Video highlights of Sri Lanka v South Africa

Video highlights of Malinga’s four-in-four and the most exciting match of this year’s World Cup to date. Eat that, ICC.

Click here if you can’t see it above.

Who will rid me of this turbulant lawyer?

The ICC has stepped in to prohibit cricket clips of the World Cup being available online via YouTube. Andrew Miller skewers this incredible piece of stupidity here. I’m just left gasping at how ICC’s powerbrokers have managed to get themselves so ‘out of touch’ that they thought this was a good idea.

Short of actually prohibiting broadcasting of the games, they could not have made a worse decision. Imagine an attempt by ICC to prohibit cricket blogs or newspaper coverage or forums and you have an idea of how stupid this is. Does Malcolm Speed know how to turn on his PC?

Sport’s glorious futility

No, there is little to be gained by cancelling. Indeed, surely the whole point of sport is to act as a necessary counterpoint to the grim realities of life. We know that death is a part of life because we see it, in one form or another, every day. Like drugs and alcohol, sport provides an escape from the routine absurdity of everyday existence – and thankfully without any of the side effects.

It gives us the chance to experience the best that life has to offer, usually without serious consequences. We win, we lose, and then we go home and get on with life.

We submit to sport’s arcane rules and regulations and rituals. We recognise that we will need to show courage and skill, and we train hard for the event knowing that we are undertaking an ultimately futile task. It is this futility that explains sport’s universal appeal, that and the desire to satisfy a basic human urge to play.

Sport loses its appeal when it is invested with fake importance. This is why English football engenders scant respect: the managers who snarl and spit at players and officials from the sidelines; the players who confuse competitiveness with sometimes vicious intent; and the supporters who cannot cope with the fact that in sport there must nearly always be a loser.

They have all clearly forgotten that Bill Shankly had his tongue firmly planted in his Scottish cheek when he said that football was more important than life or death.

Sport is not more important. And it won’t help to bring Woolmer back, but it might help us to cope.

One of the most insightful, and certainly the most reasoned and balanced article that I’ve read so far on the Woolmer murder and why cricket must go on. But it also re-enforces the often forgotten notion that cricket is a game. Predictably, it’s by Atherton, and it’s a superb read.

World Cup videos banned from YouTube

The ICC have ordered YouTube, the video sharing website owned by Google, to remove all footage of the World Cup. ICC Development and Global Cricket Corporation are claiming copyright infringement, although just what constitutes an infringement isn’t clear.

Presumably, no one can film their own clips at the grounds and share them with friends and family, which is a fair sad state of affairs. Also, has there ever been a more sinister sounding organisation than Global Cricket Corporation?

Sunblock? Rumblock

Last week I wrote about the Trinidadians’ clever use of a zip-lock bag to sneak in contraband (contrabanned, more like), which the authorities in the Caribbean prohibit. That was clever, but not nearly as ingenious as the use of a bottle of sunblock!

I love the expression on that bloke’s face, behind, raising his glass of rum. Well done, Trinis! (thanks Ryan)

Ambush marketing, West Indian style

On similar lines to my previous post comes a cracking post from Adam Mountford, a BBC producer. He had earlier reported that many Bajans were put off visiting the grounds due to the stringent rules imposed on them, so he tracked down Chris de Caires, chairman of the Barbados organising committee.

De Caires told me he wanted to make sure that people knew they were visiting the Kensington Oval in Barbados, not the Kennington Oval in London. But he also told me one story which proves that the need to keep corporate interests happy is still on his mind.

The ICC will go to great lengths to stop “ambush marketing” – the practice whereby companies would hijack the World Cup to promote products which are rivals to the official sponsors of the event. Before the warm-up matches at the 3Ws Oval he had to go round all the toilets putting tape over any brand names on the bathroom furniture. Unfortunately one of the cleaning staff had obviously missed the brief about the dangers of ambush marketing.

She happened to be cleaning one night when she noticed lots of tape in the toilets and decided to remove it all so the toilets were properly cleaned.

Perhaps she has the right idea.

Reminds me of a funny situation in Nairobi last month at the Gymkhana. A guest was invited to hand out the Man-of-the-Match awards at a particular game, but he had to make a short speech beforehand. “What do I say? What does one do at these events?” he asked an ICC representative who told him he needs to mention the sponsors. All of them. And with the lack of funds made available to Kenya, there were two or three. It sounded so forced I couldn’t help chuckle at the banality and falseness of it all.

Trinis deny Gestapo-like rules at World Cup

If there’s one aspect of modern life I cannot stand, it’s the nanny state. I’ve ranted about it before but, on the eve of the World Cup, nanny is back: and she wants more.

This is probably less about a nanny state, more corporate greed. Plastic bottles, tins and alcoholic drinks are all banned at every match venue in the Caribbean (some claim this is for health and safety reasons; others have their doubts). Consequently, the prices inside the grounds are exorbitant as Michelle McDonald discovered.

I scanned the concession stands for meals and prices. I was on the hunt for two fish meals. One stand was selling steamed fish which would have been ideal. Price? J$800 each. Normally, such a meal would cost approximately J$350 maximum, sometimes less. I continued my search, scanning price lists as I went along.

The bottle of water, thrown into a Pepsi cup, was indeed J$150. A Red Stripe Beer was $200. A beer drinker said he would normally have paid J$150 – J$160. I saw a friend with Tropicana Fruit drinks, lamenting the high J$180 price tag. What would have been a normal price, I asked. “J$80!” she exclaimed.

With some creative combining, for my J$1,000, I managed to get a Tofu meal, a small Tofu wrap, a small cup of spilt peas soup and one bottle of water. We would have to share the water.

Quite remarkable, and it’s happening all over the world. I’m sure it isn’t limited just to cricket, either. But the West Indians aren’t going to be all British about it (moan, complain, stiffen the upper lip and “get on with it” [1]). They’re fighting it:

When fans got into the venue and realised that all the food and drink prices, nuts and doubles included, were in US dollars, that was another story.

By yesterday’s match between Pakistan and South Africa, we Trinis found the way to beat the rules. It was no longer rum, beer, water, juice and soft drinks in bottles and cans, but zip-lock bags.

At the end of yesterday’s games, some people were boasting how many bags of beer they drank and others how many bags of rum they had guzzled. A couple of people also hid small plastic bottles of water and less sobering drinks in between their sandwiches and lunch boxes and were able to sneak pass the security checks.

Rock on, Trinis! That zip-lock-bag trick is one to remember.

To what extent these Gestapo-like rules (copyright M Atherton) will affect the traditional Caribbean atmosphere normally associated at grounds in the West Indies, we’ll find out soon. It’s dispiriting though. The region’s addiction with cricket has waned in the past decade and, although this World Cup should aid the sport’s resurgence, the public should just be allowed to have some fun – rum, beer, water, picnics or whatever they wish.

[1] Reminds me of a joke Eddie Izzard once told. Wondering why the British Empire collapsed, he suggested it was the Englishman’s tendency to say “Oh, really?” and “Jolly good!”)

The farce of USA cricket

While my boss has been on holiday wearing ridiculously coloured blazers, I’ve been entrusted with understanding cricket in America. It is a complete shambles.

The United States of America Cricket Association (USACA) were today suspended for failing to meet the deadlines imposed by the ICC who had insisted a new constitution was in place by March 1. They’d already been granted an extension from December 31 2006 but they still couldn’t sort things out.

In between all the administrative muddle came this story of Peter Whitehead.

To compound the depression, the administration’s incompetence is at odds with a country whose passion for the sport is nothing short of fervent. This was perfectly demonstrated by Peter Whitehead, a 12-year-old who wrote to us this week with damning evidence of the USACA’s ineptitude. Not yet in his teens, Peter is the president of a youth cricket club at his school in Mesa, Arizona. Quite reasonably, he expected some form of assistance from his country’s board, but the trail was long and fruitless. He spoke to the USACA who told him to contact his local representative, who in turn sent him to the Arizona director, who palmed him off to the California director, who palmed him back to the Arizona director. And so on.

Eventually, Peter’s path took him to Major League Cricket (MLC) who, for seven months, led him to believe they would help him. They didn’t. MLC have been around for seven years; they have fought to oust the USACA in that time, even approaching the ICC 12 months ago in a bid to formally replace the incumbents with an MLC constitution. Why didn’t they help? Unperturbed by the setbacks Peter approached Urban Cricket while on holiday with his family, several thousand miles away in England. The ECB-funded venture hand out kits to children in Britain, and they gave Peter and his club eight plastic bats and balls. The USACA have done nothing for this young, keen cricketer and his story is not uncommon. So much for Gladstone Dainty, its president, insisting that the “youth and female cricket programmes are the priorities of USACA”.

The response to Peter’s trials has been startling. People with similar experiences have shared their problems; advice has been offered; offers for kit, pitches and matches have been made. There is a genuine love of the game in the United States but enthusiasm from fans and players is just not enough. Strong leadership and professionalism is required and, at the moment, the USACA is worryingly bereft of both.

It’s a humbling story. As sides of questionable ability (but plenty of dosh) prepare for their World Cup next week, the USA – with such an enormous number of players and clubs – can’t even form a new constitution.

May criticises cricket’s schedule

Tim May has criticised the ICC regarding the sheer number of matches countries are expected to play, highlighting the ridiculous schedule facing Australia and India later this year. The two sides will face each other 21 times in 8 months, but their packed intinerary is just the peak of the mountain. We’ve known this would happen for years yet the ICC continue to pile on the matches and honour the boards’ and TV companies’ greed, at the players’ and spectactors’ expense.

“They were already playing each other 18 times and now they’ve thrown in another three (in Ireland),” May said. “We’re concerned about that. Players have a passion for the game and want to maintain that passion every time they play. But it’s becoming harder to play every game as though it’s their last.

“No one wants a two-bit product where blokes are only giving 75 percent because that’s all they’ve got left. Or because they need to pace themselves for more games coming up.” May, who has criticised the heavy workload on players in the past as well, also took a shot at the upcoming World Cup, arguing that it dragged on purely because of TV broadcasters.

“Our World Cup is too long,” he said. “Everybody bar the people who sell the TV rights believe we could compress it. The ICC sells the rights for significant amounts of money and obviously the broadcasters want to get their money’s worth.

One-day cricket is the commercial world’s gem. Short, fast, glamorous, colourful, loud, they are a huge revenue-generator for TV companies and the ICC. But with excess comes complacency, comes boredom. Do the players really want to be playing this amount of cricket? Of course not. Do the public care enough to sit through a seven-match humdrumathon after witnessing a Test series which, with the exception of India, remains the game’s pinnacle of entertainment? I doubt it. One-dayers should be the icing on a series’ cake, not a whole extra extravagant meal in itself.

One-day cricket is a victim of its own success, its shelf-life coming to an end. If nothing is done to address the sheer quantity of matches being played, we could well see strike action from the players in a desperate attempt not only to remain fit, but mentally sane. I hope so, too, because the ICC are far too one-eyed to see sense unless a problem smacks them in the chops.

Patrick Kidd has his own thoughts over at Line and Length. Offer yours below.

Who makes these rules, and why do we put up with them?

Via Cricinfo:

Andrew Symonds can be named in Australia’s World Cup squad and be replaced if he fails to recover from a serious arm injury, the ICC has ruled. Australia made the request because they are unsure how long Symonds will be out with a torn biceps.

Symonds suffered the injury during Friday night’s loss to England and had surgery on Sunday morning. Estimates on the speed of his return seem to vary from six weeks to six months, but he is in serious doubt for the tournament in the Caribbean. Australia’s first game of the World Cup is against Scotland on March 14 while the more important Super Eight stage begins on March 27.

Australia must announce their 15-man squad by Tuesday and Cricket Australia did not want to be forced into a situation where Symonds would be picked in the outfit and then have to drop out, leaving them a player short. AAP reported Dave Richardson, the ICC’s general manager of cricket, allowed the change.

I have some things to ask at this point. Why did national bodies allowe the ICC to determine how large their World Cup squads can be. And I do not see why they should not be changed?

What is the difference between the World Cup and the Ashes, where both nations can call up players that were not in the original sides.  What about West Indies, who are hosting this tournament- why should they have to name a squad? The extra flexibility of being a host is denied them.

I’m just staggered that no one ever seems to have asked why the national boards allowed the ICC to dictate this nonsense to them in the first place.