Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Chairman of Cricket Committee Quits

John Claughton, the chairman of the cricket committee of Warwickshire, quit at the end of last week. I have mixed feelings about it as I write this piece. On the one hand I feel very happy that a person who was clearly not suited to the job has left. I remember vividly his performance at the watershed members forum in September, when he insisted the club was making progress and looked stunned and somewhat lost as his statements were greeted with howls of derision and heckling. He was involved fairly strongly in the (in hindsight) disastrous appointment of Mark Greatbatch and seemed blind to the coach and team's failings throughout last season.

On the other hand I feel somewhat sorry that an individual in a voluntary position has clearly had a rough ride and has had to quit a role at a club he seems to care for.

I would say that although being a volunteer, the chairman of cricket cannot be held to account in the same way as say a chief executive or coach, who are handsomely rewarded for delivering success and therefore have a right to expect to cop flak when they fail to deliver that which they are paid for. However being a volunteer in itself is no defence against receiving criticism for doing a poor job. Equally where a voluntary position affects others, those with a vested interest have a right to expect at the least competence from the individual in question.

I think the criticism he received at the members forum in September was disproportionate, and my general feelings about that meeting are documented elsewhere in this blog. I feel he should have expected some criticism, but the manner in which some members expressed their feelings at that meeting bordered on disgraceful and I can therefore understand how he could then feel he had to resign in order to preserve his reputation at large.

It is a shame that he ended his tenure on quite such a sour note. I feel that he probably should have gone following the results last season, so the outcome is correct. However it is a disappointment that his end had to come about in fairly acrimonious circumstances. I think there are some people who were responsible for some of the more confrontation behaviour at the forum who have no reason to feel proud at having forced Claughton out in such a way.


Thursday, 24 January 2008

No news is no news

The Evening Mail have an article today, saying Warwickshire expect to hear in the next week whether Shaun Pollock will accept a contract offer to play for them next season.

Its not really news at all, but if the Mail is running with it I better mention it here. Giles talks about some stuff as well. Such as expecting good bowlers to take wickets and hoping not so good bowlers take some as well.

I can't believe there is still 80 odd days until the cricket starts. I might stay up to listen to India v Australia on the internet.... I wonder if there is anywhere carrying live TV coverage of the Sri Lanka domestic competition?....


Friday, 18 January 2008

Giles appointed as England Selector

In a shake up of the England selection process, David Graveney has not been given the job of full time England selector. Although not technically the same job as his previous "chairman of selectors" job, so he cannot be thought of as having been exactly sacked, the new job is roughly the equivalent, so the outcome is the same.

Geoff Miller has been appointed to the role and Ashley Giles will be one of two part-time selectors, who with Miller and Peter Moores will make up a four man panel. The BBC gets a few things regarding Giles slightly wide of the mark. Firstly reporting that his elevation was a surprise, which if they'd bother to keep an eye on the procedings and who was being interviewed, it would not have been. They also seem mildly surprised given his relative youth, and that would be true in a normal selection panel, however this is supposed to be a revised method, he is only recently out of the England fold, so has maybe more knowledge of the current climate in International cricket and what it takes to play it, but perhaps more obviously, as a director of cricket for a county side, he is going to be seeing a fair few players during the season in any case.

Although I cannot be convinced yet that he will make a sucess of such a demanding schedule, I would like to extend my sincere good luck wishes to Ashley.

Incidentally for those season's raggy bear watchers out there - the story was reported here at 16.31 and on the BBC at 16.34 - you know who's first for WCCC news.


The Daily Pollock

So another day, no more really concrete news and yet I am writing another blog entry. Imagine if I was gainfully employed to sell newspapers? It would be even worse.

George (I feel we are on first name terms now after he appears to be considering me a source of forthright and well informed opinion on WCCC and is writing responses to my theorising in the Post, in a reciprocal manner to me ripping off all his stories and adding my own two pence - me? delusioned? Not a bit of it!). Anyway George (Dobell) has closed the book on the Zondeki signing and echoed my thoughts yesterday that he is almost certain to be in the squad for the SA tests this summer and therefore IF Pollock is signed there will only be a few games when they are both likely to be in the same team for Warwickshire.

Zondeki aparently added the illuminating comments: "The opportunity to work under Ashley Giles and bowling coach Allan Donald is too good to refuse. This promises to be a huge year for the Bears." In my head he went on to add the made up comments: "Its important to put the ball in the right areas. I feel its coming out nicely. My action is feeling really natural. AD will help me add some hostility to my game. The Edgbaston crowd generates a special atmosphere. They're a great bunch of lads in the dressing room." There is a possibility that the first set are as made up as the second.

George concludes; "Meanwhile, a host of counties have expressed an interest in signing Pollock. All will be disappointed. He has assured Giles that if he returns to county cricket, he would prefer to play at Edgbaston. The contractual details might take some time to resolve, but it is surely a question of 'when' not 'if' Pollock returns to Warwickshire."
Which sounds quite promising, but again does not add a great deal to Pollock's public comments from earlier in the week.

George - if you do read this blog (which would make a total of 4 people) then please refer to Pollock as "Polly" somewhere in your next article. It's a little out of keeping with your usual style, but not unduly so and It'll only be the two of us that'll know. Alternatively please refer to Pollock as "an old warhorse". Many thanks for your support George - it means a lot.


Thursday, 17 January 2008

Zondeki and Pollock signings "close"

George Dobell is reporting in the Post this afternoon that the deal to bring Monde Zondeki to Edgbaston should be completed today. While Cricinfo is reporting it as a done deal. George Dobell also reports that International duty with South Africa might mean he misses the first match of the season (against Worcestershire).

Also encouragingly Shaun Pollock is believed to have given a verbal assurance to Giles that if there is place for him at Edgbaston he will not be going elsewhere. This looks like being on a season long kolpak deal, however as far as I am aware he has commitments with the IPL Twenty20 tournament in India, which runs in April and possibly into May. So it is likely he will miss the first few weeks of the season as well.

It appears that Dobell has been faithfully reading the Raggy Bear, as I can only assume his comments regarding the irony/moral dilemma faced by Giles with the potential signing of Pollock following on from his pledge not to sign kolpaks; "His words and actions do not contrast quite as much as some might suggest". I can only think he must be referring to my post earlier in the week, where I pointed out the problem Giles has, which is largely restricted to a personal moral dilemma and one entirely of his own making.

I think the whole thing is probably a reflection of the relative inexperience Giles has in dealing with the media as a leader/figurehead (director of cricket), rather than a part of a larger entity (player for England/Warwickshire). It may well be that his comments have been reported out of context, or given undue weight, but in the 4 or 5 interviews where he has been quoted this winter he has consistently given soundbites/quotes promising no kolpak signings. Obviously he was referring to the likes of Alfonso Thomas and other journeymen on the circuit, not to players of the quality of Shaun Pollock. No sensible person would oppose the signing of Pollock, regardless of any commitments/comments/promises they believe Giles may have made, or on the basis it is likely to be a kolpak signing. Quite apart from anything else the rule to reduce counties to one overseas player is ridiculous when it is possible to sign so many inferior non-England qualified players. For this season it will likely mean that every Warwickshire player is technically England qualified, apart from two top class South African bowlers, which I for one wholly support.

I will also not lose too much sleep over the possibility of some of the younger seemers having reduced oppurtunities. Purely because I only expect both of the overseas players to be available for about 4-5 championship games (in May-June), neither to be available for the opening game. Furthermore there is now a proven bowling coach in place, coupled with the fact that having a chance to see how a bowler and cricketer of the class of Shaun Pollock conducts himself on a cricket field can only be a good thing. The biggest gap in the team was a senior seam bowler, I don't feel it is job Neil Carter can necessarily do.


More rumours on Pollock

Cricinfo are reporting this morning that Yorkshire and Sussex have registered in interest in signing Shaun Pollock, although Warwickshire still remain favourites. The Telegraph is also saying Sussex have been in negotiations with him since before Christmas (in an article about Warne's poker commitments!), which is a little odd. Sussex already have their one overseas for this season (Mushtaq Ahmed) confirmed way back in September time, so could only sign further non-English players as kolpaks. You can't sign a kolpak who is a current international, so it does raise the question of why a county who already have an overseas player are talking to a current international, with a view to getting them as a kolpak player. Seems a very strange state of affairs.

I know Warwickshire aren't exactly the model of non-Kolpak players and certainly aren't a model of taking local born talent and developing it (a plausible 11 from next season could contain 7 players born overseas - Trott, Ambrose, Botha, Carter, Groenewald, Zondeki, Pollock), but I think it's a bit much for Yorkshire to attempt to have a side containing both Rudolph and Pollock as kolpak signings. Its just not cricket.


Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Pollock signing moves a step closer

The Mail are reporting that Shaun Pollock has indicated he would welcome a return to Edgbaston

Pollock is reported as saying: "Ashley Giles has spoken to me and asked whether I'd be interested in playing for the Bears this summer. All I can say at the moment is that, if I did play county cricket again, it would be for Warwickshire. I'm a loyal kind of person and, having already played at Edgbaston for two years, I would like to give them first option. But I have a couple of other commitments as well so I'm still weighing everything up."

Things are moving with unseemly haste on this, given that he only announced his retirement from international cricket on Friday and spent Saturday wrapping up the 3rd test and presumably celebrating with his team mates. By Sunday (or Friday in my case!) he was being linked to Warwickshire tenuously, on Monday Giles said he would be interested and today he has sounded Pollock out.

I could be wrong, but I would expect this to quieten down a little now the initial flirtations are over. Reading between the lines, Pollock is informally rebuffing any other playing offer for County Cricket, which I felt would be the biggest threat to him not playing at Edgbaston this summer. Now Pollock has given a sketchy commitment to Warwickshire I expect the scramble and urgency of the past few days to quieten off while Giles lets Pollock make up his mind whether he want to play county cricket next season.

In other, no less important news Monde Zondeki should be confirmed as a Warwickshire signing for this summer within the next 48 hours, the club are just finalising some details in the paperwork. This is not really surprising seeing as he was in the squad for the third test himself. Interestingly he is not in the squad for the upcoming one-dayers against the West Indies, indicating he is primarily in the thoughts of the SA selectors for tests. Just as a flavour for the sort of form he has been in, here is a list of the top wicket takers in SA domestic cricket this season


Monday, 14 January 2008

Giles and Brown to be interviewed by England

The Telegraph is reporting this morning that Ashley Giles and Dougie Brown are both being interviewed for the post of part-time selectors in the new England selection set-up.

I understand there will be one full time touring selector, who will be an effective replacement for the current chairman of selectors (David Graveney) and there will then be a panel of part-time selectors to assist them. It is these part-time posts that Giles and Brown will be interviewed for.

Update: The Mail got in on the act running this same story at around 4pm today. For once the Raggy Bear is well ahead of the pack for second hand news!


Sunday, 13 January 2008

South Africans

The playing squad for next season is starting to have a finished look about it with only a few outstanding questions. The two most interesting of which have developed over the past few days. Brian Halford first mentioned Monde Zondeki's name on Thursday, but it was overshadowed somewhat by the news of Tony Frost coming out of retirement and none of the other sources reporting the Frost news picked up on it, this was after his counterpart, George Dobbell in the Post reported Warwickshire were in an advanced stage of negotiations with a fast bowler the day before.

Several places have reported that the signing of Zondeki is close, but again Brian Halford has gone a little further and suggested in Friday's Mail that he has already signed a summer contract. Given his scoop on the news in the first place I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt here and assume it is a done deal.

He does appear to be a promising talent and although he has not nailed down a permanent place in the South Africa set-up he has plenty of pace and should be able to cause county batsmen plenty of problems. He is on the verge of the South Africa test side, but last played for them over 2 years ago. It seems likely that he will only be available for the first half of the summer (pre Twenty20), before being called up by South Africa. But as my friend Tim tells me, this is likely to mean around 7 Championship games and 8 One Day games.

The other piece of news is the international retirement of Shaun Pollock. I'm sure, like many other people with an interest in Warwickshire, as soon as I heard the news I immediately thought of the chances of him coming back to play for the bears in the summer. In actual fact I was in a pub with my wife and saw the news on a TV and then spent quite a long time talking at her about the possibility of him playing for Warwickshire again, much to her delight.

He would be an excellent signing, if Giles can pull it off. Not least for his lower order batting, which would go some way to making up for the potential loss of Ambrose higher up the order, it certainly wouldn't balance the books, but having a test centurion coming in at number 6 or 7 would be a nice boost. It does however put Giles in an interesting moral dilemma. He reiterated as recently as Friday "We don't want to go down the Kolpak route." When talking about further signings (in addition to Zondeki), however with Pollock's international retirement he would be available as a Kolpak. Interestingly it appeared during the winter that Pollock was one of Giles' initial overseas targets, but his potential unavailability appears to have put him off. Ironically it might now be Pollock's retirement that gives Zondeki a chance in the test side and completely flips their relative availabilities on their head.

I would be surprised if Shaun Pollock wasn't appearing in County Cricket at some point next season, but whether it will be for Warwickshire or not, we'll have to wait and see.


Thursday, 10 January 2008

Cold Snap

Frost has returned to Edgbaston.

Sorry, forgive the puntastic opening to this article, the actual news is that former Warwickshire wicket keeper, Tony Frost has been tempted out of retirement. It appears Giles was keen to bring in some experienced cover, with Tim Ambrose appearing to be on the verge of getting his chance in the England set-up.

That would leave the only other wicketkeeper in the squad as 19yo academy player, Richard Johnson. Who was granted a full contract at the end of last season. Rather than hunt around for a backup, Giles has raided the ground staff and persuaded Frost to reverse his retirement.

It could be a sensible decision, but only if Ambrose does not become first choice for England. Frost spent last season playing in the Warwickshire league and I believe he will be able to provide cover for the odd game. However he is 32 and has not played any first class cricket since 2006, he also retired in the first place partly due to injuries. I would not be comfortable in him playing virtually every one day and first class match in the event Ambrose becomes first choise for England.

The forthcoming England tour of New Zealand will have a say in Warwickshire's season, as we will have a much better idea following that of Ambrose's immediate future in the England set-up. It is likely that the squad for the return fixtures against New Zealand in England will be announced following the first couple of Championship and Friend's Provident Trophy games. It is likely that any Warwickshire players featuring for England in both Tests and One-Dayers would only then be avaliable for the Twenty20 at the begining of July and for a brief period in the middle of August.

If; and with the selection policy on wicketkeepers, it is a big if, England pick Ambrose for the summer it will almost certainly mean first team cricket for Richard Johnson at some point next season.

Lastly in the course of researching this article (believe it or not I do spend a few minutes checking my facts!) I found that Cricinfo have got ageing former Surrey seamer Richard Johnson (age 33) in the Warwickshire squad, rather than young academy wicket keeper Richard Johnson (age 19).


Monday, 7 January 2008

Brave new world website

It looks at though there is the start of a brave new world website at Edgbaston, with the launch of a fancy new site. It seems fairly obvious to your correspondant that the WCCC hierachy are running scared of the Raggy Bear and its burgeoning readership and are attempting to claw back readership by offering news on a wide range of topics from the world of cricket. However the old adage remains true; a jack of all trades and a master of none.
For sporadic and unecessarily detailed news on the bears there is only one site for you.

A side effect of the new website, which appears to use frames, is that it no longer seems possible for me to link to stories on the WCCC website directly. It looks as though in the unlikely event of the WCCC website covering something that slips under the radar of Cricinfo, the Post or the Mail I will just write it here myself as a post, instead of linking to it. I might even pretend I found it out myself.

I liken this media blackout to the North Korean govenment refusing to allow an underground newspaper to carry official party propaganda. I'm running a revolutionary press here, and if the web-goblins at WCCC want to make it hard for me to pass-on their occasional "news" then so be it. Their counterproductive policies will not harm this journal one jot.