Archive for category Australia

With a Capital K – updated

Sidhartha Mallya, royal high commander of Royal Challengers Bangalore, is a singular individual. Heir to a brewery fortune, apparently beneficiary of a fine overseas education, he would seem the epitome of upwardly mobile nouveau Indian youth, exuding an air of success and self-confidence every time he steps out onto the RCB balcony for maximum camera time to support his boys.

He maintains a connection with the unwashed masses through, of course, Twitter, where he Tweets as @sidharthamallya, ‘Business Boy’, looking out at the Twitterverse with an off-camera-directed smirk over the collar of, naturally, a business suit. Through this platform he expresses loyal support for his team, praising, cheerleading, and, where necessary, defending, as is his right and responsibility. It doesn’t make for particularly scintillating discourse, but that, of course, is beside the point.

Last night, the news broke that RCB batsman Luke Pomersbach had been involved in an altercation with a couple at his hotel, and was the focus of an investigation after the woman involved accused him of assault. Very few facts were disclosed, which hardly mattered because there were plenty of rumours and speculation to fill that particular void. I’m no PR expert, but I would still assume that, with one of their players facing a charge of assault, even an as-yet-unproven one, RCB would issue a brief statement, reassuring their fans that the matter was being looked into and that any offense committed by one of their players would result in decisive and appropriate consequences for that player. It’s a fairly obvious reaction. You don’t want to commit one way or another because nothing’s been proven yet, but you certainly don’t want to publicly condone assault, especially on a woman. Especially given the horrific global and local figures showing the prevalence of violence towards women, and the absolute necessity for public figures like sportsmen to display their fervent opposition towards such violence. Of course, there have been cases of spurious accusations by women of rape or assault where the accused men have actually been innocent, but those cases are so incredibly few in comparison to the millions of cases of actual terrible assault, where the perpetrators have been allowed to walk free, or even where the women themselves have been blamed for having brought their own assault upon themselves, that surely, surely a statement from a prominent figure in the RCB wouldn’t be an assumption that the Pomersbach case was a spurious allegation? Surely a prominent RCB figurehead would not misogynistically and crudely proclaim, in the early stages of investigation into the incident, that the woman was a whore and a liar? Surely he would not use the ‘oh, and also she was totally hot for me and that’s how I know she’s a lying slut’ line? Surely not?

Let’s throw it to Sidhartha, shall we?

Yeah. In the interests of full disclosure, ol’ Sid then went on to clarify his statement by explaining how ‘everyone wants their 15 minuets [sic]’  (I can only assume he means ‘minutes’ since I can think of very few people with a burning desire to dance an old-school French ballroom dance exactly 15 times) which, of course, he knows all about. He then finished up by plaintively wondering why everyone couldn’t just focus on the cricket instead. Because seriously, when Chris Gayle scores 128 off just 62, who the hell cares if some lady might have been beaten up by a professional sportsman, amirite?

You know, Sidhartha, I have to give it to you. In a world where we are slowly, painfully, struggling to recognize and rectify things that have been swept under the carpet for centuries, like the frequent denigration and systematic oppression of the female gender, you dare to stand alone with views that were good enough for the 18th century so, dammit, they’re good enough now! Where others strive to bring to light the horrible truth that the vast majority of women are routinely exposed to horrific bodily violence, many unable to even tell anyone what they’re going through, many with no recourse for justice because of the established mindset that women must accept and indeed deserve whatever treatment men see fit to give them, many accused of being whores and bringing their pain upon themselves (the men who beat and rape them being, of course, blameless), you staunchly live in a world where the first assumption on hearing a woman accuse a man of assault is that she’s a lying slut who by the way wanted your body too, you stud you! You’re quite something. And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that you’re exactly the touch of class RCB needs in their wheelhouse. Classy with a capital K. That’s you.

UPDATE:

RCB player Dirk Nannes tweeted about how happy he was to see Mallya “coming out in support of his players.” This made me sad, because I like Dirk Nannes, and because what Mallya did wasn’t “coming out in support,” or defense. A defense would have been, “I’m positive the allegations against Luke are untrue and that he is innocent. We believe that the accusers are not being at all truthful.”

Exactly how is it a defense to bring in the woman’s sexuality? How is that relevant at all to her accusations? What Mallya has said is this, ‘The woman said Luke hit her fiance. She’s a whore who was all over me and not acting like a wife-to be.’ Nothing other than that to indicate that the accusation was false. That was the entire explanation. She’s an unwifely whore, so clearly she’s lying. Would Mallya have used similar rhetoric if it was the male friend making the accusation? Would he have said, the guy was coming on to every woman in the room, he’s clearly a liar? No, of course not, because to the Mallyas of the world, it’s only OK to judge and condemn women with the label of promiscuity. Not only that, but it’s the only condemnation necessary! No need to actually address the actual allegations, whether Pomersbach actually did what he was accused of doing. Nothing about Pomersbach at all actually.

For the record, Pomersbach may well be innocent. I believe it’s entirely possible that the allegations against him were completely fabricated. It doesn’t matter, this isn’t about him.

It wasn’t Luke Pomersbach’s actions, innocence or guilt that Mallya was talking about, which would be necessary if he were, in fact, “supporting his player,” Dirk. For Mallya, it was enough to condemn the woman with the oldest, ugliest way possible. Brand her a whore. What other evidence could anyone need?!

That’s misogyny for you, folks, ingrained and ugly and, of course, completely unquestioned.

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Say Goodnight and Go

So this is how it ends for Ricky. I had truly hoped it wouldn’t happen this way. He was never my favourite player in the world, but he is still Ricky Ponting, bona fide legend, one of the best there’s ever been with a bat and in the field. One day, even his hairy arms and that constant disconcerting hand-spitting will be discussed with respectful awe, in the tone used to discuss those chosen, near-mythical few, because he is a legend and there’s probably not a cricket fan in their right mind who would seriously attempt to dispute it.

Today, though, seated behind a table with flashes going off left and right in his face, he looked almost painfully human. Ricky is not a small man. He’s still in the shape that befits an elite sportsman, and he remained entirely composed, not visibly distraught, not stricken or anguished. But he looked, even if only infinitesimally, diminished, because there was no way to escape the fact that he was there not to announce a decision of his own choosing, that he was there because the axe had been dropped and everything about Ricky that makes him legendary wasn’t enough to stop it. He was there because he had not seen the writing on the wall, had not taken the many chances tacitly offered to him to accede to the inevitable on his own terms. Dignified as he was, he was there to talk about the fact that someone had been forced to finally tell him what they’d been hoping he’d figure out for himself but didn’t, and with such a thing comes stinging humiliation no matter how you try to slice it.

Oh, Ricky.

I started watching cricket properly late in life. In 2005 I still didn’t know too much about things, but I knew enough to quake slightly for England when Steve Harmison’s bouncer smacked into the side of Ricky’s head on Day 1 at Lords and sliced open his face. It was as reflexive as when, in the split second after you see someone tread on a cat’s tail, you know with complete certainty that bloody retribution will follow. It’s the natural law of things. In 2005, I didn’t have to formulate a conscious thought to know for sure – for SURE, beyond a shadow of a doubt – that cutting Ricky Ponting’s face open would result in truly terrible vengeance, so much so that I didn’t even have to particularly like England to wince at the thought of the ravaging that awaited them.

That Ricky seems a distant, dim memory now. Even though Ricky will still play Tests, even though I have no doubt that he will still continue to prove his immense worth there, he’s not the same Ricky.

He’s never been a favourite. I’ve never even really liked the man. But that still makes me sad.

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Toeless White Mongol’s Fantastic Incredible Adventure

Martin Guptill is a man who demands nicknames. This would be true even if he weren’t a sportsman existing in an environment where everyone must be referred to by nickname (even if, as with England a lot of the time, said nickname is pretty much just the player’s actual name with a ‘y’ tacked on the end.) For one thing, there’s his unusual last name; for another, the fact that the man has only 7 toes. My old nickname for him, therefore, was ‘Guppy Two-toes’ – which, if not exactly supremely imaginative, was at least a hell of a lot more so than ‘Cooky,’ ‘Belly,’ ‘Straussy’ and the rest of them, as if the England team were made up entirely of cutesy singing dwarves.

That is a nickname of the past, from a time when the New Zealand team – and especially their batting lineup – were either plucky underdogs who never quite made it happen for themselves, or a straight-up punchline. Their bowlers were mostly immune from the criticism, on account of not sucking at their own jobs and regularly picking up the slack after each inevitable batting collapse. Practically every set of photographs taken of Daniel Vettori from that time has a couple showing him, jaw set and brow furrowed under his helmet, padded up and striding out with an air of angry resignation to bail his team out of trouble by batting for a couple of hours (in a style apparently learned from a coaching manual printed by Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks).

But things, it seems, are different now with New Zealand.  Their Atlas, Vettori, plays only Tests now, and their team lineup is suddenly bristling with fresh-faced players not old enough to know what audio cassettes are. But it’s working for them. Zimbabwe might not have been the most challenging of opponents (though they have the capacity to be much tougher than they were during this last series), but New Zealand demolished them, over and over again, at every venue and in every format.  To my obvious delight, one of the main architects of New Zealand’s dominance was none other than Chris Martin, 37 years of age and in the bowling form of his life, perhaps invigorated by reducing Phil Hughes to a bloody smear on the ground in the Australia series.  This may in some part explain why one of the search phrases used to find this blog recently was “cricket the back of Chris Martin’s head,” but that’s something I don’t really want to think too much about except to assume that someone out there has a thing for graceful bald men who can swing a cricket ball, which is fair enough.

The other standout Kiwi was, of course, Guptill. He’s always been a superb fielder, so much so that he manages to stand out in a side that is primarily known for being a uniformly excellent fielding unit. He was the third part of the Hughes b. Martin equation in addition to flinging himself all over the place taking catches and stopping runs, and when he wasn’t doing that he was batting like he’s never batted before. He’s showed flashes of this ability in the past, but never so consistently, and now he resembles a man who has ‘Eye of the Tiger’ playing constantly in his head and has entrenched himself so deeply into The Zone that he probably cuts his food and puts on pants with exactly the same intensity and optimal use of technique. It showed clearly in today’s T20, the one that kicked off the start of the South Africa tour (a.k.a. the real test of the new-and-improved-now-with-40%-more-BADASS New Zealand side). After a spectacular runout of Hashim Amla that ended with both players and several stumps tangled up in a heap on the pitch and had everyone and their grandmother instantly referencing the legendary Jonty Rhodes moment, he then proceeded to carry his bat through the New Zealand innings and score most of the runs – except the winning ones, which he graciously left to James Franklin. The man seems unstoppable.

However, he is also possessed of facial hair and bone structure that, especially when he’s wearing a helmet, makes him look uncannily like a less-Asiatic Ghenghis Khan. It’s actually distracting. Yet, it might just be the source of all his powers, and so should be accorded due respect. Thus, his new nickname will now be the Toeless White Mongol. It’s not short and snappy, like good nicknames should ideally be, but I think it’s the name he’s earned. Go forth, TWM, and conquer.

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Bands of Outsiders

It’s that time of year: time for the Champions’ League, aka the T20-Tournament-That’s-Kind-of-Like-the-IPL-Except-More-Involving-and-Slightly-Less-Idiotic-In-Execution (or TTTKLIEMISLE, as it is almost certainly never referred to.) It has IPL teams, obviously, since otherwise no-one in India would watch and none of the usual slew of advertisers would want to make their presence known with their customary deft subtlety.

I actually quite like this tournament. I will almost certainly like it less and less as the final draws nearer between what will very likely be two IPL sides, complete with the massive avalanche of idiocy that scenario will entail. The reason I like it at the moment is because of the presence of the strong club and county sides filled with talented and motivated players that are, for the most part, familiar to only their home supporters. (And to people like me who follow county/regional cricket in New Zealand and England despite not being from or living in either of those countries, but we are a rare and unbalanced breed.) As glorious as it is to see the elite players and the legends working their magic/screwing up royally (delete as applicable) during the rest of the year, there is a special pleasure in watching the as-yet-undiscovered kids and the small-time pros step up to their time in the big arena.

The New Zealand contingent, obviously, weren’t quite good enough. I did get to watch Chris Martin and Lou Vincent (my adoration of whom is well documented), which is a silver lining, albeit admittedly a pretty slender one. Maybe more of a silver tracing? Somerset, who are of course playing without their front-liner Marcus Trescothick (another of my all-time favourites) have done far better, and this makes me happy because even Bangerless, they are awesome, with a fantastic captain in Alfonso Thomas.

I’m neither entirely proud of this nor able to fully explain it, but the greatest joy by far that the Champions Trophy affords is the sight of the IPL teams getting beaten by county and regional teams. The more comprehensive the defeat, the happier I am. I don’t care if it’s an English or an Australian or a South African team dealing the damage. I should point out that this has little to do with the players (with the exception of a small but fuckwitted handful of them) and more to do with the simple fact that they’re IPL teams. They’re associated with the shrillness and painful stupidity of that entire ridiculous overblown klaxon show and therefore the more matches they lose the more vindictively happy that makes me, because I am an angry person who doesn’t like stupid shit.

Maybe it’s partly because of the IPL owners? Watching KKR going down in spectacular fashion at this very moment against the South Australia Redbacks is a delightful experience, not because I dislike Ryan ten Doeschate, or Gautam Gambhir (…ok, maybe a little) or Brett Lee (quite the contrary, in fact), nor out of any especial love for South Australia. KKR just needs to lose. They have a stupid name, dumb outfits and an owner who is one of the most painfully idiotic and narcissistic men in existence.

So, Viva Le Champions’ League. I approve. If there was a decent Test on right now you can be sure as hell that would be on my TV instead, but this will do in its place. A little schadenfreude is good for the soul. Bring it on.

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…aaaaand we’re back.

Well, that was anticlimactic.

My training is scientific, so it’s impossible to watch this New Zealand side play without my brain almost involuntarily formulating a giant experiment to evaluate how they perform under different levels of expectation. Is there really something to this wretched underdog thing that Shane Bond hates so much? Test it! Send them into three series deciders, one as favourites, one as 50-50-too-close-to-call competitors, and one as these-jokers-haven’t-got-a-hope-in-hell rank outsiders. Repeat several times to get a decent sample size, play the same 11 every time at the same ground against the same opponent (preferably a consistent side – Lanka? SA?) to reduce the number of variables. It would make a fascinating research study, albeit one that might be a little bit hard to get funding for.

Normally I wouldn’t advocate treating international-level sportsmen like lab rats (even though it would be frankly awesome to see Alastair Cook frantically trying to find his way though a giant hedge maze to the Maybelline stand at the other end) but honestly, there might really be no other way to explain this NZ side.

This is not to say that the NZ setup should feel badly about this series. They performed far above anyone’s expectations – so much so that the third test shitshow was even more bizarre because of the gritty fighting that had come before. Verily, New Zealand cricket, you are a mystery wrapped in an enigma sprinkled with really hot men.

I know I’m probably supposed to be writing about the Ashes, but everyone else in the known universe, along with their great-aunt and their great aunt’s cocker spaniel, seems to be providing fairly comprehensive coverage already, so I will abstain. I will say, though, that of all the members of the England Test side, I would never in a million years have thought that Tim Bresnan would be the one with the most rhythm.

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Groundhog Day

Yes, it’s been a while since the last post. I’m actually kind of wondering if anyone will actually read this, which is sort of liberating. I could probably talk about anything. Movies, recreational drugs, quantum physics (IT’S THE STRINGS! DAMN YOU, FEYNMAN!) the possibilities are limitless.

The only reason I would have to do that, instead of talking about cricket, the game I love and adore and which is the hallowed pursuit of noblemen and kings, is that NEW ZEALAND ARE FUCKING LOSING THE PLOT AGAIN.

Ahem.

I always swore I’d never be one of those awful people that does nothing but hurl abuse at their chosen team when the chips are down, but, really, New Zealand? You bowled Australia out for 231 and still managed to collapse? It’s Daniel Vettori’s 100th Test, but apparently a dream Day 1 is all he’s allowed on such an august occasion, before it’s back to the usual business of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

It’s always the spinners, too. I’m currently in Bangalore, and everywhere there are large billboards with Rahul Dravid’s face staring down, practically ordering us to follow the Royal Challenge, as the BRC’s IPL campaign is apparently now called. Anil Kumble is on a few as well, and as happy as it makes me to see him get some glory after all those years of being the overlooked stalwart, it’s an equally sharp reminder of how good he is and was, if we’d only been allowed to see it. I’m reading John Wright’s Indian Summers, which I highly recommend, incidentally, and in it he reiterates what the rest of us have known for a long time: that Kumble was underused and underrated at what should have been his peak years. Vettori certainly doesn’t have the problem of being underused – if they used him any more they’d probably actually physically break him – but he’s never allowed to be as effective as he should be as a spinner, being brought on ludicrously early after the quicks have cocked up the job with the new ball, and then inevitably trudging out again to bat the team out of trouble at number 6 or 8. New Zealand have done their best to wring as much as they can out of Captain Dan, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that someday we’re all going to look back on these few years and wonder why the hell they had to do it in the first place. It’s a team sport, gents. Ross Taylor’s doing his best, but there need to be 9 more of you not being bench decorations for this whole ‘winning matches’ thing to work.

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Waiting on the gentlemen

I’m a fan of bowlers. Spinners especially. In the batsman-dominated and batsman-friendly modern game, I’m usually one of those people that seethes over flat decks and run-glut games and gets disproportionately excited when a spinner notches up some great figures. Good economy rates racked up by slow bowlers make me extremely happy, which is something I’m almost certain I can’t say about most other women I know. I do have a healthy admiration for quality fast and seam bowling – I could watch Shane Bond all day every day if it weren’t for the fact that it would kill him very quickly, and he, Chris Martin and Iain O’Brien were three of the main reasons I became a Kiwi fan – but spin is the ultimate fascination.

I also quite like Graeme Swann. He’s an excellent bowler, he’s refreshingly witty and straight-spoken unlike a lot of his anodyne contemporaries, and he’s usually an amusing Tweeter. Got to love a man who can make you laugh and bowls smart finger-spin.  (Daniel Vettori bowls extremely smart finger spin, and is far foxier than Graeme Swann to boot, but isn’t nearly as funny. Except when he makes unwise choices regarding his hair, but that doesn’t really count. Oh well.)

Earlier today, Graeme Swann, bowler of offspin, became the first Englishman in over 50 years to take a 10-wicket haul in a Test match, and the first to ever do so in the subcontinent. It’s a tremendous achievement, and one that he fully deserves – his talent and performance for England over the past little while leaves no doubt about that. But Swann – so affable, so popular – managed to tarnish his own achievement at the eighth wicket, when he finally got rid of Junaid Siddique to end the staunch rearguard resistance Siddique and Mushfiqur Rahim had mounted for close to 70 overs.

Yeah, he gave him a send-off. Complete with bellowed ‘Fuck off!’ and fist-pumping. Real classy, Graeme.

Let’s review a few things, shall we? First, you’re 31, Junaid is 22. HE’S A CHILD. He also plays for Bangladesh, the team you might remember as the one that always almost makes it but doesn’t quite, except for that one time against Australia that I still think about when my mood is scraping the floor and I need cheering up. Also, it’s not Junaid’s fault that you have an uninspiring and ludicrously overcautious captain, or that you and your fellow bowlers couldn’t get him or the other plucky kid battling to save a Test for his country, Mushfiqur Rahim, out earlier. The whole thing seemed to represent England’s general mood, which was sheer disbelief and something almost like righteous indignation that Bangladesh were proving so hard to dislodge, very much, “Oi! I know WE’RE crap, but you’re supposed to be MORE crap! What the fuck d’you think you’re doing, screwing with the script?!” Sorry, boys, that’s not how it bloody well works.

All these factors aside, Junaid played brilliantly, as did Mushfiqur, and they deserved to be shown some respect. England have been guilty of this several times on this tour, starting off with Paul Collingwood’s dickish crack about wooden golf clubs, and elsewhere today when Stuart Broad, having got Abdur Razzak out lbw, didn’t bother to make anything remotely approximating an appeal, not even turning around to so much as look at the umpire for confirmation. I’ve heard comments defending Swann by stating that his gesture was actually a backhanded compliment to Junaid, showing how important his wicket was, and Broad by calling his move merely overconfident, and those comments aren’t without merit, but what it looked like was disrespectful, juvenile and arrogant, particularly in light of the fact that England’s performance has actually been fairly flat for much of this Test.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating: there seems to be an epidemic of this kind of shitty classlessness infecting international cricket, and God how I hate it. New Zealand v Australia has already given us a massive dose, and the stage seems to be set for more of the same with Michael Clarke’s return for the Tests after his personal problems with his now ex-fiancée. Chris Martin proved once more why I adore him so by stating earlier today that in his opinion, the crowds will run wild with this, but the New Zealand players shouldn’t. They won the ICC Spirit of Cricket award last year, and this is a golden opportunity for them to prove that it’s not just BS, and that it is still possible to play hard and be uncompromising while still being gentlemen by not bringing up a man’s private heartache in an attempt to fuck with his head on the field.

Please, New Zealand, as a fan, I’m asking you nicely: don’t do it. Please. It’s not worth it. To Daniel Vettori: I get the feeling that you overlook Tim Southee’s tendency to be a douche (he certainly was against Bangladesh) because he is a young, spirited and talented player, but you’ve got to impress on him how important this is.  Because it really, really is.

I’ll be watching, and hoping. Please don’t fuck this up, New Zealand.

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