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World Twenty20 Afterthoughts

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?

Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester would all be delighted to host Pakistan’s games.  I’m certain they would get good crowds.  The Champions Trophy game between Pakistan and India was a delight, the atmosphere in Birmingham was wonderful.

Credit to Sri Lanka too.  For entertaining cricket, outstanding fielding and in Kumar Sangakkara a captain who speaks and writes as classily as he plays the game.  With men like Sangakkara and Younus Khan playing at the top level and setting an example for others, at least the playing side of the game is in good hands.  Sangakkara’s point in the post match interview about players with unique attributes (Murali, Malinga, Mendis) being allowed to blossom instead of being overcoached by devotees of the biomechanics brigade is a good one.  Would a Murali, Malinga or Mendis have made it to test level in England?  Or even first class level?

In the West Indies team we have seen roots of the future.  It lies with Dwayne Bravo, Lendl Simmons and other young players.  West Indies cricket isn’t short of its own administrative problems and like the PCB needs a good sorting out.  I’ll leave it to others better versed in the knowledge and history of West Indies cricket to comment in more detail.  It’s sad to see a West Indies side losing so much, after being brought up on the near invincibility of the all conquering West Indies pace machine.

Australia were disappointing.  Don’t for one minute think that means they will be a walk over in the Ashes.  I think Mitchell Johnson will be a huge player for them.  New Zealand, hit by injuries and unable to field a full strength team did as well as could be expected.

India were deeply disappointing.  Given that they play more Twenty20 than almost anyone else it was disappointing to see India not make the Super 8s.  Gary Kirsten is a good thinker on the game and will work hard to make sure the mistakes of this tournament do not resurface.

South Africa were my tip for the final.  Outplayed on semi final day, they will come again.  They are going on the right track.  I really thought they were going to win the tournament.  Don’t bet against them next time around.

England were inconsistent, beaten by the Netherlands and ultimately disappointing. They need to find a philosophy and tactics to live by.  Bowling right arm around the wicket is negative, as is making silly gestures when running in to bowl.  I didn’t get that “2005 aura” from them.  Selection didn’t help.  Twenty20 is so often about hitting boundaries yet Mascharenas was dropped and Napier never played.  There is too much uncertainty in England’s play and selection, not enough “brave cricket” for me.

The Netherlands will forever remember the night they beat England.  The Associate nations need good four day cricket and exposure to playing countries’ A sides if they are to continue to improve.  Ireland had their moments and with a little more progress can become a real obstacle to major sides.

Credit must go to Steve Elworthy and his team for another successful World Twenty20 event.  Credit must also go to whoever decided to pair the Womens’ semis and final with the Mens’ event.  That gave the Womens’ event much needed television coverage.  The ladies might lack some of the power that the men possess but don’t doubt the technical skills, the commitment or the desire.  The semi final between England and Australia was more exciting than many of the games in the mens’ event.  And it was a textbook demonstration of how to chase down a large total sensibly.

The England womens’ cricket team are now world champions in every form of the game: Test, 50 over and 20 over.  Nobody else has achieved that, not even in the mens’ game.

We have seen some wonderful fielding which should go into a textbook on how to catch, throw and field.  Some of the over the shoulder catches have been excellent.  We have seen some excellent batting – textbook batting rather than throwing your front leg out of the way and swinging madly.  We have also seen innovation from Tillekeratne Dilshan, a player reinvigorated by this format of the game. Spin bowling has been to the fore as has good pace bowling.

Umar Gul, mindlessly questioned by some as cheating in the game against New Zealand, has bowled beautifully, with control and just enough movement when conditions were right.  Another player I have a lot of time for.  he gets the basics right.  Ajantha Mendis is compulsive viewing.  How he does what he does with a cricket ball I don’t know (and I’ve tried it in the garden).

Fielding was improved by the introduction of the 50 over game.  It may become further improved by the arrival of the 20 over game.

The presentation ceremony after the womens’ final only had one bad point.  Giles Clarke looked like he had slept in his suit the previous night.  All the other dignitaries were suited and booted, pressed and very presentable.  Except the ECB chairman.  It doesn’t take too much effort to get your suit dry cleaned, the trousers in a press, shirt ironed and shoes polished.  Very disappointing.  In the presentation after the mens’ final Mr Clarke looked more presentable.  Maybe somebody had a word.

From what I’ve seen of the tournament it has been a good one.  The television coverage here in the UK has been good too.  None of this “DLF maximum” or “Citi moment of success” garbage.  The tannoyed cries of “Yahoo!” whenever a bowling change was announced were annoying and I think the ICC need to look at that.  Yes, the ICC has a partnership with Yahoo but this is cricket, not a country and western festival. If I want “yee-haw!” or any variant thereof I can go to a local line dancing club thank you very much.

Nick Knight is an excellent addition to the Sky Sports commentary team. He speaks and explains well and does so from experience.  I liked him as a player but as a commentator he is fantastic.  David Lloyd will always be a favourite of mine because of his Lancastrian turn of phrase. Pairing him with Ian Chappell was a masterstroke.  Chappell speaks his mind and is always worth listening to.  The pair working together add extra enjoyment and understanding.

Nasser Hussain is becoming the Brian Walden or the Jeremy Paxman of the cricket world.  Not surprising if you’ve read his excellent autobiography, “Playing With Fire”.  When many players are becoming clones issuing the same soundbites sports programming needs people like Nasser who can ask the hard questions and push past the soundbite screen.

Twenty20 may bring new followers to cricket.  It may bring improvements in fielding, new ways of thinking and new pace to cricket.  These are good things.  But to get to stages like this, players still have to come through to first class cricket. The basic skills needed for the first class game are as essential as they ever were.  Twenty20 builds on and innovates from those basics.

Published incricketSport