Sunday, June 22, 2008

Zimbabwe: I Have A Dream


Without meaning to sound like a 1960s civil rights activist, I have a dream. This dream is to one day follow the English cricket team in a test match against Zimbabwe at the historic Harare Sports Club.


I have a somewhat romantic notion of wishing to sit in the intense African sunshine, a cool drink in my hand, watching 22 cricketers in action as the sun rises overhead and disappears again behind the city.

This idea is not an unrealistic one, in theory, but what likelihood has it got of coming to pass when the political climate is what it is in Zimbabwe? Well, it remains rather unlikely.

What helps to perpetuate the situation in Zimbabwe, in addition to its racist tyrannical leader Robert Mugabe, is the support that the ruling Zanu-PF party of Zimbabwe gets from the equally racist ANC party of South Africa. South Africa's president, the leader of the ANC, believes that there is no "crisis" in Zimbabwe and believes that "It's a normal electoral process" taking place there. 

It is no surprise that the South African leader believes this when his policies in his own parties mirror so closely the racist policies of his neighbour to the north—something I have previously written about.

One blogger, with whom I wholly agree, writes:
But just as this election will tell us much about Zimbabwe it will actually tell us more about the African National Congress in South Africa. While the West refuses to criticize the party of their "saint" Nelson Mandela the reality is that the ANC is an authoritarian party very similar to Zanu-PF.

What is the solution? Well I have no idea. I fear that, especially with Morgan Tsvangirai withdrawing from the Presidential run-off, my dream may not happen until Mugabe is deposed, which at this rate will be when he dies of old-age. My hope would have been for a unity government, one like that the country had when called The Republic of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia could be one solution—ensuring that all citizens, black or white and supporters of whichever political persuasion had their say in getting their country out of the mire she finds herself in.

Furthermore, will there even be any cricket played in Zimbabwe in the future as Mugabe goes about punishing anybody who dares not conform to his plans to wipe out evidence of his countries colonial past? Recently, the cricketing academy was burned to the ground in suspicious circumstances—interestingly a white former test-cricketer was charged with arson over the incident.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ramprakash: Stuttering To a Century Of First-Class Centuries

So we're making our way towards the middle of the domestic cricket season in England and we're in the midst of the break from the County Championship whilst the Twenty20 Cup takes place.

During this break in season, where my favourite form of the game is temporarily forgotten in favour of the more commercially lucrative form of the game, I have been able to sit back in astonishment in how much difference a year has made for Surrey's Mark Ramprakash.

As far as first-class cricketers go he has had quite a solid batting record to date. In 671 innings, between 1987 and 2008, he has scored 31,057 runs, picking up 134 half-centuries and 99 centuries along the way—all at at average of 52.99.

His consistency at county level, both for Middlesex until 2000 and for Surrey from 2001 onwards, although never matched during his 92 test innings, was rewarded in 2007 by Wisden, who named him as one of their 'Cricketers of the Year' for his play during the 2006 season.

His good form continued into 2007 where in 15 innings he scored a total of 2,026 runs, which included 4 half-centuries and 10 centuries in the County Championship, equating to an average of 101.30. This was also the second season running that he made over 2,000 runs in a season.

In 2008, most Surrey fans would like to have seen more of the same, but unfortunately something akin to a jinx has befallen 'The Bloodaxe'. Having reached his 99th First-Class century against Sussex in early May, Ramprakash's run totals have plummeted.

It would appear that, having reached the brink of an extraordinary milestone, nerves are beginning to repeatedly get the better of him. From his 10 County Championship innings thus far he's scored a total of 398 runs including two centuries, but his average is, on the basis of recent seasons, a lowly 44.20.

Surrey's last match in the County Championship was an eight wicket defeat at the hands of Somerset in late May/early June—a defeat that really shook their championship hopes and came as a bit of a wake up call to a team in cruise control, who thus far had been picking up decent championship point scores for draws with top batting bonuses.

The fear is that if a batsman as important to the Surrey team as Ramprakash doesn't find his form soon, Surrey run the risk of spending the remainder of the season grinding to frustrating draws and lingering in the Championship wilderness. Surrey need that century of centuries from Mark Ramprakash.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Farnham 2nd XI vs. Old Whitgiftians 2nd XI: Have the Oldies Lost Their Gift?

There is something to be said about Village Cricket. I accept the fact that both Farnham and Croydon, the home of the Old Whitgiftians, are towns.

But both the style of play and the scene of the action in Farnham, with a castle shrouded in vibrant green trees as a backdrop, have a distinctly village-like feel about them.

On the day in question, the May 31, 2008, the sun was shining and thus a small, but noticeable, gathering of spectators had assembled to watch the match between the Farnham second XI and the Old Whitgiftians second XI.

So this wasn’t Lords, and it wasn't first-class, but the match was still engaging.

Old Whitgiftians, winning the toss, opted to field first, despite at this level of cricket, a win batting first being worth more in league points than a win batting second.

The thing that perhaps struck the casual spectator was the apparent age gap between the two teams—the Farnham team comprising mainly under-20s, with the Old Whitgiftians, perhaps, more likely to be in their late 30s, or early 40s.

This age-difference was perhaps what motivated the ‘older’ team to go first, knowing that their legs may not be able to last an innings batting, followed by a tiring, hot afternoon session fielding.

Ben Ungaretti, opening the Farnham innings, seemed unmovable at the crease as he exploited the older fielding legs of the Old Whitgiftians and made 65 before being caught out by Simon Hill, off a bowl from Raj Chatwal, who was on his way to a 5-66.

The other highlight of the Farnham innings was a solid 34 by James Crutcher—who would eventually be out LBW, again bowled by Chatwal. The hosts’ innings ended on a useful 180 from 42.4 overs.

The Old Whitgiftians’ top order failed to bite the same way that Farnham’s did. Sham Malik, first in the batting order, got out for a duck and his partner Ian Walters managed a measly nine—both were caught by Crutcher.

The slow start, with the run rate at first averaging around two an over, was mainly due to some blisteringly fast bowling from James Cameron, who eventually made 5-38 and Matt Peacock, on his way to 2-30.

Highlights in the Old Whitgiftians’ innings came from Alistair Shackman (22), Gareth Clarke (44), and Trevor Clarke (22), who all made the most of the short boundary towards the leg-side of the Farnham Park End.

Ultimately though, with five batsmen out for a duck, this was never to be the Old Whitgiftians’ day. Their innings ended on 138 from 50.2 overs.

The result leaves Farnham’s second XI on level points with second place team, Malden Wanderers in the Surrey second XI Division 1. For the Old Whitgiftians, things are not so great.

They remain rooted to the bottom of the table with no points from their four games and demotion to division two looks more and more likely.

So, in the coming months for the Old Whitgiftians, “is it cowardly to pray for rain?”

Picture taken by: http://flickr.com/people/84006445@N00/
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