Saturday, 30 August 2008

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Warwickshire's latest Championship game against Derbyshire looks odds on for a draw after a frustrating day in the field. Derbyshire's openers piled up 179 for the first wicket - a record 1st wicket stand in the competition this year. Darren Maddy threw almost everything at them in search of a break through, using 8 bowlers before turning to the very occasional bowling of Tony Frost, bowling Right-Arm Over Kitchen Sink, the one thing he had not yet thrown at them.

It shouldn't be forgotten that this time last year Warwickshire capitulated in their second innings at Scarborough and spent the Saturday with their feet up and their heads in their hands. A draw, no matter how dull to watch is statistical progress of a sort.

However it is disappointing that Warwickshire were made to graft for nearly two days, showing signs of difficulty in compiling what Derbyshire have managed in just over a day, against what, on paper, should be a very strong attack. It is a shame they can't roll up that paper, take it with them and bowl on it every week.*

* - Yes Tim; I did make that joke yesterday, but I thought it was a good one so I'm recycling it.


Thursday, 28 August 2008

Members Forum

As mentioned yesterday, due to living in Yorkshire during the week I was not able to attend the members forum. This might be one of the reasons why George Dobell reports that the panel, particularly Colin Povey had an easy ride. Although anyone who knows me will say I'm probably too reticent in person to have stood up and given him a tough questioning anyway!

So unfortunately there is no members perspective available on last night's forum, I do recommend though nipping over to The Post's site and reading the aforementioned George Dobell article, which is pretty comprehensive.


Sly and the family stone

Sly Bailey chairwoman of the Trinty Mirror Group, which I understand to be a little bit like the armies of the Dark Lord Sauron has announced plans to completely shaft local journalism in the Midlands region by effectively merging the three titles currently published into one newsroom.

The cuts have been condemned by the National Union of Jounalists, general secretary Jeremy Dear saying “The NUJ condemns these cuts, which will inevitably hit these papers – and the communities they serve – hard”. They also have an ongoing campaign again the sweeping cuts in local newspapers and associated drops in quality.

In a letter to the Trinty Mirror Group they stated; “The NUJ welcomes new technology but deplores the sledgehammer way it is being introduced as a knee-jerk reaction to the economic down turn, without indicating how this will enhance revenue raising opportunities.
“We do not believe our readers will be best served by reduced numbers of journalists expected to take on extra work which will inevitably leave them less time for news gathering and investigation.”

They are currently balloting their members on industrial action.

The main effect of this on us cricket fans is that cricket correspondents, George Dobell of the Post, and Brian Halford of the Mail are not certain to keep their jobs. Indeed it is believed that the new central newsroom will not have a specialist chief cricket writer at all. Now you may well be thinking, like me, that Sly Bailey appears to have a vendetta against readers of her publications of the magnitude once reserved for Colonel Decker in his single minded pursuit of the A-Team.

Birmingham is lucky at the moment by having two great cricket writers on its daily newspapers. It is no secret that they and I have not always agreed on every issue. Particularly around their freedom of reporting, a general point in sports writing that was the subject of a debate by the Journalism Leaders Forum earlier in the year. However the quality of their writing has never been in doubt. With the increasing dominance of 24 news channels and sports websites in breaking sports news and results it is becoming more important for news providers and journalists to differentiate themselves and to provide something unique. I feel that in the sphere of cricket writing for newspapers it is to give opinion and to help spark debate (even if it is only internal!) and to provide thought provoking pieces.

Cricket writing and journalism differs from that of other sports in that the game of cricket is about so much more than the result and how it was achieved. It is a psychological game, almost as much as a physical one. It is not enough to report a cricket game in a football reporting style, which is far too often limited to who kicked the ball to who, in what minute. We, the cricket watching and cricket loving public are interested in why the batsman failed or succeeded, why one bowler was able to exploit the pitch and another not. We are almost as fascinated by why Tony Lock only took one wicket as we are by Jim Laker taking 19 at the other end.

One of the reasons this blog was set up was due to the combination of the lack of a fan site, but also the lack of coherent news on WCCC outside of the individual TMG websites. If the quality of cricket coverage on the Post and Mail declines I am not sure how anyone will find out anything about the club at all. (I certain won’t be able to crib as many stories!)

Both of our regional cricket correspondents are different and equally important. Brian Halford’s blog really is a treasure. Much like Blowers on TMS his offbeat style is not for everyone (but I personally am I fan of both), but he is providing a fantastic service, my friend Tim on hearing of the potential job cuts said ‘I wouldn't get much idea about what is going on in the average Warwickshire game without Brian Halford's blog.’ And I think there would be many, many people, myself included, in the same boat. George Dobell meanwhile is proving that investigative journalism is alive and well in sports reporting and he routinely brings issues to light and pulls disparate facts and stories together to paint a larger picture of issues at the club. He is almost single-handedly keeping the public informed on the ground developments.

Both journalist have recently, and consistently produced thought and debate provoking editorials of the highest standard and I have no doubt whatsoever that should the Trinty Mirror Group dispense with the services of one or both, their, and our loss, will be a national newspaper or website’s gain.

For another, (similar!) take on this issue you can head over to Chris' WCCC Blog and read his thoughts. Not surprisingly he is as aghast at these potential cuts as I am.

There is some organised resistance to this move on the various forums; the current recommended course of action is to email the respective editors at:

Giving them your thoughts on the impending job cuts and the effect on cricket coverage.


Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Member Down

Unfortunately as I live in North Yorkshire at the moment I am not going to be able to attend the member's forum tonight. Hopefully I will be able to get the gist and the main goings on from one or both of the forums and report it here in due course.

Very frustrating, but I am only living up here until the end of next week before being firmly entrenched back in Moseley, a mere stone's throw from Edgbaston. Not that I would condone such a course of action.


More Sites

I'm disappointed that in the course of hoovering up news for as diverse places as structural engineering weekly and the Napier Gazette*, I have missed what is right under my nose.

There are two excellent refuges for fans of WCCC in the unofficial forum and a blog by a guy called Chris (windy on bears forums).

The forum is excellent and as it is unofficial you can go crazy and say all sorts of stuff for example I bet I could say about how the stewards on the back gate near cannon hill park are drunk on power and refuse to let upstanding members from Moseley in unless they are members of the executive club. Which probably would get removed from the official forum on the WCCC website. Why I would want to say such a thing though I'm not sure.

Chris' blog is also great and he provides match info much quicker than I do and has a nice recuring feature in "Ian Bell Watch", with a firm Warwickshire slant on England matches.

Both highly recommended and in the main link list to the right.

* - actually names of newspapers changed to protect their identity


Friday, 22 August 2008

More Pensioners than U-16's

Yesterday the Office of National Statistics revealed that for the first time ever there are more pensioners than under 16's in the County Championship.

They have shown that the population of young cricketers has been in decline since 1995 and for the first time ever has dropped below the number of county pros of a pensionable age.

The fastest growing age group is the over 80's, who currently make up around 4.5% of the players on county books. They put this down to the result of improvements in mortality at older ages over the second half of the 20th century and the continued success of Graeme Hick.

Mervyn Kohler, special adviser at Help the Aged, said: "The key task for policy makers going forward is to ensure that older people can increasingly play an active role in our ageing [county championship].

Ageing Middlesex Twirler Shaun Udal may have said; "Its nice to feel part of the community and keep myself active. I like to do word jumbles as well to keep my mind alert".

The Raggy Bear salutes our ageing entertainers and hopes for many more years of cricketing service from them. Its much better than a bunch of hoodies.


Thursday, 21 August 2008

Can bowl, will travel

The continuing saga of Lee Daggett's career continues, much I'm sure to his frustration. Released by Warwickshire earlier this month he was originally told that the club would help to facilitate a move to another county.

Unfortunately for him the first county to show and interest was Warwickshire's local, and divisional rival's Leicestershire. The dispute centres on who should pay Daggett's wages for the time he is on trial with Leicestershire. Normal practise is for the county taking the player to pay 1/6 of their annual wage, however with Daggett out of contract this has become a sticking point. Leicestershire are insisting they should be able to play Daggett in their first team without any contribution towards his salary, meanwhile Warwickshire are refusing to release him to play for their divisional rivals, whilst paying his wages.

None of the parties appear willing to budge on the issue and this led to the extraordinary intervention from Lee Daggett's mum yesterday, who offered to pay off the remainder of his salary to resolve the impasse.

To further complicate matters, and perhaps explain the situation, the two counties had recently fallen out somewhat when Giles criticised the profusion of kolpak players in county cricket. David Smith, Leicestershire CE seemed to take the comments personally and responded with;

"Yet again I have to question the hypocrisy of Ashley Giles. and his comments," he told Cricinfo at the time. "Warwickshire have Trott ,Botha, Groenewald, Zondenki, Carter, all born in South Africa, Ambrose born in Australia and a South African coach in Donald.

"I would suggest Ashley focuses on the huge job he has to do at Warwickshire rather that tell other counties how to run their businesses and the make of their staffs."

Then following the recent impasse over Daggett he issued a staggering personal attack on Giles;

"I have to except that Ashley has just made the transition from the dressing room to director of cricket and at this stage has very little management experience. The only way common sense could have prevailed was if a more senior, experienced manager at the club had become involved in looking at the issues behind this loan proposal.

“I have a massive job to do here and have no intention of telling Warwickshire how to run their club. I would, however, point out that with over 20 years’ experience of the club in both a playing and committee capacity, this would never have been allowed to happen in the more successful eras at this once-great club.

“I will not be falling out with anyone at the club. I consider myself very fortunate to have had such a lengthy and happy involvement at Warwickshire. We simply move on.”

It is surprising that such an "experienced" manager felt the need to indulge in such a public display of pique. A quick and unscientific google search reveals 13,600 hits for "David Smith Leicestershire idiot" and 2,740 for "Ashley Giles Warwickshire idiot", which I think tells its own story.

My personal view, which may not be popular is that all three parties here have shown a lack of imagination and flexibility in resolving this issue.

If Daggett's only concern is his future career and he backs himself to find and impress another county, then surely Warwickshire and he could have come to some arrangement where the remainder of his salary until 30th September was reduced or not paid. As Warwickshire's only objection seems to be 'paying him' to play for Leicestershire.

Equally if Leicestershire are serious about him then surely they could have come to some arrangement where he only played in 2nd XI cricket as a trial, or played in only a single match (at Warwickshire's expense) as a "try before you buy" trial.

As for Warwickshire surely they could have looked to impose restrictions on any loan, if Leicestershire were unwilling to pay Daggett's salary then perhaps Warwickshire could have retained some kind of veto over his appearances. In order to prevent him playing against them, or playing in the unlikely event Leicestershire start to threaten Warwickshire's position in either league.

The really surprising thing here is that to an unenlightened outsider there does seem to be room for manoeuvre and compromise here which suggests a lack of will to do so.

Lastly I'm not sure Daggett-gate is strictly the right term to describe it (Sorry George). I'm not a fan of "gates" purely for the reason that their profusion would mean that strictly history should be rewritten to call the Nixon scandal, "Watergate-gate". I think a better moniker would be something that shows the tug of love between two parties wanting to take custody of a child who is unsure of the love of either. Hence I will be referring to it as "The Curious Incident of the Daggett in the Night-time", after the popular book by Mark Haddon.


Monday, 18 August 2008

Warwickshire well represented in Edinburgh

Scotland take on England for the first time in a One Day International today and it is likely that both sides will have a Warwickshire batsman opening. Ian Bell could well retain his spot at the top of the order, where he played against New Zealand and is likely to be partnered by the returning Matt Prior; recalled in place of Tim Ambrose – another bear.

Navdeep Poonia meanwhile will feature in Scotland’s top order, having been released by Warwickshire for the match and he is determined not to be overawed ahead of the big occasion; “There is a degree of familiarity,” he said. “It is not like playing against a Ricky Ponting, who you could come across only once in your career, we all know what these guys are capable of. The key is to forget who you are playing against and just concentrate on what is in front of you and to be confident in what you can do.”

Warwickshire pace bowler Calum MacLeod meanwhile is unlikely to feature. Although in the squad, he was not used for the recent game against Kenya and they are unlikely to throw him in the deep end against England.
Poonia has been in bullish mood for the past couple of days, speaking to a Scottish newspaper he said; “"English fans will be looking at it, thinking 'we're going to do Scotland over'. There is no doubt that there will be lots of interest around the counties about it.
"For me, this will be the biggest game I've ever played in, bigger even than Australia at the World Cup.
"I know a few of the England players and I'm sure there'll be some chat during the game.
"The Warwickshire lads have had a few words with me about it but this kind of game doesn't come around very often so you have to go out and enjoy it."
There are some similarities in some ways between him and the flamboyant England captain. Neither is afraid to speak their mind, both sport big diamond earstuds, they are both batsmen, they are both tall and they have both stared at me in a disapproving manner. Pietersen at the Oval test last year – well he stared disapprovingly at the general area I was sitting in, and Poonia earlier in the season when I was unlocking my bike at Edgbaston and he was trying to listen to a Keith Piper pep talk.


Saturday, 16 August 2008

Ashes Tickets

In the early days of George Bush's presidency I remember reading an opinion that Bush and Clinton were essentially the same, but people liked Clinton more because at least when he was [screwing] you over he smiled and lied about it to make you feel better.

Colin Povey said this week: "“Will [offering half-year membership] put people off buying full membership next year?..

“It’s unfortunate that some feel they’ve not had value for money. But it’s like me buying a tie one week and going back next week and finding it’s in a sale.

“If they don’t want to come then fine. If they want to go and join Worcestershire instead then fine, too. They’ll pay more, but they’ll not have the ability to buy Test tickets and they’ll not have as good facilities.

“I think we’ve got the pricing spot on for the Ashes. We can’t be giving away tickets for this, the premium cricket match in several years. If we have a half empty ground we’ll have got it wrong. But we’re not going to, are we?"

Such a public relations drive should surely see all members back on side and ensure Mr Povey never has to dip into his pocket for another tie, on sale or not, as every member will be send them as presents to demonstrate their good will.

George Dobell's article in The Post makes some good points about the improvements made recently in the club. But his comparisons to the reign of Dennis Amiss miss the point; "Many of the problems seen now, trivial or grand, are the fruits of seeds planted years ago and, like British Rail, memories of Dennis Amiss’ time as chief executive appear to sweeten over the years". I think in reality most members acknowledge that the current regime is more competent, but the attitude, or at least the public face of the regime is doing nothing to win people over.

He may well be a competent business man and an organised leader, he may well be one of the best equipped Chief Executives on the county circuit, but Mr Colin Povey is certainly no politician. George Dobell is pretty much ploughing a lone furrow in his support for Povey, but the next time they speak, (when by all accounts Povey is articulate, considered and charming), George may consider mentioning to him that when dealing with the public a little diplomacy goes a long way.

It is highly unlikely that any member's disgruntled by the half-year membership and the price and method of allocation of Ashes tickets will change their minds or feel better about things by his combative and belligerent response to the ill feeling. It would do less harm to acknowledge that people are entitled to their opinions and attempt to placate them and to also provide a more robust defence of the policy than 'we wanted to sell these tickets so we did. Tough', which may as well be what he said.

Its at times like these that the conventional media struggles to maintain true independance and assert their opinion. I have a lot of respect for George Dobell and Brian Halford, but I have to wonder whether they are afraid of upsetting the club hierarchy and compromising their inside track on news and this is behind their decidedly reticent articles on the issue. Or if they genuinely feel that fans and members have not had a raw deal here.

Some selective facts
  • More than 1,000 half-year memberships have been sold this season already
  • There is around 6000 members of WCCC before the half-yearly sale
  • Colin Povey says 'Over five years our membership has declined by one per-cent.' (~60 people)
  • He then says 'Evidence so far shows that those buying ‘half-year’ are lapsed members...'
60 does not seem to be the same as 1000, although I am neither a statistician or an accountant (thanks to jason2 on the WCCC forum for pointing this out).

  • Membership renewals for 2008 were £142
  • New members (or renewals after 31/03/08) had to pay £30 'joining fee' *
  • Membership for 2008 for a new or lapsed member at any point before around 15/07/08 was £172
  • Membership for 2008 after this time was £65.
  • Slightly contrary to some reports this is 38% of the actual price (rather than the 'face value') for a maximum of 71% of the season (by days of cricket)
It is therefore newer members rather than long established members who are most upset about this "sale".

  • A 'public' ticket for the Ashes match costs £75.
  • Therefore 4 public tickets cost £300
  • Half-year membership costs £65 (allowing you to purchase 4 tickets)
  • Members tickets cost £60.
  • Therefore 4 members tickets + half-year membership costs £305
  • Effectively WCCC are charging anyone who wants a £5 premium to buy advanced tickets for the game.
Quite apart from some members (myself included) being tempted to buy their maximum allocation and then tout them on in order to soften the blow of the increased personal cost of going to Edgbaston.** This is frankly just encouraging the outright touts. Touting is always going to be a problem at cricket matches, largely because the authorities do nothing obvious to stop or discourage it. At every test I can think of I have been offered tickets right outside the gate in clear view of ground staff. In one case (South Africa 2003 Edgbaston, final day) in clear collusion with the ground staff a tout was selling junior tickets (face value £5) for £10, when there were £15 adult tickets available on the gate! Everyone going through the side gate was purchasing junior tickets from the tout next to the turnstiles and being waved through.

There do not seem to be any initiatives to prevent the touting of tickets, indeed there are some for this game already on Ebay. Oh, apart from the frankly futuristic and biometric initiative that I will let Colin Povey describe in his own words, less I don't do it justice; “According to the wording on the back of the tickets they are not transferable". In the battle of club v touts that looks like 1-0 in anyone's language.

* - I quote from "Inside Edge" 28/02/08: 'Don’t forget to renew your membership before the 31st March so you do not have to pay the £30 joining fee. All renewals after this date will be subject to this charge'.
** - This was behind the fact I told my wife 'sod it we may as well buy as many as we can and tout them on', when purchasing - since then friends have emerged from the woodwork and all our tickets are accounted for.

Original article edited 19/08 - It was bought to my attention that I had been somewhat unfair in my comments on the independence of The Post and The Mail. In particular I feel my original post did not convey the point I was trying to make regarding the balancing act between relying on a source and yet still feeling free to criticise and potentially upset that same source. I am usually reluctant to edit articles, apart from in spelling and grammar, but in this case I have made minor edits to the last sentence of the 8th paragraph and the first sentence of the 10th so that it reads closer to my original aim.


A little gem

Something I came across while trawling the net for obscure Warwickshire news:

Graham Smith's online diary in The Telegraph

The last day of the Bangladesh A game at Worcester. We batted most of the day and gave our tail a bit of batting practice. It was during this match that I felt discomfort in my back but I didn't think it was too serious.

I settled in with a meal and was joined by Jonathan Trott and Neil Carter (from Warwickshire). I toured Pakistan with Trotty with South Africa Under-19s.

It was nice to catch up, but we were distracted by a fist fight between two girls.

Presumably they were fighting over who was next in the queue for Neil Carter's speed dating service. (Incidentally Carter taking part in a speed-dating session in order to jazz up an early Twenty20 game at Edgbaston was probably my favourite moment in the history of cricket. I wish I'd been a fly on the wall.)

There is also a nice bit about how Smith wouldn't go on Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Who says players have nothing to say?


Technical Problems

Hello again after a longer sabbatical than I hoped or intended. I have had virtually no unrestricted internet access since I temporary relocated to North Yorkshire for the summer. However I have just found out a cunning way to circumnavigate the internet restrictions at my work and as a result am hopeful of updating the blog most days after work.

I have managed to get to a few games over the summer thanks to strategic holidays and coupled with the awful weather this month probably means I haven't missed too much cricket that I otherwise would have been able to see living in Moseley.

In September I am going to try and look at moving the blog to another platform to allow for a better interface; among other things I don't think Blogger makes best use of the available screen space. I want to be able to have top posts, news items, blogs and video all on an obvious front page. At the moment there is too much blue space and the content is too crowded. (Sorry!!)

Not having access to the blog means that my spleen is full of whatever spleens are full of when they are not getting ruptured in accidents, which seem to be the only two functions spleens serve in the human body. Anyway I'm back, I'm grumpy and most importantly I am independent.