Is Ashley Giles Good Enough to Coach England?

16 Apr Ashley_Giles_2868067b
Ashley Giles’ hopes to be the next England coach took a hammering in Bangladesh: losses to New Zealand, South Africa and then the whimpering failure to the Netherlands have all conspired against him. So with the ECB today interviewing candidates for the role vacated by Andy Flower, I ask – is Giles good enough to coach England?

Firstly it is necessary to concede that he has not been dealt a generous hand during his time as England’s limited overs head coach. Consistently he has led tours with a veritable 2nd XI as ECB ordered rest periods or, in one instance, a retirement has whittled down the list of players he has had at his disposal. Regularly without James Anderson, Graeme Swann and recently Kevin Pietersen, England’s best ODI player, Giles has had to turn to Boyd Rankin, Stephen Parry and Moeen Ali rather too early than would have been ideal both for Giles and the players.
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5 Reasons Not To Watch the IPL

15 Apr 105191_story__sreeshant

Fancy watching the meat market-cum-freak show that is the IPL this Spring? Go ahead, if you dare, but here are 5 reasons that you should consider which will change your mind.

1) The standard is not very high

Considering the number of international players at IPL 7 (close to 200) the quality of cricket will be disappointing. Perhaps the level of domestic cricket in India is letting things down – there were fewer international stars at the most recent Big Bash but the average score was 150 compared to 147 at the glitzy IPL 6. This could be because there were 76 games at the IPL compared to 35 at the Big Bash, but that shows another failure of the tournament – its length. By the time the final of IPL 7 comes around on June 1st, England will already have played one T20 and four ODIs against Sri Lanka.
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Chaotic England Look For Consistency

20 Mar
181899Considering how chaotic their past few months have been, it’s a miracle the England cricket team managed to make it to Bangladesh in one piece.

Some will argue that England have just suffered a temporary blip in form recently, but the fact is that their decline has been much more prolonged than that. Whether or not it is terminal does not hinge on their performance in Bangladesh, but how they play will be a sign of how long the recovery will take.
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England’s Dernbach Dilemma

14 Mar
Jade DernbachIn Jade Dernbach England have the prototype T20 bowler – tattoos like an Etch a Sketch drawn by a child on a roller-coaster, he has all the tricks and funky variations needed to be a world-class fast bowler.

And that is what makes him a decent bowler. Capable of bowling in excess of 90mph and getting swing both ways, he has the ability to beat most batsmen around the world with sheer pace alone. Then he confuses their thinking with his party-bag of tricks: back of the hand slower balls, off and leg cutters, searing yorkers or half-pace bouncers. The problem is, he often confuses his own thinking.

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Video

2 Videos For a Lazy Thursday

25 Feb

You know just how lazy this is? Firstly, it was meant to be 5 videos and secondly, it was meant to be uploaded last Sunday. Yeah. It’s really, really, really lazy that I couldn’t be arsed to find 3 more videos and didn’t fancy the faff of doing it last Sunday. So here are 2, yes just 2, videos. Enjoy.

*EDIT* – as evidence (?) of aforementioned laziness, this post was apparently published on the 25th of February. I absolutely guarantee that it was published on the 6th of March instead. Anyway whatever, watch these videos that I found for you, yer slob.

1) Fred Trueman congratulates Dennis Lillee on his 300th Test wicket

In this video, Trueman sups on a pint of bitter whilst congratulating Lillee on going past both he and the West Indian Lance Gibbs on the all-time Test wicket-takers list. That’s how it starts, anyway, before Trueman has a moan at both Yorkshire and England for not sending him a telegram to congratulate him and then tells us all about his favourite wicket. With smoking pipe in hand this is, as the esteemed Robelinda2 tells us, ‘gold’.

2) Ronnie Irani warms up on the boundary

On the ill-fated English tour Down Under of 2002/03, there were minor positives. Michael Vaughan announced himself, the English competed gamely and Ronnie Irani did this in the dying overs of the first ODI at the SCG. Mimicking something Merv Hughes used to get up to, he gives Nasser Hussain something to laugh about. It also gives us a fleeting glimpse of Gareth Batty playing cricket for England, which is rare.

The Sun Also Rises

23 Feb

As the sun began to set over the Azad Maidan in a hazy mid-November dusk, Prithvi Shaw tucked his bat under his arm and walked off unbeaten on 257. Over a billion Indians had given their final farewell to Sachin Tendulkar a few days earlier and with this 14 year old the burden of carrying their hopes seemed to find a new recipient.

It was on these same dusty orange pitches in 1988 that Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli put on 664 runs in a Harris Shield game, a partnership that still resonates around the world. Down the same threadbare pitches as Shaw they danced, silencing the boorish drone of the late afternoon Mumbai traffic.

Tendulkar was many things – master batsman; role model extraordinaire; advertising gold dust – but most of all he was a modest man who chose dignified silence and weight of runs to speak for him. He spent his entire career allowing the big players of Indian cricket to burn brightly and fleetingly: first it was the same school friend, Kambli, who allowed himself to believe his own legend, and eventually was consumed by celebrity. Then Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag came and went in a blaze of glory and controversy all whilst Tendulkar shied away from the limelight. As his career progressed from teenage starlet to wizened and fabled hero he saw it all, absorbing the adulation and expectation.

Yet his last years were not golden ones. He failed to score a Test century in the last 24 months of his career and the vultures were circling overhead long before he announced his decision to retire as the world watched the great man scrape and forage uncomfortably, willing him to find a final innings to savour. The last two fruitless years were not pretty, nor were they deserving for a man who had meant so much to so many people.

What about his highlights, then? For there were moments which brought India, and the cricketing world, to a standstill. His three shot salvo that went ‘six-four-four’ against an electric Shoaib Akhtar in the 2003 World Cup. The year of 1998 against Australia, the world’s best team, in which he averaged 97 runs per innings across 12 visits to the crease. Then 10 years later and the fourth-innings 103* versus England in Chennai, as he led India’s colossal chase of 387 to win the match.

And all this achieved whilst he had the pressure of being the latest in the line of prodigious Indian batting talents. From Ranjitsinhji, the British Indian who revolutionised batting, through to Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar and Mohammad Azharuddin, India has a rich history of strokemakers. Tendulkar found himself tasked with the responsibility of continuing this legacy with the dust of the Maidan still on his whites when, at the age of 15, he scored a century on his Ranji Trophy debut.

Whilst he was at the crease the nation would stop working and there would be hope for India’s innings. Whilst his supporters felt that his achievements meant more than life, the little man in the middle did not. He was still the boy at the Maidan, scoring centuries with his friends against the din of his beloved hometown, which was diminished beyond the sound of his bat on ball. Cricket was just cricket, no more, no less. And as the sun set on his career, Indians were lost as they sought a new idol.

Back at the Maidan, and the day after he had begun his innings, Prithvi Shaw was finished with 546 runs after batting for a day and a half. The extraordinarily talented young man appeared to herald in a new time – a new sun – for Indian cricket.

Perspective

16 Feb
Mitchell Johnson has more than his moustache to thank for his rejuvenated career

Mitchell Johnson has more than his moustache to thank for his rejuvenated career

In 2012, Mitchell Johnson was at a crossroads in his career. After starting with such a bang he had faded to so much that he had become an international laugh stock. He was humiliated on and off the pitch and for anyone that is a tough spot to be in, but for Johnson – not the toughest mentally who put lots of pressure on himself – it was nigh on unbearable.

Enter Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith. An Australian soldier who won both the Medal for Gallantry and the Victoria Cross for Australia, ‘RS’ saw plenty of action in Iraq and Afghanistan and became a celebrity both in Perth, his home-town, and Australia as a whole. Johnson and Roberts-Smith met two years ago when Johnson was looking to anyone he could for help – and he found what he was looking for. Essentially, Roberts-Smith brought out the mongrel in Johnson that was lurking beneath the surface, and turned the boy who is, by all accounts, a perfectly pleasant person, into the man who has no remorse for the damage he can inflict with the ball. The talent was always there, but it just needed to be coaxed out of him.

Most important of all was the lesson of perspective. By teaching Johnson that there was more to life than cricket, and that there are people who have things considerably worse, the pressure was lifted from his heavily tattooed shoulders, and the burden was gone. This eye-opening realisation can come in various forms.

Stress-related illnesses can take down people in all professions and cricket is no different – so when Jonathan Trott returned home from the recent Ashes tour there was plenty said about the health of someone being infinitely more important than the result of a cricket match. And although the tour was disastrous, the felling of a giant of English cricket in such a way asked new questions of the training regime and intense playing schedule that England undertake. As a result, the coach who implemented the regime left his post, and English cricket is due a major environment upheaval.

Key to that upheaval will be captain Alastair Cook, who was half the cricketer he can be on that tour. Leaving Australia in early 2014, he returned to his farm in Bedfordshire with his pregnant wife. It has been widely reported that he enjoys taking his mind off cricket by lambing and with a lamb of his own on the way he will undoubtedly see that there is more to cricket, even after a tough day on the pitch.

Yet there are times when an incident which should lend perspective fails. New Zealand batsman Jesse Ryder was assaulted following a night out and left in a coma in 2013, a serious attack which threatened his life more than his career. He recovered sufficiently to make his return for the Blackcaps but, on the verge of a Test recall against India and being named in the World Twenty20 Cup squad, he was reprimanded following a late night out in Auckland. Dropped back to domestic cricket and not named in the World Cup squad, Ryder has set his own career back immeasurably after this indiscretion – the latest in a litany of alcohol related issues.

Obviously it is wrong to make assumptions on why Ryder breaks rules and damages his career, but following the attack on him last year he gained a huge amount of support from around the world. It would be disappointing if he can’t back up his talent with the maturity required to make it on the international stage.

Perhaps what Ryder needs is a mentor from outside the world of cricket. Johnson’s meeting with Roberts-Smith, however it came about, was the spark he needed to reinvigorate his career and rediscover his love of cricket. If Ryder and Cook can do the same they’ll be better for it.

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