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Category: Other Sport

Bahrain Grand Prix is off – end – well until next year – maybe

So for once FOTA seem to be the good guys. They decided earlier in the week that the decision to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix was not a good one and effectively forced the hand of the FIA and the race is now off again and will not happen this year.

The 2012 race is still on the provisional calendar but that is obviously not set in concrete. The whole situation in the country will you would have thought had to completely die down either way or the other (hopefully in the favour of the arab spring winning out).

My main issue though is what on earth drove the FIA to reinstate the race in the first place? I know the answer is money but there are more important things than money out there and one of those things is doing the right thing. It was never the right thing to go to Bahrain in this climate for any party except the Bahraini government.

The safety of all the F1 personal could certainly not be guaranteed and without a doubt the government would have had an insane clampdown on the arab spring before the race to ensure that when the world was watching they wouldn’t see what was really going on.

The FIA come out of this looking like money-grabbing tossers whilst FOTA come out looking like a sensible group of people – which isn’t always the case. I love F1 but when it starts putting the pursuit of money over people’s safety both inside and outside F1 and doing the right thing then I quietly shake my head is disbelief.

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Why mess with nigh-on perfection? *glares at Sky Sports Test Cricket*

When it comes to watching sport on the tellybox I know what I am talking about. My life often revolves around what sport is on and I watch hours of sports each week even in the summer and when the winter comes then that number increases exponentially. Throughout all the fantastic and enjoyable commentry and presenting teams that I watch (BBC F1, ESPN College Gameday, ESPN/ABC College Football Primetime, NBC Sunday Night Football, #9 Cricket, ESPN PTI) one team sticks out from above the paraphit of these top notch teams is the Sky Sports Test Cricket team. Six men between them bring something different and as a mix they all just work well together.

Let’s look at them alphabetically (albeit with the main anchor first):

David Gower: The former Leicestershire, Hampshire and England left-hander did some anchor work with the BBC after he retired and moved to Sky Sports. He brings a very laid-back demeanour to the broadcast and anchors it both professionally but with a sense of enjoyment. Extremely knowledgeable about the sport and is quite brilliant at putting forward both sides of an arguement during analysis – certainly in a long rain-break analysis. First rate.

Michael Atherton: Former Lancashire and England opening batsman is without a doubt the best analyiser of the team. Athers also writes about cricket and won the Sports Journalist of the Year award last year, described by the judging panel as “a unanimous choice”, they praised the former England cricket captain for “tackling subjects way beyond cricket” and said “the brilliance of his writing shines.” Not afraid to say exactly what he thinks he also brings great gravitas to the position with a dry wit that you need when commentating on a five-day match.

Sir Ian Botham: The former Somerset, Durham and England all-rounder well known on the scene for being part of The Champagne Club in the England team of the 80s and early 90s (along with Gower and Mike Gatting) who loved to play cricket but also enjoyed having a good time. Brings an old school mentality to the broadcast but also very laid back.

Michael Holding: The fast-paced West Indian who loves his horses also brings great gravitas to the role. Knows exactly what he is talking about but isn’t afraid to go off-topic. His disgust and sebsequent rant about plastic bags in supermarkets was wonderful. Also purely on a simplistic issue his tone is very different and brings a good contrast to the broadcast.

Nasser Hussein: The former Essex and England middle-order batsman often plays the role of the whipping-boy in the broadcast but likes all his peers is extremely knowledgeable about the sport. His prowess running between the wicket was shall we say not first-rate. It may not have been as bad as Inzamam-ul-Haq’s but not far off.

David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd: The former Lancashire batsman and England coach very much brings the humour whilst not being over the top. His T20 commentries are second to none and he has been asked to call the final overs of both T20 World Cup’s so far by the international TV stations.

All six just work and mesh perfectly. You can sit and listen to all six quite happily. Sky Sports though have other cricket commentators who work on other games but Nick Knight seems to have been promoted for this series with Sri Lanka and for me it’s just not working. He tries too hard and doesn’t seem at ease. His voice grates and unlike Holding and Atherton when going into detailed analysis, Knight just doesn’t seem to be working. Maybe I should give him time and I’m probably being overly harsh but Sky Sports Test Cricket coverage is quite simply as close to perfection as it stands and the whole 2010/2011 Ashes Series (with Shane Warne as well) was just as good as it can get.

I shall leave you with this video of an amusing moment down under…you all know which one it is…

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Jim Tressel quits Ohio State job

The Columbus Post Dispatch is reporting that Jim Tressel has quit as Head Coach of the Ohio State Football programme with immediate effect. This comes on the heels of a troublesome few months for both the programme and Tressel personally after it became clear he had been involved in some pretty serious NCAA violations with regards to failing to report violations to either the compliance officer or the NCAA themselves.

The dispatch obtained a copy of a memo to Ohio State trustees this morning:

“I write to let you know that later this morning we will be announcing the resignation of Jim Tressel as head coach of the University’s football program. As you all know, I appointed a special committee to analyze and provide advice to me regarding issues attendant to our football program. In consultation with the senior leadership of the University and the senior leadership of the Board, I have been actively reviewing the matter and have accepted Coach Tressel’s resignation.”

Tressel has overseen the rise of Ohio State to the very top of the BigTen Conference and Ohio State are now seen as a perennial National Championship contender and as the biggest programme in the area. With one national title and seven BigTen titles (although three of them were split) under his tenure then his performances on the field had him up there with the very best but now his legacy will be savaged by his out the field issues and further reports this week from former players that they used to sell items as well in violation of NCAA rules then his position had in all honesty become untenable.

Next up is how will this effect Ohio State as a programme as Tressel had built an almighty ship there. Will recruits now look elsewhere and who can they bring in to oversee the biggest programme in the conference? There will be a long line of suitors for the job but things might yet get worse for Ohio State before it gets better. Just look at USC and how the best programme in America collapsed after the Pete Carroll era. That may well happen as well in Columbus and if it does it will mean that Penn State will once again become stronger and the daddy of the BigTen.

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Harry Redknapp to Chelsea? Is it all a Harry Redknapp PR stunt?

Ok some might call me embittered over the way Harry Redknapp used and abused my beloved football club but I’m trying to keep an open mind. One thing that can’t be denied is that Harry Redknapp has arguably the best press of any manager in England due to the fact no-one dares criticise the Spurs manager. When a brave hardened (or more likely a young naive) journalist tries to say that harry might have made a mistake or two they get a roasting and promptly are never seen or heard from again in any capacity surrounding Harry Redknapp.

For example a journalist tried to question the end to Spurs’ season after they meandered their way down the stretch and instead of making the Champions League they only managed to make it into the Europa League. They had the squad and the fixtures to claim a top four spot but they failed to do so. When posed with that question Redknapp retorted that the fans had seen the club have its best ever season and they everyone should be extremely proud of what they achieved. Now I’m not sure but considering Spurs have won both domestic championships and silverware both at home and on the continent then isn’t that a better performance than finishing fifth in the top flight and making the last eight of the Champions League where in all honesty they got torn apart by a far superior Real Madrid side?

Of course it is but we can’t be thinking that. Not when Harry Redknapp is the manager. Now the end of the Spurs season was a mess. The club should have done better but these things happen. However there seems to be a bit of an issue with the wage bill at Spurs and the chairman would prefer to move a few out before bringing in any. This isn’t exactly how Harry likes to do things. At Portsmouth he jumped ship the moment the purse strings were drawn shut. The club still hasn’t recovered and whilst I’m not putting the blame solely at our former manager (the likes of Peter Storrie and Sasha Gaydamak deserve just as much, if not more blame for allowing such reckless spending) it should be noted that similar things are happening at Spurs.

Failure to reach the Champion League is a blow both in terms of prestige for the club but far more troublesome is the money aspect. The club will have budgeted for a deep run in the competition and the money they receive from the Europa League is chicken feed in comparison. So Redknapp has a problem with bringing in who he likes so needs something to help make the chairman bend over backwards to accommodate him and what is better than a more lucrative position at a bigger club?

Chelsea need a manager and for all his pitfalls I will not deny that Harry Redknapp is both a good tactician and an extremely good motivator. However his biggest weaknesses are a bargain and believing in his team if he really doesn’t think that they can win. I saw him on umpteen occasions because throw a game by not picking the best team in games he saw as problematic. That wouldn’t be much of an issue at Chelsea and it would actually be extremely interesting to see him go there.

If he did go there then that would surely end the speculation of him landing the England job wen Fabio leaves in 2012 which looks likely so if Chelsea does come calling then it will be a dilemma. Choose the chance to really compete for the title or stick with a Spurs team where the purse strings are tighter than my wallet. The bigger question though is whether or not Chelsea have any interest. They have been extremely quiet on the matter and is Roman really willing to spend £15million on Redknapp (the fee Daniel Levy has apparently put on Redknapp’s head) and give him the open cheque book he would desire?

I am skeptical. This smells of a Redknapp manipulated media storm to me but maybe – just maybe – I am just one bitter Portsmouth fan at the end of the day.

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Lewis Hamilton openly hints at racism in F1

Oh boy Lewis. Honestly when you look at your remarks in the cold light of day you’ll cringe and what’s more your future in the sport might now be in peril. That might seem way over the top for what might be seen in some quarters as a jokey remark but it was clear from his tone that he wasn’t joking. He fully believes that he has been unfairly targeted by the F1 stewards because he isn’t white and not because he’s a thug on the race track who believes he has the right to barge people out of the way.

Speaking to BBC F1’s Lee McKensie after the race the McLaren driver fumed, “It’s an absolute frickin’ joke.”

“I’ve been to see the stewards five times out of six this season.”

When Lee McKensie pressed Hamilton on why he felt the stewards were picking on him, the McLaren driver retorted: “Maybe it’s because I’m black.”

Hamilton then added, as if to make light of his previous remark: “That’s what Ali G says.”

You can watch the interview in full on the BBC Sport website

Now I know it is one remark but what is clear to me is that Hamilton has brought the sport into disrepute. He has openly not just criticised the team (which many drivers do) but has openly questioned whether the sport is played on a level playing field and that if you aren’t part of the in club then you aren’t excepted. This seems unlikely considering how many different drivers have raced in F1 from all matter of nationalities and ethnic backgrounds and no-one to my knowledge has ever hinted at racism in the sport.

On the BBC F1 broadcast both commentators Martin Brundle and David Coulthard believed both incidents in today’s race were worthy of penalties. Once the bar had been set when Paul Di Resta decided that the car in front should be used as a brake at the hairpin then it seemed relatively obvious that his two incidents were worthy of penalties too. Many other drivers have seen penalties this season for causing an avoidable accident.

Lewis Hamilton has always come across as a bit of a baby when things don’t go his way but to drop in a hint of racism is inexcusable even in the heat of the moment. An apology better be swift or Lewis may well find himself not being allowed to race for a weekend and that would seriously piss him off. He has been nurtured at McLaren since pre-teenage years but they don’t seem to have been able to teach him how to deal with the media. He is fast becoming the biggest whiner on the grid and considering some of the other drivers on the said grid then that is quite an achievement.

No doubt nothing major will happen to him but at some point McLaren will think that the talent they are getting is not worth the hassle and the FIA themselves may not tolerate too much more of this kind of behaviour.

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Mohammad Amir banned. Call me selfish but I want to see him back – and soon.

So the ICC have banned three Pakistani cricketers for two different offences following the News of the World allegations of last year. Captain Salman Butt has been banned for ten years (five of them suspended) for failing to disclose information about a meeting and an agreement with a dodgy bookie. The two fast bowlers who bowled the no balls, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir (he was Aamer when he broke into the game – why has the spelling of his name changed?) have got seven (two suspended) and five respectively. So all three will at least be out of the game for five years but the likelihood of them ever returning seems low.

The only one who seems to have any realistic shot of taking the field again is Amir. The young left hander was like a breath of fresh air. A truly gifted swing bowler reminded many of Wasim Akram at his pomp. I first saw Amir during the Australian summer twelve months or so ago when he was the shining light in a pretty laborious Pakistani pace attack. He was making waves all over the cricketing world and every cricket fan thought a true great was being unearthed.

Then step forward to the English summer and the Pakistani tour. Again he impressed and showed he wasn’t a one-time wonder. The world was his oyster. He was set to become the poster boy of Pakistani cricket for the next decade or more. If there is one country where a great cricketer can truly have it all then it in Pakistan.

However a no ball later that seemingly was bowled deliberately in return for a few quid has ruined all that. Now these players will face a criminal trial in the UK and that trial will need to prove guilt whereas the ICC Panel didn’t. So I won’t be typing anything about any of them being guilty just yet but I know my heart sank when I read it was this kid involved last summer. I suspect others felt the same.

Now whether he felt pressured into doing it but senior players (if indeed he did do it) or that he was told it was the norm. The long and short of it is cricket is poorer that he won’t be around. Asif and Butt were fine players but neither was a great or had the potential to be one, Amir did. I feel like we are missing out on watching him play because of what happened and the world of cricket is poorer for it.

It makes me sad.

Criminal proceedings get underway in the spring and I know I’ll be watching them intently. If they are found not guilty it will be very interesting to see what happens next but I think the fear is that is less likely than the three of them spending time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

I might be selfish but I want to see Amir again. He’ll only be 22 by the time his ban is up but I fear his name has been tarnished too much. We shall wait and see but true greatness being taken down before it has time to shine is a sad situation for us all.

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DC joins Brundle is the F1 Comm Box. Legard is out at the BBC.

Two blogs within an hour of each other? What on Earth is going on?

Well the news that Jonathan Legard is gone from the F1 Commentary Box is one that deserves a fresh blog. Now I don’t dislike Legard but I will admit that it just wasn’t working with him and Martin Brundle and one had to go – and considering how great Brundle is – it had to be Legard. I wish him all the best and he is a fine play-by-play guy but for whatever reason with the BBC on F1 it wasn’t working. So onwards and upwards for both Legard and the BBC F1 coverage.

So today after Legard confirmed he was off first thing it meant that speculation would abound as to whether or not David Coulthard would step up into the Martin Brundle role, with the aforementioned Brundle stepping up to play-to-play and we didn’t have long to wait for the answer. The BBC sent out a Press Release at around 10AM GMT that indeed it would be Brundle and Coulthard for the 2011 season. Brundle has only a year left on his contract but if this partnership is a success then you can expect the BBC to pay the going rate and for this to be the partnership well into the next decade.

Having two ex-drivers in the Commentary Box has unnerved some people but it shouldn’t be a problem. Steve Cram is a fine athletics play-by-play guy and everyone loves Jonathan Agnew on Test Match Special. In fact when it comes to cricket the commentary is mostly done by ex-players and it works well. I know F1 is faster but we’ve seen and heard Brundle slip into play-by-play mode on more than one occasion on both the BBC and when he was with ITV and he seemed perfectly adept at it.

Brundle will still do his grid walks, which are an important part of the coverage in my opinion and DC will still do pre and post race with Jake and Eddie in the pit lane. Both workloads will grow but they are embracing the new challenge. I for one am excited about the new pairing in the Commentary Box and we’ll see how it shakes out. I have every faith that Brundle will carry on being a World Class broadcasters and if he and DC bounce off each other the way that I think they can then all will be right within the BBC F1 world.

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F1 – The Brundle v Legard Debate

Over on DigitalSpy there is a long thread going on about F1. With strong rumours circulating that Martin Brundle has told the BBC that he can’t work going forward with Jonathan Legard then it looks like one or both of them will be leaving the commentary box on the BBC next season. Most people want Ben Edwards in or just promote both David Croft and Anthony Davidson from the 5Live coverage.

Here are my thoughts on the situation as I posted over there:

As one of the casual observers and F1 watcher I’d like to bring what the average person thinks to this discussion.

They like Martin Brundle. They don’t like Jonathan Legard. They don’t know who the other commentators are.

I have watched the Practice sessions so do but your average F1 watcher for qualifying and the race do not. The average ‘Joe Public’ like Brundle and have done for years. He was part of the last great F1 commentary team in most people’s eyes. His relationship with James Allen was often questioned but deep down they had a respect and understanding. Allen knew that Brundle had insightful things to say and let him say them. Legard seems to want to call everything.

Murray and Martin had a very simple technique when they wanted to talk and the other one was – they tapped each other on the shoulder and it worked. They very very rarely spoke over each other. As far as I’m aware JA and MB used the same communication technique. I have no idea if JL and MB use it but it doesn’t seem like it. Even if something big happens when MB is talking JL feels the need to call it and that is where for me (and most people I speak to) the problem is. This isn’t like football where your colour guy is rarely talking in the middle of a clear goal scoring opportunity – things happen in F1 at anytime.

In cricket they do have lead and colour guys but whoever is talking when a wicket falls or any big event finishes the call and the other guy will chip in with their thoughts when the call is over.

JL needs to get over the ‘I’m the play-by-play announcer’ spiel as even though he is – MB can call live action if he is in the middle of talking. I don’t want MB as the lead play-by-play guy but if he’s talking when something big happens then he can do that. Murray let him do it and James let him do it. Commentators do it in most other sports so why can’t JL do it?

Your average Joe Public would want Murray back but that isn’t happening so all in all they don’t care as long as whoever comes in works well with MB.

To use an old Ferrari term when they signed Rubens – think of A.N.Other New Commentator as Commentator 1a and MB as 1b. That is how it has worked well in the past and how it can work well in the future. James Allen would be fine as long as he toned down his love of the Brits. His voice came across as too faked at times (probably trying to be more Murray like) and he didn’t need to. However he did (and still does) know the sport inside and out so he would be an option that most would be ok with.

As for Ben Edwards – he suffers from ‘Gareth Barry’ syndrome. All the time he’s not there he becomes a better and better commentator. Whether he’ll do a good or great job we won’t know until they try but if you ask every one of the five million or so people who they would like to lose least from the F1 team then it would be MB (followed by JH) and who they would like to see go most it would be JL I’m sure.

To read my thoughts on DC joining Brundle in the Comms Box for 2011 then please follow this link

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