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Calendars – Flogs

Calendars – Flogs.

The current 2013 fixture list for Caythorpe CC

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Milking The Cash Cow

This post comes out of Twitter exchange with @LegsideLizzy, @ErikPetersen and myself on the subject of comments made by Muttiah Muralitharan on England’s domestic Twenty20 cricket competition.  I hope I don’t misrepresent them in any way, and thank them for planting the seed in my head on a day when I had nothing better to do than end up thinking about this way to much.

The jist of the comments from Murali, which can be found here (the BBC website) are that the current T20 set up in England is “old fashioned”.  He advocates a move to franchise teams and even merging counties.

To my mind, these are separate and distinct possibilities and are mutually exclusive.  Both have enticing pro’s and both are fraught with potentially damaging cons, but both have the same end game, an English version of the IPL, with around 8 teams containing the cream of the county game and a half dozen of the world games top stars.

On the face of it, this would seem like a good thing, and indeed the model has been pretty successful around the world of the major cricketing nations.  England however, may just be it’s nemesis.

In no other of the major nations is cricket so firmly entrenched.  None of the other countries have an equivalent to the County Championship consisting of 18 teams.  None of the other nations has such a small window of optimum weather to play all their cricket in.  A window which seems to be opening and closing more over a longer period, but leaving fewer days where play is possible.

So, what do we need to get an “EPL” up and running?

  • Grounds
  • Teams
  • Players
  • Finances
  • Dates

Grounds

On the basis that any team owner, whether it be a merged county set up or a franchise, is going to want to maximise their gate money and associated concession sales, then it would make sense to host these games at the existing venues.  There are international class grounds available in Durham, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Cardiff, Bristol and Southampton with a further two in London.  The issue here is that these grounds are in use by the resident counties, and also for international commitments.  A merger of existing counties would bypass one of these problems, and the necessity for star players would also alleviate the second as there would have to be a time frame created for this tournament with no clashing international cricket being played.

One of the points put forward this morning would have been the potential, within a franchise based model, for minor county areas such as Cornwall to bid for a franchise.  Whilst a laudable aim, the lack of facilities would be a stumbling block that would need time to overcome.  An investment of that ilk would also likely need guarantees of usage beyond the short EPL season.  Franchise owners will need to be able to negotiate use of these grounds.  Opening up the potential for regular franchise movement as each owner looks to sign a sweetheart deal with a city eager for a piece of the pie.  

This last is one of the reasons “franchise” is seen as a bad thing in the UK.  Clubs in the UK have a history and a sense of place generally because the have grown up organically there.  MK Dons are derided as “Franchise FC” because the parachuted in from elsewhere.  Fans, set in their ways with their county loyalties are unlikely to take to a merged set up because of the tainting of their team by a rival, nor are the likely to have an affair with a franchise.  The fear of it moving as ownership chase greener pastures of cash being just part of it.  Yes, rules could be drawn up preventing that sort of cash grab, but, that would just make the investment even less attractive to any prospective owner.

Teams

Any league needs teams.  Currently the T20 is made up of the 18 First Class Counties, split into 3 groups of six, each team playing ten games.  There are then quarter finals, and a finals day where both semi-finals and final are played.

For any move toward an IPL model, 18 is too many.  The talent pool is left thinner as the best players have to be spread between the clubs.  Looking at the other world leagues, numbers range from 5 in Zimbabwe to 11 in Pakistan.  Of the key competitions any prospective EPL would look to be modelling itself on, in South Africa they have 7 teams, Australia 8 and India 9.

The simplest thing to do would then be to follow Murali’s lead and merge counties.  This could conceivably cut the numbers to 9 or 8 with minimal fuss.  A quick scan of the county cricket map could give:

  • Leeds – based on Yorkshire
  • Manchester – based on Lancashire
  • Durham – initially felt they could merge with Yorkshire, but as I had no-one merging with Lancashire, there’s no way Yorkshire would’ve taken “help” if Lancashire weren’t getting any!
  • Birmingham – taking in Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire
  • Cardiff – Glamorgan based
  • Southampton – joining Hampshire with Somerset and Sussex
  • Nottingham – joining Notts with Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Northants
  • North London – Middlesex and Essex
  • South London – Surrey and Kent

Nine teams all playing at current international venues!  Wait, did I say “with minimal fuss”?  Hmm, anyone who saw the kvetching from the FA’s of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over Team GB at the Olympics, knows this bird will fly about as well as the Dodo did. 

So, we have to go to a franchise set up, right?  Nine new sets of colours, nine city identities no doubt with an animal mascot bearing no resemblance to anything seen in that city.  Sorry Superleague, but the only Rhino’s ever to have been in Leeds are plastic and on the shelves in Toys’r’Us.  At least the clubs can generate publicity by having a naming competition, just so long as the Durham Durhams is one of the teams.

Players

The obvious source of players for any merged counties is the county squads themselves, augmented by the overseas stars.  The main gripe against the current system is that only two overseas players are allowed, and no England, or by extension, touring team players are included.  Merging could solve one of those problems, in that, the best of each counties squad would become available, long with the finance for multiple overseas players, up to a limit of five or six if the IPL model is followed.  Getting the England etc players in would require a change in the calendar to make this happen.  A fully franchised model would mean practically everyone being put into a put to be auctioned/drafted, which is fine for those selected, but what about those many who would be surplus to requirements?  A county cricketer’s lot is not an easy existence without making him surplus to requirements for a month in the middle of the season.  None of the counties are going to want to play any form of cricket if the are shorn of their better players during this time period.

Finances

Administrators and ideas people love to talk of the potential of untapped wallets just waiting to be emptied into their laps, and there is no shortage of deluded people in these industries.  One look at the “Apprentice” illustrates that.  This idea does not rest on the “County Tragic” being enticed along, it’s all about the new audience, the young, sexy, cash to burn professional types.  Oh…..

On the face of it, having counties merge, pooling their T20 budgets and resources would appear to make sense.  For many, the share of the profits would probably be higher than it currently is.  The theoretical bigger gates garnered by them playing at the bigger grounds, the possibly increased TV money would all aid this.  But would it?  There is a potential for fans to stay away.  They identify with their counties and are likely to vote on any dilution/pollution of their team by staying away.

Similarly, a franchise model may not bring the fans flocking.  For reasons mentioned above they may struggle beyond the initial curiosity phase to attract an audience.  The big ticket for franchisees is the TV deal.  SKY are the existing broadcasters, but would have to renegotiate regardless of the model used.  The change in number of games and format would see to that.  They’d also be likely to have competition.  ESPN have links to Indian broadcasters and given the IPL nature of this venture it would seem to make sense to capitalize on increased interest from the sub-continent by getting broadcast rights.  Even little ITV4 who go a bundle on the IPL might look to dip a toe in.

However, this all relies on finding 9 men or women with money to burn on a cricket tournament.  In the middle of a recession.

 

Dates

The final conundrum, is when to play it.  The English domestic season is already a Dante-esque mish mash of little windows for it’s various competitions, interspersed with International cricket, and regardless of how the teams are formed, this is going to be the single biggest stumbling block.

This years T20 contest runs from 12 June to 8th July, with quarter finals on 24th and 25th July and finals day 25th August.  This won’t work for either of the new models.  In order to keep all the big name players around, the tournament will need to be structured so it starts and ends within a single timeframe.  

The initially run of four and half weeks ought to be enough to get a reduced format tournament played.  With 9 teams, each team would have 16 fixtures.  Add in the knockout games and it’s a 5 week window.

In that time frame, England play 3 ODI’s and a T20 against the touring West Indians.  They then spend roughly two weeks playing a bolted on series of 5 ODI’s against Australia.  They have a week off before starting a test series with South Africa.  

There are very few fans, administrators or broadcasters who would have that program put on hold to allow players from England, West Indies, Australia or South Africa to play in a hit and giggle contest.  I’d surmise most of the players would rather play in the international stuff too.  

To my mind, the timing of this is the biggest stumbling block, as no matter which model is used, the clash with international cricket needs to be worked out.  Something for greater minds than mine.

As indeed was this “article”.  Maybe someone can make sense of it, but I wrote it, and I can’t.

 

 

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Some bad, mostly good

The three weeks following the home loss to Plumtree have seen a collection of largely positive results.

First up was a trip to Costa del Papplewick Hall, where having won the toss, skipper Hunt elected to bat first. Steve Allcoat starred with the bat, hitting an unbeaten 73. With backup from Mierkalns (35) and Bicknell (33) a total of 223 for 9 was posted. This felt maybe 20 or so runs short of par.

That assessment seemed bang on as Dowman (32), Vines (51), Nel (68) and Nelson (29) set about the chase. However, with Hindson and Muzaffar chipping away things began to slow down. Haines then struck twice in an over and it was nerves all round. Needing six off the final over, Papplewick were unable to get much, and requiring 2 from the final ball for a win, could get nothing and had to settle for the losing draw. A “burglary” indeed.

No matter the weather leading up to, or just after a game a Papplewick Hall, I always end up lobstered to thermidore proportions when we go there.

Just a week later, and what felt like a 20degree down shift in temperatures, the star-studded WI Cavaliers come to Caythorpe.

This lot are ridiculously loaded, Alex Tudor and Usman Afzaal both played test cricket for England. Bilal Shafayat has been around the county scene fro some time. A number of others have star performers at various clubs, and of course there is the legend that is Saqlain Mushtaq (208 test wickets, almost 1000 runs). Only weather can stop them winning the league. Toss lost and the hosts were inserted. The innings never really got going, Alex Tudor shaking things up with 4 wickets and a bruiser to the arm of Hunt. (Hunty hasn’t played since). Thanks to the lower order digging in, marshalled well by an unbeaten 30 from Usman, the homeboys made it to 172 for 9.

Jim Hemmings struck first ball of the Cavs innings, but this only seemed to rile Bilal Shafayat, or he had an early dinner date, as he wasn’t for hanging about. His 96not out coming from 91 balls and seeing Cavs home for the loss of 3 wickets in the 31st over. A chastening result, but not the first, or indeed last the Cavs will hand out.

Two days later and league leaders Cuckney came calling for a Holiday Monday fixture. With the start delayed by rain, the umpires elected to reduce the match to 48 overs per side. On winning the toss, the visitors chose to bat. A decision that looked suspect after a fine spell from Hemmings (3-27) reduced them to 46 for 4. Butler and Parkin righted the ship a little with a stand of 80, but this was the cue for Kafeel to enter and blow away the tail. His figures of 5 for 46 ending the innings on 155. Strangely that’s pretty much a par score at Caythorpe first up this year.

The reply started slowly. Mierkalns out early and a painstaking 50 stand between Hawley and Bicknell saw the scoring rate hovering around 2 an over for long periods. The plan for later acceleration coming unstuck as both fell in quick succession along with Landa and stand-in skipper Allcoat. Hindson and Oldham added 50 together, and as Jimmy O reached 50 it was looking good. Entering the final over with 8 wanted, Oldham was run out off the second ball. 5 needed off 3, single to Muzaffar. Kafeel, new to the crease got 2 from his first ball, leaving 2 needed from the last ball. Boot on the other foot from the Papplewick game, but no worries. A cut for 4 delivered the win.

The most recent fixture was a visit to the Notts Sports Ground to take on the Academy, now top of the league after Monday’s results. Acadamy captain, Parkin-Coates won the toss and invited Caythorpe to bat. Webster and Gamble then reduced the side to 66 for 6. Only Mierkalns causing any problems with 33. From this point there was more tail wagging than at Crufts, as Hindson (23) and Hemmings (37) added 61. Usman chipped in with 22 and Kafeel hit 17 from just 6 balls to close the innings on 185 for 8.

Overlooked by a legend

The Academy reply followed a similar pattern. Wickets falling regularly as batsmen got starts but couldn’t go on. Aided by Usman taking 4for 38, the Academy were reduced to 90 for 8 and with 15 overs left outright victory looked there for the taking. Hutton (34*) and 16 year old Ben Kitt (28*) had other ideas, steering the home side in for a losing draw, as the closed 40 runs short.

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Swings and (Falling off the) Roundabouts

Very much a case of rescuing defeat from the evil clutches of victory last Saturday, as Plumtree left Caythorpe with the points.

Having lost the toss and been inserted, Caythorpe made a steady start moving to 70-2 before, Bicknell pulled up lame completing a second run. This meant a runner, though before the fun and games that usually entails, he holed out to cover. There then followed the “comedy” dismissal of Josh Meirkalns. Holding his pose to convince the umpire to turn down the l.b.w. appeal, he was out of his ground. The quick thinking Sam Storey had time to run in from point, whip off the bails and secure a run out.  A dismissal only Josh could conjure up….

This led to a wickets falling in pairs with no one able to provide Hunt with enough support. The skipper last man out for a top scoring 36, with the total 152.

The feeling at tea was that this could be worth a few more than it looked as conditions weren’t exactly summer.

Opening up with Hemmings and Haynes, the home side quickly blew away the top order. Plumtree reduced to 24-5. A patient partnership between captain Finney and keeper Stockdale took the score to 47, before Finney fell. Caythorpe still heavily favoured for the win. Rana joined Stockdale and took the total to 98 before becoming Haines’ 4th victim. At this point the tally of 152 was to work against Caythorpe. With a required run rate of always around 3 there was no pressure on the batsmen to take risks. Picking up the singles, with the odd boundary and looking rarely troubled, with the exception one dropped catch (Hunty again the culprit), Matt Milnes joined Stockdale and saw the visitors home with 2 overs to spare. Stockdale finishing on 59 off 107balls.

Plenty for Caythorpe to think about then, going in to the trip to Papplewick and Linby on what looks set to be the warmest day of the season so far. Not hard, even for someone brought up playing cricket in Scotland, and despite the heater, the score box was bloody Baltic.

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What hiatus?

As some of readers may remember, amongst the many sports I follow, cricket sits large amongst them.  In the main because it’s one of the few (perhaps only) sports I was even passably good at.  After around 17 years devotion to the cause of Corstorphine in one guise or another, I found myself in the unusual position of having to attach myself to a new club.  A circumstance brought about after I moved from Livingston into the wilds of Nottinghamshire.

This has meant coming to terms with a few differences.  As a country, Scotland is not exactly open about it’s cricketing heritage.  We’re a dirty little secret, best kept under the rug.  Indeed, at times it felt it would be easier to come out as gay, than to come out as a cricketer.  When petty and ill-informed MSP’s are questioning whether matches should be shown on TV in Scotland you start to feel a little unwelcome.

So after a work and family induced move to the “dark lands” south of the wall, it’s a novel feeling to be involved somewhere where people other than the players know about their local club.

I’ve brought my scorebook keeping talents to Caythorpe, a small village in central Nottinghamshire who’ve had a club off and on for over 100 years.  The first XI play in the Notts Premier League, whilst the second XI (for whom I score) are in Division 1 of the Bassetlaw & District League.  The B&D is one of two feeder leagues for the NPL, covering the northern part of the county.

The first big difference I noticed was that there are always more people around on a game day than just the 22 players on the park.  Every match has two independent umpires, and each club has a scorer, yes, even at second XI level.  Not only that, but people actually come and watch.  OK, not huge crowds, but a couple of weeks ago we played at Edwinstowe, and there were never less than 30 or 40 people sat around the boundary.   Having a bar that’s open does marvellous things in terms of supporters, and funds!  The vast majority of clubs are village sides, with picture postcard settings, but even here there are professional players brought in.  The West Indian Cavaliers side visited Caythorpe for a cup match last weekend, bringing with them, ex Notts and England player Usman Afzaal and the Saqlain Mushtaq!!

There are quirks too.  The draw exists in league matches here, it’s 46 overs maximum for the side batting first, but the side batting second gets the balance of the 92 overs if any are unused.  Points are shared in the event of rain/cancellation, so no need for percentages.  Most strange of all is the fact that matches start at 2pm.  Most of the villages in the area were built up around the coal mines, with matches timed to start to allow men to finish off a shift in the morning before playing in the afternoon.  So, despite the fact that Mrs T finished off the mining industry round these parts in the early 80’s there are still enough traditionalists around to prevent the start time from changing.

So, instead of sitting in a green metal container squeezed in beside kit and a stale old bloke from the opposition, I sit in a large comfortable, electronic scorebox where there’s a better than average chance my counterpart will be female (women are heavily involved around the clubs down here) and whisper it quietly so none of the presidents of Scottish clubs hear I even get a bit of beer money thrown my way for the pleasure of doing it.  Cricket, god love it.

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There are some things not to love about cricket.  Match fixing, the length of a World Cup tournament, the ICC (the one body to make FIFA appear competent) to name but a few, but the chief irritant has to be Charles Colville.  The smug twat’s smug twat.

He has the world weary air of someone for whom everything came to easily, his condecension of those who fail to meet the standards of his favourites is renowned.  He is the single reason for watching Sky’s domestic cricket coverage with the sound off….well, OK, there’s Nick Knight too.  Even Mark ‘Lawro’ Lawrenson looks professional next to this guy.

Colville is the token non-England player in the Sky team, indeed, he never made it to county level.  He must be a contributory factor in Bob Willis’ biblical level sulk, one which is now entering it’s 10th year.

I can only assume this puffed up, patronising, wouldn’t look out of place at a Tory function with Flashman, Gideon et al, has some pretty good dirt on the head of Sky Sports.

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Schadenfreude is my weakness

So there I was at the kids school on Saturday.  The Summer Fun Day providing another excuse for Master C to empty my pockets of change.  In walks a former work colleague of mine.  A guy who I knew pretty well when we worked together, he and his then girlfriend acted as witnesses at my wedding, we went to their wedding.  We lost touch after he moved to London to work, but bumped into one another on the train a while back.   He’d moved back up here to bring his kid up in Scotland.  He and his missus had moved into the same town as us, and his kid is at the same school as ours.  So far so good.  Anyway, to Saturday, and another woman walks in behind him.  She is introduced as his girlfriend and the conents of he pram she pushes, as his son.

I’m no prude, despite the fact that he was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met and probably would’ve been the last person I’d imagine in this situation, he’s there.  What went on in his marriage, I neither know, nor indeed care about.  What it got me thinking about was whether or not I’m a curse.

I’ve been to a fair number of weddings in my time, particlarly in the period since I got married.  The number of those marriages that are sill marriages is significantly lower.  I counted four that are still existant, and two of those are less than two years old.

Now, my marriage is far from perfect.  We have many issues to overome, and not so long ago, it wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch to see us split up.  We certainly don’t stay together for the tax breaks, but neither do I judge those who can’t make it work.  I just wonder, are we strange that we’ve managed to last almost 17 years?  Do we doom our friends to divorce by accepting their wedding invite?

Life eh?  What a tangled web it is….

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You may have noticed the World Cup is about to start.  I’m already getting world cup fatigue.  It’s a peculiarly British thing, and comes from the strange conflict between nation and union.  I use to be very much of the “Anyone But England” camp, but I like to think I’ve matured over the years, and from a strictly sports point of view, I reckon the whole of the UK could benefit from England winning the Cup and more especially the bid for hosting of 2018. 

Where I still fall down is with all the attendant hoopla, hype and general ill informed forgetful punditry.  Quotes like “The entire nation”, profligate use of “we”, the interminable corporate tie ins…..it goes on and on.  These are the reasons we non-English in Britain like to see it all go breasts skyward.  The shocked faces of the punditry teams, the near tearful voices of the commentators and of course all those hopelessly optimistic but now just funny confectionary wrappers.  It’s just reward for confusing England with Britain.

I’m boycotting Mars, Kellogs, Tesco and especially Carlsberg.  The last of these really should have more self respect, I mean, they’re Danish ffs, and Denmark are actually in the tournament!

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I’m conflicted.  Earlier this year I took the decision to stop playing cricket.  The club needs a scorer, i quite enjoy doing it and thought it would be the ideal means to scratch the cricket itch without putting my aging, overweight frame through the rigours of playing and training..

Due to circumstances I’ve not been anywhere near the club yet this season.  But, I’m home now, so that’s about to change.  The problem I have is that given the number of player losses over the winter, the club finds it’s playing resources stretched.  Our first team has lost 4 in a row, the seconds aren’t doing too well and the thirds, the time I was so recently a part of, have lost all 5 they’ve played so far.  Relegation is not an option, and I find it hard to resist the thought of “riding to the rescue”….until the rational brain kicks in.  I haven’t trained, I feel heavier than I did at seasons end last year, and to be brutally honest.  Bowling doesn’t look like the week link on the team.  They’ve held teams to decent totals and bowled sides out.  Run scoring seems to be the issue, and for me, a bat is for leaning on.  No, I should resist, I want to resist, I must resist…it’s the scorers hutch for me.

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Don’t Fear the Reaper

It seems the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are abroad. It’s a bizarre turn of events but performers who once fought it out to be declared public enemy number one are now being reinvented as cuddly purveyors of all things wholesome on our TV screens every day.

The first harbinger of doom out of the blocks was Mr Johnny “Rotten” Lydon. He may well have been the antichrist, an indeed an anarchist, but these days he sells us butter.

He was followed by ‘Famine’ and ‘Pestilence’ in the emaciated shape of one Iggy Pop and a Chuckie-esque rubber mini-me style representation of himself. It’s unclear whether he’s selling golf, time or car insurance, but none of these would’ve interested “The Passenger”.

Now we have Death himself, disguised as Alice Cooper. Not content with extolling the virtues of not throwing a TV from a hotel window, but instead trading it in, he can now be heard providing the sound track to a breakfast cereal advert. Not just any breakfast cereal mind, but one aimed at children.

It’s only a matter of time before Hitler and Stalin team up to tell us what a good idea sponsoring a dog is.

On the subject, Mr Renault, the motor car has been at the centre of every major revolution in human life has it? Funny, I don’t recall mention being made of the nobles being driven to meet Madame Guillotine..

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This summer will see the end of an era, for me at any rate. I won’t be playing cricket. I’ve officially hung up my bowling callous, and decided to satisfy my inner geek by becoming a part time scorer. Other than being a closet nerd, I’ve always enjoyed the art of scoring a match and recording the stats. If I could get paid for it, I would. It’s probable that part of the charm lies in the fact that so many people find the arcane ways of the scorer to be incomprehensible, that and the fact that I wanted to be Wendy Wimbush when I was younger. Not in the ‘lop bits off and take lots of hormones’ sense of be, but to be there, watching top quality sport in the company of some of the icons of commentary. That for me would be ‘job satisfaction’.

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Haiti, once synonymous with voodoo, now inextricably linked to earthquakes. Whilst what has occurred there over the last few days has been disastrous for it’s population, it once again illustrates a couple of things.

Firstly, just how quickly emergency appeals can be set up. It seems that barely had the rumbling faded away than there was a phone number and website created by DEC. Do they have forewarning?

Amazingly, given these times of recession, money has been found by Joe and Josephine Public to pour into the various appeals and telethons. Governments, who are busy complaining of shortages and the need to raise taxes can be find vast sums at the drop of a hat to help out.

Some people could be limbo champions given the depths to which they can stoop. All those religious organizations, not least Scientologists swooping down to offer succor and aid, oh and by the way, do a little bit of recruiting. Between them and the journalists clogging up the airport, it’s no wonder aid is struggling to get in.

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