JANUARY 26, 2015

Australia cricket

Clarke and the looming hurricane

ESPNcricinfo staff

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Andrew Webster believes Michael Clarke could be on a collision course with Cricket Australia, with tensions arising partly due to team selections and animosity over his fitness that has broken his relationship with key officials in the board.

Clarke is at war with his superiors. And, as much as he belligerently holds onto the idea of playing for his country again, it is also clear his teammates have moved on without him.

In Steve Smith they trust. It's that simple.

Former South African captain Graeme Smith probably doesn't know how close to the bone he cut when he said this last week: "Michael has been an outstanding captain, but is more of an abrasive personality. It will be interesting to see now that they have been under Smith for the last few months and if Michael moves back into that space, how then that shifts the personality of the team."

There are two issues at play here: Clarke's broken relationship with Cricket Australia management and his relationship with his teammates.

JANUARY 26, 2015

Cricket history

Talking the language of cricket

In the weekly BBC podcast Stumped, Alison Mitchell chats with David Studham, head librarian at the Melbourne Cricket Club, and Susie Dent, a lexicographer, to find out how cricketing terms and phrases have seeped into conversational English.

JANUARY 26, 2015

New Zealand cricket

Beige and after in New Zealand

The beige uniform had caused quite a stir when first foisted on a bemused New Zealand team, writes Nick Edlin in the New Zealand Herald, as he speaks to former players about the impact coloured clothing had on the game in the country.

"We weren't happy about the colour," says Ewen Chatfield. "I don't think New Zealand Cricket had any choice. How they came to pick beige, I don't know."

Fellow fast bowler Gary Troup was also nonplussed. "We were saying it didn't really fit anything we've ever done in New Zealand, so it had no relevance to us as players. We resented it slightly because we seemed to be the odd one out. Everybody else had colours that related to their country."

JANUARY 25, 2015

Corruption in the IPL

What after the 'innocent megalomaniac'?

With its opacity and absence of corporate governance, the BCCI invited judicial review upon itself. N Srinivasan's conflict of interest had become too glaring, writes Ashok Malik in the Deccan Chronicle. He says that the end of the Srinivasan era offers a chance to chart a new course and professionalise the board.

In the end, a president will be found. What after that? Is it not time for a professional CEO at the BCCI or at least the IPL. The IPL needs to be spun off, with the BCCI as a sort of holding company. It needs a CEO who reports to BCCI officials but has autonomy of action, signs guarantees against conflict of interest and insider trading, is free to negotiate contracts with sponsors and vendors, must be accountable to pre-decided key performance indicators, and should have his or her annual bonuses determined by revenues and profits earned. In the future the IPL could even be listed on the stock market.

JANUARY 21, 2015

T20 cricket

Twenty20 hits a home run

The advent of T20s has encouraged more Americans to turn to cricket as a serious career option, writes Paul Rhys for CNN.

Julien Fountain, the former fielding coach for Pakistan's Test cricketers who also played baseball for Great Britain, is recruiting American players to a scheme he calls Switch Hit 20 -- aimed at taking the inherent aptitude and athleticism of ballplayers and training them in the nuances of Twenty20 cricket. "I'm not trying to take players away from a baseball career," says Fountain, who had tryouts with the Royals, the White Sox and the Mets, before coaching some of cricket's top international teams using skills learned in the ballpark.

JANUARY 19, 2015

Indian cricket

India defeats spell danger for Test cricket

They are the nation that pulls all the strings in world cricket and their previous success - the World Cup win in 1983 and World T20 triumph of 2007 - has created major change in the game. But now it is their lack of success that potentially creates the next shift. Charles Alexander and Peter Oborne argue in the Telegraph that India's demise in the longest format could spell the demise for the game at large.

It is Test cricket which could be squeezed out of the Indian TV schedules altogether to the point of extinction, save perhaps the iconic Ashes and domestic India Test Matches (if they can by then find any opposition.) Indian broadcasters privately predict and even welcome this outcome. Their focus, and financial investment, is on the World Cup of 2015. India will probably do well in front of massive domestic TV audiences. But the destruction of Test cricket, the highest form of the game, would in the end destroy the game itself.

JANUARY 17, 2015

West Indies cricket

Meet reggae musician Omari Banks

With 10 Tests and five ODIs to his name, Omari Banks, at the age of 20, became the first man from Anguilla to represent West Indies. However, post-retirement in 2012, Banks has switched tracks completely, turning his attention to music and becoming a reggae star. Nishad Pai Vaidya, writing for Cricket Country, has more.

With a father immersed in music, one wonders how young Banks took to cricket. He credits it to his uncle Val: "I enjoyed both music and sports from a young age. I played soccer and baseball as well. My uncle Val Banks was a very good cricketer in his own right and he represented Anguilla as a cricketer, was an administrator within the Leeward Islands as well as the West Indies setup. Before his role in administration he really spent a lot of time teaching and encouraging me with the game. I actually lived with my uncle and my aunt for a couple years when my mother was working on her Masters and my father was in Europe."

JANUARY 12, 2015

Indian cricket

Munaf Patel at peace with the slow life

It's been more than three years since Munaf Patel last played for India. The fast bowler, who was a World Cup winner in 2011, has been on international exile since August that year, but Munaf remains a hero in his village Ikhar. As someone who has seen fame and riches come and go, Munaf is at peace with himself. Sriram Veera of the Indian Express has more.

Meanwhile, his father isn't happy. Every day, at dinner, young Munaf is asked to quit playing cricket and join him at work. And eventually go to Africa. "I would just stay silent; my mother would tell him to let me play." For Ikhar, a village of poor cotton farmers, Africa was the passport out of poverty. Every year, a youngster or two would land up at a friend, relative or acquaintance's house in Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa or Zimbabwe to find work in a factory or a shop. Patel had an uncle in Zambia and so his future seemed set in stone. "You can't blame my father. No one here really knew that cricket had this kind of scope. That I can even earn money from this."

JANUARY 08, 2015

Test cricket

The tension between Tests and T20s

Is limited-overs cricket really a stain on the game? Is this tendency to favour the longer formats over ODIs and Twenty20s predominantly an English belief? Andy Bull, writing for the Guardian, has more.

The tension between the formats, which both Philby and Preston touch on, is not an exclusively English condition. Far from it. Clive Lloyd, who now seems to resemble a great grizzly bear as much as he does the cat from which he once got his nickname, complained last week that "this T20 competition" has "messed up" cricket in the West Indies. The players, Lloyd says, are going after the money: "It doesn't seem playing for our country is paramount." The example he gave was Andre Russell, who, at the age of 26, has played 17 first class matches, and 130 T20s. He's just told Lloyd - the WICB's head of selectors - that he doesn't want to play Test cricket, because his injured knee won't let him. "It's such a waste that we have a guy who could be a great cricketer who is now not thinking of playing both formats."

DECEMBER 31, 2014

Ranji Trophy 2014-15

Behind the scenes of J&K's emotional win

Sachin Padha, writing for The News Minute, explains the struggles the Jammu & Kashmir players underwent following catastrophic floods in the region, and how all their hard work and efforts culminated in a famous win against Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy.

It was almost certain that the J&K team would not able to make it to the Ranji trophy because of the catastrophic floods. Cricket is junoon (passion) in J&K. It's because of this junoon that the team was able to re-group and buckle-up themselves to prepare for the match. J&K state has had fanatics of Cricket but seldom fans. Cricket bats made of Kashmir willow are very famous across India. Even Sachin Tendulkar's first cricket bat was made of Kashmir willow. BCCI and state administration must try their best to preserve this passionate game in J&K. Will they succeed? That is for time to tell us.

DECEMBER 24, 2014

New Zealand cricket

The Adam Milne conundrum

A home World Cup is special to New Zealand and their build up has had people dusting out those dark horse quotes. Some have tipped them to clinch the trophy and to a large extent, that comes down to their abundant and impressive pace reserves. One of them, though, has posed an interesting problem to the captain, coach and selectors. Osman Samiuddin, in the National wonders how they can fit Adam Milne into the XI with Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Kyle Mills, Mitchell McClenaghan, Matt Henry and perhaps a couple of others as well

Milne is something else, though. There is nothing more bracing in cricket than happening on a new, largely unseen and super-quick bowler. If you have ever allowed the evening breeze of Karachi to bring you to life, especially after sweating away the day, it is precisely that effect. The world becomes a better place.

There is no better time for him to be in the side, either, with Shane Bond as bowling coach. There is actually something very Bond about Milne, not just in that upright simplicity as he begins his action but also in the stripped-down style of bowling itself.

DECEMBER 18, 2014

England cricket

A multitude of issues for England

The England selectors will sit down on Friday to pick the World Cup squad with questions still hanging over the head of captain Alastair Cook. In the Daily Mail, Nasser Hussain says it is not too late for England to make a change - a change he believes should have been made months ago - but the captain is not the only concern. He does not see the return of Stuart Broad and James Anderson as a quick fix for the bowler attack and still thinks England base their one-day cricket too much on Test match ideals.

When I helped compile the Schofield Report seven years ago, we were saying one-day cricket should be treated just as seriously as Test cricket and I see that Paul Downton was saying the same thing this week. Well, if England really mean it this time then they have to put faith in the younger, more dynamic batsmen who have grown up with Twenty20.

DECEMBER 12, 2014

New Zealand cricket

The making of Trent Boult

New Zealand fast bowler Trent Boult speaks to Andrew Alderson in the Herald on Sunday, on how his bowling has developed, his ODI career, his fitness, and his Cadets club.

"I used to come in and bowl as fast as I could but, over the years, I've learned there are times you have to bowl within yourself. I always talk about Dale Steyn 'sniffing the moment' to take the initiative in a game. A lot of people talk about 'the zone' but I prefer not to overthink it. At the Basin [during the 10-for] against the West Indies, I was just running in and letting it go hassle-free. Simple is the best recipe. Making sure I had the right wrist position was as complex as it got."

DECEMBER 11, 2014

Indian cricket

Vijay's turnaround

Since the home series against Australia last year, M Vijay has been a changed batsman, prepared to bat for long periods and lock away the flashy shots. The India opener tells bcci.tv about his preparedness to 'bat out of character' and the work he has put in to be able to do so.

My main focus was on getting out of the habit of those scores of 30s and 40s because they really haunted me. I had a chat with my coach, Jaykumar, during which we came out with three points: shot selection, shot selection and shot selection. Nothing was wrong technically with my batting, it was only the shot selection that went wrong. Then it came down to fitness - whether I was throwing it away because I got tired? We worked on small aspects like that and it is paying dividends now.

DECEMBER 11, 2014

Indian cricket

Meeting Bishan Bedi

On his recent trip to India, Gideon Haigh was spellbound listening to the steady stream of stories during a dinner with Bishan Bedi. Haigh writes of Bedi's 'enormous natural warmth' and his razor-sharp memory in the Cuts and Glances blog.

Indeed, it's almost as though Bishan never ceased playing. It might have been forty years ago, for example, but he recalled bowling to Barry Richards for the first time as though it were yesterday. Richards was then at his Himalayan peak; Bishan's Northants teammates, he recalled, built the encounter up to such a degree that he experienced a rare degree of apprehension, even nervousness. His plan became to wrong foot the batsman with close fielders: a slip, silly point, short mid wicket, leg slip. It got an immediate reaction. 'This will be interesting,' Richards said to the Northants keeper George Sharp. The South African came down the wicket to Bishan's first four deliveries and smashed them to the boundary. On the fifth, a little slower, a little shorter, he also advanced, but was beaten and stumped.

'Batsmen have egos, Gideon,' said Bishan. 'Egos!' Even Sachin? Even Sachin. On one Australian tour of India, he tried explaining this to Shane Warne: 'I told Shane that he had to make Tendulkar think. That there is nothing you can do about a straight six. You cannot set a field for it. You can only applaud.' But Warne, he sensed, was already somewhat in dread of Tendulkar, and loath to throw down any gauntlet that might be picked up.

DECEMBER 10, 2014

Zimbabwe cricket

Mark Vermuelen: arson, attempted suicide, cricket

In the BBC, Zimbabwe's Mark Vermuelen talks about his incident-packed life: from the multiple times he has been injured by bouncers, to trying to meet Robert Mugabe and his attempts to burn down the Harare Sports Club pavilion.

He drove 11 hours to Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world, with suicide in mind. "I'd had enough. I went to sleep in the gorge which the water falls into, wanting to never come back."The problem was the extreme noise. I was basically sleeping where the water fell in. It was like trying to sleep in a Laundromat with 20 washing machines going off. I slept for about three seconds. "I was ready to end my life, but Victoria Falls is quite an awesome place. It uplifted me a bit."

DECEMBER 06, 2014

India in Australia 2014-15

'It's what Hughesy would want'

In a column for cricket.com.au, Australia coach Darren Lehmann writes: " ... only time will provide the answer as to how ready and in what sort of frame of mind our guys will be when what will undoubtedly be an emotional lead-up to the first match culminates in the opening delivery at 10.30am on Tuesday morning. There is still a significant journey to get us to that point, but we expect every member of our squad to do what they can between now and then to ensure they are ready to play for their country."

Of course, it's not going to be normal. We know that. But in our practice and our preparation we will try to mirror what we've done in the past and get back to doing things that we know we do well that will allow us to perform in a Test match. It's a tough scenario for all, and only time will tell how everyone handles it. I'm pretty confident the boys are getting there. And that they are undoubtedly in better shape now than they were a week ago. We've just got to make sure that we continue to do what it is we do well. And that we look after one another.

DECEMBER 04, 2014

Phillip Hughes 1988-2014

The finest speech ever given by an Australian sportsman

Malcolm Knox writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that Michael Clarke's five-and-a-half minute tribute at Phillip Hughes' funeral "might have been the finest speech ever given by an Australian sportsman".

But it is precisely because this has not been a self-conscious act of leadership that Clarke has won the country's admiration and sympathy. In the past, he has been criticised for over-contrivance, acting with too much calculation of effect. What we have seen since November 25 has come straight from his heart, a part of the anatomy that Clarke's critics doubted was as warm as they wanted.

In the Australian, national coach Darren Lehmann shares his thoughts on why Hughes was such a widely-loved person.

You would only be too happy for one of your daughters to marry someone like Phillip. He was respectful, he had all the values we respect in the Australian team. He looked after his mates, he was honest, thoughtful and caring. He was everything you want a young player to be ... I know you are not supposed to have favourites as coaches, but he was certainly one of mine and I think all the staff felt the same. His desire to get back into the side was second to none. He suffered a few setbacks in his career but he kept bouncing back. It was a joy to see the player he developed into.

Ben Doherty writes in the Guardian of the way Hughes never lost sight of what a privilege it was to play for his country.

Australians are curiously proprietorial about their Test cricketers. Part of the price of living out that most sacrosanct of Australian dreams is that it must be shared with each of us ... But Hughes was not the property of the country whose baggy green cap he wore. He belonged here. He belonged to Macksville. He belonged to Greg and Virginia, his parents, who nurtured his gifts, though they'd take him from this town to 'the city' to be tested at only 17. He belonged to sister Megan, who idolised her older brother. He belonged to brother Jason whom he grew up battling in the endless-summer matches of a dozen rural seasons and who read out a letter to Phillip at the service: "I'll take good care of Dad, Mum, Megan, and, of course, your cows. And I promise to get back on the horse and play the game we both love." He belonged to the family farm, where he raised his beloved Angus cattle ... But perhaps above all of these, Phillip Hughes belonged to the middle.

DECEMBER 03, 2014

Phillip Hughes 1988-2014

'For Hughey'

As the cricket world farewells Phillip Hughes, Rupert McCall pays tribute to the former Australia batsman with a touching poem called 'For Hughey' on his YouTube channel.

For every ball in every game we've ever had to face,
A piece of that's been taken now and it's one we can't replace.
Besides the southern cross tonight, there shines an extra star,
A beacon that will find us and remind us who we are.

DECEMBER 02, 2014

Phillip Hughes 1988-2014

Hughes and the family of cricket

Phillip Hughes' death has caused a worldwide outpouring of grief from cricket fans, all of whom have all felt a personal sense of loss whether they knew Hughes or not. Writing in Buzzfeed, Alan White reflects on cricket's ability to bring vastly different cultures together.

Whenever a sport suffers a tragedy, the journalists who cover it often write certain truisms - they point out that sport is only a game, that things have been "put into perspective"; above all, that perhaps spectators and opponents should show a little more respect to each other. It's clichéd, this type of piece, and perhaps it's clichéd for a reason - there's nothing fundamentally wrong with any of these points.

But such pieces have been thinner on the ground in the aftermath of Hughes' death, because, as anyone who's played the game for long enough knows, cricket fans aren't really in need of these reminders. A few days ago I wrote a blog about what Hughes meant to England fans, and I realised that all of us - wherever we were - felt much the same. We'd lost one of our own.

You see, it really is a family. In England alone in the last few years I've played with and against Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Australians, New Zealanders, West Indians, South Africans, Afghans, Nigerians, Slovenians, and more. I now count many of them among my best friends. I've gone to Corfu and had my finger broken by a Pakistani bowler. I've had sixes hit off my bowling by an Italian-South African in the Channel Islands. I've gawped at games in Croatia, Sri Lanka, Barbados, and France. Much of this cricket has been social, and that means bonhomie is encouraged before, during, and after the game. But even in league cricket there's generally a clear sense of mutual appreciation between the teams, at least once hostilities end.

In The West Australian, Simon Katich, Hughes' first Test-match opening partner, recounts some of his favourite memories of his 'smiling mate Luigi'.

In the old days, he would have done his time at short leg and even though he was built for short leg, he was smart enough to be that bad at it we got him out of there. He even managed to avoid doing it when he came into the Aussie team in 2009 in South Africa.

I'll never forget playing our tour match at Potchefstroom and thinking that with Hughesy likely to make his debut, I would finally be able to hand over the short leg shin pads to him. When I was told by Punter (Ricky Ponting) that that would not be happening, the little bugger laughed his head off, knowing my old back was going to be stiff from more days of squatting down while he could sit back and enjoy the show.

Only Hughesy could've got away with that and he would always tell Punter how good I was in there just to really make sure he was safe from the dreaded job.

The former NSW wicketkeeper Daniel Smith pays tribute to Hughes in the Sydney Morning Herald, remembering him as a 'lovable, infectious character' with a dozen nicknames.

Simple things were what you loved and no, I'm not taking the piss out of you. it's true. You were street smart. So street bloody smart that after moving to Sydney and, upon becoming my little brother, it took me 18 months to realise how street smart you were. Half-way through one of our lord-knows-how-many nights out after I'd shouted a round BANG, I caught you, your sneaky little hand grabbing the coins meant for the barmaid from off the tip tray.

"What are you doing, Bra?" I said. He looked at me half cheekily and grinned with the glint in his eye, the other half a youngster who'd just been busted . . . sprung . . . with his hand in the cookie jar.

He quickly replied to me: "Sorry, but that's milk and bread."

We laughed and carried on.