Thursday, 25 June 2009

An original thought? Please?

With the Twenty 20 World Cup well and truly won, and Pakistan's victory must rank as the most heartwarming result for world cricket, apart from possibly a West Indies win, the glare of cricket journalism is now focused intently on The Ashes. On Sunday The Observer ran a piece from Devon Malcolm, sharing some Ashes memories and reminiscing about his various dalliances with Australian batsmen. Dev also took his opportunity to put the boot into another of cricket's genuine troubled strikers, Steve Harmison, claiming that Harmy doesn't look "in the right frame of mind" to spearhead England's attack this summer. This is the second time in recent memory that Malcolm has had a dig at Harmy, the first being in his blog on The Wisden Cricketer site, and while Harmison has certainly had his low points recently in terms of performance, Malcom's comments seem motivated by the kind of agenda that the media seem insistent on pushing when it comes to Harmison, rather than a balanced, genuine assessment of the facts. Do we really need another pundit giving us the incisive, original view that Harmison isn't firing as he should be? Why not find someone who has something interesting or insightful to say? Since his recall against South Africa last summer, Harmison has not played two tests in a row, and the two series England have been involved in were both fast bowler's graveyards, so where exactly are these countless "chances" that the media insist that Harmison has squandered? And how does he not look "in the right frame of mind"? Even a passing glimpse at the last two Durham County Championship scorecards shows that Harmy is performing, and his bowling was reportedly of the very highest order against Warwickshire, fast, hostile and accurate, and on one of the deadest tracks in the country. It would be sadly predictable if we never saw Harmison's loping action for England again, or his pained face after being laced through the covers for four, but sadder still if we never saw scope for human fallibility in the game, a wide or four, or a loose ball, or someone who struggles with the mental aspects of elite sport, or life in general for that matter.
Oh, and Devon? Were you not a little loose yourself? And without the 221 test wickets to show for it, as well...

Friday, 12 June 2009

What credit crunch?

So the football season is over, and everyone can now focus on their summer sports of choice; cricket, perhaps, while the ashes is on, punctuated, of course, by those two weeks in summer when everyone is a tennis fan. Or for those who prefer a little more meat on the bone, the Lions tour of South Africa, maybe. Although that said, scouring the tabloid back pages, sport websites or free London papers over the last week or so, it strikes home that maybe Football isn't ready to slope off for a few weeks and give us all a rest after all, maybe Football, like the brash, ostentatious, joyless braggart it is wants to flash all its cash in the rest of the world's face. Just days after the Kaka deal was announced as a new world record transfer, Real Madrid seem likely to break their own record (or five) by signing the anti-troubled striker himself, Christiano Ronaldo for a rumoured £80 million.
The truth of global capitalism's moral vacuum is absolute, and in a sense that is where its fairness is deemed to lie; the world is a market place, and free trade allows any commodity to be bought or sold (as long as America says so) for its market value, but surely the money bandied about in what are just two grotesque transfer fees leaves a decidedly sour taste. In fact the taste left is that of vomit.
Watching the Champions League final a few weeks ago, watching Xavi, Iniesta and Messi waltzing around Manchester United's players in triangles of elegant simplicity; pass, move, receive. The simplest, most humble display of domination. It seemed almost in keeping with the tradition of a more noble club, one that still shows at least vestiges of humility and a sense of decency. The cynical will snort at that last sentence, and maybe Barcelona's good-guy image is borne out of the mere lip-service paid by having Unicef on your shirt, but as Real announced their transfers this week, the value of Messi et al seemed all the more pertinent. Combined transfer fees for Messi, Xavi and Iniesta? Hmmmm.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Two blokes walk into a bar...

Another one bites the dust. Yesterday saw news that Andrew Symonds, perhaps the most definitive example of the "troubled striker" in world cricket, has again been sent home from an Australian tour for disciplinary indiscretions, apparently related to alcohol. In the same time frame, another powerful, larger than life all-rounder named Andrew has been sharing his views on, well, everything actually, but one little nugget seemed particularly pertinent in light of Symond's sad, and perhaps final, slip off the wagon. Andrew Flintoff, it would seem, has some fairly lucid and illuminating views on the current state of the nation according to his latest GQ interview, but rap music, rather than sport seemed to be very much the culpable party in Fred's eyes. Sport can in fact, apparently help with all manner of societal ills including cultural violence, child obesity, drug abuse, and even binge drinking. The obvious hypocrisy of Fred's reactionary rant is not even worthy of comment, but the parallels between Flintoff's condemnation of drugs and binge drinking (would someone please define what that actually means by the way?) and the saddening demise of Symonds' career make for some interesting thought. Flintoff's public dalliances with alcohol have earned him the status of cult hero among many British cricket fans, arguably as much as his on-field endeavours, and have never truly undermined his playing career, yet Symonds has been made an example of on more than one occasion. While Flintoff enjoys the luxury of railing against the modern evils of binge drinking, Symonds faces the very real prospect of his chequered, but often brilliant career being over. But maybe Flintoff is right about one thing; maybe if, over the last year or so, Symonds had been given the opportunity to actually play more sport, he might not be in the predicament that he now finds himself. Roy, wish you were here mate, take her easy.