trials and examinations…

Several of our young colts have been at district and County trials recently. It’s great to see them getting the recognition they deserve, but it does raise the question of whether we should be coaching for trials, not just for playing the game.

I have heard this a couple of times at Colts’ practice – “we don’t want a game, we won’t learn anything”; and “I’ve got a trial later this week, I must have a net”.

I guess I was never good enough to worry about trials – I played District cricket, because my school was much the strongest at cricket in the borough, and a couple of County schools games in the sixth form when a lot of the better players had left after O levels. But back in my day you were invited to play by (hopefully) knowledgeable coaches, taking advice from school masters.

The system is much fairer now, certainly, and works through the Clubs. But from the comments of some of our Colts, it does sound as if the trial has become part of the prevailing examination culture.

Which brings me back to the question – what do you have to do to “pass” a representative trial? And should we be coaching that knowledge, or trying to instill it through match play?

More t20 – still “good cricket”?

I have enjoyed watching the Indian Premier League, this spring. Some of the matches I have seen so far have been one-sided, but there is always something going on, and some of the techniques on display are spectacular.

Watching the master classes from the Little Master really demonstrates the benefits of a sound, bascially orthodox approach to batting, even in the shortest form of the game. With not a hint of a slog, Sachin scores as fast as most, and more reliably than almost anyone. A great example to young players.

I have been less convinced by some of the seam bowling I have seen. Slower balls, changes of line and length, variations a-plenty [including wides, full tosses…] – I wonder if the game-plan might benefit from a (slightly) more conservative approach?

Watching the slow bowlers, several of whom have been very successful in this year’s IPL, you do get to appreciate the subtleties of the spinners art. Yes, they vary their pace and bowl their wrong-uns, top spinners, doosras and sliders, but all within a tightly controlled range.

Lots to enjoy, and lots of lessons to learn.

Ball tampering – is it really a crime?

The recent third test between South Africa and England ended in a thrilling draw (for England fans). Another last wicket stand saw England “win the draw”, again.

But during the game, accusations of ball tampering were raised (through the media, not to the match authorities). As the Laws of the Game stand, ball tampering is just about the most serious crime a cricketer can commit on the field of the play.

It has to be stopped, but first it has to be proven.

Duncan Fletcher, in an article in the Guardian, has suggested employing the third umpire to look out for misdemeanours.

That makes a lot of sense.

But only if we continue to see ball doctoring as a crime. Is it really such a bad thing, if ball preparation allows great (and not so great) bowlers to redress the imbalance between bat and ball? To allow the bowlers to remain competitive for the duration of the match, not only when they have a shiny new ball in their hands?

In the same way that Murali was first condemned (still is, unfairly, in some quarters) for achieving something that no-one else could (i.e. for being too good), then ultimately accepted as the master bowler he is, should we encourage innovation in swing and seam bowling?

And if that needs some preparation of the ball, why not?

Why not allow the bowlers a better grip on the ball?

I have written previously about the possibilities of spin-swerve, at pace, as demonstrated by baseball pitchers. I wonder how batsmen would react to a Shane Warne-like ball-of-the-century delivered at brisk medium pace, and faster?

It’s possible, as shown by baseball pitchers. But of course, they are allowed to use their resin bag, to improve their grip on the ball.

So why not allow bowlers to do the same?

OK – one reason why not – a really skillful spinner, with a resin-enhanced grip, might make batting a much harder proposition (not such a bad thing, from this bowler’s perspective), and seriously cut short the time needed to complete a match.

But how often is the final day of a Test match as enthralling as in the current SA v England series? And if you could fit a full Test match into just 4 days, then why not? In most countries, Test match grounds are rarely full on the final (5th) day. So there would perhaps be no real loss of (gate) revenue involved, especially if the first four days of a game can guarantee more action, and bring in larger crowds.

Would the television channels still pay as much for a series of 4 day Tests? If the viewing figures were good (and the improved “product” should help to achieve that), then why not?

So – why not give bowlers the chance to work on the ball?