Why the delay?

With the selectors deciding to delay naming the Indian touring party until next week, I am now starting to come round to the belief that this is too give them more time to possibly smooth the path for a return to the squad for Kevin Pietersen.

Given the evidence I have read, if what I perceive to be true, then I think it is only right that Pietersen is returned to the squad.

Now before I get panned for that opinion, I would like to stress that I believe this should be his last chance (if selected) as he has been out of order and a total prat. I also believe he is his own worst enemy and makes life difficult for himself and others around him, his track record shows that.

If the texts were telling South Africa how to get Strauss out, then as bad as that is, I don’t think he was revealing any trade secrets. I’m sure Sky Sports have more than highlighted how to dismiss Strauss over the past 10 years.

So why do I believe he should be given one last chance?

Well besides the fact that I think he is still England’s best batsman, I am also of the opinion that he is not the only guilty party in the England set up.

Of the other guilty parties, let me start with the T20 captain Stuart Broad. He is what is now regarded as a senior player within the England squad. Senior players or leaders are supposed to show responsibility, as an England captain what on earth was Broad doing letting a clique develop within the squad?

He not only let it develop and get out of hand, he was part of it. Is that the sort of behaviour befitting of an England captain?

Swann and Anderson, again senior players getting involved in a clique in the squad, rather than trying to defuse a situation.

Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and Andy Flower. What were they doing during all this? Not much by the looks of things. Both Strauss and Flower have admitted they have should have nipped this in the bud.

There have been failures on all sides here. That’s why I hope Alastair Cook wipes the slate clean and starts again, all be it with Pietersen on a final warning.

As I stated above, I now believe the delay in naming the squad is because of Pietersen. It could be that the selectors are trying to canvass opinion and persuade the other players to accept him back into the squad.

Now I know team unity is important, but as far as I’m aware Anderson, Broad, Swann, etc don’t pick the test squad. If they are not professional enough to play alongside Pietersen then they shouldn’t be in the squad – and likewise Pietersen has to accept them.

In football Teddy Sheringham and Andy Cole didn’t speak, but played together without a problem. Shane Warne never got on with John Buchanon, and I’d dare say he didn’t get on with plenty others, but it didn’t stop them all acting as a team unit.

England need to pick their best players to tour India, squad members should be able to cope with having a player they don’t like in the squad, after all they are supposed to be professionals.

It appears they haven’t been totally professional with their behaviour over the past few months, and in that I include Swann, Broad, Anderson, Pietersen, even Strauss and Flower to an extent with not stopping this crap. I hope that under Alastair Cook, England can regroup and be a full strength unit again in India.

The Winners and Losers from England’s tour of India

I’ve stated before that I can take getting beat by a better side, but this was effectively India’s reserves that have just thrashed us. We couldn’t bat, couldn’t bowl and most worryingly for this English side, couldn’t field. We actually got out fielded by India. How the hell can that be the case?

All in all this was a pathetic showing by England. The fact that Andy Flower said it was his worst result since the 51 all out in his first test in charge said it all, I hope this means that the relevant changes will now happen.

I’d also like to add that I thought MS Dhoni was outstanding and he almost single handed battered England into submission at times during this series, his batting was exceptional.

It’s hard to make a case for anyone to be regarded as a winner on such a disastrous tour, but here is my list of the winners and losers from the tour.

Alastair Cook – LOSER – His team fell apart around him and his batting was average. I thought he was very positive at times with some of his attacking fields, at a time when he could have been over cautious due to him being new to the job. Ultimately his team descended into a shambles and he has to take responsibility.

Craig Kieswetter – LOSER – And a big loser at that, his place in the team must now be in serious doubt. With the bat he got out too easily at times and his keeping was shambolic.

Jonathan Trott – WINNER – England’s ODI run machine continued his good form with the top average of 50.50, highest score of 98 not out and was also top run scorer with 202 runs. Strike rate of 79.84, for which he gets criticised. When we have 6 batsmen that can all score more runs than he does at a faster rate, then drop him. Working on that criteria, I think he will be in the team for quite some time.

Kevin Pietersen – WINNER – I heard Derek Pringle say on TMS during the first game that if KP failed on this tour, his days in the team would be over. After what happened to the rest of the batsmen, Pietersen is a certainty to retain his place now.

Ravi Bopara – (BIG) LOSER – Ravi’s time must surely have come to an end now. Did ok in England at back end of summer, but has gone back to his old ways on this tour and still doesn’t convince at this level. Time to move on I’m afraid.

Jonny Bairstow – LOSER – I’m loathed to criticise the lad as he is a young player who is trying to find his way. If he learns from this harsh lesson, then good. How he responds to this will go some way to telling us if he is going to have a future at this level.

Ian Bell – WINNER –  But only by default. Without hardly hitting a ball, Bell’s stock must surely have risen due to the inadequacies of the majority of the rest of the batsmen.

Samit Patel – WINNER – I heard him criticised by John Etheridge of the Sun during the lunch break of the 5th match, I couldn’t understand it. Unless Etheridge knows something I don’t from behind the scenes, then I can’t agree with him. Made an impressive 70 in the 3rd game and out bowled Graeme Swann (which wasn’t difficult on this tour).

Tim Bresnan – LOSER- Made just the one notable knock with the bat and wasn’t anything like his best with the ball.

Graeme Swann – LOSER – Looked all over the place in the field and his bowling wasn’t great. Too be honest he hasn’t looked at his best for a few months now, but due to the success of the seam attack in the summer, I believe it went a bit unnoticed.

Jade Dernbach – LOSER – Didn’t help himself with some erratic bowling performances. Seemed to struggle with the conditions (nothing out of the ordinary with rest of team), could be struggling to regain his place now. I still think England should persist with him though, he offers such variation when he gets it right.

Stuart Meaker – WINNER – Didn’t do anything spectacular, but looked handy when he came into the side and can only have enhanced his reputation.

Steven Finn – (MASSIVE) WINNER – Probably the man who gained the most on this tour, he bowled well in just about every game and will be hard to dislodge from this side now when Anderson and Broad come back (assuming the selectors are going to pick Jimmy again, rested my arse).

Ian Bell the only likely English winner

It’s amazing how quickly team’s performances can turn. Less than two months ago India were supposedly useless, couldn’t field, weren’t motivated, Duncan Fletcher was useless, etc, etc.

Now it’s England that all of a sudden fit that description. I’m not for a minute suggesting that England have become a bad side now in 6 weeks just because they have lost 3 ODI’s in a row. What I am saying though, is that England have been a bit of a shambles and just not good enough on this tour.

I don’t want to single anybody out here, but I think Craig Kieswetter could be the big loser in this series. His technical difficulties with the bat are nothing new, while his performance behind the stumps today won’t have helped his cause either.

In contrast Ian Bell is the big winner, without hitting a ball, Bell’s stock seems to have risen with calls increasing for his return to the 50 over team. I’ve heard various cricketing commentators and pundits saying that he is too good to not be able to get into this team.

At the start of this tour I did call for him to be left out of the middle order for Jonny Bairstow. Why? Because I don’t see Bell as a middle order player. I like a big hitter in the middle order.

At the top of the order is where I would gladly see Bell. No.3 looks the ideal position, but while Trott is scoring runs that seems a no goer.

Kieswetter is wicket keeper and Cook is captain, so that doesn’t leave much room for Bell to come in. But with Jonny Bairstow now in the side England have options behind the stumps, it could be a viable option to let Bell open with Cook and drop Kieswetter and let Bairstow keep wicket.  

Despite scoring 98, I still heard plenty of criticism for Trott again today. I understand that his strike rate isn’t the most prolific, but where would the team be without his runs? When we are good enough to do without someone who scores plenty of runs too slowly, then drop him, but at the moment we aren’t.

Onto India and what a leader and finisher MS Dhoni is. I was listening to TMS today and I always knew that if MS was still there at the end then India would win, and so it proved. He truly is a master of the art of this form of cricket.

I also hear people say and read people writing that India are the world champions at this format of cricket, so it is no surprise that they are thrashing England – and yes that is true.

But look at this side and compare it to the one that won the world cup. The difference is astonishing, India must have a hell of a lot of decent ODI players coming through.

I highlighted one of their promising youngsters, Virat Kohli, on my facebook page only last Tuesday.

Only India stepping off the gas can prevent England getting a good series hammering now. Alastair Cook’s team are just not good enough in these conditions, simple as that.

Pull your finger’s out England

I can tolerate losing and I can tolerate getting beaten by a better team. I didn’t expect England to win this series in India, so to see us 2-0 down at the moment comes as no surprise to me.

But what I do find hard to take, is the manner of the defeats. These two losses have been absolute thrashings, the way England have capitulated in both of these ODI’s isn’t great.

So far we haven’t even done the basics right. The fielding is usually something England can rely on and so far it has been all over the place, some absolute shockers have been dropped. The bowling hasn’t been that bad, but it could be better. And the batting has flattered to deceive, how many batsman got a start on Monday before throwing their wickets away?

I am also well aware of the vastly different conditions England are now playing in and I fully expected that to have an effect our performances. But that is no excuse for brain dead shot selections and poor running between the wickets, it’s also no excuse for bad fielding.

England have been very sloppy so far to say the least, if we are to be the undisputed number 1 team in the world we have to improve on this and perform better when conditions don’t necessarily suit us.

The sign of a great team is one that can role their sleeves up and fight back when their backs are against the wall and prove people wrong. England have 3 games to do this.

England Squad to Tour India

The England squad picked to tour India later this month looks an exciting mix of youth and experience. I like the way the selectors are gradually introducing youngsters into the set up and giving them a look at international cricket- before taking them back out of the firing line, this squad seems to be a continuation of that policy.

Ben Stokes has apparently been left out so he can undergo rehab on his injured finger. I’m not sure if this isn’t a diplomatic way of dropping him, but either way he didn’t do himself justice against India and he deserves a chance again when he is 100% fit.

The England management seem to have learnt a lot from their experiences with Adil Rashid and I hope that Ben Stokes will benefit from those mistakes and not just be discarded after one iffy series, that would be a backwards step in my view.

Jonny Bairstow secured his selection with his match winning performance in Cardiff, and another player I like the look of is Jos Buttler, who is included in the T20 squad – again, he is getting a feel of being around the set up.

The reason why I like these two is because we lack a rope clearer at 6 or 7, we obviously have Pietersen and Morgan when both fit, but I’m not sure of KP’s long term role and a lot of the big hitting seems to fall to Morgan and he can’t keep doing it on his own.

Moving onto KP and I heard it mentioned by Paul Newman of the Daily Mail that Pietersen’s so called rest from the Indian home series was supposed to act as a bit of a kick up the arse and that if all went well there was a real chance he wouldn’t have been recalled for this tour, he claimed Eoin Morgan’s injury left the selectors with no choice.

I don’t wish to disagree with someone who is in the know more than I ever will be, so I will have to take his word on this. But if this is the case, it sounds like Pietersen’s ODI career could be on borrowed time unless he makes a marked improvement very quickly.

Personally I think Ian Bell is very lucky to keep his place, he’s been different class in the test matches, but is still to convince me he is a real ODI player and he seems to have no real role in the side. Maybe the Trott at No.3 dilemma keeps him in and around the squad in case England decide they want a more versatile player in that role. Who knows, as the team seems to still be searching for it’s best formula.

Onto another rested or dropped player, Jimmy Anderson, a closer look at his career figures show he has played 151 matches, with 204 wickets at an average of 30.89.

Here is a breakdown of those stats….

Home – 62 matches, 91 wickets, 27.80 average.

Away – 62 matches, 73 wickets, 35.94 average.

On neutral venues (World Cups, Tri-Series in Australia) – 27 matches, 40 wickets, 28.70 average.

In India – 12 matches, 12 wickets, 48.16 average.

The stats show that he is better at home than on his travels, especially when his travels take in India. On top of that he also had an absolute disaster at the recent world cup, but the quandary is that based on his home form of last summer, he would surely keep his place in the team.

Similar to Paul Newman’s opinions on Pietersen, I am taking the same view with Jimmy Anderson that this is a selective resting/dropping. It makes absolute sense and is a canny decision from the selectors, I made the point at the start of the summer that it could be better to leave him out of the ODI team for the good of his confidence and test career, he obviously doesn’t have a problem in England, but on the road he has taken a hammering at times and we don’t need his confidence taking a battering again.

Also, can you really build your bowling attack around a player who can only really play at home?

I think if the likes of Dernbach, Woakes and Meaker have a good series the selectors might well reduce Anderson’s ODI outings even more. The selectors are trying to develope a pool of fast bowlers and it makes sense not to flog Anderson on the sub continent, where he doesn’t have a great record. We may as well save him for the test matches, where he seems much more at home – and make use of the pool of bowlers we are developing in series like this one.

Another South African place of birth is included in this squad in the form of Stuart Meaker, I don’t want to go all deep and meaningful on this issue and I have my views on Pietersen, Trott, Kieswetter and even Eoin Morgan.

I might well be giving the game away when I say that I regard Meaker as English/British, like Andrew Strauss, Matt Prior and Jade Dernbach, Meaker’s family brought him to England at a young age and he was schooled, taught and brought up in this county.

He was a juvenile when his parents (presumably) made the decision to come to this country, he hasn’t sat down and made a conscious decision to switch allegiances for cricketing or financial reasons. So I have no problem regarding him as an English product.

One final footnote to end on. When are cricinfo going to update Samit Patel’s cricket online profile photo? I checked the squad on there prior to writing this piece and I noticed they’re still showing an old photo of him with his 3 chins. Come on, he’s made the effort, so get it changed cricinfo 😉

A Fair Result

What a game that was. The tournament as a whole probably needed it and while I hoped for a good game, I didn’t expect it too be this good.

I thought at the halfway point that England could be in for a good thrashing, maybe even a humiliating 150 odd run defeat if the chase went really bad.

England showed great character to fight back, not just once, but twice. The initial run chase was well paced and well executed by Strauss and Bell in particular, and then when it looked like we had thrown it away, Swann, Bresnan and Shahzad showed that this team has got plenty of guts about it.

It’s amazing though, now that we have got our batsmen scoring runs the rest of our game seems to be falling apart. The fielding was an improvement on the Netherlands game, but it would have been harder for it to be any worse.

The bowling again struggled. in particular Jimmy Anderson. He is now all over the place and I think when Broad is fit again, there is a strong argument that he comes back in for Anderson.

I know it was one of those wickets where all the bowlers were always likely to go for a good few, but even taking that into consideration, Anderson’s figures were awful. It’s not just his figures either, he is supposed to be the leader of the attack, but he looks anything but at the moment.

In the end I thought a draw was probably a fair result. One one hand England should have won, but at the half way point the same could be said about India.

India would also be well justified in saying that England might not have got anywhere near the total had Ian Bell been given out lbw to Yuvraj. He had a lucky umpires reprieve in the Sydney test earlier in the year, it appears that even the umpires like watching him bat these days.

I’ve made my feelings known about the standard of Rod Tucker’s umpiring in the past, Billy Bowden needs no help dropping a clanger at times either. Between the two of them, they made a right mess of this one.

Strauss’ innings was brilliant, Bell supported him well, but he played a ridiculous shot to get out and start the collapse. Bell can’t be blamed for other players poor shots, but he seemed to throw it away after he got treated for cramp.

My predicted ‘Man of the Match’ Paul Collingwood failed with the bat again, it looked very hot out in the middle when he and Prior came together, unfortunately they couldn’t handle it. I’m sure Andy Flower would have expected better from two players who have been around long enough to know how to handle tense situations.

On reflection though, Andy Flower has plenty to think about after this match. England showed great fight, but the bowling and fielding must be a concern, particularly James Anderson.