Socio-cultural

JUNE 06, 2014

Offbeat

Green gloves, ducks and bats taped to ceilings

ESPNcricinfo staff

While reviewing Chris Waters' book 10 for 10 - on Hedley Verity's record - for the Guardian, Andy Bull recounts some entertaining stories of superstitions that cricketers have followed.

Others take things further still. Duck seemed so portentous to Steve James that he refused to eat it, and wouldn't even let his children have a rubber one to play with in the bath, until after his career was over. He sympathised with Neil McKenzie, who developed an obsession that meant he would go out to bat only when all the toilet seats were down, and even went through a phase of taping his bat to the ceiling because his team-mates had once done that to him on a day when he scored a century.

OCTOBER 02, 2013

Pakistan cricket

It's never just cricket in Pakistan

Cricket in Pakistan has a history of being tinted by ethnic and religious factors. Nadeem Paracha, in Dawn, presents a chronicle of curious selections, protests and regional rivalries, notably when a 24-year-old was appointed Pakistan captain.

Shortly before the series, Miandad was quoted by the press as saying that the senior players in the team were not co-operating with him. Majid Khan took offense and invited nine players to his home in Lahore and told them that he was going to refuse playing under Miandad. He said that Zaheer [Abbas] had agreed to do the same. The board decided to side with Miandad and he led a brand new team against the Lankans in the first Test of the series at Karachi's National Stadium.

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.

SEPTEMBER 07, 2013

Australia news

Fawad Ahmed's brave stance maintains team harmony

Australia legspinner, Fawad Ahmed's decision not to wear a beer-company sponsor's logo on his country shirt has sparked off a debate which has quickly moved beyond cricket and to touch upon larger issues of immigration and integration within the Australian society. A few have criticised Ahmed for his decision but as Malcolm Knox points out in the Sydney Morning Herald, the issue is not just about one player but about sport being open to changes within societies and cultures.

Whenever sports try to insulate themselves from change, they self-destruct. So let's imagine that a national symbol, such as the gold shirt Ahmed wears as an Australian one-day cricketer, does not impose a national character. Let's imagine that it's the wearer who changes the character of the shirt. In Ahmed's personal history, is there not the courage and durability we associate with a Hewitt (or a Dawn Fraser, a Herb Elliott, a Dennis Lillee, take your pick)? In his refusal to wear a VB logo, is there not something of that wilfulness that we like to call ''Australian''? In choosing to be here, rather than being born here, has he not already proved something?

Ahmed also finds support from Guardian writer, Joe Gorman who says his decision not wear the logo should be praised if Australia truly values moral conviction.

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 size…" It hadn't been love at first sight, but I was in love now.

APRIL 07, 2013

Cricket history

A constant in a disorderly world

Often called the 'cricketing Bible', almost to the point of a cliché, Wisden Cricketers' Almanack will release its 150th edition next week. As he traces the history of Wisden and the challenges it faces in the modern era, former editor Matthew Engel writes in the Financial Times that Wisden offers "the illusion of timelessness, which is at the heart of cricket's appeal".

"I am not sure anyone quite understands it. What I have learnt is that it appeals most to people who love books first, and cricket second, not the other way round. That collectability is crucial. And that what readers love most is the way, searching for one fact, one gets diverted for hours: it is a reference book double-plus. Plus there is that solid, distinctive name: as Australian writer Murray Hedgcock once pointed out, Wisden would never have worked had the founder been John Smith, Jones or Robinson."

In the Telegraph, Simon Briggs says the iconic yellow jacket still marks a fixed point in a disorder world.

Stephen Moss pays tribute to the classic that reminds him of a brick. In the Observer, he muses that perhaps the real reason to collect it is so that "one can build a small house, a protection against the real world that helps its readers forget that time must move on."

APRIL 03, 2013

Cricket history

CLR's wife remembers Beyond a Boundary

There are few books on cricket that have had as powerful and as lasting an impact as CLR James' Beyond a Boundary. Fifty years after its publication, it is still regarded by many as the greatest book on the game. Writing in the Guardian, Selma James, wife of CLR, shares her insights into a book that her husband "had to write".

Establishing early the interconnection between cricket and race and class divisions opens the way for Beyond a Boundary to fulfil its author's full purpose: to draw out other startling connections - cricket and art, life in ancient Greece, even rewriting English social history with cricket's great WG Grace as a crucial figure. As startling as his connections is the light he sheds on each - not only cricket but every subject benefits from shattering boundaries. We are invited to reject the fragmenting of reality, and to see its diverse interconnections without which we are prevented from ever knowing anything fully - including our own reality. What do they know of cricket, or anything, if it is walled off from every other aspect of life and struggle?

MARCH 30, 2013

Cricket news

The instinct of walking away

As a lifeskills coach, one of the things that Michael Jeh teaches young cricketers is knowing when to walk away from a provocation fuelled by alcohol or drugs - situations that can quickly spiral out of control and end tragically for the people involved. In the aftermath of the assault on Jesse Ryder, Jeh, writing in the Mid day, says that recognising these situations is also an instinct that is honed over time.

It is this life lesson that I try to imbue in the minds of these young athletes who are used to living on razor- sharp instincts because that is the source of their sporting genius. And yet sometimes, there is that fine line between acting instinctively, and knowing when to defy instinct. Depending on the circumstance, either option could be a life-saver but the hard part is to know which button to push in which situation.

That is where repeated practice comes into play. For cricketers who are used to hitting a thousand balls a day, they often rail at the notion of sitting through workshops that simulate real life at a pub or a nightclub. Their young brains, still in the formative stage where neurons are making permanent connections, cannot readily grasp why it is necessary to practice life itself.

MARCH 29, 2013

Indian Premier League 2013

Stance on SL players against IPL's spirit

Since its inception, the Indian Premier League has gained recognition not just for the talent on display but for the role it has played in sustaining the sport around the world. Given this stature, the recent controversy surrounding the participation of Sri Lankan players and the IPL's response to the issue may have done the game a disservice, writes Mini Kapoor in the Indian Express.

The roll call of names is important because this expedient measure is, in the end, about them. It is not based on some abstract principle of not playing cricket with another country, which, highly debatable though it may have been, would have moved the discussion away from the field of play. As the state of play currently stands, Sri Lankan players are very much part of the IPL, they will play at other venues, and it is only on account of presumed security concerns in Tamil Nadu that they will not be allowed to alight on the Chennai ground. This move is, then, clearly not about using sport as an element of coercive diplomacy to pressure the Sri Lankan government to deliver on devolution, reconciliation and rehabilitation. It is only targeted at a bunch of individuals to make some point -- which is what exactly?

MARCH 13, 2013

England news

The decline of working-class cricketers in England

Before the Second World War, the majority of the English team were of a working-class background. When England took the field against New Zealand, that number dropped to one-third. BR from the Economist investigates the worrying trend.

Today's schools, obsessed with academic league tables, prefer to concentrate on more scholarly subjects. This means shunning cricket, which is seen as taking too long to play compared with other sports. Finally, cricket has also fallen victim to the ubiquity of football, which now dominates the sports media and is the primary sporting obsession for most youngsters.

This has led to a vicious circle. As fewer people play the game, there are fewer new teachers competent at coaching it. While most physical education teachers feel comfortable overseeing a football kickabout, cricket requires them to impart more technical skills. If they do not have them, they are more likely to turn to a simpler sport such as rounders to fulfill the "striking/fielding" requirement of the national curriculum.

MARCH 11, 2013

India news

The evolution of Parvez Rasool

In Tehelka, Baba Umar traces the growth of Jammu & Kashmir allrounder Parvez Rasool, stating that one of the biggest challenges he faces is shutting out political symbolism.

His achievements as a player are astonishing because of the odds stacked against cricketers from Kashmir. The weather, for a start, leaves fewer months to play cricket than in most other parts of the country and the lack of infrastructure means many club teams are forced to quit.

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