September 2008


England have announced their 15-man squad for the test series against India that begins in December. National selector Geoff Miller said the selection process was relatively straight forward and I can see what he means. They have been consistent in the selection of players that operated during the summer and not a great deal of risks have been taken, writes Thomas Rooney, exclusively for The Village Cricketer.

There is also an obvious relationship between the test squad and one-day squad. Peter Moores and Kevin Pietersen appear keen to have a similar group of players operating in both the short and long version of the game. Highlighting this is fact that of the 11 players who played the last ODI game against South Africa, only two – Samit Patel and Luke Wright – are not in the test squad for the India tour.

The main talking points prior to this squad being announced were surrounding the wicket-keeper position, the second spinner and the extra batsmen following Michael Vaughan’s absence.

In terms of who will be getting the gloves for the first test in India – well, we still don’t know. Both Matt Prior and Tim Ambrose have been selected in a relatively save move from the selectors. They have recognised Ambrose’s failures but have kept faith with him. Something I think will be another trait of the Moores/Pietersen partnership. However, Prior is likely to get the nod for the One Day series and should he perform well, I think the cricket odds will be backing him to keep the gloves for the test matches.

The next significant selection was that of Graeme Swann who will operate alongside Monty Panesar in the spin department. The Nottinghamshire man was picked ahead of Adil Rashid and Samit Patel who were aiming to make their first test squad. Again, this is a rather conservative selection from the selectors. Not that this is a bad thing. Swann has been in and around the England set-up for quite some time now and has performed admirably in the 12 one-day games he has played. It would perhaps have been too much to ask of Patel or Rashid to make their test bow as the second spinner against India in India. Especially at their age.

Finally, let’s discuss the selection of Owais Shah. The player himself said he was surprised at getting the call, but I wasn’t at all. I believe that Pietersen is a huge fan of Shah’s and has a lot of faith in his ability. The new captain promoted the Middlesex batsman to number three in the ODI games, after all. Shah’s selection meant that Ravi Bopara missed out. As you know, I am a big fan of the Essex man, but it appears that Shah’s superior ability to play spin secured his seat on the plane. Bopara will be devastated, but I don’t think he can have too many complaints on this basis. Bopara’s international career is certainly on hold right now and he is in danger of slipping down the pecking order too far.

Anyway, they are the main talking points after England’s squad for India was announced. Everything else was as expected, with the nucleus of the side looking very strong. It has to be said that in terms of cricket betting, India will be favourites to win the series. However, England will be hoping that the feel good factor surrounding the Pietersen era, along with faith in certain players’ ability and consistent selection could help them prosper.

It has come to light that Darren Gough has played his last game as a professional cricketer. The Yorkshire captain has decided to sit out his teams’ final match of the season against Sussex. He felt that being applauded off the pitch against Somerset was the perfect way to and a career spanning almost 20 years, writes Thomas Rooney, exclusively for The Village Cricketer.

 

Justin Langer – who scored 7,696 test match runs for Australia – has ended up being Gough’s last ever wicket and he describes the fast bowler as a ‘legend’. Something I will not disagree with. His passion for the game of cricket, his commitment to England and his likeable personality have made him a joy to watch over the years. Summing all this up in just eleven words, Gough apparently said to Langer that “I am happy to finish with an Aussie in my pocket.” 

 

It seems that Gough was in sparkling form during his last spell as a cricketer. Apologies for constantly referring to Langer, but the former Australian batsman said that the ball Gough bowled to remove him was the best he had faced ‘all summer.’ That’s not a bad compliment to finish on is it? Gough himself admitted that it was the quickest he had bowled in quite some time. 

 

Such a thing is testament to the man himself. Gough has always, always given his all – for Yorkshire, for Essex and of course – for England. No-one was as proud as Gough to represent his country and in taking 467 wickets in total for England – he takes a very impressive record with him into retirement. But, with Gough, it wasn’t just his wicket taking ability; it was his love of the game that won so many people over. 

 

He is such a dedicated cricketer and a model professional for any captain to call upon and any youngster to look up to. He will miss playing cricket for Yorkshire, just like he missed playing cricket for England. I’d place a lot of cricket betting money on the fact that he will continue playing at some level. In fact, in five years time, I suspect he would still fancy his chances of performing at professional level!

 

There has been talk that he may return to play in the Twenty20 cup next year, but I don’t think that will happen. The man himself has even admitted that a return is ‘very unlikely’; even though I suspect the cricket odds would favour him taking plenty of wickets should he come back next year. He did take 33 wickets in Twenty20 cricket for Yorkshire, after all. 

 

Many will say that their fondest memory of Gough is the hat-trick he took against Australia at Sydney in 1999. However, although this was a magic moment, my favourite Darren Gough memory was non-cricket related. 

 

As a young lad, my Dad took me to the Oval to watch England. Obviously in awe of all these players I had seen on the TV, I was shocked when upon asking Mr Gough for an autograph, he proceeded to talk to me and my Dad for around 15 minutes about whether I played the game, which football team we supported and how we thought the days play would pan out.  

 

So, not only is Darren Gough a legend of the game – he is also a top, top bloke as well and I wish him every success in the future.

England and Essex all-rounder Ravi Bopara has been named as Young Cricketer of the year by the Cricket Writers Club. The 23-year-old is hoping that this can be the moment that helps him progress as a player and finally make a name for himself on the international stage, writes Thomas Rooney, exclusively for The Village Cricketer.

In all honesty, Bopara does frustrate me somewhat. There is no doubting his ability and he has to be considered as one of the most talented youngsters in England right now. He performs superbly for Essex as well averaging 61.52 in the County Championship this year meaning that all the cricket odds are backing him to be Essex’s player of the year as well. In the domestic game, he has had his best season yet – that’s for sure.

So, where does the frustration come into it? Well, as yet, he has been unable to show the same type of form for England. In terms of test matches, he has only played three games – which all came against Sri Lanka in December 2007. It is fair to say he struggled as he only averaged 8.40 in five innings. Making your test debut against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka isn’t easy though and I’m prepared to forgive him for his test record. Hopefully his time will come in test cricket with patience being the key.

However, even in the shorter form of the game – Bopara hasn’t excelled half as much as he should have done. After 28 One Day International’s for England he has only passed 50 twice in averaging 27. He has been in and out of the side, but this is mainly because he hasn’t grabbed his opportunities to impress. Perhaps he doesn’t feel like the selectors trust him quite enough to give him a long run in the side. Again though, this may be because he has shown great potential for Essex, but not for filled this for England.

The England set up is desperate for him to perform and are keeping him involved in the international fold. Despite not being in the team during the recent ODI series victory over South Africa, he was in the squad and knows that it only takes one injury or one player to dip in form for him to be in. With England looking like a very good one-day side though, he MUST perform when called upon next. I am aware that he is only young and not too much should be expected from him at 23, but it will start to effect his confidence. If he keeps getting into the England team only to be dropped again – he might start to question his own right to be there.

Like I have said though, he knows that the England selectors are going to stick with him. He was in the squad for the final test match against South Africa and is expected to be named on the tour of India this winter. The player himself admits that now is the ‘start of bigger things’ for him. He needs to turn into a regular member of the team, rather than a regular member of the squad.

I have no doubt that when he does this, English cricket will benefit a great deal as he is a very talented and focused young cricketer. Should he have a successful winter where he is scoring plenty of runs, I would even be tempted to place a cricket bet on him being involved in the first test match against Australia next summer.

Now is the time to perform though Ravi – start showing everyone what you are made of. Every Essex fan knows it and it is about time every England fan knows it as well.

#1: Don’t watch the ICC Awards show on Sky. It was dreadful. Nasser, what were you doing son? You were more wooden than your bats!

The observant among you will have noticed my attempt to predict the winners of the ICC awards. I have to admit, I predicted them very quickly based on nothing more than my own insight having watched a few games over the last year. Cricinfo reports in full, here is how my predictions faired:

* Cricketer of the Year: Prediction = Dale Steyn, Winner = Shivnarine Chanderpaul. INCORRECT, 0/1, FAIR ENOUGH

* Test Player of the Year: Prediction = Dale Steyn, Winner = Dale Steyn. CORRECTOMUNDO! 1/2, CHEAP WICKETS AGAINST THE KIWIS PROVED MAJOR FACTOR

* ODI Player of the Year: Prediction = Nathan Bracken, Winner = Mahendra Singh Dhoni. INCORRECT, 1/3. THE SLOGGER WINS OUT, GOT TO KEEP THE MONEY MEN HAPPY I GUESS

* Emerging Player of the Year: Prediction = Morne Morkel, Winner = Ajantha Mendis. INCORRECT, 1/4. FAIR ENOUGH, HAVING NEVER SEEN THE GUY I COULDN’T REALLY COMMENT

* Associate Player of the Year: Prediction = Ryan ten Doeschate, Winner = Ryan ten Doeschate. YESSH, THAT IS CORRECTSH, 2/5. SPEAK DOUBLE DUTCH TO A REAL DOUBLE DUTCHESS

* Twenty20 International Performance of the Year: Prediction = Yuvraj Singh, Winner = Yuvraj Singh. BINGO BONGO, 3/6. TAXI FOR STUART BROAD, THE MOST NAILED ON WINNER THERE WAS

* Women’s Player of the Year: Prediction = Charlotte Edwards, Winner = Charlotte Edwards. SPOT ON IN A SKIRT, 4/7. I SURE KNOW A THING OR TWO ABOUT THE LADIES

* Spirit of Cricket: Prediction = Sri Lanka, Winner = Sri Lanka. GOT HIM, 5/8. THE LITTLE SRI LONKONS CERTAINLY LOOK VERY SMORT IN THOSE BLUE UNIFORMS

* Umpire of the Year: Prediction = Simon Taufel, Winner = Simon Taufel. NOT OUT, 6/9. HOWZAT!

RESULT:
6 out of 9 for The Village Cricketer. Or in Kiwi speak, suxty sivin peecint (when rounded up).

Nominations for the LG ICC Awards 2008 have been unveiled. Read all about it at Cricinfo. Here are the nominees, TVC’s predictions of the winners are bolded and italicised.

* Cricketer of the Year: Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dale Steyn, Mahela Jayawardene, Graeme Smith
* Test Player of the Year: Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dale Steyn, Mahela Jayawardene, Jacques Kallis
* ODI Player of the Year: Nathan Bracken, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammad Yousuf
* Emerging Player of the Year: Stuart Broad, Ajantha Mendis, Ishant Sharma, Morne Morkel
* Associate Player of the Year: Ryan ten Doeschate, Alex Obanda, Niall O’Brien, Thomas Odoyo
* Twenty20 International Performance of the Year: Chris Gayle, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Brett Lee, Yuvraj Singh
* Women’s Player of the Year: Lisa Sthalekar, Charlotte Edwards, Claire Taylor, Nicola Browne
* Spirit of Cricket: Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, West Indies 
* Umpire of the Year: Simon Taufel, Mark Benson, Aleem Dar, Steve Davis, Rudi Koertzen

Watch this space for TVC Village Cricket Awards…

The Village Cricketer is a little miffed that its September of cricket viewing has been cancelled. Surely the ICC could have changed the location of the tournament so that we could enjoy some cricket on TV during September. Instead, I have to wait until October to get my fix.

Speaking of October, England has named a 15-man squad to play Sir Allen Stanford’s All Stars in November for a chance to win $1million each.

The squad is as follows:

Kevin Pietersen (Hampshire) capt
James Anderson (Lancashire)
Ian Bell (Warwickshire)
Ravi Bopara (Essex)
Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire)
Paul Collingwood (Durham)
Alastair Cook (Essex)
Andrew Flintoff (Lancashire)
Stephen Harmison (Durham)
Samit Patel (Nottinghamshire)
Matt Prior (Sussex)
Owais Shah (Middlesex)
Graeme Swann (Nottinghamshire)
Ryan Sidebottom (Nottinghamshire)
Luke Wright (Sussex)

It all kicks off in October, with the big money match on November 1st. Bring it on!

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