West Indies v Pakistan at Bridgetown, 4th ODI

“Hey, it seems our nation was harboring* the world’s most wanted man…how about some cricket?”

“Cool.”

And so went, I am sure, the conversation between the Captains this morning down at the Kensington Oval.

*Not really harboring, per se, yes, I know.

It must be interesting to be a member of an international team, when that nation is all of a sudden thrust into the world news spotlight.  Even more so when the spotlight has a negative bent.  Are Pakistani players proud of their country kits this morning?  Tough call.

Back to the pitch: interesting couple of notes from Cricinfo’s introduction to the fourth ODI: West Indies have not won an ODI against a test side that was not Bangladesh since 2009; and it seems several of their best players are thousands of miles away playing under the bright lights of the IPL.  Why would the WICB, a side dearly in need of winning momentum, elect to play an ODI series during the IPL?

Anyway, rain in Bridgetown this morning, but it looks as if we have started on time.  West Indies won the toss and elected to field.  Goodness it must be hard for the players to “get up” for these dead rubber matches.  I bet there are 2 people in the stands right now.

On top of that, LOADS of other cricket going on today:  No less than nine Clydesdale Bank 40 matches are in progress, there are two marquee IPL matches, and another low tier international tournament has begun in Botswana.  More on that tournament as well as a recap of the County Cricket 40s tomorrow.

Until then: greetings from Jaipur:

Robin Uthappa scored 35 off 21 balls, Rajasthan Royals v Pune Warriors, IPL 2011, Jaipur, May 1, 2010

Rajasthan Royals v Mumbai Indians at Jaipur, Indian Premier League

There was a time, in the not so distant past, but long before I started following the sport, that the West Indies were the best cricket team on the planet.   Dominating test series after test series, and winning back to back world cups (’75 and ’79).   Considering the above, is a little sad to see the state of West Indian cricket.  Hosting the disastrous 2007 World Cup (not really their fault) and most recently, on the receiving end of a thrashing in an ODI series on their home turf by Pakistan.

I talk a lot about the health of cricket here, and I think it is important for the growth of the sport that West Indies stays competitive and relevant.  And the poor form on the pitch and the infighting by the WICB are not helping matters in the least.  Hopefully, at some point, they will right the ship, and return to being cricket’s gleaming tropical outpost.

In the IPL, Rajasthan “hammered” Mumbai, only the second loss for the Indians in the tournament.  Mumbai is still top of the table, but Rajasthan is now in 2nd.  Warne only took one wicket, but it seems he had a massive spell for the Royals. I wished I could have watched him bowl to Sachin.

Over in England, the County Championship enters its fourth day, despite the distraction of the Royal Wedding.   Last night I clicked on Sussex’s page for the first time in a while, and checked out Sussex TV – their highlights have come a long, long way.  Still only the one camera, but the viewing screen is twice the size it once was, and they actually have an announcer talking to the highlights, instead of just music. (Though I personally loved the old techno track they used to play over them).  I will need to investigate other County pages and see what they have to offer in the form of video.

Back to work.  Here’s William and Kate:

West Indies v Pakistan at Bridgetown, 3rd ODI

Ah, rain, now that is the real cricket killer.  It seems as though fully 30% of all cricket matches are affected by rain. Yes, I know it has everything to do with the season the sport is played in, as well as the part of the world it is most most popular in, but goodness it seems cricket pitches see more than their fair share of rain.

The match above has been delayed, heck they haven’t even had the toss yet.

(The BeeGees’ “How Deep is Your Love” is playing on the Muzak here are at the office.  I have a good feeling that that is the same tune they are playing on the ground’s loudspeakers in Barbados.  It just seems to…fit.)

Last night I was debating whether or not I should finally sign up for willow.tv. It is now a flat $14.99 a month, instead of $50 or so for each series.  My only real problem is getting my money’s worth, since the matches are at such odd times, and it is really difficult to tell which matches they are actually going to carry.  West Indies v Pakistan didn’t show up until just the last few days.  If they are going to show the Sri Lankan and Indian tours of England, I might have to pony up.   And if I am going to get serious about being a cricket writer, I really need to, you know, start watching more cricket.  Cricinfo’s ball by ball coverage only goes so far.

In County Champhionship, Lancashire are on the verge of beating Sussex by a full innings, and Middlesex looks to the same to Surrey at Lord’s (Division 2).  The IPL features Delhi versus Kolkata…weather permitting, of course.

Middlesex v Surrey at Lord’s, County Championship Division Two

Another day, another post pining for the good old days, when cricket was played by white people, with white fans, in a white country.   Yes, I am being too harsh on poor old Martin Johnson, who longs for the days before video replay (because getting the call right is such a, you know, problem) and pop music between overs (okay that is something I can get on board with) but his post is just another indication of a very real divide in the game.

Mr. Johnson sees the County game as the “bedrock” of the sport (referring to it as “our” sport, as in “us”, as in “English people”), and while I love the Championship as much as the next fella, the bedrock is shifting east, and people like Mr. Johnson are going to have to get on board, or be pushed aside.

However, he does make some decent points: the fact that a game that requires FOUR entire days to be played would never be concocted in the digital age, and that the county game does have a very real “quality all of its own” – but he comes across as bitter in pointing those positives out.

Now: why can’t both versions of the same sport exist peacefully?  Why does one have to push the other out?  Is it simply a metaphor for a shift in world power from NATO to BRIC?  I am not sure where all this is heading.

Let’s just say this: there is nothing wrong with India making the game their own.  Instead, England should be proud to have created something so beloved.   And, honestly, as long as people like Mr. Johnson are around to extol its virtues, the county game, as we know it, isn’t going anywhere either.

But when the Martin Johnsons of the world are gone, and they are an endangered species, the game he describes in his article might be gone, too.

Back on the pitch: (It IS kind of annoying how the County Championship is pushed to the back pages of Cricinfo, while the IPL is given front page status no matter what): Chennai is chasing down Pune’s 141, while Kochi v Deccan starts a little later.  The IPL is fun for the first week, but then you start to realize what a slog it is.  Still a month left before the qualifying playoffs.

And day 2 of the County Championship rolls on, from which our photo of the day emerges.  Until tomorrow:

James Cameron was caught for 25 as Worcestershire's batsmen struggled, Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire, County Championship Division One, Trent Bridge, April 26, 2010

Sussex v Lancashire at Hove, County Championship Division One

Again, with the news, on Malinga.  I somehow missed that he retired from test cricket last week, but it looks as though it is official.  Further, he thanked, get this, the IPL, the bastion of all that is unholy about cricket, for giving him another chance to get healthy, and get noticed.  Mmmm…the IPL, the death knell for cricket: saving the career of the one the most electric and entertaining cricketers on the planet.  What say you now, British press?

Of course, he does go on to blame the Sri Lankan federation for their lack of concern, and one would hope that the Indian or English cricket boards would be more careful with their stars’ injuries, but I think it is truly a feather in the cap of the IPL.  Not only does it allow for the development of a great many young Indian cricketers, but it provides a platform for players from around the world to prove to their country boards that they are ready compete at the highest level.

Ongoing today: Delhi v Bangalore, County Cricket, and something called the “Premiere League Tournament Tier A” – which I believe is Sri Lankan club cricket.  That’s it, early meeting today, maybe a rare afternoon post later?

West Indies v Pakistan at Gros Islet, 2nd ODI

Hey, look at that: I didn’t commit the fatal sin of “blog fade”.  I came close, admittedly, but I did not fall victim completely to, you know, “real life”.

Why all the scare quotes?

Hey, Cricket: IN MY HEMISPHERE.  Well, technically, England is in my hemisphere, but shoot the West Indies are like a stone’s throw from my back yard, relatively speaking.  Pakistan won the 1st ODI and the 2nd is ongoing as we speak:  JUST DOWN THE ROAD FROM ME.

I freely admit that I took the 2007 World Cup for granted.  I had no idea, being so new to the sport, how rare major tournaments would be in my neck of the woods.   I spent many an afternoon at the office listening to the BBC’s coverage of the matches…ENTIRE matches.  Not just bits and pieces because of the time difference.  For instance, the 2015 World Cup is in Australia, which means match start times of probably 2:30am on my watch.  So, yeah, I will get to enjoy my fare share of chases at not-entirely-ungodly hours, but that is really about it.

Anyway, the West Indies are 80 for 2 after 18 overs.  A rather pitiful RR…Pakistan’s bowlers must be salivating.

Also, in the IPL, Mumbai continues to pull away.  They truly are the best team by a long shot. Of course, still early doors, as the first qualifying final is not until May 24th (!!!).  But I really do not see any team overtaking them at this point, in the points table anyway.

Finally, hey, Shane Warne took 3 wickets yesterday, nice to see him back.  Until tomorrow…

Durham v Sussex at Chester-le-Street, County Championship Division One

Ah, another morning with County Cricket to follow.  I was hoping the Wisden Cricketer’s new website would have better coverage of the County game than Cricinfo currently does, but it is pretty much the same.  No ball by ball, no photos, no live match reports.  Just the score, the stats, and the weather.  For now, I will stick with Cricinfo, as their layout is far superior.

Sussex is the closest thing I ever had to a favorite County club.  I “chose” them when I first started to follow the sport, as they had won the double the year previous and I thought for once it would be nice to follow a winning team.  The choice never really stuck, unfortunately.   At this point, I don’t think I will ever truly love a County Team unless I move to England.

Lots of news today.  Malinga has been left out of the Sri Lankan squad for the tests in England.  Kind of expected, he has never really proven himself as a test bowler.  I am sure he will be selected for the ODI series.

And it looks more and more like there will be 10 teams in the 2015 world cup, with a chance for the associate nations to qualify over a few of the lagging test nations.  I am not sure why they cannot expand to 12 teams, but it looks like Australia has already begun planning for the 10 teams.

And, of course, the IPL:  Mumbai won in rather thrilling fashion, and Kolkata will be chasing Kochi’s 132.

Another short post today.  Here’s the beauty Malinga in white – I thought I would post it since we won’t be seeing him in the classic kit this summer:

© AFP

South Africa A v Bangladesh A at East London, 1st Unofficial ODI

I honestly have no idea what this tournament is all about.  Is it just the reserves playing the reserves?  Just seems like a real misuse of the word “unofficial”.

The big news this morning is that the ICC is going to revisit the 2015 World Cup format.   It really is shocking to me that they are, to at least a slight degree, admitting that maybe they were wrong.  I do not think anything will change, but can you imagine FIFA publicly saying that maybe Qatar is not the best choice for 2022?  Never.  Never ever ever.

As mentioned previously, Cricket is sick, and the last thing the ICC needs after such a successful 2011 World Cup is another two steps backward, which is what they got by eliminating the Associate members from the 2015 competition.  Does having Ireland and Holland compete really make it that more interesting of a tournament?  No, not really.  But in the long haul, I think it is good for the health of the sport.

Photo of the day.  Until tomorrow.

Kieron Pollard nearly pulled off a spectacular catch on the edge of the boundary, Mumbai Indians v Kochi Tuskers Kerala, IPL 2011, Mumbai, April 15, 2011

Kochi Tuskers Kerala v Chennai Super Kings at Kochi, Indian Premiere League

There is not, truthfully, a whole lot going on today in the world of cricket.  I was thinking about writing a blog on Saturday, mostly to discuss Sachin’s maiden T20 century, and even more importantly, Kochi’s impressive chase of Mumbai’s 182.   And now I am wishing I had, for two reasons:  1.  The moment is gone, I cannot write about it now with any passion and 2. It would have given me an excuse for phoning in today’s post.

As seen above, Kochi do play again today, so at the very least I will have a match to follow as I seep my way though the day.

In other news, well, Sri Lanka picked their captain for the summer series in England.  And while that really is neither here nor there, it does get me at least a little more excited for what should be a glorious summer of cricket in England.  County Cricket, plus tours of the country by both Sri Lanka and India.  Hopefully, both series will be memorable ones, as memorable as India’s lovely spell in England in 2007.

Finally, it seems the boys over at the Wisden Cricketer have started a new website,  supposedly a “cricinfo for white people English cricket”.   Seriously, though, it boasts several of my favorite cricket writers and what seems to be (so far) decent coverage of the County game.  I am looking forward to seeing how it develops.

And, that’s that for today.

Rajasthan Royals v Kolkata Knight Riders at Jaipur, Indian Premiere League

There we go with those names again.

And I realize that it is a “tradition” in Twenty20 cricket to have nicknames (Sussex Sharks, in England, for example), but I still do not care for it.

Many in the (especially) British press see the IPL as the deconstruction of cricket – the beginning of the end for the sport.  While that might be the case, I think the nicknames used during Twenty20 are the real problem.

(Not really).

There are quite a few real problems in the sport.  From the continuing shortening of the game, to match fixing, to TV and sponsors acting as dictators, to Ireland and the Dutch being left out of the 2015 World Cup.   Now I am not well versed enough in the sport to tell anyone how to fix these problems, or if these problems even need fixing, or if they are problems to begin with.  However,  to me, the game, despite its immense popularity in SE Asia, appears to be sick.   If only I knew the cure.

On the pitch, Kolkata looks to be successfully chasing down Rajasthan, needing just 30 from 30; County Cricket Championship matches are in the middle of day 2; and the Mumbai Indians are back on the pitch in about 55 minutes (do they play everyday?).

Also, in the ICC World Cricket Division Two, UAE defeated Nambia in the final by five wickets.  I do not know a great deal about this tournament, and the coverage on the Internet is lacking, but it is interesting to see what nations have been deemed as “division 2” by the ICC.  Nambia, Papua New Guinea, Uganda…not exactly world powerhouses when it comes to sporting endeavors.  Maybe the sport is sick because the ICC is not reaching out to countries with the financial acumen to really embrace the sport long term?

Well, that’s a full lid.  Your cricket photo of the day, follows:

Gautam Gambhir heaves over the leg side, Rajasthan Royals v Kolkata Knight Riders, IPL 2011, Jaipur, April 15, 2011