Memories that Last, Will the Cricket World Cup 2015 Deliver?

They say that age catches up with us all, and watching the Cricket World Cup labour its way through the group stage this writer realises that he yearns for yesteryear.

I am old enough to remember the first Cricket World Cup, although back then it was named The Prudential Cup, that was 40 years ago. I can remember India’s Madan Lal bowling the first ball and England’s Dennis Amiss scoring the first century, 137 runs off of 147 balls, a respectable strike rate even by today’s standards. It was one game that Sunil Gavaskar would have loved to forget in that opening match, he batted the full 60 overs for India for a score of 36 not out!

Maybe it was because I was younger then, but cricket back then was not just about a batsman smashing a ball into row “z.”. One of the most memorable moments was West Indian Roy Fredricks hooking the fearsome Dennis Lillee into the mound stand at Lords for six, something that was almost unheard of then, only to find he had trodden on his wicket.

The players seemed more real back then. They were not all clean shaven or sporting designer stubble. They were more earthy, more gritty more real. They showed emotions, frustration, as well as joy. they also intimidated, boy did they intimidate.

In 1975 the format was simple. There were 8 teams in two groups, the top two teams crossed over and met in the semi finals. The tournament back then lasted 14 days, and 18 matches were played. In 2015 there are 14 teams playing 49 matches and the tournament is lasting 43 days. It is almost impossible to keep people’s interest for such a long period of time. In 1975 teams had 3 days off between games. In 2015, Australia and Sri Lanka have had 7 days off from their first to second game. Why is there such a gap? Even in football 32 teams play at the World Cup yet the whole tournament is finished in a month.

In 1975 there were no restrictions on field placing, and there were no cricket helmets. Thigh pads were in fact a relatively new invention, replacing the folded towel tucked inside the jockstrap. The bowlers in 1975 were genuinely quick and menacing, and knew how to bowl, varying pace, bounce and the angle of attack. Maybe that was why I yearn for yesteryear. Just look at some of the names: Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, John Snow, Richard Hadlee, Imran Khan, Andy Roberts, Keith Boyce and Bernard Julien, nearly all legends of the game.

There were batsman who could adapt to any form of cricket, not just specialists at smashing the ball when it doesn’t move on a dead track. The likes of Greg and Ian Chappell, Doug Walters, Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath, Glenn Turner, Majid Khan, Javed Miandad, Zaheer Abbas, Duleep Mendis, Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Roy Fredricks and Gordon Greenidge.

1975 was pre-Packer and World Series Cricket, and the players wore white, there were no numbers on their backs and no games were played under lights. The reason the World Cup was hosted by England was that daylight saving meant they could get 120 overs in one day. There is no doubt the coloured clothing and floodlights changed the game and that they have brought a bit of pizzaz to one day cricket, but something is missing in the World Cup; the same thing that to be honest has been missing in the last two World Cups.

Is it the calibre of the players? How many of today’s players will we remember in 40 years times as greats of the game? Is it the format, a long drawn out affair that needs to be trimmed back and finished a fortnight earlier? Or is it the lack of a contest between bat an ball? If we look at the games that have piqued the interest in 2015, they have been in the main the games played in New Zealand, where the ball has moved and the bowlers have had a chance of picking up wickets. The games in Australia have followed the modern day trend, teams wins the toss, bats first hits a big total, team batting second fails to reach it. ODI’s in the last ten years have more games with this scenario that the authorities wish to admit.

If the Cricket World Cup is to keep people interested, do away with the power play, do away with the field restrictions, and do away with the limit on the number of overs a bowler can bowl; Why should they be restricted when a batsman does not have to retire at 50? Let’s make this more about cricket, rather than a slogfest. Everyone who watched the New Zealand and Australia game will remember that for a very long time. It was a close affair as it was a game in which the bowlers were able to put the batsman under pressure, and the batsmen in both teams showed they were not up to the task. I hazard a guess that this game will this be remembered by more people than a David Warner 100 of 86 balls. Of course it will. People will remember the game as a whole, rather than just one batsman thumping the ball into the stands ball after ball.

In 1975 I remember those moments mentioned, as well as Gary Gilmour’s 6 for 14 at Headingley to bowl out England for 93, Glenn Turner ending up top run scorer after scoring two centuries in three games. (Believe it or not no New Zealander scored 100 in a World Cup after that until 1992 when Martin Crowe did!). Alvin Kallicharan taking on Dennis Lillee in full flight without a helmet; he hit 35 runs off the last ten balls he faced from Lillee. Lillee and Thomson batting and continuing to run as the crowd invaded the pitch thinking the game was all over. Then of course there was Viv Richards’ three run outs in the final. Special memories.

So far Trent Boult’s five wickets v Australia along with Mitchell Starc’s six wickets in the same match stand out, as well as Tim Southee’s seven against England. AB de Villiers 162 v the West Indies was memorable, as was Chris Gayle’s 215. However in an era where bat dominates ball so often one feels that memories of these two innings will fade with time.

The game has changed and not more so than in the rewards, in 1975 the prize money for the winning team was GBP4,000 and the West Indies players received GBP100 each for the whole tournament! This year the winning team will take home $4.3million!

Prize money GBP4,000

March 4, 2015 at 4:18 pm Leave a comment

France Wins Box Seat

Everyone knows the story about the tortoise and the hare, well it may just be that France is the tortoise.

The nation was devastated when cross Channel rival, London won the rights for the 2012 Olympic Games, Paris having been in the running for the global event. However France may well have the last laugh.

It is in fact a Paris based company, Vinci, who currently operate the Stade de France who have won the lucrative contract to manage the London 2012 Stadium, as well as the Queen Elizabeth Park. Vinci, will be responsible for installing 21,000 retractable seats to allow spectators at West Ham United games to be closer to the action pitch side, while still maintaining a world class running track. The Stade de France is one venue where retractable seating has been a success in the main as the pitch is in fact slightly lower so that the seating remains tiered and close to the action.

It may just be that this French company can reap the rewards without the initial investment. Withs such strong rivalry between the two nations this is bound to be nice compensation for missing out on the Olympics in 2012.

March 4, 2015 at 9:53 am Leave a comment

Football Must Unite for Change

It is refreshing to witness that Football appears to be finally be awakening from a slumber that has lasted almost four decades.

The BBC and Sky Sports have cleverly offered to host a live television debate amongst the candidates for Football’s top post the Presidency of FIFA. As they quite rightly state the current incumbent Sepp Blatter has frequently claimed that the rille is the equivalent to that of a head of state, so why not treat the run in for the Presidency in the same vein and have a televised debate, where all candidates get to air their views on key issues?

For too long Blatter and his acolytes have ruled with a complete air or arrogance and untouchability. Their lead has sadly been followed further down the pecking order by individual national Federations. On occasion FIFA has pulled them into line despite the hypocrisy of such actions, and on other occasions they have let sleeping dogs lie. On both occasions the game has been the one to suffer, along with those who support and participate outside of the professional game.

FIFA’s mission statement has been “For the Good of the Game.” Yet such a statement is ridiculous when one looks at the actions of the men in FIFA and insults the intelligence of those fans of the game. “The Football Family” is another annoying and equally condescending mission statement, especially when only the head of the family has a say.

News that there may in fact be a breakaway from FIFA is refreshing and long overdue. When you are unable to change something from the inside, that is if you can in fact get inside, then it is time for change.

The awarding of the next two World Cups to Russia and Qatar may well be the tipping point for change. How can a country where racism is endemic, as is the case in Russia host such a global party? How can a tournament traditionally played at the same time of year be moved and hosted by a nation built on slave labour and where the stadia construction has resulted in hundreds of deaths?

To show just how much FIFA does not care about due process, Secretary General Jerome Valcke has effectively admitted that FIFA bought off the threat of legal action on the timing of the 2022 World Cup by awarding the USA television rights to the 2026 tournament to Fox and NBC- owned Telemundo without going through the usual tender process. Compensation to all of the European Football leagues that will be disrupted by the 2022 World Cup being run in the lead up to Christmas will no doubt be settled in a similar way, because money talks. Greed saw the World Cup awarded to Qatar and greed will see many Football Federations roll over and have FIFA tickle their tummies with wads of cash, when it comes to compensation for a December tournament. Although Mr Blatter has assured his member nations the tournament will not run past the 18th of December; the final day of the tournament no doubt, as this is also coincidentally the National Day of Qatar!

Should the European and South American nations boycott the 2022 World Cup? Many fans believe that they should. Whether they do will be a different matter altogether, although momentum for such a move is building.

Germany, Spain and Italy are believed to be strong supporters of a new world order, and they have the support of the home nations in the United Kingdom. Emerging power bases in Asia, Africa and South America are also said to be aligning themselves with these nations. The question is are all of these nations prepared to get their own houses in order, and crush the corruption within their own Federations?

This is a great opportunity for Football to act, the time has never been better. If Football fails to act it may well get left behind.

This may sound a strange statement for a game that dominates world sport in terms of participation and spectators, but other sports are changing the way they operate in order to survive.

Rugby Union is looking at a similar closed shop operation that sustains Baseball and American Football so well in the USA and sees both of these sports with strong and healthy bank balances. Cricket is going through a metamorphosis as its commitment to traditional Test Cricket is being eroded by commercial necessity driven by Indian administrators and ably supported by England and Australia. Even the Olympic Games market is being manipulated to try and pull in a younger average age of viewer, this is being done courtesy of new sports being introduced and traditional ones being thrown out.

Fans across the globe are no longer happy funding multi-millionaire players who behave abominably and fail to perform. With more and more internet viewing, and some via illegal streaming, football has to change. Just as the music industry has had to adapt, so too does football have to change.

Apart from crushing corruption football needs clear thinkers to be driving the game forward at this point in its history. If key nations do boycott the 2022 World Cup, there will be a great deal of shouting and posturing from those at FIFA unwilling to relinquish control, they will try and issue bans but guaranteed new similar competitions will spring up and will thrive, history has shown that. It just takes the courage of a few to stand up and be counted.

Maybe it is time that UEFA President Michel Platini did follow through on making the European Championships the biggest tournament in the world and just like the Copa America invite the top nations from South America and Africa to perform as guests at their tournament. (World Cup By Invite Only).

In football there are too many top dogs for whom the game is not their true passion. It is a job, a steeping stone to big money illegal or otherwise, as well as free tickets to plush events. Administering sport should be more than that, as the great Bill Shankly believed, it must be a passion. Then you can guarantee the person will go the extra yard for what is best for the game, and they will be happy to do so and put in that time. They will never want to harm their club or the game itself.

There is a line in Don Quixote that reads “Tragedy is to see life as it is, not as it should be.” This is how football is at the moment. Yet through times of difficulty come opportunity. The question is will those nations with the power to make change grasp that opportunity. Hopefully they will try, and when they do they would do well to remember the words of Martin Luther King, “Right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.” Something Mr Blatter will hopefully be beginning to realise, along with many others in the game who are not there for the real ‘good of the game.’

March 3, 2015 at 10:20 am 1 comment

Referral System Worth Copying?

Having just returned from the Hockey India League in India where teams were allowed one referral to a video umpire per game, which if they were correct in their assessment of a situation they kept to use again, but lost if the video umpire was wrong, one had to ask whether or not football could adopt a similar system.

Hockey’s system is currently not flawless, and one feels that the games governing body has overcomplicated the system by making the players request a specific offence.

Having watched La Liga in the evening following an HIL game, there was one game where an attacking player was clearly offside, the referee’s assistant missed it, so too did the referee. The defender widest, and in the best position raised his arm in appeal immediately. The goal stood.

Had football had the same approach as hockey, the player could have given the signal for a referral to the referee. The game was already stopped and the referee could have conferred with his video official with a simple question, ” Is there any reason why I should not award a goal” or “X team are claiming number 10 was offside, I felt he was not can you check and confirm whether the goal should stand.”

Similarly if as in the World Cup in South Africa England believed Frank Lampard’s shot against Germany had crossed the line they could have asked for a referral.

If of course the video referee deems the ball did not cross the line in that case when play has been stopped to view the footage, a drop ball would take place level with the penalty area. In hockey they have a bully-off.

There will be people who claim that this stops the flow of the game. It does but only momentarily. Hockey moves at a much faster pace than football yet the referral system has not harmed the game; only some of the interpretations have!

Football has increased in pace, referee’s and their assistant’s will make mistakes, but this way they have the opportunity to correct them. It may in fact build the drama in a stadium rather than slow the game down. For teams fighting relegation, or to qualify for Europe or to win the League this could be the difference between success and failure. Too often we have seen teams lose vital points because of what appears a blatant mistake. In England’s case they went out of the World Cup; although were they really good enough to beat Germany?

Sepp Blatter has said if such systems are to come into football they should be at all levels of the game, but this is not at all levels of hockey and yet it works. It is also an ideal opportunity to educate viewers as to the rules, and let us be honest how many viewers really do understand the current offside rule?

Surely it has to be worth considering? How knows maybe a new head of FIFA will be more open-minded.

March 2, 2015 at 7:35 pm Leave a comment

Moving the Goalposts, to a New Venue

“Greatness Awaits” is the tag lines for PS4 the sponsors of the National Premier Leagues in Australia, but one has to ask how long fans of the game will have to wait.

In Western Australia the whole process switching from a State League format which had laboured along to the new promised bells and whistles NPL was heavily flawed. The participation agreement drawn up by Football West and which Not The Footy Show believes no club has still signed, as legal advice warned them not to, would have seen them lose more than they gained.

The competition was rushed through, with Football West under immense pressure from the FFA who wanted to keep good on a promise to the Asian Football Confederation that they had a second tier competition to the A-League up and running by 2014. As a result the outcome was a long way from being as successful as it should have been and the standard of football on display last season instead of improving was overall well below anything the State league produced in the last 20 years.

Football West went through an extensive process to determine the clubs that should be in the new NPL. A process that came under heavy criticism from clubs as to whether it was in fact impartial, and whether all clubs were given what Australians like to call ‘a fair go.’

One team to benefit from this process was Subiaco United, a club that this writer is a life member of. Their home ground at Rosalie Park did not meet the NPL criteria so they played their home games at the WA Athletics Stadium. Many queried this move and whether it was in fact sustainable. It would appear that after one season it has proved it was not.

In fact the club’s selection to the NPL was highlighted in the Football West press release which stated “Subiaco will move from the All Flags State Second Division into the top flight having shown it has the structure, personnel and resources to make a successful transition. The club has committed to make use of one of WA’s newest sporting facilities by playing home games at the WA Athletics Stadium in Mt Claremont.”

Subiaco United will return to Rosalie Park to play its NPL fixtures in 2015. It will be interesting to see how the club satisfies the ground criteria this season in order to remain a part of the NPL.

One requirement is “A temporary or permanent fence fully enclosing the field of play, with a recommended height between 800mm and 1000mm. Any temporary fencing must be approved by Football West. Where it is not possible to erect a perimeter fence, Football West may negotiate alternative arrangements.” There is then the issue of signage, where “24m linear metres is to be reserved for Sony PS4 signage comprising 8m on the centre of the far side of the field (4m each side of the half-way line) and 8m behind each goal.” Unless things have changed Subiaco Council were very rigid in what and how signage could be displayed. Also we have the small matter of seating, “A permanent structure specifically designed for seating spectators situated outside the clubrooms that provides unobstructed viewing to the field of play and that provides seating for a minimum of 120 people. The structure must be approved by Football West.”

All of these are going to be very difficult to achieve as Rosalie Park is a public open space. There is nothing to stop any member of the public walking across the pitch with their dog at any time. Having played cricket, rugby and football at Rosalie Park this has been witnessed first hand by this writer. Having served on the committee and as part of the Rosalie Park Sporting Association, this writer also knows first hand how hard it was to try and achieve these things with the local council.

Cynics will say that Subiaco were only accepted into the NPL due to the massive junior set up that they have. With fees for juniors at NPL clubs being from $700 upwards compared to around $300 a season at a state league club, this argument carries a little weight.

Football West claim that due process was followed, and in fact highlight this by saying “Extensive analysis of compliance and commitment was conducted by Football West staff and clubs conducted presentations to further support their initial written submissions. All applications, videos of presentations and supporting documentation was provided to the Department of Sport and Recreation and Football Federation Australia for comment. Applications were also analysed by an independent football consultant from New South Wales.”

Whatever the reason, the question has to be asked when clubs had to submit a comprehensive business plan how one club’s plan has fallen over in just one season. Did this club underestimate the costs of semi-professional football as many long standing clubs warned? Or have they fallen victim, as a new club playing at this level, to a lack of marketing and promotion of the NPL? Another factor that many warned would end up hurting all of the clubs.

It is understood that after season one of the NPL a few other clubs found the costs to have been more than anticipated. It will be interesting to see how their fare in season 2. Also how they find the funds to submit for a Junior NPL side as Football West moves to introduce such a format in 2016. Surely with the aforementioned fees this is not another ploy to grab money from Juniors to prop up the senior game? Many clubs will feel they have to submit to be a part of this, but the key question is where are the finances going to come to underpin the investment required?

Subiaco’s move, although not a surprise, should not have happened after one season, and one would think other clubs would be within their rights to object to the venue at which their home games will be played. It sadly brings into question once again the process of selection to the NPL and also highlights the strain being put on clubs. Season 2 of the NPL will we expect be a defining one. Will the league expand as planned or will clubs opt out in order to survive and protect their club’s history and heritage.

Then again if the AFC throw Australia out of the Confederation everything could change once again; although many say this is unlikely to happen there is a strong possibility, as many member nations would be in favour of Australia returning to Oceania.

February 27, 2015 at 9:21 am 2 comments

Men Only – No Thanks.

We are not big fans of sports administrators but on this occasion we must applaud the stance taken by the International Olympic Committee who kicked out a proposal from Saudi Arabia that they should be allowed to bid for a men only Olympics. They had wanted to have the Women’s events to be hosted by Bahrain.

Let us not forget that only under immense pressure did Saudi Arabia send two female athletes to London in 2012. This was tokenism at its best. Come the Asian Games last year they reverted to sending a purely male delegation.

Many feel that although the IOC sensibly rejected this idea, they need to take a far stronger line and make it clear that unless Saudi Arabia cease this sexist approach they will not be welcome to participate at future Olympics. After all it is the IOC who invite each nation to participate. Maybe next year the invitation needs to be lost in the post.

February 26, 2015 at 10:29 am Leave a comment

Kenya Looks to Ban Agents In Fight Against Drug Cheats

Drugs are a blight on sport, but with the rewards for success being so high most athletes are prepared to push the boundaries to achieve that fame and wealth.

In the 1980’s Chicago-based Bob Goldman, a doctor and founder of the U.S. National Academy of Sports Medicine, asked elite athletes whether they would take an enhancement which guaranteed them gold medals but would also kill them within five years. More than half those asked said “yes.”

Move forward twenty years and this mindset had not changed “I was shocked to see that out of 198 world-class athletes, 52 percent would be willing to give up their life for five years of an undefeated run of wins,” Goldman told Reuters during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

He has repeated the survey every two years for the next decade and the results have always been the same. Just over half of the athletes questioned said they were prepared to die as long as they won Olympic Gold.

Many sports fans do not appreciate that one of the reasons The International Association of Athletics Federations fought so hard to stop amputee Oscar Pistorious racing against able-bodied athletes with his carbon-fibre blades, was they feared if he started winning against able-bodied athletes, in that search for Gold some athletes would seek amputation when there was absolutely nothing wrong with their legs. When you hear that athletes are prepared to die for Gold this is not such a far-fetched idea.

One country whose testing for doping has come under question in recent years is the USA in 2013 they came in 4th on the table of shame in terms of athletes banned for testing positive to banned substances, but it was the fact that the Kenya came in third that raised a few eyebrows. There is no Kenyan anti doping agency and only one laboratory for testing in the whole of the African continent, and that is in South Africa. The Kenyan authorities claimed that 90 per cent of the tests in which their athletes had tested positive, were because they had been taking medication which had contained banned drugs. Many of these athletes though were tested in the USA and some felt that the Kenyan’s were being made scapegoats.

Last week Kenya announced that they will sanction agents managing four of their athletes who recently failed drug tests. They have openly blamed these “foreign agents for leading athletes into using performance-enhancing drugs.” Having been criticised  in the past for not taking adequate measures to try and stamp out the growing number of doping cases this approach has raised a few eyebrows. However the Kenyan authorities may well have a point.

“If you manage three or four athletes who have been sanctioned then you (the manager) will also be sanctioned ” President of Athletics Kenya Isaiah Kiplagat is quoted as saying. ” You don’t deserve to manage Kenyan athletes. Our new Sports Act gives us powers to take action on such agents. We won’t spare anybody.”

This may well be what is needed to restore what had been an almost impeccable record for Kenyan athletes.

To show just how lax the US Doping system is, this writer was advised by an athlete competing in the USA that it was commonplace for most of the team to smoke marijuana before a flight to the next game or a long bus trip. The theory being that the drug would relax them and their muscles and therefore limit damage sitting for long periods in a confined space. If this is as commonplace as this athlete claimed, why are there not more US athletes facing suspension?

Maybe the Kenyan’s are right and they are being targeted unfairly. Maybe their approach of banning the management of the Athlete is in fact a move in the right direction. It would be good to see other nations take a similar approach, as something must be done to try and stop these cheats. Yet with a mindset where more than 50% are prepared to die as long as they win a Gold medal one feels it will take a great deal more than this.

February 26, 2015 at 9:53 am Leave a comment

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