Feb 062014
 

England’s management announced on Tuesday evening the unanimous decision to rebuild after the disappointing winter tour of Australia without their star batsman, ending Pietersen’s international career after nine turbulent years.

Former England captains Michael Vaughan and Nasser Hussain on Wednesday demanded a detailed explanation, and Botham echoed those sentiments.

In his column in the Daily Mirror, the 58-year-old wrote: “I’m baffled, exasperated and disgusted the England and Wales Cricket Board think they can get rid of Kevin Pietersen, issue a statement full of corporate waffle, and hope everyone will forget about it.

“Well, I’ve got news for the amateur comedians who run the ECB. We want answers, the truth. We want detailed, precise reasons behind their decision to end Pietersen’s international career.

“If you sacked a factory worker on the shop floor without telling him why he’s been fired, he would take his employers to the cleaners through the courts.

“The ECB can’t just hide behind their blazers and wait for the fuss to die down. They can’t leave everyone to speculate why England have ditched one of their finest players.”

He continued: “The buffoons at Lord’s don’t just owe KP an explanation – although you might have thought it was a common courtesy to outline why he has been sent into exile.

“They owe the paying public, the fans who spend £100 on a ticket to home Test matches, a reason why they have discarded the star attraction.

“They owe the punters who spend their life-savings to follow England halfway round the world, only to see them get hammered 5-0, more than a fudged statement.”

 

PA

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Jan 032014
 
Ashes 2013-14: Ben Stokes ‘up for the fray’ whatever it may take

“What’s ‘the fray’ mean, mate? Don’t use those big words with me,” he said, being perfectly smart enough to know where this might lead. But was he up for it? “Yeah, I’m up for it, there you go,” he said.

Indeed he was and indeed he is. Stokes, the young cricketer of the year, is by the length of Mitchell Johnson’s moustache (Johnson was treading on it as he ran to the wicket yesterday) the best thing to have happened to England in this series.

After scoring his maiden hundred in his second Test he took his maiden five-wicket haul in his fourth. Among all-rounders of recent vintage, Ian Botham took five wickets in his first Test innings and scored a hundred in his fourth, Andrew Flintoff took until his 13th and 32nd respectively. Stokes has noticed the difference in class.

“The standard that you have to play to with both bat and ball,” he said. “Any sort of width gets punished. The standard of bad balls that you don’t receive off the bowlers is another thing I’ve noticed. With a guy bowling 150 clicks at your head you don’t get that much in county cricket. Forty thousand people as well. The atmosphere gives you an uplift.”

There are those who would be intimidated – which is the difference often between those who make it and those who do not – but Stokes not only refuses to take a step backward, he is quite willing to take some forward. He bristles as though he likes it all, as though he relishes the fray.

England might have felt slightly miffed about Brad Haddin’s continual success in this series, buttressed as it has been by a share of good fortune. But Stokes did not make the mistake of whingeing about it.

“Haddin has played well all series and has played his natural game every innings so far,” he said. “When a guy is playing like that against you, you have to hold up your hands. It is just the way he comes out and plays his natural game. Quite a lot has gone his way but fair play to him.”

Stokes still thinks of himself as a batsman who bowls and, if pushed, would be happier with his Test hundred than his six wickets. He seems to know exactly what this game is about and how harsh a mistress it can be. He seems ready for that too, now that people are calling him the next this and the next that.

“If that is what people are saying then thanks,” he said. “It is just feet on the floor. The success I have had so far can easily turn around and people will be writing me off.”

Not yet, not even in the meanest streets.

Nov 152013
 
The conversation: Former England cricketer Ian Botham gets down to (beefy) business and assesses our chances at The Ashes

You’re working with Beefeater at the moment as their ‘Boss of Beef’. What does that involve?

We’ve been promoting it all summer. We’ve had various competitions and as I’m going to be in Australia this winter, today I’ve been looking for an apprentice to take over while I’m away. We had more than 2,000 people enter. The standard was very good: it’s been a proper meat feast.

You also backed British beef and lamb with Allan Lamb. Any other beef products you’d like to promote?

Um, no. I’m very happy with where we are at the moment. I think it works well. It’s an obvious pun: Beefeater and Beefy – and it’s been a bundle of fun.

Not to get morbid, but what would you choose as your last meal?

Oh, goodness gracious; that’s a tough question. Probably, liver and bacon with cauliflower cheese.

You’ve said before that cricket nowadays is more serious and clinical than when you played. Do you think it’s lost something in that?

The point I was trying to make was that it’s perceived as being more serious and clinical. I played in a great era, the standard of cricket was excellent. But there was also a more social side to it as well. The teams mingled a lot more.

So what’s caused the shift?

Nowadays, it’s a high-reward game. Players have lucrative contracts so they’ve got to keep themselves fit to do it. They’re constantly monitored now: they have dieticians and lifestyle gurus. It’s just a different world. Things have changed. For the better? We’ll have to wait and see.

What do you think of the reaction to the England players urinating on the pitch at The Oval?

Mountain out of a mole hill.

You don’t think there’d have been all that fuss in your day?

There wouldn’t have been journalists sat at a cricket ground at 1am, so no, it wouldn’t have happened.

You had a stint as a footballer as well. Denis Compton and Arnold Sidebottom did the same. And, of course, Freddie Flintoff had his side career as a boxer…

I’m not sure whether I’d call that boxing, but there you go…

Do you think cricket attracts a certain kind of all-round sportsman?

Flintoff, when he did that boxing stunt, had already retired. It won’t happen again: you won’t see footballers playing cricket or cricketers playing football because the seasons overlap massively now.

So you’re in Australia for winter. What’s the plan for Christmas?

I’ll be in Adelaide on Christmas Day. I’ll be staying with my great friend and winemaking colleague, Geoff Merrill. We’ll be having Christmas a little differently to what people are used to over here: with oysters and lobsters and crabs. And, of course, some extremely good wines from his cellar.

And your prediction for The Ashes?

I have to be careful with what I say. But I think it’s going to be a very tough series, it’s going to be competitive, and I’m really looking forward to it. I think England have the momentum after winning here, and I expect them to continue that way.

Biography

Born in the Wirral in 1955, Ian Botham was an England Test cricketer for 15 years and still holds the record for the highest number of wickets taken by an England bowler. He was knighted in 2007 for his charity work

Nov 142013
 
Gatting recalls Brisbane glory

Mike Gatting’s England had been written off by many ahead of the first Test on the 1986-87 Ashes tour.

Following a string of disappointing displays in their warm-up matches, not to mention a run of eight defeats in 11 winless Tests, the tourists were subjected to heavy criticism from the press, with Martin Johnson famously declaring: “There are only three things wrong with the English team – they can’t bat, can’t bowl and can’t field.”

England went on to answer their doubters in the best possible fashion, claiming a surprise victory in the first Test at Brisbane and going on to retain the Ashes with a game to spare.

Their triumph remains fresh in the memory of Gatting, who pinpoints an inspirational rallying cry from Ian Botham prior to the opening Test as a key moment.

“There were a lot of distractions going on before we even got into the first Test match,” Gatting explained to ecb.co.uk. “We had three girls turn up from one of our national newspapers, who were very keen to get one or two of the boys in the bed!

“I suppose we were slightly lucky in the fact that we had some warm-up games, because after our tour I think there were less and less and by the time we were halfway through our first Test I think people had lost the Ashes by then.

“When we saw this ‘can’t bat, can’t bowl, can’t field’ it might have possibly described the way we started the trip, which wasn’t very well, but that was to change.

“A very interesting point was when ‘Beefy’ [Botham] said something just before the beginning of the Test.

“He got up and said ‘look boys, we haven’t played very well in the warm-up matches, but that was practice. Tomorrow we start and we’re going to believe. We go out there as 11 of us versus 11 of them, and I think we are better than them and I think we can win this’.

“That was strange from ‘Beefy’ because he wasn’t generally as philosophical as that at team meetings and I think it had quite an effect on some of the younger players and some of the guys who were a bit worried.”

Botham went on to play a crucial role in England’s victory, cracking 138 from 174 balls in an imposing first-innings total of 456.

Australia could only muster 248 in reply, with Graham Dilley picking up five wickets, and they subsequently crumbled to a seven-wicket defeat.

“As the days went on, you could see a little bit of confidence and a little bit of belief,” Gatting added.

“We were on top, ‘Beefy’ was always there goading everybody on and picking up the ball and charging in and being very confident himself.

“The fielding was good, the catching was good and as that match went on to its conclusion and actually winning it you could see the huge change from day one, when obviously everyone was apprehensive and a bit nervous.

“You could just see a little bit of confidence going in and strangely enough the only one who probably wasn’t like that was David Gower.

“After we won the match and had a couple of days off I said ‘how are you feeling Dave?’ and he said ‘don’t worry, I’m going to my favourite ground’ and didn’t say any more than that. The next Test match was at Perth and you wondered what he was going to do.”

Gower was to answer his captain’s question in sensational fashion with a wonderful century at the WACA, one of three in England’s first innings.

Chris Broad and Jack Richards also reached three figures and, although Australia eventually salvaged a draw, Gatting’s men had proved their critics wrong again with another powerful display.

They would head to Adelaide for the third Test in confident mood, with the famous little urn very much within their reach.

Nov 082013
 
Sir Ian Botham Completes Epic Sri Lanka Walk
Sir Ian Botham

Sir Ian Botham (left) celebrates completing what he calls his ‘greatest’ walk, in Sri Lanka

Laureus

Sir Ian Botham has completed his 160-mile walk from the north to the south coast of Sri Lanka, raising more than $US 210,000 for the Laureus Sport For Good Foundation.

He was joined by a host of sports stars past and present including Muttiah Muralitharan, Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Morné du Plessis and Sunil Gavaskar during the epic trek.

It took him eight days to cross Sri Lanka and the money raised will go towards the Laureus-supported Foundation of Goodness in Sri Lanka and global projects.

He started in Kilnochni in the north and crossed the finish line in Seenigama in the south, maintaining an impressive average pace of 20 miles a day and ending with a rousing reception courtesy of Sri Lanka schoolchildren lining the final stretch.

“It’s all over and it’s been terrific, the reception here in Seenigama was magnificent, especially having all the children here,” Botham said following the walk.

“I am delighted we have raised so much for such a good cause. I would like to thank the great sportsmen who have joined me on this walk, but particularly I would like to thank the wonderful Sri Lanka people who have come out to support us every mile of the route over eight days. It was the inspiration that helped us through.”

Muralitharan added: “Ian coming here has been one of the great est things to happen to us, for the awareness it has brought for what we do at the Foundation of Goodness. I cannot thank him enough.”

Walk sponsors Lycamobile were represented by Vice President Chris Tooley, who also joined Botham during part of the walk.

Group President Subaskaran Alirajah commented: “At Lycamobile we have a passion to help those less fortunate than us. The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation is a fantastic organisation which offers exception support to children living in Sri Lanka.

“We hope that this walk will raise a substantial amount of money and help change many lives.”

Botham concluded: “A great many organisations and people worked long and hard to put my Sri Lanka Walk together and I would like to thank them.

“They have all shown their commitment to help young people and I could not have completed this great adventure without their backing.”

The walk is the latest of a number of walks that Botham has undertaken both during and since his career as an international cricketer.

He has completed walks from John O’Groats to Land’s End in Great Britain, the 9 Valleys in Wales and the Hannibal Walk in the Alps.

He was inspired to help Sri Lanka after seeing first-hand the devastation left behind by the 2004 tsunami, which kileld 35,000 and displaced more than 500,000 others.

Laureus has played a huge part since then, by working with the Foundation of Goodness in Sri Lanka, to provide funds and expertise to help build sports facilities and supply coaching for young people in rural communities.

© Cricket World 2013

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Nov 082013
 
Beefy reaches the finish line

Ian Botham has reached the end of Beefy’s Walk 2013, the latest in a 25-year long series of charity walks the former England all-rounder and Sky Sports pundit has undertaken.

Botham’s latest quest has taken place in Sri Lanka, where eight stamina-sapping days have seen him and a huge support team walk more than 125 miles in temperatures topping 40 degrees celsius.

The final day saw the team walk from Galle to Seenigama along the south-west coast of the Indian ocean island, raising funds for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation – the current tally stands at over £130,000.

He was joined by Sri Lankan cricket legend Muttiah Muralitharan for the final leg into Seenigama, where the Foundation of Goodness Seenigama Sports for Life project has been created in a village that was all but wiped out by the 2004 tsunami.

Botham has a lengthy history of walking for charity, starting with the most famous, an epic 1985 effort from Land’s End to John O’Groats that saw thousands of people join him along the 900-mile route.

Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, for whom he has undertaken a number of the walks, say he has walked 10,000 miles and raised more than £13m since that first walk, which was originally inspired by a visit to Taunton’s Musgrove Hospital for treatment on an injured toe where he met children being treated for leukaemia.

His next task might prove a little less painful – a return to the commentary box with Sky Sports for the Ashes series in Australia.

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