A Ramble on Women's Cricket
Australia now sit top of the ICC Championship heap and will do so for a while. The table currently (mid Nov) looks like this.
And so I presume Tanya Aldred felt it was an appropriate time to wonder who were the 'greats' of the game. It is, of course, an impossible game to play which makes it all the more interesting and fun. She chose the following five...
This is an interesting, and if you set yourself to include only five players, possibly a reasonably predictable list. Interestingly if includes three Aussies, one English and one Indian player, but it set me wondering, naturally, of the pros and cons of these players. Being unable to watch two of them myself I have only the numbers to go on and there's no denying they are impressive. On the basis of those numbers those two must hold their place.
One stat to possibly discount is Belinda Clark's ODI 229* as it was made against a side that would have problems in Division 3 of our county championships. Yes, I know the runs still have to be made, but we are looking at setting ourselves a very difficult task/ultra high standard here! That's not to say Belinda should not be included in the list above. And it has been fun for years to tease the men about it, although, sadly that chance has now gone. I only saw Belinda play at the end of her career and there's no doubt she was a fine batsman, and in her defence you could argue her giant score was made in the day when rules about where you could place fielders were much more relaxed than today. Sometimes you could come away with the impression this is the only large score she made, which is far from the truth.
On Cathryn Fitzpatrick there is one thing about which I have no doubt and that is that she was/is the quickest I have ever seen. I only recall seeing her matched on one occasion when Claire Taylor fought a long battle with her at Shenley. At the World Cup in 2005 no one could handle her and she just blew away England's top order in the finest quick bowling spell I have ever witnessed in the semi-final. If I was choosing five players I have actually watched in action, then she'd have to be in this list.
And then we have Mithali Raj, the only one of the five still playing today. As elegant and determined a player as I have ever watched, Mithali looked a class apart from her team mates for many years. There was always the background carping that she "played for herself" but for much of her career so much hung on her shoulders it is hard to see how she could give any other impression. Only the occasional contemporary among her team mates could be relied upon, until recently, to stay with her and every time she walked to the crease she must have known she'd have to be the backbone of the innings, or there would be only a small total to offer the opposition. To gain the stats that she has is a remarkable feat in such circumstances. It is so much easier to bat when you feel that not only is your place secure, but that if you bag a low score, there's back-up you can rely on to follow. Raj did not always have that luxury.
It's interesting too that the list contains two all-rounders, two batsman and one bowler. Perhaps the list should have been stretched to six to include a keeper.
So what am I quarrelling with? Well, nothing really. It just isn't a list I would care to make, but Tanya's list is fair enough. In fact I'd be amazed if you could find 10% of the supporters in this sport disagreeing with her, especially in relation to more than one entry. As for the context of each of the players she has chosen, it's a very fine article! Now the best five I've seen with my own eyes... that might be worth a thought.
The death of Phillip Hughes has left the cricket world in a state of shock. The sympathy one feels for him, his family and his friends has been better expressed elsewhere than I could possibly manage here and these words are not intended as a comment on his death other than a note on possible thoughts on safety in sport. Others have paid tribute to the man with much greater knowledge and emotion than my ability to express my feelings on this page. Hence I have confined myself to thoughts on the edge of this tragedy. I understand and agree with the sentiments of sadness expressed. To loose one so young, in the prime of his life, and as fit and healthy as anyone, is a huge and almost incomprehensible event to anyone, but especially those close to him.
After the same initial reaction as everyone else to the news I did find myself wondering, and worrying, about any backlash that might occur. It seems everyone understands the plight of the bowler in this incident and that is gratifying and if anything can help him, and I am not sure anything really can, then surely it must be the knowledge that all those who love the game know that blame would be a quite ridiculous and inappropriate emotion! He was only doing what dozens do at international and club arenas alike virtually every day of the week, and what Hughes himself would have expected him to do.
But what about the backlash to the sport as a whole? Are parents now going to consider cricket too great a risk to their offspring to take part for instance? We all know that the human reaction to risk is quite irrational. Perhaps the most obvious manifestation of this is those who fear flying, but are perfectly happy to drive many miles to the airport to drop off or pick up a family member. We all know they are at much greater risk of death or serious injury in their car than their relative winging their way back across the Atlantic. It just doesn't feel like that to them.
By chance my wife went to a meeting of a club of which she is secretary on the day his death was announced. Most there - all women - felt that the bowling of such deliveries should be banned from the sport. Has the backlash already started, or is this comment coming from a group who do not, at least in the main, follow the sport? Might it be that mothers whose offspring play at Under-11 or Under-13 start to think of encouraging their youngsters to take up tennis or hockey?
Apparently the last person to die after being struck on the head by a cricket ball occurred at Lord's in 1870. If that fact tells you anything it's that cricket is among the safest of sports you can play. I have never see a study of injuries incurred in other sports but I ask you to make you own comparison between cricket, rugby, skiing, riding horses, football etc.. To use the airport analogy above, there's no doubt a player is at greater risk of serious injury (not the occasional bruise I grant you) driving, or being driven, five miles to their local match, than they are on the field of play.
I have to hope none of this adverse reaction develops. We must wait and see. I feel confident that Hughes would not wish his legacy to be a diminution in any way of the sport he so obviously loved.
A recent ECB Press Release has applauded the appointment of Ebony Rainford-Brent as Director of Cricket at Surrey. I can only echo that as Ebs' experience of many years playing the sport has to be valuable. I confess, wearing my Sussex hat, that the release did bring a smile, as Sussex made a similar appointment two years ago and I must have missed the ECB's press release on that occasion. So we have the first two (?) Directors of Cricket in the women's game. There will surely be more, and indeed should be if the sport is to grow.
If you are aware of anyone I've slandered by saying these are the first, please let me know.
There's one comment that commentators on Radio and TV regularly make which has always puzzled me. A wide ball is bowled and they remark that's "One run and the extra ball" (or something akin). But I can't see that extra ball....
Take this example over 3 1 Wd 0 0 0 4. Now the batting side have made 9 runs off that over, including 1 run awarded (in this case) for the wide ball. But as far as I can make out there's still only 6 balls in the over which (as long as the umpire can count) that's what there should be - 6 legitimate balls that is, which is the case in all overs bowled (except perhaps the last). Now the wide ball has cost the 1 run but where's the 'extra' ball. There's still only 6 balls in the over. The suggestion often made is that the 1 run penalty is not the end of the story, but as far as I can see it is. If the wide had not been bowled the over would read 3 1 0 0 0 4.
Now if we had an "extra" ball, it might look like this.... 3 1 Wd 6 0 0 0 4. Now in this over I have added an 'extra' ball, the 6. We have 7 deliveries (plus a wide which, of course, is not a (legitimate) delivery). Now that would have cost the bowling side!
My New Years Honours List (or what was new for me in 2014)
If I could I hand every player I've watched play in the last 12 months a gong, I would. It has been an amazing year for the sport.
So, in order not to mention every match I've watched and every player I've seen and hence bore you all rigid, here are a few things that were 'firsts' for me, and which I'll long remember. If I watched you in 2013 or before then, sorry, you won't appear here. I've leave that to the less idiosyncratic bloggers out there.
For an English supporter the Ashes are always a highlight of any season and since I wasn't able to be there I must leave the comments to others better briefed like Raf Nicholson's summary. But check the other bloggers too (list below).
The English summer however left some memorable times in my head. There was the magic moments of the swallows darting around me at a twilight Wormsley, an experience I'll never forget, and the first few attacking shots played by that new left-hander in the Indian side, Smriti Mandhana which confirmed my long-held belief that there's really no substitute for a sound technique and if you can manage to be elegant with it, and Smriti certainly can, then you're also a joy to watch.
How high an elbow is that? And the footwork and balance are quite perfect.
A team mate of hers also impressed me for her ability to just keep on going. Air Traffic Controller, Shikha Pandey appeared to me to give every spell her all, and, with a job like hers, concentration is something she'll be well familiar with. She proved to be stubborn with the bat too, which, when the picture below was taken, England already knew.
Also on my list of 'newbies' is Dane van Niekerk. As a leg-break bowler and top order bat, she's a huge asset to the up and coming South African side. I watched her play in the matches against England and the following series against Ireland and it's quite obvious there are years of international cricket in this young all-rounder.
A certain English County must be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of her playing for them in 2015.
I was also pleased to see a player I have watched many times before but who qualifies for this piece in that, I think surprisingly, I had never seen before in an England shirt (or at least representing the full England side rather than the Academy). Established Notts player Sonia Odedra had earned her place in England Test XI.
And I can't possibly leave this somewhat short and unorthodox look back at the international scene of 2014 without a mention of the girls from the Netherlands and Ireland. This is the first time I have seen the Netherlands side for almost a decade and was impressed by their commitment. When we (English County players and officials) complain about our travelling, give a thought to the Netherlands and Irish girls who need to pack a passport every time they have an away County fixture.
I try not to 'take sides' when Sussex or England are not involved but I had to feel desperately sorry for Sterre Kalis (above) and the rest of her team mates when they failed to get promotion in the County Divisional play-off. It's a while seen I have seen a team to whom it obviously meant so much. I'll certainly be making every effort to watch them again in 2014.
And for the Irish, well I will certainly be cheering for the other side at one point in 2015, as Sussex will meet them in a T20. That doesn't mean I won't enjoy watching them play!
I'll conclude this short piece with a picture that I admit I have to cheat to include. It shows however one of the most important aspects that makes this sport great. I have photographed the two players before, especially the departing batsman Paige Scholfield. Before she had reached the boundary Jess Watson took the opportunity to congratulate her on a fine knock in the Super 4s. It's such moments that show how all sport should be played and sadly, even within cricket, how far too frequently it is not. For all the snapping I have done this season I would choose this as my 'Picture of the Year' for what it demonstrates rather than its photographic merits!
Have I forgotten something or someone - undoubtedly - let me know! The year has gone by in something of a blur and cricket has brought odd revelations apart from the swallows at Wormsley. On the TV only two days ago (typing on 1.1.15) there was a picture of the hotel in which I stayed at Scarborough. It had a hole in the wall from a German shelll. That incident occurred almost 100 years ago, but it made me think of how much my life has changed from that of my grandfathers, both of whom were seriously injured in that conflict. Had I not been on a cricket 'tour' this reflection would probably not have entered my head.
Don't forget, for a more-rounded view of 2014 and for insight into 2015, you can, and should, look to the other bloggers too...
... but I hope my unorthodox look at 2014 shows, if you doubted it, that there's more to the enjoyment of watching (and photographing) cricket, than just the top few players, enjoyable as that is. Anyway I believe some of the players above will become better known than they already are.
What new awaits me in 2015 I wonder...