|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Shop||Mobile|
The prospect of James Anderson fronting up against India at Old Trafford, his home ground, puts England in the driver's seat. That advantage, though, has come about in the backdrop of an unsavoury dispute with Ravindra Jadeja. Geoffrey Boycott, in his column for the Telegraph, believes dominating the opposition can happen without resorting to offensive behavior.
Sledging is a blight on cricket and needs stamping out. Light-hearted banter, amusing remarks are great for the game. But this stuff is downright offensive. Downton agreed with me but was reluctant to tell Jimmy not to do it in case he lost his competitive edge. Presumably winning must be everything whatever the cost. I believe if something is not right you should set a moral standard. It ishould have nothing nothing to do with winning or losing.
Farokh Engineer, a former match referee, is bemused that the James Anderson-Ravindra Jadeja dispute has taken nearly a month to resolve. Speaking with Andy Wilson of the Guardian, offers his brand of justice along with a few anecdotes.
"It's ridiculous that it has all dragged on for so long. I blame the match referee [David Boon] and the ICC. If I'd been the match referee - and I used to be one - I'd have had Jimmy and Jadeja into my room there and then, asked them to sort it out between them and, if Jimmy was at fault, I'd have asked him to apologise. If he refused, then it could have been an issue but it should have all been sorted out in five minutes."
Ajinkya Rahane has bedded into the Indian middle order and has sparkled away from home, especially with his temperement while batting with the tail. His state-mate Rohit Sharma, though, is slipping up both on the field and in terms of percetion. Amit Gupta, in Mumbai Mirror, seeks an explanation for this disparity between two talented players
As former India player and Mumbai captain Ajit Agarkar says, "They are two different personalities and not just players. Rahane calmer, Rohit flamboyant. At this point it will be a little bit unfair to say that it's turning out to be two different stories. Rahane is having a good run but Rohit had to sit out of the first two matches and come back and get runs when team was under pressure ... But yes, Rahane has taken that one step higher in the last three away tours."
There weren't too many Indians who could remember the 2011 tour to England fondly, but Praveen Kumar, who was thrust with the mantle of leading the bowling, responded by becoming the team's top wicket-taker. Speaking to Saneep Dwivedi, of the Indian Express, he explains how English conditions might not necessarily remain batting-friendly, even if they start out so, and the importance of having specific plans, like the one that almost worked on Kevin Pietersen.
"So I started with a series of balls that moved away from the off stump and this was followed by an in-coming effort ball on the legs. And all through the plan Dhoni had placed Rahulbhai (Rahul Dravid) as the leg-slip. Pietersen fell for the plan. After being starved of his favourite shot, he flicked the faster in-coming ball," he says before revealing the anti-climax end. "The ball fell just short of Rahulbhai. Had it travelled a bit more we could have got a big wicket." Pietersen, on 49 at that point, went on to score a double hundred.
Cheteshwar Pujara has borne the tag of being the next Rahul Dravid for the better part of his Test career. The similarity in temperement is apparent and their fondness for playing the long innings is another unifying factor. Shirin Sadikot of bcci.tv asks Pujara how his technique compares against his predecessor's.
I think his square drive was much better than mine is right now, mainly because he could play that shot even on the front-foot. I am good at playing the square drive on the back-foot but I haven't tried doing it on the front-foot. It's about picking the swing and the length early on. You really need to be good at it to play the square drive on the front-foot because otherwise it puts your wicket at risk. These are the shots you try out in the shorter formats rather than in Tests. I have tried it out in the Ranji Trophy but not at the Test level, where the ball comes at a higher pace and the wickets have more bounce. It's better to play it on the back-foot.
England's hopes of a new era were struck down in Headingley by a young and hungry Sri Lanka. As much praise as Angelo Mathews and his side deserves, the hosts did not do themselves justice both in terms of the cricket they played and the tactics they used. Mike Selvey, in the Guardian, casts the magnifying glass on the captain Alastair Cook and suggests he might be trying too hard to change himself and the process if proving to be detrimental.
If Cook were to score runs in the kind of quantity he once managed, then that would underpin the innings, with others feeding from it, and leadership would seem easier. It does appear, however, that he might be placing too much emphasis on being in the vanguard, perhaps trying to be something he is not, rather than being a little more selfish in that regard and thinking primarily about his own game. The point has not yet been reached where either Cook or his employer should be considering whether his position as Test captain is appropriate for both the team benefit and his own but it will be under discussion.
The upcoming release of Million Dollar Arm, a movie based on the story of two Indian cricketers who signed professional Major League baseball contracts after winning a reality TV contest, prompts the Guardian's Andy Bull to ponder the relationship between the two sports. With the rise of Twenty20, the lines between the skills used in the two sports are blurring, as shown by the appointment of Julien Fountain, who played baseball for the British national team, as coach of the South Korea cricket team.
While he was on holiday in Sri Lanka this summer, Fountain went to watch a match between a local side and a touring team from, you'll never guess, South Korea. This year's Asian Games are being held in Incheon this September, and, as with the 2010 edition, the 2014 Asiad will include a T20 cricket competition. As hosts, the South Koreans have decided to enter a team. Trouble being that outside of the ex-pat scene, the country isn't well stocked with cricketers. But what they do have, of course, are plenty of baseballers. They won the Olympic gold in 2008, and silver at the 2009 World Classic. Well, you can see where this is going.
Fountain is now the head coach of South Korea. He is trying to create a T20 team out of a bunch of baseballers. He remembers that match in Sri Lanka, he told Al Jazeera, because "the funny thing was that they made a lot of basic mistakes but they still posted 165 in 20 overs. And they even had 59 dot balls. It's monstrous - they just hit." Fountain says: "They're beginners but it's cheating to call them that. Show me a beginner cricketer who can hit the ball 110 metres. I've got an opening batsman who hit 90 runs last week. He took the opposition apart."
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.
Could Mitchell Johnson carry his Ashes form to South Africa. Damn right he could. At Centurion Park he ended with a career-best 12 wickets and inflicted some potentially serious scars on the South Africans. Writing for the Guardian website, Russell Jackson says that Johnson is now a must-view event, one where you stop what you are doing and race back to the TV set. It's a remarkable tale with, you sense, more to come.
He's also now an event himself, which is an astounding thing to achieve over the course of six Tests. It's Mitch as appointment television. It's Mitch as default headliner and Mitch as TV news bulletin place-setter. You find yourself rushing back with a drink in time for the first ball of his over. It's a cage fight and we're all clamoring for a better look. For opponents it's more about endurance and survival than winning or losing. In those six Tests he's taken 49 wickets at 13.14 with a strike rate of 27.1, a rare case of numbers doing justice to what you're seeing with your own eyes.