Posts in June

Katich Demolishes Attack
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Katich Demolishes Attack

All is not well in Jolimont Street, the home of Cricket Australia – a well struck cover drive across the road from cricket’s spiritual home, the Melbourne Cricket Ground. There have been rumblings and grumblings for some time, well before the most recent Australian summer when the home side succumbed in the Ashes to a far superior English team.  Much conjecture has focused on structural and administrative issues with a review by a phalanx of former players and business elite in process. Most stakeholder invective has been reserved for selection, the selection panel and the hapless head of said panel, Andrew Hildtich.  But the proverbial hit the fan on Tuesday when the 25 recipients of CA central contracts were announced. Few were content with the team selected, none more so than NSW Blues skipper and Test opener Simon Katich. ‘Kato’ as he is affectionately known was overlooked for the largesse and saw his test career disappear in a single press release.  Katich fumed but he is not some intemperate rookie full of bad manners and little sense. He considered his options as if weighing forward or backward defence. He chose the former and cut loose with a withering attack on what had been served up.  In this age of insipid press shows, full of mouthed platitudes and falsity his front foot demolition was something to behold. He was as passionate and proud as you’d expect from a man who has played anything for Australia and stressed that the loss of the money that accompanies the lucrative contract wasn’t the issue. You know what? I believe him. Unreservedly. He desperately wants to keep wearing his baggy green on that first Test morning, he wants to be an integral part of the inevitable revival of his sport on the world stage and he wants more than anything to score runs for his country. It’s what he does.  But all that has been taken away from him by the selection panel and a four minute phone call. His reasoning is sound – he’s scored more runs than everybody bar the profligate Alistair Cook in the past three summers and just because his career is past tea-time doesn’t warrant him being consigned to State cricket alone. Many will agree with the sentiment expressed but many more will love Katich for one of the finest innings of his life last Friday.

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Chinese Revolution

Not sure if you heard it as it was well after midnight on Saturday?  Perhaps not. After it was late and yes, not a single Australian was involved which tends to diminish the desire of even the most ardent of sports fans.  It was the sound of the axis of the sport of tennis creaking and tilting far eastwards.  In case you didn’t see it Chinese athlete Li Na won her first Grand Slam title in beating Francesca Schiavone in straight sets to win the French Open.  It was a first for China in singles although three doubles pairs have taken major titles.  If only the tiniest fraction of the total population of 1.3 billion pick up a racket as a result we will see many more follow in Na’s endearing and engaging footsteps. It also brought stark comparison to Australia’s tennis stocks. A proud record essentially counts for nothing as we struggle with the globalisation of this particular sport and others as well. Australia has won more than its fair share of Davis Cups and seen players both male and female routinely ranked in the top ten and winning grand slam events. All stakeholders of Australian tennis, from the fanatical supporters travelling the world to expectant parents hoping to steer their charge to a lucrative career and from corporate sponsors to the administrators at the pinnacle of the game must appreciate that the landscape has changed and will never be the same again.  Many countries where tennis wasn’t exactly mainstream have developed prodigiously talented athletes that, at the moment rank better than ours. Russia and Eastern Europe was far from a hotbed of wristy backhands and sweet lobs twenty five years ago? China has been knocking at the door for a while – two of the semi finalists in the women’s singles at the 2010 Australian Open came from there. With an unlimited and largely untapped supply of talent, a hugely supportive State system and a charming role model in Li Na I am certain we are seeing the start of an altogether different Revolution!

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Blatter Matters

I’ve just finished watching the Champion’s League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United.  It was a stunning performance from Barca who treated the side that won the English Premier League by a whopping 9 points as if they were a local pub side. Truly special, history defining stuff. Just the same I was a little uneasy as the football world that these gargantuan machines inhabit will be ripped asunder this week. It simply has to happen and it would prove no surprise if it takes a similar course to that charted by the International Olympic Committee in 1999. The IOC expelled a host of members for taking bribes and to all intents and purposes has reformed.  FIFA must do the same if it is to continue its preeminence and regain a measure of public respect. Quite simply any organisation without transparent and effective governance does not deserve exalted status especially if it is purported to be the leader of the football world.  The blue touch paper will be lit when the oxymoronically named FIFA Ethics Committee hand down their hasty deliberations into alleged corruption in the organisation that runs football worldwide.  Current (and given Bin Hamman has withdrawn from the race likely future) FIFA President Sepp Blater has been implicated alongside some of the usual suspects such as Jack Warner. Blatter’s position, even if elected unopposed on Wednesday is untenable, as he has presided over at best dodgy shenanigans and at worst wholesale, endemic and entrenched corruption.  The buck must stop with him and FIFA should then realise that true reform cannot come from within – they need help from elsewhere. Cutting Blatter loose will enable that. Meanwhile it would seem that Qatar’s bid is tainted but if you want to see the World Cup in 2022 you should pack sunscreen and a hat for it will be a stultifying, hot summer.  To think the world’s biggest competition would go elsewhere is delusional madness and to think that it will head to Australia absolutely preposterous.  The game will go on and, given what we saw last night, long may that continue but at the same time the rot must be expunged and new growth promoted not in the future but NOW.

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