A Ramble - with diversions - through 2007
I see no reason not to start this year's review with the same caution mentioned many times previously. Anyone who has visited this site for a while will know that in the main I refrain from editorial comment during the season, and indeed during most of the year. It's not that I don't have opinions (too many some might well say!) but simply that I feel most visitors want to learn what's happening in the game and take a look at the one aspect that I can cover rather better than others on the web, and that's in the pictorial department. However, once a year I feel entitled (it is my site after all!) to sound off on the last twelve months with my opinions on what seems significant both in the format of the game and those playing it. This also has the advantage that if I inadvertently offend anyone, and that's never my intention, they have a few months to cool down before I meet them on a boundary somewhere <g>!
And that should be the end of any (major) sense of deja vue!
And so my thoughts about 2007 and, if I may borrow part of the title of a Radio 4 comedy programme, "In no particular order", although I have typed them this year as time has progressed and so to put the remarks in context, and provide more of a 'blog' (horrible 'word') I will date each section as I type.
Male Spectators banned
[March] Early in the year a piece appeared on Aljazeera's web site saying that male spectators would not be allowed to watch the World Cup Qualifiers to be played in Pakistan. The tone of the article even cast doubts on the status of male officials. Firstly I was a little surprised to find myself adding a link to this site. Perhaps in the west we are disturbed by the apparently extremist views that we imagine that source propagates, a view we (or I anyway) have formed from the clips shown on the BBC and other western media. This is probably, although I can't say since I haven't watched Aljazeera's TV station, carefully selected to make a point, or to source material unavailable directly to the English TV stations.
Whatever the facts are here, the story in question does throw up yet another cultural difference between the west and some parts of the east and middle eastern worlds. Living in a relatively (only relatively, mark you) tolerant and peaceful part of the globe the customs of another culture can be perplexing. It left me unsure of how to view the banning of male spectators.
One view would be to say the ICC simply shouldn't have selected Pakistan as the host country. Pakistan's view on this matter, to which they are perfectly entitled, is at odds with every other country wishing to compete in the World Cup. As the 'odd one out' it perhaps should have been for them to decide if they wished to compete on the same terms as the rest of the world or to remain apart.
On the other hand it could be argued that the ICC is doing its best to introduce the sport to a country where the pioneering work of the Khan sisters had already made much progress but where the authorities had to take it over at some point to push the sport even further. The allowing of male relatives into the games is apparently a new 'concession' and so the ICC may feel that if they tread lightly the sport may be more generally recognised among the population.
I can't currently decide which of the two views I hold. Let's see if I can travel to Pakistan to watch a series in 5 or 10 years time. If I can then the ICC have made a bold and correct move. If not, then I feel Pakistan should not be considered for a major tournament until that would be possible. But am I just showing the prejudice virtually inevitable in a western upbringing?
Fitz & Rolls Retire
[April] Two of the most prominent players on the world scene announced their retirement early in 2007. Cathryn Fitzpatrick is quite definitely the fastest bowler I have seen in the women's game. But to say just that is not to pay her the respect she deserves since she knew well how to use that pace and the swing and seam she could also generate. I have quoted here before that her spell at the World Cup semi-final in South Africa in 2005 simply blew the England top order away in the finest spell of fast bowling I can recall. As I have mentioned before, she'd have been my Player of the Match for after her spell the game was almost as good as over unless a most unlikely turn around could be supplied by the England middle and late order.
Perhaps the quickest I saw her bowl however was on a fine batting track at Shenley in a Test match against England. True it's not easy to judge this from the boundary and England weathered it on that occasion but you had to admire the sheer fire power provided by such a diminutive frame.
In the latter part of her career she also became a regular all-rounder finding herself batting ahead of the rest of the Australian bowling attack.
Rebecca Rolls must have worried more than a few opening bowlers. Although her batting career was somewhat erratic you always knew that if she got going runs would not just come they'd come very quickly! One day cricket was made for her batting style and New Zealand will find her almost impossible to replace as they have also lost a competent keeper. Who will open with Maria Fahey now I wonder...
Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax (and coaches)
[April] Early on in the year I discovered, during the World Series, that Clare Taylor had arrived in India as New Zealand's Assistant Coach. "Lucky them", I thought, as 'Rompa's' huge depth of experience, not to mention her motivational skills, would serve NZ well. They finished second of the four countries in the tournament and left England in fourth place. Now you may be saying "but England won the 3rd/4th place play-off against India." While true, they had lost to that side twice in the previous round so I consider that 2-1 to India. Maybe I am being a little harsh in that we were coming off an off-season and the others weren't but if you prepare properly this shouldn't matter too much (as I think commentators were telling the previous England men's coach).
And then we heard that Richard Bates had decided to emigrate to Australia. It seemed to be a time for all change in the coaching staffs around the world with many changes coming at the same time following the men's World Cup. Thoughts of who might make a good successor ran through my head immediately and only two names stood out. I will not mention them since I feel sure neither will apply (as I'm typing in April). By the time this hits the 'Net we will know, of course who takes on the job.
While the subject of being prepared is high on my mind (appropriate perhaps in the centenary year of the Boy Scouts) did you notice the Rosebowl dates? Obviously the New Zealanders are not going to go into the series with England unprepared!
Another oddity this month was coming across a web site (address forgotten I'm afraid) where it claimed it would cover every women's sport except cricket (well it was in the USA). If I can locate it again I'll be checking on the stool ball reports.
And Another International Player Quits
[May] This month sees Laura Newton retiring from the international arena. A stalwart for England for some years, Laura leaves a gap in the opening batsman slot and judging from recent form, in the spin bowling department too.
Sussex have started the season determined to stress their supporters as much as possible. In the three opening friendly games, two were only won on the last ball of the match. Unfortunately I couldn't make one of these so pictures are only available for the matches against Warks and Kent. In situations like these it is the only sport where the suspense is so long lived. "Will they ... won't they?" seems to go on forever.
The Big Guns Arrive
[July] ...and the prospect of watching three international teams, New Zealand, South Africa and England. I have to admit it was a highlight for me to watch the South Africans again. They are among the friendliest people off the pitch you could wish to meet and on the pitch can muster the world's most stylish batsman in Johmari Logtenberg, and some useful fire power in Cri-Zelda Brits and Alicia Smith. For the first time I also came across Sunette Loubser who seemed to mesmerize the opposition with her strange action and accurate spin.
They looked quite a different side from that which failed in the World Cup in 2005 to even qualify for the next in 2009. Having the evergreen Kim Price as a coach will do them no harm at all! Snatching every opportunity to watch them meant I didn't come across NZ until the South Africans met them on the County Ground at Taunton in an official T20, a format in which the South Africans did their reputation no harm despite the loss. When you look at the card remember none of their players (to the best of my knowledge) had ever played this format of the game before at ANY level. To bounce you at the girls in black as a first taster is rather more that a big ask - it's more like suggesting a kamikaze mission!! I can't wait to see the African side again next year (if the current schedule stands - and heaven only knows in women's cricket what fixtures there are more than a few weeks away - but more of that anon.).
I have mentioned in earlier editorials the very fine camera work of Claire Taylor. This season I met another cricketer who has an eye for a picture. Lonell de Beer has sent me some quite superb shots of her favourite subject, aircraft, on her return to South Africa. I figure if I keep trying I might achieve the skill level either of these have reached but it hasn't happened yet!
Heads Down? Not Haidee!
[August] And a long gap in the typing with personal problems and work getting in the way of this editorial.
The international series kicked off with three T20 matches. Fortunately (from my point of view) the first were in Bath which is a relatively short drive away. Exciting as this form of the game can be, I find myself wondering if I can really be bothered to drive large distances for just 40 overs of cricket. If there are 2 matches in a day however ... and the pleasure of visiting a favourite club, well that's another matter.
And Bath CC are to be congratulated for their efforts in staging the first two games. Yes, they did provide other entertainment for the mornings of the two days on which the T20s were fought, and if you missed it then shame on you... for you missed two most interesting and exciting sessions. I had never seen a game played by physically handicapped individuals before and I came away humbled by their courage, skill and dedication. The pictures below can give you only an inkling of the game you missed, played against the England Learning Disabilities XI, and both sides reflect the greatest credit on their team members, coaches and managers.
Anyway, England won the first match of the women's series and Haidee Tiffen showed what it takes to make a great skipper with a most amusing speech at the presentations indicating not only that the kiwis knew the right way to look defeat in the face, but also that they'd be back and fighting, something you never need to doubt with that side.
Indeed they did and both televised matches went their way as NZ looked snappier and keener by the match and England slowly lost the sharpness they had shown in match one of the T20s.
2007 Ramble Part 2