Monday, February 13, 2012

Nice one Shane

James Brennan's entry into this year's Bald Archies.

Pretty spot on, no?

For the uninitiated, the Bald Archies is a satirical portrait competition, contrasting with the Archibald Prize.

Maybe it's just not quite orange enough.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A brief history of cricket in Afghanistan

As Afghanistan is embarking on their ODI against Pakistan as I type, I thought I’d have a look at how they’ve evolved, as I’ve heard conflicting stories.

Cricket was played in Afghanistan in the 1800s, the earliest recorded match being against British troops in Kabul in 1839 during the Anglo-Afghan wars, but it didn't take off. In the 1990s it was picked up again by Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, and continued to play after their return to Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Cricket Federation was formed in 1995, but within a year the country fell into the hands of the Taliban militia, who banned all sports.

Remarkably, in 2000, cricket became the only sport allowed to be played in Afghanistan, as the Taliban overturned the ban for this one exception to all sport.

In 2001 a national team was formed and became an affiliate member of the ICC. The team was touring Pakistan when the war in Afghanistan commenced in October. Despite this, they continued playing in tournaments in Asia and the Middle East. In fact, they even defeated an MCC side featuring Mike Gatting, who was dismissed for a duck.

Obvious security risks mean their home ground is Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium in the UAE, but have also played home matches in Sri Lanka. The Afghanistan Cricket Board, however, is based in Kabul, and in April 2010 the foundation stone for Afghanistan’s first cricket stadium was laid by the chairman of the Cricket Board (also the country’s finance minister) in Jalalabad. The Sherzai Cricket Stadium was to cost US$5 million and be paid for by the government. It was still under construction in June 2011 when the photo below was taken, and I haven’t been able to find anything more recent.

Stadiums are also planned for Kabul and Kandahar, and standard cricket grounds for each of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces were due to be completed in 2012, also with no update on their status.

Despite this, there are 320 cricket clubs and six turf wickets in Afghanistan. In fact, there’s even a domestic competition, in which 22 provinces play a 25-over or 40-over format, aiming to make the game's appeal more widespread, as well as develop talent. Crowds of up to 5000 watch these matches. Not without its own politics, the tournament also aims to remove perception that cricket in Afghanistan is played by one tribe exclusively.

Maybe most brilliantly of all, in 2010 a national women’s cricket team was formed in Afghanistan. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the team was forced to withdraw from a T20 tournament in Kuwait a year later because of ongoing and strong opposition to women’s participation in sport. Baby steps, but they are steps.

Leaps and bounds for the men’s team, on the other hand, who have gender on side. Only four years ago they were in Division 5 of the ICC’s World Cricket League. In 2010 they played in Division 1. Although they failed to qualify for the 2015 World Cup in 2011's qualifying tournament, they were awarded ODI status for four years. Next month they will play in the ICC World T20 Qualifier in the UAE. They are currently ninth in the ICC T20 rankings.

The Afghan National Cricket Academy has only four training nets and one bowling machine. Imagine what they could accomplish with the resources that are available to teams like Australia or New Zealand - even Canada. Sure, the gulf between Afghanistan and the top-ranking teams on the table above is enormous (and teams like Bangladesh haven’t played enough to qualify), but their potential equally enormous.

In February 2011, the BBC premiered Out of the Ashes, a documentary about cricket in Afghanistan. The film crew had unrestricted access to the team as they travelled to qualifying tournaments around the world. They also visited refugee camps in Pakistan. A book of the same name is also available to buy here.

Grassroots cricket success in a country torn apart by war. Are you not inspired?


Images via Wikipedia, IndianExpress.com, and afgcric.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cricket in the red dirt

More photos, in stark contrast to the last one. Cricket in Outback Australia.



Coaching clinic in Santa Teresa:


Santa Teresa is a tiny town about 70km out of Alice Springs. Good see Cricket Australia going remote.

Photos were tagged Imparja Cup, which is Australia's national indigenous cricket carnival, an annual tournament being held in Alice Springs this week, and came from @melindafarrell.

(When will the obsession with Instagram end?)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Oval in the snow

It's a low-res image, and still beautiful.


via @CowCornerCrikey.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cricket in the rain, and other travesties

There is something very special about a sporting event that commentators keep telling you is amazing.

T20 cricket is a nice idea, and I really do believe it has a place in the game. However, what I don't need is the 15,000 tonnes of marketing hype and bullshit that administrators, marketing suits and commentators feel the need to bring into the concept.

Between the Big Bash League describing certain teams as "rock stars" and Michael Slater doing everything but dropping to his knees and fellating David Warner during Australia's games versus India, as a cricket fan I'm actually being turned off the shortest form of the game.

Having watched a summer of fantastic cricket in which Australia rebuilt itself into a credible opposition and India, arguably, showed that it was on the downside of a short-lived golden era, the last thing I need is to be marketed at in regard to how good cricket can actually be.

The T20 cricket sell is a hard one anyone for people like me that regard it as little more than a glorified opposed net session, but without the nets. From the way that bowling and fielding is all but negated from the contest, to the gimmicky switch hitting. The players, who even die-hard cricket fans have never heard of, all of a sudden turn up representing their country and worst of all, the complete forgetability of every single contest.. the memories of a T20 match have a shelf life slightly less than the devastating effects of a dodgy kebab.

Channel 9 doesn't help at all.

From the constant yelling of their commentators during matches, the need to try and make up new terms for a game that is a couple of hundred years old, all the way to stupid concept like their "Money Ball Rating" in a sport where we have simple and established record keeping that already can tell you everything you need to know about a player's ability, it all comes off as hyperbolic marketing crap.

The people marketing T20 cricket will tell you that this form of the game is aimed at youngsters. Apparently kids like anything with bright colours and lots of yelling. The problem there is, cricket will need to wait 10-15 years before their new supporter base has the ability to make T20 cricket truly popular as a mainstream sporting choice.

Slightly older viewers such as myself (31) can seen through the rubbish and are horrified at what we see.

When a reported 60,000+ turned up at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night, the rain didn't stop tumbling down. Of course, the game went ahead, and was always going to go ahead. Administrators were never going to send that many people home without playing a match. So, we watched as cricket was played in the rain, something that hasn't happened in the past for a number of very good reasons.

The funny thing is, I don't think T20 cricket needs all of these bells and whistles. Just play the game. People aren't turning up to hear music playing and watch huge balls of fire being blasted off into the atmosphere. They aren't tuning in on television to hear commentators yelling or to hear that David Warner's 25 runs were "some of the most significant in cricket history."

If you want to sell this form of the sport with fluff, you're going to be very disappointed, because it won't work.

Cricket fans tune in to watch cricket and anyone that is tuning in for anything else will simply walk away at the first sign that someone is jingling some car keys in the next room.

The sooner administrators and broadcasters stop carrying on like a bunch of teenage girls at a Justin Beiber concert, the better.

I'm trying to watch some cricket. Just let me watch the damn cricket!!!!

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