Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Zealand's World Cup Winning XI

Before a major event it is important to have your best team set in stone so in the series leading up to said event you can give them sufficient match practice to gain form and confidence. Yet somehow the New Zealand selectors manage to miss this memo causing us to have the term 'rotation' thrown around as we changed our team for every game providing no continuity and leaving our players surely confused of their position for the upcoming World Cup, I mean it sure as hell confused me. The fact that the selectors had the tenacity to throw around a word such as rotation after the horror of the 2007 rugby World Cup is a very confusing move indeed but to get over this confusion I have decided to put together what I think New Zealand's World Cup XI should be and it goes like this:

1. Brendon McCullum- This may be quite the contentious partnership with many people saying McCullum is best suited down the order to give our innings a strong finish but McCullum clearly lifts his game when he bats up the order and if he can do it test matches then its good enough for me that he can do it in one dayers. I'm sure people will also say he has been rubbish recently but that is because he batted all over the show against Pakistan. In the recently concluded series he batted at 6,7,5 and 2. McCullum has proven in the past that he is a player that needs to clearly know his role and have solidarity in it to perform at his best so lets put some faith in a player and put our best foot forward with a player who can world class.

2.Jesse Ryder- Jesse Ryder is always going to open the batting, for a big man he times the ball impeccably and can hit through the infield or go over it. Can contribute some overs of medium pacers which could be a handful on the subcontinent with it's spongy bounce. Obviously should be coming back into some form with the best innings I have had the pleasure to watch live. Both times he has batted past the twenty over mark he has scored a hundred but unfortunately both times he has done this he has required a runner. The man himself has said that he is feeling the fittest he has in his life so hopefully he can give us some good runs without requiring a runner. Also who doesn't love the old adage that having a left-right combination throws off the bowlers.

3.Martin Guptill- The way New Zealand's top order performs in current times means that this number three spot can effectively be an opening position making Martin Guptill very suitable for it. Guptill is batting as well as I have ever seen him play, hitting sixes but following it up with sensible singles as well as hitting the gaps with ease. His recent stats show he is improving his consistency ten fold. In the recent series against Pakistan he was the leading run scorer with 209 runs at an average of 52 which may not be particularly overwhelming yet he only scored one half century with a high score of 65 showing that he clearly is stringing together some decent scores but just needs to push on to make them the big ones. He has already done this in the warm up match against Ireland scoring a very composed 130 off 134 balls. Strong performances from him at the top could make the difference to a faltering batting line up along with electric moments in the field which are sure to cause a few run outs.

4.Ross Taylor- Surely New Zealand's most talented batsman but in a current trough of form it would seem. Taylor is getting many starts but just not pushing on to score a big hundred with his last one day hundred coming in 2008 against Bangladesh. This is no cause for worry as the saying goes form is temporary but class is permanent and I believe the big stage can bring out the class in the man they call Rosco. He is very used to subcontinental conditions through extensive play in the IPL so there will be no major climate shock for him. The cow corner boundaries are often small enough to be very good for his beloved slog sweep. That is not his most dangerous shot I would say that if we see his cover drive come out then he is in form and will definitely pile on the runs. If he strikes any vein of good form during the tournament then New Zealand's chances will be greatly improved.

5. Scott Styris- The old hand now Styris will be key to producing nudgy runs and then providing impetus at the end of the innings. Was our best batsman at the last World Cup scoring 499 runs at 83 proving he is a man for the big stage. We will rely a lot on his experience especially to be a cool head in a pressure filled situation in the case of a most likely top order collapse. His bowling is not to be underestimated especially on slow low pitches. He will be able to bowl economically and force batsmen into mistakes, will definitely be a key player in surely his last World Cup.

6. James Franklin- Four years is a very long time in sport as proven by James Franklin. In the 2007 World Cup his key role was as a bowler and to provide lower order hitting but now his role is primarily as a batsman. Franklin is proving himself good enough to fill this role once owned by Jacob Oram in which he accumulates runs and then hits big in the last few overs as he did in New Zealand's wretched tour of India. He was probably our one verified success story as he came in played three matches and scored 187 runs without being dismissed including a magnificent 98*. Although I thought he had fallen away with the ball he proved that he is still able to contribute taking three key wickets in the last ODI against Pakistan and could be successful on the subcontinent especially if he finds some swing. I expect good things from Jimmy contributing at key times with both bat and ball.

7. Nathan McCullum- Someone who I used to think far too bits and pieces to be effective in international cricket but he has come a long way to proving me wrong. In the recent series against Pakistan he bowled attacking lines and was very difficult to get away as well as taking many wickets in limited overs domestic cricket but it was with his batting that he really began to shine through. Averaging 66 for the series with his first two international fifties he showed that he can batter an international attack. I was lucky enough to see his Eden Park innings of 65 which he paced very well starting off slowly with a low strike rate before knocking sixes into the crowd and taking New Zealand to a match winning total. His fielding is exemplary as he is excellent at ground fielding as well as catching. Through these performances I believe he has cemented the number seven spot as a finisher as well as second spinner to Vettori.

8. Daniel Vettori- Has to be the everything of the New Zealand attack from holding down an end to being strike bowler much of our hopes rely on Vettori. Luckily for us he is one of the best one day bowlers in the world able to tie down even the best batsmen while taking wickets. The subcontinental pitches will suit his style of bowling sometimes staying low or popping up and with the warm up pitches providing much turn for the spinners Vettori could become a major factor. With his batting I believe he should not bat any higher than eight as I believe his batting is not as effective in one day internationals but can be relied on to bat with batsmen and hit gaps with strange shots that no one else could. Will want to end a testing time as captain with as much dignity as possible.

9. Jacob Oram- Another case of massive role change with Oram (who once considered giving up bowling) now being used as more of a bowler than anything. His back of a length bowling with variable changes of pace will be very effective on the subcontinental pitches as he has proven in the past by taking a hat trick in Sri Lanka. I thought his days of opening the hips and smashing sixes in the arc were over but in the recent series against Pakistan he showed on a few occasions that he still has that skill which gives me hope that he can refind his batting form. If this happens he could become very useful for quick runs and even come in ahead of Vettori.

10. Tim Southee- My hopes for Tim Southee this World Cup are mile high (sorry had to do it). He is beginning to remove the rough edges of his game and is becoming a genuine strike bowler. Had an excellent series against Pakistan being able to keep from being taken to by the batsmen as well as taking quality wickets with good swing bowling in the process taking his first one day five for. Will hopefully be able to find some swing in the humid conditions and if so he will be a genuine threat. His lower order violent swings to leg could take New Zealand to some good totals as his batting has improved in a new found maturity that is taking him to new heights as an international cricketer.

11. Kyle Mills- An excellent if some what under rated bowler. Has been rated in the top ten ODI bowlers constantly over the past few years and will be the experienced leader of the attack. Has been bowling excellent line and length recently showing that his control is far from waning. Will be key at the start of the innings and in the batting powerplay for restricting batsmen. His batting is solid and could be great use for a batsman who needs supporting so is not guaranteed to bat eleven.

Possible changes

Hamish Bennett- Can offer a variation if Southee or Mills gets taken to by the batsmen. Runs in hard every time he bowls and will offer a quicker option to bring in but is unlikely as he can be far more expensive than his bowling companions but is learning all the time at international level and could well prove me wrong.

Kane Williamson- A definite player for the future who I think should be in the starting line up now. Proved he can bat on the subcontinent getting a century in Bangladesh and one in India but the problem is that he bats too slowly for the one day game. If there are batsmen going strongly at the other end then he can be an anchor to build an innings around but as it so often is with New Zealand there is little to no support. Can come in for Oram if the batting is weak and can also contribute with his dubiously actioned off spinners.

I think that this side would be New Zealand's best bet to take them deep into the tournament. Eight players who are able to bowl as well as a batting line up which can comfortably bat all the way to eleven. This team on paper could win New Zealand the World Cup but as always on paper is where New Zealand always looks best and only time will tell if this line up even plays together let alone performs on a level good enough to win the World Cup.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Four ways the Phoenix can win the A-League

This is proof that I'm not just restricted to cricket as for this season I have become quite the follower of the Wellington Phoenix. This piece wont be the usual pessimistic piece on the Phoenix (for those seeking out that kind of rubbish please return to the latest offerings of negative tripe from Billy Harris and Paul Thompson). This is going to be a positive piece about how the Phoenix can actually win the A-League. Sure we were struggling to make the playoffs but now that I'm confident we will make it here are the 4 ways the 'Nix can win the A-League:

1. Rojas- Plain and simple Marco Rojas. This kid should be nicknamed Midas because at the moment everything he touches turns to gold. He plays fast attacking football and is one of the best distributors of the ball in the A-League at the moment. He draws in multiple defenders and manages to beat them all. We need to get the ball to him regularly so that he can provide excellent balls for the other players and he has been doing this very successfully as he has 6 assists which is one of the best rates in the league especially considering he hasn't played as many games as most of the players above him. The best part of having Rojas is that he changed the 'Nix tactics so dramatically. When we had Ifill we would rely on merely booting the ball up field and rely on his magic to get us goals, a strategy which did have some success but once oppositions started focusing defence on Ifill it began failing. With Rojas it is completely different as now the 'Nix play a lot more along the ground and rely on good distribution and good ball to get goals. Even now when teams are become wise to Rojas' skill and try to shut him down he is good enough to draw the defenders then fast enough to beat them and provide scoring opportunities to other players. The one problem with Rojas is that while he can set up goals very well he does not have the same opportunity to score them which means we need to put more emphasis on finishing and at the moment we are succeeding very well with Dylan McCallister in a purple patch as well as hard working striker Chris Greenacre also getting into the scoring (both with seven goals each) almost completely due to excellent ball from Rojas and if he keeps it up then I believe we will be able to progress all the way to the title.

2. No more yellows- The Phoenix are one of the more physically aggressive sides in the A-League and as a result of that we concede a lot more fouls than other teams, this means far more yellows than most teams as we have conceded 58 yellow cards and one red card from just fifteen players over the season only bettered or maybe worsened by the despicable Victory who have 60 yellows and 2 reds. To really get further this season we have to maintain the best team possible meaning no more suspensions. Once we get back Sigmund and Durante we have to stop the silly challenges. Yes Ben Sigmund's late challenges can sometimes be amusing but really we can't afford to be missing one of our best defenders as proven by him being suspended twice for eight yellow cards. Other offenders are Durante (eight yellows), Tim Brown (seven yellows), Vince Lia (six yellows, one red) and Manny Muscat (eight yellows) almost guaranteed to pick up a yellow card. These guys especially need to hold back just slightly so we can maintain our best team for the whole playoff phase and truly challenge for the title. If we do lose players such as Sigmund or Durante again it will cause a complete re-shuffle of our team and require Manny Muscat going back to defence. That would be disastrous for the Phoenix as we need Manny in midfield to bring out his moments of brilliance (don't forget he is yet to score this season and most definitely do not rule out a Manny screamer in the playoffs). With a consistent team building momentum and all our players in their best positions we are giving ourselves the best opportunity to win the title.

3.Solid defence-For a small pool of players we have excellent defending options. Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante and Jade North have provided very sturdy defence for this season and we even have Tony 'Blockhead' to provide some good defence with young James Musa looking a very good prospect if called on. We have to keep this up especially for the playoffs as to advance we are going to have to keep cleansheets as we don't quite play enough of the total football to be chasing the pack from two-nil down. I'm confident that with a pairing such as Durante and North (who have taken the Jets to the title) as well as Sigmund to keep out any attack the A-League has to offer and as they say a strong defence is the best offence which could be the key to taking us to the title.

4. Turn it into a fight- Let's face it the 'Nix are not the most glamorous players in the A-League, they play physical, scrappy football it's a style that suits players who may not be world class but know how to get the best out of their talent which is a very New Zealand trait obviously passed off by Ricki Herbert. The Phoenix's best chance of taking down the favourites the Roar and the Mariners is to stop them playing the beautiful football they have been playing all season. We need to shut down their slick passing and strong runs into space. If we can do this I'm sure we can be successful proved already by our gritty victory against Adelaide. We were able to shut down Flores easily and stop good ball going to their finishers such as Van Dijk. Sure if the Phoenix are going to go all the way they are going to eek out some scrappy 1-0 victories much the way Spain did in the World Cup but in the end when you're holding the title it doesn't say how you won it just that you won it.

These things may seem fairly straight forward but many people still doubt that the Phoenix could do it. The thing with finals football is that in this case you only have to be at your best for a few games and when you do this you string along victories and suddenly you're playing in the Grand Final and in that case we may be up against a team like the Roar who have been amazing all season but if on the day we are better than them then we end up with the title which reflects one of my favourite ideologies that I have heard which comes from Tennis hall of famer Andre Agassi is that you don't have to be a perfect just that when your time comes you have to be better. The 'Nix have proved that they can do that as although we often struggle during the season and then make a mad dash to make the finals where we begin playing our best football and really this season could be ours for the taking but we will just have to wait to see how right my theories are.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

My players to watch in the World Cup

With a long and arduous World Cup dawning upon us I thought I'd list a few players who I believe are going to succeed in what is one of the most anticipated events in the cricket calender.

All-rounder to watch-Shane Watson: Despite a very strong dislike for Shane Watson there is no way you can argue with his numbers. The arrogant opener was the leading run scorer for the calender year of 2010 and not to forget the second highest wicket taker. He has the ability to take the game away from the opposition from the start as his 1784 runs at 43.51 since his reinvention as an opener and lets not forget his very good start to 2011 with 161*. Also worthy to watch for his exploits in the field from his bucket hands in the slips to his out fielding (see his run out of Ab De Villiers in the 2007 World Cup for proof). He has good experiences in the sub continent specifically in India with his success with the Rajasthan Royals in the inaugural IPL. He is a definite early candidate for Man of the Tournament and will be key to Australia's success.

Bowler to watch-Brett Lee: Strange to refer to him as a veteran but at the age of 34 he is heading towards the end of career which makes it all the more amazing that he still bounds in and sends the ball flying at around 145kph. Many suspected his elbow injury to end his career but he is back and with more control and wile than ever proved by leading the wicket charts in the current series against England with 11 wickets at only 24 showing good form and a good platform for what is likely to be his last World Cup. Don't rule out his batting either capable of lusty blows or nudging it around to pull his team out of trouble he can provide very able assistance for any top order batsman. Watch out for the wicked jumping celebrations and smile of one of Australia's only nice guys.

All-rounder to watch- Shakib Al Hasan: Bangladesh's lead from the front inspirational captain and recent tormentor of New Zealand is proving himself to be quite a player. Since 2009 he has 1458 runs at an average near 40 picking up three centuries against top ranked nations such as India and sadly New Zealand. His off spin is accurate and nagging causing many players to throw away their wickets showing why he has a career average of under 30. Excellent in home conditions and can be a match winner with either of his disciplines, will be the most likely hero in any of Bangladesh's upsets.

Batsman to watch- Tamim Iqbal: Bangladesh's answer to Virender Sehwag. While Tamim may seem small he packs a mighty punch. Was a key player in Bangladesh's defeat of India at the last World Cup scoring a vital 54. While he has been out of the game for a small while getting surgery on his wrist it is a certainty that he will be keen to keep up his 2010 strike rate of 96 and with home advantage the small sub continental boundaries will not be safe. A player for the big stage he could even threaten to better Bangladesh's best individual innings of 154 (set by himself of course). If you're seeking entertainment make sure you watch one of his innings and look out for booming pulls and square cuts.

Batsman-John Davison: Without a doubt the best player Canada has ever had despite the fact that he is Australian. A batsman who does not like to wait around to see what will happen he just throws caution to the wind and swings with great success shown by the then fastest World Cup hundred in 2003 when he scored his century off just 67 balls to go along with two brisk half centuries against New Zealand in the 2003 and 2007 World Cups. Bowls surprisingly decent off spin which will be very useful on subcontinental pitches to plug up an over. This World Cup should be the last assignment for the now 40 year old Davison so be sure to watch him go out with a bang.

Bowler-Balaji Rao: Who doesn't love a slightly over weight spinner? Well Andy Flower but lucky enough for us he isn't Canada's coach as this slightly tubby leg spinner could be quite the bowler to watch in this Canadian team. He is a bowler who can turn it both ways and should be hugely effective on these subcontinent pitches even having good Indian experience playing first class cricket there and being part of the Indian Under 19 team back in the day. Look forward to this spinner waddle up and hopefully rip a few past some over confident batsmen.

Batsman-Jonathan Trott- Perhaps the player I thought most likely to be rubbish at one day cricket aside from Alistair Cook in the English test team but boy has Jonothan Trott proved me wrong. In the form of his life in Australia scoring four centuries this tour and holding together England's fragile line up in the ODIs. The subcontinent should suit his nurdle and nudge style of play with his wristy leg side flicks being prominent but also look of for his mediums which are being a great success at the end of the innings and should be successful on the slow low pitches at the World Cup.

Bowler-Graeme Swann: The player who has made off spin fun. Swann is one of the most entertaining player both on and off the field and at this World Cup he could be one of the most successful. Not at all afraid of giving the ball a rip we are very likely to see many balls turning into the batsmen and a fair pace. Swann also possesses excellent accuracy and can tie many a batsman down shown in his excellent one day average of 23 since 2009. His batting will also provide good entertainment with his hit out or get out mentality very prominent. He could take this English side further than they have ever been and take them to their first win to add to Andy Flowers rapidly growing trophy cabinet.

Batsman-Ed Joyce: Back for his country of birth after briefly being a traitor and going to play for England. A batsman of high class with every shot in the book he could be the one to hold the Irish innings together from the top as it should not be discounted that while he did play for England he managed a century against the then far superior Australians. Will be most interesting when he has to come up against England on March 2nd.

Bowler-George Dockrell; The Irish's great young hope as he has been called at only 18 his bowling performances have been excellent in international cricket with an average of 26. Had to turn down playing the Australians in a one dayer due to the fact that he had exams! Holds an excellent economy rate of 4 in one dayers and will be great to look out for simply due to the fact that he is a teenager (which I always like watching and being jealous that I'm not that good) and good spinners on the subcontinent often provide great results. Should be key to helping Ireland try repeat their stellar 2007 campaign.

Batsman- Sachin Tendulkar; The legend, the one and only Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. So many stats to choose but lets go for since the start of 2006 he averages 49, and the fact that he has the most World Cup runs ever. In home conditions Tendulkar is generally very very hard to get past even scoring big runs such as the only double hundred in one day internationals. Despite owning pretty much every good record you can own he does not have a World Cup so this is his big chance to finally tick that off his list in surely his last World Cup (his sixth!). If India do not make it be sure to look of for effigies and burnt players houses all over the place.

Bowler-Zaheer Khan; India's most dependable bowler and leader of their attack. His left arm pace bowling has given him a World Cup average of 21. Very experienced in his home conditions and will be sure to pull out pin point yorkers at the death and most likely find vicious reverse swing to fool many a batsman. Will definitely be India's go to bowler in high pressure situations.

Batsman-Steve Tikolo: The grand daddy of Kenyan cricket. Steve Tikolo was widely regarded as the best batsman to not have played test cricket when at his prime but now at the age of 40 he is a bit past it now but still the best batsman Kenya have. Dragged out of retirement specifically for this event be sure that he will be the technically sound rock of the Kenyan batting as he has often lifted himself for the big stage. Will most likely send down some overs of dull flat off spin which will be very effective. Hopefully will bring out at least one more good performance before this legend of Kenyan cricket retires for good after playing in everyone of Kenya's World Cup games since 1996.

Bowler-James Ngoche: Young and inexperienced Ngoche's first year in international cricket was 2010 managing to take 13 wickets at an excellent average of 18. Is Kenya's best spinner and will most likely bowl full quotas of overs on these turning pitches in the hopes that Kenya can give some of the big boys of cricket a fright.

All rounder- Ryan Ten Doeschate: The best the Netherlands have to offer by quite a fair distance. Ten Doescate actually owns the best batting average in One Day Internationals currently as it sits at an astonishing 68. Will be the Netherlands rock and will be required to score a good chunk of their runs. His fast mediums are very effective as well with a great average of 21 and will work out well on the slow subcontinental pitches. Now becoming a hired gun around the world in twenty20 cricket playing in Australia and being MVP in the New Zealand HRV Cup. As well as being a great player is as tough as nails recently copping a 140kph ball to the neck and shrugging it off. Will be the Netherlands biggest hope of causing some upsets.

Bowler: Adeel Raja: A spinner much like Graeme Swann with a habit of giving it a bit rip. Also quite controversial for failing random drug tests more recently for a drug that is used to help grow hair back. Should provide great control and a few good turning balls on these turning pitches and could provide a very good foil bowling in tandem with Ten Doeschate.

New Zealand
Batsman-Martin Guptill- The ex-Avondaler known as Marty Two Toes will definitely be a key batsman for New Zealand. In this current series against Pakistan he is striking the ball better than I ever seen him before. Will be looking to hit balls in the 'V' as he is very strong off the front foot and if things get too short he is not adverse to putting balls into the crowd. Electric in the field great prowling close in at short cover or with his bullet arm in the out field I am sure he will pull of at least one run out and one great catch in his maiden World Cup.

Bowler- Tim Southee: It's strange to think that Tim Southee as so young since it seems like he has been round forever but he is bowling at his best at the moment. He is managing to swing the ball prodigiously and bowl very good lines and lengths. Will be New Zealand's bowler at the death proving he can do the job with very good yorkers in the past. Will be interesting to see if he can manage to not be slaughtered around the park as he has been in the past. His batting will also provide good wild leg side swinging entertainment.

Batsman- Misbah Ul-Haq; A batsman who only a few months ago would not have been considered for the World Cup team but is now a definite starter. Is in the form of his life on this current tour to New Zealand and in touch with his game better than ever before. Plays in a very orthodox fashion and will no doubt be the rock amongst an often collapsing Pakistani team, will be key along with his partner in crime Younis Khan.

Bowler-Umar Gul: The definite leader of this Pakistani bowling attack. Bowls with good pace and is one of the best exponents of the one day game in recent history. Has a very respectable ODI average of 27 but his true talent will come out in his great death bowling as he can bowl a perfect yorker at a snap of the fingers. If there is reverse swing to be found he will find it and could be a very dangerous prospect in conditions he knows very well. His batting can also provide some good lower order entertainment.

South Africa
Batsman-Hashim Amla: Undoubtedly the best batsman of the last year in both long and short formats of the game with over 1000 runs 5 centuries at an average of around 75 in 2010. His game of wristy flicks and accumulation will sort the slow low subcontinental pitches very well already proven by his recent success there in 2010. He will be a very likely candidate for leading run scorer in the tournament and could even take this South African team past their usual choking status.

Bowler-Imran Tahir: South Africa's secret weapon. A player who has player all over the world and done very well. It is no wonder that as soon as he was eligible for the South African team he was put in their World Cup squad. Is a very attacking leg spinner capable of great control and wicket taking prowess. Has a bowling average of under 23 in first class one day matches but will be interesting to see if Graeme Smith can get the best out of him. Has subcontinental experience and should be one of the players to truly announce himself on the world stage.

Sri Lanka
Batsman-Tillakaratne Dilshan: Another dashing opener in world cricket who is very good in his own conditions. Has been exceptional in the past two years averaging over 50 in 2009 and 2010. Will be expected to give Sri Lanka a good fast start to lay a strong foundation for the middle order. A man who can do everything from bat, bowl, field and wicket keep it is hard to know what to expect from Dilshan but be sure he will score some quick runs at the top, provide some handy wickets and pull off good stops in the field.

Bowler-Muttiah Muralitharan: Sri Lanka's epic stalwart in his last ever international assignment will want to take Sri Lanka one better than he could in 2007. Will no doubt be high in the wicket taking charts taking wickets with amazing control and deception its no wonder he has 53 World Cup wickets. Will definitely want to retire on a high and has a good chance to in his home conditions. Expect his back away and slog batting to be cheered ferociously as international cricket bids farewell to a legend.

West Indies
Batsman- Darren Bravo: The young brother of Dwayne Bravo who has modeled his batting style on Brian Lara and it clearly shows with a high back lift and very punchy drives. Has had a very good start to his test career but not quite so much in ODIs but is a great talent and I'm sure along with the experience of the the other players can be very successful.

Bowler-Kemar Roach: The bowler responsible for Ricky Ponting losing faith in his pull shot. Will be the West Indies best wicket taking option as he has a great strike rate with a wicket every 26 balls in ODIs. Wont let the slow pitches of the subcontinent stop him from trying to bowl as fast as possible and try and intimidate batsmen and show off his very good yorker. Look out for him as a reminder of the good old days of West Indian fast bowling.

Batsman-Brendan Taylor: Has been excellent in the past 18 months carrying an often very weak Zimbabwe batting order and scoring heavily with one day hundreds against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and South Africa along with a few 90s. Has a great cover drive and should be remembered fondly as the batsman who beat Australia with a great 50 in the 2007 World T20. If he gets going Zimbabwe could be very capable of causing upsets.

Bowler-Ray Price: A spinner with a fast bowlers mind set. Ray Price may be on the wrong side of 30 but he loves getting in the oppositions face regardless of what he is doing. He has an amazing economy rate of under 4 per over he will offer great control and entertainment for all who watch. Look out for his great wicket celebrations as he quite likes jumping about and yelling.

Now we will just have to wait and see to the end of this epically long World Cup to see how right I am.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Social Media & The Cricketers

Recently there has been great debate over whether or not cricketers should use social media with this specific case involving Twitter. Now on Twitter I follow 123 people and 104 of those are current or former cricketers from Sachin Tendulkar to Ed Cowan so it's fair to say I have taken full advantage of the fact that I can communicate with my heroes through 140 characters or less.It's also fair to say I have seen all the scandals that come with these players. I saw Phil Hughes admit he was dropped on Twitter before he was supposed to, I have seen Kevin Pietersen blow up about being dropped, more recently the Warner-Geeves public fight and the cause of much of this current debate in New Zealand from the Jesse Ryder tweet stating being run out early in a domestic game for Wellington was "a waste of a day".

I fully agree with what Jesse is saying because it's not a shot at the domestic scene or his partner up and coming Stephen Murdoch but a shot at this 'rotation' policy. Jesse would have benefited far more from staying in the team environment and practicing rather than scoring 4 off 4 balls and then standing in the field for 46.2 overs. But this blog is not about the impracticalities of rotation but how this one tweet was blown grossly out of proportion. Ryder is a tremendous talent but a controversial one so if he does something noteworthy then it will become a story. Ryder was attacked by many reporters calling him "ungrateful" and so on it was pretty much the "I'm the future of New Zealand Cricket" all over again. Jesse Ryder is a player that many people will assume the worst of as they are waiting for the moment where he has done too much and can be pushed overboard a la Andrew Symonds but I have seen a far different side of him. At an Auckland-Wellington domestic twenty20 I saw him sign autographs for children for a good half an hour longer than any other player and was pleasant and caring, hardly the work of someone "ungrateful". All of this caused Jesse Ryder's tweeting to come under scrutiny and then cause him to consider deleting his account. I felt this would be a great shame as a cricket fanatic I love an insight into the dressing room of the game I love and with Ryder,Guptill, Southee, Taylor, and Styris I was getting great insight into the cliques of the dressing room and such.

I thought it was great to hear Ryder and Guptill having a bit of banter involving which one of them was 'Gincy' a term I'm still unfamiliar with but I found it great. Even last night Twitters amazing worth was proved as I was along with around a hundred other people were able to ask up and coming Victorian Aaron Finch a question of our choosing and through Twitter I have received other opportunities such as this with Ashes hero Graeme Swann which right there proves that the benefits of Twitter are available for all to see.

Twitter is not the only social media involved with cricket there are also some very good blogs around. In his playing days I used to wait frantically and impatiently like a child the night before Christmas for Iain O'Brien's latest witty insight into the life of a test cricketer. Here was a guy who had made it to the top level and was loving it as he was living his dream and so many others therefore he felt it his duty to help us see what it was like to be a top level cricketer from the abuse by Australian crowds to the heat of Bangladesh to telling Ricky Ponting he had "missed out big time". It was much like a cricket auto-biography (of which I own shelves and shelves) but in real time rather than hindsight. Tasmanian cricketer Brett Geeves also writes a blog which is humorous beyond belief. I loved to know what it was like for a cricketer to miss out on the majestic maiden first class century by just one run not once but twice. With the removal of cricketers in social media these are the things I would miss terribly.

Even Australia's prodigal son Michael Clarke is being given grief for his Twitter account as instead of posting griefs about his poor form (which now seems to have eased) he was trying to sort strange looking Steve Smith a date for the Allan Border Medal ceremony. These kind of insights are repaying the cricket public for their loyalty with direct insights into their lives and I think it is sad that so many journalists can forget that when they are in simple need of a story. I will continue to defend any forum in which a simple cricket fanatic such as myself can have a conversation with people who I have followed almost to a stalkerish level such as Iain O'Brien, Scott Styris or even Sachin Tendulkar. So please Guptill keep telling me where you will be eating that evening, all the Blackcaps have a dig at Scott Styris, Swann, Anderson and Bresnan keep making fun of Finn's haircuts cause quite frankly it is one of the best things that the advancement in technology has caused. To end with a quote I find all too applicable "Twitter turns heroes into real people" so please lets keep it that way.