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Give Onfield Umpires The Power Back

12 May
The use of technology for umpiring decisions is undoubtedly good for the game. Given the amount of money and pressure that now rides on televised matches, the backup of a 3rd umpire for replays of run outs and stumpings is a worthy addition to the umpires’ armoury. But has it gone too far, even to the point of spoiling the enjoyment of the game?
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5 Good Starts To 2014

24 Apr
Jostling for England places has begun in earnest as the 2014 county season rumbles on. Some have had a good spring, some have not – and here are five who could see their good county form translate into good England form.

Alastair Cook

Cook needs plenty of runs this summer for many reasons. Firstly, his own form has dropped off since the three centuries in India in 2012 helped seal that series triumph. Secondly, if he scores runs it will put less pressure on his captaincy which has started to look more and more fragile. And finally, if someone picks up the slack left by Kevin Pietersen his absence will be felt less keenly. Essentially, he needs a bucket-load of runs against Sri Lanka and India.

And he’s started 2014 in great fashion. 481 runs in six innings has launched Essex’s campaign with a win and a rain-affected draw. The two tons have been big too – 127 and 181. The dearth of ‘daddy tons’ from the England set-up of late could be over if captain Cook gets his house in order.
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5 mostly unrelated cricket thoughts

10 Feb

1) New Zealand are getting quite good

Beating India in your own conditions is not difficult, but for a small nation that is widely disregarded it is a huge achievement for New Zealand. More so considering they have just won the limited overs stuff against the same opponents and now have managed to translate ODI form into Test form. There are questions over the Blackcaps – BJ Watling has a distinct technical fault in his keeping whereby his weight shifts to the leg side before he adjusts and moves back to the off; Corey Anderson is neither a Test match bowler nor a Test match batsman; Peter Fulton is floundering at the top of the order and surely just keeping the spot warm for Martin Guptill; they lack a Test match quality spinner. However, beating one of the 3 super-powers in World cricket is a huge coup and warms the cockles of all but 1.6 billion of the cricket loving family.

2) Eoin Morgan wants another crack at Test cricket

He burst onto the scene as a spunky youth with fancy shots and the most battled hardened stare since the callow boys returning from the Western Front. Yet, as so often happens in Test cricket, he was found out and then booted into the long grass by the selectors. But now with KP jettisoned like a space-dump he has stuck two fingers up to the IPL by withdrawing himself from the auction. Setting his sights on scoring heavily for Middlesex in the Championship, he is gunning down KP’s vacated number 4 spot. His First Class record is ropey at best (average of 34.45 with 9 centuries) but he has the resolve and nous to have a second crack. More over, the fact that he’s turned down a contract worth roughly $1 million in order to play Test cricket will be welcome relief for the ECB given their horror week. So what about that week?

3) The ECB are having a stinker

Firstly they (Paul Downton, the new MD, and also James Whitaker, the National Selector) demand that there is only one coach for all 3 teams. Not unreasonable, as that would surely result in a more cohesive unit – until you look at the amount of cricket England play. From the 1st of January 2012 to the 1st of January 2014 they played 86 matches across all formats, spanning 202 days of cricket. For one man that’s a lot of work, before the time spent away from home is factored in. Ludicrous. Secondly, firing KP was probably the wrong call. Yet it’s the nature of the business, so fair enough, as long as good reasons are cited. Have they been cited? Has the ECB given a couple of a reasons that would justify sacking the leading run scorer England has ever produced? Have they heck. Instead, they’ve basically called Piers Morgan a poo-poo head in the world’s worst press release and then implied that if you are ‘outside cricket’ and your opinion is not in line with their own you’re worthless and a nobody. This threw up a whole new bag of issues – a) what does ‘outside cricket’ mean, and who is ‘inside cricket’?, b) are we not allowed to question decisions made by the ECB or are we supposed to blindly follow them?, and c) if we disagree with the ECB does that mean we agree with Piers Morgan? Time to bathe in bleach again guys!

4) South Africa are going to drill Australia

Australia’s top 6 are shaky at best: throughout the Ashes series England ripped the head off, only to watch Brad Haddin bundle them out of trouble with a cavalier 70-odd. Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander are better than England and on the green seamers that have been prepared in Centurion, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town they will tear through the Aussie rotters. Mitchell Johnson will be exposed as the average bowler that he is (seriously, it’s just quick and mostly short. Until he has a series where he perpetually swings the ball like Trent Boult he will be forever an average – if very fast – bowler) and South Africa will still be number 1 at the end of the series. They might want to find a spinner soon though, because Imran Tahir is dreadful. For example – try Simon Harmer. 175 First Class wickets, he can bat, and he’s just turned 25. One for the future, definitely.

5) The Big 3 takeover has happened and it’s bad

The formation of the ExCo is the thrust of the changes – the committee on which there will always be a representative from Australia, England and India who will be able to decide the future of cricket. Those three nations will take more money from the ICC and they will play each other more frequently than any of the ‘smaller’ nations because it will be more financially rewarding when taking these series ‘to market’. Until the FTP up to 2023 is released we won’t know how bad it is, but… it’s going to be bad.

The kindness of strangers

24 Jan

The nice thing about this ‘job’ is that on the whole the people are friendly – maybe it’s because cricket is, by nature, a friendly sport; perhaps it’s because those who are privileged enough to write about it get to do something they love, rather than something they resent. Unfortunately, I have come across unfriendly cricket writers and those who are not interested in the travails of a young wannabe. But sometimes there is someone who will eagerly go the extra mile.

On Thursday, Kim Jones passed away. Kim was the owner and editor of SPIN magazine, and a lover of county cricket.

In March of 2013, as green as the fresh shoots that were emerging from the dirt, I emailed Kim asking for advice on getting into cricket journalism and writing. I sent a similar email to a lot of other journalists, yet he was the only one to respond. And rather than posting a generic ‘keep going’ reply, he gave me actual, worthwhile advice. His reply was longer than my original email, and he asked me to keep in touch. And so I did. We exchanged emails for a month or so, and as our familiarity grew I got a glimpse into the great sense of humour that lay underneath his vastly knowledgeable outer shell.

Once I told him about The Cricket Magazine he was nothing but supportive, and gave me some more encouragement into how best to get the word out, as well as some titbits on writing about the sport.

I didn’t know that Kim was unwell. An eyebrow was raised when his Twitter account went quiet, but when a new one sprung up, I just assumed he’d forgotten his password, or fancied a fresh start. So when I saw George Dobell and Lizzy Ammon, who both worked with him at SPIN magazine, tweet on Thursday night that he’d passed away, I was surprised, shocked and saddened.

Kim took time out of his busy schedule to email a nobody with advice and his genuine interest in me blew me away. As often happens when someone passes, one selfishly regrets things – hoping that those feelings will alleviate the guilt that’s left behind. And, selfishly, I regret not emailing him and simply saying ‘thank-you’, and telling him of how the site has gone since his initial encouragement.

From the reaction on Twitter, I am not alone in being touched by his generous spirit. The man behind ‘AltCricket’, Nishant Joshi, tweeted of a similar experience to mine.

Whilst his love of county cricket was not lost on those who play it – especially those from his favourite county of Warwickshire.

https://twitter.com/LaurieEvans32/status/426652398107762688

Kim was a good man. He was thoughtful, kind, genuine and honest. He willingly emailed someone he didn’t have to, because he wanted to help them. And I will miss him.

Kevin Pietersen – from reintegration to the highest echelons

19 Nov

152047Kevin Pietersen is approaching his 100th Test match. He’s a brilliant, cocky mess with fatal flaws. He’s the antithesis to a world of bland sportsmen, too scared to offend. He’s a throwback to a world of cricketers with attitude. The last 18 months have been the toughest in the career of KP, but with one innings on the orange tinged turner at Mumbai he won over all those who had doubted him before.

The well-known problem with KP is his enormous ego. It has made him a nightmare for teams for years. He left South Africa, joined Hampshire, left Hampshire, joined Surrey, and for a while left England after he called then captain Andrew Strauss a very rude Afrikaaner word in a text to some South African players. Whilst he has failed to contain his ego for years, a battle that is more even is the one he conducts against another flaw of his – his Achillean anger.

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Milestones

9 Oct

120124010605-cricket-ponting-story-topRight so, it’s been a year since I went onto WordPress and started up an innocently yet hilariously self-indulgent blog called ‘alexbritten.wordpress.com’. In my defence, I made a mistake. I thought that was a username, or something, and I could call it something more related to cricket rather than just my name. Obviously I was wrong, but it has given me plenty of material for self deprecating jokes over the past 12 months, so it’s probably been worth it.

I was seriously naive when I started this blog. My genuine belief was that I’d write on this for 6 – 10 months, then I’d start getting money through it because of adverts (and because I don’t understand the internet), then I’d get a pleasingly grovelling email from the sports editor at the Guardian begging for me to come and write for him because Mike Selvey and Andy Bull really are letting the side down. Modestly I’d accept my post, move to North London and live like a king, occasionally using executive phrases such as ‘filing my copy’ and ‘just popping to Lord’s for a spot of lunch with Gus Fraser’. I’d imbibe gallons of Beaujolais, smoke cigars and take baths in tubs full of dollar bills.

The reality – I moved from a student hovel in Manchester back home to Suffolk, only met Mike Selvey and Andy Bull at Guardian HQ once (on an excellent ‘How To Be A Cricket Journalist’ masterclass – check them out); I have filed no copies (unless writing online and self publishing counts), went to Lord’s just the solitary time (didn’t meet Angus Fraser) and have drunk no expensive wine, smoked any cigars nor attempted to wash myself using dirty money.

Luckily, I was asked to edit thecricketmagazine.com, and so I’ve been filling up internet space blathering on about that incessantly. And, equally luckily, some excellent writers have written things (filed copies?) for that, showing me how one should write about cricket in a witty, informative and engaging way. People like the wrongunatlongon, Ruth Thielke, Jud Ong, Davis Harrigan from Beyond Realisation, Matt Carter and so many more that I’ve forgotten them. Thanks guys.

So has this blog has sort of achieved an aim, in that I am now a bit more of a cricket journalist than I was before the 8th of October 2012? Maybe. I’m not as much of one as I want to be and I most likely act and behave like more of one than I really am. One of the other stated aims on this blog was to discover more of the internet than YouTube and Buzzfeed – so has this succeeded? I guess that has too. I now know about webmail and, sadly, am addicted to Reddit. I think that means the past year has, therefore, been good? Jesus.

Anyway, seeing as blogs are, in their nature, incredibly self centred things, I’m going to write a list of objective that I would like to achieve before the 8th of October 2014:

1) Update this blog more regularly, and not with those really annoying ‘read more on The Cricket Magazine’ links because whenever I see something similar on another website it irritates me to the point of immediate combustion. That isn’t to say I’ll stop doing those things (because what is a loyal audience for if not for conning them for hits?), but I’ll try and do more articles solely for Thoughts of a Cricket Addict. You lucky devils.

2) Get paid. Lololol.

3) Build up Twitter followers, both on TCM Twitter and personal one. I don’t know why it surprises me that, despite my numerous bellicose tweets about the bloody ICC they still don’t follow me, but it does. And they should. Also, the ECB (same reason for them not following me) and just generally more people who don’t govern cricket, but just like it (probably more than the ICC, but that isn’t hard).

4) Be less bitter/jealous about other journalists and writers who are more successful than I am. And to that end, stop whining about nepotism. It happens, it’s always happened, and as long as certain people’s fathers are major cricket correspondents, they’ll always have a foot in the door irrespective of their own questionable ability to write words about cricket. Grumble.

5) Stop grumbling.

6) Stop rambling.

So there we go. Another year older, another year closer to death. It has actually been a lot of fun. I’ve done things that I never thought I’d do, and that is all because of this blog and, far more importantly, because of you. Yes, you, anonymous internet person. Just clicking onto this has made it possible and I will be forever grateful for it. Should I ever meet anyone who says ‘Hey, we both like cricket, why don’t you check out this great blog I read, it’s called Thoughts of…’ I’ll spontaneously erupt with joy and jubilation and probably lick that person right on the face.

Here’s to another year.

Alex

History, Tradition and Yorkshire

3 May
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YCCC

In scoring 677/7d today, Yorkshire reached their 4th joint highest score ever.  Their declaration, one could argue, was in the interests of moving the game forward – with a lead of 202, they are clearly hoping to bowl their opponents Derbyshire out and win their second match in a row.   But if they wanted to move the game forward, surely they would have declared earlier – no, I think that they declared exactly when they meant to, for in reaching but not surpassing 677 they matched a historical landmark but showed respect to their ancestral compatriots.  This is a common theme in cricket and one that refuses to be watered down, even years later. Continue reading