Tag Archives: Flintoff

Swann Top Player

Graeme Swann emergence gave England what it had lack since the days of Deadly Derek [Underwood] a spinner who could consistently turn matches. His personality seemed to be a bright light as the Flintoff dark ages drew to a close.

It’s hard to get across how much of a millstone Flintoff had become. Swann ended all that hubris and nonsense. Even in his Lords swansong when Strauss let Flintoff bowl till he got his 3rd 5 wicket haul in 70 odd tests it was Swann who removed the danger men Clarke and Johnson – a neat handover to the new man who got wickets when they were needed and unlike Flintoff this one actually did get wickets when they were needed.

Of course it helped that England began developing talent but the key to the team was Swann’s ability to kill left handers and bowl unchanged, For me Swann was the backbone of a moderately successful team who were briefly No 1 in the world.

Swann departs quickly and is probably aware over time he might grate especially in a losing team. Getting out before the era ends and the books start flying accusations about. Certainly my favourite player in the current England team. Indeed the team will miss Swann who could do media unlike some when the team and he had had a shocker.

He also beats Anderson and Prior to a TV studio to boot. Clever lad.

England’s Test Begins Now

It will be tempting for the current Ashes players to follow in the footsteps of Harm-less-son, Flintoff, Vaughan and others and disappear up their own arses for the rest of their careers having not only won the Ashes but retained them. For me as in 2005 the real test should start now. The aim to be one of the top 2 or 3 test nations and no 1 for a period for at least 4 or 5 years.  Continue reading

Bale Context Is All

In Britain we tend to focus on the high or low points of a career. Thus using a US style Hall of Fame definition a worthy but ultimately shortfalling career of an Andrew Flintoff will be remembered longer than Alec Stewart or a Darren Gough. The point being Stewart was an all rounder who averaged 40 when that was a borderline world class average and Flintoff 32 when 45 looks low even. Stewart played a lot more Tests (133 to 79) than Flintoff to boot. From a Hall of Fame point of view it’s a no brainer.  Continue reading

Big Players Have The Power Even When They Suck

Most people have cottoned to the fact that Roy Hodgson’s hold on reality might be slipping after Liverpool’s Merseyside derby loss and his comment it was their best performance of the season. Albeit the draw with the Arse’ with 10 men aside he could well be telling a chilling truth. Continue reading

Gerrard The Self Deception Goes On

Steven Gerrard made a point in 2006 that the expectation on England was too great in a world cup and it should never happen again. Sadly the expectation that in 2004 reduced him to passing to 3 Portuguese for every 2 Englishmen will always be there no matter how badly England do.

Given Gerrard’s clear choke in the final game against Germany where with England amazingly on top and only 2-1 down he squandered 3 great positions with low percentage shots no one will begrudge Gerrard at 30 his international  retirement. He’s had a great career and his Champions League winners medal can be waved at C’Ash, Lamps and JT. It’s no disgrace to put yourself on the line and fall short then admit it is not for you….

But he’s not retired….

He wants to carry on?…

Leaves one question.

Why?

Ego?

Wants to make sure no one wins one without him?

Does not want to be Flintoff watching a fresh vibrant largely ego-less team become our World’s Champions without him. OK Kapes has an ego but boy did he live up to it!

Worse than that?

Not wanting to make a decision and wanting it made for him like the Wally in the Brolly without the compensation on offer.

Worse.

How?

He does not want to be seen not wanting to play for his country. Shearer and Scholes had the stones to walk away when they saw their place and crucially the team’s need for them disappear.

Actually it’s worse.

Worst!

Really?

Gerrard and his advisors think it would be bad for his brand so every 2 years if we qualify till we get a manager who does not believe in experience for its own sake he will have to put up with 7 or 8 weeks of anxiety about being where he does not want to be.

Et Tu Rooney? Lampard? C’Ash? JT? Rio?

Football The Only Fruit

Other sports like cricket like to crap on footballers. They should be so lucky to escape the moonlight frankly. Cricket and its smug wanker journalists downing footballers for their behaviour whilst many international and domestic games appear rigged. Or Rugby Union with its undercurrent of narcotic taking (OK I personally am a legalise it but hey they are sportsmen and women). Or Athletics with its drug cheating endemic.  Rugby League whose regular season often looks full of fixtures with the scores pre-determined and drug use apparently rampant.

Yet look at the Odium piled on the players and manager after reaching the last 16 at a World Cup! For improving from not qualifying to getting to knock out in 2 years! OK that lily is very gilded…. but the papers said we could not win without a fit Rooney and you’d think they’d make nice now.

Let’s take the most popular sportsman in another sport Andrew Flintoff. Imagine he was England Captain at this World Cup. Imagine he was: drunk many times: ignored the manager rather than just complained: picked his friends: marginalised the Asian descended players: picked a player and then ensured he did not have the ball (Mahmoud we play 5 bowlers and he got to bowl 2 of the first 90): questions in the house and accusations of racism would flow. I think Flintoff  as a footballer would be a cartoon villain for the rest of his life but as it was only cricket and only the Ashes, it was OK.

Football is the only game in town and the others are schedule fillers relatively. Now I may prefer Test cricket to anything and that is why Flintoff will never be my hero but most prefer football. It’s the people’s game not some middle class niche that occasionally captures the Zeitgeist.

Good Football can be shown on National TV and enjoyed no matter who is playing as the World Cup shows.

How Not To Support England

If I attended a dinner party to sound profound I would suggest that journalists cannot help themselves. If you gave them a story that would end the world if published they’d publish and we’d all be damned.

Yet the character of British tabloid journalists is of an entirely lower order – more malevolent and just as unconcerned at consequence. They hunt people looking for things to print no matter how much damage and how little real meaning a story might have. They’ve hunted down the England captain John Terry, his father  and stitched up Lord Triesman with his moronic private fantasies.

They’re quite arbitrary and  will make exceptions for figures they perceive as popular or who kow tow to them. Thus when he was defecating on his team and the country the dignity free zone Andrew Flintoff was given an absurdly easy ride – until he got a bad ride on a Pedalo and even then they just played to his being the giant clown for our entertainment angle. KP should be so lucky.

If John Terry went as missing on England duty he could not expect the same. Who can forget the metaphorical hanging of Beckham in 1998 a moment he recovered from in terms of popularity but his play never resumed the steep upward curve (again the Flintoff like Rooney escaped opprobrium for his far more considered act of pissing on the team in 2006).

Thus whether you want to acknowledge it or not you are supporting “whoever England are playing” if you buy The Sun, Mirror, Express, Mail, Times or Star. You unequivocally support the USA, Algeria, Germany and the other 28 possible opponents.  Please do not obfuscate. Just cos your flag of St George has The Sun printed on it do not pretend you care. Football fans for all their so called passion never seem to care enough to think and that is the same as not caring at all.

Indeed the Mail’s Triesman story involved getting a tabloid whore to tape private conversations in a situation where people might bend the envelope. If you believe some ‘bloids that non revelation could have cost the country £3Bn – wow I hope they do not complain about the waste of Brown trying to buy off enough voters to vote Labour then! Oh they will….

The main broadcaster of football in this country is Sky who are joined at the hip to The Sun, News of the World and lowest of them all The Times.

Sadly the tabloids are inextricably linked to the political system – Cameron’s media pimp, Andy Coulson, is the former editor of the “News Of The World” when it was illegally bugging people. As we know from New Labour the Press Secretary could end up the most powerful generator of policy in a Govt.

They are not going away or getting more considered or adult. Indeed with the internet they now have a race to the bottom – I make no exceptions there.

It’s only going to get worse.

Confident England Need To Duck Hubris

England duly strolled to their 4th successive win in the twenty20 World Cup. A last 4 performances so dominant that their best one day player over the last year Eoin Morgan barely had to contribute.  One hopes the focus and hard work continues and extends to the 50 over game. This is an England team who had the bizarre twisted values of being too precious with their wickets in twenty20 and nowhere near the Boycottian defense of the sticks required in Test cricket.

One hopes unlike the last time England had a world class bowling line up in the 2005 test line up of: Harmison pace and bounce first change: Hoggard getting the new ripe cherry to swing into left handers: Flintoff effective with new and old ball: and Simon Jones who could with Flintoff reverse the worn out rock. Now Harmison was already on the decline and the slowing pace of test wickets killed him. Flintoff may have had injuries but hardly could be accused of looking after himself and seemed most up for games only at home in front of a packed house. Jones I guess could never stay fit with that action. However for one summer they stymied the most potent batter line up such that England’s consistent scores of 3 fifty to 4 hundred became winning ones.

This twenty20 line up is nothing to be feared in terms of pace and aggression. However in the context of twenty20 where batsmen are looking to hit it becomes like baseball – pace changes, disguise and movement are more important. Arguably a baseball player gets a benefit from letting marginal pitches be called balls whereas in twenty20 cricket letting 3 balls by without a stroke is wrong. Bresnan one could see getting some stick but he appears to have real pluck. Broad one hopes will continue to improve but already his mixture of slow bouncers, cross seamers and cutters is interesting (by the way notice how bowlers are altering their grips like baseball).  Siders who has been a shadow of his first full year of international cricket provided the left arm variety. Many will consider Anderson who did not bowl an over better than some of this side long term as well. Yardy’s darts worked well. In addition after Yardy had been sent Yard (another baseballism) Luke Wright came on and produced a superlative over of 1-5. Indeed Collie is more than adequate. The point is this this bowling with more career left than the boys of 2005 and with twenty20 only requiring 4 overs players should be able to play for years.

Best in show Swann must have balls of steel with only 3 outfielders he floats it up there like it’s day 5 with a 500 lead – he may be the best English spinner of my lifetime – albeit spinners now get LBWs that blighted the career of the likes of Tufnell. Indeed 10 years ago England would have selected anyone who threatened to be a leggie wrist spinner as the career of Ian Salisbury attests*. Swann may not have a doosra but hey no one is studying his action for a bent arm.

* My favourite Boycott moment aside from watching his 100th 100 was when some spark at the BBC decided to send The Great Man down to interview fellow Yorkie Darren Gough and Boycs went off on one about Salisbury’s bowling.

Funnily enough the best part for me was this was not a side of the chums. Sure I have never seen a more confident England team but that comes from winning. However Anderson was dropped for lesser players in other forms of cricket. Cook was actually a leading batter in domestic twenty20 but he was dropped for a murders row (another baseballism) of Keiswetter, KP, Collie, the superlative Morgan, Wright, Bresnan, Swann and Broady. It’s a soberer for the opposition but Broad bats 10 in this line up. Strauss wisely knows his strengths and he and Flower may not make revolutionary leaps (but who does?) but there is now clear evidence of evolution and not the dead end of who Duncan Fletcher personally did not feel threatened by.

It was certainly nice to see after his initial attempt at captaincy that Collingwood was merely happy to be there. England won not by gamesmanship or being apes of Australia but by just playing good hard cricket. I wonder if the team secretly are grateful to KP for removing Peter Moores as not only did England try to win ugly under him they failed as well. Under Moores Collingwood was a contemptible figure.

Now all England have to do is avoid Hubris which sadly even England teams in sports a long way short of no 1 often fail to do.

And finally another Americanism Welcome to your World’s Champions England. Now that has never been said in cricket before.

Strauss England : Make Decisions

OK I still think Strauss is too negative and defensive and think if he was to rotate a bowler it should have been the 3rd test which was back to back (they replaced Onions with Siders for the 4th test). I’d still pick 5 bowlers as well. Those are maybe my ignorance but mere detail. What really counts is…

Strauss has started to make decisions.

Which just picking the same XI game after game is not. He also does what he wants not what others say or what is expected and that is to be applauded.

Strauss seems to have vexed Michael Atherton by apparently ducking the Bangladesh tour. This had Athers in fits about not doing his job. Crucially for me it shows Strauss understands the captaincy is an appointment. He will also be aware that the last few captaincies have not ended well:-

  • KP sacked after a furious row with the coach. May not have mentally got over it now. The result so far is a loss of the demonic force he once was.
  • Michael Vaughan no longer worth his place as a batsman in a line up with Flintoff at 6 but too big a name to sack, mercifully resigned. Vaughan was at the end a pitiable figure.
  • Andrew Flintoff although not strictly captain (temporary Captain) finished broken and drunk having lost a series 5-0 when his selection of friends not mere team mates raised eyebrows (initially excluding all the ethnic members of the touring party). Sacked as Vice Captain a few weeks later as he celebrated losing to New Zealand by falling off a Pedalo and making all the front pages.  What a Clown.
  • Nasser Hussain finished his career on his own terms when he realised that if he played another test Strauss would be dropped – Strauss was only denied a century in each innings on début by Hussain running him out. Hussain laid the foundations for the relative success in Test cricket that followed. Even he seemed a mite worn down by the captaincy mind.

Regardless of whether they get the rotation right it beggars belief that with their program of games England would even consider trying to play the same XI game in game out.

It’s also crucial given there are not good alternatives to Strauss in the squad that his mental health and freshness like his bowlers legs are protected.

Missing a tour to Bangladesh I say take KP on holiday with you and refocus him.

Let’s expose some more batsmen to test cricket.

UK State Awards : Why?

Why do people in business and sport who get amply rewarded get extra recognition from the state? Even if they do should they get gongs for one achievement in one year? Or should it be for a career at least? It got ridiculous when a whole Ashes team got MBEs some for as little as 10 runs in 2005. Where once recognition would have gone to the titans like Boycott, Botham and Gooch (Hall of Famers) it went to Ian Bell and Simon ‘Injury’ Jones.

The change to make the honours an automatic box ticking exercise rather than a recognition for a career was obvious when Ferguson got the sobriquet Sir which was not given to Shankly, Stein, Clough or Paisley. That he got it in the same month, or so it seemed, was an astounding condemnation of how the Blair Govt used state power. He was implicated in the next 3 or 4 years of  United, once the richest club in the world, involved in accusations of corruption, nepotism and so offending the major shareholders that they ended up being mortgaged to junk bond holders.  A fitting footnote to the most disrespectful bestowing of an honour. Ferguson’s record deserved honouring above the likes of Bobby Robson but the haste of his knighthood and the obvious inflation like ‘A’ level grades can be noted.

The most indefensible this year is the award to Jenson Button. Someone whose career has been highlighted with words like ‘playboy’ and disinterested performances at the back of the field. Effectively he is honoured even further for being better than Rubens Barrichello for one year. The people who organise and give children a chance should be getting recognition not playboys who get one year in the best car. For instance Lewis Hamilton’s father is far more deserving than Jenson – arguably Jenson’s own father in a sport where you have to start young but the working class Hamilton story is much more eye watering. Could Jessica Ennis have taken 5 years off and won? Button did.

Another point is that top footballers and motor racing drivers risk nothing. Even a poor manager or footballer or ordinary motor racing driver will be adequately rewarded whereas Ennis, Idowu and Tweddle may make some sort of living but it is not guaranteed or coming in life changing amounts.

Plus as with the drunken buffoon Flintoff the rush to hand out gongs can lead to you prematurely rewarding someone who soils their sport and country subsequently even in their chosen field. It’s instructive that George Best died plain old George Best. Whereas now he would have been Sir or at least an OBE  – it’s a measure of Ulster’s lack of self respect an airport is named after him.

I suppose even the worst sporting award is still better than businessmen who donate relatively trivial sums of money to our political parties. However the awards should be biased much more to the people who facilitate or go beyond being champions. After all in business it was shown that hospital cleaners were worth more to the economy than Bankers (who are now a negative for all the fraternisation of New Labour).

5 Bowlers Still Best Policy for England

With England likely to go 1 up this series has a case for 6th batsmen been made? For me it has not changed the equation playing 5 bowlers is been England’s strongest hand. Flintoff or not the question is the same as Flintoff was not a batsman. He mostly did not give the team balance just a much better bowling attack. At best former no 6 Flintoff had: 1 year with a batsman’s average: 1 with a base average for a no 6 batsman and other than that was a bowler who could bat at best.

You can can definitely make the case that a 5th bowler might have cost England the last test by bowling South Africa out sooner! I certainly accept that he would have made it slighter more possible that we could have lost and far more possible we could have won. Twice England had the Proteas 4 down and had to call off the charge – bowl the likes of Collingwood and Trott.

In this test we had the best case, 6th batter comes scores level and leads to a lead of 220 144 of it his. Of course writing in 144 every time for the 6th batter, in our case our 6th best batsman, is a mistake. Even without that 144 taken crudely England would be level with 4 wickets to get. England could be in an even better position if instead of Collie, KP and Trott someone else bowled and the other’s were fresher when their tail wagged.

The major argument for a 6th batter is that he is likely to be a better close catcher or fielder than a bowler. This is not to be sniffed at. For instance Collingwood may be border line test batter but since he’s worth 10 to 15 runs at least before considering his catching – plus he bowls some tidy overs.

Overall a 5th bowler keeps the rest fresher. He can offer variety and England currently only have 5 world level batters and no one world class at present. Why pad your weakness?

If we get into specifics Bell v Sidebottom. Bell has shown he is exactly what his record suggests a low leveraged situation guy – 300-4 backs to the wall fighting for place, nothing to lose and a tired and frankly tame attack he scores runs. First test when even an extra 20 ball stay in either innings makes a difference just lets the ball crown him.

Compared to say the Flintoff’s England team they bat deeper, have better fielders and actually “5th bowler” Sidebottom is a better bowler than Flintoff on the numbers. Without a 6th batter England are far stronger than they have been batting with a tail of  the obdurate Anderson, Swann, Prior and Broad. All 4 of them at a level of greater than the 2005 Ashes side had for instance at 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Since the 2005 Ashes Sidebottom has been England’s best bowler. He offers variety because he is a left armer – more footmarks for Swannie to bowl into! Arguably the touring 50 averaging Anderson is not as good especially away from England – 2-99 this test, he’s improving!

Bell was dropped because he is not good enough. What’s changed? 1 good score under no pressure and 2 bad ones when needed much as his career suggests. Indeed his average is soft because at 38.90 it’s below the modern test replacement level (40 for me) and is very divided between pressure and non pressure situations – more so than a reasonable expectation of that difference.  Cream on Top player.

England have also not had major injuries this series making it seem less an issue. However they refuse to ever not pick what they consider a best XI thus having an extra arm and legs could be more vital than a once every few series occasion when a 6th batsman might add something at a crucial time.  This is before considering that our 5th bowler was world class 2 years ago and may be still now he is fit and our 6th batter is a proven failure after 50 test matches. England are not facing a team on the kind of pitches where someone could knock even the indefatigable Swann out of the attack. If that happened then it would look like folly.

Picking 6 batters is reflective of the defensive mindset of Flower and Strauss and the fact both are batsmen. Proof in test cricket is over series and years not one back to the wall nothing to lose innings. Bell and Cook proved no one wrong. It’s amazing the former is still getting chances to. His face must fit.

Best performers so far on what looks a flat un Broady 5-62 (all top 6 batters) in match in 29 overs giving remarkable control and Swannie 7-132 get in there.