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?

For Whom the Bell Tolls!

Warwickshire stalwart Ian Bell will miss the first three months of the county campaign because of a toe injury sustained during the PSL. The 36-year-old’s chances of gatecrashing the Ashes now appear even slimmer than the own brand lasagne sheet that they already were!

If you were lining up Bell as a vital component of your fantasy cricket batting line-up then you’ll need to perform a rethink… James Hildreth anyone?

It’s a Numbers Game

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New Zealand opener Jeet Raval’s maiden Test hundred scored against Bangladesh in Hamilton. Raval’s first ton at the highest level came in his 28th innings and also took him past 1000 Test runs

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Bangladesh spinner Mehidy Hasan Miraz’s bowling figures in the same innings that Raval reached his maiden Test ton.

22, 5, 41, 11, 6, 6, 14, 0

Australian opener Aaron Finch’s current run of scores in ODI Cricket since a knock of 100.

16, 3, 47, 1, 0, 3, 1, 7, 27, 0, 28, 0, 8

Australian opener Aaron Finch’s current run of scores in T20I Cricket since a knock of 172.

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Ashton Turner became Australia’s 228th ODI cricketer when he made his debut against India in the same match that Finch registered his latest failure.

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Ashton Turner’s T20I batting average having registered scores of 0 (5) and DNB on his return to the side.

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West Indian opener Chris Gayle’s run tally in ODI Cricket following scores of 135, 50 and 162 in the series against England!

52 off 35

England spinner Liam Dawson’s batting exploits in his latest innings for Peshawar Zalmi. Perennial England fringe man Dawson is flourishing in the PSL and not for the first time.

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Adil Rashid’s bowling figures in the fourth ODI against West Indies. By a full twelve runs this was the most expensive five-wicket haul in ODI history yet perversely, still a match-winning performance.

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Michael Vaughan’s ODI shirt number and Goa’s sum total in a T20 encounter with Saurashtra earlier today.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8661/scorecard/1157201/saurashtra-vs-goa-group-c-syed-mushtaq-ali-trophy-2018-19

76, 59, 59-9, 38, 25, 86-9 = 343-58 = 5.91 runs per wicket

An extremely tough time for Kuwait’s Women in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Asia Region Qualifier. Their batting averages make for extremely grim reading…

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/records/averages/batting_bowling_by_team.html?id=12866;team=4550;type=tournament

86-9 in their final game was their highest total though and hopefully they’ll be better for the tough experiences gained.

Olivier, Jayasuriya & Cricket 19 Audiocast!

Hi loyal followers… and new visitors, here’s my latest audio cast. Please have a listen to my thoughts on South African bowler Duanne Olivier’s Kolpak deal with Yorkshire, Sri Lankan legend Sanath Jayasuriya’s suspension from all things cricket and the release of Ashes Cricket 19.

Howzat!

Twenty20 Vision?!

England have named their squad for the T20I series against West Indies and I can’t say that I’m enthused…

https://www.ecb.co.uk/england/men/news/1058447/sam-billings-and-dawid-malan-named-in-england-s-it20-squad

I back whoever plays for England (Unless there’s a serious reason that I shouldn’t. We’ll come to that!) but some of the selections in this squad are puzzling.

I’m a huge Dawid Malan fan but he’s hardly been tearing it up on the franchise circuit recently. Yes his international record is outstanding but he’s in no form whatsoever to maintain that record. This opportunity, as with his previous ones, have only come about because of squad rotation. He fully merited selection when he replaced a ‘rested’ Eoin Morgan however, in what was effectively at T20I final. Contrary to his recent franchise efforts, he had been tearing it up for England Lions. I just don’t feel that he’s primed to perform at international level right this moment. I hope that I’m wrong though and that a strong showing can put him back on the Test radar.

The selection of Chris Jordan is a generous one for me. He struggled in the Big Bash this season but is part of the T20I fabric for England. He benefits from the absence of senior bowlers to get game time in this format and of course he does take wickets. Anybody should be able to keep tallying wickets when the opposition are slogging away at the end though. He’s a good fielder but needs to take more wickets for less runs… obviously!

James Vince was superb in the Big Bash, Harry Gurney was steady away and Laurie Evans has backed up strong white-ball seasons in England by becoming an in-demand player on the franchise merry-go-round. None of the above make the squad but…

… Sam Billings does! I can understand the frustration for and with Sam Billings. It’s not easy when you’re a fill-in player, particularly in T20Is when there’s often just one match in a series. This series has three matches though, so Billings will desperately hope to bat in the top four to have a chance to impress. If he can hit the ground running then he could make the most of the series but then again, he’s just filling in. Like Malan, he’ll likely then get dropped again to accommodate the returning Roy, Buttler and Stokes.

I understand the logistical reasons but did England really need to name their squad so soon?

Liam Plunkett could be letting his World Cup place slip away though knowing him, he’ll probably take four wickets in the next ODI. If he fails to take a wicket and gets dropped during the series though, will he still be what England want in the T20Is?

What if Vince hits a couple of hundreds in the PSL between now and the start of the series? Could he be drafted into the squad? Ed Smith is sending out very mixed messages regarding Vince. He was pretty curt when he originally axed the Hampshire man, despite Vince making 76 in his previous Test innings. He did recall him because of injuries for a One-Day International, only for Vince to run himself out… again! Now following sparkling form in the Big Bash, he’s been omitted again.

Another player that’s been mentioned on forums is Joe Clarke. I think that a lot of people don’t know or don’t care why he’s been ignored. My understanding is that he wasn’t dropped from England Lions because of what a teammate may have got up to in his bed. He was dropped because of the list of women on his phone and the competitive element of that. If he matures then I’m quite happy for Joe Clarke to play for England in years to come. As it stands however, I (And that’s just me. I’m not speaking for anyone else) don’t want him anywhere near the England cricket team. Clarke can argue that he’s unfortunate it all came out and of course we don’t know what all players get up to away from work but… tuff!

Another thing that I may have mentioned before. ODIs are ODIs so I call the T20 version T20Is not IT20s… so there!

Edit:

James Vince next PSL innings: 84 off 41

Dawid Malan next PSL innings: 1 off 6

Jack of All Trades

Jack Leach was somewhat harshly omitted from the England Test XI that took to the pitch in the Caribbean. This was despite the Somerset spinner playing a pivotal role in England’s success in Sri Lanka just a few months prior.

Leach has performed exceptionally well in First Class cricket as well as appearing in a smattering of List A games but he has never taken to the pitch in a T20 match.

http://m.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/455524.html

I really think that Leach could thrive in the shortest format and that such exposure could make him a better player in all formats. I can understand not wanting to compromise him but whether it be in the Big Bash, BPL, PSL or wherever, Leach could be well worth a punt.

Given the fashion for spinners opening the bowling in T20 franchise cricket, it’s in that role that I think Leach would be suited. Ed Smith recalled Jos Buttler to the Test side based on his IPL exploits. Could he make another left-field selection and pick Leach for T20Is based on County Championship form?

Living the Dream!

Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone has commenced the 2019 Pakistan Super League in record-breaking fashion. The twice capped England player scored 82 from only 43 deliveries on debut for Karachi Kings. The innings included half a dozen of both fours and sixes. Livingstone put on a PSL record 157-run stand with Babar Azam who made 77 from 59 deliveries.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18898/game/1168821/karachi-kings-vs-multan-sultans-2nd-match-pakistan-super-league-2018-19

Livingstone is contracted for an IPL gig as well and will hope that such stellar performances catch the eye of England Selector Ed Smith. The twenty-five-year-old Cumbrian was harshly criticised by some following his first England appearances. He’s a talented all-round x-factor player who should get another chance to prove his worth at international level. He performed superbly for England Lions in Sri Lanka a couple of years ago and was in England’s Test squad that toured New Zealand last year.

Meanwhile compatriot Laurie Evans who performed extremely well in the Bangladesh Premier League, continued to enhance his reputation in Pakistan. The Sussex batsman scored 49 from 39 balls before being run out in Multan Sultans’ reply.

As for Ravi Bopara… 2-0-33-0!

Disclaimer: I’m pretty sure that I’ve used this headline for a Liam Livingstone related article before but… so be it!

Six to Watch: 2018 – Season Review

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A little premature with the season not quite concluded but here’s 2018’s Six to Watch Review. This year two players from my selection have been promoted to the full England side. One has already debuted and one likely will in Sri Lanka. For the others, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag but should get better.

Tom Fell  (Worcestershire)

Another difficult year for cancer survivor Fell. There were glimpses of his determination and ability but little consistency. Fell has registered only four fifties in 22 innings this term but two of them, including a season best 89, came in the same match against champions Surrey. He’s currently averaging a disappointing 27.82 in the County Championship. Despite an impressive career record in List A cricket, white-ball opportunities have been harder to come by. Fell has only ever played three T20s.

Ollie Pope (Surrey)

So good have been Pope’s numbers (He’s averaging 70.50 in CC2018) that he was fast tracked into the England team. Unlike some sceptics, I think that Ed Smith has got a lot of qualities but his decision to parachute Pope in at number four in England’s Test side was misguided. Pope had never batted higher than six for Surrey! The Chelsea born bat has a good head on his shoulders however and will be better for the experience. This year he’s a Championship winner and breeding that winning mentality can only be good for his development. He’s likely to commence the Sri Lanka tour on the bench but the opportunity to tour will serve him well.

Hamidullah Qadri (Derbyshire)

A frustrating year with limited opportunity and limited success for Afghan born Qadri. Last year the then sixteen-year-old announced his arrival with an outstandingly effective performance against Glamorgan to help Derbyshire win for the first time in… years!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8204/scorecard/1068618/glamorgan-vs-derbyshire-specsavers-county-championship-division-two-2017

This year’s appearances have been fleeting but four more County Championship appearances is more than most for a man his age. He’s claimed eight wickets at 39.88 in CC2018.

Delray Rawlins (Sussex)

Precocious talent Rawlins’ opportunities have been limited to limited overs cricket but his batting caught the eye of many in this year’s T20 Blast. Rawlins made it to the final with Sussex and made starts in both matches on Finals-Day. The Bermuda born bat ended the campaign with 203 runs at 25.38. His strike-rate was 146.04. Little was seen of his bowling however or the red ball this term. Rawlins could be a potentially good draft for a Big Bash or PSL franchise this winter.

Will Rhodes (Warwickshire)

The move from Yorkshire to Warwickshire seems to have worked well for Rhodes. Yorkshire didn’t seem to know what to do with him and have had Harry Brook (Better suited to the middle order) opening while losing Alex Lees to Durham. Keeping and making the most of Rhodes may have been a good move by Yorkshire but Rhodes is yet another talent they failed to fully develop. Warwickshire are grateful to have been the beneficiaries of Yorkshire’s slacking. The Midlands outfit have persevered with Rhodes and former Surrey man Dominic Sibley as an opening pair, even when the runs haven’t flowed. Sibley can be feast or famine but Rhodes’ consistency has meant that he’s been one of the county circuit’s more successful openers this year. The left-hander has compiled three tons plus four fifties, a top score of 137 and is averaging a healthy 41.05. He’s also a viable bowling option.

Olly Stone (Warwickshire)

Rhodes’ Warwickshire ally Stone commenced the County Championship campaign with figures of 8-80 against Sussex, cue lots of calls for him to make the England side. Of course he promptly got injured again! Like his main rival for the speedster’s role, Somerset’s Jamie Overton, Stone has recently taken wickets in T20 and First Class cricket, crucially… he’s been on the pitch at all! The former Northamptonshire man has claimed 37 wickets in just six matches at a mightily impressive average of 12.27. With Liam Plunkett and his wedding arrangements undone by a flip of England’s tour schedule, Stone will go to Sri Lanka with both the ODI and Test side if not the T20I side. He should debut sometime on the tour and will have an eye on the West Indies trip too.

It’ll be Alright on the Sylhet Night!

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Ross Whiteley playing for Worcesterhsire Rapids against Yorkshire Vikings at Headingley last summer.

The 2017 instalment of the Bangladesh Premier league is under way and there are a few England players, some more household names than others to keep an eye on.

England limited overs regulars Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett are both there. Of course there are many who would have had at least one of the Yorkshire duo in their Ashes Squad.

Joe Denly and Sam Hain are amongst some of the other England qualified players to be participating in the tournament. Denly has enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance in English county cricket though an international recall still seems rather unlikely. Hain has long been touted as an international prospect but some underwhelming domestic campaigns have left him well down the pecking order.

It’s Worcestershire’s Ross Whiteley who could benefit most from the exposure however. I was at the match against Yorkshire where he took spinner Karl Carver to the cleaners. Truth be told it was a ridiculously short boundary but Whiteley, despite a modest career record, possesses a fearsome reputation for clearing the ropes. Even if he doesn’t regularly make massive scores, if his twenties and thirties are scored at 200% plus then he can be of real value to his side. A good showing for Sylhet Sixers in the BPL could earn him gigs in the Pakistan Super League or Big Bash. Come the end of a long Ashes tour and five-match ODI series, there’s some T20Is in the shape of the Trans-Tasman Tri-Series that involves New Zealand as well as England and Australia. If he can pull the trigger to effect on the global franchise scene then left-hand-bat Whiteley could be in with a realistic shout of winning a T20I cap.

International Cricket this is Not!

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It’s great that ‘International’ cricket (I’ve contradicted myself already!) has returned to Pakistan. Let’s put it another way, it’s great that crowd drawing cricket complete with international stars has returned to Pakistan. It’s fantastic that the national team are hosting matches and playing in their own country but… international cricket should be reserved for nation versus nation and that’s why the matches currently taking place between Pakistan and World XI should not have been granted international status.

Meaning no disrespect to say, Ben Cutting for example. A professional cricketer who has merited and had the honour of representing his country, he is not currently close to a recall to the Australian team. Now however, his official statistics have included in them some more international caps. When you visit his Cricinfo profile page, his last T20I outing no longer shows as him donning the gold and green for Oz a few years ago but Pakistan vs. World XI this week. It’s a joke and disrespectful to all who have represented their nations. If anything, this ensemble of international stars serves only to promote the IPL, Big Bash and PSL more than it does to promote genuine international cricket… and as for Paul Collingwood having his career international stats tampered with!

This isn’t the first time this has happened. I remember Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff playing Tests (Tests? Do me a favour!) for World XI against Australia.

I’ll repeat that it’s great that cricket being played by the top players is happening again in Pakistan and I have huge respect for Ben Cutting and all the other players who have carved out professional careers and earned the right to represent their national sides but these particular matches should be limited to domestic T20 status and not international T20 status.