Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Big Stories - From the Caribbean to Kiev

Due to a looming dissertation deadline I have not been able to write about all the events and stories that I have wanted to of late but I thought I would briefly reflect on a couple of the bigger ones that I have neglected. This first is the start of Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies and the second is the dramatic climax of the Snooker World Championship, both on and off the table.

On Friday the Twenty20 tournament got underway with England playing their first game last night against the hosts, West Indies. In a match plagued by rain it was the home side who took a somewhat farcical win. England posted a very respectful 191-5 from their 20 overs as Lumb, Pietersen and Kieswetter all hit quick fire 20s while Morgan and Wright got impressive scores of 55 and 45 respectively. West Indies were 60-2 from their 5.5 overs before rain stopped-play. With the game unable to restart Windies were awarded the win by the eight wickets thanks to the Duckward/Lewis method. In the unpredictable world of T20 cricket England have every right to feel aggrieved with the result. When one good over or a couple of wickets completely change the complexion of the game a target of 191 was still an extremely difficult target that England would have been confident of defending.

Nevertheless, the result is decided and now the England team faces a win or go home match when they face Ireland this evening. They would, of course, be expected to win this game comfortably but their defeat at the hands of the Netherlands in last year’s competition will act as a stark reminder of just how easily upsets can happen in this format of the game.

With the ever increasing popularity of the shortened version of the game there will be increasing pressure on the longer one-day games. With none of the boring middle overs or the time consumption involved in the 50 over matches T20 cricket offers a far more entertaining spectacle. The reckless abandonment of the batters is exhilarating while every dot ball in cheered like a wicket. The success of the IPL and the full houses these tournaments bring in is great for the game. I would, however, say that the format of the competition could be addressed. There are four groups of three with the top two then going into the super-eights is a drawn out structure that does not work for me. A simpler group phase into a knock-out stage would seem more attractive but the super-eights does at least allow for more cricket. For now this is all I will say on the T20 World Cup but I will probably look at it again when it nears its conclusion on 16th May.

The snooker World Championships have come and past and they had threatened to merely offer their usual mild and forgettable entertainment. There were, however, two noteworthy exceptions this year that I am sure everyone has heard or read about. The first of these is that last night Neil Robertson won the event. This means there has been a break from Britain’s stranglehold on snooker which is a refreshing change and people are claiming that this can only be a good thing for the game in the long run. There is though no reason to get too excited though. Ninety percent of the players will still be British and they will continue to dominate the tournaments but, for now, it is nice to see a new character win something, even if he is an Aussie.

His achievement will unfortunately be overshadowed by a much bigger story that has consumed the snooker world this week and that is the accusation of John Higgins’ plans to throw frames. The situation is still far from clear cut. Higgins has not been involved with frame or match fixing in past tournaments. The News of the World have claimed that he was involved in a deal for him, in future matches, to purposefully lose frames in return for 300,000 Euros courtesy of an undercover reporter in Kiev. Although Higgins is fighting these claims it is still a big blow to the sport to have a former World Champion embroiled in such affairs. Snooker has been attempting to reinvent itself of late but damning stories like this will only help to bring the whole sport into disrepute. Barry Hearn, the WPBSA Chairman, has stated that they will deal with the situation as professionally, fairly and quickly as possible and we can only hope that it is dealt with and moved past as soon as possible.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please…

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