Will Wood Burn or Flicker?

What do you do when you lose a player from a whole tour due to injury?

You call up a player with absolutely no history of injury ever right?

Err, wait… Mark Wood, IPL star (!), more time on a sickbed than Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient!

To be fair, it’s not as if the two Jamies, Overton and Porter, haven’t attended the treatment table so many times that they got a session free!

Let’s hope that in the absence of Olly Stone, Mark Wood can keep the English fires burning during an Arctic winter… yes I know, the cricket’s in the Caribbean!

European Cricket Champions League

How about this?

To help spread the game, let’s create a European Cricket Champions League. Below I’ve selected twenty possible teams for the inaugural tournament. I’ve selected the countries first and foremost by population but with previous/current cricketing pedigree helping the likes of Jersey squeeze in ahead of for example: Austria. Of course there could be more groups with more teams from more countries. Maybe the format could be eight groups of four teams but this is a starting point. I’ve kept it simple by sticking to capital cities for the teams and I’ve then organised them into geographically practical groups. Obviously the teams in Group A don’t have as far to travel for a match Athens do when playing Moscow but something’s got to give.

Group A

Dublin – Ireland

Edinburgh – Scotland

London – England

St Helier – Jersey

St Peter Port – Guernsey

Group B

Amsterdam – Netherlands

Brussels – Belgium

Madrid – Spain

Paris – France

Rome – Italy

Group C

Berlin – Germany

Copenhagen – Denmark

Prague – Czechia/Czech Republic

Stockholm – Sweden

Warsaw – Poland

Group D

Athens – Greece

Bucharest – Romania

Budapest – Hungary

Kiev – Ukraine

Moscow – Russia

Let’s say that each team plays eight matches. They play the four other teams in their group home and away. The format is Twenty20 with 2 points for a win, 1 for a tie and 0 for a defeat. The top two teams from each group qualify for the quarter-finals. The team with the most points, or if tied then the team that has scored the most runs (Or taken most wickets, etc etc.) in the competition, has home advantage in the last eight. For the semi-finals, the two teams that won their QF by the largest margin gain home advantage for the semi-finals. The final is played at a predetermined neutral venue unless of course that team has qualified for the final, in which case lucky them!

This would be a great opportunity to help continental cricketers develop their skills in a competitive, meaningful and exciting environment. Now of course the teams could just end up being national teams but maybe this would inspire other cities to create teams. For example, Italy creates a four-team league with entrants from Rome, Turin, Florence and Naples. They hold their own qualifying tournament and the winner qualifies for the European Cricket Champions League. It wouldn’t even have to require a full season, just a short-term tournament but measures would need to be in place to ensure some squad continuity season by season and possibly even a local player quota in each team.

Of course this idea isn’t entirely original. It’s very much along the lines of European football but if it can make stars out of Polish or Ukrainian cricketers and get people in those nations playing the game then great. Teams could have the option of one or two non-European players to supplement their seventeen-man squad. The cricket calendar is already congested but the players likely to participate in this competition are unlikely to be playing in franchise leagues around the globe… for now anyway! If Copenhagen signed a Ugandan cricketer and he starred for them in the tournament then that would help cricket all around. Kids in Uganda would be inspired, pick up a bat or ball and want to play the game, on the street and possibly in Europe’s leading cricket competition. Denmark themselves would’ve obviously do well and the player in question might end up getting an IPL or Big Bash gig. All corners of the globe could be represented in the competition, European players could end up playing in the South American equivalent and these players could end up playing in the IPL etc… or maybe those competitions will have been superseded by such tournaments as the European Cricket Champions League!

I could suggest team names like London Lions, Edinburgh Royals or Dublin Shamrocks but the continental teams will of course posses native names. You wouldn’t expect teams to be called Berlin Bears of Stockholm Sixers for example but might find Les Chevaliers de Paris. Now of course London would be expected to win and English players deserve to play as much as anybody but maybe some sort of criteria could be put in place to limit the amount of full international or even professionals participating, at least in the early years whilst the other teams/nations evolve.

The same league concept could be implemented on other continents as well.

Could we see Tokyo versus Seoul or Pyongyang versus Beijing in the Asian version?

To open the game to the world could help develop it tremendously and highlight how stuck in time we are, even when we think that the game is constantly evolving. I can’t say that I’m a Formula One fan but when I caught a glimpse of maybe the Malaysian Grand Prix which was held on the streets at night, the variety made it more interesting. Maybe in Japan matches would be held on rooftops or in China be played in huge stadiums.

Maybe we could discover new grounds like that in Rwanda…

https://www.cricketbuildshope.org

I’ve previously written about how I can’t believe that America doesn’t have a successful T20 competiton…

https://sillypointcricket.com/2016/11/06/stateside-smash/

Canada got one first. Hong Kong have one as well. Let’s have a Europe wide cricket competition to bring the game to the continental masses, to the amphitheatres of Rome, the Streets of Amsterdam, the bars of Greece and beyond!

What do you guys think? Is there a place for a city based European Cricket Champions League? Could such a tournament help steal some of the sporting monopoly from football? Could such an idea work in other parts of the world?

Many thanks for reading and keep following, keep liking and keep blogging yourself if that’s your thing!

Disclaimer: Apologies for the appalling image at the top of this post. I might try and source another one later!

Oz go Backwards to go Forwards… or Sideways… or Backwards Again?!

Australia have gone all retro-England on us with their latest ODI squad selection. Potential but inconsistent T20 performers Chris Lynn, D’arcy Short and Ben McDermott have all been ditched to make way for the likes of less explosive but more reliable players such as Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja. Though Marsh has done well in the IPL, you can’t help but think that Australia have pushed the panic button… and kept pressing! The selectors can’t seem to make their mind up about Peter Handscomb and one innings from him in the Big Bash seems to have confused them even further. All this fuels pressure on their bowling attack to limit opposition to totals that were the norm five years ago but not today.

Could it all click for Oz at this summer’s World Cup or will their fall continue?

Please don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel…

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCE7Dc2rxjmHdT09xofaoAXg

Something in the Genes!

They’re not bad these Curran brothers are they?

I don’t actually think that most diehard cricket fans were surprised at how Surrey’s Sam Curran has taken to Test cricket. He’s an absolute star, capable of batting at six (Maybe higher) and opening the bowling for his country. His left-arm variety will be essential to England’s attack and compensates for any perceived lack of pace. I previously said that he is the axis around which England should build their team but given England’s abundance of all-round talent, just to be a cog will suffice. He’s already made his buck courtesy of the IPL (He’s been snapped up by Kings XI Punjab) but hopefully he’ll keep his feet on the ground and stay engaged with the longest form of the game as well as the pyjama affairs.

Brother Tom struggled for wickets in the 2017-18 Ashes series in Australia but displayed chutzpah with both bat and ball. He performed well in white-ball (ODI/T20I) cricket and it’s a shame that injuries limited his England outings in 2018. He’s been on absolute fire for Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash this winter, already claiming a hat-trick of three-wicket hauls and scoring a swashbuckling half-century. I still think he’s capable of being a viable Test option for England at least in home conditions. He and Sam clearly have attitude which I like. It’s not ugly but there’s a little bit of ‘In your face!’ and that’s healthy against some competitors.

Then there’s brother Ben. It would be easy to get discouraged by being a little behind his brothers or for him to be the butt of jokes but BC has won a contract with Northamptonshire on the back of an encouraging showing late last season. That included signing off with a match-winning 83 not out against Sussex in the County Championship and he’ll be keen to kick on this term for a side that have lost Ben Duckett to Nottinghamshire. How far BC can go remains to be seen. There’s no disgrace in having a solid county career without international recognition but whilst Sam and Tom might look destined for greatness, remember how compatriot Steven Finn as well as India’s Irfan Pathan sadly fell away. In the case of Ben, we might yet see a Mike Hussey style post thirty Test debut followed by thousands of runs!

Flippin’ ‘eck!

Firstly, please let me be clear. I don’t mind change. I’m grateful for change in the past and there are changes that I’d welcome in the future… but this is embarrassing!

The Big Bash is set to replace the coin toss with the Australian backyard tradition of flipping a bat. This is professional sport right?

I’m all for trying something different in cricket, as has been done in the English County Championship. Alternative methods could be that the away team, the team highest in the league or the higher run scorers in a tournament get to choose whether to bat or bowl first but a bat flip, seriously!

We’ve got The Hundred coming to English cricket and the bat flip to the Australian game. What next? A Kabaddi fight between the captains before an IPL match?

One Day

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Yorkshire duo Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid are an integral part of England’s plans for the 2019 Cricket World Cup. Strong performances by the pace and spin combo will be vital if England are to succeed on home turf. Their domestic futures are somewhat uncertain however. What is certain, well almost at least, is that former Durham man Plunkett looks set to leave the White Rose county for pastures new. Middlesex are rumoured to be interested and the signing of Plunkett could be a great coup for the Lords dwellers. Whether or not northerner Plunkett will want to relocate to the bright lights down south remains to be seen. Plunkett will have turned thirty-four by the time the 2019 county campaign commences and it would be no surprise if, regardless of success, England move on from Plunkett after the World Cup. England seem to have abandoned any notion of him being an Test option and therefore Plunkett could provide Middlesex or indeed any suitor, an option across all formats. A patchy injury record means it’s unlikely that he’ll play every game of a season but he’d definitely be an asset to any side.

Onto Rashid, the thirty-year-old has opted out of First Class cricket for the time being at least and has only played a few List A games this campaign. He’s now missing Yorkshire’s One-Day Cup run because of his international commitments. It’s therefore arguable quite how much Rashid is worth to Yorkshire. Karl Carver has come back into the Yorkshire side this term although Azeem Rafiq seems to have fallen from grace again. Yorkshire may be in the market for an experienced spin option come next year.

As demonstrated by the table above, Plunkett should be able to rise as high as sixth on England’s list of all-time ODI wicket takers. This is even if he’s now going to miss some, possibly even all of England ODI series in Sri Lanka after the hosts flipped the schedule. Too much has been planned for Plunektt to rearrange his wedding! With Plunkett absent and Sri Lanka and West Indies certain to be spin friendly turfs, Rashid may fancy his chances of leapfrogging Plunkett in the above table. Having reached 100 ODI wickets in the second ODI against Australia, if Rashid were to continue on the international stage post the 2019 World Cup and improve with age as spinners often do, he may fancy his chances of breaking into the top five and possibly even reach as high as third on England’s list of all-time ODI wicket takers.

David Willey is another Yorkshire player who will hope to ascend the above chart. Willey is up to 37 wickets though his average is only just sub-forty. This is a crucial juncture in Willey’s international career, what with the likes of fellow left-armer Sam Curran having now been capped at international level. An encouraging contribution with the bat in the first ODI against Australia and with the aforementioned Plunkett unavailable come Sri Lanka, Willey will be keen to thrive on senior responsibility and pass fifty ODI career wickets. Like Plunkett, there’s seemingly been a little acrimony at domestic level for Willey with his jaunt to the IPL causing Yorkshire much angst. He has however made some significant contributions to their cause in recent seasons and is a gate bringer in the shorter formats. He’s also been keen to stress that he’s still very much up for playing the First Class format.

The modern era means that there are many ODI matches being played. Some cynics may suggest that the current ODI series against Australia is confirmation that too many matches are taking place. It is however an opportunity for, amongst other things, players to selfishly soar the charts that most of them claim not have any interest in but in truth they really, really do!

Flying Scots Scorch England!

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The day after a monumental occasion in Scottish cricketing history, please have a listen to my latest audio cast for a firsthand vocal review of how the epic day played out…

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Just over a week after being mentioned in a Silly Point article as a player to watch, Calum MacLeod was the star of the show as Scotland’s cricketers turned the tables on England at The Grange in Edinburgh.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18513/scorecard/1124639/scotland-vs-england-only-odi-england-tour-of-scotland-2018/

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After MacLeod led Scotland to their highest ever total of 371-5, Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow seemed to have put England on course for a remarkable run-chase. The pair compiled a 129-run stand for the visitor’s first wicket on a beautiful day in the Scottish capital.

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A special mention for Bairstow, whose 59-ball 105, his third consecutive ODI ton, I shamelessly neglected to mention in my audio cast!

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After that excellent start however, England ultimately fell six runs short. Scotland claimed a thoroughly deserved victory and in doing so, contributed to a seismic day in cricket history!

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Scenes!!!