Monday, November 21, 2011

In breaking news, officials have announced that a search and rescue party has been sent into the barren wilderness that is Isaac Luke’s brain in a desperate bid to locate his remaining two active brain cells.

This after Luke claimed in a Sunday Paper that he deliberately tried to break Rangi Chase’s leg in the Kiwi’s match with England last weekend.

No news as yet has come to hand on whether there has been any success with their highly improbable mission, particularly after sources have confirmed their shock upon entering said winter waste land and discovering inordinately large amounts of toxic debris floating around aimlessly.

What could Luke possibly have been thinking?

Sure, he was upset that Chase - his cousin - had decided to throw his lot in with England instead of making himself available for the Kiwis.

But that doesn’t justify the use of thuggery on a football field. And if Luke would commit such an act against a relation, one hates to ponder what he would be prepared to do to an ordinary foe.

News is seeping out that officials fear the worst and an extended search will now be required. Searchers are known to have entered the red zone armed as rumours circulate that said brain cells are believed to be of a resistant type to any form of calm and rational solution to the problem.

Apparently Luke is unaware of the right of the individual within a democracy to live their life as they choose. In this case, if Chase decides to play for England, then that is his prerogative. After all, we do live in the age of the professional. And in reality, his path to a place in the Kiwis is blocked by the likes of Benji Marshall, Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson.

If Luke had stopped to consider Chase’s perspective on the situation, he would have come to the same conclusion that Chase obviously did; that the chances of Chase playing for New Zealand were next to none.

Good on him for chasing an opportunity to play International Rugby League.

Meanwhile in breaking news, Isaac Luke has been nominated for the 2011 goose of the year award. Keen observers of numbskull behaviour are said to rate Luke’s chances of taking out the title as extremely high.

In terms of delving deeply into the murky depths of the moronic, he will take some stopping. He has achieved the right to become a laughing stock for idiocy.

What he attempted was exceedingly dangerous. That he could have caused a serious injury goes without saying.

Worse, what kind of mind sets out to intentionally harm someone?

As Mark Twain once said, “every man is a moon: he has a dark side that he doesn’t want anyone to see”.

Well Luke sure has a dark side. Though it seems he doesn’t mind if the world sees it. Or perhaps he just didn’t stop to think that it would have been wise to keep his dark side covered up.

To come out and publically admit to intentionally trying to maim another shows, at the very least, naivety if not downright stupidity. As the saying goes, it is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and to remove any doubt.

For Luke to take offence at Chase’s decision is nothing more than delving into the petty on his part. Instead of being happy for Chase, he took the low road and made it personal.

A person of considerable maturity would have gone to Chase, told him that he disagreed with his decision to play for England, and then wish him well in his endeavours.

But then that is what a mature person would do. Luke does not appear to possess such maturity.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November 13th 2011 will go down in the annals of Cricket history as one of its saddest days. It was the day that Cricket lost a great. Not just a former player, but one of the all time great writers the sport has seen.

That writer was Peter Roebuck. He is dead at the all too young age of fifty-five.

An Englishman – who took up Australian citizenship ten years ago –regarded by many as the finest cricket writer of his generation. Some would go even further, asserting a case in his favour for being one of the greats in the field of sports writing.

Obviously this is an extremely subjective topic, but to my mind Roebuck was without peer.

As Roebuck set out in the mid eighties to make a name for himself as a writer, there was to be nothing prosaic about his efforts. Bowlers were not bowlers. Instead they were known as flingers. Likewise, the batsmen were Willow-wielders.

As far as the latter is concerned, he himself wasn’t the worst willow-wielder going around. With an average of 37 in first class cricket he very nearly made it into the England test side of the late eighties as an opener. He didn’t quite possess the talent to forge his way to the top with a piece of willow though.

However, as a writer he was one of the best. No, he wasn’t just one of the best, he was a great. He was someone that had an ability that the rest of us can only dream of possessing.

The hue of his prose was as varied as a Bradman double century and regularly furnished with such exhilarating flourishes of literary shotmaking that even the bard himself would have been proud of.

During his peak of the last ten years as he followed the Australian team for the Sydney Morning Herald, those of us from countries elsewhere would regularly go hunting for his latest musings.

Truth be told, I didn’t always care for how Australia were faring. I’m a New Zealander, after all. But that was the power of Roebuck; you could resist with all your might, but still you would find yourself lured in by the powerfully rich aromas of his indomitable literary √©lan.

Columns of Roebuck’s were out there and simply had to be perused post haste. In reality the subject need not have mattered as it was simply a case of devouring his latest offering on the day’s cricketing occurrences.

That I cannot write this from a player’s perspective goes without saying. I’m not one, and never have been. Nor can I speak from the view of the media, who have worked with him. What I can do though is write from the outlook of someone who is a fan of the game, and even more so a devotee of the breathtakingly eloquent prose that Roebuck would regularly conjure up.

His knowledge of the game was beyond doubt. He knew his stuff, all right.

After having read eight hundred words of Roebuck, I always felt that my own understanding of the game had broadened on its previous limited capacity.

That was one of his great talents, in as much as he could analyse the game of cricket with the best of them, informing the reader on the tactics and techniques of the game in a way that we could all understand with ease.

Added to his ability as a wordsmith extraordinaire, he was multifaceted.

Those that knew him personally, those of us that didn’t, we’ll miss him.

Even those players that were sometimes on the receiving end of what could sometimes be a withering pen.

It is said that the pen is mightier than the sword, as some of the flingers and willow-wielders found out often. As was his wont, Roebuck could slice and dice with the best of them.

While he could be terse in his criticisms, he was fair minded, too.

Praise would be dished out effusively when it had been earned. But it had to be earned.

My only regret in writing this is that I would have liked to replicate Roebuck’s writing style as a tribute to the great man. But I can’t - none of us could. Quite simply, it is beyond the realms of my capabilities.

For Peter Roebuck was in a class of his own. So far ahead of his time, that we may never see another like him.

Colleagues, players, fans of the game will all miss him for sure.

For he was a great. And always will be a great.

RIP Peter Roebuck

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ball girls, ball boys, lineswomen and linesmen, please do yourselves a favour and take cover. For it has just been announced that Sabine Lisicki has been signed up to play in the upcoming ASB Classic.

Yes that’s right, she of the booming serve that regularly thunders its way towards fearful opponents at 200kmph will be returning to Auckland this coming January.

She joins Venus Williams as one of the star attractions for the Classic.

Last year Lisicki had to negotiate her way through qualifying to get her opportunity in the main draw. Once there, she struck eventual winner Yanina Wickmayer in the second round. Back then she had a world ranking of 179.

Much has changed in the eleven months since, though. Now ranked fifteen in the world, the twenty-two year old German is a force to be reckoned with, as seen by a semi-final appearance at Wimbledon last July. While she lost to Maria Sharapova, she showed enough to suggest that she will soon be headed for the rarefied air of the top ten.

She’s a lady in a rush. And there appears to be nothing but a little hard work between her and that goal. Already the owner of five career singles titles, two of which were achieved in 2011, it is the equally big hitting Williams that stands in her way of collecting title number six. This, of course, won’t be easy for Lisicki.

Despite Williams being on the comeback trail from injury, she has proven herself to be of the highest calibre for many a year. You don’t win six Wimbledon titles by chance, after all. Needless to say, injury lay-off or not, Williams will still be a threat to Lisicki chances.

One of the reasons players such as Lisicki and Williams head to the Auckland tournament is the chance for more match time. With a weaker draw than the bigger money events in Australia at the same time, the ASB classic is the ideal preparation leading into the Australian Open for competitors of the likes of Williams to get match fit. Or for Lisicki to sharpen her game up before heading across the Tasman to take on the might of the Women’s game in Melbourne.

And what a treat the tennis public are in for. The time is nigh to see one of the established stars of the noughties in action. Not a moment that should be missed, for sure, as Williams is in the twilight of her illustrious career, and more than likely will not be visiting these shores in a playing capacity again.

Then there is the rising star. One who may yet go on to become a great, and emulate her famous countrywomen Steffi Graf on the tennis courts of the world.

There is no better time for Sabine Lisicki to head off in pursuit of that excellence than in Auckland.

And how great would it be if the trajectories of Lisicki and Williams were to converge on centre court at Stanley Street one Sunday in early January?

A better result, there could not be.

If it does happen, just remember - take cover. For there is every chance that there will be any number of fully loaded and highly dangerous missiles hurtling along centre court at record speeds.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Steve Williams doesn’t see life in a variant of colours - just black and white.

And even then, in his mind, he much prefers white over black.

For, he has an opinion on most things. Just ask him. Seemingly, he doesn’t mind letting the whole world know what he thinks too. As we all found out earlier last week when he decided it wise to announce to the world that he was of the mind that Tiger Woods was a “black arsehole”, as he was accepting an award (mock) for the best victory by a caddie.

It’s not the first time his mouth has got him in trouble, either. A few years back, he called Phil Mickleson a prick. Working for Woods at the time, he was forced to apologise. One would have thought that Williams should have learnt from his original mistake. But then that would require a modicum of humility. This, though, is something that appears to be sadly lacking in the William’s persona.

And here he was arrogantly mouthing off about his former employer.

Why is Williams so bitter towards Woods? After all, he had ten great years as his caddie. Not only that, the New Zealander has earned at least $US ten million from being Woods sidekick. He would not have earned anywhere near as much had he been a caddie for any other golfer. And he would do well to realise that he would not have garnered such a healthy bank balance if it were not for Woods prodigious work ethic.

It's not as if Woods decided to head for a refreshing lie down in the bushes of relaxation happily contented in the knowledge that he has been hard at work firmly inserting yet another trophy into the slot machine of success.

No, the more he won the more Woods dedicated himself to driving forward his ambitions of winning even more majors. And he did that with hard work.

Which Williams benefitted from to the extreme. And yet he still chooses to attack the hand that fed him for so long.

Some people just never learn, it seems. Perhaps the success he achieved as Wood’s caddie over the years has gone to his head. Williams now appears to believe that he is the star, not the golfer, and is bigger than the game itself.

Indeed, how else can one explain his behaviour since losing his job as Woods caddie? And, in particular, after his new boss, Adam Scott, won their first tournament together. No sooner had Scott won than Williams was busy declaring to all that would listen that it was the best victory of his career. While a caddie is an integral component of a pro golfer’s performance, it is still the player that swings the club. This Williams seems to have conveniently forgotten.

He now comes across as the personification of arrogance.

One can only assume that it is this arrogance which allows him to justify his bigotry by passing it off as a sense of humour. That he believes he was being humorous simply defies belief. And if this was in fact his humour working at the top of its game, then one would hate to hear what he comes up with on a bad day.

Of course, there will be those that spring to the defence of Williams, stating that the guy really is a decent person, and that he is not a racist. Honestly, this kind of logic doesn’t just introduce itself to the bizarre, it quickly excuses itself with indecent haste, then heads off at great velocity along the highway of the preposterous before taking off into an other worldly realm of implausibility.

It is not part of his make-up, they will say. Well, yes, it is. If it wasn’t, then quite simply Williams would not have deposited this vile upon the golfing world. Or for that matter, any sphere of life.

Put simply, part of him is racist. That he couldn’t keep this vomit inducing bile to himself speaks volumes for the moral fibre of the man.

Sure, there will be those that point out the good he does, such as the trust he has set up to help sick children. And they are right; he has done a lot of good.

Which makes his latest outburst all the sadder. Surely he would rather be remembered as someone who donated one million dollars of his own money to charity than as a racist. Now, while he may be remembered for the former to a certain extent, it is more likely that his legacy will be that of a racist.

Unfortunately, what he has also given the world is a timely reminder that true equality is still out of our grasp. What Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, along with many others, fought so hard for is yet to truly come to fruition.

Fifty-five years on and bigotry is still roaming free in the minds of the uneducated, ignorant and the downright stupid.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Jesse Ryder is the antithesis of a box of chocolates; you always know what you are going to get with him.

Another tour, another injury and Groundhog Day is upon him. This time it’s a calf muscle he has strained. You know that thing; it’s on one’s leg, which is under the torso, along with the rest of the body. That’s a lot of weight to carry around. And not many cricketers carry as much around as Ryder does.

That he spends much time at the all day buffet is clearly beyond doubt. For president of the company he has become as he liked the product so much (apologies to the writer of the original line).

Why the big man doesn’t consider losing some of the excess baggage escapes this mind, and I suspect, many others, too. The biggest shame of all is that it appears to continuously pass by the attention of Ryder’s mind.

One would have thought that by now, after so many injuries, it would have occurred to him that the more weight on one’s frame the more the chance of getting injured. After all, it has got to putting excessive stress on his muscles and joints.

At the very least, you would think that those closest to Ryder might have got in his ear and offered some well chosen words of wisdom.

That is if he is of the mind to listen, of course. A suspicion remains, though, that the talented one does not care enough to take time out of his busy social schedule of drinking, eating and partying to heed the advice of others.

And therein lies the problem. As is often the case, those with less talent care more than the lucky few such as Ryder who possess abilities that the rest of us can only dream about.

Sad really, that with all that talent, he is content to amble his way through a career that could bring untold riches. But not just riches in the monetary sense. Of course, he will make plenty there. No, there are other aspects to a career that matter just as much. Things like scoring twenty test centuries instead of eight. Like finishing your career with an average of sixty instead of forty-five. And knowing at the end of it all, that there was no stone left unturned in the pursuit of excellence as every last little drop of ability was forced out of your being.

Oh, and there is that small matter of gaining the respect of one’s peers.

But, then, maybe he just doesn’t care about that. Or perhaps, he simply doesn’t get it.

Either way, the risk remains that a star that could burn brighter than Venus in the morning and evening put together, may end up flickering on and off intermittently over the next five or so years before giving up the ghost entirely with very little to show for itself.

Sure, Ryder’s bank balance won’t need too much in the way of sating by the end of it all. What with a tidy base salary from New Zealand Cricket, and an annual top up of US$500,000 – maybe more – from his endeavours in the IPL 20/20 circus, he’s got it made financially.

If that’s what does it for him, that’s okay, I suppose.

The IPL has a lot to answer for, though. It may be the future in the eyes of many, but what it has done is allow the likes of Ryder to earn big money, all the time knowing that he has an income to fall back on regardless of what happens in his Test career. In other words, the power has aligned itself on the side of the players, with the administrators left to look on helplessly as the likes of Ryder run roughshod over the needs of the Test team.

And so talented is he that no one dares to call him on his rather wayward attitude. Not even his peers. That is the most peculiar part of it all. They must know how crucial Ryder is to the team’s aspirations. And yet they stand idly by and tolerate Ryder’s laziness for fear of upsetting him. Maybe it is time for Captain, Ross Taylor, and other senior members of the Black Caps to read the riot act to Ryder. Forget the management team; Ryder will pay them no attention. But wait and see what happens when his teammates turn against him. They may find that deep down he wants to be liked as much as the next guy. And that being shunned by his peers may be the catalyst for a change of attitude.

Which brings us back to Ryder’s weight. If he is to fulfil his potential, a high level of fitness is key. This means losing some weight for starters. He needn’t take it to extremes. Now, he is never going to have the build of a stick, and nobody would seriously suggest that he should aspire to that.

Just take off ten kilos – even five would be a good start - through the novel approach of eating a bit less and exercising a bit more.

Just watch his performance go through the roof, then. For the fitter one is the better one can concentrate. And that means less chance of getting out through poor shot selection due to tiredness. That average of sixty beckons for Ryder.

In the end, it is about showing pride in oneself. Not of the narcissistic kind, of course, but in the sense of being the best that he can possibly be.

For no one has ever been vilified for trying and failing, only for failing to try.

Though, if he doesn’t be careful, his thirties will be on him before he realises it, and he will have wasted the opportunity to be remembered for a twenty test century career and as the greatest batsman in New Zealand Cricket history.

Alas, it's scary what Ryder could do, if only he could see just how good he could be.