Survival of the Fittest

India has won the second Test to take a 1-0 lead in the series with England.  England has lost.  Again.  Cook has failed.  Again.  And yet, unless Cook decides otherwise, he has until the end of the series (three more Tests) to turn it around.

I’ve got nothing against Cook.  The way he is handling himself under immense pressure if admirable.  It reminds me a bit of Mark Taylor in his horror trot in 1996-97.  Except for one thing: The Australian team was packed with champions and was winning everything.  Make that two things: Mark Taylor was prepared to throw in the towel after the 1st Ashes Test in 1997 but it didn’t come to that and the rest is history.

Elite sporting teams stay strong by including the best of the best, no excuses.  It’s a dog-eat-dog world.  Survival of the fittest.  It is the national selectors’ job to make these hard decisions.  I don’t understand why the matter is in Cook’s hands.  It is traditional for England to appoint a captain at the beginning of a series, for that series but why?  In 1997, Australian selectors prepared for the worst.  Steve Waugh was elevated to vice captain in case Taylor had to be dropped during the series.  Taylor himself admitted later that he would have quit after the 1st Test if he had not scored significant runs.

England has had a tradition of picking a captain and then picking the team.  That dates back to pre-war days when a gentleman always had to be a captain.  But this is 2014.  Mike Brearley is the only English captain in living memory to have been picked as captain without genuine playing credibility and that was more than 30 years ago.

Not only does England have a dysfunctional captain and leadership, they have lost an opener who was until recently one of the world’s best batsmen.  Every man and his dog is Tweeting that England needs a change.  Not that the masses should necessarily be heeded but this time they might have a point.  But it’s up to Cook and he is not going to quit.  Meanwhile, India having won and away Test (at Lord’s of all places) now has a great chance to win an away series.

Everything is Recorded but Nothing is Remembered

I recently heard Rex Dupain interviewed.  He is the son of the famous Australian photographer, Max Dupain and like his father, is a photographer.  The interview covered the digital era and discussed the modern phenomenon where digital images are cheap, abundant and often not really valued.  Dupain commented that we live in a generation where everything is recorded but nothing is remembered.  How ironic then that in cricket’s latest controversy, there is no footage of the on-field event at the centre of the furore.

England pace bowler and mote lately, batsman, Jimmy Anderson is alleged to have pushed Ravindra Jadeja as the players were leaving the field for lunch on day two at Trent Bridge.  Anderson faces level three conduct charges that if proven, could see him suspended for up to four weeks.  That is where the trouble escalates.  The umpires did not bring these charges – it appears that they did not see the incident.  Indian cricket management reported the incident.  And strangely enough, it does not appear to have been captured on film.  In a day and age where scarcely anything is not captured on film, it seems that something which occurred under the noses of at least ten television cameras was not detected.

This is starting to remind me of Monkey Gate.  That was the incident in Sydney when Harbhajan Singh was charged with level three misconduct, for a racial slur made towards Andrew Symonds.  The crime was not recorded in that case either because it was verbal.  But similarly, it degenerated into an ugly squabble of ‘their word against ours’.  In that case, India retaliated by making allegations against Brad Hogg.  It is sounding rather familiar.  In the end, the acrimonious affair was unexpectedly resolved when India dropped the charges against Hogg, Australia responded in kind and the sudden calm was surprising and welcome.

I am not necessarily suggesting that the same thing will, or should, happen here.  If Anderson did push Jadeja, then that is bad.  But surely there is some footage.  Perhaps the ICC can post on Facebook an appeal for anyone who has captured the moment to come forward.  It’s the same concept as those posts that say, ‘I have lost my dog.  He is black.  If you have seen him, please let me know.’  If they post on the England, Cricinfo and India Facebook pages, they will reach at least 10 million people.  And if they post on the dongles Facebook page, they will reach a further 14 people.  When the players leave the field it is prime time for the fans to get photos and videos as the players walk towards them, getting closer and closer.  Surely someone has something.

Another thing to consider is whether Jadeja should have taken a dive, football fashion.  He would have been aware that he was not the focus of the umpires’ attention and to put the issue beyond doubt, Jadeja really should have taken a tumble.  But seriously, if the players really were concerned, shouldn’t they have taken action immediately?   The umpires cannot have been too far away.  I really don’t know what will come of this but in today’s political cricket climate, it is hard to see this ending well for Anderson.

Last Wicket Stand

Trent Bridge has done it again.  Or is that ‘Jimmy Anderson has done it again’?  I don’t know and who cares?  Last night, Jimmy Anderson and Joe Root compiled the most amazing final wicket stand in Test cricket history.  Well, the biggest at any rate.  It was just two runs shy of a double century stand.

When Anderson joined Root, England were over 150 runs behind India’s first innings total and Cook’s stocks continued to fall.  They were in as much trouble as Australia was almost exactly one year ago at Trent Bridge.  When Anderson was finally dismissed for 81, Joe Root had just passed 150 and England was 39 runs to the good.

You will recall that Jimmy Anderson was involved in a last wicket stand of great importance just last Test.  That ultimately didn’t end well for Anderson when he was dismissed from the scheduled second last ball of the match.  That gave Sri Lanka the match and the series.  This effort doesn’t erase that, but what would?  But sportsmen have to be good at putting things behind them and I am sure this will help England and Jimmy.

Anderson bowled 228 balls in India’s first innings, in which he took three wickets.  While he didn’t face as many balls as he bowled, he faced a lot more than many would have expected.  Before this innings, Anderson had averaged just over 10 in his 94 Tests, with a top score of 34.  His 81 rather eclipses that.  As does the 198 run partnership with Root eclipse the 163 runs set by Agar and Hughes, one year and one day ago.

While it has been heady heights for Trent Bridge in the past couple of years, don’t be fooled into thinking that these last wicket events are commonplace.  They are not.  The record set prior to last year was 151 in 1973 (over 41 years ago).  That was equalled in 1997.   This is only the 27th century partnership for the last wicket in the history of Test cricket.  It was a special partnership at a crucial time in the match and in England’s summer.  Last year, Australia narrowly lost, despite the heroic and inspiring last wicket partnership.  We shall see if England can take advantage to go one up against India.


But I do respect you: R.E.S.P.E.C.T

Today we are going to hear from one of the younger members of the dongles team.  I didn’t really have much interest in the circus match at Lord’s last night.  I prefer to remember the greats from when they were, um, great.  Although I think it was excellent that Brett Lee added some authenticity by breaking Warnie’s hand with a beamer.  But Madd Elise has been good enough to pen some thoughts and here they are:

Following reading an article on Cricinfo today (, I have realised how distressing I find the whole business regarding Kevin Pietersen, and certainly not wholly pertaining to his relationship with Andrew Strauss. I think it is a real shame that these people, Pietersen, Strauss, the ECB, English cricket fans, cricket fans in general, have behaved in such a manner towards cricket. I have heard talk about professional cricketers becoming disheartened when things aren’t going their way in their careers, and that they spend too much time and energy stressing over what’s wrong. In retrospect, they come to realise that what initially caused them to play cricket, their love for the game, has been lost, which has played a big part in their poor form and personal problems.

I’m not saying this is what caused the issues between Pietersen and cricket, Pietersen and the ECB or Pietersen and Strauss, but I do think that if there was enough respect, for themselves, and the institution of cricket, and even Lord’s, that certain upsetting incidents could have been avoided. For starters they take away from the sport, yesterday’s match being one filled with many greats, who deserve the respect due to them, instead of the focus being on an unfortunate situation like this.

Inarguably, Kevin Pietersen was a great batsman.  His record will tell you that quite plainly. The media coverage of his career will also tell you that he apparently has an issue with authority, and an attitude problem. Seeing as I’ve never met him, or worked with him, I wouldn’t like to pass judgement, though it would be easy enough to do so. I do think that his behaviour can at least be partly attributed to being a product of his environment. He was seemingly allowed to behave however he wanted while he was in form, with little done to curb his attitude and temperament. Once he was severely out of form, and apparently creating disunity, he was sacked, and very publicly so. I think it’s sad that that’s where and how his career ended, but you could say he made his bed and had to lie in it. I don’t know if the situation could have been avoided had he been disciplined earlier on in his career, to avoid such issues later on, but I’d like to think that it would have been possible.

Following Pietersen’s firing, and fall from grace, if that had not already happened during the debacle that was England’s 2013-14 Ashes campaign in Australia, I think it would have been good if everyone could have moved on, at least after a few weeks. Pietersen was dealt his hand, and from what I can see, from the most part, he seems to have accepted it and be working with what he has now. Then you have Andrew Strauss, albeit accidentally, use a highly offensive word on air, directed insultingly at Pietersen, during a highly publicised commemoratory match at cricket’s most fabled ground, Lord’s. I don’t really care that he thought he was off air, I don’t really care that they have a history, I don’t really care that he’s apologised and is mortified, (though so he should be). For me, personally, there is no reason, ever, for using the word that he used, and at Lord’s for that matter. To me, Lord’s is a kind of reverent, hallowed place. If you choose to use offensive words like that in life, you should at least try to avoid using them in a place like that.

Andrew Strauss made a mistake, but I think it was rather an indulgent one. If he had been concentrating on the match at hand, the occasion, and the game of cricket, he would not have felt inclined to make a comment resulting from an old feud with Pietersen. I understand that people don’t always agree, and that’s life, and maybe I’m an idealist, but I think these grown men should just accept they don’t like one another, and keep it to themselves, or at least to the privacy of their own homes. All it does is feed the media with negative attention regarding themselves and cricket, which is really a shame. It may seem harsh or unreasonable to hold these men to a higher standard, but they were given the honour and privilege to play for their country, to be in the eye of the media, so I think they should show more respect.

In other news, from MCCXI v ROWXI, Brett Lee broke Shane Warne’s hand, (rendering him unable to bowl in his team’s fielding innings), Aaron Finch put on a fine display as a man in form, Yuvraj Singh played a great innings, and all other participants did their part to put on a show for the spectators. Perhaps an exhibition match such as this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea [dongles says ‘correct’], but these men were asked to come and play, due to their successful professional careers, and I respect that enough to give the match some attention.

For me, I follow cricket because I love the game, I respect the game, and ideally, I think it should be played with honour and respect. The scandals and disgraces that accompany it, apparently at an alarmingly increasing rate, are a product of an imperfect world. However, it would be nice if there was more of a focus on the good, a focus on being respectful, and remembering what brought us all together in the first place, a love of cricket.

[The opinions presented in this post and not necessarily shared by dongles.]