2013 Diary

A Ramble on Women's Cricket
 - with diversions -

This diary will be updated erratically throughout the year.

2012 Last Page
With the World Cup upon us I trust you'll forgive me for typing little during January and February.
There has really been only one word I can think of to describe the start of this event and that's shambles! Now I can't blame the ICC for the views of extremists in India and I applaud their efforts to ensure Pakistan could participate. However, I find it hard to believe that a decent hotel could not be found for them in Cuttack as I wonder whether sleeping at the stadium, and presumably being essentially trapped there, is really the right situation to be conducive to playing your best cricket. And as for the ramifications of moving much of the tournament hundreds of miles across the country - well I feel for parents and supporters trying to do their best to follow their teams around. I never expected to be saying to friends and colleagues, this is one World Cup I am grateful I was obliged to miss in the flesh!
However, from a spectator's point of view I am pleased that Sky TV has decided to show rather more than just the final that we might have expected. Also, in the UK, Radio 5 Live Sports extra (is it available on the 'Net?) is covering every match, although with only one ex-player on the commentary team I wonder how expert the commentary will actually be. They do have Alison Mitchell, however, who has watched many women's games and covered the England team's activities on a number of occasions so I am sure she will make up for the lack of expertise we might expect from the male commentators. If the BBC would like a list of qualified women I am sure the ECB could provide (and, of course, I'd be happy to!). However there is one who knows the current game as well as anyone.
<Addendum> From the BBC web site:
The commentary team includes Alison Mitchell, Charles Dagnall and Prakash Wakankar, with former England internationals Ebony Rainford-Brent and Mark Butcher as summarisers, while the commentaries can also be heard via the BBC Sport website, where there will be live text commentary.

Full Radio UK details

[Ebony Rainford-Brent]

That individual is Ebony Rainford-Brent ("Ebs").

As I type the warm-up matches are underway and the White Ferns have shown what they are capable of in the game against England. In fact a quick look at all the results show that this World Cup is wide open and in that respect at least potentially the most exciting for some time.
On a less serious note, I have been amused looking around the newspaper reports recently of how little is still obviously known about the sport's main stars. I have recently come across an article about Nicola Browne illustrated by a fine picture of Suzie Bates, and also one on Meg Lanning with a shot of Ellyse Perry in full flow - and a fine picture it is too - but not exactly relevant to the article. Also one TV station's review has a picture of Danni Wyatt labelled as Charlotte Edwards. Hopefully, as the tournament wears on this will become rarer.
<January - World Cup>
Well India stamped their mark on the tournament in this first match with a convincing win over a West Indies side that looked tired and not up for the task. India showed the same kind of commitment and enthusiasm that those who watched them during the summer in England will have seen and which had been lacking for some time before that in that country's armoury. Is it Raj as captain or has someone behind the scenes given them a good shake? Whatever it is, it does ensure they use the talent they have always had to its best effect. England will have a match on their hands on Sunday if India continue in this vein.
Kamini and Raut played particularly well, as you might guess from the scorecard, but if you hadn't been lucky enough to watch at the ground or on the TV what you will not know is the elegance of the stroke play, especially by Raut, which made this opening stand such a pleasure to watch. At 175 it is the highest for India in World Cups, and Kamini is the first Indian player to reach a century in all the years since this tournament started. As well as the fluency of her driving and pulling, Raut showed she was master of the 'Dilshan', earning several boundaries from the shot. It was Raut's personal best in ODIs and she can hardly have earned higher praise than Mark Butcher's comment that her driving reminded him of Sachin Tendulkar. When the first wicket went down I was telling the TV (not that it was listening you understand) that Raj should wait and Kaur should be sent in next. Someone in India seemed to partly share my views for although it was not Kaur that arrived, it was Goswami who seemed to feel the only right place for the ball was over the rope and her short, sharp knock spurred the run rate considerably. Kaur followed and both added valuable runs at scoring rates better than 150. India's total, their highest in World Cups, always looked formidable.
[Punam Raut]

Punam Raut

With the exception of Deandra Dottin who showed exactly what a formidable hitter she can be, the whole West Indies line-up looked below par. Her 39 came from just 16 balls with 4 x 6s and 3 x 4s.Sanjay Manjrekar remarked that a previous President of the Cricket Club of India where the game was played would undoubtedly have given her a life membership for her efforts! In the end the game fizzled out with India's bowlers, especially the quicks, showing their dominance over the WIndies' batsmen.
Some thoughts on the match;
  • West Indies fielding very lack lustre with many simple misses and on a couple of occasions a simple throw to the bowler might (I suspect would) have effected a run-out where a direct throw, which missed, did not.

  • Some poor umpiring with batsmen getting away with lbws which hawk-eye indicated were well within its predictions i.e. would not even have been "umpire's call" had a referral system been in operation.

  • Anisa Mohammed bowled the occasional back-foot no-ball, touching the return crease, that weren't spotted - difficult I know for an umpire especially when she bowls from 23 or 24 yards every ball.

  • Two players, Kaur and Dottin showed what concentration is really about both striking 6s while someone walked across the sight-screen behind the bowler's arm!

  • I was especially pleased when Kamini, while being interviewed, referred to women with bats in their hands as "batsmen". It seems my battle to prevent the horrible 'batter' term becoming universal, isn't yet lost.

Back in the UK I can only study the scoresheets for many of the matches, and far too many newspaper and WWW reports are written  just from this info, but Sky coverage does allow ball by ball watching for a number, including the first upset of the tournament in England's last ball defeat to Sri Lanka. Thus this ramble will be almost exclusively related to those matches I can 'eyeball'. The current holders supporters will no doubt be mentioning the lack of Sarah Taylor and Laura Marsh in the line up but England have always boasted about strength in depth so we had a chance to see if that was really true.
Well the umpires had no problems with the first three decisions. Edwards was unlucky to be bowled off her back foot - just one of those things that happens to everyone at the crease at some time or another - but the two leg before decisions would have tested only the umpire who failed to give Karen Rolton out in the 2005 World Cup Final. I was very impressed with one appeal which went "How's that, Sir"!
Some thoughts on the match;
  • Sri Lanka's idea of taking the pace off is 40mph not nearer 50mph, and very effective it was in the main.

  • Amy Jones had a great debut scoring 40+, not looking phased by a big occasion and kept wicket to a standard that would put her close to the world's number two slot. I felt the commentators were a little unfair about the leg side catch chance. Standing up, those are often caught more by fluke than skill. Her batting strike rate was also excellent.

  • To me Chamani Seneviratna was the pick of SL's bowlers, both her wickets being of top order batsmen and her economy rate was excellent.

  • It was interesting to see an umpire from Nepal but where are the women umpires? There are certainly two in the UK who would not be out of place in this company. I would suggest they would be better than at least one on view on the TV so far and equal to the others.

  • Who was the bowler back to the stumps so quickly to run out Arran Brindle? (SS Weerakkody/Dolawatte). It showed the kind of quick thinking so often lacking in bowlers!

  • The SL captain took it upon herself to bowl the last over - don't ask others to do what you wouldn't do yourself!

  • I was amused by a visual side play early in the SL innings when Brunt threatened to throw down the batsman's wicket in spite of the fact she had made no attempt to run. Atapattu simply walked away to point, pointing at the wickets as if to show Brunt where they were just in case she was in any doubt. The one with the cool head wins those encounters!

  • I turned on the TV part way through the game, glanced at the strap line on the screen. When it said Mendis and Atapattu I thought, just for an instant, that I'd got the wrong channel and they were showing an old men's game.

  • Mark Butcher described Atapattu as having "a purity of stroke". It's not an expression I have heard before but he was not wrong.

  • I was also amused during the opening stand that (unnecessary?) signs of aggression by bowlers were simply greeted by smiles from the SL batsmen. Patently it was having no effect whatever.

  • England's fielding, especially the catching, was very poor. Three sitters went down as well as a couple of half chances - well one half and one quarter perhaps.

  • SL adopted a never-say die approach. One international captain, who frequently found herself on the losing side, once told me that you always play your top game especially when the opposition is stronger. That's the one chance you have of beating the them - catch them on a bad day and... SL certainly did that and earned their victory.

Scorecard  :  Report

<February 3> And a day for centuries! It reminded me of an advert once sported by Hunts County bats, wielded so well today by Charlotte Edwards, which simply said, following the date on which the company had been formed "made for centuries". Today they were as 'Lottie' returned to form, proving once again the old adage that 'form is temporary but class is permanent'. And my jotted notes during play today...
  • I noticed that when Kamini dropped a catch that should have been taken a team mate, rather than ignoring her or looking the other way, was quick to pat her on the back and show solidarity. That's exactly what Kamini needed - not stern looks.

  • India's opening bowlers gave a fine performance of accurate swing bowling. In fact it was the most controlled I have seen from any side for some time. Sharma, for instance, operated with no deep-fine leg, and indeed didn't need one. Wyatt's wicket was the result of this consistency.

  • As the commentators remarked, the slips were too deep and one chance went begging for that reason.

  • It was great to see that Niranjana's passion has not subsided, and while the commentators remarked on her celebrations, they seemed muted compared with those I saw in her trip to the UK, while still rather more robust than those of the other bowlers.

  • Ekta Bisht's fielding stood out, not just off her own bowling but at all times. Her bowling was also right on the mark and she looked head and shoulders above the other left armer Sultana.

  • Taylor was run out by a quite brilliant piece of fielding from Sharma.

  • Why, I found myself wondering, no Amy Jones. After her performance against Sri Lanka I'd have found a place for her with the bat.

  • Was Raut hit in line? It would have been an 'umpire's call' on a referral system I guess but I felt she was a little unlucky.

  • At one point with Colvin bowling I noticed Edwards at cover-point and Greenway at mid-on. It was an indicator of how straight the Indian batsmen were frequently playing the ball, and of an alert England captain.

  • Bowlers should perhaps be aware that on TV it is frequently possible to lip-read!

  • India should have turned many of their singles into twos. Even with England's prowess in the field they were there to be had.

  • Mark Butcher described Kaur as a "fantastic player - complete batsmanship". I would have to agree. Having watched her a number of times I have always felt her first century wouldn't be long coming, and there will be more to follow I'm sure. If I were picking a world side the number 4 slot would be hers. I was especially impressed with the way she played for the team and only on 99 did she finally show some sign that the 100 made her in the least nervous of going all out. She was robbed of two runs when the 3rd umpire unexpectedly counted a ball that hit the rope as a 4 rather than a 6. What made it even odder was that he had got an earlier call right from the same batsman. Thankfully it didn't affect either the result of the match, or Kaur's century.

  • For England the outstanding fielders on the day must be Wyatt and Brunt, both of whom must have sore legs with the boundary running that was required.
England will be happy that they have two points under their belt, but although all sides have 2 points in this group, England remain third on run rate.

Scorecard  :   Report

<February 5> I started the day not expecting another upset but by the end of the day wondering if a Sri Lankan victory really was an upset. It rattled the established order, and as one emailer to me pointed out, they are playing in their own back yard in terms of conditions so, of course  were today's opponents. It is very early days, of course, but is there an outside chance we are looking to a new established order? I have seen glimpses - no more than that - in the past that has made me hope the Lankans might start rattling the top four. Well, they've done rather more than rattle in this World Cup! The change seems to be the willingness of the Sri Lankan armed forces to take them on and ensure that paying the monthly bills is no longer a worry. Giving everything to cricket rather than holding down a full time job has done so much for women's cricket in a few countries now, but nowhere else has the effect been quite so dramatic.
And my rambling notes made with pen and paper during the match... well I tend to try and look for those nuances the commentators may not have remarked upon or which I feel particularly significant.
  • Despite losing one of the more glorious stroke players in the tournament early in Atapattu, the Lankans didn't panic. In fact cool heads seemed to be a significant part of their game throughout the day, despite becoming a little bogged down in the middle overs. It would seem the mantra for most teams has become "keep wickets in hand for the final onslaught". If there was a little more attempt to look for the singles in the middle overs then scores beyond the 300 mark are obviously not beyond their reach.

  • There seemed to be a lack of intent (and intensity) in the Indian bowling. Heads dropped very readily and at first they seemed not to take the Lankans seriously.

  • I was especially impressed with Rasangika who played throughout for the team rather than herself. There seemed no change in her tactics when approaching milestones and if anyone in the games I have been able to watch has deserved a 100 and not made it, then it was her!

  • Judging from the smiles on the Lankan faces from the start of this match they must surely carry away the trophy for the most cheerful team in this tournament. I am told win or lose they're just the same. It is very refreshing to see players so obviously enjoying themselves, and not just when things go well. Some slip-ups (and there were few) also brought grins from the participants.

  • Such was the concentration on the job in hand that Siriwardene didn't seem to notice when she had reached 50 and either her team mate or one of the Indian fielders had to point it out to her. That seemed indicative to me of the team approach, rather than the personal one, with which they all played.

  • Mark Butcher repeated his comments on Poonam Raut - "more than a touch of Sachin Tendulkar", but she was the first in what turned out to be a procession. In the end India could barely manage half the Sri Lankan total.

  • If you haven't seen Alison Mitchell dance then you've missed a treat. It seems she feels quite at home in India.

Mark Butcher also made one comment which I think reflected perfectly why I have always enjoyed this sport.
"For those familiar with the women's game it will come as no surprise to see the timing, balance and poise of the batsmen".
I could add the word 'elegant' in there somewhere, but these attributes are being showcased aplenty during this World Cup.
And now something more puzzling. Sky TV commentators have explained most clearly how teams do not carry forward any points from matches against the team that is dropped from their group when going into the Sixes stage. I have found myself muttering loudly why?  why?  why?
It seems unfair to me that a side should get away with a loss to a 'minnow' if they beat the other better sides and they might well start the next round on a par with a side that's won everything. It almost as if the organisers are saying "well if you came bottom of your group you're not worth considering so we'll expunge you from history." I feel this distorts what has happened in this Cup so far. You might have expected (and the organisers probably did) Pakistan and Sri Lanka to be going home now. If you had decided ahead of time that was the case why invite them? As it turns out, one valuable function of them being there are precisely the 'upsets' we've seen.
One possible explanation for the dropping of points has come from an email by Mark Smith...
I haven’t managed to thoroughly convince myself of the equity of this system, but conclude that it would probably demonstrate its usefulness if weather was interfering significantly with a competition, especially where there were larger pools in the initial phase (as in the 1999 men’s World Cup).
In the ‘Super ‘ stage a team is only being ranked through performances against others (the stronger sides) in that section of the competition rather than having a points boost from easy victories over the minnows that have been eliminated. e.g. A side that had picked up maximum points from its ‘easy’ wins won’t benefit from them in relation to others who had their minnow matches rained off. I think the benefit becomes more obvious if you consider a situation where 2 or 3 sides are eliminated from each pool at the group stage.

And yes, it does enable sides to “get off the hook” from slip ups against the minnows, provided they can then do the business against the tougher teams.

If anyone has any other ideas on this I'd be pleased to hear them ... donjmiles@gmail.com
Two thoughts occur to me at this point. That India are not continuing is rather a blow to the organisers in that crowds will be appreciably lower than they might have been and...
Pakistan have been extremely disadvantaged in being essentially locked into a stadium night and day for the entire time. This is not the way to get the best from any team, and while it is hard to see what else could have been done, I doubt we have seen the best from them as a result.
There is one characteristic I have often found among my fellow countrymen. When watching a sporting event between two neutral countries we have a tendency to support the underdog. If England are playing that is quite another matter, of course! I have to admit to a feeling of being particularly British at the moment. I am not sure if I will get a chance to watch Sri Lanka again on the TV here in the UK but, unless they are playing England, I will be cheering them on, although, as I mentioned earlier I am starting to wonder how much of 'underdogs' they really are. When will we see them In England again I wonder, or will the old order survive and apart from a few T20s, only three countries will be offered meaningful cricket in the UK.

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