Monthly Archives: December 2010

My Year In List(s)

Tamim Iqbal

"I listened to Geoffrey. I ignored Geoffrey" - Tamim Iqbal smashes his way to a Lord's ton

While gazes have been a-fixed on Australia’s somewhat Audley Harrison-esque attempt to dethrone England as holders of the Ashes, it might come as surprise to learn that 2010 – a ragtag collection of 365 days – is coming to an end.

If I were an ITV commissioning editor, I would have already lined up a series of D-List “celebrities” for a whimsical End of Pier Year shindig in which the frankly laughable Corrie tram crash would be fawned over as if it were current affairs.

But thankfully (for you), I have no affiliation with ITV. And so all I can offer with the following splurge of words is the men and/or performances that I think to be worthy of honourable mention in this cowboy autopsy of the year gone by:

Tamim Iqbal – Bangladesh arrived in England during the summer to provide a some pre-Ashes frivolity a la 2005. You know the old adage “prepare for the best by playing the worst”. It fell apart with the Australians’ slide into mediocrity, but further compounded by the determination of one man in particular to prove that the Tigers were here to be counted. And so it came to pass that Tamim Iqbal was to join luminaries such as Punter and Sachin on the Lord’s Honours Board with a breathtaking hundred. All thanks to Boycott apparently…

Mark Cosgrove and Gareth Rees – I am determined to continue milking this one for all its worth, because it doesn’t happen often. Having conceded a 125-run deficit against Leicestershire, the Glamorgan bowlers dismissed the hosts for just 77 runs to leave a chase of nearly 200 to win. Being Glamorgan, this target would normally induce a nervous panic that precludes a collapse. Not this time. Messrs Cosgrove and Rees were assured, unwavering and unflappable in the pursuit and wrapped up a 10-wicket win that was better than winning the league. Looking at you there, Sussex…

Paul Collingwood’s England – World Twenty20 champions. What the fuck?

Cheggers

Paine for captain, Cheggers for the UN

Ricky Ponting – Give Ricky his dues, he’s now surrendered the Ashes on three separate occasions. You could suggest that 2005 was the more spectacular, with the resources at his disposal (Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist etc) but there was some fortunate luck involved there for England. Winter 2010/11 marked the time that the Poms thrashed Punter’s men. Regardless if those ‘men’ include Steve Smith, Mitchell Johnson and Philip Hughes. Cricket Australia can’t dismiss him though – the alternatives would be like appointing Keith Chegwin to lead the United Nations.

Paul Russell – The changes implemented at Glamorgan during the close season would make Stalin proud. The BBC has since commissioned a new game show – 101 Ways to Leave The Swalec.

Nottinghamshire – For being the winners of what proved to be an epic County Championship season. Somerset fans can look away – it was about to be them ’til the Trent Bridge boys got their freak on. And what do they get for their troubles? The reward for their efforts? Four days in Worcester next year. Life isn’t fair.

Salman Butt – “D’ya want a 99 with that wad of cash?”

[tweetmeme source=”petehayman” only_single=false]Robert Croft – Murali bags his 800th Test scalp and Sachin racks up his 50th Test century – mere footnotes to the greatest achievement of the year recorded on a lukewarm Swansea afternoon. Crafty Crofty – the Leek of Tweak – picked up his 1,000th wicket, a mere 59 years after making his Dragons debut. Doesn’t look a day over a 40 y’know.

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Michael Clarke’s Great Expectations

Magwitch and Pip

"I'm taking a 'punt' on you Pup, geddit?" - Hildritch sizes up his budding new captain

Part one of the epic new novel by Charles Colville. Available from most rubbish bookshops:

My family name being Clarke, and my first name Michael, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pup. So, I called myself Pup, and came to be called Pup.

I give Australia as my country’s name, on the authority that my passport says its name and my beloved baggy green cap. As I never really knew my country’s better days and never saw any likeness of any of it in the present – for its days were long before the days of Sky HD – my first fancies regarding what they were like were unreasonably derived from what Ian Chappell says. The shape of Steve Waugh’s slog sweep, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with straight brown hair. From the character and turn of the inscription, “Also Mark, brother of the Above,” I drew a childish conclusion that my predecessors were rarely heckled. Except by Jimmy Ormond.

To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine – who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle – I am indebted for a belief I religiously entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of existence.

Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain, that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard; and that Richard P’nt’ng, late of this parish, were dead and buried; and that Allan, Billy, Graham, Chapelli, and Kim, infant skippers of the aforesaid, were also dead and buried; and that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond, was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pup.

“Hold your noise!” cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. “Keep still, you flaming little galah, or I’ll eat your dingo!”

A fearful man, all in coarse green and gold, with a great iron on his leg. A man with no baggy green, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars, and thrashed by England; who limped, and shivered, and glared and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.

“Oi! Don’t eat my dingo, mate,” I pleaded in terror. “Pray don’t do it, mate.”

“Tell us your name!” said the man. “Quick!”

“Pup, sir.”

“Once more,” said the man, staring at me. “Give it some bonza mouth!”

“Pup. Pup, sir.”

“Show us where you live,” said the man. “Pint out the place!”

I pointed to where our village lay, on the flat in-shore among the alder-trees and pollards, a mile or more from the church.

The man, after looking at me for a moment, turned me upside down, and emptied my pockets. There was nothing in them but a bottle of Gatorade. When the church came to itself – for he was so sudden and strong that he made it go head over heels before me, and I saw the steeple under my feet – when the church came to itself, I say, I was seated on a high tombstone, trembling, while he drunk the Gatorade ravenously.

“You young dog,” said the man, licking his lips, “what fat cheeks you ha’ got.”

I believe they were fat, though I was at that time undersized for my years, and not strong. And it’s Pup, not dog.

“Darn me if I couldn’t eat em,” said the man, with a threatening shake of his head, “and if I han’t half a mind to’t! But I’m not Shane Warne.”

I earnestly expressed my hope that he wouldn’t, and held tighter to the tombstone on which he had put me; partly, to keep myself upon it; partly, to keep myself from crying.

“Now lookee here!” said the man. “Where’s your skipper?”

“There, sir!” said I.

He started, made a short run, and stopped and looked over his shoulder.

“There, sir!” I timidly explained. “Richard P’nt’ng. That’s my skipper.”

“Ha!” he muttered then, considering. “Who d’ye bat with – supposin’ you’re kindly let to bat, which I han’t made up my mind about?”

“My openers, sir – Shane and Phillip – But they don’t last long. So it’s Mike, Richard and the Stevesmith”

“Stevesmith, eh?” said he. And looked down at his leg.

After darkly looking at his leg and me several times, he came closer to my tombstone, took me by both arms, and tilted me back as far as he could hold me; so that his eyes looked most powerfully down into mine, and mine looked most helplessly up into his.

“Now lookee here,” he said, “the question being whether you’re to be let to bat. You know what the Ashes is?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you know what a win is?”

“Yes, sir.”

After each question he tilted me over a little more, so as to give me a greater sense of helplessness and danger.

“You get me a win.” He tilted me again. “And you get me the Ashes.” He tilted me again. “You bring ’em both to me.” He tilted me again. “Or I’ll have your heart and liver out.” He tilted me again.

I was dreadfully frightened, and so giddy that I clung to him with both hands, and said, “If you would kindly please to let me keep upright, sir, perhaps I shouldn’t be sick, and perhaps I could attend more.”

He gave me a most tremendous dip and roll, so that the church jumped over its own weather-cock. Then, he held me by the arms, in an upright position on the top of the stone, and went on in these fearful terms:

“You bring me, tomorrow morning early, that win and them Ashes. You bring the lot to me, at that old SCG over yonder. You do it, and you never dare to say a word or dare to make a sign concerning your having seen such a galah as me, or any person sumever, and you shall be let to bat. You fail, or you go from my words in any partickler, no matter how small it is, and your heart and your liver shall be tore out, roasted and ate. Now, I ain’t alone, as you may think I am. There’s a young man hid with me, in comparison with which young man I am a top bloke. That young man hears the words I speak. That young man has a secret way pecooliar to himself, of getting at a boy, and at his heart, and at his liver. It is in wain for a boy to attempt to hide himself from that young man. A boy may lock his door, may be warm in bed, may tuck himself up, may draw the clothes over his head, may think himself comfortable and safe, but that young man will softly creep and creep his way to him and tear him open. I am a-keeping that young man from harming of you at the present moment, with great difficulty. I find it very hard to hold that young man off of your inside. Now, what do you say?”

I said that I would get him the win, and I would get him what broken bits of Australia’s cricketing reputation I could, and I would come to him at the SCG, early in the New Year.

“Say Lord strike you dead if you don’t!” said the man.

I said so, and he took me down.

“Now,” he pursued, “you remember what you’ve undertook, and you remember that young man, and you get home!”

“Goo-good night, sir,” I faltered.

“Much of that!” said he, glancing about him over the cold wet flat. “I wish I was a pom. Or a Kiwi!”

At the same time, he hugged his shuddering body in both his arms – clasping himself, as if to hold himself together – and limped towards the low church wall. As I saw him go, picking his way among the nettles, and among the brambles that bound the green mounds, he looked in my young eyes as if he were eluding the hands of the dead people, stretching up cautiously out of their graves, to get a twist upon his ankle and pull him in.

[tweetmeme source=”petehayman” only_single=false]When he came to the low church wall, he got over it, like a man whose legs were numbed and stiff, and then turned round to look for me. When I saw him turning, I set my face towards home, and made the best use of my legs. But I looked over my shoulder; I had run Simon Katich out. Now I was frightened again, and ran home to New South Wales without stopping.

Five Things I’ve Learnt From The Ashes (So Far)

Mitch was adamant the Australians had two Rolfs in the squad

The Ashes series, to hopefully draw upon every cliché possible, is finely poised after the first three Tests. England have been imperious in the almost-lost art of lurching from the sublime to the rubbish, while Australia have been the Mount Vesuvius of world cricket – farcical and anonymous, before belching hell fire on unwitting and – on this occasion – wretched subjects.

The pattern of the series is not that dissimilar to the previous one. But it depends on how hard you want to look. The inability of Ravi Bopara to hit a cow’s arse with a banjo (there’s a cliché!) and the sight of Marcus North’s mobile pie van rocking up at Cardiff have been forced from my memory with five things I’ve learnt from The Ashes – Winter 2010-11 revision.

1. Paul Collingwood is currently England’s most scrutinised performer with a batting average lower than his shoe size (probably). Alistair Cook has decided to come out in his favour. I say the opposite, but stay with me – I am a fan of Colly. Tell him that his bags are on the plane and the airport taxi’s on the way. Tell him that Geoff Miller has failed three times to get through to Mark Ramprakash. The point being – force him utterly right against the wall and he’ll come out and hit 178 not out and take 6-28 at the MCG. This is scientific fact. Although there is no real evidence for it…

2. Mitchell Johnson was dropped after the 1st Test before coming back with a bang at the WACA. It is pretty apparent that he went away and did some serious work while in that brief wilderness. However, that work appears to have mainly consisted of drawing on his arm with black marker pen. The ability to aim at the three stumps has occurred somewhat coincidentally.

3. The lack of a quality spinner has troubled Australia to the point at which they have deployed three unorthodox techniques. The first is to jettison the only one they do have (contrived), who now can be found at various garage sales. Second is the recruitment of any Tom, Dick or Shane that selectors happen to encounter serving them petrol somewhere in the outback. And third is to simply put Shane Warne‘s gurning, nugget-filled face behind the batsman’s shoulder. He would be there in person, but he’s hiding in Happy Meals at McDonalds in Sudbury.

4. Donald Trump won’t shut up dot com.

5. Michael Hussey could earn himself an appointment at Buckingham Palace in the New Year’s Honours List if he did the decent thing and stepped on a stray cricket ball before Melbourne. This is also called ‘Doing A Glen’. It went out of fashion four years ago but everything is cyclical. Just think though Mike… how does arise Sir Michael Hussey of Tornligamentshire sound…

[tweetmeme source=”petehayman” only_single=false] That’s five, I appreciate. But one more if I may. Because it seems that beloved players are still getting to grips with Twitter. The fact that Andrew Flintoff now requires a new number… you join the dots.

The War of the Daffodils

Word gets out that Allenby could leave too

I suppose there was always the threat it was going to get out of hand. Masses of people descending upon Central London. The discontent simmered away as the cold winter darkness closed in; anticipation of what will emerge…

By 6pm that Thursday, we knew. Nothing more than we already did, but we knew. Decisions had been taken ‘in the best interests’ – a bullish, unwavering stance advocated within the oft-walked corridors of power.

Resignations have been tendered, sweeping reforms made. Is the process over? Apparently not. Once completed, he says, “adequate and due reflection” will be afforded to the events that have taken place over the last few weeks.

“We could not continue as we were going” is another justification for the recent alterations. But who knows where we are going now… improvements are said to be expected under this new regime, almost immediately. The proof seems a long way off. By September 2011, we’ll see consequences take shape.

But we must get one thing straight – the frustration that continues to linger amid the implemented changes should never have been directed at the Prince of Wales – a patron of affairs and no more involved with the policy making than you or I.

“I think [the division] is more reported in the press than is the case” – not exactly what the people on the streets suggest. Changes can be made if for the better, but it is hard to see whether that will transpire. Regardless of what is said among the massed cameras and microphones.

What chance a u-turn? Well, young ‘un, put down that fencing, for we might just have one. One is better than none – and the funding implication of this change of heart is to be welcomed. Certainly in the short-term, you’d hope.

The level of resentment is understandable, palpable if you will. For it is has been oft said: You cannot piss off Matthew Maynard without pissing off everyone else. But hostile scenes were a somewhat surprising accompaniment to Paul Russell’s press conference… that is what had everyone up in arms last Thursday? Right?

* for a rundown of the press conference, check out Wales Online

Party Po-cricket-al Broadcast

Five minutes of your time, if I may – I’ll keep this short and sweet.

It has been brought to my attention that a rather enticing new cricket book is on its way to the marketplace – The Alternative Cricket Almanack. And I believe that its worth a bit of a quick plug.

If you want your cricketing opinions ‘brutally honest’; if you like your humour on the dark side; and if you want to enjoy those two elements safe in the knowledge that you’ve also helped to discover and develop talent in Afghanistan, it stands to reason that this is the book for you.

I’m not going to take words out of anyone’s mouth here – if you want to find out more, then toddle along to their internet residence HERE.

Bid Up ECB

Terry Tibbs

"Pakistan ODI. Talk to me."

While us esteemed English cricket fans continue to salivate over the records that fell during the 1st Ashes Test in Brisbane, some attentions have already turned to the 2013 series – not least the venues that are hoping to catch a piece of the action.

Cardiff’s emergence as a Test venue in 2009 was as much as a kick up the proverbial for some clubs as it was for those with aspirations beyond welcoming Fred, John and Rover for all four days of a rain sodden County Championship fixture.

But there is something fundamentally troubling about the approach. It’s barely a secret that it took a lot of wonga – some if it from the Welsh public purse – to deal the persuasive hand upon the ECB. And what happened in return? Old Trafford and Headingley benefiting from multi-million pound facelifts.

I say ‘benefiting’ guardedly; are clubs now too quick to gamble sustainability on a short-term international fix? Staging a Test match is the preserve of those able to afford it as much as anything, and the big money bids count. “You say 10, I’ll give you 20,” says T. Tibbs of Somewhereshire to the ECB. “OK. Have England v West Indies, 2nd Test” is the reply.

If money helps a ground secure an Ashes Test match, for example, it has to come from somewhere. One obvious source would be filling the grounds for the limited overs games, particularly Twenty20. And if that is the case, then it somewhat has an impact on what the ambitions are at a particular club.

With most of the 2013 Ashes Test rights up for grabs, clubs are probably already looking to the bank balance to see how much they can push their bids – alas there is no ‘Buy It Now’ price. But the money has to come from somewhere, no?

Gate revenue would seem the most plausible source of income that could then be set aside for The Bid. Filling the ground up for a Twenty20 match in the sultry July heat lights up the accountants’ eyes like you wouldn’t believe. Imagine that repeated all the way to Finals Day… ker-ruddy-ching!

Twenty20 has been accused of threatening the vitality of the longer form of the game almost since its iconoclastic inception. But perhaps there’s a point. Is it dictating the ambitions and targets of men off the field; particularly those of a county in search of international gratification.

So, when Glamorgan implements sweeping changes in search of a richer vein of one day form, what is the real motivation? It is evident that the last day failure to gain promotion to County Championship Division One held little sway when the axe fell on Jamie Dalrymple’s captaincy.

The rest would be history, if it wasn’t so badly steeped in farce… but the demand for one day fulfilment is so prevalent in Glamorgan’s lurch from relative on-the-field stability to absurdity that it suggests the financial rewards that accompany limited overs success (in terms of attendances) are too much at the forefront of policy-making.

If Cardiff wants to host an Ashes Test in 2013, it’s going to have to pull out the stops. Old Trafford and Edgbaston are upping their game, Headingley already has. But this competitive scenario is to be loathed. Somewhere along the line, someone’s going to push themselves too far…

That is why the bidding system for international fixtures must be brought to an end. It is doing the domestic game no good. This may be filed under Rants and Ramblings, but I am not alone in this. Speaking at the Business in Sport and Leisure conference recently, Keith Bradshaw of the MCC urged the end of the bidding system. Geoffrey Boycott last year too.

And it turns out that Deloitte had some pretty concerning figures to back up such concerns; during the summer, a report revealed that Test venues were in debt to the tune of £91m!

Look at it another way. Clubs want to host an international fixture, so upgrade their facilities. To fund this, ticket prices go up. And what follows? Attendances start to fall. It’s as described: an unsustainable model.

Meanwhile, the haves and the have nots in English cricket grow further apart and the have nots want to keep an exhaustive Twenty20 schedule in order to maximise revenue streams.  The flaw being not everyone can afford to pay to go to umpteen Twenty20 Cup group games. Catch 22? Not ‘alf!

I’m not pretending to have any solutions to the problem. But the current system cannot continue. It could just be harming the game in more ways than you may care to think. Keep the speculative bidding for that nice cardigan on eBay.

FOR ANOTHER VIEW, check out Steve James‘ blog over at The Telegraph