With the World Cup upon us I trust you'll forgive me
for typing little during January and February.
There has really been only one word I can think of to describe the start
of this event and that's shambles! Now I can't blame the ICC for the
views of extremists in India and I applaud their efforts to ensure
Pakistan could participate. However, I find it hard to believe that a
decent hotel could not be found for them in Cuttack as I wonder whether
sleeping at the stadium, and presumably being essentially trapped there,
is really the right situation to be conducive to playing your best
cricket. And as for the ramifications of moving much of the tournament
hundreds of miles across the country - well I feel for parents and
supporters trying to do their best to follow their teams around. I never
expected to be saying to friends and colleagues, this is one World Cup I
am grateful I was obliged to miss in the flesh!
However, from a spectator's point of view I am pleased that Sky TV has
decided to show rather more than just the final that we might have
expected. Also, in the UK, Radio 5 Live Sports extra (is it available on
the 'Net?) is covering every match, although with only one ex-player on
the commentary team I wonder how expert the commentary will actually be.
They do have Alison Mitchell, however, who has watched many women's
games and covered the England team's activities on a number of occasions
so I am sure she will make up for the lack of expertise we might expect
from the male commentators. If the BBC would like a list of qualified
women I am sure the ECB could provide (and, of course, I'd be happy
to!). However there is one who knows the current game as well as anyone.
<Addendum> From the BBC web site:
The commentary team includes Alison Mitchell, Charles Dagnall and
Prakash Wakankar, with former England internationals Ebony Rainford-Brent
and Mark Butcher as summarisers, while the commentaries can also be
heard via the BBC Sport website, where there will be live text
Full Radio UK
That individual is Ebony Rainford-Brent ("Ebs").
As I type the warm-up matches are underway and the White Ferns have
shown what they are capable of in the game against England. In fact a
quick look at all the results show that this World Cup is wide open and
in that respect at least potentially the most exciting for some time.
On a less serious note, I have been amused looking around the newspaper
reports recently of how little is still obviously known about the
sport's main stars. I have recently come across an article about Nicola
Browne illustrated by a fine picture of Suzie Bates, and also one on Meg
Lanning with a shot of Ellyse Perry in full flow - and a fine picture it
is too - but not exactly relevant to the article. Also one TV station's
review has a picture of Danni Wyatt labelled as Charlotte Edwards.
Hopefully, as the tournament wears on this will become rarer.
Well India stamped their mark on the tournament in this first match with
a convincing win over a West Indies side that looked tired and not up
for the task. India showed the same kind of commitment and enthusiasm
that those who watched them during the summer in England will have seen
and which had been lacking for some time before that in that country's
armoury. Is it Raj as captain or has someone behind the scenes given
them a good shake? Whatever it is, it does ensure they use the talent
they have always had to its best effect. England will have a match on
their hands on Sunday if India continue in this vein.
Kamini and Raut played particularly well, as you might guess from the
scorecard, but if you hadn't been lucky enough to watch at the ground or
on the TV what you will not know is the elegance of the stroke play,
especially by Raut, which made this opening stand such a pleasure to
watch. At 175 it is the highest for India in World Cups, and Kamini is
the first Indian player to reach a century in all the years since this
tournament started. As well as the fluency of her driving and pulling,
Raut showed she was master of the 'Dilshan', earning several boundaries
from the shot. It was Raut's personal best in ODIs and she can hardly
have earned higher praise than Mark Butcher's comment that her driving
reminded him of Sachin Tendulkar. When the first wicket went down I was
telling the TV (not that it was listening you understand) that Raj
should wait and Kaur should be sent in next. Someone in India seemed to
partly share my views for although it was not Kaur that arrived, it was
Goswami who seemed to feel the only right place for the ball was over
the rope and her short, sharp knock spurred the run rate considerably.
Kaur followed and both added valuable runs at scoring rates better than
150. India's total, their highest in World Cups, always looked
With the exception of Deandra Dottin who showed exactly what a
formidable hitter she can be, the whole West Indies line-up looked below
par. Her 39 came from just 16 balls with 4 x 6s and 3 x 4s.Sanjay
Manjrekar remarked that a previous President of the Cricket Club of
India where the game was played would undoubtedly have given her a life
membership for her efforts! In the end the game fizzled out with India's
bowlers, especially the quicks, showing their dominance over the WIndies'
Some thoughts on the match;
West Indies fielding very lack lustre
with many simple misses and on a couple of occasions a simple throw
to the bowler might (I suspect would) have effected a run-out where
a direct throw, which missed, did not.
Some poor umpiring with batsmen
getting away with lbws which hawk-eye indicated were well within its
predictions i.e. would not even have been "umpire's call" had a
referral system been in operation.
Anisa Mohammed bowled the occasional
back-foot no-ball, touching the return crease, that weren't spotted -
difficult I know for an umpire especially when she bowls from 23 or
24 yards every ball.
Two players, Kaur and Dottin showed
what concentration is really about both striking 6s while someone
walked across the sight-screen behind the bowler's arm!
I was especially pleased when Kamini,
while being interviewed, referred to women with bats in their hands
as "batsmen". It seems my battle to prevent the horrible 'batter'
term becoming universal, isn't yet lost.
Back in the UK I can only study the scoresheets for many of the matches,
and far too many newspaper and WWW reports are written just from
but Sky coverage does allow ball by ball watching for a number,
including the first upset of the tournament in England's last ball
defeat to Sri Lanka. Thus this ramble will be almost exclusively related
to those matches I can 'eyeball'. The current holders supporters will no
doubt be mentioning the lack of Sarah Taylor and Laura Marsh in the
line up but England have always boasted about strength in depth so we had
a chance to see if that was really true.
Well the umpires had no problems with the first three decisions. Edwards
was unlucky to be bowled off her back foot - just one of those things
that happens to everyone at the crease at some time or another - but the
two leg before decisions would have tested only the umpire who failed to
give Karen Rolton out in the 2005 World Cup Final. I was very impressed
with one appeal which went
"How's that, Sir"!
Some thoughts on the match;
Sri Lanka's idea of taking the pace
off is 40mph not nearer 50mph, and very effective it was in the
Amy Jones had a great debut scoring
40+, not looking phased by a big occasion and kept wicket to a standard
that would put her close to the world's number two slot. I felt the
commentators were a little unfair about the leg side catch chance.
Standing up, those are often caught more by fluke than skill. Her
batting strike rate was also excellent.
To me Chamani Seneviratna was the
pick of SL's bowlers, both her wickets being of top order batsmen
and her economy rate was excellent.
It was interesting to see an umpire
from Nepal but where are the women umpires? There are certainly two
in the UK who would not be out of place in this company. I would
suggest they would be better than at least one on view on the TV so
far and equal to the others.
Who was the bowler back to the stumps
so quickly to run out Arran Brindle?
(SS Weerakkody/Dolawatte). It showed the kind of
quick thinking so often lacking in bowlers!
The SL captain took it upon herself
to bowl the last over - don't ask others to do what you wouldn't do
I was amused by a visual side play
early in the SL innings when Brunt threatened to throw down the
batsman's wicket in spite of the fact she had made no attempt to
run. Atapattu simply walked away to point, pointing at the wickets
as if to show Brunt where they were just in case she was in any
doubt. The one with the cool head wins those encounters!
I turned on the TV part way through
the game, glanced at the strap line on the screen. When it said
Mendis and Atapattu I thought, just for an instant, that I'd got the
wrong channel and they were showing an old men's game.
Mark Butcher described Atapattu as
having "a purity of stroke". It's not an expression I have heard
before but he was not wrong.
I was also amused during the opening
stand that (unnecessary?) signs of aggression by bowlers were simply
greeted by smiles from the SL batsmen. Patently it was having no
England's fielding, especially the
catching, was very poor. Three sitters went down as well as a couple
of half chances - well one half and one quarter perhaps.
SL adopted a never-say die approach.
One international captain, who frequently found herself on the
losing side, once told me that you always play your top game
especially when the opposition is stronger. That's the one chance
you have of beating the them - catch them on a bad day and... SL certainly
did that and earned their victory.
<February 3> And a day for centuries! It reminded
me of an advert once sported by Hunts County bats, wielded so well today
by Charlotte Edwards, which simply said, following the date on which the
company had been formed "made for centuries". Today they were as 'Lottie'
returned to form, proving once again the old adage that 'form is
temporary but class is permanent'. And my jotted notes during play
I noticed that when Kamini dropped a
catch that should have been taken a team mate, rather than ignoring
her or looking the other way, was quick to pat her on the back and
show solidarity. That's exactly what Kamini needed - not stern
India's opening bowlers gave a fine
performance of accurate swing bowling. In fact it was the most
controlled I have seen from any side for some time. Sharma, for
instance, operated with no deep-fine leg, and indeed didn't need
one. Wyatt's wicket was the result of this consistency.
As the commentators remarked, the
slips were too deep and one chance went begging for that reason.
It was great to see that Niranjana's
passion has not subsided, and while the commentators remarked on her
celebrations, they seemed muted compared with those I saw in her
trip to the UK, while still rather more robust than those of the
Ekta Bisht's fielding stood out, not
just off her own bowling but at all times. Her bowling was also
right on the mark and she looked head and shoulders above the other
left armer Sultana.
Taylor was run out by a quite
brilliant piece of fielding from Sharma.
Why, I found myself wondering, no Amy
Jones. After her performance against Sri Lanka I'd have found a
place for her with the bat.
Was Raut hit in line? It would have
been an 'umpire's call' on a referral system I guess but I felt she
was a little unlucky.
At one point with Colvin bowling I
noticed Edwards at cover-point and Greenway at mid-on. It was an
indicator of how straight the Indian batsmen were frequently playing
the ball, and of an alert England captain.
Bowlers should perhaps be aware that
on TV it is frequently possible to lip-read!
India should have turned many of
their singles into twos. Even with England's prowess in the field
they were there to be had.
Mark Butcher described Kaur as a
"fantastic player - complete batsmanship". I would have to agree.
Having watched her a number of times I have always felt her first
century wouldn't be long coming, and there will be more to follow
I'm sure. If I were picking a world side the number 4 slot would be
hers. I was especially impressed with the way she played for the
team and only on 99 did she finally show some sign that the 100 made
her in the least nervous of going all out. She was robbed of two
runs when the 3rd umpire unexpectedly counted a ball that hit the
rope as a 4 rather than a 6. What made it even odder was that he had
got an earlier call right from the same batsman. Thankfully it didn't
affect either the result of the match, or Kaur's century.
For England the outstanding fielders
on the day must be Wyatt and Brunt, both of whom must have sore legs
with the boundary running that was required.
England will be happy that they have two points under
their belt, but although all sides have 2 points in this group, England
remain third on run rate.
<February 5> I started the day
not expecting another upset but by the end of the day wondering if a Sri
Lankan victory really was an upset. It rattled the established order,
and as one emailer to me pointed out, they are playing in their own back
yard in terms of conditions so, of course were today's opponents.
It is very early days, of course, but is there an outside chance we are
looking to a new established order? I have seen glimpses - no more than
that - in the past that has made me hope the Lankans might start
rattling the top four. Well, they've done rather more than rattle in
this World Cup! The change seems to be the willingness of the Sri Lankan
armed forces to take them on and ensure that paying the monthly bills is
no longer a worry. Giving everything to cricket rather than holding down
a full time job has done so much for women's cricket in a few countries
now, but nowhere else has the effect been quite so dramatic.
And my rambling notes made with pen and paper during the
match... well I tend to try and look for those nuances the commentators
may not have remarked upon or which I feel particularly significant.
Despite losing one of the more
glorious stroke players in the tournament early in Atapattu, the
Lankans didn't panic. In fact cool heads seemed to be a significant
part of their game throughout the day, despite becoming a little
bogged down in the middle overs. It would seem the mantra for most
teams has become "keep wickets in hand for the final onslaught". If
there was a little more attempt to look for the singles in the
middle overs then scores beyond the 300 mark are obviously not
beyond their reach.
There seemed to be a lack of intent
(and intensity) in the Indian bowling. Heads dropped very readily
and at first they seemed not to take the Lankans seriously.
I was especially impressed with
Rasangika who played throughout for the team rather than herself.
There seemed no change in her tactics when approaching milestones
and if anyone in the games I have been able to watch has deserved a
100 and not made it, then it was her!
Judging from the smiles on the Lankan
faces from the start of this match they must surely carry away the
trophy for the most cheerful team in this tournament. I am told win
or lose they're just the same. It is very refreshing to see players
so obviously enjoying themselves, and not just when things go well.
Some slip-ups (and there were few) also brought grins from the
Such was the concentration on the job
in hand that Siriwardene didn't seem to notice when she had reached
50 and either her team mate or one of the Indian fielders had to
point it out to her. That seemed indicative to me of the team
approach, rather than the personal one, with which they all played.
Mark Butcher repeated his comments on
Poonam Raut - "more than a touch of Sachin Tendulkar", but she was
the first in what turned out to be a procession. In the end India
could barely manage half the Sri Lankan total.
If you haven't seen Alison Mitchell
dance then you've missed a treat. It seems she feels quite at home
Mark Butcher also made one comment which I think
reflected perfectly why I have always enjoyed this sport.
"For those familiar with the women's game it will
come as no surprise to see the timing, balance and poise of the
I could add the word 'elegant' in there somewhere, but
these attributes are being showcased aplenty during this World Cup.
And now something more puzzling. Sky TV commentators
have explained most clearly how teams do not carry forward any points
from matches against the team that is dropped from their group when
going into the Sixes stage. I have found myself muttering loudly why?
It seems unfair to me that a side should get away with a
loss to a 'minnow' if they beat the other better sides and they might
well start the next round on a par with a side that's won everything. It
almost as if the organisers are saying "well if you came bottom of your
group you're not worth considering so we'll expunge you from history." I
feel this distorts what has happened in this Cup so far. You might have
expected (and the organisers probably did) Pakistan and Sri Lanka to be
going home now. If you had decided ahead of time that was the case why
invite them? As it turns out, one valuable function of them being there
are precisely the 'upsets' we've seen.
One possible explanation for the dropping of points has
come from an email by Mark Smith...
I haven’t managed to thoroughly convince myself of
the equity of this system, but conclude that it would probably
demonstrate its usefulness if weather was interfering significantly with
a competition, especially where there were larger pools in the initial
phase (as in the 1999 men’s World Cup).
In the ‘Super ‘ stage a team is only being ranked through performances
against others (the stronger sides) in that section of the competition
rather than having a points boost from easy victories over the minnows
that have been eliminated. e.g. A side that had picked up maximum points
from its ‘easy’ wins won’t benefit from them in relation to others who
had their minnow matches rained off. I think the benefit becomes more
obvious if you consider a situation where 2 or 3 sides are eliminated
from each pool at the group stage.
And yes, it does enable sides to “get off the hook” from slip ups
against the minnows, provided they can then do the business against the
If anyone has any other ideas on this I'd be pleased to hear them ...
Two thoughts occur to me at this point. That India are
not continuing is rather a blow to the organisers in that crowds will be
appreciably lower than they might have been and...
Pakistan have been extremely disadvantaged in being
essentially locked into a stadium night and day for the entire time.
This is not the way to get the best from any team, and while it is hard
to see what else could have been done, I doubt we have seen the best
from them as a result.
There is one characteristic I have often found among my
fellow countrymen. When watching a sporting event between two neutral
countries we have a tendency to support the underdog. If England are
playing that is quite another matter, of course! I have to admit to a
feeling of being particularly British at the moment. I am not sure if I
will get a chance to watch Sri Lanka again on the TV here in the UK but,
unless they are playing England, I will be cheering them on, although,
as I mentioned earlier I am starting to wonder how much of 'underdogs'
they really are. When will we see them In England again I wonder, or
will the old order survive and apart from a few T20s, only three
countries will be offered meaningful cricket in the UK.
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