Friday, 29 June 2012

Little Things

Welcome back! So glad you decided to read this, I know other blogs are available and I thank you for choosing this one.

EURO 2012

For the most part, the tournament in Poland and Ukraine has been very enjoyable.  We didn't get a 0-0 until the last quarter final (bravo England), Holland provided great humour by collapsing like a flan in a cupboard, and Roy Hodgson gave hope to a nation by taking England to the quarter finals (I wonder if Fabio had taken us to the quarter finals, would it have been a success or a failure...).  Its been a good few weeks on the whole.  The only major smelly guy in a crowded train? The commentators.

By the term commentators, I mean an umbrella term encompassing the analysts in the comm box and also the experts in the studio.  ITV, BBC, listen up.  You've been a disgrace.  Just because someone played the game of football does not mean they are an expert.  It usually means they are a tosser who love the sound of their own voice.  Mark Lawrenson accused the England players of lacking national pride.  Mark Lawrenson, born in Penwortham Preston but played for the Republic of Ireland, accused the England players of lacking national pride.  He then "amusingly" inferred that people who use Twitter are "sad".  The only thing sad is that he got paid to do a job that most of the football watching public who have NEVER played professionally could do better.

I highlight "Lawro", as he is the easiest figure to rally against, but both networks deserve criticising heavily for the tone of they all used whenever England played.  Oh sweet Jesus, CHEER UP.  What a heavy task it must be to watch England, at least I imagine so for the amount of pissing and moaning all concerned did.

I know I may be strung up for this, but the sooner Sky has all sports the better.


Since I have watched the NFL, I have always been puzzled by the self appointed nickname of the Dallas Cowboys of "America's Team".  The team only began in 1971, so it can't be THAT great.  But of course, that is an English mentality attached to an American sport, where the attention span is shorter.  In the 1990s, Hall of Fame trio Troy Aikman Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith led the team to three Superbowl victories, Aikman winning 90 games in the decade (an NFL record for any decade).  But since 1997, the Cowboys have won 1 playoff game.  ONE! Yet every season this team is talked up as "THE team to shock/rule/win it all".


They are a team that deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as Arizona, Buffalo and Cincinatti.  They may have a good year, but they won't win it all.  So if the term "America's Team" means "the team America is most likely to over rate and be disappointed by", keep calling them it.  But they suck.

Thursday, 21 June 2012


There have been a few newsworthy events of the last few days, and I feel like adding my ha'pennys worth to some of them.  Read on, dear reader.


The English cricket scene was rocked by the untimely death of Tom Maynard on Monday morning.  Maynard, 23, was the son of other England batsman and coach Matt Maynard, one of a large list of great county players who never cracked international cricket.  After impressing since joining Surrey, hopes were high that Tom would not have the same troubles as his old man at the highest level.

The details surrounding Tom's death are very hazy, with only a few actual facts clear.  For myself, I do not wish to know anything more.  It is sufficient for me to know that this talented, popular and highly promising player has been lost to the world at a devastatingly early age, and that Surrey CCC, English cricket and of course the Maynard family will be all the poorer for the loss.

Though a Surrey player when he died, Tom started his career at Glamorgan.  During a recent off season, some underhand backroom intrigue saw captain Jamie Dalrymple and coach Matt Maynard ousted from their roles.  Rather than stand by and accept what had happened, Tom showed family loyalty of the highest order by asking to leave the county he had been with all his life.  I would hope all of us would be able to stand by our principles, and our own flesh and blood, in such times.

Rest easy Tom Maynard.  You will be missed, but most importantly of all you will be remembered.


Monday also saw the retirement from the NFL of running back Ladainian Tomlinson, after he signed a one day contract to retire as a San Diego Charger (a curiously American thing to do).  Though his last two years were spent with the New York Jets, LT (a nickname both simple and historically significant with greatness in the NFL) will always be remembered as a Charger, who he spent the first 9 seasons of his career with.

LT ends his time in the NFL 5th all time in terms of rushing yards, his career tally of 13,684 putting him behind only legends of the game like Curtis Martin, Barry Sanders (both of whom, like Tomlinson, never won a Super Bowl) Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith.  But as with all numbers, they only tell some of the tale.  LT was perhaps one of the most dynamic players of all time, a consistent threat on the ground from anywhere on the field, an accomplished pass catcher out of the backfield (in 2003, his 1645 rushing yards were joined with 100 catches for a further 725 yards) and also as a gimmick passer, finishing his career with 7 touchdown PASSES from 12 attempts.

As I've already mentioned, he ends his career without ever appearing in, let alone winning, a Super Bowl.  This is a cruel oversight, but by no means a unique one.  The absence of a Super Bowl ring is for many players a barrier to greatness, and perhaps a key block to their entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  I have little doubt that this will not be the case with LT.  I fear that my generation of NFL fans will not be able to truly appreciate how good Tomlinson was, as his deeds are too close.  In time, thanks to posterity and our memories, maybe we'll see how good he actually was.


Following on from James Anderson (and ultimately Stuart Broad) missing the 3rd Test for England against the West Indies for reasons of "rotation", England have again announced that Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad will not play in the final ODI against the same opponents at Headingley on Friday.  This has led to uproar from some quarters, players media and punter alike.  Many of the old guard angrily bemoaning how the greats like Fred Trueman used to play every game for club and country, and would deem such rotation as insulting and consider it a dropping.  Fans are angry that they have to pay such high prices to watch a game in which a second string XI will be playing.

For myself, I can see reasons for and against the argument.  With the greatest respect to the Windies though (who certainly in the Test series put up a much better fight than many expected), they are not the attraction of the 2012 summer.  They have been a starter, a warm up act, a prologue.  Sure, enjoyable in parts, but what we really want is the main course, the headline band, the story itself.  That, in this instance, is the clash with South Africa.  I think I speak for all when I say we would prefer to have the best bowling attack in the world (a tag England richly deserve) fully fit and fresh for this series.

Understandably, fans who have paid good money are angry, and will feel short changed.  My answer would be to not be angry with the England team, coach or selectors.  Focus instead your anger at the blinkered short sighted administrators, with their still wonderfully well thought out and planned 5 match ODI series against Australia.  Take those five matches away, and England would be playing their full strength team throughout the Windies series.  This series is the biggest insult to the fans, and tellingly, the West Indies.

Friday, 1 June 2012

A Look Back at Two South Africans

The main cricket news of the week has been the retirement from International Limited Overs (50 over and T20) of Kevin Pietersen.  I looked forward to writing a blog about this, looking at the distinct phases of KP's time as a limited overs player.  The whirlwind start, the poor to middle middle, and of course the explosive end...then I found out that Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan at Cricinfo had already covered it.  And in much more flowing terms than I am capable of.  The git.

For the record, his offering can be viewed at
and I strongly recommend you do so, if you like your numbers.

For my own part, I shall simply say that Pietersen has clearly decided that the current ODI format (50 overs) is not for him.  He wished to concentrate on the two forms of the game best suited to his uinque talents, Test and T20.  However, the mandarins at the ECB, obviously not a Turkey that votes for Christmas, would prefer KP to be available all summer long, especially to headline a meaningless and unnecessary FIVE MATCH ODI series against Australia.  Australia are England's premier opponents, and every match v the old enemy should be crucial. year is Ashes year.  This preposterous dilution has been arranged, taking five days out of the International calender that could have been used to stage a 4th test match between England and South Africa, a fixture I'm sure many more people would prefer to watch.  Now, with no KP against the Aussies, straight away this "diet Ashes" series has lost a considerable amount of fizz.  I believe that, for the second time in his International career, the ECB and Pietersen have been guilty of bluffing each other (the first time was the messy end to his captaincy).  Pietersen will have asked to miss the ODIs so he could be fit for the Tests v South Africa and the World T20 in Sri Lanka.  The ECB will have said "You don't pick and choose, play all or none at all."  KP will have said "Fine, none at all.", and so ends the limited overs career of one of our greatest South African imports.


On Wednesday night, BBC 5 Live aired a documentary about disgraced former South African captain Hansie Cronje, who died ten years ago today (June 1st) when the light aircraft he was flying on crashed into mountains near his home.  The documentary looked back on his life, the aftermath of his death, and most strongly on the issues that he will forever be linked, his associations with bookmakers and his confessions that finally opened the worlds eyes to the level of corruption in the game.

For those who may not remember (he last played an international match in March 2000), Cronje WAS South African cricket.  He was captain of the Test and ODI side from 1994 to the time of his "capture" in 2000, and was seen by no less than Nelson Mandela as the figure head for the game for his country, ravaged by years of violence, racial segregation and that most hated for words, apartheid.  On the field, his team lost only 11 out of 53 Tests, including one at Centurion in 2000 that would go some way towards sealing his fate.  South Africa also won 99 (and tied one) of the 138 ODI's he was at the helm for.  He was, it must be said, a slightly negative tactician, setting very heavy off side fields and instructing his bowlers (Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock amongst them) to bowl very wide of the off stump, hoping the batsman would make a mistake out of sheer frustration.  Himself, he was a phenomenal player of spin bowling, and is one of the few batsmen in world cricket to have fully imposed himself upon Muttiah Muralitharan.  He loved cricket.  But he had another deeper, more encompassing love.  He worshipped money.

The documentary featured an interview with Henry Williams.  His is a name that many have forgotten when it comes to international cricket, yet he has a key part in the Cronje story.  Williams and Herschelle Gibbs were two players that Cronje approached in a match v India in 1996 and asked them to under perform, for which they would receive a "consideration".  Gibbs, an enigmatic opening batsman with a flair for the dramatic, was to get out before he reached 20, and Williams, a bowler, was to concede more than fifty from his alloted overs.  It didn't happen, as Gibbs (who claims he "forgot about the deal") scored 74 and Williams was forced to end his spell prematurely after conceding 11 runs and taking a wicket from his less than two overs work.  But the sad fact of the matter is that Cronje, this icon of his country and sport, and deliberately picked two "coloured" (neither black nor white, by the still disgraceful terminology used to define these players) young players to cheat, all so Cronje could pocket a "little something".

The Test at Centurion was covered by Messrs Chapman and Agnew at some length, this weird match whereby Cronje offered to set England a chaseable target so a result was still possible after three days had been lost by rain, if England Captain Nasser Hussain would agree to forfeit an innings.  At the time, Cronje was applauded by many (including Hussain himself) for his gesture, ensuring a meaningful days cricket.  But some involved in the match were never truly happy.  Mike Atherton has always had his doubts re the game, not surprising given Athers extensive knowledge of gambling, that it was "too easy".  The documentary reveals, through Alec Stewart (who scored 73 in the run chase) that senior South African players like Marc Boucher, Shaun Pollock and Jacques Kallis were not happy after the game, thinking something had maybe happened that shouldnt have.  It had.  Cronje had been given 50,000 Rand and a lather jacket to ensure that there was a positive result.

The programme is available as podcast, and I implore you to download it.  It offers a great insight into one of the games most tragic figures, and hopefully jogs the authorities into ensuring that scenes like Cronje's tearful final confession at the end of the King Commission are never repeated again.

The Truth will always, always, set us free.