Peter Della Penna: Inside the Selection Room Book Review

I’ve long been an admirer of Peter Della Penna’s work. I’ve read articles by him on Cricinfo that focus on Associate Cricket with USA often at the forefront of his efforts. When I saw that he had a book out that was about selecting a team beyond the Test world, I just had to get my hands on it…

And so it was that a 453 page tomb in size 10 (Maybe ?!) font arrived through my door! Even I felt daunted but it turned out to be right up my street.

The book details the trial and selection process for an ICC Americas XI that competed in the West Indies domestic 50-over competition in 2015. We’re provided with back stories of the players and later, a Where are they Now? section. If you’re not already aware, this book highlights the fact that cricket beyond the Test world relies heavily on players from celebrated cricketing nations, namely in Asia. It also pinpoints what those players are up against in a constantly changing and often poorly organised system both in their own countries and in international tournaments. As well as all this, it highlights, as is one of the main points of the book, that T20 franchise cricket could be an absolute game changer for some of these players and inspire many more from all over the world.

Cover star Ali Khan is the, errr… star of the book. The chapter surrounding IPL auction day highlights how many people are interested beyond the player themselves and the pressure this brings. His desire for opportunity on the franchise circuit whilst being in demand to represent USA, does showcase the challenging and often fixture clashing environment that players face. Of course this happens for Test players too but an Associate player having to decide between what competition to play in can have serious consequences… good or bad!

I suppose one criticism could be that the book displays a hint of repetition when referencing players’ past achievements etc. To be fair, so many player’s histories straddle the same events that it’s unavoidable.

This book isn’t for everybody but if your a stats freak who is passionate about cricket beyond Test stars and even T20 icons then it could be for you.

https://m.facebook.com/pages/category/Journalist/Peter-Della-Penna-302791379550/

Peter Della Penna’s Inside the Selection Room is unlucky to be caught at square leg for… 88!

Six to Watch: 2020 – Season Review

Obviously this season was a little different but still, here’s a review of the six players that I identified were worth watching this year. Remember that it was a transfer special!

Paul Coughlin, Durham

13 T20 Blast wickets at an average of 16.23 from just 20 overs back up north at Durham, was a healthy return for Coughlin. The all-rounder was injured almost as soon as he arrived at Nottinghamshire and just never really got going. He was an England Lion but despite his blast showing, is surely a long way from full international recognition. Averaged a whopping 101.33 with the ball in the Bob Willis Trophy!

Josh Shaw, Gloucestershire

Limited opportunity in the Blast but claimed 8 wickets at 41.00 with a best of 3-13 in the First Class format. Having finally made his frequent loans from Yorkshire to Gloucestershire permanent, he’s displayed wicket taking effectiveness in the past and should be an integral part of the Bristol based bowling attack moving forward.

Jack Leaning, Kent

After a tough debut, Leaning soon made a score of 220* in a record-breaking stand for Kent. That he only totalled 279 runs in eight innings however confirms what a struggle the campaign as a whole was! Clocked up a respectable 201 runs at 33.00 with a best of 55* in the T20s.

Luke Wood, Lancashire

Picked up seven wickets at 20.43 in the Blast but only three wickets in the Bob Willis Trophy. Still, an underrated left-armer with time on his side.

Dawid Malan, Yorkshire

Malan’s arrival in Yorkshire soon resulted in a First Class double ton and he’ll be pleased to have remained in the mix for England if only in white-ball cricket. Frustratingly, he really could’ve been a fine Test number four/five though. Failed to show up for Yorkshire in the T20 Blast however, scoring a paltry 36 runs at 9.00!

Haseeb Hameed, Nottinghamshire

Hameed registered a hugely encouraging 272 First Class runs at an average of 38.86 in seven innings. His top score was 87 and unlike Malan, he could yet play Test cricket again. Fingers crossed for one of sports great comeback stories!

X-Factor!

In this year’s edition of the Big Bash in Australia, teams will have the option to utilise an X-Factor replacement (Basically like the hugely successful supersub!).

Can you detect my lack of enthusiasm?

The rules are that the player been subbed out can’t have batted or bowled more than one over. The X-Factor can only be introduced after the 10th over of the first innings. Teams will have named a 12th and 13th player and can bring either person into the game.

For me, cricket is an eleven per-side sport. If a team has to turn to a batsman that doesn’t usually bowl for an over or two or a lower order batter has to come up trumps with some runs or even just hold an end up then that’s part of the beauty of the game. That’s how players increase their experience and skillset. If teams keep subbing in a batter for a bowler (I know it’s only if they bowled one over) when chasing in the second innings, bowlers will continue to regress as batsmen. Take England for example. We all know how capable Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood etc are with the bat but because they only very occasionally come out slogging at the end of a T20 innings, when they’re required to construct an innings following a collapse in a fifty-over game or perform in a Test match, they’re already struggling to do so. Stripping them and their peers of more batting opportunities may take us to a game where we literally do divide batsmen and bowlers… maybe batsmen bat twice and bowlers never do!

What does it say about a team’s preparation if they’re having to utilise this option and maybe admit that they got their team selection wrong or misread the surface?

I just feel that it will ruin the integrity of the game. Yes it’s the same and available to everyone but though we have tactical substitutes in other sports as well as concussion and currently Covid replacements in cricket, for me… X-Factor just isn’t cricket!

Let’s Get Associated!

I’m currently reading The Selection Room by Peter Della Penna. The book revolves around the selection, performance and post tournament careers of a number of trialists attempting to get into an ICC Americas XI that competed in the West Indies domestic 50-over competition.

Could a similar idea work elsewhere to help promote cricket in Europe, Africa or anywhere else in the world?

It would probably make sense to focus on the T20 format. That’s the logical vehicle that is helping get the game going in many corners of the world. Most nations now have international status in said format.

Could a squad of fifteen players from the likes of Sweden, Germany and Greece compete in England’s T20 competition… or even two teams if we need to stick to round numbers?

Could players from Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria compete in South African cricket? Namibia certainly have done. Could the Big Bash accommodate a team consisting of players from Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji? They seem set on introducing two new teams so maybe alongside a new city based team, an Oceania Associate XI could be introduced. The same could be done in one or two leagues in Asia with players from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and South Korea etc comprising a team. Just imagine a Chinese player taking a prize wicket in the PSL or a Spaniard striking a six-laden fifty in England’s T20 Blast. Such performances would make headlines and inspire kids across the globe to start playing cricket.

The franchise circuit is there and could truly be filled with players from across the globe. That would then lead to national T20 teams from Mexico to Malaysia getting stronger and to cricket having a proper T20I WORLD Cup!

For too long cricket has given with one hand but taken with the other when it comes to developing the sport across the globe. This could be a fantastic opportunity to unearth talent, change lives and gets kids (And adults!) in Israel, Chad and who knows where, picking up a cricket bat. Imagine a Japanese guy performing for an Asian Associate XI in the BPL then getting a contract in the CPL or Big Bash, then playing for Japan against West Indies or Australia in a T20I series, then playing in the T20I World Cup, gaining fans for him, his team and the sport all along the way. Stars would be born!

It may be that a team could have two/three players from a Test playing nation in their squad to provide experience and pass on knowledge. So say for example a European Associate XI with players from Czech Republic and Italy etc are competing in the T20 Blast. They might be able to recruit a player who is looking to move into coaching, an out of contract player or even a full international, just to make sure that some quality is there and like I say, help develop players throughout the continent.

Another vehicle might be an FA Cup style competition, well, with some sort of group stage to guarantee the Associate team at least a few games. Maybe it could be a Europe XI and World XI competing in the T20 Blast. Maybe the Irish league could have a team feature in their T20 competition. Heck, they’ve only got three teams!

There must be so much talent out there, so much opportunity. At the risk of being a bit corporate, untapped markets could become, well… tapped!

What do you think? How would you help cricket grow around the globe? Do you even want cricket to grow or are you content with watching the same players from the same countries?

Cricket 19: Practice Makes, Errr… ?

Our first match, an unofficial T20, ended in a six wicket defeat.

We posted 106 from 19.1 overs. Five batsmen reached double figures but Dylan Roberts’ 16 was the top score. Though our batsmen displayed competence, an ability to find the boundary was almost non-existent. Opener Aled Edwards (13) struck our solitary six. The opposition wicketkeeper claimed 8 (EIGHT) catches… in a T20!

Despite defending less than a run-ball, our bowlers and fielders stuck to task. Three bowlers each claimed a wicket. Left-arm seamer Rhys Evans had the honour of claiming our first (Though admittedly unofficial wicket) by clipping the top of off stump, courtesy of a beautiful inswinging delivery to the right-handed batsman. Roberts, who dropped a straight-forward catch, also executed a run out. The amateur opposition eased home however with more than five overs to spare.

We fared a little better in our second game. This time we totalled 125, only losing our final wicket to the last ball of the innings. Once again Roberts (20) looked assured at number three, after both our openers had fallen for single figure scores. For the second game in a row, a number of batsmen made starts but it was fast bowler Dwayne Alexander (21 from 14) at number nine, that propelled us to 125.

Four bowlers each claimed one wicket but our opponents were able to find the boundary regularly enough. We did at least take the game a little deeper in the innings but once again succumbed to a six wicket defeat.

We then moved onto our first official match against Glamorgan. Inserted to bat, our opening duo of Stephen Shah (16) and Aled Edwards (27) laid the foundations with a healthy opening stand of 48. Sadly, in-form Dylan Roberts fell for a golden duck on professional debut whilst wicketkeeper Rhodri Thomas didn’t fare much better, registering the silver version. From 48-0 we slipped to 73-6, in the main because of the opposition’s star spin bowler.

Captain Ioan Powell (23) and Cai Hughes (16) combined for 33 to keep us ticking over and once again Dylan Alexander (14*) helped take us to a respectable 130-9.

We effected a run out early in Glamorgan’s chase before Rhys Evans claimed our first official (Having claimed our premier unofficial) wicket. We put Glamorgan on the back foot at 29-3 and soon had them reeling at 60-6. From 75-7 they recovered to 104 before we claimed the eighth wicket. Despite a dropped catch late in the piece to blemish an excellent fielding performance and a little wobble (Overthrows and a wide) in the final over, we sealed a ground-breaking victory by 12 runs. Leg-spinner Eifion Williams (2-19) and the aforementioned Rhys Evans (2-27) both claimed two wickets but all our bowlers maintained excellent economy rates.

The result was the… result of an excellent team effort as well as astute leadership. It’s provided the team with a huge morale boost ahead of our first full international against England.

Look out for a full match report from the big day!

Disclaimer: I’m playing on Hardest difficulty level. All Wales players, kit and stadium are my own creation.

Cricket 19: Wales – A New Dawn!

Following the latest patch on Cricket 19, it is with regret that I have retired my French team. However, when one door closes another opens… and so, I invite you to join me as I lead a newly independent Welsh cricket team into the competitive world of full international cricket.

Our inaugural fixture will be a one-off T20 International against England at our newly constructed Wales Stadium. Well, actually, there’ll be a practice match or two, a T20 against Glamorgan then our first full international against our neighbourly rivals (Or rival neighbours). There will then follow three ODIs and a solitary Test as we face a baptism of fire against the might of England.

Look out for match reports soon, where new Welsh cricket fans will be introduced to players such as captain Ioan Powell, wicketkeeper Rhodri Thomas and exciting fast bowler Dwayne Alexander.

We’ll keep you updated regarding future fixtures/tours so that you can follow our young and exciting team across the globe.

In anticipation of your support… thank you.

Dawson Disaster!

Poor Liam Dawson. He did okay with the ball in Tests, providing something to build upon (Even if he batted abysmally after a strong start) only for England to go old school, succumb to media pressure and… drop him!

He’s thrived in the Pakistan Super League and performed well batting as high as five for Hampshire but… he only carried the drinks at the World Cup before doing the same in the recent ODI series against Ireland. Now he’s ruptured his achilles in his first game back for Hampshire and will surely miss the rest of this truncated county campaign. It’s such a shame for Dawson and a huge blow for the second White Rose County (Yorkshire being the first of course!).

Fingers crossed that Dawson can regain fitness as soon as possible and feature in whatever cricket is available upon his return, whether that’s next season or if any franchise jaunts are possible.

Close of Play for Meschede!

German international Craig Meschede has been forced to retire due to injury.

The South African born Glamorgan and former Somerset all-rounder is suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome.

Meschede made two First Class tons and claimed one five-wicket haul. His best List A bowling figures were an incredible 4-5 but he’ll be disappointed that his top score was only 45. His best figures in T20s were 3-9 and with the bat he scored over a thousand runs at a strike-rate of 134.08. It was in the latter format (T20I) that he earned international recognition with Germany, his father’s homeland.

He duly impressed with a top score of 67 and averaged 44.75 striking at a mighty 155.65! Throw in six wickets at just 19.16 apiece and the German selectors will be gutted that the 28-year-old won’t be donning the German kit again.

http://m.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/362565.html

Meschede advises that he’s “… lost about 80% strength in my upper arm” and that he requires “… (a) procedure to improve my everyday life.”

I sincerely hope that the procedure goes to plan and that Meschede is able to find fulfilment away from playing cricket.

Double (Or Triple?) Trouble!

There’s a suggestion that if any international cricket is played in the near future that England could field multiple teams in order to play different formats on the same day.

Now whether or not that would be a crossover between red and white ball cricket or that ODI and T20I could clash obviously remains unclear. Let’s assume that each and every format was being played on the same day. Who makes which team? Oh, and for ease we’ll select for matches played in England… at the risk of being rather optimistic!

Test

Rory Burns

Dominic Sibley

Zak Crawley

Joe Root (Captain)

Ollie Pope

Sam Curran

Ben Foakes (Wicketkeeper)

Mark Wood

Jack Leach

Stuart Broad

James Anderson

Sam Northeast

Jamie Porter

ODI

Dawid Malan (Captain)

Tom Banton

James Vince

Sam Hain

Dan Lawrence

Sam Billings (Wicketkeeper)

Craig Overton

Lewis Gregory

Oly Stone

Saqib Mahmood

Matt Parkinson

Liam Livingstone

David Willey

Dom Bess

T20I (Which I’ve prioritised over ODI due to the impending World Cup)

Jason Roy

Jos Buttler (Wicketkeeper)

Jonny Bairstow

Eoin Morgan (Captain)

Ben Stokes

Moeen Ali

Tom Curran

Chris Jordan

Chris Woakes

Jofra Archer

Adil Rashid

Phil Salt

Joe Denly

Pat Brown

What are your thoughts on my selections? What would you do differently?

Cricket: A Global Game? – Getting There!

Singapore have soared up the T20I rankings since full status was applied to pretty much all international T20 matches. The Asian island have even defeated Test nation Zimbabwe during their meteoric rise.

https://www.icc-cricket.com/rankings/mens/team-rankings/t20i

Now it’s the turn of another Asian island (Or four islands) to make headway in the cricketsphere. Japan’s U-19 side might not have performed sensationally on the pitch but their progress hasn’t gone unnoticed. Diehard sports fans love an underdog and for the time being at least even big nations like Japan are such when it comes to cricket.

An even bigger country that has also shown up on the U-19 World Cup stage is Nigeria. Like Japan it’s been tough at the tournament but they’ll stronger and more hungry for it. Both sides have a healthy amount of indigenous or dual heritage players in their teams which bodes well for the future. That’s both for the future of their respective teams and cricket in general.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_Under-19_Cricket_World_Cup

What’s the ceiling limit though? Will they have to apply for Test status? Will it even be relevant for nations that are being groomed on Twenty20 or One-Day Cricket to try and function in longer forms of the game?

It’ll be fascinating to see how the international cricket landscape evolves over the next decade or two. Hopefully nations from all corners of the globe will be playing against one another.