Friday, 30 January 2009

A tribute to Bill Frindall

The sad news of Bill Frindall's death has hit the cricketing world hard today.

The 'Bearded Wonder' was the BBC Test Match Special statistician and scorer, whose immense knowledge of the game provided much joy to many listeners. He died at the age of 69 after suffering from Legionnaire's Disease.

For over 40 years, Frindall made the art of cricket scoring interesting, which is no easy task. If anyone knew the answers, it would be Bearders.

His death will leave a massive hole in the heart of the TMS team, and whoever takes over in the commentary box will have a serious challenge ahead.

He has written many books, including the Wisden Book of Test Cricket and the Wisden Book of Cricket Records, as well as editing the prestigious Playfair Cricket Annual since 1986.

He certainly knew how to play the game as well; whipping the ball through off a short run and he packed a punch with the bat as well.

One of the cricket clubs I play for had the pleasure of meeting Bill Frindall, as he spoke at the OLCC dinner in 1986. Not only was the speech full of interesting anecdotes, but he made it personal to the club, and humorous in nature. He was a true gent.

People in the cricketing world will be speaking out, remembering the great man for many years to come. BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew worked alongside Frindall for many years. He said that Bill brought scoring alive and he was 'Mr. Reliable'.

My thoughts are with his family and friends at what must be a very difficult time.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Have Liverpool blown it for another year?

The race for the title is well and truly on this year. Liverpool had the upper hand before the Christmas break, and looked like this year is the best chance they've had to win the Premiership for some time. However, poor displays against sides you would expect Liverpool to beat, have left them in a bit of a pickle.

Manchester United have climbed back up to their home territory, otherwise known as the top of the league, looking in as good form as they have done all season. They are still on to win a royal flush: FIFA Club World Cup, Champions League, Premiership, FA Cup and Carling Cup.

Gerrard may be pleading not guilty for assault in court, but on the pitch, he needs to lead the assault for the title, as his side are struggling for three points at present.

With a huge game ahead of them against Chelsea this weekend, the pressure to win is at its highest. We know they have a good record against Chelsea, and they will need to prove it if there is any chance of preventing Manchester United and Chelsea from snatching the title dream away from them.

A questioned that needs to be asked though, is what is the cause behind this run of drawn matches, and the failure to claim three points? Is it simply poor form or can the manager, Rafael Benitez, be to blame? Has Rafa been too busy having little digs at Sir Alex and suggesting that United are a 'bit scared' of Liverpool, when he should have been noticing their return to form?

Both the race for the Premiership winner and Champions League spots are still on, and possibly an even more exciting battle to avoid relegation is ongoing. Surely an exciting finale to the season is on the cards.

The departure of Captain Kev

"I am extremely sad and disappointed to have to relinquish the captaincy at such an early stage, especially in a crucial year for English cricket, in such circumstances and particularly when I feel that I have much more to offer the England team as captain."

What a calamitous affair the Pietersen captaincy termination turned out to be. Just when we thought England had found the Beckham of cricket to lead the country, and a fresh start for the national team, it all came crashing down in the most ludicrous way. His captaincy lasted barely five months.

From the very start, Pietersen said he was going to captain England 'his way'. He tried to encourage players not to think too much about what they were doing on the pitch, and the stress that comes with it, instead, to just go out there and play.

Whatever he said initially, it certainly worked. The remarkable test triumph over South Africa, and the 4-0 drubbing in the ODIs led us to believe that the new captain could spark some life into the England team. It left him and fans in a state not disimilar to that of the picture used for this blog. This, of course, was short lived.

The farcicle performance during the Stamford 20/20 showdown in Antigua, and the Indian tour defeats proved to be very difficult and pressurising for Pietersen. He blamed the loss in Antigua on offfield 'nonsense', involving floodlight problems and a kerfuffle over some of the player's wives. With regard to the whitewash in India, very few excuses could be offered. However, Pietersen should take huge credit for leading the team back to India following the teroroist attacks in Mumbai, proving that he was doing it his way as he promised from the start.

Before he agreed to captain England, he talked with coach Peter Moores to clear the air of their differences. But as we all know, their problems were never really resolved and their differences in how they wanted the team to be run clashed. This, along with the intense media pressure, and fall-outs with the ECB, forced Pietersen to step down as captain and Moores to be fired.

The way the whole matter was dealt with was abysmal, and the organisational managers of English cricket have a lot to answer for. Of course, the timing of it all was horrific as well; just before the tour to the West Indies and the summer ahead with the Ashes. Someone had to take on the arduous task of the England captain though. Step in poor old Andrew Strauss. Thrown in a the deep end again; having captained before during Michael Vaughan's injury period. He is going to need a lot of luck to take on the role of leading his country to victory against Australia, and perhaps the harder task of working with the ECB.

When Pietersen was introduced as skipper, there was a great sense of hope for the future. Now that hope has been squashed, I, and probably many more, have very little enthusiasm or confidence in England finding the form of the 2005 Ashes series any time soon. Vaughan's leadership, alongside Flintoff and Pietersen's match winning performances seem a distant and blurred memory.

Kevin Pietersen said it is a 'crucial year for English cricket', and the current tour of the West Indies will prove to be a good gauge in measuring just how ready England are for taking on Australia.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Sir Chris Hoy?

What a year 2008 was for British Olympic cyclist Chris Hoy.

He pedalled to three Olympic gold medals in Beijing, becoming the first Briton to win three gold medals in a single Olympic games since Henry Taylor in 1908. Hoy won Sports Personality of the Year, beating Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton and Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington. And furthermore, was listed in the New Year Honours 2009 to receive a knighthood.

Chris Hoy truly is a great cyclist, but becoming a Knight Bachelor has sparked much debate.
On hearing the news, my first reaction was shock. I began to telephone various sports fans and friends of mine, to gage their reactions. The majority of responses were as follows: "What! Are you being serious?", "Really? The cyclist guy?" and "Chris who?".

This didn't surprise me in the slightest. Sir Gary Lineker would perhaps have a more believable ring to it, but this wasn't the case.

The opinion of the older generation whom I have questioned over the New Year Honours is that they are getting handed out willy nilly nowadays.

Hoy was awarded the MBE in 2005, following previous success, but does the addition of three more Olympic golds warrant him a knighthood?

Olympic success seems to be acknowledged more than achievements in other sporting fields, when it comes to the Honours List. Some sports stars must be thinking, well, I've reached the pinnacle in my sport with regard to competing, what more do I have to do to be like Chris Hoy to be knighted.

Look at the cases of say, Nick Faldo in golf, Phil Taylor in darts, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan in snooker. These sports are similar in popularity to cycling in Britain, if not more popular.

In rugby, there is Jonny Wilkinson OBE. He is a world cup winner and without him, there is little doubt England would have achieved what they did.

These sportsmen have all achieved the greatest success in their individual sport, and have received honours, but the knighthood which Hoy picked up has eluded them. What makes Hoy's success more worthy of becoming a Sir?

The thought of Sir Phil ''The Power'' Taylor, I admit, is laughable. However, Taylor is the best man in the world at what he does, and there has never been greater.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Chris Hoy's knighthood. I think he is a superb athlete and is no doubt a fine ambassador for his sport. However, I would enjoy reading opinions of those who agree and disagree with me, explaining that it's more than just the Queen having a fancy for muscly legs.

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