Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Kids Are All Right?

Yesterday, Yorkshire broke the record for fielding the youngest ever First Class player. Bearing in mind the fact that literally millions (maybe not millions but a fair few thousand) players have played First Class cricket over a couple of hundred years, and that the previous record was set in 1867, this is a fairly extraordinary feat. Well, sort of.

Barney Gibson, who was born 15 years and 27 days ago, was picked for Yorkshire's game against Durham University. Legally, Gibson cannot drive a car. He cannot have a drink. He can't smoke. He can't have sex. He can't join the army. And in most professions, he can't even get a job. Yet here he is playing first class cricket.

I don't want to judge Gibson on his keeping or batting, mainly because I haven't seen either. And I don't want to be too harsh to the poor lad, just because I'm bitter because I wasn't playing first class cricket at 15 (I've come to terms with the fact I'm unlikely to play first class cricket at any stage of my life). But he does appear to be in the middle of a pointless publicity stunt from Yorkshire.

Gibson seems a fairly slight lad, which is perfectly normal for a 15 year old. He's not one of those teenagers who clearly were fed some sort of steroid from a young age who have a beard, pierced ears and a kid. While he may be some child prodigy while facing other 15 year old bowlers, I'd hazard a guess that he simply isn't ready to face proper adult bowling at first class level. While I could go on to talk about Yorkshire having a duty of care to Gibson (which they probably do), I won't, mainly because it's fairly irrelevant.

What is relevant is his age. 15 years and 27 days. Young enough to break a record. This game between Yorkshire and Durham Uni is at best pointless, and at worst a waste of everyone's time. So why not liven it up a bit by breaking a 144 year old record? Gibson almost certainly isn't ready for first class cricket, but if it helps generate a nice news story and a bit of attention for a game which would otherwise have slipped under everyone's radar, then why not pick him? But would he have played were he another 102 days older (old enough to not break the record)?

The fact that the previous record stood for 144 years shows that it won't be beaten anytime soon. So Gibson will more likely than not have to carry the mantle of "youngest ever First Class cricketer" around for the rest of his career. I don't know Gibson, so I don't know how he'll deal with the tag, but what I do know is that young cricketers attempting to make their way in the game need as little distraction as possible. How Gibson will deal with the added pressure is yet to be known, but chances are that it won't help. Gibson may go on to captain England and do all kinds of cool things in cricket, but the selfish decision from Yorkshire has put the spotlight firmly on him and giving him an unfair disadvantage. Which I think is a shame for the lad, because instead of being able to do normal 15 year old things like playing FIFA or drinking cider in the park, he's going to have to learn how to give an interview without saying "at the end of the day I just want to let my cricket do the talking".

Plus, university games shouldn't be first class, so the record should be reversed.

And finally...

A video of Barney Gibson batting back in 2009. He was 13!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Podcast - Just an Excuse for a Big Lunch

Download here

After an IPL provoked absence, Will's been provoked into a podcast thanks to Slinger Malinga's preference for the greens over the whites. (Green being the colour of money. And whites being the colour of test cricket.) Chris Gayle's also turned his back on his country in order to satisfy his bank manager, so Will looks at why. Plus some stuff about whether Dilshan will actually be Sri Lankan captain at all, and some more about the money-grabbing ICC and their evil associate-killing ways. Spiceworld!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Hildreth for England?

Today, the Official England Cricket Facebook page launched their new picture for the 2011 season. As well as the standard pictures of Steve Finn hugging Graeme Swann, and Lottie Edwards directing people, there other picture is of James Hildreth.

What can we read into this? That Hildreth is the man to fill Paul Collingwood's void in the test team? It's speculative, and unlikely, but as teenage gossip mongerers everywhere know, once something's Facebook official, it's pretty much guaranteed.

For more Facebook related shenanigans, 'like' the Short Midwicket Official Facebook page

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Middlesex Season Preview

For all us Middlesex fans, it's that time of year again where we just dare to dream. Could this be the year? Could this be the year where the inconsistencies are ironed out, and the promise and potential are realised on the pitch? Could this be the year where the luck turns, or where someone makes thousands of runs or takes hundreds of wickets?

This is almost what makes being a Middlesex fan as disappointing as it inevitably is. There is always so much promise and potential, but this is rarely realised. Other than the 2008 T20 win, Middlesex have consistently underperformed for the past however long, and should have been doing much better. The team is always strong on paper, but fail to meet expectations on the pitch.

This year, like all of the other years, is no different. Looking at Middlesex's squad, there are some very talented players. There are the international stars in Strauss, Morgan, Finn and Stirling, as well as those who have proven their abilities as top county players in Murtagh, Rogers, Dexter and Malan. On top of that are the emerging young talents such as Roland-Jones, Housego and Simpson, which all should bode well. However, as we know, this is rarely the case.

While Finn may play more this year than last, the likely promotion of Morgan to the test side means he will join Strauss in only featuring fleetingly for Middlesex. And inconsistencies and injuries mean that the team is often being dragged along by a couple of individuals rather than performing as more than the sum of its parts.

So that's the doom and gloom out of the way. And now to the most dangerous part of being a Middlesex supporter - the hope. This team could be brilliant. Malan and Dexter had superb seasons last year and will be mainstays of the batting order with Newman, who finished very strongly. Add to the mix Chris Rogers, who averages over 51 in FC cricket, and Jamie Dalrymple when available, this batting line up will be incredibly strong even without Strauss and Morgan. Further down the list will be John Simpson, who keeps growing as a cricketer both with bat and behind the stumps; Gareth Berg, who is able to play as either a batsman or a bowler, and his all-round abilities adds a lot to the team, and Dan Housego, who is just waiting for that breakthrough season which could well be this one.

The bowling is equally as strong. While O'Brien and Collins have had to depart thanks to the ECB's regulations, the additions of Ireland and Collymore more than makes up for the losses. Tim Murtagh has taken millions of wickets over the past few years, and while he was quiet last time, his pre-season form suggests a wicket heavy summer. And as Steve Finn is no longer in the test team, he'll be available far more often this year, and the prospect of facing him will have many Division Two batsmen shaking in fear. Spin is probably the side's weakest point, but Ollie Rayner is around for a few months from Sussex, and Tom Smith performed capably when required last term.

A Middlesex fan can never get too far ahead of himself, as history suggests that another inevitable season of disappointment will follow. But with a quiet but effective captain in Dexter, plus a side who do look very strong, there's a feeling that maybe, just maybe, this could be THE year.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

A Bandwagon That Worked!

Way back when, after England legend Jamie Dalrymple was ousted amidst plenty of controversy from Glamorgan, I started a bandwagon. Having always been a Dazzler fan from his success at Middlesex and his all-round brilliance in ODIs for England, I started to tweet the #dalrympleformiddlesex hashtag.

I know it didn't have much of a chance. Middlesex were hardly flush with cash, and had announced they were happy with who was already there. Plus, Dalrymple left under a bit of a cloud a few years back, so getting him in would be a long shot. But still, I hashtagged anyway, hoping the powers that be would see the bandwagon, and sign him up.

The months went on, and Dalrymple remained unsigned by any county. My faith remained, and the bandwagon continued. The Kenyan born off-spinning batting hero remained in limbo, and the #dalrympleformiddlesex bandwagon grew.

Until finally, on the eve of Middlesex's season starting, it was announced that Dalrymple had re-signed for Middlesex. While head honcho Gus Fraser said things about "fine cricketer", "natural leader" and "match winning middle-order batsman", sources close to Gus claimed that the real reason was the public pressure created by the #dalrympleformiddlesex bandwagon. I'm taking the credit.

On a more serious note, how strong will Middlesex's batting line up be this season? If all are fit and available, Middlesex will have a batting order of Strauss, Rogers, Malan, Dexter, Morgan, Dalrymple and Simpson. Throw into the mix the likes of Murtagh, Roland-Jones and Finn, it looks as though Middlesex have the makings of an incredibly strong county side. While this team will never play together as an eleven due to international and other committments, on paper Middlesex should be pulling up a few trees. However, as it always is with the Middle, the key is finding a level of consistency, and performing to the level expected week-in, week-out.

But anyway, here's a nice flash image of Dalrymple's finest hour, THAT catch in the 2007 ODI series against Australia...

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Idiot's Guide To The IPL - Part Four

You've been accosted by the friendly Indian waiter at your local curry house, and having read the first few parts of this Idiot's Guide have blabbered something vaguely coherent about the confusing format and the expensive teams. But what to do now he sighs and complains about the Citi Moment of Successes? Read on for The Idiot's Guide to the IPL - Part Four!


Much of the point of the IPL is making money. Hence the ridiculously convoluted fixture list. If you watch even 10 minutes of coverage of the IPL, you'll see the money-making in action. While regular watchers of test cricket will probably see an advert every 15 minutes (plus longer ones at the innings intervals or at drinks), it's not uncommon to see advertisements after each delivery of the IPL. The coverage of the IPL is watched by literally millions each day, so each second of airtime is worth plenty, and up for grabs. "Dead" seconds are wasted money-making opportunities, so look out for frequent adverts while the fast bowler's walking back to his mark, or other similiar times where the action isn't a million miles an hour.

These adverts help keep the IPL at the forefront of the money-making industry, and on top of that, they've managed to get companies to sponsor individual things that happen. So here's the complete list of IPL jargon.


DLF Maximum - Said whenever someone clears the rope. (In English - Six runs)

Karbon Kamal Catch - When someone plucks the ball out of the sky without it bouncing. (English - a catch)

Citi Moment of Success - Something good that happens. (English - usually a wicket, but could be a good bit of fielding or something)

MRF Blimp - A big floating thing in the sky. (English - a big balloon)

So you know the format. You know the teams. You can even tell your DLFs from your MRFs. I think you're ready to enjoy the IPL, and not be an idiot. Well, be as much as an idiot as me.

*NOTE - I've had some messages pointing out that "The Idiot's Guide" contains an incorrect apostrophe. Well, it doesn't, as I was calling myself an idiot, so as such, the apostrophe is correctly placed. Up your's.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Idiot's Guide To The IPL - Part Three

Yesterday was the teams of Group A. Now it's Group B's turn.

Group B

Kolkata Knight Riders - Led by Sourav Ganguly for the first three years, the KKR disappointed massively, being the only team to never make the semi-finals. However, Ganguly wasn't retained for this year (or even picked up by any other team), and they'll now be led by Gautam Gambhir. The KKR have some excellent all-rounders in Shakib Al-Hasan, Jacques Kallis, Yusuf Pathan and Ryan ten Doeschate, as well as Eoin Morgan (and Gambhir himself) which will lead to a very strong batting line-up. The bowling will be led by experienced Brett Lee, and he'll work alongside young buck James Pattinson (brother of England legend Darren). Could have a chance if it all comes together, but will need the lesser known Indian players to really step up.

Kochi Tuskers Kerala - The other new franchise this year, Kochi have spent big to try and get off to a good start. They'll be captained by Mahela Jayawardene, and will trust in big guns Brendon McCullum, VVS Laxman and Muttiah Muralitheran. While they have recruited plenty of overseas names, not many of them are the big international stars seen in the other teams, but the KTK will hope they can elevate Kochi in a season where expectations appear fairly high.

Royal Challengers Bangalore - Like Kochi, the RCB have a smattering of big names but will have to rely on some lesser known Indians to lead them to success. Captained this year by Virat Kohli, they do have the big names of Dan Vettori, Tillekeratne Dilshan and Zaheer Khan alongside T20 specialists Dirk Nannes and Charl Langevelt, and could be in with a chance if they get off to a good start.

Rajasthan Royals - Shane Warne's inaugral winners of IPL1 have had their ups and downs ever since (poor seasons ultimately followed by expulsion, then reversal of that decision), and as always, the Royals are the underdogs who can thrive on their status. With Rahul Dravid, Shane Watson and Ross Taylor in the side the batting will be strong, and the Royals will have canny Johan Botha and Paul Collingwood in there as well. Warne aside, the trump card can be Shaun Tait. If he stays match fit he can be devastating. The Royals have had a habit of unearthing superb unknown Indians, and they will hope that this year is no different. They may have to rely on the local talent if they are to achieve anything this year.

Chennai Super Kings - The reigning champions are very strong, and are some people's favourites to take home the IPL crown again. Led by World Cup winning skipper MS Dhoni, there is strength throughout, with Suresh Raina and Mike Hussey as batsmen, all-rounders in Albie Morkel, Dwayne Bravo, Scott Styris and Faf du Plessis, and strong bowling in Doug Bollinger, Tim Southee, Nuwan Kulasekara and Ravichandran Ashwin. Could go a long way in the competition.

So there's the teams of Group B, following yesterday's appraisal of Group A. If you want my honest thoughts - Chennai and Mumbai are favourites, but a team like Pune or Kolkata could come from nowhere to shock a few. Check back tomorrow for some another Idiot's Guide to the IPL.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The Idiot's Guide To The IPL - Part Two

So you've spent the past 24 hours absorbing the format. So now you've bluffed your way through that chat with the friendly IPL fan, what to say when he asks about the teams? Who are your men to watch, who are the teams who will be involved at the business end of the tournament (sometime in 2015)? Fret no longer, as The Idiot's Guide to the IPL Part Two is here!

So who are the favourites this year? Well, the bookies make Sachin Tendulkar's (you may have heard of him) Mumbai Indians the shortest price, followed by Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore. After that, it's the also-rans and the rest.

While Mumbai had a great year last year, and Chennai even won it, technically the previous editions shouldn't have any bearing. A new auction was set up, with the talent being supposedly evenly spread around the various franchises (although the teams were allowed to retain the services of four top players from previous years). And while some teams have hoarded the big name overseas players, the rules say that only 4 non-Indians can play at any one time. So let's have a look at the various teams that will contest IPL4.

In today's Idiot's Guide I'll have a look at the five teams in Group A, while tomorrow will be Group B.

Group A

Mumbai Indians - Captained by Sachin, and keeping hold of some big name players, Mumbai are favourites this year. With Kieron Pollard, Rohit Sharma and Andrew Symonds they'll hit big, and in Lasith Malinga they have a deadly player with the ball. Downside is that there are nine overseas players - who may not be too pleased if they're on the bench every game. Squad perhaps a bit top heavy, with some huge names followed by some not very big ones, but the MI will hope the lesser known guys can step up to complement the big performances of the stars.

Delhi Daredevils - Choosing only to retain Virender Sehwag, who captains the side, the Daredevils selected a almost completely new squad from before. Only Sehwag and South Africa's Morne Morkel were at the World Cup, which could play into their hands compared to the fatigue of other teams. The DD have "taken punts" on a few players, with lesser known overseas Aussies Travis Birt, Matthew Wade and Aaron Finch all getting selected - but they've all excelled in the Big Bash so could really pay off. Big hitting David Warner will return at the top of the order as well. The Daredevils have gone for inexperienced players who could pay off spectacularly, but then again, the lack of star players may count against them as they could slump in form. Will be interesting to see how they go.

Deccan Chargers - After winning IPL2 (the South African one) under the stewardship of Adam Gilchrist, the Chargers released all of their players and started again. Now with a new wicket-keeper/captain in Kumar Sangakkara, the Chargers have a completely new squad, filled with some big names. While they will probably miss Kevin Pietersen for the tournament due to injury, Dale Steyn, Sangakkara, JP Duminy and Cameron White are all big names and proven T20 players, as well as having local internationals such as Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha and MS Gony on the books. Could be dark horses as have strength in both batting and bowling.

Kings XI Punjab - Deccan's loss is Punjab's gain, as Adam Gilchrist comes in to captain the Kings XI, who have been the whipping boys of previous IPL's. However, in Gilchrist, David Hussey and Dinesh Karthik, Punjab have players who have been there and done it in T20s, as well as handy players in Piyush Chawla, Ryan McLaren and Shaun Marsh. Not much is expected of the Kings XI, but they will hope to improve on the previous disappointments.

Pune Warriors India - Not a great deal is known about the new boys Pune, but they're captained by World Cup Man of the Moment Yuvraj, as well as boasting the likes of Jesse Ryder, Angelo Mathews, Graeme Smith and world's greatest T20 bowler ever Alfonso Thomas. Not much is known about the Warriors, and as such, could spring a few surprises.

So there's the teams of Group A. Check back tomorrow for some Idiot's Guides to the teams of Group B.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Taking The World Out Of The World Cup

The ICC, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to make the 2015 and 2019 World Cups a ten team tournament. As well as this, they've decided to put an end to the qualifiers, thus booting out the associates, and denying them any chance to dine at cricket's top table.

Before I get going on a roll of anger and fury, I should point out that it's pretty obvious that having six minnows was far too many this World Cup. Yes, we had glorious games such as Bangladesh and Ireland beating England, but there were far too many thrashings of the Dutch, Kenyans and Canadians to make their World Cup worthwhile. Probably the fairest idea would have been a 12 team cup, where the non-test playing nations have to earn their way in, but alas this is not the case. The World Cups of 2015 will see no Ireland, Holland, Kenya, Scotland or Afghanistan. It will be the same-old same-old mutually back-scratching closed shop. And it just shouldn't be.

For starters, and in what appears to be a fairly glaring error, the ICC have named the ten teams of the 2015 World Cup, but they are not to be the top ten teams in ODI cricket. As it stands, Ireland are ranked tenth, ahead of Zimbabwe, who will play instead of them at the next World Cup. Zimbabwe (a team who haven't played test cricket for a number of years) will play on the back of their test status in an ODI tournament. Seems odd, doesn't it?

I'll give the ICC a small bit of leeway, and I can kind of see the point to a ten team tournament. Whatever is said about the minnows, a couple of spirited efforts aside, there were more maulings than memorable victories. But putting the format of the World Cup to one side, it doesn't matter if there were 10 teams or 100 teams if there isn't a qualification process. What do the associate teams have to work towards now if there isn't the incentive of a possible World Cup spot for all of their hard work? This whole generation of associate players have suddenly had the relevance of their international futures taken away from them. Previously, they would be playing matches around the world in readiness for the World Cup qualifiers, and once qualification had been reached they could prepare themselves for the challenge of playing the bigger teams. Now, the likes of Ireland, Holland and the rest will be playing each other in meaningless friendlies, with little or nothing at stake.

The Irish cricket team is an obvious case in point. They've managed to get themselves into the top 10 teams in the World, and came very close to some upsets in this World Cup (including memorably beating England, of course). They have a golden generation of talent, with George Dockrell and Paul Stirling joining the experienced Ed Joyce and Trent Johnston, plus other men who shone this World Cup such as the O'Brien brothers, Boyd Rankin and William Porterfield (the man touted as being the best captain at the World Cup). Irish coach Phil Simmons has spent the past few years assembling this team so they'll be able to compete, and beat the established teams. They now won't be able to play World Cup cricket for the next 8 years (at least). What's the point in bringing through young talent or coaching the current crop to make them better? For young cricketers in Ireland, what's the point in practicing and playing cricket, if they won't be able to play in any meaningful matches?

The ICC has a responsibility as the guardians of the game to help nurture and grow cricket in nations which currently aren't playing tests. We've seen at this World Cup just how far cricket has come in some of these places, yet in one fell swoop the ICC have set back cricket to a near fatal level. Don't pretend for one minute that the ICC aren't protecting their interests by doing this. Having only 10 teams would only make the games between the bigger sides more frequent, so as such, the ICC stand to charge more money for the already lucrative TV rights. Instead of making money at the associates expense, the ICC should be investing this money into the infrastructure of cricket in the countries to help them improve. Instead, they've pulled the life-support plug out. What the ICC have done is a scandal - in fact it seems pretty criminal. The decision will deprive these countries of any meaningful cricket any time soon, which will set back nations which were beginning to flourish by decades. As mentioned in Cricket With Balls' post, the cricket world must show some sort of support for the felled associates. While it may not achieve much, the ICC have to know that this simply isn't tolerable.

Email the ICC ( or tweet them ( to let them know of your displeasure. Make big banners to hang over the pavilion at Lord's. Do whatever. This decision from the ICC is so disgraceful (even for them) that the just cannot get away with it.

Podcast - Campeones, Campeones, Olé Olé Olé.

Download this episode

So the World Cup has it's champions, and you can't argue with that. And why would you? Will takes a look at the whys and wherefores of the final, and who were the men who made it happen for India. Also discussed are the Team of the Tournament (Will names one), and the potentially tricky-to-sort-out format for 2015 (which, by the way, will be won by England). Something else that can't be argued with is the winner of Fantasy League on Cricinfo (I'll give you a clue, it's Will), and the winner is brought to air live. And you can't argue with that.

An Idiot's Guide To The IPL - Part One

So, you're a cricket fan. You've probably had a cursory glance at this year's IPL, and not really understood it. Don't worry, you're not alone. Here's the first part of the "Idiot's Guide To the IPL 2011".

The format

The last few years, the IPL's been a pretty easy tournament to understand. There are eight teams, who all play each other twice. So 14 games per team in the groups. While it may not be the shortest tournament in the world, it was pretty easy to understand. The top four in the group stage went through to the semi-finals, before the semis and the finals determined the winners. Easy enough.

However, IPL4 (as it shall henceforth be known) isn't that simple. The addition of two new teams mean that having a double round-robin league stage simply wouldn't be feasible, as the 94 games that would entail would mean we'd be still playing IPL cricket in December. So, the organisers of the IPL in their infinite wisdom, have created what could be the single-handedly most confusing format ever. So here it is.

The two teams are split into two groups of five. Each team plays the others in their group home and away. Understandable? Good. Then, they play one of the teams of the other group (assigned by a random draw) home and away too. After that, they will also play against the other four teams in the opposite group in a one-off game.

So they'll play against five teams home and away (four from their group, plus one other), and then against the other four teams either home or away.

You may want to read through that a few times, just so you can get your head around it. I've simplified it as much as I can, but I'm still struggling to comprehend it.

Here are the groups.

The groups are used just so they can work out the fixtures, but everyone gets put into one big league table so they can work out the knockout stages. Again, this is complicated, so pay attention.

Instead of straight knockout cricket, the tournament is organised as such:

The winners of the league (1) play off against the team who came second (2) in Game A. The team who came third (3) take on the fourth team (4) in Game B.

Whoever wins Game A goes straight into the final. Whoever loses Game A, however, goes into a knockout game with the winner of Game B (which is called Game C). Whoever wins Game C faces off against the winners of Game A in the final. Get it?

Basically it's designed to reward the top teams in the league, by granting them a second chance after losing their first playoff game. Conversely, it also makes it harder for the 3rd and 4th placed league teams, as they would have to win three playoff games to take home the IPL crown.

If you still don't quite get it, here's a neat flow diagram.

Understand all of that? Don't worry if it's massively confusing, just check back to this guide, and all will be made easy. Sort of.

Come back tomorrow for your idiot's guide to the teams!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

2011 County Players To Watch - T20

Who's going to dominate the T20? These guys...

Chris Woakes - Warwickshire: After one of my longest running (in the 10 months of me having the site) bandwagons, Chris Woakes was selected for England during the Australia ODI series. Woakes is blessed with an ability to control the ball and keep it tight, while also being a real wicket taking option, making him the perfect T20 bowler. He's also pretty flipping good in Four Day and Forty Overs, and he's just hit a century for the Lions. So all in all, Chris Woakes should be England captain.

Tim Murtagh - Middlesex: Was I ever going to go through a county players to watch list without getting Murtagh in somewhere. Was a bit indifferent last year, but is a really great T20 bowler (on top of everything else), so watch out for a resurgent Murts as the Pink Army advance towards the T20 title... (you heard it here first!)

Alfonso Thomas - Somerset: Simply the best death bowler in T20s ever. You can't argue with the figures (although Dirk Nannes might), and Thomas is set to have another great season all round, but T20 is his forte. Expect wickets.

2011 County Players To Watch - One Dayers

Who's going to be the ones that stand out in pyjamas? These guys will be there or there abouts...

Peter Trego - Somerset: That Trego hasn't played many times for England is nothing short of a crime. The best all-rounder in the country in One Day cricket; a man who can bowl brilliantly in the middle overs or at the death with some fairly pacy stuff, and can thump the ball a hell of a long way. If he doesn't get the England recognition he deserves, look out for him propelling Somerset to the business end of the CB40 once more this year.

Paul Stirling - Middlesex: Stirling was a Middlesex player last year, but other than one T20 game he was playing around the world for Ireland rather than for the Pink Army. However, his Irish commitments will be far less this year, so expect some big hefty blows, as well as canny spin from the well-built Ulsterman. You saw what he did to top class bowling in the World Cup, so heaven knows what he'll do to some of the very ordinary attacks he'll be up against in the CB40 this summer.

Neil Carter - Warwickshire: An obvious pick to choose the MVP of the county season last year, but one-time Middlesex legend (for a week) Carter looks pretty well placed to replicate it. If he has even half as good a season as last, expect plenty more accolades to go his way. As good opening the batting as he is opening the bowling, he is the heartbeat of the Warwickshire side in all forms, but that's most keenly felt in the One Day arena, where he led them to victory in the final last time out. Will go well again this year.

Expect more County Players to Watch - coming later on...

2011 County Players To Watch - County Championship

Check the average tables at the end of the season. These guys will be leading them. The players who will rip it up in the whites this season.

Owais Shah - Essex: It sort of annoys me to be writing about Shah doing well for a county other than Middlesex, but the simple fact of the matter is that were he still turning out for the Middle, he wouldn't have made this list. After England hopes were dashed once and for all, complacency (which was never far away) set in, and a very ordinary season with little application followed. However, after it was announced that he wasn't getting his contract renewed, Shah pulled an "F-You" century out of the bag, solely so he could turn his back on the pavilion when he made it. With a new county to impress (and more importantly, an old one to stick two fingers up to) expect plenty more defiant centuries from a batsman with oodles of talent.

Samit Patel - Nottinghamshire: Poor old Samit. No matter how many runs he scores (ample, just like his portion size) and how many wickets he chips in with (lol, chips) his unwillingness to shed the poundage means he won't get another international chance, unless he changes his ways. But England's loss is Notts' gain, and if he fires them to another County Championship, they'll give him all of the pies he can eat. Which is probably more then you could even imagine.

Joe Denly - Kent: Speaking of fat batsmen... No too obvious? OK, I'll go for his opening partner. Denly is clinically underrated - in fact I'd find space for him in any England side. While Kent didn't have the greatest of years last time up, in Division Two, Denly should regain the form that saw him into the England side in the first place. Whether he opens, or bats at three behind Key and Northeast, my unwavering faith in Joe Denly makes him a sure selection for my CC players to watch.

Come back later for some more of my county players to watch...

2011 County Players To Watch - Knocking On England's Door

The County Championship gets going on Friday, and after I named my three young bucks ready to make their mark, I've now picked three others who have been consistently at the top of their games over the past few years, and will all be clamouring for international honours should the chance arise...

Knocking on England's Door

James Hildreth - Somerset: After a season last year where he scored a ridiculous amount of runs, as well as scoring well for the Lions, Hildreth can't be far away from getting a call up. Helped by the handy batting conditions down at Taunton (as well as the freedom that being in a successful side gives to batting), don't count out Hildreth being called upon to fill Paul Collingwood's vacant spot in the test team if he sets off the county season at a good pace...

Jimmy Adams - Hampshire: 30 years old Jimmy Adams has certainly left his push for England recognition late, but could yet be a surprise pick. After a frankly ridiculous pair of T20 tons pushed him into the spotlight, Adams may be a dark horse to come in at the top of England's ODI order if there is a re-think in the summer. It may be unlikely, and one good summer does not a good player make, but Adams certainly isn't completely out of the running for one final shot at international glory.

Jade Dernbach - Surrey: It may be an obvious one to pick the guy who got called into the World Cup squad, but Dernbach really does tick the boxes for an ODI bowler. Keeps it tight, check. Good slower ball, check. Pretty nippy, check. South African, check. Jade seems to have the full package, and has improved leaps and bounds in the last few years, and must certainly be on the radar after excelling for the Lions and being called into the World Cup squad. And for a much better view of Jade, read Surrey Cricket Blog's thoughts on him. He's much more qualified to speak about Jade.

Check back later for some more county players to watch...

2011 County Players To Watch - Young Talent

On Friday, the County Season gets going again after what seemed like an age of international cricket in the meantime. Every year, bloggers come out and put forward some names of some people who they think will rip it up in the domestic leagues, and more often then not they get it right. Well, not this year, as I'm sticking my oar in. Who have I gone for? Well, read on...

Young Talent

These boys haven't played a lot of cricket, but have done pretty well in what they've done so far. Keep an eye out for these kids, they could go a long way...

Toby Roland-Jones - Middlesex: Toblerone had a phenominal end to last year, as he helped to keep Middlesex in the doldrums of Division Two. Making his FC debut mid-season, young fast bowler TRJ came from nowhere to end the season with a sub-20 bowling average, with the highlight a 5/41 against Surrey where he blew their middle order away in the space of only a few overs. While Toby doesn't have the pace or bounce of previous Middlesex fast bowling protegee Steven Finn, Roland-Jones gets a very appreciable movement from the seam, and given the right conditions, a bit of hoopy swing as well. Roland-Jones had been Middlesex's little secret, but after excelling after being selected in the MCC Champions Game in Abu Dhabi this is no longer the case. While there may be a "second season syndrome", I still back Roland-Jones to go on and take just as many wickets this year, especially given the Division Two opposition.

Jos Buttler - Somerset: Buttler rose to prominence in the T20 as a big-hitting slogger, but he's more then that. Yes, he can hit the ball a long way, but Buttler will want to prove that he is suited to the longer format as well. A top CC score of 144 at an ever-increasing average of 33 (from only 14 matches) suggests he has his head switched on for four-day cricket, and while he may not keep wicket thanks to Craig Kieswetter, Buttler has that string to his bow as well. While he will want to prove himself in the CC, his One Day and T20 stats can't be argued with, and with 4 fifties at an average of 49 in List A cricket (with an astonishing strike rate of 159), it won't be long before Buttler is knocking on the door of national recognition. Could be a big year for the 20 year old from Taunton.

Danny Briggs - Hampshire: Like Buttler, Briggs came to wider attention thanks to his exploits in winning the T20 last year for Hampshire. Only 19, Briggs has spent the winter away with the England Lions, and the left-arm spinner will hope to make his mark in the First Class arena. The stats look good - already sub 30 with the ball, and with a best bowling of 6/45, Briggs can certainly play. The only concern is that Imran Tahir will be playing for Hampshire this year, which may leave Briggs out of the team. I can only hope he gets enough games, because this lad can bowl.

Keep an eye out for the other categories...

The Cult of Sachin

It took the World Cup for me to truly embrace the Sachin.

I knew he was great. The stats told me that. But I'd never really realised just how great.

Sachin was making hundreds before I was even born. He'd been single handedly carrying his country while I was in nappies, and consistently churning out the runs while I was getting into cricket. It wasn't that I wasn't in awe of it, but the sheer amount of runs and consistency of them made me blase. Sachin scored another century? Oh.

I've seen him bat in a test match, back at Lord's in 2007. While to millions (even billions) this would be the greatest thing to ever have happen in their lives, I was generally more interested in Jimmy Anderson taking a five for. To me, Sachin was just a batsman - just a batsman who happened to be out lbw for 37. I knew of the runs, but I'd never really appreciated his genius.

As time went by, the achievements got more extraordinary. Over 14000 test runs. 50 test centuries. The only ever score of 200 in an ODI. The World Cup started - and the adulation that goes everywhere with him swept me up. The superb hundreds against England (number 98) and South Africa (99) made me realise what I'd been missing. Previously I'd seen the borderline stalker / obsessive comments on Cricinfo from Sachinistas, and dismissed them as frenzied lunatics. But suddenly, I'd been bitten with the Sachin bug, and I started seeing sense in what they had to say. "Sachin is no mere mortal, Sachin is God". Why not - someone with that level of ability surely has to have some sort of divine assistance.

Before being swept up in the Cult of Sachin, I'd have seen the Indian players giving Sachin (who scored 18 and bowled two overs of cack in the final) a triumphant carry on the shoulders as ridiculous postering. Why not captain and man of the match Dhoni? Why not nearly-centurion Gambhir? Why not leading wicket taker Zaheer? Why not man of the tournament Yuvraj? But lifting Sachin just made sense.

"Sachin has carried us for 21 years, so it is only right that we carry him today" said Virat Kohli. And having been fully inducted into the Cult of Sachinism, I'd have been alongside him, hoisting the Little Master into the air. And I don't care who knows.

Now, I'm off to spam Cricinfo with some meaningless comments about how great Sachin is compared to everyone else ever...

Friday, 1 April 2011

My Team of the World Cup

So we're just about at the end of another World Cup. So as such, everyone's naming their representative teams of the World Cup. And seeing as I've got not much else better to do, I thought I'd have a go...


There have been some openers who have really set this World Cup alive. Sehwag and Tendulkar have really set the tone for India - Sehwag with a flurry of quick runs to take advantage of the powerplay early while Tendulkar hangs around to play the innings of substance. Sri Lanka have had Tharanga and Dilshan, who have now racked up two 200+ partnerships. Pakistan's Hafeez has batted well, and has the advantage of taking some handy wickets with much improved bowling. Martin Guptill's form with the bat for New Zealand's also been better than expected, and he could get into most World XI sides thanks to his fielding alone. And Ireland's Paul Stirling has shown maturity beyond his years with fine performances with bat and ball. All worth entrants, I'm sure, which has made the opening spots very hard to select. However, I've gone for Virender Sehwag, for his explosive play throughout the early powerplays, and because of his amazing 175 against Bangladesh, and for Tillekeratne Dilshan, for his couple of centuries, plus the fact that he offers a bit with the ball.


There are a couple of the middle-order who almost pick themselves. Yuvraj Singh has been India's finisher and has contributed immensely with the ball, so he's in. AB de Villiers hit two early hundreds, and looked South Africa's best bat, so in he comes. Ryan ten Doeschate, often a lone voice for Holland, also hit two centuries, and will provide ample support for the bowlers. So they're all in. And someone who I simply can't ignore is Sachin Tendulkar. While I didn't pick him in the position he's been playing this World Cup (opener), it would be unjust to not find space in this World Cup Team for him given the success he's had, so he will bat at three. So my middle order is Sachin Tendulkar, AB de Villiers, Yuvraj Singh and Ryan ten Doeschate.


This hasn't been a brilliant World Cup for the keepers. While Brendon McCullum and Brad Haddin had flashes of brilliance at the top of the order, they were few and far between. MS Dhoni hasn't contributed much to the Indian middle order. Morne van Wyk looked out of his depth in international cricket. Matt Prior looked even worse. Only one has stood out - and what a World Cup he's had. Step forward Kumar Sangakkara, who makes it into the team with a World Cup average of 104 (so far) with one ton and two fifties.


In the difficult sub continental conditions, we've seen some bowlers struggle. However, the truly good bowlers have found reward, and have had excellent World Cups. Umar Gul and Dale Steyn, the two best fast bowlers, have led their countries well. Zaheer Khan likewise. Before his injury, Stuart Broad was looking to be the star of an England bowling outfit that was seriously out of sorts, but sadly his injury cut short a World Cup where he could have made a real difference. Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee both blew teams away in the groups as well. But the two pacers I've gone for are Dale Steyn, for his superb five-fer against India as well as general good performances in a format that some didn't rate him in, and Umar Gul, who was as excellent with the old ball as he was with the new throughout the tournament (except the semi-final). Spin wise, it's been a rich World Cup. Shahid Afridi has been the leading wicket taker, and has proved his obvious ability with the ball. Imran Tahir and Robin Peterson have both chipped in with plenty for South Africa as well. Graeme Swann, (the world's best spinner) toiled away for some reward for England, and George Dockrell belied his age to put in some very mature performances for Ireland. Not forgetting, of course, Muttiah Muralitheran in his final World Cup. However, the spinners I've gone for are Shahid Afridi, as he has been taking wickets by the bucket load, as well as offering some late order hitting (even though that wasn't seen too often this World Cup). And South Africa's Robin Peterson, who surprised many to be a real potent threat for the Proteas. Imran Tahir can feel very unlucky that he didn't make the selection, but an unfortunate hand injury ruled him out of a few games where Peterson made his mark.


Of the guys I've picked, Afridi and Sangakkara both skippered their sides during the World Cup, so it's between them. As much as I've enjoyed Afridi's excitable energy-filled captaincy, I fear that his enthusiasm may only work for a Pakistan side, so that immediately rules him out. And it helps that Sangakkara has had an excellent World Cup as captain, rotating his bowlers well and setting inventive fields. So Kumar Sangakkara it is to lead the team.

So that's the team I've gone for. There are a few shocks (an associate player, no English, Aussies, West Indians or New Zealanders) but I'm happy with that team. I reckon they'd give anyone a game - they bat deep (with some useful players up the order), as well as having four top out-and-out bowlers plus handy overs from ten Doeschate, Yuvraj and Dilshan. Agree? Disagree? Let me know, either by the comments section, on Twitter, or on my new sparkly Facebook page.

Sangakkara (c / wk)
de Villiers
ten Doeschate