OCTOBER 01, 2014

Cricket in unusual places

Colombia's first homegrown cricketer

Cricket may be about to spark to life in a tiny but significant way in Colombia, which is due to host the inaugural Amazon Cup, a triangular T20 tournament also featuring Brazil and Peru. When the tournament begins, a Colombia-born player, Jairo Andres Venegas, will represent his national team for the first time. The Guardian's John Ashdown profiles the wicketkeeper, who is "almost certainly the only Colombian to have a Lord's tea-towel framed and hanging on the wall of his living room".

For Venegas it represents the apogee of a journey that began not long before Allan Border's no-nonsense Australia side thrashed David Gower's fracturing England in 1989. And it's a journey that began, of course, in, um, Belgium. "I was six years old, we were living in Belgium because my father used to work for Phillips," he says. "My older brother and I studied at the British School of Brussels and while my brother actually played at school, I did Kwik Cricket or whatever it was called at the time. We came back to Colombia the next year and cricket became just a memory of good times."

A flirtation with rugby followed and the first time Venegas played what might be called "proper cricket" was in Bogotá, after an email to Lord's, conversations with ICC Americas, contact with the British Embassy in the Colombian capital and a long wait. The wait, though, has been worth it - now he is a committed convert and admits to being the "most cricket-obsessed Colombian in the country".

OCTOBER 01, 2014

Australian cricket

'He's one that crept up on us'

Jake Lehmann, son of Australia's coach Darren Lehmann, is poised to begin his journey in senior cricket. After winning a rookie contract with South Australia last season, the 22-year old will be making his debut in the Matador One-Day Cup. Andrew Ramsey, writing in Cricket Australia's website, learns more about Lehmann junior

"He got a rookie contract this season and his body shape has changed completely and as a result - not just because of that - throughout pre-season he's got 50s and 60s and then most pleasing (last weekend) in the Premier League he scored his first hundred," said Darren Berry, the South Australia coach. "So he's right in the mix. He bats on the same side (left-handed like his father), he's got really good hands, and he's got an eye like his dad as well. He plays the ball late, and I think he's a really exciting talent - he's one that's crept up on us to be honest."

SEPTEMBER 29, 2014

Indian cricket

A quintessential fighter who kept coming back

In an interview with Shirin Sadikot for the BCCI, Gautam Gambhir opens up about his brand of cricket, leading Kolkata Knight Riders' to their longest winning streak, and being left out of the Indian squad while dealing with a personal tragedy.

This phase was the most difficult one of my life, not only from the cricketing point of view but also personal. I lost two of the closest people in my life within the span of a year. I was trying to get my career back on track by going to England and playing for Essex. I scored a century and I began to regain my confidence, started to believe again. Just then I got the news of the death in the family. I had to fly back home and miss two championship games. The hardest part was when I had to go back to England just four days after the tragedy. My wife couldn't travel with me because she had to be with the family. I was on my own there, coping with the loss while trying to resurrect my career. It was a very difficult time. But then these are the times that teach you a lot about yourself.

SEPTEMBER 28, 2014

County Cricket

Leicestershire's turmoil

Leicestershire have not won a county championship game for two seasons. They are stuck in the second division. They lost promising young talent to other teams as well and were forced to issue a press release accepting the situation needs to change. BBC spoke to former and current players from the county, coaches and administrators to get to the root of the problem and Shiv Thakor, a recent export to Derbyshire, mentioned the off-field support was lacking.

"Leicestershire are going through a rebuilding phase - both on and off the field - and I felt I need to be somewhere where they had an established programme in place. "I really wanted to make a push to play for England and I want go somewhere that will give me an opportunity me to do so and has a structure in place immediately.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2014

English cricket

Root, Ballance and the Idle days

In an extensive interview with BBC Sport, Joe Root and Gary Ballance reminisce about their early years in Yorkshire's cricket set-up and the time they spent as house-mates in a village called Idle. Root, a practical joker according to Ballance, recalls an incident involving Ryan Sidebottom and a sock that paid a quirky tribute to the legend of the Yorkshire Snipper.

Root grins knowingly, then adds: "The worst one was when I did it to (veteran fast bowler) Ryan Sidebottom after dropping two catches off him. At the end of the day's play he was sitting next to me in the dressing-room and was already absolutely furious.
"Then he got out of the shower, pulled his first sock on right up to the top of his thigh and just blew up. All the lads were trying not to look at him and laugh. I just knew I had to get out of there or I would be in a bit of pain."

SEPTEMBER 18, 2014

New Zealand cricket

Rise again, Hogan

The news that Martin Crowe will undergo further treatment for his ongoing battle with lymphoma yesterday was met with messages of support from people from all over the globe and sheer positivity from the man himself, writes Marc Ellison for Yahoo Sport.

It's been wonderful to view Crowe's growth as a person over the last few years. From someone who was deemed to be too critical, too honest and too emotional in his public comments about the national team, he finally appears comfortable in his own skin and more measured in his analysis of the game. Most importantly, to those who he works with, his words are received with the utmost respect given they're coming from a human-being who has fought his share of obstacles in life and prevailed. This latest contest with his 'friend' lymphoma promises to test him. History tells us he thrives on a challenge. Rise again 'Hogan'.

SEPTEMBER 16, 2014

Offbeat

The nature v nurture debate in cricket

In an article for Aeon magazine, David Papineau explores the idea of nature v nurture in cricket by comparing it with other sports and examines whether genetic qualities plays a bigger role in the development of cricketers than environment.

If environments matter more in cricket than in soccer, then this makes cricketing skills look less genetically heritable than footballing ones. In football, most of the differences come from genetic advantages just because there aren't many environmental differences (if you live in a soccer-mad nation, opportunities to play are everywhere). But in cricket, there would still be a wide range of abilities even if everybody had exactly the same genetic endowment, because only some children would get a proper chance to learn the game. In effect, environmental causes are doing a lot more to spread out the children in cricket than they are in football. To sum up, cricket runs in families precisely because the genetic heritability of cricket skills is relatively low.

SEPTEMBER 15, 2014

England cricket

'My personal experiences have made me a better coach'

In a lengthy interview with the Guardian's Donald McRae, Mark Ramprakash discusses his move into coaching and the progress made by England's young players over the summer. He describes Alastair Cook as "very strong and resilient" and says Cook's most recent opening partner in Tests, Sam Robson, will continue to develop. Ramprakash also praises the support players are offered by the England set-up now and contrasts it with his own, unfulfilled international career:

"When I came in we just had Micky Stewart as head coach - there was no batting coach, no psychologist. I made my Test debut in 1991 and it wasn't until 1998 that I bumped into the sports psychologist Steve Bull. There was a significant shift in my career from that point on. He gave me a way to structure my thoughts and handle my emotions. I had struggled in Test cricket because I worried about too many things. But those personal experiences have made me a better coach."

SEPTEMBER 12, 2014

Bowling actions

Is cricket finally ready to throw the book at chuckers?

While commending the ICC's recent drive against bowlers with suspect actions, Malcolm Knox, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, says it will be really big news when a bowler from one of cricket's big three nations is reported.

What would be even bigger news is when the law comes down on a bowler from Australia, England or India. Of those so far caught in the ICC's crackdown, all belong to the nations now designated "second-tier". The big test will come when a bowler with a suspect action plays for one of the big three.

Where cricket has failed on chucking in the past, it hasn't been due to cricketing matters. It's been when politics and power have oozed in to overrule and bully those who are meant to enforce the laws. The ICC seems to be on the right course, finally, but so far it has only gone after the little-guy nations. We'll really fall off our chairs when it is able to successfully prosecute the big guys.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2014

India cricket

Ten of Sehwag's best

Speaking to All Out Cricket, Virender Sehwag has discussed ten of his favourite hundreds, from his first in Ranji cricket to scoring an ODI double. No. 2, the "perception shifter", is his maiden Test ton:

I had played about 30 one-dayers before my Test debut. Everyone was saying that I was a very good one-day player but my technique was not that great so I could not play Test cricket. I was waiting for the chance to prove everybody wrong. I scored a hundred in my debut Test against South Africa, batting at No.6, so that was the message I sent to my critics. I was always convinced I had the technique for Test cricket.

SEPTEMBER 09, 2014

England cricket

How much have England changed since 1979?

Writing in his blog, the Old Batsman, Jon Hotten recalls the 1979 World Cup final he watched at Lord's and assesses how much England's approach has changed since then in ODIs.

A win in Friday's final match was welcome, but as meaningless as any in the 3,451 ODIs that have followed that long-ago day at Lord's. England's current methodology is from around the mid 2000s of that number; they're still quite excited to score 290, and still quite daunted by the pusuit of it. The rest of cricket, meanwhile, roars on into a future that is being written from the bottom up - through T20 into the 50 over game - rather than the top down.

SEPTEMBER 09, 2014

Indian cricket

Would Dhoni have given strike to Dhoni?

After the much talked about T20 between England and India ended with the hosts' win, questions are still being asked about MS Dhoni's tactics to not give Ambati Rayudu any strike in the last over. For the Indian Express, Daksh Panwar writes that it was an issue bigger than the denied singles.

The thing is, there is no denying that the current India captain is a great leader, in that he leads from the front. But is he a great leader of men? The only way to test that is with a hypothetical question. Had this brooding, grey-haired Dhoni and his younger, long-maned self found themselves in a similar situation to yesterday's game, would current-day captain Dhoni have given the free-spirited slugger Dhoni the strike?

SEPTEMBER 06, 2014

Australia cricket

The evolution of Mitchell Marsh

There was a time when the biggest concerns around Mitchell Marsh were that his prodigious gifts would be lost to off-field distractions. On the tour to Zimbabwe, however, Marsh has given ample indication of his value as an allrounder and also made himself a possibility for Australia's World Cup squad. Ben Horne, in the Age, looks at Marsh's persona, and finds a character reference from the current tour of Zimbabwe.

The driver of the Australian team bus in Harare, a man called Kelvin, has thanked Marsh for "making his life."
Kelvin has two children and a third on the way. He earns $US500 ($A540) a month, with 60 per cent of that going to rent.
Sometimes he gets paid on time; sometimes it's a day late, or two, or seven.
Electricity cuts are a regular occurrence at their home, making cooking for his 12-year-old son and five-year-old daughter almost impossible at times.
Marsh heard Kelvin's story and marched straight into town, to buy the children backpacks and shoes for school. He also purchased a new mobile phone for Kelvin and a solar light and gas cooker for his wife.

SEPTEMBER 05, 2014

Indian cricket

Do India even like playing Tests?

Harsha Bhogle, writing for the Indian Express, tries to make sense of India's disdain towards Test cricket.

I don't think, deep down, India and Dhoni like playing Test cricket as much. At Southampton, and that is only one example, India let the game drift along bowling defensive, non-wicket taking lines for a major part. When wickets appeared distant, and that always happens at some point in a Test match, India seemed willing passengers on the tide. Yes, Dhoni tried but Dhoni the one-day captain would have been here, there and everywhere, sniffing an opportunity here, grabbing ten minutes of the game there. Dhoni likes one-day cricket and you can see that in everything he does.

SEPTEMBER 04, 2014

Cricket trivia

The enormity of compiling A to Z XIs

What's your XI with all names starting with 'F' or 'N' or for that matter, 'Z'? Andy Bull, in the Guardian, discovers that the exercise of compiling alphabetical XIs can be depressing, obsessive and soothing at the same time. (P.S. Do scroll down to the comments section too)

Boycott, Broad. And so it went, night, after night, after night. Not Broad. Brearley. Boycott and Brearley, then Broad. And day, after day, after day. On the bus. During meetings. Watching trailers. Swimming lengths. It became an obsession and, by extension, a curse. Compiling alphabetical XIs is, you see, something of a Sisyphean task, in that by the time you've got to the end of 'W' - you can't wring much mileage out of X, Y, and Z - you've entirely forgotten most of the people you picked for the A side. Butcher, Barrington, some team this. And since you've forgotten, you start all over again, expecting, this time round, that all the names will stick.

SEPTEMBER 03, 2014

Indian cricket

MS Dhoni on cricket, and life after cricket

For his first magazine interview in five years, MS Dhoni chats with Mark Nicholas for All Out Cricket about things across different spheres of his life - the World Cup win, the disastrous tour of England later in 2011, captaincy, his love for the army, his 35 motorbikes, and much more.

"Winning the World Cup was very special because it meant so much to so many. One thing about our country that is constant is cricket. The smile it brought to people's faces was the thing I shall always remember. It reminded me, reminded all of us, of our importance to the lives of the Indian people less lucky than we are.

"I love my country," he says. "I tell my wife she is only the third most important thing after my country and my parents, in that order. The point is that while I am an Indian cricketer I will devote myself to that cause. Cricket is not everything, not by any means, but it is a large part of who I am. Therefore I want to play in all formats of the game and to play as much as possible because before long it will be over. Then I'll focus more on the Army!"

SEPTEMBER 02, 2014

Indian cricket

More Tests for the women, please

Snehal Pradhan, writing in her blog Grass on the seam, believes that India Women have the perfect blend of players and resources to thrive in the longest format of the game.

To win a test you must be able to bowl the opposition out twice. Assuming that the wickets for women's tests would most likely be result oriented, there would be some seam, swing, bounce ,or turn . And India have the bowling options for all of the above. In Jhulan Goswami, India have an experienced pace spear head, who hits the deck hard. And Niranjana, Shikha, and Shubhlakshmi proved at Wormsley that they have the skills to exploit favourable conditions. Add the loop of Gouher Sultana (who missed this tour due to illness) and unpredictable turn of Ekta bisht, and India have spinning options aplenty.

SEPTEMBER 02, 2014

Zimbabwe triangular series 2014

Insular Australia avoid local adventures

While the South Africans have spent their spare time in Zimbabwe interacting with the locals and immersing themselves in culture, the Australia players have been more withdrawn and preferred to stay in their hotel rooms, writes Neil Manthorp for Business Day Live.

The two touring teams have different attitudes to the job and both the "embrace" and "quarantine" approach to difficult or awkward situations can be successful, provided they are carried out with an appropriate recognition of reality. If everybody in the best hotel in town is making do with slow Wi-Fi and non-award-winning bolognaise, and if everyone is making do with a single towel because, for once, there is 100% occupancy, then what's the point in complaining?

SEPTEMBER 01, 2014

Women's cricket

'They didn't like it so much when a girl bowled them out'

England women's allrounder Natalie Sciver has been showing up boys since her teens. She recalls herself as a 12-year old playing football in Poland's women's league, but rose to prominence as a cricketer when she tussled with Surrey's boys in club cricket. Amy Lofthouse of the BBC catches up with the only player to take a hat-trick for England in T20s.

Sciver fell into cricket as a teenager, playing games against her dad and brother in her back garden, before joining Surrey club Stoke d'Abernon. She played the usual games against boys' teams. "They didn't like it so much when a girl bowled them out," she joked. Her performances led to her being selected for Surrey's academy, which became the pathway to an international career that began when she was selected for England's limited-overs series against Pakistan in 2013. It was not until last October that Sciver made her big impact at the top level, becoming the first England player to take a T20 hat-trick in Barbados

AUGUST 31, 2014

South African cricket

Du Plessis' old bond grows stronger

Faf du Plessis shared a double-century stand with AB de Villiers recently. The partnership, though, goes a long way back. The two went to school together and then played for Titans. However, it took a while for Du Plessis to make his mark in international cricket unlike de Villiers, who, Du Plessis told the Independent, had the knack of scoring big when it mattered from a young age.

"We were very close at school, but also very competitive. I was laid back at school, just wanting to play games, and he was a bit of a hoofseun (headboy), wanting to study," Du Plessis said. "I remember one particular night before our exams when we were in Standard 9. I bothered him the whole night and the next day in the test; I obviously had no clue. So, during the test, I was like, 'Hey, AB, show me your work there, let me copy a few answers'. He took his suitcase, put it in the middle and turned himself the other way! So obviously I failed that test. Afterwards he said, 'You wanted to bother me last night, so there was no way I was going to help you'."

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