Sunday, May 30, 2010

An Iridescent Yearning Glow on the Horizon

Winter now reigns in the Southern Hemisphere and discontent gnaws away at me. A listless limited overs tournament wastes on in the Caribbean and Zimbabwe, and England are using Bangladesh as a litmus test. This recent glut of twenty over cricket has been readily devoured but left me feeling bloated and somewhat cheated, the same way one feels after Kentucky Fried Chicken. The sad truth is though that there is little of any promise in the coming months and what there is in the main points towards the next Ashes series.

I know just recently I preached the good word about a resurgent West Indies. Hang the rector! Given their dismal performances in these fifty over matches against South Africa it is difficult to imagine that the subsequent test series will be any more substantial. India will play two test matches against Sri Lanka in July. These are the "number one" nation's only remaining tests for the year and will potentially prove the most interesting matches of 2010 in much the same way as South Africa's brief cameo on the sub-continent back in February. There is a rum justice in this and Greg Chappell's dire prediction of an Indian withdrawal from test match cricket is given weight.
Otherwise like a belated party guest attempting to make amends for their absence, Pakistan dominate the test match scene in what remains of this year. Australia and England will butt heads in a limited overs series later this month, but this is little more than a scrappy friendly in similar manner to the recent final Australia were so effectively demolished in. Both teams will then proceed to use Pakistan as (slightly less shaggy now) guinea pigs. In more creative fixturing Pakistan will then play a series against South Africa in the UAE. Actual test matches this time!

Pakistan are like the spirit of cricket itself. So utterly unpredictable and sweetly romantic and completely incapable of introduction to any sort of decent society. It is futile to speculate whether Pakistan stand to offer any fight in these matches for they will as always defy expectations. Afridi the Great will captain, Salman Butt is a batsman of excellence, Aamer has been fantastic and the Akmals, when not useless, have been breathtaking. They may just as easily triumph as flounder but such cricket is so often frustrating to watch.


So then, let us devote a moment to considering this next Ashes series. Do England stand any chance? Sadly, in all probability not. England have not won a series in this nation for over two decades and when they promised so much in the 2006/2007 summer they were pummeled. England will be sporting a very fine team by the looks of things though. Jonathan Trott is looking fine at number three, Pietersen has romped back into form, and perhaps Morgan can replace the inconsistent Bell. Along with Strauss, Cook, Collingwood, and the oafish Prior, this is a batting line up of great promise. Add to this Graeme Swann, a wonderfully confident strokesman and proven wily crafter of spin. An English success would require an exemplary pace bowling attack though and it is not certain whether they have the stock for this.

Stuart Broad can be an exhilarating performer with both ball and bat but too often he sends down loose deliveries and suffers from ineffective and derailing spells. With the anglic locks shorn he appears to the eye a more credible performer and his man of the match outing at the Oval last year looks lovely in the scrapbook. A five match series in hostile and brutally hot territory is a different ordeal though. James Anderson is also a victim to inconsistency. On song he is an expert practicioner but too often slumps. The pair of them will have to be sharp, focussed and aggressive for England to take wickets and pose a threat in the series.

As for the third bowling place- Graham Onions is out with a back injury which will remove him from the northern summer and scupper any chance of an Ashes berth. Tim Bresnan is in contention and so far has done little to commend himself. But the summer has just begun and he has time to prove himself. For the moment, the man of the hour is the 6ft 7", 21 year old Steven Finn who amazed with his ten wickets at Lord's. Granted his prey were Bangladesh, Finn forced a result rather than the otherwise probable draw given the weather. One must not get too far ahead for so often is a stunning debut followed by ignominous mediocrity, there is plenty to like in Finn though. He humbly described his careening trail of destruction, which resulted in a few tumbles following deliveries, as similar to Bambi on ice. Height and pace offers England a very threatening prospect.


In the last entry I spoke at length about English arrogance, that most debilitating and obnoxious quality of the nation. What stands the team in good stead is their new coach Andy Flower. A busy man by the sidelines, Flower sits with notepad scribbling away about this and that. The Zimbabwean great seems to be a steady tiller and coupled with the phlegmatic Strauss, the pair may be able to keep the mob in step. We will gain a better understanding with the fifty over matches.

It is unlikely that Australia will make any change to their batting assembly. Hussey has dispelled all doubts since the last Ashes and North has done just enough to merit selection, especially if he can produce something in the two tests against Pakistan. The only selection issues Australia faces is who to pick from their fat stocks of pace bowling. Hilfenhaus, the surprise class performer is set to return from injury in these Pakistan tests. One would imagine that Peter Siddle will rear his head at some point too. But in their absence the understudies have proved admirable . Bollinger must have cemented his spot and Johnson will not be questioned. This means Ryan Harris and Hilfenhaus will scramble to make up the team. Though the former is a fine bowler and offers batting, I imagine the Tasmanian's pedigree outclasses him. It is odd to think how much bemoaning and wailing there was at this point a year ago on the dearth of fast bowling in the absence of McGrath and Lee.

There is still seven months until the Ashes and these are but the speculations of a malcontent. Come Brisbane at the end of November we will undoubtedly witness a different dawn. Trumper will remain active through the southern off-season though and with gleanings from internet and Foxtel will attempt to keep its reader's informed as to all I think most pertinent in the cricketing world. Thank you for reading.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hubris and Overestimation

It is no secret that when the English begin to win at anything they become total imbeciles. This is not limited to the players but is a practise adopted by the nation at large. I have grim memories of working as a clerk in Burgess Hill after the 2002 Rugby World Cup and was first hand to witness an entire office, who for the most part of the year would dismiss the sport as a toff's game, turn into a pack of jeering and swaggering hotshots, closely resembling a troop of babboons. Need we call to mind who won the Ashes in 2005, resplendent with O.B.E.'s, to come hurtling down to humility the following year. The English are sporting fools. In the rare event that they succeed they are painful. The rest of the time they still carry themselves like a pack of eejits. Think of what they did to poor Tim Henman? Here- witness an exquisite example of this most silly trait.

Regardless of who wins tonight's final the English are going to be annoying. Particularly the fans. They are the most unfit, unclothed, unprepossessing poor excuse for specimens of the human species that are to be found. To be fair England have been fantastic in this tournament. Dominating with early batting (they are all South African), and controlled, malicious bowling. Add to this the rare feat of an English team that carries itself like a brood of hungry predators, as a result fielding superbly and intimidating their opposition. However the flush of winning is beginning to exhibit itself in petulant displays of haughty self-absorbtion. Several members of the team seem to think it is their duty to boss about anybody else they can see. Players are becoming over-exacting. Mike Yardy looked like a schizophrenic the way he chastised himself while trotting out to the outfield the other night. He had merely given a bit of width allowing a ball to be sniped out to the boundary, ignoring the fact that his four overs went for a mere 21 runs strangling the Sri Lankans and making a meal of the match. It doesn't help that the man who should be keeping a cap on all this, the captain Paul Collingwood, is dashing about making stupid statements such as,
Let's be honest, there aren't too many areas we can improve on.

While England occassionally find it within themselves to perform as a team possessed, they will be facing Australia, a team who makes a profession of this habit. Personally I couldn't care less who wins but it promises to be a cracker of a match. Its a shame that this specialist limited overs side differs so greatly from the test team or else there might be a suggestion of the English delivering in the next Australian summer. One must always live in hope though. Beware of the sweating, shirtless middle aged men and their annoying looking wives who will undoubtedly make spectacles of themselves between deliveries. Beware also the straw hat, sunglassed, Australian flag as cloak, hoon who will try to compete. In all hope we can avoid the histrionics and watch a thumping good game of cricket. Or we can watch a pack of pompous twits who are taken with themselves, self-destruct. All promises decent entertainment.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Don't Give Up, You Still Have Us. Don't Give Up, We Don't Need Much of Anything.

Undoubtedly the West Indies will be disappointed after their pummelling from Australia the other night. The team should take encouragement from this tournament though for in the match against India we witnessed what has become a rare sight- an aggressive, sharp, and focussed Caribbean side. Most importantly in that match was, in addition to a tremendous batting performance from Chris Gayle, an offensive bowling display led by Jerome Taylor. Rather than prattle on about this tournament and how beautiful the Carribean is and how nice it is to see fat black dancing women as oppossed to the skinny blonde whites in the IPL, let us review the West Indian XI and reflect on what fine potential they proffer.

I- Christopher Henry Gayle
There is little not to like about Gayle. An aggressive and demoralising batsman. Adventurous and unflinching captain. Charismatic, funny, irks Shane Watson. West Indies cricket has been floundering of late both administratively as well as on the field and amidst the turmoil Gayle has spoken his mind unflinchingly. Words are superfluous, read his excellent twitter which includes him describing his shoes to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as Bollyhood.

II- Adrian Barath
Barath shows nothing but promise. Unfortunately suffering a knee injury at present which has kept him from this twenty over international tournament, Barath would seem to be an excellent complement to Gayle. Still attacking but somewhat more circumpect.

III- Ramnaresh Sarwan
Sarwan is a class player. Though suffering a lapse of form lately he is one of the bedrocks of this West Indian team.

IV- Shivnarine Chanderpaul
The other bedrock and experienced, dependable batsman. Unfortunately Chanderpaul is reaching the latter stage of his career and will soon have to pass on.

V- Travis Dowlin/Narsingh Deonarine
These two would seem to be the pre-eminent contenders for the spot. Dowlin is a stolid batsman but not an unattractive player. Deonarine is quite the fighter and would seem to have the greater claim for the spot with his more than capable off-spin ability. Daren Ganga is another contender for the position though he doesn't seem high in the minds of the WICB lately. Another outsider is Marlon Samuels who is soon eligible to play international cricket again.

VI- Dwayne Bravo
An intelligent and courageous bowler. Bravo not only has the best name in international cricket but has the promise to be one of the greatest contemporary all-rounders. Bravo has the ability to knock down a side with his bowling. An inconsistent batsman who can be superb but just as easily be dismissed for very little. With focus and consistency could be the true beast of the Carribean. Still a young man despite his experience, Bravo would have to be one of the conerstones in a West Indies renaissance.


VII- Denesh Ramdin
Ramdin came to the West Indian team a very young fellow and a rather prodigious talent, so much so that he was supported for the captaincy. Unfortunately his batting form has slumped awfully for quite some time now and has not put in a good innings for a year. A problem for the West Indies though is have they any wicketkeeper batsman of greater quality?

VIII- Sulieman Benn
Benn is a very decent spinner. There is no contention for his position.

Now we get to the business end of things and the point to which I have been leading all along. Fast bowling, the skill which has always underpinned any successful West Indian side. This has been a quality lacking since Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose retired. If the West Indies is to be anything more than an object of sympathy in the arena of international cricket the most important step to take is the assembly of a class pace performance.

The two most promising bowlers for such are Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach. Injured for several months Taylor must lead such an attack with authority, presence and accuracy. Even when bowling with such splendid rigour against India the other night Taylor gave away far too many no-balls and wides. Roach's greatest asset is raw pace. He has a lot of work to do in making consistent length though. While his short pitched deliveries are a handful he has yet to learn how to bowl full and york the batsman.

And who to fill the final spot in the XI. Ravi Rampaul has not been quite good enough. Lacking pace, Rampaul instead concentrates upon wile and though quite successful on occasion has not been consistent and has been easily targeted. Gavin Tonge has been another contender but as yet done little to commend himself. Darren Sammy is a decent player but has not proved himself a good enough bowler to fill such a position. Kieron Pollard may perhaps be another possibility. He certainly has talent to boot but we have yet to see whether he has the stamina or interest for test cricket.

The majority of the cricketing world bewails the demise of the West Indies. South Africa are next to tour the Carribean which certainly can't be an appetising prospect for a team still trying to establish itself. The West Indies certainly have the talent to be a competitor in test cricket, they lack only the consistency. Everything will be an uphill struggle.

Incidentally Curtly Ambrose now plays the bass guitar in a band called The Big Bad Dread and the Bald Head. Richie Richardson plays rhythm.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

St. Lucia is a Spiritual Home

I am watching the Afghanistan vs India game at the moment. They are putting up an awfully good fight and are so very nice. I am having a pretty good time. I hope this doesn't seem trite.