Monday, 27 September 2010

Ashes to Ashes...

The England squad was announced for the Ashes last week.  It is two months before the tour starts and already I'm filled with dread.  This shouldn't be, England are in fine form and the Convicts are a shadow of their former self.  That is what the media want us to think anyway.  I still think that in Australia taking 20 wickets may be a lot harder than just getting Ricky 'Punter' Ponting out twice as some pundits would have you think.

I look at our batting line up and on paper it's really strong, however in reality it is a collapse waiting to happen.
Strauss - Finally found some form in the ODI series just gone, before that he had a very frustrating habit of reaching 20/30 and giving his wicket away.
Cook - Has looked like a walking wicket for a while now.  Once again did the absolute minimum to keep his place by getting a century against Pakistan, but then did what he always does and got out without turning it into a big big score.  With any luck though that century may have given him the confidence he needs - in theory could be the most important runs scored for this Ashes series, here's hoping!
Trott - Okay well he looks settled at the moment, however he goes through that agonising routine before each delivery and I can't help but think the Aussies will get under his skin.
KP - Finally the ECB have shown Kev that he isn't undroppable, unfortunately he is, despite looking a shadow of his former self.  Hopefully he can pick up some form in South Africa before the tour.
Collingwood - He was even worse than KP against Pakistan, didn't look like playing well.  I've never been a big fan but he like Cook has an annoying habit of getting one score when under pressure to keep his place.
Bell - I reckon he will start ahead of Morgan.  He has more experience and has been playing better in the longer formats.  He also missed a large portion of the summer so should be fresher.  The only worry I have with him is his poor record against the Aussies but I am hoping that this is the tour that finally shows Bell as the quality player we all know he could be.
Prior - easily the batsman of the series against Pakistan.  I fear we would have lost at least one more test without his contribution.  I was against his initial inclusion but he has proven me wrong.
Broad - finally produced the performance with the bat we were all hoping for in that controversial test and has given an important knock against the Aussies before.  However he lacks consistency and will probably only provide one or two contributions of note over 5 tests.  With the ball he is a worry, I doubt he will be able to keep his head during a frustrating day in the field.  He is capable of coming up with magic spells but doesn't quite have the consistency.
Swann - England's best bowler at the moment, but didn't do it against the Aussies last year.  Hopefully though he will have learned from that experience and will cause them some problems this time round.  Although he has batted above Broad he wont offer anything more than a bit of a dart down the order.
Anderson - will be expected to spearhead the attack, however without getting the ball to swing I don't know if he can take wickets.
Finn - has been very impressive so far in his test career, however he has yet to be really tested, I'm sure the Aussies will get after him and put him under pressure from the very start.

The other players in the squad are:
Morgan - unlikely to play to begin with though may come in if one of the batsmen is really struggling, has the big game temperament but not the endurance that would be necessary.
Davies - is just there as a back up to Prior, he does deserve that place in the line though and I reckon he'll do well given the chance
Bresnan - is pure and simple not good enough at this level.  It's harsh to do this comparison but he can't bowl or bat better than Freddie could.  He wont scare any opposition let alone the Aussies.
Tremlett - I would like to see him get a chance ahead of Bresnan should they be needed.  He is tall and quick and could do well on Aussie wickets.  I haven't seen enough of him to really judge though.
Panesar - the best criticism I heard of Monty was that he played his 30th text like he played his first.  He played his first pretty well but didn't learn and teams worked him out quickly.  I hear he's improved but I think he's been proven to not be good enough at this level.

I would have had Hildreth, Shahzad and Tredwell in there instead of Collywobble, Bresnan and Panesar.  I think Rashid is the best back up spinner but I don't think he'd benefit from being taken along and carrying the drinks again.  

Overall I think we don't look good enough but we should be better than last time round.  I'm going for a 3-1 win to the convicts and hoping to be proven wrong!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Denial, Denial, Denial... we want POWER!

There's one main reason that I really dislike the Labour Party at the moment, and that surprisingly isn't the state that they left the country in.  They were caught unaware by the downturn in the economic conditions in which we operate and it could happen to any Government (in fact it has happened to most), and Labour will always spend more than they have, it goes with what their principles are.  I think they acted correctly in the downturn, however the Government's finances shouldn't have been in the position they were in as the recession hit.  Gordon Brown started as Chancellor with a message of 'prudence', this seemed to go out of the window early in this decade, leaving the resulting financial mess possible. No the main thing that annoys me about them, the main reason I can't see myself ever voting for them again comes down to one word: Power.

Everything I have read about them since the election it seems like all that they are interest in.  There was no humility in their defeat in the general election, they scrambled around trying to stay in power as if that was their right.  I would have had much more respect for them if they had turned around and said, the country has voted for a change, we wish them the new Government the best of luck and will do our best to be constructive opposition, as part of a different kind of politics.  

The road they have gone down instead is to be the most disruptive opposition possible just because they can, in the general election they admitted that difficult decisions and cuts would have to be made; now, because they are not the ones who have to make them they are opposing every suggestion that has been put forward without making any themselves.  Harriet Harman was basically telling Unions to strike against the planned cuts when speaking to the TUC, obviously not mentioning the things Labour would have been forced to do.  One of the Labour leadership candidates, Andy Burnham, even answered a question by stating that he would fight all coalition cuts on the NHS - the coalition are cutting the NHS by far less than Labour themselves said that they would in their manifesto.  They are hypocrites and I see them working against the public interest rather than constructively for it.  

There was a good blog on the Independent's website yesterday by John Hemming (Lib Dem MP), I couldn't agree more with it. 

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Another sensible voice

Yet another 'expert' has come out and recommended that cannabis is decriminalised.  (Full article can be read here on the Independent's website).

I wonder just how long it will be, how many experts it will take before a Government is brave enough to have an open discussion regarding this, taking into account the view of all of those people who really know what they are talking about and not just worrying about what the sensationalist fear mongering red tops will print.  You can see the headlines now "Dopey Dave wants to get your kids STONED".  It is the media in the UK that set the political agenda, politicians know they would be slated for even thinking about this, it would be the sort of act they could never live down.  In that sense I have every sympathy, but we shouldn't have our policy decisions made by a few people who are able to set the media agenda, decisions like this should be made with the consultation of scientists.

Even a quick look at the facts would show that alcohol and cigarettes are both worse drugs both socially and for ones health.  (It is the tobacco that is often mixed with cannabis that makes it almost as bad).  The only possible reason for these being legal is cultural, along with the fact that prohibition has been tried (in America in the 1930s) and it failed miserably.  The truth is prohibition of any drug doesn't work.  I could walk out of my door and buy almost anything I wanted without trying, the only thing it does is makes it illegal to produce and possess, therefore criminalising those who do use it and pushing the market towards criminal gangs.

I could go on all day about why I think drugs should be legalised but the main reason is I believe in free will.  We only know for certain that we live once, as such I don't think it should be down to other people to tell you what you can or cannot do as long as this doesn't negatively effect another living creature.  I would allow people to do drugs in their own home or licenced premises, although I would limit the amount one could purchase or possess.  The key to controlling the use of drugs though would be education, from an early age, so children know the harm that they can do and the risks they face taking them.  Education would be much better than just a "Drugs are bad, m'kay" attitude!  The main additional benefit which shouldn't be overlooked would be the fact that this would bring in a huge amount of tax revenues (from any direct taxation and bringing the income of those who produce it out of the hidden economy) and lower costs on the prohibition side.  Like I said I could go on all day, so I will stop here.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

It's just not cricket...

Obviously the one big story around cricket at the moment is the 'spot fixing' betting scam that allegedly involves some Pakistan players.  Unless I am mistaken these players are Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif along with Salman Butt (the captain) and potentially Kamran Akmal (their wicket-keeper, though I believe he's been cleared).

The initial feeling regarding this from my point of view isn't anger or anything like that, it is immense disappointment, which is why I am finding it hard to write about.  World cricket is struggling for strength in depth at the moment, there are 5 or 6 good countries who play well but outside that there are the likes of Pakistan and the West Indies who are really struggling to live up to past glories.  The game of cricket needs a strong Pakistan, the Pakistani people love the game and are of great benefit to world cricket.  

Aamer is only 18 and looks like the best bowler in the world to me right now.  It was absolutely frightening to watch, I rarely get excited when I see a non-Englishman play for the first time, but I did with him.  However, if the allegations are proved true then this will pretty much ruin his career, I doubt he'd ever be allowed to play test cricket again.  Who knows, he may have found himself pressured into a situation that he couldn't get out of and as a result his career is over?  Hardly seems fair.  The integrity of the game though needs to be preserved but this result would be so disappointing.  

Butt and Asif have been two of Pakistan's key players recently, Asif has had a lot of previous problems and come through them whilst Butt has just been made captain. 

Without home cricket after the tragedy of Sri Lanka's tour last year, and now the prospect of some of their heroes being banned for life, you have to wonder whether this generation of Pakistani youngsters will get involved with the game as they have in years gone by.  It is totally possible to see them fall down the cricketing ladder, which would be a total shame and a loss to the world of cricket.