Tuesday, November 30, 2010

As sure as the Earth orbits the sun at 29.8km per/sec, the first Ashes test has been the height of tension and excitement.

Never a dull moment from ball one. It took England captain Andrew Strauss all of three balls of the first over to have a rush of blood to the head and play a cut shot that went straight to gully, where it was duly caught. This could have been seen as a bad omen for the English. One could have been forgiven for thinking it was going to be a long hard slog over the next few months for them. Especially when they were then bundled all out for a first innings total of 260.

That they came into the opening match of the series pronouncing themselves confident of winning their first Ashes series on Australian soil for twenty-five years seemed a touch on the premature side. If there is one rule that should never be broken in the pre-match psychological warfare of the lead-up to a sporting event, it is this: Always, always claim underdog status. It matters not whether it is true, just claim it anyway. Being forced to have an enema would be a more desirable notion than claiming favouritism.

And it looked early on that they were headed for a bloody nose. As it was, the English took some heavy hits and looked to be on the ropes. It could have been easy for them to throw in the towel, hand the test to the Australians and head for Adelaide and the second test with renewed hope of levelling the series.

This mob, however, are made of far sterner stuff. Not for them to drop their bundle and have a sulk. Instead, they rolled their sleeves up and toiled away. James Anderson delivered a stupendous spell, beating the bat on countless occasions. Softened the batsmen up for his bowling partners, he did. And they cashed in. To the tune of 137 for five. England was back in the match.

Until, that is, entering the cricketing arena came none other than Mr Cricket himself, Mike Hussey. With a century to Hussey, the match rotated in their favour. Australia was on the front foot once again. They could be the only team to realistically contemplate winning, from here, surely. Would England hold up under the pressure to bat time? Could they do the unthinkable and actually win against the odds?

This is what test cricket is all about. Being on the brink of defeat, yet, finding the inner fortitude to fights one’s way out of a dire situation.
As it turned out, they couldn’t win. But, what they did do was seriously dent the Australians confidence with a second innings batting display that bordered on the sublime. To start two hundred and twenty-one runs behind and rack up a score of over five hundred for the loss of only one wicket on final days of a test match borders on the bizarre.

Very rarely do all three top batsmen each score a century. So, bountiful amounts of confidence flowing through their veins, then.

Sure, the pitch behaved itself for the most part, but it did contain a couple of cracks that were wider than Sarah Palin’s knowledge of who America’s neighbours are. These rifts saw the ball turn at prodigious angles on occasions. Yet, the English batsmen handled the situation with aplomb.

So, despite being on top for long periods of the match, the Australians were the team that at times lost their poise. When the pressure went on, it was their normally high fielding standards that dissipated. Catches that would usually be taken went down. Both Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnston were guilty of grassing catches that at this level should be taken every day of the week.

Gone are days for Australia of having a team stacked with stars. There is no Glen McGrath to knock over the opposition’s top order. No Shane Warne to rip through the middle and lower order batsmen. While they still have one of the best batsmen going around in skipper Ricky Ponting, it is no longer a line-up that sends fear through opposing bowlers.

England, on the other hand, has a side that appears to be very well balanced. There is an opening pair in Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook that, while they aren’t flashy, gets the job done. You know the sort: have dinner at six pm, watch Coronation Street and talk about how good the meat was tonight. But, hey, that’s okay. You know what you will get with them, and they rarely let you down. Usually get a hundred run partnerships. Yep, every team likes them.

To counter these stoic sorts at the top of the order, they have the swashbuckling Kevin “the ego” Pietersen to smack the ball to all parts once the shine has been taken off the new ball by the openers.Numbers three and five respectively, Jonathan Trott and Paul Collingwood, can play a more conservative style when needed, or on the flipside, go on the attack chasing runs quickly. Add to this Ian Bell at number six who has a plentiful array of shot making options at his disposal and what you get is one of the stronger batting line-ups in world cricket. Shots galore, at their disposal, this lot.

Of course, it’s no good having a great batting side if you don’t have the bowlers to back you up. Fortunately for England, they do. In Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn, they have three talented fast bowlers. Which are backed up by a world class spinner in Graeme Swann.

What all this means for Australia, is trouble. While they appear to be able to compete in the batting department, their bowlers were exposed in England’s second innings as inadequate. Flat pitch or not, no side should be able to score 517 for one on the third and fourth days of a test.

So, England, struggling over the first two days, now looks to be in the stronger position mentally.

And you can never under-estimate the importance of confidence to a team.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ever wondered about all those fancy names that some marketing types insist on coming up with for our national teams?

And is it a good thing or should we be done with them?

There have been many. Some have stuck, others haven’t. There’s the All Blacks, Black Caps, Silver ferns, Black Sticks, Tall Blacks, All Whites, Black Sox and a plethora of others all too numerous to mention here.

Of course, the big daddy of them all was the time earlier this century when some nutjob at the New Zealand Badminton federation’s marketing department, passing him or herself off as a genius, decided in a bizarre moment of madness that it would be a mighty fine notion to name Badminton’s national team the Black Cocks.

What an absolute cock of an idea this was from the head cock of bizarre cocks.

One can only presume that this absolute cock of a whizz kid marketing type thought that National team were underperforming and making them known as the Black Cocks would be the only suitable punishment.

With four men and four women in the team, what does that make the female members of the side? And why black cocks? Surely a shuttlecock is white.

And considering the outrageously sinister racial connotations that go with the name, clearly things were not well thought out beforehand. Perhaps they should have stuck to calling the team the white cocks.

After all, if this marketing guru was suggesting that black cocks are better than white cocks then surely this is discrimatory towards white cocks and they have a case for laying a formal complaint with the race conciliators office.

Admittedly, some do claim that if you’ve had black you don’t go back, but, all the same, we do live in an era of equal rights.

Not surprisingly, the name was dropped. Sure, it got the sport some publicity, but, in the end, if an organisation wants good publicity, the best way to achieve this is for your national side to win.

Which leads us to the Black Caps. If ever there was a team that proves that all the fancy monikers in the world will do you no good at all, it is they.

For, ever since they inherited this tag, their fortunes have gradually evaporated. Yes, they didn’t do too badly from the mid nineties through until earlier this century.

Since then, though, it has been a slippery slide down an increasingly acute slope into a vast ocean of mediocrity.

They fill it quite nicely at times, too.

This means a slick slogan has been no match for a side currently corrupted by player power, big money and a unique ability to find new and interesting methods to lose games of cricket.

You see, a team can have a flash name, but if they can’t bat, bowl and catch as some have pointed out about the current side, then the only opposition they will be competitive with is the race to the hot dog stand at 2pm on the third day of a test match.

The desire to win comes from within oneself.

Not from within that sport’s marketing department.

There can be no substitute for a willingness to work hard. Hard work and practice lead increased proficiency at your chosen discipline. Which, in turn, will increase the chances of success knocking on one’s door.

Do invite it in, too, won’t you. You’ll find that it is much more pleasant and interesting company than a fancy, but, nevertheless, meaningless marketing name.
Just take a look at the crowd numbers if the New Zealand cricket team start winning consistently. It won’t be the fancy name that brought all those extra feet through the turnstiles.

Some will point out that our national rugby team are known as the All Blacks and not as New Zealand. This is true. However, what it does not account for is the fact that it is a name that was given to our national team one hundred years ago.

And there has been a tradition of success erected over that time. A culture that has young players entering into the All Blacks domain desperate to do justice to the black shirt and the history that goes with it.

That success is what has made the “All Blacks” famous and worth its weight in advertising gold. The All Blacks logo is internationally recognised because of those winning ways.

This is the problem for the likes of New Zealand cricket. They simply do not win enough on the park. Until they and others like them do, all the clever brand names will be of no use.

Maybe someone should tell that to the cock at New Zealand Badminton that turned a national team into a laughing stock.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Twenty-eight year old, six foot two sexually adventurous rugby league winger from Canberra who enjoys animals (dogs in particular), looking to meet a like minded lady.

Must not mind sharing her man, as this one likes to swing on occasions. But don’t worry too much, will you; it’s only with a dog that he will cheat on you with. So much better, you see, than slinking off to a revendous with another woman.

So, come on ladies, this one’s a real winner. Get in fast before he gets taken by an adoring high class lady. For what woman could possibly resist a man that possesses such high moral integrity as Joel Monaghan clearly does.

When deciding as to whether or not you will take the plunge and date this guy, even knowing that he has been photographed committing a sex act with a dog during a mad Monday celebration, please do take into account that according to our animal loving friend, this was nothing more than a prank gone wrong.

This, of course, makes it so much better than if he was indulging in sex with a dog in a serious manner. And do remember that he was drunk, which means he cannot possibly be expected to take responsibility for his own actions.

After all, it was the alcohol that poured itself into his glass which just conveniently decided to park itself exactly in the right place for the alcohol to come out of a tap into said glass. Then, of course, the glass inadvertently lifted itself up to the level of Monaghan’s mouth and forced its way down his throat totally against his will.

So, a bonus, then, that you have had an opportunity to see your potential suitors rather unique take on life.

For his sake, you may even wish to turn a blind eye to the fact that alcohol generally loosens one’s personality up. The real you will more often than not come out. Thus, one is more inclined to act in a fashion that shows their true character. And what a revelation Monaghan’s personality has been.

The chances are that in all probability Monaghan’s career is all but over and will never play another game of rugby league. This is good for you ladies, though, as he will have extra time to devote to being a loving partner to you. What more could you possibly want than a man that will spend time with you? Well, that is if he can drag himself away from showering attention on his dog. Literally.

Good then that he will have plenty of spare time to devote to you as he is now pretty much unemployable. Not only will rugby league rid themselves of him, but, he is unlikely to gain meaningful employment in the likes of rugby union either. None of these codes are going to want the bad publicity that will follow him wherever he goes.

So, money won’t be in plentiful supply. But money isn’t everything is it? Just think, on the positive side of things, you will have such a wonderful man that can impart his most worthy of morals and values on your future offspring. What a lucky bunch they will be.

I mean, he will have all that extra time to contemplate just what he has done.

Time for Joel to hopefully see how repulsive and repugnant what he has done, is. That society does not and never should accept and tolerate this type of behaviour.

And please don’t let him tell you that it was “just” a dog. Animals have the right to be treated with decency too. That’s why we have laws against cruelty towards animals.

Whichever of you lucky ladies that end up with Joel could help him to see the error of his ways. Maybe get him to one day seek redemption by helping to educate the youngsters of the future on what is acceptable behaviour in a modern liberal society.

It’s those youth of the early teenage years that need to be targeted in regards to educating the future of rugby league on what is right and what is wrong. Attitudes have to change over time. To paraphrase a certain shampoo ad of the past, “it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen”. Or should that be “it won’t happen overnight, but it could happen”.

So there is no point trying to change the current mob as these attitudes are far too ingrained. You could get rid of mad Monday’s. That may stop some of the lunacy that goes on, but it won’t change the attitudes of players.

Go for the next generation, then maybe in ten years time we will have a game played by young men that respect society’s norms and respect the game of rugby league enough not to attempt to bring it to its knees.

Often in rugby league, you will hear players talk of another committing a “dog act”. This is usually referring to an act of foul play such as eye gouging or biting.

The ultimate irony of Monaghan’s actions is that he really has committed a dog act.

So, ladies, do you wish to tame the dog?