Archive for February, 2013

Things you mightn’t know about the Test match in India (clue: it’s happening now)

As a pseudo-journalist-blogger-non-personality, I feel morally compelled to shed some light about what’s going on over in India for all of you who don’t have access to Foxtel or the internet. Realistically, then, I’m targeting a demographic of precisely no one, so I welcome you, no one, to this humble blog.

While I won’t be rubbishing on about the BCCI yada-yada I’ve been pestering none of you with for the past little while, I will be throwing you a few clues about what to look for that was of interest in the last few days.

Firstly, if any of you have been reading the papers in the past few days, you might have realised that there’s something slightly amiss about the images being used by both News and Fairfax. If you look here, and maybe here, and here, you might find some visual curiosities that don’t usually grace the sports pages. For those who were curious, yes, these also featured in the print versions of these illustrious media titans.

Hilarious recreations, I agree, and a cunning method of bypassing pesky issues around access to images. Of course, the old Test Match board, glue and printer would have never needed to be broken out had someone in India pressed the “Yes” key. But we all know that it’s water under the bridge, and it’s certainly given me a bit of a chuckle. Long may it continue.

Moving onto the game, where we were greeted with a pitch that had been the centre-wicket practice strip for the Chennai Challengers for every minute of every day in the lead-up to the Test. As such, we saw more purchase on day one from the Indian spinners than Eddie Obeid at a South West tablelands auction.

A metre of turn in the first hour of play meant, predictably, that quickies Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were rendered specialist fielders.

You have to feel for Kumar; graciously given the great honour of representing his country for the first time, before being told to stand at deep point and prevent twos for six hours straight, then for a further two hours the next day. It probably wasn’t the romantic ideal he had envisioned when he decided to be a bowler of above 100km/h twenty years ago. Them’s the brakes in India, fortunately or no.

Furthermore, Mahendra Singh Dhoni made everyone else, but in particular the Australian bowlers, look like fools (Pattinson), damn fools (Siddle, Starc and Henriques) and whatever is below a damn fool (le spinners). Before MS came to the wicket I still held fleeting hope that our boys might dismiss the Indians without too much of a lead. One double century of depositing all bowlers over the pickets later, and it’s safe to say my hopes were somewhat dashed.

Now, watching Shane Watson lob a tame catch to Sehwag walking two steps to his right from slip, my hopes of an Aussie anything are fading faster than Bradley Cooper’s hopes of an Oscar victory. Daniel Day-Lewis and India have these two wrapped up nice and tight.

One the plus side, Tendulkar managed to get himself bowled again! He has to stop making this so easy for me!

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Bowled over: A tribute to the Little Master

Many of you who read, and the even greater number who did not read, my last vindictive post about the BCCI will know that I am now on a crusade to expose people to the delight that is watching Sachin Tendulkar being bowled.

It’s not because I dislike Tendulkar. Au contraire. He has the master of modern batting; a man who can grace the crease at any moment and take the game away from his opposition.

He is India’s Ricky Ponting, with a higher average to boot.

He’s the best since the Don.

Now while I’m sure Jacques Kallis would have a lot to say about all this (particularly statistically), we all know Tendulkar to be the most dominant batsmen of our times.

But sometimes we Australians, being the parasitic, grasping zombies that we are, must reach for the tallest poppy. It’s part of our nature.

And Tendulkar has gotten himself into this nasty habit of late, opening himself up to such scrutiny about being bowled by, well, being bowled, a lot. Sort of like Dravid did before he retired.

So with no further adieu, I bring to you three rather lovely videos of the great man being bowled in various ways.

Video the first – Pidgeon vs Tendulkar

A fantastic little clip; the uploader was even generous enough to include two minutes of Geoffrey Boycott (the guy with the broad Yorkshire accent) doing what he does best: tell everyone how bad they are and how great he is.

Though there is more of the former in this particular example, you can’t help but feel like Tendulkar was saying to himself: “get me out of here so I don’t have to listen to this guy’s dribble anymore.”

Not that he could hear Geoffrey at all. But you know what, it really wouldn’t surprise me if he could given the superhuman powers attributed to Tendulkar by his fans over in the subcontinent.

Oh, and then his middle stump (or is it leg stump?) goes cartwheeling.

Finally, Harsha Bhogle, the best commentator alive, can get a word in.

Video the second – Jimmy Anderson makes Sachin look rather foolish

You really have to concentrate hard on this one from the beginning. It all happens very quickly, just like that, “BOWLED HIM!!!”

Unfortunately this dismissal is symptomatic of Tendulkar lately.

Yeah, it was a good ball, and it probably kept low, but others might have kept it out whereas Tendulkar watches it cannon into his pegs.

The commentator (I think it’s Sanjay Mandjrekar) says it’s almost an offspinner, and it is. That’s no excuse for Tendulkar assuming the foetal position post-stump shattering. It only makes you look sillier than you already did.

And just to show that this is a common theme in such matters, I’ll remind you of this, which featured in the last post.

Video the third – Careering stumps end careers

One final one, just for those fast bowlers among us who love to see stumps flying and fast bowlers pretending to be aeroplanes.

Again, the master is undone by a ball that ducks back in and knocks back a branch, this time of the off-variety.

It displays Donald at his terrifying best; quick, accurate and achieving prodigious movement off the surface to dislodge one of the best players ever.

Many of you may have realised, by this point, what an extreme disservice this does to Tendulkar as a player of le cricket.

While this is clearly a horribly imbalanced report on one of the best ever, allow me to balance it out sometime in the future with a fitting eulogy of his career when he retires.

Or when the BCCI let the media do their job. Or just give Jim Maxwell a media accreditation.

Whatevs, I’m pretty easy, hey?

Why, oh why, BCCI?

Many know the BCCI (the Board of Control for Cricket in India) as the ones who replaced the fat, white men in light suits who used to control cricket. Some said that skinny, dark-skinned men in grey suits was a vast improvement on the previous model of cricket’s arbiters.

But what you may not have known is that the BCCI wanted to ruin everything (except the IPL).

While the above may be something of an exaggeration, what is not an exaggeration is that there is a high probability that if anyone from the BCCI reads this article I may find several burly, unpleasant men who just want to have a chat knocking on my door at 5am in the coming days.

Because I’m about to have a go at cricket’s new fat controllers. Any guesses who that might be? Ok, it’s the BCCI.

I want to let all my readers (that’s right, both of you) know that there is no more paranoid, bizarrely conservative body in all of sport, and there is no doubt that the two latest decision this body has made in the last week are completely ridiculous and should not escape extreme censure.

The first of these is to not allow Getty images photographers in the stadia for the upcoming Tests between Australia and India, and the second is their ongoing refusal to accept the use of the Umpire Decision Review System (DRS) for the same set of matches.

The first decision I mentioned has a story behind it. A very similar thing, in fact the very same thing, happened for the series against England last year.

The BCCI refused a bunch of photography agencies permission to shoot the games and provide images for the big papers in England. Instead, they proposed to supply all the images themselves, to which the British press said thanks, but no thanks. Basically it was a big flip of the middle finger from the British papers to the unadulterated bullshit that was that decision.

So you might think they would learn, because they did come under a fair bit of international scrutiny for that particular doozy, not least from bodies like the IOC and the ever venerated EITM (Everyone in the media… duhhh!).

But the BCCI don’t strike one as the smartest cookies in the toolshed, because lo and behold they’ve once again denied photo agencies access to the game. So my beloved SMH won’t have images except the ones provided by the BCCI.

“Yay!” you might think. “Hooray!” you might cry. At least there will be images, right?

Well yeah, I guess. I’m not going to get myself off on these pages about press freedom and all that, but God damn it there should be press freedom! People should have a right to take photographs of a sporting fixture, particularly if they’re part of one of the biggest providers of images in the world!

And why stop them? What do the BCCI have to lose by letting them in? A few seats in the press box? Well, I say fire a few BCCI employed journalists and let someone else (someone, I daresay, less vested of interest?) get in there and do the job instead.

I also suspect that should you want images (images that will inevitably surface, given the player in question’s recent record) of Tendulkar being castled by a quick, you mightn’t find them too easily amongst the BCCI sanctioned snaps. So in my upcoming coverage of the Tests between Australia and India, I shall make it my duty to include videos of Tendulkar being bowled.

Another tragedy is that although ABC negotiated for the rights to broadcast the matches on local radio, the fees proved too high for them to garner the requested funds. This is a great shame, as the broadcast of the last Indian tour with Mike Coward, Jim Maxwell, Glenn Mitchell and errherrerrherr (I forget his name, give me a break!) was very much worth the listen. It was one of the best broadcast tours I can remember.

So there will be no images, no radio broadcast in Australia (or online). But I swear there was another thing.

Oh that’s right, the little matter of the DRS. The thing, nay, the only thing, that stops players from having to walk off LBW after hitting the skin off the ball and having a curious, ball-shaped cherry on their bat. It is the only bastion between a batsman and being back in the pavilion despite having whiffed (and missed) a ball early in their innings. Let’s not forget, too, it’s the only thing between a “not-outing” umpire and a bowler going undeservedly wicketless in ruthless Indian conditions.

It’s completely absurd that the BCCI is the only thing standing between the cricketing world having a system that countless series have shown works, and one that is forever improving as time goes on.

Their argument is that it’s not 100% accurate. Well, to be fair, neither’s your judgement, and neither’s Billy Bowden’s judgement.

In fact, I would say that being able to watch a slow motion replay, complete with sound and heat capture, movement-predicting trackers and the ability to watch it over and over again is vastly more accurate than one look, at real speed with no possibility for replay. But feel free to disagree with me on that one BCCI. You seem to disagree with most of the cricketing world about most things.

So yeah. Basically, I reckon the BCCI have made a couple of bad decisions. That’s alright, right?

What Australian dopers should learn from Lance Armstrong

I noticed in Peter FitzSimons’ column in the Sydney Morning Herald today he refers to Lance Armstrong as “the most infamous drug cheat in international sporting history.”

Now we all know Peter has never really gone soft on Lance, but his unrestrained appraisals of the former cycling champ have most definitely been ratified by the evidence. FitzSimons jocular surprise of the comparison of Lance’s systematic approach to doping his entire US Postal (among others) cycling team to the bombshell that was dropped yesterday about systematic doping, corruption and the potential for match-fixing in Australian sport is also worthy of note, insinuating he suspected a seedy underbelly to the glitz, glamour and nasal accents of Australian sport too.

Whatever we make of his timing and judgement is irrelevant. What is worthy of note is that he picked up on the Justice minister Jason Clare’s comparison to Lance’s doping efforts. The most interesting question that this raises in my eyes, however, is simply “how low does it go?” but rather one of “what can athletes learn from the bad man Lance?”

Appropriate to his crime, Lance is a fallen angel, a veritable Azmodeus in today’s sporting landscape; an example not to follow. But also, in my view, an example to be learned from. For every drug cheat that is caught and sanctioned, lessons must be learned and action must be taken. This applies not only to the people investigating and testing for the crimes (used in a loose sense), but also those loading up their veins, and stomachs, and whatever else, with the gear.

Lance Armstrong could and would have saved himself months of ignominy had he only fronted up, fessed up, told the truth and got that monkey, that cost him so much of his life and so much of what he could have had, off his back. Imagine the weight that would have been lifted off his shoulders when he uttered those words to Oprah. All the years of bickering, fighting, lawsuits and lying to yourself and everyone else, gone. Of course in Lance’s case it was replaced by yet more bickering and yet more lawsuits, but that was for one reason and one reason only:

He didn’t tell us the truth in the first place!

Had he done that, we wouldn’t have had to watch Oprah at all, and we all would have known years ago that Lance was as drugged and dirty as a pillhead sleeping in a Kings Cross dumpster. At least the pillhead, acknowledging he went too far, can go home and have a shower. But when you sleep in a dumpster for too long, the smell doesn’t come off so quickly. You could say the monkey on Lance’s back quickly grew into an Orang-utan, and was the size of a Silverback Gorilla by the time he actually told Oprah what he really did to be the best.

"If you did cheat, the silverback Gorilla will find you. He will hunt you down and kill you," said Sports minister Kate Lundy yesterday. Or something like that

“If you did cheat, the silverback Gorilla will find you. He will hunt you down and kill you,” said Sports minister Kate Lundy yesterday. Or something like that

So what are you getting at, Patrick? What’s with all this bullshit about people taking ecstasy and EPO and performance enhancing drugs (PEDs?) and PIEDS and whatever other acronyms we can think of?

Well, I humbly submit to those who have knowingly, unknowingly, or partially knowingly participated in this nastiness come forward and save yourself the persecution; because the lesson to learn from the biggest story ever about drugs in sport is that the longer you wait, the worse it gets.

You can hold on and not get caught, but look at what happened to those who do come forward.

Tyler Hamilton, who in his peak had more growth hormone pumping around him than a 15 year-old boy sired by Luke Longley and Lauren Jackson, now champions the cause for a cleaner sport of cycling and was a key witness in exposing Armstrong’s cheating. You might even say he was a fallen angel who finally returned back to the right side. People seem to like Tyler, respect his courage and place less weight on his cheating as a result of his confession.

Now whether we should judge Tyler less harshly because he came forward is another thing altogether, but so far that seems to be the trend. The Sports Minister, Kate Lundy, said it yesterday:

“I say to those athletes – ‘Come forward… come clean and be part of the solution, not part of an ongoing problem.’ I would think they should do it as soon as possible… investigations are already under way, so it is possible for people to come forward now.”

Sound advice, I would think.

The minister also mentioned the possibility of reduced sanctions and the potential for leniency for confessors. It’s more than they deserve, but it may prompt people into considering it.

So come forth, those who sought to gain advantage by illicit means. For the good of Australian sport, come forth, and unsully those veins. The law will welcome you with open arms and (possibly) reduce your sentence.

You mightn’t deserve it, but if you do manage to grow some balls back (it might take some time) it’ll save you a whole lot of pain.

An obligatory note on Mundine vs Geale

While I am admittedly not a fan of “The Sweet Science,” one can barely think without being interrupted by Anthony Mundine giving his two cents on what’s making your synapses fire at that specific second.

He is to everyone’s intelligence what Kanye West was to Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards: an annoying intrusion that gets a whole lot of media attention.

Which, for “The Sugary Inquiry,” is a real blessing. Especially considering the state of the Australian incarnation of “The Nectarous Body of Empirical Knowledge,” Mundine could well be considered the best thing to ever happen to Boxing in this country.

Which is unfortunate in a way, because listening to Daniel Geale talking to ABC 702 about three or so years ago (coincidentally not to long after he ‘lost’ to Mundine) I thought that if I was ever going to think of a boxer positively ever again, it might be the Tasmanian who would convince me.

Mundine does have a certain propensity for alienating large parts (LARGE parts) of the population who don’t share every single one the things he purports to believe in. In fact, this list of Mundine-beliefs has continued to be more and more outrageous as Time passes and Mundine feels its cold grip on his arms and legs. The only thing that seems not to have slowed down is his mouth.

If anything’s clear, it’s that his brain has certainly begun feeling the effects of all that fist headbutting he’s been putting it through for ten years, evidenced by his tirade to the media post-fight and his refusal to acknowledge himself as a loser. It was his chance to go out graciously, but instead he decided to sell everyone the same old FIG JAM. Jam sales have gone down since Mundine last fought Geale.

But while I don’t agree with many of the things that he says (which may make me an uncle Tom) I can certainly give him kudos for his salesmanship. For without Mundine none of the uninterested public would have no idea who Daniel Geale was, nor would we be able to appreciate him for his many positive attributes (namely punching Mundine in the head repeatedly).

Love him or hate him, Mundine gets your attention. He certainly got the attention of Geale, who seems to be as level headed as boxers get.

In an industry where Floyd Mayweather’s the biggest name in his country and Mundine in ours, Geale needed someone with a big mouth to sell himself. He wasn’t going to do it himself. He wasn’t going to racially slur his opponents, convert his religion, tell everyone he is the best athlete in the world, tell everyone he was robbed (we was robbed!).

Geale needed The Man to do that for him. And boy oh boy did he do an admirable job.

How big this fight really was for boxing I’m not really sure; but the fact that Mundine was fighting a guy many believed to have been his conqueror years ago but for a dodgy trio of judges (he was robbed!), and managed to create an atmosphere, a buzz, an anticipation that almost rivalled that of an origin match is a triumph.

The best thing that could have happened is that Geale could have won, and in good style, so he can move on to bigger and much better things. Importantly we will now start to follow and pay attention to the man who is actually the best boxer in Australia, not just The Man who says he is.

I’m still not sold on boxing, not even close. As Simon Barnes said in his book The Meaning of Sport, Boxing cuts the line of make-believe too close for it to be a ‘Sport.’ Instead of replicating a duel, boxing actually is a duel; it is designed for people to get hurt, the rules allow for it and reward it. “The Sugary Quest for Learning About Our Material world” is just as potentially harmful as a fistfight on the street, except that your knuckles don’t get hurt, allowing you to dish out more damage to your opponents’ head. 

But I do think Geale is a pretty good proponent of what is not my favourite sport, and a pretty good bloke to boot.

For this I can thank Mundine, for without him I wouldn’t have had a clue.

But there’s more to thank Mundine for, as his career begins to wind down, as the money dries up, all due to the increasing number of wrinkles on his face.

He was pretty good too. 44-5 is a damn good record, and against some good opponents too. They weren’t all good, by any means. But we really can’t discount him as an athlete because he took some weak fights.

So to Mundine, too, this sportsfan offers a meaningless bouquet of what he calls “respect” and I call appreciation for his work over the years.

Well played sir, you done good. But that’ll do.

As for Geale, there is only one other guy I know in the Middleweight division who is as loathsome as Mundine, and that’s Floyd Mayweather.

Wouldn’t it be great if that humble Aussie could ram a big ol’ freshly baked humble pie down his throat as well?

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair