Monday, 29 October 2012

India v England: The preview

The T20 cricket is now over and with that it brings the return of International cricket. One of the many series starting is India v England. A fixture that is considered as one of the best. It has been described by a few in the England team as the final frontier, this is because they have never been able to do well in India. For India it is a chance to avenge the thrashing they received in England two years ago. At that time India were the number one team and England dethroned them. 

The Teams:

It is to be seen if England will play two spinners in any match. That would mean Monty Panesar or Samit Patel could do a job. I personally think they would play two spinners as India play Swann relatively well. India have a pretty settled team but will need to decide if Raina should keep his place. The main competition comes in the form of Yuvraj Singh, who should get the role. England will have to decide between Joe Root, Compton or Trott to fill the boots of Strauss. If they do go with two spinners they may decide to use Trott as the opener allowing for the experienced batsmen to play. 

The captains:

It is a first chance for Alastair Cook to make an impression as the new skipper. He comes up against Dhoni who is very experienced and used to the conditions. It all points for a hard job for Cook, one I'm sure he will relish. 

Players to watch:

England have not seen much of Umesh Yadav, he is a good young bowler who has taken to test cricket very quickly. He was by far the best bowler on the tour of Australia as well as performing well against New Zealand. Ashwin will also be important, if England can play him then they have a chance.

Johnny Bairstow is a talented batsmen, he could be the fall guy if England decide to play one of the new openers and a second spinner. He has made a good start to international cricket and this should be his toughest test yet. Much depends on Finn and Anderson. Jimmy Anderson has in the past looked very average on the sub continent, this is something he would want to right. 


I would say that India will take it as they are used to the conditions. I think that on the sub continent they are the best team and very hard to beat. England have a good team and could cause a surprise but it will be very hard for them. 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Australian Cricket: The New Generation

The Australian cricket team has been on a downward spiral since 2007. Largely down to the decimation of the great team through retirement. Pre 2007 Australia had based there success on having many good players to fill a squad role. For example Michael Hussey or Stuart Law could not break into the team on a regular basis, yet they probably would have been a star in any other team. 

It could be said that Australia may have taken their eye off the ball and failed to plan for the retirement of all these players at once. The result of this being that a whole generation of players were not ready to fill the boots of legends. 

Although I believe that the batting talent coming through may not be to the right standard a few players have now established themselves. These are Warner, Watson and Clarke. Add this to Ponting in tests and Hussey in all forms they have some pretty good batsmen there. 

Then there are other players such as Ed Cowan, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Usman Khawaja, George Bailey and Phillip Hughes who seem to have some talent just need to show it on a consistent basis. Australian cricket is calling out for one of these players to go onto the next level. In my opinion Shaun Marsh and Khawaja have all the talent to do this, but they have never shown the ability to string together to good series. 

In the wicket keeping department Australia are very well stocked with Haddin, Wade and Tim Paine. Although none of these keepers are of the standard of Gilchrist (the standard every Aussie keeper will now be considered against), they are of a good standard.

The new bowlers coming through is the brightest point for Australia. The depth in the fast bowling department is very very impressive. I believe South Africa and England to have the best fast bowlers at the moment but once these Australian bowlers develop they could be on a par. Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and Pat Cummings have impressed greatly. Wisely the Australian selectors are mixing the three of them around, to ensure they are not likely to be burnt out. The three young players have been mixed around playing with the likes of Brett Lee, Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson. The rise of Clint Mckay has also been impressive, he is not as young as the other three new bowlers but still has been great in all forms of the game in 2012. The strength of the bowling is so strong now that Lee has retired yet Johnson or Bollinger hardly play any more. 

The big problem for the Australian team is that they do not have a great spinner at the moment. This was a team that had Stuart Mcgill and Brad Hogg in reserve behind Shane Warne for many years. The current custodian of this role is Xavier Doherty, he is one of the worst spinners in world cricket at present. Personally I hope Steve Smith has been working at his bowling as he could develop into an ok spinner, but more of a good all rounder. Michael Clarke does a good job filling in and possibly a good option. For the series against India Nathan Lyon did a decent job, but again I am wondering if there is any younger spinner coming through.

It seems that if Australia sort out the few deficiencies in the batting and get in a good spinner they could rise up back to a similar place they were before 2007. This is not saying that they could be as good as they were in their hay day but they could challenge South Africa and England for the number 1 test spot.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Pietersen saga produces no winners and why the ECB needs a total rethink

After 71 days of rumours, tweets, negotiations and apologies Kevin Pietersen's England exile is over. During these 71 days Pietersen has missed the conclusion of the big South Africa series, the retirement of his captain and the T20 world cup. When considering the winners and losers of this saga it occurred to me that there are no winners. 

Firstly Pietersen: lets not forget that before he was actually dropped, he was forced to retire from international T20 cricket as he did not want to play ODI's. He has now signed up to play all forms of the game, so his little stand off did not work. He also had to miss the last test of the South Africa series, a match that could have kept England at number 1 in the rankings. This would have meant alot to Pietersen being South African born. The exile has meant that he had to swap playing to sitting in a studio with Saurav Ganguly. This maybe something which had pushed him to apologise. His other demand was that he should be allowed to play the whole IPL, this again he has given up. So in my opinion he has come back with his tail between his legs. 

The team has also suffered due to his absence. They lost their best player for  an important test match as well as the defence of their T20 trophy. The team spirit is also another issue which needs to be considered. In public all parties have welcomed him back into the squad but things were said and done which cant be wiped away so quickly. In reality it could be the case that like against South Africa he has more friends in the Indian team. 

The ECB have not looked great in this whole situation either. David Collier the ECB chief executive was forced to apologies to the South African board after he suggested that South African players had provoked the text from KP. Also the fact that they had let this situation escalate, when they knew of the problems in advance of the South African series. 

The ECB today launched a 'Brand New Schedule' for the next season. This includes a change from the block of T20 games to be spread over the season on Friday nights. They have also scrapped the 40 over format in favour of a 50 over format. These are changes which are good but do not go far enough. The T20 format was good when it first came in, but now needs a massive overhaul. They should adopt the franchise system that pretty much the whole world has adopted to great success, meaning there will be less teams but higher quality. I believe England have some of the best young players in T20 cricket but they do not get the same opportunities as a young Indian or Australian player would. 

The English teams will not be participating in the Champions League next year, because the season will now start later and finish later, meaning that the last week clashes with the Champions League. I do feel for them here because it has been imposed due to last years bad weather in April. All in all this means that young English players once again will miss out on a big opportunity. This will not stop people like Pietersen going to play for his IPL team during this period. 

The only good thing which has come out of the sorry affair is that Pietersen is back for the series against India. He is the best player and will provide much needed experience. 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Why the CLT20 does not excite me

Is it just me or has this years champions league twenty 20 come around totally at the wrong time? It comes on the back of a great summer where England and South Africa battled it out world number 1, the West Indies showed class to lift the WT20 and a few good series starting up.

I am a big fan of T20 cricket as it is quicker and often packed with great players from across the globe going head to head. The issue for me is that right now the competition comes off the back of a great WT20, and before some great series's. I have seen alot of T20 games and I am missing the other formats at the moment. 

Another issue which has been highlighted by an Australian selector is the fact that their players get no break before a key series against South Africa. He highlights Starc and Cummings in particular need of rest. It could be argued that they are getting good practice of bowling on South African pitches. 

I do not like the fact that some players qualify for this tournament for two teams, meaning they have to elect a team to play for. This year Narine and Brett Lee have elected not to play for Sidney. It is a little funny that the players always choose the IPL team, I wonder why. I guess the only way to stop this is stop players playing in foreign leagues. This would reduce my enjoyment of the IPL.  

If this was a true champions league I think that the champions of all countries  should be able to go straight into the group stage. This would probably mean the fourth IPL team would have to qualify. This is the first year where all four IPL teams have gone straight into the competition, mainly due to their financial power. It may be good for the competition if a non IPL team wins this year, but me being a Delhi fan I hope not. So far we have seen a few good matches, in particular I liked the way in which CSK were totally outplayed by Sidney Sixers and how Delhi are looking really strong. 

A good thing about the tournament is that I get to see more of my favourite team Delhi Daredevils. It was a good chance to take another look at Chand who I think is a great player. I guess that I will be watching this competition with interest as it progresses but I think the real deal for me will be the Australia v South Africa test series starting soon. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Will the USA be good for Cricket?

This morning I woke up and my dad was asking me about my opinions on cricket moving to the USA. This was because of a piece done on Bloomberg about the idea of a new T20 league in the US. I decided to read this article to find out what it all was about (click here). 

To my surprise the idea was alot more than a pipe dream, it has been planned to launch in summer 2013. The league has been planned to be similar to the IPL. This means lots of money, star names and Hollywood actors as owners. 

T20 seems to be a perfect fit for America, as it only lasts 3 hours, quite easy to follow has cheer leaders and big shots into the crowd. The only problem is that there are many sports that Americans love, this means cricket will struggle to make a big impact. For example it has taken a long time for football (soccer) to be considered as a sport that is not just for kids and woman. 

Generally it has been hard to establish other sports into the USA. This is probably due to the fact that the existing sports have established a large following which has been passed down the generations. It could also be down to a lack of knowledge of the new sports or thinking that the other sports are kinda pointless. 

The biggest challenge to cricket will be from baseball, a sport many people consider similar. In my eyes T20 cricket beats baseball hands down in terms of excitement, this obviously would be disputed by baseball fans. For me there are way to many baseball games on, devaluing the sport. Another reason being that T20 cricket is actually heralded around the world, where as baseball is only popular in USA and Japan. Ice Hockey in the US is really being challenged by football (the Beckham affect), but all the other sports are are pretty settled. Football has finally made an impact and in a recent ESPN poll it was voted the second most popular sport for people aged between 12-24 in the US. So if football can have such a big impact so can cricket, one day. 

The idea of getting celebrates involved in this new league is good as it will get people talking about cricket. The only thing which worries me is that non immigrant Americans will not understand the sport and therefore not watch. Another issue will be that if it does take off in the USA, there will be more pressure put onto test cricket. This being that more top players will forget about the longer formats of the game and join another money spinning league. It seems to me that eventually there could be two different sports as there are so many T20 leagues some players may solely play T20 whilst others might only play test cricket. 

A question has to be asked if to suit the local audience they may change some of the laws. This is something that happened in the early stages of the MLS, this is something which would worry me. Another factor to consider is if the league will actually help young American cricketers. In my opinion to get the best viewing figures they may actually resort to having whole teams made up of world stars, meaning that it does nothing for American cricket. The fact that league is to launch through the Ashes series is another worry. This means that England now have to contest a loosing battle to the IPL for the first series and now the second series of a summer could be hit by this tournament. Another dilema for Pietersen, who would definitely be offered a contract here.  Only time will tell if the UST20 will be a success for cricket or not. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

How each teams flaws were exposed in the World T20

So the World T20 has finished and I have now decided to take a look back over a tournament which started very slowly but burst into life in the later stages. 

Whilst thinking back over the competition it struck me that each team lived up to their pre tournament flaws or in West Indies case the pre tournament hype. Many people see T20 cricket as a form of cricket where one or two good players could win the team a competition. This competition showed that a complete team was needed. It also showed that the teams who lacked something were found out. 

The winners West Indies proved that having a balanced team is the best formula in the shortest form of the game. Players such as Gayle, Samuels, Bravo, Pollard and even Sammy are genuine T20 all rounders. Add Narine (my pre tournament prediction as being the best bowler) and the vastly improving Rampaul to the West Indies and they have a great team. I am not sure how I looked past them when trying to predict the competition. 

The other teams were all flawed in certain areas, these were areas which had been highlighted by many before the competition had started. Sri Lanka may have lost the final because of a late blitz by Samuels but in my opinion it was down to their soft batting line up after the top three. India lacked options in the fast bowling department and England sorely missed the opening presence of Peitersen. Pakistan and New Zealand showed spells of brilliance followed by their usual inconsistencies. Australia were found to lack experience of playing international cricket, a reason why Watson stood out over his team mates. 

Australia are in my opinion the favourites to take the next tournament, yes a big statement to make but their team is still pretty young and showed glimpses of what is to come. 

The tournament started off very very slow, almost to the state of boredom. Many people questioned the timing of the competition, being in the Sri Lankan rainy season. Their were questions raised over the format of the tournament and the poor standard of cheerleaders. I still cant get over the fact that India as poor as they were, only lost one match that's one less than the winners.  The competition was brought to life by the players, especially the West Indians who danced and celebrated everything. 

Friday, 5 October 2012

Why Tendulkar is thinking of retiring and why I think he should.

The legend that is Sachin Tendulkar first came to the public eye whilst in schools cricket. The first of many records was his 664 run partnership with Vinod Kambli, a record which has only just been broken. 

He made his international d├ębut against arch rivals Pakistan, in that series he showed some glimpses of what was to come, although his scores were low. His first test century came at Old Trafford against England but his most notable early performance came against Australia two years later at the WACA. Many people still believe this as the best innings played in Australia. 

Since making his debut at 16 years of age he has gone on to play another 22 years. This 22 years has been a breath taking ride, which has transformed Sachin into a superstar. Some of his many records include 51 test centuries, 49 ODI centuries. The highest scorer cricket has ever seen and the first man to score 100 international centuries. What makes his record even better is the fact that he only scored his first ODI century in the 79th match. Tendulkar is also the first man to score a double century in a ODI, and I am sure winning the world cup on his home ground is the highlight of his career. 

Where ever he has played, be it team mates or opposition love and respect him. The first foreign man to play for Yorkshire, he was accepted like one of their own. Incredibly Tendulkar started playing when I had just turned 2 years old, he is still going well. 

Players such as Lara, Warne and Ponting have all come and gone, but Sachin Tendulkar is still performing well. He has played with 3/4 generations of Indian players:

1. Players much older than he was: Ravi Shashtri, Kapil Dev, Srikkanth, Azurudhin

2. Players his own age: Ganguly, Dravid, Kumble, Laxman

3. Players slightly his junior: Yuvraj, Zaheer, Sehwag, Dhoni

4. Players who were just babies when he started: Kohli, Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yadav

Sachin has played to such a high standard that he has become a GOD like figure for some in India. Today was the first time that he has ever commented on a potential retirement. His exact words were "I don't think I have plenty of cricket  left in me." This could be an early warning for his fans, so it doesn't come as a total shock to his fans when he does. 

This is something pretty important as when he does go, it will not be blamed on him being pushed out. Without these hints of retirement there will always be a minority of people who will think these thoughts. 

The day he does call it a day will be a sad day for cricket, as it will lose one of the all time greats of the game.  I just do not want to see him go out of the game on a low. 

Comparisons can be made with Dravid, they way that he was bowled in all his innings in Australia. Later Dravid stated that this could be due to his diminished ability to see the ball. This must surely have played a part in Tendulkar stating this today, as he himself has been bowled in his last 3 innings. 

If Tendulkar believes it has nothing to do with his eye sight and only concentration he should play on. I personally believe a player who has achieved what he has could have retired on top, this would have been after the world cup. Although I understand that this should be the players own judgement depending on how they see their body. 

A possible option for him is to play on only tests after the England series, this especially as there is the possibility of Pakistan coming up. I think it is more likely that he will cut out both the forms of the games which he currently plays after the England series. His retirement would be a blow for India after loosing Laxman and Dravid recently. 

I just hope he makes a decision which is best for his legacy and best for Indian cricket. The perfect ending would be to go out after scoring a few centuries, adding to his records. 

Why I want West Indies to win World T20 and why Sri Lanka have to change a bad habbit

I write this before West Indies play their semi final against Australia, so by the time you may read this they may be out. I will nail my colours to the mast and pick West Indies as the team I would like to win. 

There are a few reasons why I would like them to win the competition, the first being that India are now out I needed a new team to back. Another reason is that I would like to see West Indies back at the top of world cricket. If I were to ask my father right now who has been the best ever team, or player in cricket history, im sure he would reel off West Indies and a few of their players such as Sobers. 

Given my age I do not remember a time where the West Indies were ever a force in world cricket. Over the last 25 years they have had very little to celebrate apart from Brian Lara (the last of their true greats) and a Champions Trophy. 

There are a few reasons why West Indian cricket has been in the doldrums, one is the poor organisations of their cricket board and the other being increased competition of other sports. Cricket has lost some of their best talent to sports such as athletics and basketball. For example Usain Bolt is made for fast bowling, although this would have been a major loss to track and field he could have been brilliant. I suspect that if he was born 20 years earlier he would definitely have been in cricket.  

The last reason I want this new generation of West Indians to succeed is that spirit of their team. The way the players celebrate a wicket, the way Pollard throws himself around on the field, the laid back persona of Gayle. A reason why they have qualified to the semi finals is the fact that their quality batsmen are very useful bowlers, their good bowlers can add runs with the bat and their fielding is very very good.

So come on West Indies bring back a bit of love for cricket in the Caribbean. 

Yesterdays match saw Sri Lanka qualifying to the final by beating a good Pakistan side. Getting to the final of a major international cricket competition is something that Sri Lanka are very used to. 

Since they won the world cup in 1996, they have been to 2 world cup finals, 1 champions trophy final, and a world T20 final. These have all resulted in them loosing, although the champions trophy final had been rained off 2 days in a row, so could be discounted. 

It is a real shame for Sangakara and Jayawardene not to have won a major trophy just yet. This habit of loosing in finals is something that they will want to quickly change. The best opportunity for this will be in the final, the same place where they had won their solitary world cup.   

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