Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Money buys stars, but Teams win championships

There's the adage that a champion team can beat a team of champions any day. This much is true for the Rajasthan Royals. They were the cheapest team in the IPL. The franchise itself was purchased for the least amount of money, ($67 million, compared to the $111.9 million payed for the Mumbai franchise), and then when it came to buying players, the Royals spent so little, they were fined for not spending enough!

No one gave them a chance, but now they find themselves at the top of the table, and worthy leaders. They have been a team that has played consistently well, sometimes with a bit of fortune, but always with a winning attitude. They have had but a few stand out performances, and mostly all round team performances. The true hallmarks of a championship team.

Before the competition started, my money was on the Knight Riders - partly because of their strong line-up, but also because of their awesomely ridiculous name. Now, I'm all for Warnie and Royals to take it home.


Friday, 23 May 2008

Warne to the rescue?

I like the thought of having Warnie frozen in a glass container with the words "Break in case of Emergency" written on it. Warnie has gotten some attention over comments he made that "if required" he would don the creams again and roll the arm over for Australia in the Ashes.

Good ol' Warnie, when it suits him, he'll play for us. I'm not complaining - the guy is so bloody good, I'll gladly take him whenever he wants to. Any terms he makes, they're going to be worth it.

Of course, I don't think we need to panic just yet. MacGill is still around, let's see how he goes against the Windies. I have no idea what the future holds for our prospects with Beau Casson, but we're not quite at def con 2 yet, so Warnie can stick to taking the Royals to the IPL finals.


The Kat is back!

The career of Simon Katich has been, in my opinion, a strange one. He's struggled to find his place after showing promise early but being struck with chronic fatigue or something held him back. Till now he's had what I think is a one day career longer than he rightly should have, and a test career shorter than he deserves. Well now it seems he will get a temporary reprieve as he is playing in the first test against the Windies, replacing Hayden.

Unfortunately it seems he's already batted and only got 12. So the resurrection of the Kat's international career may be brief.


Thursday, 22 May 2008

The End of the Tri-Series

I always had visions of it becoming even bigger, from a tri-series to a 5-series, where a series of 5 teams, always featuring Australia and New Zealand would play in a massive round robin tournament across Australia and New Zealand. It equalled more games in total, and less non-Australia matches because half would be played in NZ.

Anyway, those grand dreams have been dashed, and the tri-series altogether has been scrapped from the Australian calendar. It was very inevitable, but it's sad in a way. I have grown up with that formula and it dictated my summer.

However, I will not be sad for long, because it's place is a very robust little setup. 5 match series against two nations and featuring 2 and 3 test series as well. All in all, more Australia matches to enjoy and you can't complain about that.

Of course, I won't be in Australia come this summer, but I'll still be able to enjoy it on television, and mark my words - I will.

Can't wait for it!


The Hallowed Baggy VB

A lot of people have gotten very worked up about the fact that the Australian cricket team played a tour match against a Jamaican Select XI wearing caps featuring their sponsor VB rather than their traditional baggy green caps. The traditionalists, the ones I'm sure have already claimed that one day cricket and Twenty20 cricket will be the death of the game, got stuck into the Australians for their disrespect.

Well, it turns out it was actually all Brad Haddin's fault, because he hasn't played a test match yet, he doesn't actually possess a baggy green, therefore he would have to wear a broad brimmed white hat, which as we all know looks pretty naff, especially when you're the wicket keeper. The team management had decided that in a show of support, they would all wear the VB sponsored baseball caps.


They quickly changed back the next day to shut everyone up.

I think the first clue should've been the fact they were playing a "Jamaican Select XI", "Select XI"?? Doesn't Jamaica just have a team of it's own? Sounds like the pickup truck scenario I mentioned before, either that or maybe it was the first eleven locals who came to the ground that day. That said, I wonder if eleven people actual did turn up to the ground to watch this.

I guess what surprises me more is that everyone got so upset that the Aussies were wearing the VB caps, but they didn't say anything about the fact Symmo was wearing thongs and stubbies - that's what you wearing when you're just playing a bit of backyard cricket, right?


Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Funny Sky Sports Cricket Ad

This is great!


Monday, 19 May 2008

Lord's Test, England vs New Zealand 2008

Lord's Test Day 2 2008
There is no greater experience for a cricket lover than watching a Test match at the home of cricket, Lord's. Whereas watching cricket in Sydney is synonymous with sunstroke, sunburn and body odour, a day at Lord's is all picnics, boater hats and polite applause. Even when you see very little cricket because of bad light, as we did, it is still a nice day out.

Part of this may be the fact that it is quite upper class and the ground only holds around 25000 people. For the first time ever, I actually heard someone say "What-ho old man". It was a special occasion for us (my birthday), so we were happy to pay the £60 ticket price each ($AU 130 and falling...), but these were the cheapest tickets on offer. Most of the crowd were in suits, and walking to dinner through the rather exclusive St John's Wood (Kate Moss lives there), these same chaps could be seen letting their hair down with their chums at Gordon Ramsay's gastropub - you could tell as they had taken their ties off. Much of the crowd had prearranged picnic baskets containing Veuve Clicquot and the best French cheese, which they ate in the shadow of the WG Grace statue whilst on the phone to their fund manager. There is something quite wonderful about the whole upper-class-ness of it all - and something a bit wrong. The Lord's tradition of mustard-striped ties and plummy accents makes it very special, but also very out-of-reach for most of us. The class system is nowhere near dead in England!

Anyway, to the cricket, and whilst I normally think that it is a privilege to see top class cricketers in action, when the cheapest ticket on offer is £60, they can play in some poor light! I looked out the window of the restaurant at 9pm and thought to myself that I would play in the light on offer at that time, and have done, let alone how light it was when they went off countless times throughout the day. Given that the English were wearing their new bleached bright white outfits, surely the batsmen could see the red ball with that as background! The new uniforms made the kiwi creams look dirty. Apparently it is so the ECB can sell more Test shirts on the high street - white is more fashionable than cream I take it.

Lord's Test Day 2 2008
Sidebottom bowled really well, and Vettori batted with guts - until for some reason he left a straight ball that took out his middle stump. Cook and Strauss looked very comfortable against the Kiwi opening bowlers - they were very rarely troubled, so I don't know why they accepted the offer of poor light from the umpires. Given the bad light, and that Vettori cleaned up the English batting line-up the following day, it would have been great if Vettori had brought himself on a bit earlier. We may have seen more play and more action.

One interesting thing I learnt about the NZ team was about their opener Aaron Redmond, who was making his debut. His father Rodney played one test, in which he scored 107 and 56. He couldn't adapt to wearing contact lenses and retired. Aaron scored a duck...

So, even though we only saw 50-odd overs play, we read 3 newspapers, the programs, had one bottle of champagne, too many chips, a whole chicken, a bottle of dry ginger ale and a little sleep in the afternoon. A perfect day at the cricket! And certainly it's about time Lord's got some floodlights and the cricket authorities worked out how to play cricket in bad light. Pink balls, flood lights, day-night tests, it doesn't matter. Let's just get some more game-time. It was strange that the players were going off in the light they did.

You can see my photos from the day on my flickr site.

Lord's Panorama


Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Shannon Noll, the voice of English cricket

It's 28 degrees outside, the cricket is just about to start, the days are long, and people are finally talking about bat-pads and third men instead of goals and defenders. Folks are flocking to the beach, the tabloids now have cricketers' wives on page 3, the national wicket-keeper is a big-hitting batsman with a broad Australian accent, and the dulcet tones of Shannon Noll are advertising the test television coverage.

Are we in Australia?

No, we are in England. Whilst Tim Ambrose is a pretty good player, our finest export to English cricket this summer is the runner up from Australian Idol 2003, Shannon Noll. Channel Five is using Noll's song "Shine"as part of their cricket coverage, so even on the other side of the world, you can not escape his rocky nasally voice.


Friday, 9 May 2008

Finally, the English cricket season is upon us

Finally in London we are about to enter that beautiful window where no football is played. After the FA Cup final next week, football (soccer to us southerners) finally goes into its off-season - all two months of it...

And in this little summer opening, cricket takes it's worthy spot atop the English sporting tree.

The press here seem to take delight in pummeling the team when they do not do well, which has been quite often since the 2005 Ashes. But they're not such a bad team. If Flintoff comes back (and Justin Langer, who is still going around for Somerset, thinks he is the best bowler in the world) then they will look much stronger than they did last year.

The selectors made an interesting decision last year to persist with Strauss, and he rewarded them with his highest score of 177 in the final test versus New Zealand. However, he scored less than 100 runs in total in his other 5 innings that tour, so still has a big question-mark hanging over him. As does Vaughan, who has yet to shine in the early county games and averaged only 20 against New Zealand. People say he is worth his place through his captaincy alone, and as a Mark Taylor fan I can't argue that logic. Vaughan does have something not many recent English captains have, and that's an Ashes series win. But Collingwood would make a very able replacement, and England have longer term prospects in Pietersen and Cook, so Vaughan needs to impress.

The man that England really should have gone for, but for whom I fear the boat has left, is Mark Ramprakash. Although his test record was pretty poor before they dropped him (averaging 27), one day a couple of summers ago he awoke to be a completely different player, easily topping the county averages, averaging 101 in 2007 and 103 in 2006. At the moment in 2008, he is already averaging 99. I think they should have picked him to bolster their batting after the 2005 Ashes series when everyone got injured. Probably would have made a good captain for their Ashes campaign of 06/07 too.

Such numbers are difficult to ignore, but it has happened before. Ramps seems to have done a Michael Bevan or a Dean Jones. At some stage he must have done something to someone, and now he will never be picked again. Bevan only stumbled a couple of times at Test level and never got another go - even though he was the best batsman in the country, possible the world, especially in one-dayers. Who knows what Jones did, but he was discarded averaging 44 in the test team after only 50-odd tests.

But at least Ramprakash can console himself with the fact he won Strictly Come Dancing.

I am going to be living the dream on my birthday by going to Lords to see the 2nd day of the England / New Zealand test match (well, not quite the dream, that would be an Ashes test, but this is still pretty good!) England are expected to win, but with Brendan McCullum set to be the next Gilchrist, especially after his heroics in the IPL, and Daniel Vettori keen to impress as captain, the Kiwis should not be written off. As an Aussie, I can't really go for either team, so I'll adopt the concept of the IPL and support individual players. I expect McCullum and Vettori to do well for the Kiwis, and I think Sidebottom should continue his fine form for the Poms. I'd like to see Hoggard back, but think we might have seen the last of Harmison. Cook should accumulate the most runs on either side. The Kiwis will miss Shane Bond who has been inexplicably banned from playing for them as he chose the wrong Indian Twenty20 competition. I think they will struggle to bowl out the English, and Vettori will do a lot of bowling, if fit.

Now the sun has finally arrived, let the cricket season begin!


Thursday, 8 May 2008

The Mighty Windies?

With Australia's upcoming tour of the Windies, I couldn't help but think - does anyone think the West Indies really have any chance of wining here? Does anyone even remotely think they're going to be competitive?

Even without all the star players that made up Australia's dominant team, I don't think there's much doubt we're going to run through them. Oh how the mighty have fallen. Who do they even have left in their team anymore?

Lara plays in the ICL, Chris Gayle plays well only when he can be bothered, which isn't often enough and what ever happened to the feared fast bowling attack of old?

The Windies haven't actually officially named their squad yet - I think they're still driving the pickup truck around the Caribbean with the sign "Hop in the back if you want to play a game of cricket" on it.


Tuesday, 6 May 2008

My cabbie tells me....

Late last night I hopped into a minicab and started having a chat to the driver. He told me that 2 IPL captains and one umpire had been found guilty of match fixing over the weekend. Having been away, I hadn't heard anything about this, and this morning's frantic Internet search has not come up with any results. Does anyone know anything about this? Is Handled the Ball breaking a big story here, and does my London cabbie have some inside knowledge? I need to know more!


Twenty20 double century

Cricinfo are reporting that a batsmen in Singapore club cricket has hit the world's first Twenty20 double century. Now, of course the level of competition in Singapore isn't great, but when you consider this guy scored the runs off just over 50 balls, that's quite an amazing feat. I don't think I could do that against my brother in the backyard, let alone in match conditions. Short of the opposition slowly lobbing full tosses at him and kicking the ball to the boundary for him in the field, I don't see how he managed to do it.