Archive for the ‘Other Sport’ Category
The ECB and the England team have a long-standard in-joke that the rest of us mere mortals just don’t understand. For years they’ve decided that Hampshire players are not deserving of playing for England and the only time they’ll play one is in a really bad situation where they can fail a lot easier so they can quickly say that they’ve tried and the player failed. It is getting boring but they still find it funny. The rest of us don’t.
The latest example is James Vince. Look as those who know me will attest, James Vince has been frustrating me for a good few years because you knew there was a mighty fine player in there ready to break out but he would more often than not flatter to deceive. This year though that has all changed and I completely trust Vince’s batting because he has performed week in, week out at the T20 format and indeed was the top run scorer in the competition this season.
Vince is a classical player and has been likened to Michael Vaughan for several years but as Michael Atherton pointed out on Saturday during Sky’s coverage of the T20 Blast Finals Day, what you are surprised with is just how hard Vince hits the ball. He isn’t all muscle but is just a pure striker of the ball. He isn’t getting out in dumb ways any more and instead is extremely reliable. He susses up a pitch very quickly and to be frank is clearly the best player who has played a full season at domestic level this season.
Today with Joe Root being out then he could easily have slotted in at number three but the selectors and captain have decided to go with Moeen Ali instead. Ali is a good player and might well play well but at some point you have to see what you’ve got with Vince instead of just taking him around from ground to ground with no desire to play him. Of course Vince can open but England have clearly decided that Jason Roy and his top score of 39 in all international matches is the man for them. I mused on twitter that had Roy played for Hampshire and Vince for Surrey that Vince would have gotten his chance. T20 isn’t all crash, bang wallop, you need to have some basic technique too and I think Roy technically is not just a notch below Vince but a full level.
This is just the latest snub from England on Hampshire players. Michael Carberry played just one T20 international and six ODIs. He of course played six Test matches when he was in superb form in the warm-up games that he was only playing in because of injury concerns to other players and got the nod. He wasn’t great in the Ashes tests but he wasn’t completely out of his depth either and was arguably the best batsmen on that tour. England though went with the new golden boy Sam Robson for the next series and Carberry was discarded.
Danny Briggs had a few games but then got smashed around the Bellerive Oval on a road and England decided that was enough so brought in Stephen Parry for the T20 World Cup. The Lancashire spinner wouldn’t take a wicket. You don’t get dropped for one bad game, certainly when you are a spinner on the flattest and hardest of decks when you are asked to bowl in a Powerplay. Yet again though this backs up by PoV that England do not put Hampshire players in a position to succeed, in fact it is quite the opposite.
Hampshire have made in to Finals Day six years on the spin and in that period Hampshire have been represented England at T20 level on just eight occasions (seven for Briggs and one for Carberry). By then England had moved on from Dimitri Mascarenhas. James Vince has never played and nor has Chris Wood. There was even a year when Jimmy Adams was the top scorer in the T20 tournament but he was never given a shot by England.
The hate that England have for Hampshire players is pathetic and I just don’t know what more James Vince can do. He is clearly more than good enough to play but they keep deciding not to give him a go. I can only image just how frustrated Vince is, I am and I’m only a fan. Jason Roy scored 273 in ten innings for Surrey in the T20 Blast this season. James Vince scored 710 in 16. Vince’s season average is nearly double that of Roy but lets keep Jason Roy and his helicopter bat in the side because he plays for a big county in Surrey and therefore he must be good.
Give us a break.
I wrote this blog but by the time I went to publish it, Charles Sale had revised the fee to £80million over five years – I thought I’d leave in the original figure in the blog post just to show how much Charles Sale changed his report after publication. My fury is not quelled by the amount being a lot less but the money certainly isn’t completely insane. If indeed Sky walked away from the rights at that figure then fuck me did they overspend for the EPL and have dropped a right bollock on this one.
I was going to have a bath. Well I was thinking about it anyway. A way to soothe my aching limbs on a Sunday evening but thought I’d watch the end of the baseball first. My phone beeps, I wander over to it and I see a tweet with a link, so I walk over to my PC to investigate and the story is how BT Sport have reportedly won the rights to show all matches from Cricket Australia in a five-year deal worth – now don’t fall over or faint here – £70million per year. That is £350million over the next five years.
Now whilst this deal is for 32 test matches, for us in reality it is all about five, the next Ashes series down under. For the past two plus decades we’ve had all live England Test matches overseas on Sky Sports and whilst some of those matches haven’t been a full Sky Sports production, they have all had some of the Sky guys in the commentary box.
The thing is, Sky’s cricket coverage is the best coverage of any sport in the UK. I can’t really write that as fact but is merely my opinion – and indeed that of many avid sport watchers. The mix of voices in the commentary box is first rate. I have written about it before in a blog entitled, Why mess with nigh on perfection? and I very much stick by what I wrote in that blog post.
The joy of the Sky box isn’t just in the commentary and the presenting but also the chats during rain delays and the like. The level of voice they have is just second to none. From Michael Atherton to Nasser Hussein to Bumble to Lord Gower to Sir Ian Botham and of course to Michael Holding. Michael Holding is quite simply one of those people you wish you could just sit down with in a pub for a drink and a chat because he is quite amazing and Michael Atherton is the next Richie Benaud, he is that good. They get the right voices from overseas (both Ian Smith and Ricky Ponting just knocked it out of the ball park this summer) and to be frank, there is no way on Earth BT could even get close to the quality of coverage Sky do and do you know why we know this?
Because they cover football these days and there is no-one out there saying they want to see more Jake Humphrey presenting or need to listen to more Michael Owen butcher another co-commentary. Sky again outshine BT in football coverage and it is no surprise, they have been the best for a number of years so they know what they are doing. Yes sometimes a change can revolutionise a sports coverage (see Cricket, BBC to Channel Four – another thing I wrote about) but at best all this deal will do is mean for one tour BT will have to put together a second rate team to cover these matches as al the top dogs are signed up to Sky and indeed will stay with Sky considering all the other matches bar one England series are still with the corporation. Although it could mean that Geoffrey Boycott could return to live TV commentary but that is a long ways away.
As you can tell I’m not happy but it isn’t just the fact that BT will be showing the Ashes in 2017/2018 but look at the money they are paying. I have a friend who always says, ‘well its not my money so who cares?’ but as customers we should care. £70million a year (again if the report is true – it is Charles Sale) is just insane. Flat out insane for what they would be getting. The previous deal was for £50million over four years and this is £350million over five years. Cricket rights have not gone up that much and yes whilst I agree The Big Bash is worth a few quid, it is paltry compared to the Test matches and if BT really think that the value of these rights have gone up by 600% in four years well then, those that said Sky overpaid for EPL rights must be looking at BT and thinking there was an ink issue with the fax offer sheet.
The loser in all of this is firstly the cricket fan, a) they’ll lose the best coverage of the sport for five extremely important Test matches and b) will have to shell out yet another subscription fee to watch cricket but there is also c) the average BT customer who will likely have these exorbitant rights fees passed on to them with rises in their subscription costs, even if they don’t want to watch cricket.
We’ll see if this story is true but if it is, the next Ashes series might just be the host broadcaster coverage (and I don’t hate Channel Nine’s coverage but lets be honest, it is not what it once was with the passing of Greig, Benaud and the retirement of Lawry) but they aren’t Sky and of course if BT put together their own list of broadcasters then expect the 2017/2018 Ashes series to have commentary from the likes of Matthew Hoggard, Darren Gough and who knows, maybe they can get more value out of Michael Owen and put him in for a few stints just to brighten all our nights and early mornings in three winters’ time.
England won a thrilling first test at Lords on Monday and usually I’d be dead chuffed but I slumped as I saw New Zealand just about not make it over the line. For you see in this Test series I’m rooting for the Black Caps and not the English and it is isn’t an abnormality and I’ll tell you why.
When Andrew Strauss banged on about ‘brand of cricket’ upon his hire, he hit the nail on the head for me. In all sports I root for various things but the way a person or team plays a sport is a big part of it and that includes personality. In this instance there can be little doubt that New Zealand play a brand of cricket that people the whole world over can get behind. Brendon McCullum can grabbed New Zealand cricket and dragged it forward with an all-out attacking approach and it is great to see. A team that stand as a unit and all buy into what their captain is doing. At the World Cup there was one team you wanted to watch and that was New Zealand because you knew what you were getting – a thrill a minute. He is the only man who when he comes into bat, you stop whatever you are doing to watch and his team follow his example.
Speaking yesterday the New Zealand captain opined about England, ‘What is their style that they want to be known for as a team, heading forward? Was their last performance how they want to play the game, or was it more of a case of maybe stumbling on it?‘ and he’s spot on. So much talk about a revival of English cricket based on this one win but there was a reason for it – when you get drawn into a slug match with New Zealand then the only way you can ever win is it to toe-to-toe with them. Dour plodding cricket that can win you matches but doesn’t win you friends. Lets be honest here as well, England won the first Test but they did so by always bowling in the favourable conditions and in cricket and at Lords – that is a big slice of luck to fall into.
All teams win teams in different ways, Chelsea were one of the most beautiful sides to watch for half a season and then they became pragmatic and less exciting. Still they kept winning. You play to your strengths and to the players that you have available at the time. If England’s best players aren’t attacking gung-ho players then they can’t play like that and win repeatedly. That just isn’t going to happen. The second Test gets under way in just under an hour and a half )weather permitting) at the time of writing and I’ll be fascinated to see if England revert back to type or whether McCullum’s swashbuckling approach will drag them out of their shell. The Ashes are only what, six/seven weeks away and England need to know what their identity is going into a series against the best team in the world.
My stance doesn’t just stop at cricket, for example I was all over the shop watching Goran Ivanisevic beating Tim Henman at Wimbledon in 2001. Goran’s approach and personality was fun to root for and Tim – as nice as he may be – just isn’t someone you can root for based on anything but his nationality. In Formula 1 I always rooted for Senna, then Barrichello and now I quietly root for Alonso and the Ferrari’s and now Vettel has left Red Bull I feel as though I can root for him a bit. I liked Mark Webber when he was the underdog in that team as well. Nothing against Lewis or Jenson but I’ve just never found them that likeable (although I think Jenson was more to do with the fact ITV slobbered all over him when they had the rights – he is clearly a pretty likeable chap now we actually hear about him and not just how amazing he is via James Allen).
In golf I don’t automatically support our players (unless it is the Ryder Cup of course) but if Lefty or the Big Easy are in the mix on Sunday in a major then it is very likely that I’ll be rooting for them. Lefty because of the way he plays and the Big Easy because he is a great player who didn’t get the credit he deserved in his pomp. It is also wel known that I root for old players who were past greats to have on big run at a big title again. Look at when both Ian Woosnam and Tom Watson led The Open going into Sunday, I was pulling for them both to win.
In general though this comes back to a wider issue. Just because I was born here doesn’t mean I feel I should idly support fellow teams and players from these islands. I may be British but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a mind of my own. Many believe that we as a nation need to be more British than we currently are and get back to British values instead of becoming a multicultural society. To those people I shake my head in despair. We are one nation but more importantly we are but one race in a universe full of different ones. We should stand side-by-side and learn from and grow with each other. we are more the same than we are different, so why are some people so intent on forcing divisions and cultural differences when in fact we as a race have far more important issues to deal with than the sense of nationality? That my friends is a question to which I do not have the answer.
So I’m reading BBC Sport this morning and an article caught my eye about Kevin Pietersen joining TMS for the World Cup and I shook my head in despair. I have no particular issue with KP but it just goes to show that when it comes to broadcasting, stations often prefer to go with the ‘name’ instead of the person best suited to the job.
When Sky Sports decided to bring in Andrew Strauss for England Test Matches, it was just more of the same. Strauss is a very poor pundit and has not developed at all in the years since he first became part of Sky’s top tier.
KP had a brief go at commentating during the Big Bash. I adored the Big Bash and found the level of cricket and the level of coverage first rate (although the constant promos and discussions for who the Australian cricket player going into the I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here did seem to be flogging that horse one too many times). In a game he he chomping at the bit to get in the booth and after a bit of a batting collapse, he came in before his planned time.
Now the Big Bash had four guest appearances this season from what I saw. Sir Viv, who is an absolute legend and one of the greats of the game has been involved in BBL coverage for a while and whilst he’s great, he’s not a great voice. Andrew Flintoff was involved in the BBL this year and was fantastic and a natural behind the microphone. If Sky wanted to add a younger voice to its team (and kicking out Strauss) then they could do a lot worse than Flintoff. He would be tremendous if involved in the T20. Bumble did a guest stint as well and was typically great. Then we get to KP…
He came in like an over excitable schoolboy giggling at everything he said. Laughing at your own jokes is bad enough but laughing at everything you just say is poor. He was ‘interviewed’ by Ricky Ponting and I think it is fair to say that only one of the two came out with any credit and it wasn’t the English batsman. He circled around issues and never seemed comfortable. It wasn’t car crash TV but it was certainly the low point of the whole coverage of the Big Bash and his performance in the booth was the worst of all the commentators by a significant margin.
I just wonder why TMS (and Sky with Strauss) value the name over the actual quality. Yes of course some pundits can get better with time but TMS has many pundits who can do a good job on radio but they felt the need to get a big name to bring something extra to their coverage. They are wrong. They didn’t. TMS has such a good reputation for putting out excellent coverage of cricket with good play-by-play voices and good pundits.
In the Press Release linked to earlier, they listed some of the names who KP will be joining and they include people who have developed and become very good at punditry. KP never seemed like a natural pundit when he was playing and on the brief occasions I’ve heard him, he hasn’t impressed either. To be good at this job you need to be either insightful, engaging or funny and preferably a good mix of all three. KP isn’t and nor is Andrew Strauss. This is just another case of the value of a name instead of adding quality to the broadcast and for that, the BBC should be disappointed in itself.
First of all let me put this one there, I freaking love Test cricket. Like can hardly get enough of it. A couple of weeks back it was possible to watch non-stop Test cricket from 9:30PM to 7AM and then have the South Africa v West Indies Test start up an hour or so later. I watched a lot of this. Watching good Test cricket is the pinnacle of sport watching in my opinion. However this blog post isn’t about fixing Test cricket (which doesn’t need a root and branch fix but is clearly struggling in many parts of the world *cough* sub-continent and West Indies *cough*) No, this is about our domestic T20 competition.
The thing is I have never been a true lover of the 50 over game. It seems too long for a short format but not long enough to get into the individual battles and nuances of a Test series. T20 though is fantastic. A game that lasts roughly three hours with shows off a very different aspect of the sport. I watch our domestic T20 competition a lot in the summer and until last year, it was in a fixed window in the calendar so you knew that if there wasn’t a Test match on then it was very likely a domestic T20 match was on. Even if it wasn’t the mighty Hampshire it was likely that I would have it on. Last year though they re-branded the tournament and played it primarily on Friday nights and it just didn’t work.
Now here in deepest darkest winter my mornings (well in reality my afternoons as I sleep in and either Sky+ or watch the replay) are being livened up by the Big Bash from Australia and let me tell you this folks, this tournament is terrific and Cricket Australia has to be lauded for how it has firstly embraced the format and also how they have marketed it from both a spectator and TV viewer point of view.
Firstly we have too many teams. Yes I know the county system is in place but T20 needs to be separated from the county system. Have nine franchises playing at the nine Test playing venues (Lord’s, The Oval, Rose Bowl, Sophia Gardens, Edgbaston, Headingley, Old Trafford, Trent Bridge and Chester-le-Street – and yes I know I’ve not used their proper sponsorship endorsed names…). I know the other nine counties will wonder about money and for some of them T20 is their lifeblood but find a way to sort that ECB.
The people in charge of English cricket are getting huge piles of cash thanks to their Sky contract and who has a clue what they spend it on? They have to ensure the future of the sport and that is by getting kids excited by the game and they do that by T20. The reason I say 18 teams is too much is because the product gets diluted. If we had nine franchises then only half the amount of players would get contracts and they would be the better players.
T20 is clearly the vehicle to get kids enthralled by the sport. Young people need to be able to see their heroes and this brings me on to my next point. After two years of being behind a pay-wall and doing ok, for the third season of the Big Bash the rights were bought by a FTA station and they scheduled their evening programming around the Big Bash for the whole tournament and the TV ratings took off along with the crowds going to the games. A whole generation of people were watching domestic T20 FTA for the first time and they were attracted to the sport.
Also Cricket Australia play the games at the right time – the summer holidays and in a block. Our domestic T20 game should be in a block in the summer holidays so people can go and see. If it battles with the Ashes or with other big Test series then it isn’t a problem. The live game can be in an evening like they do in Australia and like most televised T20 games are here anyway. In Australia the Test matches are on Channel Nine and the T20 on Ten, so people can watch both, they aren’t in direct competition.
Next up is a biggie, the TV contract. Sky have exclusive rights to the T20 competition and all live county cricket through 2019. They pay an awful lot of money for this but in reality they are paying for the Test matches and the domestic game is a small percentage of what they are paying overall. If the ECB wanted to look forward instead of just looking at short-term money then they need to split these contracts and find a FTA partner for the T20 competition. Whether that is BBC2, ITV4 or Channel Four or Channel Five I don’t know but find a partner and start making it work. Channel Ten are seeing audiences grow but also all importantly the advertising revenue is set to rise between 80-90% compared to last year. Advertisers are seeing that people are watching and they are flocking to give Channel Ten their money.
I’ve never been a big IPL man as the cricket just seems secondary and it seems like a lot of rich businessmen having a very expensive toy, also the questions of corruption have been rife. The BBL hasn’t had that and instead has just been full of great hard-nosed cricket with innovative marketing and strides forward in terms of technology and interactivity with players and fans. I know over here we have players on the mic but over there they speak to them more often, the players know they are part of the show and embrace that. They are also marketed as stars. They bring in overseas players and they light up the competition.
I have just been so impressed by the whole BBL and would love the ECB to go to franchises for this competition. Play it n a month block, nine franchises, eight games, four home and four away each season so families are only paying out four times a campaign, top four go into semi-finals that are either played like they are in Australia on separate days with the final on another separate date or if they wanted to keep Final’s Day then they could find a way to do that but whilst I adore Final’s Day, I prefer the Aussie system of two semi-finals with the top two teams rewarded with the final at home in front of their home fans.
The final could either be played at the highest seeded team left or at different venues that can bid for the final a la the Super Bowl. Lastly find a FTA partner who is willing to not only invest money but more importantly invest air time and marketing into getting it right. The domestic T20 competition here can flourish but it needs balls and vision. That is not something the ECB has ever really shown us but they have the opportunity. The rest of the world is not playing cricket in July and August bar the West Indies. The big names will come and with a plan the English T20 competition can be as much of a success as the Big Bash is becoming. I just fear the ECB don’t have the vision or the cojones to take it to where it could be.
When the Cheltenham Festival begins on March 10th the excitable crowd of 75,000 spectators in the Grandstand will honour an age old tradition as the tape is cut for the opening Supreme Novices Hurdle. The normal, gentle buzz of noise will become a throaty rumble which is so iconic it has acquired its own name – the Cheltenham Roar.
The Cheltenham area has a long association with racing; the first event called the “Cheltenham Gold Cup”, now the name of the festival’s most prestigious race, was run in July 1819. By 1860 there was an established National Hunt Meeting at Cheltenham – the first direct precursor to the modern festival. However it wasn’t until the current course was established at Prestbury Park, in 1904, that the “Cheltenham Festival” was officially established. After a hiatus it returned in 1911 whence it has continued from strength to strength – save for 2 extended pauses rudely imposed by our German cousins.
Part of The Festival’s magic is that the 2 courses at Prestury Park (the “old” and “new” courses), are particularly challenging and can wrongfoot even the most powerful thoroughbreds. The new course, in particular, has a downhill fence and a gruelling run in for steeplechasers; while hurdle races have the majority of their jumps early – with only two fences in the last 7 furlongs. This requires that champion horses are able to jump well but also keep pace in a long final leg.
In recent years animal rights protesters have begun focusing their attention on the big festivals – particularly Aintree and Cheltenham. The tough courses and large fields at marquee events leads to a higher risk of serious injury for both jockeys and riders. In fact Animal Aid claim that 4x as many horses have died at Cheltenham as on any other British racecourse since 2007. Although this could be a statistical fluke, but it is unfortunately true that in the last several years horses have been put down at each Festival. It can be quite a disturbing sight to see a writhing horse covered by vets and destroyed – but for the moment the racing community is averse to significant change. Last year jockey Ruby Walsh received death threats after downplaying the significance of horse fatalities, so it seems the public may not agree.
Nowadays, The Festival is run over 4 days; which this year are 10th-13th March. During that time Cheltenham plays host to a circus of owners, trainers, jockeys, press, paparazzi, bookies and, of course, over 250,000 raucous spectators determined to get the most from this spectacular event. Bookmakers will swarm the tote pool at Cheltenham – where slatted chalkboard are only just being replaced by digital screens. Although plenty of cash will change hands there, most of the £600m wagered over the 4 day event will be online or at high street shops.
For British bookmakers Coral, preparations for Cheltenham start months in advance. Every race featuring a potential contender is methodically examined for information which could affect pricing – a fractional mistake in offered odds could take millions from the bottom line. Like several other bookies they also sponsor one of Cheltenham’s premier races – The Coral Cup.
The Festival is firmly rooted in tradition – not surprising as members of the Royal Family are frequent visitors. The Queen, who owns a stable of racecourses, has fielded entries to the Cheltenham Gold Cup and members of the family including The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have made appearances in recent years.
We’ll also be treated to full page newspaper spreads after Cheltenham’s “Ladies Day” on March 11th. Racing takes a back seat to fashion as elaborate dresses and enormous (some might say ridiculous) hats take centre stage. However the day after, St. Patrick’s Day, has a completely different tone and becomes a raucous day long celebration of Ireland and the Irish!
The Cheltenham Festival is a peculiarly British event which soldiers on oblivious to changes in the social fibre or animal rights norms of the general population. Like it or loathe it, you’re bound to hear a lot more about Cheltenham as the big day approaches.
Another good festival away from Horse Racing is the Gŵyl Beaumaris Festival which is great way to spend a day in May. This year sees it celebrate its 30th anniversary.
Someone said to me the other day when I wasn’t watching a football match that usually I’d have on my TV that I’d have been watching it if they were trying to cook something. A fair point. For you see over the past few months I may have just become over saturated on football and I’m just footballed out. I sit here racking my brain trying to think of a game so far this season where I’ve been genuinely engrossed and I’m struggling. Not even the big matches have really grabbed me (although some games I have certainly watched and been more than entertained by).
I wonder if this is just a general malaise or whether it is more to do with me changing as a person. Maybe I’m growing up, maybe I’m diversifying but whilst years ago I was a football nut I think most who know me well will have noticed over the past few years (namely since I left my previous role of a Sports Editor) that whilst I still thoroughly enjoy watches some sporting events, they don’t rule the landscape as much as they did previously.
Take as an example last week. On the Tuesday I was in town doing some food shopping and saw a poster for a Dave Gorman gig the next day and instead of thinking ‘well Liverpool v Real Madrid is on otherwise I’d go’ I went home and looked up whether they had tickets left and when I saw they did I went ahead. I didn’t even think about missing a big time football match on the tellybox that I usually would factor into my thought process.
This isn’t an isolated incident. I have missed many football matches on telly recently to do social things instead. Obviously this year for the first time in three years I’m not working on radio broadcasts of games and maybe lacking that exposure to live action has been further part of the malaise but it has been a much longer process than that. I thoroughly enjoyed the early part of the World Cup as there was some terrific action and enjoyable matches before the coaches reined in the beautiful attacking play that dominated the early stages of that tournament.
Way back when the result of my team would affect my mood, now I am so disenfranchised it is ridiculous. If teenage me saw me now and how little I care about Pompey he wouldn’t recognise me and wonder what the hell had happened in my life for such a lax attitude to football to have come to the fore. I just think that as you grow up your interests and priorities change and whilst it is a slow change, you don’t notice it for a while until it is stark in your face.
I did contemplate whether it was just football or all sport that is I’m currently suffering a malaise from and looking back over the past few weeks there have been two matches where I’ve been totally into it. Penn State @ Rutgers and Denver @ Seattle. Both games I was completely into and enjoyed (and endured) them immensely. Had I not been unwell over the weekend and gone to bed early then I have no doubt that I’d have been completely engrossed by Penn State’s comeback but ultimate failure against Ohio State as well. Still though for me that is what, three games in the past couple of months that I was into.
This weekend sees Tom Brady v Peyton Manning (again) or more accurately Denver @ New England and I’m trying to get excited about it but I just can’t. I have no doubt if I’m at home I’ll watch but I can’t say I’m circling it in my calendar knowing that I can’t be doing anything else in the Sunday night window although lets be honest here, I don’t see me doing anything else in that window so no doubts I’ll be watching.
I was watching highlights of the 2010-2011 Ashes series on YouTube the other day and I immensely enjoyed that series. I watched so much of it live and was totally riveted by it. Looking back and there are several instances where England cricket away from home has done this to me so maybe cricket is relatively safe from this sport watching doldrums I seem to find myself in.
The thing is I must be into some other things to replace sport from my time and well maybe I am. I seem to be forming more of a strong political leaning and whilst I won’t say anger, I will say disquiet at what seems to be going on. The race to the bottom on immigration is repulsive from all sides of the political spectrum. I know politicians seem to think that you have to appeal to the lowest common denominator to win but that makes me feel sick and I am reading more about what interests me, not fiction, I’m not a fiction guy but non-fiction and enhancing what I understand and having a thirst for knowledge.
So maybe I’m just not the guy that I was and maybe I am just changing. Maybe it is just a phase, who knows but I certainly feel like I’m much less of a slave to the TV schedulers and that chain to the TV is a lot, lot looser than it was. We all change as we get older and we get new interests and maybe, just maybe, this has been going on for a while but I have just failed to notice it. The thing is when all is said and done is I am not upset about the changes that are seemingly going on. I am feeling like I might just be going through a bit of an identity crisis but it isn’t a bad one and it is just the evolution of me. Not even betting and the likes of Saturday Football Tips can keep me seemingly interested. In a way looking back I can see so much of teenage and early 20s me the now 30s me and maybe I should’ve evolved just a bit more than I have over the past decade…
Oh an open microphone. Broadcasting is a strange beast. I have dabbled as many will know and whilst many may have sympathy for Andrew Strauss following events yesterday. I do not. For the record I am no big fan of Strauss but nor am I a big fan of KP. I don’t really have a horse in this race.
For those who don’t know what happened then here is the article from the Independent – Andrew Strauss ‘mortified’ and ‘profusely sorry’ after he calls Kevin Pietersen a ‘c**t’ live on air. The former England captain thought he was off air (Sky were on an ad break) but in fact they were still live in other parts of the world and decided it was a good time to call Kevin Pietersen the c-word whilst his microphone was on.
Sky quickly made an apology, tweeting the following, Earlier comments were made during a break of play which were heard overseas. We apologise for the language used and Strauss followed suit by stating I apologise unreservedly, particularly to Kevin Pietersen. I am mortified and profusely sorry.
Sources seem to suggest that this will be the end of the matter but that just rings hollow to me. I have been a staunch admirer of Sky’s cricket coverage for many many years. I genuinely think their team is the best in the sport and might well be the best in any sport I watch. They hired Andrew Strauss specifically because they wanted him, fresh out of the sport after his issues with Kevin Pietersen, to essentially give a good insight into the inner workings of the England dressing room. Sadly for them, all he’s done is not comment or criticise because he’s still mates with except everyone bar Kevin Pietersen, who he’s been happy to tear apart, this is unprofessional and poor broadcasting but it is still not an open personal attack, which now he has done.
If Sky really believed in their brand and product then they would fire him on the spot. In all fairness the fact they extended his original contract (which covered the two Ashes series last year according to reports at the time) seems highly questionable. His broadcasting talents are well below the standards of his fellow top tier of Sky cricket commentators. Strauss can’t hold a candle to the likes of Atherton, Holding, Bumble, Hussain, Warne, Gower and yes even Botham and his constant grumpiness that he’s watching cricket and not fishing. Strauss adds nothing to the team but yet he seems to be being molded for big things by the corporation.
He should be gone and even if they chose not to fire him, he should be taken out of the spotlight of their Test team sooner rather than later. The first test against India starts on Wednesday and if Strauss is involved then we’ll know what Sky think is more important, keeping Strauss happy or allowing personal vitriolic attacks on people. Andrew Strauss is perfectly entitled to his opinion on KP but he is not sitting around watching the game on his sofa with his mates, he’s being paid a good amount of money by a big company to professional broadcast.
If Sky won’t remove Strauss from the firing line then he should do it himself. Ask to be stepped down or offer his resignation. I doubt he’ll do either but Andrew Strauss has never come across as a man high on principles anyway. Many many people have been involved in many many broadcasts and knowing what you can and can’t say isn’t exactly rocket science. If there is a chance your microphone is on then it is best not to say anything that can get you into trouble. Strauss fell foul of this and because of what he said and who he said it about (given their history) then his position would seem to me to be untenable but Sky have a history of backing their people beyond where they should so come Wednesday I fully expect to see the previous England captain on my screen and it will push me further towards TMS even though I’d be loathed to not listen to Michael Atherton or Michael Holding, who are supreme.
So. This evening I was out on the radio so I was unable to sit here and watch the Hampshire v Lancashire T20 Quarter-Final but I was full of confidence. I kept away from the interweb including twitter, Facebook et al as I didn’t want to know the result. I did see a tweet early in proceedings so I knew Hampshire were batting first and James Vince had batted really well but apart from that I knew naff all.
So I sit down to watch the game when I get in and oh my word. Talk about going through the wringer. Had I been watching it live I know exactly what I’d have been like. I’d have been pacing up and down and cursing as Lancashire stayed in touch with the Royals.
Hampshire had batted marvelously and put on 202 and in a way that might have been a disappointing score as the home side could easily have scored 15-20 more. James Vince and Michael Carberry were just electric at the top of the innings with Vince who frustrates me more than any other Hampshire player breaking out getting 60 off 30 balls and then getting out to a waist high full toss that he probably should have deposited for six wherever he liked. The reason Vince frustrates me is because I know how talented he is. He has all the shots and power and always gets in and then gets out to a sloppy shot for 20 odd but tonight he out-paced Carberry to get the Royals off to a flyer.
Speaking of Michael Carberry that man has to be in the England T20 squad and pretty much has to open. He is just so destructive and has been in great nick all summer long. In all honesty the IPL should come calling and next spring he should be in the sub-continent plying his trade. He scored an unbeaten century with an inside edge scramble for two off the last ball of the innings. It was magnificent from Hampshire but 202 might actually have been short considering we only got 23 off the last 20 deliveries.
Lancashire though hadn’t read the script. Dimitri Mascarenhas was expensive which isn’t exactly the norm and the away side kept up with the mammoth run rate needed. Two wickets in two balls from Danny Briggs looked set to call a halt to any hopes of a Lancashire win but they just wouldn’t go away. Chris Wood bowled a fantastic four balls in the penultimate over but then a ramp four and a big six meant Lancs needed 17 off the final over and when Sohail Tanvir bowled a dumb waist high no ball with the first delivery of the last over that meant 14 off six needed and that was very much in play.
In the end it came down to the final ball and I was pacing up and down my living room ready to curse but Tanvir just about came through as a low full toss was only straight driven down the ground for two and the defending champions squeaked home. I have said all summer long that Hampshire are the best team in this competition but tonight for the first time I saw the bowlers struggle but somehow we just got there and have made it two south group teams already at Finals Day with Essex still to play tonight.
I am not a huge fan of international ODI and T20 cricket but I think the domestic T20 tournament is fantastic for the game. Little things made the difference tonight. James Vince made a quite insane save of a boundary and Jimmy Adams drove a ball straight into the umpire that would have been four. Such small margins but my plans for Saturday week seem more solid than they were. I still think Hampshire should be regarded as favourites for the competition and this close run thing should help.
The Royals know how to win games and winning is a great habit. The other great thing on show tonight was a terrific spectacle and a huge amount of entertainment. A belter of a wicket led to a belter of a game and whilst the game has probably led to more colours of shall we say a lighter shade appearing on my head, I think it is fair to say any naturals watching will have been well and truly entertained and isn’t that the point of sport? We all love winning and don’t love losing but we all love is to be entertained and tonight both Hampshire and Lancashire helped by a stunning pitch delivered a quality nights entertainment.
Having said all that though. Thank fuck we won.
My blood people. My blood. You have endangered that blood by trying to make it boil. All afternoon and evening last night and now this morning. I need a hot tub to relax in (well ok I just want a hot tub and think that this would be the perfect excuse) but what has got my blood boiling you ask? The faux sexism regarding Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon yesterday.
You see it has been 77 years since a British man has held aloft the Wimbledon Men’s Singles trophy. The thing is though instead of enjoying that triumph people are looking for every way to attack and use this victory to make their point. Twitter was full of ‘Don’t you remember Virginia Wade’ such quotes yesterday as she was the last woman to hold aloft the Wimbledon Women’s Singles trophy to have hailed from the British Isles and she did so in 1977, which as basic mathematicians will tell you is more recent than 1936.
Now that is a fine point but if we are looking at all British victories at Wimbledon in the main events (singles and doubles for both men and women as well as mixed) then of course it was only last year when Jonathan Marray held aloft a Wimbledon trophy having won the Men’s Doubles. In 2007 Andy’s own brother lifted the Mixed Doubles trophy and if you really want to be pedantic and say that they had help from non-British partners then go back to 1987 when Jo Durie and Jeremy Bates were British winners of the Mixed Doubles at SW19.
Stephen Tall today blogged about the headline in The Times today which was ‘Murray ends 77-year wait for British win’ and exclaims As if it would have killed the headline writer to say 36 years (accurate) instead of 77 (inaccurate). Well Stephen as you well know 36 is not accurate. It cannot be accurate. The only accurate responses are either one year or 77. At no point does the headline writer refer to singles play so it either has to be one (the last British winner of any sort) or 77 (the last Men’s winner) you can’t just decide that singles play was intimated because it fits your point.
See this is the type of thing I have seen for the majority of the past 24 hours. People manipulate things to fit their own agenda or point. Facts get thrown out of the window and accuracy that people are pleading for is something they have missed entirely. Now if anyone – whether face to face or in the media – says that Andy Murray’s win ended 77 of singles hurt at Wimbledon for British players then that would be inaccurate and sexist. If they say that Andy Murray’s win ended British hurt at Wimbledon then either they mean the Men’s singles or instead of being sexist they just don’t know about Jonathan Marray, Jamie Murray, Jo Durie, Jeremy Bates, Virginia Wade etc.
The thing is folks I have yet to see any commentator, yet to see any media outlet, yet to speak to anyone – let me repeat that – anyone – who has said that Andy Murray’s win ended 77 of singles hurt at Wimbledon for British players. Not one. They have either just said hurt at Wimbledon or hurt in the Men’s singles at Wimbledon. So either they are correct or they don’t care about all other events about from the Men’s singles including Men’s doubles and male participants in the Mixed doubles.
However why let facts get in the way of faux outrage. This is why sexism kills me. People will see sexism in everything. I know people who think holding a door open for a woman is sexist. I know of people who don’t. I know of people who thought it was sexist that the Men’s marathon awards ceremony at the Olympics was during the Closing Ceremony. They thought women should have just as much right to the final awards ceremony as men. So do these people think that the Women’s Wimbledon Final should be played on the same day as the Men? Should they be played at the same time and given equal billing? If they are played on the same day and the Women’s final is first then is it sexist and demeaning and making the Men out to be more important? At Wimbledon women are asked to play back-to-back days (Monday/Tuesday of the second week) whereas men aren’t. Some say that is sexist.
I could go on and on but if you are to plead sexism – and we all depressingly know that there is more than enough sexism to go around – but if you are to see sexism then actually find something sexist to be mad at. Don’t manipulate a story to fit your agenda. As for Stephen’s take on would it kill the headline writer to say 36 years which would’ve been accurate. If Stephen can point out in the headline where it says ‘singles’ then I’ll grant him that it is casual sexism. However he won’t be able to so it cannot be sexist. Either it is ignoring all men and women who have won Wimbledon trophies since 1936 or it is talking about the Men’s Singles. It cannot be anything else.
Who cares about facts anyway. Outrage people. Outrage!