Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Breaking some Myths about Shahid Afridi

Shahid Afridi's career can easily be divided into two phases; the first phase was when the team tried to make the world believe that he is a batsman who can bowl a bit, and the second phase was when the world was made to believe that he is a bowler first and then a batsman.

No other cricketer has suffered more due to this confusion. Not only were the board, coaches, management, and other players confused about what Shahid Afridi is, he himself probably was, and is, confused about it as well.

Despite all this, there should be no confusion about one fact. The fact that Afridi is one of the biggest match winners ever produced by Pakistan.

Here are some myths about him, which his critics love to bring up every now and then, and the related facts, which prove that the myths are not really true.

Myth #1: The Walking Duck

Critic Speak: "Kitni baar zero pe out hua hai yaar!"; "He has the most ducks in ODIs"...  

Question: So how many ducks does he really have in ODIs? And how often does he get out on a duck?

Fact: He has 29 ducks in ODIs, which is the 2nd highest number of ducks after Sanath Jayasuriya. His 29 ducks in 356 ODI innings means that Afridi gets out for no score on average every 12th innings.

Does anyone know what that means? i.e. getting out for a duck every 13th innings? How does that compare with other cricketers? The answer is in the table below.

(the table was created before the 3rd ODI against Australia, hence it shows 355 ODI innings for Afridi)

There are some interesting names in there of batsmen who get out on a duck more often than Shahid Afridi does, such as Chris Gayle, Andrew Symonds, Brendon McCullum, Younis Khan, Herchelle Gibbs, to name a few.

Moreover, out of the 88 innings in which Afridi has batted at number 7, only 5 have resulted in a duck. That number is less than the number of ducks that others have registered batting at 7, including Chris Harris, Ian Healy, Wasim Akram, and Kapil Dev.

While at number 8, Afridi has registered 3 ducks in 34 innings.

Myth #2: Once in 10 time wonder Part 1

Critic Speak: "Yaar 10 innings ke baad ek score karta aur phir 10 matches aur free me khelta hai"; "It is no big deal if he scores once every 10 innings" ...

Question: So does Afridi really score only once in 10 innings? Has he really performed with the bat in only 10% of the 356 ODI innings he has ever batted in?

Fact #1: Well the fact is that Afridi has scored 30 runs or more in 94 ODI innings. That is a 30+ score in every 4th ODI innings. I have used a benchmark of 30 because that is what I believe refers to as a good average for a bowling allrounder.

Fact #2: In 88 ODI innings at number 7, Afridi has scored 27 or more runs in 24 innings (every 4th innings). And in 34 ODI innings at number 8 he has scored 24 or more runs in 12 innings (every 3rd innings).

I have used the numbers 27 and 24 because those are the respective average scores of batsmen who have scored over 1,000 runs at number 7 and over 650 runs at number 8.

I really think that this shows that Afridi does fulfil his role with the bat more often than not.

Myth #3: Once in 10 time wonder Part 2

Critic Speak: "He is not a match winner. He fails more often than not, and hardly wins games for Pakistan" ... "haan toh 10 match ke baad ek match jitda diya toh kaunsi badi baat hai"...

Question: So does Afridi win any matches for Pakistan? Does he win 1 in 10 games for Pakistan?

Fact #1: Afridi has 32 man of the match awards, the most by any Pakistani and the 3rd highest in the world, in 384 ODIs. That means that he wins a man of the match award in every 12th ODI, meaning he puts in a match winning performance every 12th ODI.

That is a match winning performance more often than all Pakistani cricketers (barring the opening duo of Saeed Anwar and Aamer Sohail) that have won at least 10 man of the match awards in ODIs.

Fact #2: Pakistan has won 212 out of the 384 ODIs that Afridi has played in, i.e. a 55% success rate. His batting average in matches won by Pakistan is 30, a good 7 runs more than his career average of 23. 5 out of his 6 ODI hundreds and 27 out of his 36 ODI 50s have come in matches that Pakistan has won. In those 212 ODIs that Pakistan has won, Afridi has taken 271 wickets at an average of 25.3, which is a remarkable performance for a spinner. That average is a good 9 runs less than his career average of 34. All of his four 4-wkt hauls and nine 5-wkt hauls have come in matches that Pakistan has won.

Now tell me, if those aren't figures of a match winner, I wonder what are!

Myth #4: He is not an allrounder

Critic Speak: "chalo bowling theek kar leta but batting me bilkul bekaar hai"... "he is not fulfilling his role as a bowling allrounder"... "he does not deserve to bat at 7"...

Question: So does Afridi fulfill his batting role at number 7 or 8?

Before I present the facts, let me state that Afridi is the most scrutinized number 7 or 8 in the world. No other cricketer who regularly bats at 7 or 8 is scrutinized as much and as seriously as Afridi is. For a large part of cricket history, batting was the role of numbers 1-6, wicketkeeping the role of number 7, and bowling the role of numbers 8-11. It is a more recent phenomenon that wicket keepers and bowlers are required to contribute with the bat.

Fair enough, a bowler or keeper who can bat well at number 7 or 8 gives an ODI team more batting depth.

Fact #1: Out of all ODI number 7s in the world, Afridi has the 3rd highest runs tally and the best strike rate. His average among all batsman who have scored at least 1,000 runs in ODIs while batting at number 7 is the 10th best in this world. And that is out of hundreds of cricketers who have batted at number 7 for their team.

If anything, that outlines consistency really.

What is the role of a number 7 in an ODI? To either save a sinking ship when coming in at 100 odd for 5, or to accelerate at the end of an innings when coming in at 200 odd for 5. You can't expect much of Afridi in the former situation, but in the latter situation, it works more often than not. And why should you expect anything from Afridi when your frontline batsmen have failed?

Fact #2: Out of all number 8s in the world with at least 650 runs, Afridi has the 7th best average, and the best strike rate.

The man bowls, the man bats, the man fields, and the man also leads from the front. What else does one want?

Take Afridi out of the eleven and you will require four players to fill his shoes. One to bowl and pick up wickets, one to smash it around, one to field, and one to keep the chips up when they are down!

Do you really know anyone who can replace him?

I don't!

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Friday, October 10, 2014

An open letter to Misbah Ul Haq

Dear Misbah,

You lost your first wicket in the 26th over with the score on 126. The openers had laid out an enviable position, a solid platform, which you needed to capitalize on. From 126-1 in 25.1 overs, 250 should be a given, while 275 reachable, yet you fold for 215.

Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic!

Can you tell me one player in the world who walks in to bat at 130-2 in 26 overs and then faces 30 balls for 15 runs!?

Most teams would use the position to send in their best batsmen and build on the platform. Most batsmen in the world will carry on the momentum created by the openers.

But not you sir. No sir, you will use tactics that will suck the life out of the innings and derail any progress that could have been possible.

You started the game once again without Sohaib Maqsood, a batsman who has had a brilliant start to his ODI career - an average of 36 and a strike rate of 84 in 17 innings. And instead of him you once again played Asad Shafiq who has taken 47 ODI innings to show what a rubbish ODI player he is with an average of 25 over those games.

Not only do you include Asad Shafiq in the XI, you send him to bat when the team is at at the top at 126-1 in 25.1.

You do that when you have in your dressing room an Umar Akmal, the top scorer in the previous ODI, and Fawad Alam, someone who grinds his way through the innings and has accumulated 325 runs at an average of 81 in his previous 6 ODI innings.

Alright maybe due to some brain damage you thought that Asad Shafiq was capable of continuing in the same momentum as Shehzad and Sarfraz, but once the second wicket fell, you still did not realize that Umar or Fawad should go out.

Instead you walked out yourself, probably hoping that you could regain some much needed form. At 130-2, the team's better batsmen should have walked out so that the team could have remained on top.

Yet, you sir, with 210 runs in your previous 9 ODI innings at an average of 23, decided that it was more important for you to get some batting practice than it was for the team to progress to a competitive total.

You sir put your needs ahead of the team's needs.

And you know what is sad?

You will probably blame Fawad Alam for scratching his way to 20 not out and make him the scapegoat and drop him for Sohaib for the 3rd ODI. When in fact you should have started with Sohaib in the XI instead of Asad.

How do you expect to continue like this sir?

The World Cup is 5 months away and you expect to lead your team at the global event?

How will your team compete against the top teams when you continue to falter game after game and refuse to learn from your mistakes?

How do you expect the team to perform when you bring them down every time they look to rise to the occasion?

After an opening stand of 126 in 25 overs, only you could have made it possible to end the innings at 215.

I don't know anyone else who would have killed his team's chances the way you did today.

Please resign gracefully and leave the limited overs game gracefully. Otherwise you may be left with egg all over your face when you are asked to step down.

Time to go sir. Time to go home and appear on some TV channel as an expert for the World Cup.

Yours truly,

Q & many other Pakistan cricket fans.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Off Spin is Dead

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Yet another pathetic performance...

I don't have a solution for Pakistan's batting problems. I don't think anyone does.

In this day and age, countries are producing batsmen like Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Steve Smith, and Quinton de Kock to name a few. All these batsmen seem far more mature than their age suggests. Yet Pakistan continues to produce batsmen who can't tell the difference between their leg stump and off stump.

How or even if this will be ever corrected, I do not know, but one thing I do know is that Pakistan cannot continue with Misbah at the helm, or even in the team, with the World Cup just 5 months away.

Misbah is having an atrocious year with the bat. Sure he had a great period for a year and a half, but this year has been bad.

Not only does that affect Pakistan's batting, it definitely takes a toll on the captain as well. Continuous losses have definitely put him under pressure, so much so, that he refused to bat at the all important number 3 position when the management requested him to.

Misbah needs to be relieved of his duties as soon as possible, otherwise the team will continue to struggle, and the World Cup will be a very long and painful 2 months for Pakistan fans.

Not only did he get a first ball duck, he started the entire match on the wrong foot with bad team selection.

The exclusion of Sohaib Maqsood in the first ODI against Australia is just inexplicable. Just two ODIs ago, the man played the innings of his life and completed an improbable chase for Pakistan.

And today he found himself out of the team?

Not playing Junaid Khan is also bewildering. He is one of the best fast bowling prospects in the country yet he finds himself on the sidelines.

How can anyone play Asad Shafiq and Anwar Ali ahead of Maqsood and Junaid? 

Asad Shafiq has been given numerous chances in ODIs, and despite his great performances in tests, he has just not got going in ODIs. And while Anwar Ali may have potential as an allrounder that Pakistan is so desperately looking for, his bowling just does not have the same bite that it did during his U19 days,

Playing him to add batting depth, ahead of a pacer like Junaid Khan is way too defensive a tactic. It smells of fear of losing than trying to play attacking cricket to win.

Sure there were a few positives in the ODI, but Pakistan just don't look like a team that can give major teams competition.

Shahid Afridi shone like a champion with the ball in the absence of Saeed Ajmal. He took on the responsibility like the senior he is and proved his worth. Irfan looks fit and menacing and will be a handful in Australia.

The debutant, Zulfiqar Babar, also did extremely well with the ball, and it was criminal of Misbah to not bowl him for his quota of 10.

Sarfraz Ahmed has finally come into his own with the bat and he is now doing for Pakistan what he has been doing for PIA for the past many years. He is a solid attacking opening batsman for PIA in the domestic one-day circuit and his first innings in that role for Pakistan was full of promise.

So yes there are positives, but there are way too many things that need to be corrected, and they need to be corrected soon.

1. Misbah needs to be removed from the team. Give the captaincy to Afridi or Hafeez or anyone, just take it away from Misbah and tell him to bid ODIs goodbye.

2. Sohaib Maqsood, Fawad Alam, and Umar Akmal need to be Pakistan's middle order in ODIs. Misbah, Asad Shafique, and Umar Amin should be no where in it.

3. Shehzad and Sarfraz need to keep opening. They need to be persisted with till the World Cup.

4. Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, and Wahab Riaz need to be Pakistan's three pacers.

It is not difficult to implement all this.

A solid playing XI with the right batting order is staring in everyone's faces yet for some reason the management's brain remains fried.

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Time for Pakistan to Boom Boom again!

The start of this Eid weekend is all about Bang Bang... the just released Bollywood action thriller. But by Sunday, all focus would have shifted to Boom Boom as Pakistan takes on Australia in the only T20 in Dubai.

The T20 game will be Shahid Afridi's first game back at the helm of the T20 team after over 3 years.

It is quite ironic that Afridi was removed as captain in 2011 due to his differences with the team coach,Waqar Younis. Soon after Waqar resigned, and Afridi returned to the team. For three years, Afridi continued to play, while Waqar Younis was not part of the management.

And now, just as Waqar Younis has returned as coach of the team, Afridi has also returned as the captain of the T20 team.

Afridi always belonged as the skipper. He should have never been removed and should have been the captain of the limited overs teams till now.

Petty politics I tell you.

Even though PCB  Chairman Shaharyar Khan has stated that Misbah Ul Haq will remain the ODI captain till the World Cup, nothing can be guaranteed in the world of Pakistan cricket.

Pakistan is coming off a very poor tour of Sri Lanka and Misbah has been having a very lean year with the bat. The pressure on him is immense.

Afridi's elevation to T20 captain till the World T20 in 2016 means that he is in line to take over the ODI team as well once Misbah finally calls time on his career. But another bad performance in the upcoming ODI series against Australia could set the ball rolling for Afridi to take over the ODI team just before the World Cup.

Pakistan's T20 and ODI teams have landed in the UAE. The squad looks quite an exciting one with a good mix of youth and experience.

For the T20s, with Afridi leading the side, the team sees the return of the exciting Awais Zia, who recently smashed a 60 ball century in Pakistan's domestic T20 competition, Raza Hasan, who played an instrumental role in Pakistan's World T20 2012 campaign only to be sidelined due to injury and disciplinary issues, and Umar Amin.

The T20 team also includes a newcomer in Saad Nasim, the Lahori boy who impressed in the Champions League T20, and played his part in ensuring the Lahore Lions qualify for the tournament. Nasim is an exciting middle order batsman who has all the shots in the game.

With the presence of Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Sohaib Maqsood, and Umar Akmal, Pakistan's T20 team has immense fire power in their batting line up.

Saeed Ajmal's absence will be felt, but Raza Hasan is a more than capable replacement, and along with Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz will give Pakistan a potent bowling attack.

Potential T20 XI: Ahmed Shehzad, Awais Zia, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Akmal (WK), Sohaib Maqsood, Saad Nasim, Shahid Afridi (C), Anwar Ali, Wahab Riaz, Raza Hasan, Mohd. Irfan

For the ODIs, Misbah is at the helm again, but now the middle order looks like a well oiled unit with the likes of Fawad Alam, Sohaib Maqsood, and Umar Akmal. Asad Shafiq and Umar Amin return to the squad, however I do not have much confidence in their abilities in ODIs.

The inclusion of Sarfraz Ahmed in ODIs means that Pakistan might finally be looking to relieve Umar Akmal from the duties behind the stumps. Sarfraz' inclusion is perfectly timed as he has finally brought his domestic batting form into the international game. His performance in recent test matches has demonstrated his ability with the bat, and Pakistan will do good by including him in the team.

The bowling attack looks quite sharp as well with Raza Hasan filling in for Ajmal along with Irfan, Junaid, and Wahab.

Potential ODI XI: Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Akmal, Fawad Alam, Misbah Ul Haq, Sohaib Maqsood, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shahid Afridi, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Mohd. Irfan

Pakistan could also use Sarfraz at the top of the order, something he has frequently done for PIA, with Hafeez coming in at 3 and everyone else dropping one place down.

Needless to say that with the World Cup round the corner, the upcoming ODIs are going to be a good test for the team and it will be interesting to see how the team performs.

For now, it is time to Bang Bang, but from Sunday it will be time to Boom Boom! #PerfectEidWeekend.

On a side note, the players have been busy taking selfies in Dubai.

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Questions continue for England's one-day hopes

There were plenty of questions for the England management to ponder at the end of a mixed and turbulent summer, not least how a team can be so dominant in a five-Test series only to completely lose form in one-day matches. After an impressive and deserved return to form following their Test series victory against India, England saw themselves thoroughly outplayed by the same opponents when it came to the shorter formats of the game. With much of the focus now on next year's World Cup, England's dismal run of ODI form has seen many punters write off their chances of being genuine contenders andeven lay them with Betfair for the contest in Australia and New Zealand early next year.

To understand England's one-day troubles doesn't take too much investigation. England cricket's focus has always been on Test cricket - even more so over the past decade - and the one-day game has long be seen as a tool to blood future Test players and satisfy their television paymasters. The England one-day squad has often resembled more of an England Lions development squad than an international line-up, with young players given the chance to prove they can handle international cricket before being called-up to the Test team. While that might be a decent system in terms of bringing through talent for the Test side, it hasn't appeared to have had any noticeable benefit to either the 50-over or Twenty20 teams.

While it has become custom for international teams to have a different captains for the Test and ODI sides, England have often shunned that in order to keep their Test skipper as their ODI captain. Using the theory that international cricket players can adapt to whatever format they're playing, England's ODI side has often looked a lot like the Test team. While there is a significant difference between Test and one-day cricket, there hasn't been a significant difference between the two for England players and supporters.

From the limitations on bowlers, the fielding restrictions and the shorter boundaries, ODI cricket is a completely different entity to Test cricket, and it's essential for teams to approach it as such, rather than attempting to simply play a shortened version of the five-day game. While a score of 230 was a decent total a few years ago, an average 50-over score is now 275, with almost 50 scores of 300 or over in the last two years. With batsmen now attempting all sorts of shots in order to get the ball to the rope, bowlers and captains have had to forget almost everything they know from the five-day game in terms of tactics.

While 50-over cricket is very different from Twenty20 cricket, teams generally play ODI's with more of a T20 attitude than one of a Test side. Yet the evidence from the ODI series humbling to India proves that England continue to play it like a Test match. Despite the fielding restrictions at the start of an innings, England's batsmen continue to leave balls and look for singles rather than take the game to the opposition. While India's top order pulled, hooked, drove and generally smashed everything England's bowlers had to throw at them, the hosts often found themselves chasing the game from the very first over, and fans responded by backing India to win. From England's recent ODI team, only Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan have built strike rates of over 80, the only two English batsmen to make it in the list of 100 fastest scoring ODI batsmen.

Rather than opt for batsmen who specialise in getting the ball to the boundary, England have continued with the likes of Cook and Ian Bell despite neither batsman scoring anywhere near the runs needed to help a team win a World Cup. And even when England's batsmen do manage to score 40+, they often do it at a rate that makes it almost makes the whole exercise worthless. While there's no doubt there are English players capable of being real successes in the world of one-day cricket, it doesn't look as though the selectors are going to ever make the dramatic changes that are probably needed to solve the problems in England's ODI cricket. Alastair Cook has since defended the side’s approach, but this – in many fans eyes at least – will only add to the mounting pressure on the captain’s back.

The main change a lot of England fans and cricketing media have been calling for in recent weeks is for Alastair Cook to step down as ODI captain. After coming through a stressful summer in which his Test captaincy came under huge scrutiny, Cook managed to hang onto his job after leading the team to a Test series win against the Indians. The ODI series against India made it painfully clear that Cook and England needed to address things before next year's tournament, not only for his lack of runs at the top of the order but also for his conservative captaincy, but it looks as though the selectors are going to stick with the batsman despite calls for Eoin Morgan to replace him.

The question will be whether Cook can now prove a lot of people wrong and lead England to only their second major tournament victory. If he can't, however, it would be hard to see just how he could continue in the job.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

This Crackdown on Off-Spinners is Extremely Unfair

It started with Shane Shillingford, and then continued with Marlon Samuels, Sachitra Senanayake, Kane Williamson, and Saeed Ajmal in international cricket; and Adnan Rasool, Mohammad Hafeez, Prenelan Subrayen, and Sunil Narine in the ongoing Champions League T20.

These bans and warnings to bowlers is getting a little out of hand I think.

The only thing common among all the names mentioned is that they are all off-spinners.

Off-spin has existed for as long as cricket has existed, but there have only been a handful successful world class off spinners that have played the game. For majority of the game's existence, off-spinners have been used as bowlers who would come on to stem the run flow, or just full in for the primary bowlers.

For perspective, out of the 64 bowlers who have taken more than 200 test wickets, only 4 are off-spinners - Muralitharan, Harbhajan, Swann, and Saqlain Mushtaq. While in ODIs, out of the 35 bowlers who have taken more than 200 wickets, only 3 are off-spinners - Muralitharan, Saqlain, and Harbhajan.

What is interesting though is that despite the few off-spinners among the top wicket takers in the game, the leading wicket taker in both formats is an off-spinner - Muralitharan,

The leading wicket taker in T20 internationals is also an off-spinner - Saeed Ajmal.

And the best bowling figures in a test match also belong to an off-spinner - 19-90 by Jim Laker.

Anyhow, enough with this little historical background. My key problem with all these bans is why now!?

For close to two decades, the ICC allowed Muralitharan to bowl in international cricket, despite the several times that he was called by on field umpires and tested in Australian labs. Not only that, but the flex in his arm, due to an injury or whatever reason, also resulted in the 15 degree allowance for bowlers.

Muralitharan went on to become the leading wicket taker in both tests and ODIs, and sits firmly at the top, well ahead of all other bowlers with over 1300 international wickets to his name.

Luckily, Muralitharan no longer plays international cricket. He only appears in T20 leagues around the world.

What will happen if Muralitharan is warned in a T20 league game and eventually banned from bowling?

Will the ICC scrap his world records?

Is it fair that bowlers like Saeed Ajmal, Sunil Narine, and Senanayake are banned from bowling in international cricket, yet the world record holder was a bowler who had a flex similar, or worse, to theirs?

What suddenly woke the ICC up to start this crackdown on off-spinners?

The fact that it is only off-spinners being banned, can it not be a case that there is a technicality that is being missed? Isn't it quite possible that off-spinners require a greater flex than leg spinners, left arm spinners, and pacers?

There are many questions to be answered, however the most pertinent one is, WHY NOW!???

My geometry teacher always used to say to never trust the eyes when measuring angles; always use a protractor.

We don't need no protractor to see who has the greatest flex among the bowlers in the above picture. It is quite clear to the naked eye.

No ban on any off-spinner will ever be fair because Muralitharan was allowed to play international cricket for 18 years.

No ban on any off-spinner will be ever be fair because Muralitharan is the leading wicket taker in international cricket.

I don't mean to take anything away from Muralitharan's achievements. He is arguable the best spinner to have played the game.

However, just because of precedence and history, the likes of Ajmal, Narine, Samuels, Shillingford, Hafeez et al should be allowed to continue playing the game.

Or the ICC should just scrap Muralitharan from the record books.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Where has it gone wrong for Alastair Cook and England?

Starting the 2014 calendar year with the final chapter in a largely forgettable Ashes series was not ideal for an England team that held high aspirations of remaining amongst the best in test cricket. The 5-0 whitewash defeat in Australia highlighted that England were second best throughout the series, with Michael Clarke’s men seizing the initiative and taking full control from day one of the first test at The Gabba. It created serious question marks over the quality of England’s batting and bowling, while it also resulted in the end of Kevin Pietersen’s illustrious, yet controversial, career as an England cricketer, along with Andy Flower’s tenure as coach as every new news story covered their demise in the Southern Hemisphere. Subsequent indifferent performances and results in all forms of the game have led to serious inquests over where it has gone wrong for a team that could seemingly do no wrong in 2013 to a faltering team in dire need of fresh ideas.

Alastair Cook

England’s captain has come under serious scrutiny from the media and cricket fans for a dramatic loss in form with the bat which has ultimately affected his captaincy. The manner in which England lost to India during the Investec Test Series in July and August further increased the pressure on Cook to stand down as captain, with critics believing he lacks the man management skills and ability to make critical decisions on the field to successfully lead the England team.

His stout resolution to remain as captain illustrates the considerable strength of a man who has been one of England’s best batsmen over the last five years, with Cook regularly scoring runs in all forms of cricket and standing up to the plate when those around him. It was these qualities that have put Cook on the road to redemption, although an agonising 95 in the third test against India means his wait for a much-needed century continues. While he remains the best man to lead England in test matches, his position as one day captain is under threat as the resounding defeat to India in the Royal London One Day Series illustrated that England do not have enough quality to perform in the shorter version of the game.

Batting collapses

An important component of a successful cricket team is the ability to score runs on a frequent basis throughout the team. Having a number of high calibre batsmen who can turn a game on its head by remaining in and playing sensible, controlled innings is an invaluable commodity, but these qualities should run throughout a batting line-up. Tail-enders should not be expected to spare a team’s blushes, but 2014 has seen England’s bowlers try to score invaluable runs all too often. A number of England’s batsmen, most notably Cook and Matthew Prior, have failed to deliver with the bat, with batting collapses becoming a common theme as England have let so many promising situations slip with awful shot selections and poor dismissals. The growing popularity of the one day and Twenty20 formats may have blurred the lines for many players between how to approach the game in the short form and Test cricket, but this should not be an excuse for the number of collapses which have become a pandemic for England in all formats.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Can the Dolphins take on the Lahore Lions at this year's CLT20?

This year's Champions League Twenty20 cricket tournament will see Group A's Dolphins take on the Lahore Lions on September 27th.

The match will see the South African side take on Pakistan's Lahore at the M.Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.

It was a controversial topic as to whether or not the Lahore Lions would be taking part in this year's competition. The team's visa application to play in India was a controversial issue  in the lead up to the tournament and it looked as though they could potentially not play.

However, despite a fragile political relationship between India and Pakistan, it was confirmed at the beginning of September that the team had had their visa applications approved and would be going to Bangalore to participate.

The concerns were heightened after it became apparent how few Pakistani players were playing in the Indian Premier League. The Lahore Lions captain, Mohammed Hafeez, was confident however and assured fans that the lack of league level play would not affect the Lions' outcome in their upcoming Champions League Twenty20 matches.

Prior to his arrival in Bangalore, Hafeez said: “We are departing with confidence. We all know how important the first stage is so we are focusing on qualifying for the next round. We, as a team, have been playing some exciting cricket in the last two years and the squad has gutsy players from our domestic circuit so we have an ability to fight at the top level.”

There is certainly some fighting talk from the Lahore Lions, who will also have to face this year's Indian Premier League winners, Kolkata Knight Riders, as well as third place contenders Chennai Super Kings before they take on the South African outfit.

The Dolphins are also pretty confident however, with their coach, all-rounder Lance Klusener, expressing his desire to take home the title this year. He said: “We are really looking forward to the challenge up ahead. Our intention is to come here and win this trophy and win this tournament. I think it's important that we approach it in that way and play in a certain way that we feel we can achieve that goal.”

The coach added that the tournament would be a great opportunity for the team's young players to stretch their legs.

With players like Adam Gilchrist not truly coming into their own until their 40s, the Dolphins could be proven wrong, but with the Lions' lack of league experience, their upcoming match really could be anybody's victory.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Is it in fact better that England are once again bad at cricket?

Alastair Cook has taken his fair share of the blame surrounding England’s downfall, but should he in fact be lauded with praise?

Well, just as it looked like English cricket had weathered an incessant and seemingly insurmountable storm, the crushing nine wicket defeat by India to send their nation 3-0 in the five game One Day International series proved otherwise –in staggering fashion.

‘Beefy’ Botham believes it is time for action within the ranks, as a revival is now unquestionably needed in the build-up to the Cricket World Cup – which starts in five months’ time, but this tongue-in-cheek list may sway some opinions otherwise. It’s good to be bad, and here’s why.

The kit sponsors
England cricketers – such as Alastair Cook (pictured above) now proudly walk about their business with the sponsor of ‘Brit Insurance’ across their chests. The truth is, you would need plenty of insurance for this type of car-crash couple of years for English cricket. In fact, if we were to apply this to household items, then you would find that this is in fact past that scenario and is now reminiscent of a house on fire. In past years, England have worn several beer sponsors on their jerseys, and in light of recent performances, it would make a lot more sense.

Everyone loves an underdog
When you are an underdog, victory tastes that much sweeter, while defeat is almost expected and nobody really bats an eyelid. If we were in the latter predicament now, the state of the English cricket team wouldn’t be half as bad, it may even seem positive to some fans! Not only this, but the England would also present more value in the betting department. Several leading sportsbooks – and you can click here for more information on them – offer odds on England’s cricket matches and performances, but there’s a lot more reason to have a quick punt if the odds aren’t short and the team isn’t expected to perform at such a high level! Which brings us onto our next point….

Nothing left to celebrate
Years of hold have brought about emphatic levels of success for the English cricket side, in both Test and One Day International formats and while that seems a good thing, in a long term projection it is quite nerve-racking. Should a crisis happen – like the ongoing one inside the England cricket halls – then it is drawn out, painful and all the more excruciating to watch as you see pundits galore remind you of sweeter times gone by. If we hadn’t won anything at all, the emphasis would likely be on ‘can we go and win the Cricket World Cup?’ rather than ‘these lads won’t win the Cricket World Cup and here’s why, it’s a case of when they will get knocked out really’, which is hardly inspiring is it?

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