Graeme Fowler: Absolutely Foxed Book Review

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I never saw Graeme Fowler play cricket. He was just a little before my time but I knew the name and had heard a little about his contributions to the game and his life, so I picked up a copy of his book with my bookshop gift card that I received for Christmas.

The book focuses on three main things, they are Fowler’s playing days, his work with the University based Centres of Excellence and his mental health.

Fowler comes across as a person who backs his own opinion, a man you wouldn’t want to argue with. At the same time he’s brave enough to be incredibly open about his depression. Like any autobiography, you would hope that the protagonist would avoid ironing out the bad and only offering the good. Fowler does that.

The Lancashire native touches upon the suggestion that some have put forward, that he was fortunate to play for England when others were out of the picture for one reason or another. To that, I say “It’s not about how you get your opportunities but about what you do with them”. However fortunate he was to get the opportunity at the highest level, Fowler scored in excess of one thousand Test runs and recorded three centuries in the process. There are a lot of players who have had the chance and not grabbed it to the extent that he did. Yes there are those that have done even better but to average 35.32 in Test cricket is no disgrace.

As with the examples of other former cricketers such as Marcus Trescothick, Michael Yardy and Jonathan Trott, providing exposure to the mental health issues of international sportsmen, Fowler’s contribution can only help further people’s understanding of mental health, whether it be their own or somebody else’s.

I’ve detailed on my blog before how I think that universities could help breed competitive cricket in England, in the same way that college sport provides budding professionals in USA. Fowler has helped develop cricketers for England through the Centres of Excellence and clearly possesed an indisputable passion for his efforts.

I’m providing Graeme Fowler’s ‘Absolutely Foxed’ with an innings of:

82 not out

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Why Won’t Walton Win?

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Another domestic hundred for West Indies’ wicketkeeper Chadwick Walton, in an important match too. In West Indies One-Day competition, Walton made 104 against Guyana, having made 169 against Leeward Island’s two matches prior. The Jamaica native previously recorded a List A century against England in a tour match but just hasn’t been able to transfer his domestic progress to the international arena.

The Caribbean stumper’s international batting stats make for horrific reading:

Tests: 13 @ 3.25

ODIs: 53 @ 6.62

T20s: 160 @ 12.30

Walton’s domestic batting stats linger in the twenties but have been progressively on the up. His four List A hundreds have all come since the start of 2017. However, at the age of 32, the proverbial ship, at international level at least, has surely sailed for Walton. He opens the batting in limited overs cricket, so you would think that he is used to facing the best bowlers that opposition have to offer. The step up to international cricket can be a big one though. Meaning no disrespect to those named but does facing the likes of Romario Shepherd, Paul Wintz, Mervin Matthew and Nino Henry really prepare you to face the likes of Trent Boult and co.?

Walton can continue to shine in the CPL where Guyana Amazon Warriors snapped him up for $110,000 last term as well as dominating for Jamaica in the Regional Super 50. Whether or not he could earn one last chance to crack the highest level remains to be seen…

A Rash Decision?/Leach Sucking Blood!

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I can’t say that I’m not disappointed. I thought that on the back of good white ball contributions for England and potentially backed up by a good county season, Yorkshire leg-spinner Adil Rashid could push for a Test recall. That now seems highly unlikely given that he’s committed to a white-ball only contract with his county this term. Rashid is only 29 and though he didn’t claim a hatful of County Championship wickets (10 @ 50.00) last term, he’s also played a vital hand with the bat for Yorkshire over the years, batting and batting successfully as high as number six in First Class cricket.

Meanwhile Jack Leach may reap the benefits of not being rushed into the England first team too soon. It seemed as though he wasn’t the selectors preferred choice and has had to remodel his action. He’s just put in a record-breaking shift (8-110) for England Lions in an unofficial Test against West Indies ‘A’. Admittedly Jomel Warrican and Rahkeem Cornwall bagged plenty of wickets too and the Caribbean is the home of many spin bowlers with averages in the teens but ‘The Bloodsucker’s’ figures and current confidence are highly encouraging. Curiously and in contrast to Rashid, the Somerset spinner has, at the age of 26, never played a T20 match and clocked up only fifteen List A appearances. In 52 First Class outings however, he’s totalled 175 wickets at 25.89. For the record, Mason Crane has 77 at… 46.07! Adil Rashid has 490 (Yes 490!) First Class wickets as well as ten centuries.

What Rashid’s decision means for him, Yorkshire, England and cricket in general remains to be seen. If the longer format of the game does survive, it’s looking as though it and T20 might be considered completely different sports entirely. As for the man in the middle, List A and ODIs, you can’t help but fear a slow but certain death!

Tying Batsmen in Knots

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Andrew James Tye is 31-years-old and has played only eight First Class matches. He’s not played many more List A matches but is closing in on 100 wickets in the T20 format. He’s been a consistent performer in both the Big Bash and IPL. Oh and he’s now a vital cog in Australia’s limited overs’ sides. If it weren’t for the Big Bash, AJ Tye probably wouldn’t exist.

Tye’s a player I’ve really liked since watching him represent Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash last season. He looks relaxed but not arrogant. When watching the latest T20I, I was surprised at how pessimistic the Australian commentators were about the Perth native’s future. Because of Tye’s penchant for a slower ball, they were insistent that he’ll need to bowl faster in future or risk going the same way as James Faulkner. Tye duly dismissed England’s James Vince with an immaculately executed… slower delivery!

There’s a skill in being able to resist bowling fast and Tye possesses that ability. In his first couple of ODIs against England he went wicketless but was economical. Then he claimed a five-wicket haul before bagging a four-for in a T20I against Tasman rivals New Zealand. Taking pace off the ball and making the batsmen have to generate power themselves puts the onus on them. As well as the bowler getting the batsman out, they might well get themselves out when trying to hit big shots only to find that they don’t actually have the strength to do so.

It seems logical that Tye will be less effective in the longest format and so far the stats back that up. His First Class bowling average is 36.81 compared with mightily impressive figures of just 21.29 and 19.64 in List A and T20 cricket.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/player/459508.html

It’s par for the course that most bowlers have lower averages in the shorter formats but there’s a hefty gulf in Tye’s figures. The First Class measurement is admittedly a small sample size and of course he may learn, adapt and lower his average. His measured approach should mean he stays fit as permanently semi-injured quicks, the likes of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile are rotated around him.

Tye’s one of those non-superstar but effective players that I like, similar to Grant Elliot and I look forward to seeing how many international wickets he can claim.

Malan Captaincy Conundrum

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Only a few days ago, I posted an article regarding the fact that Sam Billings has been appointed as captain of Kent. This is despite the fact that he’ll miss a substantial chunk of the early season due to IPL commitments and probably further chunks because of England call-ups.

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2018/01/30/summer-of-sam-but-hopefully-not-actually-like-summer-of-sam/

Now Dawid Malan has been named captain of Middlesex. AC may score four ducks in the Test series in New Zealand and never play for England again but as things stand he’s part of the Test XI as well as ODI and T20I squads, so is it really practical to appoint him captain of a domestic side. Sam Robson will deputise in the First Class (County Championship) game. Wouldn’t it have been more sensible to make Robson the sheriff not just the deputy?

T10 My Way!

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T10 is a format of the game that has recently come to the fore, with even internationals such as Liam Plunkett participating in a T10 league in Sharjah.

T10 is cricket as we know it. It’s half a T20 (No really, it’s that simple!). What’s next? Five5? Anything that might get in the Olympics. Five5Beach, T10 on Ice, Rooftop KwikCricket!

But how about applying some completely different rules to T10? Take the following possibilities for example:

10 overs per side.

Each over is one batsman against one bowler.

The team that wins the toss chooses to bat or bowl first and…

… chooses which batsman or bowler will face the batsman or bowler from the opposition of their choice and in their order of preference.

At amateur level, one player v another per over could be good. At the highest level, maybe bowlers (And batsmen) could have two overs.

There are six deliveries regardless of whether or not the batsman is dismissed. For example: Over one could be Alex Hales against Dale Steyn and the score finishes 9-2. The next over could be Jason Roy against Imran Tahir and finishes 6-3 (Well bowled Imran!) and so England are 15-5 after two overs. They might finish 101-19 after 10 overs. South Africa would have to score 102 of course but how do we provide value to wickets? Are they just irrelevant, simply a dot ball or could it be that South Africa must reach 102 having lost no more than 19 wickets?

This is an idea in the early thought process of its evolution. There’s a few different ways you could go with it. Why not experiment and see what works best?

Summer of Sam.. but Hopefully not Actually Like Summer of Sam!

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Occasional England gloveman Sam Billings has replaced his namesake and the likely departing Sam Northeast as captain of Kent, then gone and earned himself an IPL contract meaning that he’ll miss the first five County Championship matches of the 2018 season!

So who will captain Kent after all and should they win their first five games, will Billings actually walk straight in as skipper off the back of some T20 games in a foreign land and with little captaincy experience to his name?

I guess that the argument will be that Billings’ selection in the role is a long term one but he’s likely to spend some time bench warming for the national side in limited overs cricket too, so will probably miss some more cricket. Would it not be better to have a captain who will likely be available to perform the role throughout the entirety of the season?

This episode also brings to attention Billings’ role in the England squad as well as one or two others, David Willey for example. Is Billings able to do himself justice and prove himself by filling in for the odd game? Is rotation worth it or would England be better served just picking the strongest team and not resting players. Hopefully Billings can have a run in the T20I side in the upcoming triangular series against Australia and New Zealand. It’s an opportunity for teams to actually play a few T20I matches in succession rather than odd games splattered about the year.

Regardless of who captains Kent, the seemingly inevitable loss of Northeast will be a huge blow. It will surely be time for Daniel Bell-Drummond to step to the fore, for Joe Denly to continue his renaissance and for Sam Billings, whenever he plays, to deliver.