A wretched feeling

MICHAEL VAUGHAN learns that he needs another operation to his knee, which is bad news to the English side. A diary by TED CORBETT.

July 31 — On the week of the Headingley Test, there are mixed fortunes for the men of Yorkshire. Michael Vaughan admits that, despite all the operations, all the rest and all the care from a variety of medics, he may never play again. Vaughan also acknowledges that he will need a complete knee replacement in a few years. No matter where your patriotic sympathies lie it is easy to understand how wretched any sportsman feels in these circumstances. So it is not surprising that he and Ashley Giles and Andrew Flintoff are fascinated that no one from the ECB thinks it worthwhile to make contact or inquire how they are progressing. Vaughan tries to remain optimistic but confesses that the week he learns he needs another operation is the most wretched of his life. A brighter future is in the offing for another Yorkshireman, the fast bowler, Strictly Come Dancing winner Darren Gough now living out what remains of his cricketing life with Essex. Gough and his former wife Anna — he often speaks very affectionately of her — are back together which will make him happy because he is especially fond of his children.

August 1 — Chris Read is back in the Test side — but why does it take so long? There are whispers about a dinner in South Africa when Read is only 20 and he sings a song that is not exactly proper but it is difficult to believe that makes any difference and besides he plays for England since that naughty night. So it must just be that coach Duncan Fletcher feels Geraint Jones is the right man and, as he is apparently, a popular member of the squad, he keeps getting the nod. "He often comes up with the right words of encouragement," one player says. Now we must ask who goes to Australia, a difficult decision because there is a theory that Read's preference for back play will soon get him into trouble against McGrath and Co.

August 2 — I play in a game once where I top-score with seven, my side are all out for 23 and our opponents win with extras while losing only two wickets. All on the roughest pitch I ever see. I ride my bike along it until the so-called groundsman shouts at me. This experience allows me to sympathise with Goldsborough reserves who lose all 10 wickets before a batsman scores a run. One batter almost scores but he is limping with a bruised foot so he stays in his crease. Their only score comes from a leg bye and four byes. Even though their opponents Dishforth reverse their batting order — their first batsman also makes a duck — they still win easily. "I keep thinking this is surreal," says Steve Wilson, the Dishforth captain. Peter Wynne Thomas, the stats man with a special knowledge of local cricket, says: "Actually, it happens quite often."

August 3 — I am not sure how to view the new thinking in Twenty20 but the format that begins as a bit of fun is turning serious. Tactics are being drawn up, planning meetings are held and no doubt a theoretical book will be published soon. The reverse sweep is old hat, six runs an over are impossible to stop and the confidence that comes from the strike rates obtainable in Twenty20 mean that the asking rates in declaration county games are growing all the time. The worst news for the traditionalists? Many players now see Twenty20 as more important than 50-overs cricket. "That's a bit staid for modern tastes," says one. Oh, yes and the World Cup for Twenty20 is coming in South Africa in September 2007.

August 4 — Yorkshire are keen that their Headingley ground is known as Headingley Carnegie in future. Those of you with long memories will know the stand I take when the Oval acquires various sponsors. I ignore them all and call the old ground the Oval, a title it uses with pride since long before the first Test in this country. But now I am going to make a compromise. When Lord's finds a sponsor and changes its name to something like Beano Lord's or some such I will give sponsors' name to all the famous grounds that put money before tradition. In the meantime there must be a general review of security arrangements. The Yorkshire lads who guard the ground for years are angry at a take-over by a London firm; in my opinion the searching of bags is more concerned with those who bring alcohol into the ground rather than a proper examination to deter the terrorist. It's time to update the procedures and to give proper training to those who must do a difficult job to make us all safe.

August 5 — Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove, highly respected umpires, fail to see or hear the inside edge that ought to end the innings for Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen on the first day at Leeds. These are sharp guys, alert to all the clues that tell whether a batsman is in or out; but they miss the vital moment. Can it be because they have earpieces, which link them to the third umpire? My information is that they agree to an experiment with the earpieces for the first day of the Test and that there is no connection between the decision to discard their earpieces on the second day and the two dreadful decisions that allow Pietersen to reach his century and Cook to bat on. I will also bet that they blame the new tech device when they make their report.

August 6 — Bill Frindall's latest book "Beaders" receives a dreadful panning in the satirical magazine Private Eye. I cannot comment since I don't have a copy of Bill's book but I am of the opinion that no book about cricket is worthy of the game. Boxing, motor racing and baseball all inspire wonderful volumes; but although writers of high quality are fascinated by cricket none of them think it a good idea to devote the amount of time to producing a book like, for instance, The Sweet Science by A. J. Liebling, an American who mixes a love of boxing with his reporting of politics at the end of the Second World War or The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn of which one reviewer says: "I cannot conceive that this year, nor next year nor the year after that, will produce a more important book." It is the story of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950s and no matter if, like me, your knowledge of baseball is sketchy, you cannot help but become involved in its storyline. I will say just one sentence to prove my valuation of this superb book. I wish I am the author.