On The Front Foot: Woolf is banging on the door demanding action from ICC

 

Reviews, damn reviews and reviews. As it were. The game is awash with reviews, of which the Umpire Decision Review System is merely one. The latest is the sweeping Woolf Review, an examination by the former Lord Chief Justice into the running of the International Cricket Council.

Woolf pulls no punches but, boy, he knows how to soften them up. By page four of 60 he had written "Cricket is a great game", "cricket has a proud record" and "cricket has a unique position in the sporting world". He then cut to the chase by telling the ICC that they were a gentlemen's club and had better change soon or else. He calls for a drastic change with a full-time, paid chairman, financial transparency and more full members immediately. Oh, and like everybody else, he wants to preserve Test cricket. Tellingly, he said: "There is a need to preserve and value Test cricket but not at the expense of being able to develop new nations." Later on he mentions the idea of regional Test teams being formed from associate members, suggested by several of his interlocutors. But he thinks the admission of two new full members should be a priority. The ICC have postponed discussions until their next meeting in April but it will be known whether they mean to act by July. That is the deadline set by Lord Woolf for the new president to act as chairman until a new, independent chairman, leader of the body, can be appointed.

 

Domestic strife creates mess

And what a fine mess there is over the Morgan Review of domestic cricket. The England and Wales Cricket Board stipulated that it should be accepted in full or not at all, so it will be fascinating to see what happens next since all the counties do not like some of it and some of them do not like all of it. The biggest dispute is about the proposal by David Morgan, the former ECB chairman and ICC president, to reduce the number of Championship matches from 16 to 14, thus making an inequitable competition. This navel-gazing is as integral a part of the game as the Championship itself. In 1949 HS Altham chaired a committee on the future of the domestic game and launched it by saying: "If only we can get enough boys playing this game in England and playing it right, it is quite certain that from the mass will be thrown up in some year or another a new Compton, a new Tate, a new Jack Hobbs, and when that happens we need not worry any more about our future meetings with Australia." Seven years later, MCC printed a report, Reviving First Class Cricket, proposing the limiting of first innings to 85 overs. And on and on. Lord MacLaurin, in his 1999 review Raising the Standard, insisted that the way forward was three divisions of six. We should worry not about the fate of the Morgan Review but which poor sap will chair the next one.

 

Broad set to go above Evans

Unless the management decide otherwise, Stuart Broad has a chance of becoming the most prodigious of all Test No 8 batsmen. After his dazzling 58 not out in the Abu Dhabi Test, he needs seven runs to overtake Godfrey Evans' total of 833 runs in the position. There is a way to go to overhaul the 15 men in front of that, two of whom have made 1,000 Test runs at eight. Two have made 2,000: Daniel Vettori has made 2,227 runs there, although there seems to be a move to turn him into a No 6, which he should resist at all costs. Shane Warne made 2,005, scoring more runs than anybody else without a hundred, a record that will take some beating.

 

Leg before, many more now

As for umpire reviews, what a lark. There are now more lbws than you can wag a finger at. In the UAE, there have already been a record number for a three-match series. Contrast this to the 1971 series between the sides when there was a record low of precisely one lbw in three matches, and that was the last wicket of all to fall, Pervez Sajjad – which, as it happens, gave match and series to England.

 

In and out of Pakistan team

Pakistan always surprise. Only three of the team who were all out for 99 on Friday survive from the side who were all out for 72 against England at Edgbaston in 2010: Azhar Ali, Saeed Ajmal and Umar Gul. But then three men also played for the team dismissed by Australia for 59 and 53 in Sharjah 10 years ago: Taufeeq Umar, Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq.

 

s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

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