Tag Archives: The Ashes 2013/14

The Irresistibile Change

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There is only one thing more depressing than England’s performance on the second day of the final Test in Sidney – which was excruciating to watch.  It is the speed with which the Establishment has battened down the hatches, with the Chief Executive of the ECB, David Collier, giving Sky Sports News the astonishingly premature comment, “”We look forward to both Alastair and Andy leading us to success in the future.”

The difference between the on field teams has been their differing capacities to learn and adapt.  Lehmann has rightly applauded his side’s flexibility and competence in responding to game circumstances and conditions.

In Camp England and Wales, the top of the Board is proving its inability to consider change in the face of a calamitous performance by their selectors and the counter-productive culture which now surrounds the team, the development squads and their support staff.

Potential talent is being squandered, existing talent abused.

The ending of Andy Flower’s present contract allows the usual post tour review to benefit from having few no closed options. But Collier has said, again, with unthinking haste, “We are not going to do a review of that nature, but we will do a full debrief and learn the lessons that we need to learn from this tour.”

This, within hours of stepping off the plane and without allowing the new Managing Director, Paul Downton, (Effective 1st February) more than the briefest glimpse of what has been going on. Downton is a former England cricketer, a decent mind, a likeable fellow and, all had hoped, not a push over.

Here is what Collier said, under the BBC heading, ECB chief David Collier backs Andy Flower to continue.

“We look forward to both Alastair and Andy leading us to success in the future,”

“We need that experience,” he said. “When you go through a transitional period you need somebody with knowledge, somebody who knows our system, somebody who works with all of our key coaches.

“Andy has all of those attributes and more. I’m sure he’ll do a great job leading us into 2015.”

Of course, these are equally valid reasons for not having the person who oversaw a premature perhaps an unnecessary and unplanned period of transition.

The decisions to pick both Swann and Trott exposed the weakness of other selections.  The absence of a fully fit holding spinner and the selection of Tremlett, both for the tour and in the first Test, exposed one of England’s great assets, Jimmy Anderson and to a lesser extent Stuart Broad, to unnecessary fatigue and punishment.  Broad’s impact in the first innings of the series has not been repeated.

The ensuing pandemonium within the camp has given Stokes an opportunity to accelerate his development, but the damage it may have done to Carberry, Root, Bothwick and perhaps Ballance has jeopardised the managed development of these talents. And who knows how many more. Here in this series, England Lions have been sent like Kitchener’s New Army into their version of the Somme.   

Establishments are the enemies of adaption. They stand for closed minds, closed imaginations and closed options. This unplanned and frankly chaotic transition is being used to justify the retention, unexamined, of those who caused the chaos. Seldom do such efforts delay for long the irresistibility of change. But a lot of damage can be done in the meantime.

* young people now use the word chief in a very different sense to their eleders 😉

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Who Will Master Time Tomorrow? The Importance of the Scoring Rate in Long Distance Cricket

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Third Man hopes that George Dobell (again), Freddie Wilde and Peter Miller won’t mind if he singles them out for taking the position that, in Test cricket, scoring rates don’t matter.

“Look, there was a whole day left in that Test, England’s/Carberry’s/Compton’s/Boycott’s  slow scoring rates are not important. We need more batsmen grinding it out. Dig in.”

Google ‘why the scoring rate is important in cricket’ and you will get page after page of links to post after post saying that ‘whereas the scoring rate is important in ODI it isn’t in Test match cricket.’

Of course you’d find it impossible to get that opinion from someone who has played big cricket.

Here’s a go at explaining why coaches want batsmen in IIs, County, State and Test cricket to press on the opposition through the scoring rate and why grinding it out is counterproductive and will get you the sack:

In no particular order:

A high scoring rate puts pressure on the bowler and reduces his effectiveness.  It has a similar effect on bowlers waiting their turn.

Upping the scoring rate reduces the number of fielders in close catching positions and allows batsmen to get away with mistakes.

By spreading the field, the batsmen make room to knock singles.  Bowlers hate change and love routine.  They relay on rhythm and hate having to recalibrate their attack each time a single or a three is scored.

Bowlers don’t like 1s, 2s,3s,4s and 6s being knocked off their bowling, to state the obvious.

Batsmen like scoring 1s, 2s,3s,4s and 6s.  Mysteriously it helps them see the ball earlier and ‘bigger’. The move more freely and more instinctively.

Upping the scoring rate puts pressure on fielders and makes for more misfields and dropped catches.

It also puts pressure on the fielding Captain, jazzing the quality of his thoughts.

Increased scoring rates create momentum.

Now momentum is a mysterious concept and it is natural that a time traveller, like Third Man, is more at home with the idea.  Momentum changes the way time is experienced.  In the case of the batting side gaining momentum, it slows time for them and quickens time for the fielding side.

That is why cricketers playing for the counties are taught quite early on – say when they are twelve – to hurry things up when they are taking wickets and to slow things down when they aren’t.

Batting is especially about slowing time down so that it all goes further; more time.

A batsman with a slow scoring rate creates pressure for the guy at the other end and for those who are coming in later, just as much in 4 and 5 day cricket, as in ODIs and T20. He quickens time for his partner. That is why it is the great sin in batting.

Just remember when you are having sweet dreams about Geoff Boycott’s batting that only Bob Barber ever managed to score runs at the other end; (Did Gooch, once?) that he dominated the batting order at a time when England rarely won Test matches – digin – doesn’t win.

Anyone who finds this hard to accept might do worse than to read True Colours, by Adam Gilchrist (Test s-r 80+)

Not wishing to labour the point about Millenials too much, but one of them, David D. Burstein, titled his book about them, Fast Future.

You know what they say at the Pavilion at the Edge of the Universe; “Fast Future:Slow Time”

Today, Haddin (75 from 90 balls faced) mastered time. Ask Smith, Johnson and Harris what it felt like for them. Or Anderson, Broad, Cook?

Who will master time tomorrow?

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They Shoot Horses Don’t They – People Are the Ultimate Spectacle

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Dear Graeme Swann,

Thank you,

At a time when timid, short-sighted administrators allowed and even encouraged so-called finger spinners to chuck the ball, and violate one of the game’s elemental constrictions,  you almost single handed revived the noble practice of genuine, orthodox, legitimate off-spin BOWLING, for which the whole of cricket should applaud and thank you.

Where too many others have consciously and unconsciously exploited the naïve laws around biomechanics – which Third Man analysed in detail in a series of posts here, here, here and here – you took to the field with no more than a sideways action, a full 180 degree rotation of the shoulders, a high right knee drive, a snap of the wrist and a flick of the fingers (in pictures here) – and you did so with great style, to the delight of the connoisseur and casual spectator, alike.

These straightforward attributes, honed by hours and hours of practice indoors and out, enabled you to impart extraordinary numbers of revolutions on the ball during its wonderful pattern of flight towards the batsman.  It was these revolutions that triggered the Magnus effect and gave you what was once called drift but really ought to be called curve, allied with elements of topspin that brought the ball down sharply to increase the bounce of the ball. Subtle variations of the orientation of the seam allowed an element of chance to dictate how much of that seam and how much leather bit into the turf, foxing many a batsmen with its random effects and giving you the ability to attack both sides of the bat.

A keen cricketing intelligence, deep knowledge, shrewd field positioning and crafty manipulation of the batsman’s psyche made you a dangerous bowler with a lethal strike rate.

Cricket laws and conventions – as presently constituted are deeply unfair to legitimate off-spinners.  Besides discriminating against them by tolerating and advancing the hateful chuckers, the LBW law and the ruling on wides in limited-overs cricket discourage others from emulating your enriching skills.

The left arm ‘finger’ spinner bowls a beautiful delivery that whizzes past the face of the bat into the wicket keepers gloves, disturbs the batsman’s calm and is applauded by everyone.  The off-spinner does the same and is penalized. Obviously, when bowling to left handers the incidence of the injustice is shared by the left-amrer.

Nor can the off-spinner attack three stumps and, most vitally, the off-stump. Where the batsman would otherwise have to consider the danger of being bowled, LBW or caught behind, s/he can ‘play a shot’ and if struck outside the line of the off-stump go freely on, heart beat constant. Right-arm wrist spinners have a similar cause for complaint, but the outside edge of the batsman is always in play. For the off-spinner the batsman can play with half a bat (the inside half) with less fear and greater impunity.

So, BS (Before Swann), legitimate off-spinners were becoming the do-dos of the modern game, people to be consigned to the history books along with lob bowlers.

Off Spinners Before Swann

How Australians, used to the pre 2004/5 era of domination, laughed at the idea that their great batsmen would be troubled in any way by Graeme Swann.  How those laughs evaporated when faced by your immaculate dip, turn, bounce, variety and authority.

It was great to watch and hopefully an inspiring alternative to the chucking role models.

But this mechanical rigour took its toll on the body and surgery has robbed you of force and flexibility.

Bowlers, like itinerant defenceless blacksmiths of old carrying their valuable materials surround themselves in mystery and tales of dark arts to protect their vulnerability to attack – none more so than spinners who without these psychological defences risk humiliation. Robbed of the ‘mystery’ you were powerless.

In this state of impotence you were sent into the field when you should have been put out to grass – as much for your own dignity as for the success of the side.

Yours was yet another incompetent selection for this Ashes Tour.  With all the equipment, all the support, including Mishy’s wonderful advice, how did they miss (and perhaps you obscure) the simple fact that your rotations were down, way down.  There was no Magnus effect, no curve, no dip, no bounce.  Even in club cricket you would have been hoisted high and mighty over the ropes, let alone against Clarke and Watson!

In the long run does it matter?  Yes it does.  No individual need deselect themselves.  That is what selectors are for.  You were let down.  As someone who rescued a dying facet of the game you deserved better.

In return Cricket England should come out unequivocally and campaign vigorously to outlaw the chucking spinners. Send them off to play darts where they belong. Secondly, to lend their weight to a reconsideration of the automatic designation of a legside wide for balls that spin across batsman in one day cricket.

Let it also be hoped that you use your potential as a communicator and campaigner yourself to advance those changes.

Here, an almost full moon shines down – let that be how you are remembered: a silver disk, reflecting light, mysterious and profoundly pleasing to the eye.

With great respect and good wishes for your future,

Third Man

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Oh What a Lovely Tour or Lions Selected by Donkeys

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Up to your waist in ordure,

Up to your chin in balls –

Using the kind of language,

That makes the umpire blush;

Who wouldn’t join the series?

That’s what we all inquire,

Don’t we pity poor ol’ Compton sitting beside his fire.

Chorus

Oh! Oh! Oh! it’s a lovely tour,

Who’d not be a cricketer?

Oh! It’s a shame to take the pay.

As soon as the five minute bell

We feel just as heavy as lead,

So we never get up till the head coach brings

Our Red Bull up for us.

Oh! Oh! Oh! it’s a lovely tour,

What do we want with runs and form

When we’ve got this media storm?

Take guard! Ball turns!

How shall we spend the money we earns?

Oh! Oh! Oh! it’s a lovely tour.

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Above: Joe Root.  Top: Stokes, Bairstow, Anderson,Cook and Swann – Christmas Fancy Dress

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