Sunday, July 26, 2009

Interview of Will Luke: Cricinfo Writer and Cricket Blogger

(This entry was originally published on Sunday, January 4th, 2009)

Will Luke is a staff writer at Cricinfo. He has been running The Corridor for five years. “The Corridor” is one of the best blogs about cricket. So, if you are a cricket fan then I am sure that you would have come across his writing at Cricinfo. The thing that I admire about Will Luke is that he is always ready to voice his opinion frankly. This is an attractive skill in blogging. He is perhaps one of the successful cricket journalists who could show equal skill in blogging. Earlier today, I e-mailed him some questions for this interview and he replied promptly. Here it is for our readers:

Razib Ahmed: What do you think about the possible impact of Twenty20 cricket on cricket’s traditional version test cricket? Where do you see the future of test cricket?

Will Luke: Recent tense matches have showcased Tests’ strength. Run-chases that were once at best ambitious and at worst suicidally ludicrous are now within reach (or very nearly), and Twenty20 can be partially credited for expanding players’ belief in what they can achieve. The future of Tests is less clear; only in England and Australia (and to a lesser extent South Africa) are crowds sufficiently big enough, and television audiences interested. A world Championship is one idea that I’m in favour of, with two divisions - the second of which would contain the top Associate nation. Day-night Tests is another, but only once they’ve replicated the visibility of a red ball. They’re nowhere
near close at the moment.

Razib Ahmed: You know that cricket still has limited presence in many parts of the world. Do you think that twenty20 could be an effective tool for ICC to explore new
market for cricket around the world?
Will Luke: It already is. If you read Beyond the Test World ( which me and my managing editor run, you’ll see just how many Twenty20 competitions are appearing in places like Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and African nations. Twenty20 is not a new concept at all; clubs have been playing it for decades. The concept of making money out of it, however, is.

Razib Ahmed: Do you believe that Australia’s decade-long dominance in world cricket has at last started to fade away? If yes, then what sort of measures do you think Cricket Australia (CA) should take to get over the problem?
Will Luke: Their fade began when McGrath, Gilchrist and Warne retired but their batting lineup is so strong that they’ve been able to cope without them. When their bowling falters, as it now has, then they’re in trouble. There are no ready replacements for McGrath, Lee (when injured) and Clark (when injured). Mitchell Johnson is promising but not yet an attack-leader. Cricket is cyclical; Australia will have to invest in their academies again but their decline is no way terminal. Cricket is too big there; people love it too much and kids play it from a young age. They’ll be back as soon as they’ve found two young fast bowlers.

Razib Ahmed: The recent performance of England test team is not satisfactory at all. Even Kevin Pietersen’s captaincy did not work well in India. So, do you think that England as like as its fierce rival Australia is also going through a formation period, following the departure of the players like Ashley Giles and Marcus Trescothik? If not, then what should be the remedy for England’s current problems?
Will Luke: England’s situation can’t be compared to Australia’s. The side is no longer in transition: Trescothick and Giles left some time ago, and Vaughan is unlikely to return. England’s problem has been a lack of top-order runs and an inconsistent opening attack. If Strauss & Cook can begin making hundreds as a matter of course, and if Harmison and
Anderson/Broad can combine, they’ll be very difficult to beat. And they must not be afraid to dump the slip streamers, such as Bell, who was really lucky not to be dropped for the West Indies series.

Razib Ahmed: Inspirational South Africa seems to take over the no. 1 spot of test ranking from Australia very soon, while India is also aiming to secure the same pride.
So, do you think that a seemingly possible rivalry between India and South Africa is going to build up in the years to come?
Will Luke: Not especially. I don’t think India or South Africa have the depth or talent that Australia did. Both sides will be high-class and attractive to watch, but will remain beatable. Australia had four or five once-in-a-generation players: the Waughs, McGrath, Warne, Gilchrist.

Razib Ahmed: With Australia struggling to sustain their long-lasting dominance and
England showing limited prospect, do you think that traditional Ashes series could somehow be affected? Do you see any possibility of India-South Africa rivalry replacing Australia-England rivalry in terms of popularity in world cricket in the near future?
Will Luke: Absolutely not! The Ashes stretches back to the 1800s. India and South Africa have only played a handful of matches in comparison. The history and tradition and social rivalry between the English and Australians will always guarantee a fierce competitiveness in the Ashes, and nothing else comes close, other than India and Pakistan.

Razib Ahmed: Both England and Australia are now in dearth of quality spinner (considering Monty Panesar’s failure in India). How do you think the two cricket powers can get over this problem? Do you think England and Australia can help each other in this regard?
Will Luke: Not really. You can’t wave a magic wand. England have had leg spinning
coaches and clinics for about 10 or more years with little or no products coming through. The attitude towards leg spin in England is still completely bogus. It’s changing slowly in schools, but these things take years. Warne appeared out of the blue, and largely thanks
to his mentor Terry Jenner. Great players appear from nowhere. They were born to play; the trick is in keeping them in cricket and not letting them stray to other sports which, traditionally, offer more incentives.

Razib Ahmed: How do you see the involvement of Antigua’s billionaire Sir Allen Stanford in English cricket amidst the current credit crunch? To what extent, do you think, cricket has been affected by the current economic slowdown around the world?
Will Luke: Stanford will get as much out of cricket as his investment team (and
marketeers) consider they need to boost their wallets and his profile. He’ll then pull the plug. It might be next year or in 10. No one knows other than Stanford. He is a businessman first and foremost, not a cricket fan.

Razib Ahmed: How do you see the ICL-IPL conflict? Do you think that ICL and IPL could be beneficial for the development of cricket?

Will Luke: Possibly. It might improve the standards of Twenty20 cricket, which could then drip down into other formats, but I’m not a supporter of what is essentially a league to make millions for one man and one board.

Razib Ahmed: Now, tell us something about your blog. What is your future plan with the blog?
Will Luke: No immediate plans. It’s five years old and I have increasingly little time to keep it going, but hopefully there will be a few good contributors over the next few months which will be fun.

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