Jadeja v Anderson: why making a complaint was the right thing to do!

I have read with much amusement the shenanigans going on between the England and India test match cricket teams in England this week.  For those how have missed it here is a summation of what has gone on:

  • James Anderson (England) and Ravindra Jadeja (India) were involved in a verbal altercation during the first test at Trent Bridge last week.
  • That altercation continued after the players adjourned from the field for a lunch break which lead to a physical altercation.
  • Said altercation was not witnessed by the umpires and no report was made to the match referee, David Boon, about it.
  • When the Indian team raised the matter with Boon he suggested the teams work it out amongst themselves.
  • India, not sated, complained to higher-ups within the ICC leading to Anderson being charged with a Level 3 breach of the ICC Code of Conduct.
  • England have made a complaint now against the Jadeja.

Much has been made in the competing press about the charges and whether India should have pushed the matter the way that they have.  The fact is that I think they were 100% right to make the complaint they did and here is why:

  • The issue of player behaviour on the field is one that has been festering for some time.  I have no cavil with sledging, as I have written about before, but increasingly, particularly in situations where one team is on top in a game, we are seeing overt discussions between opposing players that continue for more than just a ball but for overs on end and, indeed, whole days of play.  This is, at best, ugly, and, at worst, not in the spirit of the game.  The fact that another such incident spilled over the change rooms might be OK in country cricket but it can not be acceptable at the top level of the game.
  • The days of players “going around the back of the pavilion” to sort out a problem are long gone.  Anyone cogently suggesting that the players should have been left to their own devices to do that is not instep with current community values.
  • James Anderson is a serial offender when it comes to going to too far when it comes to sledging and on field aggression and, one suspects, the fact that he has not been brought into line played a part in his poor conduct on this occasion.  Let’s not forget that in all of the kerfuffle about Michael Clarke’s threat to “break Anderson’s arm” in the first test at the Gabba in 2013 it was Anderson who had threatened physical violence against George Bailey that lead to that confrontation.

There is a lot of anger and aggression, it would seem, between certain teams in international cricket at the moment.  It seems every game involving Australia, South Africa, England and India (or a combination of any of them) includes an unseemly incident or series of incidents between the teams.  The fact that one of those incidents has spilled over to an off the field incident necessarily requires a strong response and by complaining to the ICC, India should be applauded for the stand they are taking.

PostScript: It is not lost on me that India are often the most aggressive of teams in that list noted above and, indeed, it might be considered hypocritical for them to be such an active complainant here.  I concede that their conduct is not blameless but at some point someone has to take a stand and I am glad that someone had regardless of who it is or how hypocritical it might be.

The Ashes: Where to now for England? My suggest XI for Perth

There is no getting around this fact: England have been out played, out thought and out sledged by the Australians in the first two test of this summer. Don’t get me wrong: I have loved every minute of the pummelling dished out over the last two test matches. That said, there is a part of me that yearns for a competitive test match between these two oldest of cricketing foes. In order to be competitive in Perth it is clear, and Andy Flower (England’s Director of Cricket) agrees, that some changes need to be made.

I mentioned during the series in England over the winter that Jimmy Anderson did not look one tenth of the bowler he did in the first test at Nottingham where his bowling, basically, singlehandedly rested victory for England from the jaws of possible defeat. Since that 10 wicket effort, where he bowled a massive amount of overs, Anderson has taken 17 wickets in 12 innings at an average of 44 all against Australia. He has already been rested from the ODI squad for the games following the test matches and it seems to me that he is not quite right physically. I would suggest he be rested for the Perth test match given the short back up and the fact that he is just not bowling well.

I would bring in Bresnan, now fit, for Anderson. He hits the wicket hard and is one of the toughest players in the English squad. His inclusion would also add some starch to a lower order that has been beaten up by short bowling in the first two tests of the summer.

I am a fan of Michael Carberry but his dismissals in both innings in Adelaide were just bad batting and showed that he may be out of his depth at the top level. Joe Root showed, not for the first time, great application and courage in the face of a barrage from the Australian fast bowlers. He should open in Carberry’s place with England’s best batsman of 2013, Ian Bell, moving up the order to number 3. This “engine room” will give more stability around the captain, Cook, whose efforts so far have been less than stellar and show a muddled mental state.

Replacing Bell at number 5 is a choice between Gary Ballance and Jonny Bairstow. For mine, statistics don’t lie and Ballance has the first class record advantage over Bairstow. Nearly 5000 runs at over 50 per innings in 67 first class games is a record worthy of a trial in the top team. I know that throwing a debutant in at Perth is akin to throwing him to the wolves but from all I have read about the Zimbabwean import he has the temperament to handle it.

In the bowling line up, the resting of Anderson aside, there is no way England can play two spinners in Perth. It seems like a case of the lesser of two evils when it comes to spinners with Swann in ordinary form and Panesar simply not good enough in the field to set off what he brings to the table with the ball. I would lean to Swann given that he seems to have more steel about him than Panesar. There is a sameness about all of the bowlers in the English squad with the available options all tall right arm fast medium bowlers. Finn and Tremlett are both scarred from having played and failed against Australia of recent times so I would add Irishman Boyd Rankin to the line up for a debut on Australia’s fastest pitch.

So, all of that considered, this the team I reckon the Poms should put on the field come Friday in Perth:

Cook, Root, Bell, Pietersen, Ballance, Stokes, Prior, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Rankin

I think this is a team that could make a game of it against Australia and whilst I, again, will say am enjoying Australia destroy England I am also keen to see a contest.

Postscript: I will avoid the obvious quip that this team really ought be renamed the English Dominion XI given that 45% of the line up were not born in England (Ireland, South Africa, Zimbabwe and New Zealand being the places of birth of players selected in addition to England).

The Ashes: Second Test musings

The second test between Australia and England has ended with Australia securing its second dominant victory in as many games. With the third test only three days away, players, pundits and fans have little time to draw breath and rest in advance of hostilities resuming. That said, here are some of my musing arising from this test match just completed worth considering in advance of play commencing in Perth.

Catches win matches: the maxim holds true

Australia won the toss and batted and closed the first day on 5/273 which many considered to be a victory for the English. It could have been so much better though for them had they caught all of the catching opportunities presented to them. Both of Australia’s centurions, Clarke and Haddin, presented catching opportunities on Day 1 that should have been taken. Haddin’s chance being dropped in last over of the first day was particularly damning given that he added a further 111 runs after it. The Australians, on the other hand, looked more lively in the field and more engaged in the game and it showed in their catching particularly in the outfield.

Leg side wickets: plans working or bad batting?

Of the top seven batters for England, all but one was out once (Carberry twice with Stokes the exception) hitting the ball in the air to the leg side. There is a school of thought that the Australians should be lauded for their plans coming together so well that the English batters fell into the traps set. I respectfully can not agree: none of the wickets taken with leg side catches were the result of anything other than bad batting. Bell hitting a full toss from a part time leg spinner to mid on is a perfect example of this as was Cook’s failed hook shot at the start of Day 4. I concede that Australia’s plans have aided the mental disintegration of the Englishmen but bad batting has played a bigger role.

Harden up England, he is only one bowler!

Much has been made of the bowling of Mitchell Johnson and, I concede, he has bowled very swiftly and has executed the plans set for him for various batsman. The way the English batters are playing him though you would think that they were playing a combination of Larwood and Ambrose. The dismissals of Broad and Anderson in the first innings of this test match are perfect cases in point. Both batters failed to get in line with the ball bowled and, there is no other word for it, capitulated. You would almost think these guys had not seen a bowler bowl at around 145kph before.

The niggle continues: this is starting to get unseemly now

I wrote after the first test that sledging is a part of the game and must be accepted as such by the fans and those who bemoan its presence. I continue to posit that view however I have to say the confrontations in this test match just completed went past what I consider to be appropriate. The players having stand up “discussions” in the middle of the wicket, at the end of overs and as they walk off the field is taking it too far and is going past what I believe to be appropriate sledging. The players need to have a long think about what they are doing because surely they must realise that the host broadcaster is watching their every move and broadcasting same without a filter. It is not a good look and is getting out of hand.

The Ashes are returning to Australia already … or are they?

With the short turn around now to the Perth test match, it defies belief that by this time next week Australia could have won back the Ashes however that is the very real scenario that now presents itself. Absent a significant change of fortune and form for the English, is anyone prepared to suggest an alternate result? Certainly the pundits from the UK are now doing what they do best and sinking the boot into their team and the fans have gone from cockahoop smugness to resignation about the result seemingly in the blink of the eye. I, for one, can not believe for a second that the Englishmen will not fight hard in the coming test match to seek to defy Australia. That, combined with the fact that we should not be too quick to write off a team that has dominated us as shortly ago as August, means the level of optimism for Australia fans should be no higher than cautious optimism because things can change quickly in cricket.

All in all this was another excellent effort by Australia to best their arch rivals. Here’s hoping they can do it all again come Thursday in Perth!

Domestic Cricket in Australia: time to look to England as the model?

I tweeted last night how impressed I was with the ECB after watching the draw for its 50 over competition in 2014. It got me thinking about the Australian domestic cricket set up and confirmed for me that a very real reason that cricket in this country is lagging behind the “old enemy” is the treatment presently being meted out to the domestic game by Cricket Australia.

We are all aware of the travesty that is the new Ryobi Cup competition for 2013. It has been made to be a 3 week carnival held all in the Sydney suburbs on non-first class grounds. We are all aware that Cricket Australia is chasing the dollars that comes from the Big Bash League. If you like hit and giggle cricket then you will love December and January in Australia. Finally, we are all aware that the Sheffield Shield competition is no longer a nursery for the next cricketers coming into the Australian set up. How could it be when the players in the test team do not deign to play in the competition? Or are not allowed to?

Something has to give with all of this: the reality is that Australia has become, in recent years, a second tier player in the international game across all forms. A thrashing in the Ashes, a thrashing in the Champions Trophy and being completely ineffectual in T20 are all the indications one needs to know that. I have already called for the head of James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia CEO, but it would seem that so long as the profits are rolling in no one at Cricket Australia Towers wants a bar of that. So what else then can be done?

Rather than filleting the domestic game in this country in favour of overseas tours that mean nothing and the BBL irrelevance, my proposal would see more domestic cricket being played rather than less. The ECB has set the benchmark for using its domestic competition to procure players ready for the top flight because they play more domestic cricket over there. That was Sam Robson’s reason for moving over there and, thinking about it in reverse, when was the last time an English domiciled cricketer played in Sheffield Shield? Graeme Hick for Queensland is the name that comes to mind.

The County Competition is played between the middle of April and the end of September and they manage to fit in 16 first class games within that span. All whilst (in 2013) fitting in 12 40 over games (to be 50 overs in 2014) and 10 T20 games. Conversely in 2014, Australia’s domestic cricketers will play a maximum (if not making the finals) of 10 first class games, 5 50 over games and 7 T20 games in a span that runs from October through March.

It is simple to say but it is striking just how little cricket is available to Australia’s domestic cricketers when compared to those plying their trade in England over a not dissimilar period of time. I know that historically cricket in this country has tried to wedge itself between the start and the end of the AFL and NRL seasons however, if that is the reason for Australia’s truncated number of domestic games, surely the English experience shows just what a fallacy that approach is. In England little care is given for the fact that Premier League Soccer has already started and still the domestic cricket season chugs away.

I, for one, see no reason why, noting the weather in Australia in September, the Australian domestic season could not start in September and hinge upon a Sheffield Shield program that runs for 15 games rather than 10. Now before I hear the mantra “that is too much cricket” consider this: even allowing for a 42 day carnival of irrelevance (BBL) a 24 week season window would still have 18 weeks in which to play proper (non carnival) cricket. In 18 weeks why shouldn’t professional cricketers be tested with playing 15 games of FC class cricket with an extra day of play tagged on for 50 over cricket?

We have the climate and the wickets to play more domestic cricket in this country. We also have the time to do so. An obvious flow on from playing more domestic cricket is the greater opportunities playing so much would present to those already in the Australian team to return to the Sheffield Shield and play for form or to nurture the next lot of talent coming through. All of this raises the question: why not play more domestic cricket? To that the only answer I have is that it costs money.

Historically cricketers in this country have made light of the County system and yet some of our best players continue to spend Australia’s winters in England playing the game and developing into test standard players. It was good enough for Messrs Chappell, Border, Waugh, Hayden, Langer and Hussey afterall. Now is the time to look at what is going well in English cricket and a big part of that seems to be the amount of cricket they play domesitcally.

Unfortunately, I am talking about a “perfect world” scenario here where the river of money flowing into Cricket Australia’s pockets is no impediment to the structure of the domestic game in this country. We all know that Cricket Australia will not do anything to effect its bottom line so this strategy will never see the light of day. How long though must Australia stay in the doldrums before the dollar is not the principal KPI to success? One can only hope it is not too long. Otherwise the current malaise over the game is going to last for a while longer me thinks.

Two Irishmen walk into a cricket ground and play for England: when will the Administrators do something?

Is it just me or did it feel strange to see England play in an international fixture against its neighbour Ireland and be lead by an Irishman who ended up being the man of the match? Further to the point, did it also feel strange to see the lead bowler for the English against the Irish be a young fast bowler born in Londonderry?

I have long joked that playing England in cricket is often like playing the League of Nations given the number of South Africans, principally, who have sworn allegiance to the Crown to play cricket. The events of the other evening though stretch the joke to its breaking point.

I make no criticism of Eoin Morgan, the erstwhile English captain, and Boyd Rankin: simply they have put their respective careers first and have pledged their allegiance to England to play cricket on a global scale. I have no doubt both of them would prefer the opportunity to play a series against Australia or India instead of Ireland’s next opponents in Scotland, Netherlands and Papua New Guinea. Further I have no doubt they would like at some point to at least have the prospect of playing test match cricket.

The travesty of this scenario is borne out of the inability of the administrators of the game to act against such conduct either by disallowing such moves OR by ensuring that teams like Ireland have more cricket against those in the top flight of the game.

I commented about the Australia v Scotland game that that game should not have had international status given the lack of competition given to Australia by the Scots and, then by extension, that until Scotland play more (not less) international cricket against the top flight they are never going to improve.

For Ireland they are not in a dissimilar position. Indeed their position is worse because they have players that they are developing at home who are obviously capable of playing test cricket but are having to move to be able to so play.

The travesty that is the treatment of Irish cricket by the administrators only gets worse when one considers that Ireland has shown that it is more than capable of competing at the top of the game internationally given its previous form at, mainly, World Cups. Consider this statistic: Ireland has played in 38 one day international fixtures against test playing nations and has won 4 of them, lost 29, tied 3 and had 2 no results. The last 3 teams to gain test playing status, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh had had the following records in one day internationals before they played a test match:

Sri Lanka: 6 games, 1 win, 4 losses, 1 no result
Zimbabwe: 20 games, 2 wins, 18 losses
Bangladesh: 41 games, 3 wins, 38 losses

The foregoing raises this question: if that form was good enough for those teams to gain admission into the “top flight” why then are the administrators not seeking to progress Ireland’s admission to test match cricket, if only keep Ireland’s home grown players playing for it?

Perhaps the difference between Ireland and those more recently allowed into the “big show” of cricket is player base and likely crowd numbers and both are reasonable arguments. It do not know they answer to that question save that I can not believe for one moment that Zimbabwean cricket has greater claims to player depth and crowd than Irish cricket.

It is fair to say though that whilst Ireland remains out of test match cricket, cricket in that country will remain the punchline of a bad joke like that in the title to this post and nothing more whilst at the same time its players will continue to pledge their allegiance to the Crown and play for England for the opportunity that brings. That, for mine, is just a crying shame.

Cricket: When is it ever appropriate to urinate on the pitch?

It has been reported widely today that the English cricket team celebrated their win of the Ashes series at the Oval overnight by having a few drinks in the middle of the field and then, for some players, urinating on the field. This is all allegation at this stage but if it is true this is a disgrace frankly.

Are you kidding me England? After the furore over David Warner’s tap on the chin of Joe Root and angst over Darren Lehmann’s comments regarding Stuart Board in which the ECB have taken the absolute high ground (rightly I concede) what ground will they take now?

I get that sometimes a bunch of guys sitting around in a park having a beer might not try to find a public convenience to relieve themselves and rather might find a close by tree to do. But to do so in the middle of one of the great cricket ground of the world smacks of the arrogance of these guys.

I was more than happy to salute the victory of the England team in this series: they played better cricket as a team when it mattered. The fact is though that throughout this series they have done their best to take the moral high ground and paint Australia’s players and administrators as wild colonials. Last time I checked though said colonials have not taken a mid celebration leak on the middle of one of their fields. Or at least if they have they had the decency of doing so when no one was in the ground.

Hang your heads in shame England cricket! And if the ECB does not come out massively against this abhorrent display then they ought hang their heads in shame too. One wonders if they will do so or if they will continue to show the arrogance of their players and just laugh this off!