Saturday, 26 November 2011

The decline of test cricket...

The decline of test cricket.

What was once the peak of cricket, is now slowly being lost among the shorter formats of the game. Someone one said T20 cricket is the pauper of cricket and ODI cricket is the Prince of cricket, while test cricket was the king of cricket. You wouldn't be wrong thinking that roles have been reversed nowadays with test cricket and T20 cricket.

You only have to look at the crowds that have only recently packed the Indian stadiums for the IPL, and the Champions League T20. Compare those crowds with what we see at the current West Indies/India test series and it's clear for all to see. Granted crowds do improve when India do come into bat, but this is not just an Indian problem. Crowds at the last test series between South Africa and Australia have suffered.

While not all test nations have suffered at the hands of test cricket, England have managed to fill their stadiums for their recent summer test series against Sri Lanka and India. So what is the problem. Is it that audiences outside of England have lost interest in test cricket.

I think some of test cricket's problems are in those who govern the game, and fans are getting tired of it. Why sit through five days of cricket to only get a draw at the end of it, no result. Or if your unlucky enough, you can go watch test cricket, only to find bad light has forced the players of, as it's deemed unsafe. Or when a splash of rain comes down and once again the umpires are itching to get of the field, and bring all the covers on. Or for two captains two agree to call the game a draw because one side can't be bothered to attempt to chase the total.

Granted in some cases where the total is out of reach and the only result possible is indeed a draw. I'll bring you a case recently in a test game where India were playing the West Indies, India had been set a target of 180 to win from 47 overs, and it seemed at first they were making a valid attempt to chase the target down, but after the fall of Raina at the start of the 29th over, India threw in the towel and instead of giving all the fans that had attended a good tight game to watch, both captains decided to end it as a draw.

It had seemed a very attainable target for the Indian side, but both sides were happy to play it safe.

Why would someone want to go watch five days of cricket as I said earlier, to only see a drawn test match. When they can go watch T20, ODI, ODI day/night games that guarantee a result either way, depending on the weather.

Where T20/ODI cricket brings you big shots, boundaries, huge sixes, powerplays, boundary catches, close finishes and the cricket is done and dusted in the one day.

The Test Championship which was due to take place in England in 2013, has now been postponed to at least 2017. Many had thought this was an interesting way of putting spice and interest back into the declining format of the game, which involved the top four ranked teams in the ICC rankings. Haroon Lorgat said the reason for it not going ahead on the date as planned was because of a lack of "support and consent" from the ICC's broadcast partner.

And with that it was another blow for test cricket.

You could also throw into the argument that now even more so, players, especially bowlers are turning down test level cricket, even ODI cricket to focus their careers on T20 cricket. The likes of Shaun Tait has retired from all forms except T20 cricket, while Lasith Malinga has retired from test cricket, so they both can extend their careers in the shorter forms. The money to be made from contracts in the IPL is staggering, with the himself receiving $300,000 for his work with the Rajasthan Royals, and Malinga was retained by the Mumbai Indians and set to be valued at a minimum of $500,000.

Malinga preference over T20 cricket and his reluctance to play test cricket has not gone down well with the Sri Lankan selectors, stating he is not able to play test cricket for a nagging knee problem, granted T20 cricket is a far shorter workload than what is needed at test level.

And with the likes of Chris Gayle falling out with the West Indies Cricket Board, and turning to play for T20 cricket, much like his fellow countryman Kieron Pollard, who can be seen all around the world plying their trades in different T20 leagues.

More and more cricketers are turning to the shortest form of the game, and with test games being drawn out in a bore, and games being delayed for a fear of dangerous play with so called bad light, especially in a day and age when the players wear more and more stronger equipment, and sturdier helmets. When umpires are easily removing the players from the field of play with any sign of rain. Why should fans stick with the longer form of the game when those who govern the game don't come to see common sense, and try to get the game going. Where delays are more common and possible championships being delayed by a minimum of four years.

T20 is a fun form of the game, and ODI is a more strict form of the game, but we need all forms, but we to find the balance before it's too late, and test cricket is lost forever...

Monday, 21 November 2011

Eoin Morgan

Eoin Morgan,

Eoin is an Irish born cricketer, born in Dublin, Ireland. Although he plays for England, he is a left handed batsman, who is signed with Middlesex Cricket Club, the same start as Ed Joyce and Paul Stirling.

He was brought up through the Irish system and made his debut for Ireland. He is the only player to score an ODI hundred for two nations. His unique batting style is loved all around the world, and his boundary hitting ability and cool headed approach has made him a vital part of the English side. He loves the reverse sweep shot, which he has said comes from the Irish game of hurling, as the grip needed for hurling is the same grip that is needed for the reverse sweep.

He was capped at the Irish U-15 and U-17 levels. He was later selected for the Irish U-19 squad for the 2004, U-19 World Cup, and was Ireland's top run-scorer in the competition. He then captained Ireland in the 2006 U-19 World Cup.

He was the most promising cricketer to come out of Ireland since Ed Joyce, and he went on to make his debut for Ireland on the 5th of August 2006 at the European Championships against Scotland. He made a solid 99 and he was the first player who had been dimissed for 99 on debut.
He was to later make his maiden ODI hundred on the 4th of February 2007 against Canada and in doing so he became the youngest ever non-subcontinental player to make a century in ODI cricket.

Eoin also was the first Irish cricketer to have scored a first-class double century for Ireland with an unbeaten 209 against United Arab Emirates and was selected in Ireland's squad for the 2007 World Cup but didn't really show his potential. He scored only 91 runs from 9 innings. Everyone involved in Irish cricket knew it was only time before he would be selected for England, as Ireland couldn't offer Eoin test level cricket. He knew he had to leave Ireland.

In May 2007, Eoin was named as one of England 12th men for the Lord's Test versus West Indies, and came on for Matthew Hoggard on the 3rd day. He then repersented England Lions in a list A match against the South Africans, and was later sent on the England Performance Programme squad to India in 2008.

He became the first ever player to score centuries for two nations on the 2nd of March 2010 when he scored an unbeaten 110 against Bangladesh. He became a vital part of England’s success in the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 tournament in the West Indies, even scoring the most runs in the English order against Ireland with a score of 45.

He was then given the chance he always wanted. Eoin was included in England's Test squad for the home series against Bangladesh, where he scored 44 runs in the first innings but was not required in the second as England won by 8 wickets after Bangladesh were asked to follow-on.

One of his biggest achievements was in the first of five games in the ODI series against Australia, where he scored 103 from 85 balls which saw England to victory and was later named player of the series.

Ian Bell’s injury let Eoin retain his spot for the Test series against Pakistan. A chance Eoin was to take. In the first Test he scored a century and England won by a massive 354 runs.

He was purchased for $222,000 for the 2010 IPL by the Royal Challengers Bangalore but he batted very low in the order and never really got going. Eoin was picked up again for the 2011 IPL this time for Kolkata Knight Riders for $350,000 and he made a much better impression. Often opening the batting with Kallis, it was a plan to give them the quick fire boost that the side needed and it didn't always work but it showed the world his unique and exciting batting style.

He was a big part of the English side, mainly the ODI side. Where in the past England had often struggled to clear the boundary nearing the end of the innings, it came so naturally to him. When he fractured his finger before the 2011 World Cup he was left out of the squad, but would be later recalled following the injury to Kevin Pietersen.

He has been in battle with Ravi Bopara for the spot in the test squad since the retirement of Paul Collingwood. In the match against the Sri Lankans for the England Lions he scored 193 and that was enough to secure his spot for the Test series against Sri Lanka.

He was given the captaincy for a one-off ODI against Ireland, becoming only the third Irish man to lead England, a game which he scored 59. What no-one else in the team ever got going, he made look very easy. England won on the D/Lewis method and secured him the Man of the Match award. He had received a very generous reception when he came out to bat as this is where he would have spent many times coming out to play for Ireland in the past.

He remains a vital part of the English squad, and being only 25 he has many more years of cricket in him. All Irish fans are sad to see him play for England but they understand that he went for a form of the game that Ireland cannot offer him and who knows, in the future, if Ireland are to receive test status, maybe EoinEoin Morgan and what he brings to the game. I hope he can continue to shine the Irish light for many years to come. It shows a lot for Irish cricket that one of England's best players was a man born in Dublin,

Good luck Eoin...

Friday, 18 November 2011

George Dockrell...

George Dockrell

Arguably the greatest bowling prospect that I've come across in the Irish cricket team, he's a slow left-arm orthodox bowler.

Dockrell has being present in the Irish team from the U-13 level to the senior team. He made his debut for Ireland A in 2008, in the same year he was invited to coaching sessions with Somerset County Cricket Club.

After the 2007 Cricket World Cup Ireland had lost the use of their two most experienced spinners in Kyle Mcallan when he retired, then Regan West was forced to retire due to injury. A spinner was needed to fill their roles, especially the role of Kyle McCallan one of Ireland's best bowlers and one of the Worlds most underrated bowlers.

Young Dockrell was given his chance for the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier and the 2010 Quadrangular Twenty20 Series in Sri Lanka. His debut match Twenty20 match against Afghanistan was also his Twenty20 International debut. He returned with figures of 2-11, which helped Ireland to a comfortable 5 wicket win.

Ireland did indeed qualify for the T20 Cricket World Cup. George was given his chance on the big stage when he was selected in the Ireland squad for the 2010 ICC World Twenty20. In which he became the tournament's youngest player and produced a leading role against the West Indies in Ireland's first game. He finished with 3-16 and he put his name in the world stage, he remained wicketless against England in the second game but only conceded 19 runs and caused English batsman Kevin Pietersen awful trouble.

On the 18th of July, Dockrell signed a contract with English county side Somerset, he signed a two-year contract. He's been a strong part of the Irish senior side ever since and was selected in the 15-man squad for the 2011 Cricket World Cup.

While Dockrell is known as a bowler, he is a handy batsman. He comes in to bat for Ireland at No.10 which really extends the tail of the Irish team. He showed his batting credentials in a recent four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup game, he was to come in with Ireland in a very bad situation on 154/7 but with the last known batsman Andrew White still in, there was a strong need for a big partnership to be made. And the two put on 100 for the 8th wicket and Dockrell made his first first class fifty. Which settled the Irish innings and Ireland went on to win the game by 5 wickets against Namibia, he also picked up figures of 8-112.

George Dockrell is one of the brightest cricketing prospects to not only come out of Ireland, but World Cricket. So much is his talent, you feel England won't be too far behind trying to select him. If Ireland are to go to the next level we need players like George. There is not much Ireland can do right now to keep him from the lure of Test cricket. Just hope he can realise his potential with Ireland. One thing for sure is that George is a future star of cricket, and all Irish fans hope he will be wearing the green of Ireland for many more years to come.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Where are Ireland, and where can they go...

The great debate about the Irish cricket team.

For years Ireland has been holding the torch for the associates. Ireland has gradually been improving their skill levels in cricket, despite losing some of their best players to their neighbours England, who go to England in search of the holy grail, which is test cricket.

That is something Ireland can't offer their hungry cricketers. Some have claimed Ireland have only produced the odd shock result here and there, but that isn't true. Ireland have been able to hold their heads up everytime they've stepped on the field. It came evident to the cricketing world during the 2007 cricket World Cup when Ireland firstly secured a tie with Zimbabwe in their first game of the group, and then went on to beat Pakistan in their second game, which secured Ireland's passage to the super 8's.

Many cricketing experts said this was a bad thing, a team of amateurs could get to this stage, I don't think it's a bad thing that a group of men who worked 9am-5pm, then went to a field and trained, and then went to the ultimate stage of their chosen sport and not only competed, but beat some of the best teams in that sport, this wasn't a shock once off achievement by Ireland, they would go on and compete in far more games against the big boys then they would be rolled over.

The 2007 World Cup wasn't the real eye opener of what Ireland can do but it got them on their way.

The real eye opener was to come in the 2011 World Cup. This time people had expected more from Ireland, they had lost the element of surprise. Teams knew Ireland can play and were ready for them, but that didn't stop Ireland from causing a shock. Ireland were to play England in their second game, and most people would have expected Ireland to lose, when England posted 327/8, not only that but Ireland were 111/5 at one stage, but so much is the heart and fight of this team that they overcame this obstacle and won the game by 3 wickets.

Ireland didn't go past the group stages in the 2011 World Cup, but I think they gained the love of the cricketing world, and nothing showed that more when the ICC had virtually decided to make the 2015 World Cup a competition for only the test playing nations. On hearing this, fans from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia, England, etc rose up and demanded a u-turn, and it was eventually decided that their would be now 14 teams to compete in the next World Cup.

Ireland isn't the biggest cricketing nation by a long way, but the cricket players who do play for Ireland, play with as much, if not more passion than anyone out there. They might not have the Rahul Dravid's of the game, or the Dale Steyn's, but any game against Ireland will not be easily won. They are arguably one of the finest fielding sides in world cricket, which can be seen during any game they play. They don't produce big performances for only the big stage, but in every game they compete in, whether it be the ICC Cup or the World Cup.

Ireland's next goal is the find the road to test cricket. A goal which will stop the exodus of Ireland's best cricketers to their neighbours England. You can't blame a man for wanting to further his career, and the disappointing thing for Cricket Ireland is they can't do much about players leaving, if their leaving for test cricket.

 Ireland hopes to introduce a first class system in the coming years which will give Ireland one   of the vital tools needed to gain test status. And to help show the seriousness of Ireland's plans, they have developed a 12,000 seater ground in Malahide, Dublin. Ireland has 10,000 cricketers in it's pool of available players, and they hope to double that in the coming years.

Ireland has also produced players with huge potential like young spinner George Dockrell, opening batsman Paul Stirling, energetic wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien, opening batsman William Porterfield, to name some of them.

Warren Deutrom the CEO of Cricket Ireland described the road to test cricket as a glass ceiling, it's a club with a lot of big boys and old school mentality, a lot of people set in their ways, but many feel Ireland have shown they can compete with the best, and will only improve if given a chance. Ireland needs more games against top level opposition, between the 2007-2011 World Cup's Ireland played between 11 ODI's against test playing nations. Then a team like India would play this many ODI's in half a season.

Cricket Australia has come over to play Ireland and Pakistan was in Ireland for two ODI's recently, this is all good for Ireland, but more is needed, if Ireland truly want to compete they need to receive backing from the powers in the ICC so they can tour the big nations.

Also things need to be changed when teams tour England, why can't India and Sri Lanka last summer bring their A sides to play Ireland, it would only benefit their young and upcoming cricketers, failing that, why didn't they attempt to send some of their squad over here for even one small T20 game.

Until things change in the ICC and the people who run it, Ireland will be slow to improve, but with the resources they have, they do remarkable things. Just before the World Cup, the ICC granted an extra paid place for the minnows, one of the other nations brought along an assistant manager, spending their resources on yet another manager ''blazer''. That wasn't what Ireland wanted, Ireland hired top baseball coach Will Lintern. A good example of his work was the four run-outs in a row against Holland.

They're the best associate side out there, and capable of beating most of the lower test nations, some would think the likes of West Indies and Bangladesh and New Zealand are scared to come over here, and play here.

Cricket Ireland chairman David Williams, who visited India and met with BCCI chairman Shashank Manohar, said he had received support from several of the ICC's Full Members willing to accommodate Ireland,

"One of our ambitions is to increase our ODI exposure against full members to between 10 to 15 per annum, and we received some support from Full Members to accommodate us," Williams said. "There is, without question, among all the Full Members chairmen I spoke to, considered to be very clear water between us and the rest of the Associates."

Ireland will improve and get better, and hopefully before it's too late for the current squad, they will get to show their potential at the test level, and before some of the more talented players are picked for England, they deserve a chance to take it to the next level.

 ''Ireland have proudly carried the associates' standard for two World Cups in succession. They're not asking for free lunches, just for a fair chance.'' Dileep Premachandran...

Adam Gilchrist on Twitter: "Usually I don't tweet for other teams but Very vell played Ireland. Bravo!!"

Matthew Hayden - 

"Well, honestly when he said that I couldn't believe it,"

"it didn't sink in" that O'Brien had not only broken the record but also beaten England — which had recently defeated the Aussies in the Ashes.

"I explained that I was delighted for Kevin and that I wish I could get a note out to him reflecting my thoughts to that effect and ... would do so at the first convenient opportunity," Hayden said. "This is just that opportunity."

"I have one brother on the team, but 13 more wearing green here in India," said Niall O'Brien.
"We'd die for each other," said John Mooney. "These are my blood brothers."

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Ed Joyce...

Ed Joyce,

Arguably the greatest cricketer to be produced in Ireland, he's a name that will divide opinion in many cricket loving households. He knew he couldn't play test cricket for Ireland so when he got a opportunity to play for England, he took the chance, although he never got the chance to play test cricket for England.

He began his career with Middlesex before eventually moving to Sussex to revive his career. He made his Middlesex debut in 1999 and the NBC Denis Compton Award in 2000. Joyce did captain Middlesex to victory in the 2008 Twenty20 Cup, but things would seem uncertain for Joyce shortly after this and his future at the home of cricket was not certain.

Joyce was Ireland's top batsman, playing several matches for his country of birth in the ICC Trophy with an average of over 70, but the news Irish fans didn't want to hear happened in July 2005, due to Joyce's residency in England he qualified to play for England. He was indeed selected for the English cricket academy and gained a spot in the England ''A'' team for their tour of the West Indies in 2006.

On the 15th of November 2006 he was selected for the test squad for the 2006/07 Ashes series in place of the highly respected Marcus Trescothick who had withdrawn from the squad with a stress-related illness. He was never chosen to play any of the tests but was chosen to play in the ODI series that followed the test series, after Kevin Pietersen was injured.

His run in the team for the series wasn't a strong with 288 runs over 9 matches with an average of 32.00, but he did score a very solid 107 from 142 balls against Australia at the SCG on the 2nd of February 2007, and became the first English cricketer to score a One Day International century away from home in nineteen matches, and was later added to the World Cup squad for the 2007 World Cup.

During the World Cup he made fifties against Canada and Kenya, but made a duck against New Zealand and was bowled for 1 by Boyd Rankin in his return match against Ireland in the World Cup

It was then announced on the 3rd of November 2008 that Joyce would be leaving Middlesex for Sussex, and his career started brightly with three centuries, and this kept him in the favour of the English selectors, and was then named in the provisional England squad for the 2009 Champions Trophy, and he also signed a further three year extension with Sussex in November 2009.

He became one of Sussex's most highly rate batsmen, and turned into one of the most dangerous one day batsmen on the county circuit, and became the first Irish batsman to reach 10,000 first class runs. With this form he would have hoped he could have pushed for a claim back into the England team, but he was overlooked and by March 2010 was considering representing Ireland again.

Under normal circumstances it takes four years to qualify to play for a country; having played for England at the 2007 World Cup in April 2007, Joyce would have been set to miss playing for Ireland in the 2011 tournament, which took place in February. He however toured India with Ireland with former New Zealand international Hamish Marshall in October 2010. It was hoped it would help assist their integration into the team in the event the ICC allowed them to play for Ireland in ODI's. However there was mixed news for Ireland in November 2010, the ICC announced that Joyce's qualification period would be shortened by the ICC and that he would be allowed to play for Ireland at the 2011 World Cup, but Hamish Marshall wasn't so lucky, but he remains in the plans for the Irish cricket team.

Joyce remains in the Irish team and hopefully he will get the chance to play test cricket for Ireland, In my opinion it's such a waste that a player as good as Joyce was left to sit on the International sidelines, to me he is one of the classiest left handed batsmen I've seen. He has become one of the most sought after players in England and a hero for Sussex cricket fans,

I would say the test world is crying out for a batsman like Joyce and hopefully for him and for all Irish fans, the world will get to see him, it's not just for Joyce but with all promising players that come from Ireland, the goal for them is to play test cricket, and that is something they can't do with Ireland. So they go to England in search of this prize, but hopefully people that are in charge can help correct this, so the fans of the world can be introduced to not only Ireland the ODI and T20 team, but the Irish team who can play the proper form of the game, which is Test cricket...

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Shoaib Akhtar...

Shoaib Akhtar,

He is a former fast bowler for Pakistan, and to date has the record for the fastest delivery to be bowled. His record breaking delivery was clocked at 161.3 km/h (100.2 mph), and was bowled during an ODI against England.

His blistering pace and accuracy had many batsmen in a flurry, and his searing yorkers sent many stumps flying. That's not to say he wasn't a colourful character, I guess that's what made Shoaib who he was. He had been involved in several controversies during his career. One example being embroiled in a drug scandal after testing positive for a banned substance, however the ban imposed on him was lifted on court appeal.

He was banned on the 1st of April for five years for publicly criticizing the Pakistan Cricket Board, however in October 2008, the Lahore High Court suspended the five year ban and Akhtar was selected in the 15-man squad for the Twenty20 Quadrangular Tournament in Canada.

His most significant performance was in India in 1999 when he captured eight wickets in the Asian Test championship match at Calcutta, including getting the two stars of Indian cricket off successive deliveries, the two batsmen were Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.

In a career which had never got fully going, some would say he never produced his full potential, when it seemed he had got his career going with some top performances, it would then end with controversy.

He performed badly during the 2003 Cricket World Cup and was therefore dropped from the Pakistan squad, but was later selected again for the 2004 Test march series against New Zealand, but struggled in a losing Test series against India in 2004. And his participation in the series ended once again in controversey when he left the field citing an injury, which had Inzamam-ul-Haq suspicious of him and his commitment to the team. As a result his relationship with Inzamam and Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer deteriorated.

In 2005 he regained his place in the side, playing in a three Test home series against England. His impressive use of slower deliveries completely fooled the English batsmen, and he took an impressive 17 wickets in the series.

On the 16th of October, Akhtar was suspended by the Pakistan Cricket Board, along with Mohammed Asif after the pair had tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance called nandrolone, and both were removed from the ICC Champions Trophy in 2006, despite both of them maintaining their innocence they failed to convince the committee of their innocence. Akhtar was later given a two year ban and Asif was given a one year ban.

Then on the 5th of December 2006, Akhtar and Asif were acquitted by the tribunal appointed to review their appeals against the ban they had been given.

Akhtar wasn't far from more controversy when an officer assigned to the Pakistan team in India during November 2006, Anil Kaul, alleged that Akhtar had slapped Bob Woolmer following a fight over what music was to be played on the team bus, both Akhtar and Woolmer strongly denied these allegations.

On the 29th of October 2007, Akhtar made a return to cricket from his 13 match ban and performed well, he took 4-43 against South Africa in the fifth and deciding One Day International series in Lahore, and went on to be selected for the 16-man squad for the 2007 tour of India.

Akhtar had also managed to participate in the famous Indian Premier League, he made a return to cricket playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders against Delhi Daredevils. They were defending quite a low total of 133, and Akhtar took four top order wickets which helped restrict Delhi to 110, and he finished with figures of 4-11 from only three overs.

His career would take a further hit when Akhtar was withdrawn from the 15-man squad for the 2009 World T20 World Cup, with a very strange and revealing statement, that he had been withdrawn because he had been diagnoses with genital viral warts.

Many had believed that Akhtar was indeed finished with International cricket, he had put on weight and was getting on in years but Akhtar did what he did best, he surprised everyone and made a return to International cricket.

In May 2010, he was named in a list of 35 probables for the Asia Cup, and on the 15th of June 2010, Akhtar did indeed make his return against Sri Lanka in the first match of the Asia Cup, and he finished with figures of 3-28.

He would later be selected for the Twenty20 series against Australia but the selectors did not risk him playing in the Test squad, as it would put him in danger of picking up an injury, but was selected for the Twenty20 series against England in September 2010.

In the Twenty20 against England he bowled an impressive spell and returned with figures of 2-23, and continued to bowl well in the ODI series in the absence of Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, who were suspended by the ICC amid allegations of spot-fixing. Though had was of a more mature age then when he had started, one thing was clear, he had not lost any of his pace, he had shown a lack of match fitness but the pace that had warmed so many people over the years was still there for all to see.

His performances had him selected for the tour of New Zealand and his started off well with 3 wickets in the first of two Twenty20 Internationals against New Zealand.

He was also selected for the 15-man squad for the 2011 cricket World Cup, and he also had announced the news we all had expected but didn't want to hear, the news that he would retire from International cricket at the end of the World Cup.

On the 16th of June 2011, Akhtar had decided to pull out of the Sri Lankan Premier League due to personal reasons, Akhtar said that his parents are old and he wanted to spend time with them, and he had no desire to step back onto the cricket field again but if a youngster needed his help, he would visit from time to time to help but no more of this game, he had spent 18 years in cricket and wanted to spend time exploring other parts of the world, and get involved in charity work.

There is a battle on the cricket field between Pakistan and India, but Akhtar was one of the few that would be mentioned by Indian cricket enthusiasts.

Many would believe that Akhtar never fully fulfilled his potential in cricket, but while he was there he showed the world what he was able to do, his pace was his weapon of choice, his exceedingly long run ups, his arms sometimes stretched out before the release of the ball, his battle with his discipline and his battle for speed with Brett Lee and Shaun Tait made him the one to watch, it also made him someone you loved to hate. Will we ever see someone like him again I don't know, because he left a mold that's very hard to fill. He was indeed a flawed character but don't we all have flaws, maybe that's why we all liked him so much.

So I wish The Rawalpindi Express, all the best, and thanks for the memories...

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Trent Johnston,,,

David Trent Johnston or as known to Irish cricket fans TJ or Trent Johnston, is an Australian born Irish cricketer. He is an all-rounder but mostly known for his bowling but is not too bad with the bat at all. He generally comes into about No.9 and he's a far better batsman than his batting position would suggest.

He plays for the Railway Union Cricket Club and has featured for New South Wales in first-class and List A cricket earlier in his career before he moved to Ireland, where he made his club cricket debut in Ireland in 1995 where he met his Irish wife. Till he caught the eye of Irish coach Adrian Birrell when he had qualified for an Irish passport, a move which would be a great decision for all involved in Irish cricket and for the fans of Irish cricket.

He showed to be a true professional, a player that everyone admired and played the game fairly and with 100% commitment and who is very dedicated to the Irish cricket cause,

He made his first debut for Ireland on the 5th of May 2004 against Surrey, a match in which Ireland won and it was only Ireland's second win against a first-class English county. His first-class debut for Ireland was against the Netherlands in the Intercontinental Cup.

He was made the Irish captain for the first time for the semi-final of the 2005 Intercontinental Cup against the UAE but the match was drawn, but Ireland qualified for the final on bonus points, and Ireland faced Kenya in the final which they won by six wickets.

Trent Johnston had shown why he was made captain, his cricket brain was top class, his attacking fields and his passion for cricket was passed through all who played for him, and he always gave 101%.

Trent remained Irish captain for the World Cricket League in 2007 and for the 2007 Cricket World Cup and the World Cup was to give Trent one of the proudest moments of his career.
Where he captained Ireland to a thrilling tie with Zimbabwe and hitting a massive six out of the park to score the winning runs against Pakistan, which was to be one of the biggest shocks of not just cricket but for the sporting World. And Ireland showed they weren't a one win wonder and they went out in the Super 8's and beat another test playing nation in Bangladesh.

He took also the second only hat-trick for Ireland in a Friends Provident Trophy game against Gloucestershire on the 10th of May 2007, the only other hat-trick by Ireland in it's history came in 1877 against I Zingari.

Despite the success in the 2007 World Cup, Ireland had come up against their old enemies in England many times and coming very close. And Ireland was one hit from beating England before a brilliant catch by Irish born Eoin Morgan prevented the boundary and England won.

The next time the two sides were to meet was in the ICC World T20 in 2010 and after 20 overs England were restricted to a small total of 120-8 with Eoin Morgan top scoring for England with 45 and with rain around Ireland's innings only got to 14/1 after 3.3 overs and resulting in the game being abandoned and England progressed to the super eight stage by net run rate and went on to win the competition, Ireland had much reason to be feel hard done by after managing to restrict England to a mere 120 but they would meet again.

Ireland had suffered defeat in a game they really felt they should have won in the 2011 World Cup against Bangladesh. The next game wasn't going to be any easier. The next game was against their neighbours England and England won the toss and decided to bat and it looked a very good decision when they posted a total of 327-8. And that was despite a very decent bowling effort in the last 10 overs by Ireland where Trent Johnston took his 50th ODI wicket when he bowled Michael Yardy of England, and in doing so became the first Irish bowler to do so.

Despite the high total and Ireland needing 328 to win and Ireland being an associate country they finally got the better of their neighbours from across the water and chased the total down and won by 3 wickets. It was the highest successful run chase in World Cup history.

Now with Trent being the young age of 37 he remains in the Irish side as a true professional and a servant to Irish cricket, he plans to retire after the next T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka in 2012. It will be a sad day for not only Irish cricket fans but for Cricket fans all around the World who appreciate a good and honest cricketer who gives his all everytime he steps onto the pitch. And a man who carries himself as a gentleman, thank you Trent for everything, I hope when you do retire, that you can remain involved in Irish cricket, we need you...

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Rahul Dravid...

Rahul Sharad Dravid, simply regarded as one of the finest men to step on the cricket field, has all the skill and mind-set to grind out a big score on any pitch. He has the flair and shots to whack the ball out of the park in the shortest form of the game. His nickname is ''The Wall'' and for many years he has been part of what's been so good for India; an extremely consistent player and a gentleman. Everyone who plays with him admires him and when you see him play, you understand why.

He has been in the side since 1996 and was made captain in October 2005 but only stayed in the position of till September 2007. He holds the record for the most catches in Test cricket. He was the third international player to reach 12,000 runs in Test cricket and second Indian batsman to reach 12,000 after Sachin Tendulkar. While he is in very good company, he is the first and the only batsman to score a century in all ten Test playing nations. He has been involved in 19 century partnerships with Sachin Tendulkar, which itself is another world record.

His first big success was during the 7th Cricket World Cup where he was the top scorer with 461 runs. He is the only Indian to score back to back centuries in the Cricket World Cup. The scores he made were 110 against Kenya and a sublime 145 against Sri Lanka. He was selected as a wicket keeper batsman to accommodate an additional batsman.

One of his biggest and most important partnerships to date was with VVS Laxman in the second test of a three match test series against Australia in 2001 at Kolkata, and because of this partnership, it lead to one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the game. Australia had made 445 in their first innings and asked India to follow on after their own first innings of 171. In their follow on India made a huge total of 657, and then had set Australia 384 to win the test, but they had Australia all out for 212 and winning the test by 171 runs. Dravid and VVS had put on 376 runs for the 5th wicket. Dravid had scored 180 while Laxman made 281.

When you look at the batting strength that India had at that time, it wouldn't be a shock if one player was not given as much of the spotlight, especially when one of the players batting beside Dravid was none other than Sachin Tendulkar. However, Dravid has taken all the fame in his stride, produced score after score after score and in the late part of 2002 he scored four consecutive centuries; three against England and one against the West Indies. In August 2002 at Headingley, in the third test of the series he scored 148 in the first innings on a seamer-friendly pitch which went a long way to securing a famous win for India. In that series he notched up 602 runs in the four test matches against England and gained the man of the series award.

And Australia were to be done by Dravid and VVS once again in the second match in Adelaide, the pair put together a partnership when India were 85/4 in reply to Australia's 556, and the two put on a massive score of 303, when VVS was dismissed for 148 and Dravid went on to make 233, and he followed it with a 72 not out under a lot of pressure in the second innings to set up a famous victory for India. Once again he produced the runs in the series with 619 in total with an average of 103.16, and received another man of the series award, Dravid was by now was coming out of the shadows of Sachin and making his own name in Indian history.

During the late part of the 2003-2004 season during Ganguly's absence, Dravid led India to its first test victory over Pakistan in Multan, and in the third and final match of the series at Rawalpindi he scored a magestic 270 to take India to a historic test series in over Pakistan.

Rahul Dravid was asked to come back to ODI cricket and T20I cricket to help add strength to the Indian team, during their tour of England in 2011. India were confronted with injury after injury. Dravid being in such tremendous form during the series (arguably the only Indian batsman to challenge the English attack), he was asked to play once again in the shorter form of the game, and also the shortest form of the game.

He played his last ODI innings in Cardiff on the 16th of September 2011, scoring 69 from 79 balls before being eventually bowled by Graeme Swann. And in a funny twist he made his T20I debut while also playing his last T20I game, as he had announced his retirement before the start of the game. Despite his great ability to play T20 in the IPL he had never gone to play for India in the format till this game, instead deciding to save himself for the greatest form of the game, which is test cricket.

He had scored 31 from 21 balls at Old Trafford on the 31st of August 2011, but the biggest highlight of not only his innings but the whole day was Dravid hitting Samit Patel for three consecutive sixes which showed his class to play any form of the game.

He also has one test wicket to his name and that is of Ridley Jacobs in the fourth test against the West Indies during the 2001-2002 series. He has also been involved in two of the largest partnerships in ODIs; a 318 run partnership with Sourav Ganguly (the first to do so) and then a 331 run partnership with Sachin Tendulkar, which at this moment in time is a world record.
In 2004 he was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India.

The honour board at Lord's has many great names on it, but it doesn't have Ponting, Kallis, Tendulkar and until the 23rd of July 2011, Dravid's name was not on the board either. Deservedly, after India's first innings he finally achieved this. He scored 103 not out and despite his team falling around him, The Wall stood tall. He got his reward for a lifetime of greatness, and it was one of the finest innings I've had the pleasure to watch.

Rahul Dravid remains playing test cricket for India and he is the backbone of the team. Despite his defensive qualities he can produce any stroke on any pitch, and is one of the best players in the history of the game to watch, with 35 centuries in test cricket at an average of 53.00, including 5 double centuries. He is also one of few Indians to average more at away test matches than at home.

He is The Wall, he is Rahul Dravid, arguably the finest player to play the game of cricket...

Testing Times

Testing Times

This is a campaign for the preservation and protection of Test and First Class cricket around the world. Our aims are to show the various international cricketing boards that there is still a need and a desire for the longer form of the game and that its support is as passionate, vociferous and numerous as that of limited overs cricket. 

We are not anti-limited overs cricket. What we are against is limited overs cricket at the expense of Test cricket and we are becoming increasingly concerned at the ICC’s dismissive attitude towards Tests. It appears that the longest form of cricket is being eschewed in favour of the more commercially viable One-Day Internationals and Twenty20 forms. 

What we ultimately want is for the ICC to stop eroding the importance of Tests by shortening key Test series in order to fit in more limited overs internationals. We feel that ODIs and T20s should be included as a part of a tour and not as its centrepiece, and certainly not as a tour in their own right. 

If we continue to witness the occurrence of series made up solely of limited overs internationals, such as the recent one between India and England and that between England and Australia scheduled for next summer, there is a real danger that it is a trend which will grow and grow until before we know it, Test cricket has become a charmingly amusing anachronism and pyjamas rule the cricketing world. 

In this world, matches like those unbelievable Ashes clashes at Headingley in 1981 and at Edgbaston in 2005, the famous tied Test at Brisbane in 1960-1, India’s astonishing comeback against Australia at Kolkata in 2000-1, will be consigned simply to the annals of history, the like of which will never be witnessed again. 

To allow that to happen would be doing a great disservice to cricketers and cricket fans of the future which is why we’re asking anyone who cares about Test cricket to join us and try to open the eyes of the cricketing authorities to the fact that there is interest outside the world of brightly coloured clothing, cheerleaders, loud music, over-excitable PA announcers and three-digit strike rates. 

Now is the time to try to stem this tide of avarice and greed and implore the ICC to show some respect to Test cricket and its millions of fans around the world: to try to make them see that while some things can be bought or sold in the never ending frenzy for profits, there are some things that are beyond such baseness; some things in fact, which are timeless, peerless and utterly priceless.

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Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Kevin O'Brien...

Kevin O'Brien had always had a smaller role behind his older brother Niall O'Brien.
And you wouldn't be wrong I thinking Niall was the more talented batsman within the Irish side.
Then many Irish cricketing fans would argue that Kevin never fully showed what he could do with the long handle, and that perhaps in my opinion he wasn't consistent enough.

In June 2006 he mad his ODI International debut in a game against the old enemy, against England in Belfast in the inaugural game of the World Cricket League. He took 1/47 and his only wicket came off his first delivery and he got the English captain Andrew Strauss. He also made 35 from 48 balls but still Ireland fell short that day by 38 runs. And to me this is what happens to a lot of cricketers, they get to a good start then they get out.

His second game was the real gem by Kevin as Ireland made 284 against Kenya and he scored 142 and that was the highest ever by an Irish batsman and was produced of just 128 balls with 10 fours and 6 sixes, finally the big man opened his shoulders and to me showed what he can do.

His biggest test was the 2007 Cricket World Cup, all his previous good knocks had been against non Test cricketing nations but his top score came in the super eight stage against New Zealand when he made 49, some would say his 48 runs scored against Bangladesh was his best knock of the World Cup and I would disagree. Ireland had restricted Pakistan to just 132 and Kevin came in when Ireland were 70/4 and a partnership was badly needed to see the side home and he added 38 runs with his brother Niall and to me that was the biggest test for Kevin, he showed when he was needed he could try and grind out a result and granted he only scored 15 from 50 balls but you got to realise the required run rate when he came in was at 2.42 and he knew balls faced wasn't the issue and he knew he needed to stay in and he did do that. Despite wickets falling around him he stayed strong and in the end him and Trent Johnston brought Ireland home.

So in January 2010 he was awarded a full time contract by Cricket Ireland and he was one of six players to be awarded this type of contract. Later that year Sri Lanka hosted Afghanistan, Canada and Ireland in a T20 league, also included was the Sri Lankan A team. And Kevin performed quite badly. He managed only 17 runs with the bat in three games and Ireland lost two games and you could say had Kevin scored more with the bat we could have won some of the games.

He was again selected for the 2011 World Cup squad and this was to be his tournament, and I think Kevin finally showed the World that he isn't a slogger and that he can bat. On the 2nd of March Ireland faced England and were left at 106/4 when in entered Kevin O'Brien and he produced one of the greatest knocks I've seen in cricket. He scored a century from 50 balls and in doing so outscored the previous record held by Matthew Hayden who has scored his from 66 balls. He finished the World Cup with 198 runs at an average of 39.60 and was Ireland's second highest run scorer in the tournament.

This to me was his moment he showed the World how good he could be now the trick was to do it on a more consistent basis.

Despite Ireland failing to qualify for the next stages of the World Cup. Kevin O'Briens future had changed forever. On his return he had attracted attention from Gloucestershire Cricket Club and he was given a contract in 2011. If Kevin wanted to become more known for his batting then this was his stage and despite not getting of to a good start getting only 3 runs from 4 balls in his first CB40 game.

He did show a superb knock in a T20 game against Middlesex, scoring 119 runs from 52 balls and that innings with his partner Hamish Marshall created the highest total in T20 cricket with a massive score of 254 and an opening partnership of 192 and set a new record for the partnership for any wicket in the T20 format. And in his T20 career for Gloucestershire he scored 365 runs from 14 matches and showed to be a key player for the County.

Kevin was starting to show his worth and that he is a clean striker of the ball and when he wasn't playing for his County, when he was on International duty the County didn't peform very well at all.

Kevin is still with the County side and has even been given the Captain role for Ireland in a recent game against Namibia and to me he is maturing as a cricketer and has many times over the years saved Ireland when they were in trouble. The only thing Irish cricket fans would like to see is a more consistent Kevin, and consistent is a word I used a lot during this article and it's trying to highlight the only problem we have with Kevin. With saying that he is still a top quality player and he is only 27 and that is still very young.

He has stated he has no intention ever of playing for England and people might read this and think well he's not good enough to play for England so there is no worries of him leaving. I think not as an Irish fan but as a fan of good cricket that he is good enough and over the years he will improve more and he has the kind of attitude that Ireland needs if we are to make the highest level in Test cricket and I'm glad to have him playing in the green of Ireland.

Hopefully Ireland will qualify for the 2015 World Cup and Kevin will be there and this time he will be there as a more senior player for Ireland and I hope he takes the opportunity that we all know he can take and be the player we all know he can be.

Thank you Kevin O'Brien for everything and for what will surely come in the future...