Saturday, 25 October 2008

The evils of 2020

Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are developing their own version of the IPL. I would ask why but it's obviously for the money. This is in addition to the Champions League, Stanford Series, the proposed English Premier League, the ICL and of course the IPL.

The game's administrators need to stop this. I don't have a problem with 2020 and think the IPL is great but why do we need all these other tournaments when players are already complaining about burn-out. Shane Warne recently said that other nations should just embrace the IPL and work together to make it the 2020 showpiece event instead of creating a dozen different spin-offs that no-one cares about.

The national boards think that they know what people want but most of the people I know want good quality Test cricket with a few 2020 tournaments scattered throughout the year to raise interest in the game and bring in new fans.

The other element to this is the players. If the players want the money then I don't blame them but they lose the right to complain about burn-out. Graeme Smith had to pull out of the one-day series in England because of tennis elbow which he aggravated in the IPL. MS Dhoni pulled out of the recent tour to India because he was tired after the IPL. Adding all these other tournaments can only make these sort of events more common.

World cricket is going to collapse at some point - players are only going to have 6 or 7 year careers instead of 10-12. Bowlers are already struggling thanks to flat pitches and a ridiculous work load. How long will people like Dale Steyn last if they are playing cricket 10-11 months of the year. Instead of saving the game, the greed of the administrators means 2020 could be the death of it.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Dhoni continues his winning streak

India won the second test against Australia today by 320 runs. The victory margin is that big for various reasons:

1. India batted well in the first innings with Ganguly's hundred and Dhoni's 92 getting India past an average score to a good score once Tendulkar had led the way with 88.

2. Australia bowled averagely. Bowling in India is hard. Ask Warne. Lee hasn't played in India before and is dealing with off-field problems and the other bowlers haven't really played test cricket before. Siddle and White are doing very well given their inexperience. Johnson appears to be able to bowl well against and in India but can't take wickets against anyone else. Which is kinda backwards but Ponting isn't going to complain at the moment.

3. Australia batted like idiots. For Watson to rescue the first innings and then Clarke to be the last batsman standing in the second indicates that there are problems. Hayden, Hussey and Ponting are the players you would expect to make hundreds when the team is up against it and they were MIA.

4. Dhoni's luck/karma/good captaincy inspired India and especially the bowlers to improve on their performances in the first test and achieve a deserved win. The bowlers out-performed Australia's attack with the pace of Sharma and Khan and the spin of Misra and Harbajan managing to get good batsmen out.

The first and second tests have shown that test cricket is alive and well despite all the 2020 hype. Here's hoping Australia fix their problems in time for the third test and make it a close series.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Tendulkar's brilliance

Tendulkar has finally gone past Brian Lara's record for the most runs in Test cricket - he now has more than 12000 runs. For the past 19 years Sachin has made almost a billion people happy, sad, frustrated, disappointed and every emotion in between. I missed the early part of his career (being only 2 when he started playing) but by the time I was 6 or 7 I knew all about how brilliant he was and how great he could become.

19 years after he started, Tendulkar is undoubtedly a great player. I'm not going to debate who is better - him, Lara, Bradman, Sobers etc because they are all magnificent. What Tendulkar did that none of the others did however, is start as a 16 year old and grow up in front of a billion people. He remains a normal humble private person despite all the madness that surrounds him - fans, sponsors, TV cameras and the paparazzi that have followed his every step.

People criticised him as he aged and changed his style of play to become more responsible and tried to steer the team towards winning totals. And yet when he was younger they criticised him for not playing responsibly and getting the big scores his team needed. To be able to play as he did under those contradictory demands is unbelievable. Crowds still go wild when comes out to bat and when he gets out they go eerily quiet - the only time you ever hear silence in an Indian cricket ground.

There are too many wonderful innings to discuss but a few stand out in my memory as being extra special. His 241* no against Aus in 2004 at Sydney after a run of poor scores saved his place in the team. It was his first hundred for 14 months. He made 193 at Headingley against England in 2002 and formed a partnership with Sourav Ganguly that was so destructive that Nasser Hussain pleaded for bad light to save his fielders.

Other people will be moe eloquent than I have managed to be but basically at the end of the day all the plaudits and tributes are based around one fact - Tendulkar is brilliant.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Aussies in India

After a month of hype and build-up the series between India and Australia has started. The first two days have been tightly fought and the series looks like it may live up to the hype.

Ponting was magnificent on day one. His 123 was exactly what the team needed and just as importantly what he needed. His average of 12.7 in India has been well documented but let's remember that he missed the last series in 2004 and the series in 2001 was before he became the brilliant player that he is now. He was disciplined but not scared of playing his shots. I think he'll end up with plenty more runs in this series and on current form is likely to end up with the most runs in the history of the game.

Day two was the Hussey show. His ability to minimise risk and set up games for Australia is almost freakish and a test average of 70 is pretty much unbelievable. He doesn't play in the classical attcking way that we've come to expect from Australia but is effective anyway. Having had to wait so long for a chance at test level it's nice to see him doing so well.

India were average in the field apart from Zaheer Khan who got five wickets. Kumble started off badly with the ball but came back well and was unlucky not to have picked up any wickets. His captaincy was by the numbers, which may work against lesser teams but you need to have flair against Australia. A couple of odd bowling changes or field positions for a few overs may get you a wicket.

There is no good in the world of cricket

Bloody Kent. A few days after getting excited about Ryan McLaren playing for SA, I find out that Kent won't release him from his bloody contract. Apparently they've built the team around him and as they're now in Division 2 they need him.

McLaren was fairly daft to sign the contract in the first place but Kent are morally and ethically wrong. I don't care about the legal stuff - it's just nonsense frankly when it comes to Kolpaks. The guy has chosen to play for his country and the game's administrators should see that as the main aim of the game. In an ideal workd Kent's committee would remove their red horns and pointy tails, abandon their pitchforks, become human and reverse their decision. However I've probably got a better chance of being selected for SA than Kent releasing McLaren so I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, 6 October 2008

There is some good in the world of cricket

Sometimes in cricket things happen that just make you happy because they show that the game isn't all about the money and the fame. It can be about loving what you do and wanting to represent your country at the highest level.

The reason for my somewhat soppy post is the news that Ryan McLaren has chosen to play for South Africa. Those of you who don't watch or follow county cricket won't have heard of him but he is incredibly talented and currently plays for Kent as a Kolpak. He still has a Kent contract but by choosing to play for South Africa he is giving up an awful lot of money to "do the right thing".

In a world run by the BCCI, TV companies and sponsors with Twenty20 being pushed down our throats whether we want it or not, the fact that he has chosen to play for his country without any guarentee of a place or a national contract is gutsy, uplifting and just plain good. I hope he gets the time in team to prove himself and get the runs and wickets he is capable of getting.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Aussies get ready to take on India

The Aussies are getting ready to take on India in what should be an awesome test series. The Aussies are in transition from their glory days and the rest of the pack are catching up. The players appear to be dealing with this in their own ways.

Brett Lee - getting mean and moody after realising he has to single handedly bowl India out as Johnson is flaky, Jason Krejza has just been hit for 123 runs in 20 overs and Stuart Clark is likely to just plod away. Or else he's just heard the single he released with Asha Bhogle and realised how bad it actually is.

Bryce McGain - the pressure of being the saviour of Australian spin broke his shoulder leading to heartbreak for Ponting and JRod. I'd mock his selection but JRod had me convinced that he would be awesome and I was looking forward to seeing him play.

Ricky Ponting appears to have realised his team is somewhat less well prepared than last time and may not do as well as he wants. The obvious course of action when things get tough is to resort to his "I'm a tough Tassie who won't take any crap" persona (although the means of transport somewhat takes the edge off).

Come on October 9th... The random talking can stop and play will begin.