Monday, 30 August 2010

What now for Mohammad Amir?

Pakistan's Mohammad Amir (R) receives his man of the series award from Giles Clarke, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, in the Long Room after the fourth cricket test match at Lord's cricket ground in London August 29, 2010. REUTERS/Philip Brown (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT CRICKET IMAGES OF THE DAY)

For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 94.

Since the turn of the millenium, no young cricketer has excited me more than Mohammad Amir. As a Sri Lankan supporter, I found Ajantha Mendis' emergence pretty thrilling but there was always the nagging worry that he would not be as effective once the mystery wore off, as has indeed proved to be the case. I've had no such worry about Amir, however, as his success has been due not to mystery but rather a precocious mastery of the fast bowler's art.

His 6-for last Friday made him - at age 18 - the youngest cricketer to earn an entry on the Honours Boards at Lord's. A week earlier at the Oval, he had become the youngest person to take a Test 5-for in England. In fact, he was also the youngest fast bowler to take a Test 5-for anywhere in the world when he ripped through the Aussie middle order last December in Melbourne.

Cricinfo published a blog post of mine about Amir in January. In it I tried to describe how uplifting I'd found it to watch him in action in both that MCG spell and the World T20 Final in 2009. As such, the most heartbreaking aspect of the spot-fixing scandal that has just hit the news is the fact that Amir is implicated in it. Kamran Akmal has already gained a reputation as a bit of an agitator in the Pakistan dressing room and Mr "A Class" Asif has hardly steered clear of controversy. Salman Butt's reputation as a leader has been growing until now but it is Amir who has undoubtedly been the star of what appeared to be a promising young Pakistan team.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Anderson’s ducks and Pakistan’s ProBatter

Jimmy’s acquired a taste for poultry

Jimmy Anderson’s first 54 innings in Test cricket were totally duck-free. The Lancastrian had looked on course to challenge AB de Villiers’ record of 78 Test innings without a duck when Ben Hilfenhaus brought his streak to an end in last summer’s Ashes-decider. However, it appears Anderson has since acquired something of a taste for poultry.

15 innings on, his duck-count has already risen to five. He’s bagged one in each of the first three Tests of England's series against Pakistan.

Incidentally, I wonder whether anyone pointed out to Anderson that coming into the recently concluded Oval Test, Yasir Hameed had managed 45 innings without a duck. Jim fixed that, dismissing Hameed for a first-baller on the last morning.

A better ProBatter

A few weeks ago, Simon Hughes wrote an interesting piece on England’s training methods, entitled "Ten reasons why England will be world No 1." Reason number one was ProBatter, a gizmo which is essentially a combination of a bowling machine and a projector screen. It “looks very futuristic and very funky,” according to Wing Commander Strauss. Apparently it has been used in baseball for over a decade but Andy Flower’s coaching team is the first to use it in cricket.

It’s early days yet, but it must be said that three Tests on, England’s top seven don’t look much better for having used ProBatter.

Pakistan belatedly decided to bring in their own pro batter for the third Test. It looked like this.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Cricketers of the year 2009/2010

The longlists for the annual ICC Awards have just been announced. These are meant to recognise cricketing achievements in the period between 24th August 2009 and 10th August 2010. Some of the relevant stats for that period are here: Test batting, Test bowling, ODI batting, ODI bowling.

The winners won't be announced until October but in the meantime here are my suggestions. I've ignored a couple of categories about which I don't know much (Women's Cricketer of the Year and Umpire of the Year) and also invented a couple of my own (T20I Cricketer of the Year, Test and ODI Performances of the Year).

T20I performance of the year
Mike Hussey 60*(24), World T20 SF v Pak, Gros Islet

ODI performance of the year
Sachin Tendulkar 200*(147), 2nd ODI v SA, Gwalior

Test performance of the year
Dale Steyn 7/51 and 3/57, 1st Test v Ind, Nagpur

Associate player of the year
Mohammad Shahzad (Afghanistan)

Emerging player of the year
Mohammad Amir

T20I player of the year
Kevin Pietersen

ODI player of the year
Shane Watson

Test player of the year
Virender Sehwag

Cricketer of the year
Sachin Tendulkar

REFILE - CORRECTING NATIONALITY OF PLAYER Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar waves as he arrives on Centre Court for the match between Serena Williams of the U.S. and Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia at the 2010 Wimbledon tennis championships in London, June 26, 2010.  REUTERS/Phil Noble (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)

Sachin managed 1978 more international runs (and 9 more hundreds) than I did during the qualification period, but I have way better ties.
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