|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Shop||Mobile|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.