Tag Archives: county cricket

Three Things That Peter Moores Has Got Absolutely Right

Whilst wading the through long grasses of mockery around the #newera, it’s important not to allow the successful parts to pass over our heads un-noticed.

In his short stint as England Coach [part II], Peter Moores has made a concerted effort to stamp his method of coaching on this team.

But notwithstanding factors like the shadow of the bygone era, and in spite of the criticism which has flowed like a mighty stream since his appointment; he has done plenty of things which have worked.

Being consistent in decision making and selection

The  most important thing that Moores’ has done right is maintain consistency with decisions and selection; and not buckling under criticism.

When building a team, under the banner of a #newera; critics look for the slightest hint of disharmony. They even look for any tell tale sign that the team isn’t working.

Chopping and changing, inconsistency and U-turns shows that decisions were wrong in the first place, and the management is weak and not in control. Yet, not changing course when something is clearly wrong shows stubbornness.

He hasn’t flinched at all, backing his decisions and gaining a return in quick time, which shows he made the right calls so far on many decisions.

At Lord’s, England were thrashed.

But, only a minor change due to injury [Plunkett] and a second change due to poor performance occurred [Stokes]. In the third Test the faith, repaid. A captain under fire felt backed; scored runs, and captained well. A near complete team performance ensued, as England drew the series with two to play.

The #newera is only going to work if an identity and a style of play is built, and from what has been displayed thus far; this is what Moores is creating. A new brand of cricket, which backs players and gives them a fair chance, on his watch.

Backing Counties

It is no surprise to anyone that follows county cricket, that a long time county coach is picking reliable county stars, and has faith in them.

Flower never really coached county cricket. He went on gut, and sometimes that worked.

More often than not however, it was mature and established players that did it for him, with the exception of Graeme Swann and Jonathan Trott; who were his selections through and through. The core of the team was not drawn from recent County success though. Moores has literally built this team up, and given it an identity. 

This summer has seen the selection of a number five and a number three to bat in the opposite positions, in addition a 29 year old bowler that was on the scrap heap, an Australian opener, a fiery fast man from Barbados, and Steven Finn.

Gary Ballance has been a revelation; translating his county form to the Test arena, striking three centuries and two fifties in 10 innings this summer. Liam Plunkett’s recall, is something I promoted when he was performing very strongly in County Cricket, here. His return to the Test side has been successful, offering pace, and heralding 18 wickets in his four Tests, and a fifty.

Even when Moeen Ali, Sam Robson and Chris Jordan have struggled, he has backed them fully, with no hints of them being dropped or replaced.

Moores has sent a large flare up into the air to signal that England’s selectors is watching you; County Performers.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. Fight hard, and you’ll get through, because this #newera recognises you.

Learning from mistakes

After the Lord’s catastrophe, England could have reacted violently, and scrapped the course they were on.

Cook’s head was in the chopping block. The excessive hooking was under scrutiny, and the perpetual short pitched bowling which yielding such little success was under the spotlight too.

Even England’s fielding was a low point, as catches went down and defensive  unimaginative captaincy dominated.

But there were no panic stations or flashing lights. As England turned up to the third, and now fourth Test; it’s clear that something has clicked into place.

They are pitching it up. Taking their catches. Cook’s captaincy is not as reactive, with much greater trust invested in Moeen Ali’s spin bowling, to the extent that Moeen took a 6 wicket hall at the Ageas Bowl.

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There has been a strong desire to justify decisions made, by ironing out faults and dealing with issues; as opposed to scrapping plans and trying something new; pushing those failures under the carpet

It’s refreshing, and Moores deserves credit for not dragging England back through the 1990s style selection and despair.

It has been; and will be, difficult; but there are plans there, and there is a definite direction that these plans are being plotted.

As an England fan, it’s nice to finally be stable again.


Associate and affiliate players in county cricket?

Shapoor Zadran

Shapoor Zadran

In a recent discussion on the ESPNCricinfo County live blog, the topic of associates and affiliate members came up in the context of overseas players. The dilemna was ‘why if players are good enough are they being denied the possibility of playing, purely on the basis of their nationality, or the fact their country is not a top side.’

After all, it would seem ludicrous in any other sport to have this situation. Could you imagine if Dwight Yorke had been prevented from playing for Manchester United because he was from Trinidad and Tobago (currently ranked 81st in the world).

Numerous players from associate and affiliate sides could benefit so much from a stint of  cricket in the UK regardless of format, and would certainly enhance and improve the image and attention in their country domestically if they improved themselves, and brought more success.

Currently, counties are restricted to choosing one overseas player, and this is restricted to countries that have played a requisite number of International matches. It seems a rather arbitrary and stifling rule, especially as the vast majority of affiliate and associate members would not be of the standard to play in the UK anyhow. Why put a barrier up to prevent those that are good enough from partaking in ‘the finishing school’, purely because their International side is not good enough.

It’s unlikely that should players from affiliate or associate members ever be allowed to be considered as overseas players, that all of a sudden Kenyans, Namibians, or Swedish cricketers would pour into the counties because the plain facts are that most would not be of the standard.

But, as with every developing country in cricketing terms there would certainly be a select few that are good enough, and it seems such an illogical rule to restrict them on such an arbitrary basis of nationality, or the number f games their internationally affiliated side plays.

Afghanistan have of course been a hugely impressive side in terms of how they have developed from playing in dirt tracks on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and making it all the way to the top as an Internationally ranked side. They are a side of course that has some players that look entirely out of their depth against established teams, yet at the same time players like Mohammad Shezhad, Shapoor Zadran and Mohammad Nabi  were all highly talented. Shapoor Zadrand was easily reaching 90 miles per hour in the world cup, which regardless of your passport stamp is extremely difficult to face.

If he was running in for even a second division side, it would be beneficial firstly for him, secondly for the county side that signs him, and thirdly, perhaps most importantly, for the state of Afghan cricket. It would be the big break. Just take a look at Zadran in action:

Having a player in an established first class league, exposed to the cricketing world, and with new opportunities that would go with that. Did someone mention the IPL?

In the past, players such as Kenya’s Steve Tikolo and Canada’s Jon Davison were stars in very average minnow sides. But, beyond them, there was relatively little and there was no long term and sustainable growth of cricket in their lesser established cricketing countries because their success and talent was not built on clearly. These were players that had talent and would have not only benefited from even a short stint of cricket for a county side, but it would have placed them on a plinth that would help to grow cricket domestically in their own country, and hopefully develop better domestic talent, and the image of the game in general.

The only way for associate and affiliate nations to sustainability develop is to grow domestic popularity of the game, as this breeds interest, and essentially a larger poole of talent. If offering those associate and affiliate member countries that have players that are good enough for a stint in the UK that very opportunity, then realistically, what is going to be the downside? Maybe a home grown player misses out in the UK occasionally, but judging by the number of Kolpak players already milling around county cricket in a number of formats, this issue doesn’t seem to have been sincerely addressed anyhow, and what is the problem with it anyway? It improves the cricket immeasurably to have a better quality of talent on show. If it is not going to be a hugely significant number of players from affiliate or associate members that would meet the standard of county cricket anyway, then surely all this rule change would potentially do, is lift a barrier blocking talent of those that would meet the standard, such as Shapoor Zadran, that are currently prevented on the basis of where he is from.  It seems a small price to pay to allow a handful players the opportunity to play, that they otherwise would have been deprived of on a very illogical policy.

What is needed is perhaps an overseas policy allowing overseas players from the established nations, in addition to one overseas player from an associate or affiliate member. It is important to remember that most counties would not pick an associate or affiliate member, but those that would, could benefit, and there would be a very size able mutual benefit for the associate or affiliate member also. Perhaps this could be trailed in the lesser profile YB40?

Of course many will dismiss this as an unwanted change. “Why should they take up English players places” i hear people saying already, but in reality this would not be a widespread thing. It would would benefit county cricket by allowing those who are good enough to be in contention, which is minimal at the moment. It would afford a greater profile to cricket in the domestic cricketing league of those countries, and motivate affiliate and associate members to build on development with further development. It would be a hugely beneficial move, and it would remove an entirely arbitrary restriction.

Britain’s got talent ! So let’s not waste it..

The recent retirement of Kevin Pietersen from One day international and twenty 20 cricket has sent a few shock waves through English cricket. On the one hand he is one of our most successful 2020 players in the world having been our man of the tournament in the world cup, one of the highest run getters in the IPL and generally being an innovative and aggressive player against the very best. However, it is without doubt that Pietersen has not performed in ODI cricket as much as Test and 2020 cricket. He retired to extend his carreer in test cricket, and it got me thinking. This is an opportunity for England to safeguard our test supremacy and simultaniously dominate other forms through the spread the quality and depth we now have access too. We can limit injuries and Fatigue and make sure each form is cared for seperately.

The England test side is a strong, diverse set up with a brilliant balance of attack and defense, classic techniques of Bell and Strauss with more unorthodox methods of Cook and Pietersen. Pace of Broad and Bresnan, experience of Anderson and Swann.  However, with Strauss and Pietersen not playing ODI’s, Prior with an awful ODI record and dispute over Trott’s place in the ODI side, one could argue is it time to reassess the balance of players in both squads. Of course ODI cricket is a format that England have never been able to crack and maybe one could say that this is because there has been a right of passage. Test side = Odi side. I disagree completely; especially with the amount of T20 Played and the quality of the depth England now have access too. England can afford to have a test side, a ODI side and a T20 side each specified to their needs in order to win.

Some players will be a constant as they are such all round good players they should play all forms of cricket. I argue Bell, Swann and Bresnan should be in every squad but i think apart from that England need to manage each squad separately. They have already taken steps to do this of course giving separate captaincies . The test squad has been cracked to an extent but there is still a huge problem glaring at them all in the face.  FATIGUE . Although there have been no consistent injuries across  the last few years, the schedule is such that injuries and tiredness are inevitable. This is avoidable as England have the depth to rotate Batsmen, Bowlers, Keepers and Captains without diminishing the quality of the side. What’s more the age of the replacements are perfect. Either Young and willing or just under or touching 30 and experienced, but with enough time left to have a real impact.

If we look at the Batsmen we are settled that the Test squad is Strauss, Cook, Trott at 123, With Pitersen Bell at 4 and 5, With Prior at 7. What we don’t know is the number 6 entirely, having dabbled in Samit Patel (Who didn’t bat 6 but could), Bopara, Morgan and now Bairstow. yet to settle on one player to fill the role. If we look at the possible replacements we can see that in the test and ODI teams there are ample capable replacements:

Somerset’s middle order have the likes of Hildreth 27 , Kieswetter 24 , Buttler 21, and Compton 28 – All either been in and out of the ODI side, or been banging out the runs in the counties for fun for a long time. It seems such a waste of talent for these guys to miss out on the grounds that doing well in the test side means playing in the ODI side.  Trott and Cook should not both be in the ODI side. Pick Captain cook and play one of the above. Kieswetter Buttler and Bairstow are all also Wicketkeepers. Give Prior a break, pick one of them to keep, one of them to bat.

Carberry 31 (We need a replacement for Strauss when he finally goes) has shown his credentials in all forms of the game. Battled back from horrible injuries and disease, bedrock of the Hampshire batting lineup along with Liam Dawson and James Vince 21. Then we have Alex Hales 23 and Ben Stokes 20, top order hitters that know how to whack it out the ground. Ben Stokes bowls as well which possibly could see him as a bit of a Collingwood replacement perhaps. Then again, if Bopara isn’t playing test cricket as he is being kept out then let him play something else ? Then we have the likes of James Taylor 23,  Morgan 25, Samit Patel 27 (who bowls),  and even the experienced Owais Shah who was truly Awsome in the IPL.

Lions Skipper Taylor

I know that the Batsmen will say we need to play to stay in form, which is fair enough. But with the availability and amount of cricket that exists today i don’t think this is as much of a problem. The central contracting of these players may be the only issue. However, as we see with Pietersen, he has made himself unavailable and can go and play for Surrey, and Strauss with Middlesex now he has finished ODI cricket. It’s there if they want it..

Then we have the Bowlers. Anderson is our best bowler without a doubt, but do we really need to risk him by playing countless one dayers and getting smacked around in 2020’s ? I’m sure he will do well but why don’t we keep him for test cricket? Broad of course is the T20 skipper (which i disagree with) and Swann has countless times expressed his dislike of the ODI format. So why don’t we give our wealth of bowlers waiting in the wings a chance instead?

Meaker in full flow

I have picked out a few that could easily walk into this England side and be a reliable bowler. Finn 23 has done it before. He has played test cricket, Played for Middlesex since he was 16 and coming down from 6’7 he is daunting. Under Flower he has really cranked up the pace to Fast, becoming a genuine pace power. Meaker 23 is a hugely exciting quickie from Surrey, that can really ‘get it up there’ despite being short. He is quick. Rankin 27 an Irish international but hey, that didn’t stop us from nicking Morgan and Ed Joyce. If we were to get someone like Rankin, we would have another 6 foot 7 or 8 high eighties quickies. Very Morne Morkel Esq. Harris 22 has been on the radar for a long time. A Glamorgan player since 16 years old he now has 6 years of county cricket and is only 22. He is a more Anderson type bowler but we need a replacement.

Dernbach 26 obviously a One day and T20 master that could walk in the test side also having played regular FC cricket for surrey.  Onions 28   The unluckiest bowler in the world but one of the best bowlers in the world. .. Yet he can’t get in the England team. He is a true master of quick bowling having the ability to swing it at genuine pace. England need him back in their plans. Just these quicks (Excluding Tremlett  as he seems to be permenantly injured) shows that England have a string of 4 or 5 genuinely class bowlers. So Why are we still picking our test specialists in One day cricket and 2020 cricket ?  Lets spread it around a bit and utilize our depth that is so apparent.

Our spin options are equally as strong. Only having one spinner in the side usually means less replacements. Borthwick 22 Briggs 21 Kerrigan 23 ,  and of course Panesar and Samit patel are all players that could be picked in any form of the game to do the job. Nobody is touching Swann’s test spot of course. BUT Why risk that ? Wit the amount of cricket that is played, don’t make him schlap to Bangladesh and play a 7 match ODI series against India. Pick someone else and give him a rest or let him chose. We don’t need Swann for some games. We are the best side in the world due to world class batting, bowling and fielding. Not just our wizard with the ball

Kerrigan has been in top form and won the title with Lancs.

I hope i have convinced a few people that test = test and should mean that for most of our players. We need to use our wealth of talent lingering in the counties more and make sure that it dosn’t go to waste. We don’t want another generation of the neglected cricketer i.e  Vikram Solanki’s, Graeme Hicks and Ramprakash’s who didn’t prosper enough. We don’t more wasted talent like Jon Lewis, Kabir Ali, Gary Keedy and Paul Nixons who dominate their field in counties but apparently not good enough for International because the test side plays ODI cricket. Lets really dominate and use all this talent  and depth

Jon Lewis waits in the wings.. Still waiting