Indian Premier League

If the Indian Premier League comes to England then we will all need to attach ourselves to teams on a more or less  arbitrary basis. Stoa-readers! Whom will you support? Your choices are between the Mumbai Indians, the Royal Challengers Bangalore, the Hyderabad Deccan Chargers, the Chennai Super Kings, the Delhi Daredevils, the Kings XI Punjab, the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Rajasthan Royals. (Some relevant links over here.)

UPDATE [2pm, 24/3]: Boo, hiss, it’s going to South Africa.

Blue Blood: Screening & Symposium

From the Ruskin School website:

The film director Stevan Riley will be coming to Oxford at 4.30pm on Friday 27 February to screen his brilliant documentary Blue Blood in the auditorium at Magdalen College.

Blue Blood follows a group of Oxford students in the run-up to the Varsity boxing match and stars ex-Ruskin School undergraduate Charles Ogilvie.

Stevan will introduce the film and he, Charlie and others will contribute to a round-table discussion immediately afterwards.

Variety described it as one of the better sports movies in recent memory, but Blue Blood is also a wonderful story about obsession and the search for personal identity.

Admission free.

Dead Beardie Cricket Scorer Watch

From the TMS blog, on the late Bill Frindall:

All our thoughts are obviously with his widow Debbie and his family. But Aggers [= BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew] said to me: “You know Bill would always delight in telling us he was born on the first day of the famous “timeless Test” – the longest ever match between England and South Africa in Durban in 1939 which lasted 10 days.

“Well,” continued Aggers “it just had to be the case that Bill’s funeral was held on the day of the shortest ever Test.”

I think Bill would rather have liked that.

I like that, too.

First Test Match

Two wonderful things happened this afternoon, while I was watching the rugby. The first is that Ian Bell was out for 4. The second is that the West Indies reduced England, at one point, to 26-7, after a fantastic spell from Jerome Taylor, whose figures are 9-5-11-5, and have just dismissed them for 51, to win by an innings and 23 runs.

The first thing is wonderful, as it really ought to mean that the selectors call time on Ian Bell’s Test career. Since hitting 199 against South Africa, Bell has had a dozen Test innings, with scores of 31, 4, 50, 20, 24, 4, 17, 7, 1, 24*, 28 and now 4, for an average over the period of about 19.5. He’s always been vulnerable to the charge that he gets cheap runs — although his overall Test average is 40.59,  his average against the three strongest sides in world cricket (Australia, India and South Africa) is only 28.66, and (my favourite factoid), although he’s hit eight centuries, he’s never reached 100 in an innings when someone else hasn’t reached 100 first. So another Bell failure is a good thing, as it would just be embarrassing to have Bell batting in the Ashes this summer.

The second thing is wonderful, insofar as it’s not good for cricket to have an enfeebled West Indian side. They’ve been too poor for too long, and it’s high time series involving the West Indies became competitive again. It’s also a good thing that their fine performance has been based on several individual contributions, batting and bowling, but without anything special from Chanderpaul, who has been their most reliable player over the last couple of years. That bodes well for the future.

The trouble, of course, is that the second thing might counteract the first. If England had batted well, and only Bell had failed badly, it’d be obvious to drop him. But England’s batting was so bad, to the extent that Bell, with his scores of 28 and 4, was in fact the fourth-highest scorer in both innings. And given that the selectors have given Bell far too many chances in the past, this collective batting disaster might give the selectors yet another excuse to keep him in the side. Bugger.

Closing Ceremonial

I didn’t watch the Olympics closing ceremony — that kind of thing doesn’t really float my boat — but I was pleased when I heard that the Shipping Forecast would be featured in the British bit of the pageantry. (If Gordon Brown’s Britishness crusade was all about things like the Shipping Forecast, I’d be much more enthusiastic, especially if we could have Finisterre reinstated in place of that godawful Fitzroy.) But if they wanted British icons, I think lots and lots of Daleks would have been even more fun, although I admit that Dalek values are perhaps not entirely in tune with those professed by the International Olympic Committee (or Gordon Brown).

(I enjoyed the Olympics. Much more than I thought I would. I pretty much ignored the Games in 1996, 2000 and 2004, and I was expecting to do the same this time around. But that thing on the BBC website that allowed you to stay focused on the sport you were interested in made it all bearable, and, as I’ve said before, tehgraun‘s internet coverage was, I thought, superb.)

Track Cycling

I’ve been enjoying the track cycling events at the Olympics (and ignoring most of the rest of the Games). Hitherto, I’ve only watched road-racing in general and the Tour de France in particular. Well done, the British team, etc. (Actually, they’ve been remarkably good, and it looks as if they’ll all be winning at least one medal — assuming Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins can pulls something off in the Madison. I hope they get to sit next to the Judo team on the plane on the way home.)

But what I was going to say was this: aren’t all the track events basically very silly? I was watching the team pursuit earlier today, and thinking what a silly event that was, before reflecting that there were at least four sillier events (the sprint, the points race, the Madison and the Keirin — and, arguably, a fifth, the team sprint, which is, let’s face it, pretty silly). Has velodrome cycling always been silly, or has it become progressively sillier over time?

Minute-By-Minute

From tehgraun, earlier this morning:

2.28am: If Paula Radcliffe was to peel off her own skin and hand it to a child-murdering sadist in return for the safety of 34 orphans, she couldn’t be more brave than what she’s doing here, according to Brendan Foster and Steve Cram in the television commentary box, who have never ever seen anything braver, nor can conceive of anything braver than her finishing ninth or tenth in this race. She’s now drifting way behind the leaders, who are busy winning the thing, but we wouldn’t know about it at the moment, I’m afraid, because it’s all about bravery today in Beijing.

Failure Is Not An Option

From tehgraun‘s minute-by-minute Olympics coverage this morning [at 4:32am]:

Jessica in Connecticut provides an insight into superpower manipulations: ”You may not be aware of how the medal count is being tallied over here. Instead of using the official IOC medal table, which places the greatest emphasis on the number of gold medals earned (and thus shows China in the lead), US media outlets are determining standings based on total medals won. No prizes for guessing who’s in the lead when you count it that way.”

Americans, is this true?

TMS

For much of the Summer I’ve found Test Match Special pretty hard to listen to; yesterday and today I’ve been hooked. It could just be that the compellingness of TMS directly correlates to the compellingness of the match, and when the cricket’s not that interesting, then all the reasons that make you think, “God, the commentators really annoy me” come to the fore and you switch off the radio. Or it could just be that they haven’t had Geoffrey Boycott on this morning, so it’s a lot less irritating than usual. Does Boycott not work on Saturdays? Or have they realised he’s really annoying and sacked him?

Also – why on earth is the final day of Test cricket this Summer Monday 11 August (assuming the game makes it to the fifth day)? That’s preposterously early. Grr.