A Good News Story (At Last)

January 26, 2011

Simon Jones (Courtesy of Getty)

Of course, it’s perfectly understandable.

Keys and Gray have obviously been the big story for the last few days, it natural that you may well have missed one of the most intriguing comebacks in English sport.

Cast your mind back my friend to the balmy summer of 2005 and “The Greatest Ashes Series Ever”, while we all cooed over the performances of Andrew Flintoff, it was actually the then Glamorgan swinger, Simon Jones, who was impressing the cricket aficionados with his exquisite brand of reverse swing bowling.  What’s often forgotten in the aftermath of that series and the “Freddie-Mania” that ensued is that Jones could well have ended the series as England’s leading wicket taker if he hadn’t missed the final test at the Oval.

And then what?

Well, Jones found himself injured; it started with his ankle which he damaged in the second innings at Trent Bridge. He injured his ankle again in the nets just before the first test on the India tour in 2006. He had surgery on his knees in Colorado that ruled him out of the Ashes tour in 2006/7 (a result of the horrific cruciate ligament injury he sustained in Brisbane in 2002) and just as he seemed to be getting himself back together he suffered another knee injury. Indeed, it seemed like there was no cricketer more cursed than Simon Jones.

Of course, time has moved on, the much vaunted English bowling attack of 2005 eventually retired, lost form or dropped out of favour. Ashley Giles (The Spinner) became Director of Coaching at Warwickshire. Andrew Flintoff left the sport after the Ashes series of 2009 to become a celebrity. Matthew Hoggard quietly dropped out of favour and hasn’t played for England since 2008 and Steve Harmison has flirted with the England squad, making cameo appearances here and there, but has surely played his last test for England.

This leaves Simon Jones, well, let me inform you that Jones is still playing and playing phenomenally well for Hampshire. Indeed, in one recent 20/20 match for Hampshire he took four for 10 in four overs. This bodes well for the England team, Jones was easily as good a swinger of the ball as a prime Waqar Younis and he could have been one of England’s great quicks, if it hadn’t been for his rotten injury luck.

It’s doubtful that the now 32 years old Jones would last a full test match, it doesn’t even seem that the England team need him, with an established bowling attack of Swann, Bresnan, Tremlett, Broad and Anderson, but with the punishing schedule ahead (The World Cup looms large), could we see Jones making a dramatic comeback by filling one of the one day slots?

Maybe…I hope so!

A True Sporting Genius

October 11, 2010

Tendulkar, not batting (surprisingly)

Hello All.

It’s been a while, so I thought I’d check in with you. How are you? Good? Excellent. It’s occurred to me that I spend a good amount of my time here moaning about things, so here’s a change of tack.

Sportsmen come, Sportsmen go. Most of them will fade away into deserved obscurity, some will fade into undeserved obscurity. Some will garner a measure of notoriety for an individual act, some will garner notoriety for a sequence of events. Some will be remembered as “good”, some will be remembered as “bad”, thats if they are remembered at all.

There are a few sportsmen however, who enter into the pantheon of greatness. You know the ones, those who became the very embodiment of the sport they played. The list is obvious, Muhammad Ali, Pele, Michael Jordan and Titus Bramble.

Nowadays, the list of sportsmen who actually “mean” something, is, well, sparse, to say the least. Footballers are little more than mouthpieces for their respective sponsors and various commercial interests and the game is riddled with sleaze and financial impropriety. Boxing and boxers are devalued by the sheer amount of “World Champions” that haunt it. Tennis remains dominated by the two blandest men in sport. The overriding factor here though is money, you always think that if there was no money in it, nobody would play sport.

Where can we turn to find our modern day sporting legends? Who, engaged in professional sport, can we rely on to provide the moments of sporting genius? Who can inspire us?

Allow me to recommend a man, the “Little Master”, Mr Sachin Tendulkar.

You may ask why I’m waxing so lyrical about the man; well you may or may not be aware that Tendulkar recently passed 14,000 test runs in the current test against Australia. But let the stats speak for themselves:

Test Runs: 14,002

ODI Runs: 17,594

First Class Runs: 22,432

Hundreds: 48

Over 50,000 runs scored in his career! And that’s not even including the 21,000 List A runs he’s snagged. With these runs behind him, it’s no wonder that Tendulkar is revered as God-like in India. Indeed, even Matthew Hayden, a devout Roman Catholic (and former Australian opener) has been moved to comment:

“I have seen God, he bats at no. 4 in India in tests”

Tendulkar is now 37 years old, and is surely in the twilight of his career, but who knows, maybe he’ll bat on and reach his 50 centuries. We should enjoy him while we can, because the world as a whole, not just the cricketing world, will be a much poorer place when he hangs up the pads.

Clarke and Amir, Who ruined cricket the most? (this image is the property of Reuters)

Confession time.

I’m not actually THAT much of a football fan, I mean, I like it and everything, but it ranks a poor third in my top three of sports. Boxing comes second in that list with Cricket taking top spot and so it will always be. That’s why it genuinely hurts me to write about the recent betting scandal that currently engulfs the sport I love. Even more so as I actually rocked up at Trent Bridge this summer to watch a days play between England and Pakistan.

Where to start? Well,  The News Of The World, have obtained footage of a Pakistani “Match Fixer” called Mazhar Majeed telling an undercover reporter when three no-balls will be bowled by the bowlers Mohammed Asif and the Mohammed Amir. And, as if by magic, the balls were bowled at exactly the time Majeed said they would be. I don’t know about you, but that’s hard evidence of match fixing in my book. Mohammed Asif, Mohammed Amir and Salman Butt (Captain), look like they’ll be headed the same way of Hansie Cronje, the late Captain of South Africa, shamed and banned for life. And rightly so, I won’t tolerate the defence of Mohammed Amir being only 18 and impressionable, as far as I’m concerned, if he’s found guilty, that should be the end of his career

I’m heartbroken friends.

Fixing of this kind is a cancer in cricket, and like all cancers it should be removed, otherwise it will kill the sport I truly love. I say we not only ban the cricketers involved for life (and I mean life), but the ICC should also take a stand and suspend Pakistan’s status as a Test playing country and this shouldn’t be given back to Pakistan until they can demonstrate to everyone that the corruption that soaks their game has been eradicated. The ECB, a cretinous institution if ever there was one, should also call off the one-day series between England and Pakistan. Of course, a move like that would require a degree of moral fibre from the organisation and as long as they are being chaired by Giles Clarke (the man who sold cricket to Sky, selling it’s fans down the river), such brave moves are out of the question.

People like Clarke, Amir, Asif and Butt are killing the sport I truly love, by taking it away from it’s fans and by accepting money to pervert it. For how long must we stand back and watch cricket be slowly destroyed from within by the very people who are supposed to be upholding it’s values of decency, fair play and total honesty? You expect this kind of thing from the sleazy. murky world of Association Football, but not from the game that bought us such greats as Donald Bradman (The Greatest Sportsman ever), Ian Botham, Imran Khan and Viv Richards

It just isn’t cricket, is it?

Sporting Classes

February 15, 2010

Today, I watched England beat Italy in the Six Nations, now I don’t really know anything about rugby, but I’m reliably informed that the beating of Italy is a fairly common occurrence.  Now, it may well have been because I’d just eaten a particularly glorious Sunday lunch, but I found myself falling asleep in front of the box. There could be lots of reasons for this, but I think the main one is that I find rugby boring to almost super-natural degree.

However, I managed to watch most of the match and, By God! It was the most tedious sporting event it has been my displeasure to witness, but again, I’m sure that’s more to do with my almost total ignorance of the sport. But why do I have almost no knowledge of rugby? Well, it’s simple; I never really played it at school.

School plays a massive part in our collective sporting development and the schools that you go to largely determine the sports you play. Now I went, like Mike, to a fairly bog-standard Comprehensive school and if my memory serves me correctly, the only sport we seemed to play was…football (nothing wrong with that by the way, but some variety would have been nice). Occasionally, we forayed into other sports, Hockey got an airing a few times and numerous athletic pursuits were also attempted, but by and large, football ruled our PE roost.

Our school never attempted to teach us other sports such as Cricket or Tennis, and why would it? Football was easy to play and compared to rugby, was comparatively injury free, cricket required the use of a lot of specialist equipment, which our school simply couldn’t justify spending the money on. Of course, our school had it easy; we hadn’t sold our playing field to developers.  It’s a tragedy that it seems the only schools that have the equipment to play with; the skilled staff and the fields to play these sports on are the fee paying ones. While Mike is right to say that access to football matches has been taken from the common man, I’d contend that the entire sport of cricket has been taken from him too.

There’s no doubt that if a young person wishes to play cricket or rugby, then they have to do something “extra”, maybe joining an after school club or attaching themselves to an amateur team. But that doesn’t seem quite fair to me, doesn’t the school have a responsibility to its pupils to present a varied sporting palette?