Monday, 24 January 2011

Changes in the game – intensity & brevity!

I think one of the questions that people ask me more often (and I am sure others of my era) is how has the game changed since ‘your day’? The brief answer is ‘not as much as it did while I was playing!!’

I played over an era where changes happened and at a faster rate than ever before covering three main topics, all huge. One day cricket, overseas players and Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket. Twenty20 has brought about a few changes but the biggest change is the way the batsmen slog the quick bowlers. The number of times bowlers with the pace of Brett Lee and Shaun Tait get hit back straight over their heads into the stands has increased enormously.

However, if there was one word to sum up the biggest change, in all forms of cricket, including test, then it would have to be INTENSITY!!! All forms of practice, training, fielding practise, and the physicals are subject to a higher level of ‘intensity.’

I am not sure that batting and bowling techniques are worked on any harder but more time and thought goes into training and ‘fielding techniques.’ ‘Sliding’ is a relatively new aspect but this also brings about more injuries and this should be weighed up when contemplating the gains from sliding.

There were times when players leaving a Test Match would go straight into a County Match the next day. This would be much harder now as the player would have been wound up to a higher level during the Test Match and pitching up at the County ground at 9.00am the next day for training would be pretty exhausting, especially considering a twelve month programme that many now endure.

The players are paid much more now and that is very necessary with their current workload. Most County players have an 8 or 9 month programme, even if it is only part time in the winter months. There was a time when County players endeavoured to get a winter job but this cannot happen now. There are many players leaving the game at, say, 30 to 35 and have no experience of any other businesses. They have none or little experience of how companies, offices, marketing plans, budgets or other business aspects work. Cricket has always been a short term career, but, now it is even shorter, and those fringe players who were knocking on the door of test cricket without achieving that level, face a tougher time now than a few years ago. For those players who are unable to secure a regular County place it’s even tougher.

All this has to be weighed up when considering what is, after all, ‘a brilliant way to earn a living!!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Let the champers flow

The amount of celebrating that the England Team will do after their win in Sydney will be nothing compared to the Barmy Army’s. Come on now, let’s face it, getting away from the UK at this time of the year and watching the guys make a fantastic win, is not a bad way to spend a few weeks!!!

It is the English mentality to play down the opposition when England crush the opposing team so convincingly, but, to win three tests by more than an innings is unique. In the middle of their historic wins Australia beat England very convincingly at Perth. To come back from a defeat so well, and put the train immediately back on the rails, shows great character by the players and leadership from the Management. The selection, not only of the Tour Party, but also in the picking each team, also needs congratulating. We all know that Australia have lost a few players, but they don’t become a bad team over night. Although they will admit they did not play well, I think it is more of a case that England’s performances rose to a new high.

Just to rub the Aussies noses into it a little more, England now need to perform well and comprehensively beat them in the seven match, one day series too. I have said in previous missives, the cricket world will now be looking at the character of Australia to see how they react to such a huge defeat on their home soil. I fear the players will react much better than the Aussie public! Let’s watch shall we!!!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Australia need a Barmy Army

However badly anybody thinks the Australian cricket team has performed, it is nowhere nearly as bad as the performance of the Australian public. All sporting teams have gone through periods with ups and downs, it’s the nature of high level competition. The Australian public have shown a disgraceful side of their character with no words being too strong for the situation. When an Australian supporter goes to a test match he does not go to support Ponting, or Clarke, or Haddin – he goes to support AUSTRALIA!!!

Anybody can show huge joy and support for teams when they are knocking everybody over, lifting cups and winning championships – following a big success teams don’t need support. However the real test or pedigree of a supporter comes when the chips are down and then a team really needs the support of all patriots. Everybody understands disappointment, but, to leave their own players void of virtually all support, as it was in Melbourne, is inexcusable. History has shown, if Bill Lawry was not employed by television, he would be the first person out of the gate!

It’s clear that the English players outplayed and outclassed the Australians, but not by as much as the Barmy Army showed the way against the Australian public! Whether winning or losing 5 – 0 the Barmy Army are always there for England, making them the world’s best supporters and the Australians the worst in world cricket.

We don’t know what Sydney will bring, but, if the Aussies players are able to turn things around, they will have success that the Aussie public will not deserve. Well done England, and the brilliant Barmy Army, you deserve it!

However, if the Barmy Army really want to promote themselves, and do themselves some good, they may need to market themselves in a slightly better way. Their praises and gratitude have already been sung by the England players but they are still not accepted at Lords as I fear that the MCC regard them as sailing close to the wind. For much of the after match coverage in Melbourne the Barmy Army came across more akin to a football match crowd than cricket supporters and this is something that the MCC would abhor. The trumpeter, the good humoured singing and some exuberant interviews were all good patriotic stuff, welcomed, I am sure, by all the World's authorities.

On the last trip to Australia, when England lost 5 – 0, I was in Sydney talking to an experienced stand attendant. He said “Your Barmy Army are fantastic, they create such a super atmosphere at the ground, they behave themselves and I sure wish we had something like them!!”

The travel and merchandising opportunities that exist, makes the Barmy Army into a substantial business, to which nobody objects. Providing they can curb the unruly element and not let the alcohol carry them into grounds of unacceptability, they will and deserve to go from strength to strength, with every country in the world wishing they had a Barmy Army too.