August 2010

For Once I Think I'm Serious, Dammit.

by daniel 30. August 2010 19:13

To make your voice heard in the media you need to adopt one of two approaches -  opinions delivered as earnest sincerity, or relentless cynicism that in its more charming guise morphs into affectionate flippancy.


The latest allegations, leveled this time at members of the Pakistan cricket team of match manipulation for the purpose of defrauding bookies, presents the most penetrating of challenges for me. Everyone likes to be certain of their opinion, hence the bombast of the phone-in callers armed with no concrete information but fuelled by the giddy high of self-righteousness.


Conversely my certainty has always been that cricket is a game; it’s fun and silly and beautiful and rich in fantasy but if you take terribly seriously the actions of 22 men cavorting around with sticks and balls within a highly choreographed, rule based and frankly very camp environment, observed by thousands of people laden with picnics, you really do need to get out a little more.


But every thought I have on the affair, from Salman Butt’s jacket in that photo to the ludicrously stage managed indoor presentation ceremony replete with hushed Gower commentary, is met by a force of sincere and earnest rage in me with which I am very unfamiliar.


To illustrate the mental turmoil that besets the would-be wit, here are four thoughts I’ve tried to have on the subject and the corresponding opinion to which I am truly attached.


The charge is that by throwing in no balls to order, the accused payers are defrauding bookies. If that isn’t a victimless crime I don’t know what is. Bookies never lose; that’s how they build huge businesses. And after all, the Pakistan players are the worst paid in the world. Surely they should get our support in the struggle of the underdog against the oppressor?


Well, no. They’re defrauding all the punters who quite reasonably didn’t expect Pakistan to bowl 68 no balls in the series. Or whoever has got a bet on there not being a no ball. And the players are better paid than nearly all their compatriots whom they represent on the field. By being caught they threaten the livelihoods of their fellow players who are not involved in fraud, since it is very likely that, if found guilty, Pakistan will play far fewer matches, with smaller attendances, attracting less money. Any form of international cricket being played in Pakistan is now ever more unlikely with the attendant loss of revenue for everyone from rickshaw drivers to pavement food sellers, to hoteliers and so forth. The victims are legion and mostly poor, the beneficiaries of fraud are all, without exception, already wealthy.


But you’ve got to love the orgy of speculation and conspiracy theorizing that attends these “outrages”. Suddenly everyone thinks they know why Yousuf was banned, fingers are pointed at all and sundry, forums are ablaze with groundless accusations. Disproportionate grief and disgust is expressed by a mountain of maniacs. That has to be quite funny doesn’t it?


No. That’s what’s so outrageous about the alleged actions. Every cricketer now wonders whether he was right to feel elated about that wicket or that century. And not just against Pakistan. These allegations will result in official scrutiny of hundreds of matches and unofficial reflection by fans and players that could undermine the experiences of fans (many of whom will simply stay away from now on) and the professional career choices of thousands of players who will wonder what the hell they were doing for 15 years.


That presentation ceremony, though, you have to admit that was bizarre. Like watching old footage of half dead Russian premiers being dragged from hospital beds to cast a vote for themselves in fake elections.


Maybe it was bizarre, but in the most horrific of ways. If the crowd want to boo Amir they should have been allowed to. These allegations are all about secrecy, about somebody being in the know to the detriment of thousands of fans being taken for a ride. So what happens? They go scuttling into the Long Room, shuffling and mumbling their way through a stilted stage managed farce rather than face the music in a sprit of glasnost.


Surely the ODI series will be hilarious. If Pakistan suspend everyone whose name is associated with the allegations they won’t be able to put a team out. Is there enough time to organize a cricket style X factor with club players of Pakistani origin from around the UK auditioning for the vacant roles of no balling pace bowler, a keeper and a couple of batsmen for good measure?


The ODI series will either be cancelled - at a cost of £12million to the ECB which constitutes half its current reserves - or a load of matches will take place in an at best eerie atmosphere, at worst a down right hostile one. What’s to like about that?


Despite the nonsense about Lord’s hallowed turf, and the hyperbolic references to treachery and betrayal, on every count I find myself siding, on this occasion, with the outraged, the earnest and the sincere. For that, more than anything, I should be counted among the victims.


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Batting in a chair is hard but I still look better than Kamran

by ben 26. August 2010 00:01

So here we go again, for the final time this summer. The forecast for the first day is pretty bad but with play possible Friday-Monday we should have another result. Although Pakistan played much better last test I still don't believe that MoYo on his own has cured their batting worries. With cloud cover for the first couple of days and a Lords pitch that helps more early on I like the under on both team's runs lines at CricketBetLive. England are 2.35 for under 349.5 and Pakistan are 1.75 for under 299.5.

Kamran Akmal had another woeful test with the bat at the Oval and despite taking eight catches he only managed 90 points. For that reason I like the under on his line of 82.5. If you were listening in you will have heard Kiwi paceman Iain O'Brien give a clinic in how he assessed batsman. Part of that was him identifying how to bowl to Yasir Hameed and the England camp have obviously been listening in. I like the under on 19.5 runs for him.

Favourite bet is England under 349.5. Short post tonight as I've just got back from cricket tour which you can read about here if you're interested.

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A pygmy hedgehog would be a better keeper than Kamran

by ben 17. August 2010 10:49

Ahead of the third test Pakistan have had to make two enforced changes and one optional one. Zulqarnain Haider, the star of the second test and sofa favourite, has been ruled out of the rest of the series with a fractured finger. The injury was exacerbated by Stuart Broad hurling the ball at him during his innings of 88 so Kamran once again engineers a return to the side. Umar Gul pulled his hamstring and whilst Pakistan are hoping he can recover for the ODIs and T20 matches in September he will not feature in the two reamining tests. The options to replace him are Tanvir Ahmed and Wahab Riaz. Tanvir is a right arm pace bowler who has not played any international cricket even at the age of 30. He was however the leading wicket taker in Pakistani domestic cricket last year. Riaz is a left-armer who has featured for Pakistan before in five ODIs and a T20 but not since 2008. The final change will be to bring in Mohammed Yousuf for one of Umar Amin or Azhar Ali.

Although the Oval pitch should be easier to bat on than Edgbaston and Trent Bridge were, there will likely still be cloud cover to help the bowlers. I like the under on both sides runs and you can get England under 399.5 at evens at CricketBetLive. The Pakistan line is 290.5 and I like the under here as well. Even with MoYo back in the side they will struggle either against swing bowling at the top of the innings or Swann later on. The England runs line is a bit more debatable as without Gul Pakistan will probably really struggle if they are out in the field for any period of time. Despite that with Cook and Pietersen out of form we should at least get a chance to hedge out the bet around 350 as early wickets fall.

For individual bets I am going under Cook's runs line of 27.5 at CBL. The runs he got for Essex in the T20 semi-final hide an innings in which he still looked badly out of touch and the Hampshire bowlers gave him easy pickings. I am also going over Swann's player points line of 117.5. Pakistan will probably hold up a bit better on the Oval pitch than in previous tests so he should get a good chance to bowl at them. He should also pouch some catches at 3rd slip with the bounce and carry at the Oval.

One bet to be alert for in-running during the game is MoYo's runs line. He has now had some match practice at Worcester where he scored 40 from just 54 balls but this was against a 2nd string bowling attack for an already terrible county. He plundered most of those runs against Chris Russell who has only ever turned out for Worcester 2nd XI. Whilst he's obviously a class bat I suspect the run line will be too high and I would be edging towards the under.

Pick for the test is under on Cook's runs. Good luck.

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Our favourite cricketers. Episode 20: The Short Midwicket

by sophiajuliet 17. August 2010 09:09

Graeme Swann first came to my attention as a happy-go-lucky county pro who got on the radio just for being funny. He’d also played once for England, but overslept and missed the team bus. With blonde highlights in his hair and a spring in his step, he was a breath of fresh air when recalled to the England ODI team in 2007, and two wickets in his first over of test cricket also helped. Swann’s off-spin currently rivals anyone in world cricket, and he’s taken crucial wickets at crucial times (including an Ashes winning one). Now rated as the number three bowler in the world, Swanny is my ideal teammate; he’d win the game single-handedly on the pitch before having a great time in the bar afterwards. Which makes him my favourite cricket in the world.


Will Atkins blogs, podcasts, and dresses up as a panther at The Short Midwicket

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Our favourite cricketers. Episode 19: Dutch Bird

by sophiajuliet 16. August 2010 12:44

What is there to not like or admire about Kevin Pietersen? He must be the most charasmatic cricketer since Donald Bradman graced the crease. The humble South African is a substantial addition to any side both on the pitch and especially in the dressing room where his popularity is considered his team's 12th man. One of Pietersen's greatest attributes is to be the ultimate team man and opposition bowlers know perfectly well that they have to earn his wicket which he hasn't thrown away since playing for the Pietermaritzburg U12s in 1991. He can hit any shot in the book which makes setting a field for him ever more difficult. His propensity to hit anything bowled wide outside the off stump into the legside can only be applauded instead of attempting anything resembling a boring cover drive, a shot he doesn't rate over the mis-timed top-edge to mid on. Finally his work-rate and dedication (especially to his county) is revered in all echelons of the sport, he will drive all day (in his tasteful, understated, child-friendly car) to the other end of the country just for a nets session with his county's 2nd XI. Kevin Pietersen is the ultimate idol for English cricket - a true English gentleman.

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