Sunday, 25 December 2011

My no.7+8 batsmen/bowlers - (My favourite playing XI based on current players)...

Now we get onto the No.7 position in my favourite team.

I've gone with someone close to home, and someone who created a bit of history recently in the recently concluded Cricket World Cup in 2011.

Kevin O'Brien(Ireland & Gloucestershire)

I've picked Kevin O'Brien as my favourite all rounder, he is well known to Irish fans for many years, but after bringing Ireland to a famous 3 wicket win against England in the last World Cup with a blistering century from 50 balls, and chasing the biggest total ever in World Cup history. He is now a worldwide name, he is a power full lower order batsman which will punish anything loose and is a bulk of a man, he is also a very handy right-arm medium pacer bowler,

he is a very clean striker of the ball, and is no slogger. One thing people might say is he can be inconsistent. Then anyone coming in during the lower order will generally have a role of clearing the ropes, taking advantage of the last powerplay and punishing tiresome bowlers.

When you have such a role, you will always have bad knocks, and for me that can't take away from what Kevin brings to the team, he has been a vital part of what is so good about this Irish team for many years. His role now is to make use of his contract with Gloucestershire and show people he isn't a one show pony, which I know he is not.

Thanks Kevin for that special knock in India, and for giving the world a insight at what this Irish cricket team is all about, you showed us in one knock the spirit that's in this team, the fight and the passion to succeed. Now we have won the fans of the World, I just hope the ICC can be warmed to us also.

Now for the first of my bowlers, and I've gone for someone who has the ability to bat comfortably as well as bowl.

Daniel Vettori(New Zealand)

Daniel Vettori is a very special cricketer, he for years has had the weight of New Zealand expectations resting on his shoulders and he has carried it with pride and passion and been a very fine player on the field.

He is a very capable lower order batsman with over 4000 runs in test cricket and an average of 30.64, and has taken 355 test wickets.
He was the youngest man to play test cricket for New Zealand at the age of 18.

He is a very tight economical bowler, uses a lot of flight and tricks to beat the batsman. He is also one of the more consistent batsman for New Zealand over the years, for me his passion is what gets him into my favourite team. Then I don't think anyone could ever question that, or question in someones team. He has been a leader for New Zealand on and off the field, but now with Taylor the new Captain for New Zealand, he will still look to Daniel ''the man'' Vettori for help and guidance. As New Zealand make a push to climb the ranks.

Monday, 19 December 2011

My no.5+6 batsmen - (My favourite playing XI based on current players)...

So I'm onto my no.5 batsman for the team, I've gone with another specialist batsman.

Apart from my opener in Brendan McCullum, some might say my team isn't the most aggressive team out there, but I will stick with this man for my no.5 spot.

Mohammad Yousuf(Pakistan)

Mohammad Yousuf is one of the all time greats of cricket. Not many can compare with this man for grace and elegance when it comes to cricket strokes.

And no better innings come to mind for me then his 202 against England at Lords in 2006.
It was filled with every shot in the game, and it was one of the innings that made me fall in love with the game of cricket. His strokes looks so effortless and are a joy to watch. A player who has always answered the call for Pakistan but was given the push in March 2010 for the defeat of Pakistan in their tour of Australia. Then following Pakistan's horrible first test against England in 2010, he was asked to come back. He even had a go at T20i cricket during this return.

His stroke making ability even shone briefly through this shorter form of the game, where it would leave so many batsmen looking wild and off balanced, he even had the answers for the doubters in this form of the game. You can have your players who will swing at the hip for everything, but this wasn’t Yousuf, there still is room in T20 for graceful strokes, and this is something Yousuf has in abundance.

 One regret is that I've not had much of a chance to watch him in recent years, but for me he is one of four of the greatest players from the sub continent to have played the game.

Now comes times for my wicket-keeper. I wanted a specialist batsman for this position. And for me there is only one possible person for this job in modern day cricket.

Kumar Sangakkara(Sri Lanka)

Kumar Sangakkara is a very classy left hander, and to me Sri Lanka have suffered when he made the decision to drop the gloves in the test format. However he stills uses them for the ODI format, and to have a wicket-keeper who can bat, and who can bat well is vital.

Since the days of Rahul Dravid being asked to pick up the gloves by Ganguly to lengthen the batting order, and since the days of Adam Gilchrist turning the position into an art form. There has always been a need for a country to find a specialist wicket-keeping batsman. In these days there is no one better in my opinion than Kumar Sangakkara.

He's a gentleman on the field and is a very fair player. His cover drives are a joy to watch. In 2011 he also showed the world his wonderful use of words when he delivered a speech for the 2011 MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture, which touched on some of the subjects close to his heart. None more frightening I'm sure then the terrorist attack on their bus in Pakistan.

He is no longer Captain of the Sri Lankan team, with that torch handed of toTillakaratne Dilshan, but his experience on the field is vital. And now in a world without Muttiah Muralitharan, where the team isn’t playing like the team of old. His need is more vital now than ever, when Sri Lanka must find their feet again. Kumar needs to be the one to stand up and show his batting prowess, and the qualities he has shown in the past that has won him so much respect from crick lovers the world over.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

My no.3+4 batsmen - (My favourite playing XI based on current players)...

So now I move onto one of the most important positions in the side.

And in ODI's and in Tests it's both vitally as important, the no.3 batsman.

He can comes in at 2/1 or he can come in at 100/1, he has to judge the position they see themselves in, he might have to act as makeshift opener if the wicket falls early, or he has to build on the partnership if he comes in late in the innings.

The job of the no.3 is vital, and not to be underestimated. It takes a special player to bat here.

With that in mind, I've gone for one of the best players in the modern game.

Rahul Dravid(India, RR)

He is nicknamed the wall. Some might think that makes him some type of defensive blocker, he is certainly not. He is a very high calibre batsman, with all the shots in the game. And what makes him so good, he makes everything look effortless.

He is a player who will answer the call for his country time after time, even when he was asked to make his T20i debut at the young age of 38, even when Ganguly wanted him to be a keeper so it could deepen the batting order, he did it. He even graces the T20 circuit with his finesse. What he has that few modern players have is the mental strength to overcome any pitch and any bowler. Where some might fall or give up on tough conditions, Dravid does not.

The honour board at Lords has many of the world's greats, and on the 23rd of July 2011 he added his name among the greats, with a fine century against England in the recent series.

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

Now we move onto no.4 in the batting order.

It's also a fine and specialist position, and a great batsman is needed for such a position.
With that, I've gone for Ricky Ponting.

Ricky Ponting(Australia)

He is one of he last of the old school remaining Australian batsman left in the Australian team.
Many have called for his head after recent results. Perhaps I'm one of the old romantics who wishes for him to remain in the team, the last link to the great Australian team of old.

His weapon of choice is the pull shot, and it's long been his killer blow to bowlers. I've often thought of him much like Dravid. Someone who can stay at the crease when the going is tough, and then cash in with a big score.

To me, he is what a batsman should be, a tough character, a competitor and gritty. Too many of modern players don't like it when it's hard work out there.

He is undoubtedly the finest player of his generation in Australian cricket. Some might think different. He has been criticised for loses in the recent Ashes series and for losing the Cricket World Cup, but with all due respect to the man as a captain. How does a team suffer the loses in great personnel, and continue to dominate. He is not a miracle worker, he simply must work with what he has, and maybe his captaincy isn't the highest point of his career, but he still remains an excellent batsman in my opinion, and I think it's vital he remains in the Australian order to help educate younger inexperienced batsman.

I for one hope he does, and I hope he can recapture his form that we all love him for and his opponents hate him for.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

My two openers - (My favourite playing XI based on current players)...

Let's start with two of the most important positions,

The opening batsmen, to me you need two different people to do this. You need one to hold the innings together, to battle through regardless of his score, where he keeps his end shut and let's no one in.
The other is a far more attacking batsman, I'm not saying he needs to be so aggressive he throws his wicket away. Just enough to get the scoreboard ticking along and try get the field back.

Also it can vary. You don't really want one one of them to be too defensive when it comes to T20 cricket. But for this piece I will discuss my views for the test format. To me the proper format.

For the more defensive opening batsman, and my favourite opener that is still playing.

Ed Joyce(Ireland & Sussex)

He is arguably the greatest batsman that Ireland has produced. And his first-class career speaks for itself, with 11613 runs and an average of 45.01.  He opens the batting in all forms for Sussex and recently has opened the batting for Ireland. He is a classic left hander, with all the shots in his arsenal. His career has gone from strength to strength since his move to Sussex from Middlesex. He's not the most aggressive player, so that's why I've highlighted him as a opener who can keep an end shut. A good player of spin, with nice footwork. There is many who feel England didn't get the best from him, and his International stats don't jump out of you, but he has a century against Australia, which contained an attack of Brett Lee, Shaun Tait, Glenn McGrath, Nathan Bracken.

His International stats can be defended from the fact he's been sitting on England's bench for the last four years, or near enough to it. He is still quite young as batsmen go at 33.

Brendon McCullum (New Zealand)
My second opener is the more aggressive option. He is a wicket-keeper batsman for New Zealand, and recently played for Kochi Tuskers in the IPL. He would be the opposite of Ed Joyce. A very aggressive batsman who I went for based on his attacking strength. On his day he will send the best bowlers around the park. And what you get with a batsman like Brendon is inconsistency, which isn't a very good thing. But I feel out of all the present day openers he is the most consistent aggressor.

You don't want to give this man any room or width at all, and don't bother sending the spinners against him. He will chew them up and spit them out with his strong footwork. He is especially deadly in the shorter forms of the game. That's not to say he isn't capable of doing this in test cricket, as in a recent warm up game against Australia A, he had whacked 146 runs from 121 balls, and going back a few years in IPL 1 when he had played for the Kolkata Knight Riders, he produced one of the best innings in T20 history with 158 runs from only 73 balls.

There is no doubting the talent of McCullum, but it's about getting the mix between aggression and proper shot selection is the vital key, and I feel he is the closest modern day opener to achieving this.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Give Ireland a chance...

After the announcement of the 2015 World Cup, and that it would now be a 10 team World Cup, I think it showed how far Ireland has come in recent years. Upon the announcement waves of fans not just from Ireland, but fans from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, to name only a few of them rallied behind the associates cause. I'd like to think Ireland has caused most of the anger among the other nations fans. With the cricket we do bring to the game, the passion we have for the game and the spirit in which we play it.

We might not have the most talented group of players but we will compete and fight to the very last ball. We will field as good as any team out there if not better. Some of the people involved with the full members have come out to support this. Stating the associates or minnows can get found out over the 50 over format and that they should stick to the T20 side of things. Where a batting collapse and a humiliation result is less likely. The thing is though, as far as I saw in the World Cup. Ireland had competed in all but one of the games, which was against South Africa, where we were found a bit shell shocked by some top bowling from Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

We had infact beaten England and chased the highest total in cricket world cup history. We then also had kept the soon to be champions India within our grasp till the 46th over, and should have chased a small total of 206 against Bangladesh to take another test scalp. We also had the West Indies worried for a large part of the game against them, a dodgy decision going against Irish batsman Gary Wilson for LBW not helping the chase, when he was starting to pick up some steam.

After much of the arguments and debates, and petitions. The ICC did make a u-turn and allowed the associates back into the 2015 World Cup, and currently Ireland head the automatic qualification table with four wins from four, with the top two gaining automatic qualification to the 2015 World Cup.

Some might think the ICC are worried about what Ireland can do if given a proper chance, with substantial funding. Ireland doesn't have the budgets of the big sides, or anywhere near it, but what they do with the small amount they do have is magnificent. One could only dream what we could do with the funding other full member team receive. For a start we could bring in the services of Hamish Marshall, the ex New Zealand batsman, who has claimed his Irish passport through his father. If we could add the experience of Marshall to our middle order it would only strengthen our batting, an area some think is our slightly weak point, of all areas that are needed.

As Waqar Younis recently said after their 2nd ODI victory over Ireland in Ireland, "I think they probably lack one or two batsmen in the middle order.

"They have a solid top-order, but I think they struggle a bit in the middle order, although they missed a couple of players''

"They can make a good side, especially in these conditions.''

Also Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Ijaz Butt also stated, "The fight that the Irish team displayed at the World Cup lit up the event and has added a new flavour to international cricket.''

"We anticipate a hard fought series as the Irish team has shown that they are capable of playing against the best in the world."

I think this a small sample of how Ireland has started to open the cricketing worlds eyes. Our game improves with every match, and it's my opinion we should be given more ODI's against full member sides. We have come as far as we can playing in the ICC four-day cup and one day cup. The time is needed for Ireland to spread it's wings and take on tours outside of Ireland.

Let the ICC help fund these tours, and to and enforce a clause, for when teams come to play England, if they want to play England, they must introduce some sort of small series against Ireland also. Now I know International teams can't have too much extra workload on themselves, but I don't see why they can't send their A teams over to Ireland, it would benefit not only Ireland, but give their younger up and coming youth a chance to get to grip with foreign conditions, something they would find on English wickets.

I think the idea of a two tier test system is the way to go. Having one sided test games these days is not much fun either. Introducing a two tier system, with the West Indies, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Ireland involved in a promotion relegation option. So at the end of the cycle of say two years, the bottom team of the top tier would find themselves playing in the bottom tier. With the top team of the second tier now playing in the top tier for the next two years, or whatever amount of time is necessary.

There has been a lot of talk on this subject, and it's growing with more and more people wanting level test matches, and with that introducing new and fresh talent in the test ranks. I don't think anything could be lost by giving this system a chance to grow. I don't see why Ireland can't be given a straight forward marker for where they need to be in ''X'' years. All we fans hear is silence. It's about time that Ireland have a chance to sit and play cricket with the big boys.

''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...