Posted by: tootingtrumpet | January 8, 2012

The Final Over of the Week in World Cricket January 8 2011

Some time in the last century

Ball One – With big money in the game these days, old cricketers tend to play as long as they are selected (and then go and play in Twenty20 cricket) – and why not? But at the start of 2012, there are a few veterans for whom time may be up long before 2013 hoves into view. One is Mark Boucher, who is not the eldest of the old guard at 35, but seems to have been around forever (actually nearly 15 years, so not far off!). Far from the youngest candidate for the gloves is Dane Vilas, Boucher’s fellow Cape Cobra, but he’s coming good at the right time. 187* and ten catches in a match in which only two other batsmen crossed fifty, is a handy way of barging to the front of the queue.

Ball Two – Martin van Jaarsveld has been around even longer than Mark Boucher, but experience is no defence against the slings and arrows of cricket’s outrageous fortune. His last eight innings have brought him scores of 0, 0, 5, 167*, 80, 38, 0 and 0 (including a pair that occupied four balls in his most recent match). van Jaarsveld’s savvy enough not to worry about the ducks and to enjoy the 80 and the 167* – but no batsman likes making scores between 20 and 60. Once the hard work is done, the best cash-in and van Jaarsveld (not to mention a few big name Indians) won’t want too many scores like 38 on his record at this stage of his career.

Ball Three – Finding ways to make knockout cricket work over four days is no easy matter, as the Ranji Trophy quarter-final between Rajasthan and Hyderabad illustrates. Having spent nearly half the match crawling to 421, once Rajasthan removed Hyderabad’s top five for 135, the game was effectively over just past its half-way point (since it was extremely unlikely that Hyderabad could get ahead on first innings or force the win). That a side can make 431-2d in 98 overs (as Hyderabad did second time round) and never be in with a sniff of advancing to the semi-finals seems unfair.

Ball Four – While India’s Test bowlers were being flayed by Ponting, Clarke and Hussey, India’s domestic bowlers were taking a bit of a pounding in the Ranji Trophy Elite quarter-finals too. That’s okay – bowling’s always been tough in India, but a format that allows three of the semi-finalists to have taken 12, 13 and 14 wickets (with only Haryana dismissing their opponents twice) is not the way to develop bowlers who can win Test matches. Next week’s semi-finals need to be won by taking twenty wickets on pitches that give the bowlers the chance to do so.

Ball Five – The England Lions (absurd name for a second string) are an exciting set of cricketers with talent to burn – which is exactly what they did in their first tour match going down like Keith Moon’s lead zeppelin against Bangladesh A. That can happen playing in alien conditions for the first time, but James Taylor’s team will want to redeem themselves in the four remaining “ODIs” and two T20s.

Ball Six – England’s batting has collapsed in a tour warm-up match vs an ICC Combined Associate XI. I’m not sure that matters much to England as the real business begins on nine days time, but it’s a feather in the cap of the opposition. If there were 466 days in a leap year, it would be great to see an Associate XI play regular Test series – they wouldn’t win many series, but they’d win a match or two and it would allow some dedicated and talented cricketers the chance to express themselves in the greatest format of the greatest game.

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Responses

  1. I think you are underestimating the strength in the associate ranks. This is short of their best possible XI, but they’d still be capable of rolling Sri Lanka and everyone below. Can’t say I’m a fan of the concept myself. Players ought to represent their nation, not a random collective constituted because the test nations don’t have the will to reform themselves.

    On knockouts… any time first innings points decides a game (or home advantage as in the Shield final) you risk a team opting for extended and negative batting. I’d opt for capping the total overs a team can play across both innings at half (in this case, 165 overs, in a test 225). If a team collapses in the first innings they can still bat long in the second; but at all times they need to play positive cricket.

    • I like the capping overs idea for knockout matches.

      Maybe an ICC Associates XI is a stepping stone? I’m not too bothered about players playing for their countries in Test cricket (I still can’t see a calendar that could work in terms of time and avoiding mismatches) as long as they play for their countries in the World Cup.

      • If you don’t care for nationalism and your primary aim is to reduce mismatches then logically, test cricket ought to be played as a domestic competition. I suspect you’d miss supporting England though, or playing Australia, and those latent nationalist feelings are just as important for Ireland et al and their supporters as for the established test sides.

        In theory it could be a stepping stone, but the primary barrier to more sides are (as you say) scheduling and mismatches. they won’t go away without reform.

        I’ve discussed how to schedule in a way that minimises mismatches and produces meritocratic competition before. In practice predicting what will be a mismatch and what a close game is not an exact science (as evidence of late: India vs England and Australia vs New Zealand). I’d be happy with anything that was a) meritocratic and b) keeps the number of matches needed to determine merit to a minimum. Mathematically, the closer two teams are in ability the more games needed to be sure of merit, which conforms precisely with what we’d want as fans.

        Pretty much anything would be better than what we have now, by the by, with this the inevitable result.

        • Russ, what I find interesting about that article you linked is the bit at the end about managing injuries. Why can they not use this data for creating best practise tour schedules rather than using it for pulling players out mid series due to excessive workloads?

        • Jim, from what I’ve read of sports injuries I suspect the primary problem is the second innings of a test match, followed by back-to-back tests. The first is insoluble without a rule change only I seem to agree with; the second directly conflicts with ongoing problems scheduling cricket.

          As I just alluded to, the best thing for injuries would be to introduce substitutes. I even wrote a post on the subject yesterday. There are other advantages too. But I’m yet to come across anyone willing to agree with (or even engage with) the idea.

  2. Can you think of a time when there was any collective urge to liven up Indian pitches or have batting/spin reverence and horticultural limitations always prevailed? In any case it certainly puts Srinath’s achievements in home matches in perspective: 106 wickets in 32 Tests at 26. Not on the subcon, but a great piece of classic Benaud commentary in this clip when JS catches Thorpe amidships…

  3. Sorry, I didn’t realise that would post as an embedded clip.

    • That’s fine Pavops – I’m glad it’s embedded. I saw Srinath and few times, and I thought he was very good, especially when paired with Prasad. He suffered a bit for following Kapil, but he’d walk into any Indian side I can recall in 30 odd years of watching cricket.


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