JULY 23, 2014

Eleven suggestions to enhance Test cricket

Rustom Deboo: Better marketing, a more uniform calendar, killing the two-Test series and more
Bring on day-night Test cricket already © Getty Images
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JULY 23, 2014

Cricket

Gray Nicolls Scoop turns 40

The Gray Nicolls Scoop, the bat every kid wanted for Christmas, turns 40 this year. Russell Jackson gives the history of the bat, popularised by the Chappell brothers and David Hookes, in the Guardian.

"I tell you what, you've hit the bonanza!" says Robert "Swan" Richards as he pulls a pile of photo albums and scrapbooks out of storage containers under a desk in his office. I've turned up to Richards' cricket store in Collingwood, north of Melbourne, in search of clues about the somewhat mythical origins of the Gray Nicolls Scoop, the sword in the stone of all cricket bats and a bona fide object of desire in the cricket world of the 1970s and 80s.

JULY 23, 2014

India in England 2014

England's status quo cannot prevail

Jos Buttler coming in for Matt Prior could be the only certain change to the England XI for the Rose Bowl Test, but save for the wicketkeeper's spot, more places deserve to come under scrutiny. England should not select players who are not 100% fit and that includes Stuart Broad and on form alone, Ben Stokes' position cannot be taken for granted, writes Mike Selvey in the Guardian.

Whether, with the exception of Buttler for Prior, the XI who take the field remain the same is another matter: they ought not to be. There is always a school of thought that suggests those who got things into a mess deserve the chance to rectify it. After a fashion, this is how Cook's continuation as captain, and indeed player, might be viewed. It is certainly the stance that he takes, although he does not use the word "deserve". He does not wish to be seen quitting on a job for which, as captain, he is taking responsibility not just for his recent failings but those of others, senior colleagues largely, as well

In the same paper, Vic Marks writes that Buttler should be allowed time to settle into his new role and even make a few mistakes along the way, given that he took to wicketkeeping fairly late.

Buttler kept wicket at school but it was his batting that astounded and won him a contract at Somerset. His first games for the club were as a batsman, who could strike the ball with staggering purity - and as a quite breathtaking outfielder. Only when England called up Somerset's regular keeper, Craig Kieswetter, to their one-day side did Buttler take the gloves for the county. Initially he did this more out of duty than unbridled enthusiasm.

JULY 23, 2014

A strange, brutal magic

Jon Hotten: As Ishant Sharma showed at Lord's, short-pitched bowling can open old wounds and create sudden uncertainty
JULY 23, 2014

The reason for England's loss? T20, of course

Andrew Hughes: In this day and age no one appreciates the art of ducking against a short ball
JULY 22, 2014

One of England's stupidest quarter-hour brainmelts

Andy Zaltzman: At Lord's they began poorly, ended pitifully, and were fitful in between. And don't even start on their body language
JULY 22, 2014

India in England 2014

Saving Alastair Cook

After the Lord's Test ended with a 95-run defeat for England, Alastair Cook conceded it was one of his "darkest experiences" as captain of the side. It was England's 10th straight Test without a win and in that period, Cook has scored 420 runs in 19 innings at 22.1. Michael Vaughan in the Telegraph writes that the England selectors need to step in and pull Cook out of the captaincy mire so that the team doesn't lose him for good.

Cook will not want to resign. He would see that as a capitulation, a big failure of personality. But there was a revealing signal at Monday's post-match presentation, when he said that he was going to continue until he felt a "tap on the shoulder".
To me, that was almost like a cry for help. Somewhere deep down, I believe Cook wants the selectors to step in and pull him out of the fire, before it gets so hot that we lose him for good. This is a man with the capacity to score 13,000 Test runs.

In the same publication, Geoffrey Boycott writes that Cook has reached the end of the line as captain and relieving him of those duties may just help him turn his form around.

It is as if England have no direction and there's no common sense in the dressing room. Cook needs to go as captain and maybe stay for one more Test as a batsman only. In the famous Ashes series of 1981, Ian Botham resigned the captaincy after making a pair at Lord's, releasing all the mental pressure on himself, and then went out and performed heroics at Headingley.
Maybe the same process could work for Cook.
We saw Cook receive an almost silent welcome from the MCC members on Sunday as he walked back through the pavilion gate, just as Botham did all those years ago. The issues are staring everybody in the face.

JULY 22, 2014

Demons in the pitch

Satish Acharya
JULY 22, 2014

Are Test batsmen maturing quicker these days?

Michael Jeh: Of late Rahane, Robson, Ballance and Stokes have all made hundreds in their first five Tests. Does that point to a larger trend?
JULY 21, 2014

5/1 for India to take series 3-1

ESPNcricinfo staff: After their historic win at Lord's, India are well-placed to kick on and win the series. They are 5/1 to triumph 3-1.
JULY 21, 2014

India in England 2014

'Ravindra played like a Jadeja'

Ravindra Jadeja has been associated more with controversy than with meaningful contributions on the field on this tour to England. Lord's welcomed him with boos, but he hardly cared. He hardly cared his form was poor, he hardly cared that James Anderson had the new ball to vent his frustration. Jadeja sent England on a leather hunt and Sandeep Dwivedi, in Indian Express, says his innings epitomised his personality.

England had tried to wind up Jadeja but it hadn't worked. Had they checked with someone in the Saurashtra dressing room, they would have known that instigating Ravindra, or any other Jadeja, a community of warriors and rulers, is always counter-productive. His coach from school days in Jamnagar, Mahendrasinh Chauhan, had once spoken about this 'Jadeja mindset'. "Ravindra plays like a Jadeja. We are a very proud community and have a certain ego."

Matt Prior has had a torrid time behind the stumps in the Tests against India, conceding the equal most byes by an England wicketkeeper in a home Test since 1934 at Lord's. He hasn't been in form as a batsman, either. Osman Samiuddin, in his column for the National, sympathises with Prior and says that his lack of wicketkeeping form could be eating into his confidence as a batsman.

When they are not looking so lonely and miserable, we look at modern wicketkeepers as blessed, because they are now all-rounders. If they do have a bad day with the gloves, they can always better it with the bat.

On his good days, Prior was a handy batting enforcer, his momentum-changing capabilities outshining his glovework. Now though, even that has gone.

JULY 21, 2014

No home advantage in World Cups

Ahmer Naqvi: A small pool of teams could be an important reason why only one team has lifted the trophy in front of its home crowd
JULY 21, 2014

Anderson v Jadeja: the hearing

James Marsh: What goes down when the two naughty boys are hauled up in front of the judicial commissioner
JULY 20, 2014

Is Jesse Ryder Mathew Sinclair in disguise?

Beige Brigade: The boys discuss the day-night Test match (and reckon it will be Adelaide), whether Jesse Ryder will make a New Zealand comeback, and are staggered again by Mark Vermeulen
JULY 20, 2014

England cricket

Paranormal Activity: The London files

If the England team management's word is anything to go by, it turns out there is, in fact, a valid reason why several players over the last few days have looked as if they had just seen a ghost.

According to the Daily Mail, England are convinced that their five-star central London hotel, the Langham, is haunted, with Stuart Broad openly admitting to moving rooms because he was "freaked out".

"It was so hot in my room I just couldn't sleep. All of a sudden, the taps in the bathroom came on for no reason," he said. "I turned the lights on and the taps turned themselves off. Then when I turned the lights off again the taps came on. It was very weird.

"It really freaked me out. I ended up asking to move rooms. Bealey (Broad's girlfriend) was pretty spooked, too, and I know Moeen Ali's other half won't stay there because she's so frightened of the ghosts.

"Ben Stokes has had some problems sleeping as well. He's on the third floor, which is where a lot of the issues are. I'm telling you, something weird is going on."

Room 333 is believed to be the most haunted room with the hotel's own website stating: 'In 1973 a BBC radio announcer James Alexander-Gordon awoke suddenly in the night to see a fluorescent ball which slowly took on the shape of a man wearing Victorian evening wear. The announcer asked the ghost what it wanted and it began to float towards him, with its legs cut off some two feet below the ground, arms outstretched, eyes staring emptily. At this point the announcer got up and fled.'

This, however, is not the first instance of international cricketers being spooked during a tour. In 2005, Shane Watson had to famously share a room with Brett Lee as he was frightened of ghostly activities at the Lumley Castle Hotel near Durham.

Worse yet for Watson, former England seamer Darren Gough made sure that the Australia allrounder did not forget about his scary experience soon enough.

JULY 20, 2014

Poetic justice

Satish Acharya
JULY 20, 2014

A man of his people

Janaka Malwatta: Mahela Jayawardene embodies artistry and steel in his batting, and warmth and humanity off the field
JULY 19, 2014

India in England 2014

Cook's form invites vultures

Alastair Cook's recent form has invited scathing criticism from experts. While some have suggested that Cook should drop himself from the side, others are prepared to wait and watch, writes Andy Wilson in the Guardian

It will be in the second innings here - when India will be the real vultures, which at least has a little ornithological accuracy as the birds are making a welcome comeback in pockets of the subcontinent - and in the Tests at Southampton, Manchester and at The Oval, if he survives that long, that Cook must save himself. "I'm not sure he will come through this," said Brearley, with devastating honesty. "A lot will depend on the next match or two. If England lose this series and he fails to get any big scores, it will be hard for him to stay in the job.""

Scyld Berry, in the Telegraph, focues on Gary Ballance, saying the batsman from Zimbabwe has adopted similar virtues as Graham Thorpe and Jonathan Trott.

JULY 19, 2014

India in England 2014

Ashwin should have played at Lord's - Swann

Graeme Swann, the former England offspinner, lent support to India offspinner R Ashwin saying he should have been playing at Lord's. He added it was too early to judge Ashwin as he hasn't played in overseas conditions enough. In an interview to BCCI.TV, Swann also talked about him being the lone classical spinner in an era of mystery bowlers.

When you're used to bowling in India it is not easy to adjust quickly to bowling overseas. That's because in India it is very easy to find the right pace to bowl at as a spinner as compared to these conditions. Since most wickets in India are pretty slow and low, even if you are a little wayward, you don't get punished. In England and especially Australia, if you pitch it slightly short or wide, you get smashed. I'm sure Ashwin can bowl really well outside India because his record in India is fantastic. And if he can do it there he can do it anywhere.

JULY 19, 2014

The decline of the specialist attacking bowler

Kartikeya Date: Why do teams pick a fourth bowler who is practically incapable of taking five wickets in a Test innings simply because he can score a fighting 40?
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