The Next Great Adventure

With the promotion of self publication and all the other work that has been going on here, Dad decided around 2am this morning (22/11/2013) that it was time to begin his next adventure.

He was seen off earlier the previous evening by myself, my brother, my sister in law, and my sister, as well as his wife (our mum), and an enigmatic being known only as A Lorraine.

After this time of story telling, laughing, crying, joking and mickey taking, we saw how tired both mum and dad were, and we decided to leave them under the (sometimes) gentle care of The Lorraine.

When Dad found the timetable for his travels, he let Mum know gently, which woke her from her drowsing, then, with the same gentleness he showed in this universe, he boarded his favourite mode of transport, the Interdimensional Steam Train, and set off with a smile and a wave.

For those of us closest, that smile was a reminder that his pain has ended, and the wave, an indicator that he will pop in to all those that knew him, from time to time. Usually at the most inconvenient and in opportune moments he can.

While we are sad that he is no longer here, we are happy he now has no pain, and is experiencing more extraordinary things that his writers mind will be frantically weaving into a new story.

With many thanks to all those who followed and contributed to this blog while it was active.  I will be allowing the blog to stand for the reference material it contains.  However, there will be no further postings. 

Signing Off.

Posted by Son Damien

Proposing Radical Change

Time and again we witness the demise of competition in Test Cricket.  It is, as I write this, looking as if we are about to see the same happen again.  Now, I’m English, and yes, I would like England to win.  But, I would like to see a fair victory!  This Third Test in the Ashes Series, between England and Australia, represents Australia’s last opportunity to give themselves a fighting chance to win the series, having already lost two of the five matches.  And even looking back at what has already gone before, this series has been plagued by bad umpiring.  It’s time to find ways to fix the problems!  I am, therefore, making a few proposals for changes to the Laws of Cricket, specifically Test Cricket, and some may be rather radical.

  1. Hot Spot: a minimum value of mark brightness should be required, below which, Hot Spot will not be deemed to be conclusive.
  2. Snicko: no consideration will be given to sounds detected, whether using the Snickometer system or the stump microphones alone, due to the innumerable interfering sounds which may mislead the umpire.  All reviews will be performed with the volume set to zero.
  3. Hawkeye: the ball will be deemed to have been on target for striking the stumps if any part of its diameter is demonstrated to be doing so.
  4. Time wasting will continue to be punishable by fine but it will also incur immediate run penalties.  This, time wasting by the batting side will result in the deduction of 18 runs from their score, for ach instance.  Equally, time wasting by the bowling side will result in the addition of of 18 runs to the batting side’s score, in each case.  Fines will also be increased in value and additional fines will be levied against the Head Coach and Governing Body of the team concerned.
  5. In the event that the weather interferes in the match, whatever score prevails at the completion of one innings per team shall be deemed to be the match result.  If it is impossible to complete even one innings per team, A One Day (ODI) match shall be played at the first clear day after the assigned Test match days and the result of such ODI will be deemed to be the result for the Test match.
  6. In the event that a gross error is made in the decision of an umpire in the field, the third umpire shall have the right to intervene and correct the call, without dispute by the erroneous umpire.
  7. The third umpire shall be subject to the oversight of a representative of each team plus a match referee.  Any dispute over the third umpire’s decision will be subject to a ruling by the match referee following an appeal by a team representative.
  8. If an error is discovered after completion of an innings, an adjustment to the batting team’s score is permitted.  If the error was in favour of the bowling side, then the batting team’s score will be increased by fifty runs.  If the error was in favour of the batting side, then their score will be decreased by fifty runs.  If the error is a general error, such as the awarding of runs incorrectly, for example awarding a six when this should have been a four, then the batting side’s score will be adjusted as appropriate by the exact number of runs.
  9. If a run is taken and a fielder attempts a run-out by throwing the ball into the stumps, and the ball strikes the stumps and displaces the bails, then the play will be declared dead and the batsmen may not score additional runs as overthrows.
  10. When making an appeal under the Decision Review System (DRS), a successful appeal shall not reduce the number of appeals available.  Two consecutive correct appeals will increase the number of appeals available by one.  If the umpire in the field has ruled either out or not out but there is any evidence that raises doubt about the decision, the decision will be reversed, i.e. any one element which disagrees with the umpire’s call will constitute sufficient evidence to reverse the decision. There will be no umpire’s call override of the review process.
  11.   Each team will be entitled to the making of up to two substitutions during their bowling turn, such substitutes have full rights as active players, to perform any role normal to the game.  Such full substitutions will equate to the rights of the batting side in respect of injured batsmen, especially correcting the current failing of the system whereby an injury to a bowler can seriously disadvantage a team.  Casual substitutions will not be allowed for the first fifteen minutes of a player leaving the field for medical treatment or any other reason.  Bowlers who have left the field for any reason may not then return and bowl immediately.  At least three overs must pass before they are allowed to bowl again.  An injured batsman may opt to leave the field for treatment with the right to return later.  In addition, the right to have a runner will be restored for a batsman suffering an injury or cramp, to help avoid further injury to the player.  The runner must wear the same equipment, in every respect, as the injured batsman.

Just how I see a way forward that would increase the chance for a fair, result-driven Test Series and address some of the problems currently being experienced.

Sport On TV

Sorry that I’ve not posted recently – things have been a bit hectic!

Having fun watching the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 tournament.  Some stunning performances both by batsmen and bowlers.  It’s still the best T20 competition around, thanks to the large, noisy crowds who have such passion for the game.  It proves how cricket has been rejuvenated by the advent of T20.

Last night, I actually got to see NFL Total Access on Sky Sports.  Now, I love the sport, and I even enjoy some of the background stuff, but: why do the NFL Network presenters have to shout?  I almost changed channels because it was so horrendous.  Fair enough, when commentating on a game, by all means get excited!  But when discussing news stories or analysing events, there really is no need to sound like some demented fanatic!  I value my hearing – or what’s left of it.

The UEFA Champions League in football (soccer) has been an intriguing competition this season.  There have been all the usual events, like injustices of decisions by the match officials, which add flavour.  It’s a shame that all the English clubs are out of it, but then I expected it.  It’s got to be tending towards a titanic clash between Barcelona FC and Real Madrid.

The County Cricket season starts today, which explains why some areas are expecting rain.  The FLT20 (Twenty20) and YB40 (one-day 40 over matches) competitions will follow soon.  It’s a pity that the investment in T20 is really very poor here, when so many other top cricketing nations are demonstrating just how successful their tournaments are, with the right input.

Tomorrow, the US Masters golf begins.  I haven’t yet decided whether I’m going to be watching any of it.  We’ll just have to see how things go.

Well, that’s all for now.  Have fun and enjoy your sports!

CLOBI Cup – Cricket

I have watched some matches from the inaugural 2009 CLOBI Cup competition, shown here in the UK on Showcase TV 2, thanks to BooomTV.  The CLOBI Cup is “Masters” cricket, under the auspices of Cricket Legends Of Barbados International, in which the players are all over 35 years and have retired from international cricket.  The 2009 tournament involved teams representing the West Indies, England, Sri Lanka and South Africa.

I have to admit that the quality of the coverage is somewhat lacking but that’s not the greatest frustration.  For some reason, the TV channel fails to inform as to which match is to be screened, and they repeat matches over and over, often on consecutive nights!  I have only seen action from three matches since finding the broadcast over a month ago.  I have no idea of progress beyond the fact that the West Indies beat Sri Lanka, by a very narrow margin, in the first match and that Sri Lanka defeated South Africa, again by a narrow margin, in the second match.  I know I could look it up online, but I remain determined, for now, to try to catch the rest of the matches!

One thing I do know: young cricketers could learn a lot from watching these magnificent players.  I’m not saying they don’t make mistakes, but when they are on form, they are truly “Masters”!  For one example, Carl Hooper of the West Indies demonstrated some of the most beautiful batting I have ever had the privilege of seeing.  There have been many other such displays, with bat and ball.  Considering the fact that many of these players never had the opportunity to play T20, most made the adjustment superbly.

I only wish that the CLOBI Cup was being covered routinely by a mainstream channel.  It’s very difficult to watch through the wee, small hours.

Cricket Events & Thoughts

Congratulations to the England Women’s team for their victory over New Zealand to come 3rd in the Women’s World Cup 2013 (WWC13)!  An excellent result.  In the same competition, the match between Australia and the West Indies to establish the champions is definitely intriguing.

Congratulations also go to England’s men’s team for their taking the T20 series against New Zealand.  It was a spectacular third performance!  I also have to say well done to New Zealand for a hard fought win over England in the first ODI.  It was a close run thing.  Martin Guptill deserves an award for his courage in returning to the fray despite his injured hamstring, and for delivering what amounted to a match-winning performance.

The Pakistan v South Africa match is thrilling!  It’s unfortunate that I can’t watch so many matches because they’re happening at the same time.  One thing I’d like to say is “Bravo, Saeed Ajmal!”.  Another is that I have a certain sympathy for third umpire Billy Bowden over the Kallis dismissal decision.  The rules are not helpful, lacking clarity.  I can certainly understand how the mistake was made.

It is a shame that the WWC13 was damaged, to some degree, by some of the worst umpiring I have ever seen, but I’ve already addressed that issue.  I will reiterate that I believe that this refusal to employ the Decision Review System (DRS) by India’s cricket authority must be overcome!

Having watched Martin Guptill bravely bat despite injury, I feel obliged to set my views out on the new “no runner” rule!  It is an insane rule!  It spoils the game and gives the bowling team a distinct advantage.  I know that an injured bowler usually can’t continue but that is partially rectified by the use of substitutes for fielding duties.  Cricket is the only sport I know of which has such foolish rules about injury!  Personally, I believe that it is time for the ICC to permit the use of substitutes for injured players, allowing them to perform in all aspects of the game.  Failing that, then the “no runner” rule, for an injured batsman, must be abandoned.  I also believe that cramp is a genuine condition and that the old “no runner when a batsman suffers cramp” rule was downright dangerous!  Playing on with cramp risks muscle damage.  In that case, it constitutes a genuine injury.  The health and safety of players must be a priority in making rules!

Sports Gambling

Gambling and sports have been linked since time immemorial.  I don’t see how it can ever be otherwise.  The human cost of America’s Prohibition Era demonstrated all too well the consequences of trying to outlaw something which has been with us since the dawn of humanity.  I would argue against all forms of gambling, but that would be a pointless exercise.  Instead, I’d like to look at what’s happening right now.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, you’re bombarded with advertising urging you to gamble.  It’s not all aimed at existing gamblers, either. In fact, a large amount is trying to persuade more people to enter the world of gambling.  There is no control worth mentioning over this inundation.  There is no acceptance of responsibility by the companies involved.  Gambling addicts are subjected to the same overwhelming advertising.  It must be sheer Hell for them!  I know from experience that some advertising has a real impact.  I’m a smoker.  Every time an anti-smoking ad’ comes along, I automatically reach for my cigarettes!  How much worse must it be for those who are battling an addiction like gambling?

I guess the gambling advertising isn’t made any more tolerable by the atrocious nature of them, with their screaming lunatics, creepy clients, blaring sounds and glaring lights.  Add to that the lure of “free bets”, “no deposit”, “best odds” schemes and claims, most of which are loaded with terms and conditions that must only boggle the mind.  The temptations become immense despite brashness.  Even I have found my mind wandering down the path of “perhaps it’d be fun to have a go”, and I assure you that there is nobody less likely to get involved in any form of gambling!

I’m not saying that we need to ban gambling, but there really must be greater control over the advertising.  I have, in fact, started a Facebook Group on that very subject.  If you feel the same, you are most welcome to join us.  More, tell your friends and family too!  It’s a small beginning, but you can never predict where it might lead.

Soccer Thoughts

I’ve been watching more football, of the soccer variety, recently.  I’ve not confined myself to English football, either.  I’ve watched matches from different English leagues, international games, Spain’s La Liga and various others.  I suspect I’m now going to get controversial, but I’d like to offer a few observations.

Chelsea FC are determined to dispose of Frank Lampard, who has not only been loyal to the club his whole career, he continues to make a valuable, reliable contribution every time he plays.  Unfortunately, the “powers that be” at Chelsea consistently prove that loyalty is a one way street for them – they show none to any employee, from manager to player.  At the same time, Liverpool cling to Steven Gerrard as if he were a lifeline!  This is despite the fact that, in the matches I’ve seen, he has become unreliable and unpredictable, gaining bookings often and frequently causing his team real problems by his wayward passing.  But Liverpool continues to show its loyalty to a player who is loyal to them.  I hope he appreciates how precious that is – Frank Lampard must envy him.

Watching matches from so many places, I have noticed something.  In England, a pass is regarded as superb when it is placed to the foot of the target player.  Players often stand in place, waiting for a pass, even if their waiting has been in vain on numerous occasions.  In European matches, players are rarely static, maintaining a constant movement.  Passes are made not to them, but to where they will be.  That’s not unlike passes in American football, where the quarterback will often throw to a spot a yard or more ahead of a wide receiver – it’s the receiver’s responsibility to complete the pass by reaching the right position.  This passing to a space that’s not occupied makes anticipating the move more difficult.  Only the teammates know what the plan is.  It allows European teams to carve through defences with great alacrity.  It also engenders a far greater development of mutual understanding between teammates, both in offence and defence. It is also what so often baffles English teams, particularly those with fewer foreign players or who adhere to a rigid system.  I suspect that studying the “space passing” technique and the concept of constant movement more thoroughly, and introducing it to English football more fully, would be highly beneficial.  Who knows – a hybrid system incorporating the best aspects of traditional hard-slog English football and free flowing, space-passing European football could prove a real winner.

Women’s World Cup 2013: Cricket

cricketThere have been some really impressive performances in this annual competition.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to the umpiring!  The decisions made by some of the umpires have, to say the least, been atrocious.  Today’s match between the West Indies and New Zealand is a case in point.  Of four lbw decisions that went against New Zealand’s batters, two were shown to have been given despite the fact that the ball would have been well wide of the stumps and another was given when there was a loud noise indicating an inside edge onto the batter’s pads.  I admit, I was not awake for the whole match, so there may well have been other umpiring “howlers”.  The problem with these things, apart from leaving New Zealand with genuine grievances at having lost, is that it reflects badly on the team which benefits the most!  The West Indies bowlers performed superbly, I won’t deny, but we will never know whether they would have been legitimately successful at taking wickets without the umpiring errors.

The Super Sixes stage of the competition has gone well, with an appropriate mix of expected and unexpected results.  It would be a great pity if, however, the tournament was remembered more for the terrible officiating than for some exceptional performances by individuals and teams.  It’s made worse by the fact that this is mostly the result of it being hosted by India, whose BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) continue to reject the use of the ICC’s DRS (Decision Review System), though no other nation refuses its use.  DRS was introduced to correct the umpiring howlers, and to encourage a general improvement in umpiring standards.  I will confess that there are times when I feel a certain smug pleasure when Indian teams suffer from such gross errors and have no recourse to an appeals system.

It is time for the ICC to impose DRS on all member nations!

Flashback: Super Bowl XLVII

Not exactly like many who are addicts to celebrating Super Bowl Sunday, we still got in a few little treats ready for the big game.  There were plenty of distractions during the day, with cricket and football (soccer) galore.  It was also the eve of Jenny’s birthday, so we had a visitor who brought a card and gifts, a little before the Event was to start.

As the minutes dragged painfully past, I finally donned my #20 Ed Reed shirt (a genuine NFL replica at that) and my genuine fan’s Ravens hat.  The treats were piled in the room in readiness.  The ‘phone had been properly threatened with grievous harm if it dared ring, and we settled down on the sofa.  The television was tuned to the proper channel on Sky Sports.  We were ready!

We had no idea that this would prove to be one of the best games in Super Bowl history.  Well, that’s our opinion, anyway.  Sky’s team of Kevin Cadle, Neil Reynolds and Cecil Martin were perfect for the occasion. The anthems at the start were magnificently performed, better than many we’ve heard.  The teams were obviously keyed up to perfect pitch, ready to fight out a gritty, sometimes explosive game.  The Baltimore Ravens, my team, were on fire in the first half.  The San Francisco 49ers were rather more nervous.  Half time and Beyoncé gave a terrific performance – one of the best in recent years, with some truly impressive, clever effects.  The second half began with a spectacular kick off return for touchdown, by Raven Jacoby Jones.  Things looked dire for the 49ers!  And then, the power went out in half the stadium.  For 34 minutes, there was no play.   The second half, part two, turned into a battle royale.  Right up to the last moment, the 49ers crept closer and closer.  It looked as if they’d do it, too, but then the Ravens did what they do so well.  They dug in and refused to budge.  In the end, they took a safety to use up the final seconds of the game.  Final score: Baltimore Ravens 34 v San Francisco 49ers 31.

In the build up to the game, there’d been plenty of distractions.  Biggest had to be the fact that this would be the final game in the long, successful career of Raven Ray Lewis, the beating heart of the whole organisation, and the fact that two brothers would be facing off across the field, as John and Jim Harbaugh stood as head coaches of the Ravens and 49ers respectively.  Other stories and rumours abounded, as usual.  In the end, though, the game was the star!

I can only say that I enjoyed this Super Bowl more than some recent games, and not just because my Ravens won.  Despite the power outage, the event was everything a Super Bowl should be.  We have to thank everybody involved for that, especially the Ravens and 49ers.  There is no sporting event like the Super Bowl, and it’s successful ones like this that help it retain that pre-eminence.

Inaugural Post: Women’s World Cup 2013 – Cricket

We’re well into this competition already.

Women’s cricket has come a long way in a fairly short time.  The two big international contests are this World Cup, involving several nations playing “ODIs” (“One Day Internationals” – that’s an innings of 50 overs each in a single day) and the “T20” version “”Twenty/20” – that’s an innings of just 20 overs each).

The WWC13 is now moving from the group stages and into the “Super Sixes”, in which the surviving teams will do battle.  Sadly, the host nation, India, have gone out because their “net run rate” was not good enough.  That’s a big surprise, as it allows the West Indies through.  In all honesty, the West Indies were by far and away the least impressive team in that group!  Sri Lanka impressed me most of the four, though England have shown a steady improvement.

Unfortunately, I’ve not seen a single match from the other group!  Consequently, I can’t comment on any of the teams and their worthiness.  It’s a shame that more coverage hasn’t been given to the competition.

For now, I’ll close this post with my congratulations to Sri Lanka and my commiserations to India.