Tuesday, August 29, 2006

You cannot be serious!

Sheer chutzpah!

Two thoughts: -

1) Ten years ago the Australians wouldn't have cared two hoots over who was umpiring. Haven't times changed!

2) It's lucky the ECB put up Andrew Strauss to give the measured reponse to this suggestion. E.g., "thanks for the suggestion, but no thanks." Had they asked 99.9% of English cricket supporters to respond, the pithy, two-word answer would have caused a diplomatic incident...

Monday, August 28, 2006

Joining the Dots

Here at the TRSM Mansion, we're always on the look out for a good conspiracy theory, and Beau Peep has a beauty!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Split Ends

Guess which well known umpire wrote this a few years ago: -

"One of the best things an umpire can do to avoid conflict situations is to let the players play the game.

"Umpires shouldn't be looking for minor technical violations or any other circumstances just to show people they know the Law. Such situations may involve penalty runs. Successful man-management skills that have averted conflict situations need to be continued with minor adjustments.

"Use common sense when applying the Laws." (My bold)
Any offers? As it doesn't contain the words 'I', 'me' or 'mine' we can safely assume it wasn't penned by that irritatingly omnipresent professional northerner, Dickie Bird, but I'm sure you can narrow it down sufficiently to come up with the worst four-letter word Pakistan supporters know at the present time.

To be honest, the whole affair is becoming a bit tired and (dare I say it) boring. Maybe it's the advent of 24 hour news, and the emergence of the internet as the main communications medium. This means that an announcement in the morning is chewed over by thousands of commentators - professional and amateur alike, so that within hours every word, nuance and emphasis has been wrung out and by the next morning, the comments of printed word journalists - that for years were treated as gospel, seem dated and irrelevent.

To quote the title of one of the best sports books I've ever read - we're 'All Played Out' - all in the space of a week.

I suppose, deep down, some of us were hoping that the whole affair might have been the catalyst to bring down the whole rancid cricketing establishment that we know and loathe, but that was always a very long shot. The one thing any establishment is good at is self preservation - after 'hypocrisy' it's probably top of the list, so there was really no way that our dreams were going to come true that easily.

As soon as the e-mails were made public it was obvious that the authorities were going get off scot free. As an aside, you wonder if they'd have been so quick to release them had Douglas Cowie or Malcolm Speed replied to Darrell Hair's offer along the lines of "damn fine idea, the cheques in the post"? As it is, Hair can be painted as the villian, and the ICC can be seen as being magnanimous when they try to retain him as a Test Match umpire.

There have been some positives - the reputation of the ICC has taken a bit of a bashing, some decent journalists have risen to the occasion and enhanced their reputations no end over the past week (Mike Selvey to name one), and you'd like to think that people might stop and think a second now before banding the word 'cheat' around. There may even be a long overdue review of the Laws that concern the state of the ball, and other on-field activity over which the umpires have discretionary control come to that.

As it is, the whole thing will now drag on to some sort of muddled conclusion that will really only serve to keep the ICC happy.

Of course, we may all be pleasantly surprised as some tenacious reporter uncovers a secret dossier revealing the details of how Glenn McGrath is the secret love-child of Darrell Hair and Germaine Greer, but until that day, here at TRSM Mansions, we'll keep comment on the whole affair to the barest minimum.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Half a Million Dollar Bash

Good leader column in today's Guardian about the whole sordid mess.

One further thought... When Hair sent his original e-mail he must have thought he was on pretty safe ground in terms of his request actually being taken seriously. How could he be so confident? Is there a history of this sort of thing that we haven't been told about?

Presumably he also naively thought that it wouldn't be spashed across the papers a few days later, but obviously he hadn't quite realised just what a crass bunch his employers are.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

A couple of quick thoughts and queries on the extraordinary events today.

1) If you sent a confidential e-mail to your employer, and then found the contents of that e-mail made public, regardless of the circumstances, wouldn't you feel that you had suitable grounds to take said employer to the cleaners?

2) One of the charges against Inzamam was 'bringing the game into disrepute'. I'd say the actions outlined in 1) above by the ICC do that.

3) What on earth did the ICC think they were going to achieve?

4) ICC head, Malcolm Speed, was quoted as saying that he thought Darryl Hair believed he was 'acting in the best interests of the game.' So what;s your defence Malcolm?

Waugh Stories

There's a nice thread currently running on 'Corridor of Uncertainty' about favourite cricket books.

A few posters have mentioned Steve Waugh's autobiography, with specific reference to its size and weight. To save you the physical exertion of leafing through this in your local bookshop, here's an exclusive excerpt from the book to give you a taster of what's on offer: -

(Taken from Part 8, Chapter 48, Page 794)

The first ball from Gough was well up so I played forward and it went out into the covers, second ball I left alone, and the third ball went down the legside - Gough was probably trying to hard as he was liable to do in the fourth over from the Nursery End during a morning session.

Next ball went into the covers for a single - I went down the wicket and told my brother, Mark, that he wasn't backing up far enough and that he'd need to go down to the practice area after he was out to measure out his optimal backing up distance for a bowler of Goughs pace and accuracy.

I then went back to the non-strikers end and psychologically intimidated Gough for a few seconds. I then turned to stare down Mike Atherton who was fielding too deep at mid-on. I remembered that Atherton had drifted about five yards too deep in the Sydney Test a few years before which meant that I'd managed to take a sharply taken two, rather than just a single, to a ball from Caddick - runs that took me from 45 to 47. I'd pointed this out to Atherton when he came into our dressing room for a beer after the game, and then again an hour later as the England squad were boarding their coach back to the hotel. Later I phoned Atherton at the hotel to remind him of our earlier conversation, but surprisingly, he refused to take the call. You should never be too proud to listen to advice.

Next ball my brother, Mark, slightly mistimed a cut and the ball bounced into the gully area where it was fielded by Craig White. This gave me another opportunity to continue our campaign of mental disintegration on White which I kept up until the umpire (David Sheppard, umpiring in his 65th test) came up and asked me to get on with the game. I did so, as I think it's very important to uphold the spirit of the game and respect your opponents at all times.

At the end of the over I went back up to White and continued the mental campaign with a stream of the specific verbal abuse that we'd agreed in our team meeting would have the best impact on a guy like White. (See Appendix XIV for a full summary of the verbal abuse used by the Australian team during this series, broken down on a session-by-session and player-by-player basis)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Athers raises Sky's Limits

One overlooked highlight of the summer has been the arrival in the Sky commentary box of Mike Atherton. There was an interesting passge of play in the recent 40 over game between Essex and Sussex which encapsulates the effect Atherton has had on Sky coverage.

Darren Gough and Andy Bichel were bowling for Essex. Up in the box with Michael Holding, Atherton made the point that Gough and Bichel were very similar in terms of age, experience and the fact that they were both relatively short for fast bowlers and had, Atherton pondered, presumably had to adapt their attitude to bowling as they got older.

To begin with, Holding's automatic response to Atherton's query was to make a joke about 'aging fast bowlers' and start to move his attention back to the game going on in the middle. Had Botham been in the box they'd no doubt have made reference to Gough concentrating on his ballroom dancing and moved on, but Atherton pressed the issue and started to expand on the theme - and Holding sounded ever so slightly irritated, and then rather taken aback.

The trigger for Holding was that Atherton called him 'Michael' rather than the usual 'Mikey' that the rest of the Sky commentary team use. The subtext seemed to be "I want to have a proper cricket conversation with you now, not the jocular (ever so slightly fawning) banter that Botham and Co. subject you to."

Once Holding twigged what Athers was up to there followed an absolutely fascinating period of commentary as we listened to two Sky commentators having a discussion that was actually illuminating and informative - with the live cricket on the screen illustrating what they were talking about. In short - perfect television. They talked about how quick bowlers adjusted their approach as they got older, and how shorter fast bowlers might find this more difficult. Atherton then mentioned Malcolm Marshall as glorious exception to the rule, and you could almost hear Holding getting misty eyed.

Atherton is exactly what the Sky team has needed for years. Someone with slightly more 'gravitas' and a sense of how cricket can be intelligent as well as entertaining - moving away from the hyperbolic zoo that viewers have been used to over the past decade or so. At one stage I'd guess that David Lloyd might have been earmarked for this role, but over the past couple of years 'Bumble' has almost become a study in self-parody to the extent now that it's almost impossible to listen to the commentary when he's on air and he has joined Paul Allott in the 'brings absolutely nothing to the party' category. As for Bob Willis, Atherton has more gravitas in the dirt under his toenails than Willis will ever possess - for heaven's sake, Willis even makes Charles Colville sound enlightened - some feat!

To my mind, Willis reached 'ground zero' during a One Day International a few years ago. England were chasing something like 190 to win so obviously not in any sort of hurry early on where the priority was to avoid losing early wickets. To Willis's mind, however, every dot ball was a drama to be escalated into a crisis to the extend that he was at hysterical pitch by the sixth over when England were a comfortable 15 for no wicket, stating that they were 'very much behind the clock and need to start putting their foot on the gas pedal now'.

Atherton was fortunate to spend his first couple of years of his commentary career in the box for Channel 4 alongside the acknowledged master, Richie Benaud, and you can hear Benaud's influence every time Atherton is behind the mike. You can also tell that he's picked a lot up off of Mark ('10 years media training did it for me') Nicholas.

It would be nice to think that Sky are starting to take their responsibility as sole live cricket provider in the UK seriously and start to move away from the tabloid style of presentation that has been prevelant up until now. Their coverage of events at the Oval on Sunday was apparently pretty good - making good use of the ability to switch between booth and studio to enable the two teams of presenters to collect their thoughts and avoid banal repetition.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Till the Pips Squeak?

By way of a Public Service Annoucement, this link takes you to a page that gives a concise summary of Inheritance Tax (IHT), including elligibility and thresholds.

You will note from this link that IHT only becomes payable on the value of estates over 285,000 pounds. For example, an estate with a value of 300,000 pounds will incur an IHT charge of 40% of 15,000, eg: 6,000 pounds. An estate with a value of 284,000 will NOT incur a tax charge.

Recent statements in the media by those opposed to IHT may have led you to believe that Inheritance tax is payable on the entire value of the estate. As you can see, this is not the case.

Just glad to set the record straight.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Know Your Rights

“Number 4 - You have the right to be told, by those in authority at our cricket grounds, exactly what is going on… unless those in authority happen to be the ICC & the ECB.”

I've just got back from The Oval. The lack of information given to spectators was astonishing and scandalous. Yes, quite a few people knew what was going on because of the handy little radios you can buy now - and through mobile phone calls to those in front of the television, but that's beside the point.

From 4 o'clock, to after 6 pm, there were precisely NO official announcements to tell us what was happening.

One by-product of this was that the Pakistanis were roundly, and unjustifiably booed when they came on the field – I bet Darrell Hair got a good laugh out of that - plus the ECB fossils who still run the game in this country. What happened to Inzamam and his team was positively Kafkaesque in terms of accusations and convictions without evidence and statements.

If the boot had been on the other foot and England had been accused of ball-tampering on what seems to be pretty flimsy evidence, there’d have been an outcry with calls for parliament to reconvene to discuss the issue.

Let’s have a guess as to what the tabloids make of it tomorrow morning…

People I’ve spoken to who were watching the Sky coverage at home have said that as an example of a live telecast on a unexpected event with very little information being given by those in control, it was exemplary. (Obviously Bob Willis being absent from the booth helped their cause in that respect)

Sky managed to get their act together – it’s just a shame that the ICC couldn’t.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A Reasonable Request

If you're at a Test Match and are planning to go out to lunch at 1 o'clock with no intention of coming back into the ground anytime before 4pm, DON'T BOTHER COMING BACK. On your way out, give your ticket to someone who really wants to watch the game.

That way, everyone wins;

1) You get to boast to your mates about ''A day out at the Test Match'' and have a laugh about how you ''didn't see much that happened after lunch!''

2) The authorities get £50 quid out of you for your ticket.

3) Someone more deserving gets to see the best part of a days cricket.

4) The players get to play in front of an appreciative crowd for the whole day.

5) Those of us watching on TV, or still in the ground, don't have to put up with the obscene sight of thousands of empty seats throughout most of the afternoon.