Why the hosts have ‘failed’ at the #Wt20

The lack of success for host nations at the World T20 shows more about the rapid evolution of the format, than the disadvantages of holding the tournament. 

There is no ‘reason’ as to why host nations fail at the World T20 (yet). It has been held all over the world, and all different teams have won it, which shows it’s a highly open and competitive tournament. 

There have been six winners since 2007. Two sub continental teams were victorious outside of the sub-continent, England won in the Caribbean and West Indies won in Sri Lanka and India.

Historically it is clear that host nations have not just failed, but they aren’t even within touching distance. Eight different teams have made it to the semi final stage, but only twice has a host nation made that grade (in 2012 and 2016).

This is a lesson however, not so much about the drawbacks of hosting necessarily but of the nature of the format and the tournament itself.

The reason host nations have struggled is because T20 has matured .

It developed as a format, negating teams home advantage. It’s no longer kamikaze hitting and headless fast bowling playing to the masses, nor is it a format which lends itself to teams be familiar with their conditions or surroundings.

It bleeds unpredictability and the possibility of anyone having success, which is a key reason as to why people love it so much now.  

This change has been driven by a bowling revolution.

Spin and pace off the ball is now king, and batsmen have not yet really adapted to this, wherever they’re from. 

In the top 15 bowlers with the ‘most wickets’ in World T20, eight are spinners: Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Ajentha Mendis, Shakib Al-Hasan, Nathan McCullum, Samuel Badree, Graeme Swann and and R Ashwin. 

Seven are seam bowlers: Lasith Malinga, Umer Gul, Dale Steyn, Stuart Broad, Morne Morkel, Dwayne Bravo and Shane Watson.

But, of the seven seamers, only three; Steyn, Broad and Morkel are ‘out and out’ quicks. And of these, Steyn only played two games in the World T20, taking one wicket (and didn’t play a T20I all of 2015) and Stuart Broad and Morne Morkel didn’t make their respective squads.

The remaining seamers use variations in pace and length as their staple, trying to prevent batsmen from getting in or become familiar with the game. The out-and-out quicks have largely been discarded.Wickets

The spinners have become especially potent, because they are not only wicket takers, but they are very economical. 

Much to the disbelief of those who thought T20 may decimate spinners, they have given their teams control.

Of the top 10 most economical bowlers in World T20 history, only one is a seam bowler; Angelo Mathews, and even he is a bowler who uses less pace than his contemporaries. 


The reality is, T20 cricket has evolved at a rapid rate, and batsmen haven’t quite kept up. 

Bowlers have taken the format by the scruff of the neck, and forced batsmen to create their own success if they want it. 

They have to create their pace on the ball, take risks at their own peril, because there are less ‘hit me’ bowlers. 

Pace has come off the ball, and as much predictability as possible has been sucked from the game. A non-spinning spinner opening the bowling with a new ball is a challenge to an India, an Australian or anyone. It’s a new and different challenge.  

Host nations have been failing because conventional factors like conditions and familiarity  that prepare sides for success in their own back yard are far less important. 

If and when a host nation wins in the future, it is not going to be because they play certain types of bowling well or are familiar with the pitches. It will be because they are ready for anything, and have the resources to tackle it. 


Why we shouldn’t ‘move on’ from Gayle’s comments, until other players get the point

Sexism in sport, especially in ‘the gentleman’s game’ can be subtle, and hard to identify and root out.

It is especially hard to crack,if it is played down, justified or outright denied as having happened when it occurs. 

As a sports journalist, Mel McLaughlin was interviewing Chris Gayle about an innings he had played.

The response she received was contempt for her capacity as a reporter, as Gayle asked her out for a drink, before telling her ‘not to blush’; ignoring the cricketing question. 

Banter? Or disrespect? One thing is for sure, he thought he could get away with it.

As it was live on air, everyone saw it. It led to the West Indian opener being fined $10,000, and making a grovelling apology.

There was real no malice in the comment, but at the same time his apology is somewhat hollow.

He said it was ‘a simple comment, a joke’ that “wasn’t anything at all meant to be disrespectful or offensive”, showing he doesn’t understand that what he did was unprofessional at best, and sexist at worst.

There is a time and a place for flirting, and it isn’t during a live interview. I dread to think what he thinks he’s entitled to do off-air. 

Mel followed by accepting his apology, adding she wants to ‘move on.’

At which point, many took the opportunity to continue to play down Gayle’s comments. 

BBL commentator and ex-England star Andrew Flintoff began proceedings, by calling Gayle ‘a bit of a chop.’ 

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Before it’s time to ‘move on‘, nothing to see here.

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Other public figures trivialised the matter too.

Ireland’s Niall O’Brien said Gayle ‘asked a lady out for a drink live on TV’, whilst Paul Nixon, retweeted a comment that it was just ‘humour’ adding that people should ‘move on.’

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Then Aussie Hockey star Georgie Parker, and Piers Morgan, were both retweeted by Northants batsman, Josh Cobb.

Parker, instead of saying it’s wrong whoever does it’, ultimately says it’s better to try it herself out next time herself, to prove it’s OK when a woman does it too. 

Whilst Piers Morgan dismisses Gayle’s total lack of respect for a female journalist as ‘being a bit cheeky’.

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Following Parker’s comments, England women’s legend, Clare Connor, contributed something a little more thoughtful, outlining alleged double standards, which Parker was referring too.

Instead of just saying ‘I’ll do it too’, she raises the question of whether it’s right. 

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Cobb, then adds that he needed a little explanation.

Maybe he should get in touch with Clare Connor for a lesson?Screenshot 2016-01-08 11.26.27.png

Ex-England allrounder Adam Hollioake said ‘you can’t have it both ways’. Chris Gayle is a bit of a character, therefore it’s OK for him to be unprofessional and ridicule a woman interviewer.

I guess women should just put up with this type of humiliation? It’s just banter after all.. move on, move on,

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What he doesn’t get, is that it isn’t about a lynchmob baying for justice.

It’s about other professional cricketers saying ‘this isn’t acceptable’,  and setting an example.

Like the ever-reliable Chris Rogers, who said:

“From my time at the Thunder [with Gayle] I was very disappointed with his attitude and his behaviour, and I’ve not been a fan since.

People see these one-offs, but this is a pattern of behaviour. If you know the guy, you see it over and over. To defend it, I think, is not right at all.

I listen to that and I don’t think it’s funny at all – he says it’s just a joke, well it’s not just a joke, is it?

And Waqar Younis and Shoaib Malik:

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And ex-Kiwi bowler, Iain O’Brien:

Whilst it may be the case that what Gayle said was nothing demonstrably spiteful, the lengths others are going to excuse it is baffling, as it’s ultimately the root of the issue.

For that reason, Gayle should not be made a scapegoat. He shouldn’t be banned, and a fine was a both symbolic and a pittance. 

There needs to be a more fundamental approach that challenges a culture in a male-dominated sport. 

The wise head of Harsha Bogle perhaps summed it up best:

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Why England should consider recalling Kevin Pietersen for the World T20

Kevin Pietersen has been in the international wilderness since 2014, but there are sound reasons to give him one last hurrah.

In 2016, the ICC World T20 will be held, and it would be a perfect opportunity to both patch up relations with England’s highest run-scorer, whilst squeezing that last bit of juice out of him.

On a basic level, it’s no secret that Pietersen has experience and quality that would be beneficial for England.

He is not only England’s leading run-scorer in all formats combined , but in T20 cricket, he is England’s second top run scorer.

Of course, it would be odd if someone with that quality wasn’t already selected.

The reasons he was omitted from the side still remain somewhat a mystery. But, what is clear, is that issues which were the cause, have largely been removed or changed.

The coach is different, various players who had friction with him have retired. And, If Pietersen were to return, it wouldn’t be long term thing anyway.

He wouldn’t be back to the Test or ODI side. It would be a short-term deal to help England at the World T20, which when England won in 2010, he was the man of the tournament.

Another important factor, is that it’s in India, not only because of his time at IPL, which he has been a part of in 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2014, but also because of his success there for England.

He has played nine Tests in India, including four in 2012, in which he scored two incredible and match-winning centuries.

He knows the conditions, how to attack and score runs against spin, and the crowds like him too, which is something that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Unlike most opposition batsmen who receive a deathly silence and an empty stadium, Indians flock to see KP, because he is an entertainer.

That would help England.

These factors add to the benefit his overall knowledge of the format would bring.

In 2015 alone, he played in the Ram Slam in South Africa in which he was the second top run scorer, the Caribbean Premier League, in which he was in the top 10 run scorers, the Big Bash, in which he was third top run-scorer, and which he helped his side get to the final. He recently signed up to the Pakistan Super League too.

So, why would he fit back in just this once?

England have a new coach. Andy Flower is gone, and the new man, Trevor Bayliss is a Pietersen-type coach.

He has given ‘Ben Stokes a licence to play his natural game‘ which is in the vein of KP’s, whilst also moving the aggressive left hander back up to number six, after time spent at seven and eight.

Bayliss is also more of a background coach. He isn’t a pencil pusher and clipboard-holder, a dictator.

In October, Alastair Cook credited Bayliss for his improvement as England captain, saying: “He’s a really relaxed guy, he lets the captain run the side and that is one of the big differences from the other guys.”

And, Bayliss’s recall of James Taylor, Nick Compton, Jonny Bairstow, Garry Ballance and selection of Adil Rashid, all shows a willingness to try something different, whether new or old.

England’s T20 side is jam-packed with young players, who lack experience.

 In 2015, in the overall list of run scorers in T20 Internationals, the highest England run scorer was Eoin Morgan at number 38. This is due to such a low number of games (just four) played by England internationally.

They need someone to shepherd them. There are very few senior leaders, or players with the experience and hunger that Pietersen still has. Reselecting him for one last time could be a stroke of genius.

He could marshall a young side, in an unfamiliar format, in foreign conditions and with nothing to lose.

There’d be no prospect of a long term impact on the side or interference in other formats. It’s a cricketing one-night-stand.

More than anything, as a fan, this could ensure that one of England’s greatest ever batsmen does not depart the game with the bitter taste of regret, but the sweet one reconciliation and perhaps even success.

And, it sounds like he’s up for it…


The witch hunt against spinners reflects insecurity in T20

Over the last few years, there has been an ongoing witch hunt against spinners with suspect actions, and its time some consideration was given to the agenda that drives it.

The official party line is that the ICC are cracking down on bowlers with suspect actions because it is part of the rules of the game. They are just doing their job. Just following orders.

Cricket has now got three raging formats, the newest of which being Twenty20 (T20).

It is the double expresso, to the steady Americano, Test cricket.

When it first emerged, many saw the big bats, short boundaries and high intensity, and thought that it would simply destroy spin.

Nobody really considered that it may become a format where slower bowlers could thrive. Looking back, it is amazing it took almost a decade for mystery spinners, and fast bowlers that variate well, to really excel.

The T20 machine that is projected onto the global audience is one of being a batsman’s game, undoubtably.

The hard hats, the six cards, the crowd catching rewards. It’s all the batsman.

Yet, today, International cricket has many spinners that have had incredible success in T20. They  get attention, sure. But why are they now getting the ICC’s attention, for their actions? Many of these bowlers have been around for 10 or 15 years, and have had nothing.

The current ICC T20 International bowling rankings prove that the plan hasn’t quite worked.

Seven spinners in the top 10. Eight of the current ICC ranked bowlers between 10-20 are also spinners.

It’s flooded.  Saturated with slow bowlers.

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But it isn’t even just International cricket. Even in the IPL, three of the five highest wicket takers to date are spinners too. 

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The cynical traditional cricket fan inside says that this was never the intention for T20. The even more pessimistic and doubtful voice says that the ICC are now trying to put brakes on the situation.

The rules of the game outline that bowlers are allowed a 15 degree flex of permissible straightening of the elbow joint for all bowlers in international cricket.

Spinners with questionable actions, i.e. those that flex more than 15 degrees, can generate huge amounts of turn, both ways. It allows variation, but more importantly, pressure.

In 2013, the ICC released an 18 page document called ‘ICC Regulations for the Review of Bowlers Reported with Suspected Illegal Bowling Actions‘. It goes into great detail with regards to the process for reporting suspect bowlers. Although it outlines that umpires still have access to the right to call illegal actions; now it will be much more official. There will be greater ICC involvement and more use of technology, to really snuff out those responsible.

The ICC, currently chaired by former BCCI chairman N. Srinivasan, is the same ICC that failed to achieve consensus regarding the use of Umpire’s Decision Review System due to opposition by BCCI on grounds of a lack of faith in technology.

But of course, when it comes to suspect actions, technology is a must. Anything to ensure that T20 remains a game in their control.

It may be less humiliating for bowlers to be probed in a lab for a suspect action than to be called on the field in front of thousands,  but in terms of effectiveness, it is far potent.

As bowlers are now less likely to be called on field, they will be more thoroughly checked off it. It is going to be more rigorous and official process, enforced without time limits, or the possibility of having an impact on the game that it allegedly occurs in.

Whereas nobody questions the 15 degree rule as long as it is in place;, it is arguably the case that there is an agenda behind this witch hunt.

In International cricket, even bowlers with an illegal action are still massively under pressure in a batsmen dominated game.

In limited overs cricket T20 cricket, the bats are bigger than ever, the boundaries are in, the field restrictions are on, even the ball is now harder than before, because there are two new cherries from each end.

Every element of the game is geared towards big hits, and big totals.

A world class spinner would go and ruin that.

Whether its a big time bowler like Saeed Ajmal or a part timer like Kane Williamson, there is a clear new discourse.

There is nowhere to hide. It doesn’t matter if you are a big spinner or a small spinner. You are a suspect. Spinning as a art, is now suspect.

As skilful as mystery spin is to watch on TV, it has the potential to remove the entertainment factor of T20 that the administrators crave.

The big hitting.

If it can be sufficiently stigmatised and criticised, then the onslaught against mystery spin may be able to embed a high sense of insecurity for spinners in the International game.

Sooner or later, orthodoxy may reign once more, for the sake of T20.


Mankading For Dummies – Law and Spirit

Confused by Mankading?

Is all you get when searching it this man?

Don’t worry. I will explain everything.

“What is it?”

Good question. It’s really simple. Mankading refers to running out the non striking batsman.

Before the ball has been bowled, the non striker backs up [runs a few yards extra]; to get a head start for a run. This means they often leave their crease early, and can thus be run out.

Other cricketers don’t go as far as actually doing it, but merely taunt the batsman to know they can do it. Thanks Chris..

Thanks Chris.

Is it legal to do this?

Kind of yes. Oh allright, completely yes.

The ICC’s playing regulation 42.11, which replaces Law 42.15 in international cricket, states:

“The bowler is permitted, before releasing the ball and provided he has not completed his usual delivery swing, to attempt to run out the non-striker.”

The ICC essentially run the game’s playing regulations, although the MCC are of course responsible for making the actual laws and spirit of the game. The MCC states the run out attempt must come before the bowler enters his delivery stride.

In other words, according to the ICC it must be before the action is completed. According to the MCC before the stride has started.

If we play by the laws of the game made hundreds of years ago, Mankading should be hard to do, but if by the current playing regulations, it should happen lots and lots.

The ICC [who run the modern playing regulations, like fielding restrictions etc] allow it to come any time before the bowler completes his “delivery swing”, whatever that means.

So what’s the problem then!?

Well you see there is this mystical thing called the spirit of cricket.

It’s kind of like the ghost of christmas past; except it actually does have a tangeble effect on how players play.

The spirit of cricket implies sportsmanship, and a way to play the game.

For some, Mankading is against the spirit of cricket, because the batsman leaves the crease inadvertently. They aren’t trying to steal a run. Except they are. That’s exactly what they’re doing.

This is going through your head now?  [Via  ]


It basically allows the batsman to have a head start for a run, whilst the bowler is not allowed a to overstep. And it is presented as sportsmanship NOT to run them out.

Maybe we have just been getting it wrong all along? [Via  ]


In reality, it has been going on for a long time.

In more modern terms, it was ignited as an issue of ‘sportsmanship’ when India toured Australia in 1947 and the man at the top [Vinoo Mankad] did it to Bill Brown.

Don Bradman defended him.

In his autobiography, Don Bradman said the following:

“For the life of me, I can’t understand why [the press] questioned his sportsmanship. The laws of cricket make it quite clear that the nonstriker must keep within his ground until the ball has been delivered. If not, why is the provision there which enables the bowler to run him out? By backing up too far or too early, the nonstriker is very obviously gaining an unfair advantage.”

But some, such as Piers Morgan says that it is not a legitimate way of dismissal as it is against the spirit.

So.. who’s side are you on?

The Don? Or Piers Morgan

Michael Clarke was certainly happy to say that it is a legitimate dismissal:

Although England’s captain, Alastair Cook continued to moan and groan:

Bearing in mind things like playing leg side shots, bowling bouncers, and even bowling over arm, back in the day; were once considered as ‘unsportsmanlike’, maybe it’s time to move on?

Maybe it should be used more widely, and made a more conventional way of getting a batsman out. If batsmen insist on running down the pitch and getting a head start, it should be at their own peril

5 Reasons why Graeme Smith will be Missed By South Africa

Graeme Smith was definitively tough but unassuming, and ended his career as one of the most successful Test openers and captains.

Surrounded by legends, in an era of of record-breaking greats, his often ugly and unattractive style prevents him from being considered as a truly memorable batsman. He will, however, be both remembered and missed by the team he leaves behind.

He was able to lure unsuspecting bowlers into a trap of thinking he had vulnerabilities, but with 9,265 Test runs, 117 Tests caps (108 of which were as captain), his record is undisputedly one of resilience, determination and consistency, in spite of his many flaws.

Smith helped to redefine what is successful; because he had consistent success in a completely different way to others. He did it on his own terms, and proved that the coaching manual is not the only recipe for triumph.

To celebrate this giant of Test cricket, here are five reasons why South Africa will miss the nation’s greatest ever captain.

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1. He was a tough nut

To play from such a young age of 21, is a tough challenge at any high standard of sport. To be invested with opening the batting at that age, and captaincy of a volatile and highly scrutinised team, seems unreasonably difficult.

Smith did it, and did it well. He took on the challenge and was entrusted with it for his entire career for the Proteas.

South Africa may have a captain to replace him. They may be able to fill an opener slot. But they will never replace his Steve Waugh like attitude. To get Smith out you had to work him out. Even if you hit him or exposed technical flaws, if he was still there, he would contiune. It wasn’t always pretty, but mighty effective.

Graeme Smith had to fight the media, his own team mates occasionally, his mind, his technique but most importantly other teams, and did so admirably on all fronts.

With bat in hand, his bottom handed grip often caused an unsuspecting delivery outside his off stump to be planted with a closed bat face to unintended parts of the field. In reality however, he was the ultimate example of ugly runs being fighting runs, finishing with an average of nearly 50 over 117 Tests. He was a fighter. He battled when elegence and technique was not the answer.

To celebrate his career, here is Graeme Smith refusing to give up, coming out to bat with a broken hand:

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2. His consistency

Few batsman in Test history are capable of unerring consistency across innings, batting first or second, home or away, or over a long period long time.

Smith’s frail-looking technique had a major benefit, in the sense that because he battled himself, he was thinking less about the conditions or the bowler. He watched the ball and applied concentration to the game situation, with full concentration on task.

The application he offered to innings of all kinds meant that he averaged over 50 in the first and last innings of Tests, and never scored a hundred in a losing cause. Whatever the chaos and drama around him, Smith was the one batsman that would be more concerned about staying in than performing the perfect cover drive.

There is a strong correlation between Smith not performing and South Africa failing as a team, which outlines his importance, but also how his consistency contributed to South African consistency. As a losing player, he averaged 25.58, compared to 61.34 as a victorious player and 51. 34 as a player in drawn games.

One could almost say that he is a microcosm of South African success.

To showcase his consistency, here is a clip of Graeme Smith accumulating 259 against just a week after scoring 277. His sheer appetite for runs was staggering.


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3. He was the modern leader of South African cricket

South Africa under Graham Smith not just reintegrated itself into the rhythm of international cricket, but re-established its rich legacy and quality. He took the captaincy as a young man, and nurtured his side into one of the best sides in the world.

With the exception of Shaun Pollock who played under Hansie Cronje to, the modern greats; Dale Steyn and Makhaya Ntini flourished under the fantastic man management of Smith. Truly great partnerships were concreted; with the likes of Jacques Kallis as the rock in the middle, who played 98 Tests under Smith, scoring 33 of his 45 centuries. Ab de Villiers grew into the perfect decoy to the more mature batsmen, such as himself, Hashim Amla and Kallis.

He built a well rounded and compact team, and yes; it had flaws. But so did Smith. Some of the flaws Smith had to manage is that unlike India who had Anil Kumble for so long, and Australia who of course had Shane Warne, Smith never had a genuinely world class spin bowler. He had to learn to handle a team that didn’t always have the neccesary resources. Like his own batting, he got on with it, and managed it to the best of his abiltiy.

Smith represented a generation of striving for change, but striving to achieve the maximum with the ability at hand. Encapsulating this mentality; here is a clip of South Africa dismissing Australia for just 47 after being themselves dismissed for a miserly 96. Whatever they can do, we can do better.

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4. Smith determined his, and his team’s legacy

When he arrived on the scene, people thought he would never last. He was too technically flawed. He couldn’t sweep or play through the offside. He was far too young to understand the subtleties and nuances of Test captaincy.

When he, as the captain, was too young and ‘couldn’t fill the boots of Shaun Pollock’ according to so many, he took charge of his fortune.

He maintained the captaincy for over a decade, steadily growing into his role and finding his comfort zone. Even with retirement, he was not perfect, but nobody pushed him out. At 33, he could easily have continued for at least another year.

But he didn’t. In terms of modern captaincy, he has the most caps as a skipper EVER in Tests, with 109 games, and has a win percentage of 48.62, which is very respectable considering some of the key issues that had to be dealt with, such as a lack of spinner and for a long time a lack of competency against quality spin.

The fact is, that like his batting, his captaincy was a microcosm for South Africa’s attitude towards playing. They didn’t have a Shane Warne or a Sachin Tendulkar. They had their flaws, but they dealt with them, in the same way that Smith worked through a method of achieving something, even with his strange and unorthodox technique.

Here is Smith giving his final press conference as to why he retired; outlining the importance of hard work and resilience over sheer skill and ability.

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5. He liked making England suffer

The only thing worse than seeing England lose for the unsuspecting neutral, is seeing England fans gloat. Graeme Smith dedicated a career to ensuring misery for England fans in Test cricket, with a quite staggering individual record.

In 2003, he scored 277 and 259 in the space of a week, subjugating English bowling to South Africa’s mighty hammer.

He scored two centuries against England in 2008, two in 2010, and incase England were not sick of him, he snuck in a century against England on his hundredth Test, which was the final Test of the series’ and crowned his side as number one in the world. Fitting.

Smith loved scoring runs against England. He put an often arrogant England side in their place, humbling them with inside edges to fine leg, and cover drives that ended up through mid wicket. He frustrated everyone because he always gave an impression of vulnerability, yet more often than not, pulled through with great success.

To enjoy Smith’s resilience against England, here is his magnificent 183 against England in 2010 at Cape Town.

FLT20 gives Middlesex a strategic time out from the Championship


photo credit: Carlton Browne via photopin cc

It seems like a very long time ago that I watched Middlesex win the Twenty 20 cup back in 2008. It’s about time Middlesex pulled our socks up a little in this format, because last year was abysmal.

The FLT20 this year is a little bit like a strategic time out, which of course is one of the newest fads in cricket, brought in by the IPL. It was introduced to allow some sponsoring and advertising air time, of course, but on field it also allows the fielding side to regroup, break the concentration of the batsmen, and to bring a wicket or a change in attitude.

The next Championship game is on the 8th July, which is nearly three whole weeks away. It’s some time to reflect upon a slight dip in form, so I’d like to think that Middlesex are using a strategic time out, in the form of limited overs cricket. That isn’t to say that the FlT20 is less important and is a breather for the championship, but that it is going allows the side to take our mind off it, and have a different mind-set, against different teams, a different set up, and perhaps importantly, it is a fresh start. It is a chance to set down the standard, and then have another pop at the LVCC a bit later.

The YB40 is not going as swimmingly as Middlesex may have hoped. After being beaten in a rain affected game versus Yorkshire, Middlesex are now precariously at five out seven in the group, although they have a game in hand. In terms of points, it is still do-able, with the top two on 11, and Glamorgan and Leicestershire on nine and eight points. Then again one would assume that at this point, the focus turned back to the County championship, and of course the T20. The YB40 is slowly falling through our hands a bit.

The season not fallen in to disrepute by any stretch of the imagination, yet it is unbelievably frustrating to be a fan of Middlesex sometimes. It all looked set to be a really great season, winning the first three games. But, after having stumbled in recent weeks, falling from the top two to fourth as a result of not registering a win in the last three LVCC matches, doubts are seeping in as Middlesex are languishing mid table.

The 10 wicket loss to Yorkshire and the draw versus Sussex, a game in which Sussex were made to follow on no less, were particularly exasperating. It was a chance to bridge the gap at the top, and instead Middlesex fell down the table. Having said this, there has been an encouraging resurgence in our limited overs form, and one can only hope that more limited overs cricket will help the consolidation of this form, and this can be carried forward.

Dawid Malan in particular, has been in abysmal form in the Championship (114 runs in eight innings with no fifties or hundreds)  but has returned to form in the YB40. He has struck four impressive scores of 99, 80 not out, 96 and 49, before his 14 against Yorkshire. He is perhaps the middle order in a nutshell. Clearly in good YB40 form, of sorts, but needs to carry this over.

There is really no speakable problems with the bowling attack. The wickets are regularly shared across the attack, although perhaps the greater number of fixtures from YB40, has affected selection. This is perhaps most importantly where the FLT20 is acting as a strategic time out. It is definitely a format in which the team sheet is not just photocopied, but there are specific picks for the format. This could give players a rest, and potentially even allow others a chance to break through.

The fact of the matter is that Middlesex have shown that the batting is consistently the problem. The top two have been in strong form but the middle has not. Both Eoin Morgan and Adam Voges will be in the middle order, and Paul Stirling is likely to also play who was the leading run scorer in the competition last year for Middlesex and is coming  fresh from impressive form versus Australia A and Pakistan.

This FLT20 is certainly going to allow an injection of aggressive batting with Voges, Morgan, Stirling, and an in form Malan, hopefully. If the North London club can harness potential good form in the FLT20 and bring that form into the championship, it could be a rejuvenated and salvaged season.

IPL reaches its final stages

The IPL (Indian Premier League) has entered its closing and pivotal stage, with four teams through, and of course only one winner to emerge.

It has been 72 games of scintillating T20 action, and with the group stage complete, the top two sides play each other in a Qualifier, before the third and fourth sides play each other in an eliminator. One side from the qualifier goes to the final, and the other finalist is determined by a second qualifier, between the loser of the first qualifier and the winner of the eliminator.

The first qualifier will be Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and The Mumbai Indians (MI). The  eliminator will be between the third and fourth places from the group stage; the Rajasthan Royals (RR) and new side Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH).

The first qualifier: CSK Vs. MI (21/05)

Firstly looking at Chennai Super Kings, they have arguably the worlds first super team. They are led by MS Dhoni with the bat, in the field and also due to image and personality in India, often from the support in the stands too.  Their batting order only gets better as it goes, with T20 giants such as Michael Hussey (their leading run scorer with 646 runs so far), Suresh Raina, Ravi Jadeja and Murali Vijay.

Undoubtedly CSK’s most valuable attribute is Dhoni’s seemingly superhuman ability to come into matches and win games from absolutely nowhere. No matter how long the chase is, he has time and time again defied belief.

Chennai also have an impressive bowling unit. This is led very well by Dwayne Bravo (25 wickets), Mohit Sharma (17 wickets) and India’s national side’s off spinner Ravi Ashwin.

Moving on to Mumbai Indians,  whose campaign has meandered, they in all honesty are rather lucky to have done so well. The Ricky Ponting – Sachin Tendulkar (Pondulkar) experiment was an abject failure, with Ponting playing just six games despite being named captain, and Sachin scoring just one fifty all tournament, yet of course being undroppable.

Mumbai are second in spite of these two, as they have been expertly pulled through by Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard and Dinesh Khartik, and their bowlers.

Their bowlers have really been the standout of their side, in particular their International class bowlers; Mitchell Johnson who has had a welcome return to form, Pragyan Ojha, Harbhajan Singh and of course the slinger Lasith Malinga. Collectively these four have taken 73 wickets. Nobody else has surpassed 8 wickets for them.

It would certainly be likely that Chennai would win this qualifier and book their place in the final. Of course this would mean that Mumbai would play the winner of the eliminator. Due to the scandal over Sri Lankan players being banned from playing in Chennai, the game is being played in Delhi to avoid an unfair advantage.

The eliminator is between Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Rajasthan Royals, and it will also be played in Delhi on the 22/05.

Rajasthan Royals have been rocked by a hugely damaging spot fixing scandal, in which three of their players have been arrested. Nevertheless, they find themselves in the position of potentially winning IPL 6. Rahul Dravid has been simply heroic in his leadership and batsmenship, and just about every cricket fan would love to see him triumphant.

Shane Watson, Ajinkya Rahane and Rahul himself have really shone RR. Since winning the tournament in the first year, they have been utterly uninspiring, but this year they have really found some form and momentum. Brad Hodge has been particularly dissapointing, with no fifties at all. They look strong because they are well led, but certainly lack substance.

Their bowling on the other hand is arguably a strength, but really they would require a lot more to win. Their overseas stars have been the mainstay of their success with Australian James Faulkner so far having taken 26 wickets, and West Indian Kevin Cooper 17. Beyond this there is very limited depth.

Their opposition are the Sunrisers Hyderabad. A side with the best bowler in the world, Dale Steyn and Kumar Sangakarra, amongst others have been very poor with the bat, and very good with the ball. Parthiv Patel and Shikhar Dhawan have been the outstanding players with the bat (which is very loosely used). They are without doubt a side with more bowling than batting strength.

Their entire batting has been a major dissapointment infact, with the top run scorer from the Sunrisers being ranked nearly 25th in the overall run scorers list this IPL. They are clearly a side that rely more on bowling. Sangakarra is unlikely to feature, as Cameron White will take over captaincy for the remainder. After mustering a high score of just 28, Sangakarra has been abysmal.

Dale Steyn and Amit Mishra have dominated for the Sunrisers with nearly 40 wickets combined. Thishara Perera and Ishant Sharma have also been key contributants. The Sunrisers do not have the strength of CSK in any department, but they are not as weak as Rajasthan. They have however surprised just about everyone that doubted them.

Few gave them a chance, and they have emphatically reached the top four through being one of the top bowling sides. If this predictions is correct, Chennai will make the final, and the Sunrisers will face Mumbai in the second qualifier. It wouldn’t surprise many people should Sunrisers carry momentum and defeat Mumbai in a potential second qualifier. From the start the Sunrisers have been real dark horses. Don’t write them off making it to the final and winning it.

Why the World T20 can’t get going ..


The T20 World cup should be the spectacle of the year from start to finish, bringing in the crowds, brimming with of noise and Sixes. Unfortunately the cricket’s intensity this year has been notably dreary in the first six games. It has been somewhat of a predictable, and monotonous formality, with a major side playing against a minnow in all six initial games.  The empty seats are a testament to the jaded and dry brand of little vs large, one sided cricket on show.

With three teams per group (two major sides and one minnow side), it is set up so the two major sides progress. It is likely this will occur as they are better than the lesser minnow side. If it is likely this is going to be the case regardless of the order the games are played, surely it would be most entertaining to play the match involving the two big sides as the first fixture of the group to wet the appetite? If this was the case, the minnow side would be playing after the big sides have met. One big side would have defeated the other, so the minnow would be playing against a big side which has already lost a game. It would guarantee the game had something riding on it instead of just being a sweeping of the minnow out the way.

Matches between India versus England, and  South Africa versus Sri Lanka of group C,  will have no bearing on who is going through as both have beaten the third side in the group. They will only determine in who finishes top and second.

A few significant games have to be played which could affect the outcome of who advances to the super eight. With the West Indies and Pakistan yet to kick off their campaigns in group B and D. Should Australia beat the West Indies then the West Indies would have to beat Ireland to go through. As New Zealand beat Bangladesh, a second win would seal an advance to the super eight. Pakistan could slip up on Bangladesh however.

The schedule is such that effectively the real competition starts with the super eight. The tournament is only in this primitive stage, yet  is predictable and not catching the public’s imagination.

Politics of Pietersen

An England side with KP is undeniably a better side than one without him. However, it is important to look at how and why the events that have unfolded have placed him in his current ridiculous and almost entirely self made predicament. I will look at the timeline of events in the ‘Pietersen VS ECB’ fiasco to appreciate the lunacy of the situation and explain why after reading lots of articles and watching lots of interviews. It’s the only possible outcome to see him unfortunately dropped.

The debacle began on the 31st May when Pietersen out of the blue decided to announce he has retired from ODI cricket, citing the “intensity of the schedule”. Shortly after this KP says he will carry on playing T20, which was not an option as the ECB reject this due their  policy on selection. A player must be available for both ODI and T20I in order to play either. It is totally irrelevant that this is an arbitrary and pointless policy,the fact is, that is the policy and Pietersen  thought he could take the ECB on and failed .

The second installment in this soap opera came between the 13th -18th July  when Pietersen hit a brilliant double hundred in a rare appearance for Surrey. He used this as a platform to show his talent that could be missed, but after not being named in the ECB’s provisional 30-man squad for the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka he is devastated. He back-peddles and tries to get his foot back in the door but states he ‘would only play on the condition that scheduling issues are addressed.” He reasserts his desire to play “in all formats” and simultaneously says he wants scheduling changes which one can only assume are loaded with more retirement threats if not met. Utterly confusing and unstable for the team

Not only is this a not consistent with the ECB central contract regarding availability for all forms but is also completely incompatible. Either he wants to have a break from the schedule or he doesn’t. He can’t ask for a break and go to play more. What else could the ECB do other than say stop trying to dictate to us and assert their authority ?

Pietersen’s magnificent 200 for Surrey

Part three came between the 4th -6th August  with Pietersen’s most dynamic stunning and match saving knock of 149 on day three of the second Test match against South Africa at Headingley. Clearly still seen as stable enough to pick and comfortable enough to perform. Despite this, It was a very obvious nudge in the stomach to the selectors. ‘Pick me or you will will miss this’ kind of knock. The fact is the ECB could have already dropped him but didn’t. They were lenient and although Pietersen’ts antics were unsettling thus far, it’s clear that his talent was still more important than his silly comments and outrageous demands.

Part four  – After opening the batting in a short attempted run chase in the aftermath of his breath taking century, Pietersen gave a inexplicable interview to TMS. He hinted that he could retire from Test cricket  and ‘he could not confirm whether that innings would be his ‘last test innings’’. He voiced his anger that details of his meetings with the ECB have been leaked to the media and said issues within the dressing room need resolving. KP being abrasive and aggressive selfish and egotistical were completely centered around his own interest. He is clearly now harming the balance of the side by personalizing the fiasco, talking about the dressing room outside of the game. His hundred is one thing but his comments are another

Between the 8th-16th  August, after his ton and comments he had a rant about a parody Twitter account – @kevpietersen24. This humorous mocking incident was overshadowed by the subsequent revelation.  Texts   to members of the South African team during the Leeds Test by Pietersen had purportedly spoken ill of captain Strauss and coach Flower. Despite his talent with the bat and form he was in, it would be inexcusable to keep him in the side until the exact details of the messages were revealed and there was clarity over his England future.

KP clawed back dignity when he published a video on YouTube on the 11th of August  in which he reiterates commitment to the England team. He once more changes his mind and claims that he is now available to play for England in all three forms of the game. He also apologized for his behavior and says he must reign himself in.

Between the 12th -14th August  the apology and confirmation of commitment (which was not cleared by the ECB) still led to him being  dropped from the England squad for the third Test at Lord’s.

I know a lot of people such as Piers Morgan looked past his antics and said pick him anyway but The ECB were clear and justified with their dropping of KP. They say he was ‘unable to clarify that the text messages he sent to South African players were not disparaging about his team-mates or the ECB management’. This is a fair reason both due to upsetting other members of the dressing room and the chemistry of the side. Furthermore when the captain says he feels ‘let down’ and  the ECB say there is a ‘trust issue between Pietersen and other players’ the day before a test there is no way he can play. Regardless of his obvious natural class, Pietersen cannot find a way back.

Pietersen walking off at Headingley unknowing of the drama to unfold

Pietersen called a press conference in whcih he apologizes but essentially he had still put himself in an awful situation. The conference was largely saying how he would reveal more after the 3rd test. Little did he know by that point that  the only real option the ECB have was to drop him. He had done just about everything that a player should be dropped for. He has retired and unretired on the basis of personal gain, Slagged off players and coaches in addition to being dis loyal to England wanting to quit international cricket to play IPL.

He has said he will reign himself in. If he does then fine. Get him back. Until that he needs to cool down. I’m sure sooner or later England will need him again and this could be short lived anyway