The Beginning of the Beginning for American Cricket

Feb 27, 2015 by David Mutton

On Tuesday, in the World Cup, the United Arab Emirates lost out in a last-over thriller against Ireland. The previous week they had Zimbabwe on the ropes until Sean Williams rescued them with an unbeaten knock of 76. Whatever happens during the rest of the tournament, the Emirates have established themselves as credible cricketers at the highest level.

In a parallel universe, it would be the USA rather than the UAE impressing the world as doughty underdogs. Both have millions of cricket-crazy immigrants, a television audience that makes sponsors salivate, and enough money to develop a sizeable cricketing infrastructure.

But where the Emirates have grown the game and become one of the strongest associate nations in recent years, American cricket is in terrible shape, largely due to the... Read More

Smaller teams creating a festival of cricket

Feb 24, 2015 by David Mutton

Ten days into the World Cup and - shout it from the rooftops - it’s been really, really good. Perhaps that should not be such a surprise; it is, after all, the sport’s showpiece tournament. But given that three of the past four World Cups were damp squibs, it is a relief that this one is shaping up to be excellent.

We’ve witnessed world-class performances from New Zealand, Australia, and India. We’ve seen comically inept outings from England and Pakistan. We are still missing a close finish but almost every match has had its share of impressive feats, including Brendon McCullum’s alpha-aggressive captaincy, Virat Kohli’s hundred in a cacophonic atmosphere against Pakistan, Chris Gayle’s double-ton, and Tim Southee’s magnificent swing bowling. Lapping all this up have been capacity crowds in... Read More

Batting Like It’s the 1980s: World Cup Reveals Changing in ODI Strategies

Feb 20, 2015 by David Mutton

The World Cup of 1996, nineteen years after it was done and dusted, carries with it a certain nostalgia. The underdog victory, the oddly awful uniforms, and even the bumbling opening ceremony now appear rather quaint.

The main legacy of the tournament was the explosive batting at the top of the order, most notably the Sri Lankan duo of Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana. They were key elements to Sri Lanka’s triumph, ignoring the traditional circumspection that had characterized the start of innings since time immemorial. Instead the pair threw their bats at almost everything. Sometimes it did not come off—both were out cheaply in the final and semi-final—but when it worked they tilted the match to the Sri Lankans, most famously in the remarkable run-chase against England in... Read More

The Miseries of Misbah: Pakistan’s Captain Criticized After Loss to India

Feb 16, 2015 by David Mutton

Pakistan lost to India. The default reaction for many of their fans was to blame the captain, Misbah-ul-Haq. Former pace bowler Shoaib Akhtar led the charge, calling on the skipper to “shed some of his humbleness and calmness” and declaring that the batsman would not dared to have played with such carelessness in the halcyon days of Imran Khan. Such is the life of the Pakistan cricket captain. He could win every match, cure cancer, and bring everlasting peace to the world and his ears would still sting with criticism.

Of course several of Misbah’s predecessors have not covered themselves in glory, most notably the man from whom he inherited the mantle (or poisoned chalice). Salman Butt is still serving a ban for a spot-fixing scheme he cooked up... Read More

What Makes A Good World Cup?

Feb 13, 2015 by David Mutton

The Cricket World Cup starts on Valentines Day and will end, 43 days and 49 matches later, well after spring has sprung. It is perhaps inevitable that a tournament where each match lasts six hours and involves up to 600 deliveries is a marathon and not a sprint. Yet, despite entering its eleventh iteration, nobody has stumbled across the World Cup’s ideal format.

Its size and structure has regularly been rejiggered over the years. The early Cups now appear delightfully innocent and naïve, with everything hastily cobbled together in a style more fitting of a school fete than a global tournament. The inaugural competition in 1975 was all over in a couple of weeks, with two qualifying groups of four leading into semi-finals. It consisted of the then seven... Read More

The Kiwi Who Was An Aussie

Feb 09, 2015 by David Mutton

We know about the stars: Kohli, Dhoni and Amla; Dale, Mitch, and Jimmy all enter the World Cup as known quantities. But which lesser light will shine? My money is on Luke Ronchi, New Zealand’s wicketkeeper and hard-hitting batsman.

Born in New Zealand, Ronchi moved to Australia at the age of seven and enjoys the unique status of having played for both nations. That nobody else has done so before is somewhat surprising. Clarrie Grimmett, Brendon Julian, Matt Sinclair, and Scott Styris were all born on one side of the Tasman Sea but played on the other side of it, yet only Ronchi has represented both.

Ronchi debuted for Western Australia in 2002, at the age of 21, but first came to wider prominence in 2007 when he... Read More

A Cheater Returns

Feb 06, 2015 by David Mutton

Cricket has more than its share of existential crises. Will Test matches survive? What if willow trees succumb to disease? Or if India turns to soccer? The clearest problem facing the game, though, is the cancer of match-fixing and spot-fixing.

It therefore seems surprising, at least superficially, that one of the most infamous practitioners of these corrupt pursuits has been granted an early return to the game. During the summer of 2010 the Pakistani fast bowler Mohammad Amir deliberately bowled two no-balls in a Test at Lords. He - along with his captain, Salman Butt, and fellow bowler, Mohammad Asif - was caught out when a British tabloid taped a rogue agent bragging about Amir’s shenanigans before the match.

Amir was banned from the game for five years... Read More

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