This week we focus on the India-South Africa test at the wonderful Eden Gardens and bemoan the fact that no-one wants to be the daddy of test cricket. We also preview the second leg of England’s winter excursion and bring you some exclusive news on Paul Collingwood. Apart from one notable exception (the White Elephant award), this column is an IPL free zone with the hyperbole now reaching ridiculous levels (an English Premier League team is apparently considering buying an IPL franchise!). And finally, we reveal the Reverse Sweep’s choice for an ideal England ODI XI (minus the ‘resting’ Andrew Strauss).
The Reverse Sweep is an irreverent round-up of the week that was in cricket. For further insight into this wonderful game of ours please visit my blog also entitled The Reverse Sweep, or follow me on Twitter @TheReverseSweep.
Proteas choke (again) as India rises to the Eden Gardens occasion
Unless the weather or the remarkable Hashim Amla denies India it looks like the series (if you can call two tests a series) will finish all-square, with India retaining their number one spot in the ICC rankings.
If this is the case, South Africa only have themselves to blame after a cataclysmic collapse from 218/1 to 296 all out on what has been an immaculate batting wicket. I know that South Africa has a reputation for choking when the prize is in sight, but this was ridiculous even for them. Amla, on the other hand, should be exonerated from any blame and now averages over 60 in 28 tests with eight centuries since November 2007. That is top-class in anyone’s book.
India deserves the win if only because we were treated to centuries from Sehwag, Laxman, Tendulkar and Dhoni. This is manna from heaven for cricket purists; as good as it would be for a kid to be left unsupervised in a sweetshop. But it did highlight a looming problem for India. What happens when Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman retire? Who will replace them? It is perhaps too early to judge Vijay, Badrinath and other potential replacements like Raina and Sharma, but the last great batsman (Sehwag) emerged over ten years ago. For me, Virat Kohli looks the best of the young breed and I fail to understand why he hasn’t been blooded in this series.
Majestic Eden Gardens proves test cricket is alive in India
Despite the doom and gloom surrounding the future of tests in cricket’s biggest market, crowds for the Kolkata test have been good. Eden Gardens is one of cricket’s great venues and is up there with Lord’s, the MCG and SCG, Barbados and Newlands. The Indian Board should treat it as such and ensure that one test per series is played at the famous old ground – it makes sense for accountants and cricket fans alike.
Who wants to be number one?
The two India-South Africa tests have confirmed that there is not an outstanding side in test cricket at the moment. No side seems prepared to take the bull by the horns and emerge as the leader of the pack.
India desperately needs an all-rounder to fill the number six spot and more quality to back up Zaheer and the inconsistent Harbajhan. South Africa needs a decent spinner to replace the hopeless Harris, more fortitude and a more attacking mindset (as in Nagpur). Australia has the mental strength but needs to curtail its alarming propensity to collapse, and also needs a decent spinner.
These three are probably slightly ahead of Sri Lanka, who needs to perform better away from the sub-continent and who need more strength in the bowling department (who will succeed Murali?). England is probably level with Sri Lanka but require more quality in all departments; no English batsman is ranked in the top 20 ICC test rankings.
After that there is a limited New Zealand team and the talented but kamikaze like Pakistan and West Indies.
Who will emerge from the pack? My guess is no-one for the foreseeable future with South Africa, India and Australia probably having the best chance.
England prepare for Bangladesh with Dubai sojourn
The second leg of England’s winter schedule kicks off on Saturday with two T20s in Dubai against a Pakistan team in disarray. The Lions are already in the region and Craig Kieswetter in particular has impressed in the matches to date. Now qualified for England, he must come into immediate contention for a place in the T20I and ODI sides in place of Matt Prior. England should beat a Pakistan side beset by problems and playground squabbles between Mohammad Yousuf and Shoaib Malik over the captaincy.
After the Pakistan matches, England head off to Bangladesh under the leadership of Captain Cook. Unlike his illustrious namesake, Alastair is unlikely to be killed and eaten by the locals (although Paul Collingwood may face a frosty reception – see next story), but he does face an uphill battle to prove himself as first in line to the throne of Andrew Strauss. England should win the ODI series and tests without too many problems, but Bangladesh do have some promising individuals like skipper Shakib Al Hasan, wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah (fresh from his test century against New Zealand) and Tamim Iqbal. However, as a team they don’t seem to be able to sustain any momentum for a whole match.
Collingwood sacked as ambassador of Visit Bangladesh
Paul Collingwood may be most people’s choice as the batsman they would pick to save their team the match on the final day of a test, but Brigadier Block is not likely to be employed by any country wishing to attract tourists.
The nous that Collingwood is renowned for on the pitch seemed to escape him in his new role as an ambassador for Visit Bangladesh.
Whilst promoting the many attractions of said country for tourists ranging from the intrepid explorer to the luxury traveller, the Durham battler said the following when asked to describe Bangladesh’s many golf courses that he was due to promote on the forthcoming England tour:
“It won’t be easy to find a golf course in Bangladesh; if there is one, they’ll probably have wooden clubs”
His comments apparently prompted over 2,000 golfers to cancel trips to Bangladesh and Collingwood has subsequently been sacked from his role. There were also reports that effigies of Collingwood, Sunderland shirts and ginger wigs are being burnt on the streets of Dhaka and Chittagong.
Afghanistan in good news shock
What wonderful news that Afghanistan has qualified for the World T20 in the Caribbean. And they did it in style by winning the qualifying tournament in Dubai.
Rumours that the US now views the Caribbean as a new theatre for the “war on terror” remain unsubstantiated as we go to press.
And this week’s White Elephant award goes to…
A white elephant is described by Wikipedia as an idiom for a valuable possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost (particularly cost of upkeep) is out of proportion to its usefulness or worth.
Congratulations then to the Rajasthan Royals for despite the hullabaloo of a press conference including those dreaded PowerPoint presentations, their franchise concept is surely doomed to be an expensive failure. I certainly hope so because the idea of creating the ‘World’s First Global Sporting Franchise’ is utterly horrible.
Did Shane Warne really believe some of the crap that was emanating from his mouth during said press conference? Or was he being paid by the minute…
The Reverse Sweep XI – England’s ODI XI to take on Bangladesh
With Strauss ‘resting’, Alastair Cook has been appointed captain of the ODI side for the Bangladesh tour. This is bizarre to say the least as he wouldn’t get in most observers England ODI side. In any case, here is the side I would pick for the ODIs with the Tigers.
1. Craig Kieswetter – Yes, I know he is not in the squad, but he has proved in the Lions matches to date that he should replace Matt Prior in the T20I and ODI sides.
2. Jonathan Trott – Did a good job as an ODI opener in South Africa and if it isn’t broke, don’t try and fix it.
3. Kevin Pietersen – Has to bat at number three and will hopefully rediscover his mojo and cockiness in Bangladesh. Making him vice-captain would help.
4. Paul Collingwood – Collingwood’s emergence as a six-hitter in the Champions Trophy and South Africa series adds another string to his illustrious ODI batting bow. Just don’t mention the golf.
5. Eoin Morgan – I’d have liked to see him in the test squad, but for now we’ll just have to enjoy watching him in the blue pyjamas.
6. Alastair Cook (Captain) – Where else would you put him in the order? Surely he can’t open with Trott? It is likely to be a short-term role in the ODI side for Cook.
7. Adil Rashid – Yes, I know he is not in the squad but he should be (and he has looked good for the Lions). If the selectors don’t have a change of heart then James Tredwell will play as England will need two spinners in Bangladesh. A chance to really blood Rashid has been missed.
8. Stuart Broad – There will be a lot of responsibility on Broad’s shoulders in the absence of Anderson.
9. Graeme Swann – Swann should enjoy bowling on the sub-continent.
10. Ajmal Shahzad – The selectors will probably go with Bresnan or Wright, but I would like to see how Shahzad fares in the England jersey.
11. Ryan Sidebottom– Should be in for his experience, if not for ‘that’ hair.
That’s all for this week folks.
Read previous editions of The Reverse Sweep:
The Reverse Sweep – Issue 9
The Reverse Sweep – Issue 8
The Reverse Sweep – Issue 7
The Reverse Sweep – Issue 6
The Reverse Sweep – Issue 5
The Reverse Sweep – Issue 4
The Reverse Sweep – Issue 3
The Reverse Sweep – Issue 2
The Reverse Sweep – Issue 1
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