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Fast bowlers, Kerry Packer, and the power of role models


Reading Mohammad Asif’s interview reminded me that we are far from a convincing explanation for Pakistan’s relative abundance of fast bowlers compared with India. Asif’s explanation, which happens to be a common view among many people both sides of the border, is unsustainable. India and Pakistan are countries divided by a line drawn by humans not by dint of physical or dietary attributes. Indeed, India has had several bowlers who have periodically touched high speeds. Javagal Srinath and Ajit Agarkar are examples.
I have an alternative theory: the power of the role model. In the early years Pakistan enjoyed the luxury of higher quality swing and seam bowling than might have been expected of the fledglings of world cricket. You couldn’t, however, have called them express pacemen. Sarfraz Nawaz, the godfather of reverse swing—and probably much else besides—was nothing more than fast medium from an enormous crazy-horse run. His rookie partner was a medium pace inswing bowler, Imran Khan.
When Imran and the other glitterati of Pakistan cricket joined Kerry Packer’s circus, they mixed with the game’s best and fastest bowlers. Clearly Imran was highly self-motivated and focused, but the Packer experience helped him understand the standard he and his country had to reach to compete at international level.
Post Packer, Imran became a true role model as fast bowler, captain, and glamour boy. Without him would we have had Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis? Probably yes, but in the way they developed, probably not. Without Imran, Wasim and Waqar would we have Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif? I guess not. It is interesting how many Indian fast bowlers also point to Wasim, in particular, as a role model.
All of which leads me to a troublesome conclusion. If you accept my hypothesis about the power of role model, what example are Shoaib and Asif setting? Shoaib’s unprofessional attitude has become legend, and an intermittent maestro is an unsatisfactory role model. Both of them have been tainted by the drugs scandal. Under a new captain, coach, and reprieve from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Pakistan cricket has the look of somebody who has cheated the electric chair: bewildered euphoria.
Shoaib and Asif must now become role models who will inspire their team but also the future fast bowlers of Pakistan, a serious responsibility. We will now discover if they are capable of greatness like the role models who went before them.

History of English cricket


History of English cricket to 1696...

This is a history of cricket from its origins up to the time when it became a major English sport towards the end of the 17th century.

Cricket's origin is a mystery. All that can be said with a fair degree of certainty is that the game's beginning was earlier than 1550, somewhere within the counties of Kent, Sussex and Surrey, and most probably in the region known as the Weald. Unlike other games with batsmen, bowlers and fielders, such as stoolball and rounders, cricket can only be played on relatively short grass, especially as at this period the ball was delivered along the ground. Thus clearings in the forest where sheep had grazed might have been suitable places to play.

The sparse information available about the earliest days suggests that up until the early 1600s cricket was a children's game. Then it was taken up by working men. From roughly the time of the Restoration (1660), the gentry began to take an increasing interest, as patrons and occasionally as players. A big attraction for them was the opportunity that the game offered for gambling.

Chronology: 1300 - 1696

A number of cricket books make reference to incidents in the distant past before the game became properly organised and promoted during the 18th century. As far as is known, there is no comprehensive chronology of those events and the purpose here has been to create one. Starting with the tentative reference to creag in the days of Edward Longshanks, this is a collation of all known references until the mists of time began to clear around the beginning of the 18th Century and cricket matters began to be reported with increasing frequency and more detail in the English press.

1300

Thurs 10 March (Julian). Wardrobe accounts of Edward I include a reference to a game called creag being played at the town of Newenden in Kent by Prince Edward (the future Prince of Wales), then aged 15. It has been suggested that creag was an early form of cricket. There is no evidence to support this view and creag could have been something quite different, but it does at least seem a likely suspect, especially when the location is considered.

The most widely accepted theory on the origin of cricket is that it developed among the farming and metalworking communities of the Weald, which spreads across Kent and Sussex. It is significant that these counties and neighbouring Surrey were the earliest centres of excellence and that it was from there that the game eventually reached London, where it achieved mass popularity, and Hampshire, where it achieved both fame and legend.

It is quite likely that cricket was devised by children and survived for many generations as essentially a children’s game. Possibly it was derived from bowls, assuming bowls is the older sport, by the intervention of a batsman trying to stop the ball reaching its target by hitting it away. Playing on sheep-grazed land or in clearings, the original implements may have been a matted lump of sheep’s wool (or even a stone or a small lump of wood) as the ball; a stick or a crook or another farm tool as the bat; and a gate (e.g., a wicket gate), a stool or a tree stump as the wicket. The invention of the game could have happened in Norman or Plantagenet times anytime before 1300; or even in Saxon times before 1066.

There is a theory about the development of the game’s name which suggests that creag evolved into creag-a-wicket and then into the rhyming cricket-a-wicket, but this must have been much later and is in any case speculation. It seems more likely that the name derived from words that were in use, probably imported, after the Norman Conquest in 1066. In old French, the word criquet (which may have been confused with etiquet) seems to have meant a kind of club or stick; and it might have given its name to croquet. Some believe that cricket and croquet have a common origin but there is no evidence to substantiate that view. In Flemish, krick(-e) meant a stick and, in Olde English, cricc or cryce meant a crutch or staff.

1337

Edward III claimed the throne of France and so began a long series of conflicts that is collectively known as the Hundred Years War, which did not end until the English were finally expelled from most of France (i.e., except Calais) in 1453.

Some tentative cricket references have been found which suggest an apparent “French Connection” in the origins of cricket, such as one at St Omer in 1478 (see below). There is a key historical point here. As the Hundred Years War progressed, large parts of France including great cities like Paris and Bordeaux were subject to long-term English occupation. Paris, when Fran├žois Villon was born there in 1431, was described as “an English town”. Calais remained an English possession until 1558, a whole century after the end of the Hundred Years War. So there may well be cricket references in France but they do not indicate a movement of the sport from France to England; they indicate that English soldiers and settlers brought their culture with them across the Channel during the long period of occupation.

1477

A statute of King Edward IV banned certain games, including one called handyn and handoute, on the grounds that they distracted his subjects from their compulsory practice of archery. There is no evidence to suggest that handyn and handoute was a form of cricket, as some have surmised. It was probably a simple indoor gambling game.

1478

A spurious reference to criquet near St Omer in Flanders, then part of the Duchy of Burgundy, seems to be a misreading of the word etiquet meaning a small stick. See explanation in HMM.

1523

Reference to stoolball found (see Bowen) re a designated field in Oxfordshire. This may be a generic term for any game in which a ball is somehow hit; or it may be a specific reference to an early form of rounders. 18th Century references to stoolball in conjunction with cricket clearly indicate that it was a separate activity. (See the references in TJM, paragraphs 98, 361 and 377.)

1550

Evidence in a 1597 court case indicates that kreckett was played on a certain plot of land in Guildford around 1550. This is the earliest reference to cricket being played in Surrey.

1597

Mon 17 January. The court case in Guildford concerned a dispute over a school's ownership of the plot of land in question. A 59-year old coroner, John Derrick, testified that he and his school friends had played kreckett on the site fifty years earlier. This is generally considered to be the first definite mention of cricket in the English language. The school was the Royal Grammar School, Guildford, and Mr. Derrick's account proves beyond reasonable doubt that the game was being played c.1550.

John Eddowes in his The Language of Cricket (1997) points out that Mr Derrick’s surname was derived from the Flemish name Hendrik. In Rowland Bowen’s history, he mentions that Heiner Gillmeister of Bonn University, a European language expert, derived “cricket” from the Flemish met de (krik ket)sen (i.e., "with the stick chase"), which may indicate a possible Flemish connection in the game’s origin, but it is more likely that the terminology of cricket was based on words in use in south east England at the time and, given trade connections with Flanders, especially in the 15th century when it belonged to the Duchy of Burgundy, many Flemish words will have found their way into southern English dialect.

1598

There was a reference to cricket in an Italian-English dictionary produced in 1598 by Giovanni Florio and his definition of the word sgillare, which he defines as: “to make a noise as a cricket, to play cricket-a-wicket, and be merry”. Some writers think the reference is spurious and relates only to the insect variety of cricket but “to play cricket-a-wicket” hardly suggests insect activity. Given the reference to cricket as a boys’ game in another dictionary only 13 years later, it would seem that Florio does have both an insect and a game in mind.

1610

First definite mention of cricket in Kent concerned a match at Chevening between teams from the "Weald" and the "Downs".

1611

First definite mention of cricket in Sussex relates to ecclesiastical court records which state that two parishioners of Sidlesham in West Sussex failed to attend church on Easter Sunday because they were playing cricket. They were fined 12d each and made to do penance.

A French-English dictionary was published by Randle Cotgrave. The noun crosse is defined as the crooked staff wherewith boys play at cricket. The verb form of the word is crosser, defined as to play at cricket.

It is interesting that cricket was defined as a boys’ game in the dictionary, as per the Guildford schoolboys of the 16th Century, but that adults were playing it in Sussex at the beginning of the 17th Century. It almost seems as if Mr Cotgrave was "overtaken by events" here. No sooner did he publish his dictionary than his definition was updated by the involvement of adults in cricket.

1613

A court case recorded that someone was assaulted with a cricket staffe at Wanborough, near Guildford.

1622

Several parishioners of Boxgrove, near Chichester in west Sussex, were prosecuted for playing cricket in a churchyard on Sunday 5 May.

There were three reasons for the prosecution: one was that it contravened a local bye-law; another reflected concern about church windows which may or may not have been broken; the third was that a little childe had like to have her braines beaten out with a cricket batt! This latter situation was because the rules at the time allowed the batsman to hit the ball twice and so fielding near the batsman was very hazardous, as two later incidents drastically confirm.

This is the earliest reference to the cricket bat. The use of a “batt” in cricket was peculiar to Kent and Sussex where coastal smugglers were known as batmen, because of the cudgels they carried. The earliest reference to a “flat-faced” bat (i.e., with a flat surface at the bottom of the stick in ice hockey style) also occurs in 1622 in the files of the Sussex Records Society (see Terry, note 23).

The term “bat” remained comparatively rare until about 1720. The terms in more general use were “staff”, “stave” or “stick”. These tended to have regional usage: for example, “stave” was used in the Gloucester area and “batt” in the south-east; while “staff” and especially “stick” were more widely used. “Bat” is derived from the French battledore, shaped like a table tennis bat, which was used by washerwomen to beat their washing with! (See OED re “battledore”).

1624

A fatality occurred at Horsted Keynes in east Sussex when a fielder called Jasper Vinall was struck on the head by the batsman who was trying to hit the ball a second time to avoid being caught. Mr. Vinall is thus the earliest recorded cricketing fatality. The matter was recorded in a coroner’s court, which returned a verdict of misadventure.

An interesting point arising from the court record is that both Jasper Vinall and the batsman Edward Tye came from West Hoathly, another village, which indicates that games involving teams from different villages were already being played.

1628

An ecclesiastical case is preserved that relates to a game at East Lavant, near Chichester in western Sussex, being played on a Sunday. One of the defendants argued that he had not played during evening prayer time but only before and after. It did him no good as he was fined the statutory 12d and ordered to do penance. Doing penance involved confessing his guilt to the whole East Lavant congregation the following Sunday.

1629

Henry Cuffin, a curate at Ruckinge in Kent, was prosecuted by an Archdeacon’s Court for playing cricket on Sunday evening after prayers. He claimed that several of his fellow players were persons of repute and fashion. This may indicate that cricket had achieved popularity among the well-to-do.

1636

In a court case concerning a tithe dispute, a witness called Henry Mabbinck testified that he played cricket in the Parke at West Horsley in Surrey.

1637

Another ecclesiastical case records parishioners of Midhurst, west Sussex, playing cricket during evening prayer on Sunday 26 February.

1640

Puritan clerics, at Maidstone and at Harbledown near Canterbury, denounced cricket as profane, especially if played on Sunday.

The influence of Puritans at this time is significant as this was the year in which the Long Parliament was first assembled and proved to be a precursor to the English Civil War.

1642

The English Civil War began and Parliament banned theatres, which had met with Puritan disapproval. Although similar action would be taken against certain sports, it is not clear if cricket was in any way prohibited, except that players must not break the Sabbath. References to the game during the Cromwell years suggest that it was not widely banned.

The preceding references indicate that inter-parish matches were being played but there is nothing to suggest that any teams representative of counties had been formed by this time. There is no evidence of large scale gambling or patronage prior to the English Civil War and it was those factors which drove the formation of "representative" teams in the 18th Century. It must be concluded, therefore, that the level of cricket being played before the war was still "minor" standard: inter-parish at best.

1646

The earliest record of an organised match is held in the report of a court case. The match took place at Coxheath in Kent on 29 May. The case concerned non-payment of a wager that was made at the game. Curiously, the wager was for twelve candles! The participants included members of the local gentry: further evidence of the sport’s growing affluence.

1647

A Latin poem contains a probable reference to cricket being played at Winchester College, earliest known mention of cricket in Hampshire.

A fatality was recorded at Selsey, west Sussex, when a player called Henry Brand was hit on the head by the batsman trying to hit the ball a second time. The case was obviously a repeat of the Horsted Keynes incident in 1624.

1652

A case at Cranbrook against John Rabson, Esq. and others refers to a certain unlawful game called cricket. It is interesting that the game was described as unlawful and that Rabson was evidently a gentleman whereas the other defendants were all working class. Cricket has long been recognised as the sport that bridged the class divide.

European colonisation of southern Africa began when the Dutch East India Company established a settlement called the Cape Colony on Table Bay, near present-day Cape Town. There was no significant British interest in South Africa until the Napoleonic Wars, when the Netherlands fell to Bonaparte and the British decided to secure the colony against French encroachment. The whole territory was formally ceded to Great Britain in 1814 by the Anglo-Dutch Treaty and administered as Cape Colony until it joined the Union of South Africa in 1910.

Cricket arrived very quickly once the British had finally taken over with the earliest known reference to the game in South Africa dated 1808.

1653

Some sports evidently were approved by the Puritans as Izaak Walton published [[The Compleat Angler]].

1654

Three men were prosecuted at Eltham in Kent for playing cricket on Sunday. As the Puritans were now firmly in power, Cromwell’s Protectorate having been established the previous year, the penalty was doubled to 24d (two shillings).

1656

The defendants in the 1654 case were charged with breaking the Sabbath, not with playing cricket. Cromwell’s commissioners in Ireland did ban sport in 1656 but not cricket. They were concerned as always with preventing unlawful assemblies in Ireland and sport was held to be that. The sport in question was hurling. Cricket had probably not reached Ireland at this time.

1658

The cricket ball was first referred to in those terms in a book by Edward Phillips.

1660

The Restoration of the monarchy in England was immediately followed by the reopening of the theatres and so any sanctions that had been imposed by the Puritans on cricket would also have been lifted. Although there are only a few references to the game in the time of Charles II, it is clear that its popularity was increasing and that it was expanding.

The Restoration was effectively completed during the spring of 1660 and it can safely be assumed that, in the general euphoria which both accompanied and followed these historic events, gambling on cricket and other sports was freely pursued. It is logical to assume that the large amounts at stake will have led some investors to try and improve their chances of winning by forming teams that were stronger than your typical parish XI. Although details continue to be conspicuous by their absence, there can be little doubt that the first teams representing several parishes and even whole counties were formed at this time; and so it may reasonably be concluded that this period saw the first great matches or major matches or important matches or whatever term may be applied to denote the highest level of cricket.

Indeed, it must be so that this was the historical point of origin of first-class cricket.

1662

The Printing Act was passed and introduced very stringent controls of the press. Sport, including cricket, was certainly not a subject to be reported.

1664

A Gambling Act was passed by the Cavalier Parliament to try and curb some of the post-Restoration excesses. It limited stakes to £100 which was in any case a fortune at the time. We know that cricket could attract stakes of 50 guineas by 1697 and it was funded by gambling throughout the next century.

1666

A letter by Sir Robert Paston of Richmond refers to a game on Richmond Green, which became a noted venue in the 18th century.

1668

The promoter of a match at Maidstone had to obtain a licence to sell ale there.

Cricket was again mentioned in a court case as being played at Shoreham in Kent.

It has been reported in some books that the Clerkenwell Rate Book rated the landlord of the Ram Inn, Smithfield, Middlesex for a cricket field but later investigation established the meaning was otherwise and that this was not a cricket reference.

1671

Perhaps a sign that the times, post-Restoration, they were a-changing. A man called Edward Bound was charged with playing cricket on the Sabbath and was exonerated! The case was reported in Shere, Surrey.

1676

Sat 6 May. A diarist called Henry Tonge, who was part of a British mission at Aleppo in Turkey (now in Syria), recorded that at least forty of the English left the city for recreational purposes and, having found a nice place to pitch a tent for dinner, they had several pastimes and sports including krickett. At six they returned home in good order.

1677

Accounts of Thomas Dacre, the Earl of Sussex, include an item which refers to £3 being paid to him when he went to a cricket match being played at ye Dicker, which was a common near Herstmonceux in east Sussex.

1678

Mention of cricket as a play (presumably in the sense of a sport that is played) in a Latin dictionary published by Dr Adam Littleton.

1680

Lines written in an old bible invite All you that do delight in Cricket, come to Marden, pitch your wickets. Marden is in west Sussex, north of Chichester, and interestingly close to Hambledon, which is just across the county boundary in Hampshire.

This is the earliest known reference to the wicket.

As is well known, the wicket until the 1770s comprised two stumps and a single bail. By that time, the shape of the wicket was high and narrow after the 1744 Laws of Cricket defined the dimensions as 22 inches high and six inches wide. But earlier 18th century pictures show a wicket that was low and broad, perhaps two feet wide by one foot high. The ends of the stumps were forked to support the light bail and there were criteria for the firmness of pitching the stumps into the ground and for the delicate placing of the bail so that it would easily topple when a stump was hit.

There has been a lot of conjecture about the origin of the wicket, but suffice to say that the 17th century outline shape is more akin to the profile of a church stool, which is low and broad. Furthermore, the legs of the stool were called stumps, which adds further credence to the idea that stools were used as early wickets. Interestingly, according to the Churchwarden’s Accounts for Great St. Mary’s Church of Cambridge (1504 – 1635), a church stool was sometimes known in the south-east by the Flemish name of “kreckett”, this being the same word used for the game by John Derrick in 1597.

1685

Mitcham Cricket Club is formed, with the club playing their cricket on what is today known as Mitcham Cricket Green. The site has hosted cricket matches ever since.

1693

A match in Sussex was the occasion of crowd trouble and a number of persons were charged with riot and battery. We know about it because of a later petition by the defendants to Queen Anne (who did not succeed until 1702) in which they pleaded for remission of fines imposed, they having been mere spectators at the game.

1694

Accounts of Sir John Pelham record 2s 6d paid for a wager concerning a cricket match at Lewes.

1695

Parliament decided against a renewal of the Licensing Act and so cleared the way for a free press on the Act’s expiry in 1696.

1696

Freedom of the press resulted from the British government's decision not to renew the Licensing Act. Censorship had already been relaxed following the Bill of Rights in 1689. It was from this time that cricket matters could be reported in the newspapers, but it would be a very long time before the newspaper industry adapted sufficiently to provide frequent, let alone comprehensive, reports.

By the end of the 17th Century, cricket had long since broken its bounds as a village pastime and was already into the age of great matches. All that was needed now was for the matches to be reported. The first "great match" we know of took place in Sussex in 1697...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Kirsten signs deal to coach India

Gary Kirsten has signed a two-year deal to coach the Indian national team. He will start work on March 1, 2008, almost a year after his predecessor, Greg Chappell, resigned from the post.

Kirsten signed the contract after clarifying a few last minute details pertaining to his young family and also to the feelings of senior players in the team who had been anonymously quoted as saying that the appointment of a coach was "unnecessary."

Sharad Pawar, the Indian board president, told Kirsten on Tuesday afternoon that all the senior players were looking forward to having him on board and agreed with Kirsten's suggestion that he meets up with the team before they depart for Australia.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Murali breaks Warne's record


Muttiah Muralitharan has become the leading wicket-taker in Test cricket after breaking Shane Warne's record of 708 Test wickets. Murali dismissed Paul Collingwood during England's first innings in Kandy to take his 709th wicket.
Murali achieved the record in his 116th Test and on his home ground.