A little bit about me and my little blog

This is by far not the first cricket blog to be written and it certainly won't be the last (or necessarily the best). But it's mine.

This is mainly an excuse for me to carry on about a sport that has been something of an obsession since I was knee high to a middle stump. An obsession which has never left throughout the many highs (behave, there have been some) and lows (and boy have there been many of those…..) of being and England cricket fan in the years since.

The views and opinions in this blog are entirely my own. Sometimes light-hearted, occasionally irreverent, hopefully never offensive.

What gives this fool the right to have an opinion on this great sport? Where are his credentials I hear you ask? Well I think my catch at mid-on in the inter-house final at Heath Grammar school in 1981 speaks for itself…..

Friday, 26 October 2012

England tour of India 2012/13

Yesterday saw the touring party leaving for India & it seems that the controversy has begun already on three separate fronts. Firstly we have already had the protracted 'will they, wont they?' until it was finally announced that a certain KP would be admitted back into the squad ( though whether he has been accepted back is another matter). There are also no signs yet of a big group hug and the rumours that he's been made to travel in the hold with the rest of the luggage has yet to have been confirmed.

The second element of controversy is one that will directly impact the many of us who are unable to travel to India, and that is the increasingly acrimonious dispute over broadcasting the coverage from the sub-continent. It has emerged that Sky and the BBC will not be sending commentary teams to India after the country’s board brought in last minute demands for charges for the provision of commentary boxes. The BBC have been told they need to pay up £50,000, while Sky have been charged £500,000 (theses figures are on top of the rights fees they have already paid.)

This is the first time a cricket board has ever asked for money to provide commentary positions and both Sky and the BBC feel the rights fees covered the provision of full facilities. There is the real possibility that any TV or radio coverage is actually the result of  independent commentary from television pictures off a television set in London rather than live action at the venue. 

Of course I couldn't possibly comment on the suggestion from some that streaming the coverage from unofficial internist sources would be out option if this happens. For a start, the Indian coverage seems to break the record for partisan commentary ( DRS, they argue, is the work of the Beelzebub) and also commercials every 2.3, apparently.

The third element of controversy emerged also this week with the announcement of the Mumbai team for the first warm-up game next week. A few raised eyebrows were raised when it emerged that the Mumbai side would contain no spinners at all. 
This led to an avalanche (well 3 at least) of angry tweets from the likes of Michael Vaughan (“I don’t think its (sic) in the spirit of game. Prepare wickets which suit your team (spinning tracks) that should be enough… Poor form!!!
 Mr Bumble soon added his admonishment of the home side “No spinner in India A team vs England….totally lacking in class and style decision,”) 
In essence, the suggestion that this was brinkmanship of the highest order against a touring side who are notoriously suspect against spin bowling. 

Is this a serious precedent? 
Well traditionally the home series board have for example prepared pitches that would favour the home side. Who can forget the naughty West Indies in the 1970's & 80's preparing pitches that were, well, quite fast for their quite fast bowlers? The cheek of it. Completely different from our recent preparation of pitches that could help Mr Swann's spin bowling of course…..

At the risk of sounding again like I'm India-bashing (which I'm not) this could be slightly different though. There was a time in the not too distant past when the warm up matches were a place to get 1st teamers fit, introduce some exciting new talent and basically try to give the touring party a real old fright before the real action began. Ahh, those days when England would get walloped by a Presidents XI in the Caribbean even before Messrs Ambrose and Walsh had had a chance to make us bleed.

Now however, the precedent has been set. The Indian selectors’ move to go ahead with an all pace attack for the 3-5 November duel is reportedly been intended to not provide the visitors with any chance of getting a feel of India’s strength. What happens here next year when the Aussies come to town? 

The rumours that the 1st warm up game  against the Aussies will consist of the Northowram fields CC from Halifax (under 9's ) was yet to be confirmed. I'll keep my eye on Twitter

England Test and T20 schedule - Tour to India 2012

England's first full winter tour of India since 2008 will consist of four Tests, two Twenty20s and four one-day internationals

October 25: Team departs UK
October 26-28: Training, ICC Global Cricket Academy
October 29: Arrive in Mumbai
October 30-November 1: Tour match, Mumbai, CCI
November 3-5: Tour match, Mumbai, BKC
November 8-11: Tour match, Ahmedabad, Motera ‘B’ Ground
November 15-19: 1st Test, Ahmedabad, Motera
November 23-27: 2nd Test, Mumbai, Wankhede Stadium
December 5-9: 3rd Test, Kolkata, Eden Gardens
December 13-17: 4th Test, Nagpur, Jamtha VCA Stadium
December 20: 1st T20, Pune, Shara Stadium
December 22: 2nd T20, Mumbai, Wankhede Stadium
December 23: Team departs India

England ODI schedule - Tour to India 2013
January 2: Team departs UK
January 3: Arrive Delhi
January 6: Tour match (D/N), Delhi, Feroze Shah Kotla
January 8: Tour match, Delhi, Services Ground
January 11: 1st ODI (D/N), Rajkot, SCA Stadium
January 15: 2nd ODI (D/N), Kochi, Jawarharlal Nehru Stadium
January 19: 3rd ODI (D/N), Ranchi, JSCA International Stadium
January 23: 4th ODI, Dharamsala, HPCA Cricket Stadium
January 27: 5th ODI (D/N), Mohali, PCA Stadium
January 28: Team departs India

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Tony Greig

At the risk of causing some of the MCC members at Lords to choke on their early morning crumpets, I wanted to make the very first entry of the blog about Greigy. It has been well publicised recently Tony Greig has been diagnosed with a form of lung cancer, the extent of which we'll know of soon.

The era of the early to late 1970's were when Cricket imprinted itself on my psyche, my formative learning experience where the likes of Knott, Underwood, Boycott, Close and Greig became my first Cricketing heroes. Yes the tv coverage was limited and often patchy from the BBC - I'll never quite forgive the old beeb for constantly shifting from between the Headingly 1981 test match ( yes, THAT one) and the British golf open. But the commentary was always spot on and informative without ever becoming patronising or preaching( take note Sky pundits) . As for the Test match special commentary, Messrs Johnson and Arlott were my radio gods. So it was the best of times, it was the worst of times (thanks to Mr Dickens for that one). Perhaps this is why I think it's time for a re-appraisal of Tony's england career.

For me, it's always seemed a shame that the many controversies on the pitch ( e.g the Kalicharan run out - which he was perfectly entitled to do -  and the 'we'll make them grovel' prediction for the West Indies series) and off the pitch ( Packer et al, commentary for Aussie tv etc ) have tended to obscure and overshadow what a fine Cricketer Greig actually was. 

A career test record which included a total of 3599 ( an average of 40.43) and a total of 141 test wickets ( at 32.20) puts him in the pantheon of English all rounders. Measure that record against a certain I.T Botham who scored 5200 runs ( an average of 33.54 ) and took  383 wickets ( at 28.40). Yet Greig only played 58 test matches as opposed to Botham's 102!

His records as Test captain  - played 14, won 3, lost 5 and drawn 6 is arguably still with it's merits with the 3 wins coming in the 1976/77 tour of India, a place where we hadn't won a series in the 15 years before. 

The losses as captain incurred at the hands of Australia ( Lillie & Thompson et al) and the matches against the ever stronger West Indies where his  'make them grovel' comment before the series started about this upcoming opponents typified his ability to talk himself into trouble. As it happens, fine attributes to go with a long career as a Cricket commentator.

For me, its a crying shame that Tony Greig is remembered solely in some circles as the captain who led cricket into its biggest crisis of the last century. He lost the captaincy in the most controversial of circumstances when it became clear that he was actively recruiting players for Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket. 
More than thirty years later, he's perhaps more recognised commentator for Australian television where controversy has still accompanied him ( The "I wonder if she's a mail-order bride" episode, to name but one). Greig has never been fully forgiven for his part in a series of events which almost tore world cricket apart. 

His ability to court controversy remains undiminished. Take for example his much publicised Cowdry lecture where spoke passionately  as to the state of the sport and issues facing the game in general. In the process ruffling some Indian feathers when stating that many of world cricket's problems come with the effective power of veto that India holds over the ICC. Now I love Indian cricket, Sunil Gavaskar and Kapel Dev are two of my cricketing heroes. However I believe that the IPL and other 20/20 competitions around the world may be the work of the cricketing devil in killing off the Test match format. That, combined with the BCCI's constant refusal to hold the ICC to ransom over such issues as DRS led to a a polarisation of reaction to his comments.

What cannot, and should not be denied, is  that he was a great all-rounder who combined, aggression, boldness with stubbornness. Ironically, the very attributes that endeared him for more to the Australian authorities and public then ever to England. He was the first South African to skipper England, re-establishing an element of national pride with emphatic victory in a tough tour of India after the slaughter at the hands of Australia and the West Indies. 

Moreover, both as captain and during the Packer episode, he instilled a level of support and loyalty from his players that was rock solid and never wavered. Mike Brearley, when taking over the captaincy from Greig, continually fought Tony's corner to keep in in the side. Indeed, Brearley has acknowledged the quality and togetherness of the England side he inherited as captain.

Sadly he remains largely unforgiven, his career to be forever under-appreciated.

Get well soon Tony. Make that Cancer grovel.

Highlights of Tony Greig's innings which rescued England from 43-4 in the 1975 Ashes game at Lords.