanced assessment of the current state of play in England vis-a-vis the IPL from CMJ.

The only conclusion, though, is that nobody really knows where we're at (let alone where on earth we'll be in a year's time).



After posting the piece about Giles Clarke this afternoon, I came across this on Cricinfo.

Greig is right about Clarke's use of WSC as a parallel (Botham was already in the England ODI side before Packer) but I'm less sure about his suggestion that the ECB should start its own rival to the IPL.

Sure, it could be done (and probably will be), but is it going to attract the type of investment that the IPL has in a country where cricket is barely on the radar in terms of levels of interest in comparison with India?

Unlikely, but if someone started a football league...

Wait a minute, that happened in 1992.

A Convincing Canute

Meanwhile, back here in England, Giles Clarke does a convincing impersonation of King Canute as he tries to hold back the inevitable. The bottom line - and Clarke, as a successful businessman, must know this - is that money talks. And the IPL sums are so great that they won't just talk. They'll shout very loudly.

He's right to flag up the 2009 Ashes and his point about the way in which player burnout suddenly seems to have been forgotten about is well made, but if Freddie and KP decide they want to cash their chips in with the IPL before next summer there may not be a lot he can do about it.

The idea of 'freelance' internationals is an interesting one, and it would be equally interesting to see if the England selectors were prepared to be as hardline as Clarke is, and, if they were, what the public will think. My feeling is that English supporters will want to see what they perceive to be their country's strongest possible side playing against Australia next summer and they won't feel that the fact that someone's 'prepared' for an Ashes series by playing twenty over cricket for piles of cash in India should necessarily prevent him doing so.

However, as the old cliche goes, this one will run and run and run...


Ronnie and Shiv

It was great to see West Indies complete their first Test win at Port-of-Spain since 2000 last night, with the majority of the runs scored by the two classy Guyanese occupants of their middle-order, the enigmatic but resolutely classy Sarwan and their rock of ages, Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

Like every other Windies victory over recent years it probably doesn't mean very much - they remain a side with too many weaknesses to be capable of winning consistently at home, let alone away, but it did bring a few more people into the ground and give an idea of what things might be like if they ever get their act together properly.

Australia, coming soon, will be a much stiffer test.


Earning A Living

Earning a living has been my main priority over the last few days, but I caught some fleeting glimpses of the second India-South Africa Test and even less of the West Indies-Sri Lanka game in Port-of-Spain.

In Motera a couple of things stood out: The continuing excellence of Dale Steyn, the most improved and now the most potent quickie on the international circuit, and the fact that AB de Villiers, a player of obvious and vast potential, finally went on to make a truly significant Test score.

Both players, but especially Steyn, will pose more than their fare share of problems for England this summer, a series which seems sure to be tightly-contested and which I'm really looking forward to.

Someone who has had time to produce a more detailed analysis of what went on is Homer, and he poses a number of legitimate questions about the place in which Indian cricket currently finds itself.

Better than at many times in the past to be sure, but as capable of self-inflicted turmoil as any other entity in the sporting world.



Five years for criticising the Pakistan board? Shoaib's punishment sounds unduly harsh and it remains to be seen whether it sticks. Over at Cricinfo Osman Samiuddin tries to make sense out of the confusion.

Whether or not we see him again, this is what he could do when he was at his best:

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