The first is in what looks like an England series win in India, a country that for years has seen English sides emerge with tails between legs and soundly beaten. I mean to take nothing away from a highly professional English side in saying that the pre-eminence of laugh and giggle cricket on the sub-continent is costing them dearly.
Batsmen struggle to build big innings, while their 'spinners' struggle to bowl sides out. The latter are so used to mixing it up with quicker balls, slower balls, flight and yorkers that they don't seem to remember how to really spin it. In this final Test, India rekindled memories of the Seventies by picking four slow - I'll not call them spin bowlers. Ashwin and Ojha are decent bowlers, but they don't stand comparison to Chandrasekhar and Bedi, while Venkat and Prasanna were far better than their modern-day counterparts. For all the fact that his arm ball is useful, Jadeja, who earned more than $2 million in last year's IPL after frantic bidding, isn't as good a cricketer as David Wainwright.
He's a bits 'n' pieces player - a Dave Clark Five sort of cricketer, if you will (a joke for older readers...). He doesn't strike me as someone who will win many matches over the longer format of the game, but his country's obsession with the golden eggs of T20 has seen him elevated beyond his comfort zone. Nor will those sort of wickets do much to encourage people to attend Test matches on the sub-continent either. Strokeplay is difficult and anyone who moans at England's 'negativity' needs a reality check. Just as happened with Derbyshire in a few matches last summer, we can now play with a 'what we have, we hold' mentality and give 'em nowt.
Over in Australia, another issue for T20 arises with the standard of pitches. The 'Big Bash' is in danger of becoming an ironic moniker as the tracks, a number of which are 'dropped in' are simply not conducive to confident strokeplay. Of course, 'Slow and Two-Paced' doesn't work from a marketing perspective, but recent matches have suffered from being less 'Big Bash' than 'Big Disappointment'.
Totals of under 120 have become more common. There is an element of bowlers fighting back and learning new skills, but in many cases they just need to get it in the right place and the wicket, together with the batsmen's need to push on, does the rest for them. The last three games I have watched have seen first innings scores of 116, 134 and 113, while Perth Scorchers all out 69 against the Melbourne Stars was a combination of inspid batting and a firing Lasith Malinga.
It is good to see bowlers as more than cannon-fodder, yet the format needs runs to justify itself. The marketing across the globe of twenty-over cricket is centred on seeing fours and sixes a-plenty, not nudges and nurdles. There's nothing wrong with the latter in a different environment, but the crowds will only continue to attend if they've a fair chance of seeing the ball fly over their heads.
It is something that Derbyshire will need to address in 2013. Last year's wickets at the County Ground were very good, especially for the four-day game. For T20, you need the boundaries in to encourage the hitters, with wickets where they can follow through on shots with confidence of reward.
On other matters, there's a good piece on Tom Knight in the most recent issue of The Cricket Paper.
In it, he talks about his weight loss for the World Cup and the long term benefits that this will have for him, both physically and mentally. He also refers to Monty Panesar as a left-arm role model, who the England Under-19s played against in the 2nd XI 2T20 last year. Within a few months of that he has been taking wickets again in Test matches. Knight also talks about the emergence of spinners through the T20 and the reporter refers to his excellent record in the format. The youngster seems to be targeting a regular place in the one-day side at this stage and, through that, into the 4-day game as well.
He also speaks highly of David Wainwright in a nice article, confirming the healthy and friendly rivalry for positions in the side that can only be a continuing source of encouragement.
It is good to see.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend.