Cricket World Cup bluffer’s guide

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Let’s start at the beginning – the World Cup of one day international men’s cricket begins next week in England and Wales. They play it every four years – the last one was here and in Australia, when we made the final for the first time and everyone went a bit loopy.

England is a fantastic place to hold it, ‘cos it’s the Home of Cricket. The grounds are small-ish, games usually all sell out, and the migrant population, especially from Asia, means lots of teams get virtual home crowds.

You’re going to hear a lot of chat about Big Totals. Big hitting Twenty20 cricket is still changing the game – 300 was an astonishing score back in the 80s, but now it’s considered just par. Teams are regularly going over 400 now and there’s talk 500 could be next. This is all great if you’re a batsman with your punishing slab of willow and chewing gum and that, but luckily for the guys serving it up, England has some of most bowler-friendly conditions going so we may see more of a proper contest between bat and ball. 

Because cricket goes all day, the tournaments tend take ages – it starts next week and the final’s not til 14 July. This time there are just ten teams, meaning up and coming cricket nations like Ireland have missed out just when they’re getting some momentum, which is a bit shit. Anyway, all the teams play each other once, then there are semi finals and the final, which is a much neater format than we’ve had in the past.

The favourites are England, India and Australia, with the West Indies, us and Pakistan next. Then there’s South Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – here’s a selection of how they’ll go: 

New Zealand
We’re coming in much more low-key, with a new coach and captain since last time. We’ve got fantastic batsmen in Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham and Henry Nicholls, but we’ll need Martin Guptill at the top and one or more of Jimmy Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme or Mitchell Santner to go really fast if we’re going to go over 400. Our bowling attack is as good as anyone’s, and should get some help from the conditions. People will call us dark horses a lot, and there’s no pressure on us – I’m biased but I like our chances, let’s see how we go.  

This is probably their best ever chance to win it, at home and in white hot form. They’ve learned a lot of tricks from us about playing without fear and are stacked with massive-hitting batsmen like Jonny Bairstow, Joss Buttler and Jason Roy. Their challenge will be handling the favourites tag and the never-ending stream of ex-players lining up in the press to tell them how they’re going.

They were a bit shit for a while there but, disappointingly, seem to be coming right. Old mates Steve Smith and David Warner are back from the dog house and they’ll be better for it. They’re still a really strong team but the sand-paper schmozzle has opened the door to doubt like we haven’t seen from this unpleasant lot in some time. Could win it, could crash and burn.

Probably the best group of players with the best batsman in the world in Virat Kohli, at the peak of his powers, with some of the most imaginative and effective bowling attacks to call on. Like Guinness, they often don’t travel well and will be under pressure to win it. Whoever wins will have to beat them at some stage.

Get around the BLACKCAPS on Instagram and Twitter, and follow some of the players for the behind the scenes carry-on, starting with Jimmy Neesham’s Twitter.  

This one’s all SKY, who are taking every match including warm ups, you can see the times and channels here. Check in with the ICC website when the tournament’s underway for highlights. In NZ, most of these games start at around 9.30, so you can take in the first 15-20 overs, have some kip and get up early for the end. 

Spend the world cup on your phone missing the action
Cricket’s actually good for using two screens at once ‘cos there’s natural breaks in play, so make sure you install the NZC app, Cricinfothe official ICC Cricket World Cup app and Stick Cricket for any rain breaks. 

Bonus world cup content
Mark Geenty talks to Geoff Allott, who was the leading wicket taker in the 1999 world cup, the last time it was played in England [Stuff] 

Alex Braae has a crack at picking the winner [The Spinoff]

With talk of someone going over 500 at this world cup, Dylan Cleaver has the willies about our run rates lately [NZ Herald] 

The greatest ride in sport

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On Monday, the cricket lover in your house was probably hopping up and down on the couch like a toddler left in charge of the supermarket sugar section, because there was Test match cricket happening. 

To the fans, it was utterly gripping. To the rest of the household, it was as perplexing as herbal tea.

To be fair, some of its concepts are pretty mystifying. At the end, Pakistan were refusing to score runs even though they needed less than ten to win, as the decent batsman tried to protect the one picked last.

These days everyone gets one day and T20 cricket, roughly. The math is straightforward – Grant Elliot needed five runs to get us in the world cup final, he hit it for six, simple. Plus you only have to put up with it for a day , tops. 

But Tests… for fans, every win represents not just the time you’ve managed to spend watching over the last five days, but a commitment to the game that builds up over a lifetime.

Frustration, rain, boredom, defeat… they’re all part of a Test cricket fan’s burden. It’s no co-incidence we usually refer to ourselves as tragics. 

Then suddenly, like a bus losing its brakes and coming right at you, a match gets close and you’re plunged into agony and hope, your heart beats in a genuinely alarming way and concerns like work, family and your reputation as a sane, functional member of society fade away.    
When your team wins a close one, fans often declare their love for the game, as well as the team. Cricket Twitter was full of ‘How great is Test cricket?’ and ‘How can you not love it?’ on Monday night. You don’t often get All Blacks fans declaring ‘I love rugby!’ at their moments of triumph. 

There’s no doubt five day cricket is an anachronism, and fans  genuinely worry it could all come crashing down one day, when the economics of putting on such a resource-hungry game for a small section of fans doesn’t work any more. 

We need to find a common language, so we can share the intense highs and lows of the format without presenting as a slacker lunatic fringe. A great Test is often compared to reading a novel, that feeling of either triumph or anguish and something you don’t want to finish coming to an end. 

White clothing, long shadows and unparalleled drama are a heady combination, team. Without wishing a lifetime of angst and lost productively on you and yours, I highly recommend giving Test cricket a go.  

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone – the stages of coping with an All Black loss

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Stage one – Hope
Happens at around 20 minutes to go. All the subs are on and we’re not pulling away. Remember to breathe. Offer positive support. If you’re unable to do so, focus on the referee and his nationality. 

Stage two – Crushed dreams
We’ve lost. The boys are walking around the park in a daze, aimlessly spraying sports drink around and doing mournful nose clearances. You’re tempted to turn on talkback and listen to  some angry people. Don’t to do that. Go to bed, toss and turn until 6am before falling into a dreamless sleep. Be aware your dreams may now be over forever. 

Stage three – Distraction
Sunday. Get the paper. Pretend to be interested in the restaurant reviews and business analysis. Sneak away and angrily read the sport section the loo. Emerge. Go for a run. Have a sneaky cry on the shared path. Stop for a McDonalds Hunger Buster and devour it at the bottom of the drive, putting the rubbish immediately in the wheelie bin. Fake a migraine for the remainder of the day.   

Stage four – Cautiously rejoining society 
Monday. Drive to your place of work. Be gracious if you encounter colleagues from the nation you’ve just lost to. Don’t punch anyone in the balls. Should discussion of the match occur, mentally retreat to your ‘happy place’ ie enjoying Argentinian steaks beside the Sheraton Denarau pool with the Barrett brothers and Graham Henry. Go home at 3.20pm.  

Stage five – The wallowing time 
Breathlessly read the opinion pieces that cram the nation’s media for the week. Bargain with the devil around this loss and the next scheduled World Cup. Assign blame to individuals. Change your mind on those individuals frequently. Consider leaving comments on Tony Veitch’s Facebook page. 

Stage six – Phoenix from the flames 
Take the family out for a late afternoon stroll around the neighbourhood. Bake some bread. Enjoy tennis on the TV. Update your LinkedIn page. Call an old friend. Avoid talking about potential goal kicking options within the match day squad, angry shouting and abruptly hanging up. Send an email of apology no later than 12 hours after ending the call.  

Stage seven – Acceptance
Prepare to watch the next weekend’s match. Responsibly enjoy three quarters of your beers before kick off. Hide sharp objects. Direct any remaining negative energy at the television commentators. Be ready to switch to rowing on Pop Up channel 8 should the game go against the All Blacks. Remember you are a  valid individual with unique gifts whose worth is not defined by sporting results outside your control. If that fails, just yell at the referee.  

Ric Salizzo’s Instagram is New Zealand sporting taonga

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Ric Salizzo has probably done more for your enjoyment of sport than you realise. Starting as a TV reporter and All Blacks media officer, he’s produced everything from the ground breaking The Good, The Bad and The Rugby documentary from the All Blacks 1989 Wales and Ireland tour through to today’s The Crowd Goes Wild. He’s responsible for making New Zealand sport vastly more interesting, and funny, than it was before. 

And he’s posting the best bits to Instagram, including the best of SportsCafe, the midweek monster that gave the nation some of our most iconic TV moments.

It was like nothing else that came before it, and put sporting regulars like Eric Rush and Zinzan Brooke alongside Lana Coc-Kroft, Graeme Hill (fresh out of BFM), Eva the Bulgarian, Leigh Hart and Salizzo himself, bemusedly and barely holding it all together, despite the best efforts of Marc Ellis, scarfie icon and the show’s jester.  

It was wonderful TV, with sportspeople in much more relaxed conversation than the breathless pre- and post-match carry on, in times before media training etc. It also pioneered audience participation through Legends of the Lounge and National Nude Day in the pre-smartphone and internet era where people would have to mail in video cassettes. 

Anyway – Ric is posting some of the best bits to Instagram and they’re wonderful. Here’s a top five: 

George Best and Zinzan Brooke talk about trying things in matches – spanning continents, codes and generations, two  extremely gifted and singular sportsmen talk about trying the outrageous in matches, and not letting anything stop you putting on a show. 

All-in mascot brawl, with Frank Bunce – what else are mascots for, really? Just give the public what they want.

Marc Ellis boots a ball into the crowd – Ellis was MASSIVE in the 90s, moving from rugby to TV with a run of shows giving him a platform for his set-jaw comedy and fondness for taking his clothes off in public. He’d sometimes turn up drunk and push the good taste / health and safety line very hard indeed. 

That guy – Leigh Hart is a national treasure, and got his start on the show with his band and skits, adding a deeply weird layer to the sport chat that shouldn’t have worked, but really, really did.  

Lana slaps Marc – if you’d had enough of Ellis’ shit, this one was for you. Looked like it hurt, too. 

Bonus link: Zinzan rides a donkey from The Good, The Bad and The Rugby. Features the All Blacks in the late 80s holy trinity of boat shoes, knitwear and moustaches. 

Links on Friday

The beautiful game used to bring out the best in designers, keen to push the boundaries on the biggest stage of all. These Days, football shirts are basically designed to look good with a pair of jeans – The Art of the Football Shirt is a hipper-than-thou exhibition of when shirts were less marketing-department-orientated – some great photos here.

If you missed Carlton Cole’s epic Twitter thread on West Ham United’s ‘banter era’, it’s time well spent and basically War and Peace written by Del Boy Trotter.

Skater Christian Flores tries to land a laser flip down a triple set of stairs. For two years. Surprisingly affecting stuff!

Radio New Zealand’s Eyewitness show looks at the 1992 bomb blast outside the NZ Men’s Cricket Team’s hotel – it packs a lot into 13 minutes and confirms fall out from this incident is still ongoing in 2017.

All Black leadership group spends test week brainstorming sick burns


NEWSDESK: In the build up to the Sydney test, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has his new-look leadership group working on big hits on the opposition coach rather than the tackle bags.

“This group is all about getting better,” said Hansen. “That’s why I’ve challenged the leaders to come up with some sick burns on that shit wombat.”

“It’s a tough room,” said first-year skipper Kieren Read. “I thought my bits about Hooper looking like the son of Phil Waugh and a wheelie bin was pretty brutal, but the boys shredded it. It’s good to get the feedback.”

In the past, Hansen would work on lines in his suite with Richie McCaw and Conrad Smith before practising delivery on Ian Foster, but is confident the new approach will be as effective. Rumours that Aaron Cruden’s benching was related to nicking all his material from a late night Seinfeld episode were unconfirmed.

Caddy Williams celebrates Masters win by sprinting 800m to punch Tiger Woods in the face

NEWSDESK: Australian golfer Adam Scott’s unpleasant caddy Steve Williams celebrated the first Masters win by an Australian by running 800m to the car park and punching former boss Tiger Woods in the face.

Williams, who carried Woods’ bag for 13 major titles and earned an estimated $USD 13m before their acrimonious split, punched the world’s number one golfer in the face as he loaded his golf clubs into his sports utility vehicle in the Augusta National Golf Club car park.

Witnesses described Williams, who roughly pushed several golf fans out of his way and upturned a coffee cart in his haste to punch Woods in the face, as ‘crazed’, ‘wild-eyed’ and ‘funny-looking’, with sweaty chest hair and a gold medallion poking out the neckline of his white caddy’s overalls.

Williams, who has a history of bizzare, angry outbursts and carries other people’s golf clubs for a living, told reporters: “There’s nothing sweeter than winning at Augusta. And there’s nothing sweeter than seeing the final putt go in, dropping the bag and running to the car park to smack Tiger in the face! Bo-ya!”

Flawed genius file filling to bursting

First famous for his elegant play, then for his boozing and temper, Belfast’s Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins died this weekend. From biographer Bill Burrow’s interview with the Guardian:

What’s your own personal favourite Hurricane story?
I think it’s the legendary piss-up with him and Olly Reid where they were having a drinking competition and Olly Reid made him drink a bottle of aftershave because they’d run out of alcohol. So he drank a bottle of aftershave, and the quid pro quo was that Olly Reid had to drink a glass full of washing up liquid as a pretend crème de menthe. Apparently Oliver Reid was blowing bubbles out of his mouth, but he [Higgins] had last laugh – he played a snooker tournament the next day and said that when he bent over and farted, they thought he was Jesus.