Thursday, 30 August 2012

Strauss departs but what next?

England as expected have acted quickly to fill the void left by Strauss the captain, but who will replace Strauss the opener? Surprisingly Strauss and Cook have not missed many matches, this partnership and Jonathan Trott at number 3 have been the axis of England's batting, allowing the middle order to play freely. The options to become Cooks new partner in my eyes are: Joe Root, Michael Carberry, Jonathan Trott or the outside shout of Daniel Bell-Drummond.

1. Joe Root:

At 21 some may say that he is the perfect age to develop into the international game, others may argue he needs to develop his game at first class level before he is exposed to the tough away tours of India and New Zealand. I am firmly of the belief that if your good enough you should get a chance. There was a certain player called Sachin Tendulkar who started at a young age. Root has had a good year, performing well on the lions tour.

He has a first class average of 40.02, this is good for such a young player, although he will be facing a higher calibre of bowling in international cricket. To his name he has 4 hundreds in first class cricket, showing he can convert scores into 3 figures well. Expectations on Root are very high, playing for Yorkshire he has been compared to two greats of the game. It has been said in the past that he has the front foot play of Michael Vaughn and the concentration levels of Boycott. It is evident that Root is made for test cricket, but the selectors will have to decide if they want to go for a younger guy to develop into the squad or having a shorter term goal of victory in India and in particular the Ashes. 

2. Michael Carberry

It seems that Carberry has been waiting for ever behind Strauss and Cook. For this reason it seems only fair that the 31 year old now gets his chance right? Maybe not the selection will not be based on sentiment, it will be what's right for the squad. He has test experience to his name albeit just one test away to Bangladesh. Carberry has found Hampshire his adoptive county where he has consistently scored runs. He has twice been involved in record stands, one for the record 2nd wicket partnership, and the other for the highest partnership in county cricket history. This being a partnership of 523 runs last year. This shows he has the concentration to score big runs in test cricket.  

At 31 many people will back the younger guy to come in for longevity reasons, but it should be remembered that Michael Hussey waited until his 29th birthday to make his test bow. He is still going strong 8 years later, this could mean that if Carberry is to keep himself fit and on form he could play for a while. A good fielder also, has the game to succeed at test level. It seems for me that England may decide to look for a younger man to develop into the team, meaning that Carberry unfortunately may miss out. 

3. Jonathan Trott:

There is the option of moving Trott from number 3 to opening, this would mean that another middle order batsman would come into the team. This would open up the possibility of Bell being moved to number 3 and either Bopara or (dare I say it) Peitersen to come back. The advantage of having Trott opening is that he and Cook have batted together for long periods of time, so know each others games. Another advantage to this is that on many occasions Trott has come in to bat after an early wicket, which means that he can open the batting. This would also mean that another player has to come into the number 3 slot, probably one of the most important batting positions in test cricket, could be a potential problem for England. 

4. Daniel Bell-Drummond:

Im not sure he is actually on the England test radar at the moment, as he is still very young but looks a good player. At 19 he has very little experience at first class level, but has been a regular for England under 19's. His county Kent were very keen to test him out against the touring South Africans in a tour match this year. Bell-Drummond held his own and looked composed despite facing the worlds top bowling attack. He has a strong West Indian style to his batting and is a player who likes to get on top of the bowlers. I had said that Sachin Tendulkar started at a young age, he was actually younger than Bell-Drummond is now. I doubt that the selectors are considering him at this age but he should definitely be considered.  If he was to fail it could be detrimental to future career, but this is a risk that could work out well. 

So who to pick?:

Any of the players I have mentioned could do a good job for England as an opener, it all depends on what way selectors wish to go. I hope that when the selectors make their decision, they should ignore early failures. The person who is chosen should be given at least 10 games to show the true talent. I personally think Root will get the first chance as he is of an age where he can play for around 15 years. 

Sunday, 26 August 2012

General cricket news - 26 AUG 2012

1. India win the U19 World cup:

This has been a fascinating turn of events, seeing India win the under 19 tournament. A team who limped to wins against Pakistan and New Zealand in the previous rounds, beat the favourites and home side Australia to take the title. The young Indians emulated their senior counterparts by taking the world crown. Australian captain William Bosito once again led his team from the front, top scoring and remaining not out as he has done all competition. Incredibly he has only been out once, out of six games, earning him man of the series. The Aussie skipper has shown he is a reliable middle order batsman a useful skill he could use in all forms of the game.

His Indian counterpart on the other hand Unmukt Chand has had a poor tournament, scoring less than 40 runs on four occasions out of six matches, this included a duck vs Pakistan. Chand raised his game for the occasion, scoring a majestic 111 not out. The Indian skipper has long been touted as a potential star of the future, already earning a few games for Delhi Daredevils in the IPL and breaking into his state team (Delhi). 

I believe that the tournament is about giving young players international experience. This has been a valuable experience for all the teams, especially the batsmen who have had to successfully/unsuccessfully adapt to tough batting conditions. For an Indian team of any level to triumph in Australia is a massive achievement, as this is a place where many before them have struggled. India have also show cased battling qualities which are inbred in the new generation of Indian cricketer. Both players named above have shown they have the game to make  fine senior international cricketers, but alot of hard work is needed and for media to managed expectations if they are to make it. 

2. India Beat New Zealand:

A massive victory for India here, an innings and 115 run win. There is not much more of a spanking which any team could get in a test match. This result reaffirms my belief that India are the best team in the world in the sub continent and that New Zealand test cricket is on the slow decline. The later is a big shame because there are good players in the squad but not enough good players compared to other big teams. They were also playing against a well drilled unit who are un-relentlessness when it comes to beating a weak opposition on home turf. 

3. Hampshire win English T20:

Firstly I would like to congratulate Hampshire on winning this trophy, a trophy which in my eyes needs a big change for years to come. (but this is a story for another day) Beating Somerset (my favourite English team) in the semi final and then disposing of Yorkshire ensured them the title. Hampshire lead by Mascarenhas have a very talented squad including Michael Carberry and James Vince players who I believe could play for England in the future.

Yorkshire have a squad which includes England players Bresnan and Bairstow, they  are not a squad which has performed with any greatly in past years, but put an end to that this season. 

Both Hampshire and Yorkshire now go into the Champions League in October, a great chance for some of the players to work them selves into the minds of rich IPL owners. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Indian batting dilema

The day before India set off their long quest to regain the number 1 spot in test cricket, there are questions being asked of who will fill the boots of the great Dravid and Laxman, both who have retired. It seems that the series against New Zealand kicks off an exciting new era of Indian batting being held together by Sachin Tendulkar. 

All of the players in contention to come in are fairly well known through playing IPL and limited overs international cricket. Before looking at who these players are it is important to consider the batting line up to in the last test match against Australia. 

1. Gambhir
2. Sehwag
3. Dravid
4. Tendulkar
5. Laxman
6. Kholi
7. Dhoni

It is clear that if India play a full strength team then the openers will be unchanged, Tendulkar will be number 4 and Kohli will be in the team in either number 3 or 5. 

That leaves two slots for Rahane, Pujara, Badrinath and Raina to come in to. The number 3 position should be between all the above named apart from the more expansive Raina. Virat Kohli is also an option for this role. Rahane has played alot of his cricket as an opener, so it is an easy fit for him to become the new number 3. A reason against Rahane is that compared to the others he has less experience and is seen as a long term opener so could be kept as a back up for that role. Kohli has played many ODI as number 3 and could transfer this to test cricket providing a solid base. Badrinath has a game made for test cricket and would do a fine job at number 3, but I believe him to be a better lower order man for test cricket. For me the best man for the job is Pujara, for long he has been touted as the long term replacement to Dravid. He seems to have a temperament very suited to test cricket, he has also performed well before suffering a series injury. 

As Sachin will not budge from his usual number 4 position there will be no change here. If as I have predicted, Kohli does not move up to number 3, he will for sure be moved to number 5 in the line up. 

This leaves one spot for either Rahane, Raina and Badrinath in the squad to fight it out for the number 6 role. Rahane would be a good option as this is a great position for new players to make their test bow. This allows him to learn the ropes and eventually move up the order, but as explained above I think that he will be kept for now as a back up opener. Suresh Raina is a player who has had a few chances already at this position, he has performed well in India, not so well in England. He is one that could take the game away from the opposition or score quickly or chase a large score in a limited time (like Bairstow tried at Lords). Badrinath is a solid middle order player who builds up runs, he also seems the type of player who would relish batting with the tail. At 31 years of age this could be one of his last chances if he doesn't play. I personally would go for Raina, because the series is being played in Indian conditions, which he is a master of. 

The batting line I would go with for the 1st test is:

1. Gambhir
2. Sehwag
3. Pujara
4. Tendulkar
5. Kohli
6. Raina
7. Dhoni

ps, let me know your views on this by commenting. 

Monday, 20 August 2012

England dethroned by the new NO.1 South Africa

The view that test cricket is dead should be banished, this series has well and truly put a stop to that thought. What a match, what a series. South Africa take the 3 match series 2-0 which means that they have become the new number 1 test team. 

The first thing to say about the game was that England battled hard as they did through out the series, but all in all I believe South Africa deserve the series win. From Day 2 of the second test South Africa were in control of this series, Kallis and  Amla draining the life out the England bowlers. 

There is no one player who has not contributed to the rise to the summit of test cricket, in particular the rise of Phillander, a bowler who has been a key part of the bowling attack over the last year. It was also great to see the team and Smith pay tribute to Mark Boucher who has contributed greatly to this achievement. 

Two other names to mention for this feet are those of Allan Donald and Garry Kersten. The later being a coach that in his short career as coach so far has taken India to an ICC T20 world cup, ODI world cup, top of the test rankings and now followed that up with taking South Africa to the test summit. Another sign for showing his greatness is that when he left India they fell straight down in all forms of the game.

The key battles:

Graeme Smith v Andrew Strauss: This battle was clearly one for Smith to savour, he outscored the England captain, and made some brave decisions whilst in the field. Smith also become the most capped captain through the series. I believe calls for Strauss to retire are a little premature as there is no viable replacement as an opener. 

Graeme Swann v Imran Tahir: Although it can be said that neither really shone through the series, Tahir performed far far better than his English counterpart. Swann also was left out the 2nd test at Headingly. 

James Anderson v Dale Steyn: This was the battle that everyone was waiting for, two of the best bowlers in the world going against each other. There were spells where Anderson was good but it seems that Steyn on each occasion stepped up when he was needed.  

Where do the teams go from here:

South Africa will try and emulate the great sides of the past in trying to stay a few years at the number one ranking, this is something the great West Indian and Australian sides have managed in the past. They are currently top of the T20 rankings and im sure they will also want to get to the number 1 spot for ODI cricket also. What matters most to them now is winning a major tournament, they have been called chokers in the past, something they will want to change. It seems they have the players in each form of the game to achieve this goal.  The balance of the side looks strong, with an exceptional bowling attack and a very talented batting line up. Much depends on both the futures of Smith and Kallis in the long run.

England will want to bounce back from this loss, they still are a good test team. A few minor tweaks maybe needed. I believe more pressure needs to be put on the unflattering Swann. Bairstow looked a real star in the last test and should continue his cricket education in the team. A tough tour of India follows the T20 world cup of which England are champions, the future for England seems bright. 

Friday, 17 August 2012

Why is Kevin Pietersen being treated like a criminal?

It's not about being right or wrong, good or bad, it should be about the team, only the team. The so called "team" in question is the England cricket team. Over the last 4/5 years it has all been uphill for the England cricket team, and rightly so they have reached the number 1 spot in all 3 forms of the game. 

This achievement was down to hard work, trust and unity. There's no doubting that the team are still hardworking and mostly trusting of each other. But some cracks seemed to have appeared in the category's of trust and unity. The media and many players seem to have blamed one person and one person only for this.

Yes we all know who that person is, i'll give you one guess as to who. Yes my friends you guessed it the man in the news in Kevin Peitersen also known as KP. Yes he is not innocent of all goings on, it is clear that sending texts to the opposition team about your team mates is not a good look. 

But my line of thinking is that he sent these messages to friends, we all sometimes moan about people we work with to friends, its only natural. I also do not think that his crime is as bad as lets just say criticising a team mate in a book. A book which is open for the world to read about compared to this private message that we will never know what was said. The man who wrote the book by the way is Graeme Swann. 

Swann the same person who stands by his comments saying "KP is not a leader of men, and I dont think Cook is either." That's right the guy that many believe will be the next captain is being described in public as not a natural leader. I wonder just how Cook feels that he is not "a leader of men"?

Stuart Broad is another who seems beyond criticism, accused of being part of the trouble caused on twitter he was quick to deny this. Although he denies it there seems to be quite a bit of links to the fake account created to make fun out of KP, also acused of this is Alex Hales an up and coming England player. The less said about this the better. 

In the past week or so many of my friends have been talking about KP a lot of them stating "he has an ego" and "he should never play for England again". Yes maybe they are right he seems the type of person that has an ego and rub people up the wrong way, but does he really deserve the personal attack on his character? 

I believe he gets the flack when England lose and when England win it the teams win, he is a match winner as shown last week at Trent Bridge with his batting and useful bowling. A match winner who England cant do without. 

I am not asking for any of the other accused players to be dropped, just asking for fairness with KP. In the long term the childish behaviour shown by all the parties involved is detrimental to the team. He has apologised, what more could he do?

South Africa have already overtaken England as number 1 in T20's, and the  possibility of rightly becoming the new number 1 team in test cricket. England play ODI's v South Africa and later travel to India so the number 1 ranking in ODI cricket could be under threat also. It seems that England could lose their top spot in all forms of the game soon if they don't become more united. 

On the bright side one good thing to come out of this mess is that Bairstow got an opportunity and seems to have taken it well. 

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