Posts Tagged Chris Martin

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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On Expecting the Expected

Ever since it became apparent on the second day of the first Test in Ahmedabad that New Zealand weren’t in fact going to be crushed into dust by India, as everyone and their grandmother had predicted, I’ve been giving Dileep Premachandran a hard time for this article. (Mostly because he called Chris Martin “ready for the knackers’ yard” and anyone even casually familiar with me or this blog probably knows that suggesting Chris Martin is anything less than completely awesome is, in my opinion, punishable by torture and execution.)

But.

Truth be told, I was predicting the same thing everyone else was. I believe my exact words were “Vettori’s 100th Test appearance for New Zealand is going to be a nightmarish, bloodstained massacre.” If I felt any ambivalence I disguised it well.

I love New Zealand (yeah, not news, I know). I have a massive amount of faith in their players. I know that they have an uncanny ability to come good when appearing totally down and out. The fact that the spellcheck on WordPress still doesn’t recognize ‘Zealand’ as a word AS IT IS DOING RIGHT THIS FUCKING MINUTE sends me into a mini rage spiral. Still.

It was impossible not to. One of the oldest cliches in cricket is that anything can happen, but that’s sometimes just not true. Put Canada into the field with Australia and there’s a 99.99% chance that you could correctly predict what would happen. It’s like the lottery: technically, yes, there is a chance of winning, but you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning, twice, in the same place on your body at the same time of day while wearing the same 6 items of clothing. After the Bangladesh tour, with India coming off beating the mighty(ish) Australians 2-0, it would have just been unrealistic to think that the Kiwis – in a Test series no less (statistically the format in which they have been least successful in recent times) – would be anything other than woefully outmatched. They no longer had Bond or O’Brien. Their batting lineup was shakier than a house of cards on a seesaw in an earthquake. They had just emerged from a series in which they had failed to win a single ODI…against Bangladesh.

If the New Zealand team were a horse, it would have been taken behind some sheds and shot as an act of mercy.

There is very rarely anything nice about being proved spectacularly wrong, but (as England fans who were around in the 90s and early Aughts will attest) there’s nothing better than the team you love winning when you had prepared yourself for them to lose. It’s SO much better than an expected win. It more than compensates for the contrasting feeling – losing when winning should have been a foregone conclusion. It may in fact be one of the best feelings there is for a sports fan.

Shane Bond has said publicly that he’s always hated the ‘underdogs’ tag New Zealand have long been saddled with for this very reason, that they were expected to lose and winning was a bonus. And I agree with him. It’s not healthy for the team to think that way. It’s probably more than a little pathetic for the fans to constantly think that way. But it’s so hard not to, when it means that you occasionally get to experience this feeling. Because, for real, it feels fucking fantastic.

Or maybe I’m biased and the feeling is heightened for me because my long-beloved Chris Martin took 5 for 63 when certain people-who-will-not-be-named-except-that-their-first-name-rhymes-with-Felipe-and-their-last-name-is-Premachandran had written him off as old and past it. It’s possible.

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The Ghost Who Rocks

I love cricket. Possibly more than is entirely healthy. But probably 80% of what there is to know about the game, I don’t.

Here are some things I know.

Chris Martin is 36 years old. Chris Martin is a punchline. Chris Martin cannot bat. Chris Martin is not Shane Bond.

Chris Martin has 187 test wickets, at an average of 34.44 and an economy rate of 3.42.

Chris Martin has a sense of humour. Chris Martin got Jesse Ryder to his maiden Test Century. Chris Martin leaps like a lanky-shaven-headed-yet-still-graceful gazelle at the end of his run-up. Chris Martin has knocked over 5 top-order Indian batsmen for 25 runs. On November 7 2010 Chris Martin scored three times as many runs as Virender Sehwag before sending Sachin Tendulkar back to the pavilion with a flick of his wrists. Chris Martin has really pretty eyes.

Pretty, pretty eyes.

So dreamy!

When Chris Martin takes a wicket, he roars his awesome badassery to the skies, and the very ground trembles beneath him.

Chris Martin is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

They call Chris Martin The Phantom, even though he doesn’t wear a purple bodysuit and stripy Y-fronts. (That I know of. But even if he does, he probably rocks that look. Rocks it hard.)

Chris Martin is cooler than you.

No, I don’t know who you are. But I know Chris Martin’s cooler than you.

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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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So. many. centuries.

Petersen. Amla. Tendulkar. Sehwag. Laxman. Dhoni. Guptill. McCullum. Mahmudullah.

Three of those scored over 150, three of them were maiden centurions, one was a debut centurion, all of them were vastly different types of centuries. This is why I don’t like stats: as it stands, all those are recorded the same way, implying that they were somehow alike, which they weren’t. No two centuries ever are. I have no doubt that Tendulkar still feels the thrill when he notches up another one, but it can’t possibly compare to what someone like Alviro Petersen must feel, scoring a Test hundred on debut against the world’s #1 ranked team in an atmosphere like the one at Eden Gardens. I don’t know Petersen from Adam, but even I was overjoyed for him.

There is also, I would argue, a huge difference between scoring 115 runs and scoring 183, and so the latter should be recorded as a different level of milestone, but that’s an argument that’s been made before and I really have nothing new to add. I might just be having a Pollyanna moment, but it just seems a little unfair to the guy who’s sweated it out for two more hours and 70-something runs.

I am a touch disappointed that Shakib-al-Hasan’s name isn’t up there. He made it to 87 (insert superstitious muttering about the curse of being 13 short of a landmark here) before he edged one from Chris Martin through to the keeper. The way I feel about that is essentially the way I feel about Bangladesh v New Zealand overall – completely torn. I’m always thrilled when Chris Martin does well, as he is one of those players I am incapable of being objective about, but when he took that particular wicket at that particular moment there was a little voice in my head whispering, ‘Damn, Chris, you know I love you, but you couldn’t have done that juuust a few minutes later?’

But of course, there was V.V.S. Laxman to make everything all right by scoring his hundred. Sehwag is more fun to watch, Tendulkar is a legend and it shows, Dhoni was all grit and muscle, but there is nothing quite like a V.V.S. hundred. He doesn’t even need to score a hundred, really, for you to appreciate his batting, but you always want him to because that will mean you can watch him longer and he will be justly rewarded for putting on such an exquisite display of batsmanship. He’s all elegance, all timing; he’s just so damn pretty to watch. (And besides, Laxman being Laxman, it genuinely couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.) Everything about a V.V.S. hundred makes me happy – his strokemaking is a pleasure to watch, there’s no need to waste energy trying to separate the awesome cricketer from the douchebag personality beneath as it is so often necessary to do, and when the moment comes and he raises his bat to acknowledge the fans and his teammates, you have that fabulous smile to look forward to.

AWESOME.

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