The First 2015 Dmitri – Joe Root

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Joe Root – Lord’s 2015 – A Dmitri Pic

It needs to be stressed up front. These “awards” are not to be confused with “Player of the Year” awards because there’s an additional unquantifiable criteria that I want to bring in. That said, you’d need to put a pretty good case against Joe being our player of the year. He’s vital across all formats, he has a joy about him when he’s playing the game, he’s a right royal pain in the arse for the opposition, and no person can deny that he has a rock-like temperament. The main problem, if it is one, is that Joe Root is taken for granted.

The Joe Root story goes back (for me) to his county season before he broke into the team. The ageing World #1 outfit were going to need fresh blood to put pressure on the middle order. But the most urgent need, as Andrew Strauss was struggling for form, was for an opener. Yorkshire appeared to have one. A young kid banging out big scores at the top of the order for his county, playing on the mythically difficult Headingley wicket. It was second division cricket, which wasn’t used against him, but 700+ runs at an average comfortably over 40 indicated a real talent. A 222 not out at Southampton, out of a score of 350 for 9, indicated an appetite for big runs, and especially when the pressure was on him. He was on the radar.

His debut for England came under intense pressure. Brought in for the 4th test, with England 2-1 up, it was not an easy position for him to enter the fray. It might have been a good wicket to start you career – a road that tested the batsman’s patience rather than technique – but it was 119 for 4, and he was to lose KP very soon after. No worries – 130-odd for 5 on a dead deck, trying to keep the series in our hands. The temperament shown was exemplary. He dug in, he put on 103 with Matt Prior, and made a hugely impressive 73 in 289 minutes. In his first game, he’d played a massive part in saving a series. After the match Vic Marks wrote of his selection:

Root knew that he was going to play 24 hours before the match began. The day before that the England think-tank had watched him carefully in the nets, noting that he played an assortment of respectable Indian spinners exclusively with the middle of his bat. That net may have convinced them to take the plunge and to select Root for this vital Test – ahead of Samit Patel, Jonny Bairstow and Eoin Morgan. Having come to their decision against the expectation of all those on the outside, what did they say to him? “They just said I was playing,” explained Root. “They didn’t say why.

He has had travails since then (all players d0), over the 10 tests against Australia he was moved up to open, then dropped to three, before being dropped entirely, and a 180 apart (which is the anchor point for Root Maths because he was let off very early by Haddin) at Lord’s, questions were asked. But a return to the side in 2014 brought a double hundred at Lord’s, more big scores against India (all three of his hundreds that summer were unbeaten) and suddenly the man we were questioning was now the anchor of the middle order, batting at 5. Given another go at Australia overseas, I think most people believe he’ll be a much finer player than the one on the 2013-14 disaster.

This summer his contributions in the middle order were vital. In fact, I’m not sure “vital” does it justice. His 98 and 84 at Lord’s kept England afloat in that tumultuous first test at Lord’s, with the 98 impressive because of the enormous pressure England were under (and why I rate Stokes’s innings in the first better than the second -although I realise that’s a personal choice) in the match. Without that Root and Stokes fightback, the summer may have turned out totally differently. His 134 in the first innings at Cardiff played a part in laying the Johnson bogeyman to rest (allied with the wicket) and allowed England to post an extremely competitive score, and his 60 in the second innings allowed us to post a large target. His 63 in the first innings at Edgbaston was important to allow England to post a sizeable lead when his cheap early dismissal may have put us in strife. His 38 not out to take us home against a small target was also not to be underestimated. As Joe went so did we. His innings of the year candidate at Trent Bridge, on a wicket Australia had been dismissed on for 60, when he made 124 by the close in quick-fire style had pretty much sealed the Ashes. It was fitting that it should be him to do so.

Joe is also a fine part of an attractive ODI team, playing the role of the relentless accumulator with the big shot, in amongst the pyrotechnics of Roy, Hales, Morgan and Buttler. You almost take him for granted now, yet we would not want to be without him. He’s a T20 player of some class too and will be a part of our World Cup line-up. As I’ve said, he’s easily taken for granted. His 182 not out was largely forgotten in Grenada due to Jimmy’s last day heroics, but was immense, class, ruthless and brilliant. 8 test hundreds before he is 25, 6 ODI tons in the same period, a 90 not out in a T20 showing he can take to international attacks in that format. Even his UAE experience wasn’t too shabby. No hundreds but two good matches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai where he wasn’t dismissed below 70, was followed up by a poor one in Sharjah. That his standards are so high meant we were disappointed.

I like to start off with a positive Dmitri and I have nothing but praise for the way Root keeps that England middle order afloat. In the ODI team he is a part of the puzzle, in the test team, he’d be the missing piece if he wasn’t there. We’ve put a lot of weight on his shoulders, look to put more on him by making him test vice-captain and FEC, and ascending to the top post has had bad long-term effects for all who take it on. His off spin is not to be taken lightly, but his back may restrict how many times he is able to turn his arm over. He looks the popular leader on the field, the leader of the foot soldiers rather than pure officer class. He’s had off-field run ins with oppo players. He’s a pest on the field. Without him, certainly in tests, we’re bang in trouble.Look at five of our six losses this calendar year – 33&1 in Bridgetown, 0&1 at Leeds, 1&17 at Lord’s, 6&11 at The Oval, 4&6 at Sharjah (only Dubai, with twin 50s saw him succeed in a losing cause) – where his failure has played a key part in losses. In tests England did not lose this calendar year, the lowest score he was dismissed for was….59!!!!!

But he’s our man. And he is the first of this year’s Dmitris.

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The Dmitris – 2015

Those of you with me last year will remember my awards at the end of the year called “The Dmitris”. Last year there were 10 in my initial Hall of Fame, who got in there for all sorts of reasons. The main thing that gets you in is that you had to play an important part in my blogging year, been a main subject, a top player, a good writer, a bad writer, an inspiration or a source of despair.

While I had 10 inductees last year, there won’t be that many this year. I have six in mind already. You can only go in as an individual on one occasion – so you people who think all I do is talk about KP or Cook are fine, they are both in already – but you can enter as part of a collective and as an individual.

Last year’s 10 were:

1. George Dobell. For services to keeping us sane with proper cricket reporting.

So, all cricketing journalists are in play because they were all included in number 8. The only one who won’t be in is George Dobell.

Happy to hear your views, but at the end, this is my choice. I have been known to be influenced.

Thought I’d add last year’s acceptance response from George Dobell.

https://dmitrihdwlia.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/the-dmitris-1-george-dobell/#comment-9293

Thanks for this. It’s hugely appreciated. Probably far more than I should let on.

There maybe a couple of reasons for that. Firstly it’s a long time since I won anything. That under-7 Scripture essay prize really is some time ago. And while I did win a fast bowling cup about 20 years ago, the gloss was slightly tarnished when it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.

But mostly it’s gratifying to be recognised by the people I’m writing for: spectators; cricket lovers. You know the ones: the fleeced, patronised and taken for granted. Whenever cricket’s ‘stakeholders’ are considered and consulted, it is the spectators who are over-looked. But where are the players, the media, the sponsors and the administrators without them? The ‘outside cricket’ comment, you may recall, was made in a statement not just from the ECB, but from the PCA as well.

It’s been a tricky year in some ways but this is a welcome reminder of the reasons to KBO as Churchill would have put it. Thank you. Sincerely, thank you.

Class!

 

We Know Nothing – Part 1

At the moment, we are researching a series of posts on the cricket media, so I thought I’d kick off with a little (ha ha, as if) historical perspective as regards this blog, and the predecessor that was HDWLIA in relation to comments on the media. Let us begin around ago….

In the middle of the furore over the Hong Kong cricket match, many of you on here will remember this tweet from a member of our press corps which said:

“You have no idea how cricket media works. I’ve offered to meet to explain but you prefer to spout nonsense form (sic) anonymous blog”

I’ll keep that one.

My frustration with much of the cricket media has been a common, and some would say (very) repetitive theme throughout the last two years. Of course, it was principally sourced from the incidents in the fallout from the Ashes whitewash, but it’s beyond that. It really is, and this scene setter seeks to explain why and how.

The predecessor to this blog, How Did We Lose In Adelaide (still available if you know where to look) had rumbled around for quite a while before it got noticed. For six or so months, probably from around April to November of last year, it hit its peak in terms of the pique it derived from the cricket media. While I would not be as so bold to admit I know entirely how cricket media works, my heavens, I had gained a jolly good taste of how it did, just by watching their reporting, their behaviour, and in some cases, their arrogance. Back then I would take an article, and tried to dissect it (fisking). I was angry. I may well have been off target, but it was from the heart. That blogging captured the drive within me. Sometimes I wonder where that has gone.

(I’ve always said my aim was to get to within three universes of the sort of stuff Fire Joe Morgan did for baseball, where journalists were routinely targeted. They were talented professional writers doing that. I was a sole muppet, with an anger issue…. whatever I did, it seemed to work)

Things died down in the New Year, as HDWLIA closed down and Being Outside Cricket started. There was a brief renaissance of interest during the KP furore of May and the Ashes, but the tone then was completely different. We were aiming at the ECB, and had, actually, been doing that for quite a while. After all, the press weren’t really trying.

But here’s a fact. I was absolutely more excoriating of the cricket media last year on HDWLIA than I have ever been on Being Outside Cricket. I read back my attacks on the big beasts of journalism not hiding behind a paywall from those days last year, and I go full on. Now, maybe that’s because I didn’t really believe journalists would read it, because hit rates then were less than 100 a day and very few people were picking up on it. I was just one of those annoying gnats that you could shoo- away. In many ways, that has not changed.

So, let me go into the way journalists have interacted with me. I had occasional tweets answered early on, and put comments on line. I had a regrettable debate with Jonathan Agnew after a “convivial evening”, which ended up with someone threatening me with physical violence, which was nice (I’d called Agnew obsequious, which  was out of order and we made peace). I think the starting point of more interest was at the test match at Lord’s against Sri Lanka last year.  On that test match night, Jarrod Kimber let me know that he was reading out the “10 Worst Journalists” column to the attendant media. In his words, some were mad at being on the list, some were mad at not being higher. What he did say, was that many there read the blog, including those I’ve been told by others never do.

It’s a bit intimidating really. But I tried to be fair, and probably didn’t succeed. So while I am by no means an expert on the cricket media – we’ll delve into this a little later – the opposite applies. The cricket media’s overall knowledge of social media is laughable, in my experience. They rely squarely on the comfort blanket offered by social media’s lunatic fringe, by lumping those in there trying to make a point as trolls. Ed Smith, in particular, is good at that one. Others ignore the well-made salient points made to them on Twitter, and just pick on a ranting one to have a pop. I’m not saying it’s easy seeing your work dissected by the hoi polloi, but if you go on Twitter, you know what you are going to get. I got some fearful abuse over the KP post last year. I got some this Ashes summer too. It’s not nice. But that’s the price you pay.

One thing struck me from when Jonathan Agnew tried to break bread with Maxie Allen last year on a podcast. He said something along the lines of “if you come into my house and started calling me names, I’d chuck you out. That’s my approach on social media.” Well, yes, fair enough, but how many people with serious points to make are totally ignored without kicking up a fuss, and I’m referring to a number of the selective tweet responses in the para above? I’m a case in point. I called him lamentable and obsequious, and got blocked – entirely up to him, but it came with consequences for me. He then made peace the following day, so we called it quits, and have got on OK since, although our paths do not cross nearly as often. But I wouldn’t have got to that point without being forceful to start off with. I’m not as down on Agnew as others on here, but that’s their right.

My raison d’etre is not to become in with the in crowd. I’d much rather be friends and get along with people than have steaming rows with all and sundry, but I’m not courting anyone. It’s not good for me to be angry and arguing, and after a while, screaming and shouting becomes annoying and self-defeating. So let me strike down casual myth number one about my interaction with the cricket media. I do not want to become a journalist / reporter. That is not my aim, and I don’t know how many times I need to say it. It is also not attention seeking (although I can do it very well as this blog proves), and the clue is in the use of a pseudonym and my unwillingness to meet people. Some people call this cowardice. Don’t bother with me then, because it isn’t changing any time soon. That is the antithesis of “attention seeking”. So my lack of knowledge about the cricket media isn’t keeping me going to get into the game. So perhaps we’ll leave that sorry canard alone, eh? Others have got into journalism, to newspapers etc, and got contacts along the way by blogging. Fair play to them. That isn’t for me. At Lord’s, this summer, I was stood five feet away from Agnew. If I was an attention seeker, I’d have said hello.

What this (Being Outside Cricket) blog did less than the last one was to hold the cricket media to some sort of account in my own style. Again, Jarrod has said to me “why do you blog about people the vast majority of the cricket world don’t give a shit about?” Because it was fun. Yes. Fun. I adored the way they tripped up over themselves in knifing a cricketer they clearly did not like (and if they did, they did a passable impression of hating him), while being on the same side as an organisation headed, at the time, by a bloke I’m confident many of them can’t abide, bigging up charlatans, propping up a captain who, on form and captaincy ability at the time should have been dropped, and giving a passable impression, as Mark frequently comments, of being the ECB’s “stenographers”.

What I got to understand rapidly, is that the one thing that got cricket in the papers was something to do with Pietersen – look how many times his Tweets are converted into news stories. In their own way, this was their attention seeking. Even now, KP makes the papers. I’d wager he’s still the most famous cricketer in England, and only Cook might rival him. His exploits in over-the-way T20 competitions still get mentions. I understood this about the cricket media. A story with KP got hits, got comments below the line where applicable and sold advertising. It still does. Vic Marks alluded to him in his recent piece on Jason Roy. Fomenting antis were over it like a bad suit (remember, we’re obsessed). So chalk that down as something I know about cricket media. And you didn’t have to be Einstein to work that out.

The cricket media have their own jobs to do, and it was something that I was criticised for in Brian’s review in Wisden Almanack (and jeez, I will always have that little gem….) in not seeing their side of the story. Well, I’m awfully sorry about that, but when an organisation (ECB) treats its own fans with such utter contempt, it’s hard to see their side when they won’t see our’s. Our hopes were pinned on at least some of them asking the right questions and having a feel for what a good constituency of their readers might be feeling, at the right time. At the time he was sacked. Instead, they slept. Or stuck the knife in. I never sensed that they cared about that sacking, and said so. Suddenlt there was a wave of people who came along for the ride. Those that read, or read (in past tense) the blog over the past 18 months felt, and still feel incredibly let down by our fearless press have, in some instances, turned their back on England. This doesn’t matter in a world of small-minded administrators. Those that care a lot can be disenfranchised. I can’t watch England in the same way again.

The ECB are never going to give access to bloggers (not sure that I’d want that, but Chris, perhaps, would be more  up for that as it suits his personality better than mine), so our hopes were pinned on the cricket media. We were appallingly let down, whether they like being told it, or care. How we saw the cricket media work there was putting access above adjudication, prejudice above pressure, long-term comfort over short-term revolt. Coming to mind, especially, was the fact it took 10 questions to get to KP in Downton’s first conference when we’d been waiting two months for any answers. Then, hilariously, more than one of the media were falling over themselves to tell us how great JPM’s finest was. The re-writing of history over Downton has been to see how the cricket media works. Not many of them were thinking “blimey, he’s out of his depth” until the end of the summer of 2014 at the earliest. A fair few of us were. We recognise that sort in our daily lives.

Since then, the pressure has died down on the media, and I’ve not been doing the fisking I used to. That’s fisking (analysing an article line-by-line). Why? Well, for the first thing they are quite time consuming and some newspapers make doing it a real tedious affair. Second, I’ve not felt the need to. Much of the fisking was because people were pretending there were no leaks (hence the repeated use of the “good journalism” meme on here – as in here’s another piece of good journalism “such and such is set to be dropped, we understand”) and also that ridiculous contentions were being put up about KP in particular without tangible evidence to back it up. The relationship between the journalist and reader should be that we either enjoy their style, or we trust what they say, and I was pointing out that I (me, and I write for me alone) liked neither their style nor trusted them in many ways.

I’ve also not issued the results of polls on the worst journalist, and thus not added comments to them. Why not? Because, to be frank, I don’t read much of what they write any more. It used to be fun picking up on their contentions blatantly accessed from sources we’ll never be a party to, or some of their ideas they’ll stick to come hell or high water, but it gets a bit repetitive (another Wisden criticism). The name of our recent winner is at the bottom of the post. It’s no surprise.

A few weeks ago we saw them, briefly, at their finest. A piece of good journalism here, a breaking of an embargo (an embargo, for heaven’s sake, it’s not a top secret report for God’s sake) there, and all round tut-tutting about it. These are the last throes of the dinosaurs. An ECB edict, issued under embargo to a press in need, protected from the punters of course, who don’t need to know before someone with a commercial imperative, and it’s leaked on social media. They haven’t a bleeding clue. Then, hilariously, the big story (Bell’s exclusion) was missed.

You see, the reason I like reading George Dobell and Jarrod Kimber and Gideon Haigh is that I trust them. They have their opinions, and I will listen to them and decide based on what they say. Sure, they have their favourites, because they are human beings, and we all have biases. I don’t believe (well, in some cases I have no doubt) they take dictation from the ECB or other authorities. They call it as they see it. This blog regularly votes them in to the best journalist poll, and we waxed lyrical about George in particular last year. Indeed, I think a sign of how highly he should be regarded is that in some cases, people were disappointed in some of his stuff, and voted him in the worst poll this year. That’s interesting to me.

TLG and I will be talking more about the media in the short term. In the years I’ve been doing this blog the reactions to a couple of recent events really piqued my interest. The golf day stuff, which I stayed out of by and large, and the Hong Kong game. It piques Tregaskis’s enough to write his epic published yesterday.

So be prepared for some more nonsense, and I hope you enjoy it.

Finally, I can exclusively reveal here the winner of this summer’s worst journalist award, as voted for by the readers of Being Outside Cricket. It’s Mike Selvey. No shock there. The rest will follow…. a new entry at number 2, and at number 4 for instance.

Selvey was a landslide winner because he exemplifies how we see the cricket media “working”. In the past 18 months he has been contemptuous of those who dare to challenge his view, has undertaken some of the most appalling briefing against a player I’ve seen in ages (Adil Rashid – it went beyond opinion on the pace he bowls at when he went after him at Lord’s this summer) and his world class tweeting. Just recently Tim Wigmore alluded to something a little more concerning, and no, we didn’t miss it, and nor did you, commenters. He’s number 1 for a reason.

This post was written, mostly, a fortnight ago. I’m sharing it now in the light of Tregaskis’s piece. We’ll be discussing that for days to come, an important blogging milestone of undoubted depth. It took a chance, and his style of writing, leaning towards FICJAM but without the ego, and thus superb in its nature, is beyond what I could possibly achieve. He has sought to be honourable when no such honour is reciprocated by most. I wonder where we go from here. TLG and I will pick up on it more and more, because it has not gone away.

The Next T20, The Pink Ball, And Tregaskis

Comments on today’s T20 should be included below. An impressive win against what looked like an over-matched Pakistan team gives us that little bit of hope when it comes to the next World T20. I’ve been on the Billings Bus for a bit, and like what I see so far, but he doesn’t seem to fit in to a first XI which has Buttler in it. Indications are that other players are going to be rested (suggesting Morgan might be) so we’ll see the depth of the line-up.

I have to say that I didn’t see much of the day-night test. I have time off work and wanted to sleep…. I love sleep more than cricket. I did see some parts though, and the round-up at the end from Cricket Australia TV was drinks all round, wasn’t it wonderful, everything was amazing, and mulitple bruising from patting each other on the back. The important stat was 44,000 in the crowd, and the game not being a farce. One would suggest a normal test match where one team is out for 202 and the other was 50 odd for 2 would not get much of a glance – a game in the balance, an average amount of runs, and the game being more than a cakewalk for batsmen – but this isn’t a normal game. If you’re looking for hyperbole, then Shiny Toy is your man.

Vaughan has form for going over the top, but what was needed was something like today. Adelaide is a batting wicket at most test matches, and it’s clear the ball has had some effect, or there is something else going on with the pitch. I haven’t studied it, seen what they’ve done, but Selfey was intimating that the pitch had a bit more grass on it to protect the ball. The fear with the ball would be an abrasive surface tearing it apart. But there’s nothing wrong with that pitch preparation, and indeed a normal day’s play was just what was required. It has been a success, but the problem is when the Cricket Australia TV gush so much. If I’m agreeing with them, then there’s something wrong.

Let’s see how the match plays out. One observation from me is I hate watching the pink ball on the TV. It is going to take some getting used to.

Then there’s Tregaskis’s piece. From where I’m sitting, the press lost my trust 18 months ago. They were conduits for leaks, gleefully on many occasions, printed a number of stories that were pro-ECB no matter how often they complained about how this monolith had put up a bubble to keep them out, and their judgement on certain characters was found wanting. T’s piece makes many very good points, and in some regards I think he over-reaches a little (but hey, don’t we all), but he’s got certain journos talking to a blogger and in the main, that can’t be a bad thing. T has a cache that I don’t have. He’s a respected writer, winner of a tremendous award, and also got to write a terrifice article in The Cricketer. He’s also a charming fellow to talk to on the phone, on the one instance I got that chance. He approaches his subject with diligence and with a clear idea of the right way to go about it. He affords many of the journalistic community a respect I cannot do, and for that, he’s a much better man than I.

John – the answer is still no.

I come at this issue as a cricket fan, and yes a fan of one player I felt was treated very badly. I hold the media very responsible for letting us down. For turning the other way. For taking one side of the story and putting it that way. I have a piece on the stocks that I’ve just not had the heart to put up summing up the interactions over the last 18 months. While some have sought to build up some trust since, it isn’t working across the piece.

As for Nagpur, well….. if you want to kill off the sport, keep doing that. Harsha Bhogle, not known as a critic of the BCCI, isn’t exactly enamoured with it. http://indianexpress.com/article/sports/cricket/india-vs-south-africa-pitches-are-diluting-the-joy-of-success/

 

T20, Pink Ball, Nagpur Nonsense

Sorry for no updates. Just not particularly enthused to write much, it has to be said. I go through these phases.

A quick insert. Do read Tregaskis’s latest epic on the media. A thought provoking, in depth look from the outside. Awesome effort. Let’s see what the aftermath is too.

There’s a lot of chatter going on about cricket at the moment. The T20s in the UAE have the feel of “we can’t wait to get home for at least three days” but they are part of the limited preparation for the World T20 next Spring. If you feel as though there are things you want to talk about on these matches, then please comment below.

I’m also really sorry but I can’t see the fuss over the pink ball test. Things have to be tried, and this sounds like an idea worth having a go at. The sheer ludicrous twaddle about the quality of the ball, when you’ve got a debacle of a test series going on in India, is priceless. Until a test is played we aren’t going to know if it works or not. Cricket can be so far up its own deluded arse sometimes. If it lacks credibility, we’ll know.

But now I’m going to contradict myself, because this stuff about the toss is arrant nonsense. There is developmental stuff to see if the game can be expanded – thus the worthy efforts of a day-night test – but then there’s this tinkering to solve a problem no-one has fully defined? What’s it trying to solve? And what is its expected solution. I’m too tired to even contemplate this.

Finally, the Nagpur test is nearly over. You’ve had your say. Games like this damage test cricket. My view. The odd one being like this is fine, it’s something different. But a series of pitches where fast bowling is largely neutered has to be wrong – in just the same way as juicy greentops to negate spinners is. There’s no easy answers. I just refuse to believe fine Indian batsmen are going to be keen to see their averages take a plunge playing constantly on dust bowls. One of you said it is all about the home team winning for commercial reasons. Sadly, there’s not a lot anyone can do about it.

Polite Enquiries is up with you-know-who, there are interesting noises from the ICC, it appears Selvey might have watched Warriors more quickly than Death of a Gentleman

And that’s your lot. I’m about to have a lovely turkey dinner cooked by the beloved, and even though I’m not American, I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving because, let’s face it, we should be thankful for something.

Cheers…

Rehabilitation? No Chance… KP the Book, KP the Movie

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I’ve just finished KP on Cricket, and watched Being Kevin Pietersen (should I sue?) as England’s most polarising cricketer undertakes his next steps in visual and print media. The programme and the book, taken in isolation, are the usual media image portrayals which leave you annoyed at their lack of bite. Of course, though, neither of these are in isolation. Pietersen is not about to rehabilitate himself with anyone, and judging by these two pieces of work, isn’t trying that hard with those who he has no time for, and who have no time for him.

Let’s take the book first. Unlike the visceral KP – the Autobiography, this book took days to finish reading. I really hate bad errors in books, and there is one on Page 2 – Francois Pienaar is named as Francois Pineda, and that gets you started thinking this is a lazy book. It actually isn’t, but I tell you what else it isn’t…. It isn’t what John Crace said, and what the Private Eye review said. Pietersen was exhorted, last year, to include more about the cricket than the arguments. Oh, if there wasn’t one press person expending crocodile tears saying “what saddened me was Kevin not talking about those great innings” there were dozens. So Pietersen does, and the press people by and large ignore it (other than to slag it off as an extension of his out of control ego).

I said in a comment to BigKev that it is a rather dull book, but I don’t mean that as being a book you should not read. When you’ve written a book like the autobiography there is nothing to compare to it. I’ve said about that book on a number of occasions, we mock the sportsman’s autobiography (while they are playing) for being dull and boring (I’m re-reading some of Alastair Cook’s initial autobiography at the momen), but when someone tells it as he sees it, people are shocked. Appalled.

In some places this book is all over the shop, and then in others it brings some interesting insight. I thought it quite re-affirming that the innings of his that I thought was the best (his 151 in Sri Lanka) was the one he did too. The one the English public refer to a lot, his 149 at Headingley, isn’t in the top five. He puts Glen McGrath in his World XI yet whenever he’s interviewed on him (most memorably in the Radio Five Live one with Andrew Flintoff in 2013) KP says McGrath never caused him many issues.

It’s not a book to build bridges. While he is praiseworthy of Swann the bowler, of Prior’s attitude to batting etc. he’s not giving Flower any praise, he’s not giving Moores any praise, and there’s no hint on contrition for the previous words. People will say his inclusion of Jimmy Anderson in his world XI, and his constant references to him as a genius, are just ingratiating. He’s generally nice about Cook, but not his captaincy, not even during this last summer. He clearly believes Cook is not a “flat wicket captain”.

There’s calls for franchise cricket in England, a somewhat silly request for 5 tests at home and 5 tests away each year (and then saying England, India and Australia play each other too much), and throughout there is constant reference to practice, practice, practice. I know of no-one who complains about Pietersen’s work ethic. The impression you get from the media is of a dilettante. A shirker. A natural talent. Pietersne isn’t a natural. He’s worked hard at his batting. He can over-think. He can go off the boil.

You know I’m a fan, and I make no apology for it. Pietersen writes the book the media “wanted” him to (did they hell, Pietersen’s thoughts sell papers, ads) and it sells much less well, gets much less attention and what it does get, is pretty negative. That’s why David Hopps’s excellent review in ESPN Cricinfo is so welcome. Especially this quote:

For those who previously condemned Pietersen’s autobiography as overly confrontational to now dismiss Kevin Pietersen on Cricket as merely an attempt to address his reputation as an outcast star player, just a cynical display of even-handedness and affection towards former colleagues, is an exercise in double standards, a refusal by his critics to accept he has any saving graces whatever he does. Damn him if he does, damn him if he doesn’t.

The book is worth reading, but if I’m being honest, I’d wait until you can get a cheaper copy. KP’s got enough money, and it isn’t a “must read now” like last year’s book.

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Which takes me on to the television programme. Being Kevin Pietersen has been dismissed by the likes of Barney Ronay as a hagiography (the first three paragraphs of which needed an editor to tell him to stop being so effing pretentious), or by Mark Webster as not challenging. While no-one is going to confuse this with a hard hitting expose of Pietersen, it remains utterly remarkable to me that some of the things he mentions in the programme, which he’s been mentioning for 18 months, remain totally unanswered by his critics. Bullying? Swann makes one claim, Cook says he doesn’t recognise what he says, but noticably none of them call him a liar. Textgate against Twitter Parody account – the ECB look stupid. KP doesn’t mention the leaking culture, which like it or not, he was evidently a victim of (e.g James Taylor incident) in the TV programme, but again, in the book, it remains unanswered. What charges is he supposed to answer? The one’s about him giving “tactical advice on how to get Strauss out” which now none of the protagonists said happened and which Jessica Taylor brilliantly summed up as being “such bollocks”?

In the programme he is celebrated by no-one from the current era. And his critics will jump on that. All those that say good things about him are his older colleagues. Piers Morgan turns up as the least wanted character reference since Kenny Senior turned up to defend Brian Potter after the fire at the Phoenix Club. It painted KP in a good light with his team-mates, which is really horrible because, as we all know, he ruins every dressing room he’s been in.

It was worth a watch, won’t change many minds, and that’s the sad fact. We’ve wasted his last two years, not him. The fact is we’ve all been filling in the blanks. This will lead into the media stuff that we’re planning. How those blanks are filled, how the ECB were massively let off the hook, and how we cannot tolerate the something extra, different that he brings.

However, it’s a comment like this, by Webster, that needs challenging:

it is ultimately too much like a documentary that is quite happy to simply be about an exceptional England international cricketer who believes he has has been unjustly slighted. And doesn’t mind telling us

That is because, Mark, we’ve never been told. He says he’s never been told why. The comment put to him about not being a player we could build around, was answered. It then became about “trust” instead, though what he could or could not be trusted is another example of fill in the blanks. You can’t challenge KP’s side when the accusors have never provided the slam dunk evidence. I think berating a bloke for putting his side of the story, when the opposite side tried to leak their’s through the dodgy dossier which was ridiculous, is slightly unfair. But hey, I’m a fanboy. It’s now about the book, apparantly. Well, I’ll let SimonH say what he thinks of that, as he so eloquently did on Guardian BTL.

And those things remain. And so will KP in my memory. He played too many, and I saw a few, great innings for the small-minded haters to taint. Just will not happen.

One Day We’ll Fly Away

England win the ODI series 3-1, and did this in varying styles. We dug a game out from a troublesome position, we set a middling to good total and bowled well, and we smashed a massive total which was never really under threat. That’s probably the most pleasing point from this series, and lets leave aside just how good, or not so good, the opposition might have been, and shows there isn’t just one way this team can win.

Having said that, our batsmen are going to win many more games than our bowlers. I’m sure that’s not an exclusive revelation, but the bowling is still capable of going for plenty. It did against New Zealand, to a lesser degree (and that might be down to the change in regulations) against Australia, and it may well do again when the human cyclone that is AB DeVillier reaps his storm.

To quote the mystics from May “there does not appear to be any vacancies in the batting line-up” at present. Don’t worry, pearl clutchers, I’m not mentioning him. With Hales and Roy at the top, Root at three, Morgan at four, Taylor at five, Buttler at six, Stokes at seven and Ali at eight (with Rashid maybe at nine), that is an exciting batting line-up. It could do serious, serious damage. If either of our spin bowlers could become regular wicket-taking threats, we’d be in a really solid position.

What you will get with this batting line-up, as you probably will with most, is brittleness. I’ve seen Jason Roy enough, as have most of you now, that he will go early quite regularly. I’ve compared him many times not to you-know-who, but to Ali Brown. If England had stuck by Brown, took the rough with the smooth, and not bowed to the usual staid and boring methods, we’d have had a winner. I’m convinced. I saw him play enough when I was a Surrey member, in county championship and one dayers, to see it. Roy is a talent. But even yesterday, he started a bit dodgily, with two inside edges flying past his stumps. He was out second ball in the first match. It will happen. We need to stick by him. It was brilliant to see a Surrey man make a hundred for England. Not counting who I can’t name, it might be the first international hundred by a Surrey man since The Thorpe in 2004 at Durban. I think!

At the other end Alex Hales also made his first ODI hundred, and without it we might have been in strife in that game. Hales is again going to be hit and miss, but his hundred was pretty mature in many ways. He got himself in then let himself go. Hales is likely to open, we think, in Durban next month in the test team (though I still remain to be convinced they’ll take this mighty plunge) and we should see what happens (although we might not like the answers). It’s tough to get a huge feel of a series I could only watch on highlights shows, but Hales seems to be finding his way. It still beggars belief that we haven’t had that faith in him for longer. But that’s history now. What I would say is I thought the reaction of the England camp afterwards was a bit OTT. Hales has a long way to go, he’s not there yet, but the upside is phenomenally exciting.

Jos Buttler’s hundred yesterday was amazing, even on highlights. Good grief, what a talent. Some of those shots are played only by the true greats of ODI cricket. That reverse sweep when he barely moved his feet and just belted it behind backward point was staggering. Also, when he got the free hit, he just took a look at the ball, and guided it behind square for four when many others would have looked to belt a six. Brilliant shot selection, awesome power, so many weapons at his disposal, a calm head, what on earth is there not to like. It’s lazy to compare him to Gilchrist, just because they are keepers who can bat. I’ve not really seen anyone like him to be honest. The travails at test level are mystifying, but I pray he gets through them. My real fear, and I hope it is not going to happen, is that he’ll be pigeonholed as an ODI player now white ball cricket is a priority. No-one doubts that Bairstow is most likely to keep in Durban.

The other batsmen weren’t needed so much, although Root was his usual solid self with half centuries, and Taylor won the sort of game we’ll need him to win, where his ability to manouevre the ball around with what looks a more solid technique, is going to be important. He’s no slouch when you need to get a move on, but he’s not the unleashed havoc of Roy, Hales, Buttler and Morgan.

The bowling coped without Finn, Wood or the two senior bowlers who may have played their last ODIs (although neither have retired). It remains to be seen if Willey and Topley are the answer, but they aren’t letting anyone down at this stage. Moeen Ali is still such a promising talent, able to make ODI hundreds and to bowl his share of overs that you can’t imagine the team without him at this stage. Rashid is going to be a daisy player. Some days he will go well, some days he will go far. South Africa will be a real test. Woakes seems like a squad player to me, but others really rate him. It’s nice to have a decent player like him in the wings (a little unfair to compare him to a bit and pieces player), but you can’t discount that he can bat (same as you can’t do that with Willey).

It’s promising, it’s pretty exciting, it’s the coming through of new one day talent, meshed to those who show aptitude for the format already. It is important that this is allowed to settle, but also not to be a closed shop. Bairstow is a fine ODI player in my opinion, especially when on form. I am intrigued by Billings, and would like to see him given a go in an elevated batting position (I think he might be the long term answer at test level – just a hunch based on the limited amount I’ve seen).

But, despite all this, I don’t get that sense of excitement that compares any way to test cricket by people out there. Sure, no-one can be anything but enraptured by Buttler’s hitting, and our two openers making hundreds, but it’s a fleeting thing. That was the point of the two pieces over the previous weekend on white ball cricket. No doubt if this team continues to perform like this, there will be a lot of excitement, and perhaps the new ODI team will capture the imagination. It’s probably sad, but true, that this team will face a firm examination in 2017 when the Champions Trophy returns to these shores, and a failure at that will have much wailing. England and its media don’t particularly like stability. Thus far stability has paid handsome rewards, as Strauss’s backing of Morgan shows.

The test squad raised some comments, and if time permits, I’ll be commenting on that. But well done to the ODI team, there’s something to hang on to, they’ve beaten what was put in front of them, and that’s all they can do. That it’s an exciting batting line-up (and I’m biased towards batting) is something to look forward to. See them all again in January.

Duel In The Desert #3 – This Time It’s Sharjah

You lot don’t know what goes on behind the scenes. WordPress have changed the post drafting interface again. Jeepers. Leave it alone, peeps.

Anyway, enough of the moans, here’s your comments space for the third one dayer to be played in the venerable old stadium in Sharjah, scene of famous triumphs of the past, and an unimpeachable reputation.

The series is level at 1-1 as England revert to glorious inconsistency. The glimpses of something are there, almost tangible, but not quite. Alex Hales made his first ODI hundred in the second match in Abu Dhabi, while Jason Roy made a half century. We’ve rather been here before with Hales, when that T20 century against Sri Lanka made his future selection almost irresistible (but resist we did for six months), but the England man he reminds me most of, Ali Brown, made a century in his third international and it was, with a couple of exceptions, all she wrote.  Hales will certainly be backed for much longer than Brown, and we should wait for Roy too. But as I noted on a separate Twitter feed on another subject, Quinton de Kock has eight ODI hundreds and isn’t 23 yet, while Hales is 26, and this is his first. I love watching Alex play, but the press have over-reacted again, pumping up his tyres, asking us to sort of forget some of his early struggles.

Bowling was also a concern after game one, but those extra runs and the early wickets certainly made the task easier. These guys have Wood and Finn to compete against in the not too distant future (Broad, I think, won’t be tried again) so competition is there, which is good.

Pakistan? Well who knows which team will turn up. They are like England at the moment, rather unpredictable.

We also have Day 5 of the Australia v New Zealand test, which looks nailed on a draw. There is Day 4 of the water polo match between India and South Africa.

Some upcoming news. TLG is nearly back from his manic workload and is working on a major piece, or pieces, on the cricket media – a subject we know nothing about. It’ll be broad in scope and take some work, so keep checking in. I’ve written up an introductory piece, with the interaction between the blog and the media its focus, while also finally announcing the top 10 worst journalists, as voted by you (and me).

I’d also like to thank all of you who contributed to the ODI pieces at the weekend. I’ll do a couple more bringing the pieces together, and perhaps one on T20s to coincide with the Pakistan v England series. And, I know you all want to see this, The Bogfather has written one of his poems (not the filthy ones he puts on Twitter) and it will be coming (oooo er) to you soon.

Double century watch – well Ross Taylor and David Warner, of course, but also Natraj Behera, who made 255* for Odisha against Haryana in the Ranji Trophy. He’s 27 and this is his career best.

So, comments on all the cricket below, and your white ball views too….