Keith Barker deserves our applause . . . and that of the Durham players too!

Just a quick post to say congratualations to Keith Hubert Douglas Barker (sorry Keith blame cricinfo) on his maiden first class hundred against Durham at Edgbaston on Friday!

Lets hope that this signals the beginning of a regular run in the first team for LVCC games.

The occaision of Barker’s maiden first class hundred was a high point for him of course, but it was a low point for the reputation of the good sportsmanship of the players of Durham County Cricket Club.  When he reached his milestone the only Durham player to applaud was the Barbadian Ruel Braithwaite.

Keith Barker on his way to his maiden first class century!

What was the explanation for this collective lack of recognition for a massive landmark in Barker’s career? (Whose previous first class best was only 31.)  Well, there are probably two explanations.  Clearly they were disappointed at getting held up in their pursuit of victory by a lower order batsmen of little reknown outside of the West Midlands.  But more likely the reason was that Barker was playing only the last two days of the game – brought in as a sub to replace William Porterfield who had left to fulfil his international duties with Ireland.  The Durham coach Geoff Cook had been criticising the rules which allowed this substitution to take place before the match had even begun.  And now one of those subs was possibly denying his team an admittedly deserved victory – after they had been held up for most of day 3 by the rain.

It is understandable that the Durham players were annoyed and frustrated, but not to applaud an excellent century – and a maiden one at that – is a very poor show indeed!  Shame on you Durham CCC!

So well done Keith, many more to come I trust.  Also, well done Braithwaite for demonstrating that the spirit of the game is alive and well in the Caribbean – if not in the north-east of England!

Mark

Seven wickets left and every reason to fight until the bitter end!

At the end of today’s play against Durham the Bears are facing defeat squarely in the face.  Barring a miracle or a tropical storm Durham will beat Warwickshire by an innings and plenty at some point tomorrow – most likely between lunch and tea.  (A mere snack for the Durham bowlers in-between meals.)

I wrote a lengthy post in this blog a while back (after the disasterous collapse in the second innings against Lancs) about how, amid wickets tumbling and near certain defeat, players need to focus on their own personal goals and acheivements even though the team effort is doomed to failure. 

So, given that all realistic hope of avoiding defeat is lost, what reason is there for the Warwickshire batsmen to even ‘turn up’ in the sporting sense, tomorrow.

Well, we have seven wickets left, so here are seven reasons why the batsmen should fight to the bitter end of this game no matter what the result of the match may be!

1.  Durham are our first opponents in the T20 Cup at Chester-le-Street on 2nd June.  So best not to roll over too easily it might lower morale for the start of our T20 campaign!

2.  Jim Troughton.  He has been getting a lot of stick from fans last season and this one too.  Now would be a good chance for him to prove that he should be in the team for his batting skills alone as well as his captaincy and fine fielding.

3.  Twitter.  A lot of the Warwickshire team like to spend their nights off having a bit of banter with their followers on Twitter.  If they have been seen to try their best for Warwickshire then they will be assured of a warmer reception online - and with the Champions League final taking place on Saturday night the Tweeting banter will be at fever pitch over the weekend!

4.  Chris Metters.  Metters is probably the best spin bowler that Warwickshire have availiable at the momment – but once Ant Botha is fit and Paul Best is fully availiable and free of university commitments – Metters’ skill with the bat may come in for almost as much scrutiny as his skill with the ball.  So every run here could count towards the assessment of  his all-round usefulness to the team!

5.  The Pitch Controversy.  If ever a team had a reason to want to prove a point to anybody who is watching it is the Bears!  C’mon guys show the ECB that they have not broken your spirit yet!

6.  Also, the Bears should want to show that they are a good team without their England – and now Ireland – superstars!  Do it for the county pros!

7.  Religious reasons.  Many of us do not converse with the almighty as often as perhaps we should.  So when we do it is perhaps not good for the destination of our eternal souls if our prayers are primarily concerned with sending heay rain clouds in the direction of Edgbaston.

And if all that fails to motivate our remaining batsmen tomorrow – then do it for your mum!

She could be watching Sky Sports News!

Here’s to a glorious defeat . . . . . Yoouuu Beeaaarrrsssss!!!!

Mark

Steve Rhodes: Motivational Coach

It was with some glee, but frankly little surprise, that I read the scorecard of the LVCC game between Durham and Worcestershire at New Road yesterday.

Durham batted first and scored a massive 587/7 declared against the Pears!

The reasons I felt glee are obvious – local rival, moaning point stealers, etc - I could go on for some time.

However, the reason I felt little surprise about

Mr Motivator your job is safe!

this is because Worcestershire’s own ‘wicket-keeping hero’ ‘county legend’ and now ‘director of cricket’ spent the best part of last week telling anyone who would listen how bad his bowlers are!

“What?” I hear you cry “Surely not!”

Well, he didn’t put it quite like that, but that is, in effect, what he has been saying.

All the time that he has been complaining about the inadequacies of the Edgbaston pitch has he forgotten that his own bowlers conceded nearly 400 runs on what should have – according to him – been a bowlers paradise!

It is like telling a striker that he couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net if his granny was in goal!

I expect to see a lot of county records fall when sides bat against Worecestershire CCC this year.  So well done Mr Rhodes!  Hope you have fun winning division 2 next year!

Mark

LVCC Match Preview: Bears vs Pears Round 2

Tomorrow morning sees the beginning of the next match in Warwickshire’s hectic schedule of cricket!

It is only early May and we are playing the first return match of the season.  After beating Worcestershire comfortably – in the end – at New Road, it is now time to attempt to do the same at Edgbaston.

To the casual observer of West Midlands cricket this game should appear to be an easy fixture for the Bears.  The Pears will have the defeat at New Road still very fresh in their minds – and have lost all four of their County Championship matches so far this year.

Woakes destroyed the Pears on the final day at New Road but is injured for this encounter! Photo by Peter Lowe

However, let us not forget that we conceded a 1st innings lead of 175 to the Pears at New Road.  Only a fantastic double hundred by Chopra combined with fantastic bowling spells by Rankin at the end of the 1st innings, and Woakes at the end of the 2nd, brought us first back into the game and then in a position to win.

So the moral of the match at New Road is take nothing for granted – it should be a tough derby game.

Their will be two main talking points before the game begins.

One will of course be team selection – as it always is!

The other will be the pitch – after a truly dreadful pitch spoilt any chance of a decent test of skills between Warwickshire and Lancashire last week!

Let me deal with the pitch first.

The wicket used in the Championship game against Lancs was on the edge of the square.  It is expected that the one to be used this week will be more central.  The 2 Cb40 games played at Edgbaston so far this season have been fine for the batsmen.  Indeed the Leicestershire game was a run fest!  The last thing Warwickshire need is another pitch with uneven bounce and that turns square – we don’t even have an experienced frontline spinner!

Fingers crossed all will be well. After all, Warwickshire have the batsmen availiable to bat for 2 days should they win the toss and be given the choice.

This brings me on nicely to team selection.

Worcestershire have one main issue – who will replace Captain and opener Daryl Mitchell in the team.  Moeen Ali, former Warwickshire player, will take on the Captain’s role, but it is unclear who will fill the extra batting spot and how the batting order will line up!

Warwickshire have many selcetion issues.

First-choice keeper Ambrose faces a late fitness test.  It would be a boost for the Bears if he was fit to bolster the lower order batting.

Bears captain Jim Troughton also faces a late fitness test having already missed the Championship game against Lancashire and CB40 game at Northampton. This is not too hard an absence for the Bears to handle as they have Bell and Trott availiable and at the momment, so are not short of specialist batsmen – and Bell can also stand in as captain.

However, Warwickshire face much more serious selection issues when it comes to chosing the bowling attack for this match.

Warwickshire’s main spinner Ant Botha is out with a knee injury and the news this morning is that the Bears main new ball bowler Chris Woakes will be out for 2-3 weeks with shin splints!

These two injuries not only weaken the bowling but also reduce the batting strength of the lower order!

Therefore it would be reasonable to conclude that the Bears may find it a lot harder against the Pears this time around!

So, its over to you fellow Warwickshire fanatics! Which XI do you think will / should take to the field in the morning?

All sugestions welcome as always!

C’mon you Bears!

Mark

Lie back and think of Edgbaston . . .

I’m sure that many, if not all of us, who have a serious interest in professional sport, have day dreamed of how it would feel to be a sporting hero.  What would it feel like to take the final wicket in a test match at Lord’s to win The Ashes for England?  Or to score a goal to win the F.A Cup for your boyhood team? (Wayne Rooney being the exception that proves the rule on that one!)  Or to pot the the black to clinch the deciding frame in the World Snooker Final at The Crucible ?

So for those of us who will never know for sure – what can we compare it to?  Getting a promotion at work?  Passing your exams?  Having a big win at the casino?  The birth of a child?  (Don’t worry my better half will not be reading this and neither of my children can read yet!)  I would imagine the closet feeling would be opening your A Level results expecting 2 B’s and a C and getting straight A’s!

So, as I said before, we have all imagined what a moment of great sporting sucess might feel like.  But how many of us have imagined the opposite – a moment of great sporting failure?  How many of us have imagined what it would be like to be Brett Lee when he was being consoled by Andrew Flintoff having narrowly failed to save an Ashes test?  Or to hit the ball into the net at Championship point in a Wimbledon final?  Or to be the player in that most iconic moment of sporting disaster – a missed penalty during a World Cup

Brett Lee - Another scene of despair at Edgbaston!

penalty shoot out?

I would imagine that there are not many of us that have spent a great deal of time pondering such things.  But this is the task I have set myself over the past couple of days – since Warwickshire’s capitulation in the 2nd innings against Lancashire at Edgbaston.  What does it feel like to be part of a batting collapse?  To be sat in the dressing room watching a steady procession of your team mates return from the crease prematurely – knowing it will soon be your turn?  To walk to the wicket knowing that after 3 hard days the match has been turned on it head in the space of 20 minutes of madness?

Clearly it cannot be easy.  This is why most commentators agree that batting collapses are caused by what is going on in the batsmen mind rather than the difference between the relative skills of the bowler and batsmen – or indeed demons in the pitch.

So, what has my day dreaming of disaster led me to conclude about batting collapses and how teams get swept up in a form of collective incompetence with the bat? Well obviously, in situations where a game has swung to the other side quickly because of the fall of a few quick wickets, the incoming batsmen will feel under pressure and may also feel some disappointment that his side have squandered a good position in the game.  But when wickets are tumbling left right and centre – and especially where players believe the pitch is highly suspect – there is an inescapable sense of inevitability about it all.  There is no expectation of sucess either for the team or for themselves as indivduals.

So how might this feel?

I have two analogies that I hope come close to the feelings experienced by a batsmen in this situation that a lot of people will emphasis with.  Firstly, if you have ever, like a lot of people have growing up, been playing football with friends and been given the thankless task of going in goal despite having no aptitude for, or interst in, the specialist role.  Then, after being given this unpalatable job you quickly concede a couple of goals.  What liitle confidence you may have had has now gone and from then on each time someone runs towards you with the ball, you – and probably most of your teammates, feel another goal is inevitable.  So I hope this analogy helps convey the inevitability players may feel as a batting collapse takes hold!

The other analogy I have to help explain how the batsmen may feel in this situation relates to hopelessness.  5 day or 4 day cricket is redgarded by many as the best form of the game because of the many twists and turns that can take place during the course of a long game.  Even when a team is struggling hope is never truly lost until the last run is scored or the last wicket falls.  This is why some of the most memorable matches are where a team struggles against the odds to get a draw.

I feel that batting collapses occur when a team has forgotten that miraculous turnarounds do happen in the game of cricket – so they should fight on!

A situation I have, sadly, experienced that I feel sums up this loss of hope – when all in fact is not yet lost – relates to gambling.  I have myself over indulged in the vice of gambling from time to time.  Sports betting, roulette, fruit machines – even bingo – i have tried the lot!  When you are gambling and losing you often develop a fatalistic attitude where the optimism and expectation of winning that you began with is replaced by a feeling of certain doom.  If you have decided to carry on until you have spent a certain amount of money in an attempt to recover your losses you can often feel an urge to raise the stakes to get it over with more quickly – rather than be patient and follow the system you had previously devised to win your fortune.  You have lost all hope even though a small chance of gaining all your money back does still exist.  Then when you finally run out of funds there is almost a sense of relief that it is over.

So in the midst of a batting collapse I would suggest that sometimes batsmen are swamped by this sense of hopelessness even when a slim chance of victory may still exist.

So my conclusion is that the worse batting collapses occur when batsmen feel that failure is inevitable – often blaming the pitch – and lose all hope of success a lot earlier than they would in normal circumstances!

So there you have it.  My own personal attempt to understand what goes on in the minds of cricketers in the midst of a batting collapse.  All comments are welcome if you would like to share your own thoughts!

So what can be done about it?

Well clearly there are many excellent sports psychologists out there who deal with these sorts of issues all the time. 

My only suggestion is perhaps is for clubs to emphasise the importance of individual performance as well as the success of the team!

The success of the team as a whole is clearly the priority in all team sports but cricket has a very individual element as well.  No matter how dire a team’s performance is as a whole, it is possible for any individual player to have played well and hold his head up high.  This should be used to motivate players when they know that any realistic chance of success in the game that the team had, has slipped through their fingers.  This is especially true in the fist class game where speed of scoring is less of an issue.

So, for instance, in circumstances like last Friday when Warwickshire were 92/6 and they had just lost 3 wickets for only 6 runs, and were staring defeat in the face, the remaining batsmen should be coached to be in a mindset that says ‘I’m going to be the one not out at the end of this mess.  Its not going to be me the coach is looking at or refering to when he speaks about what has gone wrong in this game!’.  Also, if you are a tailender and not a great batsmen the coach should be sending you out there by saying ‘we know your not going to save the game for us but at least get above your average and you have acheived something!’.  Even if the tailender’s average is only, say, 11 runs, it gives them something to aim for and takes their mind of the teams imminenet defeat.

The nature of these batting collapses are important because although the team may still lose, if a little more effort is demonstrated on the part of the players it will raise the morale of the team and appease the fans a little bit.

And, most importantly of all, it will make the post match interview for Ashley Giles a little bit easier!

Heres hoping for a better pitch against Worcestershire on Wednesday!

Good Luck Bears

Mark