New episodes of The Broken Wicket podcast

Episodes three and four of The Broken Wicket podcast are now available to download or stream.


Episodes three and four of The Broken Wicket podcast are now available to download or stream. In Episode three, Tim Part of The Straight Hit interviews Nakrul Pande of Guerilla Cricket about broadcasting the Ireland v Pakistan test match, while in episode four, former England internationals and current county coaches Matthew Maynard and Anthony McGrath talk us through how to select a team.

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Podcast: new episode of The Broken Wicket

Episode two of cricket podcast The Broken Wicket is now available to stream and download

Episode two of The Broken Wicket cricket podcast is now live for download and streaming. In it, myself, Tim Part of The Straight Hit and Ed Benson of Guerilla Cricket discuss 100 ball cricket, Test Match Special losing commentary rights to Talksport and Ed Smith’s appointment as national selector of the England team. Plus there’s a debate about the merits of county cricket and an interview with one of the organisers of the Surrey Slam T20 tournament.

How to listen:

The website


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New podcast: The Broken Wicket

Listen to episode one of a new cricket podcast

I joined Tim Part of The Straight Hit for episode 1 of The Broken Wicket, a new podcast offering ‘tough love’ for cricket. In the wake of the ball-tampering scandal, it features an interview with sports psychologist Victor Thompson about the psychology of cheating, while Tim and I discussed England’s winter, hopes for the summer and much more, all in a tight 32 minutes.

How to listen:

Via the website


Or your podcast app of choice – either search or copy in:

How ball-tampering became the biggest sporting scandal of 2018

What started as run-of-the-mill cheating has gone beyond cricket and Australia to become political.

There have been ball tampering scandals in the past. Some have been a big deal, others less so, but all have eventually blown over. None, not even Pakistan forfeiting a test in 2006 – the first team ever to do so, has made the splash that the Australia 2018 episode has.

This is not because it is somehow worse than those past incidents, although sandpaper was spectacularly crude and blatant compared to previous tampering tools like sweets or fingernails, but because a unique combination of events have come to the boil at once.


The incident sparked such fury in Australia that it whipped the rest of the world into a frenzy too. Other countries would always have been outraged (see below) but if the Australian fans, media and board had downplayed the incident and settled for the one-game ICC ban and a lighter punishment from Cricket Australia, they could have circled the wagons.

Australia was in no mood to defend Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft though. As Brydon Coverdale pointed out, the country had a cricket team decades before it was a country, and the captain is often joked to be more important than the prime minister.

Australia’s winter sports divide along regional lines, making cricket the one team sport that unites the entire country. As Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull joined the critics, it became clear that this was more like a political scandal than a sporting one; public trust had been betrayed and the integrity of a great institution had been undermined.

Turnbull’s intervention was political opportunism – distracting the public from the his government’s real scandals, while the admission by James Sutherland of Cricket Australia, that the punishments were harsher because they needed to appease public opinion, showed that political expediency had beaten due process.


The rest of the cricketing world had been waiting for this a long time. For decades, Australia has prided itself on playing the most aggressive cricket, but this has made a lot of enemies. They mythical ‘line’ of bad behaviour had become a running joke, because it was always drawn by Australia so that they never crossed it, but everyone else did.

Sledging, or “mental disintergration”, and calling on home crowds to abuse foreign players, only to cry foul when foreign crowds abuse them, has all built up great stores of resentment, so that when Australia took a fall, the rest of the world felt so aggrieved about years of perceived unpleasantness and sanctimony that it was never going to let the chance pass.


Tamperers of the past have given the impression they were acting on the spur of the moment, out of frustration or over-eagerness, or denied wrongdoing altogether. While it is inconceivable that all past ball-tampering was spontaneous, Smith’s admission that it was pre-meditated was unprecedented. Like in any good political scandal, the admission of a conspiracy and the ham-fisted attempt at a cover-up, immediately upgraded the interest and intrigue.


Ball-tampering is often in a grey area. Sachin Tendulkar was just cleaning the ball, Faf du Plessis was just eating a mint. There was no other possible explanation for what Bancroft did and being caught on camera doing something so blatant was always going to cause a fuss.


It has become increasingly unclear what is and is not acceptable when ‘maintaining’ the ball. Saliva is ok, but after what got du Plessis into trouble, or the debate over England’s use of sugary saliva in 2005, it is not clear where the line is. Cleaning the ball is ok, but picking the seam is not. Throwing the ball to the wicketkeeper on the bounce is not supposed to be done deliberately, but cannot be stopped from happening accidentally.

In the era before reverse swing, when cameras were fewer and lower quality, no-one was really the wiser. Now tiny incidents are being picked up and scrutinised and the game would be well-served by a review of what can and cannot be done. Some, like Mark Nicholas, are in favour of legalised tampering. Whatever the decision, clarity would be welcome.

Likewise, the scale of punishments has been low in the past, mostly fines or suspended sentences, despite ball-tampering being considered a worse crime than most. The ICC, taken aback by the strength of feeling over the recent episode, has already announced that it will review the penalties it can impose for ball-tampering. Although Smith, Warner and Bancroft were a little hard done by with their 12 or nine-month bans, there is clearly a desire and a need for a tougher deterrent than the ICC’s maximum one-game ban.

The reputations of du Plessis, Rahul Dravid or Mike Atherton are unblemished by their scrapes with the law and their careers were unharmed in the long run. Time will tell how history views Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.

The latter, a young player with plenty of time ahead of him may find that the gap is no great loss. But stripping of the captaincy from Smith is a stain that will take some shifting, and his emotional press conference tears may stick with him in the same way that it did for Kim Hughes with his tearful 1984 resignation. Ultimately, the best way for him to overcome it is through scoring runs and, if he gets the chance again, a successful run as captain. Five years from now, if Smith is again the top batsman in the world and has led Australia to a string of impressive series victories, the stain will start to shrink.

For Warner, given his reported pariah status among his team mates, a Kevin Pietersen-like exile seems more likely – another genius batsman whose reputation will be forever tied up with his genius for trouble.

Cricket has been in the startling glare of international publicity over the past two weeks. But sunlight is the best disinfectant and the episode offers a chance to mend some of the game’s ills, especially down under.

Champions Trophy brings rare meaning to ODI game

The unloved Champions Trophy should be enjoyed as a rare glimpse of ODI cricket with meaning, while England prepare to live and die by their all-out attack.

The return of the ICC Champions Trophy this week is a rare chance to see one day international cricket with meaning. Unlike the seemingly endless parade of two-team ODI series, there should be a real appetite for knockout matches, following the 2015 World Cup, in which high-octane T20-style cricket came to the fore.

The ICC has acknowledged the growing desire for matches with consequences, by pushing for the creation of an international ODI league earlier this year, which would give context to regular bilateral series. That plan has floundered for now, although qualification for this year’s eight-team Champions Trophy was dictated by the ODI rankings, accounting for the sad absence of the charismatic World T20 champion West Indies, whose 50 over form has been less impressive.

The Champions Trophy has had a strange history, disrespected by media, overlooked by fans and pushed around by administrators, summed up by the fact that it was scrapped after the 2013 edition, to create space in the schedule for a world test championship.

That plan was abandoned, a victim of ICC politics, so with a gap in the schedule and money to be made, the governing body resurrected the unloved tournament, which has been variously held every two, three or four years, and was created to provide some excitement and cash between world cups, a role that has now been filled by the World T20.

The Champions Trophy has one advantage, brevity – 15 matches in 17 days, as opposed to 49 in 44 days at the 2015 World Cup. In such a short tournament, with only three group games per team, every result will count, offering a reminder of what a thrill a good 50 over game can be when there is something riding on it.

However, with the Champions Trophy now just an elite eight-team competition, the ICC’s decision to cut the World Cup from 14 teams to 10 for 2019, making it just a longer version of the same tournament, seems even more short-sighted, as it will be barely more of a global championship than the Champions Trophy.


England are in the unusual position of being favourites for a limited overs tournament, but it is well-deserved, following 27 wins in 44 ODIs in the two years since a disastrous group stage exit at the 2015 World Cup, in which they not only lost all their games against test-playing nations, but played boring cricket to boot.

They modelled their reinvention on New Zealand’s bold run to the World Cup final, led off by big-hitting batting from the start and a varied, attacking group of bowlers.

But that strength is also a weakness. New Zealand fell apart in the 2015 final, stumbling to a disappointing 183 all out and losing to Australia by 7 wickets. It was no choke, they did not collapse under the pressure, but all-out attack is inherently risky and, on that day, did not come off.

England fans, anticipating a home victory, should look no further than Monday’s warm-up ODI against South Africa, in which the team was bowled out for 153, to see how it can go wrong, but should embrace the possibility. It is a high risk, high reward approach, and to reap the benefits you must be willing to accept the dangers. The thrill of the ride is part of the fun.