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A Winter's Tale


Eddie Sanders | 6:59am gmt 03 Feb 2008
Devil DuckySometimes I feel sorry for Eddie - not often, of course, but every now and again I'm really broken up for the poor old git. Winter time is a terrible time for him and he mopes around the house all day shivering, just waiting for the new cricket season to arrive.

His sun hat has fallen off the peg and lies buried beneath the vacuum cleaner attachments in the cubby-hole under the stairs, the new cricket score-book he purchased in order to record Rikki Clarke's maiden Derbyshire century - in 2012 for the Second XI - has long since disappeared, and he wears that permanent, glazed expression of the broken alcoholic.

Not today, though. Today, he was pottering around in the greenhouse with the broken window - the window he broke practicing his forward defensive ten years ago - when he let out a whoop of joy. For the first time since last September, he seemed happy, and his broad, toothless smile seemed to roll away the clouds and melt the snow.

Apparently he had been tending his one pot plant - no, not that sort of pot plant - when fate gave him a timely reminder that no matter how bleak the winter, summer really is only just around the corner. For there, on the bench between the watering can with no sprinkler and the broken trowel, he saw a cricket ball.

He didn't say anything about the rest of the cricket though. Perhaps the cat had eaten it.

- - - - -

Clarkewatch 08 - Dateline 27 January 2008, Adelaide

Still tired after his century earlier in the game, Pup is allowed to hide at second slip as Brett Lee steams in to Virender Sehwag. The wide one is just what the Indian opener needs to get his innings moving again after being bogged down on one for the last ball, and predictably he throws the bat at it.

The ball predictably arcs off the toe-end of the bat, straight to our Antipodean hero who equally predictably, promptly drops it. Quick as a flash, he picks the ball up on the third bounce and looks first to the heavens, then to Lee and finally, in turn, to both umpires. Seeing only Billy Bowden and Asad Rauf and not Steve Bucknor, to his eternal credit Michael manages to stifle his appeal.

- - - - -

Building The Winning Mentality

Last week, I told you that I was going to explain why Pakistan were rubbish at one-day internationals. Well, apparently I did them a disservice because clearly they are improving, as their recent whitewash over Zimbabwe only goes to prove.

I learned that their recent success is all down to former Australian spearhead, coach Geoff Lawson. Even allowing for the absence of Inzamam ul-Haq, having recently retired from cricket in order to concentrate on international pie-eating contests, Lawson realised that there was a soft under-belly that needed toughening up.

Drawing on his years of experience as a successful player, Lawson decided to introduce radical new training techniques, specifically designed to improve shot selection when batting and a more dynamic approach when fielding. He said "When you think that someone as good as Shahid Afridi has been dismissed for a duck on 20 occasions, it's obvious that something is badly wrong.

"Nets are fine, but there is no substitute for being out in the middle and so we play matches, matches and more matches. Today, to sharpen the players up, we played a fast and furious Twenty20 game. When we were batting, I got a load of bright orange washing baskets and positioned them where a traditional one-day field would be, and used a bowling machine to fire the balls down. The batsmen only have an instant to make up their mind where to play their strokes - the aim is to make shot selection instinctive.

"As for the bowling and fielding, I positioned another washing basket to one side of the popping crease, stuck a turntable on top of it, tied a couple of bats to that and we just took it from there. The bowlers would run in as normal, try to hit the stumps and our fielders had to more-or-less anticipate where the ball would go."

I asked Geoff how the players went on today. He replied, "The washing baskets won by seven wickets."

- - - - -

Hobart Shenanigans

The love affair between Muttiah Muralitharan and the great Australian public continues, with international cricket's first 'drive-by egging'. Sri Lanka's manager, Shriyan Samararatne, takes up the story: "Murali and a few other members of the party were walking back from a restaurant to the team hotel when they were shelled from a black car.

"I don't know eggsactly what happened, but the players are not going to be beaten by this kind of nonsense. As the first egg broke, the players scrambled into the hotel foyer and were quickly whisked away. There were no witnesses, so I'm a fried that no action can be taken at this time, but don't think omeletting it go. And there is no truth in the rumour that Murali was pickled."

- - - - -

Sporting Injuries

Last week, I suggested that Andrew Flintoff ought to consider cycling as a possible way of speeding up his recovery. Well, it appears to be working because he is going to be joining The Lions in India next week, although he has to be careful, so he's only going in a drinking capacity.

Eddie tells me that he had a similar ankle injury many years ago, and after his operation and many hours of painful physiotherapy, he went to see his doctor and asked him if he could play cricket. The doctor said "No, I'm afraid not."

He must have seen him in the nets.

- - - - -

Toodle quack.

Next week - Cricket's latest heavyweight

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Devil Ducky
At huge personal expense and displaying great moral fortitude, we fly in the face of danger in order to bring you, each and every week, the truth* behind the stories, personalities and characters that make cricket the great game it is today.

*Not everything you read in this column may be 100% accurate. Some facts have been changed to protect the innocent.
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