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Archives for May 2011

Rock and roll - the new face of t20

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Kevin Howells | 16:12 UK time, Monday, 30 May 2011

X Factor comes to domestic Twenty20 in its ninth season this summer as the various marketing departments crank up a gear or two and tempt more people into their venues. If the weather is good, and I mean really good, the tournament will be a big success. If it rains it's a different story at most if not all grounds.

The star name this season is Sri Lankan spin king Muttiah Muralitharan, who has been signed up by Gloucestershire Gladiators. Yes that's right, Gloucestershire. They've failed to get past the group stage in the last  three years but Murali is not just about success on the field but also off it. Commercial director Andrew Davies says advance ticket sales are good. So far, 5,000 have been sold for each of the first few home games, which is up on last year. The fact  Murali signed a two-season deal with a club like Gloucestershire surprised many but Davies believes it shouldn't have done. It was down to John Bracewell, a respected international coach, and the team is a young one, which will appeal to Murali who will enjoy working with and encouraging them.

Steve Elworthy, the ECB director of marketing and communications, is hopeful for a good year. He says advance ticket sales around the country are looking "great". About last year he said: "There were 200,000 new spectators that came along to domestic t20 cricket." Signings such as Murali are encouraged but Elworthy says other so-called big names in the past have had a "mixed reaction" when it comes to impact on ticket sales. "Probably only the iconic ones such as Murali would make a real difference," he added.

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In defence of the groundstaff

Kevin Howells | 16:00 UK time, Thursday, 19 May 2011

As the fall-out from the Edgbaston pitch saga rumbles on I want to write some words of support for the various groundstaff who are always the first to arrive and the last to leave every day of the season. 

I wasn't in Birmingham so I will keep out of that, but if the groundsman I know best is anything to go by the amount of work that goes into trying to get things right would never deserve a points penalty.

One thing that stands out over the last couple of years is how interesting the games have become following the directive not to use the heavy roller once a match is underway.

It does, of course, mean that if there are any problems with a surface on the opening day there is little to nothing that can be done. Groundstaff have had an important tool taken from them.

There must be some kind of policing standards as suggestions that certain directions are given to groundsmen to under-prepare pitches is not acceptable.

This week we also heard a player end a first day's play saying that particular surface had been "sticky". That can't be right. 

Again, stressing that I know nothing about last week, it has struck me that if the opposition aren't bothered then there is every chance a club won't face a penalty and the findings can be too subjective.

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The rising star of umpiring

Kevin Howells | 12:30 UK time, Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Ian Gould is one of our rising stars. England wicketkeeper in the 1983 World Cup and close on 300 first-class games as a player, he's now taking on the world as an umpire.

He enjoyed a wonderful World Cup this year and is about to set off on another tour of the globe during the summer on the ICC Elite panel.

I've always found him one of the most engaging and terrific of men. Always chirping away on the stump microphones - always involved and always seemingly enjoying himself.

The really big one for him at the World Cup was the semi-final between India and Pakistan. He admits to having been quite nervous ahead of the huge day in Mohali. 

He took some advice off his Australian colleague Simon Taufel. "Basically he told me to throw every newspaper away, don't watch the television and just get on with it," Gould told me. "The game itself flew past. I had quite a good tournament so I felt pretty confident." 

Now, I was talking to Ian the day after the Royal Wedding, some weeks after the game. But it was only then the size of the event in India had sunk in.

He explained: "Somebody told me there were two billion people watching the wedding on TV whilst the semi-final had 2.8 billion watching. That actually made me feel more nervous about it just over a month after the event."

I was interested to hear Ian talk about the five minutes before play begins. Nowadays there is the big build-up on the field with national anthems and the like, and he says that in Mohali it was a tense time.

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Hunting for English talent

Kevin Howells | 13:49 UK time, Thursday, 5 May 2011

Every day at a cricket ground near you a dark foreboding presence descends. How do you know of its arrival? A loud cry goes out: "Keep your hands off our players Miller". In fairness it could also be Whittaker.

I refer to Geoff and James, who prowl looking for the right men to lead England onto great things such as winning the Ashes. The third man is Warwickshire director of cricket Ashley Giles.

Forty thousand miles is the rough estimate of the distance the national selector covers trying to get around the right games to look at the right people. It's a skill.

Over recent years the judgements which have most impressed me include Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan. Both were very good county players, but put an England shirt on them and they have grown. Stats alone wouldn't have told you that.

Not everyone is a fan of two divisions but one fear that players from the lower league would be at a disadvantage in terms of international recognition has not happened.

The skill of the selector is beyond watching, but also to listen and discover if the individual has character and temperament. Those qualities can be found no matter what division you are in. The present selection panel seem to be making a decent job of it.

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