Friday, 21 December 2012

2012 - Cricket Review


The year 2012 has been one of mixed fortunes for international cricket teams. On the whole it has provided many memories, some good and some bad. The year started with Australia finishing off India to take the test series, this was a signal of what was to come from India

The year has had many ups and downs for England, starting the year as world number one but failing to deliver in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They then took on South Africa who de-throned them from the summit. This series provided the best of test cricket with all the big players stepping up, especially Hashim Amla and Jaques Kalllis. The fallout from this series was the Kevin Pietersen saga, this also saw captain Strauss step down. 

Australia had a good year, kicking on from the win against India. The year was good for them in particular to steady their sinking ship of the past few years. A new captain and a new crop of players who look encouraging. India on the other hand have had a terrible year, narrowly beating New Zealand and then being thrashed by England. For Pakistan it has been a good year, the win over England showed signs of improvement. In particular Ajmal has lead the fight.

There have been many good ODI performances this year, one particular game I remember was from January where Dhoni had a repeat of his world cup final heroics to hit the winning runs in a CB series game against Australia. Virat Kohli smashing around Pakistan scoring 183 in the Asia cup. The performance of Bangladesh to get to the final of the Asia cup only narrowly loosing. The rain effected England v South Africa series was also very fascinating as there were many young players on show from both teams. In particular I enjoyed watching Jos Buttler play a magnificent cameo in one the games to win a match. 

As for T20 cricket, this year was all about the World T20. This competition started off slowly with many games effected by rain, but the West Indies lit up the tournament. Winning their first international trophy since there heyday in the 1970's. Samuels and Narine playing a key part of this win. 

This year has seen the retirement of cricket greats, Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S Laxman and Mark Boucher. The later having to retire after being hit in the eye with a bail in a practice game. It could also be a year where Sachin Tendulkar plays his last test match. He has had a poor year by his standards. It has seen the rise of a new group of captains. These being Michael Clarke, Alistair Cook and the part time captaincy of AB Devilliers. These three will have many battles to come in the next few years. It has also been a good year for Yuvraj Singh who had made a successful comeback to international cricket after suffering a life threatening illness. 

In domestic matters Warwickshire won the county championship, but lost to Hampshire in the CB40 who also won the FLT20. KKR won the IPL, despite my team Delhi Daredevils being the best team through out the competition. (Actually it seems if they threw away the semi final, by leaving out the leading wicket taker Morkel.) The champions league was rather dull, it was finally won by Sydney Sixers, who were by far the best team in the competition. 

Some records have gone this year as well, despite having a bad year Tendulkar scored his 100th international century this year. This coming in a ODI match versus Bangladesh in March. The fastest test century and T20 century were hit by Dave Warner and Richard Levi. Graham Smith also became the captain with the most test wins. Michael Clarke scored four double centuries this year which is a record for a calendar year. England's new captain Alistair Cook became the English player with the most centuries as well the youngest player to 7,000 runs. A record for the Indian captain is that he is the first captain to be run out on 99 in a test match, not one that he really wants. 

Match fixing also reared its ugly head this time in County Cricket. Mervin Westfield was jailed for his involvement and a life ban was given to Pakistani spinner Danish Kaneria

All in all the year has been good for cricket, although with big matches coming up in 2013 it can get even better. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

England and India going in different directions - Series Review



The first thing that has to be said is well done England, they outplayed India in every single department. The signs are good for Alistair Cook as he and his team have done something that no other England team has for twenty eight years. For India however they will need to have a serious look at where they need to improve in the future. What makes the win even better for England is that they were thrashed in the first test and improved then after, showing  that they have a lot of mental toughness.

England:

Apart from the nine wicket loss in the Ahemedabad, they never looked in trouble. This was down to England being very clinical and India being poor. Alistair Cook's first series after being made captain could not have gone any better. He has passed the test with flying colours and the experience of captaining in India will stand him in good stead. 

Monty Panesar's selection for the second test onwards played a big part in England winning. In my opinion he is probably the best English spinner, and far better than any spinner India had to offer. James Anderson also played a massive part of this win, he on past tours of India has been clueless, this time he was prepared and performed well. In all the tests Matt Prior has shown why he is now regarded as a top keeper/batsman. The demoralising effect he kept inflicting on India, probably helped out the bowlers. The last test cameo from Joe Root and the century by Ian Bell showed some encouraging signs for the coming year.

There probably is not too many of the players who didn't feel they contributed much in this series, the only exceptions are Stuart Broad, Sammit Patel and  Tim Bresnan. 

India:

At the start of the series Virat Kohli declared that this was the chance for revenge. This was a total wrong thought, India should have concentrated on winning first, then revenge would have come.They lost the series pretty abysmally, didn't show any fight at all. There were problems in all three departments, the most worrying has to be the much lauded batting line up. The openers did not perform that well, Gambhir in particular looking dodgy despite making some runs. Cheteshwar Pujara did his job with the bat well and sometimes showed the senior players how to bat. His only flaw was to drop Cook in the fourth test whilst he was only on seventeen, going on to score a big century. 

It could be the end of the great career of Sachin Tendulkar, if it is then it will be a shame he could not have gone out on a high. There is a series against Pakistan coming up, where he could finish against the team where it all started. 

The series has already seen Zaheer, Yuvraj and Harbhajan cut from the team, it is very likely there test careers are over. Up until the last innings of the last test M.S Dhoni did not do anything. The pressure is mounting on him as captain, but I do not think there is anyone on form who is good enough to take over. It also has to be shown that he battled well for his 99 runs. One positive for India is Ravi Ashwin, this was for his batting. In my opinion he could fill a higher role as a batsman, possibly the position vacated by Yuvraj. On the other hand Ashwin has been very disappointing with the ball. 

The Future:

England will go home for the Christmas period after a few T20 games and come back refreshed for a ODI series where India will still be favourites. Then then travel to New Zealand all in preparation for the big summer. India take on Pakistan, the pressure on the team will double. I would hope by then India accept the DRS system, and make some big changes to the team. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

India ring the changes, but is it the answer?

Indian cricket is in a bad state, at the moment it is probably the worst it has been for at least 20 years. The alarm bells must have been ringing after the bad tour of England or the disaster down under, on both occasions not much had been changed. The signs of a home defeat were also highlighted after a poor showing against New Zealand which covered up the cracks. The final straw seems to be the loss of the 2nd and 3rd test against England. 

For me the old selectors who did nothing after the bad away tours took too long to act, I just hope the new selectors have made the changes out of future thought and not just for a way to differentiate between the old selection committee and new. The players who have got the chop for the last test Zaheer, Harbhajan and Yuvraj. It seems pretty clear to me that these players test careers are finished, they all have been playing for a while and a recall will only now come through influence and not form. 

What is worrying is that Zaheer Khan is a shadow of the player he was, he is not worthy of being called an international cricketer any more, but there is no one to replace him. I am a fan of Yadav, but am not sure if he is injured or just left out. Awana is a good bowler and worthy of a call up in place of Zaheer, but is he a bowler which will scare England? All in all the dropping of Zaheer is a decision I agree to. 

Harbhajan Singh has also been chucked out AGAIN, I am still not sure why he had been brought back into the team, but he definitely will not get another chance. Where has the passion gone for him? He was once the most passionate player for India, always giving his all for the cause. In my opinion he is egoistic, when he was first dropped he did alot of TV work, this is probably his new career. 

My gripe about the squad is the dropping of Yuvraj. He has been one of a bad bunch of batsmen. By far not the worst of them either, it seems that the selectors have singled out one of the batsmen to drum home their message. It really could have been any of the batsmen to get the chop apart from Pujara. 

It is now really clear that the more Sachin plays, the more his reputation will be tarnished. Dhoni seems to be playing with the weight of the world on his shoulders, maybe a change of captaincy could help. All I know is that something is wrong, Gambhir quite easily could have been the man instead of Yuvraj. 

Ashwin showed some late fight on the last two days, a brilliant 91* as well as two wickets on the last day. If it wasn't for this I believe his position in the team could have also been under threat. He probably will get a promotion in the batting, possibly moving above Dhoni in Yuvraj's place allowing an extra bowler in the team. 

The selection committee have no authority to change the coach, if they did I would suggest that they would Fletcher. He has been an absolute disaster, especially as he came with a big reputation. It seems that Gary Kirsten had the right idea leaving India when he did, at number 1 in test cricket as well as world cup winners. He probably foresaw the upcoming problems. 

Whatever happens in the next test, India need a change. People like Ganguly need to be more involved in the selection/coaching process. Pressure needs to be taken off Dhoni, it is not clear what Fletcher does for him. India have made some small changes but surely there is much more to come. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Punter gambles no more whilst captain Cook slays India


This has been a big week of cricket, especially for two players in particular. It was a week which drew the curtain on the great career of Ricky Ponting as well as being the week where Alistair Cook broke two records. 

Ricky Ponting:

For me Ponting is unlucky as he is playing in an era where it could be easy to forget his achievements because of players such as Tendulkar, Lara and Kallis. Despite having 41 test hundreads and 30 ODI hundreds he will only be considered the second greatest Australian batsman, after Sir Donald Bradman.  

Being the captain after the great Steve Waugh he had massive boots to fill, this was the challenge that Ponting faced, a challenge which he successfully negotiated. In fact I think his period in charge of Australia was more successful than Waugh.  The doubters of his captaincy will always say that he had an easy job as captain, because he had the best players on his side. This is undeniable that he had the best team, but the pressure of leading such a great team also has its burdens. These burdens did not once effect his batting form.

He was part of the team which won three world cups in a row, winning it twice as a captain. An aggressive captain on the pitch always made watching his side exciting. As with Waugh before him and Clarke after him, it seems that being the captain aided his batting performance allowing him to lead from the front.

My lasting memory of him will be the 2003 world cup final, where he destroyed all Indian bowlers especially Srinath in a brilliant display of power and technique. In England he will be remembered as the captain who lost three ashes, while the world will remember him as the captain with the most wins. 

Alistair Cook:

This guy seems to be getting better and better. It is even ludicrous to think that England considered not taking him to the last ashes tour because of poor form against Pakistan the series before. He is the heartbeat of this England side, the captain and the leader with the bat. 

As captain he seems to be in his element, taking everything in his stride never once showing that he is flustered. Just like the new Australian skipper it seems that his form has improved as captain, it will be fascinating to see what happens in the ashes. 

All that said it should be noted that he was dropped by Pujara on 17 runs today, and the bowling attack he is facing is not great. Cook is only 27 years old but has become the highest England century maker. He has one hundred more than Pietersen, who is the only player who could overtake him any time soon. The other record which he broke today was that he is the youngest player to score 7,000 runs. This is something, as he has broken Tendulkar's record. 

India gave him a second chance today, quite frankly that probably will be the difference of winning this match and loosing. It could possibly by the difference of drawing the series and loosing it. If his form stays as it is, he could guide England to a historic win in India, thus putting his name as a legendary captain after his first test tour. 

Monday, 26 November 2012

Lifeless, Lacklustre, Limp - India need some changes fast


First thing that should be said is that England deserved this victory, and look a class above India, in all departments. Kevin Pietersen laid the foundations for a classy win and Panesar completed the job. It gets me thinking about why the England management do not play him more often, being one of the best spinners in world cricket currently.

My main concern is for India, the performance was the worst on home soil for a very long time. It highlights everything wrong with Indian cricket at the moment. 

All the signs were there in the last two away series, in both series team India came back with their legs between their tails. Nothing was changed from these annihilations. Then came the series against New Zealand where India were unconvincing against an average New Zealand side. 

Let me start with the bowling attack, this has to be one of the worst bowling attacks in world cricket currently. In my eyes only Yadav is worthy of being mentioned as good, yet he is the first to be dropped. Zaheer Khan has not performed well for a long time now, he brings bags of experience but he is becoming very predictable. I don't blame him much for two reasons, one that he is getting old and two India do not currently make pitches to help him. He has been a great bowler and will always be remembered as one of the best Indian bowlers, but for me if it came to a choice of him or Yadav, then the younger guy should be preferred. 

Harbhajan and Ashwin likewise have been very poor, both are capable of producing good things but have not done it for a long time. Like Zaheer it may be time to dispense of Harbhajan. In my opinion he is now a better batsman than bowler and therefore pretty useless for India, as Ashwin does a better job in both departments. When was the last time that England had two better spinners than India? The funniest thing I have heard today was that many Indian fans outside the ground were saying about Panesar being Indian, that India should poach him, this is something I would love although it would never happen. 

In the batting department there is a definite problem. The once champions of spin now struggle badly on turning tracks, this is more concerning considering that the last two tours also highlighted that they cant play on seamer friendly wickets either.

Laxman had been pushed out, but was he playing any worse than Sachin has done in test cricket over the last few series? The guy is a legend but every great player has to end some time. I think he should definitely consider his retirement now, maybe wait to finish against Pakistan.  

The batting expectation is left on the two most inexperienced players in the team. Pujara and Kohli, this is something that seems rather unfair, as they have not played many tests yet. Kohli himself seems to have caught the disease, there were signs in the last test. He was very scratchy, looked nervous and his wicket in the second innings was disgraceful. A dolly catch off a full toss, I will allow him a little bit of a dip as he has been great for India in the last two years and every player has a dip.

Others who were guilty of being stupid in the second innings at Mumbai are Ashwin and Harbhjan. Both needed to knuckle down but instead played a fast cameo by trying to hit sixes. 

Lets not start on Dhoni, who has underperformed badly with the bat for the last year or so. In my eyes he has been a great captain, the best captain but he is in danger of loosing his great record as captain. 

I am not advocating dramatic changes through this series, just saying that these players need to have a serious think about their positions. They should have a bit of pride and work harder to change things. That is the only way that India can regain the lead in this series. 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Could anyone beat Sachin Tendulkar's century record?


He is treated like a God in India, he has pretty much broken all batting records, including having scored the most amount of runs, the most test centuries and most ODI centuries. The question is if Sachin Tendulkar will retire soon, if he does there are some players who could possibly break either his test match century record or ODI century record. Personally I think it will be hard to break his combined ODI and Test century number (100 centuries).

If I were to have said this about 5 years ago, many would have said that these records would last quite a while, this was because Sachin at the time was out playing his closest rivals Ponting and Kallis and did not look to be anywhere near retirement. But now things have changed as Sachin's rate of centuries has slowed down, Kallis has regained form and retirement is on the cards this could go. Sachin could still add to his tally before he retires.

Lets look at some of the possible candidates:



Jacques Kallis: This is the most likely guy to challenge Sachin's test centuries. Currently he needs six centuries to equal Tendulkar, that's if Sachin does not add to any. He has been on fire recently with his latest century in the first test. He is now 37 and still in good shape, he could get pretty close to the record if he plays another two years. 


Ricky Ponting: He like Kallis was pretty close to Tendulkar's test record a few years back, but has seriously tailed off now. He needs 10 more test centuries to break the test record. This would take some turn around in recent form, I can see him getting another one or two but not more than five. 


Kumar Sangakara: He like Ponting has 30 test centuries, at the age of 35 he has around 3/4 years left in the game. If he were to score four centuries every year for four years he still would have only 46 test centuries. So it is a hard task for him, I don't think he can.


Virat Kohli: At only 24 I am in no doubt that if he continues his ODI form of the last two years he will smash the 49 ODI centuries that Tendulkar has. He already has 13 centuries to his name and if he stays fit and away from injuries I think he will play around another 12 years. Even if he only scores 4 centuries every year for these twelve years he will pass Sachin's record.



A.B Devilliars: He like Kohli has 13 ODI centuries to his name, although he is four years older than his RCB colleague. I think he will struggle to get near 49 ODI centuries but could be around the 40 mark. He has a lot of pressure on him, being the captain, wicket-keeper and best batsmen. 

For me the only player who could challenge the test record is Kallis, there may be a younger player who can challenge the test century record. Some names to throw into the hat are: Amla, Cook, Clarke. 

As for the ODI record I can see Kohli eventually breaking this, although it will take some time. There could be some other players coming through who in the future but Tendulkar is so far ahead that it will take a young guy to beat this record. 

Australia Surprise South Africa as Clarke breaks more records


Let me first say that I didn't think Australia would be a match for South Africa in this series, I guess I have been proved wrong. I did however write an article last month where I predicted Australia would rise again, but I never thought it would have been so soon. 

The score 482 on day one is only 12 runs short of the all time highest score on day 1 of any test. This is largely down to Warner at the top of the innings setting the tone, with a strike rate over 100. 

In the first test the Aussies proved that their batsmen were a match for South Africa if not outplaying them. The plaudits will go to the inform skipper, he has been on the form of his life since taking over and has subsequently put to rest all doubts about his captaincy. 

In making his fourth double century of the year Michael Clarke now has over taken fellow Australian legends Ponting and Bradman for making the most double centuries in one calender year. If he gets one more double century any time in his career as captain then he will equal Brian Lara as the player with most double centuries as captain.

It seems that Clarke now has a team to slowly work their way back to the summit of test cricket, he is just pushing them on a little quicker. Having a few strong sides in test cricket is important, and right now Aus, SA, Eng and India have pretty strong teams, which makes for great matches. 

I think that some people thrive on the pressure of captaincy, this can defiantly be said of Clarke and I believe Alistair Cook as well. I still hold that the next Ashes will go to England as they are playing at home, but Australia will no doubt put up a good show. All of that is after this great series against South Africa, who are by no means out of the match and series yet.  

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Why Dhoni has no leg to stand on without DRS


Those who were watching the match today will have seen Dhoni arguing with Aleem Dar over a decision to give to give Nick Compton not out for LBW. The fact that India are against the DRS system means that India should not have the right to appeal. 

The actual decision was later proved to be a good decision, as the ball was going on to miss the stumps. I do not have a problem with the way the appeal was conducted, even thou some may think this was excessive. My main problem is that India are against the decision review system, but still want the right to appeal to an umpire after he has made his choice. 

The fact that Dhoni vigorously was pointing his finger at Aleem Dar today smacks of unsportsmanlike behaviour. I am a massive fan of Dhoni who I regard as the best ever captain of India, but he really should get a good telling off for his actions today. The fact that there is technology in place which can clear up decisions is a good thing, it is what separates cricket from football. The longer India take to adpot this system the more it will result in costly decisions as well as these football style rants on the umpire.

We still do not know the reason why the BCCI and Indian cricketers have refused to use the system in their matches, despite all the other teams in the world using it successfully.

As Sky Sports are giving the alternate Indian commentary I had been switching between both commentaries to gauge the differences in opinion. It was laughable the positions that they took. The English commentators were saying that India are gutted because they don't adopt DRS this means that bad decisions should cost them, and India should not complain (does this mean the England players can? as they are in favour). The Indian commentators were saying that India are well within their rights to complain. All this proves is that all commentators are pretty biased depending on what country they are from.  

The system seems to make it fairer for both teams, if Dhoni really believed that Aleem Dar made an incorrect decision then he could have referred it. I hope this is the last straw for Dhoni who will now accept the DRS system. 

On the pitch India seemed pretty dominating, but there are signs of a slight England comeback. After Compton hit a four, sweeping Ojha it seemed to lift him and Cook. India then slowly started pushing fielders back, meaning it got a little easier for England who still trail. I still think India can push a win, but England will look for a much better batting performance to pull off an unlikely draw. 

Friday, 9 November 2012

How England could surprise India but South Africa will prevail


The excitement of test cricket returned last night, two fascinating series between some of the best teams in the world will run simultaneously. In my opinion India are the best team in the sub-continent and when they are on form they are almost unbeatable at home. 

The question which should be asked is if England can take advantage of India's new batting line up. The retirement of Laxman and Dravid could be the chance that England have been waiting for. Add to this the poor form which Sehwag and Gambhir have been going through, India's well known batting strength could struggle. 

England also have players such as Bairstow (even if he doesn't play), Bell and Pietersen who are all on form with the bat. Samit Patel looks the real deal as a test allrounder and the bowlers are pretty good. The good news for England is that Broad and Finn seem likely to be fit for the first test. Another factor that may favour the Englishmen is that they now have three genuine spinners. They could actually play all three in a match, not that I think they will. Over the winter England struggled against Ajmal and Hearth, so alot rests on Ashwin. We do not know how England will play Yadav but it is clear to see that Zaheer Khan is not the same bowler which has troubled world batsmen all these years.

I personally think that Sehwag and Gambhir had tons of experience so either or both of them will click very soon. The middle order has talent, even if they are inexperienced. Virat Kohli hasn't played that much but already looks like the real deal as a test player. I can only see this being a close series, but I think India may just edge it, even though England could cause India alot of problems.

The other series may not be as close. After day one of the first test South Africa are 255/2. The number one side in the world looked like that on day one. The ever reliable pair of Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis should both score centuries tomorrow. This could be a hard day for Australia to come back from. The second day will be important for them. The pitch does look like a good batting wicket, but surely after South Africa are done with it, the pitch could change.

The loss of Shane Watson does not help to the cause. Saying all that I think if Watson was fit for the next few matches and Australia happened to find a good spinner from somewhere they could have made the series closer than it will be. One thing is clear though, Australia always have fighters in their team, people such as Peter Siddle and Ponting will battle hard. 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Do you agree with Day/Night tests?


It seems to me that cricket is a sport which is very adaptable to new ideas. We have seen many changes in cricket over the years, the main being the rise of the two other formats of the game. It is a sport which embraces technology, and seems way advanced of sports such as football which allow controversy to take place despite calls for help.

The ICC added rules such as power play, free hit for no balls and even toyed with the super sub rule over the last ten years. This all shows that they embrace change. This is one area where the ICC should be credited for keeping the sport fresh. The sport in general seems to promote innovation, and the players have also shown this ability. Over the last few years we have seen changes to batting play (switch hit, dil scoop) and new innovative ways of fielding and bowling have also been implemented. 

Despite all these changes the ICC have never really changed much about test cricket. They have in a way provided the purists to keep their form of the game whilst changing the other formats keeping people who embrace change rather happy also. It is unknown if many of these purists will dislike the idea of day/night test cricket, only time will tell on this. This could be as simple as people not liking change. Things such as lunch probably would be scrapped in this new type of test cricket, this is something that not everyone will like. 

I for one agree with the new idea in principle for day/night test cricket, but believe it has to be done rightly. Is the pink ball the right ball to play with? According to Samit Patel who has played in the trial of day/night test cricket it isn't the right ball. He states that the pink ball does nothing in the day, but as soon as the lights came on the ball did too much. If this is true this could give a team an unfair advantage. 

Another disadvantage of this is the due factor, especially in Asia. The team bowling under lights may struggle to field properly and the ball could slip from their hands. In particular if you watch Dhoni, when playing a day/night ODI in Asia he will always bowl first if he wins the toss. This could mean that a team bats terribly in the evening and improve because of due in the night, only because of the due factor.  

The advantage of having day/night tests could mean more great test cricket. Can you imagine the first test at Sofia Gardens where Monty Panesar and James Anderson blocked out the match versus Australia under lights? The atmosphere was already very good, it would have been even better. Another advantage of having this is that a whole new audience will watch test cricket. The kids who may not be into test cricket may actually sit and watch because their dad is home from work and watching. 

I am pretty sure that advertisers and players would prefer the new timings as well, giving them more tv time. In my opinion it could work, and the benefits definitely out way the negatives of this, but they ICC should work on finding the right ball and a proper solution to the due factor. Why not try having the red ball during the day part of the game and use the white ball in the night? This probably would mess up a teams bowling plan as many teams believe that certain players bowl better with the white ball and not the red. 

I wonder if anyone is really in favour of day/night tests or really against, I would love to know in the comments section. 

Monday, 29 October 2012

India v England: The preview


The T20 cricket is now over and with that it brings the return of International cricket. One of the many series starting is India v England. A fixture that is considered as one of the best. It has been described by a few in the England team as the final frontier, this is because they have never been able to do well in India. For India it is a chance to avenge the thrashing they received in England two years ago. At that time India were the number one team and England dethroned them. 

The Teams:

It is to be seen if England will play two spinners in any match. That would mean Monty Panesar or Samit Patel could do a job. I personally think they would play two spinners as India play Swann relatively well. India have a pretty settled team but will need to decide if Raina should keep his place. The main competition comes in the form of Yuvraj Singh, who should get the role. England will have to decide between Joe Root, Compton or Trott to fill the boots of Strauss. If they do go with two spinners they may decide to use Trott as the opener allowing for the experienced batsmen to play. 

The captains:

It is a first chance for Alastair Cook to make an impression as the new skipper. He comes up against Dhoni who is very experienced and used to the conditions. It all points for a hard job for Cook, one I'm sure he will relish. 



Players to watch:

England have not seen much of Umesh Yadav, he is a good young bowler who has taken to test cricket very quickly. He was by far the best bowler on the tour of Australia as well as performing well against New Zealand. Ashwin will also be important, if England can play him then they have a chance.

Johnny Bairstow is a talented batsmen, he could be the fall guy if England decide to play one of the new openers and a second spinner. He has made a good start to international cricket and this should be his toughest test yet. Much depends on Finn and Anderson. Jimmy Anderson has in the past looked very average on the sub continent, this is something he would want to right. 

Predictions:

I would say that India will take it as they are used to the conditions. I think that on the sub continent they are the best team and very hard to beat. England have a good team and could cause a surprise but it will be very hard for them. 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Australian Cricket: The New Generation


The Australian cricket team has been on a downward spiral since 2007. Largely down to the decimation of the great team through retirement. Pre 2007 Australia had based there success on having many good players to fill a squad role. For example Michael Hussey or Stuart Law could not break into the team on a regular basis, yet they probably would have been a star in any other team. 

It could be said that Australia may have taken their eye off the ball and failed to plan for the retirement of all these players at once. The result of this being that a whole generation of players were not ready to fill the boots of legends. 

Although I believe that the batting talent coming through may not be to the right standard a few players have now established themselves. These are Warner, Watson and Clarke. Add this to Ponting in tests and Hussey in all forms they have some pretty good batsmen there. 

Then there are other players such as Ed Cowan, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Usman Khawaja, George Bailey and Phillip Hughes who seem to have some talent just need to show it on a consistent basis. Australian cricket is calling out for one of these players to go onto the next level. In my opinion Shaun Marsh and Khawaja have all the talent to do this, but they have never shown the ability to string together to good series. 

In the wicket keeping department Australia are very well stocked with Haddin, Wade and Tim Paine. Although none of these keepers are of the standard of Gilchrist (the standard every Aussie keeper will now be considered against), they are of a good standard.



The new bowlers coming through is the brightest point for Australia. The depth in the fast bowling department is very very impressive. I believe South Africa and England to have the best fast bowlers at the moment but once these Australian bowlers develop they could be on a par. Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and Pat Cummings have impressed greatly. Wisely the Australian selectors are mixing the three of them around, to ensure they are not likely to be burnt out. The three young players have been mixed around playing with the likes of Brett Lee, Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson. The rise of Clint Mckay has also been impressive, he is not as young as the other three new bowlers but still has been great in all forms of the game in 2012. The strength of the bowling is so strong now that Lee has retired yet Johnson or Bollinger hardly play any more. 

The big problem for the Australian team is that they do not have a great spinner at the moment. This was a team that had Stuart Mcgill and Brad Hogg in reserve behind Shane Warne for many years. The current custodian of this role is Xavier Doherty, he is one of the worst spinners in world cricket at present. Personally I hope Steve Smith has been working at his bowling as he could develop into an ok spinner, but more of a good all rounder. Michael Clarke does a good job filling in and possibly a good option. For the series against India Nathan Lyon did a decent job, but again I am wondering if there is any younger spinner coming through.

It seems that if Australia sort out the few deficiencies in the batting and get in a good spinner they could rise up back to a similar place they were before 2007. This is not saying that they could be as good as they were in their hay day but they could challenge South Africa and England for the number 1 test spot.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Pietersen saga produces no winners and why the ECB needs a total rethink


After 71 days of rumours, tweets, negotiations and apologies Kevin Pietersen's England exile is over. During these 71 days Pietersen has missed the conclusion of the big South Africa series, the retirement of his captain and the T20 world cup. When considering the winners and losers of this saga it occurred to me that there are no winners. 

Firstly Pietersen: lets not forget that before he was actually dropped, he was forced to retire from international T20 cricket as he did not want to play ODI's. He has now signed up to play all forms of the game, so his little stand off did not work. He also had to miss the last test of the South Africa series, a match that could have kept England at number 1 in the rankings. This would have meant alot to Pietersen being South African born. The exile has meant that he had to swap playing to sitting in a studio with Saurav Ganguly. This maybe something which had pushed him to apologise. His other demand was that he should be allowed to play the whole IPL, this again he has given up. So in my opinion he has come back with his tail between his legs. 

The team has also suffered due to his absence. They lost their best player for  an important test match as well as the defence of their T20 trophy. The team spirit is also another issue which needs to be considered. In public all parties have welcomed him back into the squad but things were said and done which cant be wiped away so quickly. In reality it could be the case that like against South Africa he has more friends in the Indian team. 

The ECB have not looked great in this whole situation either. David Collier the ECB chief executive was forced to apologies to the South African board after he suggested that South African players had provoked the text from KP. Also the fact that they had let this situation escalate, when they knew of the problems in advance of the South African series. 

The ECB today launched a 'Brand New Schedule' for the next season. This includes a change from the block of T20 games to be spread over the season on Friday nights. They have also scrapped the 40 over format in favour of a 50 over format. These are changes which are good but do not go far enough. The T20 format was good when it first came in, but now needs a massive overhaul. They should adopt the franchise system that pretty much the whole world has adopted to great success, meaning there will be less teams but higher quality. I believe England have some of the best young players in T20 cricket but they do not get the same opportunities as a young Indian or Australian player would. 

The English teams will not be participating in the Champions League next year, because the season will now start later and finish later, meaning that the last week clashes with the Champions League. I do feel for them here because it has been imposed due to last years bad weather in April. All in all this means that young English players once again will miss out on a big opportunity. This will not stop people like Pietersen going to play for his IPL team during this period. 

The only good thing which has come out of the sorry affair is that Pietersen is back for the series against India. He is the best player and will provide much needed experience. 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Why the CLT20 does not excite me


Is it just me or has this years champions league twenty 20 come around totally at the wrong time? It comes on the back of a great summer where England and South Africa battled it out world number 1, the West Indies showed class to lift the WT20 and a few good series starting up.

I am a big fan of T20 cricket as it is quicker and often packed with great players from across the globe going head to head. The issue for me is that right now the competition comes off the back of a great WT20, and before some great series's. I have seen alot of T20 games and I am missing the other formats at the moment. 

Another issue which has been highlighted by an Australian selector is the fact that their players get no break before a key series against South Africa. He highlights Starc and Cummings in particular need of rest. It could be argued that they are getting good practice of bowling on South African pitches. 

I do not like the fact that some players qualify for this tournament for two teams, meaning they have to elect a team to play for. This year Narine and Brett Lee have elected not to play for Sidney. It is a little funny that the players always choose the IPL team, I wonder why. I guess the only way to stop this is stop players playing in foreign leagues. This would reduce my enjoyment of the IPL.  

If this was a true champions league I think that the champions of all countries  should be able to go straight into the group stage. This would probably mean the fourth IPL team would have to qualify. This is the first year where all four IPL teams have gone straight into the competition, mainly due to their financial power. It may be good for the competition if a non IPL team wins this year, but me being a Delhi fan I hope not. So far we have seen a few good matches, in particular I liked the way in which CSK were totally outplayed by Sidney Sixers and how Delhi are looking really strong. 

A good thing about the tournament is that I get to see more of my favourite team Delhi Daredevils. It was a good chance to take another look at Chand who I think is a great player. I guess that I will be watching this competition with interest as it progresses but I think the real deal for me will be the Australia v South Africa test series starting soon. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Will the USA be good for Cricket?



This morning I woke up and my dad was asking me about my opinions on cricket moving to the USA. This was because of a piece done on Bloomberg about the idea of a new T20 league in the US. I decided to read this article to find out what it all was about (click here). 

To my surprise the idea was alot more than a pipe dream, it has been planned to launch in summer 2013. The league has been planned to be similar to the IPL. This means lots of money, star names and Hollywood actors as owners. 

T20 seems to be a perfect fit for America, as it only lasts 3 hours, quite easy to follow has cheer leaders and big shots into the crowd. The only problem is that there are many sports that Americans love, this means cricket will struggle to make a big impact. For example it has taken a long time for football (soccer) to be considered as a sport that is not just for kids and woman. 

Generally it has been hard to establish other sports into the USA. This is probably due to the fact that the existing sports have established a large following which has been passed down the generations. It could also be down to a lack of knowledge of the new sports or thinking that the other sports are kinda pointless. 

The biggest challenge to cricket will be from baseball, a sport many people consider similar. In my eyes T20 cricket beats baseball hands down in terms of excitement, this obviously would be disputed by baseball fans. For me there are way to many baseball games on, devaluing the sport. Another reason being that T20 cricket is actually heralded around the world, where as baseball is only popular in USA and Japan. Ice Hockey in the US is really being challenged by football (the Beckham affect), but all the other sports are are pretty settled. Football has finally made an impact and in a recent ESPN poll it was voted the second most popular sport for people aged between 12-24 in the US. So if football can have such a big impact so can cricket, one day. 

The idea of getting celebrates involved in this new league is good as it will get people talking about cricket. The only thing which worries me is that non immigrant Americans will not understand the sport and therefore not watch. Another issue will be that if it does take off in the USA, there will be more pressure put onto test cricket. This being that more top players will forget about the longer formats of the game and join another money spinning league. It seems to me that eventually there could be two different sports as there are so many T20 leagues some players may solely play T20 whilst others might only play test cricket. 

A question has to be asked if to suit the local audience they may change some of the laws. This is something that happened in the early stages of the MLS, this is something which would worry me. Another factor to consider is if the league will actually help young American cricketers. In my opinion to get the best viewing figures they may actually resort to having whole teams made up of world stars, meaning that it does nothing for American cricket. The fact that league is to launch through the Ashes series is another worry. This means that England now have to contest a loosing battle to the IPL for the first series and now the second series of a summer could be hit by this tournament. Another dilema for Pietersen, who would definitely be offered a contract here.  Only time will tell if the UST20 will be a success for cricket or not. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

How each teams flaws were exposed in the World T20


So the World T20 has finished and I have now decided to take a look back over a tournament which started very slowly but burst into life in the later stages. 

Whilst thinking back over the competition it struck me that each team lived up to their pre tournament flaws or in West Indies case the pre tournament hype. Many people see T20 cricket as a form of cricket where one or two good players could win the team a competition. This competition showed that a complete team was needed. It also showed that the teams who lacked something were found out. 

The winners West Indies proved that having a balanced team is the best formula in the shortest form of the game. Players such as Gayle, Samuels, Bravo, Pollard and even Sammy are genuine T20 all rounders. Add Narine (my pre tournament prediction as being the best bowler) and the vastly improving Rampaul to the West Indies and they have a great team. I am not sure how I looked past them when trying to predict the competition. 

The other teams were all flawed in certain areas, these were areas which had been highlighted by many before the competition had started. Sri Lanka may have lost the final because of a late blitz by Samuels but in my opinion it was down to their soft batting line up after the top three. India lacked options in the fast bowling department and England sorely missed the opening presence of Peitersen. Pakistan and New Zealand showed spells of brilliance followed by their usual inconsistencies. Australia were found to lack experience of playing international cricket, a reason why Watson stood out over his team mates. 

Australia are in my opinion the favourites to take the next tournament, yes a big statement to make but their team is still pretty young and showed glimpses of what is to come. 

The tournament started off very very slow, almost to the state of boredom. Many people questioned the timing of the competition, being in the Sri Lankan rainy season. Their were questions raised over the format of the tournament and the poor standard of cheerleaders. I still cant get over the fact that India as poor as they were, only lost one match that's one less than the winners.  The competition was brought to life by the players, especially the West Indians who danced and celebrated everything. 

Friday, 5 October 2012

Why Tendulkar is thinking of retiring and why I think he should.


The legend that is Sachin Tendulkar first came to the public eye whilst in schools cricket. The first of many records was his 664 run partnership with Vinod Kambli, a record which has only just been broken. 

He made his international d├ębut against arch rivals Pakistan, in that series he showed some glimpses of what was to come, although his scores were low. His first test century came at Old Trafford against England but his most notable early performance came against Australia two years later at the WACA. Many people still believe this as the best innings played in Australia. 

Since making his debut at 16 years of age he has gone on to play another 22 years. This 22 years has been a breath taking ride, which has transformed Sachin into a superstar. Some of his many records include 51 test centuries, 49 ODI centuries. The highest scorer cricket has ever seen and the first man to score 100 international centuries. What makes his record even better is the fact that he only scored his first ODI century in the 79th match. Tendulkar is also the first man to score a double century in a ODI, and I am sure winning the world cup on his home ground is the highlight of his career. 

Where ever he has played, be it team mates or opposition love and respect him. The first foreign man to play for Yorkshire, he was accepted like one of their own. Incredibly Tendulkar started playing when I had just turned 2 years old, he is still going well. 

Players such as Lara, Warne and Ponting have all come and gone, but Sachin Tendulkar is still performing well. He has played with 3/4 generations of Indian players:

1. Players much older than he was: Ravi Shashtri, Kapil Dev, Srikkanth, Azurudhin

2. Players his own age: Ganguly, Dravid, Kumble, Laxman

3. Players slightly his junior: Yuvraj, Zaheer, Sehwag, Dhoni

4. Players who were just babies when he started: Kohli, Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yadav

Sachin has played to such a high standard that he has become a GOD like figure for some in India. Today was the first time that he has ever commented on a potential retirement. His exact words were "I don't think I have plenty of cricket  left in me." This could be an early warning for his fans, so it doesn't come as a total shock to his fans when he does. 

This is something pretty important as when he does go, it will not be blamed on him being pushed out. Without these hints of retirement there will always be a minority of people who will think these thoughts. 

The day he does call it a day will be a sad day for cricket, as it will lose one of the all time greats of the game.  I just do not want to see him go out of the game on a low. 

Comparisons can be made with Dravid, they way that he was bowled in all his innings in Australia. Later Dravid stated that this could be due to his diminished ability to see the ball. This must surely have played a part in Tendulkar stating this today, as he himself has been bowled in his last 3 innings. 

If Tendulkar believes it has nothing to do with his eye sight and only concentration he should play on. I personally believe a player who has achieved what he has could have retired on top, this would have been after the world cup. Although I understand that this should be the players own judgement depending on how they see their body. 

A possible option for him is to play on only tests after the England series, this especially as there is the possibility of Pakistan coming up. I think it is more likely that he will cut out both the forms of the games which he currently plays after the England series. His retirement would be a blow for India after loosing Laxman and Dravid recently. 

I just hope he makes a decision which is best for his legacy and best for Indian cricket. The perfect ending would be to go out after scoring a few centuries, adding to his records. 

Why I want West Indies to win World T20 and why Sri Lanka have to change a bad habbit



I write this before West Indies play their semi final against Australia, so by the time you may read this they may be out. I will nail my colours to the mast and pick West Indies as the team I would like to win. 

There are a few reasons why I would like them to win the competition, the first being that India are now out I needed a new team to back. Another reason is that I would like to see West Indies back at the top of world cricket. If I were to ask my father right now who has been the best ever team, or player in cricket history, im sure he would reel off West Indies and a few of their players such as Sobers. 

Given my age I do not remember a time where the West Indies were ever a force in world cricket. Over the last 25 years they have had very little to celebrate apart from Brian Lara (the last of their true greats) and a Champions Trophy. 

There are a few reasons why West Indian cricket has been in the doldrums, one is the poor organisations of their cricket board and the other being increased competition of other sports. Cricket has lost some of their best talent to sports such as athletics and basketball. For example Usain Bolt is made for fast bowling, although this would have been a major loss to track and field he could have been brilliant. I suspect that if he was born 20 years earlier he would definitely have been in cricket.  

The last reason I want this new generation of West Indians to succeed is that spirit of their team. The way the players celebrate a wicket, the way Pollard throws himself around on the field, the laid back persona of Gayle. A reason why they have qualified to the semi finals is the fact that their quality batsmen are very useful bowlers, their good bowlers can add runs with the bat and their fielding is very very good.

So come on West Indies bring back a bit of love for cricket in the Caribbean. 

Yesterdays match saw Sri Lanka qualifying to the final by beating a good Pakistan side. Getting to the final of a major international cricket competition is something that Sri Lanka are very used to. 

Since they won the world cup in 1996, they have been to 2 world cup finals, 1 champions trophy final, and a world T20 final. These have all resulted in them loosing, although the champions trophy final had been rained off 2 days in a row, so could be discounted. 

It is a real shame for Sangakara and Jayawardene not to have won a major trophy just yet. This habit of loosing in finals is something that they will want to quickly change. The best opportunity for this will be in the final, the same place where they had won their solitary world cup.   


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