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News: Russell Crowe to star in a Bodyline series movie…..

October 21, 2006 2 comments

Well….. I have always thought that a Hollywood movie about Cricket would go a long way in order to at least introduce mainstream americans to the sport as a serious venture….. at least as far as awareness is concerned, because at the momment it looks like most of them either dont know that it is a game, or have a very weird view about it….. even if they dont know that it lasts five days !

Looks like the news that Russel Crowe is going to star in the latest movie about the Bodyline series is the best that could have been achieved under the circumstances……. I am not sure if this is going to be a Hollywood movie, or an Australian/British movie, in which case it is unlikely to find its way to American theatres…..

But Russell Crowe has a good fan following in the US, which is likely to watch any new Russell Crowe movie…… so it is definitely not something that is likely to have no effect….. there will be some positive effect regarding image and awareness…… how much is the million dollar question….. or, if you are the ICC, the 9 million dollar question :)……

Perhaps they can also interest some of Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, Naomi Watts, Jude Law, Clive Owen, Kate Beckinsale, Charlize Theron, Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce, Nicole Kidman, Heath Ledger etc. (all from test playing countries) to also star in the movie !:)….. wishful thinking indeed…….

Categories: Australia, England, USA

Opinion: The forfeited test…

August 21, 2006 12 comments

It seems that despite the game being 129 years old, you can still have something new popping up in it. A forfeited test match by Pakistan….. one which they in all likeliness would have won and reduced the loss margin to 2-1, will now look 3-0.

First …. ball tampering……. didnt we get that out of our skulls that it is called reverse swing now? and why would the Pakistan team get down to ball tampering when they are winning the game, and they have 26 cameras on the ball all the time?!?! Afridi’s pitch tampering was caught by 1 off camera in Dec, and he was severely reprimanded, why would Umar Gul, or Asif, 2 new guys who need to prove their mettle tamper with the ball to take out the seam? only 6 months after one of their team mates nearly had his career ended on an unfair tactic caught by the camera??

Then again, what did they tamper it with?? dirt in pocket? bottle cap?? In truth, the umpire only had a ‘suspicion’ that the ball had been tampered with….. All that he needed to do was to bring that to the notice of the match referee, would would have then at the end of the day looked at the footage of the day to find some proof…… either that or the umpire saw something happenning and was witness to ball tampering…..

Interestingly, neither is true…. the umpire was not a witness to anything…… he only saw the ball losing shape and seam, and immediately accused the team of ball tampering??!?! No camera footage, no witness….. only a feeling coming from a man stubborn enough not to think that he probably did not follow the logical pursuit ……

Interestingly, this time around the fight is not between ECB and PCB, as usual, but between PCB and the ICC umpire…… the English media has been supportive of the Pakistan team so far, including the commentators and the press……. Also a joint statement was issued…….

It was a pretty bad situation…… its not obvious what the team was trying to do when they did not come out to play initially….. did they actually forfeit the game?? Perhaps they did….. but then they came out, thinking that it was not a good thing to create such a big issue at that point in time…… the umpires did not come out then…… why? If the game was over, then the Pakistan team should have been told and they should never have been made to come out in the first place…….

Daryl Hair is actually a pretty bad umpire…… Pakistan team also considers him to be biased, and asked the ICC not to appoint him in their matches…….. that was before this series, and this incident has now come up…….

Hopefully the Pakistan team stays there and plays the ODI series….. I know that they would not do so under Daryl Hair…… the umpire may have to be changed……

Opinion: England must incorporate Netherlands in C&G Trophy

June 30, 2006 15 comments

Why they must? Because only they can.

C&G Trophy exposure, like the one given to Scotland and Ireland this year is an excellent oppurtunity for the associate nations. First of all, they play against many of the best, a standard much higher than what they will be able to muster on their own, and even higher than what most other domestic teams from other countries will be able to offer them on a tour. Secondly, it is great for exposure. A very talented player, performing well, will get a look in by the counties, perhaps for a stint as a second XI or perhaps even first XI player. But the most important thing is that the whole thing is played out over 3 months, on weekends, so nobody has to take time off from work, like Netherlands has to on a tour otherwise. The thing is that only a few countries can technically participate in the English domestic season; France, Belgium, Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands. The first two are not at the level where they can compete with counties, the third and 4th are already playing in the tournament. So that leaves only Netherlands (I am assuming that it would be too much of travel for Denmark to undertake, and I also dont think they would be that competitive against full county sides). England have to incorporate them to raise their standard, because if they dont, its not like India is going to do so. England being the only European cricket powerhouse has a tougher task of single handedly assisting the other associates. Once the associates become strong enough on their own, England can always take a back step and split the duties on development.

Categories: England, Netherlands

News: England not to visit Scotland for ODI in 2007

June 7, 2006 5 comments

Well, I was expecting that taking the time out to play a solitory ODI against a country that is only 5 hours away by car is not going to be that difficult for England, but apparently it is as England have denied any chances of that happenning.

Categories: England, Scotland

News: Ireland v Eng tickets all but sold…..

April 12, 2006 2 comments

I believe that one of the litmus tests for the new ODI nations will be how many tickets they can sell for their ODIs that they are hosting at home. Looks like Ireland is doing pretty well. The original capacity of the stadium was 6300, which they have now increased to 8000, and nearly all the tickets have been sold (there are still 2 months to go for the match!!). This may be just because its a one off event, because its the first time Ireland is playing an ODI, or because its the first time a full England team is going to visit them.

Or it may be (and I hope it is), because the people over there really want to watch cricket.

At Pound 35 per ticket, the board is likely to make around 280K Pounds from this match ($490K) and should help the board very significantly for their future endeavours. 3-4 games like this every year, and the ICU will be able to start the process of contracting players and arranging for their tours at cost.

All of Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands are holefully going to show the rest of the associates how the transition is done, and how the ODI status is best used to develop their game and raise the standard.

News: Scotland invite England for ODI in 2007

This will be really good for Scotland if England do accept the invation. As one can see from the Ireland v England match this summer, these two British Isles countries manage to draw their biggest crowds against England. Scotland would be able to sell a quite a few tickets and get some money going to the association.

I hope against hope that England is also going to treat Netherlands in the same way, and also give them an ODI. Usually, it seems that England treats the British Isles countries a little differently from the rest.

Categories: England, Scotland

Opinion: An opening for Second tier countries…. but not all…..

March 27, 2006 1 comment

One thing that the developing Cricket world usually forgets is that the English county teams, at least 10 of the 18, every year embark on a 10-14 day pre season tour to warm up for the county season. In all cases, they tour countries NOT in Europe, because the weather in March and April is still too cold to play cricket. For example, this year Essex, Somerset, Gloustershire and Notingamshire toured SA, Surrey and Middlesex are touring India, Durham is touring UAE, and Lancashire is touring St Kitts (part of WI Leeward Islands). One can see that the objective is just to warm up, because the county players are actually looking for opposition which is slightly weaker than the county sides that they will face in the season. Also, due to cost factors, the county side manages to stay put in one city, and tries to play the games with club opposition, and not domestic sides of the country they are touring. The exception is UAE, as was Zimbabwe in the 1980-1991 period, where they actually play against the national side under the logic that the national side is still weaker than the county opposition in the season.

The main point is that the cost of the tour is borne completely by the English County touring. The home side has minimal cost.

The new cricketing nations, or minnows as they are called, should make use of this as much as they can. For example, why doesnt the Kenyan Cricket board invite a county side to tour them instead of SA. It is going to be slightly cheaper for the English county as well. Namibia can do the same. So instead of 4 county sides touring SA and playing against the University teams or club teams over there, they can play against National opposition from Kenya or Namibia. I dont think the national teams from the second tier are that much weaker compared to clubs in the test nation. Maybe domestic teams from test sides are stronger, but not club sides.

The asian countries which can make use of these tours are UAE, Nepal and Malaysia. UAE is already doing it, and this is their second year running so that is excellent omen for them. Nepal and Malaysia need to step up. They have the facilities to host a cricket side for 2 weeks, and they have the grounds to play the games as well. It would be good for for them if the tours can take place in these countries instead of India.

Finally, regarding the Americas, instead of WI, the tour can go to either Canada, Bermuda or, surprise surprise, Argentina. I dont think Canada would be able to host the touring side because they are unable to get their team together due to the expenses involved in travelling. Bermuda apparently does not have the facilities (though it is surprising to me that they dont), and apparently there is a problem with the pitches on which they play. Argentina then appears to be the best bet for the touring side, and perhaps the MCC that had such a good tour of Argentina in Jan 2006 can put in a few good words for the country's cricket future.

This is just an idea, that associations need to think upon. Zimbabwe played at least 2 county sides every year from 1980-1991, and that was instrumental in their raising the standard of the game in both the first class and the one day format. It also gave great exposure to the Zimbabwean players to the county circuit, and many of them ended up becoming professional cricketers in the counties that they impressed on their tour e.g. Kevin Curran etc.

ECC Div 1 and England

February 12, 2006 2 comments

This year there will be 5 countries in the European Championships Division 1 tournament; Scotland, Ireland, Netherlands, Italy and Denmark. This division is the premier league of the tournament, with the champion country ending up to become the ECC champions.

It is time for England to also start particiapting in this premier division. Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands already have ODI status, so it is not like England would not be gaining anything out of it; perhaps some easy runs, some easy wickets. But England’s participation is going to make this tournament serious business, and the other participating countries are likely to take immense interest in it, especially their country’s games against England. Plus, it is common knowledge that only by playing stronger opposition will the associates improve. And one should never underestimate the power of an upset. Imagine a match taking place between England and Ireland in Dublin for this tournament in which Ireland upsets England in front of a 10K strong crowd!! That will make 10K lifelong cricket fans in that country.

If this were to happen, then ECC can even think about making it a yearly 2 week event, with relegation only happenning every two years when the second division tournament also takes place. Perhaps it can even become a commercial tournament for the ECC instead of the development cost tournament that it currently is.

So the 6th team that ECC will be adding to Division 1 after 2006 need not be coming in from below, but rather from the top.

Give Bangladesh a break….

January 6, 2006 Leave a comment

Ever since their promotion to Test Cricket, Bangladesh have been at the end of everyone’s criticism. Most common criticisms are based on  the argument that they are devaluing the Test Cricket records and also are a threat to the integrity of the game.

When South Africa started playing the game, way back in 1890, their team was perhaps way worse than Bangladesh’s is today. Between 1890-1902, all the scorecards from South African Test matches are laughable. Their second test at Newlands in 1889 had Eng batting first and making 292, and in reply the south africans first were all out 47, and then following on were all out for 43. John Briggs took 7/17 in the first innings, and 8/11 in the second innings for England. After this masterful ‘Test’ performance, South Africa were given a break for 3 years, and England toured them again in 1892. South Africa, after having practised a lot in the last 3 years, managed 97 in their first innings and 83 in the second. Perhaps seeing that they hadnt improved that much, England decided to give them another 4 years this time and toured them again in 1896. England were bowled out in the first innings for 185, but SA again failed to cross the 100 run mark and were dismissed for 93. England did not enforce the follow on for some reason, perhaps to get some cricket going, and made 226 in their second innings, giving SA an approximate 315 run target. SA however surpassed everyone’s expectations and were dismissed for a fighting 30 !! Their highest invididual score was 10, with George Lohman getting 8/7 (8 wkts) for England in the second innings! Their scores for the next few games were the following:

1896 – 2nd Test: Eng 482, SA 151 & 134
1896 – 3rd Test: SA 115 & 117, Eng 265

It was 10 years after their elevated test status, that SA gave a close sembalnce of a test cricket nation. In the first test in 1899, they first dismissed Eng for 145, then put on 251 taking a 100 run lead, and then dismissed Eng again for 237 setting themselves up with only 133 or so to win. However, they ended up getting dismissed for only 99. The second test was similar. They first dismissed Eng for … surprise… 92, and then put up 177. Perhaps England were complacent in the first innings or something, but they put on 330 in the second innings, leaving SA with only 245 to win. SA managed another fighting 35 !!

However, from the 1902 series onwards, SA did manage to perform well, and I would actually count their 1899 series as a test performance as well.

But what about the first 10 years? Were Lohman’s or Briggs’s figures test level? Do they deserve a standing in test cricket, equivalent to what these bowlers were earning against Australia at that time? Does England deserve to have a test record for dismissing a test team for 30? or 43? or 47?

The point that I am trying to make is, that the integrity of Test Cricket was already dented quite a lot in the first 10 years of SA’s beginnings. Almost all bad records were against them at the time. Nobody cares today, because SA is one of the strongest teams today and people do not look at records that far back.

Assuming that Bangladesh were to become a reasonably strong team in 4-5 years, nobody would really care about what happenned in the first 10 years of their test life, just like nobody cares about SA test history going that far back. To SA’s credit, they have never really called for stripping of Zim or Bang test status; this shows that they know their history very well.

The reason why I state that SA’s 1890 team was perhaps much worse than Bangladesh’s is today is because the England team at that time was not a professional cricket outfit. They were amateurs, who played the game well, but it was a game for them, not their profession. They did their regular jobs, and showed up on weekends to play cricket, and eventually got selected. Plus, England perhaps did not send their strongest possible team to play SA anyway in those days. At least on one occasion, Eng were playing a simulataneous series against Aus in Eng and SA in SA, and in that case it is safe to assume that their stronger team was playing against Aus.

Some people also refer to the fact that it is not possible to compare eras, and that batting was much more difficult back then as compared to today. This argument is wrong. If batting has become easier today because of better picthes and better gear, it has also become easier for bowlers to study the batsmen, look at their footage, find areas of weakness and try to exploit them. The fielding standards have imporved dramatically, and catches are not dropped as much today as they were in the past. Along with batsmen’s gear, wicketkeepers gear has improved as well, and there are fewer catches popping out behind the stumps. But even if this argument was taken to be correct, and batting was more difficult back then, we are talking about comparative standards. If SA could not manage to reach half of Eng’s despite playing two innings, there was definitely a problem. It is definitely a comparison that tells you something.

Similar things have happenned with Sri lanka and New Zealand, although their losses were not as pronouced as Bangladesh’s are today. There are a few reasons why this is the case.

Today, test cricket is drastically different than what it used to be 20 years back. Today, teams try to play quicker and win, whereas 20 years back it was a big event if a test match in a series had a result. Majority of the games in those days were drawn, and teams played less and less attacking cricket. While the game has changed now, and it has changed for the better and is more entertaining for the spectators, the obvious byproduct is that the difference between the weaker test nations and the stronger ones is amplified.

The second difference is that there is now a global audience for cricket, so it would be fairly common to see people in Pakistan watching a test match between Bangladesh and England. This was unheard of even 15 years back, when countries would have live exposure to only the games featuring their own team. So while a mismatch would go relatively unnoticed back then, today there are people sitting and watching them, and the commentators are trying to find something interesting happenning in the match. Also, this whole hooplah about TV Rights etc has shown up and it is adding a new dimension to the development of the game.

The third reason is one that people dont really think about. Bangladeshi team has an unprecedented amount of pressure on them. Think about this. Usually, when a country starts playing cricket, the expectations are low, and the interest level is low. Once the country starts doing well, the interest level grows and the expectations become higher. Once the team starts doing exceptionally well, the whole thing becomes a passion. But Bangladesh, on the account of having been part of Pakistan for 24 years, already has passion for the game, yet their team has just started out. No other country in the first 5-6 years have had to bear the kind of pressure that the Bangladesh team has been subjected to from their crowd since 2000. This is new grounds as far as comparison of test nations is concerned, and needs to be taken into consideration as well. The added pressure definitely bears down on the players; they know that millions are following their performance passionately.

Talking about passion, if I were to select 1 country in the whole world which loves cricket, it would not be Pakistan, Australia, nor even India. It would be Bangladesh. Which other country can boast that they will get a 36000 capacity stadium filled with people for an U19 world cup final, in which the host country is not even participating? People have said that so many losses will make people lose interest in Cricket in Bangladesh, and that usually happens, but not in the case of Bangladesh. They seem to be getting more and more into the game.

So much passion and interest usually means that it is only a matter of time before the country starts becoming good in the game. In December 2005, this theory was proven correct to some extent when Bangladesh U19 beat Eng U19 3 times, Sri lanka U19 3 times, and Pak, Zim and SA U19s once within a span of 30 days. Going into the U19 World Cup, they are one of the stronger teams, even one which has a fairly realistic chance of finishing in the semi finals of the tournament.

Why is it that this has happenned? I mean, the U19 tournament has been taking place since 1998, and one never saw such a strong showing of the Bangladeshi team. The main reason is that because of the extra money that Bangaldesh has been able to generate, they have invested in a junior training program that was able to nourish their talent to the best of their abilities. And why has better talent started showing up? Because the kids now know that there is a good, stable, long term future in the sport. They do not just play cricket to represent Bangladesh in a single ODI once every 5 years in the Asia Cup, but they want to make a career out of playing cricket year after year, throughout their life. They have local heroes in M. Ashraful and Masharafe Murtaza who they want to emulate, and overall, they work harder at their game and want to improve to the best of their abilities. They know the stats and also want to play cricket that matters in the global history of the game. That is what passion, mixed with a regular cricket calender will do given due course of time (which seems to be about 10 years).

Gone are the days of 1890 South African team where you would play a series after 3 years, and still be able to hold public interest. Today, if you want to excite a country about talking up a game professionally, you have to show them the full path to what is possible, and you have to show it to them regulalry. If Bangladesh were to play 1 series every two years, then people would not look at the game favorably as a profession, and may perhaps even lose the passion for the game for some other sport like football which is shown regularly. The only way it seems that you can achieve that, and not have a significant dent in the test records is to have one weaker team for a few years in the big league.

Finally, the problem in Test cricket of mismatches today looks more pronounced because there is not one but two weaker teams. Zimbabwe recently have become even weaker than Bangladesh, whereas 3 years ago they would have been able to challenge the likes of New Zealand and West Indies easily. But Zimbabwe becoming weaker is not the fault of Bangladesh, it is the fault of the ICC and the member countries which are refusing to vote for a change in Zimbabwe cricket administration. In fact, if the ICC was to strip one team off the status, it would be the weakest team i.e. Zimbabwe and not Bangladesh. I personally find it extremely odd that the ICC member countries would constantly complain about the standard of Zimbabwe cricket, and at the same time prevent the ICC from interfering into their setup and fix the problems that have in the last 2 years destroyed at least 10 international standard careers in that country (Taibu, Ervine, Carlisle, G. Flower, Wishart, Streak, Campbell etc.). Zimbabwe and Bangladesh should not be put in the same boat regarding standard. In one case, there is great hope, and some results at least at the U19 level are showing even now. In the other, the future is as hopeless as the recent past.

Cricket is not an easy game like Football. There are a hundred and one things that a player has to master, and has to master at different levels in order to do well at the highest level. It takes a very long time to master the cricket, and if you are even found wanting in one area you can be excruciatingly defeated by the big boys. It is the mentality of the exclusive club which has led to only ten test teams today, and only a few more ODI teams now. Belgium and Holland have been playing cricket since 1905, but they were never given regular series against the big teams to get their standard up. If that had been the case, they would have had good standard teams today, and one would not be wondering about what to do quickly in terms of raising their standard today. So if the cricket world goofed up in the last 100 years in keeping the game exclusive to themselves, then in the era of expansion today they have to bear the byproduct of the mismatches. The same is the case with Bangladesh. Their passion and interest in the game is unmatched. Give their cricketers the oppurtunity to make careers out of the game and get serious beyond sunday league, give their spectators a regular calender to follow, and a team to follow. Things will improve quite a lot in the near future, especially if Bangladesh does not have the added pressure of the world scrutinizing each run they make.

At the momment the ICC has given ODI status to 6 other teams. Out of these 6 the top 2, namely Kenya and Scotland are going to be given 2 series against a full test member every year, and the rest are going to be given only 1 series against a test nation. In addition to all this, the ICC must have a team that they give unlimited exposure to, and that team at the momment is Bangladesh. Within a span of 3-4 years, Bangladesh is going to graduate to a competitive cricket team in all forms and hopefully then the ICC can make one of the the other teams a full ODI member and give that team unlimited access to ODI cricket. The Zim crisis is a totally different problem and needs to be solved differently, it has nothing to do with the development process. The problem with Zim is that getting them to play more cricket doesnt seem to be the answer, because their management keeps on firing their players and hiring 16 year olds to represent the country almost every year.