Sunday, 29 March 2009

Brawn muscle to the top

What a start for team Brawn GP in Melbourne to get the Formula 1 2009 campaign under way.

The new team on the circuit, having just sealed sponsorship support from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin, took the top two positions in the time trials and the first race of the year. Jenson Button claimed first place, with team mate Rubens Barrichello taking second.

There was a dramatic end to the race, with a collision between Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and BMW's Robert Kubica, who were lying in second and third place at the time. This meant Barrichello was promoted to second place, and the safety car had to come out to help finish the race without further damage.

Lewis Hamilton crossed the line in fourth having started in eighteenth position, but due to a penalty enforced on Toyota’s Jarno Trulli, Hamilton was upgraded to third place.

This marks quite the success story for Brawn GP, formerly known as Honda, as their survival was only secured early this month by team boss Ross Brawn.

The four busy Bs of Brawn, Button, Barrichello and Branson have certainly made their mark at the Melbourne Grand Prix. They look as if they are to cause serious problems for Lewis Hamilton’s title defending hopes.

Button arrived on the F1 circuit as Briton’s best hope since Damon Hill, but his time in the limelight was rather squashed by Lewis Hamilton, who took his seat in a fiery McLaren and won the title at the second time of asking.

This sudden reversal of fortune, as Button joins a new team with both plenty of brawn and brains, could well mean we see the best of British racers standing next to each other on the podium for most of the season.

After this impressive entrance of Brawn GP, Hamilton could need more than a helping hand from Timo Glock if he wants to regain his title. All cameras will be pointing at Button and Barrichello in Malaysia, creating some serious brawnography.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Referral System- In or Out?

Whether you love it or hate it, the trial period of the television referral system in cricket has certainly caused much debate.

The controversial system was introduced last year during the Test series between Sri Lanka and India, and the International Cricket Council (ICC) is to assess the trial in May.

ICC general manager Dave Richardson said: "We don't want the umpires to become coat hangers and ball counters. They must be able to show their skills.”

But how can the umpires show their skills when they are being undermined by players who have the opportunity to challenge their better judgement?

The idea of the system is to give players a better chance of receiving correct decisions during matches, and if they disagree with an umpire’s judgement, they may challenge it.

Two unsuccessful challenges are permitted per innings, but while the TV official uses pictures and some of the Hawkeye technology, the computer prediction of the path of the ball is not used.

When I asked various cricketing associates of mine what they thought of the referral system, their responses were similar. Either use all of the technology available or none at all. Not a mixture of the two.

The ‘Hot-Spot’ and ‘Snickometer’ technology is not part of the trial, yet they are perhaps the most useful tools available.

The Old Leightonians Cricket Club (OLCC) members have made some valid comments and suggestions on the matter.

Richard Price said: “Why can't we just leave it to the umpires and agree that they'll make the occasional mistake? If we lost the technology, we could then concentrate on how we could improve the umpiring rather than what technology is round the corner.”

“They shouldn't use the full Hawkeye prediction as the makers admit that it's not as accurate as the tracking of the ball before it hits the pad” argued John Acland-Hood.

Charles Allan backed the umpires saying: “Trust and respect the umps and remember they usually get it right and have always had the leeway to give the benefit of the doubt to the batsmen.”

Respecting the umpire is something all young, learning cricketers are taught from the start, yet it seems to slowly worsen with age and competitiveness.

In my opinion, the referral system is an insult to umpires and a tool that helps to disrespect them.

Furthermore, debate over umpire decisions is part of the appeal of the game, if you pardon the pun. Sit down at the pub after a match and have a chat with the opposition over decisions that affected the game. Standard procedure.

The use of the system during England’s recent Test matches in the West Indies proved that even after the television referrals, decisions still appeared to be wrong.

On numerous occasions, the system’s inconclusive nature overshadowed other shambolic events during the series. The abandoned second Test and England’s 51 all out embarrassment (in a series steeped with big innings totals) were momentarily forgotten.

The referrals also lead to a considerable delay in the proceedings of a match. The game is lengthy enough as it is. The single most common reason for cricket’s following not being as great as sports such as football and rugby is the time it takes to play the game. Hence the cash injection for Twenty20 cricket.

Whatever decisions the ICC comes up with after the May trial review, will be met by disagreement.

Will the system stay in or out of the game, or will only parts of the third umpire’s role be kept? We will soon find out.

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