Bangladesh A v England Lions at Chittagong, 1st unofficial ODI

Okay, so I guess it is finally time that I say something about that Wright Thompson piece for ESPN on test cricket.

Now I have complained about Mr. Thompson before, this was back in the summer when I heard him interviewed by The Two Chucks during the first England v India test – that match also happens to be the central storyline in the essay above.

For a lot of reasons, I find Mr. Thompson annoying.  First of all, I think he is stealing my schtick: I am the American that loves cricket, I should be the one telling Americans all about the sport: its trials, its tribulations, its heroes.  Not you, Wright, the ignoramus ESPN.com writer.  (Truth be told, however, I am stealing Mark Marqusee’s schtick, so whatever.)

Secondly, I am annoyed by the fish-out-of-water, babe-in-the-woods routine he employs in his approach to the sport.  “Hey, I am a big dumb American tell me about your craaaaazzzy game there, Mr. Foreigner!”

Generally, I feel that he is encroaching on what I want to do, which is write about cricket from a unique, American perspective, and I feel like he has already cornered that market without even really trying, and I find that annoying.

So when I had heard that his article for ESPN on the 2,000th test match had finally been published, I initially decided to ignore it.  And then last night @testingtimesXI tweeted that folks should be reading the story and I grew even more agitated – in fact, I was in a generally annoyed state of mind last night for a good three hours.  Whenever I would think about this blog, I would feel this burn in my gut: THIS FUCKING SOUTHERN NITWIT WRIGHT THOMPSON GUY IS STEALING MY ACT!

And, of course, that is stupid.  Mr. Thompson is an accomplished and gifted writer, for reals.  He has a knack both with the pen and with people. I am more often than not in awe of his words.

And, of course, he works for the Worldwide Leader, so he has power of all that Mickey Mouse money behind him – and really it’s not his fault that the machine sent him to London to watch cricket, and honestly in the interview above he did sound legitimately humbled and excited to be at Lord’s.

And, of course, I was being a little bit xenophobic and insular, in a backwards sort of way.  Who cares what a writer’s nationality is?  I read dozens of articles a week about test cricket from writers around the globe, so why should I thumb my nose at this one just because it was written by a fellow American?  Isn’t that just the kind of stereotyping that I should be campaigning against?

Therefore, this morning, I read his piece over oatmeal and tea.  And here are my thoughts, summarized from my scribbled notes on the back of an envelope:

It’s long. Very long. Topping out at almost 10,000 words.  Though I bet even Mr. Thompson would tell you that there is a bit of filler in there.

And, well, I liked it. It was very well written, I saw myself in a lot of what he said, and by the end of the article he really seemed to “get” test cricket – that it wasn’t really one five day match, that it was hundreds of mini-matches spread out over five days.

I liked his notes about the weather, about how all us cricket fans go nuts about rain and humidity and dryness and cloud cover.

And I liked his main point, which was the status of test cricket in the modern world.  He comments on how the brains of younger people have been reprogrammed and simply cannot connect to this longer form of the game, that it would be like telling them to breathe helium instead of oxygen (my words, not his.)

In that same vein, later on he mentions a fact that I knew intellectually but one that I never really thought about.  I had always assumed that cricket was a hold over from the pastoral days of pre-industrial England, but the first test match was played in 1877 – right smack dab in the middle of the Industrial Revolution.  The author sums it best: “When Marqusee describes the pleasure of attending a Test match, he lingers on the way he’s able to think. In the white spaces. I think about the silence at Lord’s, and I understand. Test cricket is different from the rest of the world because it was designed to be.”

He later mentions that due to its birth date, cricket has always been dying, always been struggling against time, against technology, against progress.  And I found that thought quite comforting, as maybe we really all don’t need to be worrying about the future of test cricket, as it knows perfectly well the uphill battles it faces, as it has been facing them for seven generations.

Finally, he sums it all up by saying that this just might finally be test cricket’s time to shine: as the world will sooner or later need to slow time down, and there are movements around the world already attempting to do so: slow food, knitting, urban farming. Yoga.  Maybe test cricket will be the sport that fits into that movement: as “a sport existing outside the tyranny of money and time.”

Again, I took great comfort in his notions.  And I am glad I took the time to read them.

What didn’t I like?  Well, as I mentioned, there were a lot of unnecessary words (pot, meet kettle.  Kettle, pot.)  And the article seemed at some points to be less about cricket, and more about Wright.  And he seemed to steal directly from his previous long-form article on the game, the one about the 2011 World Cup.

And really, I thought he gave the Lord’s establishment a bit too hard of a time.

But those were all easily forgivable mistakes.

In the end, I liked it, and I recommend it.

My favorite part of the entire article was this paragraph, as it reminded me of me, when I first fell in love with cricket:

“The English fielding strategy, I hear, contains three slips and a gully. A silly point. I’m not sure what that means, but the words are pleasing to hear. Just the sound of them.”

Amen, Mr. Thompson.

Until next time.

ICC Combined Associate and Affiliate XI v England XI at Dubai, Tour Match

One upcoming bit of cricket that I forgot to mention in yesterday morning’s post was the Caribbean Twenty20 Cup.  Normally, this is the kind of tournament that I would completely ignore, however all of the matches will be available live on ESPN3 – and because the Caribbean is of course in my hemisphere, I will be able to watch a great deal of it (there are two matches a day, one in the mid-afternoon and one in the evening, central standard time.)

Considering the above, I figured I would write a bit of a preview:

First of all, the tournament has positively nothing to do with Allen Stanford and the Stanford 20/20.  It is a brand new tournament which had its’ inaugural season in 2010.

(Side note: I thought it was really odd that one of the players being interviewed in the actually disappointing Fire in Babylon was wearing a Stanford 20/20 polo shirt).

The competition features seven domestic squads: Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and Windward Islands.  The Canadians have also been invited every year so far, including this season.  In 2010 and 2011 Hampshire and Somerset played in the tournament, but this year Sussex and Holland have taken their places.

The ten teams are divided into two groups, with every team playing each team in its group once.  The top two teams from each group advance to the knock out stages.

Importantly, the top performing domestic team (i.e. not Canada or Sussex or Holland) gets the chance to playing in the Champions League t20.

Trinidad and Tobago won the tournament last season, Guyana the year before.

All the matches this season will be played in just two different venues: The Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua, and the Kensington Oval in Barbados.

The former ground was built in 2007 for the World Cup, using mostly money from Chinese investors.  It seats 10,000 and while it has hosted test matches, the most recent test had to be abandoned due to unsafe outfield conditions. It has not hosted one since and it looks as is if will not be hosting one when Australia visit the West Indies this spring for three tests.

There is not a great deal of character to the ground, despite its namesake, and I am sure it will be mostly vacant for the majority of the matches it hosts, but it is not a terrible looking stadium:

And I like the grass knolls.  Every cricket ground should have grassy knolls.

Also, lest we forget:

Sir Viv

(Annoying that that video won’t embed. It’s Richards and the fastest test century every – 56 balls – in 1986.)

The latter ground, of course, was built in 1882, has hosted 43 test matches (the first one in 1930), and it will be hosting a West Indies v Australia test in March

It currently seats 28,000 after a drastic renovation for the 2007 World Cup, during which it hosted the final between Australia and Sri Lanka – a very nice cricketing memory for me.

Here it is post-renovation:

It’s wiki page has a lovely gallery of pre-renovation photos, check it out.

The first match of the tournament is on Monday, with the final on  the 22nd of January (a Sunday).

Twenty20 is of course not my favorite format, but after reading about this tournament and writing this post, I find myself a bit excited about it.

It’s not a test series, but it is cricket, in my hemisphere, and I should do my best to support it.

Until next time.

Titans v Warriors at Benoni, SuperSport Series

I talk a great deal about test cricket on this blog. A great deal more than I ever expected to, actually.

This is the story of I how I fell in love with test cricket.  Some other time, I will write about my love affair with the sport overall…

When I first started following the game, it was during the 2007 World Cup, and so I was an ODI man through and through.  I thought it was a modern form of an archaic sport, a way out of the cricketing middle ages.  And I thought for sure that it was cricket in its most exciting form, as how could a four or five day match possibly be more exciting than one that is decided in one day – and one which always gives you a winner?

Please forgive me.

Then, shortly after, very shortly after, I discovered Twenty20 cricket, and the American in me sprung to life: this is it, I thought, this is what will bring Americans into the game. It’s three hours, there are penalties for slow over rates, the crowds are big and loud and the atmosphere is thick with tension.

I found myself following a great deal many one day series that first year: there was the t20 World Cup, there was India’s seven ODIs in England, and so on.

But more and more, beginning in 2008, I started to drift toward the longer forms of the game.  In County Cricket, after first only really following the one day tournaments, I was starting to only watch highlights of first-class matches.  And while I still enjoyed big ODIs, and followed along with the knockout stages of the County one-dayers, and while I thought the IPL was great entertainment, I was slowly but surely being consumed by test cricket.

For me, just like for most folks, it seems, test cricket was the true test of team sporting endurance.  And more than any other sport, test matches told a story:  there was drama, and villains, and heroes.  Plot lines that stretch for days, batsmen who bat for days, and twists that come from nowhere.  And like most I enjoy a well spun yarn.

I was blown away by the fact that one delivery, ONE, could turn an entire five day match on its head.

Now, I am not going too much time waxing poetic here, as so many that have come before me have done it far better than I ever could.  But for my American readers, you must know, there is something quite magical about a sporting event that lasts for more than three hours.  You cannot think of it like an NFL game, where three hours can feel interminable, as it is something completely different.  You drift in and out, checking the scores when you can, watching entire two hour sessions when possible, keeping it in the back of your mind all the rest of the time.  It is its own animal, it transcends the traditional “game” and honestly, is the only contest that can fairly be called a “match”.

All of that said, however, up until recently, my love for test cricket was on somewhat equal standing with other major sporting events that I enjoyed.  The Tour de France, the World Series, the Champions League Final, football’s World Cup…etc.

I felt this way even after subscribing to Willow.tv which allowed me to watch the England-India test series.

But then, and goodness I hate to keep harping on this, but then I watched the Boxing Day test at the MCG, and everything changed.  I realized that test cricket stood alone, not always, but on its biggest stages, it was on a pedestal where no other sports could be placed.  Not the bloated Super Bowl, not the niche sport Olympics, not even the World Cup.  Test match cricket existed all on its own, and in my 30 years as a sports fan, I had found my personal mountain top of sporting spectacle.

I have been to Emirates Stadium, been to NFL games, been to an Michigan v Ohio State football game, been to an MLB playoff game…but nothing matches what I felt those first few nights watching Australia-India at cricket’s giant virtual bar on my silly little computer in a quiet room on the other side of the earth.

Nothing involving sport, of course, mind you.

And I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life enjoying match after match.

I linked to @Legsidelizzy‘s blog this morning, and I feel like I have to do it again here.  In this post, she says:

“I continue to search for the elusive thing that is happiness and contentment.  That may never happen but quite frankly, I don’t know where I’d be without cricket. Lost – totally lost.”

Now, I don’t think I would be lost without cricket, but this blog and this sport have brought a great deal of happiness over the last year, and for that I am very thankful.

One last note: I know that waxing poetic about test cricket is like shooting fish in a barrel, and I know that I repeated myself a lot in this post, and I do appreciate you humoring me by reading this.  I promise to not do either too often.

Until next time.

Melbourne Stars v Melbourne Renegades at Melbourne, Big Bash League

There is a hole in my heart, where a test match used to be.

Really, though, I am feeling a little empty this morning.  Last night India finally completed its collapse, losing to a capable Australia by an innings and 68 runs.   And that’s it for that match, and for the series, and for the Australian Summer.  Meanwhile, in Capetown, South Africa completed a 10 wicket victory over Sri Lanka to wrap up that series.

I was thinking about writing a quick recap of the Sydney test, but what else is there to say, really?  Clarke was huge, as were Hilfenhaus and Ponting and Hussey.  India was poor, generally, with very few exceptions.

When you compare the fielding of the two sides, you can really start to see why the hosts demolished their guests.  Australia in the field were chatty and lively, chasing down boundaries even when the game was no longer in doubt.  Meanwhile India were deathly silent, and flat, and shoot: even a little lazy at times it seems.

Sure, when Clarke was batting, they were in the field for nearly 12 hours, and you have to forgive tired legs after all that time, but I don’t think that is necessarily a valid excuse.

I am not sure what the answer is for India.  A commentator yesterday suggested three days off: and I think that is a fine idea. Time away from cricket might be helpful, but it is not going to change anything.  They were poor, very poor, and putting Sharma in for Kohli in the 6th spot is not going to change that.  Tendulkar has an anvil hanging over his head in the shape of a Meaningless Milestone; Laxman looks tired; Sehwag looks old; Gambhir looks out of his depth; Kahn, their best bowler by a million miles, looks bored; and Dravid, the hero of the England series, is a shadow of his former self.

I think one thing they need is for Sachin to get his 100 and get that out of the way.  That might take a little of the weight off of the batsmen, which would help, but this team needs a complete overhaul.  Winning in the sub-continent is just not enough.

Get the boys home, and start anew.

Australia on the other hand are playing just good enough to beat a poor India.  I will be very curious to see how their young quicks do in the West Indies this spring, and whether or not the batsmen can continue to bat this well against bowling that is not, errr, India’s.

Anyway, a test match shaped hole in my heart, for sure.  I am already counting the days until the start of the next Australian Summer.

I feel like Legsidelizzy felt after the end of the England-India test at the Oval.

Sure, there are two more tests between Australia and Inda – in Perth and in Adelaide.  But the visitors will have to play out of their skins to win on those pitches, especially with Australia more than likely playing for draws.

And, sure, there are ODIs to come.  15 of them in fact in the tri-series featuring Australia and India and Sri Lanka starting in February.

Plus South Africa and Sri Lanka play five one-dayers of their own starting on January 11th.

But it’s just not the same.

And yeah there is the Pakistan-England test series upcoming, but I won’t be able to watch those matches because I don’t have Dish Network.  (Though the series is listed on Willow.tv’s website, but I am guessing that is Canada only.)

And then this morning I read this article about the death of County match radio commentary on the BBC, and my heart just broke.  One of my favorite things in the whole wide world is to listen to radio coverage of County matches online.

Sigh.

I am not in a good way, cricket wise, this morning.

But, hey, some things to look forward to:

Everyone’s favorite minnows, Zimbabwe, visit New Zealand later this month – the matches will be live on Willow and are on during prime time hours here in the states.  South Africa then visit the Kiwis in March for three tests (!!!), three ODIs, and three t20s.

Then, of course, it is April, and with that comes the English Summer: The County Championship starts on the 5th and the West Indies come in May.  (Cynical cricket fans, of which there are many, will tell you the England v West Indies series is going to be damp and boring, but I am an eternal optimist, and I am hoping for a rager.)  And then in July South Africa comes to town for three tests – those should be fantastic battles.

And, shoot, there is the IPL coming up in April, too.  I am not a fan of t20, but I have very soft spot in my heart for the IPL.

And that’s it for today.  I do have a post brewing for tonight and I should have plenty of time to write, since there is no cricket to watch damn it.

Until next time.

South Western Districts v Boland at Oudtshoorn, CSA Provincial Three-Day Challenge

Currently: Day four, India 260-3, trailing Australia by 208.

Last night, before lunch, I experienced one of my favorite cricket moments ever.  (Admittedly, my experience is limited.)

Michael Clarke was in the 280s. He had taken his helmet off as India had brought spin into the attack. The commentators were silent (still not sure if they were actually quiet or if there was a technical glitch.)  There was the softest of buzzes from the stands.

And there stood Clarke, in his baggy green hat, and his label-free bat, looking exhausted but focused, like a cricketer from another era, another century.

Some cynics will say that Clarke was playing up the part, hamming it up in order to regain the favor of the fans and the press, and well, no matter, he won me over.   It was a wonderful moment, and it brought out the romantic in me.

At this moment, however, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar look not like cricketers from earlier time, but like themselves from just a few short years ago.

Their partnership today is at 92 runs, and they look to be in good enough form to maybe, just maybe, keep India in this match.

Unfortunately, there looks to be no chance of rain today or tomorrow in Sydney, so if they want to earn a draw, they are going to just keep on batting.

And, really, once they lose their fourth wicket, that really could be it for India.  Next is Kohli, who has had a terrible series, and Dhoni, who as we saw in the first innings cannot carry this team all on his own.

So the partnership of VVS and Sachin is India’s only hope.

Thankfully, for India, they are in good hands.  Tendulkar, of course, has over 15,000 test runs, and Laxman has almost 9,000…

And just like that, just as I was looking into the partnership totals of Laxman and Tendulkar, the Captain Clarke strikes: Tendulkar: OUT for 80 off of 141 deliveries.

It is surely Michael Clark’s test match.

A lovely knock under pressure for the little man, but India needed more.

And that is probably it.  I was hoping to be able to have one more night of cricket viewing tomorrow evening, but I have a feeling will all be lucky if this match makes it to the tea break.

And with that, I am going to sign off an enjoy it while I can.

Until next time.

Madhya Pradesh v Mumbai at Indore, Ranji Trophy Elite

About five minutes ago, Michael Clarke became only the 21st cricketer to hit a test 300.  And he is still going, and I would not be surprised if he reaches 400, as India has seemingly all but given up on this test, on this series.  Clarke has buried them.

Like most Indian supporters and neutrals, I keep waiting for India to spring to life, to take a couple quick wickets, and then maybe bat on for two days and earn a draw and we all go to Perth with a smile.  But it’s just not happening.

But back to Clarke’s 300: there have been 25 triple centuries in test cricket in the 134 years of the format’s existence from 21 different batsmen.  And just like I always do here, I will try to put this into a bit of context:

The first thing that came to mind was the perfect game in baseball.  And, yeah, I know it is apples to oranges, as a baseball game at most lasts three hours, and the pitcher is only out there for half of it, and most perfect games are actually closer to two hours long than three hours. While Chris Gayle, for instance, during his 300 two years ago against Sri Lanka, batted for almost 11 hours, while seeing 437 deliveries.

But, still, the perfect game, like the three hundred, is five parts stamina, three parts mental fortitude, and two parts dumb luck.  And they are rare:  It has only been accomplished 20 times in the history of the Major League Baseball.  And like the 300, it is truly a modern accomplishment, with majority of the perfect games happening in the last two decades.

And considering there have been countless baseball games, while there have only been 2,000+ tests, one could even argue that the perfect game is a rarer accomplishment.

And that, really, is the only comparison I can come up with – in team sports anyway.   The 300, to me, is a solitary feat in modern sport, and has no equal anywhere.  To stand up, at the crease, in the pressure of a test match, for nine, ten, eleven, twelve hours; to defend, to score, to run between the wickets with the highest degree of skill and intelligence, in a sport where the margin of error is positively razor thin…well, it truly blows me away that it is even possible, much less that it has happened 25 times since 1877.

A couple of other accomplishments I kicked around were Pete Rose’s hitting streak, Cal Ripken’s consecutive games streak, or maybe, a professional cyclist winning a tough mountain stage without the help of teammates.  But at this point, we aren’t even talking apples to oranges anymore, we are talking apples to elephants.

The only other event I can think of, other than a perfect game, which even comes close to a triple century in cricket is a really long Grand Slam final in tennis.  Like, maybe, the 2008 Wimbledon Final between Nadal and Federer that lasted almost five hours.  A close comparison, I think, really.

Of course, Clarke’s 300 today at the SCG is even more impressive than most 300s, because he is the squad’s captain, and when he entered the match his squad was reeling at 37-3, but the captain stood up and batted on and on and on…and now they are 650-4.  He did what captains are supposed to do: he put them team on his back and carried them.

Now, truthfully, Dhoni did the same thing for India in their first innings, but unfortunately batting partner after batting partner failed him, while Clarke had the luxury of batting with two fellas that each hit centuries.

Back to the match and Australia are now ahead by 460, and they could probably declare now and still get a day off.  And, really, they should be continue and continue to bat at least a little longer to guarantee a win, because despite India’s poor performance with the bat, they are still India, and they still feature Sehwag, and Dravid, and Tendulkar,  and Laxman.

Clarke would be a fool to underestimate them.

Meanwhile, in Cape Town, Sri Lanka are steadily chasing down South Africa’s 580 on day three.  It has been a fine test match so far at Newlands, always great to see.

That’s it from here.  Until next time.

 

Tamil Nadu v Maharashtra at Chennai, Ranji Trophy Elite

It is day two of the second test of India’s tour of Australia, and to this novice, it looks as if India is already thinking ahead to the ODIs, or maybe even to the plane ride home.

Dhoni and Co. look perfectly content to let Ponting and Clarke bat on and on and on and on.  151 runs for the partnership at press time, and they are cranking along at 4.28 runs per over, and they look ready to give Australia a decisive lead in the match, and if India allows that to happen, then for all intents and purposes the test series is over before a single ball is bowled in Perth.

It is everyone’s greatest fear come to fruition, as it is so far a repeat of this past summer in England.  Actually, that is untrue, as India actually gave England a real scare in the first two tests.  In Australia however, aside from a few moments on day two, and a few wonderful balls from Kahn, India has barely been in the ballpark.

Here’s to hoping we are all jumping the gun too soon.  But reading around the Internet today, as bloggers near and far attempt to dissect what exactly is wrong with India (remember this team was the number one test nation on earth six months ago) I am afraid to say that I think we are not jumping to conclusions too early.

(Two such articles are here and here, from The Reverse Sweep and a Cricketing View, respectively.)

Now, I am not going to write India’s postmortem quite yet, and in fact part of me believes there is life in their team yet, and Australia has honestly bowled really well, and their tail has batted out of their skins, but it is quite obvious even to me that considering the batting talent India has, there is something terribly wrong with the squad, something that can’t be fixed with a different player batting sixth or with a different off spinner.

So what’s next for India?

Well, unfortunately, as an extended stay at home might be what they really need, this is a long stay in Australia; their last ODI takes place almost two months from now, on February 28th.  Then it is off to Bangladesh for the Asia Cup series, and then home for the IPL.

Then again in July they are back on the road already, with three tests in Sri Lanka.  After that, however, they are home for one year (aside from the Champions Trophy) when they travel to Zimbabwe in 2013.

In other words, they will get their long stay at home to rest and examine their squad as players start to retire eventually, but it is going to be a while yet.

Australia, on the other hand, look like world beaters again.  Ponting, who was dead to the world not four months ago, has pushed the sky back into sky and looks to knock his first test ton since he scored 209 against Pakistan at Hobart – 32 test innings ago.

And their young quicks continue to impress, especially Pattinson, who just keeps taking wickets.  As such it might not all be India’s fault, that as I alluded to above, it might simply be that Australia is playing quite well.

Over in South Africa, another aging batsman is showing that age is just a number, as the 36 year Jacques Kallis is at 159 not out for the hosts, who have batted for 347/3 against Sri Lanka in the first innings of the third and decisive test.

At this point, it looks like it is going to be South Africa’s match to lose, and considering how tame Sri Lanka’s bowling attack has been, you have to ask: is it time to entice Lasith Malinga out of test retirement?

He is only 28 years old, and before he retired right after the 2011 IPL, he took 101 test wickets in 30 matches.

Now, I understand why he retired: Sri Lanka was not paying him and he needed to rest his injury prone body for the IPL and other one-day formats in order to make a living, but the Sri Lanka cricket board needs to look at the situation and figure out a way to bring him back into the test squad – pay him more, let him bowl part time, something.

His country needs him, despite their famous win at Durban. He is one of the most dynamic bowlers in world cricket, and he should be playing tests.  My two cents.

Unfortunately, the above will continue to happen as big money t20 domestic leagues lure players away from test cricket, and that is just simply the age we live in now, but when it comes to a player like Malinga, I feel like it is a real loss not just for Sri Lanka, but for cricket.

(Author’s bias, Malinga was one of the very first cricketers I fell in love with after discovering cricket.)

Now I need to get back to the cricket, and working on other writing.  I am starting to think I might get up before dawn to watch some of South Africa v Sri Lanka, see if Kallis can get only his second double century.  First ball of the day is at 3:30am local time.

That’s a giant maybe.

Until tomorrow.

Melbourne Renegades v Sydney Sixers at Melbourne, Big Bash League

First of all, here are some proper Resolutions, as this is the season for Resolutions:

1. Eat fewer nuts.  (This is the only personal one, don’t worry.)

2. Stop writing bullet pointed articles. (Starting tomorrow.)

3. 1,000 words a day, five days week. This is the important one, the really important one. I have been rather prolific, posting wise, over the last few weeks, and that not only needs to continue, it needs to increase.

School starts back up in a week, and I cannot let that get in the way of posting.  I would also like to start posting more at home, rather than at work.

4. Attend an actual match. Whether it be in England, Australia, or Bangladesh, I need to make this happen.  I also want to attend far more matches here in Minneapolis.  The MCA plays every weekend on fields not a 25 minute bicycle trip from my house.

5. Get 200 followers on Twitter, at least 60% of which need to not be Spam-bots.

6. Be more active in the cricket blogging community.  Read, link, comment, like.  There is so much great amateur cricket writing going on these days, I need to celebrate that.

7. 1,000 words a day, five days a week. 1,000 words a day, five days a week. I hate to repeat myself, but this is really the important one.  However, I cannot always expect that to happen.  600 words is fine here and there, as is taking an entire day off.

********************************************************************************

The good news is that there is a TON happening on the pitch this year, and so there will be absolutely plenty to talk about.

Test series in 2012 include (in no particular order): the remaining three tests between Australia and India; Pakistan v England in the UAE (three tests); England v Sri Lanka (two tests); the West Indies and South Africa are in England for three tests each; and finally England travel to India for four HUGE test matches.

Also: Australia travels to the West Indies in the spring for three tests, they host South Africa for three, and Sri Lanka is down under for three tests, as well, the first of which is the Boxing Day test (the other two are in 2013.)

Meanwhile, India, on top of the test matches already mentioned, host Pakistan for three, go to Sri Lanka for three, and host New Zealand for three more.

South Africa join in the fun with the aforementioned matches in England and Australia by hosting Sri Lanka for three, and they go to New Zealand for three this upcoming spring.

And we are just getting started. Pakistan go to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka; the West Indies host New Zealand and travel to Bangladesh; and the minnows in Zimbabwe host Bangladesh.

And those are just the test matches, as I am not going to even begin trying to list all the ODIs and t20s.

The only drawback?  Not one five-test series among the lot.

Note: all of the above is based on information from ICC’s Future Tours Programme, which is surely subject to change.

Which ones am I looking forward to?  The ones I can watch, of course.  All the home matches of England, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand are live on Willow.tv (the last two are the most important, as they are on during prime time hours here the states.) ESPN3 will have all of Bangladesh’s home matches, as well.

Of the matches I cannot watch, the India v England tests will be a treat, as will the India v Pakistan series.

Oh, and finally, on the international scene, there is the t20 World Cup this summer in Sri Lanka.

Meh.

Domestically, we will have another IPL, another Champions League, plus a whole host of domestic t20 tournaments that feature international cricketers: the Bangladesh Premiere League, the Big Bash League, and the Sri Lanka Premiere League.

England of course will also host what will hopefully be another great year of County Cricket.   The first Championship matches take place April 5th – just a hair over three months from now.

All right, that’s it from me until tomorrow, as I just found out that Fire in Babylon is available on iTunes, and I think watching that will be a delightful way to ring in the new year.

Happy new year, ya’ll.