Archive for April 2010
So the Harris Sportsthoughts Twenty20 World Cup preview grinds to an apologetic halt on the eve of the tournament. Group D, you’re up:
We are now able to add Twenty20 cricket to that tedious list of sports that England invented and are now a bit rubbish at. Built in the image of the national football team, England only perform as well as the opposition put in front of them. Hence last year, England were shamed by the Dutch, before defeating defending champions India and future ones Pakistan. If they could courageously exit in the semi-finals on penalties to Germany having had Kevin Pietersen sent off, then they surely would. Currently undergoing an operation to become fully South African, which means they are even more likely to plummet out of the tournament in hilarious style. Has anyone seen England and South Africa in the same room? Oh yes, today in Bridgetown.
The West Indies are the home team, which counted for not very much during the last World Cup in the region when most of its support was loitering ticketless outside the grounds trying to listen to what was going down. Might be amazing, might be awful. Which is an improvement on last year’s Champions Trophy, where a second string side were only going to be awful.
Ireland have recently made a habit of taking a scalp in the preliminary stages of major tournaments, before clogging up the second phase with their mediocrity. Quite capable of repeating the trick (see England above). Are destined to be forever plagued by strange men in synthetic orange beards.
Group C is the next in our increasingly tiresome preview of the Twenty20 World Cup, which has actually had the effect of diminishing my enthusiasm for the tournament.
South Africa have certainly been handed a raw deal with this ongoing player exchange programme with England. Apparently the scorer is English though. The squad still look pretty strong however, but if past performances are anything to go by then expect them to train on strongly in the early stages before bottling it in comic style somewhere around the semi-final. That said, it would be typical for the Proteas to finally bag a trophy at a time when everyone back in the homeland is too busy putting up the bunting for the World Cup to notice.
Playing India is like taking on your granny at backgammon. She gains an advantage because she plays a lot more than you, so your main hope is that she’ll get tired . She might also struggle against the short ball. The Indians will hope that Yuvraj Singh will have woken from his parlous IPL sulk, and are Sehwagless again, but with MS Dhoni at the tiller anything is achievable. Just ask a Chennai Superking.
Whatever happens to Afghanistan, I’m sure the film of their story has already been pitched somewhere. A sort of Cool Runnings conceived by Khaled Hosseini. If only John Candy was still alive.
Continuing our build-up to the Twenty20 World Cup in the Caribbean, and having cast my eye over Group A last night, it seems sensible to carry on alphabetically with Group B. Given that I was able to make no conclusions about the fate of the A teams, this probably isn’t worth reading, but here it is anyway:
Sri Lanka are good. They reached the final last year, thanks in no small part to Tillakaratne Dilshan and his funny little scoop shot. Since then he has grown an equally funny little beard. It’s sculpted to look as if he’s been dribbling Marmite and it seems to have pre-occupied him to the detriment of his batting, judging by his IPL form. Muralitharan and Jayasuriya have 77 years between them and have obviously signed some pact for eternal youth with the devil.
New Zealand never really threaten to achieve anything in these tournaments but they’re never completely embarrassing either. If the team was a global clothes store then they’d be Gap. Serviceable, uninspiring and above all, beige. Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder are the pink floral print board shorts in the rack of charcoal grey action slacks.
World take note, Zimbabwe are BACK. I know, things will never be the same again. This time they’re coached by Alan Butcher, who last time I checked was being swept aside by the revolution of crap at Surrey. Will go head-to-head with Afghanistan in the contest to be the representatives of the most strife-ridden country.
Prediction: I don’t know again.
The giddying torrent of Twenty20 cricket continues in the Caribbean. It’s only been a year since the last World Cup in the short format. But it’s still international cricket and therefore worthy of our attention so here is the first of my group summaries and predictions which are based on broad national stereotypes and the first things that come into my head. So get yourself down the bookie immediately after reading.
Brilliantly, Australia are considered rank outsiders in this group according to the seedings. They’ve always seemed a bit snooty about Twenty20, as if it’s a preamble to something else. It’s probably because they’re not very good at it. Appear to be approaching the end of that transitional period when all their legends retired to be replaced by a lot of very large young men who look like they all live together in the same ramshackle beachhouse playing wag from Heartbreak High.
Bangladesh are mostly made up of those naughty boys at school who were obviously more talented than anyone else but more interested in etching willies on the underside of their desk with a compass. They’d turn up and scorch a quick fifty before getting themselves out so they could go and chuck gravel at the chess club. My cricket teacher had even less hair than Jamie Siddons. Are capable of winning any game, particularly with Tamim Iqbal firing away at the top of the order. As far as I’m aware, Tamim is not into penile graffiti which will stand him in good stead.
Pakistan are the defending champions but given that this is Pakistan and this is Twenty20 cricket anything could happen. Remember that the last time they came to the West Indies for a tournament, an abortive murder investigation was launched following the death of their coach. Seriously, anything could happen. Shahid Afridi is the captain and also the personification of mental Pakistani cricket. He’s very dangerous with bat and ball, provided he hasn’t eaten the ball first.
Prediction: I don’t know.
So the prodigal sport returns. It’s hardly surprising that cricket’s accountants have suggested to move the whole shooting match over to the land of fat sporting nuts with even fatter wallets. The States is the cradle of the international game after all, the first fixture being played in Manhattan 170 years ago between the home team and Canada.
What is vaguely extraordinary is that this impromptu New Zealand – Sri Lanka series has not found its home like a nesting cuckoo in an athletics stadium or a ballpark but in a 20,000 capacity ground at Broward County, in the heart of the Everglades in Florida. A ground designed specifically for cricket.
I had no idea that there was a need for such an amenity among the indigenous population of gators in the Sunshine State. I don’t recall that little boy from Gentle Ben sharpening up his forward defence with some throwdowns with his bear. Or Will Smith going to Miami to buy a new Grey Nicholls Dynadrive.
To be honest it suggests the blurry thinking of a Costneresque farmer hearing strange voices out his field telling him to “build it and they will come”. They meant a baseball stadium.
Although to be fair they did come. Twice since the ground was built in 2007. Once for a international competition of veterans such as Javed Miandad and Richie Richardson. The other occasion was the Martin Luther King Twenty20 featuring local players. We knew that King had a dream. We didn’t know it was to have a very minor limited overs cricket tournament named after him.
I was going to write a post about the tedious coverage of Liverpool’s journey to Madrid, which was essentially just a really bad commute.
But there was a signal problem at Queen’s Park which caused severe delays on the Bakerloo Line so I had to walk to Euston to get home from work this evening and had to very quickly get changed for tennis and now I am tired.
So I won’t.
I am enjoying the election but sometimes I find myself gasping for intellectual oxygen in the rarefied strata of heavy-duty political debate. With that in mind I have dumbed the whole process down, shoehorning it roughshod into a cheap football analogy – the Premiership title race:
So we have the Reds, competing for an unprecedented fourth consecutive victory, but struggling since their inspirational right-winger left to find greater riches on foreign shores. Are heavily reliant on their dour Scots manager, who is famed for his redoubtable work ethic, notorious temper, and fervent distaste for anything to do with Margaret Thatcher.
Then we have the Blues, the rich boys from West London, have improved this term but have spluttered a bit for form of late. Have fared better since they changed their tactics to channel play through the centre as opposed to the right. Dubious origins of funding have raised question marks over probity.
The Yellows (in away colours anyway), everyone’s favourite second team. Are traditionally considered too lightweight to mount a challenge, but have surprised everyone with their stamina in the race. Led by an erudite manager who frequently rails against the dirtier practices of the game. No-one really expects them to win – do they?
All of which nonsense leaves Tottenham cast as the BNP. Predominately white and hateful. Sorry. I’m a West Ham fan – it’s in the contract.
The volcanic disruption is ending and the planes are taking to the skies again. Which is a disappointment to all of us who were enjoying the romantic prospect of the England cricket team setting off in a ship for the World Twenty20 tournament in the Caribbean.
I did some research into the last time the team set sail on a cricket tour, and it was also to the Caribbean in the fifties. I was surprised to learn that it was via a banana boat.
Unfortunately as I read further it was made clear that this was a boat carrying bananas. And not an inflatable craft normally straddled by sunburnt English holidaymakers in Magaluf.
Which would be ridiculous.
Maurice Edu of Rangers and the United States has the solemn honour of being the first participant to be stuck into my South Africa 2010 Panini World Cup sticker album. As a man in his thirties, the excitement that this generates should have dissipated years ago but it’s an enduring addiction that has lasted since the April before Mexico ’86, the month that Maurice Edu was born.
The breaking news from Panini world is that the traditional format of the album has been ditched in favour of a more democratic layout which affords each nation two pages to exhibit their nascent squads. Of course this is more sensible but I can’t help feel a little disappointed, having found great comfort in Panini’s robust and lasting persistence in a wonky structure that relegated three nations to a single page, forcing pairs of players to cosy up on the one sticker. I often dreamt of the day that a team from the shadowy margins of the album – an Angola or a Saudi Arabia or a Jamaica – would go forward and win the trophy. That will not happen now.
I have bought a Panini album every tournament since Mexico, apart from 1990 when I naively plumped for a rival album produced by Orbis, seduced as I was by its Lever arch housing and file dividers. I boycotted the album extravaganza completely in 1994, labouring under the pretence that I was too cool for this puerile frippery and listened to acid jazz instead.
Sticking is a very simple pleasure. I normally buy a dozen packs opening them all at once, turning them face down and sorting them into numerical order for ease of use. And then stick each one in with surgical precision, sometimes putting on a pair of reading glasses that I don’t need. I don’t think I’m alone in wallowing in the scientific approach and misplaced pride in my stickerwork:
Of course the inherent tragedy of being an overannuated sticker collector is a paucity of potential swapsie providers. It’s not like I can go to school. There is a primary school at the end of my road so I could loiter around the gates scoping suitable swapsie swapees. But there are rules against that kind of thing.
If you ever find yourself murdered and looking for some form of afterlife justice then you’d better hope that Chris Kamara is not the only witness to the tragedy. It’s an unlikely scenario, one too hideous to contemplate for many reasons. Not only because you’d very horribly be dead, but also because Kamara’s attention to detail is notoriously poor. And when I say detail, I mean the stuff that’s happening in front of him.
Consider this clip below, and consider also that Sky have employed Kamara to stand next to a football pitch and describe things that occur on it. That’s it. There is a limit to the number of incidents that can come to pass on the footballing arena, and it’s a quite small field of play. It’s not like providing live updates on the Battle of Waterloo, which makes this all the more inexplicable: