Back to Bangers

So on my second trip away with the BLACKCAPS I went back to Bangladesh for the ICC World T20. Here’s what happened – you can click the photos to make them bigger.

From the moment you got off the plane and saw the WT20 signs throughout the airport, the streets lit up with millions of fairy lights and the masses of police and helpers buzzing around the hotel you felt you were in cricket central right at the moment. It was very exciting to be in the same place as all the teams, the ICC crew and the world’s media with a big event to get stuck into. The TV was wall to wall coverage of every warm up match with endless punditry. Even the ads were overwhelmingly cricket-related (friends, I wish I could have brought you all back a T20 biscuit).


A cut-down version of this song played at least three times in each commercial break.

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The view from the hotel in Dhaka. The BLACKCAPS shared with Pakistan, India, South Africa and England during the warm-up week, and with England at the Chittagong hotel. My ‘play it cool’ ability was severely tested when, say, JP Duminy got in the lift or I found myself next to Kapil Dev in the omelette bar queue. Dhaka traffic was at a hot, impatient stand still for much of the time we were there, so it was a relief to get down to Chittagong for the pool games (a city of just the 6.5 million people).

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The BLACKCAPS played a warmup against Pakistan at Mirpur, the venue for the  final, and one against Australia (who out-gunned me completely with three media / video / social people) here at Fatullah on the outskirts of Dhaka. This one wasn’t televised back home (much to the internet’s annoyance).

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The view from the hotel at Chittagong. Again, the team is pretty much in lockdown when staying here, with no scope to sight-see or even go for a wander down the street. Apart from venturing onto the field and dugout at games or training, you basically sit in air conditioning for a couple of weeks. It was a bit of a challenge to keep occupied to say the least, with films and TV series being copied from hard drive to hard drive at a rate of knots. Personally I got through a fair amount of Sopranos re-watching, and got into Deadwood, if you’re remotely interested (!).


The tennis-racquet-mosquito-zapper got a fair work-out.

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Spidercam was everywhere, as was DK Morrison.

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The two days the team spent training at MA Aziz stadium, which is a compact concrete affair, before the Netherlands match were the hottest I’d experienced on this trip or back in October. Fannying about with a video camera and, um, just standing there had me sweating buckets, so the chaps doing serious time batting and bowling in the nets were doing it tough.

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Drawing a crowd pulling out from Chittagong’s Hotel Agrabad.

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If you happened to be in your room mid-afternoon in Chittagong, you were offered complimentary snacks, and what fine snacks they were too. Food plays a big part in life on tour – you’re always watching what you have for fear of getting sick. Breakfasts are a long, leisurely affair – with so much time to kill, it’s a good way to catch up with everyone and yarn – everyone’s on their phones discussing news from home or bantering about sport (Ford Trophy, MLB and English football all feature). The team made several visits to Ambrosia, the wonderful restaurant with a menu thicker than most phone books.

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Being a big wuss, it was quietly moving to stand with the coaches and support staff during the national anthems. As any NZer who’s seen the All Blacks at Twickenham or the BLACKCAPS at the Oval knows, there’s nothing like supporting your team overseas and being a small part of the team somewhere so far removed from home was a thrill for me.

Of course, no-one was happy when the team came home early – this reaction from the skipper pretty much sums it up. While everyone hoped the South Africa match would not come back to haunt the team, in the end, it kind of did. Of course it was nice to come home early and see the family and eat NZ food again, I’d really wanted to go back to Dhaka for the semi finals and even a final as we all did, but it wasn’t to be. If you’re able, spare a thought for the team and support staff who then embarked on an almost 50 hour journey home, through Dhaka – Dubai – Bangkok – Australia – NZ.

While I hadn’t expected to find myself back in Bangers quite so soon after the last time there, and despite the early tournament exit, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the BLACKCAPS team and support staff and the challenge of the job over there. Living in cricket central was magic, if only for a couple of weeks.

If you’re up for more, read my tour reports at blackcaps.co.nz – part one and part two.

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IT Center and Fast Food in Dhaka Airport is my kind of place.

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Attempting to round up THAT summer

When the most contentious issue among New Zealand cricket fans is the ins and outs of the follow-on strategy, you know it wasn’t your usual summer. Most people struggled to remember a better one. My best bits:

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28,000 people making noise at Eden Park in that tied third one dayer v India was quite something. It was vibrant and loud and really neat to be part of, it was a wonderful cricket match, obviously, but felt like a very Auckland occasion. More please.

As discussed, the Alternative Commentary Collective brought a sense of schoolboy humour, style and fun to the Indian ODI series, heightening the sense of surreality to the whole thing.

When people started swan-diving themselves over 1.2 metre high advertising hoardings or launching themselves face-first down banks that day in Queenstown, you knew this was going to be a winner. By the end of the summer, everyone had a favourite Tui Catch A Million near miss, whether it was the guy in Wellington snaked by his seat mate, the guy in the suit (whose catch was probably the best of all) or the bald guy who got smacked in the head with the ball at Eden Park and appeared delighted about it. And we actually got two winners, the second of which was immediately surrounded by a good-hearted mosh pit. It made the crowd part of the game, and it was fantastic.

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I enjoyed visiting Whangarei for the NZ XI v India match, it is a fab ground, with a little Lord’s replica for a pavilion. Make a trip.

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The emphasis on recognising and preserving team traditions like capping ceremonies for current and historic caps (and the return of the cable knit) is something I’m right on board with.

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Seeing the 92 World Cup team saunter around the boundary to the delight of the crowd was a great moment, considering everyone at home and on the park was blubbering last time they wandered around a boundary.

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The Test series win over India was special. Everyone knows what happened at Eden Park last year, and this year went to the wire again, but we bloody nailed it, in the kind of thrilling end to a Test that you watch through your fingers. At the Basin I tweeted after day three, when Brendon McCullum and BJ Watling’s partnership was only 158 of the 352 they went on to score, that it was one of the most satisfying day’s play I’d seen. Yes, I totally spoke too soon on that. Seeing everyone streaming in on that grey Tuesday morning, all hoping to be part of a bit of history and willing the skipper toward the big milestone was lump in the throat material and something I’ll be very proud to tell the kids about. Monumental.

On the field, where do you start? Ross Taylor’s batting all summer. Brendon McCullum’s double then triple tons.  The spectacular (one, two, three) catches. The relentless, crushing batting blueprint we rolled out against India that saw us score 300 or thereabouts in five successive matches, that India had no answer for. Corey Anderson’s whirlwind in Queenstown. The limo ride. Our bowling attack with great depth, for Tests and one dayers. Happy days.

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NZ Cricket Museum book sale: two thumbs up.

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Everyone’s a comedian

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Links on Friday

So this is the kind-of return of Links on Friday - as long as you don’t expect links *every* Friday it’ll be sweet.

This is magic. Some guy creates one video game American football team that’s awesome and aggressive and puts it up against another video game American football team that’s feeble. Along the way he raises money for charity and makes some hil-ar-ious GIFS – but then something really freaky happens.

Some poor / heroic bugger has taken up the task of  going through the fabbo Alternative Commentary Collective archives and compiling some best-ofs. Here’s the first edition, get in there.

The mysterious Inky comes back with an email newsletter after about, oh, five years away. It’s a fabulous ramble through Ted, Steve H and All Black coaching cycles, dark hints about what he wants to say but can’t and somehow Hillary Clinton is mixed in there as well. Get on board.

BMX as conceptual art via kottke.org

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Free kick freakery

Is this a great effort from Hakan Calhanoglu of Hamburger SV, or something else?

To me, this doesn’t even look like an attempt on goal, it’s more like a golfer’s chip from the bunker. Just get it up close and see what happens. Even the celebration seems a bit half-hearted. Compare and contrast with Roberto Carlo’s effort here, where the intent is obvious.

Maybe it’s the state of modern hi-tech footballs that makes this unpredictable swerve possible, or maybe it was just really windy on the day, but it seems equally likely that Calhanoglu could have hit the corner flag. In all seriousness, WHAT was the ‘keeper meant to do here?

MIev8C0

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Wags

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Give us that microphone

On Sunday I was interviewed by Colin Peacock for Radio New Zealand’s Mediawatch show (again) about the Alternative Commentary Collective, the travelling band of commentators who covered the glorious ANZ ODI series v India, won 4-0 by the BLACKCAPS. Paul Ford‘s Cricinfo blog sets out what it’s all about.

You can listen to the Mediawatch show here – relevant bit comes on about twenty minutes in.

From here, it seems the ACC was a great success. It was hilarious. It got people talking. To me, it was pretty much a dream team of chaps who talked cricket at every chance they got in their other roles (comedy, TV, radio, what have you) finally being able to just talk cricket . There was a whole lot of knowledge and enthusiasm as well as some really, really funny stuff. The fact we happened to beat the world champs 4-0 in this series gave the whole affair a slightly surreal feel.

It all got a bit emotional toward the end of the final broadcast from Wellington when everyone was realising that that was it for this year. I hope it continues and I also hope that some poor bugger will sit down and go through the five matches’ commentary and put together some kind of Best Bits podcast or download, it was too good to be heard only once.

Fair play to everyone involved. Commentary is one of those things everyone reckons they can do better, but is actually bloody hard when you have a real live microphone to talk into. These chaps made it sound easy.

 

For those comfortable with turning their TV volume down and venturing into the world of alt-commentary, there’s (a few) options.

Jed Thian is the best known alt-commentator in New Zealand with the full-noise Alternative Rugby Commentary empire, which he’s taken around the world.

Graeme Hill, Paul Casserley and (ACC chap) Jeremy Wells among others did rugby commentary for BFM in the early 1990s to the mid-2000s, which have a legendary reputation, but very little of which exists online, there’s a brief run-down here.

Test Match Sofa are a well-established alt-commentary troupe covering all England Test matches with a range of guests but have locked legal horns with ECB over commentary rights.

Roy and HG have been doing this kind of thing for years over the ditch.

And this is what I meant on the radio about unashamedly biased fan commentary – it’s got a certain charm I guess, but seems to be a case of who can shout the loudest in this instance.

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Batsman

Found in an old Knockout Annual. It’s Batsman*

*Naming credit: @troyrf

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Fixed: lack of trolling

As a keen student of innovation in the troll-channel space, sportreview notes that popular cricket game developer Stick Cricket are now using app update notes, those things no-one ever reads, to troll England.

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Eden Park as you’ve never seen it

When panorama photography goes well:
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When panorama photography goes poorly:
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Kind of looks like Inception. Privilege to be at Eden Park for this one.

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