Cricket news from ESPN

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Ian Healy appointed new Chelsea physio

Following the sacking of Eva Carneiro, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho today announced ex-Australian wicket keeper, Ian Healy, will be her replacement as the club's chief physio. In a move which has surprised observers but left a certain demographic of insecure males nodding knowingly to each other, the Blues manager said he'd gone with Healy because he was a "man's man" who "as an Australian cricketer understood how to cheat properly."

The former Baggy Greens stopper is not believed to hold any formal medical qualifications, but Mourinho is said to have been impressed by Healy's no-nonsense take on his country's recent Ashes defeat, which he blamed on the players' wives and girlfriends distracting them by "going on about puppies and shoes and stuff and having really nice tits that us blokes like."

Although the move has been welcomed by many supporters, some Chelsea fans have expressed disappointment at Carneiro's departure. "Oi, Steve. What was that thing I used to say?" said Nigel Johnson from Dagenham. "That thing when she treated the players?...oh yeah, that's it...I used to say 'While you're down there, luv!!'...used to love that. Probably can't say it now. Shame."


Saturday, 8 August 2015

Ashes to ashes, funk too funky

From the moment Michael Clarke entered Test cricket with a century on debut he had crosshairs on his peroxide. Too pretty, too blessed, too anointed, it was suggested. None of it had much standing unless viewed through the distorting prism of schooners and bloketalk, but as the years passed and even as the runs piled up, the perceived celebrity lifestyle, romances and romantic fallout remained a stick for which his detractors readily reached whenever things, however infrequently, were going a little awry on the pitch. Simon Katich's hands spoke for many. Michael Hussey's humbleness in the face of Clarke's nautical extravagance spoke volumes, or so it was interpreted before the finer points were revealed. 

The peroxide has long grown out and, in the eyes of a particular demographic of the Australian public, Clarke finally grew into a proper man last year when his body was crucified for his side in Cape Town, Morne Morkel furnishing him with a level of sustained abuse to make even Tyson wince. But pain is a limpet to him anyway. Where most sportsmen merely have to warm up before a game, for the last few years Clarke has had to coax his body into acquiescence, gently attempting to woo his frigid back with those lizard poses. It was only ever physical discomfort, though, a trifle next to what he stoically endured shielding his team and countrymen from the relentless grief that consumed them at the end of last year. 


His forced retirement seems an ignominious reward from fate for that gallantry, but this series has undoubtedly been a professional nadir. His batting was as imbalanced and incoherent as his close friend Shane Warne's - in some ways noble yet increasingly unhelpful - sycophancy. His captaincy has also been untypically savaged, his hallmark innovation deemed too Ranierian and tinkering for situations where orthodoxy was, it was generally agreed by impartial observers, all that was required. Ashes to Ashes, funk too funky. 

Clarke will leave English soil with the muddy stain of failure there caked on his record and will exit Australian cricket much as he has lived it: Marginally unappreciated and sniped at, waiting for history to justly rectify the perceptions. Fairly or unfairly, as Kevin Pietersen will testify, peroxide and celebrity cheerleaders ultimately count against you.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Rosa Parks should "get over herself" says Warne

Just a few hours after putting people straight on the Adam Goodes controversy sweeping Australia, spin legend Shane Warne today set his sights on "attention-seeker" Rosa Parks. Ms Parks, who gained widespread notoriety for refusing to give up her seat on segregated Montgomerey bus in 1955, was condemned by Warne for "just not getting on with things" and "making a bit of a fuss".

Parks: "Trouble-maker" 
Explaining his stance, Warne said that he could empathise with civil rights champion Parks because of the problems with white people he had encountered throughout his life. "I know what it's like to be abused because of my skin," he opined, holding back tears. "All these botox and plastic surgery comments I get from people on Twitter. And a lot of the people making them are white. So you're not going to tell me I don't understand what Parks went through. Some people on a bus can sit where they like and some people can't and that's nothing to do with racism. It's about people sitting on a bus."

When asked if he felt his comments on AFL star Goodes had been simplistic and misjudged, Warne replied: "I've moved on. Adam needs to move on. And the only way he can do that is by admitting Mitchell Starc should be dropped. End of."


Thursday, 25 June 2015

Chris Lewis's Face

Chris Lewis has a face like it was chiseled out of marble by a master sculptor who at the last minute was slightly infused by jealousy at the perfection of his subject. As he sits there being interviewed for the first time since leaving prison, you can't help but wonder at the age-dissing splendour of the contours and cheekbones, while inevitably noticing the scars and pockmarks conferred upon him in nature's lottery and which hint gently at his confirmed and punished fallibility. Much like Mohammad Amir, he has the perfect mug for a duplicitous sporting catastrophe. Part face, part neoclassical facade, all confusion. Watching him during the nineties, it was always his oft-remarked upon athleticism alongside the relatively unfulfilled talent that was the awkward juxtaposition. Watching him now, it is the absurdity of seeing a man who still looks as if he could front a campaign for Christian Dior explaining how he got busted for smuggling drugs that offers mawkish captivation.

As he speaks, his measured tones are punctuated with numerous “you know”s and “yeah”s as he implores his interviewer and the public to understand what drove him to do what he did whilst never coming close to rationalising it. You suspect he can't even rationalise it to himself, leaving us and him with the same sense of bemusement with which we observed his capricious international career. He sometimes lowers his expressive and troubled cow-eyes to the camera like a less ubiquitous cricketing Princess Diana, perhaps hoping for similar sympathy on the grounds that fame and aesthetic supremacy drive you to be a bit screwed up. He almost certainly is. He's a bit of a strange chap, Chris Lewis. But he's got a beguiling face you probably wish well. Especially as his and its imperfections make you suspect that he might not ever will be. 

Saturday, 11 April 2015

What would be marvellous....

When Phil Hughes passed on, there were huge amounts of dignity and appropriateness displayed on the world's pages and front walls. The tributes and the putting out of bats seemed perfectly in tune with the feelings of cricket, its players and public. What was perhaps a little overreaching was the notion that his tragic death would herald in a new era of so-termed spirit of cricket decency whereby all perceived notions of ill behaviour would magically cease. That was never, ever going to happen and some people got themselves in a terrible muddle attempting to use a tragic one-in-a-million accident as a lever for cloying morality.

Richie Benaud's passing is similar and different. No tribute will be too adulatory. No gesture, even a state funeral, can do justice to who he was and what he represented. But, in contrast to the somewhat grasping notions of betterment that attached themselves to Hughes's death, Benaud's genuinely offers the possibility for tangible improvement of one aspect of the game. When Channel 9, as it will, airs shows in his remembrance its producers should really pause for a second and ask themselves why the world has stopped in his honour. Pause and question just why it is he was, is and will be so loved, admired and respected and then, uncomfortable as it might be, contrast that with the coverage they serve up to viewers and really, truly consider the barbecue and banter-based direction in which they are going. The allegations against their current commentary are too tedious and worn to go over, but suffice to say we should be grateful in some twisted respects that Benaud's stints were limited by circumstance in the last couple of years. When he did appear, it was like seeing Maria Callas on the panel of X Factor, his otherworldly brilliance forced to mingle awkwardly with the squalor of mediocrity.

So amid the sadness and eulogies, if it is not too crass and immediate to ask, we should all enquire of Channel 9 that that they have a deep look at how they cover cricket and whether some, not all, members of their present commentary team could be just a little more articulate, just a little less self-obsessed, just little more cricket-based. 

Richie Benaud spent decades making cricket better for everyone. If he can do it from beyond the grave no one should be in the least surprised. 

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Farage calls for England to leave ICC

Talking perineum with a pint Nigel Farage today called for England to withdraw from the International Cricket Council. Speaking after his nation's disappointing World Cup exit, the UKIP leader stated that the only way to get the England cricket team back to its former greatness was to "regain control of our boundaries and be allowed to choose exactly who we want to play against." 

Speaking from The White Lion in a slightly dispossessed community ripe for spreading contrived hatred, Farage explained his plan thus: 

"For too long, we've just sat back and allowed the ICC to impose rules upon us. Only four men outside the circle when Stuart Broad's bowling, foreign batsmen claiming the benefits of the power play while honest English players go without runs, these are just yet two more examples of our cricket team's sovereignty being trampled underfoot. By making us accept games against the likes of Australia and New Zealand, the bureaucrats in Dubai have made us a laughing stock." 

A UKIP spokesman later clarified that Farage would welcome a points-based approach to selecting the teams allowed into England to play against Peter Moores's men: "Instead of this blanket rule whereby we are duty bound to take in any old foreigners with full Test membership of the ICC who will doubtless come over and abuse our hospitality, what we'd like to see is a system where the ECB can choose teams with the skill set which will most benefit the England side. People say we're racist bigots, but how can that be so when under our new diverse framework there'd be a two-Test series against the Vatican City followed by a triangular ODI competition featuring Alaska and Madagascar?"

ECB managing director Paul Downton, however, played down the furore over Farage's call, saying he and Giles Clarke had already been working on something "very similar". 


Friday, 6 March 2015

Book Review - 2nd XI: Cricket In Its Outposts

The ongoing World Cup - and the 2019 incarnation's intended culling to ten teams - has brought debate over the place of associate nations at cricket's showpiece into sharp and occasionally angry focus. Regardless that these sides have contributed to many of the most exciting matches in the tournament as games between full member teams have largely been one-sided processions, there remain those who take the occasional wallopings some have received and use them to lament that cricket is traduced. Both Dhoni and Tendulkar have expressed their displeasure at the treatment of associate nations in the last week, but some still wince and grumble at the likes of the UAE or Afghanistan being at the event, as if their participation is some sort of niche fetishistic pornography from which the game's sensitive eyes must be protected. 

The position is absurd. No other major sport would use its premier global gala as a means to limit the spread of participation or enthusiasm across the planet but, in essence, full members' attitudes (and particularly that of the 'Big Three') towards the future World Cup format is merely a logical extension of an international cricketing structure which was hewn from colonialist notions of whim and supremacy rather than meritocracy. Although 2nd XI: Cricket in its outposts, is a book I would challenge anyone not to enjoy, its central message on  both this issue and the more generally inherent unfairness faced by associate nations should bring little cheer to any fan. Written mostly by journalists Peter Miller and Tim Wigmore - with supporting contributions from Tim Brooks, Sahil Dutta and Gideon Haigh (who also provides a ferocious foreword) - each chapter is on one of these second-tier, as they are regarded, cricket nations and details the historical, cultural, personal, administrative and on field developments and struggles which have taken place since cricket's nascence in that particular country. 

It is an absorbing and edifying book from which pleasure can be derived on any one of these socio-sporting levels, but it is the simmering, though never swivel-eyed, horror and despair with which it is shot through that lends real value. Readers hear of the rank ludicrousness that infuses the lopsided nature of ICC funding brought about by the present system of the have-Test and ODI statuses and have-nots. While there are many examples of this given, it is never better illustrated than when Ireland made it to the Super 8 stage at the 2007 World Cup: "Research by the journalist Richard Gillis," Wigmore writes,"..has found that Ireland received just $56,000 in prize money for their performance in the Caribbean. Zimbabwe, who tied with Ireland and lost their other two matches and exited in the group stages, received an $11m share of the tournament’s media rights. As it had always been, cricket was a private members’ club with no time for those outside it."

A further jarring sense of injustice comes when the book details the personal sacrifices and hardships so many players and, indeed, administrators from associate nations have made. We are told of the Kenyan team, ahead of the 2003 World cup at which they made such an impact, having to train with red balls painted white to replicate those used in ODIs rather than being able to buy the real thing. We learn of UAE players struggles with visa authorities and then exhaustion as the only time to train was after completing the long factory shifts many (still) work, a scenario that could nevertheless be regarded as a utopia by those Afghanistan players who first started to play the game in the Pakistani refugee camps in which their war-ravaged upbringing took place. 

The book benefits from a range of writers, but all - not surprisingly given their pedigree - maintain a style which is always reportage rather than merely match reports, one of the cardinal sins many cricket tomes slip into. The book is necessarily serious, but is not without moments of wryness or levity, such as Dutta's take on recently meeting at Lord's the two men charged with running cricket's administrative body (the CCA) in China: "Neither Zhang nor Song were familiar with cricket before 
the CCA was established. And it wasn’t entirely clear that they were overly familiar with it now." There are also delightful tidbits of trivial to make the cricket tragic smile, such as the fact that Dean Jones once lent his name to a variant of Kwik Cricket in Papau New Guinea called Liklik Cricket or that Bradman played his final innings on British soil not at Lord's or The Oval, but in Aberdeen. 

As it is customary there should follow a few quibbles about 2nd XI, but it is genuinely tricky to think of any. It is a book that is as forceful as it is timely and should be read as widely as possible, not least by those at boards across the world and in Dubai whose combination of power and tunnel vision is doing the game an injustice. Outposts are not something of which a sport as great as cricket is deserving. 


You can order or download Second XI: Cricket in its outposts here:

Friday, 27 February 2015

Morgan to sing "Dirty Old Town" during national anthem

England captain, Eoin Morgan, today defended his decision not to sing the national anthem at the World Cup and announced he will from now on be bawling out Dirty Old Town instead ahead of all future matches. Morgan, whose scowl has been known to make doves fall from the sky, has largely kept his counsel about the affair on the grounds those questioning his stance were "just twats". The under fire skipper today, however, chose to face down his detractors by saying he'd be singing the folk classic made famous by The Dubliners at full volume over the top of God Save The Queen before England fixtures. Speaking from Wellington as his side prepared for their next game against Sri Lanka, Morgan explained his controversial strategy:

"To be perfectly honest, I hadn't really paid much attention to the criticism because it was coming from the sort of pricks who'd like to share a pint with Nigel Farage while giggling about something that upset the locals on a Top Gear special. Then I just thought, sod it. If these what I suppose I'm expected to term 'eejits' want me to be all oirish just so they can blame England's failure on a lack of patriotic singing rather than the chronic mismanagement and anachronistic absurdity of the ECB, then so be it. The song's actually about Salford, not Dublin, by the way, but whatevs." 

Piers Morgan, one of the fiercest critics of his namesake during the outcry, was understandably apoplectic at the latest news:. "Our captain not singing the anthem is the single biggest reason English cricket is ten years behind the leading sides at this World Cup. As I've said, I'm Irish - part of the famous East Sussex Morgans - and if I was England captain I'd sing the anthem. Why can't Eoin see that his entire family upbringing and international sporting career is near analogous to mine and that he is thus completely in the wrong? It's baffling." 

Mail Online readers were quick to join the debate with one commenter, ProvenceExpatNO2EU, suggesting that during the tournament the England ODI captain also "shouldn't be allowed to drink Guinness" or "love the craic" and "any other cliches which define someone as Irish in my limited head", adding later in the thread that "I don't like that beardy one either". 

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Pakistan to fit bionic arms to Akmal brothers

Following the news the world's first mind-controlled arms have been successfully trialed, the PCB today announced they would be buying a couple of pairs and fitting them to the Akmal brothers. Fed up with the continually hapless wicket keeping of both Kamran and Umar, board president Shahryar Khan said that this was the most obvious way to improve their performance:

"We've long hoped scientists might come up with a cure for acute Akmalism, but until now nothing has done the trick," he explained. "The beauty of the technology is that the mind and bionic hands don't actually have to belong to the same person so we've decided to employ Adam Gilchrist as Kamran and Umar's brains. It's perfect. Whatever Gilly thinks they should do with their hands they do it. No more spilled chances, no run outs fluffed, no more embarrassments. The manufacturers have also assured us it's only their hands not their legs which are mind-controlled, though, so he can't make them walk if they nick one."

The PCB are also believed to be looking into whether the technology could be used on Moin Khan to stop him picking up his phone and calling taxis to take him to casinos. "The potential is endless," Khan said. "If we can rig Misbah's brain up to Shahid's body we'll be laughing."


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

A Parody of Human Decency

As someone who frequently makes efforts at satire, there are a number of thoughts that accompany any attempted lampooning of those in either power or the public eye: Is this funny? Is this too cruel? Is this somewhat cruel but nevertheless funny and justified by the poor behaviour of those at which it is directed? One thought that obviously never goes through your head - and, of course, it's a near comically ludicrous juxtaposition when the focus is on cricketers' foibles - is whether this will see you murdered in cold blood. 

Regardless of subject, however, be it sport, politics, celebrity, dog shows or religion, the idea that death is the legitimate response to a satirical ribbing is utterly and sickeningly repulsive and cuts to the very heart of the basic human dignity of being able to pass judgement on and laugh at those who hold sway over our lives in whatever capacity. Personally, and entirely irrationally given my relentless joy at watching The Life of Brian, the notion of ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad in a cartoon doesn't sit terribly comfortably - it somehow seems just a little ungallant - but the slighted offense of the fervent believer is nothing next to the affront on enlightenment and progress if religion's still immense and not infrequently vituperative influence over the planet cannot be challenged in whatever format or media.

Ostentatious displays of faith are a regular facet of cricket, most obviously because perhaps such a high proportion of the stellar players are devout Muslims. The fact this axiom has been subsumed in the main so seamlessly is a strength and a source, even surely to the most cynical, of pride for our game and, natch, for all other sports, which so thankfully override humanity's boundaries of so many ilks. Every time a Pakistan player kneels in praise on the turf after making a century while his opponents of whatever religion or none applaud behind them is a heartening snapshot of simple respect and decency, as was every Inshallah that accompanied so many of the expressions of sadness and support in the wake of Phillip Hughes's tragic passing. These things don't need to be overthought. They are just nice.

Peshawar, Sydney, Glasgow, the ocean off Borneo. The world recently has seen a near intolerable and relentless parade of grief and grief-stricken friends, family and loved ones. Getting slightly older (as I am) only heightens the empathy with bereaved strangers because death or its spectre - be it in relation to relatives, acquaintances, colleagues or fortunately only very occasionally mates - starts to encroach ever more frequently on your own life. As the Indian and Australian players take the field and take with them their various faiths or none, we will all on Twitter, with our various faiths or none, joyously take the piss out of them. None of it will have the remotest connotation with religion, but if we now live in a world where you deserve to die for mocking a faith we may as well start to believe we live in a world where you deserve to die for mocking Shane Watson's front pad. Pathetic, puerile, misguided, murderous hate, raping the decency that it is absurd not to acknowledge religion can imbue in so many will never win. Reposez en paix. 


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