APRIL 13, 2014

The ICC

What is the ICC really saying?

Andrew Nixon, writing for Cricket Europe, dwells deeper into the qualification process for Associate nations to gain Test status.

Read that carefully. It says there will be a pathway to Test cricket, but it doesn't say what that pathway actually is. And that's because it isn't there. It is understood that whether an associate that wins the "Test Challenge" will get promoted is still to be decided - possibly at the annual conference in Melbourne in June. Everybody is assuming that will be the case of course, as that's what the ICC have said in previous press releases. But back in 2010, every press release about the World Cricket League said it was part of the qualification pathway to the 2015 World Cup. All of a sudden it stopped appearing in press releases. And then it was taken away as the ICC announced that the 2015 World Cup would be contested by the ten full members only.

APRIL 12, 2014

Sri Lanka cricket

Sri Lanka thrived in tight situations - Vaas

A varied bowling attack, a steadfast faith in their ability and the plans they had made, familiarity with conditions and the skill to best utilise that knowledge formed a vital part of Sri Lanka's World T20 triumph. Chaminda Vaas, the fast bowling coach, remembers the impact of their last World Cup win and explains to SL Pathiravithana, of Sri Lanka's Sunday Times, all the factors that contributed to repeating the feat 18 years later.

"It began three months ago. We were in Bangladesh on our ICC FTP tour. Initially in the Test matches we played some good cricket and at the same time we were getting acclimatised to the demands of the Bangladeshi wickets and the challenges that come into the game of cricket. After winning the Test series, we had two close games in the T20s, where we won by wafer-thin margins. It was the turning point. There the boys learned to take up the challenges and overcome, however hard they could be. They began to thrive in tight situations."

APRIL 11, 2014

England cricket

When Kent threatened to end cricket

Justin Parkinson, political reporter for the BBC, takes us through the history of cricket ball manufacture in the UK. From April 1914 when workers from west Kent threatened to hold the cricket season hostage by not producing any more balls until they were reimbursed appropriately. At the time they had been supplying the best quality for over 150 years, but as the 20th century wore on the monopoly went into steady decline.

Kent's ball manufacturers employed several hundred people at the time, many of whom complained of being treated like "sweated labour".

"The power of the union may be largely a thing of the past, and cricket ball manufacture, along with pretty much everything else in cricket, has now largely moved to the subcontinent", says Matt Thacker, managing editor of The Nightwatchman, the Wisden Cricket Quarterly magazine."But it's great to be reminded occasionally how deeply ingrained into the fabric of English life cricket was.

APRIL 09, 2014

Cuban cricket

Bat up, Cuba

T20 cricket has been dubbed the best vehicle to sell the game across the far reaches of the globe. But what happens when the bug bites but the players do not have the requisite equipment to mimic Chris Gayle's monstrous hits or Lasith Malinga's searing toe-crushers? A town in Cuba faced this conundrum but Scyld Berry's column, in the Telegraph, explains how a charity has taken responsibility of supplying the locals all they need to fuel their passion for cricket.

To see the impact of the arrival of four quality bats in Guantanamo was heart-warming, even for a bowler, and of the first cricket helmet the players had ever seen. A useful addition, because the first ball of our middle-practice - just short of a length - went three feet over the batsman's head.

APRIL 08, 2014

Indian cricket

Spare a thought for Yuvraj Singh

Jon Hotten, writing in his blog the Old Batsman, comes out in staunch support of Yuvraj Singh after the allrounder's 21-ball 11 thwarted the momentum of India's innings in the World T20 final. Hotten believes that Yuvraj's struggle to even execute the basics was something that we've all been through, one way or the other.

I'll never hit Stuart Broad for six sixes. I'll never strike a ball with the imperiousness of Yuvi, never know how it feels to have such mastery of a difficult game, but his struggle to do something he has done hundreds of times before but just can't summon at a moment of need? Ah yeah, I've been there, and so I suspect have you.

In Wisden India, Anand Vasu writes that the fans who flung stones at Yuvraj's house were never true Indian cricket fans in the first place and Yuvraj, despite his under-par performance, owed them nothing.

What Yuvraj needed, as he walked off the field by himself after Thisara Perera had cracked the winning run, a scything left-handed power blast that Yuvraj would have struck in his sleep on most days, was not our sympathy, but some empathy. There is not one of us who has not endured a bad day at work, or at home, who cannot understand what he might have felt like. But there are few who have had to live these moments out in the full glare of the public eye.

APRIL 08, 2014

Australian cricket

Chasing the men down

Women's cricket has been gaining acclaim in recent times and Australia's efficient defence of their World T20 title was another advertisement of their catching up with the men's game. It was set up by an attractive brand of play that has diverted attention squarely on their skills on the field and Greg Baum, in the Age, believes this is only the beginning.

Australia's women cricketers are under the same umbrella as the men, are paid more handsomely than ever before and in recent seasons have played some of their short-form internationals on the same grounds and days as the men. This was the case in Bangladesh, and in the previous women's World T20 in Sri Lanka. Presently, this coupling gives the women's matches the status and appearance of curtain-raisers. In time, they might be seen as authentic double-headers.

APRIL 07, 2014

World T20

When Bangladesh grabbed the world's attention

Hammad Ali, writing for bdnews24.com, argues against Shakib Al Hasan's defence of Bangladesh's performances in the World T20 after the former captain had suggested that the fans should not have had so much expectations in the first place.

Maybe Shakib does not realise a few things. First of all, maybe he needs to let it sink in that every time he steps out to the field, he is carrying all the hopes and aspirations of 160 million people, for many of whom a victory by the cricket team is the biggest happiness they feel in their everyday lives. In a nation that is torn and bruised and hurting in so many ways, a game of cricket still unites us, makes us whisper a little prayer, and drown in ecstasy when the winning stroke is played, or the opponent's last wicket captured. If Shakib realised this, I doubt he could be as heartless as to say that these people have no right to expect much from the team they affectionately call the Tigers.

Bangladesh may have had a disappointing tournament themselves, but the nation was not lacking a carnival atmosphere during the World T20, writes Naimul Karim for the Daily Star.

From packed stadiums and the late-night hangouts in the brightly-lit capital to CNG-drivers working lesser hours and the 'char chhokka hoi hoi' ring-tone blaring from innumerable mobile phones, the last three weeks proved exactly why Bangladesh deserved to host the ICC World Twenty20; for this was not just a cricket tournament but a festival that the people of this country ingrained into their lifestyle and celebrated with immense vigour. Whether it was dancing to the West Indian tune at the stadium or merely having a good time with friends and family, there was something in it for almost everyone.

APRIL 07, 2014

World T20

Awesome Kohli, dire Dernbach

The flawed structure of the tournament, England's embarrassing display, the ineffectiveness of the Duckworth-Lewis system, the fluent touch of Virat Kohli, the debacle that was Jade Dernbach, and the need for a separate event for Women. Peter Miller, writing for Cricket365, has his say on the 2014 World T20.

There was a qualifying tournament for this World T20. Associate nations met and the top six made it through to play in Bangladesh. When they got there they had to qualify again. We were told that this was for the good of cricket. It wasn't, it was to guarantee TV revenue. The ICC said that one of the reasons that they were reducing the World Cup to a ten team event was because they would expand the World T20. This isn't expansion, it is tokenism. If growth of the game is an actual ambition of the governing body they need to unlock the doors, not just open them a crack so the odd team can sneak through.

APRIL 07, 2014

Sri Lanka cricket

Sri Lanka's unsung hero

Dinesh Chandimal may not have lit the World T20 on fire (in fact, he was even dropped for the semi-final and final), but his happiness and relief when his team won the tournament was not any less genuine than those of all the Sri Lankans around the world, writes Malinda Seneviratne in his blog Malinda Words.

Still there's the small issue of a young man who had been appointed captain and had to lead players who had a dozen years' worth of experience more than he did. There's the small issue of having left Sri Lanka as captain and having to watch the final from the dressing room. There's also the small issue of Dinesh Chandimal running around the ground after Sri Lanka won the match, carrying the man who put the final touches to the campaign on his shoulders. Dinesh Chandimal helped hold Kumar Sangakkara high. He couldn't stop smiling a schoolboyish smile. That delight was unadulterated. That admiration was unadulterated. And in this, there was as much 'team,' 'team-spirit,' and 'leadership' than anything we were privileged to watch unfold out there in the middle of the ground.

APRIL 07, 2014

Indian cricket

Irfan's tale of swinging fortunes

It seems like an eternity since Irfan Pathan broke into the scene and raised eyebrows with his immaculate seam and swing. However, since being named Man of the Match in the 2007 World T20 final, the allrounder hasn't had the best of times. In an interview with Deba Prasad Dhar for the Mumbai Mirror, Irfan opens up about his loss of form, the pain of watching India play from the sidelines, the support he received from his brother Yusuf, and his plans for the future.

You remember 2007 when I returned to India from South Africa in the middle of the tour. I wasn't landing the ball where I wanted to. I wanted to acquire as much knowledge as I could to get better quickly. Perhaps I should have been a little patient and waited for a while. At the time I didn't make my game simple. There's nothing like excess information. Eventually, the knowledge did help me. Why me, it benefitted others as well.

APRIL 06, 2014

Sri Lanka cricket

Sanga and Mahela, a partnership for the ages

Two of Sri Lanka cricket's greatest batting talents bid their farewell from T20 internationals at the end of the World Cup. Anand Vasu, in Wisden India, encapsulates the impact Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara have had in moving cricket forward in the country.

Off the field, the Jayawardene-Sangakkara combine has had bigger battles than anything they faced on the field. The two had a vision for cricket in Sri Lanka, one that Sri Lanka Cricket did not always agree with. At different times they have had to negotiate, plead, insist, argue, cajole, even scheme without malice, to get things done. To use a cringe-worthy word that is so popular with the young of today, the Jayawardene-Sangakkara bromance is one with few parallels in cricket. And Sunday is important for it signifies the first step in the winding down of the careers of two modern greats.

APRIL 05, 2014

Indian cricket

Wadekar's shoes and a Karnataka triumph

In the Telegraph, historian Ramachandra Guha reminisces about Karnataka's semi-final against Bombay in March 1974, en route to their first Ranji Trophy title. Guha writes that Karnataka beat Bombay in that game (on first-innings basis) due to two human errors - the first an umpiring decision that went in favour of Gundappa Viswanath off the first ball he faced; and Ajit Wadekar's slip, which resulted in his run-out and allowed Karnataka to take a lead.

Some 20 years after I watched Karnataka defeat Bombay for the first time, I met Ajit Wadekar at a reception in New Delhi. I reminded him about the match and how he had got out, adding that had he not slipped he would still be batting at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. His answer, offered with a laconic shrug of the shoulders, was: "New shoes."

APRIL 05, 2014

England cricket

Rejigged county schedule to England's rescue?

The England Cricket Board will implement the findings of it's own survey conducted regarding the schedule of county cricket this season. T20s will form Friday evening entertainment, a bulk of the first-class matches shall begin on Sundays now and the action would start in early April. Mike Selvey, in the Guardian, believes the changes will serve well in preparing the national side for the summer ahead.

This was the time of year when county players, on six-month contracts, returned from whatever winter employment (or, too often, unemployment) had brought them. A week's "training" perhaps, which would barely count as a warm-up these days, followed by nets, a university fixture maybe, or practice matches against another county, and then the first championship match of the summer right at the end of April. A personal check tells that in 13 seasons only five of my championship matches began in April, and none started earlier than the 28th of the month.

Now, the first matches begin (rain, of course, is forecast) and almost half of the championship will have been played by the time the team for the first Test against Sri Lanka is picked.

APRIL 05, 2014

Afghanistan cricket

More than a sport in Afghanistan

Claire Stewart, in the Sydney Morning Herald, details her journey exploring what cricket meant in Afghanistan. She learns the passion it brings forth, with the President said to have called the Afghanistan team the new national army. Support for the women's game, though, is less forthcoming under present conditions and wandering to the stadium without company is unsafe for the same reason. Still with Mohammad Nabi's men, beating a Test nation in their first Asia Cup and qualifying for the World Cup in 2015, cricket is seen as more than an a mere sport.

The only external cricket representative not to let security concerns keep him from visiting the ACB in Kabul during the past 12 years is former Pakistani player, and now ACC representative, Iqbal Sikander. He sits in Murad's office discussing the economic viability of different equipment providers while recounting tales of his time in Australia as part of Pakistan's victory in the 1992 World Cup. "Our only objective is that we want cricket bats in the hands of the youngsters instead of guns," says Sikander. "We want them to stay away from drugs and trouble."

APRIL 04, 2014

England cricket

England cricket at crossroads

England are in the process of appointing a new head coach, a task complicated further by their woeful campaign in the World T20. Not to mention the compelling saga of Kevin Pietersen's ouster. Ted Corbett, in his column for the Hindu, believes the side is ripe for the picking unless some brave decisions are made.

Throughout the tournament in Bangladesh I kept watching Paul Collingwood who looks as though he wants to offer someone out to fight every minute of the day -- but he can also be affable -- and wondering if he might not be just what is needed. Make Collingwood the coach; make Kevin Pietersen the captain. Instead we will shortly hear just why it was necessary to sack Pietersen. Where will that get us?

In a piece for the Guardian, Jon Hotten remarks that the England team would perhaps do well to find a manager like Sir Alex Ferguson, who moulded a winning team through steadfast control, without losing the loyalty and respect of his players. He writes how Duncan Fletcher and Andy Flower managed to exercise some of that control as coaches before their eras ended in a decline.

Ferguson's notion of control was partly psychological. Being aggressive and dictatorial was only a temporary fix. His real authority came from the ongoing success of his methods, which he was clever enough to adapt to changing circumstance. Often - as with the cough in the corridor - his presence was enough.

Similarly, Duncan Fletcher's legend was neatly coined by the title of his book, Behind The Shades. He understood the value of silence, of being enigmatic. Many England players tell of the strange sensation that would overcome them when they felt his presence behind the net in which they were batting.

APRIL 02, 2014

IPL

The IPL should look beyond Test backyards

The IPL auction should look beyond Test nations and consider talented players from the Associate countries, such as Kevin O'Brien and Paras Khadka, and the league can take a cue from the NBA on sourcing outside talent, writes Paul Radley in the National.

The fact the IPL franchises have generally not ventured beyond the established markets for their players seems short-sighted. The NBA, which, in many ways, inspired the creation of the IPL, was enriched by the arrival of the likes of Manu Ginobli, Pau Gasol or Dirk Nowitzki from lesser-regarded basketball nations. Premier League football clubs are savvy to the value of recruiting players such as Junichi Inamato and Park Ji-Sung and expanding the league's footprint into far-off markets.

APRIL 01, 2014

England cricket

A reality check for England

The depths to which England cricket has slipped over the winter has been stark. An Ashes mauling and their shocking defeat to the Netherlands in the World T20 has placed calls for stronger personnel and better strategies, both on and off the field. Michael Vaughan, in his column for the Telegraph, says the reality check should be well heeded.

We concentrated solely on winning last summer and not producing a brand of cricket that would sell the game to the public. Cricket is always fighting other sports for attention so we have to win well but we have produced steady teams capable of boring average sides into submission. It has led the players to believe they are better than they are. As supporters we have been given a dose of reality too about the standard of this England team. We have good players but not great players. Now Graeme Swann and Kevin Pietersen have gone we need to fill the dressing room with attitude and character, and not pick players on stats-driven form in county cricket.

Mike Selvey, in the Guardian, dissects England's performance in the World T20 and finds their humbling against an Associate nation was almost on the cards with their slippery fielding and their desperate lack of confidence.

To fail to chase a low total against a modest Netherlands side highlighted not only the lack of skills in the English game in general when confronted with alien conditions, but also a lack of commitment and personal responsibility, the latter something that Giles has been trying to drum into players without obvious success.

In the Daily Mail, Nasser Hussain says that it should not be Ashley Giles getting the blame for England's latest debacle.

That said, the real question for me is not about Giles -- or whoever else gets the job. It is about changing the brand of cricket played by England. When there's pace on the ball, and it's going through to the keeper and nibbling around under lights, they're fine because it's the kind of cricket they play at home.

MARCH 31, 2014

Indian cricket

The conflicts of interest that hamper Gavaskar

Sandipan Deb, in the Mint, writes that Sunil Gavaskar can only maintain his personal authority in his role as the interim BCCI chief if he resolves his own conflict-of-interest issues.

So, Gavaskar is an administrator, commentator, possibly BCCI's covert representative on TV, and agent of Indian cricketers, all at the same time. If this not conflict of interest, what is? In addition, he is an NRI based in the United Arab Emirates, where, coincidentally enough, the first phase of IPL7 is going to be played. The choice of the UAE as venue has been controversial, since India has avoided playing there for years because the region is the global headquarters of cricket betting, and IPL6 was hit by a huge betting scandal which led to the whole Supreme Court business.

MARCH 31, 2014

Technique

The need to simplify batting

In his column for the Hindu, Greg Chappell lists the factors that have changed the style and character of batting in modern cricket. Stressing on the need for simplicity, especially in coaching at the junior level, Chappell suggests that the role of a coach could be limited to creating an environment and observing the action.

Coaches should be seen and not heard. Their role should be to set the environment and observe the action. If refinement to a player's method is required, the parameters of the training session should be adjusted to encourage the desired outcome. This, in my view is what real coaching should look like. No other sport trains in an environment that is as far removed from the real game as cricket does. Good players don't learn to play and compete in nets. They have to learn from playing and competing in environments that replicate the real thing or they will not develop sufficiently to be able to make a difference and to attract spectators to the longer game.

MARCH 30, 2014

West Indies cricket

How will the Pybus Report fare?

West Indies have opted for a host of changes to their cricket structure in their Systems Report for 2014 and Tony Becca in Jamaica Gleaner is impressed with the emphasis on building professionalism in first-class cricket, with 15 players per team playing under contract and top-grade coaching staff on call. But memory serves him to be wary of how they take effect.

I remember also in the days of Jamaica's county championship, a two-day tournament which featured some of the West Indies contracted players, when many of the West Indies players turned up with sick mothers and aunts, fathers and uncles, in places like Canada and England, and were excused from some of the matches. I hope, really hope, nothing like that happens this time around.

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