Archive for the ‘Cricket’ Category

SachHe was an impatient bully that grew into the living embodiment of calm, cool and collected on the pitch. For a country that achieved organized chaos on a good day Sachin Tendulkar was the rock. A man that would tower well above his diminutive 5’5 frame and ascend into the glitterati of Indian society. Though he lived an impossibly lavish lifestyle compared to the millions of Indians that struggled to get through a single day, Sachin Tendulkar made it easier.

He made it seem like anything was possible. No matter what the limitations, be it financial or physical, it was possible.

After 200 test matches, 463 One Day Internationals and countless other first class and league appearances the end is here. The Little Master is calling it a day.

It’s hard to fathom how much a single person can mean to a country.

India has no unifier in politics, film or religion. The South has their own movie industry. Punjab does its own thing. Mumbai feels like a different world compared to Delhi. Kolkata is a place those in Gujarat probably won’t visit. Are you Hindu? Great, what caste?

What did the teenager living hand to mouth in Bihar have in common with the well educated businessman in Bangalore?

Sachin Tendulkar’s debut in 1989 came during a defining decade for India. Religious rhetoric and class tension exacerbated by legislation aimed at curbing prejudice conspired to push India to its breaking point. “It was in this atmosphere of hate, suspicion, fear and violence that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first hundreds in international cricket,” said historian Ramachandra Guha.

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the-ashes-2009The imagery isn’t subtle.

Graphics departments from England’s biggest papers emblazoned their sports pages with images that featured country, captains and fire. It is called The Ashes. I will give them that.

In fact, both countries can be forgiven for the hype that has accompanied the latest installment of the Ashes. Between now and the beginning of January, England and Australia will have contested 10 test matches. Normally that number is five, but with officials from both countries looking ahead to future scheduling concerns, namely the 2015 World Cup that Australia will co-host, they decided to bite the bullet and move the return leg up 12 months.

The glut of matches hasn’t dissuaded fans from attending. Tickets have been sold out for several weeks, indicating the casual hatred that embodies this rivalry isn’t fading away anytime soon.

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At the 1993 Ashes a single delivery on June 4th would usher in a new era for Cricket. Leg spin bowling would be revolutioned by a bleach blond Australian with a flair for the dramatic. Shane Warne would take 71 test wickets in 1993, but the first will forever be remembered as the Ball Of The Century.

Australia dominated the first test at Old Trafford, led by the new opening partnership of Michael Slater and Mark Taylor. England debutant Peter Such made head-waves of his own, taking six wickets including Slater’s. Australia ended their first innings with 289 runs, a formidable score on a pitch that the batsmen found difficult to read.

Mike Atherton and Graham Gooch were to settle in for a long reign at the stumps for England until the former was bowled by Merv Hughes for 71 runs. Mike Gatting replaced Atherton, and that’s when it happened.

Explaining the inexplainable is an endeavor better left to the professionals, and Ian Healy’s description of Warne’s ridiculous ball put it best. It did just enough. Everything did just enough.

Warne would go on to help Australia win six successive Ashes series and finished with 708(!) Test wickets.

Gatting for his part had this to say some 20 years on:

“I’m happy to have been bowled by it because had it been some blond bloke who only played about 10 Test matches and got 27 wickets, then I would have been really upset. As it was, he became the best spinner of all time, so you don’t mind so much.”

Many who would know believe spin bowling was reborn when Warne took that wicket in Manchester. The man himself doesn’t believe the Gatting ball was his best, citing a delivery to Shivnarine Chanderpaul of the West Indies in 1996 as the apex of his spin wizardry.

While it is possible better balls have been bowled, the wicket gave Warne the confidence and belief that would make him one of the greatest of all time.

toddfrazierSpending all day – every day – immersed in sports is a bit like working at Pizza Hut and eating nothing but pizza. If one is unburdened by such matters as personal health and waistline size, pizza is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, too much of a wonderful thing is likely to leave one no longer believing the wonderful thing to be all that wonderful.

Sports are really, really great. However, the more time you spend reading and writing about a topic, the greater the chance that its ugliness will be realized. This is why our focus often becomes embittered by all of the negative aspects present in sports. We forget why sports are so great to begin with. And so, that’s where The Week In Sports Happiness comes into play.

Every week, I’ll present the ten things that are making me happy from the world of sports. It might be a particular article, it could be a winning streak, it may even be an animated GIF. No matter what, it’s from sports, it made me feel good inside, and I hope it does the same for you.

Without further ado, sports the good:

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Tired of the same old cleavage shots? Need something new to get you all pumped up about breasts again? Boob fans everywhere need not fear, underboobs are here!

… and so begins the most objectifying piece of filth in the long, sad history of Bleacher Report’s misogynistic slide shows.

The content is awful,  but the inherent message behind the opening paragraphs of this collection of  exploitative photographs is accurate. The more we immerse ourselves in something, the more likely we are to be desensitized to it, thus enhancing our desire for more extreme stimuli. In psychology, this is referred to as inurement.

In sports, we find evidence of the phenomenon, not in ogling the female ventral regions that house mammary glands, but in how we define an amazing play. This definition is incredibly subjective, and largely based on the number of exceptional moments in sports that an individual has witnessed.

To someone watching American football for the first time, a routine tackle or catch can seem marvelous. However, to a spectator who sees multiple basketball games a day, only the most stupendous of Blake Griffin dunks (probably from his rookie year) are likely to cause arousal. To me – someone who watches a lot of baseball games, but few cricket matches – the stunning boundary catch made by West Indies all-rounder Kieron Pollard in the video above is incredibly impressive.

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I don’t want to see you, Mr. Warner. There are two teams out there, one is playing cricket. The other is making no attempt to do so.

- Australian Captain Bill Woodfull to Pelham Warner, when the English team manager visited his opponent’s dressing room to express sympathies after the batsman endured 89 minutes of Bodyline bowling on January 17th, 1933.

To many in North America, including myself, cricket is foreign. I mean that in both senses of the word. It’s foreign to me in that I’m unfamiliar with it, but it’s also foreign to me in that I associate it with other nations. When I think of the sport, I’m just as likely to think of Australia, England, India, South Africa, Sri Lanka or the West Indies (which, as it pertains to cricket, actually refers to several Caribbean nations) as I am the oddly shaped bat or the fancy white clothes.

In my ignorance of the sport’s culture, I always imagined a measure of civility that governed cricket – both its players and its fans – in a fashion that other, more North American sports seemed to lack. This stereotype was quickly laid to rest by watching an amateur match with a couple of Australian friends who taught me how to cut a hole in the box with which we carried our beer to make a sun-blocking hat. What I remember of that day was fun and anything but civil.

While the reputation that preceded my first cricket experience might not extend to spectators, there is at least some element of truth to it in terms of how the cricketers handle themselves on the field. The Marylebone Cricket Club, an organization that governs the sport’s rules in tandem with the International Cricket Council, refers to something called the Spirit Of The Game in its preamble to the rule book.

Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game.

Any action which is seen to abuse this spirit causes injury to the game itself. The major responsibility for ensuring the spirit of fair play rests with the captains.

I don’t believe it unfair to suggest that there is a standard of sportsmanship in cricket that doesn’t necessarily exist in other sports. That’s a good thing. It’s not meant to connote a lack of competition or intensity to the sport, but rather express the importance of tradition and respect present in it. It’s also meant to provide some context for a fascinating story from cricket history that happened 80 years ago today, when a riot almost occurred and diplomatic relations between two nations soured all because of a controversial cricket strategy, called Bodyline.

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