English County

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Is winning the toss an advantage and is doing away with it the solution?

Trust Ravi Shastri to look upon the toss-or-not debate from his own unique perspective as a commentator, “I’ll have no job left if the toss is done away with.

That’s the least of his worries considering he’s the front-runner to be the next Team India coach.

It was Ricky Ponting who set the ball rolling with his suggestion that the toss be done away with and the visiting captain chooses to bat or field.

He was seconded by his former skipper Steve Waugh and Michael Holding.

The underlying theme was that home sides would stop preparing pitches that suited them hopefully resulting in more sporting contests.

Would it eliminate ‘hometown’ advantage? Michael Holding felt not.

The English broke with tradition and effected the desired change in their County Championship this year.

The visiting county is given the option of bowling first—should they refuse, the toss is taken as normal and the winning skipper decides what to do, take strike or bowl.

Robert Key, ECB cricket committee member, had this to say:

“My original view was that we should have tougher penalties for poor pitches. But that is so hard to police. It just becomes a minefield. But what I still think is that the stigma over spinning pitches has to end. If we see 15 wickets fall to seam bowling on the first day of a game, nobody bats an eye. But if the ball turns on day one, people start to worry. That has to stop.”

The above is probably manna to the ears of BCCI chieftains and the Indian team’s think-tank given that the Nagpur Test wicket for the match against South Africa was sanctioned by the ICC.

He added:

“The cricket committee had a two-day meeting and 90% of it was spent talking about pitches. We went through all the options. We talked about everything you have seen suggested on social media. And in the end everyone there agreed that this was the way to go. The rules governing the use of the heavy roller are remaining the same.

We want to stop counties producing pitches that just suit their seamers. We want to take that luxury away from them and instead get them to produce pitches that result in a more even battle between bat and ball and require pace and spin bowlers as well as seamers.

I’m not surprised by the negative reactions. They are the same reactions I had when I first heard the suggestion. But it was not a decision taken lightly, and I’d just say to people: let’s try it and see what happens. Our original suggestion to the ECB board was to try this for a year in Division Two. It was their idea to try it in Division One as well.

We’re not suddenly going to see five more spinners. We can’t expect a miracle cure. But we might see a situation where, instead of spinners bowling 20% of overs in the Championship, they might bowl 30%.”

Andrew Gale, Yorkshire skipper, disagreed:

“It’s a decision that has come straight after a Test series defeat in the UAE, which has brought the problems to everyone’s attention. But we don’t want subcontinent-paced wickets in England. That is not what people want to watch. If we had gone to Australia and won this close season, I doubt that this decision would have happened.

Obviously the rule has been brought in to encourage spinners and because of a recognition that the wickets have become too seamer-friendly. The intention is a good one – I know that. But if wickets are that bad, why haven’t points been docked? Fifteen-plus wickets have fallen many times on the first day and it has repeatedly been put down to bad batting. I can see Keysie’s point about something needing to be done, but why haven’t pitch inspectors done their job properly? It comes down to people being strong. “

He added:

“I am a traditionalist. I love Championship cricket. The toss has existed since the beginning of time. Why keep messing with the game? It’s too complicated for some people as it is.”

Nathan Leamon, England’s performance analyst, wrote a piece for the NightWatchman questioning whether doing away with the toss would achieve the desired results.

The reasons listed were:

  • Can we be reliably certain that groundsmen can and will prepare pitches to order? (Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravi Shastri, take note.)
  • Home teams may prepare pitches even more favourable to them.
  • Winning the toss may not be an advantage at all.

Cricket is now played on covered pitches I.e. they are no longer exposed to the ravages of inclement weather. In the era of uncovered pitches, batting first made sense and was definitely advantageous.

Is winning the toss an additional asset—a twelfth man?

Gaurav Sood and Derek Willis answer the above query in an analytical piece on Cricinfo.

They write:

“After analysing data from more than 44,000 cricket matches across formats, however, we find that there is generally just a small – though material – advantage of winning the toss. The benefit varies widely, across formats, conditions, and depending on how closely matched the teams are.

We find that over all those matches, the team that wins the toss has won the match 2.8% more often. That small advantage increases for one-day matches and decreases for T20 contests. For day-night ODI and List A matches, the advantage is greater still, with the side winning the toss winning nearly 6% more games.

Winning the toss convey an advantage of 2.6% in first-class and Test matches, where pitches can deteriorate, giving the team that bats last a tougher challenge. But the largest boost appears to be in one-day matches, where teams that win the toss win the match 3.3% more often. “

What’s even more striking is the following observation:

“Using ICC monthly rankings for international sides, we looked at whether winning the toss made a difference when teams were closely matched or at opposite ends of the rankings. When closely matched teams play, winning the toss has a larger impact on the probability of winning. As expected, the impact of winning the toss was less when a clearly better side played a weaker one. “

They add:

“Whether due to cold weather or grassy pitches that can make batting difficult, teams that won the toss in April matches in England lost nearly 5% more often than they won. In every other month, the toss winner was more likely to win the match. Perhaps that alone will encourage visiting captains to take the field first, at least at the start of the English season.”

Geoffrey Boycott: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t

Geoffrey Boycott bats for Kevin Pietersen with both eyes wide open.

What he said:

“But all diamonds are flawed. They are not perfect and you have to learn to love and nurture a diamond.”

Geoffrey Boycott , in Kevin Pietersen’s defense, likens the South African born cricketer to a solitaire.

He said:

“I am not blindly sticking up for Kevin. But most very talented sportsmen are like diamonds. They sparkle and glitter and light up the game. They catch the eye and enchant the public. But all diamonds are flawed. They are not perfect and you have to learn to love and nurture a diamond. They have not done that with Kevin.”

The Yorkshire man is disgusted with the way the English Cricket Board sought to discredit Pietersen’s outbursts about the bullying culture within the English team by leaking a confidential document outlining his indiscretions to the media.

Kevin Pietersen after training at Adelaide Oval

Kevin Pietersen after training at Adelaide Oval (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Boycott writes:

“Kevin is a sinner but he has been sinned against by the ECB. There are rights and wrongs on both sides and whatever Pietersen’s faults, the ECB is not blameless.

For me, it reached its lowest point on Tuesday when a ‘strictly confidential’ ECB document was leaked to the media. The points it contained were pathetic and it was a crass idea to put together such a report to try to trash Kevin. It stinks.”

He adds:

“Yes Kevin was awkward, difficult, different and at times his own worst enemy. But his record and his performances do not deserve a character assassination. The ECB should be dignified about it all and not try to belittle him.

I hope the ECB is investigating how one of its confidential documents reached the public domain. If it discovers someone within the ECB leaked it then they should get the sack. If nobody is sacked then we can only assume that the ECB was happy or even complicit with the document being leaked in order to denigrate Kevin.

Some of the points contained in this document are so trivial it beggars belief. He had rows with the captain and coach about the way the team were performing, that sort of thing has gone on forever. It is OK if it happens within the confines of the dressing room. You are supposed to have open discussion in the dressing room and get things off your chest. In fact, the way we played in Australia, I would have said some far worse things to my team-mates if I was still playing.

Another claim is he took some younger players out for a drink in Adelaide. Give me a break – drinking has always gone on and that should not be dignified with a reply. It was only last year after a drinking session we had England players peeing on the Oval pitch after an Ashes win and the ECB or Andy Flower did nothing about it. We had Andrew Flintoff full of drink and trying to ride a pedalo in the West Indies but it did not finish his career. We had Joe Root drinking in the early hours of the morning when he was attacked by David Warner during the Champions Trophy last year. On the field James Anderson uses personal abuse every Test and nothing has been done about it.

The report also claims Kevin looked at his watch and out the window during team meetings. He was probably bored to death. I am sorry but the ECB is making itself look like a laughing stock.”

Boycott claims that he is no stranger to blackballing tactics elaborating thus:

“The Yorkshire committee tried to do the same thing to me when they had an ‘in-depth investigation’ into why we were not winning championships. They tried to blame me for everything. They even got a tea lady at Warwickshire to write a letter of complaint saying I had taken the crusts off my sandwiches which had upset her.”

Geoffrey Boycott, however, does not mince words when he says that he found the ace bat sometimes displaying an insouciant nonchalance and lack of commitment to the national side.

He said:

“This is not a one-eyed support for Kevin from me but a defence of fair play. There is no excuse for some of his stupid shots when England were in trouble. He gave the impression, rightly or wrongly, that he could not care less. There was also no excuse for KP constantly agitating to play a full IPL season to earn his $2 million for eight weeks’ work. England compromised and allowed him half that but told him he had to be back for the first Test of the summer. England were right on that. He had been given an opportunity to play for England and he was contracted to the ECB on good money. Do not forget, his IPL deals only came about because he had been given the chance to showcase his talents by England.

Kevin wanted the penny and the bun. He did not want to give up anything.”

What he really meant:

“Diamonds are forever. But you have to know how to wear them and camouflage the flaws.”

What he definitely didn’t:

 “You do know Pietersen’s originally South African? See, how I’m being clever here with the metaphor.”

MS Dhoni: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

What he said:

“Don’t be so jealous of IPL.”

The Indian skipper was quick to respond to a query from scribes whether Indian players would forsake the IPL and work on their Test game instead by playing county cricket in England.

What he really meant:

“County cricket doesn’t pay that much any more, does it? Besides, it’s an Indian league and why should the Indian players be elsewhere? Will our team owners and the BCCI be agreeable? Also, it’s the cricketers main source of income when they’re not playing for the national squad. Why ruin our fun, our time in the sun?”

What he definitely didn’t:

“The IPL’s like my wife Sakshi to me. You malign her(it) and you’ll have me to deal with.”




James Milner: What he said, really meant and definitely did not

James Milner Dare Not Be Yorked

What he said:

“I’d love to still play — but you can’t risk a yorker on the toe!”

Manchester City’s James Milner would love to play cricket again but dare not risk a broken toe.

The electric midfielder was a useful bat for Horsforth in the Airedale and Wharfedale League in Leeds.

Milner said:

I got a couple of hundreds for Horsforth, I’ve got a lot of friends there and I’d love to still play — but you can’t risk a yorker on the toe!

The most important thing for me now in summer is rest but I hope I’ll be able to go back to cricket again once I’ve finished playing football.

What he really meant:

“I’m a footballer—I put foot to ball.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“What’s a shattered toe or two? I could always be keeper.”

Graeme Swann: What he said, really meant and definitely did not


England mob Swanny

Graeme Swann Provides Skipper Material

What he said:

“I lose my rag fairly easily, so the captains I’ve enjoyed playing under are the ones who don’t get flustered in the middle even when the pressure is on.”

Graeme Swann expounds on his reasons why Kevin Pietersen was not the right choice for skipper of the English cricket side.

Swann wrote—in the Sun:

There is no doubt Kevin Pietersen is a really fine batsman but he was never the right man to captain England.

Some people are better leaders of men and Kev, for all his talent, is not one of those natural leaders.

The English off-spinner further elaborated that he needed someone “who can calm me down”.

Swann said—of Pietersen:

“At one point in India, his leadership was reduced to screaming ‘F****** bowl f****** straight’ at everyone.”

Swann contrasts Andrew Strauss’ leadership saying “he is one of those guys who demands respect.”

The No. 1 Test bowler in the world commended Strauss:

He always says the right things and his word is never questioned.

If you were in the trenches, you’d pick him to be in charge and his captaincy is founded on leading from the front. He can be hard-nosed, too, if necessary.

What Graeme Swann really meant:

“You can rest assured asking me to ‘F****** bowl f****** straight’  got me to do anything but that.”

What Graeme Swann definitely didn’t:

“Just give us a ‘F****** skipper’—as long as it’s not me.”

Alfonso Thomas: What he said, really meant and definitely did not

Kieron Pollard warming up for Somerset prior t...

Image via Wikipedia

Alfonso Thomas Wishes on a Pollard

What he said:

“At that point of the game, we normally have a guy called Pollard coming in for us, but unfortunately he was playing for the other team.”

Somerset captain Alfonso Thomas harps on his wishbone—in vain—pointing out the unavailability of key players like Kieron Pollard when they are also part of  IPL teams. Somerset succumbed to Mumbai Indians in the semis of the Champions League T20. Pollard turned out for the IPL side.

What he really meant:

“An arm and a leg (or a million or two) for Kieron Pollard in my squad.”

 What he definitely didn’t:

“Game-changers like Pollard are a dime-a-dozen.”

Nasser Hussain: What he said, really meant and definitely did not

List of England cricket captains

Nasser Hussain Is ‘Asinine’

What he said:

“I do believe that India have a few, three or four, very good fielders and one or two donkeys in the field still.”

Nasser Hussain’s remark comparing Indian fielders to donkeys has drawn flak from the Indian media,ex-cricketers, BCCI administrators and even Bollywood superstar, Amitabh Bachchan.

The Big B tweeted:

“Did not like Nasir Hussain ex cricket Captain of UK, refer to Indian fielders as ‘donkeys’, as he commentated on tour of our team.”

BCCI Vice-President Rajiv Shukla said:

Hussain’s comment was totally uncalled for. One should adopt restraint while making observations about players. Commentators should not make such comments. We will definitely look into it .Every player has to be respected irrespective of his performance. I don’t think this comment was appropriate.

Former teammate Michael Vaughan tweeted his support for Hussain:

“Just seen that Nasser said the Indians have a couple of Donkeys in the field… How wrong can he be!!!! I have seen at least 4….”

Vaughan’s re-stoking the ire of Indian fans’ was met with jibes online.

Sample a couple of his responses to Indian fans:

@vivekramindian Very true… I was useless in the field.. But I would be a superstar at cover point in this Indian team.

@kundankumar21: @VaughanCricket corrctly said.. when england also have a DOG like you on field in recent past…” my dog is very fast…

What Hussain really meant:

“When I say donkeys, I mean laden ones. They’re quite quick otherwise.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“I hope the SPCA doesn’t take umbrage.”

Ali Brown: What he said, really meant and definitely did not

Ali Brown, England and Surrey CCC Cricketer. U...

Ali Brown, England and Surrey CCC Cricketer. Uploaded per request at Wikipedia:Images for upload. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


What he said:


“I always believed that the day my age exceeds my batting average it would be time to consider calling time on my career.”


Ali Brown (Alistair Duncan Brown), former English cricketer, announces his retirement from county cricket (and Surrey) with a witticism. Ali is 41 and his first-class average is 42.67.


What he really meant:


“’41 out on 42’ is what I really wanted to say.”


What he definitely didn’t:


“I didn’t want to go out with my waist exceeding my batting average.”


Geoffrey Boycott: What he said, really meant and definitely did not

Portrait of Geoffrey Boycott.

What he said:

“India looked like Bangladesh in disguise.”

Geoffrey Boycott is scathing in his criticism of the Indian cricket team. “Their ground fielding was atrocious, their bowling was wayward and lacking thought.” says the Yorkshire great.

What he really meant:

“I’m sure Bangladesh would have put up a better fight. England beat Sri Lanka 1-0 in three Tests, and yet the No.1 side are down 0-2 in two. Yeah, I forget, they won’t be No.1 after this series.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“Duncan, you can go home now. I’d like to coach this Indian side.”

Johnny Lever is Vaselined all over

Johnny Lever

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