Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Public Service Announcement: Charity Ashes For The Everyman Male Cancer Campaign

From The Village Cricketer:

"Next Monday 29th June, Barnes CC in London will host the ultimate pre-Ashes encounter: The Village Cricketer's English All Stars v the Cricket with Balls Aussie Code of Conduct XI.

Starting at 3.30pm, its a 30:30 match to raise funds and awareness for the Everyman Male Cancer Campaign, part of the Institute of Cancer Research.

More information is available on the game here and donations can be made here.

Also, please be aware that Jrod, the big cheese of Cricket with Balls, is still looking for Aussies (or pretend Aussies) to make up his side. Anyone fancying a game should email

We'd be really grateful for a plug for the match if possible.


The Village Cricketer"

Continued >> >>

Monday, June 22, 2009

Where To Now For Team India?

As I write this Pakistan are on the brink of cleaning up Sri Lanka for not very many in the final of the World Twenty20 and as much as I'd like to think that this will be an easy chase, every shred of logic tells me that the fat lady hasn't quite reached the microphone. Alas, this is not about the Lankans or the Pakis, this is about MS Dhoni's Team India and where they are headed after the debacle that was their World T20 campaign. Would it surprise you to know that I firmly believe this reversal will do Team India a world of good in the long run?

There is at least one virtue Team India can take from each of the two World T20 finalists. From Sri Lanka we need to learn that specialists will win you more matches than bits-and-pieces players in any format, on any surface (yes, I consider Ravindra Jadeja a bits-and-pieces player at this point in his short career).

For far too long Indian cricket has been obsessed with trying to find the next Kapil Dev, or the spin version of Kapil Dev (remember what Greg Chappell did to Irfan Pathan). If it is accepted that a Sachin Tendulkar is born once every 1000 years, is it not time that we also conceded that a Kapil Dev might take at least another 100 years to arrive? In the meantime lets utilise the services of capable and proven specialists (eg. Pragyan Ojha and RP Singh), especially when they are in rare form.

In most situations I'm loathe to suggest that we should be learning anything from Pakistan, for everything in that country, including the success of its cricket team, appears to occur through pure chance. However, there are a few reasons they've made it further than Team India in this tour. One of them being Younis Khan's open challenge to his senior players to stand up and be counted - and boy have the said players they sprung out of their chairs.

Experienced players are held in high regard because they have faced many tough situations and, sometimes, helped their side come out on top. They have the skills and temperament to cope with adversity and use it as a spur for success. Senior players are not in the team to coast through important tournaments and leave the grunt work to the kids.

Too many Indian teams have treated their experienced players as sacred cows, instead offered promising, but unproven, youngsters as sacrifice. I thought this protectionist attitude was slowly being phased out during the early periods of Sourav Ganguly's revolutionary reign and I was sure that it had definitely been confined to the annals of nostalgia under Dhoni's stewardship. Unfortunately, the pressure of a do-or-die match saw this defeatist attitude make a telling comeback. It has been said ad infintum, but for the record Yuvraj Singh should have been given an opportunity to drag his team out of a hole and gone in at four (if for nothing else than to make up for his abysmal and forever plummeting fielding standards).

India's fielding also requires a change in attitude, and I don't think that this area has received quite the attention it should have from the inept and desperate Indian media. I almost blew my lid when I read that Dhoni doesn't believe his team will ever become the world's best fielding side. An attitude as shocking as this will only serve to ensure that Team India's fielding continues to lose them games. Mahendra, son, set you goals high and you might end up somewhere in the middle - it's a proven rule that you need not attempt to disprove.

The promising aspect of the aftermath was that, unlike many of his predecessors, Dhoni has owned up to his errors. His admission implies that he is still humble enough to accept that he has much learning to undertake on the art of leadership and he is open to mending his ways.

It is this focus on continued improvement and his calm demeanour in victory and defeat that gives me unbounded hope for the short to medium term future of Indian cricket. Let's face it, for all the protestations to the contrary of various players and administrators, the World T20 is all fun and games, for us spectators and the players. The real World Cup involves 50 overs per side and it is the real World Cup through which the players' limited overs reputations are built and destroyed. For this reason I'm happy that this meek surrender has taken place now, rather than in the subcontinent in 2011.

There is plenty of time between now and 2011 for Suresh Raina to learn how to handle the short ball. There is plenty of time for the likes of Ravindra Jadeja to learn how to hit big, consistently. There is plenty of time for MS Dhoni to steel his young charges to cope with the pressure of expectation and enjoy the transformation from hunter to the hunted.

Believe not the doom and gloom spouted by your resident hack. Keep the faith and back your Team India for good times are sure to return - soon.

Continued >> >>

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Stanford Empire Crumbles, Cricket Is Saved

Once again the survival of our great game can be attributed not to the brilliance or efficacy of its administrators, but pure and unadulterated luck. Allen Stanford came across as the rotten apple he has now proven to be to everyone, but cricket administrators. Why is it that the very "professionals" entrusted with the responsibility of growing and advancing the sport regularly exhibit daft and amateurish decision making skills?

People wonder why a country of a billion people struggles to win Olympic medals, I wonder why a world of over 6 billion people struggles to produce sports administrators worth the paper on which their business cards are published?

The Match Referee has long advocated the need for more talented individuals to take the reigns of the various national boards, including the ICC. The alternative is a game fractured by petty personal agendas, dubious relationships and a lack of concern for the real stakeholders.

The following three videos are from a BBC Panorama documentary, aired at the time
when the collapse of Stanford's empire had only just been put in motion. We can only be thankful to the Gods that through His grace and administrators' ineptness this conman was unable to tarnish our great game any more than he had already managed.

Continued >> >>

Monday, June 15, 2009

Captaincy Anyone?

With the hype of the T20 world cup currently in play and the conclusion of IPL2 and their epic finale one would guess that not many folk have paid the rest of the cricketing world much time.

With the likes of Pietersen, Yuvraj, Mendis and Gayle taking the shorter form of the game by storm many other issues have gone unnoticed. In particular, the recent series defeat of the West Indies by a new look England team certainly did raise a few eyebrows not just on the field with the dismal performance of the West Indies, but also off the field questioning the commitment of the West Indies Test players.

The casual and belated arrival of captain Chris Gayle 48 hours prior to the first Test, coupled with his questionable comments on his opinion of test cricket and his overall interest in the traditional form of the game certainly does bring into question his commitment to his country and to test cricket. A brilliant batsmen in his own right, Chris Gayle certainly is one of the most important links in this Windies lineup with his explosive batting and casual tweakers, he certainly cannot be left out of the eleven based on statistics. However, should he be their captain?

For years now, the WICB have searched long and far for a solution only to see their star players Chanderpaul, Sarwan and now Chris Gayle turn down interest in this prestigous role. What was once the most sought after role in the Caribbean is now being avoided like the plague.

So where to now for West Indies cricket? Once haemorrhaging talent the likes of Greenidge, Haynes, Richards and Marshall just to name a few, the board must surely be wondering where they go from here.

The young wicketkeeper batsman Dinesh Ramdin is being touted as the future leader of the side and at 24 a large responsibility looms. Over the last 12 months he has finally started to find a way in Test cricket contributing regularly to the West Indies' totals and proving a menace in the lower order by putting a high price on his wicket. Honestly, is this the right time to burden him with the captaincy? Personally the jury is still out on Ramdin not only as a cricketer, but as a leader. Does he have the respect of his team mates? Does he contribute enough to warrant the role?

It is bemusing that the young all-rounder Dwayne Bravo has not been considered. One of the most promising all round talents in the game today, he has the respect and admiration of opponents in all forms of the game. An aggressive middle order batsmen in the mould of his mentor Brian Lara, Bravo brings the 'uber-cool' flair of the Caribbean back to this team with dazzling lofts over mid-off and beach cricket flicks of his pads that of which even VVS Laxman would be in awe.

'Johnny' as he is affectionately known amongst team mates not only brings runs and fancy shades to the table, but has proven a valuable partnership breaker with his wily medium pace and a exciting leader in the field with his energy, voice and enthusiasm. Why he doesn't captain the team in all forms of cricket is beyond me, unless he of course has joined the long list of cricketers who jolt at the thought of captaining the West Indies?

The future is in Bravo's hands and hopefully the selectors utilise the full repertoire of Bravo's talent and tenacity, for all us cricket lovers out there would certainly love to see the dawn of a new competitive West Indies team not just in ODI and T20, but test cricket also. I don't know about you but for me 'Johnny' Bravo is just the ticket.

Continued >> >>

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Congrats Real Madrid, The Virus Is All Yours

So the delinquent we commonly referred to as Ron has left the building. It was a great few years. He gave us goals and victories, the club gave him wads of cash and we gave him unadulterated affection with an almost guaranteed path to the pantheon of United greats. All he had to do was stay. Alas, the simpler things in life are easier said than done. He is no more and I can't help but wish Florentino Perez and Real Madrid all the best with their newly acquired virus.

Just like a slapper can't keep her legs closed, Ronaldo couldn't keep his trap shut and his mind in one place. Given his treatment of our great club, what level of service and loyalty does Perez expect from a bloke who's always looking for the next best thing?

If ever there was a tailor made case study for parents of young sporting superstars about humility, loyalty, the benefits of the right environment and how quickly it can all evaporate, this was it. Ronaldo had it all and he still fell for the dead grass laced with green paint on the other side.

All that needs to be said about his selfish ways has already been said and will continue to be uttered for weeks, if not months, to come. We can only look forward to SAF's next magic trick and pray to everyone's God that the next one turns out to be a whole lot more loyal and trustworthy.

It won't be an easy hole to fill, for Ronaldo wasn't admired for his less-than-manly antics on the pitch. Rumours abound about literally every man who has some semblance of talent and potential to play on the right. Until an able replacement is found, success over the next few years will likely depend on a new game plan, with different central figures and a more rigid approach.

Through pain and adversity comes the next big victory. Let's just wait for SAF's next master stroke for he is not a man who will settle for anything less than the best.

Continued >> >>

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Professional Cricket Needs A Re-Think

The increasing demands from cricket administrators for more professionalism from players is a perplexing issue. Despite the existence of "professional" player contracts for a number of years, the sport and, more specifically, its stakeholders warriors, are still struggling to reconcile with what it really means to be professional. In the wake of Andrew Symonds' most recent troubles, is it right for cricket administrators to apply the stringent demands of corporate professionalism on players whose skills will always remain more a form of art, not a mathematical equation?

Lets face it, elite sport is all about winning. Players are probably more likely to be successful if they enjoy what they do, but these soft, touchey-feely factors do not figure in the calculations of sponsors and their lackeys, the administrators. But should they?

We witnessed the staggering unfolding of events in Ben Cousins' ordeal to find an AFL club willing to utilise his once-in-a-generation talents. Andrew Symonds finds himself in similar waters. Was Cricket Australia right to expedite a clearly unfit Symonds' return to help its struggling national team and then apply draconian, slave-like contractual restrictions - stipulations to which even the most desperate corporate wunderkid would not agree?

Symonds is a victim of an organisation that has monopolistic powers and a clear disregard for the player's personal welfare, contrary to its many, now disingenuous, previous assertions. After all, Cricket Australia is the only organisation that can sanction and select the Australian cricket team. If he wanted to play international cricket, he had to acquiesce to their every whim. Given the unhealthy and disproportionate balance of power in this situation, it could be reasonably argued that Cricket Australia tried to have its cake and eat it too.

Cricket administrators' insistence on improved off-field player behaviour can be directly linked to sponsors' influence exerted over them. I do not disagree that it is only human nature that anyone stumping up cash for a venture will demand some semblance of quality control. The question that begs is whether those quality control measures should be confined to on-field activities, or whether they should also pervade into players' personal lives?

That Andrew Symonds has a problem with alcohol is probably true. That Andrew Symonds was wrong in going fishing instead of attending a team meeting cannot be refuted. However, do sponsors really suffer when Symonds adds spice to an upcoming encounter by rubbishing an opposition player? Does Adidas or VB lose sales if Symonds has a drink without becoming intoxicated, much less rowdy, on a non-game day?

Professionalism needs a new definition, one that is tenable in a cricketing context. If we accept that cricketers can lose form for no apparent reason and through no fault of their own, yet still remain in the team and keep their professional contracts, why should any authority be allowed to force a player to alter their personal activities to suit the fancies of sponsors who are out to exploit the players from the outset?

Andrew Symonds would have been of infinitely more value to Australian cricket had he been allowed to go about his life on his own terms, with the requisite help for his various personal issues. Success in a team sport depends a lot on enjoying the team environment. Why would anyone in their right mind undermine the non-sporting benefits offered by a team environment, by placing unnecessary controls on only one member of the team?

A player who enjoys his surroundings likely plays better, in-turn attracting more of us spectators to the sport, thereby leading to more brand awareness for the esteemed sponsors. It is high time that sports administrators, particularly cricket administrators, started standing up for the rights of the very people (and these players are merely people, prone to the same inconsistencies afflicting us commoners) that attract the corporate dollars.

Continued >> >>

Monday, June 08, 2009

Strategic Time-Out Withdrawal Syndrome

It's official - I have diagnosed myself as suffering from strategic time-out withdrawal syndrome. I would never have thought it true, but it is now fact that our hero Lalit Modi's unashamed attempt at milking yet more dollars out of his IPL baby has forever impacted my T20 spectatorship. After sitting through six weeks of meaningless 7.5 minute breaks at the end of the first 10 overs, I now find myself unable to handle a game of T20 cricket where players simply continue with the game at that juncture.

The "innovations" introduced during IPL2 have made such an impression that I find it almost blasphemous that I cannot make my way to the fridge to seek refreshments after the first 10 overs without accepting the immoral and undue risk of forgoing the next boundary or six (or wicket, if the batsman's having a really rough day).

Surely this farcical exclusion from the ICC's premier T20 event is unnerving the players. How else could one explain Her Majesty's own losing to the reviled Dutch, Chris Gayle pulverising the last nation on this planet that upholds the primacy of Test cricket or Scotland's fielding disasters against the woefully boring South Africans?

A strategic time-out may have even given Danny Morrison enough time to tutor Anil Kumble on the art of modifying one's voice tone and pitch to lull the viewer into believing that the smashing of balls out of the stadium was indeed an event about which to be excited. While his commentary career is in its infancy, the good word has it that Rameez Raza and Ranjit Fernando are standing by to personally welcome Kumble to their exalted club.

After finally desensitising the cricket loving public to their various cash-grab machinations over the years, could the BCCI not have arm-twisted the ICC into utilising that bastion of American sport commercialism, the strategic time-out, during the World T20 - to provide a better product for the paying and watching public, of course? Where are these great minds when we require them most?

Continued >> >>

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Would Ya Like Sum Coory Miister Flintooff

It amazes me how hypocritical some people can be, particularly cricketers - especially Her Majesty's own. Now lets face it, Andrew Flintoff used to be a great cricketer - for about a year or two before the 2005 Ashes. In Simmi's words (there's your honourable mention Sim), he used to be cool.

Sample this from only a couple of months ago, following the second IPL auction after Flintoff had just finished counting to 1.55 million. Now sample this, after his rather humiliating humbling experience in IPL2. So which one is it Freddie?

Given the significant Asian population in the UK, it's patently obvious about who Flintoff refers. I totally agree that it is important to learn the language of the country in which you reside. It makes life a lot easier for everyone concerned. But ask anyone in the know and they'll swear that while a new language can be learned easily enough, a new accent is almost impossible to acquire in its entirety.

Flintoff has never come across as the most intellectual of men, so the standards I applied in this judgement weren't all that high to begin with. What's more, he certainly hasn't done his image any good by offering a token mention of his approval of the UK's multicultural society. Seriously mate, we weren't born yesterday.

Flintoff should ask an American how easy it is to understand the likes of Geoff Boycott, Henry Blofeld or David Lloyd. This way, he might just afford the next "multicultural" hotel receptionist with whom he interacts a tad more respect.

Continued >> >>
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