All entries for Friday 25 August 2006

August 25, 2006

Chelsea get Barcelona in the Champions League group stage but should i care?

The big news to come out of yesterday's Champions League group stage draw in Monaco was that Premiership champions Chelsea will be renewing their feud with Spanish and European Chapions Barcelona. We can look forward to Frank Rijkaard and Jose Mourinho locking horns again, as a rivalry seems to be brewing between arguably the two best teams in Europe.
However, Chelsea must be wary of Werder Bremen, who finished second in the Bundesliga last season, and it is critical that they pick up points from their back–to–back clashes with Barcelona.

Elsewhere, Manchester United will be involved in a 'Battle of Britain' with Celtic, after being paired with the Scottish Champions, Benfica (Portugal) and FC Kopenhavn (Denmark).

2005 Champs Liverpool will play PSV Eindhoven, Boredeaux, and make a return to Istanbul to face Galatasaray.

Last years runners up Arsenal will face Hamburg, Porto and face an arduous and difficult journey to the Russian capital to play CSKA Moscow.

All in all though the European Cup and Champions League seems completely pointless to me, merely giving absurd amounts of money to the big clubs, which the grops stages heavily favour. If the competition returned to its knockout roots, abandoned in the 1992/93 season, then things would really hot up in my opinion. This will of course never happen as the G14 clubs and UEFA love the money generated by the group stages.

Hover, the competition is almost as much as a procession as the Premiership.
In my opinion, there are only six teams who can win the Champions League this year, and they are – Barcelona, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Manchester United, Liverpool, and Olympics Lyonnais.
Should the others bother to turn up? Probably not really worth it in my opinion.

Ball Tampering?

On Sunday the cricketing world was enthralled by the events taking place at the Oval. During the afternoon session, the on–field umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove performed a routine examination of the match ball, and found what they believed to be evidence that some form of 'ball tampering' had taken place, invoking law 42.3 (b) of the 'Laws of Cricket' that "It is unfair for anyone to rub the ball on the ground for any reason, interfere with any of the seams or the surface of the ball, use any implement, or take any action whatsoever which is likely to alter the condition of the ball, except as permitted in (a)" In the event of such an incident law 42.3 goes on to state that the umpires shall change the ball forthwith, inform the respective captains as soon as possible and award five penalty runs to the batting side. All this took place in about five minutes, and the game was swiftly recommenced with the mercurial KP in devestating form, and the audience both in the ground and in the media were enjoying the spectacle again after a largely confusing interlude. The only clue that something was amiss was that Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan Coach was observed striding to the match referee's office rule book in hand.

About an hour and a half later bad light stopped play with England on 298–4 (Collingwood 26*, Bell 9*) and Tea was taken. At about 1620 the umpires and England batsmen were ready to resume play, however the Pakistanis were still in the dressing room, the batsmen and umpires returned indoors, then thirty minutes later amidst frantic discussion and diplomacy the umpires and England batsmen returned to the field and Darrell Hair removed the Bails, apparently signalling the end of the match. Shortly afterwards the Pakistani team did return to the field of play only to be informed that the umpires would not stand as under law 21.3 the match had been forfeited and an England victory declared; England win the series 3–0, this was confirmed late on Sunday evening by the ICC, PCB and ECB.

What is clear is that debacle was played out entirely within the 'Laws of Cricket' and that the on–field umpires had applied the letter of these laws correctly. What is also clear is that the Pakistan team felt sufficiently aggrieved by the actions of umpires Hair and Doctrove to take this stance. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that many 50/50 decsions had gone 'Englands way' during the series, and that Inzamam felt that the integrity and honour of his team and country were being called into question, by a decision which essentially accused them of cheating.

Can any of this be blamed on the umpires? No, as has already been said, in this instance the umpires while perhaps being a little officious applied the laws correctly. However, Darrell Hair has for a long time been a controversial figure on world cricket. It was he who called Murali for 'chucking' in 1995 and also it was he who called Shahid Afridi for damaging the pitch in England's winter tour of the sub–continent. As the senior umpire it was also his 'call' as to the application of the laws and communicating this to the teams. Perhaps on cricticism that could be levelled at the umpires is that their communication could have been clearer at a time when cool heads were needed, the Pakistan dressing room could not have fully understood the ramifications of their actions as I am sure that they did not mean to forfeit the Test. However, much of the blame must sit squarely on the shoulders of the Pakistan team and their Captain Inzamam–Ul–Haq. By ignoring the legitimate methods of appeal after the close of play, when they could quite plausibly have been on the verge of winning the Test, instead taking matters in to their own hands and staging a 'sit in' they left the match officials with little choice but to protect the integrity of the game and obey their set procedures.

The game of Cricket is bigger than one match, thus it was imperative that this conclusion was reached, any other response would have been to undermine the fabric of the game and open up the umpires to 'blackmail' whenever they made a decision that was difficult or contentious. Without doubt the cricket loving public lost out in the short term, the match was after all finely poised, but hopefully the game will have been strengthened by these events and the ICC will be encouraged to review this incident closely. Bring on the Aussies!

August 2006

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