Too Much Cricket?

In Australia, the old argument of playing too much cricket seems to have reared it’s ugly head again over the last few days.

First we had the retirement of Mike Hussey, and now we have seen George Bailey come out and defend Australia’s current rotation policy (without actually calling it that) ahead of the 1st ODI against Sri Lanka (despite Australia’s reserves playing, they are still heavy favourites in the betting).

Should cricket’s administrators be worried by the fact that Mike Hussey, a competitive bloke who likes to test himself against the world’s best, has decided to call it a day ahead of a mouth watering year of cricket for Australia, with an away series in India and back to back Ashes’ series to look forward too?

Too bloody right they should.

The question I find I ask myself now, is “Are cricket’s administrators really that bothered (about the fact that players like Mike Hussey would rather retire than continue flogging themselves on the international treadmill)?”

And it disappoints me that I believe the answer is ‘they are a bit bothered, but they aren’t bothered that much.’ If players like Mike Hussy wish to retire, then it is price they are prepared to pay. After all, they are bringing in that much money, they can live without the likes of Hussey.

That’s all well and good for the time being (not my view), but once the quality starts to get too diluted, will TV want to pay the big bucks any more? Of course it won’t. TV might pay something, as sports channels need to fill large schedules, but TV won’t pay big bucks to cover substandard crap.

A bloke like Mike Hussey prepared to quit ahead of a year of exciting cricket like Australia have, should be a wake up call. He might be getting on age wise, but he still looks good enough to cope with it all too me.

Put it another way, as an Englishman, I think it improves our chances of keeping the Ashes.

Putting aside team loyalties though, it’s a joke that we seem to be hammering our best players into the ground and pushing them towards retirement. I’d honestly rather see Hussey (getting beat) in England this summer.

As for Australia’s current rotation policy and the row with George Bailey….. They need to get used to it, people need to understand that Australia can’t expect the same 10-12 players to play in all the fixtures they have coming up over the next 12-14 months?

International cricket is now becoming a squad game…. personally, I don’t like it, but unfortunately it is the way it is becoming.

Maybe they don’t need to rest batsmen from a physical prospective, but they may need to rest them mentally. While the bowlers are going to need resting from both prospectives.

Already this year, I’ve read people on Twitter saying they are not going to the ODI’s in England this summer, that they are not prepared to pay big money to watch second XI’s playing.

Like most things in life, I expect that in the corridors of power where it really counts, the penny won’t drop until it’s too late.  

Some common sense at last

I was delighted with the news today that common sense has finally prevailed and Kevin Pietersen has been added to the Test squad to tour India later this year.

Something I’ve been banging on about for a while is my belief that there was more than Pietersen at fault here, and I thought that Nick Hoult’s online piece in the Daily Telegraph sums that up quite well.

Yes, Pietersen started it and was the main protagonist, but others need to have a good look at themselves and their (lack of) professionalism in this saga.

I suppose getting Pietersen to fly back from South Africa to meet the players was another test of his commitment. And when back in the country, he was made to travel to Oxford, not a great distance from Heathrow in fairness.

Even so, after flying back to the country from South Africa he might be forgiven for thinking that the team might have travelled to London. Maybe this was another ECB coded message to enforce their authority about who is in charge.

I still can’t get my head around all these people who think that Pietersen is the winner in all this.

He has been consistently humiliated since giving the YouTube interview all those weeks back. He has got no where in his attempts to play a full IPL and he has lost out on the opportunity to help England defend the World T20.

Even if he did get well paid for commentating on the World T20, I can’t believe he wouldn’t have given that up for the opportunity to play in it instead. That said, he did bring most of it on himself.

One last thought on this issue. When he has finished playing it will be interesting to see what he will put in (what I imagine will be) the inevitable book about all this. I can see it now, it will no doubt be explosive and he will probably paint himself in a bad light again.

I still think that England will get a good thrashing in India, although I hope I’m wrong. I just can’t see – even with Pietersen in the side – England being very competitive over a four match Test series.

I get the feeling that a Duncan Fletcher revenge 4-0 whitewash could be on the cards here, I certainly wouldn’t be betting against that happening, especially if England perform like they have in four of the five Test matches played in Asian conditions this year.

Dear Old David Collier

I wrote last week about how stupid I thought David Collier had been with his remarks about the South African players goading Kevin Pietersen into sending those Blackberry messages, so it came as no great surprise to me to hear the beeping sound of a reversing vehicle coming out of the ECB earlier this week.

The South Africans were – rightly in my view – demanding an apology and the words ‘legal action’ were been banded around various press reports, maybe it was the latter that provoked the ECB into action.

After bending over backwards to avoid legal disagreements with Pietersen, it seemed fairly unlikely that the ECB were going to be excited at the prospect of a legal dispute coming from elsewhere.

The apology itself seems only half hearted to me. If the South Africans are claiming that they still disagree over what happened (while accepting the apology), that hardly suggests that the ECB took all the accusations back.

It seems remarkable that the ECB are prepared to disagree with Cricket South Africa about the sequence of events involving the blackberry (text) messages without having any proof of what happened, while for so long they didn’t seem prepared to accept Pietersen’s word about them.

They have openly admitted they have never seen the messages, they reluctantly (it would seem) eventually accepted Pietersen’s word about the content of them, despite him deleting them – which would suggest they were damning.

All in all, it really is an amazing turn around.

For me, this is yet another example of the poor management that has been coming out of the ECB over recent months. I know it has been something I have moaned about a lot on here, but it really has been poor and this latest episode of stupidity, backtracking and humiliation just about sums things up.

Anything to sell a book?

I could be cynical and say that in his quest to sell his book, Stuart Broad has even been prepared to talk about Kevin Pietersen in a positive light. And that his section in the book about having a harmonious dressing room, should include a what not to do list, including cliques and parody Twitter accounts.

In fairness to Broad, those views would probably be doing him a disservice as he sounded very grown up in the interview I heard.

I have been really pleased to read about, and hear Stuart Broad saying that he will be happy to welcome Kevin Pietersen back into the England dressing room as and when the management decide the time is right.

I have been a bit critical of Broad on here lately, more in respect to the fact that I think he should have been more constructive in breaking up a clique, as opposed to allegedly being a part of it.

But credit where credit is due, and Broad actually sounded very mature and genuine in the interview I heard on Talkpsort, in which he said he would have no problem with Pietersen coming back into the side as and when.

The questions he got asked were more with regard to where we go from here, as opposed to what had previously happened. He was hardly grilled in a Jeremy Paxman style way, there was no ‘what part did you play in all this’ questions, or anything about online Twitter parody accounts, but he didn’t duck anything he was asked (although it could have all been prearranged).

Before the interview started, I actually thought if he was asked any Pietersengate related questions that he would just straight bat them, but in fairness he didn’t. Whether they were pre planned questions or not, he obviously was prepared to talk about the issue (moving forward).

One thing I did pick up on was when Broad said “When KP wants to play for England, he’s a huge asset to our team.” I’m not sure if this was just a general line that didn’t have any real meaning to it, or whether it was a deliberate statement in which he was making it clear that Pietersen (at some point) didn’t want to play for England, and that was were the problem had been.

I’m not sure if I am reading too much into that statement or not.

I assume that we will have to wait until after Pietersen is finished with the Champions league before any meetings with the other players can take place, and I’m again assuming that it will depend on the outcome of those meetings as to whether or not he joins up with the India touring squad.

Ian Bell is due to come home before the 2nd Test for the birth of his child, that might signal the reintegration point if the ECB decide they want to drag things out that little bit more, which wouldn’t surprise me.

Personally, I hope it’s sorted earlier and that Pietersen leaves with the rest of the squad.

India are still heavy odds on to win the series in the cricket betting, I’ve just checked online and their odds are still at a best price of 8/13. England are 5/1 and a drawn series is 7/2.

I imagine that a statement saying Pietersen is joining the England squad could see a price movement with some online bookmakers, but in the overall picture I can’t really see it making much difference. I still expect to see England lose the series.

Best Betting Sites

Over the past few weeks I have had a long hard think about where I am going with my cricket betting or cricket trading. If I am serious about this and want to make money from it, I have to be more thorough and have a more professional attitude towards it.

This has led to me thinking a lot about what are the best betting sites to use for certain sports, like who is the best online bookmaker for cricket or football, etc.

Surely it is important to have the knowledge of who is the best bookmaker for this, or the best bookmaker for that? Who offers the most markets, who is the specialist in this particular field?

At the moment I generally use a betting exchange, Betfair, for my cricket betting. At the moment in a TV advert they say that in Premier League football they had the better prices in the match odds markets 178 times out of the 250 winning outcomes than Bet365 did.

There were similar winning ratios against other high street bookmakers. In all the surveys they listed, the high street bookmaker had the better prices in about 25%-30% of the winning outcome, than Betfair did.

In the past I had naively believed that Befair (or the betting exchanges in general) had the better odds nearly all of the time, because of the lack of a ‘bookies margin’ (usually 12% I believe). The advert just goes to show how wrong and ignorant I was.

With this in mind, I have now started looking into who are the best betting sites or bookmakers to place a bet on cricket online with. As I generally trade cricket these days, if I did decide to place a bet on a Test match with a bookmaker because their odds are better than Betfair’s are, then there is still nothing to stop me laying that bet on Betfair for a profit later on during the Test match.

It just means any potential winnings might end up in a different account to what they usually do. In short having the money in a bookmakers account is mainly an inconvenience, this shouldn’t be seen as an obstacle if I’m looking to maximise profits.

It’s like life in general, we would shop around for the best price, wouldn’t we? Or if we have any sense we should.

So why not do the same with my bookmakers? I don’t just have to use one online bookmaker or betting exchange all the time, I should shop around a bit and look for the bookmaker that offers the more variety and most importantly of all, the better prices.

A lot of online bookmaker accounts would also mean a lot of free bets, of which can be used for online betting on cricket.

Another benefit of having lots of different bookie accounts is because the bookmakers can sometimes put limits on your account, ie, maximum bet of £10.00 etc.

This only generally happens if you win a lot. If you’re one of those punters who continually loses and lines the bookmakers pockets, you probably won’t have this problem.

So if you do have a few different online bookmaker accounts, then you will probably be spreading your bets around more meaning there is less likelihood of one particular bookmaker singling you out and limiting your account.

In a way having an account limited is an achievement, an achievement that sadly I’ve never managed yet. At least if you do win a lot with a betting exchange you won’t have that problem.

So far I haven’t managed to establish which – if any – bookmaker is the best betting site for cricket. But I have now opened my eyes to the fact that – whether cricket betting or cricket trading – a bookmaker may offer a better starting price than a betting exchange, and with this in mind, I will now be searching around for the best price from now on.

I am aware of an online bookmaker called Cricket Bet Live, I personally haven’t used them yet, but I have read some positive remarks about them on Twitter.

Well Done David Collier

I had previously thought that the England management had made themselves look as stupid as they possibly could with the Kevin Pietersen affair, but that was before the latest gaffe with remarks made by ECB chief executive David Collier.

For Collier to say that the South Africans provoked Pietersen into sending those messages is totally stupid in my view. Even in the unlikely event that it is true, the ECB can never prove it. It just makes them look stupid and like they are trying to blame someone else for what happened.

Could it be that this a pathetic attempt to smooth Pietersen’s path back into the dressing room? To say to the other players, that it was the South African’s fault what happened? If this is the case, does Collier think that the England players are stupid enough to fall for this?

Does anybody else really believe Collier’s take on things, that the South African’s deliberately set out to take advantage of a rift in the England dressing room and make the split even worse by sending texts to Pietersen, to provoke him into responding in such a negative way about his team mates that they could release the information to the media and cause even more trouble?

Am I naive in thinking that this all sounds a bit far fetched? Personally, I don’t blame the South Africans for not being at all happy about this.

Like I have written above, it just makes England look stupid again. It makes us look like sore losers, that we have to come up with excuses that it wasn’t our fault we imploded.

David Collier doesn’t normally say much. I’m not sure if this is because he is a quiet man, or because he has to be kept quiet because not the most sensible remarks come out of his mouth.

Either way, I can’t really see what this has achieved, True or not (I believe not), it was best not said at all in my opinion.

Congratulations to West Indies

I wrote towards the end of September that I thought the Windies had a strong side on paper and were serious contenders to win the T20, I also wrote that I thought they were a bit too sloppy in the field, and that could cost them. But that if their batsmen click, it could be irrelevant.

Well the batsmen certainly clicked against Australia in the semi-final, that’s the sort of win (if one was going to come) that I expected from them. When you have over 200 on the board, you can probably afford to be a bit sloppy in the field.

What I didn’t expect to see from this West Indies team was the sort of victory they pulled off earlier today against Sri Lanka to lift the trophy. With the exception of the excellent Marlon Samuels and a late knock from Darren Sammy, the Windies batting fire power failed to take off.

At the start of the match, if someone had told me West Indies would only get 137, I would have thought that wouldn’t be enough to win. Having watched their batsmen struggle to score, at the halfway stage I knew that West Indies had a competitive score.

I thought that Sri Lanka wilted under the pressure. They are obviously very reliant on Sangakkara and Jayawardene, and when they didn’t come off, the rest didn’t have an answer.

It was obvious when Mendis got ran out off a misfield (the Windies weak point in my view) by Bravo that it was going to be the Windies day.

Personally I am delighted for them. They have got some great limited overs players in their team and they are great to watch when they perform. I’m also delighted for Darren Sammy who in the past has had to cop a lot of unjustified flak about whether he is even good enough to be in the side, never mind captain.

It’s also great to see an unfashionable team win, sorry if that offends any West Indian readers, but it’s been a long time since the days of all the greats. If this team makes the Windies fashionable again, then I will be delighted.

Onto Cricket Betting, and now that the T20 is out of the way hopefully more of the bookmakers will start to price up the India V England series. So far Ladbrokes are the best online price for India, offering 8/13 on the home side winning the series.

Hopefully more money will come into this market now as I want to try and start trading the series winner market, to hopefully ensure some profit before a ball is bowled, so I can then concentrate on the Test matches. I suppose the upcoming Champions League could divert attention away further still.

One reason for leaving this market alone at the moment is Kevin Pietersen. If all of a sudden he is added to the squad, England’s price should shorten, this could create an opportunity to lay England as there may be an over reaction if he is recalled, and then we could just back them and trade out for a profit when the market settles down again and readjusts.

No Great Surprise

It wasn’t a massive shock to me to see England go crashing out of the World T20 on Monday, to be honest I believe it was the culmination of a sustained period of shoddy management and a lack of joined up thinking.

Any regular readers of this blog will know that for a few weeks now I have had a bee in my bonnet about the lack of leadership and poor decision making that I believe has been taking place for some time now.

I’m not going to go over the top and hammer the players for what has happened, as I think they are (on the whole) a decent, inexperienced bunch of talented blokes, some of whom have a decent future within the game.

What I am annoyed about is the lack of joined up thinking over the past 12-18 with this T20 side, and the management in general.

Who exactly is England’s strongest T20 XI at the moment? With the exception of Broad, Finn, Swann and Morgan, I am struggling to think of another player who has a spot nailed down in this side.

Compare this to the XI who won 2 years ago, of which I can name 10 of the players off the top of my head.

For a few years the 50 Over side seemed to be the ‘let’s have a look at him and see if he has test potential’ team, now it appears to have moved onto the T20 side.

This side seems to have had no level of consistency with selection lately. Where have all the experienced guys gone? This team is way too inexperienced for one, I have no problem with chucking youngsters in, but not a whole host of them in one go.

Craig Kieswetter has been asking to get dropped from the limited overs’ sides for about 12-18 months now, so England leave it until the ‘do or die’ game to do it. And then throw Jonny Bairstow in at the deep end with the gloves!

The batting was too inexperienced and hasn’t played enough games at this level. Where have the likes of Alex Hales, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler had the chance to face the likes of Malinga before?

You can’t chuck young blokes with no experience in against world class performers like this in a world cup and expect them to succeed, it’s ridiculous. They had no chance, it’s totally unfair on them in my view.

And the ECB’s stance on the IPL, where these guys could perhaps gain some experience? Don’t mention it!

I’m no fan of IPL, and it’s been proven that your players don’t have to play there to win a World T20, but your players do need some experience of facing this class of cricketer.

At the moment England have discarded too many of the players with experience, and for that, I blame the management.

In a further twist of management failings, I see that Kevin Pietersen is now expected to be welcomed back into the England fold sometime this week.

At last!!

Maybe some light will now be shed on what the delay has been to all this, if I don’t hear any explanation, then I’m going to assume that it is down to the management not sorting it out quick enough. The same management that allowed this situation to develop.

I heard Ryan Sidebottom talking on the radio this morning, it was quite interesting what he had to say. He pointed out that for the sake of the England cricket team, the Pietersen situation needed to be resolved. Agreed!

He then went on to say that not one player he has spoken too would turn down the chance to play in the IPL. It did strike me as slightly ironic that this whole situation seems to have arisen out of one players desire to play IPL, but yet the rest of the squad (some of whom are supposed to be anti Pietersen for some reason) would jump at the chance if offered it.

I’m well aware that Bopara and Broad, and possibly others have turned down the chance. But I think the point that Sidebottom was making was that the majority would gladly go there if offered.

I think it’s pretty clear by now that I think that the England management have to up their game somewhat. They have again allowed English cricket to slip from the top of the tree, as opposed to building on it. We didn’t even manage to consolidate our position.

I do hope that when Pietersen is given his contract and they have all kissed and made up, that a bit of common sense is arrived at and he is added to the India touring party.

Let’s see what happens.

Can South Africa lose Chokers tag?

I wrote on Thursday about South Africa’s previous when it comes to choking. I’m not saying this was a team choke, although I’m sure many would say that it was – given they had Pakistan at 76/6 after 14.3 Overs, needing 58 runs from 33 balls.

For me Morne Morkal definitely choked. With just 5 balls of the innings left and Pakistan needing 9 runs to win, one of the world’s most feared, respected and (apparently) reliable bowlers – Morne Morkal – bowls a shocking full toss that just asks to be hit out of the ground.

It was unbelievable, how on earth can AB deVilliers cater for that? The simple answer is, he can’t. He had Jacques Kallis with overs up his sleeve, a man with ice running through his veins, but can anyone honestly say that they would have given the ball to Kallis when you have a premier new ball front line bowler at their disposal?

I know I couldn’t, and if Kallis had bowled and South Africa lost, AB would have got the blame – and no doubt called a choker.

The simple fact of the matter now is that until South Africa win one of these or a 50 Over World Cup, they will keep this chokers tag.

In cricket betting, that defeat has seen South Africa drift out from 4/1 joint favourites to 7/1 or 8/1 with online bookmakers in general. I still wouldn’t write them off, no one can tell me guys like Amla, de Villiers, Kallis and Steyn are chokers or losers, etc, as they are not.

And after all, they are probably the best all round cricket team in the world, so underestimate them at your peril.

England are in from 16/1, to 9/1 after yesterday’s win over New Zealand, I’m still not convinced I’m afraid. Great knock by Luke Wright, I believe he has worked hard on his batting from what I have read and fair play to him, I wish a few more would adopt that attitude a bit more.

But at the same time, I’m not convinced by him on a typical Asian dust bowl against their spinners, but what English (qualified) batsman can play those bowlers in those conditions? So it is unfair to single Wright out there.

At least his innings keeps England in with a chance, and that’s all England could do yesterday.

Saturday’s second game was a bit of a surprise to me. West Indies were a favourite of mine leading into this competition, so I was surprised to see them take such a hammering.

The competition is weird at the moment. With results like India thrashing England and Sri Lanka thrashing West Indies, you could be forgiven for thinking that it will be an Asian side that wins in Asian conditions. But the Australia thrashing of India wrecks that theory.

Will be an interesting day on Sunday, South Africa will no doubt be feeling the pressure against Australia, it will be a chance to try and shed the chokers tag. And then there is a quiet insignificant game on after that.

At last, some excitement at the World T20

For me, today was the first real exciting day of the World T20 with the thrilling finish in the Sri Lanka V New Zealand match, and the West Indies V Eoin Morgan match which followed afterwards.

It has been a bit of a frustrating few days with a spate of rain effected matches before today, so I hope this is the turning point for the competition and that the whole tournament takes off now.

Not sure what to say about England, don’t want to criticise them too much as they are out there with a pretty inexperienced side, and in all honesty I didn’t expect them to be contesting the trophy with this side.

That said, there was two pretty awful shots at the top of the innings, the bowling hasn’t been great considering it is supposed to be the more experienced part of the unit, and the fielding hasn’t been too clever, for which there is no excuse really.

Just why we have such an inexperienced team is another story and bug bear of mine, but we are where we are and that’s that. The most stupid thing about it all, is that Pietersen is actually out there working for television.

Anyway I’m not going to go into that again.

I did today listen to TMS while I was out at work, Niall O’Brien has joined the commentary team (I presume for this tournament only) and I thought he was a decent summariser.

He did have me in a state of shock when he claimed that Craig Kiewswetter’s wicket keeping had improved over the last 18-24 months, but I bow to his superior knowledge in that department. Although I will add, it must have been bloody bad to start with.

Of the West Indies, well I’m not 100% sure what to make of them. In the (so called) summer when they played England, I thought they had a strong side on paper and could be a serious contender for winning this competition.

I still do to an extent, but their performances in the field against Australia and England could have been better. Maybe against England they took their foot off the gas as the game was won early, although that is not a great attitude to have.

While against the Aussies, they were in control after they had batted and somehow contrived to lose with some bloody awful bowling in my view.

With the bat, they are awesome, I’m not just not convinced they are tight enough in the field, although that could become irrelevant in any game if the batsmen click.

In cricket betting terms, West Indies are joint favourites with South Africa with some online bookmakers at 4/1 or 9/2. Other bookies have South Africa (just) as their outright favourites. Personally I think the Saffers are very capable of winning this competition, but if you’re thinking of investing in them, remember they still have their chokers tag!

If you fancy chucking your money away, England are 16/1 with some online bookmakers to retain their title, give me 50/1 and I might just have a couple of quid on them!