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Sven will we see you again?


Middx till he dies!

By Ged
November 1 2004

Sven will we see you again? More importantly, Sven will we share precious moments? Ged reviews the life, times and three-year Middlesex career of Sven Gaetan Koenig. Much like the well-known Sven in “that other sport”, Sven Koenig was sometimes perceived as an outsider because he lacked a UK passport and was sometimes berated for the Italian female in his life.  Admittedly, in “our Sven’s” case the Italian female in question is his mother, not his lover, but some commentators took great pleasure in sneering about “domestic players with South African passports and Italian mothers”.  Our Sven was, I think, the only example of that genre in English cricket at the time.  I found that journalistic sneering petty and ludicrous; I sincerely hope that Sven felt welcome and part of the family at Middlesex, as he most certainly was good news in the eyes of most Middlesex supporters.  In my opinion, Middlesex, and English 1st class cricket as a whole will be diminished now that Sven has decided to hang up his whites and switch to pinstripes. 

Indeed, it was not the Italian connection that caught the Middlesex imagination in 2002, when he arrived, but more the Germanic name connection.  I think Gus Fraser described the opening partnership of Koenig and Strauss as “sounding like the winners of the Austrian Come Dancing Show”.  And did those two make hard work for opening bowlers in 2002.  Koenig made 100 on County Championship debut for Middlesex and the first 3 Strauss/Koenig partnerships read 103, 27*, 103.  That first 100 was against a Durham opening attack which included a certain Steve Harmison, who was not bad even in 2002 and whom not many would fancy relieving of a ton in April at the Riverside.  Indeed, Sven’s first 3 cc match scores read 100/3*, 47, 101.  The match results were win, win, win (all by “an-innings-and” or 10 wickets).  That’s what solid opening partnerships can do for you.   And when the Austrian dance pair were done, we often had a right royal pairing (Koenig and Shah) to carry on the good work.

Sven rounded off that 2002 season by captaining the last County Championship game of the season.  Middlesex needed a win to secure promotion and Derbyshire served up a minefield (designed for their bowling attack) which cost them 8 points for an inadequate pitch.  Sven scored 72 in the first innings (the second highest score of the match, only 723 runs were scored off the bat for 40 wickets) and lead Middlesex to a famous victory.  It probably didn’t require great strategic captaincy on that occasion (bowl Noffke as much as you can 1st innings, bowl Noffke and Tufnell as much as you can 2nd innings), but there was a job to be done and Sven and the team brought in the right result.  Perhaps Sven should have been given another try at captaincy, given his 100% record, but he wasn’t called upon to captain again.  Strauss captained every 1st class game in 2003 and perhaps the 2002 heroics were forgotten and imminent retirement already mooted by 2004.

In his three seasons with Middlesex (yes, it really was only three), Sven averaged nearly 43 in 1st class cricket, scoring 7 first class tons and 20 first class fifties.  His 1st class average for Middlesex (42.9) was better than his overall 1st class average (39.9) although his last two seasons in South African 1st class cricket were 60+ and 50+ seasons.  Sven’s career mimicked his individual innings – a bit of a slow starter but normally got there in the end.  

His final season was not his best, but it did include his highest ever 1st class innings, a whopping 171 against Lancashire away and an impressive (by all accounts) 104* against Worcestershire at home.  I thought that 104* out of 500-odd was slow going even by Sven’s standards until I saw that he was retired hurt between 275/2 and 496/9.  I don’t suppose that really qualifies as carrying your bat.  I saw Sven score a gritty 57 in the second innings against Warwickshire at Lord’s - anyone who doubted Sven’s commitment should have seen the anger and determination on his face when he returned to the pavilion. 

Sven had only one great hurrah in the one-day game, scoring 116 in the C&G against Essex (a losing cause as it happens) in May 2002.  Perhaps we should have used some of that C&G form in 2003 and 2004, but Sven played only first class cricket in those two years.  To be fair, his National League record was poor and his reputation preceded him with poor one-day stats from South Africa.  However, Ged has a theory that Sven’s issue was not about 1st class verses one-day cricket.  The issue relates to his Italian, dapper roots.  You see, Sven was always immaculately turned out in his crisp whites and starched, wide-brimmed sun hat, in much the way one might expect Italians to turn out for cricket if indeed they played the game over there.  Pyjama cricket was just too aesthetically awful for words in the eyes of Sven and this clearly affected performance.  Consider the following table and you’ll see Ged’s theory borne out in the statistics.

SVEN’S MIDDLESEX CAREER RE-ANALYSED BY CLOTHING

 FORM OF CRICKET

M

 I

 NO

 RUNS

 HS

 AVE

 100

 50

 CT

FIRST CLASS

52

89

7

3516

171

42.88

7

20

15

LIST ‘A’ IN WHITES

5

5

0

187

116

37.40

1

0

1

SVEN IN WHITES

57

94

7

3703

171

42.56

8

20

16

SVEN IN PYJAMAS

12

11

1

104

43*

10.40

0

0

3

Sven has opted for a business career now and you can be sure that Sven will look well turned out.  In business terms, I think of Sven as being like the Chief Finance Officer or the Head of Facilities or the Director of Operations.  Low key, you hardly notice how much the business depends on him.  But once he’s gone – oh boy do you notice his value.  Perhaps this is another similarity with the well-known Sven in “that other sport”.  Sven Koenig, I for one will certainly miss you and I’m sure I can speak for Middlesex supporters in general by wishing you huge success in your chosen new career. 

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