The Reverse Sweep

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This week we start by previewing the new English county season and demanding that it reforms. Then we wrap-up the week’s action in the IPL as the semi-finals approach, plus report on the progress of England’s IPL players. Also covered is a tribute to Sir Alec Bedser who died on Sunday, the 40 best cricket blogs on the web and news of our new column on CricDude.

The Reverse Sweep is an irreverent and sometimes acerbic round-up of the week that was in cricket. For similar musings on this wonderful game of ours please visit my blog also entitled The Reverse Sweep, or follow me on Twitter @TheReverseSweep.

County cricket preview

The new English domestic cricket season gets into full swing this week with the first round of county championship matches. With envious eyes being cast at the razzmatazz of the IPL, the season’s start will be fairly low-key now that all the excitement of pink balls, floodlights and Abu Dhabi has died down.

The county system is in urgent need of reform. There is too much cricket, not enough preparation time and the continual switch between four day, one day and 20 over cricket is bewildering to say the least. It may be a sensitive subject, but it is time to reduce the number of counties in order for the domestic game to become more sustainable and make it a better breeding ground for international cricket.

And if you don’t agree with us, maybe you’ll agree with the England captain who also called for the restructuring of county cricket this week. Of course, whilst the counties are in charge of their own destinies, nothing dramatic will happen; turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. This means, as always in English cricket, that a compromise will probably be found with a possible move to a conference system of three regional leagues of six being mooted. Whilst that would reduce the amount of cricket, it seems a bit of a finger in a dyke solution to the Reverse Sweep.

English cricket missed a golden opportunity with T20 to create something that would bankroll county cricket for years to come. But the stable door was left open and Lalit Modi bolted off on the horse a long time ago. Whilst the IPL goes from strength to strength, the English T20 league has its kitsch Wild West themed finals days. The need for reform cannot be overlooked and maybe its time that some of the people that run English cricket got out of Dodge.

As for the actual cricket, we at the Reverse Sweep have been busy compiling our list of a dozen cricketers to look out for in 2010. Read Part 1 and Part 2 to see if you agree with the players we have selected. In terms of the prizes, we go for Durham to complete a remarkable three-in-a-row in Division 1, with Sussex to pip Surrey for the Division 2 title.

IPL – predictions for the semi-finalists

With the final stages of the IPL approaching, it’s time for the Reverse Sweep to stick our neck out and predict who the semi-finalists will be. Apart from Kings XI Punjab, who have experienced a horrific season, all the other seven sides still have a chance of making the last four, which perhaps vindicates the salary cap. Mumbai Indians with Tendulkar, Harbhajan and Malinga have been the best side to date and seemed odds-on a semi-final place. Bangalore has slipped of late, but we still back them to progress due to their strong strength in depth. As adopted Delhi fans, we also have to stick with them with latecomers Collingwood and Vettori already shining. The final choice is more difficult. Until reigning champs Deccan beat Bangalore today, we had ruled them out, and both Chennai and Kolkata have rallied of late. And you can never rule out any team led by Shane Warne. But with Doug Bollinger standing tall in the run-fest with Rajasthan and Mike Hussey joining the party, it’s Chennai for us to join Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi in the last four.

The best test captain Australia never had

The Reverse Sweep had the pleasure of seeing one of the best matches in the IPL yet earlier in the week when Deccan Chargers disintegrated in the final over against Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals. Needing only six to win off the last over, Deccan contrived to lose by two runs. And at the centre of it all was Warne. He may only be a part-time cricketer these days, but he gave a tremendous exhibition of leg-spin as he rolled back the years to take four for 21. His most significant act on the evening however, was as a canny, attacking and cajoling captain. He made Siddharth Trivedi feel ten foot tall when he came in to bowl the final over and was duly rewarded with a remarkable win for his side. At the end of the evening, Warne wore a self-satisfied smile not seen since the Duke of Wellington left the field at Waterloo for the last time. The best captain Australia never had? On this evidence it is hard to disagree.

How are England’s players doing in the IPL?

With the World T20 looming ever closer, it has been fascinating watching the progress of the four England squad members exhibiting their wares in the IPL. Ravi Bopara made a good start as an opener for the Kings Xi Punjab, but with the team in disarray and the Essex man’s inexplicable relegation to the middle order, his form has slipped in the last week or so. Michael Lumb has taken the chance offered through injury to Graeme Smith and has impressed with the Rajasthan Royals. His form reached its zenith this week when he smashed 83 off 43 balls against hapless Punjab.

Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood joined the action recently following the Bangladesh tour and both have already made an impression. Pietersen finally got past his previous IPL best of 38 in scoring 66 not out to help Bangalore pip Punjab. Collingwood has been in even better form after spending the whole of last season carrying the drinks for Delhi. His second half-century in three games came on Sunday against KP’s Bangalore, when Colly scorched 75 not out off 46 balls.

Whisper it quietly, but England could be the surprise package in the Caribbean.

Sir Alec Bedser R.I.P.  – one of England’s greatest ever cricketers

I was sorry to see that Sir Alec Bedser died on Sunday night at the age of 91. He was one of England’s greatest ever bowlers snaring 1,924 first-class wickets at 20.41 and 236 for England in 51 Tests at 24.89. If it hadn’t been for World War II, Bedser would have played more for his country but had to wait until 1946 when he was 28 to make his test match bow. He certainly made up for lost time after that and earned the respect of Don Bradman, getting him out twice for a duck and six times in total. Indeed, Bradman said of Bedser that he “worried me more than any other Englishman.”

As usual with cricketers from a previous era, Bedser was a lot tougher than the players of today. Given Ricky Ponting’s incandescence with England’s bowlers continuously leaving the field during test matches he would surely admire Bedser who once reminisced that “in my entire Test career I left the field only once. It was at Adelaide and the temperature was around a hundred. I went out but came back and bowled.”

They don’t make them like Alec Bedser anymore; mores the pity. Rest in peace, Alec and make sure that you get Bradman out regularly in the England and Australia tests played out on Heaven’s cricket field.

The 40 best cricket blogs in the world

My friend and colleague at World Cricket Watch, David Siddall has certainly been a busy bee having compiled an excellent summary of the 40 best cricket blogs currently active on the web. I can assure you that no nepotism was involved in David’s choice and am delighted to report that we at the Reverse Sweep are included amongst the lucky few. Go and have a look at ‘the 40 most exciting cricket blogs on the web’ and do let David know if he has left any other good blogs out.

The Reverse Sweep writes for CricDude

And finally, a bit of self-promotion. I’ve recently been contracted to write a thrice weekly column for CricDude, a site launched nearly a year ago by of all people Sachin Tendulkar. I’m writing under my real name of David Green and have somehow managed to be included in the ‘Expert Analysis & Opinions’ section on the homepage. The first article asks if cricket today really is an equal battle of bat and ball or whether the willow wielders are the lions to the bowlers unfortunate Christians. Please get over there now and read, enjoy and provide feedback. In that way, one day I may be able to fund that biography of Hedley Verity that I am desperate to write.

That’s all for this week folks.

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