Monday, 29 March 2010

Is pink the colour for Test cricket?

Traditionalists should look away now. The movements of the clocks and the spring into summer heralds the start of the English cricket season and the annual curtain raiser between the country champions and the MMC.

This clash conjures up images of players clad in white, the polite clapping of the sparse crowd, the sound of (red) leather on willow and the gloomy skies of early April looming over head. Durham, who the cricket betting makes favourites to clock up three Championships in a row, experienced these conditions last year.

But once more cricket's traditional image is being torn to shreds as the season opener is moved 3,000 miles away to Abu Dhabi. Instead of Lord's, it's the Sheikh Zayed Stadium where the game will be played and instead of red balls, there will be pink ones.

But far from this being a gimmick the trial of a pink ball in Abu Dhabi could have far reaching implications for the game.

It is hoped the pink ball will be easier to see under floodlights than the red ball and will not scuff as easily as the white version.

If the trial in Abu Dhabi works then the day night experiment could be extended to the Lord's test with Bangladesh in the summer.

The aim of this, of course, it to tempt people back to Test cricket by ensuring they are able to attend after work.

If the pink ball is introduced then the prospect of day-night matches would open up the door to Test cricket for new fans and tempt a few back to the game.

However, this experiment is not really being conducted with England in mind. Test cricket is still relatively well attended here, unlike the south Asian subcontinent and Australia where crowds are falling. Plus the English weather can be bad enough during the day let alone at night when it can get cold even in high summer. A day-night game would be more welcome in Australia for example, as it would offer welcome relief from the 40 degree heat during the day.

Either way it is good that the game's administrators are looking to innovate. One of the cricket's biggest weaknesses has been the failure to change with the times. I'm all for tradition, it is what gives the game colour and character, but we also have to think of the future.

If a pink ball and day-night test matches will keep the fans coming, and provide the same level of competition, then I'm all for it.

Meanwhile, in other sports news, England remain third favourites in the World Cup 2010 betting odds despite a recent spate of injuries.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Welcome back KP

It was a series deemed not important enough for the captain to be present, but if England's two test matches with Bangladesh help Kevin Pietersen return to form they could prove to be vital.

As ever, much of the pre-match discussion was about KP. England's most aggressive and arguably most talented batsmen has endured a horrendous year with injury and a dramatic loss of form leading to some critics questioning his place in the side. The pressure was certainly on.

The statistics tell the story. His last four scores in the Tests in South Africa were 0, 6, 7 and 12. After five centuries in 2008 KP has managed just one since - though he could point to an injury plagued Ashes summer last year as a factor- and managed an ODI highest score of just 48 in the same period.

Like any batsmen who is out of form the little things began to affect him. In this case it was an apparent inability to play left-arm spin. Cricket is a battle fought as much in the head as with the body and when a player has doubts about their ability, this will prey on their mind and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For Pietersen this culminated in a rather embarrassing dismissal by part-time left-arm bowler Mohammed Ashraful in a warm-up game.

But the cricketing fortunes can swing from one way to the other in an instant. With the return Ashes series just eight months away a quick phone call to IPL team-mate Rahul Dravid for advice and plenty of sweat and guts seems to have done the trick.

Pietersen played an almost faultless innings in the opening test match, with his trademark aggressive strokes wrenching the game from away the embattled hosts - England are now 33/1 on to win the Test in the cricket betting. Alastair Cook may have grabbed the headlines with an excellent century but KP's return to form will be welcomed by everyone in the England camp.

Although they will not say it openly, the tour down under at the end of the year is what everyone is working towards and this visit to Bangladesh is part of the preparation.

Make no mistake if England are to retain the urn in Australia they will need a fully fit and firing Kevin Pietersen. The online betting shows just what a tough task the tour will be. If he does play a significant role in the Ashes then that day in Chittagong could be seen as one of the crucial turning points in his, and England's, fortunes.