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Murder, match-fixing and heartbreak

By black caps, Cricket

Behind you! Bob Woolmer calls a time-out in the nets at Lord's, September 1, 2006© Getty Images . Michael Vaughan, at a press con­fer­ence ahead of England’s final pool match against Kenya (today’s Guardian):

Do I think the prob­lem per­sists? That is a hard question,“ he said, ”and if I’m hon­est I have to say yes, maybe it does go on. I have nev­er exper­i­enced it with­in any of my teams or with any play­er I’ve played with or against but my gut feel­ing is that there is still some­thing going on in the game. Nothing spe­cif­ic but just bad things that I’ve seen with cer­tain pas­sages of play or games that look slightly unusu­al. My gut feel­ing, and this is a huge state­ment I know, is that it is very hard to clear the whole world of crick­et of it.

Mike Selvey comments:

…for me there still lurks doubt that all is not well in every case – noth­ing to put your fin­ger on, but as with Vaughan just a nag­ging notion that all is not entirely well for no bet­ter reas­on than the pess­im­ist­ic one that it can­’t be – and I just won­der now how much that impacts on spec­tat­ors and fol­low­ers of the game now. Here is an ana­logy. There was once no finer sight in sport than an Olympic 100metres final. I’ve nev­er seen one live but my fath­er went to Rome in 1960 and told me of how the German sprint­er Armin Hary out­stripped the favoured Americans to take the title. Today, is there any­one who watches the event without regard­ing it as hav­ing about as much prob­ity as World Federation Wrestling? It is a nov­elty show, which of course does a total dis­ser­vice to those ath­letes who are determ­ined to play the sport clean.

Cynics sus­pect mal­prac­tice every­where, so even excel­lence through genu­ine endeav­our alone, par­tic­u­larly if it involves improve­ment bey­ond the norm, is regarded with sus­pi­cion. But the con­sensus sur­round­ing ath­letes and drugs seems to be that improved test­ing pro­ced­ures have not erad­ic­ated the prob­lem but merely has led to more soph­ist­ic­ated mask­ing tech­niques. Our “gut instinc­t” tells us no longer to believe the evid­ence of our eyes.

And so it is with crick­et and match fix­ing. The ACSU can scru­tin­ise their matches all they like and mon­it­or bet­ting pat­terns on the sub­con­tin­ent. These are skilled people with strong forensic back­grounds. But they are not crick­eters. it takes a Vaughan, with what he calls his “gut instinc­t” but which in real­ity is accu­mu­lated intel­li­gence, to spot the coun­ter­feit coin amongst the stack of change.

I’m sit­ting here with tears in my eyes, and it’s not just because of the rot­ten cold that has con­fined me to quar­ters for the dur­a­tion. This year New Zealand look like genu­ine con­tenders and the upsets have removed a few of our usu­al stum­bling blocks (Pakistan have turfed us out twice in the last four tour­na­ments). As I said to Jeremy Anderson yes­ter­day, we look increas­ingly like pos­sible win­ners this time around but the shad­ow cast by Woolmer’s murder means it will prob­ably be a hol­low vic­tory and that’s a cry­ing shame.

The Spin handicaps the Cricket World Cup

By black caps, Cricket, Sport

From The Spin, The Guardian’s occa­sion­al crick­et e‑mail:

New Zealand

Suddenly, you quite fancy them. A lower-middle order of Jacob Oram and Brendon McCullum means they are nev­er out of the game; Shane Bond – assum­ing he does­n’t break down – could be the fast­est man in the com­pet­i­tion; and Stephen Fleming has regained the repu­ta­tion he lost in England in 2004 as the smartest cap­tain in the game. Lack of bowl­ing depth and the occa­sion­al tend­ency of the top order to go awol are both con­cerns, but the off-spinner Jeetan Patel could be one of the com­pet­i­tion’s unsung her­oes. And they will field like Lou Vincents. Very back­able dark horses.

One-day record since last World Cup: P88 W44 L39 T0 NR5
Last 10 matches: W5 L5

Brendan McCullumThe stats are very inter­est­ing. I’ve always said that in One Day crick­et the best NZ can ever really expect is to win as many as we lose and we are just ahead of that over the last four years.

“All I ask for is a little con­sist­ency” say the pun­dits. Well, you can only be con­sist­ently win­ning or con­sist­ently los­ing and the first one isn’t real­ist­ic so I’ll take the glor­i­ous incon­sist­ency thanks.

But then again, all we need is sev­en wins in a row from March 17 and we are home free.

And the TAB has us at $7.00 with Australia at $2.75; South Africa $5.00 and India $8.50. I might get a piece of those odds come pay day.

Luck-Lack

By black caps, Cricket, Football, Hammers, Sport

Mitchell Johnson dismisses Peter Fulton and New Zeaoland lose their second wicket, Australia v New Zealand, CB Series, 8th match, Perth, January 28, 2007“You make your own luck” in sport they say. Gary Player once said, “The harder I prac­tice the luck­i­er I get” as if things were really that simple.

No team deserves to win a game drop­ping Hayden twice before he’d scored 4 or chas­ing 334 but Lady Luck did not shine her torch on the Black Caps at Perth tonight. Falling 7 runs short with 5 wick­ets in hand is an out­stand­ing per­form­ance in any­one’s book, and more evid­ence that the sum­mer has been turned around since that awful shel­lack­ing by Sri Lanka in December.

But … but … We could have done without Rauf fir­ing Vincent out when he was look­ing in great touch and don’t get me star­ted on the rain inter­rup­tion! It’s hard enough being com­pet­it­ive in Australia when everything from the travel sched­ule to hav­ing to play the best team in the world is stacked against you. For the last sev­en or eight years this Black Cap side has backed itself to score 11+ an over in the final ten if they have wick­ets in hand (and they bat accord­ingly). Duckworth-Lewis does­n’t take that into account (and prob­ably should­n’t even try) but it was the rain break that killed the run chase – and it nev­er seems to hap­pen to Australia IN AUSTRALIA.

[And on the sub­ject of luck: how about los­ing your best striker for sev­en months to a mun­ted ankle in his first ever England train­ing ses­sion. And your new star sign­ing doing his ankle lig­a­ments 20 minutes into his first game for the club – out for sev­en weeks min­im­um. I’d like to see Gary Player explain away that rub­bish.]

Still, we scored 335 against Australia and Oram’s 100 was the fast­est ever by a New Zealander in ODIs. Our luck will have to change soon.

Summer

By black caps, Cricket, Sport

No dis­respect to Sri Lanka and the England Ashes effort (well, maybe some) but my Summer starts today with the Black Caps first game in the Commonwealth Bank series (the series formerly known as Benson & Hedges & VB). It helps that these games are on at a time when I can pay them more atten­tion (home all day today with the tv on) but as we approach the World Cup these games start to really mean something.

There was a plan to get to Hobart for these two games (Australia today and England on Tuesday) but fin­an­cial con­sid­er­a­tions mean I’ll have my feet up on the couch for the run chase. As I type, the game is but four overs old and we haven’t man­aged a wick­et yet but we always raise our game against the Aussies and on a flat track we should see McCullum get a few more than his usu­al quick-fire 20 or so.

The bril­liant Mark Nicholas is com­ment­at­ing for Channel 9 along with the usu­al sus­pects – not sure wheth­er Ian Smith has been temp­ted over but I hope so.

So, game on.

And, by the way: what are Australia wear­ing this season?

 Db Pictures Cms 70600 70679

Sporting Weekend

By black caps, Cricket, Football, Hammers, Lions, Rugby, Sport

A bad week­end for all the teams I fol­low. The hor­ror, the horror.

West Ham United CrestThe Hammers have now lost sev­en on the spin, haven’t won in eight and haven’t scored in 10 and a half hours 11 hours (a club record); The Lions became the second Wellington team this year to lose a major rugby final; The Knights have also lost sev­en in a row but at least scored a couple of times in Adelaide; The Black Caps rolled over and had their tummy’s scratched by Sri Lanka in that unwatch­able tour­na­ment in India and my Dad’s team (Torquay United) have also lost six in a row so there’s no res­pite at home.

Common sense says, like the crap weath­er, this has to change but I struggle to see when. West Ham could eas­ily get turned over by Colchester in the Carling Cup on Thursday morn­ing the way we are play­ing; the rugby sea­son is over; the Black Caps have to beat Pakistan to pro­gress in India and we nev­er beat them when we have to; I can’t see the Knights win­ning again this dec­ade and the future isn’t prom­ising for The Gulls (sorry, Dad).

Oh, and Newtown Athletic had the week­end off (or a ‘bye’ if you prefer) due to the long week­end. At least that isn’t a defeat…