Cricket news from ESPN

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." 

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Cricket's Unforced Error

There are few things more touching than seeing sport make an old man cry with joy. It is an affirmation of a game's virility that even after decades of a life have passed, with all the cynicism and emotional firewalls we accrue, a person can still be moved to produce unadulterated tears of elation because of their side triumphing against the odds. On Saturday, after Japan pulled the rug of logic from beneath the feet of South Africa in their victory at the rugby World Cup, the camera panned to a gentleman of advancing years and found him just open-mouthed and weeping in a state of confusion and rapture, a scene to melt a scarecrow's heart. 

It is not, of course, just Japanese supporters who will have felt that familiar gust of feeling welling up in their chests and heading to their eyeballs. There might be many things to cast aspersions on about rugby - from the endless, overly earnest aphorisms about passion and teamwork spouted in vapid car and investment bank adverts to the very fact of Matt Dawson's existence - but even the aloof, quadrennial fan cannot fail to have found themselves emotionally discombobulated by this latest exhibit of the splendid lunacy of sport. 

For cricket fans, however, Japan's win was ever so slightly double-edged because of the knowledge that the decision to limit their own game's next World Cup to a mere ten teams makes it highly unlikely scenes such as those witnessed in Brighton, with an unfancied side bringing down a behemoth, will be glimpsed in 2019. There are only a handful of men on earth who believe the reduction of the tournament to be a sound idea. The problem is these men also happen to occupy the most important positions in the sport, secure as concrete after the heist on decency which was the big three takeover at the ICC. In cahoots with chief executive Dave Richardson, they have shadily installed a situation whereby David cannot slay Goliath because, put simply, they say so.

Such is time's Chinese whispers, no one can ever truly be sure what Steve Waugh said to Hershelle Gibbs when the latter spilled the chance to dismiss the former in another of South Africa's infamous and unfortunate high-profile calamities. We can, though, assert with considerable certainty that by restricting the next incarnation to so few teams the ICC hasn't just dropped the sporting value of its World Cup, but also sabotaged the very essence of sport itself, namely that both the opportunity to compete and the outcome of the contest itself is meritocratic rather than hegemonic. Viewed through the prism of Japan's efforts, the decision looks even more of a dirty little stitch-up, a slap in the face to aspiration and inspiration and, undeniably, a crying, crying shame. 

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". 


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