John Arlott in conversation with Mike Brearley

I watched the BBC’s newly edited version of “John Arlott in Conversation with Mike Brearley”, with some trepidation.  Here was the owner of the voice of cricket from my youth, about to be quizzed by one of England’s most successful captains, the man with the reputation of having perhaps the most probing mind amongst all England cricketers.

In the days when I had time to watch or listen to broadcast cricket matches, I longed to hear more of Richie Benaud’s expert dissection of the play – Benaud could tell you exactly what had just happened, and why – but Arlott remains the only commentator, ancient or modern, who could describe a cricket match with his poet’s eye and entrance sports fans and non-fans alike.

The original programmes were not scripted-for-TV interviews.  The pauses, for thought and for another glass of wine, might not be allowed in a modern broadcast (maybe even not in 1984, when the original interviews took place, but for the remit of the then recently launched Channel 4 to provide an alternative to then existing channels).

But “John Arlott in Conversation…” is a most moving portrait of a truly human human being, who also happened to be the greatest commentator on cricket, ever.

“What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?” – CLR James

John Arlott knew so much more than cricket.  But let’s not talk about that any more.

Good cricket again – can match rules help?

There is a lively debate going on in my Club this autumn, as our League seeks opinions on the best form of cricket to encourage younger players to stay in the game after they leave the Colts set-up.  Do we go with limited overs, because every one watches IPL and T20 and wants to play that way?  Or can we come up with a formula to make “time” cricket more attractive?

I admit to being biased.  I grew up playing time games (or “proper” cricket – there’s the bias!), and to me the dual challenge of scoring runs and taking wickets almost always makes for a more interesting game than the “simple” run chase of a over-limited match.

I enjoy T20.  But I still think that the more consistently successful players are using skills from the longer game.  And as a coach, I think young players will learn more varied skills by playing a variety of forms of the game.

But can “time” be made as attractive as T20 to the younger players?  I think it can.

Continue reading Good cricket again – can match rules help?

"Action stations" – whatever happened to standing still and waiting for the ball?

As a young batsman, the absolute importance of standing still until the bowler released the ball was drummed into me. And more recently, as I have worked through various levels of the coach education process, the same mantra is still repeated – pick up the bat, yes, think about leading with the dipped front shoulder, but don’t move the feet too early.

It’s not easy. And when young players see the professionals twitching, shuffling their feet, and generally not standing still, it can be even harder to convince them to stick to the text-book and wait until the ball is released.So I was fascinated to read an article in the Summer issue of the ECB Coaches Association “Coaches Matter”, with Graham Thorpe, now England’s Lead Batting Coach.

The article describes how England’s top batsmen are now being coached to adopt the “action position” as they wait for the ball, replacing what can be uncoordinated trigger movements with a coordinated pre-delivery sequence to initiate rhythm and activate muscles. Continue reading "Action stations" – whatever happened to standing still and waiting for the ball?