Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas

Month: August 2005

Having a good moan

Forget foul-mouthed footballers, Tennis and Cricket is where it’s all at. <br />
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Cricket especially. No-one was under any illusions that the Aussies lead the world in sledging, swearing and over-confidence (5-0 to Australia, Mr McGrath?). But now they <a href=”http://content-uk.cricinfo.com/engvaus/content/story/217669.html”>lead the world in whinging</a> as well.<br />
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In cricket, they deny us stump microphone, which is such a shame, although we could lip-read Ponting and Katich as they told the crowd and everyone else exactly what they thought. Who cares if there is swearing on daytime TV? In the tennis, no such problems. <a href=”http://news.ft.com/cms/s/10039b82-19b1-11da-804e-00000e2511c8.html”>In the Andy Murray – Andrei Pavel match</a> at the US Open, which was gripping stuff (<a href=”http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/tennis/4199444.stm”>vomit excluded</a>), Pavel went ballistic at the umpire. <br />
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“Are you fucking stupid?” he started. Now now, careful Andrei. But no, he went on to use the word “fuck” or variants thereof a further 4 times. No warning from the umpire. <br />
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But Andrei wanted more. “You are shit”, he commented at the change of ends after throwing away his serve. Code warning Pavel. But not content to leave it alone, Pavel got in one more rant, and was given a point penalty. Luckily he stopped digging there. Next penalty would have been the match, which would have denied Murray the chance to show just how far he has come in a very short time.

Dithering about

Could football transfers be any more protracted?<br />
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At last Michael Owen is going to get a game. <a href=”http://football.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/0,1563,1555312,00.html?gusrc=ticker-103704″>Newcastle, it seems, rate him high enough to break their record</a>, but no other clubs came knocking. Why?<br />
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I think Owen is the unluckiest player around. He doesn’t get in tabloid messes, trains hard, doesn’t get pissed. And I don’t buy the theory that he only suits one style of play, the counter-attack. He’s Englands chief striker for the last 6 years or so. It’s weird.<br />
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The other transfer that was yawnsville was Chelsea-Eissen. Why can’t clubs and players just make up their minds?

Not everyone is a cricket fan (but they should be)

Although you might be forgiven for thinking otherwise, given the pandemonium in my office during the <a href=”http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/cricket/england/4152448.stm”>Old Trafford test</a>.<br />
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But really. There are lots of people who <i>don’t care</i>. As far as I can tell, there are three types:<br />
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<b>Don’t like cricket</b>. Unfathomable, I know, but there are those who actually find it BORING. I am shocked, but there you go. Cricket is fascinating, unpredictable and requires concentration (no!); it can be attritional, dynamic, brutal and unflinching; it’s a sport for thinking about. Which is probably why some people don’t like it. Footie is much easier – look, goal! You only have to count to a maximum of 5, usually. 90 minutes is your lot. None of the fluctuations and of a five-day game.<br />
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<b>Don’t get cricket</b>. Fair enough. It’s complex. If you haven’t been brought up with it, or exposed to it’s intricacies before, it’s hard to convey just how exciting this Ashes has been. If you fall into this category, just smile at whoever is banging on about it and try to learn. It’s worth it. Really.<br />
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<b>Don’t like sport in general</b>. You are hopeless. Forget it. In fact, why are you even reading this?<br />
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For those who claim cricket to be something of a niche sport, consider this: the global audience and players of cricket is vast – at least 1bn, given the participation of India and Pakistan. The players are perhaps not as well known as Pele and Muhammad Ali, but you would be hard pushed to find anyone anywhere who has never heard of Botham, Lara or Warne.<br />
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Actually, a very good summary was written in the <a href=”http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=S%26%29%28%24%2BQA%2F%21%0A”>Economist</a>. Bear in mind that this was written in 1999, before test cricket moved up a level in excitement and intensity. They were assessing the best sport for all sizes, for all ages, and for skill levels:<br />
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“All of which leaves only one sport… still testing the athlete to the limits of both physique and personality. The game is cricket, played to the highest level by all shapes and sizes… So we will choose cricket as our paramount sport. Our only regret is that when America won its war of independence, it foolishly discarded its right to play a sport of such skill and temperament. Baseball is indeed a great sport, but by comparison with cricket it is, well, simple stuff.”

Getting too carried away?

Rather than adding to the glut of “Best test of all Time EVER!” comments, I think we should have a few words of caution.<br />
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This was NOT the best test of all time. Best Ashes test, possibly. But there have been equally exciting and more dramatic tests, they just aren’t as fresh in our minds, and feature other countries. I agree that it was remarkable stuff. I can’t think of a more gripping, intense sport with so many twists than test cricket at it’s best – and Edgbaston was cricket certainly that. However…<br />
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England have some serious issues to sort out. Yes, Freddie might be on fire. I am a huge fan, and think that he is clearly the best all-rounder in world cricket by a mile. But here are the more worrying aspects to the team, in no particular order:<br />
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– Aside from Flintoff, we are not bowling that brilliantly. Harmison has yet to put together a really devastating spell or consistently hostile, and Hoggard is not at his best. Simon Jones is doing pretty well, but is a better old-ball bowler. Giles is doing OK, but will be attacked at all turns. <br />
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– England are still in the Ashes because Australia have batted hopelessly (compared to their usual standards). So far in the series, their top seven are averaging around 30-ish, which for some (Ponting and Gilchrist) is 20 less than their career averages. Hayden has scored just 77 at 19.25. His career average is 52. This can’t go on for a five test series. So far, only Clarke is above his career average.<br />
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– Trescothick, Flintoff and Pietersen aside, England are batting below par too. Vaughan has made just 32 runs, and Bell not much more. These two need to get some runs, and in the next test. <br />
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– Two tests in, and no player from either side has made a century. This can’t last. England need to get a player to 100 first, otherwise the Aussie floodgates might open.<br />
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– McGrath might be out, but talk of Warne being tired is rubbish. He has bowled 75.3 overs in the series so far. Flintoff has bowled just 3 balls less, and isn’t a spinner, remember. Harmison and Lee have both bowled over 60. If Warne is tired, it isn’t from bowling.<br />
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I still think it’ll go to the last test, though. And by that time, maybe even some of the “cricket is boring” brigade will be converted.

Usual sporting insensitivity

After Glen McGrath’s untimely injury just before the Edgbaston test, in this morning’s Metro was a little “fun” box titled “You’ve done what? Unusual sporting injuries”.<br />
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Among the collection were amusing moments such as: “Derek Pringle… injured his back while writing a letter” and “Alex Stepney… dislocated his jaw shouting at his defenders in 1975”.<br />
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And then there was this:<br />
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“<b>Mistar</b>: Indonesian footballer killed by a stampede of pigs which overran the training pitch in 1995.”<br />
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I’m sorry, but that isn’t unusual, it’s just awful. He wasn’t injured – he died. And rather nastily, I would imagine. Why are Metro such a bunch of arses?<br />
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<i>Note: Mcgrath’s injury isn’t that unusual. He just trod on a ball.</i>

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