Thursday, 27 February 2014

An Exchange with Ethers

John Etheridge is the main man in the Currant Bun, aka The Sun. The Chief Cricket Correspondent of Britain's largest selling daily newspaper has been an influential voice for a number of years, and we caught up with him as he had a particularly tough assignment in Antigua covering the England team. John follows a long line of cricket journos who have appeared on the Stump such as Steve James, Mike Selvey and George Dobell, and regular readers to these pages will know that their tales give us some fantastic copy. More often the interviewer than the interviewee, John gives us some outstanding stories in this superb piece on life as a cricket correspondent over the last thirty or so years. Read on as the man with the same initials as John Edrich talks us through Ray Illingworth's love letters, Kevin Pietersen bad mouthing team mates in Australia and many more hilarious cricket anecdotes in this brilliant interview.

John Etheridge

Monday, 24 February 2014

Knebworth Park CC need your help!

It isn't that often that we post a serious article that isn't filled with witty humour and ingenius jokes, but when it involves losing one of Hertfordshire’s top clubs, we change our tune slightly.

The future of cricket for hundreds of children and for generations of youngsters to come is at stake as Knebworth Park Cricket Club as a planning application for a new ground has been submitted. Without a new ground the club would have to fold, leaving Knebworth without a local club.

The club, which has played in the grounds of the historic Knebworth House for over 140 years, has been told it must move from its current location in front of the imposing Gothic-fronted stately home to a new site within the estate off Park Lane.

Knebworth Park's current iconic ground

Friday, 21 February 2014

The Beef with Pakistan

Now before anyone reads this and puts a fatwah or religious death sentence on me, I am merely a cricket writer, and a crap one at that. Salman Rushdie I most certainly am not, and this is The Middle Stump and not the Satanic Verses. Nor do I have anything against Pakistanis. I have played with many over the years in club cricket, and have enjoyed being their team mate. However, in our radio show Pushing the Boundaries (out next week) we discussed the 1992 World Cup final and I touched on the war between England and Pakistan that has continued for years. I'm sure you will hear all about that tournament on these pages in the next few days, but here I thought I would write about the rows, the hatred, the controversies and the arguments that have scarred virtually every series we have played against this nation for over thirty years.

Gatt and Rana clash in Pakistan

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Pushing the Boundaries

Tonight we are recording our podcast Pushing the Boundaries, in a studio in deepest, darkest Camden Town with Steve Harris, and featuring an interview with one of the funniest cricketers on the county circuit. If anyone has a question for us please get in touch either via our Twitter or our Facebook pages and this can be anything to do with cricket. We will feature and try to answer the best questions that we receive.

Alternatively, if you want to be the coolest dude down the pub, then get your Pushing the Boundaries t shirts by clicking the advert on the left of this article and we will get your t shirt to you by the weekend. I can guarantee you that we have a cracking show lined up.

Friday, 14 February 2014

We love to hate the IPL - A take on the Auctions

Sonali Dhulap is one of the brightest young cricket writers emerging out of India. An online commentator for one of cricket's leading websites, her writing seriously takes the piss and therefore she fits in very well with us. You could call it a marriage made in sarcasm on this day of amour. Therefore, we are delighted to announce that she will be covering the IPL and the Indian perspective of their tour to England later this year right here on these pages. Here, she kicks off with her first article for The Middle Stump covering the IPL auction. I hope you like her sarcastic style as much as we do....

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Cheers for Piers?

I have to admit I am highly embarrassed writing this article. I am deeply ashamed and embarrassed to tell you all that I actually agree with Piers Morgan. This power hungry, egotistical, bum chinned chap who has been known to rub people up the wrong way has been defending his power hungry, egostistical, bum chinned cricketing mate, who has just been dropped for erm, rubbing people up the wrong way. This is my piece of shame. It is the literary equivalent of buying condoms in a chemist, being caught listening to a One Direction CD or getting caught by your mates going on a date with Dawn French. This is where I agree with Piers.

Happy times for Kev and Piers

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Spiel with Shaggy

Shaun "Shaggy" Udal had a fantastic career spanning twenty one years. Representing his beloved Hampshire for much of that, he also had a stint with Middlesex and international call ups arrived in 1994 and then unexpectedly in 2004, where he played an integral part in a win away in India in 2006. One of the real characters of the game, he is heavily involved in the PCA and gives regular opinions on Talksport, in between running a successful clothing business. We caught up recently with the Basingstoke offie, and discussed the merits of Michael Carberry's parsimony, getting pinned by Shoaib Akhtar in his second ball in Test cricket and what it is like to dismiss Sachin Tendulkar in a Test match.

Shaun Udal

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

We need to talk about Kevin

I'm sure you will all remember where you were when you heard the news. KP has been canned. Booted. Got the tin tack. His P45 is in the post, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred pounds etc etc. No player divides cricket as much as Kevin Pietersen, but what everyone would like to know is what exactly has he done? Definitely not sacked for cricketing reasons, England's leading run scorer of recent years will never again play for his country, and yet again he has split the nation. Should we get rid of this 'Pietermaritzburg Prick' as one chap referred to him on Twitter recently, as he is a bad apple in the dressing room? Or has he been made a scapegoat for England's Ashes failure, and will English cricket be a poorer place without one of the finest players to don the England shirt? The cricket world is divided.

There is no doubt KP has been disruptive. From his early days in South Africa he rowed with his coaches, at Nottinghamshire he had a huge off with Jason Gallian before pissing off to Hampshire and then to Surrey.  From Peter Moores to Andy Flower and being a mate of Piers Morgan, which is enough to make anyone lose friends, KP was as popular with some as Harold Shipman on a Saga holiday. Even though he was one of our best players ever, the public didn't warm to him as much as others who have played for England from South Africa, such as Robin Smith or Allan Lamb, yet his stats were far better than these two excellent cricketers. Maybe it was because he plied his trade in a different era? The money he has made from the game, the tattoos, the pop star (if you can call her that under the Trades Description Act) wife, the arrogance and egocentrical personality have all defined this modern day superstar cricketer. Nine years in the England team has also earned him some serious wonga. No Twelve Years a Slave, if you include qualifying periods, when We Need to talk about Kevin.

Then there was Textgate. Chatting with opposition players who were from the country of his birth allegedly how to get people out made him seem a traitor to us. Dismissed as "just banter" by Pietersen, the chasms were deep and this was the start of the problem in the England dressing room, in our opinion. Did he do for Strauss what he did for Moores, and what he would do for Flower in getting rid of them? No cricketer has got in so much trouble texting since Warnie did his bit for promoting the NHS when he was at Hampshire.

Whether Boris or Mitchell...KP tangles with the Johnsons

On the other hand England will be weaker without him that is for certain. Nearly 14,000 international runs, the ability to light up arenas, his knock at the Oval in 2005 was series defining. His hundred in India last year was one of the best I have seen in my forty three years, whilst certain trademark shots such as the 'switch hit' or the 'flamingo' have brought the fun back into cricket in an era where so many are cut from the same monotone cloth. KP will be missed by the public, if not by those in his own dressing room, or the cricketing paparazzi for whom he was always quoteable and the source of many a headline. On and off the pitch, he was gold dust and would empty bars. English cricket has not had a personality like him since Ian Botham, yet not one as divisive since Geoffrey Boycott.

Our view is KP hasn't been canned for his on the pitch efforts. Why would you get rid of our leading scorer in the Ashes and second highest last summer? Still only 33, he could be the leading light to glue the youngsters together over the next few years. He has done something naughty, and under EU Employment Law has no doubt gone under the banner of gross misconduct. You can't just sack someone these days without going through a proper process. Neither are the grounds of being an arrogant wanker, a firm basis for dimissal. Rumours of him offering to chin Cook in Sydney during the 5th Test abound, whilst this column is aware via certain sources that Swann's retirement was down to Pietersen, even though it has been denied. Swann wouldn't be the first sportsman to tell a little porkie, and this one is about as believable as an Arsene Wenger, "I didn't see it" or a Harry Redknapp denial of a transfer target. Moores and Flower were both victims of Pietersen's ways, and the ECB as usual, have kept everyone in the dark. Something has definitely happened on this tour, so just bloody well tell us.

A turbulent start to the new job

The ECB have to clear this up, or they are taking the piss out of every English cricket supporter. Everyone who subscribes to Sky to watch the national team, everyone who buys a ticket for a Test match, or everyone who follows England. We deserve answers boys. Paul Downton is an ex stockbroker, and has just entered a bear market for English cricket, where the stock of many assets in the national portfolio is dwindling. Canning the bullish Pietersen was an extremely brave move in choppy waters such as this and if he has done so because KP is a pain in the arse, just bloody well tell us.

Cook also has obviously been a major decision maker in this ugly and sorry process. I should imagine then, so has the new coach who must be already in place. Surely? The questions are seriously outweighing the answers at the moment.

Flower, Moores and KP...all three eventually lost their jobs

Ex Liverpool and German footballer, Didi Hamann eloquently summed up the situation on Talksport this morning, "Cricket is a team game but with individual flair. Cricketers are judged on individual stats and figures, and on that basis, English cricket will be a poorer place without KP".

The only worry is if KP spelled TEAM, TIEAM as many have suggested. However, no sportsman has had more individual flair than Kevin Pietersen in recent years and the country is split on whether it is the right or wrong thing to do. Personally I am torn myself. Great player, cock of a bloke. I don't think this will be the last we see of him though, and he will become one of the modern players trawling the T20 competitions globally, adding to his already vast bank account.

One thing is for certain. His value in the IPL auction has just gone through the roof.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Stand up to Bullies

Last week was a sad day for cricket. There was news coming out of the ICC meeting in Dubai where the school bully (the BCCI), along with sneering sidekicks (Cricket Australia and England and Wales Cricket Board) finally stole the lunch money off the poor kids in the class, just so they could stuff double desserts down their throats. The time has come for the cricket world to stand up.

Cricket fans...take note