Iron Helps Us Play
We’d just like to start by saying thanks to everyone who passed on kind words and condolences last week; it was a tough time made a little easier by your messages. As a result of a short blog and a missed blog we’ve got a lot to get through today, so rather than articles we’ll just be cutting and pasting the best from our various correspondents worldwide. The Supercoach has been quaffing raw-steak smoothies with pituitary gland shot chasers for the energy required for such a huge roundup; the Comments Booth is literally a bloody mess. But this is what we are willing to do for you, so here we go.
Novak Djokovic- more machine than man. Or so it would seem as he continues his incredible form this year, yet to be beaten in 24 matches since the calendar turned. The longest streak is The Iron Curtain’s Ivan Lendl’s 25, and Djoko will be pretty confident of taking that. He’ll be breaking now for a week and getting some practice in on clay courts as the next phase of the season kicks off, but it’s a surface he’s decent on so watch out for him in Monte Carlo next week.
The remarkable thing about this run is he has now beaten eight out of the top ten ranked players, including Federer three times, Nadal and Berdych two times, and Murray once. With the slightly strange ranking system used in tennis, he has a great chance of overhauling Nadal for the number 1 spot later this season. After a couple of quiet seasons he has now got a very well-rounded game, and at just 23 years old, he could be looking at a long spell on top. Super stuff.
The top section of the Premier League was decided over the weekend due to West Ham’s abject, awful, depressing, demoralizing second-half capitulation to Shrek-a-like Rooney, and Arsenil’s failure to score against a Blackburn side who hadn’t won in 6 games. Chelsea’s draw means they are out of title contention too, while City’s win combined with Sp*rs’ draw seems to have settled the Champions League spots.
The relegation battle remains wide open, and we’ll have more on that later in the week. Meanwhile QPR look certain to be promoted to the Prem: they lead The Championship by nine points with seven games remaining. Norwich look a decent shout for the second automatic promotion spot as they continue their awesome second half of the season run. They were only promoted to The Champ this year, so it’s a great effort by them and their manager Paul Lambert. The playoff spots are still very much up for grabs, but Cardiff and Swansea seem to have two of the four places wrapped up. More to come on this.
The English leagues aren’t the only ones to have been more or less wrapped up at the top. In Italy, AC Milan’s 3-0 win in the derby versus Inter has put them in the driving seat, although upstarts Napoli are still in with a chance. In Spain Real Madrid’s home loss- manger Jose Mourinho’s first home defeat since 2002- has pretty much ceded the title to Barcelona who now lead by eight points, and in Germany Borussia Dortmund’s lead has been cut to seven points but they still look the goods. Lille are being pursued by Marseille in France, but it’ll definitely be one of those two, and in Holland FC Twente and PSV are looking most likely.
Phew. As a last word, kudos to All Whites striker Chris Woods who netted again for promotion-bound League 1 outfit Brighton. Nice.
The World Cup has finished, and what a great denouement it was. In fact, it was a pretty dang great tournament all round, and will hopefully shut up the Twenty/20 pushers for a while. Congrats to all the host nations for putting on a successful event, and of course to India and Sri Lanka for making the final. Commiserations to Ireland though, who have just been excluded from the next World Cup in NZ and Oz. It’s a disgraceful decision by the powers that be, and the Irish are rightly furious, as can be seen here.
The Comments Team has decided to take issue with Dominion Post cricket writer Jonathon Milmow. We used to love watching Milmow bowling at the Basin, fiery red locks flowing in the wind (his, not ours), but his reporting isn’t great. After he started out well he seems to have been ground down into standard punditry: bile-filled criticism after any kind of loss, followed by over-the-top hype after any victory. Specifically today we have problems with his top team from the World Cup, which you can view in its entirety here. It seems to be a team picked on the basis of reputations and reading of match reports rather than by someone who actually watched the majority of overs in the majority of games. Let’s look closely at his side:
We have no problem with- Tendulkar, Sangakarra, DeVilliers, Afridi, Gul, Tahir and Singh.
We do have issues with- Sehwag, Kallis, Steyn and Mendis.
Sehwag, awesome player, one great innings, but not overall a top tournament. We would have Dilshan in as opener without even thinking twice. Dilshan had an amazing Cup with the bat, and took some crucial wickets with the ball. Milmow seems to have gone solely on reputation here.
As he has with Kallis. He had a very very average tournament, you could even say poor really for a player of such high standards. We would have Jonathon Trott in at number 3.
Steyn, although rated by us as the top fast bowler in the world right now, had a good but not great tournament. He did take a few wickets, but they tended to be tail-enders, and he was picked off at times at the start of the innings. And anyway, Zaheer Khan had a tremendous Cup, taking wickets at key times, bowling very economically in the early overs, and was surely the most influential bowler in the World Cup winning team.
And as with the others, Mendis seems to be here on reputation. There were a host of slower bowlers who performed well, but let’s go with someone from leftfield: either Ray Price from Zimbabwe or George Dockerell from Ireland. Both punched well above their weight, so we think they are more deserving than Mendis.
So there you have it. Not much to look forward to on the cricket front for a while, but we’ll be all over it when Test Matches start up again.
Egg-Shaped Ball Antics
At half time in the Warriors game against the Sharks on Sunday, we had an article penned comparing their early season travails with those of the Hurricanes: poor discipline combined with very basic errors. However to our delight the Warriors come out in the second half and managed to overcome these deficiencies, giving away far fewer penalties and turnovers than in any of their previous matches. And lo and behold, it resulted in a victory. Here’s hoping some of the Canes were watching this. The Wellington team’s season so far was summed up very succinctly towards the end of the first half of their match with the Bulls when Cory Jane, needing just to draw and pass to put the winger in for a try in the corner, threw a poor, yet catchable pass that was fumbled into touch.
If this was the first few weeks of the season you would put such an error down to rustiness: seven rounds in and it is just poor. Here’s hoping they can turn things around, and fast.
For Your Viewing Pleasure
Lastly we wanna clue you in to a few sporting docos that are either upcoming or already out there. The first is Senna, which looks like being a fantastic biography of the great competitor, replete with some tremendous racing footage.
Also coming soon is Fire In Babylon which chronicles the great West Indian cricket team of the late 70s/80s, told entirely from a Caribbean perspective. If you’re a 3D junkie or just enjoy seeing people heedlessly risking their lives in the most dangerous motorcycling event around, then TT3D: Closer to the Edge is the flick for you. It follows a rider before and during the incredibly hazardous Isle of Mann TT event. Not for the faint-hearted or the motion-sickness inclined.
And lastly, already available to be downloaded by torrent adepts, Grand Prix: The Killer Years. We’ve seen this one, and it’s a great account of the struggles of the drivers, Jackie Stewart in particular, to improve both car and course safety in the 1960s when drivers were involved in fatal collisions with chilling regularity.
Get into it.
That’s it for us today, but we’ll be back later in the week with a look at the Champions League, the ANBL Playoffs featuring the New Zealand Breakers, and a look ahead to this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix. Until then.