Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cricket & The Mumbai Terrorist Attack

Words really cannot describe the horrors of seeing innocent men and women slaughtered, of elite commandos falling out of flaming windows or of one India's most celebrated and iconic buildings being owned by raging flames. Talking about anything else, especially cricket, feels like a betrayal and belittling of the courage of the hotel and station staff, of the victims, but most importantly our bravest commandos, soldiers, policemen and firemen.

However, we have a mandate on this website and that is to talk about all things related to cricket. In this vein I read a most telling and articulate opinion piece by Cricinfo's Sambit Bal on the connection between these cowardly events and the fate of Indian cricket.

I have not always agreed with Sambit in the past. However, nobody else has been able to say what needs to be said with the skill and passion that Sambit has managed to exude his article. A great read and I, for one, have nothing further to add for the moment.

Let us all hope and pray for the families of the victims, especially our courageous security forces who come to the party and leave through the back door after a job well done, time and time again, with absolutely no fanfare. This is not a political blog but surely now questions must be asked about the role of fat cat Indian politicians in, at the very least, making very easy, or at the worst, directly aiding and abetting, the activities of such cowardly louts / terrorists.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ben Cousins Threatened By Commercialism Gone Mad

We at The Match Referee don't make a habit of commenting on AFL matters, even though the game is one which we closely follow. However, recent events on the Ben Cousins comeback trail have left me appalled at the direction in which Australian sport is travelling. Yes, Cousins was a drug addict. Yes, he abandoned his car and ran from a booze bus. Yes, he made all the mistakes in the book, and then some. Question that begs is whether his recent acts of repentance are enough to grant him a second chance?

Both Collingwood and St Kilda have considered the situation in some depth. Meetings with private investigators and state police commissioners were set up to assess the viability of Cousins moving to either Melbourne club. It is an absolute travesty that it was the voice of a consortium of sponsors that forced the hand of both clubs in pulling out of the race. What's more is that both clubs did not have the gumption to put the real reason to their fans, instead hiding behind utter hogwash about how Ben Cousins may affect team morale or the like.

As a Collingwood fan I was over the moon when Collingwood and Eddie McGuire were the early contenders to procure Cousins' services. For mine, it would have ranked as the biggest coup of McGuire and Mick Malthouse's reign at the great club. A midfield consisting of Cousins and our talented youngsters would have given us serious street cred in challenging for the flag.

Alas, it now seems that the Brisbane Lions are the only club with any remote interest in drafting the former West Coast Eagles captain. Word has it that coach Michael Voss will have the final say. Really? Will the Lions' sponsors not interfere if Voss wants one B Cousins on his playing roster?

If there is one thing going for Cousins calling Brisbane home, it is that new coach Voss has almost been given a free hand to mould his own team. Being a player until only very recently and possessing the skill and charm to take someone like Cousins under his wise tutelage, might be the only planks on which Voss may be able to convince the Lions' sponsors and Board.

It is this requirement to gain sponsor approval before recruiting players that simply bewilders and angers me. The sponsors do not create, manage or run AFL clubs or any other sporting body. They chip in money so that they can leech off the highs and build their brands off the back-breaking deeds of the players. In this era of specialisation, I simply cannot understand a club's propensity to give in to the selfish demands of sponsors who are clearly not specialists at managing football departments.

Why is it that us footy fans have to be denied the opportunity to witness and celebrate the skill and class of one of the greatest players to grace an AFL field? Would the public stop buying Jeld Wen windows and doors if Cousins went to St Kilda? Seriously?

I think the argument that a player who thrills and entertains on the park will draw more people to the ground and create more exposure for the sponsors is infinitely more solid and plausible.

Bluntly put, this is yet another case of a decision made by clumps in suits with very little appreciation for the real world and the real sports fan. To hand over all power to commercial interest groups is an abominable path for any sporting organisation to take, especially when it involves the future of one the greatest ever.

Former junkie or not, Ben Cousins deserves a second chance. Shame be to those who deny him the opportunity.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

The Match Referee Debuts On Facebook

Given our recent switch to the fully commercial and totally not free domain and all ancillary commitments that a move of this order entails, we thought it only logical to be able to give our readers (who we like to think of as our fans) an opportunity to show their support and vent their frustrations on another platform. Where, you ask? Facebook, we answer.

If you like what we do, or even if you despise us, we highly recommend you to join The Match Referee community / fan site on that most addictive of social networking platforms - Facebook. Simply click on any of the links in this post (including here) or on the Facebook icon on the left sidebar to become a fan and and help us rouse our social networking army.

Also, if you haven't already, subscribe to your RSS feed.

Needless to say, the more the merrier - sex, caste and level of intelligence no bar.

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Andrew Symonds' Career Under Threat

Andrew Symonds' "gone fishing" incident is now part of Australian cricketing folklore. Hot on the heels of this incident, his subsequent rehabilitation and reinstatement into the Australian Test team for the New Zealand series, Andrew Symonds appears to be back in the fast lane and in the news for all the wrong reasons.

The Age reports that Symonds is under investigation for a "physical altercation" (read king hit) on a patron of Brisbane's popular Normanby Hotel. Given his recent turmoil and admission of an affinity for lots of booze, this incident can most politely be termed untimely. His critics may struggle to refrain from making use of some altogether harsher synonyms.

While I love the odd sensationalist headline about the Aussie cricket team, I cannot seriously believe that Cricket Australia will go anywhere close to banishing Symonds from the game for any great length of time - a slightly firmer slap on the wrist is more likely to ensue. I have no doubt that Symonds was provoked by the member of the public idiot concerned (I simply cannot understand why such simpletons are so hell-bent on heckling drunken sports stars who are no less than man-mountains in physical stature). While provocation is no excuse for a king hit, I do have some sympathy for stars who find themselves in these unfortunate positions.

Admittedly, the details have not yet been substantiated and I may simply be jumping the gun. However, we all know the state of Australian cricket at the minute and suggestions that Andrew Symonds will be wiped out by Cricket Australia for ever and a day are patently preposterous.

Every sport has one rule for the stars and an altogether different rule for the others. Cricket is no different and Australian cricket, certainly, is no different. Symonds may have cancelled his latest fishing trip to spend time with his fair lady to ease his nerves, but I am confident that he has nothing to fear and the honour of representing his adopted land on the cricket pitch will not be snatched from him.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Professional Indian Selectors Are A Myth

I use "professional" with tongue firmly in my cheek in this instance. As with India's aping of most western concepts, the structures, responsibilities and intended benefits of employing professional selectors have quite clearly been deemed far too trivial to be understood by the powers that be and then communicated to the selection panel. Why else would professional selector think it appropriate to leak details of an alleged heated discussion in relation to the selection and non-selection of Irfan Pathan and RP Singh?

MS Dhoni was unequivocal in his denouncement of such despicable acts, which are unfortunately all too common in every walk of Indian life where the grimy hands of politicians have been allowed to wreak havoc. Selection meetings, like company Board meetings, are confidential for a reason - the players do not need to know every sordid detail that is discussed about them. This reprehensible action has ensured that Dhoni is now in a pickle that is not of his making and will undoubtedly impact team morale.

This leak further burdens the massive weight of evidence which clearly identifies that the BCCI administrators are inept and have not a care for the health of the game nor the players through whom they rake in the big bucks. This matter is likely to be swept under the carpet and life will go on. Unfortunately, the selector concerned will not be made an example to encourage current and future appointees from deterring from such cowardly acts.

The cricket will go on and India will go a long way to whitewashing the Poms. However, this incident again proves the inadequate level of administrative intelligence and checks and balances that are necessary to ensure continued success on the field beyond the current crop.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Anil Kumble Retires

He was reviled for not spinning the ball enough, for being a tiger on tailor-made tracks and a bunny on everything else and pilloried every time he made an ungainly attempt at a dive to stop a boundary. A bag full of wickets were taken, yet nobody rejoiced because that was Anil Kumble’s job, right? Many lesser men (and I used this noun deliberately) have belittled Kumble for no reason other than that he was always attacked, always gave his best and never let up.

Truth is that Anil Kumble has been India’s most consistent match winner for the best part of the previous 18 years. Come hell or high weather this man has surpassed all expectations, yet not his own, but never asked for anything in return. We haven’t seen any party punch-ups, his face has never been plastered all over TV screens and billboards and he has definitely received less than he was actually due.

Wordsmiths more talented than I will, rightly, wax lyrical about this most understated man. More than most people yet realise, Anil Kumble will eventually be remembered as colossus of our times, not just on the cricket field but for his deeds far from it too.

As much as Tendulkar, Dev and Gavaskar, Kumble is a national treasure in every sense of the phrase. Call him what you want, Anil Kumble will forever epitomise the unwavering spirit, unending ambition and unmatched genius inherent in those who are a cut above the rest.

Anil, words will never be enough to applaud your achievements and your commitment, but it is with deep sadness that we hear of your departure. However, it is with immense gratitude and blessings aplenty that we send you into the future where unquestionably greater opportunities and challenges await. Thanks for all the moments of magic over the last 18 years.

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Continued >> >>

Stanford Superstars Smash England For 20

$20 million, winner takes all, and the Poms leave the Caribbean with not a penny in their pockets. Kevin Pietersen believes that the miserable England performance was a result of all the off-field shenanigans involving the players' wives and one egotistical, crass and self-obsessed American billionaire. This incident was easily explained away. However, the question of the English players' interest in participating in future such cash grabs will prove far more difficult to answer.

Coming from a country that prides itself on being so "proper" I find it hard to fathom how the ECB could agree to whore England's integrity at the altar of a smug Texan who cares not for the game, its people or their cultures. Even rational Americans will understand why it's just not cricket.

Take nothing away from the Caribbean players who have demolished their opposition and earned their millions. This money will change many of their lives, hopefully for the better. For English cricketers who are not so poverty stricken, what will keep them coming back? Surely further humiliation will not prove a big enough carrot.

I do not buy that Allan Stanford is interested in promoting the interests of West Indian cricket. Until Stanford's hidden agenda is outed, anything this man does will be viewed with a large dollop of cringe, cynicism and suspicion. For all the feeble protestations of Stanford and Giles Clarke the Stanford 20 for 20 will not capture the hearts of the cricket lovers across the globe. After all, there is simply nothing official about it.

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