Friday, February 27, 2009

Not converting enough double hundreds

Sure, the English batsman are treading water, they’re just about doing enough, but are they delivering what we need?

Andrew Strauss has again demonstrated England’s lack of mental fortitude by failing to knock off a double hundred after scoring a lowly big hundred.

Large centuries might be enough at county level, and they might just about secure your place in an already complacent line-up, but we’re playing test match cricket now, and opportunities need to be taken.

Especially these days, when pitches have as much threat in them as my toothless, octogenarian nan after her third gin and tea. Frankly, there’s no excuse.

The jump from an imposing, but not necessarily decisive 142 to a certain match-winning 200 is small. Just 58 runs. Not an impossible gap to bridge. Look, I just did it on my keyboard:

142 + 58 = 200

Giving the simple arithmetic involved, an accountant like Andrew Strauss should know better than succumbing to an irresponsibly low score.

I am disappointed in you.

At least young Cooky had the decency to play for the team and whack a quick fifty.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Alan Stanford: International Super Villain

Obviously, everyone knew this already. Just look at the teeth.

And his attempt to destroy cricket didn’t win too many fans amongst the cricketing fraternity. Although, it improved his standing in BCCI Towers.

Alan Stanford has been accused on non-transparent practices in dealing with clients' investments. They they thought their investments were being held in liquid assets, but, in fact, they were ploughed into property. Outside the world of finance this is called “lying”. The chief investment officer instructed staff to not inform investors about Stanford’s investment practices, as it “wouldn’t leave an investor with a lot of confidence”.

The classic signs of financial fraud were apparent for all to see: “off-shore financing” is another way of saying “I’m stealing your money”; Stanford has had his banking licence in Montserrat revoked for dubious dealings; smooth year-on-year returns; and law enforcement investigations since the early nineties. Even before the SEC accused him of an $8 billion “massive ongoing fraud” the US tax authorities were trying to recover $104,236,285.85 federal tax lien.

Now there is possible exposure to the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, alleged connections to gulf gangsters and 30,000 investors have unsuccessfully sought to get their money back. Hilariously, he went on the run, and was eventually tracked down to (one of) his girlfriend’s house in Virginia. Which was also the area that Robert E. Lee conducted his last desperate rear-guard action before surrendering to the inevitable encircling of reality.

Stanford’s dad has come out to say that he thinks he’s a good guy, so I suppose that makes it ok.

Of course, it would be a bit smug of me to say that I work for an organisation that constantly vets all those that it works for, and that a simple investigation on well-known internet search programmes are a start in the process of due diligence, which, in itself, is a lengthy, but simple procedure. I won’t say any of these things, though, because, rather like Giles Clarke, I am above the fray. I don’t want the legacy of this post to be about a lying Texan.

The question is: Has the ECB moved on from the 19th century? Well, it still has the shameless appetite for foreign treasure. It still holds archaic bureaucratic practices that strangle the game. But, most pressingly, it is still run by Old Boys.

The problem with Old Boys is that when they look on another male, about a similar age, and with heaps of cash, they welcome the decent old chap into their open bosom.

“Come on in, old bean, put your feet up, relax, lighten the load and leave your cash by the door as you come in, my dear thing.”

Thoughts like “I wonder where that money comes from” would never enter an Old Boy’s cheery, port-soaked brain. Money, of course, is vulgar; necessary but vulgar. That a professional businessman like Clarke didn’t even consider the reputational risk of Stanford is remarkable, but, really, the information is there for all to see.

I’ve been having a little root around Stanford’s site. The news section has not been updated since the 3rd February. Presumably, the Communications team are hiding in their girlfriends' house. Apparently, not only does Sir Poverty inflict his smile upon his staff, but also some “flair”:

“To distinguish the men and women of the Stanford Financial Group of companies, every employee wears an eagle shield representing financial strength, integrity and commitment to our clients.”
This man is to be avoided.

The “eagle shield” is a crappy, tacky, nasty little badge-thing that distinguishes between employees that work for a ghastly boss, and employees that work for a ghastly boss with a horrendous perma-tan. In any case, it’s a shame that the Group’s commitment to its clients extends to giving their money back.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The drama of South African domestic cricket

The modern world, as we will all no doubt readily acknowledge, is generally a rather rubbish place. Not only is it showing obvious signs of “going down the pan” (as it has for some millennia now) but, in the words of the great Ed Reardon, it is also run by 12 year olds.

No where is this more apparent that the domestic scene in South Africa. According to the singularity of all knowledge, cricinfo, there are two matches going on in Safferdom. They are:

Dolphins v Cobras
Warriors v Eagles

These two matches, I feel, have been unfairly neglected by the mainstream press. Surely, we are all interested to discover who would win in a fight between poisonous snakes and an angry pod of Delphinidae.

I suppose, as with all matches, the outcome much depends on the conditions. If played on the dry, arid pitches familiar to cobras, the dolphins, for all their superiority in size, would probably be picked off by the snakes after an attritional spell.

Conversely, if the dolphins play at home, then the cobras had better hope for a quick, decisive bite, or they’ll be all at sea.

Now, if they play at some neutral venue, like Bognor Regis beach, for instance, they’ll be on a level playing field. Leaving the cobras in a strong defensive position, but also allowing the dolphins some opportunity to attack with the tide.

Nevertheless, I would still put my money on the snake, that Flipper was fucking useless.

The second match is between eagles and warriors. What they mean by “warriors” is unclear – but I’m guessing they’re either a group of Ultimate Warriors, or some sort of deranged gaggle of Klingons.

The eagles have the advantage of good flight, but once the warriors get ahold of them, it’ll probably be a quick dash to the finish. The birds have to hope that they can baffle the men with a few clever sledges to confuse their enemy’s simple mind, and peck them into submission.

All these exciting events are going on, and the liberal establishment refuse to report on it.

In any case, kudos to the Dolphins for opening the bowling with Sanath Jayasuriya.

Kiwi mothers advice sons to keep away from Zimbabwe

Apparently, the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has recently stated that he might prevent his nation’s big hitters from entering the Dark Continent.

The reason is that they might catch a disease.

Although a sound reason, and one I would subscribe to myself, generally speaking, I’ve never heard it used in a cricketing context before.

"There is the risk of cholera and quite frankly we don't support that regime" of President Robert Mugabe.”

You would think that senior politician of an industrialised nation would have better things to do with his time, rather than probing into the medical condition a group of gallivanting young men might find themselves in after enjoying a bit of sport. But, compared to the shenanigans of these lively lads, the financial crisis is but a bagatelle.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Paul Collingwood, the little brown that could

Paul Collingwood. Can you believe this man? Can you believe that this ginger Northerner, so handicapped at birth, can go so far in the real world?

Of course, as an exponent of treading water myself, I admire his grim refusal to do anything beyond the bare minimum. He doesn’t so much as force his way into the side, but refuse to be flushed away. When the ECB pulls the chain, some items are dispatched merrily into the water network, on their long journey through the Thames, and then Bognor Regis beach, Ian Bell and Monty Panesar for instance, but Collingwood just seems too stouty and the wrong shape for the pipes to boot.

Where most people would be a bit concerned about this situation, we’ve got some Australians coming over soon and they sure can pack a lot down there, and might consider breaking apart the offending remainder with some sort of stick, or your big sister’s toothbrush, the ECB seemed stunned by the awesome sight of persistence that floats before them.

The ECB likes Collingwood. He’s ginger, and has a red face. What’s not to like?

But the problem is that he bats like a one-legged pirate with a Geoff Boycott fetish. Never once, not even during his Australia tour, have I watched him bat and thought, “he looks in good form” or even a “that shot wasn’t remotely unattractive, I don’t want to gauge out my eyes with the sure cringing awfulness of this innings, OMG!!!1!”

I’d rather witness the true time line of six thousand years of history unfold than endure that any more.

So, once again, out of the jaws of certain dropdom, he flukes a century in the most benign conditions imaginable, and looks certain to keep other, good, players out of the side.


There’s no pleasing some people.

Dammit. Why can’t we have some more middle order sloggers? Or any sloggers, for that matter. What's wrong with the world, all the grit is in the England cricket team, leaving bugger all for the ice-covered streets.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Strangely disappointing success

If there’s one thing we English hate more than humiliating defeat, is storming success.

Oh, how a nation lapped up the sting of shameful loss of Jamaica. “51 runs!” Said we, “How shit is that?”

Very shit indeed, we all concurred.

Many pints were sunk in many pubs (no doubt a few steins were emptied in kneipen also) as a people took heartily to a favoured activity: bleating on about matters over which they have no influence.

Now all our beer-consuming ambitions have been dashed by unadulterated, brazen and frankly inconsiderate ascendancy in Antigua.

An opening English batsman “went on” to score a big hundred. Large partnerships were compelled. The top order put the opposition to the sword. And wickets, generally, were not thrown away cheaply.

The batsmen are doing all the things that we have demanded of them for the last four years. For the first time in eight campaigns of misery, they’re finally delivering a professional and ruthless performance.

And how do we feel?

Well, frankly, disappointed.

The pitch promised us fireworks. 23 wickets in a day. Lost teeth. Permanently disfigured South Africans. This is what we wanted to see. Violence, pain and suffering.

And what did we get?

Not a sausage.

I commented in a previous post that the last game was a return to the 1980s. Well, we’ve skipped over the 1990s and sank back inexorably into the mediocre Windies of the naughties. They’re not even worth beating again.

So, all we can hope for is that a few of the less popular members of the England team might receive a particular nasty bruise. That or concussion.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

England will never recover - Collingwood

Former England captain that used to be good, Paul Collingwood, stated yesterday:

"We're rubbish. Might as well pack it all in. England's finished"

Jayawardene begins his bid for the English captaincy

Sensing a gap in a lucrative market, Jayawardene begins on his long campaign to qualify for and finally captain the England cricket team.

“It has always been my ambition, after captaining Colombo’s finest rugby team, the Piedersmanndorf XV, to lead England on the field.”

He later added,

“Any field, really.”

Perceiving that Strauss has no more than four years, “max” in England’s top job, which would allow the Sri Lankan Storm Trooper to qualify and sweep into the captaincy just in England’s hour of need.

Conveniently, in exactly four year’s time, England will be 18 months away from the Ashes, which is internationally recognised as the optimal period to prepare for anything.

England officials were silent on the matter, which allowed them more time to leak fervently to the press. One bureaucrat told the Daily Red,

“To be honest, we’d take anyone on at the moment. We need players that can go beyond 97 and get a big score. This lot is useless.”

Another commented,

“The problem with this mob is that they’re too English. We need more foreigners.”

Using the top strategies of the British Empire, the ECB management has decided to succeed by stripping the world of its finest elements. Giles Clarke was later quoted to have said,

“Ha ha. I still have my job.”

There was some stirrings, within the sober press community, that this may not necessarily a good thing.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Let’s do the time warp again

Do we all remember the 1980s? I know that, generally, remembering anything is inadvisable, and that last century’s eighth decade brought with it special kind of horrors such as Norman Tebbit and white trousers, but it’s worth re-engaging those battered grey cells just for a fleeting moment.

When attempting a reminiscence, be sure to skip over the files labelled “what you said last night whilst drunk” and definitely avoid the “early sexual experiences” folder, and drill down to that unique cringing pain given to you only by the England cricket team.

Ah. You are with me now. Deep within the tortured recesses of your undoubtedly abused brain, you find a potent catalogue of angry scars, each wound marking the next spineless England series, rather like an entombed prisoner counts of each day of his squalid march deathwards, you have commemorated each disastrous slump with a little piece of inward death.

In recent years, however, the scratches have dropped in frequency and intensity. Perhaps there may even by happy bellybutton marks filed somewhere in some forgotten happy part of the mind.

But oh, how quickly the stinging pain of reality re-unites the soul with the throbbing misery of memory. Strangely, as a device to unearth long repressed agony, the England cricket team proves more adept than Freudian hypnotherapy. And, for those mentals out there, a great deal cheaper.

The difference between England’s humiliating tours to the Caribbean in the 1980s and current embarrassments is the anticipation of obliteration, but now the feckless Englanders swaggered into the Windies with the hubristic and frankly hilarious expectation of easy victory, resulting in a predictable outcome.

It’s as if the disintegration of the team’s leadership, collapse in key player’s form and Twatford gang-groping never happened. England sauntered off to the one of the world’s leading tourist destinations with the intention to toss of the third world country before getting down to the real dirty with Australia later in the year.

By, OMG!!1 how pisspoor was that effort? I mean, really now. REALLY.

What were they thinking? What were they flipping thinking?

All that can save England now is a strategic ball placed under the ankle of a devastating fast bowler.

Welcome back to the good old days.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The market weighs man’s soul and decides his worth

"Which men?” you ask, “And what market?”

These are good questions, which makes a stark difference from the usual dribble you lot come up with, and so I will endeavour to answer them.

The IPL has held its latest round of auctions. For those English fans, and, least face it, no one really is, there are some interesting outcomes.

Of course, Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff all of a sudden became more valuable than the draw full of plastic bags and string, but the most interesting outcome of the bonanza, is the relative vale the companies of India gave to the various English players:

Andrew Flintoff (Chennai Super Kings, $1,550,000);
Kevin Pietersen (Bangalore Royal Challengers, $1,550,000);
Ravi Bopara (Kings XI Punjab, $450,000);
Owais Shah (Delhi Daredevils, $375,000);
Paul Collingwood (Delhi Daredevils, $275,000).

Three of these people cannot be dropped from the England team. It is simply impossible. Well, unless they defect to Botswana, or something. I hear there is a lot of diamonds there.

According to the markets, Bopara and Shah, neither of whom are likely to get into the England team any time soon, are significantly more valuable than Paul Collingwood, whom the ECB gets funny feelings in funny places about.

Everyone loves an underdog. Especially a scrappy, trampy one with an ugly face and a history of rejection.

But remove the story from Collingwood and what are you left with? A ginger nurdle to nowhere.

The markets, with their cold, harsh calculating minds, processing balance sheets and cash flow forecasts faster than an accountant’s calculator marinated in amphetamines, has realised that Collingwood, although ginger, isn’t that great really.

He’s a player with no spice, in a world where you need to remember to always add more chilli and thyme.

Bopara has spice. Albeit a rubbishy, neglected spice that you find at the back of the cupboard of your long-expired neighbour, Old Tom.

It’s strange that no England bowlers were selected. Given that they are all cuttingly devastating in all conditions.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

England may earn a draw. If they slow down.

Perceiving the fearsome threat before them, England buckled down, and prepared to eek out a draw from an apparently unbeatable opposition.

Former England Captain Andrew Strauss looked a bit out of form; as did Future England Captain Alastair Cook, and England’s innings was only given a glimmer of respectability by the efforts of Former England Captain Kevin Pietersen (97) and Former England Captain Andrew Flintoff (43*).

Former England Captain Paul Collingwood, managed a smash a no doubt decisive 16 from a mere 61 balls, after the testing and probably nose-endangering bowling of Sulieman Benn threatened to cause serious damage to the west coast of England, such was his potency.

Everyone is still convinced that Paul “Speed Gun” Collingwood is still a valuable addition to the side. We all agree that we can do no better - so why bother?

That Former England captain Kevin Pietersen’s “rash” miss-shot is the main headline, reflects just how difficult and boring things were.

Former West Indies captain, Shivnarine Chanderpaul appears to be England’s crab-apple of their eye, as they attempt to copy his method of grinding down the opposition with a gradual and ugly accumulation of runs. Isn’t it odd how England’s style of play cuts across sports: cricket, rugby, bar crawling – we all approach them in the same way.

The only difference between Shiv and ourselves, however, is ability to be good, which is a failing that has long dogged the Englanders.

Here’s looking for a lucky escape for England on day two.