Saturday, 26 March 2011

Cricket World Cup - more talking points

As the quarter final to end all quarter finals (well these 4 anyway) gets under way in Colombo, this week's CWC action has seen more talking points than is good for a competition labelled a month ago a bore-athon.   With the consistency for which the world's media is renowned this competition is now the most exciting ever in the whole history of the universe, and possibly longer.

How to keep up with all this?  In a unique service to his readers, all 3 of them, Fantasy Bob has kept in touch with developments and listened to expert opinion totally disregarding it.  Here is his distillation of the week's off-field news.

Ponting - despite lots of media speculation that he is on the point of retirement, whether voluntary or enforced, the Australian captain remains in Gaddafi mode.  He is staying put.  But the Australian Board of Cricket are applying to the UN for the enforcement of a no-fly zone over him. 

Former coach Buchanan said Ponting had just too much to do as captain.  FB knows what he feels like.  He's had to chase around until midnight to find his eleventh man, he's had to get to the ground early but when he gets there he finds he's left the pavilion keys at home,  half an hour later he is already behind schedule and marks the boundary too quickly - he'll just have to say the big wobble at third man is to protect a water logged area, he's set up the scoreboard bruising his thumb as he bashes the hooks back into place with his shoe, when he opens the pavilion he finds the toilet's flooded, he's had to remember the milk for tea, and to remind the team of the new junior seam bowler's nut allergy, he's had to rummage in the kit store to find the 6th stump and even then he's not sure they are a matching set in fact one seems distinctly shorter than the others, aargh a terrible thought comes to him as he places the bails beside the stumps - where's the scorebook! - a frantic search and his heart rate comes back to normal as he finds it soggily wrapped in his still damp towel at the bottom of his bag, the tea urn blows a fuse when he plugs it in, he sets out to give the wicket a last roll but the engine seizes at the far end, he manages through the sheer power of bad language to push it off the pitch and he collapses into a seat thinking he just about has everything under control when the opposing skipper phones wondering where he is, he takes the fixture card out of his pocket, the microscopic text shimmers into focus briefly but long enough for him to detect that what he took all week as H is in fact A.  !!!!!!  A mad dash and he finally joins his hand picked team as they casually practice dropping catches in a corner of the outfield.  'Where the hell have you been skipper?' they ask, solicitous as ever after his welfare.  'Did you remember the wicket keeping gloves?   ****!  After that scoring 104 counts as a rest.

Motoring - Fantasy Bob is not a petrol head.  His understanding of the internal combustion engine is limited.  However he understands that South African vehicles have an automatic choke which shuts the engine down just when it begins to purr.  Vehicles are now subject to an immediate recall as the manufacturer tries to rectify this defect within the next 4 years.

Psychiatry - Another England player takes the flight home, joining Shazhad, Broad and KP.  Mike Yardy left the party this week suffering from depression.  Like Trescothick before him the detached life on the road just got to him.  FB has nothing but sympathy.  Banger's book describes in detail the hell of this condition - and FB wonders if cricketers more than any other sportspeople may be prone to this condition.  Long tours away from familiar surroundings and the stark transparency of the individual's contribution to team performances are significant risk factors.  Yardy's trauma was met with a remarkably sensitive response from Geoff Boycott who said  'He's just not good enough.'  Since when did Boycs become such a big softie?

Politics - The squeezed middle - this may be the new political catch phrase in the UK, referring to those on middle incomes who are about to be shafted to preserve bankers' quality of life, but might it be relevant in cricket - middle orders throughout this tournament have found life difficult.  The most evident example being the South African collapse against NZ - but the Windies also have had their problems.  Even the mighty Indian batting line up has looked vulnerable at 3 and 4 down.  Squeezed middles all around.

Sport - Four weeks ago the motto was 50 overs bad - now it's 50 overs good as there is recognition that this form of the game allows for changes in fortunes, it allows for innings to be built, for containing bowling to be important for strike bowling to be important, it puts pressure on the captain to think about how to wrest advantage, it requires batters not just to go and blast away.  In short it may actually be cricket.  Is it too late? 

Police - Local media reports also claim that Mumbai Police plan to deploy "only fit and good-looking" officers for the final on 2 April, rather than "overweight and tobacco-chewing" personnel.   Scottish authorities are taking note and will adopt a reverse policy for all Rangers and Celtic clashes.

Cricket (surely some mistake - what's this doing here?) - And so to Sri Lanka vs England.  The toss matters in this stadium more than most.  Results are heavily in favour of the side batting first, especially in day-night matches.  The ground is also one of Murali's happier hunting grounds particularly under lights - he has taken 25 wickets at 14.88 in floodlit innings there over the last decade.  Should the toss make such a huge difference to the chances of success?  Better win it rather than worry about it.  FB notes that at last England have done the sensible thing and have decided to open with Bell.  A tight game in prospect - maybe, but the home team seem to have a bit more in every department.

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