Cricket news from ESPN

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Amir latest: Brexit fury as skilled, non-EU migrant denied work visa

There was anger from Brexit campaigners today after a skilled, non-EU migrant was denied a work visa to enter the UK. Mohammad Amir, a sportsman from a small village in Pakistan, had wanted to fill a position as a fast bowler in various locations across Britain, but has now had his application for an employment permit temporarily blocked. His place in the Pakistan side will now be taken by Essex's Dutch star Ryan ten Doeschate, who under present EU rules is, according to UKIP leader Nigel Farage, "allowed to play for whoever he likes and piss on your car windscreen."

Leave frontman Boris Johnson also waded into the debate, explaining why the snub to Amir meant Britain must adopt a points-based immigration system: "Although Mohammad is, of course, not the most skillful bowler in the world - that's Dale Anderson - he still has more than enough skill points to be allowed in as a seasonal summer worker to pick off English batsmen. But thanks to our Brussels overlords, this decent, upstanding chap will now be left at home while EU foreigners flood our stadiums."

"I'm out, am I!? Bloody terrific. Now I can control my own destiny"

As the controversy rumbled on, another leave advocate, Michael Gove, explained his views via a cricket analogy: "The present immigration set-up is ok, I guess, because it's been in place for a long time and UK employers and overseas investors know where there stand and that. But, as with cricket series, perhaps a more bureaucratic, points-based system could breathe new life into it? England might be 2-0 up in the Tests but under Andrew Strauss's new scoring scheme there's still all to play for with the T20s and ODIs still to come. So why not have that excitement in work visa applications? Amir might actually be enjoying all this uncertainty, as the bureaucratic wheels churn and his employment prospects hang in the balance. It's probably good for ticket sales as well, so let's ensure all recruiting British companies have to go through this process, for both EU and non-EU workers. It's not economically stifling in the slightest." 

Fellow Brexit supporter Sir Ian Botham, however, offered a more nuanced take, refusing to resort to simplistic, jingoistic sloganeering on such a complex and vital issue: "England should be England," he said, before attending a tedious barbecue. 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Brussels, Trump and Lahore: Why Cricket Really Does Matter

There are, given modern media and the frequency of terrorism, a few norms you can trace in the wake of any attack: The nascent mentions of “an incident” or “explosions reported” that creep onto 24-hour news tickers and Twitter; the shaky first photos of dust and blood uploaded and soon appropriated by mainstream outlets that confirm your worst fears; the retweeted pleas for information about silent loved ones; a friend or ex-colleague or that bloke you met on holiday marked safe on Facebook. Things differ somewhat in terms of Western responses and coverage if a bomb detonates in Baghdad or Lahore rather than Brussels, but there is naturally no difference in grief for those affected.

There is also normally, given the game’s monopoly of the calendar, a televised cricket match taking place somewhere during or in the aftermath of such an atrocity. This might be an international or some domestic T20 involving a franchise whose name you're not entirely sure of but, due to the demographics of cricket, it nevertheless still puts you in an odd place. The recriminations from the dust and blood have started and with them the angry accusations. They are not directed at those of us who are non-Muslim, but we still find ourselves at a peculiar juxtaposition.

From many angles your senses are assailed by people telling you all those, to a man, of this faith are vessels of evil, yet there you are, watching followers of it cheering in stands, bowl yorkers and strike boundaries. There you are listening to them commentate, posting stats about strike rates, calling you out on Twitter for being a bit rude about Umar Akmal. You’re in the middle of a weird crossroads, being urged to conflate those who inhabit a huge part of your life, those with whom you share a sport, with murderers. You don’t, of course, need cricket to reject such generalisations, but it certainly highlights their crassness.

Cricket is everywhere. There is a particularly abhorrent scene, among the plethora of horrors highlighting Islamist intransigence and extremism, in Hemal Trivedi's documentary about the Red Mosque's damaging influence in Pakistan. You witness some of the boys who have been placed, and then indoctrinated, in a radical madrassah who wish to watch the 2011 World Cup semi-final between India and their country, but are barred from doing so by their teachers. You see them furtively crowding round TVs in the streets of Islamabad, desperate to view the game but, knowing the cameras are on them, fearing to look as if they are taking an interest. One of them succinctly puts the reason why in relation to the adults, such as they are, which govern their lives in the medieval hell to which they've been brainwashed into believing is existence: “They will beat us if we watch.” There is plenty else in that documentary, which incorporates the attack on a Peshawar school but was made before the godless slaughter in Lahore, to make the heart shudder but, as a cricket fan and teacher, this particular part made me sneer with impotent rage. The denial of sport's joy in the name of dogma, the theft of youth, it is just child abuse cloaked in scripture. That children should face the threat of physical assault for wanting to watch a cricket match. It is utterly, utterly repulsive.

For most of us, however, it is almost self-defeating to draw attention to how largely irrelevant religion is to our interpretation of cricket because by doing so risks undermining the whole point. Yet it can surely not go unremarked that whenever innocent people’s worlds are destroyed by bombs and then the world as a whole listens to the spiteful bombast that follows, cricket really doesn't, in the nicest way, pay any heed. Afridi retires, quips flood Twitter. It is just seen as cricket. A British Muslim extracts his side from a pickle against a team containing Muslim refugees. It is just seen as cricket. A Muslim born in Pakistan opens for Australia. It is just seen as cricket. Everything is, largely, just seen through the prism of cricket, not through the prism of the religion to which so many of its participants and fans belong and which those who kill misuse as a fig leaf for their murders. Faiths in cricket, even in these volatile times and despite terrorism’s lasting effect on the game itself, are as irrelevant as skin colour. 

Every time terrorism floods over the media, with the retributive anger it understandably provokes and undoubtedly aims to create, cricket and its polite subjugation of religion’s significance is, if nothing else, there. Whether you are a liberal or conservative, an atheist or believer, a frothing jihadi or Donald Trump, cricket is indisputably there, high-profile on timelines and TV whatever the repugnant horror with which it shares the news.

Cricket, with its uniquely mixed crowds and protagonists is there lingering, a reminder that people still focus on something of common bond when the world’s absurdity is urging them to move further apart. This lofty fact is not, of course, going to stop either the bombs or the bombast, but if you're utterly sickened by both then it is comforting to remember cricket’s even plateau of praise and condemnation. A plateau where Muslim players are mocked with impunity but without bigotry by fellow Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and, while it may sometimes show social media users as a little rude, it is also indicative of a certain strength in the face of divisiveness.

The question cricket should perhaps ask itself is whether, as a sport, it should just quietly enjoy its largely successful absorption of religions or, in the present climate, have the temerity to be more vocal. Should we hope cricketers might speak up a little more when they hear blanket abuse of those millions of Muslim fans who adore them? Should we hope that cricketers, in positions of such reverence and influence over the young and easily influenced, might speak out even louder against extremism than some do already? Well in fact, on the latter point you don't have to, because, although it is clearly not a cricketer’s job to stop bigotry or prevent terrorism, many from many teams have taken to social media individually to condemn the horror of recent events. It is easy to dismiss such comments as compulsory, but we really shouldn't.

Cricket, all of us, should recognise the game’s privileged and pivotal position. It is the sport, given the prominence and integration of Muslims within it, which more than any other shows up the fallacy of the beliefs of fanatics with bombs and would-be leaders with idiotic prejudice instead of policies. It might seem grasping and trite if you live in a progressive Western city, even those affected by terrorism, to vaunt our sport's pleasant indifference to the posited religious divide of our times. If you live in one of the Pakistani cities affected on a regular basis by extremist violence, it might seem even more of a vacuity. But really every time a Muslim walks out onto a cricket pitch, with team mates of their faith, others or none, every ball is a defiance of the pubescent, Breivikian certainty to which any extremist smugly clings. It does, if little else, make these idiots, in madrassahs or on Fox News, look a bit foolish.  

We have all, in Europe, Asia and beyond, sat around these last three weeks watching cricket on the global stage. Watching a sport which, even if it does not herald or shout about it, really kicks the balls of those such as Trump or the mullahs of the Red Mosque who would seek to represent the planet as a dichotomy. There will be two British Muslims representing England this afternoon in the World T20 final and to many, brilliantly, that will really mean very little, as does the fact one of the world's premier sports, brilliantly, generally swishes by with its inclusiveness going unnoticed. But to those cricket-loving children in Pakistan, those children imprisoned by extremism trying to steal a glance at a TV set on a street corner, it will mean a great deal. And it should say to all of us what it will hopefully prompt even their corrupted, stolen minds to think: That this diversity is real life. That this is cricket. And that this, regardless of everything those full of hate might try to tell us, is simply normal.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

"AGAINST THE SPIRIT OF CRICKET" to be tattooed on players' foreheads say MCC

In dramatic a new measure to curb the tide of lawlessness sweeping across village cricket, the MCC today announced that any player found to have breached its code of conduct would have "AGAINST THE SPIRIT OF CRICKET" permanently tattooed on their forehead. It is hoped the proposal, set to be unveiled by Henry Blofeld and Iain Duncan Smith on Wednesday, will rectify current falling standards of behaviour, which have resulted in what the MCC termed "nasty unpleasantness" creeping into the game. 

Time bomb: Shortly after this photo was taken all 22 players had shot each other with big guns

The plans, which have been welcomed by people who believe pedophilia was invented by the internet, also found favour in some sections of the press. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, a relieved Scyld Berry said the move had come not a moment too soon: "It is a shame that all young people are such shits these days," he lamented. "But that is the situation we face and so I fully support the MCC's well thought out new stance."

A modified version of the system has already been trialed at the Under-19 World Cup, where West Indies bowler Keemo Paul had the inside of his eyelids tattooed with the words "Mankad Scum" so that, as the MCC put it, "his dreams will be forever  haunted by visions of his bastard evil". 

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Palin endorses India's bowling attack

In a huge boost to India's beleaguered bowlers, ex-governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, today said that she gave "those good ol' guys my full backing". Coming a day after her endorsement of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee, Palin explained that she was "a huge fan of anyone who was popular and quite dangerous at home among a adoring fanbase but a bit of a laughing stock overseas". 

Palin: "You will never take away Ishant Sharma's freedom to bowl like a drain"
Speaking to a gushing Bhupendra Chaubey, who told the former vice presidential candidate she was a "wonderful example of decency and a great role model for all India's young ladyfolk I look after", Palin claimed that "she knew how to choose a winner". When it was pointed out to her that India had already lost their ODI series in Australia after a succession of humiliating beatings, the fading doyen of American's right blamed the "lamestream media and liberals like Ravi Shastri" for the team's current plight. When asked by Chaubey what she thought of Sunny Leone, Palin replied that she'd "never been there but could see it out of her window on a plane sometimes." 

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Amir refuses to play with Yasir Shah

After star Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah tested positive for a banned diuretic, returning fast bowler Mohammad Amir today stated he would refuse to play in the same side as "that rotter". Amir, who is set to return to the national team following a five-year ban imposed after the ICC found him guilty of coming from a small village, said that he could not share a dressing room with someone who "brings the good name of Pakistan cricket into disrepute".

Amir: "Zero tolerance" on cheats

Amir's stand, which has been condemned and supported by a confused Mohammad Hafeez, throws Pakistan's preparations for the forthcoming tour of New Zealand into further chaos. Speaking from Lahore, however, PCB chairman Shahryar Khan expressed his delight at everything returning to normal: "To be honest, this recent period of stability we've had in Pakistan cricket has been nice but it's not us. A settled team, a sensible captain, a board making logical decisions. That might be all very well for some countries, but that's just not how we roll. It's nice that we're back on an uneven keel."


Friday, 25 December 2015

Indian cricket team make surprise visit to Pakistan

In a move which has delighted fans everywhere, the Indian cricket team today made an unannounced visit to Pakistan. Landing with only a couple of hours notice in Lahore, the side - headed by the strong yet divisive Virat Kohli - were met on the tarmac by charismatic Pakistani leader Misbah-ul-Haq. The two men then took their teams to the nearby Gaddafi Stadium and, in a seismic development, shook hands with each other before tossing a coin and playing a cricket match. According to sources, onlookers were left "gasping in disbelief" at the shocking scenes of reconciliation.

Heads: A delighted Virat Kohli smiles after calling correctly 
Explaining the motive behind the surprise trip, Kohli said that he and "Mizzy" had been inspired to act because the BCCI and PCB had recently been "as much use as a Teflon spider web" in trying to organise a Pakistan-India series. "Let's be honest. It was all getting a bit embarrassing that our two cricket teams couldn't meet up for political reasons, especially as our political leaders keep, er, meeting up," he said. "First Paris, now this latest rendezvous, Sharif and Modi getting together all the time to discuss nuclear weaponry when we weren't even able to get together for a meaningless T20 was making us cricketers look rather ridiculous."

Despite high hopes this was to be a breakthrough moment for cricketing relations, the day sadly ended in catastrophe when some members of the Pakistan team refused to meet another member of the Pakistan team and so everyone just went home. 


Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Tyson Fury launches petition to stop Donald Trump entering Tyson Fury

World Boxing champion, Tyson Fury, today launched an online petition demanding that Donald Trump be barred from entering him. Fury, who has recently courted controversy with his views on homosexuality said that although he had no evidence the Republican presidential candidate was in any way sexually attracted to other right-wing male bigots, "You can't be too careful because a lot of these gays are quite devious."

In the petition, which has attracted over seven signatures, Fury calls on the British government to stop Trump from ''crossing the border of decency and swarming into my underpants''. For his part, the billionaire said he was disappointed by the move, but that under his presidency Fury would still be welcome to come and fight in the US because ''he didn't have a funny name".

Despite the furore, Trump remains the 5/4 favourite to win this year's BBC Sports Personality of the Year.


Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Trump calls for a complete ban on Muslims in Pakistan cricket team

Republican presidential candidate and statesman, Donald Trump, today called for a total ban on Muslims playing for the Pakistan cricket team. In a statement released by his campaign, the wealthy  scarecrow-cum-lunatic said that excluding Shahid Afridi and "his lot" from the game was the only way to "keep America safe." At a rally later in the day, Trump explained he may reconsider his plan once the International Cricket Council "figure out what's going on with these Mexicans like Younus Khan."

When it was pointed out his proposals may be a little impractical for a nation such as Pakistan, where Islam is the dominant faith, the billionaire responded simply that, "There is strong evidence most Muslims hate cricket. A poll I recently conducted in my weird head made of straw and Oreos certainly came to that conclusion."

The move has brought condemnation from all quarters, with the PCB labelling Trump "even madder than Ijaz Butt" and some England fans talking the ultimate step of describing the businessman as a "Yankee Giles Clarke. But with even shitter hair". Pakistan fans were also united in their disbelief at Trump's plan although one, a Shoaib from Rawalpindi, said he would support the move if it meant "that bloody Misbah is removed as captain."

Despite further vast publicity for his campaign, many observers believe Trump has finally gone too far in his divisive views and his official spokesman did later appear to try and clarify the policy: "Mr Trump has no problem with Mexicans playing cricket for Pakistan," he explained.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

India renew opposition to use of Nigel Llong

In light of today's non-dismissal of pivotal Australian batsman, Nathan Lyon, the BCCI today reiterated it still had "serious doubts" over the use of umpire Nigel Llong in Test matches.

Speaking from Sachin's pocket, a spokesman explained: "Today's farce yet again proves we were right to be wary of the use of Nigel Llong in cricket and, furthermore, goes to show our more general scepticism towards technology is valid. As such, Virat's decision to insist Indian Test groundsmen produce wickets using only their bare hands, rather than these fancy rollers and so forth, has also been fully vindicated. In contrast to the technoshambles in Adelaide, look at the fair-to-all cricket everyone has enjoyed in our close-fought series against South Africa."

Supporters who oppose the use of technology also seized on Lyon's reprieve.  "The other day asked my cat to write my bachelor thesis by walking all over my laptop keyboard," said one Delhi student. "The screen just displayed a load of incomprehensible gibberish. I even had spellcheck on which is meant to eliminate the obvious howler, but Mr Sniffles' efforts were still riddled with mistakes. Obviously I threw the laptop out immediately and replaced it with Marais Erasmus."

Sunday, 25 October 2015

ICC limit amount of De Villiers allowed inside the circle

As part of their eternal quest to make cricket less entertaining, the ICC today announced that, when batting, South Africa will not be allowed any AB de Villiers inside the circle. When it was suggested this meant the Proteas genius wouldn't actually be able to face any deliveries at all, an ICC spokesman simply said, "Rules are rules." 

De Villiers: "The greatest threat facing cricket today"    

Despite recently introducing new ODI fielding restrictions and vowing to clamp down on the bigger bats which are believed by some to be responsible for the sort of exhilarating big-hitting despised by fans across the globe, the ICC have brought in this additional measure because, the spokesman continued, "cricket is still proving to be far too enjoyable for fans when AB is at the wicket. We need to get a better balance between bat and boredom." 

Cricket South Africa have understandably launched a protest against the decision, prompting ICC bigwig Giles Clarke to insist that the game's governing body weren't trying to exclude one of the sport's most exciting talents completely. "Mr De Villiers will still be allowed to bat during indoor cricket matches. So how can people say we're being unfair when we're actually giving him the chance to win an Olympic gold medal? God, there's some blinkered idiots out there." 


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