When All's Said...

It's all been said about Tendulkar and his 200. Suffice to say that at nearly 37 he's playing as well as he's ever done. The perceived signs of ageing that a few of us discerned around the time of the 2007 England tour were illusory and coincidental, and he looks fit and ready to go on for a while yet.

The thing I liked most about the innings was that it was made at Gwalior, a small, up-country venue at which the atmosphere was truly vibrant.

People in India love cricket, but they love SRT even more.


Everyone's Favourite Australian

For all his 310 Test wickets, Brett Lee was a bowler who never quite fulfilled his potential. For, as a younger bowler, he had most everything needed to cut a swathe through the world's batting: the athletic, innately rhythmical action, the searing pace, and, in the right conditions, the ability to do unusual things with the ball. He probably should have been the next great Australian fast bowling hero, but the consistent excellence of McGrath and Gillespie, together with the later litany of injuries which has finished his Test career, cost him some of the plaudits which should have been his.

From an English viewpoint memories of Lee will always centre on 2005. Tearing in from the Pavilion End on the first afternoon at Lord's after Australia had been bowled out cheaply, vainly attempting to win the closest of matches at Edgbaston, nailing Flintoff as England's chase faltered at Trent Bridge and terrorising Pietersen on the last day at The Oval in a spell which touched heights of pace and aggression unseen on an English ground since the days when the West Indies pace attack stalked the earth.

And then there was the fact that he always seemed to be smiling, his demeanour embodying a warmth, sincerity and quiet charisma which I think made him as popular in England as any Australian cricketer in the thirty-plus years that I've been watching the game. Many Australian cricketers have achieved grudging respect in this country, but this was something different.

When it comes to genuine pace, two bowlers from the past twenty years or so stand out in the tableau of the mind: Lee and Shoaib Akhtar. With Shoaib never likely to recapture his best form, it'll be good to have Lee around for a while longer in the limited-overs arena, where he has often done his best work.

The incessantly demanding modern game mitigates against fast bowling excellence. As time passes, bowlers like Lee are going to become rarer and rarer. And, where they do break through, they surely won't smile as much.

Enjoy him while you can.


Air of Inevitability

For anyone who has regularly seen Craig Kieswetter play for Somerset over the last few years (and I have), his promotion to the England one-day squad had an air of inevitability about it. With Matt Prior's failure to make the most of his opportunities with the bat in the over-limit game, I suspect it won't be long before Kieswetter is in the starting eleven, and, once he's there, he may take a lot of shifting. The Test side will probably take longer, but that, surely, will come.

Kieswetter, for as much as he's become a crowd favourite at Taunton, is South African. Not someone who happened to be born there but learned his cricket in England (like Prior himself, or Andrew Strauss), just South African. With a Scottish mother, but South African.

Regardless of England's seasoned history of playing players with South African backgrounds, it's hard not to feel a pang of discomfort as a third player with a history of junior cricket in that country makes his way into the current team.

But what can be done? I seem to remember Geoff Miller muttering something about possible future problems last summer, but the only way round it would seem to be a decision on the part of the selectors not to select the best player for a particular position if he'd learned his cricket elsewhere. And that's hard to envisage.

No, we'll just have to rely on county cricket producing more players of the required standard. And that (for a range of reasons that could probably fill an entire blog) is pretty hard to envisage too.

Good luck, Craig.


Ending in Credit

As someone who grew up as a cricket fan in the days when satellite television didn't exist and Rupert Murdoch was just a newspaper proprietor (well, I'm sure he wasn't just that really, but you know what I mean), I try not to take for granted the fact that it's now so easy to see so much cricket from all over the world.

Back in the old days it was just a crackly TMS transmission from Bombay or Melbourne or Christchurch or St.John's and a few grainy pictures on the evening news if you were lucky. And that was if England were playing. If they weren't you'd be searching for the scores in the Daily Telegraph and then waiting at least a month for some grainy snaps in Wisden Cricket Monthly or The Cricketer.

Now, of course, it's all different. On a drizzly Monday morning, as the coldest English winter for years stretches endlessly on, what better way to make the return to the daily grind bearable than by watching a partnership between two of the greatest batsmen of all time?

Tendulkar was often subdued, content to play second fiddle to Sehwag's usual hypnotic and unstoppable blend of power and subtlety, but he emerged from his shell whenever he felt like it, notably when he despatched Wayne Parnell with a dismissiveness that suggested he might have been pointing out that he'd been seeing off better bowlers than Parnell since Parnell himself was in nappies.

Not that Tendulkar is ever that arrogant. He just likes to bat, and a placid Eden Gardens track, with a lively crowd in, was the type of situation in which he likes to bat most.

By the close they were both gone, but India ended the day in credit.


Identity Crisis

It's been quiet here, hasn't it? It's not that there haven't been things going on in the world of cricket but there have just been too many things going on in my little world to enable me to find the time to comment about them.

But then things changed. Earlier this week I received an e-mail from the Bangalore Royal Challengers informing me that 'if you aren't already a Royal Challengers fan, we think it's high time you started cheering them on'.

Er, right. Thanks for the advice, but there's one problem: I've never seen the Bangalore Royal Challengers play. In fact, as I don't have the right TV channels, I've never seen a match played by any of the IPL sides.

But wait, it gets better: 'As a cricket blogger yourself, we thought you'd be interested in this challenge. Fanatic Fans Challenge 2 is a war to become the Royal Challenger’s [sic] official Chief Blogger, Chief Photographer, Chief Videographer and Chief Podcaster. The 4 Chief fans will join the team everywhere they go during IPL. They’ll be at 5am practices with the team, they’ll be pumping iron with them during practice. They’ll be part of the team strategy meets, and they’ll be at the TEAM PARTIES. Club Royal Challengers organized this last year at CLT20 – and they’re doing it this year, BIGGER AND BETTER'.

I still try and play the odd bit of cricket myself when my creaking body's up to it, but a '5 am practice' with a team of professional cricketers? Even if I'm not required to take part, the idea of watching cricket practice at 5 o'clock in the morning isn't all that appealing, and as for 'pumping iron with them', well, there are easier ways of ending up in hospital.

What's more, the e-mail was headed 'Dear Brian Carpenters'. What? Is there more than one of me? Such a suggestion could be enough to give a sensitive middle-aged man an identity crisis.

No, despite its attractions I don't think it's for me. While I like a bit of Twenty20 as much as anyone else, I'm a traditionalist. I like good old English Twenty20, as seen every summer at Leicester, Chelmsford or Bristol. Not the bastardised Indian variant that's threatening to take over the world.

Or is it? Personally I think there's a lot to be said for Michael Vaughan's view, expressed in the Daily Telegraph last week, although I don't think the situation is quite as simple as he portrays.

We live and learn.

PS Sorry 'RCB' for any offence caused. I've got nothing against you and I was only trying to be mildly ironic. Don't send the boys (KP? Kallis? God forbid, Ray Jennings?) round.

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