Monday, 20 December 2010

Lefties can be a real match winner

The unforced break that Mitchell Johnson endured could really have done him a favour. He went away and worked on his action, got his arm higher, and returned with getting his inswinger back.

When a left arm over can bowl at pace (around 90mph) and get the ball to swing back into the batsman it creates real problem. With one delivery, the ball will go across the batsman, making the outside edge vulnerable. However, when he is able to get it to swing back, then this brings bowled and LBW into the frame in a big way!! To protect his outside edge a batsman likes to get as far across the wicket as possible, but, if he knows that a bowler is likely to dart the ball back into the stumps, it makes this movement very risky. The past masters of this of course were Alan Davidson and Garry Sobers and these deliveries, plus others, made them legends.

In a recent past article I mentioned how an all rounder’s confidence can go high with one department of his game helping the other. Johnson top scored in Australia’s first innings, and, surprise, surprise his confidence soared enough to give him brilliant bowling figures and back to his best. A timely improvement for Australia when they really needed him to perform. A performance that may yet lead to a drastic change in Ponting’s legacy as a player and captain.

With England trailing by a sizeable margin fortunes may change very quickly. GAME ON!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Dig in for the Ashes and an early Christmas present!

It is not that surprising that Australia were able to rally and post a better and slightly more acceptable score of 268 in their first Innings in the 3rd test, after being 69 for 5. Perth, as most know, is a very fine wicket, but, it always produces bounce, especially with the new ball. There will be huge disappointment and embarrassment from the earlier part of their batting order as they failed again. However, once the hardness went out of the ball it showed that, once a player gets in, it is a good wicket on which to bat. Hussey, Haddin and Johnson showed just this.

The England openers of Strauss and Cook did very well in keeping their wickets intact for the opening 12 overs of the England innings. England now have to DIG IN and see the new ball off and, hopefully, carry on batting in the same way that they have done so far on this tour. If (all) the batsmen are able overcome their initial overs at the crease they should be able to give England a healthy first innings lead. A lead of around 200 plus would be extremely useful and psychologically give Australia big problems.

As expected the wicket was very suitable for the 6 feet 8 inches Tremlett (of Surrey) who was brought in to replace the injured Broad. However, he still had to bowl well on it to take the wickets and he did not let anybody down! After the win in Adelaide England must now be looking to complete a win in Perth in the same manner, except this time it should be with the seamers taking the lion’s share of the wickets instead of Swann.

We have only completed the first day of the test match, but, if England can win in Perth and secure the Ashes, what a Christmas present to the England fans!!!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Panic – It’s all new to the Aussies. Can Warne be tempted?

In this Country, and in the England cricket camp, we have been used to quite a few poor cricketing performances, but this is not the case in Australia where they have been top dogs for well over a decade. They have had a poor six months and the dismal performances in the last two tests against England has caused panic as this is NOT something with which they are not familiar. One or two more similar performances by their team and they are at risk of ‘imploding.’

Today we read that a group of businessmen are endeavouring to entice Shane Warne out of retirement by offering him $1M. If that is so, and the selectors were in agreement, how can we NOT reach the conclusion that it is sheer panic!! To revert to a retired 41 year old, whom the selectors have not seen fit to give the captaincy to in the past, gives no other signal than ‘panic.’ Australia is going through a period of rebuilding and I think for them to even consider the word ‘rebuilding’ is a bitter pill to take. Of course, with a cynical eye on the situation, Warne may never have had any thoughts at all of returning to the fray, if so, turning down a million dollars, could be a clever marketing ploy to lift the value of his other commercial endorsements!!!

In the England camp, I am absolutely sure that under the guidance of Strauss and Flower, England will maintain exactly the right approach at Perth, the next test venue. Australia is on the slide and England will be concentrating on keeping this path going in the same direction.

Perth should be great viewing!!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Beef's in a stew!

England’s super win in the Second Test can create mixed reactions. English supporters may want to crow, whereas Aussie supporters bristle with annoyance, disappointment and retaliation.

These feeling are not restricted to the public! Rumour has it that Ian Botham and Ian Chappell had to be separated in the car park in Adelaide last Monday after the test, where they carried on a 30-year gripe. I have played with and against both and, anybody who chooses to mix it with Beefy, must be fairly desperate in their attitude.

Both are good guys and not only fathers but GRANDFATHERS. Both were really super players who did a fantastic service to their country, and, during their playing days and after, made derogatory comments about each other. When they played they took competitiveness to the end degree, but, I think it is rather sad (for both of them) that they cannot accept that time has moved on. The game is richer for their contributions and accept they both championed their countries and confrontations will always arise.

In cricket, as other sports, most successful sportsmen write biographies and, if their book is not to appear bland, comments are often made which are unpopular with other players and officials. This, for me, is all part of the overall profession and life is too short for the grudge to borne for an extended period. Time passes for me too and I have seen wonderful liaisons and friendships from arch enemies that has warmed those around them who knew them when times were different. One can only hope!!

Eat your heart out Bill Lawry!!

During the last Ashes Tour in Australia in 2005, the legendary Bill Lawry made my blood boil. The scene was the very well known pre-test breakfast in Melbourne, attended by 1,500 people, carried live television and was hosted by an Australian MP. Bill Lawry was on a cricket panel and was mocking the 400 – 500 Brits who were in the audience. He was ramming the poor performances of the English Team down the Brits throats and saying “if the Aussies had performed as badly as the Brits, you would not see any Aussies here today” and said “I don’t know how you can support this lot.”

When the Aussies gloat it sometimes even embarrasses the more conservative Australians – it sure angered me. I went up to the stage and asked the MC for the microphone. Looking at Bill and the Aussies, I reminded them of the ‘winds of change’ and said “I have played in test series against another very strong cricketing nation, The West Indies, with the results having gone full circle!! I had played in a series that we won, one that we drew, and one that we lost, completing the circle. It is easy to follow a team when you are knocking sides over and winning, but, I want to see how many of you lot are will still be around when your team needs you, when the pendulum turns – because it will!! As one, the Brits stood up and cheered and clapped and, surprisingly, the Aussies shouted “Good on yer mate.”

The series still has along way to go, and still time for anything to happen, but England could hardly have asked for a better start to the first two tests. Australia have lost tests before, but, I cannot remember when they were we so disjointed. Their situation has not been helped with Ricky Ponting, one of the all time greats and their talisman, having such a run drought.

Shame…………nobody likes to see the Aussies struggle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

KP the all rounder...

Strange how things happen. No sooner than me suggesting to Kevin Pieterson about bowling a few overs to help the side and increase his confidence level, than he takes a vital wicket and, who knows, could have been the key factor in England's win? This had nothing to do with me as the timing meant he could not even have seen it. However it made sense as confidence is an all round characteristic whether batting, bowling or fielding. KP had success in all three departments.

Broad's injury is hearbreaking for the lad, after all his hard work in preparation for the Tour, but this could mean a fortuatous break for Chris Tremlett? This is the kind if break that typifies a team's or individual's luck. Let's hope so.

Monday, 29 November 2010

The other side of KP

It is reaching a stage now where Kevin Pietersen needs all his skills to remain a first choice for England for it has been well documented that K.P. has hit a lean spot in his test career, certainly by his own high standards, and his confidence cannot be as good as it was.

Technically Pietersen has a very good action to bowl off spinners and his six foot five inches height can be a major advantage. He can spin the ball and has a very repeatable action, not surprising when he initially played first class cricket in South Africa as a spin bowler. Unfortunately Kevin does not want to bowl. He is reluctant to even bowl in the nets if he does not have too. If he were to work hard at his bowling he would give Strauss an additional choice for the bowling department and add just a bit more variety. Apart from perhaps talking a wicket or two, if he were to get through a tidy ten or fifteen overs, and do a good job for the side, it would add to his confidence, and this may have a positive knock on effect for his batting.

You cannot MAKE somebody bowl who does not want to, but, it is something of a black mark against his character when the powers that be know he could be contributing more to the team’s performance than he is currently doing. Come on Kevin…..grip it and rip it, there is a long series ahead, you know you can bowl, or could if you worked at it!!!!!

If he were able to spread his game to become a more regular bowler it would certainly help as England are trying hard to only take four specialist bowlers into each game. Adelaide has the potential of being the flattest wicked in the series so it is likely that England are going to need full power in the bowling department.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Pat Pocock launches Winter Cricket Academy

I would love to see as many young players as possible receive even just a fraction of the fun and return from cricket that I received. Although cricket involves a physical element, it is a technical game, that requires development if the greatest level of success and enjoyment is to be achieved.

The age of 11 or 12 kick-starts a young player’s opportunity to take on board information that will be beneficial for the rest of his cricket career. This period is the first opportunity that a player has to ‘groove-in’ good traits and practices so as not to get into bad cricketing habits. That’s why I have started up a Cricket Academy in Reigate, Surrey for 11 to 16 year olds. I have selected a 10 weeks period, starting after Christmas for a winter course, where I, personally will be doing all the coaching in very small groups.

Having experience as a coach is vital. With experience should come knowledge, but, just as important is ‘knowing what to leave alone.’ Inexperienced coaches tend to go by the text books (which is all they have to fall back on) and this is very often not what the youngster needs.

Anybody who would like more information please look at

First Ashes test getting nearer

If cricket were a game of chess, don’t expect England or Australia to lead out with their Queens’ in Brisbane in two weeks time. No side wants to give away a huge advantage by losing the first encounter – the good side of an honourable draw would suffice for both Strauss and Ponting.

From an English point of view it’s good that Australia have so many talking points and the outcome of the first test will decide whether the Australian‘s are going to get behind their team or not. Over the years, Bill Lawry has stated publicly that, if Australia had performed as poorly as the England Team, the support for the home team would have diminished hugely! We shall see!! If Ponting loses this coming series he will have lost 3 Ashes series – a legacy he will surely not want!!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Get your ‘thinking’ right from an early age Most people know from an early age what level they want to aim at within their sport – most aim high whet

Get your ‘thinking’ right from an early age

Most people know from an early age what level they want to aim at within their sport – most aim high whether they are prepared to work at it or not. Initially, enthusiasm carries them along a certain road to begin with and then they find that effort and guidance then has to kick-in if they want to progress. Cricket is such a complex game, with many different departments, and until a certain level of physical growth is achieved (say 11 or 12 years old) my tip is to purely enjoy the game for all it has to offer.

The horrible gambling scenario, and current news story surrounding the young Pakistani bowler, Mohammed Aamer, has highlighted him and just what can be reached at a young age. He was the youngest bowler ever in test cricket to reach 100 wickets. From the age of 15 he has been performing at high levels within cricket suggesting that he worked on the right things from an early age. Bad habits can hold a young player back and make change difficult, in the same way that a crease in a pair of trousers ironed heavily in the wrong place, can prove very hard to take out. Correct coaching, not only shows the right way carry out certain points, but can also give you the right frame of mind and attitude. I was lucky I had two elder brothers who were bigger, better and stronger than me, so I was always working hard just to keep up with them – fortunately I also has some good players around to show me how.

One promise – whatever you put into cricket, you will take out and plenty more. But effort and work has to be ’put-in’ first. Go for it!!

So much more than a few inches over the line!!!

When a slogan under a cartoon in the paper reads “This is the BBC’s sports desk giving you tomorrow’s cricket results” you know that the joke is more than cricket can take. I don’t think I will see another Pakistan home international being played in my lifetime and with the horrendous flood scenario in Pakistan the guilty four players could hardly have done their country more harm. With the bowlers overstepping the line to order makes this ‘cheating to order’ even more vile but it is just another nail in the Pakistani cricket coffin. If only that were true in isolation. All cricket and cricketers have suffered along with their relevant Governing bodies. I am worried that the British public will show their discontent by not attending the very important one day internationals we have to come. Pakistan certainly cannot afford it!

However, the Pakistan Cricket Board has so much to answer for, as it cannot be a coincidence that they have had so many captains, that even the keen spectator loses count. The disarray of this Board is not entirely unsuspected with all the political overtones and involvement that it has to endure.

Many of their players get paid ‘peanuts,’ and with some of them coming from very poor backgrounds, that ‘dangled’ money, even at this lowly level waved in front of them, is just too much for them to refuse. The whole integrity of cricket suffers and, if found guilty, the players MUST suffer a life-time ban. The lose/lose scenario is made even worse when considering the tremendous potential that a player like Mohammed Aamer has and the rewards he is likely to receive in his international career, as surely, at age 18, he would have become a world class bowler in a short space of time.

The ICC has to act strongly here as, in the past, Pakistani players have received lifetime bans only for the Pakistan Board to revoke this decision at a later date. Pressure must be put on the Pakistan Cricket Board to act in a proper manner with a threat of expulsion from International cricket if this happens again. The drug cheats in athletics are thrown out – this is cricket’s life threatening drug problem!!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Why are batting averages going up?

More and more we hear that to average 50 is now the new yard-stick for what used to be 40! Even though I probably agree with this I cannot logically explain ‘why’?

Could it be, better bats, better wickets, poorer bowlers, smaller seams on the ball, slightly smaller boundaries………………….?

Why Oosthuizen would make a good slip catcher

Louis Oosthuizen’s runaway victory at St Andrews had similar connections to a successful cricket approach. Oosthuizen was advised by his ‘mind coach’ to wear a red spot on his glove to trigger a certain thought pattern when striking all golf shots. His reasoning for this was that he felt it impossible to concentrate 100%, for four and half hours, whilst on the golf course.

Bobby Simpson, the former Australian, regarded as possibly the best slip catcher ever, worked on the same principle. He deliberately switched off as soon as the ball had passed the bat or was played to a fielder. He would then switch on again as the bowler started his run. He realised that he could not hold total concentration for over six hours and trained himself to adopt this method – it certainly worked!!

Monday, 5 July 2010

Back to the Power of Pace

Shaun Tait reminded us once again of the potency of real pace. Not surprisingly he went through England’s top order in a way that gave England a hard task in their one-dayer against Australia at Lords. Whenever the pace is ‘ratcheted up’ above the more normal 90 – 92 mph batsmen struggle, and always have done, especially when sideways movement is added to the delivery. Shaun Tait bowled around the 100 mph mark with inswing and outswing, with the new ball, and few were able to play it. In the past Lillee & Thompson, Shoaib Aktar, Waqar Younis, Marshall, Holding, Roberts, Daniel, and a long list of other West Indians, have caused havoc when upping the pace about the norm!

If Tait stays fit this winter his pace will challenge our batsmen greatly. We have had to contend with McGrath and Lee but the extra 8 – 10 miles an hour will make it a different game. Forget night watchmen scoring runs, in the form of Jimmy Anderson & Co, it will be hard for those batting in the last four to contribute too, and I am speaking as somebody who did the ‘nighters’ job more than most.

Last Saturday also showed the benefit of having wickets still left, with twenty overs to go, paid huge dividends when posting a good score – aided by their superb fielding and catching. Although England won the series, Australian gave the England captain & selectors enough to worry about when considering the Ashes Tour this winter.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Sun shines but England will need to shine even brighter

At the time or writing the sun is shining, Murray is still in Wimbledon, Surrey have just won another County match and England are 3 – 1 up in the one day series. At the one dayer at the Oval Australia did exactly what we expected them to, i.e, bounced back with a strong performance, reminding us that they are very much a ‘power’ that has far from faded!!

Ponting and Clarke batted in the most aggressive and professional way and justified their World Class status, certainly in one day internationals. England’s first four batsman gave an area of concern, possibly because the Australians had three bowlers bowling well and at a pace of over 90 miles and hour. England naturally are never happy at losing but Bill Gordon’s wicket at the Oval was as good as you could ever get when chasing a total of 290.

Yardy and Bresnan are two of the ‘less glamorous’ selections and yet both showed they merited a place in the team with fine performances. Some aspects of modern cricket have improved but generally we don’t ‘do repetition’ as well as we used to. Taking pace off the ball, and variations, are an important part of bowling in limited over cricket, but they still have to be delivered accurately, especially in power plays.

Many of this Australian team will be up against England in the Ashes this winter so let’s make sure they get used to England putting it up ‘em. Put the train back on the rails please lads!!!

Monday, 7 June 2010

A once in a lifetime round with Garry

I played golf yesterday with an old pal, Sir Garfield Sobers, at Walton Heath, a test for any golfer, especially off the white tees (as we played it).

I first played against Garry when I was 19 in 1966 and bowled more overs at him than I care to remember. I also played with him in a Rest of the World team in Karachi.

The likes of Garry Sobers only come along once in a lifetime. Many truly great sportsmen develop a charisma after they have packed up, but Garry’s worldwide charisma started even when he was still playing cricket. He turned up, immaculate as usual, with a large sunhat sporting the Sandy Lane, Barbados logo. Once playing off a 2 handicap but now has just reached double figures of a 10. His knees are ‘shot to pieces’ so he took a buggy around the course.

His eye surgeon, Tim Leonard, accompanied us. Tim has operated on Garry’s troublesome eyes twice before and brought him back from virtual blindness. With the vision practically gone in one eye, and the sight in the other just about ‘OK,’ made playing golf quite a challenge. He walks up to the tee with his unmistakable gait and then ‘CRACK’ and with those lightening fast hands the ball still flies down the fairway. On one hole there is a cross bunker in the centre of the fairway, 258 yards off the tee, Garry thudded it into the face. “I used to be able to carry that” he said, but at 73, with dodgy knees and eyes, it was still some feat that few younger men manage. Although some of the ‘savagery’ has left him, the touch around the greens was still there. During the round possibly 20 people came over to him from other games just to shake his hand. Garry, forever the perfect ambassador for Barbados and cricket, made everybody, with their embarrassment for intrusion feel, very comfortable.

We were never hurried and he was always keen and ready to answer questions on Alan Stanford, Peter Short, Seymour Nurse, Arthur Bethall, Tony Cozier, Sylvester Clarke, Michael Holding, Malcom Marshall, Clive Lloyd and dozens of other players.

I have played golf in so called ‘Celebrity’ charity days for 30 years, and with very many well known and house-hold names, but, nothing was as special for me yesterday. I was trying to think of an equivalent name to Garry’s within golf and the closest I came to was a mixture of Seve and Jack Nicklaus. I was very lucky!!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Broad & Collingwood miss Bangladesh tests!!

When Andrew Strauss took time off from tests recently some people criticised the Captain’s choice. The England team play a great number of matches these days and even if the bowlers do not bowl huge numbers of overs, the intensity of competition and travel are still there. What the public do not always appreciate is that there is a huge difference in players approach and mentality. Some players become mentally drained after a test match and, with others, it is far less taxing. Thank goodness we are all different.

When considering and injury, one very big difference between professional cricket and top club cricket is, if a player carries a niggling injury, it is harder for him to shrug it off when you are playing or practising almost everyday.

As soon as the test matches against Bangladesh start then the long build up to the Ashes test matches is underway with a huge programme of cricket in all forms of competition. That’s why there is a squad.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Please hang me in the Long Room – not the toilet!

When you arrive at the Oval on your first pro contract at 16, and walk through the Long Room, the thought of one day, having your portrait adorning the walls with great players, is the other side of the moon!

Surrey gave me the greatest honour of my life when they said that they would like me to have a portrait painted for The Oval. Very kindly, my son Toby produced and donated the oil painting (it helped that he runs his own art business!)

Never in my career was I ever remotely tempted to move counties and yesterday, at the unveiling, was as good as it gets for a Surrey player/pro/life long fan. Yesterday at the unveiling was a very special moment for me.

Knowing the leg-pulling lot of the players I played with over 24 years, I haven’t heard the last of it!!

Many many thanks Surrey County Cricket Club!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

World Cup win – well done, but better things shone through.

England are so pleased to have got the one day failure monkey off their backs.  What many people do not realise is that the shortest form of cricket can be the biggest lottery of all.  All top snooker players want their Championships to be as many frames as they can possibly make it, as, the longer the games go on, the best player will shine through.  The same analogy applies to cricket.  The most satisfying thing about England’s win is the all-round performance of all the departments of the game.  The Australians, Pakistan, South Africa and (the outsiders for the Tournament) Sri Lanka take some beating.  Yet England were head and shoulders the most professional unit in the Caribbean and the results reflected their collective achievements.  Much credit must go to, of course the players, but also the playing Management and the gelling of Collingwood and Flower.

England are going to be on a high when they start again, but, next time it’s the real thing. I am sure that anything short of a convincing win against Bangladesh will not be acceptable to the players and Management.  Then the big test.  Pakistan will try desperately to hang on to some form of supremacy as a test nation.  It bothers me like mad to think that they may not play another test match, on their home soil, in my lifetime, and, only staying in the top bracket will the game hold its own in Pakistan and produce the players needed for the next decade.

Watch this space..!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

The greatest Cricket World XI ever?!

There are very many people who have made their World XL public.  Players come and go over the eras. Without mentioning players such as Bradman, Hobbs, Hammond, Headley, Compton, Miller etc, you have to draw a line in the sand somewhere.  As soon as players had to play one day cricket they had to contend with learning a different technique than just playing first class cricket.  One day cricket started in the 60’s so I made my team from 1960.

Richards, Barry
Richards, Viv

If you are going to have team as strong as this, in reality,  you would only need possibly 8 players.  To gauge just how strong the above team is you have to look at the people who are omitted – Graveney, Gavaskar, Roberts, Kanhai, Knott, Barrington, Greenidge, Lloyd, Hadlee, Cowdrey, Underwood, Chappell G & I., Border and many, many others. 

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Beware - Twenty20 needs nurturing

Virtually all the criticism that I have heard or seen regarding T20, is a mirror of the remarks made about one day cricket when it first came. Although the initial one day competition was the Gillette Cup in ’63, the real surge came when we were playing it every Sunday in the John Player League in ’69. Without one day cricket, County Cricket, and County Cricket clubs, as we know it, would have died.

The World cricket organisations were able to dovetail one day programmes into the First Class & Test Match itinerary without adverse effect.

Twenty20 cricket is fast, highly competitive and exciting, but the victories and team successes of T20 are forgotten even faster that the results of the longer one day formats. For over a century Test match cricket has been the backbone of world and professional cricket and it always will be, but, to seek the highest standard in test matches, finance plays a large part.

T20 cricket has given the cricketing coffers a chance to rise to a higher level that was ever dreamed of just a decade ago. It has brought an abundance of people all over the world into cricket grounds who otherwise would not have entered which must be good for the game. Players and teams alike require space in their itineraries to fit all forms of the game into a yearly programme. Yes, T20 is the golden goose, but, if we do not secure the correct balance of matches, the very heart and substance of World Cricket will be torn apart.

Currently the most successful and lucrative T20 matches are played in India. World Cricket has been lead and dominated by England and Australia for over a century, and the two countries have guided the other countries, fairly successfully most would say.

For a few years now India have been the all powerful nation, calling most of the shots, but, if India are going to adopt this mantle, then they have to take the responsibility that goes with the territory. There are so many personal agendas to be satisfied, but, if we don’t reach a satisfactory outcome, cricket will be blown apart.