The news that the ICC has banned the three Pakistan cricketers – Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir – for 10, 7 and 5 years respectively comes mostly as no surprise. The ICC had made its views on the issue quite clear if a guilty verdict was reached and the point needs to be made again that the ICC’s proceedings, although participated in by various people with legal qualifications and experience, are not those of a Court of Law. If the tribunal finds that the ICC’s rules have been broken then they have the right to impose whatever sanction they see fit within their published rules.
The BBC has been crowing about how the Ashes home series are “set for free-to-air return”. Let’s take a look at the reality of the situation and some of the different ways cricket is broadcast in the UK.
England won the Ashes in 2005 in what must rank as one of the best moments in sporting theatre for many years. I cried with joy when Rudi Koertzen and Billy Bowden lifted the bails from the stumps at the Oval to signal the first home Ashes win since 1985. But this was a series shown on Channel 4, not the BBC. If memory serves, the BBC didn’t bid for any rights after Channel 4 won the rights. So we had good coverage, good commentary (Mark Nicholas may be seen as a smoothie but from what I’ve seen of him he’s a nice guy, Simon Hughes is excellent, Geoff Boycott tells it straight, Tony Greig and Michael Slater added raw emotion and hype) and highlights at a reasonable (and fixed) time.
People will debate the rights and wrongs of Giles Clarke’s decision to then award the rights to BSkyB. The money received at grass roots club level was sorely needed. Sky’s cricket presentation has improved over the years and is now excellent.
Congratulations to Pakistan for winning the mens’ World Twenty20 competition and to England for winning the womens’ World Twenty20 competition.
Pakistan’s heartwarming triumph comes despite the stupidity, insensitivity and general antics of the Pakistan Cricket Board, who are probably the most unfit for purpose of the national cricket boards. Given how bad some of them are that really is an indictment of the PCB.
So let’s push Mr Insensitive, Ijaz Butt, out of the way and celebrate the mercurial Pakistan team. I’ve always had a lot of time for Younus Khan as a player. As a captain he’s managed to do what only Imran Khan did for Pakistan cricket and mould a team which won a major prize. He has given Shahid Afridi back his confidence. Afridi’s man of the match performances in the semi final and final show a cricketer who has matured. He is a livewire, a match winner and cricket is the better for his presence. Note also that no Pakistan player played in the recent IPL. Does that tell us something?
Never doubt the talent that Pakistan has available. Quite why Pakistan can produce 17 and 19 year old international cricketers who are ready for that level of cricket and England can’t I don’t know. It’s a joy to watch. Just think what Pakistan cricket could achieve if they had a sensible, well constructed administration overseeing the game. Again we’ve seen excellent support for Pakistan, India and Bangladesh here. If Pakistan isn’t to host home test matches, why not bring host them here in England?
The ultimate cricketing Pot Noodle show starts today. The World Twenty20 tournament is three weeks of hearing “Yahoo!” screamed from tannoys every time a bowler comes on, every time a batsman comes out and seemingly control freak measures which are a bit at odds with what is supposed to be a “fun” tournament.
The warm up matches have been interesting, certainly in terms of the hitting we’ve seen. James Franklin smashed two of the largest sixes I’ve seen, Luke Wright smacked another. As someone who’s never managed to hit a six (I’ve come close but never quite cleared the boundary) I’m always a little envious of those who middle a ball and send it into the crowd or out of the ground.
Because the weather is cold, wet and windy. Damn sure I wouldn’t want to be fielding at slip at Chesterfield today!
It’s been a bit parky chez Jamie for the last couple of days since the boiler pump started making noises which really belonged in a foundry. Not quite thermals under four layers stuff but it’s been on the nippier side of cold here. Thanks to Nick at Plumb Perfect for his prompt service and for educating Jamie in some of the dark arts of plumbing.
I think I know where Douglas Adams might have found the inspiration for Grunthos the Flatulent too. An encounter with a certain make of boiler pump which was making noises like Jamie’s stomach after he’s had a Pot Noodle (you really don’t want to know) might well have inspired him to name a character after it.
In the ICC World Cup qualifying tournament (where the Associate nations play each other to determine who gets places in the next World Cup), Scotland have saved their One Day International status but by a very small margin indeed. Bermuda have lost their ODI status, so we may never see Dwayne “Sluggo” Leverock (he of that slip catch against India – photos do not do it justice, it was a blinder of a catch) on our tv screens again. Ireland are through to the World Cup and Afghanistan have achieved ODI status for the first time in their history.
Huge congratulations to Afghanistan. The Netherlands’ Ryan ten Doeschate showed his class in a few games before heading back to Essex where we all hope he will have another great season. Yes, I’m a Brummie in Kent and I support Essex. Have done for years. Next year will mark 30 years as an Essex supporter.
Now I feel old.
Anyway, to the new cricket season and what’s going to attract my attention.
Now the England coach issue is settled and Andy Flower has got the job I’m more confident about the upcoming test series than I was previously. Andy Flower is one of the two men (the other being Henry Olonga) who stuck a huge middle finger up at Robert Mugabe by wearing black armbands to mourn the death of democracy in Zimbabwe. I think we can take it as read that he has plenty of bottle.
As a cricketer he was the best batsman in the world. Not an easy feat when you’re captain, opening batsman and wicketkeeper for the weakest test team at that time. Not for him the media friendly soundbites in the aftermath of a collapse. By dropping Steve Harmison and Ian Bell he has shown that complacency and mediocrity have no place in his squad. Whether or not England have the firepower to win the upcoming Ashes series is a good question. I’m not sure they do unless the ball is swinging, but time will tell. My gut reaction is a 2-1 win for Australia, 3-1 if we lose the first test of the series.
Domestically the fight for promotion from Division Two is what will interest me. Surrey and Essex are my selections to go up. Chris Adams, newly installed as Director of Cricket at Surrey, backed up by Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe and Martin Bicknell, will be looking for a huge improvement over last season. And any chance to watch Mark Ramprakash is well worth seizing. Middlesex might be in the hunt (Yay for Shaun Udal still going strong) but I think Surrey’s firepower will be too much and I feel that this is Essex’s year to win promotion.
Division One looks to me like a two horse race – Lancashire and Somerset – unless Steve Harmison can show some decent form and bowl all season like he did in that first test match at Lord’s against the Aussies in 2005. Pace, bounce and fire is what a strike bowler is supposed to bring. Harmison is a bowler who needs to bowl lots of overs to keep his machine working. Can Durham prove their title win last year was not a fluke?
With Langer and Banger at the top of the order (sorry, couldn’t resist that one), Somerset have lots of experience, nouse and barring injury, two key players who will be available all season. This could be their year. If the weather holds in the North West then Lancashire are in with a shout, although they will miss Stuart Law (now with Derbyshire) and James Anderson when he’s on England duty.
Hampshire are my dark horse team. No Shane Warne and Kevin Pietersen on England duty. Imran Tahir reported to be injured. They are a team to keep an eye on in all forms of the game. New captain Dimi Mascharenas says he has learned much from Shane Warne.
Warwickshire are also worth a look. I’m a great admirer of Ashley Giles. Criminally underrated as a cricketer, Gilo has set about rebuilding Warwickshire. It will be interesting to watch their progress.
The one day stuff is a bit like a lottery – whichever teams turn up on form will be the ones who win. Hampshire, Somerset, Lancashire and Essex are my choices to be in the mix for the one day trophies.
But then of course, the English weather may well have a few things to say.
Twenty20 England captain? I’d go for Dimi Mascharenas. Gut feeling. It will be interesting to see what things the English players taking part in the IPL bring back from the tournament.
Time will tell. Always does. One thing’s for sure – I’m looking forward to this season.