Thursday, 25 September 2014

Commentate, Don't Prognosticate

I read a lot of cricket books, mainly biographies and histories. A common theme for any cricketer turned commentator is 'Advice Received From Richie'. Although, why they need to include it I don't know, since they all tell the same story.

The generic tale runs something along the lines of said commentator talking about the future, about who will win the game, series, who will succeed, fail etc etc. In the story Richie Benaud sits back and says nothing, a cryptic smile on his face. He always lets them sink. There's no hand on the rudder from Richie, no pre-game crimp notes. You're on your own.

The writer always says how during the call, very shortly after the wayward prediction, it proved to be a lot of hoary bollocks. Another cryptic half-smile from the doyen.

At the end of the game the commentator asks Richie, "so how'd I go?" And Richie always tells them that they ought to watch and call the game, not try and make predictions about the future. Say what you can see is happening, don't guess at what you can't see and don't know. Best lesson they ever learnt, they all say.

I always think, why didn't you just read the last guy's book? Learn from his mistake. Don't go and do it yourself.

But it seems, for each individual, it is irresistible. Which team will, or most definitely will not, win the World Cup? Who will eventually be regarded as an all-time great, or not (Alastair Cook, discuss)? What did Andrew Gale really say?

People just can't help themselves.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Know Your Limits

I used to play cricket with a guy who had been a champion hockey player. U/19 State representative or some such. The season he played with us was the first time he'd played proper cricket.

He batted like a hockey player. A right hander, he could only hit the ball in front of square on the on side. He pushed forward through the line of the ball and turned his wrists on contact, so the ball always squirted away through mid-wicket, even if he'd hit it from two feet outside off stump.

If it was short he just swung harder, bringing the bat through in the same arc as every other shot, as if driving at the ball, connecting with the bat horizontal out in front of him. For all the world it looked like he would hit it straight up. But when he hit it he turned the face, and the ball would fly off at right angles.

The competition we played in only had six teams, and so we played each other three times each season, and since he was such a limited player the oppo started to work him out. His solution? He  batted left handed.

I mean he'd switch in the middle of an innings. He'd make twenty runs or so batting right-handed, and then he'd turn around and bat left-handed for a while.

He batted left-handed just like a hockey player - except a completely different player. Left handed he basically played two shots. He still pushed through the line of the ball, except left handed the bat stayed straight, so he hit through cover. And left handed he could absolutely smoke the ball through and behind point with the most amazing square cuts and late cuts.

He would always switch hands in the middle of an over, and often as not would actually pull out of his stance as the bowler ran in, and then switch over. The opposition captain would stand aghast for a while, not quite believing what was going on. Then he would scratch his head and try to work out where all the fieldsman would have to go.

Sometimes the other captain would object, but they had no grounds. You are are free to switch hands if you are silly enough to do it, so long as you inform everyone.

So when the oppo captain made a fuss hockey-boy would stand in his opposite stance and wait for the field to change. Then he would go into his stance, tap tap tap, bowler starts coming in. Then he would pull out and switch back to the other hand again!

I once saw him do it four times without facing a ball, completely unfazed about the oppo going mental at him. They soon learnt just to get into position and shut up.

By the end of the season the other teams pretty much had him sussed. They had worked out where to bowl whichever way he faced up.

They knew where, but they couldn't always hit the mark the first few balls. He often got free runs for the first couple of balls after the switch whilst the bowler was trying to find their line all over again. He was his own right-hand, left-hand combination.

He topped our batting averages that season.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Why Bowling Sucks

There are a lot of reasons why bowling sucks:

Its bloody hard work.

You will be injured, no exceptions.

The batsmen get all the glory.

For the batsman every run counts (statistically). The bowler might bowl brilliantly but there won't necessarily be statistics to prove his brilliance.

But, every run counts ... against you.

Even if you get the batsmen to hit a catch, the fieldsman might not catch it.

The LBW law. OK, the batsman has to stand somewhere, but he's got a fucking bat.

Even if you get a bloke plumb LBW, the umpire might not give it.

Its a batsmen's game with not only all the rules, but the unwritten conventions, in the batsman's favour.

The bats get better, the ball stays the same.

In international cricket they have flat, flat decks.

You have to do that weird jumpy, spinny, dancey thing with the whirly arms (ie the bowling action).

You look a bit silly doing that.

You are not allowed to just chuck it like a normal person would.

Err ... even though it has been scientifically proven that basically everybody does chuck it to some degree.

Horses for courses means you might get dropped on a certain type of wicket - but they don't treat the batsmen like horses.

And absolute worst of all ...

This is how you bat: Watch the ball, hit the ball. That's it. The ball. Not the bowler.

This is how you bowl: Put the ball in exactly the place the batsman doesn't want it. Each batsman. Individually. No standard plan, no consistent approach. Every bloke you come up against watch his technique, know his mindset, find his flaws. And then work away at that until you get him out. Then do it again with a different bloke that has a completely different technique, mindset etc. Each new opponent requires you to put the ball somewhere totally different to the last bloke.

Meanwhile that bloke just watches the ball, hits the ball, no matter who you are. They don't really care who you are.

Thursday, 11 September 2014


Pommy cricket fans go on with a lot of hysterical nonsense. It's the reason that England never dominate for very long. They love hysteria more than the game. They are addicted to it.

Right now in England the conversation surrounding their cricket team is all about how they haven't got a hope of winning the World Cup, that they are useless and are going to get smashed.

What hysterical nonsense!

I only watch cricket on Australian free-to-air telly and so I have not seen all of the England players. But I can tell you that most of the ones I have seen are bloody good cricketers. These are players that are as good or better than anyone in the world (OK, Chris Woakes I am still waiting for enlightenment, I'm not quite sure what the English selectors are seeing in him, but I am willing to wait and see).

That's all it takes, you know. Players that are good enough and who believe they are good enough. Good enough to compete, good enough to excel, good enough to dominate.

That's it. Talent and belief.

England have the talent. They aren't Zimbabwe, say, or Nepal (or Holland! Sorry, don't go there). Neither Zimbabwe nor Nepal will win the World Cup. They don't have enough players who are good enough.

England have players who are good enough. That's all it takes. To make the statement now that they categorically absolutely will not win the World Cup? Hysterical nonsense.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Kissing the World Cup

Over the next few months you are going to hear a lot of talk about tactics and strategy in one day cricket. Right now it is dominating the conversation in England and no doubt will in any country that doesn't win every single game it plays between now and the World Cup.

Its a lot of nonsense for the most part. Journos and bloggers need something to say, something to fill up space each day, and so they get that old chestnut out and roast it for a bit. In all honesty its why I got a start on this blog and then left it for a while. Trying to do it myself made me realise that the only way to write every day is to babble on with the same nonsense. Either that, or contradict yourself.

So I am going to say this once.

In a 50-over game of cricket (assuming pitch and weather are fine, obviously there are always exceptions) I believe you ought to ride the run rate. You want the run rate at 5 or thereabouts, no matter what. If you are going at 3 an over after 20 overs, and you've already lost six wickets, don't consolidate, start flogging it. You might as well take the risk, you are going to lose anyway. Unless you can get the rate somewhere near 5 for the whole of the first forty overs you have no hope of winning a game of cricket against a decent opposition, so don't fuck about, get on with it.

Then at the 40-over mark, just go bananas. Keep It Simple Stupid.

And if you are a bowler ... I have no sympathy for you, who would want to do that?


I am currently reading a book about Bodyline. I have probably read a dozen of them.

Sometimes in the comments section of blogs or on Cricinfo you get some pommy bloke bigging up Jardine as if the guy is some kind of hero because he 'won' the Ashes.

I find it difficult to see Bodyline as anything other than cheating.

There are a lot of aspects of a game of cricket - traditions, conventions, interpretations of rules, codes of behaviour - that aren't written down. And no wonder, have you seen the laws of cricket? Its long enough as it is.

Apart from the rules, in cricket there is an expectation that you will have a bit of nous, and won't deliberately breach these conventions.

No-one before Jardine ever stacked the close leg field and then told his bowlers to rip it into the batsmen's chest and head. There was no rule against it. People just thought if you did that, you'd have to be a proper arse. Indeed, they thought you'd have to be such an arse they could not conceive that anyone would do it, and hence they devised no rules for it. They just assumed it wouldn't happen.

I'll tell you what else is not against the rules. Pinging the ball at the batsmen's head when they are running between wickets. Or just standing there for that matter. There is absolutely nothing in the laws of cricket that says a fieldsmen can't pick up the ball, take careful aim, and peg it straight into a bloke's head. Obviously this in itself would not get the batsman out. But it would certainly disturb him. And if you kept doing it, eventually the bloke would be knocked unconscious or killed outright and then you wouldn't have to get his wicket, anyway, would you? He'd be off like Oldfield.

Doing that sounds pretty callous and completely absurd and of course no-one would do it. If they did, it would in a very short period be considered cheating. They would write new rules to stop anyone from doing it.

I know this, because that's what they did with Bodyline.