Category Archives: Cricket

We’re back! / Twenty20 and its dependence on football

So, after the bane of University work hindering my chances of writing, I’m pleased to say that for the foreseeable future at least, The Sight is in End will finally resume its normal service.

The reason why I haven’t written much is that I didn’t want to hastily churn something out that I wasn’t particularly happy with, simply to keep having content on the blog. Now, that may seem counter-productive since yes, a blog should be updated regularly in order to keep its audience et ceteras, but I’m not a fan of that school of thought.

Let it come to pass that if it means taking weeks out and then writing one or two decent things, then that’ll do me (and hopefully, you). Anyway, I’ve gone on too much.

Before this year, I bet hardly anyone had heard the name Allan Stanford. A multi-billionaire Texan who has been based in Antigua for over two decades, in 2005 he announced he would set up an inter-Caribbean Twenty20 tournament in the hope that he could use the format to revitalise West Indian cricket, and therefore becoming one of cricket’s most important in the process.

Three years later, and Stanford has done just that. Australia had Kerry Packer; India have the deflated ICL creator, Kapil Dev; now England and the WI have their own equivalent.

Stanford promises $10 million Twenty20 matches between a West Indies All-Star XI and England, as well as tournaments at Lord’s that would allow two additional Test playing nations to compete alongside the WI and England, have wooed the ECB into taking him incredibly seriously. All this talk has allowed him to become the man at the heart of the English equivalent to the IPL.

Stanford has promised substantial financial backing for an English-equivalent, providing it arrives within the next two years. After that, he says, the opportunity will have disappeared.

For an English IPL to happen, it’s likely that for Twenty20, counties will have to amalgamate, with Lancashire, Yorkshire and Durham theoretically put together to form a Northern side. I would have loved to have seen Geoff Boycott’s reaction to that.

However, the often ECB attitude of cynicism and ignorance seems to have been put aside; and as seen with the BSkyB Test-match deal, money is the subject that always pricks their ears (don’t let me stop you using the Joe Orton anagram in “ears”, by the way).

All this promise of millions on single matches is nothing when you think that when the English IPL eventually comes to fruition, he could be tapping into a worldwide market worth around $500 million. Twenty20, Stanford says, has the potential to become the biggest game in world sport, surpassing football in the process.

They sound like the remarks of a deluded idiot willing to gamble millions; but with the support of the Asian sub-continent, he could have a point.

Yet Stanford’s talk of overtaking football is forgetting one thing: that Twenty20 is clinging to football. As well as the game itself being easily digestible and over in a couple of hours, it’s everything else that surrounds it that makes you realise that Twenty20 depends on today’s version of football in order to advance. The examples aren’t implicit either — they’re down right blatant.

The TV presentation, the red tunnels, the floodlights, the glamour, the kits made by Reebok and Adidas and Nike, the LED advertising boards, cricketers marketed as stars and given a ‘bought’ through an auction, and the use of the footballing lexicon (Indian Premier League) and talk of a Twenty20 Champions League (that will probably have its own classically-inspired theme-tune (with a hint of tabla) featuring”The Champions!” sung in English, English (with a hint of Caribbean), Afrikaans, Bangla, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Sinhala and Tamil).

This is all rhetoric, and the effect of it can be seen by how the IPL is a serious plaything for the wealthy akin to the Premier League. Not only have the fans succumbed to the rhetoric, but the wealthy Bollywood stars and millionaires have as well — and how. Football, or specifically the Premier League, has made sport the ultimate plaything that can yield profit and bring more publicity for them.

It seems that where football is going, Twenty20 is following. Whether it could be the other way round in years to come? Doubt it.

David.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Barclays Premier League, Cricket, ECB, England, English Premier League, India, Indian Cricket League, Indian Premier League, IPL, Kerry Packer, Opinion, Sport

Trescothick retires from international cricket

It’s eerie how things can develop. After writing about the plight of Marcus Trescothick on here a few days ago, it seems that his “stress-related illness” has finally beaten him, and he has announced his retirement from international cricket.

“I have tried on numerous occasions to make it back to the international stage and it has proved a lot more difficult than I expected,” he told the Somerset website. “I want to extend my playing career for as long as possible and I no longer want to put myself through the questions and demands that go with trying to return to the England team.”

Judging from a disasterous (if somewhat exciting…) start to the final Test in Napier, his absence makes you wonder what impact it could have on the Test side. Pietersen, much discussed for adopting a “mature” batting style recently, went back to his old self. Without doing so, England could have lost the game before lunch.

Anyway, that’s irrelevant. As conceded in the previous post, all that matters is if he gets better. Hopefully he will, and Somerset will reap the benefits, as well as Tresco himself. He will be remembered as perhaps the most consistent batsman England have had over the last decade, with an average of 43.79 from his 76 Tests.

David.

1 Comment

Filed under Cricket, ECB, England, Marcus Trescothick, News, Somerset, Sport

The plight of Trescothick casts light on the smokescreen of sport

Marcus Trescothick is still unwell. He has just pulled out of the UAE tour with Somerset “to be with his family” according to Somerset’s chief executive Richard Gould. 

This is the third time Trescothick’s euphemistic “stress-related illness” has come to light concerning tours abroad, with Trescothick coming home during England’s tour of India in 2006. He later returned for England’s tours of Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but then ruled himself out of  the ICC Champions Trophy in India. 

He later dealt a major blow to England’s efforts in retaining the Ashes by breaking down and returning home after two warm-up games. 

Last season he broke the thousand run barrier for Somerset, which included an innings of 284 against Northants last May. 

For England, he averages 43.79 in his 76 Tests with a career best 219 against South Africa at the Oval in 2003. 

It’s unlikely Trescothick will ever return to the international set up unless he somehow gets better. This is worrying for England judging from some of the sub-standard batting performances in New Zealand so far, as well as the numerous poor performances we’ve seen in previous series since the Ashes tour of Australia. 

Of course, Trescothick’s mental wellbeing is all that matters, as duly noted by Paul Collingwood:

“It’s just really sad,” he said. “We just need to get him right, for his own sake really. We can be very selfish and ask whether he will ever play for England again, but it doesn’t really matter because we need to get him right.”

Trescothick is an example of the mental torment that can inflict sportsmen. The man who can hold it together in the most mentally taxing of sports, struggles to do so off it. It holds a strange, tragic poignancy. 

He shows that sportsmen, who look dominant and act as examples of human endeavour and hard-work, are actually vulnerable people (as shown through countless examples — too many to name here).

It’s something that needs to be remembered a lot more, especially with the amount of money that sport as an industry is now built upon. It’s so easy to forget now-a-days. 

His illness also shows how sport can mask reality. There is a separation of the two worlds but when they blur, it’s almost post-modern. You get trapped into this world of sport where reality seems to be put aside, yet it can be thrown right back at you at any time; by tragedy, incident, or your side’s victory/defeat.

When sport transcends that barrier between the two, that’s where it holds its power. But it’s dangerous, for crossing it can also make sport feel irrelevant, and mere escapism. Tresco is an example of the other, as shown by Collingwood’s comments.     

I hope he gets better soon. He should be known as the sportsman that can transcend the barrier through success, not because he suffers from that “stress-related illness”. 

David.  

Leave a comment

Filed under Comment, Cricket, England, Marcus Trescothick, News, Paul Collingwood, Somerset, Sport

Apologies and Mascarenhas

It’s been a slow week here on The Sight is in End, for which we apologise. I have been knee deep with Uni work, and would rather write something that I’m proud of and spend some time on, rather than trying to knock something out quickly. What I can tell you is that I’m currently watching England try and save the one-day series against New Zealand, and it promises to be a fine game indeed.

In fact, I will make one point. England need to utilise Dimitri Mascarenhas much, much more than they have done so far.

In Napier, where we had one of the most entertaining ODIs England have ever played in certainly and on a fast pitch, he bowled two overs and didn’t even bat, even when England had plenty of wickets in hand in their remaining overs, and were in the search for boundaries. The way Collingwood was thrashing it through the leg-side and beyond the short boundary, you wonder whether he could have done the same, and maybe put the game beyond New Zealand’s reach.

Of course, maybe I’m fixed on the Mascarenhas we see as an explosive and talented Twenty20 player, as shown in Auckland. Still, for a decent all-rounded like him, two overs and a number eight position almost makes his place in the side pointless.

David.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cricket, Dimitri Mascarenhas, England, New Zealand, Sport

Fifa say ‘nay’ to Premier League global plan, but we enter a worrying period

Sepp Blatter has said that the Premier League’s international round will not be going ahead. He has also issued what is practically a threat, saying that were the Premier League to go-ahead with the plan, England’s 2018 World Cup bid would be affected.

With UEFA, the AFC and now FIFA opposing the plan, it seems unlikely that it will happen. Yet this sets up a battle that could well turn very nasty, and could marginalise English football from the rest of the world. Richard Scudamore has come out and said that if they receive backing from the FA, it will go ahead.

If that happens, the consequences could be damaging, and will finally confirm something that has long been pondered: that the national game is secondary to the process of profiteering and promoting a valuable product. Indeed, were the Premier League to implement the plan, it would now probably affect the value of its prized commodity.

Yet this could raise the club vs. country row again, except this time it could take a more unsavoury and potentially harmful air. If the Premier League went against FIFA, where would players loyalties lies? With their employers, or with the law-maker? It would likely be the former.

It could, in some ways, be the equivalent of the Kerry Packer/World Series Cricket saga of the 70s, where players are torn between two sides: the PL, seeking more money in a supposed quest to advance their national game; and FIFA, the body there to protect world football (of course, where it does is the matter for a separate debate altogether). Players being forced to choose sides, and players being ostracised.

In 2000, the FA got the biggest shock possible when it realised how out of touch it was with world football, after England’s World Cup 2006 bid failed to get to the final round. Since then, it has worked hard to build bridges throughout the footballing world, to a point where it is now favourite to get the 2018 World Cup.

Even the CONCACAF chief Jack Warner, after originally being heavily against the bid and saying that he would do everything to make sure it failed, has now suddenly come out in favour. The Premier League’s plan threatens this newly-created relationship between the FA, the other NFAs and confederations.

It is time the Premier League ditched the idea. It was once rather funny and foolish in all honesty, but now it’s extremely threatening and deeply concerning. This has transcended taking clubs abroad for a game, raising more revenue and upsetting fans who will, in all probability, show apathy for a few weeks and nothing else; this can now irrevocably damage the game in this country, and leave a deep and ugly scar.

David.

2 Comments

Filed under AFC, Barclays Premier League, Comment, CONCACAF, Cricket, England, English Premier League, FA, FIFA, Football, Football League, Jack Warner, Kerry Packer, Richard Scudamore, Sepp Blatter, Soccer, Sport, UEFA

Gilchrist, a sentimental Ponting, and a sobering realisation

If you didn’t already know, Adam Gilchrist has retired from international cricket. As an England fan, I should feel glad that someone who fired the second fastest century in Adelaide in the 2006 Ashes that led to the embarrassment of a 5-0 whitewash, and delivered an Ashes debut to savour with the bat at Edgbaston in 2002, has now decided to spend more time with his family.

However, I’m quite the opposite. Cricket has lost a player that brought equal amounts of dread and exhilaration for the opposing fan, as well as something that’s arguably even rarer — a modest Australian cricketer.

What first struck me when Gilchrist announced his retirement was the lack of discussion over his wicket-keeping, both pre and on the announcement of his retirement. Apparently the dropped catch off VVS Laxman convinced Gilchrist that it was now time to leave the game, believing that he now lacked the speed and concentration he once had.

But this lack of discussion is perhaps because as a keeper, he was consistent to the point where discussion only ever occurred when he broke a keeping record. Many will argue that he missed too many stumpings and catches, but this lack of discussion is arguably as loud as any round of applause. Only when keepers drop catches or consistently under perform are they often talked about; as Matt Prior, Geraint Jones and MS Dhoni can testify. He wasn’t as prolific or as acrobatic as Rodney Marsh, but he was just as good.

Yet while Marsh was instrumental in changing the ideas of keeping, from giving himself more space to throw himself about to changing the positions of his slips, Gilchrist was the Rodney Marsh of batting. The first and still only batsman to hit 100 sixes in Test cricket, he could turn a match in the space of an over; his 24 off a single Matthew Hoggard over in the ’06 Ashes coming to mind.

In his post-match presentation speech at the end of what turned out to be a tame fourth Test draw in Adelaide, Ricky Ponting, considered to be incessantly driven by the need to win and nothing else, was probably as emotional and as sentimental as you’ll ever see him when he commented on Gilchrist’s retirement and the gradual succession of new guys over the old — I even managed a little “awww.” It was incredibly sobering to hear.

But he’s right; before he knows it, he’ll probably be joining Warne and McGrath in the Indian Cricket League. After the departures of Langer, Warne and McGrath, Gilchrist’s retirement has finally brought the realisation that Australian cricket really is entering an uncertain, yet fresh and deeply intriguing phase.

David.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Adam Gilchrist, Australia, Comment, Cricket, ICC, Indian Cricket League, Ricky Ponting, Sport

Legends Show Their Fallibility Down Under

On another momentous day of sport in Australia, a couple of sporting institutions, who we could have been forgiven for thinking were no longer operating on the level of ordinary mortals, were given a reminder of just how precarious their lofty perches really are. One just about hung on for safety, but another was brought crashing down to earth.

The Australian cricket team, an all-conquering group of national heroes, set off in pursuit of history at the third test in Perth. Having come through the controversy-laden second rubber in Sydney with a record-equalling 16th consecutive victory, a new breed of Aussies were out to raise again the standard set by their predecessors.

If anyone was going to stop the Australians in their tracks it would have to be India; the one team which has consistently given the world champions a headache in an era of dominance stretching back almost twenty years.

The Indians went into this game with even more motivation than usual to try and turn the formbook over of course, with a strong feeling of resentment in their camp after the ‘race-row’ fall out of Sydney, and with a healthy amount of national pride to recover for their army of followers back home.

Despite the sideshow though, surely a team of world-class competitors like the Indians needed nothing more than the opportunity to upset the odds and bring a halt to a sporting juggernaut to get them fired-up. I think this is why we saw no return to playground antics as India stormed to a 72 run victory in Perth; this wasn’t about exacting a childish revenge, this was just a team knuckling down to serious sporting business.

The Australians are already looking back on this game regretting that they were caught committing the sin that threatens to bring every era of sporting superiority to its end – complacency. The most consistent feature found in any individual or team that reigns supreme in their arena is that they never forget the basics; they never come into a contest without the raw materials that have sustained their power.

The WACA ground in Perth has always been known for a pitch that fast bowlers would like to dig up and carry around with them, and yet you would have to look a long way back through the records to find the last time Australia selected a team to play there that didn’t contain a specialist spinner.

Granted, this could be down to the fact that Shane Warne has been no ordinary spin bowler, and certainly not someone who would ever be dropped because a pitch didn’t suit him, but the more knowledgable observers are aware that the presence of any test-standard slow bowler offers a bowling attack the crucial element of variety, as well as a ‘plan B’ to fall back on should the original pitch analysis prove inaccurate. Australia ignored this piece of received wisdom and paid for it, as their old nemeses Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman once more tormented their seamers.

The Australians were forced to admit their error when turning to the inadequate spin of Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke during both Indian innings’. In a deliciously ironic twist, both these batsmen, when charged with saving their team’s proud record in the second innings, were dismissed by Anil Kumble, the only specialist spinner playing in the match.

Meanwhile over in Melbourne, another apparently unbeatable sporting luminary was made to appear human. The last time Roger Federer lost in a Grand Slam before the semi-final stage was in the 2005 French Open, on the clay surface that he is yet to conquer. The last time Federer lost any match in one of the three majors in which he is undisputed master was in the semi-final of the 2005 Australian Open. To find the last instance of Federer being defeated before the semi-final stage of one of his favourite slams, you have to go back to the US Open of 2003.

In short, to say that the talented young Serbian Janko Tipsarevic was an outsider for his third round match against the world no.1 would be putting it mildly. Tipsarevic, despite being ranked only 49th in the world, is already highly regarded in the game and seen as a sure-fire future top ten player, but any expert would have considered him some way out of his depth against the genius of Federer.

So, when Tipsarevic took the first set on a tie-break, he was showing the potential that everyone knows he has, but it was surely just a brief blip for Federer. When the second set also went to a tie-break, the champion was a game away from going two sets down, yet there was no real concern, and he came through to level it.

Federer would undoubtedly run away with it now, went the considered view; and an early break for Roger in the third seemed to confirm this as true. When Tipsarevic then took the third set after coming back to break the champ twice, the question had to be asked again: “Are we worried about Federer?” Not really, he’d been in such positions before, he was still a strong favourite. And so it proved as the fourth set quickly went to Federer 6-1. Tipsarevic had given us a great game, but the final set was surely to prove a formality for the champion with all that grand slam experience behind him.

As the final set reached five-all, six-all, seven-all and eight-all, and the match moved beyond the four-and-a-half hour mark, the penny finally began to drop for the disbelieving audience that Tipsarevic had not read the script. By the end of the match, Federer was no longer the indestructable force striking cold fear into his opponent as he prowled the baseline; instead he was merely one of two prizefighters, bruised and exhausted by the battle, slugging it out to the bitter end.

When that end finally arrived, it was Roger Federer that was still standing. Just. At 10-8 in the final set, Janko Tipsarevic, who must have matured the equivalent of several years during these few hours, finally conceded defeat to probably the greatest player his sport has ever seen. On this occasion however, when his talent and genius for once wasn’t enough to see him through, Federer prevailed with the will of a champion. Not something that he usually has to rely on in the third round of a grand slam.

Tipsarevic walked off a loser, but having given everyone, most of all Federer, a glimpse of what we can expect from him in championships to come. After all, only Rafael Nadal has even looked like he was meant to share a court with Federer in a grand slam in the last 3 years. It is also worth recalling that Federer reduced the 2007 Australian Open to a procession, winning the trophy without dropping a set. That is an indication of Tipsarevic’s achievement in taking the great man to the brink.

We are lucky to live in the era of the great Australian cricketers and the legendary Roger Federer; to be able to enjoy their skills is our privelege, and we should grasp every opportunity to do so. To see these champions challenged, or even beaten, however, is a rare treat indeed. It serves to remind us all that no one is infallible, and it is that knowledge that keeps every sport healthy in times of domination.

Jamie.

Leave a comment

Filed under Andrew Symonds, Anil Kumble, Australia, Australia v India Cricket Row, Australian Open, Comment, Cricket, India, Opinion, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Sport, Tennis