Burns’ Flame Extinguished!

Opening batsman Joe Burns has been dropped from Australia’s Test team… probably for the last time!

Aged 31, with 1442 runs including four centuries, Burns has been a little unlucky to be dropped and recalled on multiple occasions previously but this time it seems terminal. Despite an undefeated half-century in the first Test against India, he reverted to recent woeful form in the second Test. With Will Pucovski now fit, he’ll belatedly make his Test bow… well, unless David Warner really is fit, then Pucovski may still have to wait. Either way, temporary opener Matthew Wade will probably drop into the middle order with much criticised Travis Head being harshly axed.

With the likes of Jake Weatherald, Daniel Hughes, Nic Maddinson and younger players coming through too, it’s surely the end for Burns. That said, an insatiable run of form could earn him yet another recall. Shaun Marsh was famously in and out of the side and Australia haven’t hesitated in selecting older players. Chris Rogers was one whilst Moises Henriques featured recently.

For now, it’s back to Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash for beleaguered Burns!

Big Bash Car Crash!

Watching highlights from the Big Bash, I’ve been shocked at how bad much of the bowling is. I keep hearing complaints that cricket is becoming too much in favour of the batsmen. Well if bowlers keep bowling waist high full tosses, conceding free hits and throw in a few too many over pitched leg-side deliveries as well then yeah, it will be a batsmen’s game.

The lack of bowling intelligence applied is staggering. A bowler is failing to execute deliveries as he’d like so what does he do? Try and gain some control by shaving a bit of pace off and bowling straight, make the batsmen do the work… no! He tries even harder to bowl faster or add further variation only to cock it up!

Also, the PowerSurge is a glorious opportunity for bowlers to claim wickets as batsmen throw away theirs for the sake of a point. Shouldn’t these batsmen be allowed to concentrate on winning the game. Look how Dawid Malan paced a recent innings for England. T20 shouldn’t be about hitting baseball shots off full tosses for 6 every ball. There should still be a place for more workmanlike innings. The contrast of that alongside a big hitter can be aesthetically pleasing. Do we really want a situation where teams are qualifying for knockout stages because they got enough bonus points to finish higher than a team that won more games?!

And as for the indulgent hyperbolic commentary… Jonathan Agnew, all is forgiven!

Edit: Following the latest match, two spinners have experienced an expensive first over. In usual circumstances, they might come back stronger but now their captain might just think, “Well, I just won’t bowl them again. I won’t let them display character and learn as a cricketer. I’ll just sub them for a batsman”. That might be the rules but I don’t think it’s healthy for cricket, player development or the integrity of the result!

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?

Down in Tasmania!

Yorkshire and England batsman Dawid Malan has signed for Big Bash outfit Hobart Hurricanes.

33-year-old Malan currently tops the T20I batting rankings but still isn’t guaranteed a place in England’s XI if everybody’s fit. Malan has been unfortunate with injuries when it comes to ODIs and though he was rightly dropped, I still believe that there’s a Test player in him.

Malan’s chances of seeing a thylacine could yet be scupered or at least limited however. This is because England may yet be touring at the same time.

Disclaimer: Not my first Dawid Malan article. I do think that he’s a very good player!

Bess Course of Action?

Incumbent England spin bowler Dom Bess is set to leave Somerset… but why would any other county sign him?

Well, presumably because they don’t expect him to be England’s number one spinner in the long term. I mean, what is the point of signing an England player, one who will rarely be available? Of course, if Bess’ Somerset teammate Jack Leach were to displace him for England, then Bess may, ironically, have been better staying at Somerset.

Leach is the better bowler but as technically and occasionally heroically correct as he is with the bat, Bess offers a more all-round package. That said, Bess has been extremely unfortunate not to return healthier figures this summer.

Yorkshire may seem a logical move for Bess. He has already represented the county on loan however the white rose county have youngsters Jack Shutt and James Logan on their books. It would be a shame if they followed the path of Karl Carver and Azeem Rafiq. Both players could’ve been backed a bit more but ultimately departed Headingley with their careers unfulfilled.

Bess should be a good player in white-ball cricket and I’ve always thought that Leach, who has never played a T20, could do well in the format. I mean Matthew Renshaw has been known to open the bowling in the Big Bash!

Ultimately there is healthy competition for England places and that is what is prompting this move. Gone are the days of a static county market. Players are transferring all the time, whether permanently or temporarily and it’s getting harder to keep up.

On Top of the World!

How great is it to see Reece Topley playing regularly and amongst the wickets?

Topley has eleven wickets at 12.64 in this year’s T20 Blast for Sussex including figures of 4-33 taken in his comeback match against former employers Hampshire. The Suffolk born left-armer has ten ODI and six T20I caps to his name but it would be foolish to be thinking about England consideration so soon after returning to first team action. It’ll be great if the twenty-five-year-old can go onto play List A and First Class cricket but if not then he could still make a healthy buck specialising in the shortest format.

It’s also encouraging to see another left-arm quick bowler in the form of Topley’s teammate Tymal Mills playing regularly and being amongst the wickets too. Mills may only have seven wickets but an average of 17.14 is healthy and most notably, his economy rate is just 6.32. This compares favourably against a career economy rate of 7.82.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/english-twenty20/averages

Looking through the averages another left-armer caught my eye. Nottinghamshire’s Harry Gurney has already committed to a white-ball world having made an impression at both the Big Bash and IPL. Soon he’ll be turning out in the Euro T20 Slam. In this year’s Blast he’s picked up 13 wickets at 15.85 including a career best 5-30 against Derbyshire. He’s leaking runs at an eye-watering 9.36 per over though so will want to temper that.

It’s not impossible that the above players could yet turn out for England again. David Willey has never dominated for England as would’ve been hoped and hasn’t (To be fair often hasn’t been able to) make his batting provide him with an edge. To say that he’s been ordinary in this year’s Blast would be an understatement as he comes to terms with his World Cup omission.

Dawson and Vince Hard Done by ECB not ICC!

Following on from my latest audiocast where I touched upon the subject of Liam Dawson and James Vince being unable to represent Hampshire in the One-Day Cup final, I feel that it’s necessary to look into things a bit further.

It’s a huge shame that these two players, both of whom are likely to more often than not be sub-fielding and carrying drinks for England (But you never know what can happen?!) can’t play in the domestic season’s marquee showpiece. It is of course only appropriate in the interest of fairness that they can’t. It would be unfair for them to be getting match practice, keeping their eye in, staying in form and gaining confidence when the players of the other World Cup participants can’t do so. You do have to question the ECB’s structuring of the English county season though as it is they who should’ve seen this coming and prevented it from happening. The One-Day Cup was played in an exclusive block up to a couple of weeks ago so why on Earth did we then return to First Class cricket for a couple of weeks before the One-Day final randomly slots in to the fixture list?

It’s a shame for the players in question and a kick in the teeth for devoted fans of a county game that in most people’s eyes is seriously struggling as a spectator sport. Remember that Vince is Hampshire’s captain and Dawson has been their star player this year.

Regarding Dawson, there are rumours that he’s been courted by Warwickshire but also that he may have hinted to Hampshire that he only wants a white-ball contract in the future. I’m disappointed to hear that but realistically he’s probably struggling to play Test cricket again. He’s been mightily effective in the PSL for a couple of years and if he can get IPL and CPL gigs as well as playing One-Day and Twenty20 cricket in England then there’s just about enough cricket to occupy him in the summer. This is before we consider the PSL, BPL and Big Bash etc in the winter time, not to mention the Hong Kong Blitz, Global T20 Canada and whatever pops up next! The riches of these gigs are far greater than the county game and a lot less gruelling so the appeal is understandable but it’s also confirmation that the standard of the four-day game in England in particular will continue to decline. If the best players desert it when still in their twenties, we could be left with only young players pre peak and old players post peak to fill the teams.

As for Vince, his appearances in an England shirt this summer have been exactly what everyone expected of him. Pretty but unsubstantial. Not out of his depth but not excelling. How will bench warming for England help him press his case for a top three Test vacancy come the Ashes?

Hopefully Dawson and Vince will get some game time at the World Cup. I’m a big fan of involving the whole squad when it comes to major tournaments but whether or not the structure of the 2019 competition and England’s results will allow it only time will tell.

Wright Wronged!

Former England player Luke Wright recently signed a white-ball only contract for Sussex, putting an end to a First Class career that earned nearly 8000 runs and in excess of 100 wickets.

http://m.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/23460.html

Remember that Wright was extremely close to winning a Test cap in South Africa some years ago but England plumped for Ian Bell.

If anything Wright was rather perversely both ahead of his time but also picked too soon. At a time when England, despite inventing it, had no idea how to play T20 cricket but belatedly attempted to select a squad somewhere near resembling a T20 outfit, Wright was sent out to swashbuckle from ball one and promptly scored a paddle of ducks at the World Cup.

Strip away ODI and T20I career bests against then Associates Afghanistan and Netherlands and his stats make for even grimmer reading than they already do. A lack of a consistent defined role may not have always helped him. Was he an all-rounder or just a batsman who bowled? He bowled that last over against New Zealand alright!

Despite his international struggles, Wright was making a name for himself on the franchise circuit long before many of his compatriots. His performances in the Big Bash were record-breaking and over a sustained period of time, confirmed his ability. It’s a shame that it had been lost on England by then.

All-time Big Bash leading run-scorers:

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/big-bash-league-2015-16/engine/records/batting/most_runs_innings.html?id=158;type=trophy

Highest individual Big Bash innings:

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/big-bash-league-2015-16/engine/records/batting/most_runs_career.html?id=158;type=trophy

Wright could still have a few years in him yet and let’s hope to see some boundary laden innings from the now 34-year-old, wherever in the world he shows up!

Stars in Their Eyes!

Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be… Matthew Kelly!

If Australia need another pace bowling option then they need look no further than the twenty-four-year-old.

In this season’s Big Bash, Kelly claimed eleven wickets at 19.00 apiece whilst tracking at under eight runs per over. In this season’s Sheffield Shield, he’s claimed thirty victims in ten matches at 28.53. That’s taken the former under-19 international up to 54 First Class career victims at 25.66 per scalp. Remember that due to the number of teams, many Australian players don’t get their break until a little later than in England and tend not to rack up as many career appearances.

Kelly has definitely displayed good temperament and ability during his career so far and could well make the step up. With state teammates Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Jhye Richardson getting game time for the national team though, theory of numbers could cost him!