Saturday, 8 September 2012

My 15 players to watch at the ICC World Twenty20

The likes of Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Lasith Malinga and Saeed Ajmal are the obvious names you would look out for at the World Twenty20 but behind the stars there are some talented players who could make a big impression on this tournament. Here, i have compiled a list of 15 cricketers that i think might do well.

Akila Dhananjaya (SL) - The young mystery spinner has virtually come from nowhere. A month ago, Dhananjaya was playing club cricket, 2 weeks later he had been selected in Sri Lanka's World T20 squad. He made his professional debut in the Sri Lanka Premier League and performed brilliantly, bamboozling many batsmen with his variations. This has led to him being fast-tracked into the national squad. Should Dhananjaya play in the World T20, he could form a formidable partnership with fellow mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis. Hardly any international batsmen have seen him yet alone faced him which is why he could be the surprise package of the tournament.

Ziaur Rahman (Ban) - Rahman is a big hitting all-rounder who on his day is a potential match winner. Despite not having the best of domestic records, Bangladesh took a punt on Rahman and the experiment couldn't have worked better. Batting at number 6, on debut against Ireland, Rahman smashed 40* off just 17 balls including 5 sixes to take Bangladesh up to a huge total of 190/5. The sub-contintental outfit have lacked a hitter down the order for a long time but in Ziaur Rahman, they may have just found what they are looking for.

Shaminda Eranga (SL) - Eranga will be competing with Nuwan Kulasekara for the seam bowling all-rounder spot in the XI and on current form should easily get the nod. Eranga recently took 2/30 on his Twenty20 international debut against India and then followed that up by putting in some superb performances in the SLPL. The 26 year old seamer has a magnificent bowling average of 14.22 in all T20 matches and will be part of a very strong Sri Lankan bowling line up.

Gulbodin Naib (Afg) - Gulbodin is a big hitting all-rounder who adds great value to the Afghanistan side. You might think that Afghanistan have no chance of beating England or India and you'll probably be right but they do have some quality players and Gulbodin is one of them. He hasn't set the world alight at international level yet but has hit some quickfire cameos. Gulbodin scored 17* off 8 in the final of the World T20 qualifiers and then smashed 22 off 17 balls, including 3 massive sixes, in an ODI against Australia. Playing for the Afghan Cheetahs in Pakistan's domestic T20 tournament, the all-rounder hit 68 off just 42 balls in one match. Big hitting at the end of the innings and seam bowling in the middle overs is why Gulbodin is a huge asset to the Afghan side.

Mitchell Starc (Aus) - Left armers are generally more successful in Twenty20 cricket and Starc is no exception. Bowling fast, full and straight is Starc's modus operandi and it has seen the Australian pick up a hatful of wickets in the Friends Life t20 in England. He ended up as leading wicket taker in the competition. Good with the new ball and excellent at the death makes Starc a tough proposition for the batsmen. 43 wickets in all T20 matches at an excellent average of 15.79 is why the quickie has to be feared and although being just 22, he'll be the leader of the attack and much will be expected of the young man.

Raza Hasan (Pak) - The 20 year old left arm spinner probably won't make Pakistan's final XI but with an exceptional domestic record like his, it will be difficult to leave him out. He looks like more of a containing bowler rather than a wicket taker but 39 wickets at 13.12 and 2/15 on his international debut suggests otherwise. Hasan's accurate spin seems hard enough to play and when you add in the fact that he can bowl the doosra, it means that batsmen aren't going to take him lightly. In most attacks he would be the attacking option but with bowlers like Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal in the side, Hasan will probably be just asked to tie up an end for the time being, that's if he plays.

Jade Dernbach (Eng) - Dernbach has all the variations you could ask for and if he gets it right then is one of the hardest bowlers in the world to face. At international level, Dernbach has shown glimpses of his talent but hasn't performed consistenly enough. His T20I record is good and includes a four-fer but everyone knows he is still very unpredictable. The seamer is gradually getting better by the game and his variety of slower balls will probably be more than useful on the Sri Lankan wickets. If he's on song then the batsmen better watch out.

Graeme Cremer (Zim) - If Zimbabwe are to get out of their group then it's Cremer who Zimbabwe will be heavily relying on. The leg-spinner was recently going great guns in the unofficial T20 tri-series which involved South African and Bangladesh. He started with 4/14 in a warm up match and then took 3/29, 1/30, 0/20 and 1/17 in the tri-series. Although Cremer's main role is with the ball, he scored 36* off 27 balls against South Africa to show that he is capable with the bat. Cremer also has a huge first class hundred to his name and should be a more than handy player for the Zimbabweans with his lower order batting and 4 overs of leg spin.

Dilshan Munaweera (SL) - An aggressive opener that made his name by blitzing 44* off 23 balls, with 5 sixes, in the SLPL final to see his tea - Uva Next - to victory. If he plays, the uncapped Munaweera could be an integral part of the Sri Lankan team. Apart from Tillakaratne Dilshan, the home side don't really have any six-hitters at the top of the order which is why Munaweera could come straight into the XI. A dangerous batsman who could tear an attack apart if he gets going. Bowlers need to see the back of him early otherwise he can cause some serious damage.

Nasir Jamshed (Pak) - Jamshed is an attacking top order batsman who is currently in the form of his life. Despite being an opener by trade, the left hander is likely to bat at 3 due to Pakistan having a luxury of openers. Jamshed has been outstanding in ODIs on his return to the side and will look to translate that form into Twenty20 cricket. In his 2nd T20I, he top scored with 45 which went a long way to Pakistan winning the match. A versatile player who Pakistan will back to score runs in any situation.

Karim Sadiq (Afg) - Sadiq is another big-hitting all-rounder from Afghanistan. He will open the batting and will attack from ball one. Sadiq has produced the goods before on the big stage - he has 2 ODI hundreds to his name as well as a quickfire 91 which he hit at the World T20 qualifiers. A powerful strokemaker and an economical bowler makes him a key player for the opposition to look out for. One of the more reliable performers in the Afghan team; he is arguably their most valuable player. Some of the players in the side are a bit raw and it will be players like Sadiq that will have to lead the way for the time being.

Glenn Maxwell (Aus) - Maxwell is one of the cleanest strikers of a cricket ball in the world as he has demonstrated on many occasions at domestic level. A player with immense talent who produced two wonder innings in the Friends Life t20 as his team Hampshire Royals won the tournament. He also bowls some off spin which isn't to be underestimated and could be useful in the sub continent. In his first ODI series for Australia, Maxwell guided his country to victory with an unbeaten 56 off 38 which included some extraordinary shots off one of the best bowlers in the world - Saeed Ajmal. The Aussie is one of the rising stars of world cricket and is a match winner in the true sense of the word. The opposition know that while Maxwell is at the crease, the match isn't won no matter how many is needed.

Samuel Badree (WI) - Badree is the most economical bowler in the history of Twenty20 by a mile. In 43 matches, the Trinidadian's economy is just 4.59. The parsimonious leg spinner will bowl with the new ball and will keep things extremely tight, not giving the batsmen any width to work with. He usually darts it in although on Sri Lankan pitches, he might look to give it a bit more flight in search for some turn. What ever he bowls, Badree is likely to be more than just a handful and it wouldn't be surprising if the batsmen just look to play him out as he is a very difficult bowler to attack.

Imran Nazir (Pak) - Nazir has had many chances at international level and never really established himself in the side. At 30 years of age and with some promising youngsters knocking on the door, this may be his last chance. Nazir has never scored more than 76 in T20s but his job isn't to go and score hundreds, his role is to smash a quick 30 off 20 balls to get the team off to a flyer. He has a phenomenal T20 strike rate of 157.42 and has hit over 100 sixes. Nazir is one of the most aggressive batsmen in the world and if he can replicate the performances he produced in the Bangladesh Premier League and the domestic T20 competition back in Pakistan then the bowlers might be in for a hiding.

Luke Wright (Eng) - Wright is having the year of his life and will want this exceptional form to continue into the World T20. From blasting the fastest hundred in the Australian Big Bash League to scoring back to back centuries in the English 40 over competition, where ever Wright has played he's been a success. Wright was part of England's triumph in 2010 but hasn't been a permanent fixture in the side since. His quickfire batting, electric fielding and useful seamers make him a great all-round cricketer to have in the side although it's his batting which is his main asset. He's has two 44 ball tons, a strike rate around 150 and 96 sixes to his name in all T20 cricket. England, without Kevin Pietersen, look weak at the top of the order, this is Wright's chance to really showcase his talent on the world stage.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Rob Key for England?

There's no stand out candidate for the 2nd opening slot so i thought i'd make a case for Kent captain and former England batsman Rob Key. Firstly, i'm not saying that he should be picked but i'd like to think he'd be considered, seeing as he is experienced, in good form and is a proper opener unlike other contenders Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Nick Compton.

Key is one of the most experienced players around and despite being 33, he is still scoring runs and, although he may not look it, is fit enough to continue for at least another few years. Key has previously played Test cricket - unlike all of the other contenders apart from Trott, Bell and Michael Carberry - and has a double century to his name. He's scored over 16,000 first class runs which is far more than any of the other openers around the county circuit. The Kent captain has 46 first class centuries which is 42 more than Joe Root and 20 more than Carberry.

Key is having a great season with the bat and in the County Championship, he's scored 729 runs at an average of over 45. It's not just his batting that could be useful for England, he's the longest serving county captain by a mile in recent times and could help guide the inexperienced Cook. Playing spin is what England struggle with and although Key is no spin maestro, he plays spin fairly well, using his feet and the sweep shot to good effect.

Apart from being 33, i can't see why he shouldn't be considered. He's a class batsman and his first class stats are second to none.

Monday, 20 August 2012

2006 Under-19 World Cup - Where are they now?

My research into where the cricketers from the 2006 U19 World Cup are now. In total, there were 141 players from the 10 full member nations at the tournament. 46 of those 141 have gone on to play international cricket; 135 have played domestically but only 124 of them have played any type of professional cricket in the last 2 years. When i say professional cricket, it doesn't necessarily mean a First-Class, List A, T20 match but any match that is recognised by Cricinfo.

Out of Australia's squad of 14, 6 have gone onto play internationals - they are Moises Henriques, Aaron Finch, Tom Cooper (for Netherlands), Usman Khawaja, Matthew Wade and David Warner. 6 of those 14 have just played domestically - they are Jackson Bird, Ben Cutting, Jon Holland, Simon Keen, William Sheridan and Tom Stray. 2 players never went onto play any domestic cricket, those unfortunate one's are Jack McNamara and Adam Ritchard. The former is the only 1 of the 14 to not have played professional cricket in the last 2 years. The Aussies have definitely benefitted from this U19 squad as they found several internationals and a few that are currently in the A team.

Bangladesh also profited from this tournament, half of their squad have now played international cricket - those players are Dolar Mahmud, Mehrab Hossain jnr, Mushfiqur Rahim, Raqibul Hasan, Shakib Al Hasan, Suhrawadi Shuvo and Tamim Iqbal. All 14 players that were part of this squad went onto play domestically, the 7 that have only played domestic cricket include Ishraq Sonet, Kazi Kamrul Islam, Mehdi Hasan, Nabil Samad, Rezaul Islam, Shamsur Rahman, Sirajullah Khadim. Rezaul and Sirajullah are the only 2 not to have played in the last 2 years. They will be very pleased with how their players from this squad progressed - Shakib, Mushfiqur and Tamim are all legends of Bangladeshi cricket now.

England will be the most disappointed out of all 10 full member nations as none of their squad have gone on to represent their country at a higher level. England had 15 in their squad due to one player getting injured yet none of them played internationally despite them all playing at domestic level. Those 15 are Moeen Ali, Varun Chopra, Rory Hamilton-Brown, Nick James, Richard Jones, Andrew Miller, Steven Mullaney, John Simpson, Mark Stoneman, Huw Waters, Graeme White, Greg Wood, Robert Woodman, Ben Wright and Mark Nelson. Apart from Chopra, Moeen and Hamilton-Brown, none of them have even been considered for national or Lions selection. Wood is the only one not to have played in the last couple of years. All in all, a very poor squad and it's not surprising they didn't reach the final.

4 of India's squad have now played international cricket. Those 4 are Piyush Chawla, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja. They are all still in the selector's thoughts and haven't faded away since their early call ups. All 14 members have played domestically and played in the last 2 years, the 10 that have just played domestic cricket are Ravikant Shukla, Mayank Tehlan, Debabrata Das, Pinal Shah, Abu Nechim, Shahbaz Nadeem, Mohnish Parmar, Saurabh Bandekar, Gourav Dhiman and Yo Mahesh. Most of them are relatively unknown although a few of them have put in decent performances in the IPL. Apart from the main 4, none of them are close to selection at the moment.

New Zealand will be fairly disappointed with their squad despite finding 4 internationals (Hamish Bennett, Martin Guptill, Ronnie Hira and Tim Southee). Only Guptill is a regular in all 3 formats while the other 3 have been in and out of the team. Of the 10 that haven't played internationally, only 7 have played at domestic level. Those 7 are Todd Astle, Dean Bartlett, Andrew de Boorder, Jason Donnelly, Ronald Karaitiana, Colin Munro and Kieran Noema-Barnett. The 3 that haven't played domestically are captain Mark Ellison, Nicholas Fitzgerald and Shaun Fitzgibbon. Fitzgerald is the only one out of the 14 who hasn't played any sort of cricket in the last 2 years.

Pakistan, despite winning the World Cup, will be probably be quite unhappy with how their squad has gone since the tournament. Only 4 (Sarfraz Ahmed, Nasir Jamshed, Rameez Raja and Anwar Ali) have played international cricket and none of those are regulars although they have all been picked in the national squad over the last year. All 14 went onto play domestic cricket, those players (apart from the ones named above) are Ali Asad, Ali Khan, Imad Wasim, Jamshed Ahmed, Mohammad Faheem, Usman Malik, Riaz Kail, Mohammad Ibrahim, Akhtar Ayub and Mohammad Laeeq. Faheem, Malik, Ibrahim and Laeeq haven't played in the last couple of last years. For a squad that achieved so much at this World Cup, it seems surprising that none of them have developed into quality cricketers.

3 of South Africa's squad have now played internationals although that could soon be 4 as Dean Elgar is likely to play in the upcoming ODI series. The 3 capped players are Craig Kieswetter, Richard Levi and Wayne Parnell. Kieswetter, however, went on to represent England and not South Africa. All members of the squad have played domestic cricket, those players (apart from the 4 above) are Craig Alexander, PIeter Daneel, Richard das Neves, Grant Mokoena, Romano Ramoo, Mafiniki Serame, Mthokozisi Shezi, Malusi Siboto, Jean Symes and Brett Thompson. Daneel, Serame and Thompson haven't played of late. It's a shame for South Africa that they lost Daneel as he was their 2nd highest run scorer.

Out of Sri Lanka's 14, 3 have gone onto play at the highest level. They are Angelo Mathews, Dimuth Karunaratne and Thisara Perera. The former and the latter have the potential to become quality all-rounders so Sri Lanka can be fairly pleased with how this squad turned out. The 11 other players (Sameera Soysa, Sachithra Serasinghe, Hans Fernando, Dilhan Cooray, Shalika Karunanayake, Sachith Pathirana, Chathupama Gunasinghe, Rajeeva Weerasinghe, Ashan Priyanjan, Prabuddha Perera and Malinga Pushpakumara) have all played domestic cricket and apart from Prabuddha, they are all still playing.

West Indies profited the most from this World Cup as 8 of their 14 have now been capped internationally. Those 8 are Leon Johnson, Jason Mohammed, Andre Fletcher, Nelon Pascal, Kemar Roach, William Perkins, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard. 5 of that 8 are out of the frame right now but Roach and Narine are regulars in all 3 formats whilst Pollard is in the ODI and T20 side. Richard Ramdeen, Gajanand Singh, Javon Searles, Sharmarh Brooks, Rishi Bachan went onto play domestic cricket. Bachan doesn't play anymore though. Andre McCarthy never played domestically and hasn't played any cricket since the World Cup, he looks like he's gone for good.

7 of Zimbabwe's squad have played internationally although 2, Sean Williams and Ryan Higgins, have subsequently retired. The 5 internationals that are still going are Chamu Chibhabha, Graeme Cremer, Friday Kasteni, Keegan Meth and Ian Nicolson. All members of that squad have played domestic cricket, they are Gary Ballance, Roland Benade, Tarisai Mahlunge, Prince Masvaure, Taurai Tapfumaneyi, Donald Samunderu and Glen Querl. Ballance, a great talent, is looking to play for England so unless he has a change of heart, Zimbabwe will miss out. Samunderu doesn't play anymore so that takes the tally of retired players up to 3. They have benefiitted from this U19 squad but in general, they won't be too happy that they've lost over a quarter of their squad.

To see around a 1/3 of the cricketers (from the 10 full member nations) go on to play at the highest level is a great achievement and proves that the U19 World Cup is a good platform for the upcoming youngsters. Even though none of England's 15 have played Test/ODI/T20I cricket yet, they have had 2 internationals who have came from this World Cup: Craig Kieswetter of South Africa and Eoin Morgan of Ireland (isn't counted as one of the 46 in the first paragraph as he wasn't playing for a full member in this tournament). I think it's good to look back at previous U19 World Cup's and see where the players are now. They obviously all showed promise at youth level so it's interesting to see how many went that step further.

All stats correct up to the 15th of August 2012.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Matt Coles - Future England Star

When i first saw 6ft 3 Matt Coles bustling in against the Indians at Canterbury, you could clearly see that this guy had talent. Even though he only bowled 4 overs in that match (due to heavy rain reducing the match to 20 overs per side), it was great to see a young bowler getting the ball to zip through at a decent pace. He didn't have the best of nights and got carted at the end by the magnificent Virat Kohli but i saw enough in him to believe that he is a future England star.

Before this match, Coles had played for Kent for a few years but could never establish himself into the side but regularly got chances due to the lack of resources at Kent's disposal. Kent put too much pressure on the Maidstone seamer and almost expected him to lead the attack. This led to him being overbowled and caused him to sit out a large section of the 2011 season due to injuries such as a jarred knee and a stress fracture in his left foot.
Bowling at speeds in excess of 85mph and extracting bounce off the pitch are the two vital weapons that Coles possesses which isn't surprising when you look at the sheer size of the bloke. He was clearly a confident lad and had potential but the one thing he was lacking in was accuracy. Despite having the county batsmen hopping around, he lacked the control that was required at this level by delivering too many boundary balls but at the age of 21, he clearly had time on his side. Over the winter, he has been with the England Performance Programme and that has definitely aided his development. Working with the coaches on the batting friendly pitches of the sub-continent has seen a vast improvement in his figures in the first few matches of the 2012 county season.

Back to the bowling friendly pitches in England, Coles couldn't have wished for a better start with bat and ball. He has always been known as a useful slogger down the order but was way too inconsistent to be considered a threat. However in the first match of the season, up at Headingley, Coles smashed his maiden first class hundred at just under a run a ball, batting at number 9. As i said earlier, he's never been short of confidence and he proved that with an audacious reverse sweep over point for six off leg spinner Adil Rashid to bring up his ton. Coming off the back of that 103*, the paceman then took 3/32 and 6/51 against Northants, beating the batsman with his pace and swing.
He's always been a strike bowler, a partnership breaker, the go-to man and although he still is, this season it seems he is capable of bowling long spells and not only picking up wickets but also bowling economically. After his impressive performances away from home, Coles continued his good form with the ball, taking 4/70 and 3/55 and was one of the shining lights in a pretty miserable match for the home side. The Kent pacer is currently the leading wicket taker in the country after taking another four-fer. It's still too early for him to be considered for national selection but his inclusion in the Lions side will only help him get further recognition. Still 21, if the bowling all-rounder continues to progress at his current rate then a place in the England team in a few years time doesn't seem as ludicrous as first thought.

If does go on to represent his country then it will probably be in the ODI side first, partly due to the fact that his big hitting, wicket taking and good death bowling makes for a deadly combination and also, England are more willing to try out youngsters in this form of the game. An excellent Friend's Life t20 could see him on the plane to Sri Lanka but whatever happens this summer, Matt Coles has a bright future ahead of him, whether it is for his county or country.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

BPL - How not to run a tournament

To put it frankly, the first edition of the Bangladesh Premier League has been a disaster. Problems have ranged from low crowds to officials not knowing their own tournament's rules.

The main problem was the lack of interest from the locals in this tournament. The night games saw larger crowds although on most occasions, only a few thousand attended. This can be linked to a couple of other problems such as the hectic schedule of playing 2 matches every day and the huge traffic jams in Dhaka didn't help but the main problem was the fact that they only used 2 grounds throughout the 33 game tournament. All the matches were played in Dhaka and Chittagong which is why the crowds weren't high as the people of Bangladesh couldn't afford to go to watch these matches every day and instead, could only go to one or two. A solution to this problem is to play matches at smaller grounds like Bogra and Fatullah (which have both held internationals) as the crowds will probably sell out if the BPL was brought there. Not every one in Bangladesh can travel to Dhaka or Chittagong which is why they should have used grounds in other parts of the country so that all people could go to watch. Even if they played just a few matches there then that probably would have seen larger crowds.

Only using 2 grounds was also a major cause for the problem of tired pitches. Dhaka hosted the first 14 matches of the BPL (inside 7 days!). Playing so many matches at the same ground caused the pitches to deteriorate which meant they went from flat to slow and low. You could clearly tell the difference between a new pitch and a used pitch as the scores varied from 90-130 (used) to 170-210 (new) with not many scores in between.
Even T20 superstar Chris Gayle couldn't attract the big crowds.
There wasn't much interest in the BPL in Bangladesh and there also wasn't much interest worldwide. The only reason why some people followed the tournament is because of the international players that were taking part and it meant that no one was actually interested in the performances of the Bangladeshis. Anyway, only 2 young Bangladeshi's had decent tournaments - Mominul Haque and Anamul Haque. The teams were reluctant to try out any youngsters as there was no added incentive (unlike in England and India) and it meant that most of the players that took part were already known as they had already played some international cricket. From a Bangladesh point of view, they hadn't discovered any new talents which is why it was a disappointing tournament for them.

However, the main problem was actually the fact that the BPL officials didn't even know their own rules. Firstly, this farce was started by the BPL, Cricinfo and all cricket websites reporting that Barisal Burners had secured a place in the semis. When the group stage was over, the officials shocked Barisal by claiming that Chittagong had qualified ahead of them and stated that no one read the rules closely enough (with head to head results preffered to net run rate when the points were level). After this controversial incident, Barisal had a lengthy discussion with the officials about their omission and in the end, the decision was overturned with Barisal going through to the semis with the BPL admitting that the rules were earlier misinterpreted. After all that, the correct decision was made but how on earth, they got to this position in the first place is beyond belief.

"The whole world saw how disorganised the tournament was. Definitely there are good things to pick up from the foreign players, but also there are things that have been negative that is going on. Whoever can get out of this with cricket in their mind, will do good in the future." Mushfiqur Rahim, Bangladesh and Duronto Rajshahi captain.

Another problem was the suspected match fixing that happened in this tournament. One Pakistani man was arrested for trying to enter the player's zone after earlier acting suspiciously (phoning Pakistan whenever a 6 was hit) and when they searched his phone, they found the details of Nasir Jamshed and Rana Naved. Apparently, the BPL had been monitoring him for a week before making their move although due to the short nature of this tournament, the fixing would have already been done. They should have went in as soon as possible because by the time they acted, it was too late in the tournament. That Pakistani man, Sajid Khan, later admitted match fixing when questioned by Bangladeshi police. ... nid=224522

The fact that teams were able to bring in new players for the finals made a mockery of the competition as all the players that had done well in the group stage like Kieron Pollard, Darren Stevens and some others had to sit out because Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal walked straight into the team despite playing no matches in the tournament to date. Those 2 players were signed from the start so it didn't seem too bad but players like Awais Zia, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Akmal and Wahab Riaz were bought specifically for the semi finals which in my opinion, shouldn't be allowed. I also believe you should have to stick with the same squad that got you through the group stage with and that it is unfair on the other teams to bring in players just for the finals. Also, to make matters worse - nearly all players (including the overseas stars) haven't been paid yet.

Obviously, this is only the 1st edition of the BPL and there are usually some things to change from the original prototype but this tournament had been ridden with problems from start to finish. Whether the tournament will be back next year, remains to be seen although if it is, then changes will have to be made.