Friday, 23 October 2009

Is there too much cricket?

As England prepare to embark on another tour, this time to South Africa, questions have again been raised about the number of matches modern day international cricketers have to cope with.

The 2009 English summer began in early May – the earliest start to a home international season ever. There were two test and One Day series, against the West Indies and, of course, the Australians. Then there was the Twenty20 World Cup in June before the Champions Trophy in October. This hectic schedule means some players, such as captain Andrew Strauss, have had a six month summer. Strauss has already revealed he may miss the Bangladesh test series in February and March in order to have a breather.

It’s a good idea because just five weeks after the Bangladesh tour ends, England will travel to the Caribbean to contest the World Twenty20 at the beginning of May. Test series against Bangladesh and Pakistan at home will follow before they attempt to retain the Ashes down under. Added on top of that is the Twenty20 boom and the introduction of the Indian Premier League and the Champions League. Breathless stuff.

Boo hoo those who have limited sympathy for people who are earning good money for their dream job might say. And while I agree with them up to a point it is a concern that the sheer number of matches could lead to players being more selective about games they participate in.

And there is no doubt which form of the game they will choose: the vastly more lucrative Twenty20. We have already seen this with freelance Freddie - England talisman Andrew Flintoff rejecting an incremental contract from the ECB in order to be choosier over the games he is available for. Then think of the supporters. Watching cricket is an expensive business and too many games will prove to be a massive turn-off as well as an insurmountable burden on the wallet.

The players will follow the money, understandably, meaning test matches will ultimately suffer. The longer form of the game may not attract the audiences it used to in many cricketing nations, but it is still the backbone of the game. But it does not offer the rewards of Twenty/20, which is growing in popularity with those interested in cricket betting, and places considerably more demands on the body. 

I’m all for expanding the game and bringing it to new audiences but a balance has to be made. But on this occasion I think you can have too much of a good thing.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Twenty20 Champions League preview

The inaugural Twenty20 Champions League has finally arrived and it is easy to think that the Indian Premier League outfits will be the superior teams. They have home advantage, have just finished a domestic season and, most importantly, have the strongest squads.
They are packed full of international players from around the world, many of whom have just finished an elite tournament in the Champions Trophy. It seems they have too much strength in depth for the teams from Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies.
However, Deccan Chargers, Bangalore Royal Challengers and Delhi Daredevils might not have things all their own way. The all-star nature of their squads is their weakness as well as their strength: they have had little time to practice as a unit and are sure to be under-prepared.
This might be costly in a format of four groups of three – four teams will be eliminated after playing only two matches. A good start is crucial and not necessarily easy against well-drilled teams used to playing together.
IPL champions Deccan Chargers will again be tough to beat, as they have two box office players in Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds and are not restricted by injuries as much as the Royal Challengers and Daredevils.
In looking for value from the other entrants, it is hard to give Somerset, Sussex, Otago, Eagles or Trinidad and Tobago much of a chance. They are short on international class and will struggle in the conditions.
New South Wales Blues and Victorian Bushrangers have plenty of in-form Australian stars in their ranks, with the Blues most likely to reach the latter stages and prove why they were domestic T20 champions. Cape Cobras will miss Graeme Smith but are a good bet to reach the semi finals.
The best value might lay with Wayamba, the Sri Lankan entrants. They are outsiders but have players active domestically and a nucleus of international performers, including Ajantha Mendis and Mahela Jayawardene. If they knock out one of Delhi or Victoria in the first round, they could go far.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

England's Champions Trophy ratings

Andrew Strauss 5/10

Showed mettle and nous in the Smith and Mathews incidents, confirming a flourishing captaincy style. 48 runs from four knocks an unfamiliar failure.

Joe Denly 5

The opening partnership did not flourish at all in the ICC Champions Trophy. Wasted a couple of good starts, especially in the semi final against Australia with a poor shot in the middle of a collapse.

Owais Shah 7

Hit himself back into form against South Africa in stunning style. More of this please, as the jury remains out on his innings-building ability at number three.

Paul Collingwood 8

Fluent and aggressive, he represented a team effort to play with more freedom. He took only one wicket but bowled tidily.

Eoin Morgan 7

The team’s Jekyll and Hyde with the bat. At his inventive and explosive best early on, but was becalmed by the tight bowling of New Zealand and Australia. A decent wicket-keeping understudy.

Luke Wright 6

An under-pressure 48 in the semi final has earned him more chances. More consistency needed with the bat, and for that matter, with the ball.

Tim Bresnan 7

His swashbuckling batting effort against Australia suggested an all-round future; his unthreatening bowling did not. Needs to do more with the ball to become a realistic first change option and help improve Englands odds of winning.

Stuart Broad 7

It is hard to argue with 10 wickets from three matches, but the suspicion remains that he is too keen to take wickets. Test batting form yet to be transferred to coloured clothing.

Graeme Swann 4

With the seamers more threatening, he took a backseat role, although he struggled to provide any real control when called upon.

James Anderson 8

Superb against Sri Lanka in bowler-friendly conditions, he was hard to get away when batting was easier – his economy rate was 4.25 from 38.2 overs.

Graham Onions 5

Too expensive with the new ball, he too often strayed from a good line and length.

Ravi Bopara, Matt Prior, Ryan Sidebottom, Steve Davis and Adil Rashid did not feature enough to make a real impression.