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JUNE 02, 2014

England cricket

Broad's Brisbane trial

Stuart Broad has a endured winter riddled with disappointment, in Australia and then in the World T20. He was likely to receive a sour welcome on the return Ashes series after choosing not to walk when he nicked to first slip. He had sought psychiatric help, but in an interview with Donald McRae for Guardian, Broad recounts how the events of the first day of the Brisbane Test were beyond what he expected.

Broad looks almost shocked again. How did he feel amid such raw animosity? "I just went 'Wow - that's 50,000 people properly booing me'. It ruffled me and I bowled a no-ball with my first delivery. I also slung one down leg side in that over. So I must admit I was shaken by it.

"But I got a wicket with my first ball next over and I felt fine. I went down to deep square and the whole crowd stood up and shouted and I had a singalong with them and just relaxed. There was a moment when I found myself whistling along to 'Broady is a wanker' and I thought: 'What am I doing here?' It was a hell of an experience for a 27-year-old to go through. I'll never face anything that tough again."

JANUARY 07, 2014

The Ashes 2013-14

A victory for hard work and desire

There have been plenty of low moments for Australia in recent years, but Sunday at the SCG made them feel a lifetime ago. The Ashes celebrations will carry on for a while yet and, writing for the Guardian, Aaron Timms takes a detailed look at what the nature of the whitewash means

Was this the best series victory Australia's cricket team has ever produced? I have no idea; in any event, "best" is a bland superlative. But there's little doubt that this was the most carnal of victories - carnal because it was a pure product of desire, an achievement so driven by lust it could easily pass as a Pedro Almodovar film ("La Revancha: Los Ashes"). And it was a victory that, more than any other in recent memory, the country as a whole could relate to at a deep level, a feast more enjoyable for the famine that preceded it, the kind of win to make you believe in progress, and self-betterment, and the very perfectibility of things.

SEPTEMBER 20, 2013

English cricket

Durham reaps the rewards of empowerment

On Thursday, Durham won their third Championship title in 21 years, a victory that was built entirely by players picked from the community. In the Telegraph, Scyld Berry says that the Durham's victory is an example of what can be achieved when new regions are empowered with first-class status. While admitting that the addition of another county may stretch first-class cricket resources too thin, Berry also suggests that the road ahead for English cricket may lie in empowering communities.

I suspect our inner cities contain many cricketers who play below the official radar of premier leagues, or never play formal cricket at all, now or in the past. Not a single England Test player has been born in Wolverhampton, one in Hull, two in Stoke-on-Trent, and one in Liverpool since the nineteenth century.

There needs to be a pathway for inner-city players of all ethnicities, who either have no access to proper cricket facilities or cannot afford to join the few inner-city clubs that exist, with their costly membership and match fees, quite apart from expensive kit.

AUGUST 27, 2013

The Investec Ashes 2013

Booing no more a reflex, but a calculated first strike

Booing has been a fairly prominent feature in the Investec Ashes, with the English crowd regularly making its feelings towards the Australian players heard. At The Oval, after a day of dramatic cricket, Michael Clarke was unjustifiably subjected to the spectators' wrath, says Greg Baum, writing in the Age, where he explores why the fans of today heckle players.

A crowd by definition has its own mind, not necessarily in sync with any one member and more extreme than any of them. It is improbable that any would boo Clarke, Watson or O'Brien to their faces.Crowds never have been obliged to be nuanced and fair, of course. Many in history have been moved beyond even drunken verbal excess to terrible violence. AFL and cricket have in common that they have largely been spared this. Often, crowds in these sports are one-sided and intimidating, even blood-curdling. David Lloyd, former England batsman and coach, now ever charming pundit, once laughed off a call for a gentler polity in the stands in England during an Ashes series. ''I remember '74-'75, Lillee and Thomson,'' he said. ''No milk of human kindness then; it were 'kill, kill, kill'.''

Malcolm Knox, in the Sydney Morning Herald, directs his attention to the power shift in Ashes cricket with England beating Australia in four of the last five series, and yet the victors continue to fear their old rivals.

To some degree, Australia's best allies in this series were the English. If there was one team out there that had a 100 per cent, rock-solid belief that Australia could win Test matches, it was England. This began with the preparation of pitches. So scared were the English of Australia's fast bowlers, they ordered wickets that neutralised the strength in pace on both sides, and to some degree did England's batsmen as much harm as Australia's. Dry, slow, Indian-style wickets made it hard work for seamers and batsmen alike, all so that England could exploit their advantage in spin and occasionally reverse swing

AUGUST 09, 2013

Cricket in unusual places

Cricketing postcards from Estonia

In an article for Wisden India, Sara Torvalds, a Finland-based cricket fan, recounts a cricket tour that began with a comment to an online over-by-over session, of England's third Test against India in Kolkata, on the Guardian, and ended with three teams on a cricket pitch in Tallinn, Estonia. Along the way, she also shares her evolution from a person who knew nothing about the game to a person who became a Steven Finn supporter 'in a land of Finns'.

It took me more than a year of reading the cricket reports of various British papers. I started following the over-by-over reports on the Guardian's site, and found that the pace of the game opened up for me there. Wikipedia explained words like 'crease' and 'duck', and the various manners you could be 'out' according to the Laws of the game. And then, during England's tour of West Indies in early 2009, I suddenly understood cricket.

"Brilliant. It's utterly brilliant. It's like chess, but with real people," I remember thinking. "And you have to factor in the weather and how the ball behaves in different countries, and the fact that grounds are not uniform in sizeā€¦" It hadn't been love at first sight, but I was in love now.

AUGUST 08, 2013

The Investec Ashes 2013

When Australia's cricket was a 'very light shade of grey'

The last time an Australian touring side was 2-0 down after three Tests in the Ashes was in 1977. By the end of the series, which England won 3-0, Wisden would go on to describe their cricket as a 'very light shade of grey'. Neil Clark, in the Spectator, reminisces about the strange summer where he rooted for Australia in spite of being a Brit (a following based on his love for the underdog) and found a hero in former Australian opener Ian Davis.

In cricket, supporting the underdog meant siding with Australia when they came to contest the Ashes in Britain in 1977. I had cheered on England in 1975 against the Australians and in 1976 when they took on the West Indies. But in the summer of 1977, I kind of fell in love with the Australian team. Everything was against them.

APRIL 29, 2013

IPL 2013

Kohli's pot-to-kettle moment

The jeers from the Wankhede crowd may have hurt Virat Kohli and made him question the aspect of crowd loyalty in the IPL, but has suddenly highlighted the tournament's engagement with fans. In the Indian Express, Sandeep Dwivedi believes the incident is an indicator of the emerging fan loyalties

Kohli missed the point and had a pot-to-kettle kind of hypocritical exchange with the MI fans. Gambhir for him was a rival, not a Delhi or India team-mate. But when Mumbai treated him like a rival, he sulked. Wankhede, in the past, had booed Tendulkar, that too while he wore India's whites. Kohli should have known better.

In Wisden India, Shamya Dasgupta writes that Kohli should learn to the crowd reaction in his stride because it's the fans' right to cheer and jeer.

As far as I am concerned, a sport exists because of the people who watch it. The crowd is an unempowered entity that can only do two things during a match - cheer and jeer - and only one more thing afterwards, which is to talk about the game, on street corners and on Twitter. An international sportsperson must be able to take all reactions in his stride, and know that he is who he is because of his fans. The fans don't exist because of him.

APRIL 09, 2013

Cricket

Pitch invasions of the stranger kind

A pig, a stool and an irate fan... It's not the start of a joke you've never heard. Rather, it's the cast of unique characters who invaded the cricket pitch during matches in the 1980s. In the Guardian, Steven Pye looks back at some famous encroachments from beyond the boundary line.

APRIL 06, 2013

English county season 2013

A Siberian day of no play

Paul Weaver in the Guardian muses over the biting-cold start to the English county season in Hove.

There was everything, in fact, apart from a small tent and the flag of Norway to inform us that Roald Amundsen, Scott's old adversary, had beaten us to it.

MARCH 17, 2013

Australian cricket

The Indian influence in Australian cricket

With a large immigrant population, Cricket Australia is devising a 'diversity strategy' to assimilate and attract more players from Asian backgrounds. In the Age, Jake Niall believes this can benefit the game with effects that go beyond the playing field.

The cricket diversity strategy needs a specific subcontinental bent, because Australian cricket's future lies with the subcontinent - and with the subcontinent within Australia. It should study carefully what the AFL has managed with indigenous Australia, albeit Indians et al are coming from a very different place.

MARCH 15, 2013

English cricket

An appreciation of Graeme Swann

Graeme Swann's elbow surgery has drawn attention to his importance in the English side and also set people thinking about the big Swann-sized hole in English cricket that will appear once he retires. In the Guardian, Barney Ronay pens an appreciation of a talent that is uniquely orthodox in a rapidly changing game.

A Test debutant aged 28 he has become England's defining off-spinner of the modern era, able to attack or defend, contain or destroy, to dismiss with both rip and bluff. Plus there is the paradox of his glorious orthodoxy as a bowler. Elsewhere, finger-spin has become a poutingly sexed-up business, a mille-feuille of intermingled variations, from the zinging, waddling, slingshot conjury of Saeed Ajmal to the princely, short-form poker player Sunil Narine. Swann, though, is something else, a bowler who, for all his dad-rock hipster slouch, is essentially old-fashioned, his method diligently refined over many years in county cricket.

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