Saturday, 16 January 2010

Cricket's back (sort of)!

There's nothing quite like the first indoor net session of the 'season' on a midweek January evening.

The daylight hours barely long enough to fit a full cricket game; the trudge through the snow, ice and slush of the car park and into the bright lights of the hall; stand in line and try not to kill the batsman as your first couple of deliveries as inevitably wayward beamers; spend half the evening socialising with the players you haven't seen much of in the last couple of months, and another quarter talking to those you saw last night; facing your first ball you're pinned on your inner thigh as a newcomer makes an early bid to prove his worth before you spend the rest of your ten minutes ducking and weaving a barrage of back-of-a-length stuff from people beginning to find their range again on the lively indoor surface - the perfect preparation for the inevitable raging greentops of April.

Then back out into the cold night safe in the knowledge that tomorrow you'll be walking around the office nursing your back and your shoulder, complaining about your knees and the soles of your feet, whilst keeping the bruise on the inner thigh to yourself.

And you know the pain won't leave until well into next week. 12 weeks and counting until the season - will I make it?

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Bring Ashes cricket back to Old Trafford

For the rest of my life I'll remember being at the last day of the Old Trafford Test during the Ashes 05. This was the day when an estimated 10,000 people were locked out of a thrilling day's play that saw one of the great escapes from Australia who escaped with a draw after England got them 9 wickets down.

I have never experienced an atmosphere like it at any sporting event and it showed what a passion the people of the north west have for the game. Liverpool, were I live is traditionally seen as a football obsessed city but I know many, many people who make the pilgrimage over to Manchester every year for international cricket and Lancashire's fitful visits to play in Aigburth are similarly regular sell outs.

From a cricketing point of view Old Trafford is viewed as a 'result' pitch too, with England having a pretty good record there down the years.

It was a great shame then that the ECB decided to take the Ashes away from Old Trafford and investigate instead, new upstarts like Cardiff and Durham. This year the ground did not host an Ashes Test for only the third time in 150 years.

On the face of it you can see why they made the decision: Old Trafford is not a particuarly pleasant place, tricky to get to and in desperate need of a lick of paint or two.

However, thankfully plans are afoot to rehabilitate the ground and bring it up to the ECB's tough new standards.

The Old Trafford Partnership comprising Lancashire County Cricket Club, Tesco and Ask Developments has submitted a planning application to Trafford Council to redevelop Old Trafford cricket ground and the surrounding area.

The £47m development would see Old Trafford hopefully become one of the best grounds in the country and more importantly for us Ashes starved northerners, secure the future of International Cricket in the North West.

There's a very good website to promote the proposals where you can pledge your support for the bid -

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Finger Lickin' Good?

It's surely a very rare occurance that cricket ever hits the headlines in the good ol' US of A.

It was after all Robin Williams who described the great game as "basically baseball on valium".

This week however, our cousins across the pond have been seriously upset by, of all things, a 20 second Australian advert for Kentucky Fried Chicken which shows an 'outnumbered' Australian cricket fan passing round pieces of fried chicken, in an effort to placate a rather stereotypical band of all singing, all drumming West Indian cricket fans.

The fan (called 'Mick' apparently) wearing the yellow and green of Australia poses the question "need a tip when you're stuck in an awkward situation?" He then hands out the drumsticks to the apperently ravenous West Indians who immediatly stop their pesky drumming. "Too easy" the smug Mick remarks.

The avert is as unfunny as it sounds but is no more guilty of racism than those awful Ashes adverts Sky ran featuring Shane Warne cooking a BBQ in the commentry box, much to the dismay of Botham and Gower (Botham, you may have observed, if you've been watching the current South African series, mentions his love of BBQs about every 10 minutes).

The Australians have always struck me as a race of people quite prepared to take the mick (Dundee) out of themselves and perhaps understandably they've come out fighting against the criticism the advert has recieved in the States.

Apparently to many in the US fried chicken remains closely associated with age-old racist stereotypes about black people in the once segregated south.

A writer at one US newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, questioned whether the ad was a spoof, remarking: "If it is a genuine KFC advertisement, it could be seen as racially insensitive."

I particuarly enjoyed the response of Professor Brendon O'Connor from Syndey University who said the association between fried chicken and ethnic minorities was a distinctly US issue.

He said: "They have a tendency to think that their history is more important than that of other countries."

Anyway judge for yourself but surely the most innacurate aspect of the ad is the unlikelyhood of this many West Indian fans being at a cricket match.....