Test Match Sofa: Why The Establishment Fear Change

“The thought of having to listen to the predators who purport to be producing commentaries from sofa or armchair without paying a penny to the England and Wales Cricket Board for the rights, is to ghastly to contemplate. The sooner they are nailed and swept offline, the better.”
So writes Christopher Martin-Jenkins MBE in The Times. One can only presume that the author also slammed his fist on the table after finishing each sentence.
As the author attempts to demonstrate, it is all too simple to spew out poetic, confident words with no factual basis, and a large proportion of the masses will often nod along in sheep-like agreement. However, thanks to the proliferation of social media, we live in a generation where reasoned thought and objective analysis are starting to usurp individuals who might be in a position to influence popular opinion. Clearly, it is a scary prospect for some.
Through years of deciphering passive-aggressive, agenda-driven journalists, we understand that Martin-Jenkins is referring to Test Match Sofa, the online alternative to traditional cricket commentary. In the past couple of days, both The Guardian and BBC have also made references to The Sofa in terms of being a potential fly in the Test Match Special gazpacho.
Interestingly, Martin-Jenkins chooses to make veiled, sneering attacks on the nature of the online station’s furniture – South London’s woodworking and upholstery communities are both outraged – but why does Martin-Jenkins fail to even gloss over the reality of the situation? Surely CMJ’s gripe with The Sofa can’t be that they are building up a formidable cache of swivel-chairs, bean bags, and bar stools? (I even heard they might be bringing in a patio chair, heaven forbid).
The only other explanation in Martin-Jenkins’ bitterness towards Test Match Sofa might have something to do with his pointing out that they don’t pay anything to the ECB. Legally, Test Match Sofa are not obliged to pay a single penny, cent or rupee to any governing body. Practically, it would be akin to Test Match Special forking out an extra £50,000 to the BCCI – and we all know how much that can grate.
In response to the ill-feeling emanating from the BBC, we spoke to Test Match Sofa’s founder,Dan Norcross.
“Establishment detractors either paint us as an unruly mob akin to Visigoths sacking Rome or Clockwork Orange’s Droogs. Or else we’re depicted as parasites, taking over the pure, blessed host from within,” he said.

Test Match Sofa’s commentators are infamous for their lust for ultraviolence on the forsaken, riotous streets of Marylebone.

“‘Predator’ however, is much more flattering. And anyone who has seen the raw power of a gaggle of middle-aged balding fat men commentating on cricket in front of the telly in a windowless box, at all hours of the day and night to avoid engaging in the futility of their dwindling lives, will attest to that.”
So, CMJ doesn’t like Test Match Sofa, but we’re still none-the-wiser as to why. It is uncertain as to whether he has tuned in to The Sofa to listen to even a single session of a Test match, but had he done so, his ears would have no doubt pricked up. To the outsider, it’s a jovial atmosphere where beers are swigged and esoteric jingles (these are often genius, see: Pawan Negi) are the norm. Moreover, there seems to be a grave misconception to an outsider such as CMJ, whereby an outfit such as The Sofa is ‘amateur’ (i.e. no formal experience in a press box, no journalism degrees from Cambridge, no nepotistic appointments as a county press officer).
Shockingly, it is almost as if those on The Sofa are simply driven by a pure, authentic love for the game of cricket. Furthermore, the ‘amateur’ term often used to label The Sofa is a huge misnomer – there are several commentators on their roster who would certainly not be out of place in professional commentary. In fact, they might even be able to teach the likes of CMJ, Jonathan Agnew, and their fellow cake-scoffing untouchables a thing or two.

test match sofa

“The variety of furniture on show demonstrates a clear and present danger to the core values of Test Match Special.”

Truly, this is where the heart of the matter lies. This is not some half-hearted resistance rooted in a misplaced sense of “in-my-day” nostalgia. This is the distilled arrogance and ignorance of an establishment that fears change; the very real fear that a younger, French-speaking, more intelligent, more handsome, IPL-literate version of your current self might be wooing your wife of many years, and that you are powerless to stop him.
What Martin-Jenkins, Giles Clarke and Test Match Special need to understand is that nobody owns cricket. Moreover, scoffing at what they perceive to be lesser mortals only serves to reinforce the view that English cricket’s establishment is out-of-touch. For now, both versions of TMS are perfectly primed to coexist – until perhaps, one fails to adapt to a changing cricketing landscape.
by the editor

The Four Types of Cricket Commentator

THANKS to the inception of the radio, hundreds of thousands of people, mainly our grandfathers and fathers, were able to stay aboard the latest news and more importantly, cricket match updates during poorer times when the genius of television, on-field graphics and Spider Cam had yet to be invented. While the technology of watching our beloved game has been transformed, one important aspect remains the same: commentators.

The very same ilk that once was relied upon for passionate ball-to-ball updates on transistor radios remains just as influential today and we still rely upon them for expert cricket opinion when our own supplies of armchair critics run out(!).

Here at Alternative Cricket, we take a look at the different types of commentators that exist in the gentleman’s game…

The Textbook Commentator

No, by this we don’t mean a perfect commentator. By this we mean a commentator who presents commentary like he’s reading it out of a textbook. Giving an indication at how good he might have been in school at memorising multiplication tables, this breed of commentator has a tendency to repeat the same phrases and words over and over and over and over again.

We tend to notice that these very same commentators also seem to have little or no sense of humour. This is evidenced when this species is tasked with interviewing the men playing on the field, and crickets can be heard in the background because the players don’t really get the commentator’s not-so-wise wisecrack. Awkward silences are rare, however, because these commentators enjoy the sound of their own respective voices too much.

Hallmark of this breed include the veteran Sunil Gavaskar on a good day and just what the doctor ordered, Ravi Shastri.

The One That Had One Too Many Coffees Last Night

This category was created specifically for Danny Morrison and Navjot Singh Sidhu. While Sidhu is known to take a back seat and sometimes cut the coffee some slack, Danny Morrison seems to have coffee running in his veins. Ever seen those crazy eyes on the field? AYB-SOO-LOOT-LY IN-SAANE!

This species of Danny Morrison – should future commentators want to emulate this style – is especially beneficial because they bring energy to the field, which can prove quite useful when trying to liven up a dour innings from the likes of Ganguly and Trott.

“Danny, is that a microphone in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?”

The key here is that one Danny Morrison is more than enough – mixing a Morrison with a Sidhu in the same stint could well precipitate in a spate of suicides and ear-gouges across the cricket-watching world.

The ‘Entertainment In Himself’ Commentator

This is, by far, the best category a commentator can belong to. While some belong here for the virtue of being so bad, they’re good (ie Ravi Shastri) there are still others like Bumble and Co. who make the most incredible gaffes and partake in the most hilarious on-field hysterics (watch video below) and yet others like Rameez Raja who get all sorts of names and facts wrong.

Who wants to watch the cricket when you have people like these at the other end of the microphone?!

The One That Hits the Sweet Spot

These special men are the ones that in my opinion, get it just right, time and again. With the right mix of humour, wit, clarity of expression, good nature and insightful opinions, the likes of Pommie Mbangwa, Alistair Campbell, HD Ackerman and Harsha Bhogle bring the game the perfect combination of gentlemanliness, wit, and sound judgement. Their evident on-screen camaraderie makes for a welcoming and friendly atmosphere – just how it should be.

More often than not, these men also have a booming laugh that makes you think cricket is the most hilarious game ever. With the likes of Ravi Jadeja getting $2 million to play the IPL, I wouldn’t disagree.

Never Forget.

ULTIMATELY, the game would not be half of what it is were it not for these men (and women like Donna Symonds). With only our armchair critics to give us opinions about whether Sachin should retire or not, we’d be lacking in much of the zeal, energy and middle of the road opinions these formidable characters bring to our television sets.

Who are your favourite commentators? Post in the comments below!

written by Abeer Yusuf

The Champions Trophy #GetLostXI : They Came, They Saw, They Flopped

It’s bigger, it’s badder, it’s here.

After much consideration, the #GetLostXI selectors have spoken.

Once again, thousands of you have given your opinions on who should be in the worst team of the Champions Trophy via Twitter and Facebook, and so it is only fitting that we give you the worst team of the tournament whose name isn’t ‘Australia’.

Selectors’ Notes:

1. THOUGH neither player featured in the Champions Trophy, both Jade Dernbach and Richard Levi were amongst the most popular submissions to the panel.

Jade Dernbach: Gone, but his awfulness is not forgotten.

Jade Dernbach: Gone, but his awfulness is not forgotten.

A consensus was reached in that though both players would have undoubtedly endured a terrible Champions Trophy, including them in our #GetLostXI would have meant opening a Sreesanth-sized can of worms.

2. DEW to the short nature of the tournament, ‘one-shit wonders’ have been considered for particularly awful performances. Unlike previous editions, there is no requirement for minimum matches played.

page separator

1. David Warner [AUSTRALIA]

One game. 9 runs off 21 balls.

On the night of Australia’s opening game defeat to England – perhaps the first of many in the next twelve months – David Warner went on a drunken rampage and punched a helpless child.

Well, that’s how it would have been spun had Joe Root been a member of public, and had David Warner been Jonathan Trott.
david-warner

Warner’s indiscretion at a Walkabout in Birmingham was bizarre, though truth be told, it was about as surprising as a South African semi-final exit. Though Warner struck a mere glancing blow to a young man who passing midwives still instinctively check for an umbilical cord, the media were keen to emphasize how The Incident was a symptom of deep fractures within the Australian side.

Time will tell whether The Incident was a one-off or evidence of a deeper malaise (details will no doubt emerge in an English cricketer’s autobiography soon enough). What we know is that just like Warner’s solitary innings, his tournament ended as soon as he threw that jab.

The severity of The Incident in Australia’s eyes was underlined by Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland, who described Warner’s act as “despicable”, a term usually reserved for war criminals, those who imprison others in dungeons, and N Srinivasan.

page separator

2. Imran Farhat [Pakistan]

 4 runs in 2 innings.

How many chances does Imran Farhat need to prove himself unworthy of being an international cricketer?

Farhat is truly Pakistan cricket’s enduring mosquito: he simply can’t be swatted. When his father-in-law resigned as chief selector in 2011, it was largely hoped that Farhat would too fade into an obscurity more becoming of his mediocrity.

Follow

George Dobell

@GeorgeDobell1

If Imran Farhat fails just 1 thousand more times, his place will have to be in real jeopardy…

  • 5252 Retweets

  • 55 likes

However, the same was hoped when Farhat joined the ill-fated Lahore Badshahs in the ICL, and while there was some respite, it only proved to be painfully temporary. Effectively, Pakistan fans had been in a Farhat-induced remission.

Imran Farhat, after another exhausting two-run innings.

Imran Farhat, after another exhausting two-run innings.

In other news, 2013 is the year where Imran Farhat is no doubt celebrating his tenth anniversary. That is, of course, the tenth anniversary of his first – and only – ODI century.

page separator

3. Luke Ronchi [NEW ZEALAND]

23 runs in 3 innings @ 7.66.

Ronchi has endured a horror start – and most probably, finish – to his New Zealand career. Given a chance to open at the top of the order, Ronchi looked the most helpless batsman in the tournament by a comfortable distance, uncertain whether to defend, attack, or move back to Australia.

Follow

Alt Cricket @AltCricket

Luke Ronchi moved country & waited 4yrs to play for NZ. Might have had more luck moving country & waiting 4yrs for a shag with Beyoncé.

  • 1111 Retweets

  • 88 likes

His performance against England’s seamers made Johnson Charles’s drunk samurai act against Dale Steyn look Amlaesque, but on the plus side, Ronchi is now the first player in history to represent three international teams: Australia, New Zealand, and now, the Get Lost XI.

Australia's cricketers struggle to come to terms with Luke Ronchi's announcement that he's moving to New Zealand.

Australia’s cricketers struggle to come to terms with Luke Ronchi’s announcement that he’s moving to New Zealand.

page separator

4. Kusal Perera [SRI LANKA]

14 runs in 4 innings @ 3.5

Much had been expected of the man who commentators compare to Sanath Jayasuriya as often as Perera nicks behind.

Despite an incredible start to the year in Sri Lanka’s domestic circuit, the harsh realities of international cricket became all too clear for Perera, as he fished tentatively outside off-stump in a tournament-long homage to fellow stalwart Phil Hughes.

Wearing a shirt three sizes too big for him, we present to you, Kusal Perera.

Wearing a shirt three sizes too big for him, we present to you, Kusal Perera.

Frankly, throughout the tournament the sun was seen more often than a convincing stroke from Kusal, but don’t discount him just yet – once he learns to buckle down and weather the early storm on tough pitches, Perera could easily become a fixture in this Sri Lankan side.

page separator

5. Phil Hughes [AUSTRALIA]

43 runs in 3 innings @ 14.3

“Phil Hughes did far better than I expected,” remarked one esteemed member of the secret Get Lost XI panel.

And so, it is a testament to how far Hughes has fallen in our eyes that even a horrific, tortuous series of innings can be classed as “significant progress.”

"No. No he is not."

“No. No he is not.”

Hughes’ innings were typical of what we’ve come to expect from a man with a technique that lends itself to playing away from his body with an angled bat – two ingredients that typically don’t combine to form a prototype international no. 3.

Thus, it was no surprise that Phil Hughes’ edges saw more action than most street-walkers see in a lifetime, and his numbers only serve to back up his abortion of a tournament.

page separator

By this point, you probably need a strategic tea break. Listen to an expert’s take on fast bowling in India while you’re dunking your biscuit in a cup of chai… Stream: YouTube.com/AltCricket

Download: SoundCloud.com/RadioCricket

iTunes: search ‘Radio Cricket’

TuneIn Radio: http://j.mp/tuneRC

page separator

6. Shoaib Malik [PAKISTAN]

25 runs in 3 innings @ 8.33, 1 wicket @ 27.

Malik epitomizes the naive, wide-eyed, battered hopelessness that Pakistan cricket so often tragically engenders in its cricketers.

A former captain, over the years Malik has been treated by Pakistan’s selectors worse than Inzamam treats his first-course salads: dismissively and disdainfully.

shoaib malik pakistan cricketer

To put this into context, Malik has batted in all positions from number 1 to 10. His most successful positions are between 1 and 4, where he has scored all his 7 ODI centuries, and averages an impressive 40. However, he has only batted in the top-order 26% of the time, giving the impression that despite the signals, Pakistan’s coaching set-up bizarrely seem to view Malik as a utility player, there to make up the numbers.

Follow

Osman Samiuddin

@OsmanSamiuddin

Hafeez, Farhat, Malik, Shafiq, Kakmal = 25 runs. Between them. Over two games. #ct13

  • 117117 Retweets

  • 1515 likes

Still, even though we can sympathize with the less exciting Shoaib’s lashings at the hands of Pakistan’s ingrate selectors, we sadly cannot afford him the carte blanche of utter shit that he seems to have nevertheless abused – despite being thrown about the order like a Munchausen’s baby, Malik’s top ODI score in the last four years is a paltry 43.page separator7. Kamran Akmal [PAKISTAN] – Captain, #GetLostXI

23 runs in 3 innings @ 7.7

“In life, only three things are certain: death, taxes, and Kamran Akmal dropping catches.” It wouldn’t be a #GetLostXI without an Akmal, would it? It just wouldn’t feel right.

kamran akmal millionaire

pic thanks to @AlternateRowan

The Champions Trophy was a homecoming of sorts for Kamran Akmal, in the way that a robber returns to the scene of his crime.  This was the first time that Akmal had set foot in England after Pakistan’s infamous 2010 tour, after which the presiding judge in the spot-fixing case determined that both his and Wahab Riaz’s roles were ”deeply, deeply suspicious” but unable to prove their involvement in fixing “beyond reasonable doubt.”

Back to shadiness on the field, Akmal drops catches like Dhoni cashes cheques, and though his keeping wasn’t abysmal in this Champions Trophy, his batting more than made up for it.

Pakistan fans will no doubt be distraught to hear Akmal’s post-tournament thoughts, in which he asserted: “I will play for at least another 4-5 years,” which, as sounds go, is on a par with hearing David Gower say, “It’s raining heavily, so Nick Knight will be giving us his thoughts for the next few hours.”

Akmal was voted in as Get Lost XI captain after receiving 48% of the vote, with David Warner coming a close second. Bad news for Kamran, but at least he’s for once involved in a result which nobody would ever question.  page separator8. Denesh Ramdin [WEST INDIES]

11* in one innings, one dropped catch

We didn’t think it possible for a wicket-keeper to look guiltier than Kamran Akmal. Then, this happened:

As a result, Ramdin was charged with a Level Two offence by the ICC, fined 100% of his match fee, and banned for two ODIs. In a deliciously ironic twist, this charge was announced a year to the day after Ramdin’s infamous ‘Yea Viv, Talk Nah’ brouhaha at Edgbaston.

Most people somehow still seem to be siding with Sir Viv Richards on that one, and the next time Denesh holds up a sign it should just probably just say “Sorry”.page separator9. James Franklin [NEW ZEALAND]

12 runs @ 6, zero wickets.

“James Franklin embodies the Get Lost XI ethos: jack of all trades, master of none,” noted the selection panel. With an ever-present expression that wouldn’t look out of place on a serial killer, Franklin has typefied mediocrity for as long as we can remember, and as such deserves be rewarded for sheer consistency and longevity.

Follow

MIA MATT @TheGreatMWall

@AltCricket Does Franklin qualify as an all rounder because he is equally as bad fielding, bowling and batting?

  • 22 Retweets

  • 11 like

After 12 years on the international circuit, Franklin averages an impressive 24 with the bat and 41 with the ball – stats that any English bits and pieces all-rounder from the 1990s would be proud of.

Be honest: if an international cricketer went on a murder spree, you wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be James Franklin.

Be honest: if an international cricketer went on a murder spree, you wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be James Franklin.

page separator

10. Mitchell Marsh [AUSTRALIA]

31 runs @ 10.3, zero wickets in 3 games.

When it was announced that an Australian had thrown a punch in a bar, it was mildly surprising that the man in question was not Mitchell Marsh.

That is the only positive that Marsh can take out of his Champions Trophy.

Follow

Pavilion Opinions @pavilionopinion

Dale Steyn says he’s only got himself to blame for his side strain. “I shouldn’t have watched Australia bat yesterday,” he admits.

  • 8080 Retweets

  • 1616 likes

mitchell marsh 2

Australia’s great white hope was a great big flop in England, and surely needs a few more years maturing on the domestic circuit before another chance at the top level. Failing that, there will always be an IPL franchise willing to spend big bucks on an Australian all-rounder with a ‘reputation’…

page separator

11. Rory Kleinveldt [South Africa]

47 runs @ 23.5, 1 wickets @ 91

Kleinveldt came into the South African team on two occasions, both when Dale Steyn was injured. A bit similar to having your Rolls Royce break down, and your insurance company sending you over a banged-up Nissan Micra as cover.

Despite a brave innings of 41 against England, Kleinveldt’s bowling throughout the tournament was as generous as his midriff, but with far less movement.

To be fair, Dale Steyn posted a gruesome photo of Rory’s bloodied feet after the England game showing how he’d bravely bowled through the pain barrier.

pic thanks to Dale Steyn.

pic thanks to Dale Steyn.

When he’d already given so many batsmen so much pleasure, however, there’s no way we couldn’t have had Kleinveldt leading the attack for the Get Lost XI.

IPL Auction 2014: The Alternative Preview

It’s that wonderful, time-honored tradition once again: teams spend millions of dollars, pounds and rupees on a range of stars, second-tier cricketers, and Ishant Sharma.

Our background strategy (or, scroll down to skip to the good bit!)

There are plenty of world-class overseas T20 players to go around: whether you get a Brad Hodge, a David Hussey or a Mike Hussey is largely inconsequential, and unlikely to be a deciding factor between first and last place. History has shown us that over the years, the most successful teams are those with the best local, homegrown talent.

 

“This is what you get for giving me LBW.”

In 2008, Rajasthan were the first team to realize that a Moneyball strategy would work best. They went for undervalued players and coached them according to their own customs. Over the years, Chennai have proved the most successful team, due to a base of Indian players: MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay, S Badrinath, Ravi Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin have each proved to be outstanding in their own way. Add four overseas players, and you already have most bases covered.

All teams (except for Chennai and Delhi) have held ‘boot camps’ for uncapped Indians. Focus has been on younger players, on the fringe of their Ranji Trophy sides. There are a few hundred players to choose from, and we should find that the sides that have been most thorough in their scouting of young Indians should turn out to be the most successful over the next few years.

Our Auction Strategy

The top tier of international players will mostly be sold with ease, so we’ll avoid addressing them, as they’re already likely to be more popular than a brown envelope in an IPL dressing room. We’re talking about the likes of George Bailey, Faf du Plessis, Brendon McCullum and David Warner. In addition, the likes of Corey Anderson and Glenn Maxwell, neither of whom are in the top tier of 200 lakhs, are bound to attract ceiling prices.

 

George Bailey, cute as a Suresh Raina dimple.

They’re each bound to go for plenty, so let’s stick to the ‘Alternative’ players who fit in with our strategy of finding cricketers who might be undervalued for several reasons: lack of media exposure, lack of experience, and lack of ‘glamour’ in comparison to the big names.

So, without further ado…

The 16 Players That Teams Have To Buy This IPL Auction, Plus Kevin Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen

Hailed as the star of this year’s auction, Pietersen has wanted an IPL window since the concept was conceived. Now, he has one, but not under the circumstances he desired.

Teams want him not just for his runs, but for ‘KP, the brand.’ He dotes on sponsors, and schmoozes businessmen with consummate ease.

 

Pietersen’s form has not been world-class for a while now, and one has to question whether his runs will be worth any potential hassle and drama. Don’t believe us? Compare Pietersen to the likes of George Bailey, who has been in world-class ODI and T20 form in the last year, and is a far superior fielder.

Plus, if Bailey was found to be texting the opposition, it would probably be along the lines of: “Sorry for forgetting to shake your hand after the game, I became preoccupied whilst feeding some local orphans.”

All considered, Pietersen has been hyped up to the extent where there is likely to be a bidding war, and he’ll go home a rich man. But he is not where the value lies, and overspending on one player early on will leave you hamstrung later, where the true bargains will be picked up.

page separator

1. Cameron White

Cameron White is the best captain in world cricket. Tactically astute, he knows cricket like Samit Patel knows samosas.

Despite having been in scratchy form during the last IPL, White has since smashed it to all parts in the Friends Life T20, where he scored three successive fifties in the knockout stages to lead Northamptonshire to victory, in the Ryobi Cup (third leading run-scorer), Sheffield Shield (second) and the recent bilateral T20 series against England, where he scored two fifties and 41 in the three games.

 

White is at his best when hitting straight, and he has been in prime six-hitting form over the past few months through mid-off, a sign that he’s at his peak. He’s in prime form right now, and White would be my ultimate Moneyball pick: a player unlikely to go for the same $1.2m he was sold to the Deccan Chargers – Peace Be Upon Them – a few years ago, and a seasoned pro who you can build your side around.

With Rajasthan having lost the retired Rahul Dravid as captain and a calming influence on the side, White would be a like-for-like replacement as opener, and would forge a dream team with the forward-thinking Paddy Upton.

page separator

2. Quinton de Kock

We have been huge fans of the precocious de Kock for years, and he enjoyed an outstanding end to 2013, scoring three consecutive ODI centuries, as well as performing brilliantly for the Lions as their wicket-keeping opening batsman.

He will be a permanent fixture in all three formats for South Africa for the next decade, and teams should consider going big on de Kock.

page separator

3. Mitchell Starc

Look, I know we promised no top-tier players, but despite having a base price of 200 lakh, Mitchell Starc could still be an undervalued prospect. We have been constantly preaching the value of ‘BOWLERS OVER BATSMEN’ in IPL cricket, because when it comes to the crunch, most IPL batsmen can hit local Indian bowlers out of the park.

But when it comes to the feared pacers, things change. In the past few years we’ve seen Malinga, Steyn, Morkel and Mitchell Johnson wreak havoc on both local and international batsmen. And that’s why Mitchell Starc will prove to be such a valuable asset.

 

You want fast bowlers who can KILL an innings at both the start and the death. Starc’s inswinging toe-crushers are still an underrated prospect in world cricket, and if he stays fit, he should be one of the top wicket-takers this season.

page separator

4. Chris Lynn

We rate Chris Lynn, very highly. He isn’t just a big-hitter, but he is an iceman, a young man with the temperament of someone who has been there, done that, and got the overpriced T-shirt.

We’ve seen him play several ‘whipsaw’ knocks, where he is faced with recovering an abject top-order collapse, yet still finds a way to smash his team out of trouble. This is a rare skill, that few batsmen possess. Even better, Lynn is already one of the best fielders around, and could well find himself in line for a World Cup berth next year.

 

Ignore him at your peril, because Chris Lynn is one of the best young talents the game has to offer.

page separator

5. Shakib al Hasan

If Shakib-al-Hasan were Indian, how much would he go for in this auction? He has flirted with the no. 1 rankings in both ODI and T20Is, and is essentially a parallel version of Ravi Jadeja.

With seven international hundreds, it’s clear that Shakib can bat, but an IPL record of just 120 runs in 15 matches with Kolkata Knight Riders over the past two seasons shows that he hasn’t quite cracked the art of T20 batting just yet. However, Shakib certainly has the ability to score big runs, and quickly. He’s worth a punt as a left-arm spinner alone, and in the hope that his batting could eventually become match-winning.

page separator

6. Jade Dernbach

This Englishman has proven himself to be a specialist T20 bowler, one whom batsmen around the world fear at the death. His economy rate of 10.4 doesn’t tell the whole story, for with a wide array of slower balls, full tosses and — ha, we had you going there for a second!

 

page separator

7. Azhar Mahmood

Azhar Mahmood should still be playing international cricket for Pakistan. An opening bowler who can bat at three, Mahmood’s experience as a specialist T20 player means that he is another Moneyball pick.

 

page separator

8. Mitchell McClenaghan

2013 was the year of Mitch ‘The Model’ McClenaghan, nicknamed so because of his former occupation. He also owns a food company specializing in ‘paleo’ food, such as chia seeds, biltong, and protein powder. Yummy.

 

McClenaghan’s occasional tendency to be erratic means that he might not yet be a first-choice pacer in an IPL side, but his ODI record (48 wickets in 22 games) is exceptional, and demands respect.

page separator

9. Tim Southee

Is Tim Southee the world’s most underrated cricketer?

He has now been around the international circuit for six years, and is currently at a career-high Test ranking. Southee has the ability to land yorkers, as well as the ability to bat as a six-smashing pinch-hitter. Teams are unlikely to chase after him, as he never seems to have had a trademark performance that has stuck in our minds. Instead, he’s a reliable – and improving – team player with his best years ahead of him.

 

page separator

10. Thisara Perera

Go big on Perera. He is a triple threat, with the ability to take stunning catches in the field and junk wickets with the ball, as well as being able to hit sixes from his first delivery. He is a rare talent, and one who has been under-the-radar for a few months due to perceived form issues.

 

In reality, when it comes to T20, there are few players more ideal for an IPL side than Perera. Teams might go for his Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews, but don’t be fooled: Perera is a T20 match-winners, and Mathews has flattered to deceive for years.

page separator

11. John Hastings

Standing at 6’6″, Hastings is coming off the back of an excellent Big Bash League, where he finished with an economy rate of 6.15, picking up 13 wickets in the process. He is part of a clutch of Australian bowlers who have similar claims, characteristics, and statistics, but I’m plumping for Hastings over the likes of Bird, Hazlewood, Laughling and Hilfenhaus.

 

This is partly due to how much we’ve seen IPL batsmen struggle at the first hint of steep bounce and movement. Granted, not every game will be played on a greentop, but throughout the season we will come across at least a handful of pitches that are juiced up (Dharamsala comes to mind). More pertinently, if IPL matches are relocated to either Sri Lanka (he had an outstanding stint in the SLPL) or South Africa, Hastings will be in his element. Moreover, ‘The Duke’ is worth taking a punt on as a back-up pacer who will be reliable when conditions are in his favour.

page separator

12. Azharullah

“Who is Azharullah?”, I hear you ask.

Well, the 30 year old moved from Pakistan to England, and played his debut season for Northamptonshire in last year’s FLT20. He finished leading wicket-taker with 27 wickets from 12 games, and though he hasn’t played any cricket for a while, his ability to turn matches with his sharp yorkers means that Azharullah could prove to be a cheap buy as a back-up bowler.

 

page separator

12+1. Ben Dunk

395 runs at 43.9, at a strike-rate of 146.

These are Ben Dunk’s ridicustats from this year’s Big Bash League, where he opened the innings for Hobart Hurricanes, taking them to the final. The 26 year old is usually a wicket-keeper, but Tim Paine held the gloves for Hobart this season, so it remains to be seen whether Dunk is in a rare purple patch, or whether he has found his true calling. Either way, Dunk has certainly shown us enough over the last couple of months to warrant a punt.

 

page separator

14. Kane Richardson

Purchased by Pune Warriors last year for $700,000, Richardson – better known as ‘Kane Williamson’ to slippery-tongued commentators – was one of the stranger stories of last year’s IPL. He played just three matches towards the end of the season, and wasn’t given a run in the side despite a) being bought for $700k and b) Pune desperately needing a fast bowler.

 

Richardson is still raw, aged 23, and has had a distinctly average domestic season. Still, his rare talent to swing the ball into the right-hander means that with a little honing, Richardson/Williamson could come into his own over the next few years. If available at a reasonable price, teams should look long-term with Kane Richardson, given that they have the option of renewing contracts after this season.

page separator

15. Ryan McLaren

Along with Tim Southee, McLaren is one of the world’s more underrated cricketers. Having toiled in the shadow of Steyn, Philander, Morkel (both of them!) and even Tsotsobe, Kleinveldt et al, McLaren came into his own in 2013, proving his worth as both a death bowler and a lower-order hitter for South Africa.

A journeyman all-rounder, not a ‘big name’, in form and capable of winning matches? McLaren is likely to be underbid, and at under $500,000 (old habits, sorry), he’d prove to be a Moneyball buy.

 

page separator

16. Beuran Hendricks

28 wickets in 11 games in the recent Ram Slam T20 confirmed Hendricks as one to watch – the next best was Kyle Abbott with 16. A left-armer with pace to boot, his accuracy and ability to nip the ball all over the place mean that this 23-year old has an extremely promising future. Don’t be surprised to see him break into the South African side within the next year.

 

 

page separator

 

Liked this? You’ll love SoundCloud’s most popular cricket podcast, Radio Cricket!

Listen to our latest episode, where we talk about Kevin Pietersen’s sacking, the ICC’s takeover, and India’s struggles in New Zealand…

Get Radio Cricket on iTunes!

Confessions of an IPL Cheerleader

Our secret IPL Girl will be blogging exclusively for AlternativeCricket.com for the duration of the tournament. In her first blog, she gives an insight into what it’s like to be cheering in front of thousands in the searing heat, in the knowledge that Shane Warne is probably hiding in the bushes…
AS a young South African girl, I have never had the opportunity to travel abroad. All I have ever come to know are crazy Zimbo’s and chilled out Mozambicans. So when the chance to tour India during the IPL came about, I jumped at the opportunity.

Get paid to be in a foreign country, doing what I love? Hells yes!
Two months off to explore a different culture? For sure!
Dancing experience? Tick!

Although, not quite the dancing I was used to…my job description? A professional cheerleader!

The auditions and rehearsals were somewhat interesting, a challenge, to say the least. My dancing style changed from classical and poised, to bust-popping and booty-shaking!
Surely there’s room for these in the game?

The ICC Twenty20 CWC in SA 2007 was the first international cricket event to ever have cheerleaders. Cheerleading originated in the USA for sporting events such as NFL and basketball, to encourage audience participation and support. It is a sport of its own, consisting of stunts, jumps, pyramids, cheers and dancing. Although, we only
concentrate on the dancing side of things, mainly to avoid broken collar bones, concussions and ultimately paralysis!
Vulgarity
During IPL 2008, cheerleading was introduced to add some glamour to the game. These girls were the USA Red Sox and they kicked up quite the scandal for conservative Indian crowds. Such a thing and type of dress code had never been seen before at the games. The girls were said to be vulgar and obscene, and were fined by Mumbai police for violating entertainment licenses. The girls dealt with jeering and mocking comments from the crowd and the main reaction was that cheerleading was making a mockery of the game.
But what defines vulgarity ?

The indignation was rather misplaced, as Mumbai city is home to the thriving industry of Bollywood films, where dance sequences featuring women in skimpy dresses are a matter of routine. In India, womanhood is respected, and women keep their Indian values intact. So you can imagine the amount of dropped jaws when these blonde bimbos began breaking it down in front of thousands of men, women and children, wearing thigh-high boots and a belt for a skirt!

The Women: Livid, disgraced and maybe secretly, a tad jealous too.
The Men: Shockingly fascinated and maybe secretly a tad excited!
My thoughts: Well, I am not Indian but it’s 2011, get over it! This is cutting edge stuff, learn to embrace it. The media will always ridicule anything in the slightest bit naughty, but hey, we don’t design the outfits, our Indian designers and sponsors do, so why such a problem?

I have now cheered at three matches for my team Mumbai Indians, and they have been defeated just once. To tell you the truth, I believe it’s partly because of our dancing – the crowd have a huge love for the sport, they go absolutely wild, and when we step up on that podium, the men literally lose their freaking minds! The cricketers catch on too with the positive vibes, if you know what I mean!

I am proud and happy to be associated with the event as a whole, whilst shaking my ass!

So, does cheerleading really blunt cricket? I think not.
After all, it is ‘the gentleman’s game!’

 

Knives Out In USA’s Facebook Fight Club

NEW YORK – The USA Cricket Association has plunged itself into a public relations crisis that has brought to light an astounding level of incompetence by its executive secretary, Kenywyn Williams.

1,500 posts. 16 references to selling knives. 7 references to iPads. 8 references to Sachin Tendulkar. 30 references to the NYPD.

In what has fast become an era of ‘think before you tweet’, Williams has managed to indiscriminately embarrass the USACA in every way imaginable, after a prolonged public meltdown on their official Facebook page.

The tragicomic, epic Facebook comment thread – now standing at around 1,500 posts over four days – began as a typical effort to discredit a piece from USA cricket’s foremost writers, Peter Della Penna (aka Keyser Soze).

Perhaps we are accustomed to the anodyne and uncontroversial posts from the ECB, BCCI et al, but at the very least, the opening post from Williams was most certainly ill-advised to the outside observer – why antagonize and belittle a man with whom you are supposed to be building bridges?

The offending article from Della Penna – if that is his real name – seemed relatively run-of-the-mill. It detailed facts which he no doubt went through a lot of effort to obtain and verify, highlighting the continuing sorry state of affairs at USACA. An addendum may well be required soon.

After some innocuous comments from innocent bystanders, what ensued must be counted as some of the finest hole-digging since the Battle of the Somme.

Provoked only by logical, reasoned posts by a handful of fans of USA cricket, it soon became clear that any comments defending Della Penna were like waving a red rag to a bull. A bull who would alternate between mindlessly charging said rag, and covering itself in its own excrement.

As well as the sheer intensity of idiocy spouted by Williams, it is worth noting that he devised a bizarre, Fight Club-esque alter ego called ‘Rozay Chardonnay’ (yes, seriously).

‘Rozay’ (no, seriously) committed the cardinal Facebook sin of liking her own post, time and time again. Her grammar, spelling, content themes and sentence phrasing was identical to Williams in his role as USACA administrator.

I am sure it is just some bizarre coincidence, and will remained an unanswered question. Much like how on earth can an ostensibly incompetent, offensive buffoon can have any say whatsoever in guiding sport in a country of 330 million.

Then again, we’ve seen Ijaz Butt, Gerald Majola and Peter Chingoka in higher positions in more prominent countries, so perhaps we should be thankful that someone with Williams’ lowly aptitude for administration can only do so much harm.

“America has standards”

Asking ESPN to drop their USA cricket correspondents was one of the least smart moves in what  is proving to be a clusterfuck for the USACA.

At this point, the comments thread evolved into something wonderful, with a succession of writers taking turns to lyrically bitchslap Kenwyn Williams…

Incredulous talk of ‘silencing informants’ could have been straight out of a scene of a low-budget version of Scarface…

In between all this, there was some genuine bile being spouted, and many jumped to the defence of USYCA’s Jamie Harrison, who has done much to further the sport among America’s youth.

Former New Zealand cricketer Iain O’Brien had been posting on the thread for days before USACA even noticed him, and even then…

Michael Wagener aka New Zealand’s premier cricket statistician had the final word…

Ultimately, a sorry state of affairs for cricket in America. Evidently, there are some people who must be immediately removed from their positions. Perhaps most tragically, it seems that there is a groundswell of genuine support within the USA – ultimately, these experienced and passionate supporters of cricket must be the ones making decisions at the top, as it is clear that the men in cheap suits are well out of touch with reality.

UPDATE: I am still waiting for Rozay to accept my friend request on Facebook.

The Secret Diary of an IPL Cheerleader – part II

BEFORE departing for India, I had friends and family passing on travel tips, advice and personal experiences. Some of it good, and some of it worrying. As this was my first trip overseas, I needed to take it all in. But with any challenge in life, I like to have an open heart, clear head and positive attitude. This was not just a holiday abroad, this was a job and nobody could prepare me to become a cricket-loving, cheerleading, IPL girl but me!

Already three weeks have passed and in that time I cannot believe how a group of normal girls can become instant celebrities! Each team of ten girls has a manager and we all receive strict instructions from them about safety, behaviour and reputation, as it seems girls from previous years did not heed the rule book!

For example, if people ask why we are in their country, we have to say that we are friends on holiday. The majority of Indians are cricket crazy, glued to their televisions, reading the papers, supporting their teams. So as the tournament kicked off, it became pretty obvious we were not telling the truth!

On our days off, we are free to explore and take in what India has to offer but its not always easy. You can just imagine, a group of fit, easy on the eye, western ladies cruising the congested busy streets…

To the citizens, we are practically like walking porn! All eyes are on you all the time; it is complete voyeurism. The women double take, see you and then pretend you do not exist. The men see your face, then your boobs, your butt, and then your boobs again! As we walk, all you hear is “IPL, IPL!” with a little head jingle!

Usually only after day matches there is an exclusive after party and at night is when it all happens. The music pumps, the drinks flow and the cricketers come and go. We mingle and associate with important people of the IPL wearing their finest and sexiest, sponsors of all sorts, media and fashion shows, even Indian MTV! But the real fun
happens in the VIP rooms where the players and night owls can cause scandal! The few Indian players we have met, such as MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma have been very polite and keep to themselves in the dark corners. Hotshots like Tendulkar with families at home are never present. The likes of Jonty Rhodes and Albie Morkel are notorious for having a good time with friends!

‘Ol Graeme Smith will flirt with anything while his girlfriend lurks behind him. The Aussies are fun but naughty, such as Aiden Blizzard and Dan Christian. By the end of a crazy evening, a certain someone had played kissing catchers with three girls known to me only, although he has his own girlfriend back home. He cooed to each girl, “Come home with me, I just want to cuddle!’

Oh, please! I have come to realise that cricketers are the most loose and mischievious sportsmen I have come across. Makes me wonder if I should worry about them more then the commoners on the street! I still have a long while here, so I shall keep my tip list in mind.

Tip number 1: ‘Beware of the cricketers!’

Radio Cricket 14 – KP: Hero or Harlot?

– Kevin Pietersen on hitting and quitting English cricket.
– Where does the Queen rank in our top royals?
– How do you make a perfect cheese toastie?
– Are you suffering from IPL Withdrawal Syndrome?

Episode 14 is 22:44; long enough to keep you satisfied but short enough to leave you begging for more.

You can stream and download our podcast every week from soundcloud.com/RadioCricket, or search iTunes for ‘Radio Cricket’.

Spot The Googly

Cricket’s first ever quiz show.

Host: Nishant Joshi @AltCricket

Team Zaltzman (on the left)
Vithushan Ehantharajah @Vitu_E
Andy Zaltzman @ZaltzCricket
Isa Guha @IsaGuha
Team Nawaz (on the right)
Azhar Mahmood @AzharMahmood11
Aatif Nawaz @AatifNawaz
Dan Norcross @NorcrossCricket

For syndication queries, please contact home@alternativecricket.com.