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…..

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Well bowled, Harold near legendary interviews - #1 Chris Adams

I know what you're thinking - "Good grief (or words to that effect), we hear nothing from this mug for six months then two blog articles come along in the space of a week......somebody has too much time on their hands". It may be a fair point, after all it's either this or watch some of the god-awful stuff that is passing for holiday TV scheduling. So, sorry about that.

I have been thinking (easy, Tiger) for some time that there has been something missing from Well bowled, Harold. An English Cricket blog - and before you say grammar, spelling, cricketing knowledge, factual accuracy or humour - no I'm not talking about any of those as I gave up on achieving any of them many moons ago. No, I'm talking about interviews, I decided that this blog needed interviews.

Now apparently, even in these modern days of social networking where nothing, especially people's meals and their cute kittens it seems, is private, you still cannot just demand interviews from people all willy-nilly like. Apparently being a mug who scribbles a blog isn't a defence in a court of law under the harassment laws - who knew? Well I do now. Thankfully I'm something of a sneaky little bugger (just ask my friends.......yes, I do bloody well have some!) and found a nice way to legally
pester and beg ask one or two cricketing figures if they would be so kind as to give me a few moments of their time. And blimey, it only went and worked.

When Chris Adams responded to my request to ask him some searching and prying questions with, "Sure, fire away"  - well in my mind I actually read that as "Thank god, Stuey, I've been waiting for an age for you to get in touch and chat.....your blog is amazing". Yes, funny you should ask, but the weather is indeed amazing on Planet Stuart.

Before the interview, 'borrowing' some details from the cricket writer Lawrence Booth and ESPNcricinfo staff, let me pass onto to you some facts & figures about Chris Adams.
"A front-foot bruiser, Adams veered from the ferocious to the fallible. He enjoyed a prosperous career at first Derbyshire, his home county for whom his scored over 8,000 first-class runs, and then with Sussex where his masterminded a transformation of the county from sleepy club by the sea to the most successful county in the first decade of the 21st century.

He was one of the most explosive batsmen in the county game and loved to hit the ball in the air..........

......Joined Sussex as a highly-paid captain in 1998, where he and Michael Bevan spent two summers rescuing the middle order. His hard work paid dividends in 2003 when he led Sussex to their first County Championship title and in April 2004 he was named one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year. In 2006 he led Sussex to double success, winning the C&G Trophy and the Championship. 

At the end of the season a few eyebrows were raised when he announced he was moving to Yorkshire as player-coach. Less than a fortnight later even more were raised when he made a U-turn and decided to stay at Hove for 2007. He won the Championship again. But a year later, after Sussex clinched the Pro40 title, Adams announced he was standing down as captain after 11 years. He then hot-footed it to Surrey as their professional cricket manager, renewing his alliance with Gus Mackay, whom he worked with at Sussex.

.......The recovery was arduous with dead-wood needing to be removed and youngsters steadily incorporated. After a mediocre first season of only one victory in Division Two, Adams' gambled on 22-year-old Rory Hamilton-Brown and installed him as Surrey captain, despite him only having played eight first-class matches.

The policy took two years pay off but in 2011, Surrey, with four win from the final four matches, surged to promotion in the Championship and lifted the Clydesdale Bank 40 title - their first trophy for eight seasons. ........" 

Firstly, Chris, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to answer a few of my questions - it's a genuine honour.

Q) You made your 1st class debut in 1988 (just in case you forgot ;-) ) - the game, in all its formats, has changed immeasurably. For better or worse?

A) Much has changed indeed , the physicality most noticeably and I guess the intense introduction of sports science . Players are incredibly agile these days and pull off the most amazing displays in the field . As for the basic skills clearly there are a whole new group of innovative introductions post T20 . It's difficult to compare eras , good or bad , so it's best for me to say I enjoyed both decades very much.

Q) I personally fear for the future of Test cricket. Would you agree?

A) Still the games number 1 format for me and needs protecting as such! 

Q) What was your proudest moment as a player?

A) Many ..... being the first captain of Sussex to ever lift the County Championship in 2003 just shades receiving my England Test Cap .... only just!

Q You famously 'squared up to' Wasim Akram during the interval in the 1993 B&H final. Any chance of relating some of the comments that were exchanged between the two of you? :-)

A) He beamed me intentionally first ball in my debut Lords final .... I told him in no uncertain terms if he ever did it again I'd knock his block off .... he didn't and we are now on good terms.

Q) You had a nice & easy Test match introduction on the 1999 tour to South Africa when a certain Allan Donald was on hat-trick and England were 4 wickets down for 2 runs; No pressure then?!

A) Ironically it was the one innings for England I didn't feel any pressure ... let's face it I couldn't have done any worse ! 

Q) You weren't picked for England again after that tour. Any sour grapes?

A) No very few even get the privilege of playing for England so to play 5 tests was a proud achievement . I guess to come up against an attack of Donald Pollock Kallis And Klusener doesn't get much tougher .... I do believe though had I had another opportunity in the following three years I would have done much better but not to be ....

Q) The role of the cricket team coach has changed a great deal in the last 20 years. How did you find the transition from player to coach?

A) Like most aspects of life some of it came naturally , some came quickly due to past experiences and other aspects not so .... I am clear though that like a career as a player you continue to learn and improve each year as a coach based on all your experiences .

Q) As an exiled Yorkie myself, I was intrigued when it was announced that you were moving to Yorkshire as player-coach in 2007, then there was a quick reversal of the decision. Are you allowed to say why this happened?

A) There were several reasons for the turnaround and it would not be fair to highlight them .... I had always hoped to play for Yorkshire , it just wasn't meant to be . Delighted they won the CC last year .... Jason Gillespie and Colin Graves are two of crickets winners and both terrific men.

Q) What was the experience like of working with the Sri Lankan squad last summer?

A) Brilliant ..... except coaching against your own country was very very difficult.

Q) I believe that you'll be working with the Holland squad in the new year. In what capacity?

A) Technical advisor .... Coaching within the preparation programme for WCL2 and acting as a mentor and advisor to Anton Roux the coach.

Q) What are the future plans for Chris Adams, any exclusives?!

A) I enjoy consultancy coaching but hope to secure a permanent role in the future .... my track record is consistent with examples of winning , high achievement and I believe based on my experiences in recent years the next role I undertake will see the very best from me .

Once again Chris, many thanks again!

Best Wishes

I would once again like to thank Chris for taking the time out to answer a few of my questions.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

England, Cook, Yorkshire and the return of the absent blogger.

There was a time not so long ago when I almost gave up this blog, the demands on my time from an increasingly diverse range of life sources meant that something had to give, and Well bowled, Harold was the poor soul that had to pay the price....... for a while at least. As a consequence, Harold remained silent as the world of Cricket rolled on its inexorable way through its own highs and lows of the second half of 2014. Thankfully not a lot happened for me to be able to talk about. Eh, what?

For real cricket insight, read this - Thanks Santa!
I would love to say that the main reason for the return of this Cricket blogger was due to my being inundated beyond measure, by request upon request, begging me to renew Harold's particularly obtuse views on various things related to English Cricket. Of course, the number of requests numbered their thousands, well hundreds. Alright, alright, maybe there weren't quite three figures, will you stop badgering me?!  Bloody hell, There were six requests, ok?!....sheesh, talk about not expecting the Spanish Inquisition (cue classic Python sketch). While that number won't be enough to shake the foundations of Cricket analysis to its core, nevertheless at least two of the suggestions that I carry on blogging came from people who know what they're talking about having actually been involved in the game at a first class level. As for the nature of the comments made to me about rebooting Harold, well as anybody who knows me well will testify, I'm a sucker for praise of any kind. In other words, butter me up with compliments and I'm anybody's - as it were.

So as a result of a small but important (well, to me at least) number of requests, 2015 will see the return of the wonder that is the almost grammatically consistently nearly accurate cricket blog that is Well bowled, Harold. Sorry about that.

Now as a wee preamble before we drunkenly stumble into the new year it seems only right and proper to sum up some of the six months since I last put finger to keyboard. To be honest, 'best of' end of year lists invariably bore me solid so I'm going to steer away from a Well bowled, Harold top 10 of 2014. Neither am I going to attempt to even to attempt to get close to covering all the the major cricketing talking points that have taken place, if you want that then go and buy the latest edition of the Wisden Almanac (I don't need to, thanks to Santa). No, In the tried and tested approach of which I'm proud to call my own, I will be briefly be talking about a few of the things that mainly interests the one person that has influenced me beyond all others and of whom I think about most of all - that would be me then.

Oh England, my England

In another, ahem, quiet six months for the national side with, ahem, there's been little or no controversy surround the worthiness of the captain, the lack of quality of the one day side or the book revelations from the ex-player who shall remain nameless - well it's all be pretty boring hasn't it? Oh no, that's right, it hasn't been boring at all for an England cricket fan.

The calamity down under seems like an age ago and yet we still seem to be feeling the repercussions of the horrors that took place on that fateful tour. 2014 saw us lose players who had been central to the success that we had all enjoyed before the 5-0 whitewash that took place at the hands of Clarke, Johnson, Johnson's moustache, et al. An exhausted Jonathan Trott had departed in the early days of the tour (though there are encouraging signs of a resurgence of his career as I write this). Spin King Swan also departed and so the heartbeat of the England team became a surprising success on Test Match Special where he became something of a revelation. The summer also saw the departure of Matt Prior, so long the voice of the team but eventually (thanks to the increasing ineptness of the selectors) finally left the national scene of his own volition during the summer.

The solitary dedication of a man trying to get it right again. 
For all of you who have used the term 'Captain Weasel' - shame on you.

Another thing that was seemingly lost (to some) was the Captaincy of Alistair Cook. Now, my usual reader will know all too well of my constant support for the man, and even now that support hasn't wavered from me, even though I find myself it seems in an ever increasing minority. 

I must say that some of the criticism that he has received throughout the year (and still continues to do so in some social media quarters) has often well and truly crossed the line into vitriolic abuse - often from those in a position of power that quite frankly should know better and therefore should feel quite ashamed of themselves. (You know damn well who you are).

Yes, he may have been exposed into revealing a tactical naivety at times and his stubbornness, which can be his batting strength, has also been his Achilles heel when it came to acknowledging that he should play no part in the ODI set up,

However, he still has more than a modicum of public support (besides mine, which no doubt he values immensely), as the scenes showed during the Test series against India (which we won - hurrah!!!), particularly when he fell 5 agonising runs short of a century at Southampton. The reaction of the most important people in Cricket, the fans, was sincere and heartwarming. I firmly believe that in the next few years, now he has been relieved of the odious ODI responsibility, we will see both his batting, and as a consequence his captaincy, flourish once again. You can slap me around the face with a wet fish if I'm wrong, which may be something of a mistake on my part, as I'm often wrong about most things in life, not just cricket matters.

The English summer was a traditional mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly

The Good 

The loss of some of the old guard may have indeed left a few holes in the side, but it's not all doom and gloom on the England front, there is actually a huge cause for optimism about the plethora of young talent that is now flourishing. (Well bowled, Harold top tip: the term 'huge cause for optimism on the plethora of young talent that is now flourishing' is apparently NOT a suitable defence in a court of I found out the hard way.......).

Adam Gilchrist Joss Buttler
Anyhoo, getting back to the point I'm trying to make. The likes of Messrs Balance, Ali, Butler and the ever maturing Joe Root give rise to huge optimism that the future may well be a little rosier (at least on the Test match front) than we may have dared hope just six months ago. Gary Ballance nicely filled the troublesome number three spot during the summer and Moin Ali has gone some way to potentially cementing a role as a batsman who can bowl some very nice spin indeed. Plus he has a fabulous beard.

The England set-up, true to its nature, almost mucked up what should have been the Test debut that could have defined the summer in the case of Joss Buttler. After falling to yet another injury, the redoubtable Matty Prior was replaced by ODI monster, Buttler, who proceeded to give his doubters a kick to the nether regions by hitting his maiden Test hundred from just 61 balls - yes, 61 balls. Suddenly we had a new superstar in our midst, well nearly. Because instead of seizing the moment and riding a wave of optimism in the possibility we may have found our Adam Gilchrest, the selectors instead bottled it, played safe yet again and brought back a clearly unfit Prior until Matty himself did the honourable thing and called it a day halfway through he five match India series. The man is a legend but it was time to let go.

We now have the spine of what could be a formidable line-up for many years to come - that is, unless the selectors decide to cock it up again.

The Bad
I can't bring myself to describe this.....
If the loss of the two match series against Sri Lanka wasn't enough, We also had to endure the continuing farce and embarrassment that are our lamentable attempts at the limited overs forms of the game - god help us if we ever decide that playing ODI's as if were still in the 1970's may be slightly out of date. The experience of watching an England ODI (putting aside for a brief moment the fact that it's not proper cricket) is so utterly predictable in its abject farce that it becomes boring and quite impossible to find new adjectives to describe each inept performance. That's all I can say on that matter.

I could also write oodles of paragraphs on the slicing up of world cricket by the so-called 'big three' - but once again I can't really face another tirade against the BCCI and its lackeys. 

The Ugly

Kevin Pietersen. Need I say more? Well, except for "Shut the hell up!"

And Finally........

I want to make special mention of two other things of special note, but very different reasons

The first is my unconfined joy that accompanied Yorkshire winning their first county championship in 13 years, it was divine I tell you, just divine! Now I've mentioned previously in the confines of this blog my boredom and irritation with the veritable plethora of professional Yorkshiremen in public life who blather on ad nausea about how just bloody brilliant Yorkshire is......yes Michael Parkinson, Alan Titchmarsh et al, I'm talking about you. If they think that the county if their birth is so blooming ace then how come none of them live anywhere near there anymore?

It's nearly 10 years since I moved away to what is actually god's own county, Aberdeenshire in the North East of Scotland. While it cannot be denied that Yorkshire is indeed beautiful in parts (I mean, have you ever been to Rotherham?.....), I'm certainly not going to fall into the 'Yorkie fawning' trap that has enveloped so many exiles. However, I will admit to shedding more than a tear or two (shut up there at the back, it's OK for a manly man like myself to cry) when Jason Gillespie's magnificent Tykes gave Notts a trumping and a thumping to seal the title. The scenes at the end of the gameas the team celebrated a long overdue title success almost me take up pen and paper and think about waxing lyrical about the homeland........almost.

Without doubt, the most significant cricketing event of the year was the awful tragedy of the death of Phil Hughes after being hit on the back of the neck by a bouncer during a Sheffield Shield game. I genuinely hope that people who read this understand my intentions and meaning when I talk about the positives that came out of the whole event. Sometimes we have to be reminded just why we love the game and the people involved in it so much, because in this instant, the whole cricket family truly came into its own. I have never been the greatest admirer of Michael Clarke as a man, well I will be the first to admit to being completely wrong about the guy. The way Clarke conducted himself in the aftermath, not only in dealing with the death of his team mate, but also in the support for the bowler involved, Sean Abbott, was incredible. I cannot say just how much I was impressed with Michael Clarke's leadership.

In addition we had a worldwide tribute with bats and caps being left out for all so see. For  all the horrors of this episode entailed in the death of genuinely decent man and the consequences for his friends and family, I can safely say that they way the cricket world reacted to the horrible event has never made me more proud to love the game.

See you on 2015!