Monday, 12 November 2012

More signings of Graeme Smiths quality could reinvigorate County Cricket

Graeme Smith becoming captain for Surrey is the biggest signing for County cricket since Shane Warne. It is true that bigger names have graced county cricket’s twenty format since Warne’s stint for Hampshire, but with Smith signing for the majority of the season for Surrey, it means fans will get to see one of the best batsman in the world for most of the season.

 This will be no quick T20 bash. No Smith will be leading Surrey in all three forms of the game. It is hard to see a downside really.

Smith is probably the best international captain around at the moment. During the summer Test series against England he broke Steve Waugh’s record for most Test matches as captain, while during the same series his South Africa side regained their status as the best Test side in the world, something which South Africa briefly achieved in 2008.
 Smith too seems like he’s looking forward to the challenge. On being unveiled as Surrey’s new skipper, Smith said ‘I am excited to be joining such a professional and talented team, during what will hopefully prove to be a rewarding and successful period’.

 So with the prospect of Smith captaining Surrey next year already whetting the appetites of county cricket fans, could more signing’s of Smith’s calibre bring in more fans. I’m not just talking about players signing up for the T20 tournament, but also the First Class matches as well. It would be fantastic to see Graeme Smith battle it out against a bowler of the quality of Sajeed Ajmal in the 4-day arena. And young English cricketers could also benefit from learning alongside the likes of Smith.

 County cricket is fantastic to watch and it is always very enjoyable spending a summer’s day at the Oval watching a First Class match. But County Cricket does have trouble encouraging others to come and watch. More signings of Smiths quality could bring a big boost to attendances at First Class games.

Watch Graeme Smiths 25th Test Hundred in the 1st Test against England at The Oval.

Monday, 5 November 2012

England's Road to Recovery

This year has been pretty tough on England's cricketers. While British Olympians have been displaying their heroic feats, our cricketers have been wallowing in bad performances and uncomfortable headlines.

It wasn't even a year ago that Andrew Strauss and his men were being lauded as one of England's greatest Test teams. Having won the Ashes in Australia, they disposed of Sri Lanka and thumped India 4-0, stealing the world number one ranking from them. But that was where it all started to go wrong. Whitewashed in the one-day series against India, the new number one Test team were bamboozled by Pakistan's Sajeed Ajmal in Dubai and then could only draw against a weak Sri Lankan side. There was a brief rest bite against the West Indies but there was no hiding place when Graeme Smith's polished South Africans arrived.

The world number ranking was gone, Andrew Strauss retired and England's star batsman Kevin Pietersen was on the naughty step for sending texts to the South Africans allegedly criticising Andrew Strauss. A bad year then.
Or maybe there a chance to salvage something of 2012 for England. You wouldn't think so with a trip to India, where England haven't won in 27 years. But confidence does appear to be growing in the England camp under new captain Alistair Cook. While England haven't won either of there 3 day warm matches, they have been in control of both games. Most of the batsman have now had quite abit of time in the middle and the bowlers have overs under there belt and are taking wickets. England still have one more warm up match to go for what will probably be the eleven for the first Test to hone their skills.

While their are worries about the fitness of fast bowlers Steven Finn and Stuart Broad, England still have that same depth in fast bowling reserves that they've had for the past 2 years. A seam bowling line-up of Anderson, Onions and Bresnan doesn't sound to shabby even though it is quite possible only 2 seam bowlers will be required.

It is also worth noting that the Indian side that England will be facing isn't as strong as it once was. Indian greats Raul Dravid and VVS Laxman have retired, making way for players such as Cheteshwar Pujara and Suresh Raina, who are both talented but are not yet in the same class as Dravid and Laxman. There have also been rumours of retirement from the God of the Indian team, Sachin Tendulkar.

Two months ago commentators were predicting an Indian whitewash. Some still are. That seems highly unlikely. This Test series should be an evenly contested battle, with both teams eager to prove that they are on the road to recovery. For England, the road to recovery could just start in the most difficult place of all.