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Tim Bresnan: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t


What he said:

“In the past five or six years we’ve just done it like a Chinese parliament.”

Tim Bresnan, former England seamer, reacts to his appointment as vice-captain of Yorkshire’s country cricket side.

Yorkshire have not had a deputy leader  for a few seasons now.

Former captain, Andrew Gale, is the current coach and Gary Ballance the newly appointed skipper.

Bresnan said:

“Gary phoned me and said, ‘I’ve got to ask you something, mate, would you be vice-captain for me?’

And I was like, ‘Yes, I’m over the moon’.

It was a bit of a shock because we haven’t really named one over the past few years; it just came out of the blue.

I never even thought that Gaz would be having one.

It does make sense, though, if he gets called up for internationals.

I’m immensely proud, and it will be great to work with him and Galey. I’ll just do whatever is required of me.

Pretty much everyone in the team is in the senior leadership group as it is.

In the past five or six years, we’ve basically just done it like a Chinese parliament.

We’ve talked through anything that was going wrong and how we were going to improve as a collective, and we’ve done everything as a group really.

There’s never been any sort of group within that which has sat down separately to discuss things.”

What he really meant:

“Yes, we ran the side based on consensual authority with collective responsibility. That’s how Parliament works, doesn’t it? And we had no real opposition, hence, we’re obviously Chinese.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“I guess I’m Mike Pence to Yorkshire’s Ballance. That Trumps it all, doesn’t it?”

English: Tim Bresnan playing for Yorkshire

Tim Bresnan playing for Yorkshire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Vice Captain Sports logo

Vice Captain Sports logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roger Federer almost pulls off another miracle


He almost pulled off another miracle,  didn’t he? 

After coming back from the dead against Marin Cilic in the quarters, Roger Federer was leading 2-1 against Milos Raonic only to lose his bearings—figuratively and literally—failing in the last two sets in yet another gruelling five-setter. 

The Swiss missed the French Open this year—his first Grand Slam since 1999,  ending an unbelievable streak of appearances. 

With Novak Djokovic knocked out early,  die-hard Fed fans believed this was his best chance to clinch his 18th Slam. But it was always going to prove an uphill battle for a 34-year-old. Realists would not begrudge another championship for the great but their expectations are always tempered and tinged with a healthy dose of skepticism. 

In the end, it proved to be too much even for the tennis machine. The cracks and the strain were visible towards the end of the fourth set with Roger dropping his serve in the final game to lose the set without taking it into another nail-biting tie-breaker. 

But he had done enough to revive Wimbledon out of its stupor. 

Britain’s favourite son,  Andy Murray,  might clinch yet another title on the hallowed grass of the All-England Championship. 

But for many,  this Wimbledon is simply to be Federer’s thing of beauty—forever. 

Marcus Willis’ fairy tale at Wimbledon ends with Roger Federer


Marcus Willis will have that beer.

He’s earned it.

Capturing seven games in his second round match against Roger Federer he surely deserves one.

The man owes it all to a girl—a girl he met this February, a dentist named Jennifer Bates.

He fell in love, turned himself around and found himself in round two of this year’s Wimbledon earning himself 50,000 pounds.

Brexit might have taken its toll on the UK’s currency but that could not dim the

£30-an-hour part-time Wokingham tennis coach’s joy.

Beating Ricardas Berankis, ranked 54, in the first round was unexpected.

But qualifying for Wimbledon proper required him to win six gruelling matches.

As Goran Ivanisevic, his idol, put it:

“I love this story. This is great.

Pre-qualifying, then qualifiers, winning the first round against a not easy player. Berankis can play.

It’s just great. Perfect. He will go on Centre Court or Court One.

The biggest match of his life and he has won already. For him he is a winner. He is the story of Wimbledon and it cannot get better than this.

He cannot beat Roger Federer, no chance but he does not care. He has won already seven matches and he won Wimbledon for him. This is it.

He will go on Centre or Court One. He is the happiest man, whether he comes to the match sober or drunk it doesn’t make any difference.

Everyone will love him and support him and Roger will be nice to him.

Eventually maybe not but it’s going to be great. I think he should quit after this. Retire. Because this is it.

It does not get better than this. Great, well done, I’m really so happy for the guy.”

Roger Federer had nothing but respect for Willis. He treated him as a top-50 player because “because that’s the level he was playing at”.

Willis sounded both disappointed and upbeat after his loss.

He said:

“It sounds funny, but I’m disappointed to lose. I went out there trying to win.

I’ve had a fantastic few weeks, and this has been great, but there’s life after Wimbledon, and I want more. More experiences like this. I have to knuckle down and work harder.

I’m absolutely exhausted. I might wait and calm down. But I’ve earned myself a beer, I think.

I haven’t thought (about marrying Jennifer) , to be honest. This whole few weeks have been a bit of a blur. But I do like her quite a bit.

Amazing. It’s not my standard Wednesday.”

Has he seen Wimbledon, the movie?

“I haven’t. People are telling me about it, but I’ve never seen it, really. I’m not a massive film watcher. I’m quite fidgety. I’m more of a doer than a watcher.”

Andy Murray, his fellow countryman, batted for Willis insisting that journeymen deserved more money.

He said:

“The first thing is we need to improve the prize money at Futures level. I think it’s stayed the same since the 1980s. The cost of everything has gone up massively since then so it’s impossible to stay at that level for more than a couple of years.

Someone like Marcus, if he had lost in the pre-qualifying at Wimbledon, we wouldn’t have this unbelievable story and he might not be coming back to play in January. You never know. There has to be more money at the bottom of the game.

It’s a difficult one.Because now players are breaking through later than they ever were before so they are obviously finding ways to hang around. A lot of the guys play club tennis to try to make some extra money, which helps. We don’t have that in this country. You can travel to Europe and do that. In Spain they have a few more money tournaments.”

Willis is ranked 772 in the world.

But for the match against Federer he dressed up wearing not just  Roger’s classic white Nike bandana headband but an R.F.-branded shirt as well.

At the end of the match, he was not just another pretender but Marcus Willis,  a 25-year-old from Slough,  able to trade blows with the best in the business.

For most people, the story will be about Marcus’ two magical weeks at Wimbledon.

But Willis knows better.

It started earlier, much earlier, with a girl named Jennifer.

Has Chris Gayle overstepped the line again or is it simply publicity for his autobiography?


Chris Gayle never learns or so it seems.

The macho West Indian star first made the front pages this year for his infamous ‘Don’t blush, baby’ line to Mel McLaughlin in an on-field interview at the Big Bash League (BBL) in Australia.

Gayle escaped with a warning and a stiff fine of AUSD 10,000.

But the smarts just wouldn’t end.

The Jamaican enjoyed rubbing it in naming his newly-born daughter—with partner Tasha—Blush.

Why draw her in into his mess, Chris? 20 years down the line, would your daughter like to be reminded of the circumstances around which she was named so? Go figure.

Trouble goes around in threes.

And there was surely a ‘threesome’ in store.

Chris Gayle pressed down on the accelerator—ignoring speed bumps— when interviewed by Times journalist Charlotte Edwardes where he talked about sex, female equality and homophobia.

Gayle told Edwardes that he had ‘a very, very big bat, the biggest in the wooooorld’  and whether she thought she “could lift itand that she’d need both hands.

The Jamaican embarrassed her further by questioning whether she’s had any black men and been part of a threesome.

The interview touched on other aspects as well.

On women’s equality, Gayle said:

‘Women should please their man. When he comes home, food is on the table. Serious. You ask your husband what he likes and then you make it.’”

“Women should have equality and they do have equality. They have more than equality. Women can do what they want. Jamaican women are very vocal. They will let you know what time is it, for sure.’

On homophobia:

“The culture I grew up in, gays were negative. But people can do whatever they want. You can’t tell someone how to live their life. It’s a free world.”

The timing of the interview could hardly have been more ‘fortuitous’.

Gayle is on the verge of releasing his autobiography, ‘”Six Machine” excerpts of which have been published (where else?) in the Times.

Reacting to Freddie Flintoff’s description of him as a “bit of  a chop” after the McLaughlin incident, Gayle said:

Freddie Flintstone, a young boy like you taking Viagra? Don’t lecture me. The only chop Freddie (Flintoff) knows is when he used to bowl short to me and I would chop him past backward point for four.”

Describing the McLaughlin fiasco, he added:

“Now T20 is different. It’s not Test cricket. It’s chilled and fun and let’s do things different. So when Mel asks me that question I stay in the T20 mind, and answer informal and fun. I meant it as a joke. I meant it as a little fun. I didn’t mean to be disrespectful and I didn’t mean it to be taken serious.

Channel 10’s commentary team could be heard laughing in the background … but someone above them clearly decided to step in, and a throwaway comment in a fun format escalates and blows up and within hours it has turned into a major international incident.

The southpaw had even stronger words reserved for Ian Chappell.

“Ian Chappell, calling for me to banned worldwide, a man who was once convicted of unlawful assault in the West Indies for punching a cricket official. Ian Chappell, how can you ban the Universe Boss? You’d have to ban cricket itself.”

Former Australian opener Chris Rogers was one of his most vocal critics claiming that he set a bad example to his younger teammates.

Gayle responded thus calling him a bit of a “Roger Rabbit”.

He said:

“Chris Rogers, how can you claim that when it was you and me at the bar most nights? I’m not a snitch, but I’ve heard from your own mouth what you’ve done. Next time you want to open your mouth, maybe chew on a carrot instead.”

Is Chris Gayle in trouble yet again? Has he landed in deeper, hotter waters this time around?

His detractors would like to believe so.

Melbourne Renegades have decided not to continue with the T20 star.

This, however, does not prevent any other BBL side from signing him on.

While Somerset chief executive Guy Lavender admitted that he was disappointed with Gayle’s latest blowout, he added:

“But as I’ve said before, we found him to be fantastic the last time he was here, in terms of activities both on and off the pitch.

It’s a shame, because it detracts from his cricketing ability. The fact is, what he has said is inappropriate. But we haven’t had an opportunity to discuss [it] with him. I’m sure we will. But I don’t see it as grounds not to have him playing for us this summer.”

And in India, IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla is taking the matter seriously.

Talking to Times of India, he said:

“The players must behave themselves. We expect the players to adhere to a certain kind of behaviour when the tournament is on. The players should maintain the sanctity of the league. These kind of statements are totally uncalled for in public domain. I will take up this issue with the president and the secretary of the BCCI.”

BCCI’s secretary Ajay Shirke said:

“At this point, we’ll not look into it. We’re focused on completing the IPL, which has reached its final stages. What has happened in this case is between two foreign individuals. It is a personal matter between people who aren’t from India. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that we’ll ignore it. If a complaint is brought to us, we’ll act on it. If it develops into something more, we’ll look into it at an appropriate stage.”

Gayle , in his latest interview, believes that most of the criticism directed his way after the McLaughlin imbroglio was racially motivated.

He says:

“Successful black men are struggling because people do things to put them down. I would say this anywhere in the world, in any sporting arena, right now in 2016: racism is still the case for a black man. Trust me. They just want to get a little sniff of the dirt. They find out some shit and they want to sink you. It’s reality. You have to deal with that as a successful black man.”

Racism has always been an issue in sport.

Henry Gayle was born in a Kingston slum and used cricket as his vehicle to become one of the world’s most beloved and entertaining sportsmen.

Writing for the Guardian, Andy Bull says:

“In the last year the Zimbabwean Test cricketer Mark Vermeulen was banned by his board after he referred to black Zimbabweans as ‘apes’ on social media, while Vermeulen’s old team-mate Prosper Utseya accused that same board of racism in their running of the sport. And several Pakistani players have spoken out about racism in English county cricket, in the wake of the offence committed by Craig Overton. These issues are always there, bubbling under. But it’s rare for a star player to address them directly, as Gayle has just done.

Gayle was talking about something more insidious, about attitudes ‘off the field’, especially, he seems to be saying, among the media. And some aspects of our coverage should make us uncomfortable. As Peter Oborne pointed out in his book Wounded Tiger, the Pakistani team is often subjected to the most ludicrous stereotyping, which has stretched as far as the suggestions, widespread at the time, that certain members of their 2007 World Cup team may have had a hand in the death of their coach Bob Woolmer. Innuendos always swirl when they play poorly, quicker to gather around them than their competitors, though cheating, and fixing, are universal problems.”

Racism is not restricted to the Western hemisphere.

Foreign cheerleaders in the IPL have complained several times about the treatment and slurs they are subjected to by Indian men.

In 2008, British dancers Ellesha Newton and Sherinne Anderson were prevented from performing during a Kings XI Punjab game.

Anderson said:

“An organiser pulled us away. He said the people here don’t want to see dark people. The ‘n’ word was used and they said they only wanted beautiful white girls. We were crying. I could understand if it were the crowd but they were very receptive. This kind of thing has never happened to us – not in Europe, not here, nowhere. “

There have not been any black cheerleaders in any edition of the IPL since.

An unnamed cheerleader in a free-wheeling chat on Reddit’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) had this to say:

“I hate the racism. Why is my team made up of 99% white girls? Why do Indians feel it’s ok to dress white girls up in skimpy outfits but they won’t let their fellow Indian women do it? It’s messed up.

I’ve asked my managers [about why no Indian girls as cheerleaders] and they don’t know. I’ll keep asking around, though, because I’m curious too. They could probably just get good dancers and train them; there’s no shortage of those.”

 

Chris Gayle adds in his autobiography that some people consider him “lazy“.

He writes:

“People think that [my] attitude towards the game stink. That’s how it come across: lazy.”

If Gayle’s indolent, his record proves otherwise.

He has played 103 Test matches in 14 years, scored two triple centuries and is arguably the best T20 batsman in the world.

But playing the race card in this seemingly complicated mess only addles the issue.

Racial discrimination is not the only kind that exists. Women everywhere face sexual biases on a daily basis. To claim that one is better or worse than the other sidesteps the issues raised by Gayle’s nonchalance towards the ramifications of his ‘jokey‘ sideshows.

Discrimination of any kind is to be frowned upon.

To clear things up, one would probably hark back to the rustic retorts Indian women (and defenders of their modesty) dish out to eve-teasers and molesters, “Tere maa, behn or beti nahin hai kya?  (Don’t you have a mother, sister or daughter?) How would you feel if someone dealt with them in the same way?”

No racism about it—just a question of right behavior in a public space.

That, Chris Gayle, is the crux of the matter. Not anything else, not anything more.

 

Louis Van Gaal: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t


Van Gaal makes some hair-raising comments.

What he said:

“When you see what Huth is doing to Fellaini, that’s a penalty. Shall I grab you by your hair? What is your reaction when I grab your hair? Your hair is shorter than Fellaini but, when I do that, what are you doing then? It’s a reaction. Every human being who is grabbed by the hair, only with sex masochism, then it is allowed but not in other situations. They did it. They did it several times I think.”

Manchester United’s manager Louis Van Gaal can be quite surreal with his statements to the English press.

The Dutchman defended Marouane Fellaini’s elbowing of Leicester’s Robert Huth during their 1-1 draw on Sunday with the above statements moving to pull the questioning journalist’s hair.

What he really meant:

“Hair-pulling is quite a provocative act. A footballer who pulls his opponent’s hair deserves to be elbowed. I’d like to see you elbow me when I pull yours. Isn’t that bloody natural?”

What he definitely didn’t:

“That was the Hair of God and God’s elbow!”

Leicester on course for first ever EPL title


Claudio Ranieri

Claudio Ranieri (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is proving to be a fairy tale finish for last year’s almost-relegated Leicester City in the English Premier League (EPL).

Even a 1-1 draw against Manchester United last evening couldn’t dim the jubilation in their joyous fans.

And it’s not just their die-hard fans who are celebrating.

The mid-level club has made fans all over the world with their glorious run to the title this season in an unlikely topsy-turvy EPL season.

Defending champions Chelsea are nowhere in the top four and will not qualify for next year’s Champions League.

They still lurk as potential spoilers for both title aspirants. Tottenham Hotspurs play them this evening and Chelsea encounter Leicester in their final game next week.

Should the Spurs drop any points to Chelsea, Leicester will be home and dry with two games in hand.

Should Chelsea lose, a win against Everton at home should suffice for the Foxes.

Either way, it’s looking very rosy for Claudio Ranieri’s men and the Italian manager will be looking forward to a two million pound bonus in his burgeoning kitty.

A couple of years ago, it was Atletico Madrid who made believers of sceptics knocking out Barcelona and Real Madrid on its way to its first La Liga title since 1996.

Atletico are in the running this year as well— a three-way race including Barcelona and Real Madrid.

It is always gratifying to see the small guy win and as this writer put it in his mid-season piece, “It’s not about whether you play as well as you can, it’s about simply doing better than the rest.”

That happens to be the story of this year’s EPL. None of the former champion sides could lift their standards high enough to take the fight to giant-slayers Leicester.

Leicester are deserving victors unless there’s an unlikely, nasty twist in the tale.

Former doubters disbelieve no more.

Is winning the toss an advantage and is doing away with it the solution?


Trust Ravi Shastri to look upon the toss-or-not debate from his own unique perspective as a commentator, “I’ll have no job left if the toss is done away with.

That’s the least of his worries considering he’s the front-runner to be the next Team India coach.

It was Ricky Ponting who set the ball rolling with his suggestion that the toss be done away with and the visiting captain chooses to bat or field.

He was seconded by his former skipper Steve Waugh and Michael Holding.

The underlying theme was that home sides would stop preparing pitches that suited them hopefully resulting in more sporting contests.

Would it eliminate ‘hometown’ advantage? Michael Holding felt not.

The English broke with tradition and effected the desired change in their County Championship this year.

The visiting county is given the option of bowling first—should they refuse, the toss is taken as normal and the winning skipper decides what to do, take strike or bowl.

Robert Key, ECB cricket committee member, had this to say:

“My original view was that we should have tougher penalties for poor pitches. But that is so hard to police. It just becomes a minefield. But what I still think is that the stigma over spinning pitches has to end. If we see 15 wickets fall to seam bowling on the first day of a game, nobody bats an eye. But if the ball turns on day one, people start to worry. That has to stop.”

The above is probably manna to the ears of BCCI chieftains and the Indian team’s think-tank given that the Nagpur Test wicket for the match against South Africa was sanctioned by the ICC.

He added:

“The cricket committee had a two-day meeting and 90% of it was spent talking about pitches. We went through all the options. We talked about everything you have seen suggested on social media. And in the end everyone there agreed that this was the way to go. The rules governing the use of the heavy roller are remaining the same.

We want to stop counties producing pitches that just suit their seamers. We want to take that luxury away from them and instead get them to produce pitches that result in a more even battle between bat and ball and require pace and spin bowlers as well as seamers.

I’m not surprised by the negative reactions. They are the same reactions I had when I first heard the suggestion. But it was not a decision taken lightly, and I’d just say to people: let’s try it and see what happens. Our original suggestion to the ECB board was to try this for a year in Division Two. It was their idea to try it in Division One as well.

We’re not suddenly going to see five more spinners. We can’t expect a miracle cure. But we might see a situation where, instead of spinners bowling 20% of overs in the Championship, they might bowl 30%.”

Andrew Gale, Yorkshire skipper, disagreed:

“It’s a decision that has come straight after a Test series defeat in the UAE, which has brought the problems to everyone’s attention. But we don’t want subcontinent-paced wickets in England. That is not what people want to watch. If we had gone to Australia and won this close season, I doubt that this decision would have happened.

Obviously the rule has been brought in to encourage spinners and because of a recognition that the wickets have become too seamer-friendly. The intention is a good one – I know that. But if wickets are that bad, why haven’t points been docked? Fifteen-plus wickets have fallen many times on the first day and it has repeatedly been put down to bad batting. I can see Keysie’s point about something needing to be done, but why haven’t pitch inspectors done their job properly? It comes down to people being strong. “

He added:

“I am a traditionalist. I love Championship cricket. The toss has existed since the beginning of time. Why keep messing with the game? It’s too complicated for some people as it is.”

Nathan Leamon, England’s performance analyst, wrote a piece for the NightWatchman questioning whether doing away with the toss would achieve the desired results.

The reasons listed were:

  • Can we be reliably certain that groundsmen can and will prepare pitches to order? (Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravi Shastri, take note.)
  • Home teams may prepare pitches even more favourable to them.
  • Winning the toss may not be an advantage at all.

Cricket is now played on covered pitches I.e. they are no longer exposed to the ravages of inclement weather. In the era of uncovered pitches, batting first made sense and was definitely advantageous.

Is winning the toss an additional asset—a twelfth man?

Gaurav Sood and Derek Willis answer the above query in an analytical piece on Cricinfo.

They write:

“After analysing data from more than 44,000 cricket matches across formats, however, we find that there is generally just a small – though material – advantage of winning the toss. The benefit varies widely, across formats, conditions, and depending on how closely matched the teams are.

We find that over all those matches, the team that wins the toss has won the match 2.8% more often. That small advantage increases for one-day matches and decreases for T20 contests. For day-night ODI and List A matches, the advantage is greater still, with the side winning the toss winning nearly 6% more games.

Winning the toss convey an advantage of 2.6% in first-class and Test matches, where pitches can deteriorate, giving the team that bats last a tougher challenge. But the largest boost appears to be in one-day matches, where teams that win the toss win the match 3.3% more often. “

What’s even more striking is the following observation:

“Using ICC monthly rankings for international sides, we looked at whether winning the toss made a difference when teams were closely matched or at opposite ends of the rankings. When closely matched teams play, winning the toss has a larger impact on the probability of winning. As expected, the impact of winning the toss was less when a clearly better side played a weaker one. “

They add:

“Whether due to cold weather or grassy pitches that can make batting difficult, teams that won the toss in April matches in England lost nearly 5% more often than they won. In every other month, the toss winner was more likely to win the match. Perhaps that alone will encourage visiting captains to take the field first, at least at the start of the English season.”

Ben Stokes: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t


Ben Stokes is not comforted by nemesis Carlos Brathwaite’s shirty request.

What he said:

“[Carlos] Brathwaite came and asked me for my shirt at the end, which was pretty strange, looking back on it. You’ve just whacked me and now you want a shirt? I didn’t really need to ask him [for his]. Can’t imagine what I’d use it for. A duvet maybe?”

Ben Stokes gives up his shirt as well to Carlos Brathwaite besides four hits out of bounds.

What he really meant:

“What?!!! You’ve clubbed me for four sixes in a row in a World Cup final and you want the shirt of my back too???!!!”

What he definitely didn’t:

“ Was that a not so subliminal message from Carlos to switch to another sport like soccer, perhaps?”

England verus West Indies: Let the fireworks flow


England take on the West Indies tonight in Kolkata in the sixth edition of the T20 World Cup.

Neither team is a stranger to the pressures of a final; both have emerged victors in the shortest format of the game.

Joe Root and Chris Gayle will be the cynosure of all eyes.

They are key players for their respective sides.

But finals have an uncanny knack of producing unlikely heroes.

The biggest stars have to perform to the greatest expectations.

Can they? Will they?

Some simply choke under the weight of expectations. Remember Ronaldo in the World Cup final in France in 1998 and his mysterious illness? It could well have been him and not Zinedine Zidane holding up the trophy. (Ronaldo did make amends in 2002. And it was Zidane who got the boot for his infamously provoked headbutt in 2006.Still not a Suarez.)

That’s not the point of this exercise.

It’s simply that cricket is a team sport and that it takes eleven players to get the side across the line.

The better side is simply the one that can keep it together more consistently and more often than other sides.

Those are the teams that make it through a tournament and emerge victorious.

Will it be Eoin Morgan’s England? Or will it be lovable Darren Sammy’s musketeers?

I really don’t know and I really don’t care.

For once, in this tournament I can be neutral and simply say, “Let the fireworks begin.”

Eoin Morgan: Little bit of naivete


“Having a little bit of naivete with a huge amount of talent isn’t a bad thing.”
—Eoin Morgan.

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