Tag Archives: the ashes

Stuart Broad would be England’s first Australian captain

 

Following the resignation of Alastair Cook, the possibility of Stuart Broad succeeding him has surfaced, which would inject a very Australian feeling into England.

Stuart Broad is hated by Australia so much, that one wonders if they’re just a bit jealous.

The Aussies can dish out hard talk and aggressive cricket, and Broad can take it, and give back the same.

They don’t like him because they see a bit of them in him.

Before even thinking about his performances, the single moment etched into the Old Enemy’s minds when it comes to Broad, will be an infamous incident at Trent Bridge in 2013.

Broad hit the ball to slip, but stood his ground as the Australians celebrated his wicket. The arrogance, watch the ball carry, but just stand there as if nothing had happened.

In many ways, a new love-hate relationship was sparked.

Australians have always mocked the English. Indeed, the Ashes was born after a mock-obituary of English cricket was published in a British paper, The Sporting Times.

Mocking the English been the cornerstone of the relationship, and when the Aussies are losing, they target those who don’t fit that mould of polite bumbling ‘Englishness’.

In 2005, they used to target Kevin Pietersen, with his ridiculous hairstyle and supposed playboy lifestyle. And it spurred him on. When he smashed Glenn McGrath onto the Lord’s pavilion, he gained respect. When he saved the Oval Test with 158, he gained respect, with Shane Warne walking him off the pitch.

In 2013/14 down under, they went for Broad.

The Courier Mail refused to print his name.

When ‘The 27-year old medium pace bowler’ as he (Broad) was referred to, had a good tour taking 21 wickets, amidst a crisis for England,  he won respect.

Broad won respect not only because he bowled well, but because he showed doesn’t get wound up by the opposition’s sledges, or the press.

Indeed, during that 2013/14 series’, he even walked into press conferences with a copy of the Courier Mail, to show that he could take the piss too.

With ball in hand, on number of occasions throughout his career, he has virtually single-handedly won games in a spell.

No more so was this show, than when he took 8-15 against Australia in Nottingham to win the game, or the 10-wicket hall in Durham, to win the game, or 5-37 at the Oval in 2009, to win the game.

Stuart Broad’s 8-15 at Nottingham:

Stuart Broad’s 5-37 at the Oval:

Whether it’s Broad ability to get under the opposition’s skin by being unflappable, or his knack of bowling out Australia on his own, he has shown he can both take it and dish it out.

Now of course, if he were to become Test captain, a lot of things would need to be worked on.

He’d need to manage his own bowling workload, which is always difficult for a bowling captain.

He’d certainly need to rethink his use of reviews and the frequency of his appeals.

But in general, a Broad captaincy would be a breath of fresh air from five years of robotic, grinding predictable Alastair Cook.

It would be a more Australian flavour of English captaincy.

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Are Bodyline restrictions still relevant?

Bodyline infamously sparked the 1932-3 ashes into controversy, changing attitudes and eventually laws for the fielding side and fast bowling.

This was the notion of the fast leg side theory.

Bowling a particular line and length, aimed at the batsmen’s body, or their leg stump line. This forced Australian batsmen to chose between deflecting the ball to a fielder in the leg side bodyline field, or being hit and injured, as it occurred in the days of no helmets and limited protection for batsmen.

With the Vatican announcing that it wants to play cricket, protection for batsmen has never been a more important issue of course, but to imply that batsmen are at the same level of risk in the 30s, is slightly delusional.

This concept was seen as unsportsmanlike, as it was hostile bowling aimed at injuring batsmen instead of the aim of the game, which was getting them out. Aiming the ball deliberately and hastily at batsmen was essentially intimidation. It embroiled the game in one of its most hotly contested controversies engulfing a single debate:

Is it ok to use intimidation [i.e. trying to hurt the batsman] to take wickets, or is it unsportsmanlike?

It happened a long time ago, during the Ashes series of 1932-33, and much has changed since then. Perhaps what has altered the most is the laws of the game.

In the immediacy of bodyline, amid diplomatic pressures both politically and between the MCC (then the governing body of the laws of the game) and Australia, this tactic was left down to captains and umpires to regulate. It was entrusted in them to ensure that bowling was in the ‘spirit of the game’ and that it was the intention for bowlers to get batsmen out and not to attack their body.

Of course, anyone that watched the West Indies of the 80’s, or Denniss Lillee and Jeff Thomson run in, are perfectly aware that they intended to intimidate quite often, and that the tactic of intimidation is legitimate if it is part of getting a batsman out in a plan.

It was not until 1957 that the law we know of today was established; that being that the fielding side may not have more than two fielders behind square on the leg side. This law was created before helmets, before covered pitches, before the injection that was the innovation of limited overs cricket with bat and ball, before mystery spin and most importantly, before the enfranchisement of more teams.

It is fundamentally a law to quash relations between England and Australia during an era in which fast bowling was genuinely dangerous. Cricket has undoubtably changed, and so should the laws. How do India and Pakistan seriously relate to this law, which they have never engaged with, and are essentially subject to, due to a previous dispute of old enemies.

Helmets have come into the game, as has extensive protection. Covered pitches are now firmly out of use in the Test arena, and a culmination of limited overs technique, and the use of science in sport, makes the game a very different one than it was in 1932-3, or 1957.

Modern cricket is certainly geared to be a batsman’s game, with bigger bats, shorter boundaries, selection of bowlers often on the basis of all-round contribution, and ability to adapt and innovate. Against quick bowlers, the use of reverse and switch hits have revolutionised One day batting, as has fielding restrictions.

Bearing in mind that especially against quick bowlers, batsmen are more protected than ever, the pitches are more benign than ever, and modern batting is more exuberant and innovative than ever, surely it is now time to re think this archaic law that presents a case that only two fielders are allowed in a quarter of the pitch, so the batsman doesn’t get hurt.

Not only against quick bowling is this law seemingly outdated, but against spin it is completely arbitrary. Versus spin bowlers this is an inherently irrelevant law, on the basis that spin bowlers generally are not bowling at a pace that is potent enough to injure. Batsmen would not have to worry about getting hurt, so the fact that two fielders are the limit on the leg side simply doesn’t factor into their decision making.

This law needs re assessment. Fielding sides have a tough enough time as it is with modern bats and modern batting, not to mention protection of batsmen and fielding restrictions, without being chained by further unnecessary restrictions. Bodyline laws were relevant 60 years ago. We must adapt and change in the same fashion that the game has

Paying the price for speeding

On the 13th July 2012 the cricket world woke up to the retirement of Brett Lee. He will always be one of the fastest bowlers of the modern game whether in Colours or whites, Or holding a bat or ball. He had a deadly bouncer and Yorker. In his peak he was able to reach searing paces of up to 98MPH but as he got older he gradually resigned from 98 MPH to around  88 MPH. Famed for his furious speed gun battles with Shoaib Akhtar,  he contributed to a global legacy of fast bowling but also reinforced a legacy that fast bowling meant being blighted by injury and inconsistency.

Shoaib Akhtar responded to  Lee’s retirement regretfully saying the following:  ”Cricket had very few express pace bowlers and now after the retirement of Lee we don’t have any bowler who can bowl 99 mph and the terror on the batsmen will be less”. Whereas the quickest are rated as the most dangerous to batsmen and i wouldn’t for a minute dispute that, their success  in terms of taking TEST wickets and longevity is questionable.

I am considering whether  it is ‘worth’ being an express quick bowler. I am not disputing ability and definitely not their place in the game. Long may it continue. However, the strain on the body of an express pace bowler like Allan Donald, Shane Bond and Brett Lee combined with the lack of breaks in International cricket means a limited career to limited overs due to fatigue, injury and a lack of management.  A quick bowler that suffers an injury is also unlikely to return at the same potent level of pace, as seen with Lee and Shoaib. Is it really worth all the ‘Blood Sweat and tears’?

Shoaib was lethal when he combined accuracy, control and raw blinding pace

Focusing on accuracy as opposed to pace means a bowler has a better wicket taking ability. A batsmen has less margin for error. If they make a mistake they are out. There are less gaps as more precise fields can be set and therefore the batsmen has to force the pace and make mistakes. The out and out quicks  tend to bowl less balls on the stumps. Fast bowlers also tend to bowl a little shorter, as fuller balls are easier to hit and race away at that pace. The typical fast bowler will use a full ball sparingly and focus on a good or short length trying to take catches not lbws or bowled wickets. It is the crucial difference. In this sense fast bowlers can arguably be less potent in terms of wicket taking.

Quick bowlers have less time to play due to losing their lethal pace and injury. For example Holding 60 tests and 249 wickets and retiring from tests at 33. Garner: 58 tests with 259 wickets in a ten year career, Roberts: 47 tests and 202 wickets and playing until just over 30 years old.  Ntini was relatively impotent nearing the end of his career and even Lee was down on pace. It’s inevitable that a fast bowler will have a much more limited period of effectiveness. This questionably implies quicks can not play as long as ‘line and lengthers’

Lee managed 76 tests and 300 wickets and Shoaib ended up with 178 wickets in under 50 games and both contributed to an incredible legacy of fast bowling. But, Mcgrath as the archetypal line and length bowler on the other hand played 124 games and 564 wickets. This is nearly 50 more games and producing an additional 200 more test scalps. McGrath was of course one of the best bowlers ever, but the point is they time period he was able t play and the wickets taken during that time.

Ambrose who was extremely fast enjoyed 98 tests and 405  wickets but even he was out bowled when compared to the more line and length but still very fast counterpart Walsh: 132 tests and 519 wickets. Walsh was able to play longer and still be effective by dropping his pace. Fast bowlers must generate pace somehow. Lillee and Thompson were lethal.  Lille had a classical but efficient fast action and played 70 games taking 355 wickets whereas Thompson  got 201 wickets in 51 games. Both lost pace and became less effective.

It is not that Fast bowling is not worth it, because it is. I am merely bringing attention to the limited character of their careers and arguable lack of management. Perhaps the key exceptions are Malcolm Marshall ( 81 games taking 376 wickets)  at an average of 20. and  of course Wasim Akram who had 104 games and over 400 wickets in tests and was the first to 500 ODI wickets.

We are seeing a further development in the story of the express bowler. Shaun Tait may be able to ‘terrify’ the batsmen with 100 mile an hour balls, but  the huge strain on his body has transformed him into a T20 specialist. He won’t be recognized in the test match arena and  will never leave a strong fast bowling legacy, because he does not play test or even ODI.

Essentially to conclude i would say, YES fast bowling is a good thing. Extreme pace bowling is also a good thing. Maybe it is unfortunate that bowling faster means injuries and a limited career, but i think it is something that should be accepted as opposed to change. The current state of fast bowling is healthy with plenty of very fast bowlers like Steyn, Morkel, Finn, Siddle, Harris, Malinga, Tait, Roach and plenty of others. We don’t want to lose them by making them slower but more importantly we don’t want to lose them through injury. It is increasingly my view that quick bowlers should scrap ODI cricket and focus on tests which is the pinnacle of the game and T20 which is the newly emerged ‘quick’ format and offers a financially viable form of cricket.

Eng v Aus series preview

England are Test champions and number one as well as T20 champions and ranked number one. The Australians are perhaps still clinging on their World number one space in One day cricket but will be a big challenge as they always are.

We have learnt that at home England are formidable though and have now won six consecutive home one day series. On paper i think England are stronger in the bowling and the Aussies are in the batting , but we all know that we do not play on paper we play on grass. Anything can happen when it is England v Australia. England named an unchanged 14-man squad for the one-day series against world number one side Australia. A great mix of experience and youth. Well oiled, tried and tested. Successful. England squad: A Cook (capt), J Anderson, J Bairstow, I Bell, R Bopara, T Bresnan, S Broad, J Dernbach, S Finn, C Kieswetter, E Morgan, S Patel, G Swann, J Trott.

Australia named a squad with some experience but a lot of unknown names to many. There is uncertainty as to their first team lineup and they are not as well oiled as England. Australia squad: M. Clarke (capt), S. Watson (vice-capt), G. Bailey, P. Cummins, X. Doherty, B. Hilfenhaus, M. Hussey, D. Hussey, M. Johnson, B. Lee, C. McKay, J. Pattinson, S. Smith, M. Wade (wk), D. Warner

To open: Cook and Bell. Of late these two have been successful both in the test match series and more recently the One day series. Ian Bell is now a really fluent and stylish player in all forms and his lovely hundred in the first one dayer struck a spot among many England that he is the replacement for Pietersen at the top. Alastair Cook’s ODI career comparison  of his form after January 2010 shows a radical change. Averaging over 50 with a strike rate of 90 hitting 4 tons and 8 fifteis.

Period Matches Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Till Dec 2008 23 702 30.52 68.15 1/ 3
Jan 2010 onwards 24 1191 54.13 91.47 4/ 8
Career overall 47 1893 42.06 81.17 5/ 11

The Aussies will open up with Watson and Warner. This is possibly the strongest aspect of the entire side.  Warner has a great ODI record hitting two tons and 4 fifites in under 30 games. He can really hit it big bringing a flavor of T20 into ODI. I would say that Watson although a good player and a brilliant allrounder, has a conversion problem with 151 games but only scoring 6 tons. He can play astonishing cricket though with knocks such as his 151 against Bangladesh in april ’11 in which he hit a world record 15 SIXES. It is arguably honours even with the openers. England are more steady and reliable but Australia could be more explosive. However England have better opening bowlers than Australia. They will pose more of a problem and master the conditions better.

Trott at three with  Bopara at four have a blend of obdurate defense and swashbuckling attack. Bopara has been in and out and Trott has a question mark as to his place in the ODI side as he is a slow scorer. However Trott has 3 tons and 15 fifties, averaging nearly 50 and is in the top 10 in the world. Arguably it would be better to have a more attacking player at three to get on with it but no one can argue with Trott’s place in this team really. The likes of Morgan, Patel, Kieswetter and Bairstow  etc have barely batted due to success in the top 4 and there is a lack of assurance on their permanent position in the order.

Australia’s middle order in most of the West Indies one dayers back in March, was made up of Forrest and Bailey with a smattering of Wade. A few fifities here and and there.  Forrest does however have a ODI ton. He could be a surprise. Clarke was absent from that specific WI tour but it is likely that the Aussie skipper will be at three. Clarke is averaging 45  with  7 tons and 51 fifties. He is the player the openers can accelerate around without the team falling apart and also the player the likes of Hussey x2 can kick on later whilst he keeps a steady ship. Michael Hussey in particular has a  great record averaging a shade under fifty. He has shown he can anchor the innings or explode at the end. I don’t honestly think England have that kind of anchor in the middle like Clarke or Hussey.England’s only real performer with the bat consistently has been Cook with 435 at an average of 72 and 3 tons.

England in the past 6 one dayers  have had two incredible stats: Firstly that in all 6 of them an opening batsmen has hit a ton and secondly, that  there has not been a single 5 wicket hall.  There have been 4 wicket halls for Finn, Dernbach and Bresnan but the wickets have been very spread out. This in my view indicates they do not rely on anyone but there is a constant pressure on the batsmen from every bowler. When Anderson and Finn end their first spell, Broad comes on with Bresnan. When they have finished then the world class Swann comes on. England’s bowlers; Anderson, Bresnan, Broad, Dernbach and Finn are formidable. It is likely  Broad, Anderson, Finn and Bresnan will play first up with Dernbach in reserve or rotated. With England it is crystal clear and only one or two changes are possible. Even those have been regular changes of the last year. England may be lacking ever so slightly with the bat but the bowlers will win England the game more often than not if the batsmen do not perform. Especially in their own conditions. Even with injuries

The aussies have a hell of a lot of options with seam and they have picked both Doherty and smith in the spin department too. Australia have  Hilfenhaus, Johnson, Lee, McKay, Pattinson, Cummins  and ( Watson.) No one is sure who the Aussies will play for the simple reason that Hilfenhaus has only recently returned to form, Mitchell Johnson has been re selected after a period of being dropped  and the likes of Cummins, Pattinson and Mckay are all vying for one spot. CJ McKay (Aus) in 2012 has 13 matches 22 wickets at average of 22.90  and .   B Lee (Aus) 13 matches 22 wickets  at 26.22. Both solid and we expect Lee to play but not so certain about Mckay. If they go for Hilfenhaus it will benefit them in the swing and seam department. If they go for Pattinson they will get a bit of everything but little experience overall and none of English conditions. The outside chance is for Cummins who is apparently very quick but i would say lower in the pecking order, and Johnson depending on if Australia still trust him. Australia  are unsettled.

To sum up this series in my opinion will be a series of England’s top quality bowlers against Australia’s settled and experienced aggressive batsmen. Both sides have batsmen that have performed in the last year and diverse bowling attacks. It should be an absolute cracker of a series that will have the hype that surrounds any England v Australia series. Hopefully it will help to ignite the summer of English cricket and prepare us all for the ultimate test match series v the South Africans later on. My prediction 2-1 England